New York

NathansHotDog.jpg My dad was a two job guy.  We lived in a representative, working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, which was to me, the paradise of the world.  Representative I learned years later meant not just Jewish people, like us, but an equal mix of almost everything else.  The working class is obvious.

My dad worked at a brokerage house on Wall Street as a runner from 9 to 3.  That was his first job.  His second job was at the Morgan Annex branch of the US Post Office, in mid-town Manhattan.  He had started at the PO as a teen-ager, and was in it for the longest possible haul, a modest pension being the carrot at the end of his rainbow.  His hours on that job were 4 pm to mid-night.  He rode the subway to work.  He never owned a car.  Once in a long while he got driven home. 

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baumgartsThere's a place in New Jersey where you can have a New York milkshake with your sushi. Seriously. Baumgart's Café, name aside, is Asian with a quirky edge. I spent hours on their menu and I have to say that you can get anything. There's ice cream, of course, because they started as a soda fountain, but then the fun begins with sesame chicken, pastrami, gazpacho, duck crêpes, fries, salads, wraps, pot pies, an entire sushi menu, all your Chinese favorites, omelets, cappuccino, key lime pie, smoothies, egg creams and root beer floats. Those egg creams say we're not in Kansas. Where we are is across the Hudson in Edgewater.

We're zooming to dinner, as much as anyone gets to zoom which is not very much and certainly not in a New York minute. And not when your GPS lady freezes; I don't know why she freaked as soon as I crossed into New York. From Baumgart's patio, I stare longingly at the Upper West Side, the Empire State Building and all the snazzy real estate since the last time I was here. We love Manhattan even from afar but not too far.

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nathans.jpgMy boyfriend and I have next to no private time. Much to our chagrin we both are currently back in our parent's houses and our date nights generally consist of holing up in his childhood bedroom trying to keep the TiVo at a reasonable volume. Then he got his driver's license. Although this freedom arrived for my suburban friends at around 16, as a native New Yorker being able to drive still seems novel. Clearly we wanted all of our dates thereafter to be road trips.

We thought for our first evening we'd venture out to Coney Island. I had never been, and it seemed there'd be an appropriate balance of kitsch and delicious hot dogs to make for a good time. Naturally our first stop was Nathans. After ordering what seemed like one of everything you can do with a hot dog we settled in at our counter. No sooner had we done this then a young boy who had been stabbed came running in to the open-air restaurant. Panting, he shouted that someone had "knifed" him and that he was being chased. I seemed to be the only one who wasn't aware that this was an everyday occurrence here in South Brooklyn.

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kampucheadiningroom.jpgAlex and I have been dating for almost four months now.  We have shared several meals and conversations together beyond Casa Mono.  As our relationship has settled into a ‘monogamous’ place, we have both expressed fears about reaching a ‘monotonous’ place, – when your boyfriend lives in the same neighborhood, in my case the West side (Chelsea/West Village), every date begins to take place within a twelve block radius – emphasizing the potential for “monotony” (not be confused with monogamy).   And, while the dining options are both vast and enticing, you start to feel like you are placing your relationship under quarantine.  

On a recent Wednesday night, we ventured out.  We took what to us was a somewhat lengthy cab ride to a restaurant on the Lower East Side (Allen and Rivington) and as soon as we stepped out of the cab, there was a breath of relief.  I thought to myself, “We’re not old or boring…we just underestimate taxis.” 

Our destination was Kampuchea, an eatery known partly for being the only Cambodian restaurant in the city.  Needless to say, neither of us are exactly connoisseurs of Cambodian cuisine, but since we were brave enough to leave our neighborhood, our palettes were gung ho for leaving the country altogether.  

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balaboosta-300x199I had one of the top ten dishes of the year today in the middle of what could have been a dreary day. It was raining and I was limping around puddles on my way to a lunch meeting in Soho.

I had just come from the podiatrist, my throbbing foot wrapped to within an inch of its life to protect the plantar fascia, the ligament that goes along my arch to my heel.

I had injured it, as athletes will do, in some moment of extreme competitive zeal, which I cannot at this moment recall. It only hurts when I walk, Mother.

So, I was in pain, I was late, I was wet, I was peckish. Not a good potential lunch partner.

I was meeting two fine fellows who work for my book publisher, so they know their way around a lunch table. They had chosen Balaboosta on Mulberry Street and I’m glad they did.

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