Tag Archives: Life

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

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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

A Short Note On Hurricane Irene-Part 2

This past week I have heard many stories on the radio that I find very disturbing. In response to threats of violence to workers, the police have had to provide escort service to crews who are trying to restore power and clean up downed trees and power-lines. One man in Hicksville was arrested after making “Columbine” like threats over the phone and another in Islip for calling in bomb threats to LIPA/National Grid.

I have lived here all my life and have been through many power outages as a child and as an adult. It was not fun but it was not worthy of threats and violence to the people who we depend on for the power we obviously can’t live without. Have we sunk so low that we can’t make the best of the situation and huddle together to tell stories, read to our children by candlelight, how about playing cards-I’ll bet many of today’s kids don’t know how to play games we played when I was young. Then there is also sitting and making arts and crafts. My artistic talent today can be traced all the way back to my early days. I remember sitting with my mom learning how to draw and paint, and make things with paper and glue and glitter.

This country was built by people who lived by candle light every night and had none of the comforts and indulgent time saving pleasures we have today, and yes I know they knew nothing else but what about our grandparents? They didn’t have TV or AC or PC’s or anything like what our parents even enjoyed. Yet somehow, when things were bad they got together, helped each other and muddled through the bad times, and they did it without threatening to blow anyone up!

Some of these crews are from as far away as Illinois, they are working twelve hour days away from their homes and families. They miss them, their cats and dogs, friends,  their own beds and hometowns. The other day after dropping my car off at a closed repair shop, I walked home secure in the knowledge that it will be Wed before I get it back. I walked right past LIPA as I passed the last driveway I saw a lone truck from Illinois waiting for the light. I stepped up to the cab and looked at the driver, he was maybe between 23 and 28 tops. I raised my left fist in a pump gesture, I told him how much most of us appreciate the twelve hour days to put our island back together. You should have seen the smile on his face, it made the long hot walk home worth while. I hate not having a car but I’m making the best of it, getting things done outside, writing, creating art, reading and studying.

While I do agree that LIPA could have and should do a better job than they did for the money they get. Lets remember that this was the largest outage on Long Island in recent memory, and we could be in worse shape sitting on our roofs waiting to be rescued like those folks in flooded areas.  The bad weather season is upon us, after this we have the winter to contend with, there may be many days without power or stuck inside because of snow storms. The point is we may need these people in the future, lets give em a break at least if not a pat on the back.

Oh and by the way, I never lost my lights. I still said what needed to be said. The driver said “Thank You.”

Peace

Glen

 

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Short Note-Hurricane Irene Aug 28th 2011

The dreaded hurricane is a done deal for us, off to wreak havoc on other poor unfortunates to the north. I would say on balance that we were extremely lucky in that the two large trees we have on our property are still standing, and the garden needs just a minor cleanup of green leaves ripped from the trees to call it a day. The neighbor down the street had the tree in front of his house fall and take out a street light, but that’s county property so no cost to him.

Our Street

Many others were not so lucky, the storm claimed 16 lives so far, my prayers go out to their families. Many people are dealing with large uprooted trees which have landed on their houses and some have blocked major roads. The main road by my house was almost completely blocked by a large tree and when I ventured out for a walkabout this morning, I saw many trees felled right behind us.

3 lanes blocked

Street behind us.

My brother took out his car around noon and found many downed trees in the area by our house and I too found lots of blocked roads when I took a drive a short time ago. There is flooding in many areas, the Belt Parkway in Queens is shut down due to flooding and many residents in low-lying areas are trying to pump out basements and businesses.

Closed till tomorrow

Like a ghost town.

Most of the stores are closed, as is the mall and almost all restaurants and diners are closed. So tomorrow begins a new work week and a big cleanup will continue, by next weekend this will be a fading memory. But I can tell you, it was a scary night and I stayed up till 4:00 AM listening to the wind expecting the worse. The whole region is relieved however, it was supposed to be much worse than it was, so as I said…we got lucky.

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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A Requiem for Amy Winehouse-July 25th 2011

When I heard that Amy Winehouse had died, I was strangely affected. I wasn’t even a fan of her music, yet somehow I was saddened. Maybe it was the coincidence of Jay Leno making a joke about her in his monologue the night before, or maybe  just the fact that another young star was lost to us that hit a nerve. The first time I heard her music on TV, it was the self-fulfilling prophecy “Rehab” that was playing.  The image of the beehive hairdo combined with the lyrics just made me roll my eyes. Crafting a song about drug addiction like it was something to be proud of bothered me. I also thought she was just another white girl trying to be a sister, from the sixties this time around. But nevertheless I totally ignored her from that point on. Now I wish I hadn’t, now I know that I missed something.

