Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Going through the photos I keep in the "Pictures I Like" folder on my laptop and rediscovered this one (Oscar de la Renta, 2010).

It is pretty and shiny and I wanted to share it with you pretty, shiny, people. (And then maybe you will feel morally required to share it with me in return and let me wear it at least once if you ever own it.)

Probably it costs about the same as a pony, but looking is free.

Cliff & I are going to brave the crowds and rain tonight to try to go to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting. I am acutely aware of the fact that there are many things in this city that will either be totally excellent or "never again", and it's impossible to know which is which before I do them.

A question: if you were going to take someone on a tour of your childhood, where would you go? What would you do?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

on boat-cake, poetry

There are places in this world that make me reflexively lower my voice, not only out of respect, but to reflect the sense of quiet that comes over me. Poets House is one of those places.

(Photo from their website.)

I've mentioned to some of you that I was the lucky recipient of a membership card as a gift. Before that, I had heard of the place and thought, "Hmm, I should go there sometime." -- and then, of course, didn't. They run some fantastic events, many of which involve the winning combination of poetry, wine, and cheese. I've been to a few readings there, most notably Kathleen Norris, who read some of her own poems and talked about theology in poetry. I also went to see a Greek avant-garde poet named Demosthenes Agrafiotis, whose work didn't particularly speak to me, but I appreciate the conversations about poetry translation that it sparked. (So many people dismiss translating poetry as something worthless, and it's such a loss. There's so much to be gained, for poets, translators, readers, and most of all, those with some amount of overlap in those categories.)

Anyway, I have been remiss in taking advantage of their beautiful library, so Monica and I went today to read and take in the beautiful Battery Park sunset across the street. (I can't believe that no one has photographed this and documented it online for posterity. It is a thing of beauty. I suppose that's a nudge that I should start carrying my camera around more, and maybe eventually get one that actually takes non-blurry pictures in less-than-perfect lighting.) I wish this library were open all the time -- nothing could possibly be better for my mental health. I don't know how to describe it -- the closest I can come is that it feels like stepping into a huge cathedral with stained glass windows letting in lots of light through the rafters, except without the cathedral or the stained glass windows or the rafters. (With the light, though.)

I also want to plug my new favorite brunch place, which is such a hidden gem that it doesn't even have a single Yelp! review. I don't even have a Yelp! account and now I am considering signing up just so I can leave a glowing review. I was initially reluctant to go to Bay Ridge to meet up and have coffee before heading the opposite direction toward Battery Park -- I mean, there's coffee everywhere in Manhattan, right? -- but when neither of us could come up with an idea of where to go close to Poets House, we decided to try this place in Bay Ridge that Monica had longingly walked past a number of times.

We were only going to have coffee. We really were. Then, we looked at the menu.

And we wanted to eat ALL THE THINGS. Pancakes (dark chocolate chips? bananas foster? strawberries & nutella? vanilla with pear? dear Jesus the options -- and I am not taking the Lord's name in vain here because this was my honest prayer -- dear Jesus the options. And I'm only through the pancake part of things), waffles, breakfast burritos, eggs benedict, and the most amazing sounding burger ever with bacon and cheese and "secret barbecue sauce" (I am a barbecue sauce connoisseur, so the concept of "secret barbecue sauce" is particularly intriguing. It's like they know me). We had to tell the waitress that we needed more time to decide approximately five times. Finally, I decided on the secret magic delicious burger and promised myself to eat the vanilla-pancake with pear at a future date, and Monica and her sister decided the best way to solve delicious-menu deer-in-the-headlights was to order one eggs benedict and one breakfast burrito, cut each in half and swap. Done and done.

Oh, and you can get anything on this delicious brunch menu, plus unlimited (or at least we were never told "no more") coffee and an adorably-sized glass of orange juice for $9.95. I'm so unbelievably stoked. I promise no one is paying me to write this. (Though if you were to give me $9.95 to taste test anything on the menu for you, I would totally do it. Special offer, dudes!) I will say, though, that the restaurant is gigantic and although there were other people there, there was no wait and plenty of open tables, which is a little worrisome during prime brunch hours. So, I will continue to support delicious brunch and I'll totally go there with you probably, depending on who you are.

