Tag Archives: Food

Even More Thanks – Jan 7th 2012

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.

Bonjournee

Glen

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Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Food Writing, Life, Memories, My Truth, New York City, No Reservations, Theater, Village Voice, Writing

Giving Thanks-Nov 26th 2011

In a previous story (Always In The Small Hours) I told the tale of my brothers trips to the ER. He had come home after being diagnosed the first ER trip with a nosebleed, then he went back 24 hours later and was re-diagnosed with possible pneumonia and given a z-pac and told to follow-up with his own doctor in a week. He tried hard to get better but he was not feeling well, he seemed to rally and then his coughing would start again and so did the bleeding. This time it was no joke, we took him back to the ER and he was admitted.  Now they are checking him for Tuberculosis and after a cat scan, bronchioscapy and more blood tests than you can imagine. My parents and I run back and forth to the hospital to see him donning masks every time.  We brought his laptop day two so he could alert his online teachers of his predicament. The four of us waited out the test results and prayed that all that blood my brother coughed up was just a Pneumonia and not TB. It was a scary time for all of us, I tried not to think about the unhappy  possibilities of losing my brother. He made the best of  it by the second day of strong meds and fluids and was up and around, working on his online degree with renewed energy. I called all the relatives and cancelled hosting Thanksgiving for the family, I was too tired and my brothers favorite holiday was ruined, I just couldn’t go on without my brother and sit and eat turkey while he was in isolation eating hospital food.

Thanksgiving Day we got a nice surprise at the hospital, the downstairs cafeteria for the employees; which also serves the public, was putting up a free holiday dinner for the employees and the families of the patients! This is something they do every holiday apparently, and since my mom had been making an issue out of having turkey on Thanksgiving to the point of being willing to spend $25 each on the privilege of eating it in a diner. It was indeed a happy accident that she found out we could eat for free. Only after I suggested she call and see if the hospital had any special food for the holiday on the menu. So I was glad I stuck to my guns and refused to spend upwards of 75 bucks on dinner. The hospital dinner was really good, I was shocked. We had turkey of course and cornbread stuffing, asparagus, and candied yams with loads of gravy and coffee,tea and your choice of dessert for free!  I shook hands with the manager a told him and the head of the kitchen how much we appreciated the food and the gesture of feeding the families for free.

But the next day (Friday) I got an unusual call in the morning from the hospital, they wanted to know how my brother was doing at home, I told the woman on the phone that he was still in the hospital and she needed to check her records. Yet I was puzzled, so I called my brother only to find out his tests came back negative and he was free to go home. So as soon as his doctor signed his release he was sprung. I got into his car and bolted to the hospital to grease the wheels any way I could. I arrived to find him getting dressed with laptop open on the bed, towels on the floor and suitcase being packed like he was leaving a hotel. There was nothing to do now but get the IV line out of his hand and sign the paperwork. He goes home with no restrictions on anything except to stay away from tobacco and to see his doctor in two weeks. I hand him his keys as we walk out of the hospital and we get into his car and immediately drive to 7-11 for soda and beer for him. He has had nothing but ginger ale and water for days and days. We come home to the relief of my folks, this was really hard for them. This year there is much to be thankful for at this time of celebration.

So I’ve just finished my meager breakfast as we hurtle to New York City on an express train. There are dozens of people heading in to the city today, mostly to shop I imagine. This is Black Friday weekend and I’m taking a trip in today to do a photo-shoot and enjoy the unusual 60 degree plus weather before the rain comes in on Monday. This is totally unexpected as I figured this little mini vacation was going to be a bust. The fact is that for once we got really lucky. I come up from the tracks and head out of the station into the street, throngs of people are about moving in all directions. I head to Macy’s Herald Square for a loo and also I’d like to see it again in full Christmas regalia. I haven’t been here since 2008 and its in full bloom. This place is packed with a choking crowd of people already and it’s not even eleven yet. It takes me twenty minutes to find the loo and twenty minutes to get back out onto the street. I look around a little feeling bad that mom, dad, and brother man never get to see NYC. The fact is that dad has no interest, bro has school and mom is not in good enough shape to travel to the big apple. I wish we were all twenty-five years younger.

I begin to wander in the general direction of The Meatball Shop on 11th between Greenwich and Perry. This is my new obsession after seeing it on the cooking channel, this place serves up six different kinds of meatballs daily. It’s the go to place for lunch and late night college snacks, and  families with a kid friendly menu too. I stop and take pictures of the New Yorker Hotel and wander in the general direction of the lower west side. By roundabout ways I come to that section of Greenwich St that’s fighting to be chic while still retaining it’s village feel. The cobblestone streets surrounded by new trendy clothing shops and restaurants thinly veil  the general feel of decay that lies just beyond the reach of the storefronts and al-fresco dinning. The ongoing construction seems to do little to change the landscape. It appears the same as the first time I came here years ago before I had my blog. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t got promise, in a few years this could be a go to area for the city’s trendy.

You find little gems when you peek under the city’s petticoats, and this time I find a little gem called The Spotted Pig, an old Irish pub that looks inviting and cheery outside with potted plants that even in death of winter seem ripe with promise. Further down hidden under scaffolding is the equally amazing Kaas Glass Works, a place where hand-made glass trays and plates meet a kind of esoteric zeal for the old and new. The place is small and a big man like myself treads carefully in the shop. The plate designs feature old botanical illustrations, advertisements, scenes of New York and Paris, and even a series of plates featuring a skeleton from Grays Anatomy split into four parts and displayed inside a presentation wall frame with museum glass. This is the kind of thing that I love about my travels. Sadly I cannot afford these  beauties and would not buy them until I have my own place. I’m getting hungry now It’s been hours of wandering looking for just the right shot, so I move on to find The Meatball Shop on Greenwich Ave between 11th and Perry St. It’s a  little place with charming white wainscot and a checkered black and white tile floor, old photographs decorate the walls and give the space an old world feel. The pretty blonde waitress explains the menu which is made of plastic and requires a little study. Basically there are five kinds of meatballs,beef, chicken, pork, spicy beef, vegetable and a wild card which changes daily. There are also five kinds of sauces classic tomato, Parmesan cream, spicy meat, pesto, and sweet teryaki. You can get you meatballs in a myriad of ways. Just plain in a bowl, on a hero or smashed on Brioche, over salad,pasta,risotto, or polenta. Even the simple slider is served here! The possibilities are endless and they also boast an impressive list of regional Italian and French wines. I mark my choices with a dry erase marker and go off to the loo for a washup.

