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02

Nov

Second Floor Columbia Street

Consider what all your old apartments would say if they got together to swap stories. They could piece together the starts and finishes of your relationships, complain about your wardrobe and musical tastes, gossip about who you are after midnight. 7J says, ”So that’s what happened to Lucy; I knew it would never work out.” You picked up yoga, you put down yoga, you tried various cures. You tried on selves and got rid of them, and this makes your old rooms wistful: why must things change? 3R says: ”Saxophone, you say? I knew him when he played guitar.” Cherish your old apartments and pause for a moment when you pass them. Pay tribute, for they are the caretakers of your reinventions.

The Way We Live Now: 11-11-01; Lost and Found” by Colson Whitehead, Published in the NYT Magazine on November 11, 2001.

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When Michael and I left second floor Columbia Street a month ago, we left hurriedly and without regret. There was no dimming of the lights, no slow close to the door, no thoughtfully chosen song playing in the far-off distance. We left like we were just… leaving, to go to work, to catch a movie. I missed the acknowledgment, the pause, of what this apartment had been for us, had done for us, had heard, had seen. Because if walls could talk, what would ours have said? Isn’t it worth noting the address where the readiness of marriage had finally felt equipped and outfitted?

Second floor Columbia Street fulfilled a fantasy of mine. The fantasy where I am finally older, with a job and a boyfriend, tiredly dropping keys on a counter, unzipping skirts and pulling on socks, pouring wine with sighs, writing rent checks in a flurry, hitting spacebar at a farmhouse table, with no television, just music and books and radio and windows, watching Brooklyn sunset light flood dark honey wooden floors, listening to rain, to hurricanes, to Jalopy banjos, to foghorns, to church bells.

I romanticize life - I will be the first to admit it! Yes, shitty shit, like scary silence and arguments and crying into pillows so he won’t hear me but probably did, made its way into this second floor Columbia Street fantasy, but that is just what lies behind a closed door. Yeah, there were nights we were too hot, days we were too cold, afternoons of resentment, mornings of insecurity, et cetera. #lifeproblems

I turned 32 over a week ago and I can barely remember conversations I’ve had thirty seconds ago. I can’t stand the idea of looking back on my life in foggy recollection. So what, so many people think. And they move on. But I can’t. I want my future histories, my children, to find written morsels of our genetic similarities so that their feelings, the intuitive way they handle themselves, my quick lip or quiet chariness, feels more endowment than bug.  

I know I am just one writer contributing to the long narrative of (low-scale) human suffering, our half glasses full, then subconsciously dipping like an old man’s bank account, or like eyesight or like time. Optimisms mottled. Considering our injuries with broken hearts, thoughts reeling like a broken fishing line. Leisurely I learn that nothing can ever be like it was. And why should it? I don’t want to stay locked in time, reliving the same awesome things. I want to move on and feel everything! The late Seamus Heaney wrote, “Capstones shift; nothing resettles right.” Not to say that it wrongly resettles; it resettles. 

In the past, our energies have burned on Union Street, in a full bed, eyes open, jumping madly (me) and purposefully (him) into what we always felt would be the rest of our lives.  In the top floor apartment of Marie and Norman’s house, we’ve sat opposite sides of a reclining couch, watching The Jersey Shore in fun horror, paying closer attention to Ronnie and Sammi’s dysfunctions than to the ones we, ourselves, were cooking up. We’ve since broken up and written long emails; we’ve since connected over ices and gone for long walks. On Craigslist I found our clean slate - second floor Columbia Street – where just a few short months later, Michael penned a message to me in the Red Hook Star Revue that read: “I’m so glad that we have Columbia Street together.” Second floor Columbia Street was a saving grace from its aggravating landlord who I secretly took lessons from in how not to be. I took Italian language classes. He started juicing and running. We spent lots of time with grandma. We learned a million things about a million things in this apartment. My name changed in this apartment. 

We’re in transition now, living at Third Street and Sackett Street, but we’ll resettle on Summit Street in the year 2014, on a date that exists because it will arrive naturally with the calendar, but on a date I can’t write down yet. I’ll have to work to treasure the meantime. Otherwise, our story will let pass the romance. And that’s not how it goes or looks in my fantasy. 

