As I stand idly in our apartment watching the movers do their thing and finish boxing, wrapping and carting away our worldly goods, the past 14 years of my life are replaying through my mind as if on an old, static ridden television screen.
Brooklyn, like any city I truly love, has a real sense of place. When you're in a city like Paris, Montreal, or Cape Town (among other cities), you realize that you're in a place to which other places are compared.
NYC has traditionally been full of small, independent businesses that give each neighborhood a distinct personality. Over the past few years, both Brooklyn and Manhattan have changed drastically as rents have sky rocketed and much of the quirk and grit has been replaced by international gloss and sheen. While evolution is the norm, NYC has been going through gentrification on steroids.
Through it all, bodegas remain and are as iconic to NYC as are the wooden water towers. Ziad's is your quintissential NYC bodega. If you're not sure of what a bodega is, you're not a New Yorker. It's not just the Spanish word for store, it's so much more.
A bodega isn't fancy. Nothing that can be described as artisanal is usually sold in a bodega, although you can buy organic milk. You have your typical deli counter and shelves filed with basics, soda, beer, cigarettes, candy and chips. You buy toilet paper and garbage bags there on the way home from work, or sometimes ice cream or sandwiches at 4am, stumbling home from the subway.
So it's a convenience store? No, it's more. They're about as local as a business can be. There are bodegas two blocks from us that I've never been in. Bodegas are the micro-local business that fill the void in the big city that diners and cafes in smaller towns.
People like Rajab know their customers by name and shake your hand when you walk in. You can leave keys here for your friend who's staying with you but will arrive before you get home from work. Bodegas aren't antiseptic and without character and some even have cats.
And then there are the sandwiches.
Wonderful, honest sandwiches on good Kaiser rolls that are never served the next day. This is the great difference between a NYC bodega and other sandwich shops around the country. No one else really uses rolls like we do here. They're crusty and chewy, but soft. The mayo never seeps through and the sandwich never falls apart. Ziad's sandwiches are a thing of beauty, especially chicken cutlet with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo and cheese
I've loved how I've been able to live my life here in Brooklyn. I've been able to do all my shopping at Paisano's, (a local butcher), Sahadi's, farmers markets and even a Trader Joe's - all within walking distance of our place. It would be tedious to continue on about all the things I know I'm going to miss.
But I'll miss Ziad's most.