When I come back I find my Pabst Blue Ribbon has been poured and I settle down to write a little , observing the people around me and listening to their stories. I hardly have time to do so before my food arrives hot and fresh. I got the classic beef balls with creamy Parmesan sauce over soft polenta. These are perhaps the best meatballs ever! The flavor of the sauce is savory and the sweet corn taste of the polenta combines with the strong meaty flavor of the meat making this qualify as one of the best things I ever ate. This is the thing I miss when I’m back home, no one is doing anything this remarkable in Nassau, not even close. After I finish my meal I look over the book they published about The Meatball Shop history, which can be signed by the chef/authors of the three locations they have. It’s a nice book packed with color photos and recipes so you can try it at home. I pay my bill and venture out again and growing tired I decide to begin to head uptown and see what develops-get it …develops, no oh well. I stop to take pictures, check out menus in windows and take a walk through Union Square market which has been set up like a Christmas village with each vendor next to the other in a long row. The tents are decorated and the whole atmosphere is very cheery if not very crowded, there is occasional breaks to allow people to escape and get some air. I come out the other side of the square and I’m stopped by a young guy hawking a CD, he has pigtail’s and looks a little more mixed race than American Indian but he explains its virtues and I give him my last three bucks for it. He said it was a donation and any amount would do so I gave what I had and continued heading home. In the warm sunshine of a perfect day I make my way uptown admiring the window displays of the stores, the lights are just beginning to come on as the shadows grow longer and longer. It was as good a day especially for a trip that was not originally going to happen. We got really lucky this time and I’m lucky to be alive in the city I love, doing my thing. It may never make me any money or any notoriety in artistic or literary circles, but damn I love what I do.

Happily

Glen

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Filed under Food, Food Writing, Life, Memories, My Truth, New York City, Writing

Soho Revisited-Oct 22nd 2011

The air is cool today as I ride the train to New York, heading in today to repeat a self guided tour I did a year ago as well as do a photo shoot. I have cast a critical eye over my pictures from the last photo-shoots in New York. So armed with a little new knowledge and a more focused purpose I hope to come home with better pictures than ever. What I figure is the best pictures come from focusing on one area and working that completely. This will be better than walking from one side of Manhattan to the other, and will save my feet from a forced march. I also want to check out Vesuvios Bakery, part of the green bakery project in NYC. The new owner Maurey Rubin has taken a huge step in preserving the past by keeping the 1920’s storefront but updating the old wood fired ovens to make the business safe. I have it on good authority that the Maple Bacon Scone is to die for and a popular breakfast item. I also intend to check out Yakitori Taisho, a place that has a great reputation for Yakitori, the grilled meat on a stick that is the mainstay of Chinese lunch and happy hour. But I’m also thinking that a slice of pizza at Rivoli’s is in order, since the triumph of my painting of their storefront. I think it’s only right that I go and have a slice to see the place and say yes…I ate there. The weather is turning cooler fast and although I say I won’t let the winter keep me in, if it’s anything like last winter-I will  be.

I come up from Penn Station on the NE corner of W.33rd & 7th Ave and walk east passing lines of out-of-townees waiting for tour buses, along the way I pass a series of pubs and public houses. The traffic is backed-up as the garbage is noisily collected by crews who sweep clean as they pass, anything that’s dropped must be picked up. The sounds of the trucks echo down the glass walls of the canyon like building as I come up to Greely square. I make it to 6th Ave and head south, this is a busy area in the low thirties through the twenties. There are busy shops, hotels and souring structures of glass and steel. I hear a snippet of conversation behind me. One young guy relating a story of trying to get a cab and an older woman with a southern accent asks if she can have it first saying “I’m so tired, can you let me take this one?” He did the thing that gives New Yorker’s a bad reputation. He ignored her and got in the cab. He laughingly tells his friend “Hey lady…this isn’t the south!” They both chuckle and I really wanted to tell him what I thought of him, but at almost 50 I can’t risk a beating by two guys in their twenties. Besides the evil that you do comes back to you threefold, so they will get theirs one way or another. A street fair is being held so the police barricades block off traffic and I walk freely down 6th Ave past dozens of vendors. They are selling sunglasses, jewelery, scarves, hats, clothing, and food of all kinds. It’s just getting set up this early but later these streets will be teeming with people buying  early xmas gifts or just trying on some hats as I do in my quest for the right hat. Finding none that I like I move on into the village proper, I notice more than ever the homeless today. They seem to be out in force and it pains me to walk on by, but the sad fact is that if I helped them all I would be standing right next to them shaking my own empty coffee cup. I hear Blue Jays echo though the streets as I pass the Spring St subway station, looking for a loo and wishing I had a hat it’s a little cold.

So after using the loo at Starbucks, the travelers friend. I make my way to my breakfast destination, Vesuvio’s is very small and quaint with pictures of the old ovens in the basement on the wall above the milk and sugar bar. The friendly staff serves me my Maple bacon scone and coffee, they don’t make faces when I ask for some hot water to warm up the coffee gone cool from the freezing cold milk. Why we haven’t adopted the French method of warming the coffee milk is beyond me. The scone is crunchy and delicious and every bit what I love in a scone, but I can’t resist going back in for an oatmeal cookie for later, these have also been highly recommended online. I move on and walk down W. Broadway, there is an art show on the sidewalk and I admire the work of the artists showing today along the way. It’s so different now that I’m painting again, I no longer feel ashamed when I look at others work. I feel like an artist again with a purpose, even if I’m not doing important social commentary right now. I feel like I bought back a piece of myself. Now I begin to wander looking for good shots and feeling warm and happy, I can ignore my sore back and do what I came here to do. I pass a professional photographer sitting in a chair by his work, he too sits and writes in a small book just like I do. I wonder what he’s about…

