We are happy to have been served by you (Leslie Buck, 1922-2010)

I’m fond of those nooks and crannies of history and culture — people, items and/or places to which we don’t always give a second thought, but they’re a part of our lives somehow in a way we don’t ponder until they’re gone.

Until this evening, when I read his obit in The New York Times, I didn’t know who Leslie Buck was.

If you seek his monument, look above. The Czechoslovakian-born son of Jewish parents who died in the Holocaust, he designed the Greek coffee cup that’s close to synonymous with New York. Talk about melting pots. Or cups.

With the proliferation of coffee chains that use foofy words like “venti,” the small but venerable cup’s presence has declined. But this tiny bit of paper and wax, spawned in the mid-’60s, is an iconic artifact of a time and place — in this case, of pre-Internet, pre-9/11, Jerry Orbach-as-Lennie Briscoe New York. Like a lot of other New York artifacts — Luna Park, subway tokens, the Horn & Hardart Automats, West Side Story,  stickball, Ebbets Field, the ’64 World’s Fair, CBGB, the Twin Towers — it will be a defining piece of the city that will never be forgotten as long as there’s a history.

And Leslie Buck was the man who made many lives a little brighter by making them a little bluer.

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