The reaction from people around me went from total indifference to those who felt she got what she deserved. The sad thing is that most of the people who feel that way will never know what it’s like to be an addict, how it can destroy your will to do what you love or be who you want to be. I have seen addiction firsthand and can tell you it’s not the barrel of fun that people make it out to be. I watched a co-worker scramble for drugs every day for over a year.While I drove him home every day, I listened to the phone calls trying to score a hit and out of the corner of my eye watched as he counted money, going through all  his pockets to collate what he had hoping it would be enough. I could feel his eyes upon me when he didn’t have enough money and I lied many times that I was broke. He left the company and I was relieved, the strain of watching him feed his addiction was starting to take its toll on me emotionally.

There are some who are blaming Amy’s close friend Kelly Osbourne and Amy’s parents, saying they should have done more to help her, but I think this is unfair to Kelly and also her parents who are most likely experiencing a lot of guilt. This is an old story unfortunately, for Amy and a handful of other stars.  When a group of friends gathered to try an intervention with CSN legend David Crosby back in the day, his response was to do a line of coke and walk out the door. You can’t sit on top of someone 24-7, sooner or later they have to be alone and no one can possibly be there every minute. The fact is that Amy had been rumored to have been in rehab recently, and after treatment in hospital and as an out-patient for lung problems associated with smoking tobacco and crack cocaine, she had received a clean bill of health from her doctor. She like other stars who died young was embarking on a comeback, with a new album in the works and a tour to follow-she was in good spirits according to those close to her. There was no reason to suspect that she would wind up like she did, in fact it will be several weeks before the toxicology reports are done. So far foul play has been ruled out and the autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death.

In interviews her former band mates concluded that the sudden overnight success took a toll on the sensitive young singer and she responded in the typical manner of the gritty Camden neighborhood she grew up in, it’s a place where fast times and the rock-n-roll club life are part of the nightly music scene, where the young singer was easily drawn into the drugs and heavy drinking while she was paying her dues and learning her craft. The pressure of stardom took its toll on Amy, after her sudden explosive success followed emergency room visits and arrests and rehab. But it was the relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil that was the turning point for Amy, at least one band mate Neal Sugarman remarked that the change in her was visible. The first tour was a lot of fun compared to the second tour supporting “Back To Black” which wasn’t fun at all. Sugarmen felt that the return of Blake was when Amy started taking drugs again, he remarked that the last time he saw her in London “it was not a pretty sight”. She was unable to sing on some of the songs they were working on and said “it was really depressing”. In their hit song “Truckin” Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead sings “What in the world ever became of sweet Jane, she’s lost her sparkle you know she isn’t the same. Living on Reds, Vitamin C and Cocaine…all her friends can say is ain’t it a shame.” This seems to be a direct reference to Janis Joplin, a friend of the band and one of the members of the unfortunate 27 Club; rock stars who died at 27. This includes Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison among others.

But the warning signs were there and some people in the industry said that Amy was on what they call a “death watch”, an interesting term considering that people on a death watch are usually behind bars and kept from using any devices that could cause themselves harm. Why then don’t we have the same precautions in place for family and friends. In her short life Amy suffered and struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, depression, eating disorders and self-harm issues. The real tragedy is that brilliant career that could have been hers is now lost forever, we’ll never know what might have been had she lived and kept recording the kind of music she loved. What we do know is that she opened the door for new female artists to walk through, Lily Allen rode in after Amy’s release of Back To Black, and Adele credits Winehouse with making the US market easier for herself and Duffy to achieve success. This also ushered in a third wave of female artists including VV Brown, Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Little Boots. But the most acclaim came from Lady Gaga who said Amy Winehouse “paved the way” for her rise to the top of the charts. Winehouse could be said to have jump started a revival of soul music that started in 2000. Amy’s work made it possible in 2009 for five female artists to be nominated for the Mercury Prize in the UK and that year to be called the “year of the woman” in music circles. That is more than can be said for many artists who had hit records who were clean and sober, that she was able to do all this and stand up for causes and start her own record label speaks well of her ambition and energy. Not quite the picture of the irresponsible addict painted by so many. One can easily imagine a new young singer somewhere in the UK or US, unknown at the moment. She has been watching Amy on TV and dreaming of stardom. The thrill of it all, a new sound that harkens back to the age of soul, who many will compare to Amy Winehouse, but a new face, and hopefully a career that will stand the test of time and the roller coaster ride of fame without breaking under the enormous pressure. That is the legacy of a singer like Amy Winehouse.

