Archives For brooklyn

Superstar!

January 19, 2015 — 2 Comments

I have to reset. Oh, nothing heavy. It’s my day off and too pretty out to make any real fuss. And if all goes as planned, soon I’ll be unplugged, out of commission, unreachable and RELAXING at my favorite Russian Bath house in the city! WOOP WOOP!

I have to reset the volume on my cell phone. I inadvertently kept it on full the other night when I was wishing for the bath house and all I could do was soak in my tub.

Earlier in the day my neighbor asked me to let his airbnbers into his apartment if he was running late and I told him I might not be home but if I was, Sure, I said. Have them text me.

I have a buzzer. Foolishness, Marie. Foolishness.

So I kept the volume on high instead of in its usual vibrate mode.

At 206am, four consecutive texts arrive, the third jarring me from sleep. The fourth annoying me. I assumed it was one of those blasted group messages that could go on for hours. Or maybe there’s an emergency. Something critical.

So I got up and checked.

Emergency text?

Obviously I wasn’t yet lucid.

I’m actually happy to have gotten up and checked.

The messages were from my sister in LA, where it’s reasonable to be up and about especially when (my sister’s a teacher) schools are closed and there’s no work the following day.

She called me a Superstar! But that’s not entirely why I was so pleased. It was the thought that she was 1. So excited that she couldn’t wait to share her findings with me; 2. That she was only now discovering Orange is the New Black; and 3. That we have the kind of relationship where we communicated like this. That despite the distance we’ve always remained close.

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I’m obviously not a Superstar. I was just a super fit! Drinking a martini in a Brooklyn bar, hanging out with my “publishing” friends…that’s me any day of the week.

Maybe one day I’ll have earned the privilege of being a Superstar (unlikely that’ll happen on TV) but for something I’ve worked hard for and am passionate about. Until then, while I don’t actively seek it out or rely on it to move forward, it’s nice to hear positive reinforcement from time to time for something I’ve participated in–whether the role is in the background sidelines or in the foreground as a principal actor. Especially when it comes from the people who matter.

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Calm again

May 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

There’s something wonderful that happens when we reach the end of a process. It’s the breathing. I finally breathe. Big gulps of air. And seeing. You see things that were there (maybe) but you didn’t before notice. I’ve not come to this after having experienced a profound life-altering situation or the completion of a milestone decades long project. It’s the weather. The weather this weekend brought me here. After this long cold stretch, winter–so greedy, ruthless, and relentless in its encroachment on spring’s domain–finally retreated, and the glorious blue skies and warm weather enveloped me. My mood, so good.

I felt compelled to be out and about. Friday night, I had the privilege of special company; we dr(u)nk whiskey and gorged on delicious Arturo’s pizza while enjoying a private performance by Erik Frandsen. Then a lazy wake-up, stroll, and brunch al fresco followed by a beautiful golf outing with a gorgeous boy, and a Sunday on the roof, celebrating a friend’s birthday as the sun set.

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Finally… renewal. It’s a sweet beginning.

There was a deal on organic strawberries at my local market — this relatively new market that opened up in my neighborhood that had everyone in my building giddy. “So convenient!” “It’s changed my route!” All kinds of funny statements. All true. There’s nothing special about the market. A perfect example of strategic marketing. It’s a Key Foods renamed “Urban Market” that has fancy black bags and nice font to satisfy the “creative” “food savvy” people who live here. But it *is* convenient. Clean. Average prices for the most part. Three blocks away. And open on Friday nights and Saturdays…when the other market nearby, managed by Hassidic Jews, shuts down for Sabbath.

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The strawberries. They’re not in season (peak season here is April – June), so I wasn’t expecting much. They were mediocre at best, pretty bland. What struck me, though, was how oddly shaped they all were. And well, I did something I was forbidden to do as a kid and played with my food.Strawberryman

I understand the “respect your food” “people are starving” angle that my parents pounded into me. And even though I’m not part of the “war generation” I remain very conscious of my food and where it comes from and how lucky I am to even contemplate these things. But it got me to thinking that there must be some benefit to the playing process. And, oh, yeah. There is. Well, according to this article I found, Messy Kids Who Play with Their Food May Be Faster Learners, there may be. Seems young children were more likely to learn words for certain non-solid objects like oatmeal and glue when they were allowed to explore the substances by using their hands and making a mess: “context and behavior are both important factors in the acquisition of a child’s early vocabulary. This sort of early learning may be linked to improved cognitive development later in the child’s life.”

Not exactly creating sculptures that I envisioned but if I were allowed a guess or a bet, after the squeezing of oatmeal and making a mess, in time, the playing might just evolve into something more structured. That’s the hope, at least. Have this perennial favorite ready when that happens:

play with your food

I wonder if any of this applies to adults. Just projecting probably. Wish the University of Iowa folks would do a follow-up study on adults. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

This morning, on my way home from Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, I decide to take Havemeyer Street, which I do once and a while whenever I’m coming from the city and realize I need eggs. I discovered a few years back that this one giant chain grocery store on Havemeyer, for whatever reason, always has special discount deals on organic free range veggie fed eggs (should I be suspicious?), which they do this time as well.

