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: No Reservations
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
Sunny and cool this morning as I wait for my train on the railroad platform. This is my 2nd unexpected trip to New York in recent times, with the promise of 50 degree temps today there was no way I was staying home. The chores can wait till tomorrow. The New Year hasn’t turned out too good so far but of course it could be much worse. My father has been sick with a cold and asked me on New Years Eve morning to lookup online the symptoms of swelling in the legs. I ask to see it and it looks like cellulitis, just like my mom had which I chronicled in my story Anya,Mosquito’s and Me a few years ago. I tell dad to call his doctor and he is told to go to the ER. So I leave for the store because dad insists on finishing his toast and tea, like a sort of last meal before the cigarette and blindfold I guess. When I come back mom is up and I tell my brother through his closed-door what is happening and leave for the ER. This has become all too familiar in recent years.
When I park the car after letting dad out at the door I find him in triage being evaluated. I help them fill in the blanks of my dads memory and then they take him to chest ER and we are seen soon enough. The same jackass who misdiagnosed my brother with a simple nosebleed is my dads doctor, but I hold my tongue pending any legal action my brother might take against the hospital. They immediately put him on oxygen with a nebulizer and a double antibiotic drip. He has congestive heart failure, edema, cellulitis, possible pneumonia and anemia. He will be admitted as soon as they do some tests and find a bed. I go down to find some breakfast but they don’t open till eleven for lunch, so I get some free utility coffee and graham crackers in the pantry and wait as more blood is drawn for a second round of tests.
When my mom and brother show up I say goodbye to dad and head home stopping first at the liquor store to see my friends and fill them in on what’s happening. They are shocked and sorry for us as another holiday is ruined. They don’t even know about the trouble with mom at Christmas which wasn’t medical but just as devastating. I go home and clean up a bit and pour myself a glass of wine and settle in to make a meat and vegetable lasagna, with no bake whole wheat pasta, skim milk cheese and ricotta with fresh tomato sauce. I’m so glad I can get healthy foods in under the radar like this and nobody is any the wiser. It’s getting dark and I really wish that mom and bro would get home before the crazies start driving around. They finally arrive and we sit down to eat the food which was awesome, later we toast the New Year with Negroni’s for me and beer for my brother and we watch the ball drop with mom. I note that Carson Daley has almost completed his transformation into Dick Clark. We are all mad at dad for refusing to go to the doctor until his scheduled visit in January and landing himself in the ER again. This is an exact repeat of Christmas 2010.
The next day I plan to try making French macaron’s for the first time followed by a small pork roast I got on sale as our holiday dinner. I visit dad in the morning and bring him the paper and he is looking better already, I try to make the best of it by making small talk and watching TV but he is mad. I take the opportunity to speak with the floor doctor to correct any false statements my dad made and fill in gaps about his last trip to the ER. Soon after I leave and wish him a happier New Year with assurances that mom and bro will be there later. Despite my efforts to make his tea and heat up his lunch and prep it for him he is miserable. There is nothing I can do. I go home to find the house empty and since I’ve again had nothing all day, I don’t know it yet. But I’m about to make the best Fritatta of my life! I combined chopped onions, ham, potato and goat cheddar cheese cooked on the stove top and then into the oven to broil the top and melt the cheese. It was a masterpiece, cooked to perfection! The flavor was out of this world and no one was there to see it. Someday I will make some lucky girl very happy, I cook well , don’t watch sports ( except the Olympics), I actually enjoy shopping and I’m an artist. But enough bragging about me…my euphoria was cut short as the unforgiving macarons would remind me just how much of an amateur baker I am. I set up my mise-en-place and have my instructions out and while the oven heats up I mix the almond meal with the egg whites and then pipe them on to the baking sheets, but my first batch doesn’t rise and spread the way it should, and despite lowering the heat and doubling up the pans my second or third don’t work either. I have succeeded in making crunchy buttons that’s all. So I clean up the Fritatta, storing it to take to work for the week and clean up my mess when I hear a strange noise in the house.
