Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Eatin' Out: Little Giant

85 Orchard @ Broome St
212-226-5047
I had one fantastic meal here on Friday night with Ms. O'Connor. As per my favorite style of eating, we had 5 appetizers/small dishes instead of 2 main courses, lingering over the creative combinations of tastes while stuffing our faces for almost 3 hours. The chestnut soup was swirled with nutmeg, creating a meld of flavors that still has me smacking my lips days later thinking about it. Roasted baby brussel sprouts with maple syrup were perfect. A huge portion of chicken liver mousse served with mache, onion-fig compote and hazelnuts tempted me to put the extra in my bag for a snack later. The beet salad with sauteed beet greens and Humboldt Fog cheese, and the endive salad were fresh and gorgeous, and a three-cheese plate of female-made American artisanal cheeses plus a glass of Fonseca finished off a really amazing meal.

Reservations recommended.

Another Reason Brooklyn Rules

People at my work who live in the city: at the office today.
People at my work who live in Brooklyn (4 total): SNOWDAY!!

I don't buy for ONE second that New Yorkers are full of good cheer, and possessed by a "We are all in this together!" spirit while humping it 6 miles through Brooklyn in 25 degree weather. Still -- thumbs up to the transit strike and god bless the Internet for allowing me to work from home.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Not So Cold, Hard Facts of Life

I love when the newspaper spells something wrong, or messes up their facts. Perhaps it makes me feel smart - but my, it's sometimes DAMN funny. For example:

Best Porn Errors, as recounted in Mediaweek:
Fairchild Publications, publisher of Jane and Modern Bride, announced it will pull some 200,000 copies of YM Your Prom off newsstands after Studio 17, a prom-dress advertiser, mistakenly printed a child-porn Web site address in two of its six ad pages. Fairchild had put a total of 680,000 copies on newsstand in late December, but an estimated 75 percent had already been sold.

Correction of the Year from the Denver Daily News:
The Denver Daily News would like to offer a sincere apology for a typo in Wednesday’s Town Talk regarding New Jersey’s proposal to ban smoking in automobiles. It was not the author’s intention to call New Jersey ‘Jew Jersey.’

A full list of these fun-and-games is here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Casey to Pirates

My mom's favorite player, Sean Casey of the Cincinnati Reds, was traded yesterday, to the Pirates for Dave Williams, a #4 starter with a 4.4 ERA. Casey, a popular player often called the "Mayor of Cincinnati", was being paid $8.5 mil while Williams salary is $1.4 mil so it probably was time for him to go, even if it is one of those heartless business moves that happen regularly in baseball today. While I found Casey to be a big ol' doofus singles hitter, he is an old-fashioned baseball guy, and the loss of this eight-year veteran's presence in the clubhouse is not a good thing for the Reds.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What I Do for Work

I know people think I spend ALL DAY on line at work, which is partially true, but I also get to produce cool projects like this one. Visionaire 47: Taste was released last week with much acclaim and TONS of sales at Art Basel in Miami. John, my co-worker, is mortified that the AP picked up his Willy Wonka quote, and reprinted it in many locations, including Al-Jazeera. Not exactly what the Visionaire art asthetic demands...He is officially banned from talking to all reporters from here on out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

For the Sake of the Song

I saw the new Townes Van Zandt documentary called "Be Here to Love Me" this weekend at the Angelika. While I'd seen some of the footage before in Heartworn Highways, a 1977 film shot partially in Nashville about the rebirth of the outlaw country movement (available from Netflix, it contains some excellent footage that includes a supremely baby-faced Stevie Earle!!), much of the footage was new to me. While the film doesn't follow a traditional narrative path, it does a nice job of turning what is a real bummer of a story into something bittersweet, and ultimately recognizes the talent that was Townes. Make no mistake -- Townes was a self-destructive drunk who wrote some of the most brillant songs in the world, and his death at 52 was simply a sad waste that everyone saw coming for years. The film doesn't gloss over his past, but I can only guess at the tales left out given the bits and pieces that were included about his ruinous behavior. The documentary gets a little music video-ey (fading out stills as a song plays over them), making me think there isn't much good footage of Townes available.

Because he was notoriously falling apart at the seams for years, he only recorded about ten studio albums along with a slew of live releases that includes the much-lauded "Live at the Old Quarter." I never did get to see him play. One of my biggest regrets is blowing off the last show he played in NYC during the fall of 1996 at the Bottom Line. I had just moved here and remember thinking "oh, it's New York - of course he'll play again." Regretfully, I was wrong on that count, as he died on January 1st, 1997.

Siberian Kitten 2: Electric Boogaloo


I really, truly am not going to be so queer as to make this blog "all about my cats" (or someone should kill me now...) but I do have a new kitten arriving. Presenting: Baxter!! He's the red kitty in front. And I'm a little excited to have a 9-week old baby moving in tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

And More Rules for Walking....

...can be found here. These additional tips are more "Here's- everything-that-has-ever-bugged-one-guy-in-NY," and its still funny. His entire blog is worth a read. Guess what? Being a NYC bouncer for too long makes one hate people. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dear Record Geek

I was very pleased to get a last-minute invite last night to the Ray Davies show at the Supper Club. First of all, Ray rules. Always and forever. In spite of the fact that I had been up since 4 AM and then found myself standing around in a place that was chock-full of old dudes randomly hollering "WHOO!!" and "RAY DAVIES!!!" in the middle of quiet songs, still just damn good. He was a little schlocky, where his stage persona suddenly seemed to come straight off a Benny Hill episode with soundtrack to match, and we had to hear some stuff of his new album (not bad but not so good either). But Ray did enough songs like 20th Century Man, Oklahoma USA, Sunny Afternoon and Johnny Thunder to make me still love him. He's always a great presence on stage - funny, personable and totally entertaining.

After seeing the crowd (90% men/10% women) last night, it made me want to post a Missed Connection on Craig's List that would read something like this:
We saw each other across the room at the Ray Davies show. You were singing along to every word. You were around 6 feet tall, slightly balding with graying hair and glasses. I think you were with 2 other guys, and none of you were drinking. I think you had on a shirt from the Kinks tour in 1982.
I'd probably get about 65 responses.

Rules for Walking

Man, I hate non-professional walkers in NYC. It drives me absolutely nuts when people are slow/confused/on the phone/in big groups/generally retarded. Here's some tips for those chumps.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Emasculators R Us

Since I've been veering dangerously into total chick territory over the past few days talking about cats and babies, I thought I'd continue the trend with a link to this article on dating in the NY Observer.

We are told there's a trend of professional women dating "down". Other than the fact that I have an invisible sign on me that says "Foreign-born carpenters talk to me" with the tally at six or seven in a quick non-scientific count, I wouldn't know anything about this. Christ - you like who you like and maybe, just maybe, women sometimes find themselves being into men who don't meet every single requirement on the apparently invisible chart-of-qualities we all carry around in our heads.

Stupidheads. A non-professional job does not an idiot make. And its not about someone's job or bank account - its about boys being nice to you, and appreciating the fact that you are one hell of a gal. Well, that and having a really cute accent to go along with great arms.

