Upper West Side painter Robert Beck set up his easel and painted the block where his favorite restaurant used to be. He had company. Telepan, the beloved Michelin-starred restaurant at 72 West 69th Street, closed in 2016.
By Robert Beck
I miss Telepan. That was my special place. My Anniversary and Valentine’s place. I need impeccable now and then. I haven’t found much of that lately unless I pay a stupid amount of money, and then it loses its specialness. It becomes just expensive, and it damn well better have a dessert in the shape of Bono.
Telepan wasn’t cheap, but an evening there was always what it was supposed to be. Out of the ordinary. Not about different, about better. That’s something I remember when I look down that block. The delight.
I was painting in this spot when a construction worker came up behind me and stood watching for ten or fifteen minutes. He had a pneumatic drill resting on his shoulder—one of those big ones that weigh fifty or sixty pounds. I don’t know where he was going when I caught his eye, but at that moment, his interest was locked on what I was doing. He sighted directly past my ear, his eyes going from my panel, down the block and back with every stroke. After about five minutes, he swung the heavy drill down, leaned it against his stomach, and included my palette in his studies. He finally hiked the jackhammer back up on his shoulder, said “Nice,” and disappeared somewhere behind me.
It’s not uncommon. A plumber once parked his truck up on the sidewalk so he could run back and see what I was doing. It gives me hope in these days of darkness.
That stretch on 69th deserved a painting, especially with the splash of Columbus at the end of the block. It is definitely worth saying “Nice” about. It shows a human scale and evidence of how we live. A celebration of home, with stoops you can sit on. Not some slab architecture pressing up against the sidewalks where those last crumbs of return on investment are hiding. Nobody wants to look at that. Not even the guy who builds them.
Robert is losing his Upper West Side studio. Maybe you can help him find another. “The Upper West Side is my place,” he says. His needs are modest, if a bit unusual. Read about it here.