In Which a Diversity of Asian Cuisine is Eaten

I didn’t really think about it until just now as I sat down to write this, but I seem to have taken a tour of Asia this week without ever leaving New York. I started with an indulgent three hour Murakami session on a bench by the river in the heat of a Tuesday night. But it wasn’t my usual Murakami, no, this was Ryu not Haruki and it was a whole new level. I would dare to suggest, that Ryu is the Quentin Tarantino of Murakamis, and when the spine doesn’t specify a first name, you may be in for quite a shock. In contrast to Haruki’s bizarre but ultimately delightful surrealism, Ryu is dark and occasionally a bit sickening and scary. It was an interesting three hours and by the end I’d devoured a book whole, a pair of fishermen had cast their rods at least a few dozen times each, and all of the fish in the river had swum away unaffected.

The following day, I took a pivot to Southeast Asia when Chuck and I stopped by the Thai place across from dance to scarf down dinner before I bounded off to Ripley Grier for another amazing class with Karel Flores. There is just nothing in the world half so satisfying as being absolutely destroyed by a dance class, and Karel has an uncanny way of orchestrating just that. Even when the moves are manageable, the speed just takes your breath away, literally. And that’s how I ended up at Westie, soaked in sweat and absolutely giddy. Endorphins are a spectacular drug. So spectacular in fact that I was still bouncing all the way to the train at the end of the night.

Having conquered hump day in fantastic style, I wandered through Thursday and right on into the square to meet Chuck at the library. We grabbed falafel at Mamoun’s and jumped on a train north to the Metropolitan Opera. Uncharacteristically for me, we arrived stylishly not-early and found our seats just in time for the show. Some day I will be comfortable with just-in-time arrivals, until then, I am learning. There were no arias and no sopranos only Tchaikovsky and prima ballerinas. Somewhat to my chagrin, they were not perfectly in synch, but their cannons were divine and dancer who played Von Rothbart had an incredible crispness of movement.

And then it was off to the Heights to catch a few Zs before we finally found our way into Friday. Which brings me to the next stop in my Asian culinary tour on Friday when we met friends at a Vietnamese place near my apartment. We ate cllllllllll the vermicelli and at least a few spring rolls before a change of scenery to the dark and quirky basement bar that is Nitecap. Our waiter was a hipster of the friendly but a small bit odd variety who relished in telling us all about carcinogens and things that aren’t really carcinogens just triggers for a natural predisposition before hurrying off to fetch our drinks which were both equally odd and utterly divine.

My drink was the Rendezvous in Chennai which was somewhere deliciously lost between lassi, curry, and chai. It was also made with gin. I might have fallen in love.

As soon as we finished our drinks we hoped in an Uber to Jersey to chat with another friend for a bit before eventually wandering our way back to the LES to sleep.

Saturday was hot and lazy and I, by some insane fluke, managed to get groceries! I might have bribed myself with dumplings and Doughnut Plant, but I did also buy groceries so I think I get credit for that. Let’s not talk about the rest of the day which I spent lounging around reading.

Sunday followed rather the same mould as Saturday, but by mid-afternoon I decided to get myself out into the sunshine to finally cave and purchase a set of sheets that actually fit my bed. Yes, real adult that I am, I’ve been using queen sheets on a double bed for about eight months. So I finally set out to a home store in hopes of finding affordable black sheets to match my quilt. Pro Tip: Crate & Barrel is not that place. Bed, Bath & Beyond on the other hand, well I now have black cotton sheets with a decent thread count that actually fit my bed. I consider it a triumph despite the amount of sweating that ensued as I dragged my prize halfway across the city after being foiled by a re-routed F train that said did not deign to stop where it normally does.

After a few hours of blessed air conditioning, we headed back into Midtown to meet Heik and his girlfriend for Bonchon and thus rounded out my tour d’asie with crispy spicy Korean fried chicken. We laughed, we chatted, we went to Schmackery’s for giant cookies and then we parted ways and all went home to bed. It was a lovely night.

Today however, I woke up impressively tired thanks to my wroth filled spine and its unwillingness to ever let me sleep. I’m never sure who starts the game but whether it’s my left hip or right shoulder that provokes it, the other always follows quickly and soon I’m a crippled agonized mess. So I finally caved and booked a chiropractic appointment. If I’m still here writing next week, we’ll know he didn’t break me.

So as I sat cursing my ill tempered body at my desk I ended up staying a bit late at work only to find that in that one extra hour it had gone from a perfectly average sunny summer day to an absolute torrential downpour. In the 30 second journey from the door of my building to the subway I was soaked to the skin and deafened by the thunder. When I emerged from the train in the LES however, the rain had abated so I decided to stop by my favourite pizza place for a slice. I was standing in the shop waiting while they heated up my slice when suddenly I saw raindrops and they were getting thicker. I advised the staff that cold pizza was just fine, grabbed the box, and ran. I did not beat the onslaught of water, but I did get in the door before my pizza box turned to mush so I will call it a win.

And now I’m sitting in my room listening contentedly to the thunder with a belly full of pizza. Overall, life’s pretty alright.

Storm watching from a 6th floor window,
The Salsa Girl


In Which the Summer Appears to Maybe, Kinda Sorta, be on it’s Way

Finally! FINALLY! We might, maybe be getting within shouting distance of summer. I don’t want to jinx it, but after two days of 90˚F and another two promised, I am almost ready to believe that summer might be in the cards after all. As I sit here eating ice cream and basking in the heat, I guess I owe you all a blog.

So let’s wander back to Wednesday when we found our way, as usual to Excellent Dumpling House, but this time we branched out. We only ordered one tray of dumplings and decided to try some fried noodles, ramen, and tofu. It was tasty enough—especially for the chef’s first attempt at ramen—but I think next time we’ll dawdle back towards the dim sum. I guess when it’s called Excellent Dumpling House, it should be pretty obvious that the thing you ought to order is dumplings. And then after dumplings, it was off to dance and eventually back home to sleep.

Thursday was another day of dance, but first it was happy hour with colleagues in the french cafe below our office. It was a small group but the conversation was good, the drinks were strong, and the servers all spoke French—it was the perfect appetizer for another night of salsa at the Brooklyn Museum.

As always it was an entertaining evening with fun shows, fun dances, and a beautiful, if somewhat less than acoustically ideal, space. Around 9pm, as my feet got tired from the concrete, I climbed back on a train and headed home.

And then, just as quickly as the week had begun, it was over and I was somersaulting into the warm weekend in brash, flashy New York style! I spent an hour enjoying the sun in the park before being joined by Chuck for dumplings and some more sitting in the sun before we bounced whimsically into Midtown to see if we could catch a show. And we did! There’s something fantastically stylish about buying tickets literally as the show is meant to be starting in order to catch a one off, unfilmed, multimedia spectacular also known as Pop-Up Magazine. There was live music, comedy, absurdity, touching stories of humanity and truth. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to catch one of their shows, do! Even if you do only manage to get your tickets at the last possible second.