I leave the art show and find myself on Lafayette St where an artist is painting the facade of an old bar in a  style based on a small collage of liquor ads he’s been given, it’s very nice work and reminds me of my old style of painting. I talk with him a few minutes but move on to leave him to his work, it looks like it could rain all over his parade soon. Turing the corner I pass an art gallery and decide to go in. Brentano’s Gallery on Crosby St has an amazing collection of original prints and paintings, one whole wall is nothing but Salvador Dali’s work and on the other side a nice seating area with more art. I tell the owner that I’d like to move in and he laughs. Then I share with him the story of Harvey my old friend who would have loved to be here with me looking at Dali’s work. The one I like is a hand signed  lithograph, limited to an edition of 150 which is only $4700. This may sound like a lot but by Dali standards it relatively cheap. Then of course and actual drawing by him is worth a fortune in comparison. I leave the gallery and circle back around to take some pics of the muralist from a distance without bothering him and then begin to move uptown starting to think of lunch, it’s been a few hours since the scone and I’m starting to get a little hungry.

I come to Bleeker St and turn right taking it to Bowery (4th Ave) and then north to St. Marks Place, it’s a long walk from where I was but carried along by the hipster crowds and tourists I make it to my lunch destination Yakitori Taisho, only to find it doesn’t open till 6 pm. So I will not be experiencing the delights of chicken parts cooked on skewers over glowing coals today. So I decide the only thing to do is take the long walk back to the other side of town and go to Rivoli’s Pizza. The clouds have gone away again and the sun is warm as I make my way to 7th Avenue South, passing through another street fair as I do. I stop and look at hats again and even find a $25 hat I like but they don’t take credit and I decide to pass it by instead of looking for a cash machine. When I arrive at 7th Ave South I can see Rivoli’s in the glare of the late afternoon sun and cross the street with others making the most of this glorious day and go in Rivoli’s for a well deserved break. I look at the pie and am immediately disappointed by the looks of it, this is utility pizza at best-nothing special here. I can’t imagine this place turning out veal scallopini or mussels marinara. But with a sigh I order a slice and a soda and settle down in the same window seat I struggled so hard to get the reflections of the table, chairs and taxi in. The pizza is as good as it has to be right now as I am ravenous after my long march, so I read the Village Voice and slowly drink my soda to rest for the walk back.

I sit and it occurs to me that right now or on any other day that I’ve been in NYC.  I might be the person in the picture that someone took as part of their art project, or livelihood. It’s an interesting thought as I look through the window and eyeball the people walking by and crossing the street. I leave and make my way down 7th Ave with the wind at my back. Today I saw many homeless people and heard many French voices all around me, too many of the former and not enough of the latter. The weird and wonderful I saw today in people as I passed by, I would need a personal secretary to remember and document them all. I think to myself God how lucky I am to live so close to this city. I wonder if I could ever leave it.

Cheese

Glen

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Filed under Art Shows, Food Writing, French, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, New York City, Street Art, Village Voice, Writing

Art In The Time Of Occupy-Oct 8th 2011

So I’m sitting on an express train bound for New York and it’s a nice day…real nice. I am armed with both cameras intending to do a photo shoot and I am also pondering whether or not to go downtown and cover the Occupy protest. I sit down across from a pretty girl with a backpack, I am busy admiring her whilst trying not to leer (that would be creepy) when she  pulls out a camera so big if a puma attacked her she could kill it! This is of course a real camera with a lens as long as my forearm, it makes mine look like child’s play. So much for the ego of the great shutter-bug. Today is all about the art project I’ve been working on lately but I’m bothered by the feeling that I should visit the Wall St protests. This kind of thing is happening all over the world, people are fed up with the government, the corruption of the politicians and are taking to the streets. But I can’t help feeling like something bad is going to happen, maybe not today but soon. The rumors of jails being built to house the creators of dissent with videos to match on You Tube  are possibly true. People have been arrested by the dozens and New York’s finest have even herded women into penned areas and pepper sprayed them at close range! I think it’s gonna get ugly real soon.

I predicted all this would happen years ago and the revolutionary in me wants to be there standing up for what I believe in too. But I worry, what if some idiot does something stupid and incites the police? I could easily find myself in a situation. This is one of those times when I wish I was free to do whatever I wanted. If I get arrested and wound up in jail and missed work I’d be in real financial trouble. I have people depending on my income for their life too. But this is what the government and our employers count on-fear. This is how they keep us in line and make us work like slaves. I’ll see how I feel later but at my age I’m a little tired and sore from a busy week at work, I’m getting too old to be doing the grunt work I do.

I head straight for the Lunch Box Buffet, an Asian place right near Penn Station. They are rumored to have the delicious egg tart the Chinese are famous for but when I get there they have none, the only breakfast they have is the ubiquitous NY bagel and rolls or pastry. I was never a pastry for breakfast type so I pass up the chocolate croissants  and move on in search of something better but cheap. I start walking in the busy hustle of the city just before the shops open. The problem with the city in the morning is the blinding sunlight, if you’re walking east your blinded-even with sunglasses on! But I forge on shading my eyes and zig-zag to stay on the shaded side of the street. I hit 3rd Ave and head south. There’s many Indian and Thai eateries here as I walk through Gramercy Park , it’s a busy built up area but as you go south it gets quiet and quaint in ti;s own way. I see many places are not open yet and I make mental notes on shoot locations. I pass a new restaurant where a nice old French cafe used to be, I wish I had eaten there just once. Soon however I come to the industrial part of town, it’s busy and loud here, this area has many restaurant supply shops and metal works fabricating those shinning steel counters where are food is made and sold. Recently on his new show “The Layover” Anthony Bourdain gave a quick tour of such a place, showing viewers how one could cheaply buy the same saute pans they used at Les Halles for $18.95, in fact he got a whole bag of stuff for under a hundred dollars.  I also read online that the people in these shops on Bowery are really helpful and nice to walk-ins so I will make it a point to go over my kitchen inventory and buy my next pans at such places instead of high priced department stores. I turn off the avenue and go down Prince St into the heart of Little Italy. By chance I turn on Elizabeth St and walk right by Albanese Meat market to see Moe sitting inside, I go in and greet him and chat a little about business and the weather. He’s in early on Saturdays as he supplies the restaurants before shutting down for the weekend. He’s always cheerful and happy, I often wonder what his secret his?

