Sometimes you see someone on the street and you have a premonition: you will meet, they will be incredibly interesting, and they will have fascinating opinions about very specific things which probably wouldn’t have ever crossed your mind. In this month’s digest, we meet one such New Yorker who Elena once saw on the street and knew would become a Té customer. As they say, the rest is history.
Elena: Why’d you move to New York?
Roslyn: I’m from New York, but I went to college outside of Philadelphia and I stayed there for five or six years in a holding pattern. My closest friend, Prudence, had moved to New York so I gave up my unfabulous job and moved back. She was living in the Village, on Christopher Street, so I found a tiny apartment in the 10th Street building I now think of as the Té Company building. The rent was $200. I didn’t have enough money for the one-month security deposit and I didn’t want my mother to know I’d splurged like that so I borrowed the money from a discreet family friend.
E: So your first apartment was upstairs! What floor?
R: Fourth. My two windows were on the fire escape, so inevitably my place was broken into. The police came, and I said that I had been at home about an hour or two before I noticed it had been broken into. I had a tiny portable TV, and I’d suddenly noticed that it wasn’t there. The police had trouble believing I could’ve been home for an hour without turning on the TV.
E: They didn’t make a mess?
R: No. There was really nothing to take. Prudence was also broken into. She said she came home and immediately noticed, because the place was neater than when she’d left it.
Roslyn editing our transcription
E: You know, I knew you before I met you. This is a funny story. I sometimes take a Taxi from home which turns into the Village on 10th St. The first time I saw you, I was sitting in the taxi waiting for the red light and you were running by 10th and Hudson, and I saw you cleaning the lamp post while waiting for the light.
R: It used to annoy me that people would put all this crap on the post; that would be me, yes.
E: Yes! I thought to myself then she’s going to be our customer one day, she just doesn’t know it yet. That is just the type of thing our people do. After that day, I would occasionally see you running in the Village and think, oh, there is that lady again. Then one day you walked in.
R: Some years ago someone had an article in the New Yorker about these collapsing multiple poles that were used for getting plastic bags out of trees. It totally appealed to me so I ordered this thing from California, and I was never strong enough to handle it. Bill and I used to go around the Village doing that, and we had to wear hard hats in case branches came down. Finally we couldn’t do it anymore, so I gave it to Jefferson Market Garden because we’d come and do theirs all the time.
Taking a picture of the Salt Shed
E: Why do you love the Salt Shed (on the highway at Spring Street) so much?
R: It’s a public utility. They could have built something unattractive or undistinguished, but they didn’t. I think that that’s it: that a lot of practical, civic, and aesthetic care went into designing it. And the same, by the way, is true of the sanitation department garage across from it on Spring Street. For a garbage truck garage it’s pretty attractive. They have a green roof and they collect rainwater which they then use for cleaning the trucks and stuff, so there was artfulness involved. Again, they could’ve built something ugly.
E: What was the Village like when you got here and what attracted you to live here for this long?
R: The small scale. It was always known for artists and stuff. I think people complain about the changes that happen, and I see it, especially the ferocious rise in prices, but my feeling is that cities are organic, they do change. We all mourn the loss of certain stores and certain restaurants, but good ones come too, so it’s all right. I still love it.
E: What’s the number one reason you visit Té?
R: Does this mean I have to choose between the two of you? Because the number one reason is you guys.
E: Not the snacks or anything?
R: That too. And you were my favorite people and place until the amaro episode. [Fred recommended to Roslyn and Bill an amaro so awful they ended up using it to clear drains.] It’s going to take you forever to crawl out of that. Until the amaro I was indiscriminate about everything I tasted of yours. I loved all the baked things. You introduced me to a range of teas I love. I also love the unusualness of Té; it’s not an institution like any other in the neighborhood. And you’ve always had lovely people working with you. But Fred’s amaro recommendation: it was confidence shattering. I have to build up again to loving you!