Following the show, we met up with Chuck’s buddy and his date and moseyed through Midtown to a pub where wings were eaten and whiskey quaffed. There we sat, chatting the night away until sometime after midnight and I felt, despite my general lack of fashion, incredibly stylish.

The next morning we did get up, but not until after 11 when my caffeine needs peeled me out of bed in search of coffee. After a cup of coffee and a bowl of muesli, we may or may not have allowed the couch to swallow us whole and much of the rest of the afternoon somehow ended up turning into a nap. We eventually found our way out of the upholstery but only after the call of $1 oysters got too loud to ignore.

We hopped a train down to the LES and nestled into the inimitable Ten Bells for a stupid quantity of oysters, a cheap glass of dine, and las papas bravas. It really is one of my favourite bars in the city. It might not have a rooftop, but it does have antique tin panelled ceilings, charming servers, and an amazing happy hour vibe. Having eaten round about eight oysters each we stumbled out into the sun for a bit before joining another dance friend for more dumplings in the park before another night of dance.

I tend to prefer the Wednesday Westie over the Saturday, but this Saturday we got the big room and that made one heck of a difference. Things were marching along quite well indeed before I found myself winkled out of a corner and dragged into the middle of the room to partake in a strictly competition. I will not say that I was delighted, but I survived, they didn’t actually give ranks or scores, and so I shall move on as gracefully as possible.

Sunday morning, I rolled lazily out of bed and lounged about until noon when it was time to head out into the heat to lunch with yet another dance friend. We had planned to go to the oyster bar in Grand Central but they seem to be closed on Sundays so we ended up at a quaint oyster joint in Chelsea, and since it was only in Chelsea, I walked. The sun was hot and I was sweltering in shorts and about half a shirt. I can see why this becomes a city of braless women in the summer. It’s entirely too hot for extra padding.

Around about 28th Street, I met Chuck and Kevin in front of the restaurant and we headed into to find ourselves right in the middle of Sisters’ Drag Brunch. It was divine! We ate oysters and burgers and crab cake hollandaise and as if the food wasn’t already insanely delicious, it was accompanied by two sassy, energetic queens singing everything from Katy Perry to honest to goodness opera. Yes, Gilda Wabbit is a classically trained opera singer and Gina Tonic is just a ball of beautiful cotton candy coloured hair and all the energy! It was an insanely good time.

Perhaps inspired by our entertainment filled Sunday lunch, we then set off in search of a costume store with hopes of cheap, fun wigs. We didn’t find any that were quite in our price range but we did enjoy the hats and boas and all the delicious campy party gear. And so we’ll be going to Amazon for the wigs and leave the party stores for amusement alone.

And then it was home to do laundry, buy groceries, and attempt to be responsible. I sort of succeeded? I spent too much money on groceries but I now have healthy, fresh food prepped for the entire week! Is this an adult I see in the mirror? Unlikely, but we can dream.

Today, I got off work, ate a nice chilled salad and headed up to the law school to be inspired. Peter Sellars spoke on inter-cultural exchange, art, and all things wonderfully East and West. I wish I could do it more justice, but as with so many of these things that move me, I cannot put it into words so I’ll leave you with a quote:

“The test of being human: how do you hear what people are not telling you.”

And as I floated away on a cloud of inspiration, I kind of accidentally maybe fell into the library and might have maybe gotten lost and come across the Murakami and the Chinese literature. And don’t look now, but I might have a stack of eight shiny new-to-me books sitting on my table right now. Shhhh, say nothing.

Drowning happily in books,
The Salsa Girl

In Which Summer Continues to Elude

I keep hoping that somehow we will get a summer, and the weather has been teasing a bit with slivers of warmth and sunlight, but for the most part it’s been cold, drizzly, and really quite frustrating. But of course that didn’t stop the shenanigans—I had guests to entertain.

On Tuesday I left work and turned towards Midtown where I met Mom and Janis at The Playwright. Yes, we had ended up at one of the infinitely many Midtown Irish bars. I haven’t made a study of it, but I’d wager there are more Irish bars in Manhattan than in all of Ireland. It’s a veritable obsession here, but blessedly most at least seem to be run by actual Irish people who can pull a half decent pint. After eating our giant plates of pub food, Janis and Mom headed off to the theatre and I, lazy thing that I am, went home to lounge around in bed and read. If I’m perfectly honest, lying around reading in bed is definitely in my top ten favourite ways to spend an evening. I guess I’ll always be a librarian at heart.

The following day we met Chuck on the sunny steps of the Post Office next to Penn and set off for supper. We had intended to try a Peruvian place but it was terrifically busy and only had a pending food safety grade so we headed next door to a Thai place that has fed many a dancer without any evidence of illness. There was an awful lot of mango and avocado on that menu and somehow I didn’t end up with any of either. What can y’do? Once fed we headed off to dance where Janis and Mom learned a bit about west coast swing and hopefully had a nice time before they headed back home and I carried on dancing.

Come Thursday while my charges were out on a night tour, I took the opportunity to pass out at home and attempt to offset my current round of insomnia with an early night. The results were mixed.

Finally it was Friday and I wandered out of work and into Nolita in search of that ambrosial liquid: wine. It’s not often you see somewhere in New York with 4.9 stars on Google Maps, but Nolita Wine Merchants is one of those rare beasts that do. It was a simple store but the staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and amusingly excited about their picks. I left with a red from France near Switzerland, a white from the heel of Italy, and a rather large stupid grin on my face. I so enjoy sales people who are passionate about what they sell.

Shortly thereafter, my wine and I were running for the Path train with Chuck to visit friends in Jersey City for supper. They just moved into a terribly posh apartment and had invited us over to see it. To contextualize, we got lost in the lobby and were “helped” by the most hipster barista I have ever encountered. “Um, where do we find the lobby?” “mhm.” “Oh, so this is the lobby?” “mhm.”

We only wandered around for a few minutes before eventually finding the Information desk where we were at last given directions to where the coffeeshop/lounge space turned into an actual apartment building. When we finally outwitted the ever so high tech door (someone let us in as they were leaving), we found ourselves before one of those hideously clever elevator banks that ask you where you want to go, make a few optimization calculations, and then send you to a specific elevator that will take you most efficiently to your floor. There ain’t nothing like a buttonless elevator to unnerve a person. Bonus points, this one tells you what floor it will be stopping on by illuminating sections of an art piece on the wall which just happens to contain the numbers from 1 to how ever many floors there are.

But once you wrangle all the high tech, it’s pure minimalist luxury with a view of midtown, a pool, a roof deck, and all the accoutrements of the good life. For our part, we sat on the floor and ate a wonderful meal of salmon, zucchini, and potatoes paired with probably too much of those lovely Nolita wines. I hate to go on, but I really must tell you about the one. I had never previously had a Poulsard but the salesperson had been so terribly excited about it and it was on sale, so I went for it and I have no regrets whatsoever! It was a light red with bright berry flavours and an almost peppery body with hints of heaven only knows what. It was heaven in a glass and I might need more.