That not having a driver's license thing really irks me, though.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Miracle of Childbirth

Right -- so with the flurry of babies my friends have churned out over the past year or so, I now get the real truth from mommies that I have done some time with; mommies who are some of my favorite girls. There is good and bad to this. Because the last two babies were birthed by Laurene (that's her Benjamin in the photo) and Denise, two of my most frank talkin' friends, I now know things about childbirth that no one should dare speak aloud. Because no one would ever have another baby, ever again. Seriously, it's a messy business and bodies go completely haywire. Hell, I just thought babies came out all pink and smiley and two months old, and you kept the body of a 23-year-old forever.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Pony Tale

Yesterday, after almost three weeks of deterioration, I had to put my beloved Russian Siberian cat, Pony, to sleep. He was 3 1/2 years old and had been in perfect health. He essentially died of congestive heart failure, in what was called by the vet an "undefined cardiomyopathy." His heart was enlarged and too severely damaged to work properly anymore; his body filled with fluid and he was unable to breathe, and so I made the decision to put him to sleep instead of seeing him so sick with no chance of recovery. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I do not know how I will get used to having an empty house; Pony had such a big personality that his presence is everywhere in my home. He simply was, as I used to say to people who dared ask, The Best Cat in the World.

People who do not want to think of me as a crazy cat lady stop reading here; but in my new role as CSI: Veterinarian, I have many questions surrounding his death that only get more convoluted as I find out additional information. Pony was a purebred Siberian cat, obtained from a cattery called Emerald Forest Siberians in New Jersey. Siberians are a relatively new breed in the US, only being imported from Russia within the past 15 years. They are alleged to be "non-allergenic", which means allergic people tend to see less reaction to Siberians than a standard domestic cat. Since I am allergic to cats but couldn't imagine living without one, I got Pony in June of 2002. While I don't totally buy the non-allergenic thing, I ended up falling in love with the personality of the breed. Pony was rambunctious, animated, vocal, silly and constantly by my side, involved in anything I was doing. I always called him the dog-cat, because he displayed qualities I have only seen in dogs.

When he first became sick, I called his breeder, Jill Peterson, and told her that the vet was hoping he had asthma, but feared a heart problem was the cause. I specifically asked Jill if she had heard about any heart problems in Emerald Forest cats, but she emphatically told me no. When I realized this Wednesday that Pony was probably not going to make it, I began posting to the Siberian Cat List on Yahoo, in an effort to learn anything I could about disease in Siberians while receiving support from other Siberian lovers. It truly has been a godsend to have these people to talk to while I come to terms with Pony's death.

I soon learned that at least two other people had lost their Emerald Forest-bred cats to a disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy , which couldn't be more similar to what Pony died from. HCM is a genetic disease, and can be caused by inbreeding. Because there is such a small gene pool for these cats in the US, problems can occur if new stock is not brought in. I did not have Pony autopsied, so I will never know for sure. Obviously, Emerald Forest does not want to develop the reputation of having diseased cats, so I was flat-out lied to by Pony's breeder. The fact that Jill Peterson would put making money above the health of her cats was so shocking to me, I barely knew what to say when I started putting the pieces together. Most breeders also refund the cost of the pet if something like this happens, but Jill never once admitted any smidgen of responsibility or even suggested that a refund MIGHT be a small gesture she could make in sympathy.

Whether this was done accidentally or knowingly does not matter in the end to someone who has lost a pet suddenly; discussion between breeders is the best thing that can happen to improve the breed. Several other breeders have contacted me to record Pony's pedigree in an effort to track these types of illnesses, and I applaud their efforts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Only In Ohio


This thing scared me to death the first time I drove down 1-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati. I was talking on the phone, and said to my friend "Jesus Christ!!" when I saw it. They were concerned: "What's wrong? are you are okay?". I said: "No really. JESUS CHRIST!"

I came back and went on and on about it to my mom. I really could not get over a 60-foot Jesus, rising out of a lake, in Middletown by the interstate. And as she said "Well they don't have that in New York."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Eatin' Out - Vintage New York

482 Broome@Wooster
Vintage New York was the first wine shop that had Sunday hours in the City. Offering only New York produced wines, I always remembered the name and location, just in case I needed a last minute bottle for a Sunday dinner. Now the business has expanded into a restaurant next door that gives new meaning to the words "eat local". Everything on the menu has a New York connection, from all the wines to the meats, cheeses, breads and duck. I am very curious about New York State wines, especially those produced on the North Fork of Long Island, but have been burned more than once by crap wines. New York wines are getting better with time (particularly the much-heralded Reislings from Upstate), but as of now, some of the growers are just too young to be worthwhile. A grape juice-y, overly fruity flavor can really put a drinker off.

Constantly busy with Soho shoppers done for the day but not obnoxiously overcrowded the Friday night I was there, this 2-floor space is warm and comfortable; service is conscientious but not overly solictious. The staff is knowledgeable, offering recommendations when asked. Twelve different wine flights of different New York variatals are offered for between $10-$14, with 2 oz of each of three wines for that cost. I had a good cabernet franc from Castello di Borghese on Long Island to accompany a very tasty cheese plate. I do love a good wine bar, and this will be one I'll return to.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ol' Charlie LeDuff

I've been reading terrific, first-person reports from the seedier-side-of-life by Charlie LeDuff in the New York Times for the past ten years. He had a brilliant column in The City section during the late 90s entitled "Bending Elbows", which essentially involved Charlie going to NYC dive bars and writing about whoever he met. I always wondered how he got that job, and assumed he was some old codger who conned his editors into publishing his drinking tales after working for years at the Times.

I liked his book Work and Other Sins, and even with a photo on the cover, and knowing he had won a Pulitzer Prize, I still thought he was some old boozebag on his last legs.

Imagine how surprised I was last night when I flipped on the Discovery Times (don't ask, I didn't know it existed either) channel and found that ol' Charlie has his own show called "Only In America." Imagine how much more surprised I was when it turned out that he's 39, and kind of a fox. His show presents a brand of Hunter S. Thompson "participatory journalism," where Charlie immerses himself each week into a subculture of America such as New York modeling, gay rodeos or arena football. The show is pretty funny, but veers dangerously close into being ALL about Charlie instead of about the story. Additionally, he's been accused of plagarism on several occasions. What's that saying - don't let the truth get in the way of a good story??

At any rate, he's certainly charismatic, and I bet in person, you'd either love him or want him killed instantly. P.S. I think he might look a little like Vincent Gallo.

