When I was small, giants roamed the Earth.
My parents' generation lived through a World War and were deeply affected by its misery. They smoked and drank and smoked some more. During his childhood, my father and his friends took up smoking to stave off hunger-pangs from lack of food. They lived in a war-zone with bombs falling daily.
Then the war ended. My dad immigrated to this country, got a foothold as a barber, met a girl, got a better job as a cop, and built a life. The 1950's and prosperity arrived. My parents had two young boys, a house in the bucolic suburbs, and hope for the future. They built a bar in their unfinished basement where they entertained their friends on weekends. When I was six years old, I'd sneak out of bed and peer down the stairs to watch adults get soused with rising joviality.
Many times my dad would say he was amazed that people in America could eat meat every day. Growing up in Germany, meat was so expensive families could only afford it once a week. Meals including meat were a rare luxury. Now, here, hamburgers were as common as bread.
This week, my brother's wife and kids were visiting Long Island. Out of nostalgia and in tribute, we went to the Elbow Room. And, of course, had the marinated steak. Believe it or not, on the first bite, I instantly recognized its distinctive flavor. I haven't eaten that dish in fifty years but recognized its taste. Our sense-memories have lasting power.
I almost cried when I saw the 1950's-style sign hanging from pipes in front of the restaurant. I vividly remember that sign from our family's visits of so long ago. Memories flooded back to me from a time when giants roamed the Earth.
(That's my dad in the white shirt in the first photo.)