The one where I looked longingly out the window.
by Myka Fox
At first, I was against the Friends Central Perk coffee shop that suddenly appeared in SoHo. It was just one step too far in a weird cycle of life imitating art imitating life. Yes, the city is supposed to evolve and change, but not into a twenty-year-old televised version of itself.
Frustrated, I Instagrammed a picture of the facade, the shop not yet open but already flanked by tourists, and a friend of mine commented that this was a sign that New York was over and that I should move back to LA. At least in Los Angeles, I guess, things were always fake to begin with – an honest kind of fake. But then I learned that the Central Perk was just a temporary nostalgia pop-up shop erected to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show and, most importantly, it was going to go away.
I noticed the shop because its line wrapped twice around the building, and remained like that for a full week. At one point, I asked one of the Central Perk security team how long the wait was to get in, and they told me it would be two hours. Why would anyone do that? In my case, it was to find out what could possibly be worth waiting two hours for, and also to get an article out of it. So, yesterday, on a drizzly morning, I prepared to face the line and see for myself what was so exciting about it. A little research told me I would be treated to a museum of Friends memorabilia and a cup of free coffee. A sort of Friends with benefits, if you will. In anticipation, I borrowed some of my roommate's energizing citrus-and-ginger body wash because I'm totally a Rachel.
Even though I was promised a free cup of coffee, I stopped off at the deli to grab myself some anyway, terrified that I might be trapped in a long line without any caffeine in my system. I was waiting to cross the street when I noticed the line: it was short.
I was disappointed. I was hoping that waiting in the long line would somehow imbue the experience with excitement and intrigue, and that I would become desperate to get inside and see the wonders of Central Perk. Instead, the short line had all the excitement of waiting for the bodega guy to take too long to make your sandwich.
Once I realized that my Central Perk coffee was only ten minutes away, I put my line coffee on the ground and took stock of what was going on. The visitors were mostly women, and I began to have a flashback to that one time I was tricked into going on the Sex and the City bus tour. No one on that bus wanted to answer whether or not they preferred Aidan to Big, they just wanted to take some pictures and feel like they had done something in New York.
The crew standing at the entrance and exit wore Central Perk shirts with the phrase "How You Brewing?" on the back, an homage to Joey's classic catchphrase, and the fact that the shop was equal parts Friends museum and coffee commercial for Eight O'Clock Coffee.
Most of the crew seemed cheerful, but in these situations there is always one that takes the fake enthusiasm too far. In this case, it was the woman welcoming you in at the front. Maybe she had said "hello" to too many people, or maybe she was cracked out on all the free java, but she had a certain intensity. Also, she couldn't stop dancing. Her frenetic side-stepping was the truest indicator of what this place was going to be: a tourist's hell trap.
Beware what lies ahead!
I got to the front of the line in five minutes, and the man asked me how many were in my party. That's when I realized it: I didn't have any friends.
"Just me," I say. "My real friends are the ones from the show," I added to be weird. His smile disappeared.
To my surprise, the woman behind me also answered that she was alone. Dare I make a friend?
Her accent sounded British as she told me that she was only in town for work for one day.
"Wow," I said, "and you chose to do this?"
"Yes," she replied. "I'm only here for a day, so of course, I had to come."
I tried not to sound scared. "What else did you hope to see?"
Ah yes, Rockefeller Center and the fake Central Perk, the classics.
We were both let inside at the same time, and then the girl and I immediately pretended like we had not just had a conversation. Who needs friends when you have Friends?
The "museum" part of Central Perk existed right in the entrance. Literally, if you wanted to take a look at the first item, you pretty much had to stand in the doorway next to the dancing greeter. It was worth it though, because the first item was this:
The one with the dog statue that got trapped in the corner.
Who can forget When Joey bought all that tacky crap after landing a huge role on Days of Our Lives in Season 2? I almost did! That happened in 1996!
Then there were a few more, larger artifacts...