Dirty Found

I love Found magazine. But I love Dirty Found even more. Browse the detrius of other people's love lives found on the street or in the garbage by viewing trashy polaroids, dirty notes, and assorted ephemera that either will depress you, or make you feel better by knowing that everyone's relationships are messy. Just hope that if you are prone to taking sleazy photos with your partner, it doesn't end up in Found. I think I will always be scarred by seeing the photo of a chubby girl clad only in tights tied up to someone's bed beneath an "Alf" poster.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

TWIB: This Week in Brooklyn


Whining and talking about "woe is me" is really boring, but I have to relate my life events over the past couple of weeks in an half-hearted, comedy of errors attempt to take the Schleprock crown from Ms. Miller:

1) I was lucky enough to be sent to Verona, Italy for work. However, the Italian men printers were not feelin' bossy broads from New York making demands about schedules. Italian men, in fact, do not respond well to any pushiness, or mouthy chicks. V Magazine #38 gets done, but not without drama.
2) Rome. Rome is really great, amazing, an education in itself, but sullied by the fact that my hotel is dirty (someone's old green sock was in my room for my entire stay) and the fact that when I go to check out, my debit card will not work in an ATM or a credit card machine, although I have used it for 8 days without a problem. I am threatened with jail by the hotel owner if I don't pay up, and basically read the riot act about what a scumbag I am. So I cry, and they let me leave so I can make my plane, but in the process leave my work laptop at the hotel.
3) I get back to JFK. My car of the past 6 years dies an inglorious death in the long-term parking lot, is towed out and given to charity.
4) The computer is still not returned by hotel who apparently are holding it hostage because I am a deadbeat.
5) A former flame who blew me off a year ago spams me and cyber-stalks me in the same week. Hey brainiac -- turn on that "make me invisible to other users" feature!
6) I buy a new coat from Bluefly.com that I don't like and return for a refund. The package goes missing in mail. Total loss = $256
7) A tall, cute 25-year-old boy invites me to hang out, says he'll wait for me, and then disappears while I am in the bathroom. Another sometimes-more-than-friend stops returning my calls or speaking to me with no explanation, and thus transforms into a rude jackass.
8) I get sick and lose my voice for three days.
9) The laundromat loses a lingerie bag containing my best bras and underwear, plus three of my favorite shirts. Total loss = $400.
10) Pony the cat gets so sick that I am convinced I will come home and find him dead. I take him to the vet twice, force feed him pills, and listen to him to continue to wheeze and struggle to breathe. Pony is still sick...perhaps the hypo-allergenic cat has asthma, says the vet. Der. Total cost to date = $425
11) It now gets dark at 6pm.
12) And my work computer is still in Rome.

On a positive note, I was taken to a delicious "does this absolve me of all fault?" dinner at Peter Luger's, have reconnected lately with some friends I haven't seen in awhile, and had a ball going to 2005 Breeder's Cup at Belmont, winning $125 on the Sprint (although ending up $80 down for the day) and playing tour guide for some fellows in from London/Ireland. Plus, the Xmas trip to Vieques is booked. I do have high hopes about my new acupuncturist, and trainer. We'll see how long this being healthy thing works. I'll probably break my leg.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Eatin' Out: Queen's Hideaway

222 Franklin Street, @ Green in Greenpoint
(no reservations accepted, BYOB w/corking fee)
Queen's Hideaway is a deliciously idiosyncratic restaurant whose genius relies on whatever's in season, while adding a healthy dash of personality, creativity and some "fuck you, we'll cook what we like" attitude. Its a place, helmed by chef Liza Queen, that essentially takes on the traits of the four women who run the joint -- Lots of spice, lots of sass, always honest and solid. There's a southern tinge to the food, but in all honesty, it's just damn good homestyle cookin'.

The flavoring isn't for the timid or for folks who want things "on the side". This is food for people who like some punch in their eats, and don't need it fancy for it to be really good. The menu generally has 5 entrees, 5 appetizers and 3 or 4 desserts. Get any kind of fritter, or get anything smoked -- it adds incredible depth to dishes, and the smoking of whatever is done out back daily in the midwestern-styled garden. On a recent night, I started with a poached, smoked egg served over julianned bell peppers and a 'gnarl' of spaghetti squash. Then onto a the "BBQ Pork Picnic" - smoked pork (fat and all!), chopped into 1' long slivers, served over black beans, squash and perfectly tender collard greens.

The always entertainingly-worded menu changes daily -- look for themes based on events like Breeder's Cup or Millicent's Metal Massacre (lots of seafood killed while all metal soundtrack played). Tang is served for 25 cents a glass. And don't skip dessert - pies, crisps or simple benigets are all terrific. The Hideaway has gotten tons of good press, so go early, on an off-night, or expect to wait. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I hate Vincent Gallo

I'm guessing this is (mostly) a joke but still. He'd have to pay me a million bucks to have his child. He is everything that irritates me about downtown types. And 5' 11", my ass. The guy is 5'7" if he's lucky. Douche.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Goodbye to All That

This essay, written by the incomparable Joan Didion in 1967, gives a perfect voice to the love/hate relationship those of us who aren't native New Yorkers have with the city. While I personally disagree with the premise that New York is a city for the young, it's not an entirely untrue statement, for the trials of city life seem more glamorous as a 22-year-old than a 36-year-old. As always, it depends on who you are and where you are in life as to whether or not New York works on a day-to-day basis. Things can change from good to bad in a month or two, and then flip back again. Any given street, perhaps a block you walk on daily due to a change in routine, can remind you of lost love; a glorious April afternoon full of adventures; or an apartment a friend once lived in.

Ever present change is the the only consistency of The City; And the images Didion uses ring true 40 years later, even if the specific places have changed.


================================


How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and and ten—
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again—
If your feet are nimble and light
You can get there by candlelight.

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was. When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already, even in the old Idlewild temporary terminal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was. Some time later there was a song in the jukeboxes on the Upper East Side that went “but where is the schoolgirl who used to be me,” and if it was late enough at night I used to wonder that. I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those years was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.

---

In retrospect it seems to me that those days before I knew the names of all the bridges were happier than the ones that came later, but perhaps you will see that as we go along. Part of what I want to tell you is what it is like to be young in New York, how six months can become eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve, for that is how those years appear to me now, in a long sequence of sentimental dissolves and old-fashioned trick shots—the Seagram Building fountains dissolve into snowflakes, I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street. But most particularly I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.

I remember once, one cold bright December evening in New York, suggesting a friend who complained of having been around too long that he come with me to a party where there would be, I assured him with the bright resourcefulness of twenty-three, “new faces.” He laughed literally until he choked, and I had to roll down the taxi window and hit him on the back. “New faces,” he said finally, “don’t tell me about new faces .” It seemed that the last time he had gone to a party where he had been promised “new faces,” there had been fifteen people in the room, and he had already spelt with five of the women and owed money to all but two of the men. I laughed with him, but the first snow had just begun to fall and the big Christmas trees glittered yellow and white as far as I could see up Park Avenue and I had a new dress and it would be a long while before I would come to understand the particular moral of the story.

It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month. I was making only $65 or $70 then a week then (“Put yourself in Hattie Carnegie’s hands,” I was advised without the slightest trace of irony by an editor of the magazine for which I worked), so little money that some weeks I had to charge food at Bloomingdale’s gourmet shop in order to eat, a fact which went unmentioned in the letters I wrote to California. I never told my father that I needed money because then he would have sent it, and I would never know if I could do it by myself. At that time making a living seemed a game to me, with arbitrary but quite inflexible rules. And except on a certain kind of winter evening—six-thirty in the Seventies, say, already dark and bitter with a wind off the river, when I would be walking very fast toward a bus and would look in the bright windows of brownstones and see cooks working in clean kitchens and and imagine women lighting candles on the floor above and beautiful children being bathed on the floor above that—except on nights like those, I never felt poor; I had the feeling that if I needed money I could always get it. I could write a syndicated column for teenagers under the name “Debbi Lynn” or I could smuggle gold into India or I could become a $100 call girl, and none of would matter.

