Around Town

The One With the Blizzard That Wasn’t

The snowpocalypse that meteorologists predicted for the New York City area earlier this week swung everyone into high gear. Subway and bus service (which normally operates 24/7 here) stopped running. Non-essential vehicles were banned from the streets. Schools called a snow day. The Starbucks in my neighborhood was closed.* Clearly the world was coming to an end.

We went to sleep expecting snow to accumulate about two inches per hour overnight and woke up to…about two inches total. It snowed throughout the day on Tuesday, but since the subway was closed, Reggie and I went out to play.

The footprints of the Abominable Snowman or Reggie? You be the judge.

The footprints of the Abominable Snowman or Reggie? You be the judge.

Oh, it's just Reggie.

Oh, it’s just Snow-Reggie.

It was a dark and stormy night.  It was odd to see the streets so empty. A little too Vanilla Sky for me.

It was a dark and stormy night.
It was odd to see the sidewalks so empty. A little too Vanilla Sky for me.

 

Cool snow patterns.

Cool snow patterns on this wrought iron fence

A subtle hint to carpe diem by shoveling the sidewalks?

A subtle hint to carpe diem by shoveling the sidewalks?

More cool snow patterns.

More cool snow patterns.

Those lumps of snow are buried cars.

Those lumps of snow are buried cars.

I *heart* snow.

I *heart* snow.

 

*Thankfully Starbucks opened about 11:00 a.m. I know. I was worried too.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

A prompt from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.  The prompt I chose was, #2 “A photo journal entry…show us what winter looks like in your town.”

MamaKat

The One With the Gingerbread Extravaganza

Years ago, I worked at Rockefeller Center, where the humongous Christmas tree overlooks the main square. The tree is all glitz and glamour, full of charisma. There is a gilded romance about it all. Seeing it in person—feeling the cold breeze against my cheeks while the flags lining the square snapped against the poles and the skaters twirled on the ice rink below—never lost its magic.

(Curmudgeonly side note: the two worst days of the year at Rockefeller Center were the Christmas tree lighting event, because of the overwhelming crowds, and the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The bagpipes…all…day…long…) (For a decidedly less regal, more ostentatious experience, here’s how one neighborhood in Brooklyn does Christmas.)

Rock Center Christmas

These days I don’t get to Rockefeller Center often, and I look for quieter ways to get into the holiday spirit. Enter the Gingerbread Extravaganza. Elaborate gingerbread structures are created by New York City’s top bakeries and displayed for your viewing (sadly, not eating) pleasure. Each creation is an expression of this year’s theme, which is “Made in New York.”  Some of these structures took weeks to make. They are all so clever and ingenious!

Beyond the fun of seeing the creations, there is a larger goal to raise money for a worthy organization, City HarvestCity Harvest helps feed 1.4 million New Yorkers in part by collecting about 136,000 pounds of food each day from restaurants, grocers, and corporate cafeterias; edible food which would otherwise be thrown into landfills.

By voting for your favorite gingerbread, you can help me raise money for City Harvest. Please vote by December 31 using the buttons below, and I’ll donate $1 for each vote. Voting buttons are at the end of this post.

The gingerbread structures were behind glass and positioned in front of mirrors, so I apologize in advance for the glare.

NYC Gingerbread

The Great White Gingerbread Way, depicting Times Square / Broadway Theater District. Everything you see is edible!

NYC Gingerbread

A close up of the little people waiting for the ball to drop on New Year’s Eve. What you can’t see is that they’re freezing their marzipan off.

Cookie Monster Takes a Bite Out of NYC.

Cookie Monster Takes a Bite Out of NYC. Is it wrong of me to want to take a bite out of Cookie Monster’s eyeball?

City Harvest Holidays

City Harvest Holidays. Everything here is edible–in this display and inside their trucks. The City Harvest organization delivered food to more than 500 community food programs around NYC this year.

These pigeons are no dummies.

These pigeons on top of the City Harvest truck are no dummies.

Fulton Fish Market.

Fulton Fish Market in continuous operation since 1822.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

Gingerbread Dance Party

Gingerbread Dance Party. Can Santa do The Hustle?

I love that the gumdrops look like the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.

I love that the gumdrops look like the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.

NYC Gingerbread

Going Ape Over New York. Check out the reflections of the hotel Christmas tree.

Katchkie Farm Gingerbread Farmhouse. Katchkie is a year-round farming operation just north of NYC,  providing sustainable CSA to the poor urbanites who don't know a potato from a carrot.