And there we sat in a wine haze, at the edge of a food coma, with the lights of Manhattan gleaming out the window beside us until nearly 2am when we headed back to the Path that carried us into the city to sleep.

The next morning we were up at 10 to meet mom in the local cafe where we slurped down our caffeine in matcha form before drifting down to Ceci-Cela for their inimitable pastries. We then picked up Janis and hopped on the train with ambitions of Prospect Park. Right about the time the train whipped through the Prospect Ave station without even a hint of deceleration, I began to sense that something was amiss. This is why, no matter what app you follow, come the weekend in New York, it’s The Weekender or sheer disaster on the trains.

When we finally made it to the park, we found it chockablock full of families, dogs, and sports. Mom and Janis took the grand self-guided tour de parque while Chuck and I contentedly passed out on the lawn. Contentedly that is, until we were nearly mown down by a swarming herd of small ones. They had been playing baseball, but then the game ended and the parents weren’t ready to reintroduce their children to the confines of their flat, so the dads got a game of football going and there ain’t nothing like a whole crew of excited 6 year olds playing football to create chaos.

Once Mom and Janis had finished with the park, we headed to my favourite bagel shop for lunch. I found the place on my first week in Brooklyn and by god is it ever good! The prices are right, the menu is extensive, and the bagels are hand-rolled perfection. If you’re ever in Windsor Terrace with an empty tummy, Terrace Bagels is the place to go. I had a breakfast bagel and left terrifically full and not a bit hungry.

From one park to another we then caught a train up to 57th where we made a quick stop at both the Carnegie Hall and the Plaza Hotel before finding our way into Central Park. It seems all the brides come out in June. Within five minutes of entering the park we had seen three different wedding parties and would continue to see more the duration of the day.

As we wandered Northwards we were amused by the rowboats—some of which were blowing through the water stern first with rowers who seemed none the wiser, relaxed by the Ramble, and delighted by a roller skating party that surpassed all expectations for roller skating in the park. The bulk of the people participating were 50+ and they were not just roller blading around, they were dancing! It was a total party scene and all these middle aged folks were out rocking out like I’m sure they did as teenagers and young adults. It was a beautiful thing to see and many of them were insanely skillful as they glided and bopped around on their ancient roller skates.

After more wandering and a wide range of happy dogs, I left Janis and Mom to attend a free concert while I headed home. Before I even got out of the park, however, I was distracted by open air argentine tango. The majority of the folks there fell on the average side of the dance world, but there were a few who were just divine, so I sat and I watched, and sometime later I eventually peeled my bottom off the bench and went home to put food in my face and sleep.

Sunday morning saw me up bright and early for breakfast with Mom. We were up so early that most of the brunch spots still hadn’t opened their doors, fortunately Russ & Daughters Cafe had. We cozied into the retro diner decorated space and settled into a feast of Jewish cuisine. Mom had an omelet with onions and lox which somehow tasted so much better than all those things normally do when combined. For my own part I ate latkes, fried egg, and lox. Between these eggy, salmony delights, we also munched on bagels, bialys, challah, and rye. And then in a mighty fit of whimsy we tried the drinks. Mom had an egg cream which is essentially milk mixed with seltzer and I had a cucumber soda. Both were unexpectedly delicious.

We spent the rest of the morning chatting at my place before wandering over to meet Janis and conduct a quick tour of the LES. We ate North Dumplings, visited the Pickle Guys and Kossar’s, Doughnut Plant and Economy Candy. Outside Economy Candy I actually saw the guide who’s route I’ve stolen with only the smallest variations, and I did feel a small bit sheepish, but he neither recognized me nor seemed to find me suspicious so I carried quietly on.

And then it was on to Russ and Daughters Appetizing Shop before Mom and Janis headed into Midtown to catch a show.

I caught up with them again a few hours later for a wander into Hell’s Kitchen in search of Peruvian. We ended up in the highly reviewed Pio Pio 8 which from an unassuming entryway opened into a giant basement with twig lined walls, brown paper clad tables, loud music, and an aura of trendiness nearly to thick to penetrate. Normally “trendy” tends to turn me off, but when you can get 1/4 of a rotisserie chicken and a giant plate of tostones for $10? Well count me in! And it was downright delicious with such a savoury crispy skin! From there we moseyed on down to Bryant Park where we stumbled on a MAC launch with flashing lights, salsa dancers, and glitter galore! And then it was time to get my guests off to the Rockefeller and I was off to the Heights.

Monday morning began with a longer than usual commute and ended with a looming migraine and a pile of pastrami. It was one of those days with high humidity and low cloud and by mid afternoon I was steeping in a mountain of nausea and neck tension that could only possibly mean migraine. I bailed out of my evening obligations and crashed into bed for an hour and a half long nap. Somewhere out the other side, I was functional but in no way ready for excitement so we set salsa aside, and headed to Katz for comfort food and deliciousness. There is just no pastrami like Katz pastrami! And then it was home to bed to sleep of the dregs of the migraine.

Today was mad busy followed by mad frustrating followed by mad excellent. I left work in a cloud of papers and ran to the optometrist to get my contacts checked only to find that my optometrist is no longer “in-network” so I can’t use my insurance to buy contacts from them. Charming, right? So then I spent an hour sorting out where on earth to buy my lenses. Fortunately, my evening quickly looked up as I met a dance friend for dinner at an oh so trendy little Mexican joint. We got in on account of a cancelation and filled up on tequila drinks blended with corn puree, fish tacos, spicy shrimps sandwiches, and succotash! And it’s the cutest little restaurant too with paper cuttings strung from the ceiling like Tibetan prayer flags and the most charming, attentive servers.

Come time to clear out for the next reservation, we wandered back to my friend’s flat for tea and gossip until after 11:00 which is why this is coming to you so very late. Please believe that the delay was necessary to my sanity and health?

Late but not forgotten,
The Salsa Girl

In Which There are Visitors

Just when the dust cleared from my last batch of visitors, some Californians trotted into town and hot on their heels, a couple of Canadians. So things have been busy and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable. So what exactly have I been doing to keep so busy? To be honest, mostly food.

On Tuesday we took advantage of the smaller queues on a weekday evening and finally tasted the absurdly popular Tim Ho Wan. It was good but if I’m perfectly honest, it wasn’t all that much better than Jing Fong and since it is possible to get a table in Jing Fong on a weekend around the actual dim sum hour, I might steer my loyalties thusly. I do have to give it to them though, their steamed cake was absolutely stunning and I’ve never had one even half so good anywhere else. So yes to the steamed cake, no to the queueing. Whether or not I shall ever return remains to be decided.

