When I first moved to New York, I had a college friend who grew up on the Upper West Side. She and her family were wonderful to me, and I loved them- still do. They fed me many holiday dinners. When they were out of town, I’d dog sit. We’d sunbathe in the Sheep Meadow in Central Park on Saturday afternoons. Or run errands in the neighborhood. But the one place we’d come back to, over and over again, was Café La Fortuna.
We’d sit there for hours, drinking coffee, eating tiramisu and listening to the music. Café La Fortuna only played opera, and had playbills from the old, pre-Lincoln Center Met and old records on the walls. It was timeless- it could have been 1976 (the year it opened), or 30 years earlier, or 30 years later. No way to tell, and it didn’t matter. In the winter, you were confined to the red-walled interior, with big red velvet curtains to keep the drafts out. But in the summer, you could sit in the garden for hours with an iced coffee and a sandwich.
I later learned that it was a great favorite of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, when they lived in the neighborhood. Which was nice to know I guess. But I had the feeling from the first time I was there, Café La Fortuna was mine. It would always be there. It would always serve as my timeless, relaxed living room in a neighborhood little air and light west of Central Park. I sat there, and dreamed about being associated with Juilliard- which happened five years ago.
In the Times yesterday, I read that Mrs. Urwand had died, the rent went up two-and-a-half times, and Mr. Urwand couldn’t pay. He’s closing down the café tomorrow.
It’s ultimately not that important, right? It’s not like a friend of mine died, or a dog I knew. Or some curse had been put on the world where we’d all gone deaf and you couldn’t hear music anymore. So why do my eyes keep welling up?