Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dreary Thursdays.

Holly Golightly: Thursday! It can't be! It's too gruesome!
Paul Varjak: What's so gruesome about Thursday?
Holly Golightly: Nothing, except I can never remember when it's coming up

           Chilly, half rain-anticipation, downright dreary days, like today, in New York are created for looooooong lunches--champagne, perhaps?--mugs full of warm beverages, black and white films, and delightful tunes. I think I've hit all of those before 5 p.m. Productivity, I tell you, at its finest.

          There's a new record store in my Brooklyn 'hood, and I spent some time perusing their in-progress collection while sipping  some coffee concoction with a little vanilla spice something or other, because it's still chilly weather, and you're legally bound to order something seasonal, right?
All her clothes are on the floor,
and all your records are scratched.
She's like a one way ticket,
'cause you can't come back.

A few gems I picked up:





And my very, very favorite...THE MECCA...The Stones "Some Girls" collectors' edition.

My record player lives for a day of grey.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Juiced up.

Let’s face it- wine is pretty fantastic. Thousands of years' worth of people around the world join me in this belief. It’s not only delicious, but it’s become somewhat of an art form. It’s a socially acceptable method of focusing on the range of beauty and variety of tastse that one alcoholic beverage can possess. “Wine: how classy people get drunk.” A friend of mine owns that refrigerator magnet. It’s pretty on point. Booze that's also tasty, creative and a conversation-starter/activity? No wonder it inspires so many dates. You can do and learn so much with it....including drink 'til your blues become reds. Ok, bad joke. Wine induces shivers in the already-cold hearts of vodka bottles everywhere. Alcohol isn't just a tool anymore for high school kids to entertain themselves while rebelling against their parents. It isn't just the bonding course for college kids at fraternity parties. It's growing up with us. Well, most of us.

But, really, from growing the vines and dirtying your hands, to corking or uncorking a first bottle, to tasting wine, socializing and learning about the balance of science, natural elements, and passion- there are so many aspects, people, and places involved. It involves people. It's all about people.

In New York, our “wine country,” if you will, predominantly refers to Long Island, and particularly, the North Fork. Hundreds of local vineyards and family-owned wineries span throughout. It’s unbelievable. It felt like an East Coast miniature version of California’s Napa Valley the last time I stopped at a few of them on my way to Newport, Rhode Island this summer.  

         With that said, New York City and wineries aren’t exactly synonymous. Actually, the first grapes ever planted in New York State were done so right in Manhattan by Dutch settlers in the 1600s. Shocking. Although not commonplace, a handful of wineries actually do exist in New York City and the boroughs- eight of them, total, to be exact. One of them, the Brooklyn Winery, is just a few blocks away from me, located here in Williamsburg. I’ve stopped in a few times before with a few friends and had a glass or two of their in-house wines. They hold movie nights, wine tastings, and seasonal events here, which are, for the most part, free. The space itself is open, simple but beautiful with sunlight peeking in on summer afternoons. They typically are completely booked every weekend for weddings, receptions, and any number of work or social parties. I didn’t know that much about this winery, though, until Saturday. I went on a free tour, which they offer on Saturdays and Sundays (2, 3, and 4 p.m.). Key word- free.

      The two gentlemen who founded the winery, Brian and John, began making wine on the weekends in New Jersey, of all places, at a “make your own wine” facility. Finally, sick of shuttling between Brooklyn and New Jersey to do this, they began contemplating bringing this wine-making a bit closer to home to the big BK.  The winery's location had served as a parking lot, textile factory, warehouse, funeral parlor, and an art gallery/bar (I remember when it was- if only those walls could talk…actually, I’m glad that they don’t).
             Obviously, they don’t grow the grapes here in Brooklyn, but all of the grapes are local, mostly from Long Island vineyards. They do sell a few bottles of wine from other parts of the country and world, but those are limited. So, a large number of wines they sell are actually made in the back facility. On the tour, we actually viewed the grapes coming in, saw the de-stemming and cleaning machines, some of the oak barrels for aging, as well as the steel tanks for fermentation. Whites, reds, and rose...all are created here in Williamsburg. It’s really remarkable that in such an urban environment, this entire operation is occurring, thriving and flourishing and by people who simply love creating a unique and quality product: wine.
      Sitting at their extensive mahogany bar, you’ll notice that the bartenders pour many of their in-house wines out of a tap just as they would a Bud Light. Ok, not exactly the same. Much, much more complex. The woman guiding us through the tour explained that it simply makes more sense for them to store the batches of wine into kegs and move them the distance of twenty feet, literally, from one room to the next, rather than bottle it all and carry each individual one to the next room, where their bar is located. How much more local can you get? With a reason like that, I'll gladly accept and thoroughly enjoy wine out of a keg. It sure beats drinking Franzia out of a plastic bag shoved in a cardboard box, eh?
You too could be sitting at a rustic dining room table in Brooklyn, New York, knowing that in the next room over, they’re making the glass that you or I will be sipping on in the New Year.
To learn more about the Brooklyn Winery, visit their site:, attend one of their many free events, or just take the darn tour, like I did.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sodas and Sandwiches.