Nothing was irrevocable; everything was within reach. Just around every corner lay something curious and interesting, something I had never before seen or done or known about. I could go to a party and meet someone who called himself Mr. Emotional Appeal and ran The Emotional Appeal Institute or Tina Onassis Blandford or a Florida cracker who was then a regular on what the called “the Big C,” the Southampton-El Morocco circuit (“I’m well connected on the Big C, honey,” he would tell me over collard greens on his vast borrowed terrace), or the widow of the celery king of the Harlem market or a piano salesman from Bonne Terre, Missouri, or someone who had already made and list two fortunes in Midland, Texas. I could make promises to myself and to other people and there would be all the time in the world to keep them. I could stay up all night and make mistakes, and none of them would count.

You see I was in a curious position in New York: it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there. In my imagination I was always there for just another few months, just until Christmas or Easter or the first warm day in May. For that reason I was most comfortable with the company of Southerners. They seemed to be in New York as I was, on some indefinitely extended leave from wherever they belonged, disciplined to consider the future, temporary exiles who always knew when the flights left for New Orleans or Memphis or Richmond or, in my case, California. Someone who lives with a plane schedule in the drawer lives on a slightly different calendar. Christmas, for example, was a difficult season. Other people could take it in stride, going to Stowe or going abroad or going for the day to their mothers’ places in Connecticut; those of us who believed that we lived somewhere else would spend it making and canceling airline reservations, waiting for weatherbound flights as if for the last plane out of Lisbon in 1940, and finally comforting one another, those of us who were left, with oranges and mementos and smoked-oyster stuffings of childhood, gathering close, colonials in a far country.

Which is precisely what we were. I am not sure that it is possible for anyone brought up in the East to appreciate entirely what New York, the idea of New York, means to those of us who came out of the West and the South. To an Eastern child, particularly a child who has always has an uncle on Wall Street and who has spent several hundred Saturdays first at F.A.O. Schwarz and being fitted for shoes at Best’s and then waiting under the Biltmore clock and dancing to Lester Lanin, New York is just a city, albeit the city, a plausible place for people to live, But to those of us who came from places where no one had heard of Lester Lanin and Grand Central Station was a Saturday radio program, where Wall Street and Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue were not places at all but abstractions (“Money,” and “High Fashion,” and “The Hucksters”), New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of “living” there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not “live” at Xanadu.

In fact it was difficult in the extreme for me to understand those young women for whom New York was not simply an ephemeral Estoril but a real place, girls who bought toasters and installed new cabinets in their apartments and committed themselves to some reasonable furniture. I never bought any furniture in New York. For a year or so I lived in other people’s apartments; after that I lived in the Nineties in an apartment furnished entirely with things taken from storage by a friend whose wife had moved away. And when I left the apartment in the Nineties (that was when I was leaving everything, when it was all breaking up) I left everything in it, even my winter clothes and the map of Sacramento County I had hung on the bedroom wall to remind me who I was, and I moved into a monastic four-room floor-through on Seventy-fifth Street. “Monastic” is perhaps misleading here, implying some chic severity; until after I was married and my husband moved some furniture in, there was nothing at all in those four rooms except a cheap double mattress and box springs, ordered by telephone the day I decided to move, and two French garden chairs lent me by a friend who imported them. (It strikes me now that the people I knew in New York all had curious and self-defeating sidelines. They imported garden chairs which did not sell very well at Hammacher Schlemmer or they tried to market hair staighteners in Harlem or they ghosted exposĂ©s of Murder Incorporated for Sunday supplements. I think that perhaps none of us was very serious, engagĂ© only about our most private lives.)

All I ever did to that apartment was hang fifty yards of yellow theatrical silk across the bedroom windows, because I had some idea that the gold light would make me feel better, but I did not bother to weight the curtains correctly and all that summer the long panels of transparent golden silk would blow out the windows and get tangled and drenched in afternoon thunderstorms. That was the year, my twenty-eight, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and ever procrastination, every word, all of it.

---

That is what it was all about, wasn’t it? Promises? Now when New York comes back to me it comes in hallucinatory flashes, so clinically detailed that I sometimes wish that memory would effect the distortion with which it is commonly credited. For a lot of the time I was in New York I used a perfume called Fleurs de Rocaille , and then L’Air du Temps , and now the slightest trace of either can short-circuit my connections for the rest of the day. Nor can I smell Henri Bendel jasmine soap without falling back into the past, or the particular mixture of spices used for boiling crabs. There were barrels of crab boil in a Czech place in the Eighties where I once shopped. Smells, of course, are notorious memory stimuli, but there are other things which affect me the same way. Blue-and-white striped sheets. Vermouth cassis. Some faded nightgowns which were new in 1959 or 1960, and some chiffon scarves I bought about the same time.

I suppose that a lot of us who have been very young in New York have the same scenes in our home screens. I remember sitting in a lot of apartments with a slight headache about five o’clock in the morning. I had a friend who could not sleep, and he knew a few other people who had the same trouble, and we would watch the sky lighten and have a last drink with no ice and then go home in the early morning, when the streets were clean and wet (had it rained in the night? we never knew) and the few cruising taxis still had their headlights on and the only color was the red and green of traffic signals. The White Rose bars opened very early in the morning; I recall waiting in one of them to watch an astronaut go into space, waiting so long that at the moment it actually happened I had my eyes not on the television screen but on a cockroach on the tile floor. I liked the bleak branches above Washington Square at dawn, and the monochromatic flatness of Second Avenue, the fire escapes and the grilled storefronts peculiar and empty in their perspective.

It is relatively hard to fight at six-thirty or seven in the morning, without any sleep, which was perhaps one reason why we stayed up all night, and it seemed to me a pleasant time of day. The windows were shuttered in that apartment in the Nineties and I could sleep for a few hours and then go to work. I could work the on two or three hours’ sleep and a container of coffee from Chock Full O’ Nuts. I liked going to work, liked the soothing and satisfactory rhythm of getting out a magazine, liked the orderly progression of four-color closings and two-color closings and black-and-white closings and then The Product, no abstraction but something which looked effortlessly glossy and could be picked up on a newsstand and weighed in the hand. I liked all the minutiae of proofs and layouts, liked working late on the nights the magazines went to press, sitting and reading Variety and waiting for the copy desk to call. From my office, I could look across town to the weather signal on the Mutual of New York Building and the lights that alternately spelled TIME and LIFE above Rockeffeler Plaza; that pleased me obscurely, and so did walking uptown in the mauve eight o’clocks of early summer evenings and looking at things, Lowestoft tureens in Fifty-seventh Street windows, people in evening clothes trying to get taxis, the trees just coming into full leaf, the lambent air, all the sweet promises of money and summer.

Some years passed, but I still did not lose that sense of wonder about New York. I began to cherish the loneliness of it, the sense that at any given time no one need know where I was or what I was doing. I liked walking, from the East River over to the Hudson and back on brisk days, down around the Village on warm days. A friend would leave me the key to her apartment in the West Village when she was out of town, and sometimes I would just move down there, because by that time the telephone was beginning to bother me (the canker, you see, was already in the rose) and not many people had that number. I remember one day when someone who did have the West Village number came to pick me up for lunch there, and we both had hangovers, and I cut my finger opening him a beer and burst into tears, and we walked to a Spanish restaurant and drank bloody Marys and gazpacho until we felt better. I was not then guilt-ridden about spending afternoons that way, because I still had all the afternoons in the world.