Following food, we wandered down through the East Village towards my neck of the culinary woods. It was a peaceful walk down treelined streets that ended delightfully enough in a Doughnut Plant where we shared two tasty doughnuts before plopping our bottoms down on a bench in Seward Park. It was a bit of a quiet night in the park, peaceful and cool, and very soon accompanied by the inimitable North Dumplings.

Just as it was getting dark, we hopped on the bus that swept us across Chinatown and down to the Staten Island Ferry. We caught it at the perfect moment. Just as we pulled out of the berth, the sky caught flame. It was a brilliant blaze of scarlet and indigo painted across the horizon behind Jersey City. It was, with full awareness of the cliche, just like a movie as we leaned over the rail and gazed at the fleeting trails of the descending sun. It was indescribable.

The following night, I traded food for education and attended a two hour class on Python for data scientists. It was more of a lecture than a class but the material was slid and now I have a whole slide deck of things to pretend that I’m going to learn just as soon as I have a second in which to do so. Afterwards I went to dance.

On Thursday, somewhere between work and pouring rain, my mom arrived in the city for almost two weeks of adventure. We started her New York holiday with spicy delicious Sri Lankan Kottu from Kottu House a mere half block from my apartment. With our mouths on fire, we then wandered over to the Cocoa Bar where we ate ridiculous desserts and drank exotic hot chocolate. I had a cassis and white chocolate mousse cake paired with a matcha white hot chocolate while mom had a cinnamon hot chocolate and a chocolate dipped coconut macaroon.

The next day, having taken the day off work, we started the day with breakfast at Egg Shop where I ate a deliciously bizarre sandwich composed of fried egg, fried chicken, picked carrots and cucumber and some manner of heavenly aioli. It was not the most orthodox breakfast but it was delicious! Once fed we set out for the East River where we walked along the parkway towards the northern edge of the East Village. Truth be told, I don’t know exactly what constitutes the north edge of the East Village but by the time we returned to the streets we were north of 10th and ready to head south again.

As we wandered through Alphabet City and into the Village, we stumbled across my favourite gelateria: Fresco. They have all the most exciting flavours of gelato and sorbet and somehow I never seem to get up there to eat it—my waistline thanks my laziness for keeping me in my existing pair of jeans. Mom tried my personal favourite, lemon and basil, in a waffle cone while I mixed a lemon and poppyseed gelato with a dill and cucumber sorbet. It may seem strange but trust me, it’s delicious. I am currently dreaming of gin and tonic with sorbet instead of cucumbers and tonic. You can call me an alcoholic but you can’t say I’m uncreative!

After the gelato we stopped by Essex market for a quick tour of the local fish and fruit before eventually finding our way down through Chinatown to Columbus Park. If I thought Seward park savoured of Shanghai, Columbus Park makes it pale in comparison. Every available seat was filled with an aging bottom playing cards or mahjongg and chatting away in every imaginable dialect. I was in heaven.

Five minutes later we were checking into mom’s BnB and about five minutes after that we were back out on the sidewalk strolling through Soho. We stopped at a posh little boutique and an adorable tea shop and then somehow ended up back on the Lower East Side eating rugelach and black and white cookies at Russ and Daughters.

Sometime and a few more miles of walking later, Mom’s friend had arrived from JFK and we were seated in Puglia, an Italian restaurant circa 1919. The food was fantastic but the ambiance was rather less so. Round about the arrival of our entrees, the back of the restaurant burst into birthday karaoke while the intervening full of the shrillest of young women gossiped so loudly it seemed a miracle that it remained incomprehensible. To round out the room, in trooped a cluster of young ladies very much “ready for the club”. From the stars and stripes scarf knotted jauntily around one of these charming creatures’ throat, one might assume that they were on the prowl for seamen freshly ashore for fleet week. One wouldn’t want to say for certain though. Perhaps they and their sequins and skirts were only out to mark Memorial Day.

The next morning we headed off to Washington Square Park in search of local colour. It was still fairly early and therefore quite quiet so we wandered through and set off through Greenwich Village to the Hudson River. We moseyed our way down the parkway in a light breeze past Jersey City towards the Statue of Liberty. As we reached Battery Park City, we cut in from the river towards One World Trade where we stopped to contemplate the memorial before wandering off through the great whale’s belly that is the Oculus. Once out the other side we found our way into an adorable little French cafe tucked in a side street between banks and bankers. The quiche was divine!

Filled with salmon and custard, we set out into the Financial District past Trinity Church, down Wall St past the Stock Exchange, and eventually on to the famous Charging Bull. How anyone ever gets a picture of that particular statue may forever be a mystery for when we came upon it it was absolutely mobbed by tourists of every extraction posing and pawing at their leisure. We did not stop long.

Further south we found Battery Park and the strange installation that calls itself the Sea Glass Carousel. It is the most otherworldly and almost eerie assemblage of coloured glass and ethereal music and it’s meant for children. I have no explanation. Beyond Battery, we strolled along South St towards the South Street Seaport where we found a tall ship, a cute little tugboat, and about half a dozen blocks of shops and restaurants all tucked into old store buildings. We stopped into a cafe called Patoro where we took a moment to rest our feet and refuel ourselves.

After the cafe it was on to the municipal buildings and courts where we wandered amongst the curious melange of ornate and brutalist until eventually winding our way down into the new City Hall subway station. There is an old one but it is now no long in use on account of an impractically curved platform leaving far too much of a gap. I had heard that it was possible to view this abandoned station by riding a certain train past the turn around, but I’ve never quite been bold enough to try. I decided that now was as good a time as any so I piled us onto the train just as everyone else was streaming off and we rode, the only passengers on the train, past the end of the track and around the corner into the most beautiful bit of history.

The skylights have been reopened lighting the chandeliers and Gustation tile ceilings with the glow of indirect sunlight. It’s gone almost as quickly as it arrives but, while it lasts, it is beautiful. It also feels tantalizingly secret and forbidden.

After our little adventure, the train swept us back up to Chinatown where we settled into the renowned Xi’an Famous Foods for some spicy noodles of the north western variety. They were spicy and delicious and savoured strongly of my favourite Shaanxi restaurant in Shanghai. So much so, in fact, that I have spent no small bit of time since then fantasizing about spinach noodles soaked in chilli oil and garnished with “flavouring not meat”.

In good Chinese tradition we then observed the 吃饭后/百步走/生命到/九十九 principle and wandered at least a hundred steps back up to Washington Square where we found much more colour than before. The park was filled with people, most notably, a rather nondescript fellow standing on a tarp surrounded by children as he brandished a magnificent bubble wand. It was more net than loop and the result of dipping it into the soap and lifting it to the wind was great clusters of bubbles which spread or clung with little predictability as they floated over the heads of awestruck children and adults alike.