The one where Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Ross, Rachel, and Joey all had no heads.
The one where that troll came to life and killed everyone in a toy factory.
There was a box of smaller stuff.
The one where Phoebe and Joey made a bunch of money doing porn.
The one where Rachel had the second part of her baby.
The one where two of them got married.
The one where I took a really blurry picture of Monica's wedding vows.
There was also "Science Boy," Ross's comic book featuring a superhero whose special power is a superhuman thirst for knowledge, a fuzzy sonogram of Rachel's baby, and the list of 5 famous people Ross can sleep with (1. Uma Thurman, 2. Isabella Rossellini 3. Elizabeth Hurley, 4. Vanessa Williams, 5. Dorothy Hamill), but by this time I'm regretting abandoning my line-coffee and I'm ready for my free cup.
I walk up to the coffee bar, and, thank god, there is a woman dancing to En Vogue.
The one where she realized he was a mighty good man.
Why do the women here dance? Is it because up until this point, they've been playing non-stop jams from the Friends era? I had to put my question aside for the moment, because even though I looked desperate for coffee, another woman working there was responsible for getting me to vote on how many coffee beans were in this jar.
The one where I have no idea, just give me my coffee.
I guessed 400,000.
The lady shook her head at me and said, "Don't guess an even number. They would never put an even number in."
This made me irrationally mad. The woman told me they changed the number every day, so it could have just as easily been an even number as an odd one. Not to mention, I was pretty sure I guessed a ridiculously high amount anyway because I had no idea how many beans were in there and I just wanted some coffee. She would't let me move on without taking her advice even though she said she didn't actually know how many were in there, and I was hating her. I chose 423,364 and she seemed ok with that. Then she told me I couldn't register my vote without including my email and I almost threw a Ross-style hissy fit. Instead, I gave her my email.
She walked away, and I never saw anyone else being asked to guess how many beans there were for the rest of my time there. Did she ever really exist?
The one where I become disappointed that Gunther is not behind the counter.
As a reward, I received my free cup. There were four options, including a "caramel macchiato" that was definitely not a macchiato because there was no milk or foam in any of the drinks. I chose an espresso and got a full cup of the hottest coffee possible. If that McDonald's woman had gotten coffee from here instead, she would have actually died.
I immediately put my cup down before it melted my skin and looked around. The shop was not too crowded, there were a few people buying merchandise (the shirts were already sold out), but the main attraction was at the end: the couch.
The one where there would be tables behind this couch instead of a window, but whatever.
I took a pause as the nostalgia flooded in. Thats where they sat. That's that couch from that show I liked and still kinda do. Even though Friends started 20 years ago, it never really went away.
They took my camera for me and snapped a couple shots. I am not proud of this picture; I mimicked my pose after the person before me (on many occasions, people have told me that I behave like I am about to get in trouble, so after being warned to keep my coffee far away from the couch, I felt like I would be out of line even to sit on it), but I feel like you guys have gone on this journey with me and deserve this:
The one where I am a tiny rain-soaked human on giant TV couch.
I sat in the spot on the couch that looked very well worn. Every couch has an ass print, but this couch was usually occupied by many people at once. Who left this ass print?
The one where Matthew Perry was "fat" for a season.
My guess is it was Matthew Perry from when he got fat and went through that painkiller addiction phase. I searched the cushions for pills but no such luck.
They also took a "professional" one that I found out later also required an email. This time I gave them MonicaGeller@yahoo.com because I felt like she would still have a yahoo account. There is probably a fan who actually has that account who is now going to receive this picture:
I stopped watching Friends by the time it got to the last season, and similarly I probably won't return to the pop-up shop before it closes (unless I'm looking for some hot magma to exfoliate my hands). But quite possibly, in twenty years, when they erect a pop-up shop commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the Friends Central Perk pop-up shop, I'll have long since left for LA, but some girl will walk by, become irrationally annoyed, and then sit in my ass indentation.