Monday, June 28, 2021

All the Things that I Used to Say, Have Gone Out the Window

I sometimes sit and daydream behind work on these giant steel chaise chairs.  The sky can offer up some amazing portraits.

A Pizza Slice Party
Some might say (in my head), Too many pizza parties this year.  But to that I reply, also in my head, and to no one, 'I've always had this fear that if the world were to end suddenly, that I would be the moron working until 10pm that night and the lights would go out while riding home on my bicycle somewhere in Red Hook, Brooklyn, USA'.  I've worried my strict behavior might rob me of all the fun in life because even though I've done horrible, immoral, lewd, tawdry things in my past, the last 30 years have been severely tame.  And I do believe our civilized world is crumbling a bit and we could be in for some major dire events.  Before anything too earth-changing happens,  I would like to think if nothing else, that I've eaten as much pizza as I wanted in this lifetime.  

I mean, this girl is looking at 60 coming straight at her like a comet.  My 65 year old coworker joked that she had a sex dream about Mark Ruffalo.  First of all, ewww!  I could understand some finding him attractive but his voice makes me mental.  Anyway, in the dream she was only 30 years old and the most gorgeous version of herself.  I said, "I'll do ya one better, about a year ago, I banned myself from appearing in any of my sexual fantasies, period and have replaced me with entirely different people."
Just as having slices of delicious pizza more often because life is not what we thought is a fitting, healthy reaction, within reason, of course.  A celebration of sorts that we are to enjoy our lives when we can and not concern ourselves too much with what we should be doing or could be doing, or what is normal.  Because clearly, normal has gone out the window.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Sign of the Times

In bodegas and carts across New York City, they serve a breakfast sandwich that consists of bacon, egg and cheese on a toasted roll.  It's the workingman's breakfast and is meant to be eaten quickly while peeling back the layers of wax paper that it comes in.  While on a short walk around the neighborhood, P and I split one from our neighborhood bodega that we discovered served a vast array of culinary delights that we never explored before.
Sign of the times, a new neighborhood spot that still doesn't show up on Google maps appeared around the corner that looks like a cocktail bar for Barbie dolls.  Cute though!
When I first moved to New York City back in the 90's, my Virgin Megastore retail coworkers introduced and schooled me on all things New York.  Things you must know, things you should know and secrets to maneuvering the subway and cab systems while heavily intoxicated.  One that I never understood until much later was the famous breakfast sandwich.  The lack of sexy name and look of the greasy sack handed to you by a large, sweaty man in a dirty cart kept me away for some years.  I robbed myself of the perfection that exists in the combination of melted American cheese, scrambled egg and bacon all hugged by this warm, soft roll.  Through the years I've worked at numerous places where the familiar white sack, stuffed with an inordinate amount of napkins, was held while balancing the blue and white deli coffee cup by many coworkers and I would marvel at the speed it was eaten while counting down the time clock. I think back on it today, so fondly because we have lost many bodegas and most definitely many old school food carts that served such delicacies.  

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Suckin' On a Chili Dog

I found some Brioche hot dog buns and froze them for a day like today.  I made chili dogs and salad, served with watermelon and bbq potato chips.  What a delightful summer dinner!  Seems like forever since I made a plate like this and the light slightly sweet bun elevated the dog.   
I hate to give any prudence to my America is over fear, but I can't shake this internal feeling that portions of freedom  have ended in our country, for some of us.  That whole dream of retiring on a lake house with just enough funds to live a small life, eat well and be comfortable before they make glue out of us, seems further and further from my grasp.  I hope to get there.  I try not to consider the future much but the look of the present, leaves me with stark visions.  It doesn't help that I have the most vivid apocalyptic dreams.

I heard the 80's were off the chain in New York, but we're seeing the most brutal, horrific crimes happening in broad daylight on the daily.  The pace of chaos at every turn is intensifying as the country faces new issues, those of which I will not list because it's depressing and long ass. 

Bitch, what does this have to do with festive summer food, you say?!   I don't know, looking at the plate, it feels nostalgic, from a time different then the one we're living in.  This meal also brings to mind where we are right now in history and all these images of the 4th of July and America are slightly skewed.  Last year the holiday was gangs of kids vandalizing the streets of Brooklyn, throwing fireworks from cars, lighting trash cans ablaze.  It was banning of celebrations due to fire hazards because of the droughts in the west.  It was the virus keeping us from gathering, all over.