I move on to get my breakfast and wind up at Cafe Duke, a fancy name for a place that serves every kind of food you could want in separate stations- both hot and cold can be had. This place also doubles as a cyber cafe and has the mix of cuisine to please everyone. I order a bacon,egg and cheese on an everything bagel with utility coffee and wait for my order as the smells begin to drift about from various stations that are firing up the days offerings. It smells real good in here as food is being cooked in half a dozen places, who would have thought a place that’s not very attractive could be so appetizing. This is the kind of place that amazed my relatives from England in 2008, they have no English equivalent over there. I suggested they open one up and hire people to run it but they politely declined. My egg sandwich is nothing special but it’s still good and compared to a sign I saw advertising a $9.00 egg sandwich with truffles on it I think mine for $3.50 is as good as it has to be. I leave full and in search of my reason to be here today.

The sun is making today’s walk a little hotter than I would like but maybe it will burn the head cold out of me that hasn’t taken hold yet. I walk in the direction of the west side but stop when I see a girl getting off a Vespa, I walk over to make a little conversation about scootering in the city. I ask her about the safety issues of driving a scooter on NYC streets and she tells me that she’s had hers for years and never feels like she’s going to get mowed down by a truck, but also confesses that she stays away from big avenues at rush hour anyway.  Big avenues really aren’t needed to get around in her orbit.  She suggests that I look into buying one and tells me that it was a gift to herself for her 26th birthday. I wish her a happy birthday and she excuses herself to go about her business at the Vespa dealer nearby. I decide to move on without looking at them, I can’t afford one right now and of course the vintage one that I would like is the most expensive and hardest to find. I would like to go to Rivoli’s Pizza and have a slice, having just finished the painting of the storefront but I actually don’t have the address. It was weeks ago that I took that photo and I don’t remember. So I wander through familiar streets till I come to Broadway and see a strange and wondrous sight.

There are crowds gathered on the sidewalks watching dozens and dozens of skateboarders go south on Broadway! Each green light releases another group in all shapes and sizes and colors are coming in waves right alongside the traffic. Many are wearing their cameras taped to helmets or carrying small sticks with cameras running to video their run. The run of their lives! I don’t know why they are doing this but it is but I love it! I snap a few pictures and videos as they pass and am amazed to see some older guys in the mix and girls too. Up ahead a young guy stops and leans over, he’s sick and throws up a little bile. He apologizes and moves on but stops about six feet behind me and throws up for real. It’s pink in color and I figure he has a smoothie for breakfast, I wait till he done and offer him my unopened bottle of water. He gratefully accepts and begin washing out his mouth and drinking water to rehydrate. I ask him “What’s this all about?” puzzled.” Were going down to Wall St.” he says. “Oh to join the protest?” I ask knowingly. “No we just love skateboarding.” he says as he catches his breath. “I mean some are going there for that too.” he says. “Oh I see…where did you start out?” I ask curious. “Ah 116th street.” he says plainly. “Ah hundred and sixteenth street! I repeat astonished. That’s basically three quarters of the length of Manhattan! He offers me a few bucks for my water but I refuse, so he thanks me and turns off to join the ride again. It is then that I think the arrival of hundreds of young skateboarders could turn the protest into a free for all. So I decide to sit it out this time. The sad fact is that I could only stand around impotently for a few hours and go back home. I would then be protesting equivalent of a teeny-bopper from the sixties, spending the weekend as a hippie then going back to my real life. Essentially with all that’s going on at home and at work I could never live the life of a real political activist. The reality is that we can only muster a few signatures on a petition or two and then the powers that be just do what they want anyway. I am no advocate of violence but the only way to achieve change is through total rebellion, like the Star Wars saga. We would have to be funded, armed, organized, and military-like in our actions. Lets face it, a bunch of hipsters, latter day hippies, low level office workers, and housewives are not going to change anything. That might be a cop out but it’s the only one I got. I walk away to find refuge in my work.

I continue my walk and soon find myself on Laguardia Place by a happy accident. This is near where the French pastry shop Mille-Feuille is located, there is no way I’m not going in  for a Macaron or two. I walk down a few streets and find it there between Bleeker and 3rd. Once inside the small shop I seek consultation on which is good today. The salted caramel and a rose are my choice with a decaf coffee-the caramel is the best. I excitedly tell the young staff about the skaters and between customers show them the video I made on my cell phone. They are suitably impressed and happy about it and I leave the shop in search of more pictures. It’s not easy to find good shots, either the lighting is wrong or there is a truck in the way but I persevere. I stop in a Spanish deli and look around, there is an amazing array of oils, olives, sausages of every kind and a whole Serrano ham being sliced paper thin for a customer who talks and waits as his meat is lovingly arranged on butcher paper. The owner offers me a tiny piece and it is magical melt-in-the-mouth good, but a $28 dollars a pound I’ll have to pass this time but I will be back to make some serious purchases some day. By now it’s getting on to about two in the afternoon and I’m hungry again. I wanted to try and find Rivoli Pizza after finishing the painting I felt it would be only right to be able to say I had eaten there once. But I can’t remember where it’s located exactly, so I go around the block to a place I passed before. Roma Pizza is doing one thing and doing it well, pizza on artisinal bread in the tradition of Rome. This is a slab of thinner crust pizza made in long rectangular pans, it’s nothing like Sicilian or Neapolitan or anything else I’ve seen in my life. I go in to a long counter bar with a dozen different pies, I’m greeted by the hipster pizza chef and he tells me what each one has for toppings. I pick the potato and sausage with hot pepper flakes and an imported Italian beer. The pie is cut into two large pieces with “chicken scissors” and brought to me at a small table by the wall. The bread is really nice but too soft for me I like my pizza crunchy, but at this point I just want to eat. I’m actually very hungry after hours of walking and taking pictures. The flavor of the toppings is very good, meaty sausage and cracked peppers provide a salty sharp counterpoint to the mild potatoes and smooth olive oil. It’s good but as usual I went for something I never saw before and I really should have gone with a cheese and tomato slice instead. By the time I was done however there was no room for a second slice. I paid my check and went to the back for a loo break before leaving, there was also an outside dinning area past the actual dinning room. I chatted with a couple from Pittburgh while waiting for my turn and after went back outside to walk the pavements once more.

