Truly, to live in New York City is to walk through a palimpsest of memories on the landscape. I walked out today to get coffee and the Lowe’s Home Improvement on Broadway was gone—utterly gone, the signs removed, the windows covered over from the inside. Yesterday it was there and today it is not. People slowed down and stared in confusion. How could the Lowe’s not be there?
With that, the city loses a visual reference point: the standoff, on either side of 68th Street, between the Lowe’s and the Loews, the AMC Loews Lincoln Center 13. The Loews is the winner, and soon newcomers to the neighborhood will never even know there was a contest. One time, inside the Loews, I almost ignored Angelina Jolie. I was on my way into a late movie on a weeknight, and coming out of another one of the theaters was a group of bizarrely overdressed people. I stared at them blankly as I passed, trying to figure out whether this was some sort of corporate party outing or what, and very belatedly it occurred to me that one of them looked familiar. There must have been a premiere, and by the time I got there they’d already cleared away the red-carpet entrance setup. Until that moment I had never thought about how the people who walk in on the red carpet eventually walk back out again. Evidently they just exit through the lobby, across from the popcorn counter, like anybody else.
I never noticed anyone famous in the Lowe’s. There weren’t that many people in there, usually. The aisles were wide and chilly, on a somewhat inhuman scale, like Hudson Yards. In my recollection it was always dark outside—when I needed hardware-store stuff by day, I would go up to the narrow little mom-and-pop place on 72nd Street, where they still have lots and lots of incandescent bulbs. Before that, I used to go to the hardware department in the sub-basement of Gracious Home, on the corner of 67th. That branch of Gracious Home shut down not long after Lowe’s opened. I blamed Lowe’s for killing it, but it might have just been the landlord gouging it to death, the way the landlords gouge so many things to death. The Gracious Home storefront has been vacant ever since, except for a popup cashmere sale a little while ago.
When Gracious Home died, though, it had a big liquidation sale, right down to the fixtures, and the store signs stayed up for more than a year after that. Lowe’s just got deleted, non-placed, like a glitch made it fail to render on the corner. Presumably a mega-chain can just send in some trucks and take all the inventory off to its other stores, or its warehouse.
It was an OK place to buy cleaning supplies, the Lowe’s. It had the dumb 38-watt halogen flood bulbs for the kitchen track lights, which are constantly burning out. One time I tried to see if they would sell me a tiny bit of potting soil, to repot a single grocery-store basil plant in a slightly larger pot, but they only had big bags of it.
Oh, and wrapping paper. I think I laid in a useful supply of Christmas wrapping paper from there. I also bought too many LED holiday lights, because they were on sale.
That’s about it for the Lowe’s. I squinted at the closure notice taped to the side door, to convince my still-confused mind that this was not, like, a sudden temporary renovation shutdown or something. Then I walked on and got my coffee. I thought about getting a nut roll from the good bakery but the rain was getting harder as I walked, so I turned off on 72nd and got a bag of Munchkins at the Dunkin Donuts. My younger kid had kept saying he wanted Dunkin Donuts, and I asked him where one even was, and he told me we walk past it all the time. He was right.