The restaurant is:

Huckleberry's NY
8901 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11209

To get there, take the R-train to 86th St. in Bay Ridge. Huckleberry's is on 3rd Ave. between 88th and 89th Streets. (I learned via Google just now that there is also a bar in Williamsburg called Huckleberry's -- don't let the hipsters lead you astray. Bay Ridge, not Williamsburg.)

Today was my first trip to Bay Ridge and if, in a decade or two, I start talking about wanting to move to Staten Island and buy a house, I would like all of you to collectively remind me that Bay Ridge is both much prettier and more accessible via public transportation than Staten Island, and that there are houses in Bay Ridge, too.

I made my first real trip to Staten Island last night, and by real I mean "with a destination" rather than taking the ferry for fun (and it actually is really fun, taking it for fun -- great views of the skyline and Statue of Liberty, plus it's free and you get to be on a boat like T-Pain). Cliff and I went to visit our friend John, and I'd just like to illustrate what this trip entailed:

* Taking the subway to the ferry (about 40 minutes)
* Waiting for the ferry, which runs every half hour and then cuts down to once an hour late at night (about 20 minutes)
* Taking the ferry (about 25 minutes)
* Waiting for the bus, which we just barely missed (about 30 minutes)
* Taking the bus (about 30 minutes)
* Walking from the bus stop (about 15 minutes)

By the time we got there we were cold and desperately in need of beer and a warm puppy. Thankfully, both of these were in the house when we arrived. (My brain switched onto OMG PUPPEH mode for basically the whole night.) We played MarioKart on the Wii and I proclaimed that Baby Mario is not a real character (which is a statement I wholeheartedly stand by the next day, despite the amusement of my compatriots), and generally had a great time.

My goal was to get home by 3:00 a.m. so I wouldn't be comatose for coffee-and-poetry today. John told us that the ferry left at 1:30, so we left the party at 12:45 to catch the bus. We waited and waited, and still no bus -- so, still hoping to catch the 1:30 ferry, we called a cab, which shockingly told us it would take 15 minutes to get there (normally it's more like 5). All of the businesses by the freezing-cold bus stop were closed, and we stared longingly at a pizza place at which we would had been enthusiastic patrons had it not decided to forsake us and remain closed.

Finally, we saw a cab across the street and jumped in.

"Wait, did you call? Is this the pick-up at [name of bar I can't remember]?" the cabbie asked.

"Yes, that's us," I said, noting that the bar was almost right at the intersection that we'd specified.

The cabbie had the world's most-leisurely radio conversation with another cabbie that established that this wasn't actually our cab, and that ours was coming in a few minutes. However, since this cab's customers were nowhere to be seen, he would drive us and let the second cab get the second group of people.

This was at 1:21. We wanted to make the 1:30 ferry. If we didn't, we'd be stuck at the ferry terminal until 2:30, and I probably wouldn't go home until about 4.

It was on.

Cliff asked the cabbie how much it was going to be to the ferry terminal, and we began to assemble our collective ten dollars plus tip.

"Here, hand me the money," I told Cliff. "I'll pay him while you open the door. You ready to run?"

We further elaborated on our plans in hushed breaths. Meanwhile, the cabbie turned up the radio so that "Little Drummer Boy" was blasting. Not exactly an ideal soundtrack for a high-speed car chase, perhaps.

The minutes ticked by. When we pulled out in front of the ferry terminal, it was 1:29. I handed the cabbie the money and told him good night while Cliff opened the car-door. All according to plan, so far.

Then we sprinted flat-out like we were in an action movie, dodging slowpokes with shopping bags.

When we reached the lobby area, we slowed to a walk and looked around. There were plenty of people there -- mostly sitting calmly while homeless people slept on the benches. It certainly didn't seem like we'd just missed it -- but people weren't standing to board, either. Curioser and curioser.

Bemused, we approached the ferry schedule.