10

Sep

How to Make Butternut Squash Burritos

Two things inspired this post: one, the disgusting tofu burrito wrapped in foil, wrapped in plastic bag, that sat in my fridge uneaten all weekend and two, when my friends, Sean and Candace, told me a story about homemade sweet potato burritos. (The story being that they made them.) Backing up to the disgusting tofu burrito, I’d just like to say: “No” and “Can we please stop pretending tofu can just go into anything we want it to go into?” Michael made the god awful mistake of buying one from Calexico last week, and when I came home super hungry that night, asking for a bite of his burrito, I took that one bite and said out loud: “Yeah, that’ll do.” (Thanks, but no thanks.) The burrito went uneaten – he disguised his real opinion by saying he’d take it for lunch the next day – but when I came home that night… disgusting tofu burrito was still there, wrapped in foil, wrapped in plastic bag. With Michael having fled for a bachelor party in Cleveland.

Next up was the story Sean and Candace told me about that time they made homemade sweet potato burritos. Wow! People put sweet potatoes in burritos? Really? Because Michael recently bought a burrito with tofu in it and I swear, I might be off burritos for a while. No, these were really good, they said. Sweet potatoes and black beans! That did sound good. I didn’t want to steal it though. So the next day, I came home with some butternut squash, ready for roasting, ready for wrapping. The end product was (high-pitched sing-song voice) awe-some! To be honest, I didn’t have a plan. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about adding brussel sprouts to my burrito. To be honest, I don’t know the difference between a shallot and an onion. To be honest, I stopped in at Calexico the next day and paid four dollars for a large salsa. Yeah, that’s right. Not everything gets to be homemade.

I think that’s the beauty of the burrito. No need for a plan. Wrap up whatever you’ve got, whatever your palette loves, because in the end it’s all going to the same place. Which explains why the owners of Calexico felt no shame adding “tofu burrito” to their menu. 

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I’d be lying if I didn’t say it all began with the chopping of the squash. 

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Olive oil drizzle, salt & pepper sprinkle. Into the oven (at 425 degrees) and an hour later, it looked like…

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this. AKA: ready.

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I set it aside.

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Then it was time to blast off into black bean land.

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For me, garlic and jalapeno was a must-have.

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Because I know they shrink down, I got onion-happy. With some shallots. Anyone know the difference? 

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Hot skillet, olive oil, marry.

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Take yourself to black bean land.

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with hot chili help, of course.

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and Q-min

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prepped a little rice…

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got out my $4 large salsa…

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AND WENT TO WORK. (See unplanned brussel sprout addition.)

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what goes into your homemade burrito?

22

Aug

How to Make Use of Your Husband’s Colossal Zucchini

While a good number of Facebook friends suggested I put my husband’s colossal zucchini to “pleasurable use”(sickos), I elected my holistic health counselor of a friend’s recommendation for zucchini “pasta.” I’ve been an avid follower of her blog, Living Body Wellness, for a while now and almost every day I can be found “liking” her attractive Instagram posts featuring smoothies and food made with chia seeds, coconut oil, hemp hearts, spirulina, aloe vera juice. [Insert more “healthy” buzz words here.] When she posts, I listen. I don’t necessarily run out and buy hemp hearts, but I might come home that evening and decide to drink more water. On my Facebook wall, she put quotes around “pasta” because this dish is, in fact, not pasta. It is zucchini made to look like pasta. It’s pasta trickery! As a lover of all things pasta – I will admit it – I was skeptical. But I did really want to make something where I could taste the bloom of the zucchini. If I was a commenter on my own wall, I would have typed: “zucchini and cheddar mini quiche!” (duh) because it’s an easy go-to recipe of mine, one I hold near and dear to my heart, not to mention addictive-delicious. That said… you can’t taste the zucchini. You see it in there, it adds to the flavor of the quiche, but you’re not like “Oh, this zucchini tastes great.” Zucchini “pasta” (or “ribbons” as I’ve taken to calling it) seemed the best tactic to garner, at the very least, a sweet pat on the back from my husband who is always very, very proud of his vegetable bootee. This meal took minutes to make and, yes, it was as filling (and delicious) as a plate of pappardelle. Lots of garlic (go crazy), lots of lemon (keep squeezing), salt and pepper (always), grated pecorino (for good luck), and a dollop (or three) of pesto, and BAM… I may not be a living body of wellness, but when the bottle of wine runs out, we do glug our water bottles. 