Katchkie Farm Gingerbread Farmhouse. Katchkie is a year-round farming operation just north of NYC, providing sustainable CSA to the poor urbanites who don’t know a fondant squash from a gumdrop strawberry.

Breakfast at Tiffany's. This was my favorite. So simple and elegant -- just like Audrey. Holly Golightly says that at Tiffany's "nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name."

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This was my favorite. So simple and elegant — just like Audrey. Holly Golightly says that at Tiffany’s “nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.”

 

 

Thank you for voting! Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With Halloween

My neighborhood gets all decked out for Halloween, even more so than Christmas. Let’s take a walk around the block and see what people have come up with this year.

 

The Low Maintenance

Halloween

A few pumpkins…a few skulls…aaannnd we’re done.

 

The Ghoulish Jeeves

Halloween

The black wreaths are a nice touch.

 

 

The Even-Skeletons-Need-A-Vacation

Halloween

Maybe Jeeves can get them a margarita.

 

Halloween

Aloha!

 

The DIY

Halloween

 

Halloween

 

The I-Didn’t-Think-This-Through

Halloween webs

How will they get inside?

 

The Two-Cool-Pumpkins-and-I-Got-Tired

Halloween

 

The Creepy

Halloween

The eyes blink, sometimes independently of each other.

 

Halloween

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean 13?

 

The Lost in Translation

 

The fresh mums don't scream spooky.

The fresh mums don’t scream spooky.

 

Does your neighborhood decorate for Halloween? What are some of the craziest decorations you’ve seen? 

Happy Halloween, everyone! 

The One With Faking It

One of my favorite events every year is the US Open tennis tournament. We usually purchase tickets months in advance, so we have no way of knowing which players we’ll get to see. But there is one thing we do know.

It’s August. In New York City. We expect it to be hot. But on this particular day, it was H-O-T. Like surface of the sun hot. We searched for any scrap of shade, but we were out of luck inside the two large stadiums. I dared to look at the weather app on my phone, which just made it worse: 96 F/ 37 C. I felt myself melting into the plastic seat on the verge of becoming a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West.

It was time for a break. We left the Bryans in their doubles match and headed to the open-air food court with giant awnings for shade. A lot of other people had the same idea. While I stood in line for ice cream absolutely willing to pay the equivalent of the GNP of some nations for two scoops, a conversation started with my neighboring line-mates. We discussed the heat (naturally), the players’ stamina in the heat, and the cashiers’ lack of stamina in the heat.

You never see her sweat.

You never see Serena sweat. 

 

Andy seems to sweat a lot.

Andy seems to sweat a lot.

The cashiers at the ice cream stand looked like they were having a rough go of it, despite being surrounded by sub-zero freezers. One woman stood with hands on hips and closed eyes for a good minute before I started to wonder if I should call for an ambulance. Okay, if I’m being honest, I wondered if I should nudge her so she could take my order.

The guy in front of me turned with skeptical brow furrowed. “Fake it til you make it, honey,” he stage whispered, clearly loud enough for her to hear.

I’ve heard this adage before, probably even said it myself. But I’ve been wondering if it’s sound advice. Sometimes, I think “fake it til you make it” works. In the case of the cashier, perhaps pretending that she’s temporarily relocated to Siberia would help her get through her shift without dwelling on the heat. When I had a minor cold, forcing myself to shower and take a walk in the park made me feel human again.

Some think that the phrase stems from Aristotle: “Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a certain way.” In situations when we feel less confident,  maybe “fake it til you make it” avoids a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. When I was learning a tennis serve, continually hitting into the net drained my confidence, but when I started imagining I was Serena Williams, I felt more assured and poised, thereby gaining the confidence to do the very thing I didn’t think I could do.

A couple of weeks ago, some commenters touched on the “impostor syndrome”—when you don’t feel you’re worthy or don’t feel you’re in the same league with your peers. Maybe reaffirming that we are worthy by “faking it” allows us to feel like less of an impostor (ironic twist). And that ultimately helps lead us to our goal. I’m thinking about all of us writers who seem particularly afflicted by this, but it could apply to anyone: tennis champions, real estate agents, basket weavers.

But I don’t know if faking confidence or pretending to feel better is a good idea. If we cover up our true feelings, we’re not really dealing with them.  Redirecting doesn’t always work. It’s hard to pretend you’re in Siberia when you’re really sweltering in Queens. And it’s hard to be Serena Williams when on my best day I serve like Tiny Tim. Maybe we’re doing ourselves a disservice and end up draining our confidence, which the opposite intention, because we know we’re masquerading, even if others don’t.

