Memories of old friends, jobs

I’m dedicating this column to my old friend Mary, whose birthday was Tuesday.

Mary and I worked in a restaurant in the West Village of New York called Formerly Joe’s. She was hostess there, and I was a waitress.

This also was where we worked with Michael Chiklis, Anthony Bourdain and Edie Falco. They have all gone on to be quite successful, while Mary and I have gone other routes.

Mary is a Southern gal and loves the country. She raises bees in Montauk Point, Long Island, these days, although the last time we visited her, she had an apartment in the Upper East Side near the East River.

She also visited us up here in the Adirondacks one year, and we had a great time cross-country skiing at Lapland Lake.

At the time I met Mary, I had only lived in cities, but we hit it off right away.

I remember hiding from the owner, Andy Menschell, at Formerly Joe’s in the kitchen along with Mary, Anthony, Edie and Michael as we scarfed down the chef’s chocolate mousse cake when we were supposed to be working at our wait stations. Ah, memories.

According to a New York Times article, Joe’s closed in 1992 due to a lease dispute between Menschell and the building’s owner, Joe’s widow.

Mary and I are now in our 50s and lead very different lives from our days in the Big Apple.

As a side note, I saw Edie Falco on a talk show the other night as her “Nurse Jackie” series was about to start its sixth season (the series is worth watching, by the way). When asked about acting stories, she said she had many more waitressing stories as she’d “worked in every restaurant in New York City, most of which are no longer in business.”

I know that’s true of Formerly Joe’s, as well as many other places I worked at in the city.

Edie mentioned she would have nightmares about forgetting something at a table or drink orders, and I have to say I’ve had those moments too.

Mary had a natural bent toward hospitality, and would make people very comfortable and in a good mood to order the specials, as well as drinks – very important in the restaurant business.

She always tried to give me a full station of tables, and made my work there very pleasant.

Happy birthday to Mary, and great memories to all of the old crew at Formerly Joe’s.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website