After I buy my eggs, I continue south and notice a new spot has opened up: Stan’s Cafecito, a tiny hole-in the wall eatery.

Stan's

What catches my attention is the chalkboard sign out front: We have Shrimp Etouffee Today. I’ve walked Havemeyer for years and there’s never been a spot to eat etouffee. New spots pop up often these days all over my neighborhood, which is foodie central, so I’m not surprised, but definitely interested.

I’m allergic to shrimp sometimes (it’s the uncertainty in sometimes that makes me gamble and get into trouble) so I’m not here to try the etouffee this time, but my curiosity is piqued, so I stop in, and check out the breakfast menu. The featured special is a steak breakfast burrito and there are other intriguing options like jambalaya breakfast burrito (again, shrimp), who the owner Stan, a friendly mature man with a white beard manning the orders and cash register, describes to me as being rice based. I opt for the chorizo breakfast burrito. I grew up in LA and my ex was Mexican and an amazing cook, so if chorizo or any other Mexican dish is offered, I’ll order it in the hopes of finding a spot to satiate my occasional cravings since really good Mexican food is difficult to find in this city.

I chat with Stan as I’m paying, tell him it’s my first time, and he gives me a cup of coffee on the house in honor of this occasion. I walk outside and take a stool in front of the take-out window. Staying true to its name “little cafe,” there are also a couple of small round tables with chairs and some other stools. As I wait for my order, I notice people do as I had done, walk by, then stop, and decide to try it out. There’s quite a line now.

A few minutes later, Stan hands me my burrito through the window along with one of those condiment bottles that reminds me of those glue bottles I used in elementary school. Only this is filled with a greenish hot sauce. He tells me he makes the hot sauce with poblano peppers and it’s already in my burrito but that I might want more. After taking the first delicious bite, I can’t get enough of the sauce–medium spicy, vinegary–hoarding the bottle and pouring it on before every subsequent bite.

Chorizoburrito

When Stan asks me how the burrito is, I tell him, It’s simply delicious. The chorizo. And this sauce. Oh my goodness. He tells me he gets his chorizo in the neighborhood, from Mexico 2000 on Keap, where the guys make it themselves. Then he pulls out a small glass bottle of the hot sauce, which he’s selling for $4, and says, Here, I want you to have this.

hot-sauce

I tell him, No. I’ll pay for it. I forget that I only have a dollar left in my wallet and so snap a picture of the bottle and decide to instagram it, hoping the few instagram followers I have may one day stop by this gem when they’re in the neighborhood. As I leave, I promise Stan I’ll be back and will eat more and buy a bottle then. He says, No. This is for you. Come back again, bring the empty bottle with you, and you can pay for a refill then.

When I get home, it dawns on me.

Steven Johnson. Swerving. Ants. Neighborhoods.

Just last night, I was having a conversation with a friend who had texted me earlier in the week the address of a yummy gelato shop, Amorino Gelato, he just discovered while he was in Union Square not far from where I work. He said that he hadn’t noticed it before but something caught his eye at the front of the shop and so he decided to go in.

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Steven Johnson. Swerving. Ants. Neighborhoods.

So here’s the thing:

Yesterday, I was listening to a radio show on WNYC and one of the guests was Steven Johnson who wrote a book, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software.

I’ve not read the book yet so I searched and found a review of this book by Carrie Gartner, PhD that pretty much sums up what Johnson was saying, what the broadcast was about: swerve.

Johnson defines emergence as “movement from low-level rules to higher-level sophistication.” Individual actors making street-level decisions will automatically and unknowingly organize those actions into a larger, complex whole—a pattern that often works better than one imposed from the top.

Johnson comes at this conclusion in a roundabout way—by studying everything from slime molds to ants, to computers to the internet itself. In these arenas, every decision happens on the micro level—whether it’s an ant or a byte—and patterns are created as a result of these individual actions. As he points out, “While they are capable of remarkably coordinated feats of task allocation, there are no Five-Year Plans in the ant kingdom.”

Ant Colony

antColonyMap

Cities operate in much the same way. People travel through the city in set routes but if you see something interesting just off your route, you swerve. A new shop, a sidewalk café, an art installation. Pretty soon, traffic patterns change. That little bubble is incorporated into the larger whole. Then the next guy comes along and decides he’d like to take advantage of all the new traffic. So he decides to open a business just outside this area—usually because that’s where the rents are low and vacancies are high. And people swerve again. And then the next person comes along and she decides to open up a restaurant and more people swerve. And over time, you’ve created a busy urban street where there wasn’t anything before.

Who plans this? According to Johnson, no one–-and everyone. There is no leader. It’s nothing more than a series of small, independent decisions but together, they become a whole.

So there you have it, folks. Happy swerving!