My unexpected reaction to her death was to sit and watch You Tube videos of Amy in concert, that is where I first realized the power of her vocals and the emotional element she added to them, a conviction about the lyrics and the  honesty with which she sings her songs. I have tried to analyze my feelings of loss, were they driven by a latent sexual desire?…no, she’s not my type so I don’t think that played a role. Was there a deeper issue involved? Such as my lifelong struggle with food and weight loss issues? Yes, that was at least part of it, I could understand the desire for something that was off-limits, and potentially dangerous. But it had to be something more, buried deep in my subconscious. I still haven’t found what it is that moved me so much as I sat at my kitchen table stunned from the news. I can totally understand now why Elton John was moved to write “Candle In The Wind about Marilyn Monroe. I will be sure to buy all available recordings of Amy on CD or DVD, and like so many bands that are no more, I will cherish what we have of them to enjoy. Perhaps the greatest gift Amy unknowingly gave me is the gift of being more open in my mind to new ideas. To listen to new sounds and really see new images before passing judgement and moving on. So goodbye Amy, maybe you didn’t realize how much love was coming your way. While you were searching for the perfect love that doesn’t exist in life,perhaps you finally found it in death. I hope so for your sake…rest in peace.

Regrettably

Glen

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With A Little Help From My Friends-July 8th 2010

I have been depressed lately despite the fact that I’m on vacation, I’m just not happy. I am very concerned for a far away friend who may be having a health crisis and I can’t do anything but pray and hope. The fact that I am reaching the end of my available cash and will be back on austerity within a week or two is not helping matters any, and I am very unhappy with the state of the world in general, as I have mentioned before in my writing. The job market is again on the down turn, my brother is out of work…again! I’m going broke subsidizing the family income. But it’s the lack of culture here that I find so frustrating. In New York no matter what your into you can find something to do at almost any hour, and many things are free or cheap. I love having a garden and growing veg and flowers, but you have to drive everywhere if you want entertainment. Living in the suburbs is nice to a point , but there is just nothing to do around here day or night. Unless you want to hang round in a bar or go to the movies, there is nothing much to do but shop or eat out. The thing I am most sad about is the total lack of friends, especially friends in the arts or literary world, you get to a certain age and you don’t have the opportunity to make friends anymore. This week has been hot and humid and I spent all my energy last week on a walking tour of New York’s Chinatown on Friday and then two days of prepping the house and garden for a family Forth of July celebration on Monday. So by Tues I was completely exhausted and yet at the same time restless and just couldn’t get out of my own way.

I just finished reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and my desire to be an expat in Paris reared its ugly head once again, the” lost generation” might have been lost but they lived in a time when it was good to be alive and everything was cheap and accessible. I know I’m typing on a computer that wouldn’t have been available back then, but I still feel that we lost much when we passed the age of telegrams and typewriters. It seems then it was still possible to live well on a stipend from a parent or the advance of a publisher. I think the thing I desire is a simpler life in a far away place, some sort of escape from the misery of the modern world and all its problems. I know the recent case of an Casey Anthony; the allegedly killer mother, whose daughter drowned possibly out of neglect, makes my concerns sound like the whining of a child. But guess what; that young mother who will go free. Is already receiving offers in the millions to appear on talk shows as soon as she gets that magic get out of jail free card. That kind of money could put me in the position to make my life what I want it to be. There will be no offer like that coming my way any time soon, since I will not be  committing any crimes-except of course excessive complaining and ranting.

So I have spent a few days being miserable, driving around aimlessly looking for that which I just can’t find.Finally, I realized I was wasting time. Next week when I’m back at work at that miserable hot counter listening to the sounds of air tools and screaming bosses, I will look back on this and kick myself. So I picked up my dry cleaning and even though I didn’t want to spend the money, I joined my mom and brother at an Indian restaurant nearby for an excellent buffet lunch.  Afterward I decided to go to the liquor store.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to the liquor store. I am quoting a bit of Melville’s “Moby Dick”, one of my favorite books and one that I used to great advantage to get an A+ on my term paper for English 101 in college. I go here as a kind of spa, not for the wearing of mud on one’s body and cucumber on the eyes, but rather for the wearing of a smile on ones face. There is an enormous cast of characters to amuse a dull spirit and chief among these is my good friend Sam.

