It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Category Archives: France
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I have been depressed lately despite the fact that I’m on vacation, I’m just not happy. I am very concerned for a far away friend who may be having a health crisis and I can’t do anything but pray and hope. The fact that I am reaching the end of my available cash and will be back on austerity within a week or two is not helping matters any, and I am very unhappy with the state of the world in general, as I have mentioned before in my writing. The job market is again on the down turn, my brother is out of work…again! I’m going broke subsidizing the family income. But it’s the lack of culture here that I find so frustrating. In New York no matter what your into you can find something to do at almost any hour, and many things are free or cheap. I love having a garden and growing veg and flowers, but you have to drive everywhere if you want entertainment. Living in the suburbs is nice to a point , but there is just nothing to do around here day or night. Unless you want to hang round in a bar or go to the movies, there is nothing much to do but shop or eat out. The thing I am most sad about is the total lack of friends, especially friends in the arts or literary world, you get to a certain age and you don’t have the opportunity to make friends anymore. This week has been hot and humid and I spent all my energy last week on a walking tour of New York’s Chinatown on Friday and then two days of prepping the house and garden for a family Forth of July celebration on Monday. So by Tues I was completely exhausted and yet at the same time restless and just couldn’t get out of my own way.
I just finished reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and my desire to be an expat in Paris reared its ugly head once again, the” lost generation” might have been lost but they lived in a time when it was good to be alive and everything was cheap and accessible. I know I’m typing on a computer that wouldn’t have been available back then, but I still feel that we lost much when we passed the age of telegrams and typewriters. It seems then it was still possible to live well on a stipend from a parent or the advance of a publisher. I think the thing I desire is a simpler life in a far away place, some sort of escape from the misery of the modern world and all its problems. I know the recent case of an Casey Anthony; the allegedly killer mother, whose daughter drowned possibly out of neglect, makes my concerns sound like the whining of a child. But guess what; that young mother who will go free. Is already receiving offers in the millions to appear on talk shows as soon as she gets that magic get out of jail free card. That kind of money could put me in the position to make my life what I want it to be. There will be no offer like that coming my way any time soon, since I will not be committing any crimes-except of course excessive complaining and ranting.
So I have spent a few days being miserable, driving around aimlessly looking for that which I just can’t find.Finally, I realized I was wasting time. Next week when I’m back at work at that miserable hot counter listening to the sounds of air tools and screaming bosses, I will look back on this and kick myself. So I picked up my dry cleaning and even though I didn’t want to spend the money, I joined my mom and brother at an Indian restaurant nearby for an excellent buffet lunch. Afterward I decided to go to the liquor store.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to the liquor store. I am quoting a bit of Melville’s “Moby Dick”, one of my favorite books and one that I used to great advantage to get an A+ on my term paper for English 101 in college. I go here as a kind of spa, not for the wearing of mud on one’s body and cucumber on the eyes, but rather for the wearing of a smile on ones face. There is an enormous cast of characters to amuse a dull spirit and chief among these is my good friend Sam.
What can I say about Sam, he is the kind of guy that can make anyone feel special, he has a good line of bull too. He has a heart of gold and every customer wants to see him. I am one of the people who is allowed in the back office to shoot the breeze and tackle some of life’s mysteries with Sam, he also respects my taste in wine and it guides his purchases for the store. Sams brother Tommy is a great guy, he has been sharing his knowledge of Sommelier school with me and has been brushing up on his studies again, I like to think I inspired that to some degree. He is married to Evelyn, who also works full-time. My buddy Evelyn is my foodie friend and a good listener, she knows more about my life than my last therapist and never judges me, just offers what I need… positive support and friendship. I don’t know Christine too well, she is Evelyn s daughter and they fight in a quiet funny way as only mothers and daughters can, but she is interesting and a whiz with technology. The co-owner Jamie is a funny mom with great stories about her travels and the tribulations of being a mother, and some recipe advice for my foray into Greek cooking. Jamie is the kind of fun, energetic woman I would like to meet, someone who knows how to live well but not spend foolishly. Then there’s Carina, she is not around much anymore, she is going to be a teacher and is in school much of the time now. But those kids are going to get one of the nicest, bubbly, happy teachers they’ll ever see, I hope they don’t ruin all that positive energy. Lastly, there is Gene. He comes in and does the grunt work and the shelves and dusting part-time, he actually has the job I wanted. Gene is a riot, he messes with Sam and Evelyn and cracks me up with his provocation.
The cast of characters that come in to the store is as varied as the shelves of wine and spirits. I sit in a stool on the side of the counter and hold court a little and watch and listen to the stories and the antics. There’s the dog lady who is very reserved unless she has been drinking, then she is a fascinating study in unrestrained behavior. The friendly guy who is shaking hands with everyone because he’s high and buys little airport bottles of cheap Hooch to add to the buzz. The loud ba-da-bing guys who are too numerous to name whose antics with Sam include hugging, high fives, and occasional gropes. There is the bad foot lady who I also see at the food store who is always got a story to tell. The trio of lesbian fire fighters, several gay couples who are impeccably dressed. There is a cross dresser who has very bad taste in frocks and the famous “Buddy Guy Dude” who unfortunately died before I could meet him but the stories about him are legendary. I sometimes help a customer find something and most people think I’m an employee on break or perhaps security. I listen and laugh and make mental notes for future use as characters in as yet to be written plays or novels.