I spent the rest of the afternoon so wrapped up in shooting that I didn’t actually write any more notes on the trip, and by the time I got on the train going home I was too tired to even try to remember all the places I’d been. This is very unusual for me and I regret now not being able to finish the story of today correctly. The pictures I took offered up about six good choices for my project, so on the whole it was a very good day.

Cheers

Glen

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

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Filed under Albanese Meat Market, Anthony Bourdain, Art, Food, Food Writing, Life, Lower East Side, Memories, New York City, Travel, Village Voice, Writing

A New Mission…Art-August 20th 2011

It’s a gorgeous day as I wait for my train on the platform bound for New York City. I’ve just finished a light breakfast of a coffee and a light airy pumpkin muffin. The first sign of fall is not the solstice on the 23rd, but rather the arrival of pumpkin products in the stores and eateries. This does not depress me as usual, in fact I will go so far as to say I welcome it. It will mean meat cooked over an open fire while me and my bro ponder the meaning of life and hold a meeting of  “The Office of Separate and Collective Endeavors” a geeky name for some quality time spent together over food and alcohol.

But today I am on a special mission in New York, I mentioned that I put brush to paper for the first time in almost four years, after three abortive attempts to paint a cafe scene from the instructional book on watercolors. I finally got a finished piece on the forth try, I learned much about watercolor painting but have miles to go. I wrote in “Doing A Slow Burn” that I have to find good pictures of Paris cafe’s on the net to use for watercolor paintings. But I had a genius attack the other day in the city, and decided that my own pictures taken in my travels would be a better choice. Most good pictures on the net are copyright protected or you pay to use them, the last quiet trip to the city only yielded one picture good enough for a painting. So today I will be taking multiple shots of every scene that catches my eye, different angles will be tried and the element of chance will be invited to come along. I have found out that I can make my own watercolor block at home using home-made glue and sheets of watercolor paper cut to size and pressed together. This will save me lots of money, block is expensive. Especially the superior French Arches Blocks that cost arms and legs for the large sizes.

I am very excited about this new reason to go into New York, I stand at work and think about how I will sit and listen to Pandora Radio and create art later. It takes the idea of being stuck in for the winter a happier thought, and at the same time it ties together all my interests into one. It’s all here in a nice package  Art, New York City, Food, Photography, and Writing. It’s been a quiet ride so far, but in Woodside, Queens things change. A big guy in shorts and t-shirt with a baseball cap get on the train and sits down in front of me. By all accounts he’s very normal looking. But after the train pulls out he starts talking to himself in a high-pitched nasal voice. I wonder if he’s nuts or if he’s practicing lines for a voice over in a commercial or something, either way it’s a little annoying. We slow to begin the descent into Penn Station and I fill with anticipation for the day. I emerge from the station and decide to walk to West 10th st and  head south. I am looking for film for my Advantix camera which I haven’t used since I got the Samsung from my English relative in 2008. I don’t find  any in two places I stop in so I start walking west. What I don’t know is that they stopped making the film and I will have to find it online.  By the time I write this however-ten rolls are sitting in my fridge and I will buy more when I can. I will not give up on those beautiful wide-angle shots, some of my best pictures were shot using that camera!

I’ve never gone this way before and it turns out to be a good decision, as I begin walking south I stop after a few blocks and notice people walking towards something. I turn and see the entrance to the Highline, an old elevated railroad that used to be the carrier of freight trains into and out of the city. But for many years it was the haunt of the homeless, junkies, and crazy kids looking for some free fun in a shrinking economy. Of course it was illegal to be up there but with dozens of ways in, people found a way to do it. It’s kinda like the sewers and catacombs beneath Paris, you’re not supposed to be there but no one really has the time to enforce the law.  The powers that be in New York decided a few years ago to turn this space into a public park, so I go up to investigate. There are stairs leading to walkways that have been built over the tracks, and on either side are planting beds with a wonderful array of trees, shrubs and flowering perennials. There are nice benches along the way, special seating areas and viewing platforms that jut out into space. The park police patrol to keep things cool and emergency call boxes in case of an accident.

There are times when the buildings rise up around you and others when you are open to the sky, it almost feels like your flying as you look out over roofs where only pigeons walk, they stare at you unable to fathom the invasion of their domain. This is a truly wonderful space, you can see the contentment on the faces of the native New Yorker’s and the delight of the visitors is apparent too. I hear a man say to his fellows that the time to come here is in Feb, when it’s not too cold and there’s no one here in the early morning. I can imagine how tranquil that might be especially if it’s snowing. I will have to remember that for the future. I walk some three miles to the end, along the way I encounter common areas where events are staged, a place where the children can splash about in an inch of water while mom and dad sit in chairs big enough for two, and a roofed-over area near the bathrooms where the kids can play with giant wood and plastic Erector set pieces and build small contraptions. I make my way to street level and start for the West Village, walking down Greenwich Ave again for the first time in two years. I pace myself slow, taking pictures, reading menus, and find myself down by the waterside-just a short walk away from the piers. I pass a huge meat distributor and wonder how many millions of dollars of food are inside, then doubling back to civilization to find lunch. So many good places to eat, but I can’t afford them, I need to spend under twenty dollars today so I walk on looking for a sandwich and a beer.

Passing through the buildings.

A Sense Of The Height

I find it at the Fish on Bleeker St, a small place that has been here since the fifties I think as I look around at the decor and the pictures of the old days. I order an Oyster PO-Boy sandwich and a Stella Artois and relax at the old wooden bar and watch TV. I see a huge pyramid of shellfish go by and is laid down on a table in front of six people, they immediately go at the crab legs, lobster’s, clams and mussels with a vengeance. In fact all you can hear is cracking and the banging of small hammers to break shells to get at the wonderful treasure inside, along with corn on the cob and boiled potatoes it’s a meal fit for a king. My sandwich is taking a long time but I watch the prep chef at the raw bar set up his mise-en-place a few feet away. He’s setting up dozens of oysters and clams, making sure he has plenty of sauces and lemons. He stops to put orders together which spit out of a gadget that looks like a credit card machine, then after setting up a plate he rings a bell and it’s picked up and delivered. When my sandwich arrives it’s a big plate. There’s a bunch of fries and a nice side salad with greens, sliced tomato and pickle with a tangy sauce. The po-boy is another matter. It is light on soft bread, the crunch comes from the oysters that have a delicate flavor that deepens as you chew, they taste of the sea and the stones where they grow. It’s altogether a delicious and filling meal, but I can’t resist going down the street for dessert. So I sit and let my food go down and then after paying my bill I go to a place called “Cones” an ice cream shop like no other.

