i think i’ll take brooklyn

When I waited tables in Manhattan, the following exchange was common:

Customer (waving): Hi, hi, yeah, we’re ready to order.

Me: Okay, great. What can I get for you?

Customer: Mmmm, I think I want….

Me: …

Customer: What do I want?

Me: …

Customer: Wait, Bob. Bob? What did you get that time with the tomato and the arugula?

Me: Why don’t I give you another minute?

Customer: No, no, no, don’t go. We’re ready. Noooowww, what do I want?

While working at restaurants in Manhattan, I frequently heard things like:

Can you describe the eggs benedict?

I don’t know what I want to drink. Something strong?

What’s the burger like?

Can you turn down the music?

I’m a regular here.

Now that I’ve been working in Brooklyn for six months, I don’t hear stuff like that so much. To be fair, I’m working in a bar and restaurant that cater to a younger, much more local crowd. I don’t deal much with tourists or gallery owners, I wait on people my age heading to band practice, I pour beer for guys who tip too much and laugh at my jokes and have been wearing the same t-shirt for six months (I’m not being hyperbolic– I think one of my favorite regulars will get married and be buried in the same crusty ass Iron Maiden shirt).

It’s a relief. Sometimes when I worked, I felt like I was dealing with customers who were trying to have every lifelong need met during a single dining experience. Hand me this, I need more of that, where’s my, oh wait this isn’t, can you please, we need the, but you said this cost, doesn’t this come with spinach? I was a short stroll from the ding farm dealing with customers and their needs and wants and demands.

Now I don’t huff and puff as much as I work. There are the occasional rogues– some princes and princesses who sneak in and try to tell me they can only have grass-fed this or that, and I smile, offer them a Miller High Life, and keep walking. I don’t mind doing a job, I don’t mind supplying info or being accommodating, but life has been a little tricky for a while and when I approach a table and someone launches into a litany of no this and do you have that, I just want to say shut the fuck up and eat your burger like everyone else and if you have some desires that need tending to, put your energy into finding a therapist or do what I do and go home, listen to the Counting Crows Pandora station and cry into your pillow. Now do you want mayo with that or not?

can’t wait to read

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I’ve been snuggled up with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch for the past week. Now that I’ve gotten into it, I don’t/can’t/won’t put it down. The best part about the book is its reminder of how much I love reading and books and stories. Books like this make me love books everywhere.

Once I finish The Goldfinch (and I’ll be sad to put it down), here are a few that I want to follow up with:

  • Pulphead, John Jeremiah Sullivan
  • Night Film, Marisha Pessl
  • Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward
  • Building Stories, Chris Ware
  • Keepers Cookbook, Kathry Brennan and Caroline Campion
  • Treasured Recipes from the Charleston Cake Lady, Teresa Pregnall

*The last two are wild cards for me. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not much of a cook. I love to bake, I just never do it anymore. But I really love reading cookbooks. And lately, when I can’t sleep, I page through recipes or browse baking blogs. One day, when I have a little more money and lot more time and a roomy kitchen, I’ll make use of all this food data I’ve been storing up.

elsewhere

00808_fCqvcSBh5XI_600x450This house is renting for $1800 a month. It has four bedrooms and three bathrooms and lots of woods and trees and a whirlpool bath solarium. That’s $650 more than I was paying for a jelly jar-sized studio in Brooklyn with a leaky ceiling. And I know this place isn’t in the city, it’s in Connecticut, which, well, maybe everyone doesn’t want to live there. But it is a little seaside town with vineyards and I bet there are parades along Main Street for July 4 and a cute little library. But it might also be one of those insulated little places that doesn’t take kindly to outsiders, especially ones that look like me, and I might get the side eye a lot as I buy groceries and magazines and beer. And I would wave and smile at my neighbors and try to become a regular at the local watering hole, but I might just get a chilly head nod back, which isn’t totally atypical for Connecticut, or New England in general, but I would be uncomfortable and start to hate leaving the house. And I would hole up that large colonial, albeit one with four bedrooms, but all that room wouldn’t be a comfort, it would give me more space to be paranoid and imagine that the sheriff and a gaggle of townsfolk will march to my door and throw a brick through the solarium window and shatter my dreams and hopes of a life with space outside of the city, far from the subway. Okay, maybe teeny, tiny, dumpy Brooklyn studios aren’t so bad. Not a ton of physical space, but maybe there’s more room for other stuff.

missing my friends

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A few weeks ago, my friend Sam posted a beautiful picture of her bookshelves on Instagram with the caption “A house that has a library in it has a soul.” I commented on her picture three times, writing about how out of sorts I feel being so far away from my books. I’ve been out of my apartment for about ten months now, and couch surfing has its ups, it has its downs. A definite no-no, poopie bummer is not being able to have access to my books. I wish I could be someone who has little to no attachment to material things, but I’m so sentimental about some of my stuff. I can look at an item of clothing and be reminded of where and when I bought it, how drunk I got while wearing it the first time, what vacations I’ve taken it on. My books are like little time machines– they remind me of my past, call to mind old obsessions and concerns, make me remember how captured I felt while reading them. I miss poking through my stacks of books, I miss remembering a passage and finding the book and re-reading an entire chapter, I miss going through pages and seeing paragraphs I’d underlined and pages I’d dogeared. Eventually I will get an apartment again. I’ll settle down and buy sheets and dishes and bookshelves. I’ll be reunited with my boxes of books, my old buddies, and I won’t leave my house for three weeks.

weekly endorsements

I suggest!

