I went to the Donuts Coffee Shop in Park Slope to grab one more cheap breakfast before it disappeared into collective civic memory. And it's a good thing I knew where to go, because there was no sign.
The classic corrugated signage which read "Donuts Coffee Shop" had been taken down and all that was left was the broad white background. The woman behind the counter said someone had bought it and taken it down the previous day. There was a good crowd inside. About three-quarters of the stools were occupied. A photographer from Brooklyn Paper was there clicking away. A few donuts remained in the racks. I asked for a plain and a coffee ($1.50).
The man next to me, apparently aware that this was his last chance to eat at the shop, consumed a full plate of pancakes, and scrambled eggs and bacon. His friends were impressed. The counter woman said the old, framed plastic signs above the counter listing the menu items and their prices would remain, to be disposed of as the encroaching Associated Food next door saw fit. Too bad, I thought. She continued to clean during every spare minute, not wanted to leave a dirty shop behind her, I suppose.
A man came in for his regular coffee and left a two-dollar tip. "You deserve it." Then a gnomish old man came in with a gift bag, which he presented to the woman. Inside were framed photos of the Donuts Coffee Shop letters coming down. This was the man who had taken the sign. "What did you do with it?" I asked. "I took it home," he said. "It's in my apartment."
I, too, was overcome with the urge to leave with a bit of the shop. I asked if they were willing to part with the plastic sign which listed the donut prices. The woman smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "You want it?" I offered some money for the sign, but they just unscrewed the single screw that held the sign up and gave it to me. I then said goodbye.
Walking home I became aware of a pungent smell the sign was giving off. Thirty years of diner grease.