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A reminder to all that this was what I was up against. 

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Whipped out the old peeler and got to work.

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Adding to Buzzfeed’s List of 29 Feelings That Are Better Than Sex would be #30: Fashioning Zucchini Ribbons.

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Like I said, go crazy on the chopped garlic. And yes, I have a fancy cutting board with my name branded into it. (Thanks, Michael Brown.)

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Super simple. Hot pan. Olive oil. Garlic. Saute for a minute, then drop the ribbons. Stir for up to 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper, and lots of…

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lemon. 

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When it’s done, it’ll be noticeably softer, yet still have retained some crunch. Doesn’t it look like hand-pulled noodles? I sprinkled a touch of pecorino…  

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and pesto.

By the way, this was my first time buying this brand of pesto. (Worth the dollars. Secret ingredient = cashews.)

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I will be making this again REAL SOON. 

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PS: Because my husband’s colossal zucchini was THAT COLOSSAL, I turned the rest of it into zucchini bread (thanks to another awesome Facebook wall recommendation). 

31

Jul

Tonight with Wine, this Salad.

Tonight with wine

I credit my love for cooking

With my love for writing

Because both begin

With the tiniest flick

Of inspiration

Be it something I heard

And can’t stand to let go

Be it something I bought

And won’t allow to go bad.

There’s a freedom in cooking

I add this and add that

There’s a freedom in writing

My words turn sentences turn memories turn memoirs

Both are productive

My mother-in-law says,

“Cook! What else are you going to do?”

I say,

“Write.”

Both are movements that feel

Extremely, extremely familiar to me

And both require

A simple kind of meditation

And patience

To keep the ingredients

To keep the words

Appropriately cut

Appropriately formed

Beautiful and meaningful

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With leftover couscous & vegetables in the fridge, not to mention Michael’s fresh greens that will wither before you eyes, tonight with wine, I made one of my staple salads.

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All you need is your favorite fruit. (I used strawberries.)

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Red onion. A staple salad ingredient. Staple.

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Some sort of cheese. This is Trader Joe’s Shaved Cheese Blend (“Made with Toscano, Unexpected Cheddar and Premium Aged Parmesan Cheese”). I dig it.

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Some sort of nut. I prefer almonds, Michael prefers cashews. Michael’s not home tonight, so I threw in almonds.

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Extraneous vegetable like this here pepper. But chopped real small. I find it’s important to keep all ingredients around the same size. The nuts are small, the strawberries are cut, the cheese is grated, the onions are thinly sliced. Keep with the pattern.

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A good squeeze

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Easy on the drizzle

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Been drinking this entire time

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One of my favorite things in life: “Beautiful mess”

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One last look

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Before I marry my couscous.

26

Jul

How to Make Cat Food

The only thing harder than training for the marathon is cooking for the guy who is training for the marathon. The same guy who has cut meat completely from his diet; the same guy who can eat salad for dinner every night and be happy. But the guy has a wife and the wife is hungry for more than just leaves every night. Where to go for the protein? Where to go for the non-traditional protein, the protein with charisma? As a non-vegetarian, my go-to answer will always be tofu, but can we really call tofu “charismatic”? I thought I was on to something charming when I attempted tofu balls last night. This was a recipe that called for a whole slew of ingredients that I enjoy… sunflower seeds, cashews, mushrooms, Dijon, soy sauce… sounds like a great marinade, right? Yeah, for chicken! This is a recipe for someone else, anyone else… just not for me. A cat might like it. Maybe.

Ingredients needed: 1 lb tofu sliced, 2 eggs, 1/2 c panko, 1/2 c cashews, 1/2 c sunflower seeds, 1/2 c sliced mushrooms, 1 tbsp dijon, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp cayenne, 1/4 tsp salt. 


Why can’t you taste like a meatball? (Crying on the inside.) (OK, and the outside.)