And again, some lethal combination of politics, media and the inability to socialize, caused a measurable shift in people, that's hard to define.  Some seem ready to throw down on the streets, operating on very short fuses.  I witnessed a quick exchange passing two men on the sidewalk, while on my bike yesterday where one pushed the other and berated him verbally because the older man bumped into the younger guy, by accident.  The old man remained passive and got out of there but it elevated so quickly and neither was drunk or crazy.  The elderly man could have fallen from the shove and been hurt and I pray I would have the guts to stop and help him if he did.

I'm also seeing more subtle examples, like I inadvertently wore a red white and blue colored outfit, of soccer pants and trucker hat in my neighborhood and it took a minute to realize why everyone looked like they wanted to spit on me.  God forbid I become the poster child for patriotism but I find it ugly troubling that this unintentional fashion faux pas prompted such looks of disgust and judgement just for wearing colors that represent our country.  We shouldn't allow ourselves to believe those colors represent negatives, like racism, close mindedness or bigotry.  At the very least they should not spark such repulsion from our educated youth.  You would have thought I was wearing a Creed T-shirt.  

But If Memories Were All I Sang, I'd Rather Drive a Truck

For Juneteenth, I brought my lunch to work.  I'm trying a new stir fry 'no meat' beef.  I added tomatoes and spinach.  The texture is amazing and as long as you don't look at it with your glasses on in the light, it works.  My workplace offered a special menu as a celebration of fried chicken, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, chocolate cake and......watermelon slices.  (queue dramatic orchestral music).  

I read yesterday in the New York Post that there was much dismay in one particular store, with coworkers very upset, threatening to quit and a bunch of walkouts.  I asked our head cook if he heard any similar issues at our location.  He was surprised to hear it and said to me, But you have to understand, This is the food that our people like to eat, so I'm not sure what the problem would be. He looked at me, puzzled and I could tell his feelings were slightly hurt because he cares about the food he serves.  I said, I thinks it's the watermelon because of it's particular connection to the slaves. Some staff found it offensive.  He's black, about my age and when I'm not complimenting his food, we joke at our lockers about how weird the world is getting.  People our age tend to be taken off guard at how huge problems get so quickly. We shake our heads and end a lot of quick talks with, it's crazy out there, be safe, be well.      

The rest of the day I grilled coworkers for their thoughts.  It became, as always such an enlightened Brooklyn take on the subject, meaning, the opposite.  My Chinese coworker right away remarked that for Pan Asian heritage, they simply put a slide on the screen with useless trivia and threw all the Asians together in one week with No food, no celebration!  She went on to say, How hard it is to make some rice or some fuckin shits!?  Her voice is elevating now saying, I don't need to fucking know how many people live in Korea yo, just give me some fucking food!  Yo! but I'll take the time and a half, thank you very much!  Make it a paid holiday like Juneteenth.   

This throws me off a bit, so now I digress remembering, for Latin Heritage month, we barely had anything either.  No screen slide even, just the weirdest taco made with asian spiced meat, broccoli and fake cheese sauce. That's it, no salsa or beans.  And I remember that taco bar was shameful and laughed thinking, I was glad my parents weren't alive to see it.  But even worse, the majority of Latinos working there are Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican, so bad tacos were further off the mark.  It feels silly to complain or have deep thoughts on what my store decides to serve in the staff cafeteria for these holidays.  And of course they fuck it up, we fuck everything up in that store from soup to nuts.

On the other hand, the Mexicans and Central Americans, as well as the Chinese sort of kept this city going foodwise during the pandemic, running the restaurants, produce markets, grocery stores and delivery services.  NO ONE was out there at some points except for these kind folks and at risk to their own families.  But it's ridiculous to expect the store cafeteria to take on the cities job of honoring these silent heroes.  This isn't a backhanded slight to my people, I realize, and come back to the conversation.

My coworker has more to say,  For St Patrick's Day they pulled off that amazing corned beef and cabbage spread that was slow cooked all night, yo.  Rice takes 20 minutes! she said.  The Russian girl starts talking and we all go internal because we can think of no example of Russian food period.  Then, in a simultaneous eruption of fervor, we all made note of the no holds barred, extraordinary celebration of Gay Pride going on as we speak.  We not only have banners, we raised a flag outside with a ceremony, we have table graphics and giant rainbows hanging from our ceiling.  There is a big screen with a tutorial explaining ALL the sexual orientations and a game at the end to make sure they really drilled in all the ways you're to behave and talk around these individuals as if they are suddenly another species entirely, further separating them as far as I see it.  They made actual flags, hundreds, each color represented. Plus, there is a photo booth complete with hats, boas, funny glasses to take photos.  We replace our store bags with rainbow bags.  This will be up for the entire month of June!  As a side note, I found it interesting that even though we have a huge population of LGBTQ+ in the store, no one participated in the photo booth and when I have witnessed folks taking a flag, they pick it up like they're taking holy communion at church all quietly walking back to their seats for some odd reason.  And when is the too colorful, boa wearing flamboyant gay guy portrayal going to be offensive? Any minute.  