What sounds like the blinds on the back door being ruffled by someone brings me to full alert, I go into the dinning room expecting God only knows but there is nothing there. I’m alone in the house, it is then that I smell that ugly burning wire smell that sends me racing upstairs to check the rooms and then back down again to find the source. I finally call the fire dept who advise me to get out of the house but I stay. I move the furniture around to find the source looking for the problem when I look up and see the chandelier has one candle that is black and melted. I quickly turn off the light and call back the firehouse to cancel the call but as I can hear they are already on their way. I go out side to find they have brought every truck imagineable as well as the Chief dressed in his dress blues and the others in full battle gear. I shake hands with the Captain and explain that he didn’t have to get dressed up for the occasion but he laughs and tells me they just came from a swearing-in ceremony. I tell him what I found and they go in to check it out and we turn off all the breakers just to be sure. I sign some papers and they leave me to air out the house and I pour myself a large white wine and try to calm my jangled nerves. I thank God this didn’t happen when we were at my cousins for Christmas, we could have come home to a smoking ruin, especially when I think that dad wanted to leave the dinning rooms light on while we were away. Once again my instincts told me to shut it off after he went to the car, my guardian angel, sixth sense or whatever you believe in saved us again.
I come up from Penn Station and waste no time in getting over to 9th Ave , I’m glad I dressed warmly as it’s still cool and breezy. I head south and stop in a bodega for a coffee and a loo break and sit and write looking out the window, the sun is warm on my face as I sit and the promise of spring is on my mind as I watch the passers-by. But I move on passing thru Chelsea, a quieter section with Asian influences, stopping to take a photo a French cafe called Le Grannie. It looks inviting for lunch despite the ugly black door but they are full up. So I move on stopping to take pictures of the Maritime Building, built-in 1968 it features round port-hole windows which I love. I continue on down Greenwich St to Gansevoot where 9th Ave ends. A photographer is photo shooting a model in the cobblestone plaza across from another French place called Pastis. It’s relatively quiet here except for the street construction it’s like the suburbs. I continue on stopping to look at the menu of the Spotted Pig, an old gastropub that I’ve mentioned before, it’s a little expensive so I move on past the remnants of Christmas trees that have been picked up by NYC Sanitation, the needles litter the sidewalk and out into the street like green blood of a murder scene that has yet to be cleaned. I turn back and decide to try the Spotted Pig after all, I know it will be good here. The place is like a hunters tavern, old brick pillars, wood floors and artwork featuring pigs, ducks and game birds in all states of life and death. There’s an attractive hipster staff and good old standards and jazz playing at just the right volume. This is the kind of place I would love to have back home in boring Long Island. I like it here a whole lot, if I wasn’t watching my budget I’d have a drink or two but it’s not even noon yet. The menu is amazing and the bar specials too, they include rock shrimp over grits with poached egg, rabbit rillettes, sardines et toast but I decide on an Omelet Albert Bennet, an omelet covered in bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese. They bring you a small pot of coffee here God love em, I sip my coffee and write for a while till my food comes. The omelet is a little over browned but it’s rich and creamy, simple rustic food served with crusty Italian grain bread and olive oil. This is the kind of place I love, no TV, quiet music, great food and drinks and a lot of atmosphere. I pay my check and go out heading east to Hudson St, stopping to take pics and deciding to walk to the Bowery. I want to go to the kitchen supply store where Anthony Bourdain shot scenes for his show. I pass the familiar A.O.C. where a very naive me ate his first Cassoulet years ago, I didn’t even know it was an overcooked mess. But that was before I started teaching myself classic French cooking.
I walk down W.Houston street among the throngs of people, this for me is the non-Asian speaking equivalent of Canal St and I stop opposite The Angelika Film center to make a call and sit for a while. It’s a long walk but I love to walk far in the city. It’s what makes a stress test so difficult for me, they have to raise the incline and increase the speed far above many people to get my heart rate up to complete the test. The nurses always ask me “Do you do a lot of walking?” I had no choice today anyway, I heard that the subways are undergoing a makeover today and several lines are closed. So it’s walkies for me today for real. I find the Kitchen Supply Co easily and go inside to look around, they have got everything here. The next time you go to a eatery and look at the stainless steel counters and utensils, chances are it came from this place or one of the others that are in this area. I find the saute pans that Tony showed on his show and just like he said $18.95, I get a little chill to think that I’m standing where he stood. Especially when I realize I already have pans like these, so I am using the stuff that is recommended to Chefs all over New York. I leave without buying anything else, I’ve got all I need for now. It isn’t long before I’m walking down into Criff Dogs, a steamy small place serving the most unusual hot dogs and hiding a secret. This is also a Tony place and I order a BLT dog, a wiener wrapped in bacon and served with lettuce tomato and mayo. The phone booth is where the secret lies, it leads to a small bar that serves good drinks and dogs that you can only get in the bar called PDT. But it’s too early-not open for another two hours, so I eat my crunchy BLT dog and drink my Sprite and leave. I will make it a point to come back one night when I’m in town. I begin to head back to mid-town and start the long walk home, it’s a beautiful day filled with people moving around enjoying the sunshine and warmer temperatures.