I know I have seen this place on the Food Network or the Travel channel as soon as I walk in. There are many different colors of gelato in the case and as others get theirs I look past them to see many strange flavors. There is Yerba Mate,made with a South American tea. There’s kumquat with Johnnie Walker Black Label which costs a dollar to try a spoonful. Zabayone, based on an Italian dessert with cream and sweet Marsala wine-amazing. But I go for the Corn after the pretty Argentinian woman behind the counter gives me a taste. Made with real corn and cream and with a dash of cinnamon on top, it is a thing of beauty for the tongue. Imagine a piece of corn bread with butter and cinnamon and you’ll get the flavor profile. I talk a while with the waitress who is also Italian, we chat about living  in her home countries, life in the city, and especially about Cones. They have been featured in articles in the New York Times, New York magazine and Zagat’s. They are number four in the top ten places making the best “corn” dish in New York City. I am sure I’ve seen this woman on TV. I finish my treat while she helps other customers and I bid her farewell and head out again. I’m on Bleeker St in the West Village so I decide to head east arriving on 1st Ave. This is the exact opposite of where I started so I think I’ll walk up 1st Ave and see what happens. I feel the heat and humidity more now after eating as the afternoon heats up. This is a fast paced area sporting many Italian, Latin and Indian eateries but not many good photo opportunities. So I begin to work my way back to the center of things and find brassiere Les Halles on Park Ave and a few others. Then I cool off inside a Greistede’s supermarket for a few minutes with a cold bottle of water. I retrace some of my steps from past trips but I always walk down a street I’ve never been before. I always find something new and today is no exception. Mille Feuille is a French bakery on LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village featuring its namesake dessert and the bright Macarons that thrill and delight children from Paris to Provence. I order a coffee and a Mille Feuille and sit at the bar against the wall. The pastry cream is delicious and the crispy layers make it difficult to eat but oh so worth the effort. I see a mom coming with a stroller so I get up and open the door for her and two kids and her husband follow. They thank me and they are French, looking for a taste of home. The adults order Espresso’s and the kids are so cute asking for “Pain de Shokolat” as they loudly look at everything asking so many questions and running around the small space. I decide not to get into a conversation about France.

I continue my long walk back to Penn Station and think it’s been a almost perfect day. The only way it could have been better would have been to have a little more money to spend and if it had been about ten degrees cooler, but that will come soon enough. The final act of the day is a stop in tracks for a wash-up and a drink. It’s been a hot walk back and my french dessert was burned up hours ago. I ask for a St Germain cocktail and the Irish waitress says to me “What’s that?” so I order a glass of Harp instead. I didn’t really want a beer but when in Rome…

It was a crappy week at work so I really needed a good day out, I am tired and happy. Tomorrow will be a rainy day and I will work on pictures and remember today.

Peace

Glen

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

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Filed under Art, Food, Food Writing, French, French Food, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, My Truth, New York City, NY, Travel, Writing

Doing A Slow Burn-Aug 7th 2011

It’s a cloudy breezy morning, warm but nice as I feed the birds on the train station platform and wait with many others to get the next train to Penn Station. I saved some of my crummy low-fat blueberry muffin for the sparrows that live here but one  gregarious pigeon got the lions share. I am especially happy that my far off friend and fan Maureen is okay and out of the hospital and back home, although I don’t know all the details. I have to assume she dodged the bullet and will be okay, I hope so at any rate. If I ever find the means to leave the ground again and fly to far away places we have a date, not a romantic one but a culinary tour of Thai and Indian food that would make Anthony Bourdain proud. It is a date I intend somehow to keep.

That in a way is part of a bigger picture that my thoughts will be on today as I wander. Issues great and small will be my slow burn for today. I am lucky to have a job and my health for the most part is good. Where I see myself in the next ten years is the key issue. I have to form some sort of plan for my transition to another career, I don’t want to sell parts forever and I can’t see myself driving around a forklift in the snow at 50 let alone 65. The improvement of my health, if I want to make 65 I’d better find the discipline to work out and lose weight and keep it off! The acquisition of love and an active social life with my own kind, I have to find a circle of artist/writer/foodie/francophiles to hang out with or else I will never meet that special someone. I do sometimes feel that maybe I do a little better on my own,  like the character of Scobie in Graham Greene’s novel “The Heart of the Matter”. But then again I haven’t met the “other” yet so I can’t be sure of that.

My creative life is another matter, last night I put brush to paper and worked on a watercolor scene of a Paris cafe out of an instructional book. It took an unfortunate row  to lock me in my apartment and forced me to sit down, listen to music and paint slow. Despite the fact that I have had no formal training in watercolor, and have only painted two others in my life (which came out great by the way) I found out something very important. I can still paint. Even after a nearly four-year hiatus and after two abortive attempts at this scene.  I finally hit my stride and found that which lies within every artist, the something that happens when you find your way. I have to try to find some more good pics of Paris cafe on the web that are not copyright protected.

It’s a sleepy kind of day, except for one kid and his dad everyone is quiet, lost in thought. There is an Asian beatnik on my left up a seat. He asks the conductor if the train stops at Mineola? “No, this is the express- I announced it three times.” the conductor said matter of factly. “What do I do now?” asked the deflated hipster. “You’ll have to get out at Jamaica and go back.” said the conductor as he punched his ticket and moved on. The beatnik in the beret with his Lennon glasses and his Fu-Manchu mustache busied himself with texting and avoided eye-contact  with anyone. I smile inside but I feel for him all the same. Just when you think your cool and in control is when you slip on a banana peel or get on the wrong train. The train meanwhile is getting crowded, everyone is going in for some fun. It’s hard to believe the summer is half over.I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but I do have some restaurants written down and I would like to see the green market again.

