I went to the Carnegie Deli recently to experience it before it shutters forever this New Year's Eve after 79 years in business. It's closing not because of the rent, but because the owner is tired of it all. Someone wants to buy the place and keep it going, but the owner is not interested. It's closing. Period. So I went.
If you've tried to get into the Carnegie you know it's almost impossible, thanks to the hordes of tourists mobbing at the door day and night. Tourists have always dined at the Carnegie--I did when I was a teenage tourist--but today the city suffers under mass tourism and there are many places--parks, museums--that are no longer enjoyable because of them.
So I got there at 8:00 in the morning, the moment it opened. Only a few diners were inside. It was quiet, the speakers playing light music from the 70s and 80s. Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond. Their images hang on the walls, in the famous sea of autographed head shots.
What will happen to all those head shots when Carnegie goes? What will happen to Larry Hagman, David Hasselhoff, Mr. T?
I couldn't bring myself to eat an overloaded pastrami sandwich at 8:00 in the morning, so I ordered eggs. A mistake. Nothing interesting happened. No Borscht Belt comedians were hanging out, cracking wise. Just the tourists, most of them looking tired and somewhat depressed.
As I was leaving, the place had already begun to crowd. A group of giddy young women took up a whole long table, every single one carrying those flowery quilted duffel bags you only see tourists carrying. They were loud. Bachelorettes. I left.
I decided to go to the Guggenheim just to use the golden toilet known as "America." I walked across Central Park, hoping that by the time I arrived at my destination my breakfast would have inspired a solid production. A shit in a golden toilet would be something. But this was not to be.
Again, I arrived early. I got to use the toilet right away, before the crowds showed up. The attendant informed us that people wait as long as two hours for the opportunity to evacuate into solid gold. Maybe they want to feel like Donald Trump. Maybe they want to make a statement, some sort of private protest. Or maybe they're just nihilists.
Does anyone prep for this experience by swallowing a handful of Just Another Rich Kid's gold pills so they can shit gold in the gold toilet?
I stepped inside and closed the door. Alone with the toilet, I snapped a few photos, then did what anyone does. A belly full of Carnegie Deli coffee went into "America." I can't say that I felt any better about the whole thing--the tourists, the loss of New York's character, hyper-gentrification, the presidential election, America, the way everything is going (down the shitter?). But I did feel like I'd accomplished some elemental mission, and it was still early in the day, after all. So there was that.