In France people often wish each other to step in Merde, it’s like break a leg in theater… it’s for good luck. The dog poo laws being what they are there’s an excellent chance of stepping in some if you’re in Paris, as I can attest to. The New York version is getting pooped on by a pigeon or at least a sparrow, and for the first time in New York and the second time today I am hit by an incoming round! I hope it’s the bluebird of happiness, after the last few months I could well use some. I decide to stop at a pub on 33rd and 2nd called Jack Kavanaugh’s for a drink or two before the train. I sit at the end of the bar and the bartender comes over, mid fifties and Irish as they come. “What can I get yah?” I think for a moment and say “Ill have a Manhattan” and looks at me and says in a thick accent “Streyhtwup?” and I say “Excuse me?” and he says again leaning in a little. “StraightUP!” So I think for split second and say “Yes thanks.” Trying to appear deaf instead of naive. He tells me he was invited to a New Years party where he drank only Manhattans because he was given no choice in the matter. I laugh and tell him I decided to try all the old school drinks I’ve never had just for kicks to see what I’m missing. He seems pleased that someone ordered something other than beer and brings me my drink in a Martini glass with 2 cherries laying in the bottom. It is smoky and bitter, strong and smooth, just what the doctor ordered. I sit back and read the Village Voice in the fading light of afternoon and think this is about the happiest I’ve been in a long time. The stress of the past few weeks melts away with the second drink as I listen to the sounds of the city as I read. I start to think about getting home and after a trip to the loo I walk down 33rd St west toward the LIRR. Moving with the throngs of people I think how the family is changing, the old people are sickly and some will be gone soon. The forty somethings are turning fifty and the thirty somethings are turning forty. Then there is the young ones who are not so young anymore, they have become the twenty somethings pushing at thirty. The old guard is coming to a close and the rest of us single people will have to close ranks, find mates and form a new family bond in an ever uncertain world we are all we’ve got. It might be the booze but I start to feel a little blue at the thought of all who are passed. I start to feel a little sorry for myself. But the city always provides the answer in the form of a young Hispanic couple I pass on the street. She is taking a picture of her boyfriend and I pass them by-but then I stop. And turn back and say “Would you like me to take a picture of you together?” “Sure!” they say in unison and hand me their camera. They pose and I take a shot, but after giving it back they ask for another…she had her eyes closed. I take the second shot grinning now at them and they are pleased. They thank me and I walk away feeling better about things with a spring in my step now that I made a difference to someone today. I can only hope that their love lasts as long as my love for New York City. I ride the escalator down to the waiting trains below.
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.
Today is a very special day for me, one that I never saw coming. I put my car in the shop to get some work done on it before my front end falls off, so after hearing that Anthony Bourdain ( famous for his Emmy Award winning show “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel) will be signing copies of his new book “Medium Raw” at the Borders bookstore location on Broadway near Wall St in New York City. I walk to the train station which is a bit of a hike and after stopping for a cold drink at a convenience store, make my way to the platform of the Long Island Railroad and gather with the waiting workers. They are all going in later than the rush hour and seem to take it in stride that the train is ten minutes late, they read papers or just stare off into space occasionally stifling a yawn or staring at a cellphone while texting. I on the other hand am in a rush I want to get this mission going so I can be assured of a good spot on-line, I expect it to be a mob scene. Soon though I hear the clanging cow bell of an approaching train and look up to see it’s a double-decker! I know I sound like a geek but these are really nice trains and like Tony’s brother, I have always been fascinated by trains, especially old ones. I have only been on one of these twice before so I am stoked.
I have to admit I’m a little nervous about this, I mean I don’t know what to expect, will I like him?(What am I a schoolgirl going on a blind date?) Will the line be so long that I’ll miss him? I have brought with me a sample of my writing for him to read as a gift. Will he like it? Will he even read it or just toss it away? He probably gets all kinds of peoples written work as gifts, everyone secretly hoping that Tony will like it so much that he will send an e-mail or something. I would bet even in this age of electronics he still has thousands of fan letters to deal with, some from psycho’s and other’s from people like me who have been enriched by his show and his writing. I also feel a little guilty about and sorry for my mom who would have liked to go with me if she was able, but is going to the eye doctor for a shot in the eye that keeps her from losing her sight. She has to get them every six-ouch-weeks, wear your sunglasses people or wind up with Macular degeneration. Then also I guess I’m a little like a kid who’s going to see Santa for the first time, for me Anthony Bourdain is larger than life, and this is big for me. I’m so mad at myself for forgetting my camera in my haste to get the car to the shop, call in, and get to the train. I’ll have to buy a disposable one in Penn Station so at least I can get a picture with him.