Sunday morning we started our day just south of Union Square at the most dangerous place I know: The Strand. I managed to escape with only four books in my bag and two of the are for other people! Besides which, when they only cost a dollar it’s as good as impossible to resist. We then drifted through the park ogling statues until we found ourselves in the middle of the Taiwan festival. To say that it was bustling would be a dramatic understatement so we slipped through and set off to find lunch at the very highly regarded Union Fare.

I say lunch, but lunch might be a bit of a stretch. We had no thoughts of savoury or nutritious things, no we were there for Union Fare’s famously decadent croissants formed from flavoured pastry, topped with glazes and powdered sugar, and filled with the most decadent flavoured creams. We had a matcha, a red velvet, and a birthday cake and I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite. They were all so darn tasty! As was the blended mint and matcha drink I paired with mine. Fresh mint setting off the herbaceous loveliness of the matcha? Perfection.

Following our snack we set off up 5th Avenue right on up past the Empire State to the Schwarzmann Building and Bryant park. The library was closed, but the park was open so we set down for a while to ponder the skyline in the shady leafiness of the park. On our way back down Broadway, we stopped at Macy’s to ride the escalators all the way up to the top and then back on down. It’s a curious mix of all new escalators, half wooden escalators with modern metal treads, and completely wooden ones that may well have been in place since the dawn of time. It will be a shame if retail continues to tank to the point that Macy’s can justify ten block-sized floors no longer, but perhaps it’s just a sign of the times.

We had intended to stop at Eataly for dinner but when we got there, we found that half of Manhattan had had the same idea. It was a veritable melee of tourists and Manhattanites alike all swarming about buying pasta and cheeses. Someday I’ll eat at the chain that “redefined Italian cuisine even for Italians” but not if I have to queue in a crush for half an hour just to order.

Having failed in the Italian market, we drifted down to one of my favourite ramen joints near NYU, Mewmen. I’m not sure how much better their ramen is than elsewhere but the servers are the sweetest trio of young Japanese guys, the music is great, and their logo is just tops! Really. Look it up, it’s very well composed. With bellies full of ramen, we then wandered around the block towards my favourite macaron shop… only to find it CLOSED! FOREVER! This happens far too frequently here. A charming little restaurant that answers one particular need in my life appears and then winks out just as quickly as it came. I am only a small bit heartbroken.

So, macaron-less, we went back down to the bottom of the island where Mom and Janis returned to their accommodation and I to my apartment. I might need to find another meringue and ganache filled place to haunt.

And then it was today, Memorial Day, a rainy day, and yes, in all of our wisdom we thought it would be clever to go to the Met. You do not need to tell me what a silly idea that was. It was a bloody zoo! But zoo or not, I spent some quality time with Degas before slipping into the Irving Penn exhibit to stare at photography. Curiously enough, my favourite piece was one of the nudes.

Nudes are beautiful but I’m such a lover of fashion and textiles that no bare skin can beat the drapery of a perfectly formed frock, but this was different. The shot captured what can be best described as the elevation of a reclining woman from upper thigh through to her lower ribs. It was so sculptural and abstract that it looked more like a landscape than a body and even the darkness of pubis spoke more of vegetation than hair. It was a strange and illusory and I loved it.

Around mid-afternoon we took a break to eat bagels before I headed back to get a bit of work done before work tomorrow morning and Mom and Janis returned to the Met.

I was meant to attend a dance class tonight but it was cancelled somewhat last minute and so now I am lounging around reading and attempting to write this up for you all. Let’s not speak about how long it’s taken to get this far.

The Salsa Girl

I Was Going To Write Something Nice

You know, I was going to write a frothy little blog about what I did last week. I might right it later but not right now. I just can’t. Why? I dunno, maybe because people have been killed at a goddamned pop concert tonight. Sure it’s a long way away from me, there’s a whole ocean between us, but for whatever reason, I just can’t ignore it anymore. For years I’ve heard about all the death and destruction all across the world but it didn’t really seem all that real and I didn’t really engage with it. I said “oh how sad” and moved on because I couldn’t feel all the pain in the world, I hadn’t the bandwidth.

Maybe it’s because I live in New York now, or because there’ve been too many too close to me, but I’m not able to shake it off anymore and tonight I am burning with anger. I’ve never been angry about something like this before. I’ve been sad and I’ve been scared but I’ve never felt like this. How on earth are we meant to make the world better or even stop it getting worse when we’re looking over our shoulders all the time. It’s not making us nicer or smarter, it’s making us scared, suspicious, and xenophobic.

The worst bit is that there seems to be nothing we can do. We’re in an awful bind where we either prove their point and radicalize more people, or we continue to live in a world where terrorist attacks seem increasingly de rigeur. And then we trample each other when we hear a taser go off because we’re so tuned to fight or flight. We’ve decided that this is not a world for calm consideration or rational study and we might be right, but I think we can do better.

It’s the awful confluence of thinking that we can do better and not having a single damn clue how to do it that’s made me feel so angry. I am helpless and increasingly vulnerable and everything I was taught about goodness and morality seems not to apply. So I’m left with very little to say but fuck you. Fuck you who drive cars down sidewalks and into crowds, fuck you who build bombs and kill innocent people, and fuck you who shoot innocent strangers.

And Steven Pinker, I don’t care about your stats, I don’t think the world’s getting safer or less violent—at least not anymore.

So, what did I do this week? Well I had trouble sleeping—whether from the heat or my own idiosyncrasies, who knows. I ate dumplings and a poké bowl, and some phenomenal french pastries. I went dancing, I went to the Met. I saw beautiful creative high fashion and beautiful ancient Chinese artefacts. I shared dinner with some of the dearest people I know at a housewarming in New York, and I worried about leaving the stove on or forgetting to send a work email. And now I’m too exhausted and too frustrated to make that sound all pretty and light. I’ve heard too many news reels that start with tragedy and end in terror and I’m really, really tired.

I don’t know if we can do better, but we’ve got to.

The Salsa Girl

In Which Winter Rears its Ugly Head (in May)

Just when I thought summer was on its way, we got hit with the most frigid weather since January. We had FROST! In May! Not in Fort St. John! I was scandalized. And I continued to be scandalized right on until today when it finally, after an entire week, seems o be showing some signs of remembering what season its supposed to be. We can only hope.

So besides freezing to death, what did I do all week? Well, it started on Tuesday with a trip to Columbia. I’d headed up north of the Park with expectations of a lecture theatre and an hour long lecture. What I found instead was a seminar room, a casual presentations, and a whole cast of interesting characters. I shared my elevator up with one of those rare, glamorous creatures that one occasionally finds in this city. A true old New York lady. It was impossible to tell her exact age but over 60 for certain and made up just precisely so. I have seldom seen a more carefully chosen lipstick shade, off setting a shade of red hair that could never have been natural but was so intentional as to seem that it could have been nothing else. In her ears she wore large gold stud earrings formed to look like decorative knots and sprinkled all over with rhinestones, or more likely diamonds. And the improbable red locks were slicked back so tightly and so smoothly, they shone. I don’t know who she was, but I think perhaps I was the only one who didn’t. Even the speaker, when he walked in, looked at her in surprise before duly paying his respects. Apparently he hadn’t expected her to come and the tone he said it in suggested that it was a great honour that she had. A grande damme of New York indeed.