20

Jul

Steve Katz

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On Court Street, Michael and I tore away from each other, without words, like a wishbone minus the luck. We’d taken our argument outside the apartment and into the evening hot, walking together for a few blocks before embarking on separate runs. He was taking the train to Greenpoint for a long run home, and I was taking my legs to the air-conditioned gym for mindless release. I don’t know how Michael ran that night, but I ran fast, fueled with all sorts of emotion, a state of running I will admit to missing sometimes just because of the naturally aggressive, effortless pushing it warrants. For 40 minutes, without music, I ran uphill. Then I went and cried at the mirror, ten pounds up and down behind my head.

As a writer it seemed the perfect night to be hot and bothered; everything looked and felt personal. The sky, a mean summer orange, had given the brownstones a sick glow as if they’d been slapped on the stoop more than once, and the old, Italian ladies sitting sticky in their chairs could tell you exactly what they’d seen. I thought about the rest of my night, how I wanted it to go, how I could make this Friday night mine and no one else’s. I thought about not showering and just grabbing my bike for a night-ride. I thought about walking through Brooklyn Bridge Park and setting myself down on a bench to think about my man and our mishegas. I thought about buying a pack of cigarettes, something I have not done in years, just to blow smoke for once. As I got closer to my apartment, and closer to the idea of just showering and going to bed, I saw two girls sitting outside Jalopy, the bluegrass, folk, and banjo venue next door.

“Who’s playing tonight?” I asked them.

“Steve Katz,” one girl said. “He goes on at 9.”

 I didn’t know who Steve Katz was but I didn’t really care.

“I live next door,” I pointed out. “I’m just gonna go take a shower and then I’ll be back down.”

As soon as I said it, I felt weird for saying it, as if we were people living in a small, country town and I had just moved into the barn down the gravel path. 

“Sounds good,” the other girl said.

The whole thing did sound good, and as I showered and shampooed my hair, I felt more and more satisfied with the night’s plan. Before I left, I texted Michael: “@Jalopy.”

A ticket to hear Steve Katz play cost $25. I paid that up, and while I was at it, paid cash for a stocky mason glass of wine, which I took with me to the 3rd row pew, just short of the stage. There were maybe 12 people there, mostly older people, like a few years older than my parents. Around 9:10, Steve Katz walked down the aisle and got up on stage. He looked close to 70, with a belly and a plain, wrung out dark blue shirt. He didn’t say anything; he started to play. My eyes got hot immediately. It had nothing to do with what he was singing about (a jug band tune called “take your fingers off it, don’t you dare touch it, you know it don’t belong to you”) but it had everything to do with feeling touched by sound. Sometimes music hits me and I feel like it’s the first time I’ve been hit with it, ever. Behind me, under their breath, a man and woman sang along. In between songs, while tuning his guitar, Steve Katz told stories as if we already knew the most of it and here we were, just sitting around a fire, sharing more, and adding to them. Later on, in another pew, during a memory about the Gaslight Café on MacDougal Street, someone helped him remember the name of a guy they used to know. I thought about a million different things as Steve Katz played his guitar and sang his songs. His age, for one thing, and how the 60s were so long gone for him. I thought about his memories - the songs he would write about women leaving him; the joints he would roll and the bourbon he would pour. He sang a song to his grandchildren about prostitution and when he tried to explain what prostitution was to them, one of them looked up at him and said, “I don’t think that song is about that.” Steve Katz said, “Okay, it’s about drugs then.” I really liked his banter. I really liked that he was out on a Friday night playing in the cool of a friends-only crowd. Even though he also sang a song about most of his old friends being dead or having gone away. I liked the wooden tap of my wineglass hitting the pew each time I took a sip.

“… And that’s when Blood, Sweat, and Tears was formed.”

Suddenly, Steve Katz said this and all I could think was… Dad…

My dad loves Blood, Sweat, and Tears. He loves lots of bands, but his love for this one has always stood out for me. We used to have a couple packed drawers of cassette tapes, so many of them scribbled in my dad’s lefty handwriting, I see them in my head. Almost 15 years ago, when I was showing him how “Napster” works (that is so crazy to write), I asked him to name me a band he wanted to look up.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears,” he said, immediately.