Lately I have been feeling like the forces are gathering against me, maybe it’s the bad karma from my negative thoughts about the future. My car is going to set me back a few hundred bucks and I’m worried about what happens when the well dries up, the cushion of money I got when I took out a loan against my 401k is slowly being used mostly on making high payments to pay off credit card debt. But when that cushion is gone I’ll be unable to keep those payments up and will have to either break contracts I made or file bankruptcy, which is a last resort. The only other option is to close my 401K, take the tax hit on that and get the leftover money out which combined with my tax refund could get me into next year and hopefully a better economy. So my joy over this adventured is tempered by the stress of my life, I have to try to overcome it or I’ll have a bad day. I sit and write while a young asian guy in a suit stares intently at his Mac laptop, while across the aisle from me a middle-aged woman in stockings and heels studies her college notes. Opposite her a woman in her sixties watches the student pack up as we near the station and I see a smile creep across her face, possibly remembering being a career woman in her younger days when everything had to be perfect, teeth, nails, makeup, hair, clothes, everything. I was lucky to get a seat on this busy train, I walked back three cars to get my seat and am happy to have had a sit down, now it will be a quick march to get to the subway and down into parts unknown. I actually haven’t seen this area I’m going to on foot yet, only by car in the days when there was time for me and a friend to drive around all night smoking ciggy’s and talking about life, the universe, and everything. Those days found me trying to escape from my parents and the confines of our house, my friend was escaping a loveless “arrangement” with the mother of his child. That all seems very far away now. But enough about the past, that’s a story in itself. I am starting to get excitedly nervous as we descend and slow to arrive at Penn Station and I make my way slowly topside in the crowds.
The city is throbbing with energy for me as I start to walk to Park Ave via 33rd St. I walk briskly while the sound and color of the city speeds by me, 33rd is a strange and amusing mix of cheap eats, upscale shops and sterile looking businesses, stretches of boring steel doors and service only entrances are suddenly broken up by a colorful Bodega or take-out joint. When I come to Madison Ave I realize how different the city is during the week, more hustle, lots more noise, less relaxed. You can tell the vacationers from everyone else easily…they are the ones sitting down. Everyone else is haulin ass. I get to the 6 subway and descend to find myself in a hot and stuffy station with no air, luckily the train comes in a few minutes. I sit in the air-conditioned car with an interesting group representing every color and country, a young couple on vacation, a tired worker from Jamaica, a Asian girl with her ancient grandma, and many others all riding it seems to the end. I get out at the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall station and find it isn’t as quaint or clean as I thought it might be, I mean with all the money Bloomberg is spending you’d think the nearest subway station to City Hall would have been done years ago. Then again I don’t have to live here so I go up and start my walk to Borders, I come upon a nice view of the Brooklyn Bridge and take a few pics and sit on a low wall and drink some water, there’s a few people sitting at some tables set up against a fence that surrounds the City Hall Park behind me as I watch cars go up and down the massive bridge towards the horizon. I begin walking to Broadway but stop to take a picture of a guy in his late fifties un-chaining an old time push bike wearing a very nice grey suit! I marvel at people like that, you gotta see this bike it’s a full size bike not a kiddie toy, but I guess that’s how he keeps in shape. It’s so nice today a high of only 75 degrees after so many hot days well above 80. I’m a happy camper as I come to Broadway, I take some photos of Trinity Church and cross Broadway and I take it down a block or two and suddenly find myself standing facing Borders across the street. I made it with plenty of time to spare and am surprised to see no line outside.
When I get inside I am shocked to see no crowds, in fact the store isn’t crowded at all! I’m a little puzzled but ask where I can purchase my book and where to go after that. So I make my way up to the mezzanine and find about 40 or so people waiting ahead of me, staff will be on hand to take pictures of each of us that brought cameras, and we are all checked to see that we paid for the book, so all is good – and now – we wait. I’ve got about two hours to kill before the signing starts. I haven’t eaten a thing all day but strangely I’m not hungry. I am looking forward to a meal afterward, maybe I’ll head back up to the Village and find a place to eat I haven’t been before. I stand in the line and actually begin to read my new book while I wait and already I’m loving this book, I hope he writes a whole lot more of books like this and more fiction. I just like his style…hopefully someday I’ll be able to rub elbows with him at some writers shindig as a published writer myself. I start to feel my feet barking at me with an hour left to go… I wish I had a Cafe Creme and a chair.
