10 April 2006

The Sound of Silence Silenced

I was walking down Ninth Avenue between 45th and 44th Street yesterday when I discovered to my lasting regret that the Studio Coffee Shop had shuttered—has been for four months according to the doorman of the building that housed the restaurant.

Now, New York still has plenty of old-style coffee shops to please those who like an unpretentious lunch and the kind of coffee that’s brewed in a pot, but the Studio stood apart in its special brand of Edward Hopperesque timelessness. It was run by a Polish family that didn’t speak English much and didn’t go in for smiles. There was a long counter and the requisite booths. The menu wasn’t remarkable in any way, but the prices were good. All this is par for the course.

The main quality the Studio had that set it up as unique didn’t really hit you until you were sitting there for a good ten minutes. Incrementally, you’d start to feel strange. Why do all the regulars seem to be in high relief? Why do all the aged details of the kitchen and counter area keep catching your eye? Why do you feel like you’re in the middle of a play?

Because there’s no noise. No aural landscape. The Studio never turned on a television or a radio. No elevator music was piped in. Nothing. Just silence. Deathly silence. Dust-is-settling silence. The Studio was the quietest eatery I ever walked into, and both eerie and comforting for the lack of static. You could hear every word every person said, particularly the business going on back in the kitchen. The clink of your spoon in the coffee cup sounded like a crescendo.

I’ll miss a place that, in this day and age, chose peace, when all everyone else wants now is distraction.

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