Life Cafe lasted for 30 years from 1981 to 2011. These photos are from the 90s. I moved to New York City in 1987, so it had already been there for 6 years. The area was pretty rough and there were no other cafes or restaurants along Avenue B back then (not that I recall). We didn’t go there for great food; it was just a nice place to hang out, especially when the weather was good and the outdoor tables were available. Facing south to the park meant lots of sun; sometimes too much. We usually got nachos or burritos.
Right after college, for about a year in 1990, I lived a block away on East 10th Street between Avenue B and C. I used to walk by Life Cafe every morning on the way to work. I specifically remember one morning, walking on East 10th Street, thinking to myself, “Wow. I’m actually on my own, free to do anything. Now, nobody can tell me what I should or should not do.” It was a strange but exhilarating feeling. No obligation, duty, or responsibility. If I had decided at that moment to get on a plane to Mexico, I could have. Sure, I had a job but it’s not like someone was telling me to work. I hadn’t achieved anything. Nobody knew who I was. I had no career or reputation. I hadn’t built any professional network. Nobody was relying on me for anything. In other words, I hadn’t existed yet. I could have chosen a different culture to exist in. I had no obligation to the city, and the city had no obligation to me. I could have the same feeling today if I traveled to another country, but what was different about then was that I had no obligation to ANY society. I didn’t exist anywhere. I was absolutely free.
Life in a way is a process of slowly giving up freedom to be meaningful within the world you choose.
#1990s #90s #oldnewyork #nycfoodie #nycfood #lifecafe #eastvillage
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