“Who are they?” I asked.

“Oh man, you don’t know who Blood, Sweat, and Tears are?” Disappointment shrouded his face. “I have so much to teach you.”

Listening to a guy my dad listened to for so many years rounded out the rest of my night. 

It’s those small surprises that can turn your night around. 

10

Jul

Parties

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A couple of nights ago, while cleaning out my inbox, I clicked open an old-fashioned party email invitation I’d sent out for New Years Eve 2007. Rereading it, I couldn’t help but feel flushed at the wordy attempt to sound casual and cool (subject was entitled: “laid-back, no expectations kind of new years eve party at Sylvie’s”) but when I read through all the reply-alls (my life was filled with so many people who knew and knew of each other back then that the reply-alls weren’t a bother the way they are now), it was clear no one found my proposal grating. Everyone had equally dorky / clever-attempting things to write back (i.e. “zero expectations = my middle name” and “I call dibs on Becky’s bed”) not to mention they all could come, everyone was free, unfilled, ready to buy a container of hummus and their own something to drink. These days it is task enough making plans with another couple for dinner… let alone ten of them and at less than a week’s notice. It made me miss the whole party-throwing shebang.

A week before July 4th, I asked Michael if he wanted to throw a BBQ party in my parents’ backyard since they weren’t going to be there. In my mind, it was the perfect opportunity to get back to my party-throwing roots. I’ll write up a guest list! I’ll make mini quiche! I’ll make a playlist! I’ll forgo the urge to concoct a trendy summer cocktail and instead, with one foot up against our chairs, we’ll drink our leftover wedding beer, eat watermelon and wrinkled hot dogs, and stay outside talking / laughing until my responsible adult voice breaks the news about needing to whisper now. Neighbors, I will point up, down and around. Everyone will have fun.

“Not really,” Michael answered.

I knew Michael didn’t have any better ideas for how we should celebrate July 4th, so I decided not to listen to him. I told him, enthusiastically, “We’re throwing a party.” And then I made him invite his friends, the ones he has left, because mine are otherwise dwindling. Seven years ago I could rattle you off tons of names – from camp, high school, Hebrew school, college, jobs, friends of friends, the entire band of a friend, boys I’d gone on two dates with – it was so easy to cull these bodies together in a room. It was the age of wanting to be where everyone was, her legs dangling off a fire escape, his back against a wall – ready to hook-up & make our connections, tell a story, and be seen. Social networking hadn’t reached that high a level of time suckage, and so we hadn’t yet begun confusing real conversations with the comments we now leave on status updates. We took cute people to parties to get them into a context, to show them who we knew and who knew us. No one was married yet.

Like most things in life, your parties will evolve. You’ll become picky about what you’re drinking, sticking with what you like best, what won’t get you drunk. You’ll want people over in the afternoon so that you can clean up that night and still get to bed as if the whole party never happened. Without the smoke, a 2-year old baby will have you laughing. Would it be nice if that guy I used to laugh with at Thursday night poker games at my friend’s ex-boyfriend’s apartment in Park Slope came to my July 4th BBQ party? I think he’s of another time, not really meant to come back. 

I miss the old parties but can’t seem to throw them the way I used to. Why does this have to happen? What gives?

07

Jun

It’s All About the Pizza Dough. (How to Make It.)

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Louis C.K. once said, “The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.” I don’t live by this aphorism but of course, Louis, you are not entirely alone for I have been there amongst the many hungry, hungry, and then not hungry, but still very much hungry people who can’t and won’t allow for leftovers – so the food must be eaten! – And I’ve lived through the post-meal compunctions, lying backside in bed, pining for swift digestion, unable to pull from within one big, deep breath because, oh my god, I just devoured enough food to last me until the next Yom Kippur fast. And it’s not just “undone goes the belt buckle.” As if that trick works! No, Louis and I don’t care to burden ourselves with what’s to come, the amount of blood that will inexorably rush to our abdomens after the inhalation of so much yum, not to mention the naïve notion that this will be my last stomachache, that I will never again have a stomachache like this one – that yes, this will be my last stomachache, I promise. Oh, beloved food coma - how I love and loathe thee.