So, everyone so far, had more of a 'where is my celebration' angle rather than reacting to the menu faupaux, which is the refreshing thing about Brooklyn, bad or good.  With only a few people, the conversation will quickly grow very lively, loud and boisterous and never stay on point.  I asked the Afro Rican and he was ready with his somber take, It was Horrible!  What an incredible fail for the company.  He was visibly ruffled, which was expected for this person who is a gossip monger, a bully and is very rude to ethnicities that he does not prefer.   I've witnessed this hundreds of times through the years, so it's a little hard for me to be there for his level of righteousness on this subject. He tells us, this has gotten very serious, the president of the company had to made a statement about it and went on to inform us that several people would not eat that day at our store and were very upset.  I asked, Was it....the watermelon, specifically?  Wondering if possibly it was the entire menu.  He went on to tell me the story I had just read verbatim on Google about how owners fed watermelon to their slaves.   

This ends the conversation and we all disperse.   On an issue so sensitive, it does me no good to doubt his sincerity or to notice how some individuals seem to relish in finding new ways to feed their victimized story these days. 

Moe's Bar, a famous local black owned establishment where a white artist paints the black artist themed mural.  

I have to laugh at the irony of it, not for any reason other than because this poor company has gone ALL IN on each and every issue of social integrity.  At this point, we're floating in graphics, posters, banners, takeaways, videos, overhead announcements, walls of information on global warming, racial equality, gender relations, community outreach, diversity, recycling, exercise importance, diet awareness, we have a green roof, an oyster farm on site, a foodbank, they made a waterway park, we're working to be a 100% sustainable, and we have tons of programs to promote mental health.  

Somehow, an amazing summer treat got thrown in a menu by it's own staff and now after the New York Post article, the higher ups at this same company might as well be wearing black face.  The local NAACP is now looking for more acceptable apologies and answers.  And it was a mistake.  That's why it's so funny.  Another reason it could be more funny is that black staff were most likely in on the decision making, we're hearing both sides internally.  The reason it's not funny is that some people truly were offended and hurt.  Our store basically served the exact same thing and most definitely included many black staff.  I'm just saying, it was a mistake.  And hey guess what, we're all dumbbells, as Don Rickles used to say.  This doesn't have to turn into a deliberate racist action ESPECIALLY from a company with such a track record of I would say almost overdoing it on the correctness.  

An unpopular theory of mine is all of this honoring of specific groups started from a good place and was needed, but now perhaps it only serves to keep us centered on all our differences and ways in which we've been mistreated in the past, to continue identifying ourselves by it, which is not where we want to be.

Also, let's face it, one retailer can never please everyone and as we continue to correct more and more questionable stereotypes, it's only going to get much worse.  Soon every single characterization of a group for a celebration will most definitely offend multiple people. That is very clear to forecast and for that reason, I think businesses should stay out of politics altogether.  Or only delve in issues that directly relate to the business, like being green and sustainable.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

We Are the Goon Squad and We're Coming to Town

Moe's Bar built new outdoor seating and is using the side street for smoke BBQ grills!  An excellent idea!  This gives the bar a vibrant, inviting look.  That whole block is trying new things.  The coleslaw, mac and cheese was excellent but the real winner was the jerk chicken that we discovered the next time we tried them.  This time it was drenched in a spicy, not too sweet BBQ sauce that was also awesome tasting, but more traditional. 
A few changes on that block and suddenly it's in fashion again.  Fashion has been a subject lately as this summer did not bloom with hotties in tight clothes and revealing ass cracks as it's done in the previous years.  Instead, we have tons of mom jeans, cut off to above ankle length with homely sneakers.  There are some midriff baring crop tops but most looks were very non-sexual, soft colors.  As if friendly people took over the style this year.  I do love that about the organic progression of fashion.  This year, it's not provocative, its passive.  Even the sistahs have paired the baggier look with chunky eyeglasses and two toned hair and traded their jeweled sandals with pastel high tops.  It's very 80's meets the 90's in the more desolate Pandemic arena.  