Well it’s an auspicious occasion for me tonight, I am six days away from my one year anniversary on WordPress. To coin a well-worn phrase it’s “been a long strange trip” but really not so strange and actually it has been wonderful! When I started this BLOG a year ago I was home sick from my many wanderings in New York City, burning the candle at both ends as it were. But when I wrote my “About” page and my first post “Now with Subtitles” I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead and how it would change me as an artist and as a writer.
While I always knew that I could write pretty good at least as far as my school teachers grades indicated, it wasn’t till I attended college that my English 101 teacher Prof. Wigetow told me when asked that I could be a writer, he said it with conviction and without hesitation. But it was on a cool night on Oct 22nd 2008 that my world was changed when I; waiting for Duffy to take to the stage, was questioned by a woman asking what I was writing in my notebook. While I told her she was joined by her brother W.B.Wilkins, Wilkins (a former english teacher and actor) upon finding out that I intended to wait until the winter to start writing, gave me a lesson I’ll never forget. He covered how one goes about writing, but more importantly how I should go about writing about my experiences. He told me to do this in two days not two months!,and to try to convey what I’m feeling and what others are feeling. If I can write a piece that speaks to 80% of the people then I turn writing into saleable art.
But he warns me not to expect to make money at it, just like painting the pleasure is in the doing, the experience of the work and the love of the written word. If you are very lucky, people will pay you for it! This is all punctuated by light taps on my chest, a rub to my arm and a squeeze of my bicep. It’s done in a fatherly reinforcing way and with a handshake he and his sister who is also a teacher, moved off to get a good spot for the concert that was starting.
I left that episode out of the Duffy piece because I thought it broke the flow of the story but now give the credit where it is due, I have tried to convey in all my NY travel stories exactly what he said, how it feels to be there at that moment. To give my readers the sights, smells, and tastes around me and also the people moving around me and how they might feel too. I feel as if I’ve done a good job of this but there is always room for improvement. I also have to acknowledge the influence of Jack Kerouack, his hand written notebooks and in the moment style have had immeasurable influence on me. The sheer brilliance of his raw novelist as reporter approach to his writing have served me very well and I really don’t think I would be this far along if it wasn’t for him. But I also have to give as much credit to William Burroughs, his loose yet careful words have shown me how a writer can be like a jazz musician, light and dark, fast and slow, all at once or each emotion on it’s own terms. There is also room to mention Tolkien and James P. Blaylock both created antediluvian worlds that made me want to live there, where good quiet folk found themselves fighting evil and having adventures. They are still favorite reads for me and the work never gets old even after multiple readings of Tolkiens “The Hobbit” and Blaylocks best “The Disappearing Dwarf” and “The Elven Ship” they will be read again and again till I am gone from this world.
The influence of another figure who is not only a writer but also a well-known former executive chef and star of two hit shows, one for the food network (which is no longer on the air) and currently an Emmy Award winning show for the Travel Channel. I’m talking about the loveably snarky and iconoclastic Anthony Bourdain. He has been my mentor, my man-crush, and my pick-me-up on Monday nights at the beginning of a long week of work. I listen closely especially to the voice over at the end of the show where he tries to sum up his experience in a particular place or country. While images of the trip flash by he recites his words, the liquid wisdom he has written in the moment. Very often the insight about the world and the human condition become (for me at least) the best part of an already excellent show. These programs have fired my imagination and along with my trip to England and France in 2005, have given me a wanderlust that right now…I can’t satisfy. The lack of expendable cash and responsibilities on the home front have kept me from journeying away. But I know that someday Tony, I too will swing in my hammock on the edge of the lake in Indonesia, in my little house and wait for “pancake man” to come in his boat on a sunny morning to give me breakfast. Yes, this at least I’ve promised to myself.
But since I will probably never get to meet you face to face and tell you this story I’ll write it now, and maybe you’ll read this someday. I have never been a great lover of seafood, even though I have Swedish and Norwegian blood and my Great Grandfather was a sea capitan I have never much liked the water and could only stomach a few kinds of fish even into my twenties and thirties. In grammar school of course I ate tunafish sandwich and I liked fish sticks as long as it was all white, no discoloration please! Frozen deep-fried Howard Johnson’s clam strips or shrimp were a favorite too…thanks Mom.
But I could not stomach the real hardcore seafood, I’m talking about the shellfish. On a good day I could handle a lobster tail (when I was older) but drew the line at a whole lobster or even crab legs, I had no desire at all to perform an autopsy on my dinner! The humble Mussel was enough to make me hurl, the sight of the chambered form inside with its Lovecraftian appendages, bubbling and blaspheming in a pot of Cioppino at my cousin Chrissy’s house, could send me screaming about the “Old Ones” into the night, and don’t even get me started on snails! But in 2006 things would change in a special way.