Yeah, so, a couple of weekends ago in Connecticut, on a rainy night with friends, I ate too much pizza. I couldn’t stop. It was homemade from dough to finish, and it was good. Crispy thin but also light and airy, I’m afraid to say this dough made for the best pizza I’d eaten in a long time. (My favorite spot is Di Fara’s on Ave J but the lines and the hype have chased me away.) Here’s what happened: when you’re making your own dough, you don’t realize how much pizza you’re potentially in for. There were four of us and so each of us made our own pizza, plus some more. We experimented with chopped pear, sautéed mushrooms, raw onions, artichokes, garden-grown spinach and basil, sauce on top, sauce on bottom, doubling the cheese; the amalgamations went on and on. No surprise when the stupor hit like bricks. Even the long walk we managed to take after the pizza-storm failed to remedy my body healthy again (or at least the feeling of healthy). Walking gave me side stitches and, honestly, I could barely breathe through the ingestion of so much cheese, toppings, and crunchy crust. But, but! – this time it had been different – this pizza overload had been so immensely worth the pain that as I was drifting off to sleep that night, I couldn’t help but fast-forward to the morning, dizzy again at the thought of one last leftover slice with my coffee. The meal will be over when I hate myself. A special shout-out to Michelle Hack, the woman responsible for walking my mouth and I through this award-winning (in my mind) pizza dough recipe, and to her saucy husband, Adam Hack, for his sauce contribution.

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First things first is to get started early in the day. Wait for one of those lazy days and really dedicate yourself to this dough. (You’ll feel productive!) Combine 15 oz H20 and 1 tsp yeast to your KitchenAid. Let it sit for a few minutes before adding 13 oz bread flour, 1/2 oz rye flour, and 1 1/2 oz wheat germ. 

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Stir & combine all ingredients, then plastic wrap it up tight. 

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Set aside for 90 minutes. Once that’s over, you should add 7 more oz H20, 13 more oz bread flour, and 1 1/2 tsp of (Connecticut) honey.

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Mix the dough on low speed for 2 minutes. Then add 1 tbsp salt and mix on medium speed for 6-8 minutes. Do this until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl. If you need to make it less sticky, throw a little more flour in there.

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While this is going on, grease a large bowl (big enough for the dough to double in size) with olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and plastic wrap it for a second time. Set aside for 45 min.

Like Biggie Smalls once did, get ready to “love the dough.”

Flour your work surface and turn the dough out. Pretend it has 4 sides and fold each side towards the center.

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Folded side down, return it to the bowl, and plastic wrap it for a 3rd time. Set aside for 45 minutes. 

Flour your work surface once again and divide the dough into 6 equal parts, tucking the edges of each round under itself. Then, using a dishtowel to cover them, leave them alone for 5 minutes.

Then come back and flour your hands, gathering each round of dough into a tight ball. Generously dust a baking sheet with flour and place them on there. Cover the baking sheet with a dishtowel and leave them alone for an entire hour.

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The day is flying, no? That’s because we’re on PIZZA TIME. Play a game of Scrabble if you get bored. That’s what we did.

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Finally, the fun can begin. We watch Michelle’s initial demonstration.

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She’s a pro!

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Adam can be a real ball buster sometimes. Leave her alone, Adam!

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Let’s see how Adam measures up. 

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Important note regarding your crust! OLIVE OIL, OLIVE OIL, OLIVE OIL. Wipe all along the perimeter.

Next up: me.

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Outta my way, Brown!

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Anyway, cook your pizzas… until they look like they’re ready. You’ll know. And if I haven’t already made you hungry for pizza tonight, these shots should do it.

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To die for.