I’ve started to wonder about writing a proposal to the Travel Channel about a show in New York City, in it I would do what I love to do…this. It would be better perhaps for NYC TV but not so big an audience as TC. If I knew a little more about the night life in NYC and had a lot more confidence in myself I think I could pull it off. Maybe a book based on my experiences so far would be a better lead in to a show. The one thing I do know is that somehow I have to capitalize on my art, writing, and New York travels while the food and travel boom is on going. If I don’t I’ll miss out like I did the computer boom. It’s amazing to think that the kid who didn’t want to be in the school play now wants his own TV show now…I certainly have changed. We descend underground and soon I’ll be on the street or subway.

I decide on the subway and take it down to 23rd st coming up on busy 8th ave, I try to walk slow and takes things in nudging over an ave or two as I head south. People are swarming like bees enjoying a field of wildflowers, the warm breezy day has all of us walking on air. I find myself at Union Square with no effort at all. How can I describe the green market any better than I already have in so many stories. I can’t, you just have to come and see for yourself. This is a place where you need a French market basket and a whole day. You walk slow, sample the foods and see what is good, then walk back and buy what you need from the vendor with the best product. Too bad it’s only here half the year. I am sold on a pint of fresh blueberries by a slick tongued salesman, then after tasting garlic/rosemary jam and talking with a vendor about heirloom tomatoes and blossom end rot, I move on and wander a little. I eventually wind up at 5th ave and see something I’ve never seen before. It’s closed to traffic, bicycles, skaters and foot traffic only! I find out later that it’s part of a program called “summer streets”and goes on for many blocks to allow folks to enjoy the summer without having to go far. The quiet is almost deafening but there’s a magic to it as well. The walkers, joggers, skaters, and bicyclists are all moving at different paces in a kind of modern ballet. I loop back around after buying a lemonade from kids selling outside their apartment building and head west, I spend too much time on the lower east side so it’s time for a change.

Summer Streets in New York

I am thinking as I walk that maybe I should start using pictures I take in New York as a basis for paintings. I stop to rest on the service entrance steps of an Italian place on Bleeker and eat my berries for a snack while I write and practice my relaxing and people watching skills. Many people pass by as I write, all types from locals out shopping to vacationers and across the street two tour groups pass while the guide tells the same story he told a hundred other times. I could use a loo and a wash-up so I reluctantly get up and begin the search for a clean bathroom, not an easy task in Manhattan unless you eat at a restaurant. But I find one at a place called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, which is actually an old historic bar with a fireplace and a door marked “The Dungeon” opposite the front door. I didn’t ask why. I order a Stella and settle down to read an article in the Village Voice about people who are distilling moonshine in the five Burroughs today. It is actually an appropriate place to read about moonshine, the old wooden floors and the fireplace and mantle tell me that this place has seen some bathtub gin back in the day. The article is fascinating, I didn’t realize so much went into the process and that the authorities are still prosecuting those who distill without a license. But to get a license you have to pay huge fees and taxes and must pass rigorous inspections and limit your production as well. No small wonder where the government is involved, pain follows. Which is the whole idea anyway, they probably really don’t want anyone making their own Hooch and would rather we all just work, spend, sleep…repeat and repeat. The place fills up with a bunch of loud mouth out-of-town types that sound like it’s their first beer so I head out to find some lunch.

On the way I pass the Jefferson Market Garden, a small garden that has benches and pathways that is planted with a wonderful assortment of perennials and roses and scrubs, the beautiful building for which it is named is a branch of the New York Public Library but was built between 1874 and 1877 as the Third Judicial District Courthouse. I walk the trail and see many of my own garden planted here too. Black-eyed Susan’s, copper bells, butterfly bush, azaleas and more are here. I sign the book and donate a few dollars and move on. Soon inevitably, I find myself at Washington Square seeking a food truck. The only one here is the Cambodian Food truck, these folks are former restaurant owners who are victims of a greedy landlord and the system of things in general. They have all the court documents and letters made into a poster set up outside the truck for all to see. It’s too much to read but the little I read makes me feel for them. Now that Kampuchea is gone, this is the only Cambodian food in New York. I order spicy curry chicken with potatoes, bean sprouts, onion over angel hair rice noodles in a coconut sauce  and Thai Ice Tea. It takes about six minutes for my food to be made and I sit on a bench inside the park area and eat very carefully, it’s hot and the sauce is right to the top. This is delicious, the chicken is tender and the potatoes are just right and the thick sauce is creamy, savory and spicy. This is a great meal washed down with cool sweet Thai ice tea, for eight bucks with tip it doesn’t get much better. There may be some kind of advantage to austerity eating after all. I sit and listen to live jazz behind me in the distance, the park is full of families, couples, students, and tourists. Everyone is enjoying the weather in their own way, pretty girls in bikinis lie out getting a tan, others crash out on the grass fast asleep with I-tunes playing in their dreams, the readers read, the dreamers dream and everyone else is just thankful to be out of the rat race. Unfortunately, it’s time for me to start heading for home.

I walk back to Penn station at a slow pace, not wanting to go underground or spend money on a taxi, this is good for me anyway. I stop to get money at an ATM inside a drugstore, enjoying the cool air. There’s an attractive woman dressed up behind me about my age. I say “You know I can remember when,  if the bank was closed you couldn’t get any money!” She laughs and says” Me too”. and I get out of her way and back on the street. I guess I really didn’t figure anything out after all. There is too much to occupy the senses here, anyone who doesn’t live here isn’t used to it and won’t get any thinking done till they are at home. I wander in Penn Station to kill time before my train comes and get a water instead of a beer to save money. My train comes and it’s also an express, three stops and I’m home. I feel a little lonely and isolated from my family right now, but the city is always ready for me when I need it… and it never lets me down.