After the seminar ended I rode the elevator with another interesting older lady, this one a professor emerita of economics who was involved in the class action suit levelled against CUNY for equal wages back in the 70s. Alas, I was in a hurry, so we took a rain check on the rest of the conversation and I set off collect groceries before the stores closed and get my butt back to the Lower East Side.

I stopped by a local grocery store and then headed for the train. Apparently Columbia is too close to Harlem for a blonde, peacoated girl like myself. I drew a shameful number of stares and was, if I heard correctly labelled an “uptown ho” by a passing local. New York, I love it to death and I’m not sure whether it’s despite (or perhaps because of) its grit.

The following day lead me much less far afield but provided challenges of a whole different variety, namely that of finding a suitable card. I’m endlessly surprised by how difficult it is to find an appropriate card when you need one. I mean I did eventually find one, but there were a lot of duds before I actually found a good one. Following that I was off to Wednesday dumplings—it’s becoming a bit of a tradition—before dancing the night away at Westie Cafe.

Come Thursday it was time to try (and fail, but hey at least I tried) to rally the troops for free salsa at the Brooklyn Museum. Once a month, Balmir takes over the atrium at the front of the museum and the night turns entirely to dance. It’s pretty darn street, but also a heck of a lot of fun and, for a floor that isn’t wood, it’s not half bad. Around 8:30pm the floor cleared and the performances started. It’s not the best venue for watching shows, but if you climb on a chair, it’s doable. So I climbed on a chair and watched all the rhinestones and feathers flutter enthusiastically across the stage. The kids team that performed nearly melted me, they were so adorable and enthusiastic!

And then it was Friday. I bounded out of work and into the city to meet Chuck and Stefan at City Winery. A well reviewed wine bar in Soho, it served fantastic happy hour wine and the tiniest tacos I’ve ever seen. We ordered the tuna tacos picturing a pair of regular size soft shells full of beautifully seared tataki and who knows what toppings. What we got were 6 tostitos curled into some semblance of a hard taco shell and filled with diced up sashimi. There may have been a schmear of guacamole on the side. I think if there was a meal for models, this $16 snack was it. We felt so cheated! So cheated in fact, that we soon bailed out of the wine bar and into a friendly little diner nearby: Lupe’s. It was proper hearty Mexican, their fish tacos were a massive improvement on the tiny tacos, and their quesadilla? Pure heaven. Rather than the usual greasy mess of cheddar, it was a gorgeous slice of tortilla filled with queso fresco, shredded chicken, and some heavenly concoction of herbs.

Once fed, I headed home to salsify, but not before a casual stroll past the gridlocked horror that is Broome Street on the way to the tunnels. I am so very glad that I do not belong to the bridge and tunnel authority, especially the poor sods with their own wheels. And New York drivers have this monstrous habit of contagious honking. Yes, contagious. They’ll all be behaving relatively well until one fool lays on his horn and then within seconds the whole street is alive with the noise of every imaginable make of car horn, because well, I mean, I’m just as angry, and important, and held up as everyone else here, so if we’re honking to demonstrate our needs, goddammit I’m honking too! Strangely, I love these people even if they are doing their darnedest to deafen me by 30.

Having gotten through the cacophony, I put on my fishnets and my face and set off to La Fuerza’s 3rd Anniversary party to see a friend perform and to get my salsa y bachata on. The shows (and competition) were at a separate venue from the party so I made my first stop there only to find, unsurprisingly, that they were nearly and hour behind schedule. Punctual salsa events are basically mythological, but the security at the venue was not as understanding as the crowd and, in addition to watching the shows on stage, I also was privy to the tiny drama at the back of the auditorium where one of the organizers (or helpers, it was unclear) did her best to fend off the frustrated security who had no sympathy nor pity for those who could not properly estimate the length of their event. A further intervention by one of the big boss organizers seemed to settle the security and we were allowed to stay until the end of the planned program, but not without a whole herd of security hanging around the back of the hall.

When we finally made our way over to the party venue, we found a ton of fun people, a very mixed bag of music, and floor so sticky they made my ACL cry. So I stayed for a few hours and then took my whiny knees off to bed.

The next morning we woke up to an impressive downpour which would stay with us all day. Fortunately, we spent most of our morning stuck on the A train as it slowly wound its way down the length of Manhattan. Fortunately for me, the mischievous A train was running the F line from W 4th, so despite the sheer length of the ride, at least I didn’t have to change trains.

Having finally made it home, I subjected my sourdough to its first round of mixing and folding, before venturing back out into the monsoon (though this time with an umbrella) to do my laundry. I dream sweet dreams of in-suite laundry while also accepting that there is no way I’ll ever swing that until I either win the lottery or leave Manhattan. So here’s to bringing your laundry home in trash bags to save it from the rain, and living a life of desperate quarter collection lest you find yourself in the laundromat with a wallet full of suddenly useless plastic.

As a reward for having actually done aforementioned laundry, I spent the rest of the day indoors reading, watching documentaries, and trying desperately and futilely to stay warm. I am so very ready for summer.

The following morning, the rain had finally ceased so I set off to the East River walkway where I sat beneath the Williamsburg bridge writing and reading in almost equal measure. The air was still cold off the water but there was sun! Blessed, beautiful sun and enough of it that I may have risked a bit of a burn. I was in ecstasy and honestly only gave up my bench as a necessity when I realized I was running low on time to get myself up to Columbia. Yes, the rain check had already been called in and I was on my way back up to Harlem for tea and cake with the professor emerita.

It was a fascinating chat that left me humbled, educated, and full of tea and cake.

Leaving her apartment, I stopped by the Cathedral on 110th and managed to catch the end of a service with the most beautiful choral music. It was stunning! It was unfortunately followed by another of New York’s inimitable delights, yes, the trains continued to torture me. This time, I had to ride one train north in order to catch the same train south. Let me tell you, after waiting 20 minutes for the northbound train, I had some serious opinions for the MTA. But I guess when the subway system is falling apart beneath the wheels, you can’t quite expect trains to run on time.

Sometime later, I met Chuck for food which rather accidentally ended up being pizza at the famous Lombardi’s. I guess they are special because they use a coal fired oven? Either way, we agreed that our respective favourite Manhattan pizza joints are better and this particular pie had way too much crust. After dinner we sat on the bench outside in the evening sun watching the world go by and totally creeping on everyone’s shoes. Somebody likes shoes and I mean, there is a certain satisfying elegance to a well made pair, so we sat and we chatted and we probably unnerved few passing pedestrians as we stared at their feet trying to make out the construction of their footwear. We might be nerds, but you mustn’t tell!