2:00. Not 1:30. We had been misinformed.

(So anyway, we did catch the ferry, and I made it home by 3. But we totally could be in action movies and do our own stunts. Especially if they involved running to catch the ferry like Staten Island tourists, which I guess we are, since we don't live there and all.)

Also, I am developing new life rules for myself. One of them is to never do laundry on a weekend (it ends up eating up your entire day -- weekday evenings are much less brutal). The other is never dating anyone who, when you suggest that he bring "boat cake" along on an evening adventure, doesn't show up with beautifully-tinfoil-wrapped leftover chocolate cake and sweet-potato pie from Thanksgiving plus an equally-beautifully-tinfoil-wrapped fork with which to eat it. (That sentence got a bit overly-complicated, so suffice to say -- Cliff brings me cake to eat on boats and that is one of many things that makes him a good, good man.)

I am writing ALL THE THINGS tonight to make up for only updating once all month. Here is a summary for the sake of brevity and thankfulness for those who are still reading (hi Mom):

* My mom in Wisconsin won two tickets to Promises, Promises on Broadway. Cliff & I went and had an awesome time, and waited at stage door to talk to Kristin Chenoweth, Sean Hayes, and Molly Shannon and get my t-shirt and tote bag (also courtesy of Mom's winnings) autographed. Everybody was super friendly, especially Molly Shannon. Kristin Chenoweth was even tinier than I expected, and she came out with a bodyguard who started acting gruff when some fans wanted to videotape Kristin saying hello to their friends. She was calm about it though, saying she couldn't because she has had creepy stalkers who manipulate her videos to make her say gross things.

* My apartment building just put up Christmas lights and they are beautiful. I will take a picture when it's not cold outside and warm in my room. So, probably never. (Just kidding. I will take one, eventually. Probably.)

* I am really into the poet Suzanne Gardinier lately, who is also a Sarah Lawrence professor and a lovely human being. Her book Dialogue with the Archipelago is heart-stoppingly beautiful. It combines Greek mythology with the story of the Garden of Eden, and interweaves it with stories about relationships in a series of related poems and dialogues. My favorite are her short poems, some of which are like a really awesome punch in the gut. I once described a friend's music as making me homesick for places I haven't been yet -- that's how I feel about Suzanne's poems. (After being out all day, I am enjoying my evening by finishing the book while drinking peach schnapps with Trader Joe's orange-peach-mango juice. I am a genius.)

* I met Cliff's whole family for Thanksgiving! Nothing exploded, and we ate a lot of delicious food and then spiked the punch with Malibu. All in all, totally fantastic. Also, I love that Thanksgiving is the gift that keeps on giving -- not only did we eat far too much, but we also took home plates to eat for lunch the next day AND boat-cake. (I may need to go back on The Cake Diet in preparation for winter.)

* I also heard the poet Cate Marvin read at a friend's reading series and I can't wait to read her book, Fragment of a Head of a Queen, which I immediately put on reserve at the Brooklyn Public Library after hearing her read. I really enjoyed seeing her poems projected on the screen, since she does such gorgeous work aesthetically.

The title of the book is inspired by this sculpture, on display at the Met:

I think once I get the book, I will take it to the Met and read while I visit the sculpture. That sounds like a great day, doesn't it?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Like many people, I had come to New York City with this idea that I was somehow extraordinary. The important part wasn't "extraordinary," it was "somehow" -- I wasn't quite sure what kind of renown it was, exactly, that I was destined for. I just knew that I was really good at something, or that I could be, if I could just figure out what. Free-floating ambition is toxic because it means that anyone who has accomplished anything in any realm of human endeavor is the enemy because she might be your competition. So you hate everyone a little bit, but behind this wall of hatred you still feel vulnerable. And you are vulnerable, but not because of the competition. You're vulnerable because if anyone points you in anything that seems like a direction, that's where you'll go.

-- Emily Gould, And the Heart Says Whatever

The book as a whole left me wanting something that it didn't quite deliver, but there were a few parts that particularly resonated. I think it's one of the saddest books I've ever read.