Another wild trait of fashion is when a huge shift like this happens, at first it feels so wrong and off putting.  Maybe we noticed the first rumblings in magazines when some model or celebrity a few seasons ago dared to squeeze out of their ultra tight skinny jeans and don this new look.  Immediately, it felt shocking. I wondered why these young, cute girls would willingly look so unattractive with mushroom asses and cut off stubby legs.  But today, it feels very right on and in step with the world somehow.

That happens with fashion I've noticed.  It's what makes the fashion industry legitimate and real, a true part of our culture.  Because it does mirror the mindset of the current time and place.  Perhaps the high-waist, looser cut pant, echos young girls aren't trying to mock the glittery porn star this year.  Hopefully, their goal isn't to snag a guy for a quick role in the hay.  Right before the pandemic we had 13 - 18 year old gals wearing shorts cut high up the cheek and mini skirts that bared an obscene amount of flesh.  They were riding subways, shopping with their parents.   I wondered if that was some new power stance, as men were obviously immediately transfixed by the views, looking around as if someone had left a roll of hundred dollar bills on the street to grab.  It felt dangerous in the city and I felt protective and confused by this vulnerability on display openly.  I couldn't tell if they were trying to provoke or simply oblivious to their new power.   These young women today are of a much lighter mindset, more interesting, smart creatures, perhaps creators, and their style reflects that. 

I have no idea if this is correct.  One day I will get the nerve to ask one of these new gals.  I observe young women like I had noticed old birds watching me in my youth, with some heightened curiosity and affection, but from a distance.  I didn't fully understand it at the time, but I was once the next generation, what is to come.  We all get a chance to handle the whole womanhood thing in our own way.  And it is fascinating to watch.

Then again, there is something spooky hilarious about how the new look is almost this SNL skit to a tee. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Is There Life on Mars?

Honey Mustard Chicken Legs from

A duck family swims in the polluted waters behind work
A wall went up in one swoop for a new building in Red Hook

I have joked that they're doing building wrong here, one wall at a time.  What do I know but it's odd the way they are constructing this new building and I've seen tons of new construction in the last 10 years.  It could have something to do with building on the waterfront.  In any case, I am happy to know more humans will be milling about at night in this desolate area.  The cold barren landscape can feel like Mars in the winters.  In the summer, it's another type of scary element floating about in the dark.  

Just as you can transform boring everyday broccoli spears by roasting them, chicken legs get new life by adding honey and two types of mustard.   

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Non, je ne regrette rien

Taking advantage of a new food truck on the corner that we shunned for awhile because they refused to post any prices except for the chicken wings.  The menu was an odd mix of French.  We wanted to try it but sometimes you have to trust your instincts.  I go by the feel of the exterior and so far had never picked up an inviting vibe.  On the other hand, traditionally I'm horrible at trying new joints, although I love contemplating them.  So, we did it.   
We braved the order window and the impossibly tall blonde French woman that took our order, agreeing that if it was too much money we would kindly bow out and go for our 2nd choice instead of just staying, like we normally do.  No more will I ever sit in a restaurant that does not feel right.  But how nice it would be to eat in Fowler Square under a shady tree, be a part of our community.  P does it all the time, but I tend to seek out places that no one goes.  I deliberately find isolated areas where I can just be by the water, alone.  
We settled on baked mac and cheese, a fried chicken sandwich and pork belly with fried egg.  The latter the most interesting and rich.  The fried chicken was so tender on the inside.  It tasted better than it looked and the coleslaw was on point.  Still, somehow, after a few bites, the party ended.  First of all let me say that we're damn lucky to be eating out at all and I'm grateful for any joy these days, no matter how small.  But how does this happen that excitement quickly turns south?  Maybe we needed a fresh element but within a few moments I realized, I was feeling ill and P was across from me confessing that he HATED the pork belly. 
Here's the funny thing about couples.  We sat in front of the truck and both made a big fuss about how great it tasted, clearly for their benefit because you want the local businesses to thrive and feel good about their offerings.  How pleasant it should have felt to dine al fresco when actually, I was overheating and started to get a headache.   The mac and cheese was so rich with butter that even I could not force myself to eat it all.  I ordered the chicken and P got the pork, so we traded half pieces after I saw him eyeing my sandwich.  
To be fair, I loved the Pork Belly and the Chicken too.  It was just overall not a pleasant experience but in fairness maybe it was just too soon to be outside pretending like the world was normal or the same.  
Still, no regrets and I'm very happy that at least we tried it.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Far, Far Away, In Those City Lights

If you grew up with your mom making Shake and Bake and you find yourself in a big city missing some of that Midwestern magic, you might adopt this little comfort food hack for baked chicken.  Basically, that mysterious little box only contained a highly flavored bread crumb mixture and that's what you'll recreate with Panko crumbs, I use a little corn flour, garlic and onion powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper.  Put it all in a bag and throw the washed chicken pieces in and shake.  If you want to roll them in egg first, even better but not necessary.  In a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes gives you juicy, tender flavorful chicken.   

