Childhood’s End

(Preface: this is one of very few things that I’ll break my unspoken commitment to write only about the Mets for.  This is a short reflection on learning that a pizza place in the town where I’ve spent my summers since 2007 has closed.  It may be uninteresting for those who don’t know the place personally; I’ll be back to the Mets as soon as I have something else to say about them.)

Apparently nostalgia counts for nothing anymore.

Or at least, that’s the only explanation I can think of. Because if Main Street Variety can close, and just like that, cease to exist, it means just about nothing is certain.

Background on this: Main Street Variety is a variety store located near the center of Bridgton, Maine, where I’ve spent the greater part of every summer since 2007. It’s as close to perfect as you can get. The walls are plastered with pictures of old-time celebrities, one side housed a giant, antique jukebox, and there was a big fridge, prominently displayed in the front, filled with nothing but Moxie, still in the glass bottles.

I drank plenty of Moxie, but I never did figure out whether that Juke worked.

It was the essence of Maine, and also the essence of a simpler time. As I visited more and more often, it became, quite simply, one of my favorite places to be.

How perfect was Main Street Variety? I’ll tell you: so perfect that Stephen King wrote it into one of his more prominent novels. Early on in The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7), Roland and Eddie find themselves in Bridgton, where Stephen King lived at the time. They look around, and King describes their surroundings.

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“The Bridgton Town Square was bounded by a drug store and a pizza joint on one side; a movie theater (the Magic Lantern) and a department store (Reny’s) on the other.”

I’ve been to all four of those places multiple times. By the time I get back there, only three will remain.

That Pizza joint, which Stephen King now calls his favorite place to visit when he’s in Bridgton, was Main Street Variety. It had been around for longer than anyone knew. The building has been there since before 1890. Now, it’s gone. To open in September, the new owners promise, as a pub or a tavern.

I don’t know why all the best places have to disappear like this. Maybe it didn’t bring in enough to stay above water. Maybe the owners were ready to let it go. Maybe the buyers made an offer the sellers couldn’t refuse.

It could be any of them; I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter much.

Having read the news, I sent the article to friends who know Main Street Variety the same way I do, with a message including, among other things, “I’m honestly really unhappy about this.”

My older, wiser friend read my message.

“Welcome to getting old,” he responded.

And that summed it up pretty well.

I don’t want to get old; no one does. And for something like this to be the first indicator that time has, in fact, kept ticking, sometimes with consequences like this? That didn’t make it any better.

I remember exactly the last time I visited Main Street. It was Monday, August 11th, 2015. Just after lunch, around 1:30. We drove into town. We stopped at the bank. While one of our number went into the bank to cash a check, I ran down the block to Main Street. I bought some local, Maine fudge and a Moxie. I left.

I didn’t know, at the time, that I would never be back, but even if I had, I don’t know that I would have done anything differently. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the perfect last memory of Main Street Variety: a quick stop in, a purchase of Moxie, a friendly greeting, and an exit. That’s what happened every time we were there; it’s the perfect way to remember it.

Which makes it doubly hard to realize that it won’t be happening again.

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