And even that late in the game I still liked going to parties, all parties, bad parties, Saturday-afternoon parties given by recently married couples who lived in Stuyvesant Town, West Side parties given by unpublished or failed writers who served cheap red wine and talked about going to Guatalajara, Village parties where all the guests worked for advertising agencies and voted for Reform Democrats, press parties at Sardi’s, the worst kind of parties. You will have perceived by now that I was not one to profit by the experience of others, that it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand the lesson in that story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.

---

I could not tell you when I began to understand that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in little bars near Grand Central and listen to someone complaining of his wife’s inability to cope with the help while he missed another train to Connecticut. I no longer had any interest in hearing about the advances other people had received from their publishers, about plays which were having second-act trouble in Philadelphia, or about people I would like very much if only I would come out and meet them. I had already met them, always. There were certain parts of the city which I had to avoid. I could not bear upper Madison Avenue on weekday mornings (this was a particularly inconvenient aversion, since I then lived just fifty or sixty feet east of Madison), because I would see women walking Yorkshire terriers and shopping at Gristede’s, and some Veblenesque gorge would rise in my throat. I could not go to Times Square in the afternoon, or to the New York Public Library for any reason whatsoever. One day I could not go into a Schrafft’s; the next it would be the Bonwit Teller.

I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. I cut myself off from the one person who was closer to me than any other. I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, I cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor, he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and that I should see a “specialist.” He wrote down a psychiatrist’s name and address for me, but I did not go.

Instead I got married, which as it turned out was a very good thing to do but badly timed, since I still could not walk on upper Madison Avenue in the mornings and still could not talk to people and still cried in Chinese laundries. I had never before understood what “despair” meant, and I am not sure that I understand now, but I understood that year. Of course I could not work. I could not even get dinner with any degree of certainty, and I would sit in the apartment on Seventy-fifth Street paralyzed until my husband would call from his office and say gently that I did not have to get dinner, that I could meet him at Michael’s Pub or at Toots Shor’s or at Sardi’s East. And then one morning in April (we had been married in January) he called and told me that he wanted to get out of New York for a while, that he would take a six-month leave of absence, that we would go somewhere.

It was three years ago he told me that, and we have lived in Los Angeles since. Many of the people we knew in New York think this a curious aberration, and in fact tell us so. There is no possible, no adequate answer to that, and so we give certain stock answers, the answers everyone gives. I talk about how difficult it would be for us to “afford” to live in New York right now, about how much “space” we need, All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore. The last time I was in New York was in a cold January, and everyone was ill and tired. Many of the people I used to know there had moved to Dallas or had gone on Antabuse or had bought a farm in New Hampshire. We stayed ten days, and then we took an afternoon flight back to Los Angeles, and on the way home from the airport that night I could see the moon on the Pacific and smell jasmine all around and we both knew that there was no longer any point in keeping the apartment we still kept in New York. There were years when I called Los Angeles “the Coast,” but they seem a long time ago.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Eatin' Out: Swizz


53rd Street @ 8th Avenue
I went here one night before a play, totally fired up thinking I would get fondue for one as part of the pre-theater prix fixe on their website: salad, fondue, sorbet for $24.95 – my perfect dinner! Alas, it was false advertising. Disappointed, I stayed anyway and had the raclette (essentially, cheese melted in a dish with potatoes and gherkins on the side) and a Caesar salad, and both were very mediocre. They had a crap wine list to boot. Yellowtail for $8 a glass does not a wine list make. The whole place had a cheap, reaching-for-a-french-vibe-but-missing-the-mark quality to it.

This restaurant also hit on two of my pet peeves –
1) I get more and more annoyed with places that serve dishes “for 2”. If I want fondue by myself, I shouldn’t have to pay 34 bucks. And why do I have to be TWO to eat something? (see: trying to get grilled-at-the-table meats at the Korean BBQ joints on 32nd)
2) Asking me if I want fresh pepper while carting around a GIANT pepper grinder. Hasn’t cusine come far enough now that every table can be trusted to have it’s own grinder?? I don’t need an annoying waiter doling out my pepper.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Eatin' Out: Manhattan Banh Mi Smackdown!


Banh Mi So 1 369 Broome btw Mott & Elizabeth
Saigon Banh Mi 138 Mott btw Grand & Hester
Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches 150 E 2nd @ Ave A

The only thing I am comparing between these 3 shops is your classic Vietnamese sandwich: pate, shredded pork, cilantro, carrots, cucumbers, hot peppers/sauce on a toasted and lightly buttered light french baguette. The key is having the flavors blend with each other yet remain distinct: the crunch of the pickled veggies, the burst of meat goodness and the distinct punches thrown by the chilis and cilantro have to be balanced.

Banh Mi So 1 takes the crown for me and thankfully, is within walking distance for lunch in Soho – Saigon is a strong contender but seems a little less fresh/heavier on the meat than the Banh Mi So 1 entry. Nicky’s is solid, but costs more and is flatter, flavor-wise, than the Chinatown entries. Of course, if Nicky’s was in my neighborhood, I’d probably eat there twice a week.

All that said, calling something the “Best Banh Mi” is irrelevant because it’s hard to make a bad Banh Mi. Grab a Banh Mi, and an iced Vietnamese coffee for a total of about $5 on a sunny day, and enjoy one of the best meals possible while thanking god you live somewhere you can get one of these.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Good Day, Gov'ner

For 3 months each summer on Saturdays, the National Park Service provides a ferry service from Battery Park, and opens up Governors Island to visitors. A military base for over 200 years, the island was turned over to the NPS in 1997 by the Coast Guard. Bill Clinton declared the two forts on the island National Monuments in 2001, effectively returning the island to the control of the public. The NPS has opened the island to visitors in order to solicit ideas for the best use of the 172 prime acres of land in the middle of New York Harbor.

Mike, Penelope and I were lucky enough to make it to Governors Island on the last day of tours for 2005. While ghosts of Confederate prisoners must occupy the place on dark, windy nights in the Harbor, on this sunny Saturday we saw beautiful old trees lining quiet, wide roads with loads of well-preserved housing. A whole community ostensibly disappeared, leaving the ballfields, churches and Burger King to sit silent. I couldn't help but think of what it would be like to live on this island (or to make it into a public space with regular ferry service), but my guess is some developer will figure out a way to put $2 million dollar co-ops, a casino or some sort of horrible consumer theme park on this unique piece of land.

ADDENDUM: A story in the Times about firefighters based on the Island.



The playground of children past









Officer's Quarters










Entrance to the military prison, where Confederate soldiers (and Japanese-Americans during WW2) were held.