What can I say about Sam, he is the kind of guy that can make anyone feel special, he has a good line of bull too. He has a heart of gold and every customer wants to see him. I am one of the people who is allowed in the back office to shoot the breeze and tackle some of life’s mysteries with Sam, he also respects my taste in wine and it guides his purchases for the store. Sams brother Tommy is a great guy, he has been sharing his knowledge of Sommelier school with me and has been brushing up on his studies again, I like to think I inspired that to some degree. He is married to Evelyn, who also works full-time.  My buddy Evelyn is my foodie friend and a good listener, she knows more about my life than my last therapist and never judges me, just offers what I need… positive support and friendship. I don’t know Christine too well, she is Evelyn s daughter and they fight in a quiet funny way as only mothers and daughters can, but she is interesting and a whiz with technology. The co-owner Jamie is a funny mom with great stories about her travels and the tribulations of being a mother, and some recipe advice for my foray into Greek cooking. Jamie is the kind of fun, energetic woman I would like to meet, someone who knows how to live well but not spend foolishly. Then there’s Carina, she is not around much anymore, she is going to be a teacher and is in school much of the time now. But those kids are going to get one of the nicest, bubbly, happy teachers they’ll ever see, I hope they don’t ruin all that positive energy. Lastly, there is Gene. He comes in and does the grunt work and the shelves and dusting part-time, he actually has the job I wanted. Gene is a riot, he messes with Sam and Evelyn and cracks me up with his provocation.

The cast of characters that come in to the store is as varied as the shelves of wine and spirits. I sit in a stool on the side of the counter and hold court a little and watch and listen to the stories and the antics. There’s the dog lady who is very reserved unless she has been drinking, then she is a fascinating study in unrestrained behavior. The friendly guy who is shaking hands with everyone because he’s high and buys little airport bottles of cheap Hooch to add to the buzz. The loud ba-da-bing guys who are too numerous to name whose antics with Sam include hugging, high fives, and occasional gropes. There is the bad foot lady who I also see at the food store who is always got a story to tell. The trio of lesbian fire fighters, several gay couples who are impeccably dressed. There is a cross dresser who has very bad taste in frocks and the famous “Buddy Guy Dude” who unfortunately died before I could meet him but the stories about him are legendary. I sometimes help a customer find something and most people think I’m an employee on break or perhaps security. I listen and laugh and make mental notes for future use as characters in as yet to be written plays or novels.

Today however was special, after spending an hour listening and laughing, I went home just as the rain was getting heavy and went upstairs and started to clean my room, organizing everything and putting away things that were not needed. I opened up my easel area and made it possible to paint, and continued with the change in my desk set up after getting rid of some stuff I was happy and energized. I then proceeded to take the laptop down to the kitchen and started to write this story. I haven’t wanted to write in weeks but now find myself happily drinking Pinot Grigio and writing this piece. So for tonight at least I’m out of the dark seas of depression and sailing off into the calm waters of contentment. Maybe I too could learn something from Melville’s most famous work. I think that Ahab was chasing Moby Dick to try and get his soul back from the whale who had torn it apart when it took his leg. I have been chasing dreams that I’ll never see, the Paris of the twenties is gone. I could be there right now typing this al-fresco at a cafe and still not have the experience of the lost generation. I couldn’t have the experience of the post-war generation either, only the famous St Germain cocktail can bring you closer to 1947 Paris. The thing that Sam said to me out of the blue has made all the difference, searching for your bliss starts in the moment, it’s right in front of you all the time. It’s not in Paris or Provence or even on the moon. It’s how you feel right now and what you choose to do in the moment right in front of you. That’s the secret to life. Not the Holy Grail or the fountain of youth; although those things would be nice if they existed, just making every moment your own.

So thanks guys, for all you do for me. We may only see each other at the store but you guys are my true friends

Peace

Glen

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

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Filed under France, Life, Literature, Memories, Moby Dick, My Truth, Paris, Rants, Wine, Writing

The Little Owl-April 9Th 2011

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!

Bonjour

Glen

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

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Filed under Alton Brown, Chelsea Market, Food, Food Writing, Good Eats, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, New York City, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Travel, Writing