What do you think? Is “fake it til you make it” good advice? 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

 

The One With Arnold Palmer

When I was twelve, the food court in the local shopping mall was a magical place. My friends and I would get dropped off by a well-meaning parent, who couldn’t wait to have a few minutes alone to shop in peace. Armed with our allowance, we scoped out the dozen or so fast food vendors clustered around an army of tables and chairs. We’d wander from stall to stall, weighing all the possibilities. Pizza? Lo mein? French fries? We had our pick. No compromise needed. It’s not that the food was particularly tasty, and it definitely wasn’t healthy, but we had choices. So many choices! To a twelve year old, making a decision without any parental input was exciting, even on something as small as which fried, greasy, gooey item to have for lunch.

I rarely go to the food court anymore—there is no shopping mall near me, and I generally try to stay away from fried food. But recently I put on my stretchy pants and ventured to a food court, Brooklyn style. It’s called Smorgasburg, Every Sunday in the summer and early fall, more than 100 food vendors set up stalls at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. (On Saturdays, they’re in Williamsburg, if you’re in that hood.)

I had that familiar rush of excitement when I saw all the options, but this wasn’t the food court of my youth. The New York Times called it “the Woodstock of eating” and Time Out New York said it’s “a glutton’s paradise.” Yes, please.

First, let’s cruise the options. Are you hungry for a certain cuisine?

 

Bolivian food?

Smorgasburg

 

Burmese noodles?

Smorgasburg

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there is also Malaysian street food, Mexican sandwiches, schnitzel, and Indian dosas. Oh, you’re looking for something refreshing? It is hot out here.

Smorgasburg

 

Blue Marble also has a shop in the Cobble Hill neighborhood. Started by socially- and environmentally-conscious friends Alexis Miesen and Jennie Dundas, Jennie and Alexis raised nearly $100,000 to help Rwandan women start their own ice cream shop in the city of Butare. Read more about their partnership. (A location in Haiti coming soon.)

 

Smorgasburg

A wave of nostalgia hit when I saw that Kelvin had a stall selling slushies, just like my old-time favorite Orange Julius. But Orange Julius never had Arnold Palmer. If you’re only familiar with Arnold Palmer, the golfer, Arnold Palmer, the flavor, is a tasty, but simple concoction of iced tea mixed with lemonade. Then, this fabulous barista (below) suggested that I drizzle in cherry syrup.

P.S. This slushie was so cold, I had brain freeze for ten minutes.

P.P.S. I was on a fantastic sugar rush.

Smorgasburg

Or maybe you want something off the beaten path. How about pickles? Or truffle-oil frites? Or Asia Dog (hot dogs with Asian spices)? Might I recommend these cornbread bites from Jack’s Chedbread, company motto: Cheesy and corny since 2012.

Smorgasburg

 

Okay, cheddar cornbread isn’t that unusual. How about the next food mash-up (a la the cronut) that will sweep the US? May I introduce the Bruffin.

Smorgasburg

 

I couldn’t leave you with only having a slushie. That’s amateur hour. As your faithful blogger on the street, I take my responsibility seriously. So, I went for this: an almond dulce de leche doughnut from Dough. It left me speechless. It looks like it would be heavy and overly sweet, but it was airy with lots of flakey goodness. I wish I had taken a picture of it cut in half to show you, but I was too busy inhaling it to take photos. Honestly I’d forgotten there was such a thing as photos.

Smorgasburg

 

 

In addition to all the delicious eats, Smorgasburg has something the old food court of my youth never had—a killer view:

Brooklyn Bridge Park

 

Brooklyn Bridge Park

 

 

Small announcement:

The Loft

This fall, I’m teaching a creative writing class through The Loft Literary Center. This class is one of my most popular. It’s called Back to Basics, and it begins September 22. Best of all, it’s online! You can sign on in your pajamas (Not that I’ve ever done that.)

Course description: If you have a great story idea but don’t know where to begin, Back to Basics will get you off on the right foot. This course will take you through each major element of creative writing to help you hone your skills in that area. Through structured writing exercises and analyzing master works, we’ll examine the key components of good creative writing. Whether you need some fixes for common plot problems or want to brush up on dialogue, these targeted classes will give you all the strategies you need to succeed at the craft of writing. This class is perfect for beginners who want to learn more about the mechanics of writing prose.

Registration is now open and if you sign up today, you’ll get an early bird discount.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone!