A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 9: Many Things. Small Space. What To Do?

July 5th · 1 Comment

The St. Jesus Pharmacy on W. 177th and Broadway confronted a problem that, as a brand-new New Yorker, is much on my mind: How do you fit so much stuff (in their case, the entire contents of a drugstore) into a tiny space without divine intervention?

Skimp on merchandise? Not the option here, if the Nerf footballs and full selection of conditioners and the slide case of Circus-Man ice-cream bars are any evidence. No, this store crushed everything together and passed the savings on to us.

Each shelf is exactly the height it needs to be for merchandise it holds (shampoo, tall; fabric softener, low), each case extends nearly to the ceiling (which is only nine feet high), and the aisles are just wide enough to pass – at an angle if you’re large like me. Merchandise is literally everywhere you look, unless it is out the smudged windows at the abogado’s office or the jeans boutique across the street.

I am sorting through this same puzzle at home, writ smaller. How to fit best fit the towels and sweaters and sheets into that precious space in the bedroom closet? Milk crates? Capitulate and pay the Container Store for the perfect size drawers and boxes? Get a lumber store to cut a few particle boards to size?

We relieved St. Jesus of a $13 pair of sunglasses and went to Mambi, a Dominican restaurant kittycorner from the pharmacy, where we were the only ones not speaking Spanish. The Saturday specials were delivered by a waitress with Magic Marker eyebrows and a profusion of cheap yellow and white beads around her neck. Joo’s fish had been aggressively battered with breading and my pork, beans and cassava were mighty bland, so I turned my attention to how the proprietors of Mambi used their space.

They had clearly asked, “what would St. Jesus do?” and milked the L-shaped counter for every inch. On the short arm of the L a man with a sharp knife prepared the meat next to a bank of chickens that spun gently on rotisseries. On the long arm, five waitresses in black squirmed past each other and the crowded stacks of plates and to-go trays and, near the top of the L, shelves held a tiny but fully-stocked liquor set. Not surprisingly, that part of the counter was most crowded with patrons.

Tags: Dining · Urban Survival

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Kimberly Winston // Jul 11, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    What were you doing on W177th and B’way? I used to live on the corner of W170 and B’way. Is the Chinese restaurant still there? It used to have the best vegetarian steamed dumplings in NYC. And I used to live right over them. Sigh.

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