A chilly breezy morning on the platform of the Long Island Railroad and I’m a little under-dressed for a city trip. The temperature is supposed to go up to sixty today so later I’ll be comfortable, but right now I’m cold. The Old Farmers Almanac is calling for a wet and colder spring followed by a cooler summer except for August, followed by a September that will require an Ark to be built in the backyard. But right now the English Sparrows are busily engaged in selecting just the right twigs on the embankment of the tracks, they rummage through the brush and will probably nest along the tracks in the underbrush which never sees human feet, too steep to walk on without tumbling to the sidewalk below. I guess I’m pushing the season a little but this winter was long and hard, it practically seems like another life now, which reminds me I have to run the gas out of the snow blower and put in the fuel stabilizer this week and put it away proper.
I’m a little glum because of the weather and also because I must start looking for a second job, I need to make more money. It’s the only way to get out of my debts and begin to save for the future. I know I’m a pessimist but when your government almost shuts due to lack of funds, then the future doesn’t look very bright. The great middle class in the US has bailed out the banks and now we will bail out our government too, I can feel it coming like a distant train that starts out lonely and quiet-then roars by as it flies through the station with a great rush of wind and garbage trailing behind, only this time it will be our tax dollars trailing behind. I saw a piece this morning about the tax situation over here with the deadline to file taxes only days away, the last President to balance the budget was Bill Clinton, since then George W. Bush and his wars for profit and Obama’s train wreck politics have it so loused up it will take a miracle to fix it. Perhaps they just needed a young intern to help them to think clearly, I mean after all it worked for Bill didn’t it? I can’t imagine how much money I’d have if the near crash of 2008 never happened, especially if I didn’t dip into it. I’m spending my 401k money gradually which I’m also paying back each week so eventually it’ll be back up to what it was, but we will never make up what was lost to us. The fat cats however are enjoying the trickle up economy that has been intentionally put into place ( in my opinion) to separate the haves from the have-nots.
I’ve always had that good christian “There but by the grace of God” adage shoved down my throat, and have been made to feel as though my complaining was selfish and childish. But every positive thought I ever had about what I wanted to happen-never came to fruition. Yet every negative thought about what could possibly go wrong-did go wrong.
This year I’m going to grow a few vegetables I’ve never tried before, French breakfast Radish, Globe Zucchini, and Frisee, as well as some fresh herbs and of course Heirloom Tomatoes and anything else I can fit. I am really worried about them because my dad doesn’t remember to water the garden. If I’m out at my second job the garden will suffer and with all the zones it’s a big job, I wish we had gotten lawn sprinklers installed years ago. Maybe I can find an online job so I can look after things and make money when the sun goes down.
Behind me a little boy asks his mom about everything that he sees out the window. “Is our train bigger than that one?” or “What is that yellow thing there do?” I love it, I can’t remember when the world was full of so many innocent questions.
I get off and make my way to the 123 line of the subway to get downtown and decide to get off at 14th St. But I walk through the subway station to the 12th St exit and go topside into the bright sunlight. I make my way easily down the streets and hustle through the taxi’s jammed up at the intersections and find The Little Owl with no problem. It’s not open yet so I scout around and find another place called “Moustache” a few doors down-also closed. This is a little Middle-Eastern place with a good write-up in the paper posted in the window. The prices are reasonable and the menu is interesting, they make “Lahambajin Pitza” the Turkish pizza that I had one night a few years ago. Hummous, Tabouleh, Lentil Soup, Merguez and an array of sandwiches are featured. I make a note of this place but I am here for the whole wheat pancakes with fresh fruit that The Little Owl has to offer. This (according to Chef, TV host and culinary scientist Alton Brown) is the best breakfast he ever ate. He had a show for years on the food network called Good Eats which was part cooking show and part science class, he explained what happens to food when you cook it in an informative fun way, kind of like Julia Child meets Monty Pythons Flying Circus. I have the first two coffee table books that cover the shows with color pics, tips and recipes, plus pics from the show and little bits of trivia about the episodes with anecdotes. But this breakfast comes with his recommendation on a show called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, where chefs and TV food personalities and critics talk about their favorites, broken down by category each show is a treasure of eye candy and can bring new experiences, even if some of the places are very far away. It’s still fun to watch.