Today however was special, after spending an hour listening and laughing, I went home just as the rain was getting heavy and went upstairs and started to clean my room, organizing everything and putting away things that were not needed. I opened up my easel area and made it possible to paint, and continued with the change in my desk set up after getting rid of some stuff I was happy and energized. I then proceeded to take the laptop down to the kitchen and started to write this story. I haven’t wanted to write in weeks but now find myself happily drinking Pinot Grigio and writing this piece. So for tonight at least I’m out of the dark seas of depression and sailing off into the calm waters of contentment. Maybe I too could learn something from Melville’s most famous work. I think that Ahab was chasing Moby Dick to try and get his soul back from the whale who had torn it apart when it took his leg. I have been chasing dreams that I’ll never see, the Paris of the twenties is gone. I could be there right now typing this al-fresco at a cafe and still not have the experience of the lost generation. I couldn’t have the experience of the post-war generation either, only the famous St Germain cocktail can bring you closer to 1947 Paris. The thing that Sam said to me out of the blue has made all the difference, searching for your bliss starts in the moment, it’s right in front of you all the time. It’s not in Paris or Provence or even on the moon. It’s how you feel right now and what you choose to do in the moment right in front of you. That’s the secret to life. Not the Holy Grail or the fountain of youth; although those things would be nice if they existed, just making every moment your own.
So thanks guys, for all you do for me. We may only see each other at the store but you guys are my true friends
If you close your eyes…you can almost see it. A group of primitive humans are gathered in a large cave, it has been home for many years now. In the center a large fire burns keeping the cave warm and illuminated. This fire is a relatively new discovery for the group, and all are responsible to tend the fire and keep it burning. There is much to be happy about as all eyes are on the fresh kill that the hunters have brought back this dusk. The clan leader carves the portions from the bones and gives each member their share on a large leaf which is quickly taken back to feed hungry families or consumed alone. A young teen male only just allowed to go with the hunt waits his turn , his first kill and he is especially proud. He is given his share by the leader and dashes off to his corner of the cave, but as he does so, he see’s the object of his desire sitting with her family to his left. In a bit of bravado he leaps over part of the fire, but the young fool does not stick his landing, and as he falls in a tangle of limbs his portion of meat slips into the flames and begins to sizzle and pop!
He falls hard, and is immediately aware that his food is no longer in his hand, he turns and is horrified to see to see it roasting in the flames, he tries but it is too hot to reach in and get out, he doesn’t know what to do, all eyes are upon him as he panics-there will be no second helping for him, as the minutes go by all you can hear is the sizzle and pop of cooking meat. The clan leader strides over with spear in hand none too pleased, determined to make an example of him he grunts his disapproval and raises his spear! The young fool cowers looking down waiting for the fatal spear to strike. The leader thrusts down into the cooking meat and laying it down on a leaf commands the boy to eat. Everyone watches as he takes up the hot meat, it burns his fingers a little but the smell of roasted flesh is inviting. Yet he is still afraid and as he brings it to his face, he looks up pleadingly at the leader, but he stares him down waiting. He folds his arms and commands him”EAT!” The young fool brings the warm meat to his mouth and takes a bite and begins to chew, expecting to become ill or die and meet the ancestors.
Can you imagine the first bite of cooked meat? How it must have tasted to him, the warm juices flowing in his mouth and down his throat, dripping down his chin. The meat, so tender and warm, so different from the meat eaten cold by the time it was carved. The leader is astonished and grabs the meat from the underling and takes a big bite and chews, he too discovers the joy and taste of cooked food. He declares the young man to be Master of Fire Meat from now on and soon all are enjoying cooked food, especially the young girl who is by now at his side. Over time the young hero teaches his sons to cook meat and use spices and herbs that he has discovered by taking risks, and finding whats good in nature to cook with the meats and roots they live on. I wonder if there is cafe on the spot where all this occurred so many years ago? It may not have happened exactly like that, but the next time you’re in a natural history museum, look close at that ancient skull staring back at you, he may know why it’s important to cook well…because it tastes so good.
I join the conversation around me after actually starting to read the book on-line. One woman is from Florida on vacation and her daughter is moving toward French cooking, an Indian girl who adores Tony, and a middle-aged woman who has a drawing her husband bought her on EBAY years before allegedly done by Tony that she wants to authenticate. I grow more excited as we get closer to his appearance, and then I hear people say “There he is!” and I look down into the ground floor to see Tony striding along in his dark jeans, graphic t-shirt and suit jacket carrying a Brooklyn Lager and wearing dark glasses. He looks just he does on TV loping along tall and relaxed, quintessential cool. In a few minutes he walks in and sits down at the desk and the signing begins, they speed the process by taking your book from you and your camera, you walk up to the table shake hands, talk a little while he signs the book he has been handed by the staff, and then you lean in and get your photo taken, he hands you the book and then you move on and let the next person go. It’s very efficient and rushed and by the time my turn comes I am a cross between a gushing schoolgirl and a stuttering awkward teenage boy. My turn comes and I walk up shake hands and place my folder on the table. Tony says “How you doin” and I stupidly say “Alright” without even asking him in return I blurt out “This is a gift” as I open my folder and say “It’s a little of my amateur writing” He says OK and takes it and puts it under the table then while he signs my book I say to him “Two questions…Is there any place in New York to get Singapore chicken rice?” and he says “No” Then I ask “How is the $26 Black Label Burger at the Minetta Tavern?” He smiles and says “It’s really good, I mean really good” So I say “Really!” (another great reply and as he hands me my book back after the picture) and I say “Uh cool uhh I’ll have to try it” and the conversation trailed off in nodding and smiling uhhs and yeahs and I don’t think I even thanked him for signing the books ( I also brought my copy of his excellent fictional novel “Bone In The Throat”) as I walked away feeling stupid and wishing I could have had a do-over and feeling like I need a social etiquette class.