  • Roxane Gay has become one of my favorites. She has a novel on its way, a blog, and an absolute white-hot burning love for Channing Tatum. Here is a recording of Roxane Gay reading her short story “North Country.”
  • Brewster. Please read this book. I find it heartbreaking and beautiful and recognizable.
  • Always on the quest for frozen drinks. Reunion Surf Bar in midtown was a surprising find and they boast quite the frozen drinks menu. And Bill’s Bar and Burger has milkshakes that you can add booze to. Heaven, I say!

crazy annie

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Last week I went up to visit my friend Emily on her family farm. Ryder Farm is a 126-acre spread in Brewster, New York, and I think the whole place has been bathed in that perfect golden light that doesn’t usually show up until sunset. It’s a beautiful farm near a lake. There are wild turkeys and stacks of hay. The main farmhouse made me think of all the Little House on the Prairie Books I read as a child, and I found myself yearning for a bonnet and wondering if Papa had smoked the hog yet.

Emily’s farm reminded me of camp. I spent ten summers at a sleepaway camp in Sussex County, New Jersey, and I can’t go to any woodsy area without thinking of Fairview Lake YMCA. It’s the way gravel sounds underfoot, how a dock bobs on the lake, how morning smells when you’re out of the city. Emily gave me a tour of the grounds and we passed a shed with “Keep Out” etched into its door. It made me think of horror movies and ghost stories. I asked Emily if Ryder Farm had a scary monster who lurched around at night, ready to eat babies and children. Sadly there are no tales of death and mayhem at Ryder Farm, but that warning to keep out made me think of Crazy Annie, and I’m 33 and pretty far from both my youth and my camp, but don’t you know my skin started to tingle and my chest got a little tight and I smiled at Emily but it was a forced, pressed kind of grimace, and I hope my hand wasn’t shaking as I suggested we keep moving and see the rest of the site.

I think most summer camps have a ghost story. If these camps are anything like Fairview, there will be an end of summer campfire around which the tale is spun. An older counselor or perhaps the camp director will relay, in bowel-loosening detail, the story of an old ghoul who haunts the grounds and kills the kids. For us, the resident psycho wildling was Crazy Annie– a jilted lover, a scorned kitchen cook who catches her sister kissing the man she loves, and while in a rage, while she’s reaching for a butcher knife to gut the treacherous pair, she bumps into a meat grinder, grinds up one of her hands (I think it’s the right one, but my lingering fear has made many specifics hazy), and runs off screaming into the woods, sans one hand, leaving a trail of blood and heartache behind her. And so the story goes: Annie’s sister and former lover are ripped up by a howling Annie, who now has a hook instead of a hand. And then dismembered campers start turning up in the bug juice, and counselors go missing, and limbs are hacked off, and if you hear a scratching on your cabin window screen at night, that’s probably Annie out there letting you know your ticket’s about to be called, and if you find bloody daisies on your pillow, that’s definitely it for you, the jig is up, start your goodbyes now.

The story is beautiful and ludicrous at the same time, and you could drive a Toyota Corolla through some of its holes (“How,” I would counter, “could Annie run into the woods and put a hook on her hand and not bleed to death or get an infection?”). But any attempt to graft meaning or logic onto the story was, in my mind, purely a defense mechanism; a way for my terrified, young imagination to protect me against the thought that someone out there would chop me up, would slit my belly and laugh as I held my intestines in my hands, somebody would do me harm for no reason other than my sheer existence, my vitality made me a target, and that scared me to death. I heard the Crazy Annie story my first summer, as a camper at ten years old. By the time I reached my last summer at camp, as a counselor at twenty years old, I still couldn’t walk around Fairview at night by myself. If a branch creaked, if a rock tumbled, I knew it was that crazy, murdering bitch coming for me, and I just didn’t have the stamina to face her on my own. Even now, even now– thirteen years since I’ve been at Fairview Lake, twenty-three years since I first heard the story– if I’m in the woods at night and some unexplained noise creeps out from the trees, my insides start roiling and my throat is in a knot. And it’s not because I think it’s a bear or an actual psychopath who might want to do me harm. It’s because I know that it’s my biggest fear from my youngest days coming to finish a job she tried to start long ago.

gulp

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Oh drats. I read this Wait But Why article reposted on Huffington Post and the checklist began.

  • Do I belong to Gen Y yuppie culture? Check!
  • Do I feel unhappy and constantly plagued by a vague feeling of sorrow and loss? Check!
  • Do I believe that I’m special and unique and the only reason for aforementioned unhappiness is that the rest of the world has yet to catch on? Check!
  • Do I have expectations that don’t correlate with reality, ones that make me feel chronically dissatisfied? Check!
  • Do I look at other people’s lives (on Facebook, Instagram, in the check out line at Trader Joe’s) and think they’re better off and prettier and smarter  and richer and having better sex and are all around better people than I am? Check!
  • Will coming face to face with said arrogance, entitlement, “special” thinking make me feel lousy and even more understood and cause me to find solace in True Blood reruns, further perpetuating my feelings of being cheated out of what’s owed me? Check!