Club Row was a place to itself. Located just out of the stream of pedestrian traffic that either spilled out to Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate, or double-backed up to Aldgate. When I was a kid, Club Row was derelict, the enduring result of bomb damage from the London Blitz. But on Sundays, this empty space filled up with vendors. There were birds for sale, exotic parakeets, gaudy parrots, tiny songbirds, and hundreds of racing pigeons warbling with discontent, stacked up, cage upon cage, way beyond my gaze. Bordered with old warehouse buildings, ancient offices, and clothing sweatshops, Club Row also housed a variety of stores at street level, open on Sunday because it was an old Jewish neighborhood.
I particularly loved the bakeries, with their weirdly shaped loaves, twisted and plaited and covered with what I thought was bird seed. And rolls with holes, threaded onto long sticks! Amazing. No bread was sliced, or pre-wrapped in printed waxed paper. Fresh. Lew once bought us a bag of small, hot breads that were soft on the inside and crusty on the outside. Steam filled the bag and a yeasty, sweet aroma filled the air. My first bagels. What a treat. We ate most of them as we mooched around, looking at budgies and songbirds and kittens and puppies. For a few hours, I had become a part of Lew’s polyglot, unpredictable, and distant past.