As the wait for the restaurant got longer and the crowd around the door got bigger, we decided to give up our bench to more needy bottoms and wandered off eastwards. As we strolled towards the LES, I suddenly saw a plume of smoke. Initially I thought it was coming from Williamsburg, but then I realized it was much much closer. It was, in fact, on Broome, suspiciously close to my own aging tenement. To say my heart broke into a gallop, might be understating it. You see, I’m weird about fire. I unplug almost everything when I leave my apartment, mostly to save myself from wondering if I left my straightener on, or if my laptop will get to hot as it charges and explode, and if any of you have ever seen me on an off day, you’ll know exactly how well I can torture myself with the old “did I leave the stove on” conundrum, and all of this is because I am petrified of causing a fire and being the reason that everyone loses everything. So you can imagine the force of will it took to keep myself from turning the power walk way up on my way to finding out whether it was me or my neighbours who’d left their gas on.

Fortunately, the answer was neither. It was a 3 alarm blaze in an abandoned synagogue about 2 blocks away. Blessedly the wind was driving the smoke away from my apartment so after a few minutes of circling the scene watching the flames licking out the windows while 4 fire engines emptied the hydrants upon it, we headed back to the East River. We sat on a bench staring at Williamsburg and watched as the lights on the bridge flickered to life. As the darkness thickened and the cyclists sped by with their boomboxes on their bicycles. It was so beautiful and peaceful; a perfect foil to what was to be the rest of the night.

We wandered back to my place and crawled into bed just in time for those charming New Yorkers to fall ill with another case of contagious honking. Who knows why Orchard Street was gridlocked at 11pm on a Sunday, but by god was it ever. I mean, sleep is nice, but why not honking!? Which may have contributed to my exhaustion today.

Tired as I am, however, I had every intention of going to an interesting sounding series of talks this evening. So much intention in fact that I spent half an hour in Delancey Street station trying to make sense of today’s delightful transit mess. The MTA had a notification up about southbound F trains, but said nothing about northbound which is why I stayed waiting on an F train for 5 minutes as it sat in the station until finally the conductor let us know there were signal problems at our station but we’d be going shortly. She would soon revise that to, we won’t be going anywhere until it’s fixed so I headed upstairs to the M train. Waiting another nearly 10 minutes for an M train I would be rewarded with another delightful announcement. The M train was foiled by signal problems at Broadway-Lafayette and so was running on the J line. They helpfully advised us to head back downstairs to the F train that still hadn’t moved an inch. Another ten minutes later, they announced that if we wanted to get to Manhattan we would need to ride to Brooklyn first. It was then that I threw in the towel and decided to just get rolled ice-cream and go home.

I’ve been eyeing the rolled ice cream place near my apartment for ages and this seemed as good a time as any so I popped in for matcha ice-cream topped with whipped cream and strawberries. It was a delicious $7 and the perfect entre to the rest of my evening which as finally devolved into blogging while watching Sex and the City. I’d never actually watched it before and I thought since I live here now I really ought to. It’s incredibly fluffy and sufficiently brainless as to provide perfectly adequate background noise for my writing. Let’s just pretend that I’m not going to binge watch the whole series.

Finally warm,
The Salsa Girl

In Which There are Copious Amounts of Food

It has been a week of food. I mean, there were also views and shows and dancing but mostly? Mostly food.

Monday featured the arrival of our new researcher who, after a very trying journey from JFK eventually made his way to CUSP only to be turned around and shuffled back out the door to his accommodation. The poor man had spent over an hour in a taxi and I was to drag him another 20 minutes through the subways before he could finally rest. But once he was safely inside, I was off at a canter to meet the sister for dinner. I collected her in the LES and then bundled us both onto the subway uptown to Cafe China.

I had heard great things about the modest but authentic nest of 1930’s Shanghai but had yet to go. When we stepped in the door we found an understated retro Shanghai vibe complemented by unexpected but very tasty Sichuan food. We filled our faces with 葱油炸饼,丝瓜,and 辣子鸡 before paying our bill (no tipping required or even allowed) and bouncing back out into the evening air.

We wanted dessert but it was Midtown and my knowledge of Midtown is not nearly as good as I’d like so we camped out in Bryant Park where the skyscrapers lunge up out of the verdant canopy and I hunted for dessert. Very soon we had an answer: Jimmy’s Cheesecake. Apparently it’s famous. Either way, it’s incredibly delicious with cheesecake so smooth, so creamy, so incredibly rich it’s nearly a mousse only heavier and more velvety.

We shared a chocolate marble cheesecake in the gathering dusk until finally the night was dark enough to properly backdrop the city lights and we set out for one of my favourite spots in K-Town. It’s an unassuming little place. The drinks are average price and nothing fancy, but then you step out on the terrace turn yourself around, and look up to see the gleaming pinnacle of the Empire State. You’re almost directly beneath the grand edifice, lit in the glow of whatever colour it happens to be sporting tonight. I love it.


That night we were also treated to the amusement of an enigmatic individual seated next to us who I shall call “the poet”. He was artfully clad in a white button up—sleeves cuffed to the elbows—with a slim dark scarf carefully arranged about his throat and trailing down his front while he indolently drew on his cigarette. He seemed to have ambitions of acquiring our attention and flattery, but both my sister and I are magnificent ignorers and we hadn’t the least interest in chatting with “the poet” when we had so much catching up left to do just with each other.

On Tuesday we frequented my very favourite Italian restaurant conveniently located less than 10 minutes walk from my apartment. I would never have found it, but it’s right next door to the hotel where all the Air Canada crews stay which resulted in me finding myself there on Christmas Eve amongst a whole herd of flight attendants. Between the complementary cava and the unspeakably perfect pear sachetti, I was smitten so now, months later, I took Taya.

The daily specials are absolutely where it’s at. Taya got the same sachetti I’d had at Christmas but this time with a beautifully light sage butter while I ate a divine lasagna featuring chicken, cheddar, and asparagus. We finished our meal with a beautiful little chocolate mousse enrobed in tempered chocolate and filled with fruit and chilis. There’s heaven and then there’s what they serve at Taverna di Bacco.

With bellies full of innovative Italian, we then set off to find a rooftop. After no small bit of research, we settled on the bar in the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Chinatown. It was a windy night but the view was unspeakably impressive with the arteries ofMidtown to our right and glittering Downtown to our left while we sipped our drinks and stared. As a delightful side effect, the soundtrack was perfect west coast swing music.


The following morning we were up bright and early to hit the bridges before I had to hustle off to work. It’s about 40 minutes walk from my flat to the office and it leads me over the clattering span of the Manhattan Bridge. Taya joined me for that first leg of the journey but then as I continued south to the office, she turned back towards the water heading for the Brooklyn Bridge. I do so like the bridges of New York.

