Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Farewell, Cake Cafe

It's hard to calculate a loss like this.  How do you measure warmth, conviviality, a sense of welcome, an always interesting mix of people, eclectic servers, and wonderful, heartwarming food?  How do you calibrate a sense of home?  Of a place that satisfied your belly and your soul?  That was relaxed, fun, colorful and faithfully reflected the Marigny, the New Orleans neighborhood it served so openheartedly.

Steve Himelfarb and Becky Retz, owners and partners. They earned every bit of the popularity bestowed upon the Cake Cafe.  The place was packed on the weekends, lines outside, people coming for a substantial breakfastmy favorite: the poetic homemade corned beef hash.  There was always robust coffee and a sense that they were glad you were there.

Some things need to be mentioned.  Steve's king cake, ranked high in the city. (Those reading this not from New Orleans who want to know what a king cake is, read this.)   I ordered one every year.  I ate a lot of their celebrated cupcakes, too.  But in the interest of not having to buy new pants every six months, I stopped.  Nearly.

On the weekends, Steve in back in the kitchen, you were greeted by Becky.  She had a small pad, took your name, asking if you wanted a table inside or out.  And however crowded it was, you got that table much sooner than later.  It was always so heartening to be greeted by her sunny disposition.

I don't like writing this.  I don't like the idea of not being able to go to the Cake Cafe any more.  Change your minds, Steve and Becky!  Don't leave me out in the cold, away from your embrace. Like so many places we come to love and to depend on to give us a big dose of the better things in life, the loss will hit us hard.  Has, already.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


I woke up today with a hangover.  Not a booze-inflicted hangover.  A crying hangover.  Yesterday afternoon, I wept uncontrollably for an hour at least. I don't remember how long it actually was.  It all gushed out, the despair I'd been closeting in my heart.  I couldn't contain it any more.  My hands to my face, I let the dam burst, and I couldn't stop it. I wept and wailed, and, like a cut vein, the pain gushed and gushed.  Like a rain-soaked cloud, it poured and poured and poured, a hurricane of pain, a typhoon of pain and distress and hopelessness.  It had been brewing for months, but I'd contained it, until something set it off, I don't know what.  Somehow, my heart had become saturated.  I was on the phone with my brother, and I had to hang up.  I could feel it coming, and I couldn't stop it, didn't want to stop it.  

And I not only wept, I wailed, throwing out desperate question after desperate question. I don't know the answers.  Why?  Why did it end up like this?

The complete vulnerability, nakedness, all of it poured out of my eyes and throat.

And afterwardyou all know thisstunned and exhausted, wrung out, nothing left, nothing.  

No answers.  But surrender.  Blessed surrender.

The release of those pent-up feelings, overcoming the instinct to keep in control, for God's sake, not to mention the sense, in my case at least, that it's unmanly to cryto break past that and let it happen. Finally. 


I've been wearing masks for years.  I have an entire metaphorical closet full of them.  For all occasions and all times.  I made them all myself, actually.

I wear them to protect myself.  Not from any virus.  But from people knowing who I really am.

These masks are so cleverly constructed it's hard to tell I'm wearing one.  At least, that's the goal.

So now when I go to the grocery store or to the pharmacy with a literal mask, surgeon-ready, I'm relieved.  I don't have to go to the elaborate stages of putting on one of my many false faces to hide behind.  This real mask does all the work for me.

The relief of not being seen.