28

May

suburbicity

For me, the (adult life) distinction between suburbia and the city was always clear-cut. In the ‘burbs you were older, affable and humdrum with a genuine taste for strip malls (you didn’t just go there, you liked going there) while in the city you were young (at heart), at one with cultural significances, and typically looking for and finding creative ways to stay out late. In my bubble, your move to the ‘burbs meant you were turning into (your) parents, grown-ass parents – or retiring. You wanted to cut the grass, you wanted to bake the cookies, you wanted to stop walking and start driving. Moving to the city meant you wanted big(ger) things for yourself – jobs, dreams, love – and you thirsted for difference. Different backgrounds, different things to say about the same things, and while I do know the differentiation line is thinning – many towns are now reconstructed to include walkable shopping streets, good transit, mixed uses, and green spaces - I am still intractable on the old-fashioned suburbs the same way someone who hasn’t been to Brooklyn since 1960 would comment on its “bad reputation.” Suburbs: bad. City: good. I’ve read too much fiction in which my suburban woman is bored, depressed, neglected, wiping her cookie-cutter hands on an apron; I’ve watched too many TV shows in which the “little boxes” all look the same, window-shuttered and monotonous; I’ve seen too many movies… actually, I haven’t… but I am conditioned to know that it is the role of the suburbs to conjure up that pejorative place, and because of those depictions, I rely on them to exist on a purely selfish level - for the pleasurable cartoon comic strip of it.

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We visited friends this weekend in West Hartford, Connecticut. On a short jog through the neighborhood one morning, before I crossed the street without looking both ways (twice), before I heard the hum of the lawnmower, before I sniffed the (“I have time to make”) pancake syrup wafting down driveways, before absolutely nothing happened, a complete stranger waved to me. Forget the nod of acknowledgment or the smile of acceptance. This here was a wave that I could have stopped and counted with fingers, lasting an entire three seconds. There is energy involved in lifting one’s hand, moving it from left to right, right from left, and when you don’t even know that person’s name (or care to know it), the energy is that much greater. I’m not not a waver – I grew up waving to my own neighbors, people I recognized and felt some sort of trust for, but it was more of a one hand up, do you solemnly swear kind of wave, except a little higher up. Ah, yes, it is you, I know you, I see you there. And so you wave. But this guy didn’t know me. I reciprocated the wave and almost immediately my jog picked up its pace. On a strangely chilly Memorial Day Weekend, in a town I felt no connection to, all of a sudden I felt warmth. All because a stranger, someone I would never see again (maybe…) waved at me. The city prides itself on broadening our connections with other cultures and other people (like our neighbors), but in small, suburban towns we are taken aback by the friendliness, by the interest. Today I feel like we are excluding ourselves from everyone and everything. Michael’s car windows are tinted; I am engulfed in various newsfeeds, my eyes turned down; we all want to ride the elevator alone.

A part of me is OK with this, and a part of me really does fear the worst, but tomorrow, on Columbia Street, in my own little suburb of the city, I am going to wave to someone. For the pleasurable pleasure of it.

21

Apr

being neighborly

There are many things pleasant about the springtime stoop-sale.

While the weekend sunlight weaves through the open spots in the cherry blossom across the street, we garbage bag clothes, unfold the card tables, dust off my grandfather’s old theater posters, and artfully arrange mismatched mugs, old jewelry, vases, and candlestick holders. We position furniture like living rooms, hang coats in trees, remove pictures from frames. We break our twenties, then take chalk and draw big arrows on the street corners. All other days, when we are shredding our junk mail, afraid to advertise our address, it is today that we want to be found. Someone, go get coffee from Caputo’s.

On the one hand, when our things finally begin to feel heavy, purging is cleansing. After my last blog post on how Michael only wants to wear/own two shirts, I assessed my own (gym) t-shirt situation and tossed what felt like 100 t-shirts. How fast we accumulate the same shit is kind of shocking. How fast we attribute keeping the same shit due to made-up sentiment is equally as shocking. But this t-shirt was my dad’s; but this t-shirt was a gift; but this t-shirt is so soft; but this t-shirt says UMass on it. I now have a neat stack of about 10 t-shirts on my shelf. (8 too many for Michael.) Most of them say Brooklyn on it (the pleasure of words and home rolled into one).

And then on the other hand, setting up shop and/or perusing through a neighbor’s shop rejuvenates the spirit of “buying local.” The stoop sale is the baby of small businesses and by perching ourselves outside our own, we’re not only inviting community into our nest, we’re creating a sense of new adventure on familiar streets. We’re meeting the new family across the street that speaks French; we’re having a longer conversation with the old lady down the block who is always with the broom. Carroll Gardens had character(s) long before the neighborhood saw specialty stores for ramen noodles and smoked fish. But it’s the people that have character, that bring the character, and not the things we are looking to sell. 