Inside of the prison, which was also used as a haunted house for military kids on Halloween.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Perfect Summer Day

When it is cold and shitty in mid-February, I am going to remember my perfect Summer of 2005 day: Eighty-five degrees at the end of Long Island, sitting at Ditch Plains beach all day, watching the surfers and hanging with my pals Dave and Rachel. Having oysters, gazpacho and beer on the way home on Montauk Highway. Going for a bike ride. Meeting Laurene for early prix fixe dinner and a great gab at Vine Street Cafe, one of Shelter Island's best. To finish it all off, a midnight swim at Hay Beach with glowing microrganisms surrounding me in the water, stirred up by the motion of my limbs, and a carpetful of stars in the sky above. Can life be better?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Today In New York

Overheard on Canal Street today from whiny 8yr old child to Mom in the middle of a group of ten very slow family members:
"Mom, when are we going to see the pretty part of Chinatown?"

Overheard on Manhattan Avenue as said by weepy goth girl into her cell phone:
"The whip nicked the front of my shoulder. I have a mark...Yes, I always let them flog my back, and that was okay and went well but I can't believe one of them went that far this time.... I can't really deal with this!"

Seen driving on Manhattan Avenue:
Kid with mohawk fully up in punk regalia, in brand new Mercedes convertible.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Later.


I am on my first three week vacation in about six years, so posts will be sparse through Labor Day.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Steroids & Southern Food

Here is the best new quote about food I've seen recently, as said by former Negro Leagues star Sidney Bunch of Nashville, TN:

"Our steroids were white beans, cornbread and pig's feet."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Eatin' Out - Midtown lunch roundup

From 39th to 51st, btw Madison and 8th Avenue

I'm moving from this hated job to this new, hopefully fantastic one starting after Labor Day. My years of research into Midtown lunch are going to go to waste down there on Mercer Street! Here's a round-up of some the places that made me happy and filled me up over the past 6 years.

PRIME BURGER (5 E. 51st btw 5/Madison): hands down, my all-time favorite diner. They have individual tables that swing out, like a grade school desk, decor that hasn't changed since the early 60s, homemade pie, excellent burgers (make sure you ask for any extras beyond meat, bun and cheese) PLUS grilled cheese and tomato soup are always on the menu. Home of the nicest staff ever, who always remember me and say "Where have you been?" when I don't show up for awhile. Gene Shalit once harrassed me here and a waiter sang "Wichita Lineman" to me while I ate.........ZAIYA (18 E 41st btw 5/Madison): Almost solely responsible for the weight gain I've experienced since my job moved near here in March. Japanese pastries (cod roe gratin, tuna melt, cheese dome), take-out sushi, bento boxes, crustless tea sandwiches, aloe vera juice and Beard Papa's creme puffs. Very cheap, always insanely crowded. Half price late in the day..........AKDENIZ (19 W. 46th btw 5/6): Mediterranean Turkish cuisine, good cold appetizers like taramasolata and babaganoush, plus traditional turkish entrees like shish kababs, gyros and lots of other things made with lamb..........BERGER'S (44 W. 47th btw 5/6): basic Jewish deli, a little pricey but perfect when you must have whitefish salad on a bagel or a pastrami sandwich..........CARVE (8th avenue/corner of 47th): Unique and amazing sandwiches, again a bit expensive, but the half and half (soup + sandwich) is a deal. Try the Fourth of July picnic (fried chicken, corn slaw on Tom Cat baguette) or the Far East Tuna (Crusted tuna with tempura flakes and wasabi alioli served on a big lettuce leaf..........SAPPORO (152 W.49th btw 6/7): Japanese ramen noodle place, good all the time but serving in the summer only, Hiyashi Chuka, which is a bowl of cold noodles in a slightly sweet broth, topped with ham, chicken, egg, fish cake, green onion, shredded ginger, cucumber, and corn. Awesome.........KWIK MEAL CART (Southwest corner of 45/6th Ave): The chef here apparently used to work at the Russian Tea Room, if that matters to making some really good kababs out of a cart. Chicken, or for a couple bucks more, a damn good lamb kabab.........MONSTER SUSHI (46th btw 5/6): Home of the yellow tail special roll, which includes salmon roe. Good, solid sushi place..........And of course, my old standby, AU BON PAIN (located damn near everywhere). Ham & cheese croissants, salads, gay sandwiches, and half price pastries after 4pm.

A few others: Red Flame Coffee Shop, Virgils (mainly for the Hush Puppies with maple butter), Trin-Paki Boyz cart on 43/6th, Citarella for takeout, Amy's Bread on 9th Avenue, Grand Central Food Court and Pret a Manger.

I Hate Perfume


For my birthday this year, Anne gave me one of the neatest gifts I have ever received. Christopher Brosius, who originally developed scents for Kiehl's and Demeter, now has a shop/gallery in Williamsburg on Wythe Street. For a secret birthday gift fee (maybe $75?), you can go in and get a session with Christopher himself, who will help you select scents based on your descriptions of what you liked in the past, what your favorite smells are and simply by sitting down for an hour and whiffing loads of his 200+ unusual scents. You can pick one or two you like, or with additional visits (definitely on my agenda), he will work to develop a scent especially for you by blending 4 or 5 accords together.

He's been written up in tons of fashion mags as a "perfumer to the stars", and recently developed a scent with Alan Cummings that includes notes of scotch, heather and pine. Chris' scents include everything from Cut Grass to Amaryllis to Mediterranean Sea to Doll Head to Roast Beef. An interesting and a passionate guy about the art of perfuming, Christopher told me he often makes a scent just to see if he can, even if people wouldn't wear it alone. He gets continual requests for Wet Dog and Puppy, but hasn't mastered these quite yet.

Now will you forgive me for walking around smelling like Black Tea and Salad Greens?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Eatin' Out - Katsu-Hama

11 East 47th Street
btw 5th/Madison

As I wrap up my stint of working in midtown, some of my favorite lunch places over the past 6+ years must be acknowledged. This one's a old standard, carrying a $10 tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) lunch special that can't be beat. Served along with the cutlets are miso soup, a small dish of japanese pickles, rice and a light cabbage salad. I've never had anything else here in the 25 times I've been, so who knows if the rest of it is any good. But I think the all-Japanese crowd that packs this place during lunch is a decent indicator that the rest of the menu is also tasty.

Enter the curtained door to the restaurant after passing through the Japanese take-out in front. You'll start by getting a mysterious dish full of sesame seeds that you smash up with a pestle, and then pour the brown dipping sauce into. Watch the japanese folks around you if confused. Grab some breaded pork and dip. Yum.

Eatin' Out - Mama's Empanadas

42-18 Greenpoint Avenue
Sunnyside, Queens
7 train to 42nd Street

Although empanadas are really The Haas' area of expertise, I feel I can adequately fill in for her. I mean - who doesn't love a deep fried filled pie?

I zipped up to Sunnyside to pick up a few hot pockets of deliciousness from Mama's Empanadas prior to seeing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at the ghetto Center Cinema on Queens Blvd (PROS: only $7 for first run moves, close to my house CONS: its like sitting in someone's basement; people bring their babies to 'nap' during the movies...Although I guess I fit right in since I was rustling around and munching down on a big ol' bag of empanadas before the movie even started...)

They've got abot 30 different kinds of empanadas, including stuff like a pizza empanada (mozzarella & tomato sauce), a rice and bean patty, and a cheese, ham and pineapple patty. I went more traditional, sampling a plain cheese (fabulous), a beef (dry and flavorless), and the piece de resistance - a fig, caramel and cheese pie. The thing was like molten lava in the theater but holy crap -- was it good. Next time, I'm going for pork, and guava and cheese. They also have loads of batidos naturales, but the service was so slow, I was going to miss my movie if I waited another 25 minutes for my drink.

At no more than $1.50 per patty, I'm seeing many trips up Greenpoint Avenue in my future.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

See Ya at the Rock Concert


This piece made me miss Tim Taylor all over. Tim and I had been friends since 1986, since both of our senior years of high school in Dayton, Ohio. We saw each other throughout college, mostly in Cincinnati, and when Brainiac began touring in the mid-90s, they stayed with me a couple times in San Francisco. I remember one great show, when they played with Jesus Lizard and Girls Against Boys at Slim's. What a fantastic triple bill that was. Michelle Bodine was in the band at that point, (later of the now-defunct Shesus), and spent most of the night at my house trying to get David Sims of Jesus Lizard to stop his incessant hitting on her.

Fast forward to another episode in 1995 - In Amsterdam, walking up to an elevator in our hotel with Shellie. We see a guy standing by the elevator, and I say to Shellie "Wow, that guy looks like Tim Taylor." Lo and behold, it WAS Timmy Taylor. In our hotel, all of us far from Ohio, Brainiac touring with as a support act to the Amps. Tim just grinned at Shellie and I, and said "Hi girls. Are you coming to our rock concert?" None of us ever got over the world-is-a-very-small-place quality of that encounter.

And then two years later - I had since moved to New York, and Brainiac had tons of buzz surrounding them. Rumors were flying that spring of who they were signing with and when. Through various friends, I heard how Elektra was wooing them heavily. I turn around from the bar one night at the Lakeside Lounge, and bump smack into Tim. Neither of us are suprised to see each other, and again with the grin, "Hey Susan. What's happening?" Casual as ever, finally due to be signed to a major, brought to the bar in a limo, and still the same Tim.

Three weeks later, I'm in Dayton for Memorial Day, and I see the report of Tim's death at the age of 28 on the local news. He was the first friend my age I lost. Having to go to his memorial service was a heartbreak. Realizing that his life, good spirit, humor and talent was cut short was even worse.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My Favorite Hour of the Week


I'm almost embarrassed about how much I enjoy Rescue Me and continually go on about it, but there's simply no denying how much I look forward this fantastic show every week.

Produced and written by the brilliant Denis Leary, and Peter Tolan, his partner from their prime-time show "The Job" a couple years back, the razor-sharp writing of this show's second season on FX gets blacker, funnier and more emotionally charged with every episode. The real-life salty, witty, and often politically incorrect dialogue benefits from a 10pm cable slot that finds me laughing out loud or cringing in horror while replaying scenes several times.

Focusing on Leary's character, Tommy Gavin, and how his life has changed as a NYFD veteran in the two+ years after the events of 9/11, "Rescue Me" presents Gavin and his fellow firefighters as terrifically flawed human beings, who sometimes find themselves doing heroic things. This year's season finds Tommy trying to fake his way through quitting drinking; searching the country for his kids after his wife has fled with them; dealing with his father and unexpected new family members; and all the while he's receiving surreal visits from Jesus and his cousin/best friend who died on 9/11. Tommy's a guy you should hate with all his flaws, piggish and self-destructive ways. Yet Leary has come into his own as an actor, way beyond the ironic comedy routines he was once known for, by portraying Tommy as a guy who's just trying to survive, always almost cracking apart beneath the brash swagger.

Certainly firefighters shows have been done to death, but this is one that is leaps and bounds beyond what you are used to seeing on TV. The easy-on-the-eyes players (Dean Winters, Daniel Sunjata, Steven Pasquale) sure don't hurt it, either.

Tuesdays, 10pm on FX (Channel 58 in Brooklyn's Time Warner). First season available on DVD.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish...





New York Magazine is carrying a terrific article about the origins of fish in New York City. Where it comes from, how to get it, and why your fish will never be as good as Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar.

(Sure - this photo's from a Korean fish market. But a cool photo, no?)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Punk 4 Life

The BBC's Radio 1 recently broadcasted a show that covered the 20 most punk people. A couple questions: What is with the Brits continual obsession about Bill Hicks? And who's Eric Cantona?

I haven't called myself punk for about 20 yrs, so I don't know from punk, but how do people consider themselves PUNK almost 30 years later??

That said, I do love seeing kids with tons of attitude strut around Manhattan in black lipstick, torn shirts and combat boots. And I'd MUCH rather someone spout the punk ethos than take on the bizzaro-world Republican bent that some teenagers do today. Rebel already!

UPDATE: Eric Cantona = famous Man U soccer player

Friday, June 24, 2005

Here is New York

With so many questions running through my head this week, triggered by yet another impending departure of a dear friend from NYC, I couldn't have read a more appropriate essay than this 7,500 classic by E.B. White. Recommended to me by the always illuminating Signe, I'm a little surprised that it's never crossed my radar before.
Written in the summer of 1948, it contains some sharp insights consistent to this day. Fifty-five years later or no, the hassles and glorious rewards of New York never seem to change:
"Every facility is inadequate--the hospitals and schools and playgrounds are overcrowded, the express highways are feverish, the unimproved highways and bridges are bottlenecks; there is not enough air and not enough light, and there is usually too much heat or too little. But the city makes up for its hazards and deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin--the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled."
Really nice stuff. And especially perfect for the recent days of reflection ("Now WHY do I live here again and WHY is this what I'm calling home when everything is a CONSTANT STRUGGLE???") that have popped up. Thanks for the reminder, Andy.

Close to Home:An American Album


I read this week about a exhibit that showed over the winter at the Getty Museums in LA of found photographs - you know, discarded old family photos found in thrift stores, on the street, tucked inside of a library book or whathaveyou. I've had to sift long and always impatiently through boxes of photos to find the elusive Grails of family photos. But when you get a good one -- man, what stories you can concoct in your brain about the people in the photo, and this one moment in their lives that was so important as to be recorded on film.

Here's links to the book and the exhibit (now closed)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Eatin' Out - AQ Cafe

58 Park Avenue at 38th Street
Open M-Sat, 10-5

Located inside Scandinavia House and operated by parent restaurant Aquavit, this open, bright, and sparsely-designed cafe has become one of my favorite places for lunch. Specializing in Swedish cuisine, lunch options range from a Grilled Scandinavian Shrimp sandwich ($8.75) to Swedish Meatballs ($9.50) to several salmon-based options. The Smorgasbord plate ($9.00) offers an assortment of 6 to 8 Scandinavian dishes that includes herring, gravlax and meatballs. All entrees and grilled sandwiches are served with a side of salad, bread and/or potato chips with a pungently memorable mayonnaise-based dip. Working my way through the menu over the past few months, I have yet to hit on a bad dish.

Although the wait to get your food can sometimes be up to 15 minutes (plates are made to order) it's great place to sit for an hour, read the paper and enjoy a unique yet not-too-expensive lunch.

