You may not have noticed a brief announcement recently in some newspapers and on some radio and TV stations. It referred to the famous Carnegie Deli in Manhattan. I’ve heard people talk about the Carnegie Deli all my life…it’s one of those icons of modern life that I’ve always considered an anchor of stability and truthfulness and, of course, good taste. Given its place in my mental geography, I was surprised to learn, in the news article, that the Deli had recently reopened after being closed for ten months.
I don’t visit New York very often, I hadn’t heard that the famous eatery was closed. But I was prepared to celebrate the re-opening until I read on and discovered why this “pillar of New York culture,” as one fan described it, had closed in the first place. And why was that, you ask? Because Con-Ed (the power company) had discovered that the deli’s owners were stealing some of the gas they used to prepare the incredibly good food generations of people have enjoyed there. What???? The Carnegie Deli, maybe more American than George Washington or apple pie, was cheating? Did they have to take down the deli, too? I’ve been struggling, as an aging adult, with the gradual loss of heroes in our society, as one after another of them turns out to have feet of clay, if not legs, knees and noggins of dirt. Can’t we have anyone or anything we can trust and believe in?
My list of heroes and icons was already quite short before this disheartening news about the deli. Now, I just hope I don’t learn anything devastatingly demoralizing about Pope Francis. If I did, I might lose my appetite for heroes altogether.