I guess people will always wish they had done a little better in these situations, at least I do now in retrospect I could have talked more and been a little more engaging. I should have said something more meaningful, but I thought I’d let my writing speak for itself. The trouble is I don’t know if he even read my stuff, I put my address and phone numbers on the inside cover just in case he wanted to get in touch with me. I mean he probably gets this all the time and it might even piss him off so there’s a good chance he threw it away. It’s my nature to be self-critical and I know I’m not a great writer I just wanted to sound more intelligent than I did, but hopefully he will read my work and read abut the positive influence he has had in my life in the story “1st Anniversary on WordPress” How he has changed me in positive ways and made me a better cook and consumer. I leave with regret, the whole thing was over in less than two minutes. I go downstairs and outside to find my friends and we gather together to talk excitedly about our shared experience. The Indian girl says that he told her he is definitely having too much fun and the show will go on for a few more years! The woman who owned the drawing had it confirmed by Tony that he remembered doing it on a beach in Long Beach, Long Island, NY many years back and that a friend that was not doing well stole it and waited to sell it when Tony was at the height of his popularity. Tony being the good man that he is did not ask for it back and felt that it had a good home with the woman who was thrilled to pieces. We talk for a few minutes and then go our separate ways.
I walk back to the park feeling a little better about things and sit on the wall and call my mom and tell her my news, she is thrilled and suggests I find a nice place to eat. So I walk back to the subway and head uptown to more familiar surroundings. My mind is muddled with a hundred thoughts about my experience so my usual observations are lost in that sauce and I get out at Bleeker St and begin to search for a meal. I walk around checking menus and decide to settle down in Chez Jaqueline, a French place that has been in New York a while, I have walked by it many times. I sit down facing the street with the louver doos and curtains open and I order a glass of pastis and watch the kids in the playground across the street. They are actually playing kickball! I didn’t think anyone did that anymore. I order Bacalau brandade, a mix of salt cod and garlic mashed potatoes baked till golden, and for my main a pork chop Milanaise. I sit and watch the kids and adults enjoy the cool weather and listen to a mix of cool jazz and cafe Paris thrown in for good measure. This is a Cote d’Azur themed menu featuring southern French food with a few traditional dishes such a Daube de Boeuf, Duck Rilletes and the ubiquitous French onion soup w/Gruyère cheese on top. I have the place to myself as it’s actually quite late for lunch and not yet dinner. The Brandade comes and is good but a little dry and over browned making me wish I had ordered a celery remoulade instead. The pork chop comes and has been butterflied and coated with seasoned bread crumbs and pan-fried, it is served with field greens vinaigrette and a lemon wedge. It is tasty and healthish and I enjoy a glass of wine with it while the afternoons grows late. I decline dessert and pay the check and head for the subway, it is alternately warm and cool depending on the wind and shade. Soon I see some familiar sights and as I make my way to Bleeker St station I find the Monk Thrift Shop where a new comer to New York City (me) came years before and bought the old army travel bag that has been all over the city as well as Paris and London. I look around at all the stuff, clothes, shoes, handbags, books, records, nick naks, lamps, glassware, all kinds of stuff. I show the guy at the counter the bag I bought here years ago with its hand drawn destinations and he is impressed and says that its history now-my history, and he is right.
The trip home was uneventful and I walked to an area easy for my mom to get to and called her to pick me up as I will be without my car for two days. I tell her all about my adventure and my hopes and feelings of dis-appointment about the experience and as always mom tries to get me to be more positive about things. Now what I didn’t know until about six weeks later is that Tony is holding a contest, for one of the fans of the show who are registered on the No Reservations website to write a 500 word essay on Why is it important to cook well? The contest will go on till November when Tony (who will be checking in and reading people’s work and commenting ) will pick the winner who will win $10,000 and get their essay put in as the new forward to the paperback version of his new book Medium Raw. you can enter as many times as you want to try to win and I have already entered once a piece called “I Cook Well” and am working on a second at this time. I can’t help thinking that it was me and anyone else who gave him their writing that brought this contest about so now I feel a whole lot better about the book signing debacle and how I came off.
I hope I win but my story at last count was like 914 out of 1047 entries so it’s a long shot, but at least I met Tony and the next time I meet him I’ll be a lot more confident and self-assured and maybe it’ll be because he’s delivering my prize in which case after a sit down with the family I will take him to Cassis, my local piece of France with food that I am certain will pass his muster and over a good meal and many drinks I will ask him all the questions I thought of later and pitch some ideas to him for a book I’d like to write but need help with and some ideas for his show that I think he would like very much, nothing big just goofy themes like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” that he used for his Nevada trip, along those lines. But of course “The Sit Down” with Tony is a dream that all his fans have and I’m sure very few will ever get that but it’s good to want and it’s nice to dream.
It’s a beautiful day as I rise early and find myself sitting on the train heading for New York City for a re-do of the Greenwich Village/Soho self-guided tour I did last year, tomorrow is Memorial Day and a barbeque will keep me busy half the day so today is just for me. I saw this morning before I left that my French “Haricot Vert” string beans have poked their heads up out of the ground, as well as some “Babette” carrots, in a week I will be planting Heirloom tomatoes as well as Thai basil and some Mervielle lettuces, a diverse group of plantings this year. This is a quiet car filled with perhaps sleepy people like myself ( I had one too many glasses of wine last night) who probably needed a few more hours of shut-eye, just the rhythmic pattern of the wheels on the track to hear. But soon the relative quiet is broken by a guy who gets a call on his cell phone. He loudly tells the person on the other end that he’s “out pretty far” (we just passed Mineola next we’ll be out of Nassau County and into Queens County) and he won’t get there till about 10:00 o’clock. I’m guessing that he would consider my little town close to the “bush” and the East End of Long Island; with its farms and vineyards a step back in time. We pass a big brick building with faded lettering you can just make out Rull Coal & Ice, it’s funny to think that before modern refrigerators, people used ice boxes and that company delivered blocks of ice that slowly melted into a drip pan under the fridge that had to be emptied periodically, and heating with coal too was a sooty mess until the modern oil burner was available to everyone, we take for granted our modern conveniences like refrigeration and electric stoves.