My aforementioned cousin Chrissy had been battling cancer since 2003, and had survived an operation that would have killed most people, they are probably still studying her case. The cancer had spread from the intestines to the liver and ovaries, kidneys, stomach-the lot. They removed so much tissue from her body it was a miracle she lived, but live she did. She would live to vacation in Jamaica and take many other trips away with her husband and two girls, and I living nearby would drop in to see her without notice just to sit and tell her of my adventures or problems, you could always count on honesty with Chrissy, even if she didn’t always tell you what you wanted to hear.
We had a special bond as painters but had gone to only one art show together since I started to paint in 1999,she was raising a family and I was busy with my own life. So in 2006 Chrissy and her husband Bruce decided to host Christmas for all the family, these were always happy times for me, I loved sitting at the table with my cousin Chrissy and her sister Donna, Bruce and Pat their husbands, my cousins daughters Sharon, Michelle, and Jennifer and my brother Chris as well as all the parents of our tribe. We would go off telling war stories and riffing on each other in a friendly way that would be punctuated by the raucous laugh of Chrissy and high-pitched guffaw of Donna and my own explosive laugh. So on this night things were a little more subdued but not much and when the hot food was served I saw that there was many seafood items to be eaten tonight. I realized that this may be Chrissy’s last Xmas with us and when I had already tried the other dishes of chicken, various pastas, eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers and mushrooms. I went to the table of freshly laid out seafood and scanned the offerings, there was Cioppino, small snails in tomato and garlic tapenade, crab legs with butter, stuffed clams in garlic butter, seafood stew, a feast of garlicy tomato Italian tradition.
I took it all back to the table and bravely tucked right in with my cousin sitting across from me beaming as I discovered that some of this was actually very good! I ate and talked with her enjoying the face time with her and for a while it was not very obvious that she was sick. There was no way I wasn’t going to do so, like Tony says on the show when people are giving till it hurts, even if you don’t like it-you eat it and you smile and you ask for more, to do anything else would be an insult.
My cousin died eleven months later in November of 2007 and it was touching that she seemed to wait until Stanly Kramer, her old art teacher in grammar school, now the school principal. Had to come to see her before she would let go, that’s how strong her bond was with him and with her art. We get together now without her and it’s cool to see how her daughter Jennifer has taken over Chrissy’s role as the raucous storyteller, regaling us with her tales of working in the fashion industry in New York City and Donna too seems to have joined her as well filling the gap left by Chrissy’s passing, and Chrissy’s other daughter Michelle, (a photographer who looks like her mother) quietly takes embarrassing pictures of all of us-yes we will get you for it too Michelle just wait.
I did some growing up that night and since then I have found myself trying more foods that take me out of my comfort zone, even though I might not like them at least I try them now, veal, seafood, unfamilair meats, blood sausage, lagastino lobster, and anything else offered to me I eat without hesitation. I no longer sit on the sidelines and watch as others enjoy and encourage me to do the same and refuse, too caught up in myself to be polite and join in. I learned there is a big difference between taking a stand against a certain type of food for health reasons or moral obligation, and not trying a certain food out of immaturity.
So thank you Anthony Bourdain for helping me to grow a lot, and for putting a smile on my dying cousin’s heart. Indeed with your own writing not just for your show (and it’s accompanying books) but also your fiction, which I have also enjoyed very much. You have informed my writing too, just like the master writers of this century and I hope you stay here in New York and keep doing No Reservations for many more years to come. This viewer will never grow tired of it.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one thing that my writing has given me, the most important thing…a friend. When I started reading others work I came across the blog of Maureenj aka White Orchid and after commenting on something she wrote, found her also looking at my page and since then we have become good friends. The fact is that only a few other people have bothered to comment on my posts and the comments have all been good, but no one follows my blog like Maureen. This past year we have weathered many storms in our own life but still find time and energy to encourage each other and comment on each others blog posts. She has become the older sister I was supposed to have in many ways and although I have not shared some of my deeper problems and fears with her, (especially since she had a medical scare this year and a death in the family) I have come to realize she is my true friend. We talk of our desire to meet one day and I often find myself day dreaming about my trip to Australia or hers to New York, where I would undoubtedly be the personal tour guide for her that I want to be in the near future, and was with my relatives from England in April of this past year.