Peace

Glen

 

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Noodling in Chinatown-July 1st 2011

I’m sitting on a long Island Railroad train heading for New York City, behind me a crazy cat lady is telling the conductor that it’s” Take your cat to work day” …I didn’t get that memo. But it doesn’t matter to me because I am on vacation and this is my first in three years. So I’m heading into the city to get out of dodge for a while and having not been here since April, I’m rather looking forward to just loafing and sitting and watching the working world go by me. I am armed with Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and a laundry list of places to eat and drink, but to be honest I’m back on austerity so it’ll have to be cheap. I spent 225 bucks on my car repairs and after 11 years and many upgrades my old desktop computer just gave up. I was forced to buy a reconditioned laptop. It’s got 4 gig of memory and a great processor, but I don’t like it much as a writing tool. I’m used to my old setup so part of the next ten days will be spent setting up my desk and introducing the laptop to my peripheral devices. This has set me back over 500 bucks so my dreams of three star dinning are out the window.

But at least I’m out of the rat race for ten days and my garden is in full swing with veggies growing and war being waged organically on pests and a big barbecue is planned for the 4th with everyone bringing food and drink so life is good. Recently I saw an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s” Bizarre Foods” which actually has him working in restaurants trying to work a shift like he used to in the old days. He goes to Xian’s Famous Noodles in Chinatown and works the busy lunch and dinner shift. Here they make every dish of noodles by hand and after brief instruction he is stretching and slapping the noodles on the counter like a pro. Each dish of noodles is made with a delicious combo of meat or veg in a sauce and the most popular is the Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles. During the episode his friend and fellow Food Network Star Adam Richman stops by to have a bowl and declares it to be fantastic. I’ve read that Anthony Bourdain has also declared that Xian’s is among the best in New York, so at just 7 bucks a bowl-for me to day-it’s all about the noodle.

Recently, I was looking at Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations website and found that he is writing for a HBO show called “Treme”, I don’t have HBO but he is also contributing to a new culinary quarterly called “Lucky Peach”, this is the baby of David Chang the legendary owner of Momofuku in New York, the home of possibly the best Ramen noodles in the western world as well as three other restaurants. This magazine is available only through McSorleys on the web and this first issue is devoted to Ramen noodles. There are articles by Anthony Bourdain and original artwork  and recipes and maps of Japan showing how Ramen is made in different provinces. It’s an off-beat unconventional magazine and owning a subscription makes me feel like I’ve joined some secret society, known only to a few who have the password and secret handshake. I am today entering the complex world of the noodle, a humble Buddha-like food product so important to so many.

So I get topside and head for my first destination which is another food network episode memory, again to the Lower East Side where many simple good things seem to have been invented, up to and including the donuts at Doughnut Plant, a little shop where hand-made jellies and sauces go over hand-made batches of donuts. It’s a place that’s a little smaller than my house where chef/owner Mark Isreal has come a long way. He has made the doughnut a work of art and they even sell t-shirts for tourists to show off back home! This is a small Jewish enclave on the outskirts of Chinatown on Grand St next to Kossars Bialy and a kosher bakery. But when you come to this small shop, it’s all about two things. The Peanut Butter and Jelly doughnut and the even more venerated Creme Brulee doughnut, so I sit down on the window ledge after a family from Nebraska leaves and tuck into my PB&J, this is a square doughnut that has a square hole in the center with grape jelly running all through it. The outside is covered in a peanut butter sauce, it’s good but I really should have milk with this rather than bad utility coffee. But the Creme Brulee doughnut is another matter. This is good, I mean blackout good, this doughnut is made with creme Brulee filling and the outside is actually got the hard toasted sugar just like the classic French dessert! This reminds me how much I need to learn how to make the French dessert myself from scratch, yet another chapter in my cooking pursuits.

There is much going on today in the city, for some reason Elizabeth St is closed with police barricades. They are moved by officers to let sporty black police edition Dodge Chargers through however, and down the block men in suits and white shirted officers stand around for what…I don’t know. But I later learn it was an accident of some sorts. I walk on and get a text message from mom, she wonders if The Golden Dragon is still open in Chinatown. This was a place where she and her girlfriends would have lunch back in the day. I have no way of tracking this down myself but with additional texts from my brother, I use my map to go to 51 Division St but find it’s not there, I actually go to two more addresses but I come up empty handed. It would have been cool to find it still open but that was back in the fifties, most places don’t last that long. It was a good effort though and it made me hungry. So I decided to double back to my noodle lunch destination. The fascinating thing about being here is how much you feel like an outsider in your own country. You are literally the one in one hundred who doesn’t look or talk like everybody else. The streets are mobbed with people shopping, talking and bustling about. Many are laden with bags of food, unfamiliar greens thrust up from shopping bags, others are heavy with fish, large eyes staring through plastic that were only hours before searching for food in the sea. The streets are lined with vendors selling all manner of colorful hats and shirts, battery operated toys, fans and those ceramic cats with writing on their bellies…I wonder what that’s about? I find Xian’s easily and go into the crowded space and wait my turn. This is not the same location that was used on TV but the food is the same, I am however disappointed that I won’t be seeing my hand=pulled noodles made today. I place my order and go sit in the back and wait for my number to be called, the orders are made in a downstairs kitchen and come up on a dumbwaiter. My number is called and I go up and get my tray and choose my weapon of choice-chopsticks. I tuck into my spicy cumin lamb noodles with gusto, this is a whole other level of good! The noodles are soft and yielding at first but then become chewy, and the chopped lamb with onion and cucumber and scallion swimming in an fiery orange sauce. This is savory and hot, evil and good. It’s too bad the A/C is blowing so cold, I rush to eat my food before it is chilled down. My lips are burning as I slurp down the last of my dish and I really wish I could try another but that would be gluttony so I clean up my tray and head out into the warm summer day. I decide to head back to the Doughnut Plant to get some Creme Brulee’s for the family, it’s a long walk but that’s okay. I make my way back in the growing heat of the late afternoon to Penn Station, zig-zagging to keep to the shaded side of the street, like they do in Provence. Soon I find myself in the growing crowds entering the station proper and the coolness wraps you as you descend. The long walk was tiring but at least I burnt some of todays calories off, this beats the heck out of standing at that hot counter! I grab a cold water and go down for my train, relaxed and happy.

Chow
Glen

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Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Food, Food Writing, Japanese Food, Lower East Side, Memories, New York City, Writing