Lately, I have been voraciously reading a series of books written by Peter Mayle documenting the transition with his wife from bustling Londoners to country bumpkins in Provence, France. The first book “A Year in Provence” is a funny look into the purchase of a 200-year-old farm-house and the trials and joys of restoring it and the property to the glory of a working farm while they learn about how things are done in a place very different from London or New York. I highly recommend these books. The fame it brought him in France with several more books like Toujours Provence, French Lessons, Encore Provence, etc is immeasurable and he has also written a few fictional novels set in places like Provence, Paris, Spain, etc which I haven’t read yet. The latest one involves the heist of a cache of wine and is a chase /action read, a good “caper” book. So I have a new hero to worship, a man who lives the life I would love and has made a fortune doing what he loves to do.
Speaking of hero’s my old pal Anthony Bourdain got himself in a little hot water with his Republican fans on a talk show called Anderson Cooper where he refered to the Tea Party members as a “bunch of angry white men” and compared them to the prejudiced men of the sixties who opposed Martin Luther King and his followers. The reaction from fans was that about seven people said they wouldn’t watch the show anymore or participate in the discussions. Well that’s funny because at least one of them called himself “usedtowatch” and had only posted once! Which means he never participated in the first place and that was his first and final post! This particular group seems to want to go back to the way things were when good ol Georgie W was in the White House and the Republicans had control for eight more years of war for profit, a tanking economy, and people losing their homes and jobs while the fat cats just grew more wealthy. So I wouldn’t worry Tony (not that you are) you don’t need them anyway.
I get out at Penn Station and go down to the subway station, it’s amazing how few people are around compared to other days. I take a quick glance at the subway map and that’s where the best laid plans of mice and men start to go astray. It was supposed to be easy just take the subway up to 42nd st and then take the 7 over to the 456 line and take it down to West 4th street. But I got my signals crossed and was leading myself to the Lower East Side again instead of the West Side. I get out at Spring St and realize my mistake, in my overconfidence and slightly hungover tiredness I have given myself a chore to walk over to my starting point on the other side of Manhattan! So I begin my walk and while I do I stop to read menus posted for today in restaurant window’s. It being Sunday many places are offering brunch, and as I read one to the other I begin to notice that no matter what the cusine, brunch consists of the same food no matter where you go! The humble omelette, French toast, bacon and eggs (any style), Granola with fruit, hot oatmeal and coffee or tea is the food du jour of today with no variation or anything to make it interesting or different. I could easily make any of this at home with my eyes closed standing on one foot! Well… maybe with one eye open. I really get mad at myself when I find that I’m all the way down on Canal St going in the wrong direction! Now I have to pull out the map and get my bearings again, I turn the map so I can see exactly where I am and decide to try for Thompson St as that will be the most direct route.
I walk along in the warm sun cursing myself for screwing up and quickly realize that it will be hot, I’m starting to think I should just go back home, I mean I’m just not on my game today. I remember Peter Mayle’s references to the unbearable heat of August in Provence, a time when many leave the region for cooler points north and those that stay do little or nothing! I zig zag keeping to the shaded sides of the streets like Tony Bourdain did in Provence Episode of “No Reservations” until I come to Thompson St and take it north to Washington Square Park. I see the fountain is in full operation shooting water high in the sky turning off I walk to Macdougal Street to find food. I have had nothing all day except for decaf coffee and I need to eat, maybe a good breakfast at home was the way to go, but dad was up and I can’t abide morning news at max volume. I like my mornings quiet and thoughtful.
I feel at home on this street, it has been the subject of many a story of mine as walk down looking over at the Cafe Reggio, all tables taken out front so I continue on walking past Meskerem, the Eithiopian place where I had a lunch years ago. I walk a little further and see an unexpected sight, the old Minetta Tavern that closed down over a year ago is all clean and polished and the door is open! I quickly cross the street to find it offering a brunch and open for business! I walk in and am immediately greeted by two people at once and as I look around I feel as if I stepped back in time. Black and white alternating floor tiles harken back to my parents days and then some, good wood all around on the bar and wainscot , walls covered in hand drawn portraits of the stars who ate here in a bygone era. My waiter a nice middle-aged man takes my order of decaf coffee and suggests the special, a omelette with goat cheese, chanterelle mushrooms and asparagus served with frites and leaves me to make a decision, so when he comes back I decide to order the special and add an appetizer of duck hash. Then I go to the loo for a wash up and put myself right for my meal. When I emerge from the bathroom a man in a smart suit says brightly “Just in time sir your food has just been laid out for you.” So I thank him and sit down to tuck in, the duck hash is beautiful big pieces of meat and redskin potatoes fried till golden in a little duck fat with a confit of onion. My omelette is small but delicious with bright green asparagus cut in small pieces easy to chew with chewy chanterelles and goat cheese my new favorite thing and a huge mass of frites, honestly I would have rather had a field green salad instead of fries but that would be extra. My waiter comes over and asks if I’m enjoying my meal and I look up and say ” The only thing that would do this justice is a glass of house red.” He nods and gets me a glass and a small pour to try, now this has never happened to me before. I swirl and sniff and taste, it is good enough for me so he pours me a glass and I happily sip away washing down mouthfuls of food while listening to the man in the nice suit tell two staff about his humble beginnings, I can’t hear everything he says above the music which is an awesome mix of Parisian Cafe, old American standards and more modern rock. But he talks about going to chef school, spending time in France and coming to New York.