Another Midwestern feel meal was this Hamburger Breakfast Hash topped with poached eggs and green onions made in a skillet.  

Saturday, June 5, 2021

If You Know You're Loved, Be Secure, Paradise is Love to Be Sure

As we all resurface back into society, the question becomes, how will our big cities bounce back.  They must all undergo a drastic rebound, or change entirely, which is even more exciting.  As I contemplated this with a friend I thought about Spring, the season, how there is a miraculous transformation each year.  But for our cities, it's more like Spring after a major fire burnt everything to the ground, 'cept for a few trees left standing.  New growth must spurt, the usual annuals will not automatically sprout up.  Brooklyn is constantly changing but much of it's charm was in the lived in look of it all, crooked floors and worn out store fronts, the places and fixtures that managed to survive and not change for decades.  Yes, in the past people have moved in and out of those same spaces, but not as quickly. Everything about the borough felt undisturbed from it's natural chaotic rhythms until now.  Seeing so many empty spaces in areas that were vibrant, does leave you understanding how much has changed.  

It's interesting to consider just what makes Brooklyn, Brooklyn.  The people play a major role and they are out there en mass again, but changed.  There is a slew of horrendous crimes happening on the streets in daytime hours with great consistency.  Shootouts in broad daylight, killing of children, very young gun wielding kids maiming innocent bystanders, racist attacks, mothers are....I can't even say what we're reading, it's too heartbreaking.  Subway attacks, pushing riders off platforms, muggings are back. Drivers are hitting people on purpose, a bus driver with passengers drove right into a house in a rage, cars are treating traffic lights like a suggestion.  Trucks are bullying bike lanes in a way that tells me, safety is now a much bigger issue.  These are more in number and more in frequency to where it's the top 5 stories every day on my homepage.  Walking outside, you see it, some people are ready to pop off in a violent, scary way.  So city dwellers  are not only suffering the scars of the past year but also very cautious about what lurks out in the world for us now.  For me, it's too soon to feel celebratory, or even to fully assess the damage because it's still happening.  I'm sure portions of this exist in every town.
But we do celebrate, as best we can, quietly in our apartment with laughter, music, movies and story telling. And of course, food.  A pack of thin flatbread proved an excellent buy.  Broccoli, mushrooms, onion and sausage topped these cheap vessels for a quick hand held lunch. 
For breakfast potatoes, poached eggs and bacon eaten with coffee and conversation.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Oh, the Water

There is so much garbage floating in the stagnant waters behind work this week. It's been this way for about 11 days.  It's as if the water forgot how to keep moving.  It's not good.  Standing at the pier, leads me to think of this year's extreme drought conditions in the west, and warming waters, bacteria growing, garbage, lack of oxygen, disease.  Boy the mind can really catch momentum with all the real fears it has to work with these days.  I felt so bad for the ducks that were forced to feed and swim in these waters.  I can't look them in the eye, feeling shame, knowing this is all man-made awfulness that they must live in.  The good thing is ducks rarely want to look you in the eyes.  Geese, are a different story. 
I was so happy to focus on the wild flowers growing in the community garden.  When left alone, all the beauty that nature brings with just a few rain showers in the spring is magnificent. 

I also obsess a bit with these locked up garden spaces that become like art exhibits.  This particular one is in Red Hook and grows wild mint that I come to pick before heading in and stash leaves in my pocket to suck on.  I have to reach my hand in between the fence wire to grab it.  The herb keeps me calm when dealing with humans.  
At work even though I had brought my lunch, I took advantage of the free cheese burger!  I was going to wait for the new batch of fries to come out but the guy that works the staff cafeteria is mentally impaired and I could see he was becoming agitated coping with the inability to finish serving my order before starting the next person, so I just settled for the chips.  Lately I feel very aware of being a sloppy, privileged human. 

Finally, a big storm to wash all the stank away