We all have our deli. Bodega, if you like to keep it real New York. We have our deli-man or men,  therefore. We all have our preferred pizzeria, whether it's the one with the 99 cents slice or the best darn eggplant parm. And of course, our pizza man. Our mailman, elusive to many, but a welcome bearer of packages those of us in and out. We return to that particular coffee shop again and again...daily...sometimes, multiple times a day (shhhh, it's New York- we're all running on something!). Our barista, like many of the others above, can almost always forego the whole “what would you like?” process and automatically serve us exactly what we normally order or maybe, rarely, what we should have ordered but wouldn’t have. We accept this. These are some of my very favorite relationships--public relationships that are all born and endure mere blocks from our places of work or our homes.

            My homebase deli-not necessarily the one with the most organic produce or greatest variety of cuisine or unbeatable prices, but my favorite because of the people who work there- is about a block and a half from my apartment.  I typically buy odd items from it. I don’t know why. Things like stamps. Who buys stamps anymore? Batteries. Maybe a bottle of Sriracha. If it’s been a rough and late (notice the combination of rough and late- it’s key), I’ll get an egg white, tomato and Swiss cheese sandwich on whole wheat toast. If it’s been an even rougher and later night, I think that there may or may not have been several bags of jalapeno kettle chips and Milano cookie packs in tow upon departure from my Metro Deli.

There’s nothing incredibly special about this deli or their sub-par food except for my interactions with my main deli-man. He knows a great deal about me- where I’m from, when I am employed, my current mood, my food preferences, etcetera. He asks me “if I’ve written anything lately,” and nods understandingly at whatever response I offer.

Him? Well, I know that he emigrated from Yemen twenty years ago, and he is waiting anxiously for his wife and two sons to also make the move over to the United States. I’ve seen photos of his family and heard about his infinite love for them and for his homeland. He informs me of the unfortunate turmoil and joblessness in Yemen, though. He’s working hard here in New York to eventually move back to Yemen and lead a life of wealth there with what he’s accumulated here. He lives alone in Queens without his family for now. He’s almost as fond of cheap scratch-and-win lottery tickets as I am. We do them together. He enjoyed those three tickets the last time so much, he didn’t charge me anything for the ten dollars’ worth of items that I’d set up on the counter. He drinks beer only two nights a week. He works too much to spend too much time or money on “getting crazy,” as he refers to it. I know all of these things. But, I do not know his name. Isn’t that odd? I don’t think he knows mine either, now that I consider this. I should finally ask. I should know that about this man who has become a fixture in my life, but in all honesty, it would be much less meaningful than all of the things I do know.

I’ve been sitting here contemplating the fact that he arrived here to the United States to work hard, generate income, and live a solitary life in order to return back to his home. It's my perception that we’re all working hard to a) travel or re-locate to somewhere deemed better, b) return home with acquired skills, wealth, knowledge or just our body and souls intact, c) to survive where we are, provide a stable but meager income to afford life’s basic needs and an occasional want, d) to flourish where we are, get ahead, and succeed for here and for now and for who knows how else long? So, he’s staying to go. Some people are going, going, going just to stay. Some people are going to come. And coming to go. Motion sickness is settling in now, but you get it. We’re all coming, stopping, and going. Some are passersby, some are taking a seat.

Where are you headed? Anywhere?

My point is, I suppose, that we are all given an opportunity to share something in our racings about town, in and out of this place and that place, back and forth between home, work, and out with friends. Take that ten seconds and find out someone else's status. Check in, if you will, with these teeny, tiny moments. Surely, we all possess much closer relationships with others in our lives, but at times, I think we can learn the very most from seemingly impersonal, irrelevant or mundane conversations and exchanges, not to get all Oprah on you. But, I often leave contemplating something entirely different than I had prior to whatever "minor" exchange occurred. That's a start.

No matter where you're going, someone else is either returning or heading there as well.

My palms are itching, so I think that it's about time for me to go buy a scratch-off lottery ticket, and that’s about all I can tell you at this moment. Ask me again after.

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