I wait chilly with a noisy police tow truck fixing to tow a car that has been abandoned, while delivery trucks bring cases and bushels of food. They take the food delivery through the side door and down the stairs, and bring a huge steaming pot of meatballs in sauce up and into the restaurant to the delight of the dozen or so people gathered around this corner eatery. The tow truck shuts off his engine and all is very quiet, save for an occasional car or truck passing by and the conversation of sparrows with their cheerful chirping and gregarious mating habits, like people they are ready at the drop of a hat! They were brought here from the UK ages ago and have spread like wildfire taking over North America and Canada I think too, so along with the people gathered talking I have an ear full as I write and wait. Finally, the doors open and I sit down in the corner facing the window and get my menu and order a coffee. The menu is pretty diverse, Meatball sliders, vanilla French toast, bacon and eggs, fried oyster omelet, oatmeal, etc. I of course order my pancakes and Irish bangers on the side, then go to the loo to wash-up before breakfast. The bathroom is behind the little bar area and is about the size of a closet, before me on the wall are two different color framed silkscreen prints by an unknown artist from 1996, and to my right is a long framed picture of Neil Diamond on stage from the 1970’s! He is dressed in white like Elvis and striking a pose like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I wish my mom could see this, she would get a kick out of this for certain.
Seated again-I scan the room, it is small and quaint and also trendy and rustic. There is a wall mounted wine rack, which is accessed with a small ladder. The ceilings are painted steel filigree tiles and the floors are ancient wood as is the bar and white linen covered tables. The staff is friendly and courteous and in no time my steaming plate of whole grain flapjacks are in front of me. These are beautiful, thick and fluffy-nothing like the rubbery things I make from a mix which are best suited for taking off stubborn jar lids. The flavor is not like whole wheat either, these taste better than any other I’ve had. They are served with real maple syrup, no synthetic fake corn syrup flavored with chemicals, and my Irish bangers are top-notch! They are a different kind of good, lean and finely ground pork with just the right seasoning. If there is one complaint, it’s in the relatively few pieces of real fruit on my plate compared to the TV show which featured four kinds of berries. Soon after I finish my meal and enjoy another cup of coffee I decide to pay and give others a chance as this place is packed with more waiting outside, not a bad brunch for about $18 with tip and I am full too.
I leave and start walking toward W. Houston St heading for the East Side but as usual I get pulled toward things. I pass several small eatery’s I haven’t seen before. There is 12 Chairs which is packed, Rouge Et Blanc which has an A rating but is closed unfortunately. I find myself sitting on the corner of 6th Ave and Charlton and watch the world go by a little. I listen with envy to a woman talk about settling in an apartment in the lower 60’s, pricey I’m sure. She’s telling someone who she has to put three months rent in escarole just to secure the place to go to contract. Then goes on to talk about a date she had the other night so I move on, it’s noisy here anyway. I pass The Dutch, a new place I read about online, a man is hand painting the inside of the glass windows with an accent stripe. I ‘m passing Ward Nasse Gallery, this kind of place used to draw me right in, no sadly I walk right past it, feeling like I no longer belong. I stop and think about it and as I do, miss lower 60’s passes me with her head held high loving life, she is followed by another woman who seems to have just had a fight with her man. She’s walking fast talking to herself and you can just hear her saying to a friend later “And then he said blah blah blah!” so I said “Blah Blah” and then he said “blahhhh blahhhh Blah” so I told him to” BLAH BLAH” and left, at least that’s what I think. So I turn around and go in the gallery, forcing myself to relax and let go of negative feelings. The featured work is by Tove Hellerud, Nature and Culture is fantastic abstract work that reminds me of Robert Rauchenbergs late work if not in style then in definitely in dialogue. The prices are astounding! There is one I admire for $14,000, it’s about 36 x 48 deep gallery wrapped. I’m greeted by an older man who is hanging work who goes about his business and lets me slowly walk the creaking floors. There is surreal work that Dali would have been proud of that catches my eye. I make my way around the room and see impressive work of all kinds, sculpture, found objects, paintings, drawings. I speak with the owner briefly and he tells me this is a co-op, a not-for-profit gallery that has been here 32 years and represents 700 artists world-wide. He asks me if I’m an artist and I tell him I used to be years ago, but then started writing. I get the feeling if I was he would have asked to see my work. I say goodbye and a young foreign couple comes in to browse, I grab a card and hope they buy something as I continue my journeys.