Indeed he speaks French with a cute blonde bartender in her late twenties as he moves about the room checking on me as well. When I’m about half done he comes over and picking up my wine glass gently he apologizes but says he has to take it away, when I ask why he tells me that due to a stupid law they can’t serve alcohol before noon, but he promises to bring it back full and free as soon as the clock strikes 12:00. He tells me that the waiter didn’t know that which I find hard to believe, but I won’t argue with a man who is promising free wine. I pick at my food and wait the ten minutes nessesary to get my wine back which he laughingly brings with a smile, somehow I think they were just treating me special because I came in so stressed, sweaty and having a bad day that they wanted to do something nice without making it obvious. I ask the waiter about the history of the place and he tells me a little the rest I found myself.
Minetta Tavern was opened in the 1937 and was named after the Minetta Brook that ran southwest from 23rd St to the Hudson River. The original owner retired in 2008 so the restaurant entrepreneur Keith McNally along with Executive Chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr who have worked together on three of New York city’s best, Pastis, Balthazar, and Schiller”s then decided to partner on this new venture and after closing for complete overhaul of the guts of the place re-opened in 2009 to rave reviews. They kept the original pictures on the walls and the old boxing murals in the back dinning area and restored it to its original look from long ago, now you can feel the spirits of Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, and the famous Bohemian Joe Gould, with a little Frank Sinatra thrown in from the days when it was Italian all the way. Now it is considered a French Bistro, Italian influenced Steakhouse featuring the famous Black Label Burger a sinfully delicious burger made with prime cuts and dry aged beef coming in at $26, and a Cotes du Boeuf for two at $104 served with marrow bones and salad to mention a few. The staff is great and treat me well, right now I’m the only one here but now that it’s after noon people start to come in and sit down while others make reservations for tonight. I love it here, it just goes to show me again that good things come from bad starts. I’ve had a good time in a small space and can go home happy with my discovery.
I stop the guy in the suit and say to him “Your one of those famous people from the food industry aren’t you?” He laughs and says not really. “What’s your name?” I ask extending my hand. “Arnold Grossman” he says shaking my hand and asks me for my name. I tell him about myself and my work on WordPress and he is suitably impressed so I give him my web address for WP and he thanks me saying he will check it out. My waiter comes over and asks me if I want dessert but I decline and ask for more wine instead, wishing only to write and keep the moment alive as more and more people come. They are so busy at night, they are turning people away and reservations are hard to come by, but my waiter assures me if I arrive at 5:30 sharp when they start dinner service he can get me a table. This is a trendy place where it’s possible to meet celebs almost any night, a place to see and be seen. I have to come back cleaned up and better dressed for dinner I think as I sit and write and finish my wine. I am sooo happy I came here, this is the life for me! I pay my tab and leave refreshed and relaxed.
I walk down to Washington Square Park and take some video of the fountain and the musicians, people are everywhere enjoying the sun. Some are laying out in bathing suits and others just sit and read or talk, people jog or pedal past you as your eyes take in the swirl of colors around you and you see a pretty face, an old black man, a toddler with daddy, a serious hipster looking for someone while on their cell phone. The stories they all must have to tell about themselves boggle the mind and bring out the journalist in me. Who are they?, Why are they here?, What do they want from life? I begin to wander in the general direction of my starting point, the wine is working on me just a little, just enough to feel light and fluffy like a piece of Angel Food cake that has been dusted with crack. I’m kidding of course, by roundabout ways I come to find Warehouse Wine and Spirits featuring the most extensive selection of French wine I have ever seen. It’s mind boggling really as I wander around reading labels and checking prices. I soon find myself talking to the owner who came from Nimes in the south of France at 19 and although he goes back for visits he has made his life here. I tell him of my love for Paris and France in general and my desire to travel to Provence, he too knows Peter Mayle’s books very well. I say “I wish I had $1000 to spend and a team of mules to take it home!” and he says to me that “People come from as far away as Florida with a U-Haul to stock up because my prices are so good.” He bids me a “Merci” and goes about his work in the busy store, I get a business card to take with me. I will be back…soon. Now all I need is a wine cellar and I’ll be all set. I walk a few more streets and find a kitchen store called the Broadway Panhandler filled with an amazing array of pots and pans and every tool a chef could want, I look at copper pots that delight me with their shine and depress me with their prices, I can see why they chain them to the wall. I enjoy wandering around in the cool space and look at everything. I almost buy some nice cheese plates but decide that I don’t want to carry them home so I buy a cheese knife with a phony wine cork handle to take home. I always liked souveniers, it’s the kid in me I guess.
Leaving the store I need a loo so I walk down to the Au Bon Pain, a chain of coffee, pastry, soup and sandwich shops that we have all over and after a wash I get a decaf and a little lemon tartlette and sink into a comfy chair by the window and read the latest Village Voice and watch the world go by. I read an article about the life and death of Coney Island, such a tragic and sordid history for a parcel of land so dear to so many. There’s a movie or a play there somewhere I just know it…I wish I had more time and money and was also a better writer, there is something deep and artsy and powerful to be made. I just don’t know how to go about it…yet.
I’m a little tired now, it’s 2:45 and I think I should head back home. The sun is hot as I walk up to 14th st and I stop to buy a small coconut ice, a rare treat as these vendors usually are found only in Brooklyn or so I’m told by a friend. Then moving through the crowds in Union Square market I make my way down to the subway and wait for a local train, it’s stuffy and hot so I wait for a second train when the first one comes in loaded like a sardine can. The next one comes a few minutes later and I get on, at least I can sit down on this one! I get off on 33rd St and move topside. Soon I am walking past vendors of every description, selling everything from Cd’s to fresh mangos on a stick to cold water and sugared nuts hot out of the pan, and let me tell you they are doing a heck of a business today I can hardly get past the squeeze of people and get to my destination. I squint in the glare of a late afternoon sun as a young guy gets an airbrushed tatoo on his bicep-something to show off at school next week I guess, but it will rub off with time. The entrance to Penn Station is a welcome sight and I descend into it’s cool air and see my old watering hole Tracks in the distance, it’s familiar blue logo pulsating as I walk toward it. I decide to skip a beer as I have only sixteen minutes to get to my train, so instead I walk down to a new Papaya King I spotted earlier this morning. It’s where I can get a simple good thing. A 20 oz papaya juice drink, cold, fresh and frothy… it’s just what I need right now. So I walk down through growing mobs heading home to track 17 and find an express train, only two stops till mine. I sit and write on the train as we move along, stopping at Jamaica Station I see the airtrain leaving for Kennedy Airport and wonder when I’ll be boarding a plane for England or France again. It all seems like a dream now, being so far away and so free.
In these quiet moments always think great thoughts about rising above my bad habits, and turning over a new leaf. But in my day to day life it’s not so easy, to be so many things to so many people wears on me and I turn to food and wine for comfort and enjoyment and escape. Unfortunately I have been a bit of an ogre lately at home, work has been like a funeral procession where the mourners are all angry and just had it with everything too, and sometimes I bring that home with me. Except of course the owner who is happy to be alive and doing so well in a bad economy. But if you ask for a rise there’s no surprise their giving none away. My Mom is always saying be happy you have a job and there is no doubt that being unemployed would be hell right now. So I have to keep looking and working on my angles for getting out and doing something else, in the meantime I have much to do and little time. Today might have been screwed up and hot but I made some more contacts, people who will know my name and what I do, I’ll make sure of that.
I might complain often and some might say too much. But in my busy world the time lapse between these trips of mine feel like a year apart, I know that sounds strage to some folks but it’s the way time moves for me. On balance I had a good time today. Despite all the foulups I made the most of things. A trip back in time, a coconut ice and cool fruit juice…
At the end of the day that’s all you can hope for.
It’s a cool breezy Spring day, typical for this time of year on Long Island, one that finds me sheltering from the wind in the stairwell of the Long Island Railroad Station platform. My train is seven minutes late and I’m getting a late start to my adventures today. The morning found me scrambling to find an in-between coat to wear (which I don’t seem to own) so like many others I’m a little underdressed. Today I’m going in to New York City for a walkabout and to see “Red” an off broadway play about the artist Mark Rothko, particularly about the relationship between Rothko and his young assistant during the time leading up to the completion of the commission for the Four Season’s restaurant in the Seagrams Building in New York.
He was a tortured man who left an indelible mark on art and the rave reviews it got in London promise this should be a real experience. I have put some study into Rothko and his work but find myself unable to paint color field paintings in his style, I can’t contain my energy and violence, and sexual desire to paint dozens of glazes to achieve the pulsating glow of his master works. But I have also stood transfixed and stared at them in museums until the colors changed before my eyes. This is my birthday present to myself, it’s just 10 days away and so far no one has mentioned it to me, needless to say I’m a little hurt by this since I put so much thought into others gifts and parties. But as I’ll be turning 48 I’m not really sure I care to celebrate, I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in my life, only a windfall of money could solve some of the problems and put into place the things I feel are lacking in life.
A few weeks ago Anthony Bourdain was in Provence, France filming his Emmy Award winning Travel Channel show “No Reservations” and while dinning al-fresco with his guide he said “everybody in some childlike way craves a life of simplicity, where they have a garden, a beautiful sun, where they can walk into a small town and everybody will know them and wave”. This about sums up how I feel about France and although his guide Ann said laughingly that in his little movie there is no “sweat” and here is considerable work and sweat. The fact is that rural France was a hard place to live always, a rocky terrain not suited to vineyards and the growing of vegetables or livestock, but somehow they made it work. Today of course they survive on the tourist trade to a large extent and what makes downtown unbearable for the indigenous population is also what keeps many people employed, and since I started buying France magazine, I am beginning to be drawn into the desire to see the small towns and villages and less drawn to Paris itself…maybe it’s the thought of being an ex-pat in the future when I’m older and more settled or the thought of being in a town where everybody would wave to me as I make my daily rounds. The guide Ann was very appealing to me, mid 50’s with a full head of long grey hair and very stocky, she has a very provincial earthy appeal and a great personality, I guess you know you’re getting older when you start fantasizing about older women than yourself and less about the young girls in the seat in front of me. They are chattering away like magpies about everything and giggle incessantly as they talk about school, work , and friends. I can see the face and chest of the girl facing me through the opening in the top of the seat for the hand-grip. What a clean fresh face with a dazzling smile and perfect hair, she wears a peace sign necklace which rests on her chest, I muse on the thought that a child of the 90’s could hardly know what a peace sign entails, I mean she wasn’t even born yet. Heck, I thought that guys with long hair in army jackets were veterans back from the war who couldn’t stand having short hair cuts, at five years old the Summer of Love was as unknown to me as the student protests and the realities of the war. In back of me a young couple talk in hushed tones and also giggle as they hunch over a new computer phone and app away the time doing God only knows to their friends to cause such quiet hilarity. Oh to be young and in love. We descend into the tunnels and my ears pressurize and I yawn to pop them, soon the streets of N.Y.C.
I come up into Penn Station and make my way to the 8th Ave subway line, my first goal is to get to the theater and pick up my ticket for tonight, then lunch. The station is hopping as usual with tourists, workers, and people heading for a show like myself, I weave by the crowds like a motorcycle does through a traffic jam on the freeway and go upstairs to the uptown branch, but I don’t have to wait long as I approach the turnstile I hear a train come in and I hop on easily for the short ride to 42nd St station. It’s an easy walk up to ground level and up the 3 blocks to the theater, the wind is making me a little cold but the sun is out and the full spectrum of sound and color hits you as Time Square looms all around you like a giant robot encircling you with its arms and looking down on us all, its glowing eyes flashing and head spinning. I find the theater and see a line down the block for the matinée of Red in about an hour, a good sign I think as I pick up my ticket and turn around to go to my brunch destination for today.
Marseille is a NYC landmark combining French, Italian and Greek influences, and has been in Hell’s Kitchen for 9 years, I have always wanted to eat here but never got around to it. I go inside to get a table but it is packed and loud so I ask to be seated outside and am glad I did, the sun is warming now so I order two items, Soupe au pistou, a garlic vegetable soup I’ve never had and a scramble of eggs with Merguez, a spicy mediterranean lamb sausage with creme fraiche, potatoes rosti, and greens. I also order a decaf cafe au lait which is served in a bowl! This is about as traditional French as it gets. I receive a complementary plate of sliced rye and grain bread with mini carrot muffins and a small plate with jam and 1 pat of butter, I begin to tuck into this and hold my coffee bowl with both hands and smile into the hot creamy beverage as I take my first sip. If I close my eyes I could be in Paris or Marseilles, except of course for the English being spoken around me
When my soup comes it is a pleasure for the eyes, lots of colorful vegetables with beans and macaroni in a clear vegetable broth with thin slices of garlic and grated cheese, it is very good and just what I need right now. It’s all I could do to not gobble it up like a dog, dunking my bread and licking the bowl! When my plate has been cleared I wait for my eggs and I am not disappointed, the fluffy mound of eggs topped with creme fraiche and chopped tomato and crunchy onion is wonderful, if you read my post “The Case for Scrambled Eggs” then you know how much I enjoy real scrambled eggs and these were no exception.
They are soft and savory with the spicy Merguez sausage being balanced out by the sweet creme, the potatoes however were very greasy and decadent in a bad sort of way but the field greens were in a delicate vinaigrette that I still can’t seem to duplicate at home, altogether a fantastic meal. It’s a little hot in the direct sun but as I sip my coffee I think that this is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. Next tp me an upscale couple sits sipping bloody mary’s and eating goat cheese and asparagus tarts with field greens and lamb sausage, it too smells great. I pay the check after letting my food go down a little and walk back up to 42nd street station and take the subway downtown to the village, I am looking for some t-shirts to send to Mark and Sharon in England that I saw last year when I didn’t have the money to buy them. I hope the street fair in is full swing as I descend the stairs and hear the familiar rush of wheels on track as I zip through the turnstile and walk for the train doors.
I enter a long thin dinning area and am immediately approached by the hostess asking how many? “Just me” I say brightly as I begin to take off my layers of coats and hang them as she is already walking toward the back of the restaurant apparently unaware of my lack of presence, but I hurry along and sit myself down in a larger room about half full of people. This is a quaint place with lemon toned walls, exposed brick and warm wood grain trim, decorated with tapestries and paintings from the old country. I wait for my menu and I see right away that I’m the only non-Turkish person in the place except for two other white guys in front of me who are just finishing up their meal. Finally I am approached to take my drink order and after it is brought I finally get a glass of water and the waiter comes to take my order. I start with a dish of breaded fried lamb liver and order my “Lamacun”, a thin crust pizza covered in ground lamb and spices and oven baked, with a glass of Turkish red wine called Kamut.
I sip my wine and listen to a table a few feet away who are discussing the disaster in Haiti and the United States response to it in very un-appreciative terms. The loudest of them all is a man who calls our efforts a “masturbation relief” over and over again like he’s discovered a new catch phrase that gets him royalties every time he says it. The women at the table don’t seem bothered by it at all and they seem to be very anti-US and UN but as the conversation goes on they seem to be workers for the foreign office in some capacity who are ethnic Turks that are in the know about world events, but still I feel like I’m in an enemy camp posing as a diplomat who is actually a double agent. My appetizer arrives a small but simple starter served with red onion, tomatoes, lemon wedges and no salty sauces. It is good to a point but not earth shattering as a dish, perhaps I’m getting a little jaded by my travels in the culinary world. But realistically I have only scratched the surface, and can only imagine the food in the places I can’t afford that I see on TV. Even before I finish my starter I receive my main course, I can’t believe the size of the portions! Three huge thin crust pizza’s the size of oval dinner plates served with tomato’s, basil, red onion and lemon wedge’s, I assemble mine the exact way I saw it on “No Reservations” piling all the ingredients on top and rolling it like a tortilla. It is crunchy and good but again not fantastic. The flavor of the meat is totally lost in the bread and veggies, I finish off two of the three Lamacun and with two pieces of the table bread I ask for it to be wrapped up so I can take it home for Mom, at least she can have a taste of my travels too.
I wait a long while for the dessert tray to come so when it does I pick the most unusual thing and wait and wait and wait for it to come, it is a tart made with cheese covered in a crunchy semolina pasta and soaked with honey and baked till crisp, this too I only eat half of and take home with me. This place is filling up now to almost full capacity and I wait to get my check a long time, I pay it up and leave, vowing never to go back. I felt too much like I was treated poorly because I’m not Turkish but I will try some other Turkish place again sometime. Now I’m out on Third Ave again and I quickly jump in a cab to get Webster Hall, after all the doors open at six so I don’t want to miss anything. Luckily I get a good cabbie who gets me there quick as a flash and find out the doors don’t open till 7:30, must have been mis-information on the web. So I take a short walk down the block but decide to call my Mom and shoot the breeze instead of going to Saint Alps Tearoom which is nearby, I’m just too full for a hot rich Asian tea even though it’s tempting. I talk to my Mom who is deeply engrossed in her favorite website “Sweet Caroline”, a Neil Diamond fan site where my Mom has actually risen to be the greeter of new members by the owner to take some of the work off her shoulders. It’s a little annoying to talk to someone who is not really listening but that seems to be the story of my life so I get off the phone and back on-line. The characters I see while waiting makes me marvel at the diversity of the types who are in attendance, beautiful French girls walk by wearing boots and berets, very beguiling. There are young upscale dudes in perfect clothes, loud gays talk about social norms and slander the friend who acted sooo wrong last time they went out for the evening, very stereotypical behavior I’m sorry to say but I’ve heard this same story many times on trains and in concert lines, funny thing. There are lots of Asian girls here too, quietly focused on their cell phones, their young earnest faces a picture of beautiful concentration.
Finally we are let in after being frisked for contraband, which in my case is left over food wrapped up and stuck inside my overcoat, I must smell a little funky to some as I walk upstairs to the grand ballroom where I find out the band isn’t going on till 9:00 which means I have two hours to kill!
I am not happy, I can only have one drink after the glass of wine so there ‘s nothing to do but write till the show starts, I know I could talk to people but an overweight middle-aged guy is not exactly cool enough to make friends here. I am easily the oldest one here, maybe at least I look like a music critic. So I order a rum and coke and station my self near the bar at a platform where I can write and observe. The bartender is doing curls with full magnum’s of booze to keep warm in the chilly room which is quickly filling up with people. One of her co-workers asks her why she is doing curls and says to keep warm but offers up a bicep to show the added benefits of her routine. I’m a little tired and wishing for a seat but this is a standing room, no comfort just 300 percent profit on the drinks and see the show and leave. I look around envious of all the young people here, they are living in a world far more screwed up than mine but they have so many advantages I didn’t have. The technology has given them access to the world, to people and information that would have taken me weeks to do the reports students can finish in a few hours in front of a laptop. They also have much more freedom than we had, at least from what I’ve seen in a major city suburb like Long Island.
The stage is decorated with tall white tree branches tied in bunches with the pale blue lights giving it a wintery glow. Then suddenly the lights go down and I make my way closer to the stage settling in a spot right next to the tables where the band merchandise is being sold at stage right about two-thirds from the stage. The first band is called Claire & The Reasons, a unique indie act whose members play more than one instrument, changing roles for different songs and a few of them play two instruments at once. The bands cd’s are available on their website and they are donating proceeds from the show to “Doctors without Borders” to help with the relief in Haiti. I stand and talk to the girl selling the shirts and Cd’s for Nouvelle Vague who is French but speaks perfect English, she is pretty and thin as a spike of lavender. To look upon her is to see the archetype French peasant girl you would see in a movie or postcard, wearing a sweater that looks like it hand-made with love by an artisan. I talk to her about my all too short trip to Paris and my love of French food and wine and my learning to speak French with Fluenz French, I could talk to her all night but she is working and I don’t want to be a bother so I shut up and wait for the band to go on stage. The diversity of the crowd has grown since before and I begin to see many more older people than me too, two guys in sport coats walk by and one remarks that Toronto is his favorite place to see Nouvelle Vague, I guess because it’s part French and the band is from France. I realize that I’ve never seen so many people speaking French since Paris and begin to wonder if there is a French enclave in New York City, I mean after all these people are not all tourists. I’m starting to warm up a little now and suddenly the band takes the stage, the crowd roars as they launch into the new CD which I just bought.
The band is a four piece, guitar, drums, keyboard and upright bass and they are tight players, while the girls are stunning and sensual-dancing like go-go dancers to the beat as they sing with abandon. It’s punk, its new wave, it’s cafe noir and I like it…a lot. I’m glad I came , I almost backed out I wa so tired from moving heavy boxes around at work and sorting the contents of the crawl space at home but now all thought of being tired is gone as the band plays a long show. The girls cut up on stage and introduce the songs in French and English especially “To drunk to f**k”: a punk song from the 80’s I think which they tease the crowd about being tonight. But at one point later in the show one of the girls kicks her leg up to accentuate a lyric, in a chanteuse like move and loses her shoe which flies up into the audience, and does it again with the other foot and the shoe goes up but it doesn’t come down! The singer doesn’t realize that it’s stuck up there and the pretty tour manager smiles and laughs at the antics of her band, I can see by the look on her face that she wishes she was up there on stage too, like me she doesn’t have it in her I guess whatever it is. The show ends with three encores consisting of five songs.
They walk off to thunderous applause and when the lights go up I wait for the herd to pass by, passing the time as I do by signing up on the mailing lists for both bands and by chatting a little more with the tour manager and ask if they will be back next year, she says they probably will be. I better brush up on my French so I say I will br ready next year for her test of me and wish her Bonnuit and she giggles her approval and wishes me Bonnuit back and I walk downstairs and out into the cold. I head to Third Ave and turn right, I need to walk a little to burn some calories, but also you can’t see the city from a cab you have to experience it on foot. I walk past Cosmic Charlie’s, a hip coffee shop with a 60’s vibe, I envy the people sitting inside at 11:00 pm relaxing with a coffee, home is close-by, no need to get back to the suburbs. I pass people standing outside in ones or two’s, mostly smokers talking together outside of bars and Bodega, late night liquor stores still open for the real drunks and a few shops are still open late, trying desperately to make that extra dollar. I stop to look at a nice German restaurant with red and white checkered curtains, the menu open in its window. But people are sitting a few feet away so I move away from its warm inviting glow, and walk on towards Penn Station. Despite my misgivings about the trip, I can feel it now…the city is mine again and I am hers, and will always be. I should have remembered that…I breathe the cool night air and walk tall on the streets I love.