The Best Belmont Ever


Or at least, the best Belmont I ever attended. As it was the first time in 4 years without the possibility of a Triple Crown winner (War Emblem, Funny Cide and Smarty Jones being the losers), the attendance was down and we found Belmont Day to be completely and gorgeously civilized. Sunny day, no lines at the windows, no lines for the LIRR trains, less yahoos, and the much trumpeted "no outside alcohol" policy new for 2005 was easily transgressed.

Seeing Afleet Alex dominate the rest of the admittedly weak 3-year-old field was a treat, too. After that travesty of a Derby, where Giacomo staggered to a win on what now seems to be sheer chance, I loved seeing a tough, deserving horse take the next two races of the Triple Crown. He's definitely the real deal, a powerhouse who will be exciting to watch into his four year old campaign next year. With the retirement of super horse Ghostzapper, Afleet Alex is the horse to watch as "the best" over the next few months.

As much as I want to see a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime, if it means crowds of 63,000 vs. crowds of 120,000, I am all for no horse ever doing it again. And ending our night in Irish bars in Woodside after sloshing out of the LIRR was an amusing finish to the day.

Thumbs up to the 2005 Belmont.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Start of Birthday Week

Decreed: Birthday week for everyone should begin the day before their birthday, and last through the following week. Also, one should also not have to work on the day their mother went into labor to bring their sorry ass into the world

Thus, MY birthday week begins today and will end on the 20th. Get in line for gift-giving and dinner outings pronto!!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Eatin' Out - Black Pearl

Back of Julep, 14 Ave A btw 1/2

Remember this: For $14.95, you can get a whole 1 1/4 pound lobster and perfectly crispy french fries. On Tuesdays only.

Black Pearl is a fish-shack style restaurant in the back of the divey bar Julep, on Ave A near the corner of Houston. Serving pan roasts, lobster rolls, ceviche, fried oysters, lobster pot pie, plus a variety of other fried-seafood-on-a-roll type entrees, the only thing I had eyes for the lobster special. It was just about perfect. Sit on the back patio on a warm day, get there in time for the 2 for 1 beer before 7:30, and think about how Montauk has nothing on the East Village.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Song of the Summer

I am dubbing Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc. as my offical song of the 2005 Summer. Alert the media.

It sounds like a Kinks song. I still can't figure out if it's a straight sample, or a complete rip-off of "Sunny Afternoon". And it's now being played all over the TV on the latest I-pod commercial, so you can download or hear this baby easily.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Eatin' Out - Quercy

242 Court St, Brooklyn

Sister restaurant to the always reliable La Lunchonette in Chelsea, we showed up here (the former Harvest East space) to try the $19.95 "Brooklyn Restaurant Week" special . While eating a three-course prix-fixe on a Saturday afternoon was alittle ambitious, the food was solid French bistro. I started my meal with a light Cream of Asparagus soup surprisingly not cream-based as I had assumed itwould be. Excellent chewy lamb sausages with cooked apples served alongside haricots vertes, and a watery potato gratin were next. I finished up with a dense, gorgeous chocolate cake served with a fudge sauce and marinated fruit. Our closing cup of coffee was intense, thick rocket fuel, the way coffee should be.

Quercy sets itself up as a reliable and delicious neighborhood favorite, and it's worth your money if you want a well-prepared French meal. The decor is simple, immediately cluing diners in to the rustic french fare they specialize in. The raised frog-embossed tiles lining the bathroom walls were a great, silly touch.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Eatin' Out - Next Door Nobu

Corner of Franklin and Hudson

Since this restaurant opened six years ago, as a "no reservations accepted"alternative to the schmancy big-time Nobu, I've been wanting to go. So when Mr. Cranky suggested one Saturday night "Let's go. I'll pay", you never saw me drive into the city faster, trying to get there before the wait become interminable. No luck - by the time we arrived at 7:30, the wait was already up to an hour and a half. I can honestly say: the wait is worth it.

I don't need to be the 200th person to rave about the Black Cod with Miso sauce, although it derves every single bit of praise. Slighly crisp on the outside, perfectly moist on the insideand bathed in a miso sauce with a perfect touch of sweetness, this is a dish I'll crave at unopportune and cash-poor times. We were seated at the sushi bar, and the service was spotty at times, but no matter. I wish I could eat this way everynight. The shrimp tempure in spicy creamy sauce was promptly added to a perfect trifecta of fried asian foods in my brain that include New Pasteur's salt & peppersquid, and Noodletown's salt-baked softshell crab.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Pillowman

At the Booth Theater
Starring Billy Crudup and Jeff Goldblum

Sometimes you see a work of art, and remember why you suffer though mediocre rock shows on a Tuesday night, or 5 movies you'll never think off again. Martin McDonough's latest play "The Pillowman" is one of those pieces that makes you remember what true originality is. While starting off slow, the play weaves its path showing flashes of pure brillance in it's unpredictable dialogue. It's darkly funny, bringing laughs from sinster turns of phrase and luridly shocking scenes. You can hear the audience stifling laughter, unsure if they should laugh or be horrified. This is a play miles away from your standard Broadway fluff, forcing audiences out complacency and into a harsh, brutal world.

The striking staging also reveals unexpected moments. The play takes place in an unnamed totalitarian state, opening with a scene in a dark box of an interrogation cell, lit only by a single-bulb on a string. Slowly, as the play unfolds, the walls reveal hidden scenery. As the lead, Billy Crudup is arresting, explaining himself by telling a small portion of his life's work, 400 fictionalized short stories. The tales are acted out in garishly illuminated, slightly askew rooms set in recesses high in the dark walls, giving the scenes a scary funhouse feel. Crudup and his brother have been brought in for questioning by the authorities (Jeff Goldblum in a hard boiled film noir-like cop role) because the horrific killings of children in a series of recent local crimes seems to directly parallel Crudup's stories.

Michael Stuhlber as Michal, the mentally defective, yet perceptive older brother stunted by 7 years of torture by his parents nearly steals the show, providing some of the best comic moments with his childlike flashes of emotion. But more importantly than the humor, McDonagh's play asks the audience to examine the constantly shifting differences between reality and fiction, and how telling stories allows anyone to create a persona and world of their own choice. Everyone in this play is a storyteller; the invigorating challenge of trying to figure out what perceptions are true keep the viewer utterly engaged.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Eatin' Out - Lamb & Jaffey

On Manhattan Ave. near Eagle St.

Review from 2005:
A sorely needed American bistro finally was opened after a few delays on on the far Northern reaches of Manhattan Ave. Though I've heard this place is packed for dinner, we tried it for brunch, and while it's a much needed addition for Greenpoint where the only thing you can get is Thai or Polish, the meal was mediocre. Brunch is not a fair meal to judge a restaurant on. Still: 1) Please learn to keep coffee hot. The silver creamers are cute, but don't work to hold heat 2) Hollandaise sauce is a staple. It shouldn't be runny with the same consistency as water. 3) An artichoke heart is not a substitute for the base bread item in eggs benedict. Creative, but still a bad idea.

Service was friendly, if a little overbearing and twitchy. The interior is simple with a huge kitchen in the back for their catering business (the original business of the two chefs) with lots of sun and wood. Although their entrees seem a little pricey for the neighborhood ($18 for scallops?) I'm definitely going to go again and give them a chance at cooking a proper meal during dinner. They also deliver. But do I need coriander crusted salmon brought to my door? Jury's still out.