Mark and Sharon came over and changed my life without even knowing it at the time, the days spent showing them the Village and Midtown Manhattan were the happiest this year, and led to my realizing that this might be my true calling. This was reinforced by meeting Robert Fogelnest; a former tour guide and Village authority whose book I bought and study along with many others on all things good and bad about New York City.
So right now while I weather the storm of debt consolidation and zero credit available to me I cannot indulge in the finer things in New York City. I have to learn to write about other topics anyway, still have some story’s to tell about New York and some experiences I had before all this blogging, theater-going, tour guiding study and hardcore foodie stuff started. The very first story I wrote as an intentional piece of journalism was a story about street art that I wrote in 2007 when I was so wrapped up in my story that I didn’t even review the food I was eating in a now closed Sri Lankan restaurant, which is strange because I remember it was good. The story of our trip to England and Paris is all a blur now but I can try to look at pictures and piece it together to make it live. I also have the hope of coming into some money soon, by legal means I assure you which will be enough to pay off a few bills not covered by the debt consolidation in which case I could be in a few months very close to breathing a sigh of relief and able to continue my adventures.
So right now after watching Paradise Found with Keifer Sutherland last night I am also trying to become an artist again, and trying to meld both my writing and my art into switches I can throw on or off depending on my mood instead of one or the other, which is the way it’s been since early 2007, I haven’t painted a thing in two years,why…I don’t know.
I am grateful to Word Press for their support and presence on the web, and to Cheru Jackson of Alphainventions for helping me to promote my page, and to my Mom, whose diary writing, and her repeatedly showing and speaking aloud the first three letters of the alphabet to me as a baby, have undoubtedly had a lasting effect on me as a writer and reader. As always it’s the little things like this that mean the most.
It has been a great ride and I hope to continue this for the rest of my life, even if I never make it as a writer or an artist it’s OK. The most important thing is that while I write or paint I’m alive, doing what I enjoy and not wasting time with mindless activities or destructive behavior. Thanks to all the cast of characters in my life, which is my work of art, as I am in others casts…so may all of us grow. Thanks for reading and influencing my life and art, and if your ever in New York City drop me a line and we’ll have a drink or two, and one more thing…try the veal at Le Rivage on W. 46th St…it’s really good.
Long Island, NY 2009
In the bright sun of a new day I find myself walking from my car to Hicksville station to catch the next train west. Even with sunglasses on I’m getting blinded by the light coming right at my eyes. I found a legal parking space easily this time but I literally have 3 minutes to get my ticket from the machine, grab a coffee and run up the escalator to get the train I hear pulling in as I approach the station building.
But somehow I manage to accomplish all and find a window seat, I see the clouds are rolling in and it’s supposed to rain today and tomorrow too, I feel bad for my relatives from England, Mark and Sharon had only one nice day yesterday when I wasn’t with them, on their own to explore the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Central Park. They asked me the other day (see The British Invasion story) to come in today to help them navigate around midtown, they want to see Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the Plaza. I also thought St Patricks Cathedral would be nice but England is loaded with those so maybe not. The thing is their hotel on 44Th St is close to all of these places so they don’t really need me, they just want to share my company and I’m flattered by that. It would have been a boring vacation if they didn’t come to New York, I actually took this week off to be available to do whatever I could for them and to get my parents in to see them before they go back. I get on and again find myself in packed rush hour trains but this time I get a seat and this is an express train so only two stops before Penn Station is just what I need.