Some hours later, I reconnected with my adventuring sister beneath the flags of the Rockefeller. From there we set off to find coffee only to stumble face first into the famed Bouchon Bakery. Yes, the place whose beautiful cookbook I had shelved and sold so many times at Russell Books, right before me, just begging me to come in. So in we went. Taya had a cheese bun and I had a rhubarb macaron. Yes, RHUBARB. It was the most beautiful shade of delicious.


Having conquered dessert, we detoured to Hell’s Kitchen for dinner at a Bare Burger. The burgers are darn tasty and also locally sourced, and besides that, it’s a place with fond memories of adventures with my inimitable German partner in crime who had tasted the gamut of burgers in NYC and still enjoyed Bare Burger. It also has a bison burger topped with an onion ring and fried egg so there’s that.

Once fed, we headed to the Longacre Theatre to watch A Bronx Tale. I chose it on account of good reviews and cheap tickets and it was an excellent choice. The music is soul and the message is soulful. On top of that it has a great sense of humour and fabulous dancing, and we were treated to the added entertainment of a whole class full of enthusiastic young French exchange students who seemingly could not have enjoyed it more. The only blemish on the evening was my infernal skull’s decision to lurch sideways into an impending migraine which sent me scurrying for my bed immediately after the show. It is so lovely when one’s own body metes out punishment.

Thursday was Taya’s last day in the city so I worked from home in order to facilitate a last breakfast together. We went to Egg Shop which I have been promised has hour long waits on the weekend to find a bustling, busy little cafe full of everything eggy and tasty. Taya had an Indian inspired egg bowl while I leaned Mexican with avocado and carnitas. Shortly thereafter I bid Taya adieu and set to work. I ate lunch in the park, enjoyed the sun, and generally had a very pleasant day culminating in a bioethics talk at the Langone Medical Center. Taya was not so lucky. I think all told she had a 10 hour delay meted out in small doses of two to three hours per report. Had they only told her from the start, she could have come back into the city, but instead WestJet held her functionally hostage in the delightful surrounds of LGA. As perhaps you can tell, I have opinions.

By the time I woke up on Friday, Taya was back in Canada, if not yet actually home, and New York was experimenting with rain. It was an experiment that would later turn into flash flooding and which would make me very grateful that I work on the 19th floor and live on the 5th. When the whole world is water, one comes to be unduly grateful for the high and the dry.

That night was Cinco de Mayo and a deal on salsa that I just couldn’t pass up so I gussied myself up and headed to Candela. After a few hours of dancing, with whining feet that have gotten out of the habit of salsa heels, I wandered back out into the night and on up to the Heights where we stayed up entirely too late watching slightly (well more than slightly) ridiculous movies. I don’t even know what they were called but they were amusing in the B-movie way and yet somehow still stayed up until nearly 4am watching them. Humans are weird.

Accordingly, Saturday was excessively lazy punctuated only by a quick trip out into the world for coffee and some afternoon dance practice. We finally made our way out into the world around 6pm to head back down to my neighbourhood for Sri Lankan food with Chuck’s old roommate. The food was spicy and addictive in that way that only street food can be. Dangerously, this fantastic food is half a block from my apartment.

After dinner we headed off to meet a few other friends of coffee only to find the magnificent Spreadhouse cafe CLOSED for a private party. We were heartbroken but quickly got over it when I realized that the well reviewed Cocoa Bar was only a few blocks away. I had a spicy chocolate martini with sake, chocolate, and a spice mix that gave it the perfect hit of heat. We may have also hijacked the sound system for a wee bit of dancing before eventually bailing out and heading home.


Sunday I finally got to the chores that had been hanging over my head for well over a week. I did three loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and even scrubbed out our hideous tub. It has been dubiously off-coloured since I moved in, but lately had begun to get notably worse so I decided to see what a little elbow grease could do to our mottled grey bath. The answer was: a lot. It actually resembles white again! I’m stupidly proud even though I know it will go right back to grey in no time at all.

Leaving behind me some semblance of a clean apartment, I set out to find food before attending a “Jane’s Walk”. We’ll return to exactly what that entailed, but first, the food. To get to my walk, I would have to walk through Chinatown so I decided it was time to try to find some Shanghainese. I settled into a well enough reviewed little joint under the Manhattan bridge and got ready to brandish my Mandarin.

I quickly identified my first dish—生煎包—but found myself at a complete loss when faced with a whole page of noodles so I decided to recruit my server’s help. When she came over, I politely ordered my bao and then pivoted to beg advice in Mandarin. My explanation of the street noodles that I craved was met by a disdainful: “I don’t know what you ate on the street in Shanghai. I don’t know what you want,” but I persisted and eventually she gave up and advised me to try the 上海粗面. They weren’t quite street and the 生煎包 weren’t quite Yang’s but they were nice enough and by the end of the meal, my cantankerous waitress was chatting amiably with me about where I had studied in Shanghai. I’m counting it as a win.

Taking my leftovers with me, I then finished my journey through the increasingly cold and wet day to One Police Plaza for my walk. Jane’s Walks are free walking tours offered by local guides in honour of Jane Jacobs. They are held every year on the weekend nearest her birthday and apparently are an urbanist’s heaven. I had hoped to catch a few but ended up only making it to the walk discussing the impact of One Police Plaza and all of it’s post-9-11 security on the neighbourhood into which it had forced itself. It was very much of an activist bent, but when you see the veritable police state that surrounds the headquarters closing off masses of public space and blocking through traffic with impressive police barriers.

We walked past the prison where Bernie Madoff and John Gotti were held and which is currently home to El Chapo. We watched locals pass through police checkpoints to access their homes, and most heartbreakingly of all we peered through the chainlink, past the no entry signs to a pair of beautiful green little parks which even featured lawns (a rarity in Lower Manhattan) which are now inaccessible to a community of people traditionally living in very small spaces and desperately needing public (green) space. The question was posed, not unreasonably, as to whether such militant behaviour would ever be tolerated if it were enacted on Park Avenue rather than Chinatown’s Park Row. I rather suspect it wouldn’t.

Feeling rather woke, though miserably cold and wet, I finished the walk and headed up to Warby Parker to finally put my new prescription in frames. I am still waiting for trial contacts at my optometrists and I was trying to wait on glasses until I knew if I was going to get contacts; my beloved insurance only covers me for one or the other—not both. But I was growing very tired of my moderate blindness and so I headed to hipster land and pickd out some frames. They should be in my mailbox by month’s end.

And then I was back on an A train heading for the Heights. We wandered about the neighbourhood and eventually settled into a ramen joint which, though pretty tasty, had a VERY suspicious lack of hot tea. We picked up some groceries and hang out for a while before I climbed back on a train and headed home to bed with great ambitions of getting up early enough to walk to work today. I do so enjoy watching my ambitions rush forward without me.

Now, having made it through Monday, I am lazing about the house, watching documentaries, and once again feeding the ambition that I will get up 45 minutes earlier and start my morning with exercise on the morrow. We shall see how that goes.

The Salsa Girl