I pass my old haunts in the village, I see a few more fast food joints have invaded, I hope they fail. The old cafes should be saved by someone, at least we still have the Minetta Tavern. I decide to go in and have a lunch. It is pretty packed so I wind up at the bar-not very comfortable. I already know what I’m going to have, the much-lauded Black Label Burger. The burger that Anthony Bourdain himself recommended to me a year ago, so I order a good imported beer and watch the show as I wait. The bartenders are busy as bee’s making drinks to keep the patrons happy as the place fills up with more and more people. The beer is good and the music is too, the stool is not the best and I really wish I had a table but soon my burger arrives, it is massive and served with a mountain of frites. The burger is good-don’t get me wrong, this has to be the highest quality meat I’ve ever eaten. I guess I was expecting the top of my head to be blown off, or to wake up slouched against a wall in an alley saying “Gilligan…where’s the coconuts?” or something other than feeling like I just spent $26 on a trendy burger that wasn’t as good as Shake Shacks was last year. I finish the meal and my beer and pay the check with my plastic money and hit the street a little wiser for my experience. I have to remember that just because Tony said so, doesn’t mean it’s right.
I pass the Kimchi Taco truck parked right down the block from NYU, I wish I was hungry. I have heard about this trend to mix Korean traditional food with the Mexican Taco. This is the biggest thing to happen to tacos since the Taco Bell chain brought the taco to white Americans decades ago. These are made with Korean style barbeque pork, chicken or veg and three for seven dollars is a steal! There is a line of people waiting for a delicious lunch but for me it’ll have to be some other time. I walk a little further to find Salon De Tapas has moved around the corner from its old location where I confused so many people while eating squid cooked in its own ink.
The work is still going on in Washington Square Park, it won’t be done till 2012, just in time for the end of the world if the predictions are right.Right now though there are so many people out on the streets, everybody is hungering for the nice weather and a chance to be comfortable in less clothes. Some girls are already wearing shorts and on the grass in the park one girl was in a bikini on the grass. I don’t get it, I’m chilly in my button up denim jacket and scarf! I pass an older guy who works hard playing “A Hard Rains Gonna Fall” and tries to get the few people around him to sing the chorus. He plays guitar better than me but it’s hard to take him seriously. I mean really, how can you even try to capture that emotion 40 plus years later?, when the rain’s been falling hard for so long? The sand man is doing his thing as usual as I pass the Arch and head west to 9th Ave. I’m looking for any organic fruit stalls I can find on the street, I recently discovered I can eat nectarines, plums and probably peaches and apricots too, as long as they’re organic! If not then I get an itchy irritated mouth, a friend assures me it’s the pesticides and I should just wash my fruits in a little peroxide and water but organics are better for you anyway. I am so happy to be able to eat fresh fruit mixed with plain Greek yoghurt, topped with honey-that’s lunch some days. It may not be low in calories but good for you in so many ways.
I arrive at Chelsea Market and sign a petition outside to keep the powers that be from building a double skyscraper over it. The developers want to make every block of this city a congested, loud, fully developed urban blight. Inside it’s a hive of activity and I make my way to the information desk and ask for the loo. The guard says “On the left just past the waterfall.” The waterfall? They have a waterfall here? I start walking through the crowds past Amy’s Bread, the Butcher, the wine shop, produce market, and a hand-full of eateries. I find a fenced off area where a large pipe in the ceiling opens at a 90 degree angle to allow water to drop into a well below, and it is here that the bathroom line ends. I don’t know who designed this place but they should be throttled once a week-just on general principles. There is a long hallway with 5 single occupancy loos, but the first door is just a few feet away so the long line has people standing right next to this waterfall listening to running water! It’s absolutely diabolical. No one even bothered to tell us there is another loo at the far end of the market, I would find this out myself later. I resume my trek through the market to find a bookstore, kitchen supplies, a portable knife sharpener stand, and a Middle Eastern housewares seller going out of business, selling everything at 50% off.
I take a fascinating spin through the produce market seeing things like wild ramps and fiddle head ferns, many things that Emeril picked up for his old show. The wine shop was offering a tasting but the prices of many of the wines was enough to drive me off to the butcher. They are offering pork rillettes and a tongue and leek terrine, so I buy a little of both and go across to Amy’s Bread to get a baguette. I run the gamut of hand crafted baked goods in the display case that are enough to make you drool, pay for my baguette and reluctantly leave the market. It is indeed one of my favorite places, other that the open air market at Union Square. This has been the best part of the day other than my morning meal, and with a mental nod to CoBa as I pass I head up 9th Ave in the warm sun of the late afternoon. By the time I get home after my long walk back to Penn and my train ride I will be ravenously hungry again. I will enjoy this simple supper of meats and bread with some Dijon mustard, cornichons, and a nice glass of Rose!