Shock, sadness and dismay. Oh, how can it be that H&H Bagels is closing on the Upper West Side?!? So quick, in fact, that the signs and awning were removed at the corner of Broadway and 80th and yet the store is still open. But for how long? So incomprehensible that there began a grassroots movement, yesterday, at the doorway to petition to keep this private enterprise open. So beloved that neighbors feel they must gather there to mourn collectively the loss of a neighborhood institution that's been around since 1972.
Excuse me as my eyes tear and my mouth salivates. To me and my kids and everyone I know who lives around here, H&H has been here FOREVER! It's a fixture for our neighborhood like not much else. It's the yin to Zabar's yang (though Zabar's lower-than-half price bagels didn't help, I imagine). However, to a bagel connoisseur, the H&H Bagel, hot from the oven, no matter the price and no matter the flavor (except blueberry, which we all assumed was only there to separate the New Yorkers from everyone else) was the best of the New York best, which meant they were the best in the universe, of course. Even New Yorkers can get a bit provincial, but we know when we're right.
Oh, the memories. From my first visits to the neighborhood after college, no Saturday evening was complete that didn't include picking up sliced nova from Zabar's, the Sunday NY Times (always available after 9-ish from the newsstand) and fresh steaming hot H&H bagels (enough for Sunday morning one per person, plus one to share on the walk home because how could you resist?). Yeah, all that ages me, dates me, and all that jazz. But that's my idea of a New York memory, perhaps THE New York memory. And with H&H gone from the Upper West Side, well, I almost may as well move to Paris, or Brooklyn.
I am not alone. Many will write about this. Of that I'm sure. It's a touchstone for some reason. Why? Of that, I'm not sure.
OK, so there will still be H&H on 46th Street and Twelfth Avenue. Quite frankly, so what? It's overpriced and too far away, and they've abandoned us. We New Yorkers might be overwhelmingly loyal to all that we perceive as worthy, and we will travel a good distance and even pay a premium for fine (and I don't necessarily mean fancy) cuisine, theater and music, but we're are also terribly spoiled and expect loyalty in return... and we're honest enough to admit it.
Besides, they've destroyed my reality and turned it into a distant, yet oh-so-golden, memory. And that makes me feel old. And they must suffer for that!
But, H&H, thanks for the memories.