I get out at the station and immediately head for Duane Reed to get a gift bag for the knit cap and tweed hat I bought then last night at Sears, these are from the hipster section in the young men’s and girls dept’s and are “Right out of the fridge”- that’s Village talk for cool for all you squares out there. I walk down to 44TH St in the fading sunlight hoping for no rain today. I pass by Macy’s Herald Square, they are having a show today, flowers decorate the famous windows outside and I look through the door to see thousands of flowers decorating the store which is not open yet. I know they want to see Macy’s and this will be perfect! I already feel great about today, I feel like one of those people that are contacted by the Travel Channel when Anthony Bourdain needs to be shown around somewhere for his No Reservation’s series on cable TV. I feel like I’m a “contact” even though it’s my first time doing this I’m growing more confident about my ability to do this for a living and I’m starting to wonder if this is my true calling. I arrive at 9:00 AM and go inside to have the concierge phone up to Mark and Sharon’s to tell them I’m here. They come down after a while smiling and ready but first I present them with their gifts which are appreciated and the first thing they want to do is go to Central Park because they didn’t make it there yesterday so we pile into a cab and off we go to the top of 6TH Ave. During the ride they tell me that I would have been proud of them, they made their way by subway all the way to Battery Park and took the boat to Lady Liberty and Ellis Island and navigated themselves to Ground Zero and Chinatown and made it back by subway without getting lost or missing a stop. We are dropped off at the base of the park and walk towards the entrance where the horse drawn carriages park. Which is good because they want to have a carriage ride around Central Park so I say OK I’ll find a shop or a coffee while your gone but they insist that I come too! I tell them it’s a couples thing but Mark says that they’re not going to make out in the back of the carriage and I must come too. The only problem is…there isn’t a horse in sight and it’s ten o’clock, so are we in the right place? maybe they don’t start up till noon because of some law we don’t know about. I can’t answer the speculations but just then I see a groundskeeper down below so I dash down the stairs into the park itself and ask when the carriages come, the man looks at his watch and says “soon, very soon .” So I run back up to my friends and tell them it’s OK we’ll be riding shortly and just then Mark say “Here we go then” and I turn around to see them across the traffic circle cuing up and taking passengers already. We cross the street and miss the first coach and wait just a minute to get the second one and then we are off on a pleasant ride around the park, stopping at key points for the horse to drink water and to take pictures of certain views that our driver points out to us along the route. It’s a nice ride I recommend to anyone visiting New York and not expensive at all, about $34 plus tip for a thirty minute ride. We stop where we started from and the driver takes our picture in the carriage together and then gives Sharon a carrot to feed to the horse who swallows it whole and we pet the horse and move off to find a loo for Sharon and myself. We go down the stairs of the Apple store right across from The Plaza Hotel and use the bathrooms, the store is amazingly arrayed with all manner of IPOD products and computers. People are running about like ants in a nest chattering like monkeys about the products and God only knows. It’s making me wish for fresh air however so I take them down the street to a hot/cold buffet deli and grocery store for some coffee and muffins. They are amazed to see all the different kinds of food here, deli sandwiches, burgers, wraps, burritos all made to order and the hot table with Chinese, Italian, American, Soup, Salad, Chilli’s and more than I can remember now. There is nothing like this in England they tell me and I suggest they should open one and start a new craze, but we get our coffee and sit down at a table in front of the store to talk about all the family history some more. This is real nice time for me but unfortunately they are asking me questions I cannot answer such as the time-line of the passing of several relatives that I miss, I guess my memory for much is shot, too many things running round my head for too long or maybe it’s just that I block out the unhappy memories. But I find Sharon’s talk of her medium like experiences fascinating as she has a connection with the other side like my mother but way stronger, it’s the same intuition that has saved me from a few near accidents when the little voice tells me to keep away from that car next to me and I back off just in time to not be hit by a wreck-less driver who’s cut me off.
We leave now and it’s incredible how the weather changes in New York so rapidly, one moment we are warm and opening coats and the next a damp breeze blows and reminds us that April is a wet and muddy month. We walk down from Central Park area to Herald Square so they can see the city, it’s people and places, stopping to look at huge diamonds in a store window, taking some video or pictures and generally sharing tales and laughs over this and that. The streets are alive, tourists and stressed out workers, students and lovers all moving toward something unknown by you until you see what they are after. You hear family disputes one minute then raucous laughter the next depending on where you look and listen, always changing the city reminds us of how big it’s pull is for the people of the world and we finally arrive at Macy’s Herald Square to see the flower show. It’s a mob scene that would make old Mr. Macy happy, we look at the window display and see the fictitious flight of a huge pink flamingo being depicted going to various countries, some window panels show only his long legs and others part of his body in flight and his huge head is shown in yet another. You have to go to the Macy’s web site to see it for yourself it’s unbelievable! We go inside and it’s a zoo, people crowd every inch of space and it’s just beautiful, there are pink flowering plants that have been grown into flamingo topiary surrounded by all manner of flowering trees, plants and bulbs. There are over 1 million bulbs and 30,000 plants and trees. We walk through dazed crowds to get to the old wooden escalators to go down for a loo stop again, after we men talk over the mystery of handbags and shoes while Sharon shops till she’s had enough and slowly make our way back to the exit. They are hungry for a little lunch and so am I, last night I took the time to research a few meal suggestions for their dinner tonight so I pull out a short list and suggest maybe Brazilian, Tapas, and Greek. But they love curry so I ask if they like Thai and bingo! the magic word so it’s off to find Thai, only problem is I don’t have any written down, so as we move back up towards restaurant row I suddenly duck into a shop or two and come back almost before they realize I’m gone, I ask store employees for a good Thai place and finally I hit on a guy who knows. We have to head over to 46Th between 8Th & 9TH Ave so we march along not caring for the time just enjoying the easy camaraderie of the three musketeers we have become.