We make use of the stoop and watch the traffic. The vans that slow and roll down their windows. The bicyclists that ask us to watch their bikes so they can leaf through books. The kids who inadvertently take plastic things off tables and just leave. But we say hello and thank you to everyone because there is no day better than stoop-sale day for being neighborly. 

31

Mar

what not to wear

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Michael is of the ilk that clothes don’t matter, if you care about your clothes, you should be ashamed of yourself. I attribute this extremism to a few things: a) the farmer’s mentality that is all up in his blood; his dad was raised on a farm in Funks Grove, IL where a lone pair of coveralls was enough to get the land tilled in time to ring the cowbell. b) the years after grad school living in Islamorada, FL where it was perfectly acceptable to go talk business in Kino Sandals and a shirt donning palm trees. c) Little Lanky Michael Brown in the 80s and 90s did not come to class wearing the latest anything. If that (truly) bothered him at the time, I wouldn’t know, because today it is only referenced with pride. I should also mention that he is 100% colorblind, a guy who sees most things, both literally and figuratively, in black and white, a familial trait inherited from his mother’s father. Sometimes, when I feel like choking myself up, I will stop to think of Michael in a colorless world, unable to appreciate the green of my eyes, the blue of the sky, the red of the radish. That is, until he says something like: “I think I can get away with owning 2 shirts.” This statement brings fury and depression to my door. No, you cannot get away with that, I think. While I know the self-effacing t-shirt is a go-to wardrobe item for most men, I imagine most men like to at least rotate through a decent selection of them. Plus, the t-shirt you wear to the gym is not the same as the t-shirt you don’t wear to the gym. Am I right? To my disadvantage, I failed to marry someone who believes in adhering to what the wife says and wants. I suppose that’s fair considering I’m not going to just do what the husband wants either, but in this case, I really think he should consider wearing wear more than just 2 shirts. When we first started dating in ‘08, he had just returned to Brooklyn from Islamorada, and I couldn’t get him to stop wearing shirts with fish on them. But at this point, I would die for the return of the fish shirts, because those shirts at least boasted a collar. What I’d give to see a collar again, and not a shirt featuring sweat-wicking or odor-reducing fibers. With color-limited vision, I imagine Michael knows his limitations when it comes to dressing himself and/or buying new clothes, which is why, as his wife, I am happy to dress him. Sadly, he won’t allow for that. What makes this difficult is that we’re talking about an attractive man who can wear just about anything and still look good. He’s like a paper doll cutout I am forced to set aside while I stare longingly at the templates for hats and pants. Let me dress you, Michael Brown!

21

Mar

How to Be Cool with Spilled Milk

As crazy as it sounds (to me), there lived a long span of life when I didn’t cook. I knew how to watch someone else cook and I knew how to heat their leftovers up in a pan, but I was never the one cracking eggs and crying over onions. When people say they can’t cook, what they really mean is that they don’t cook. Cracking the egg and crying over the onion will turn you into the cook. It won’t happen overnight and you’ll have to stomach (or toss the dog) some disappointing meals at first, but you know what? It’s cool to cry over spilled milk. (This is what I tell myself.) Cry over your spilled milk! But then clean it up and try again. (You might need to distance yourself from the kitchen for 12-24 hours, that’s OK.) The silver lining with a shitty dish is that you see (and taste) what went wrong. You were there. You watched it happen. But now, when you make it again, it’ll be great! because you didn’t let the milk spill. Below is a dish I first made seven years ago when I was still trying to convince myself to stay in the kitchen. I made something simple. An asparagus, tomato, and crouton salad. Very delicious, very fresh. It really says: “Hello spring!” (Not that it feels like spring around here.) Seriously though, for your own moral support, sometimes all you need to do is chop something up, throw it into a bowl, dress it, and voila! you’re a cook. Get your ass back in the kitchen. 

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asparagus beauties.

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tomato men.

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chop the tough ends of the beauties away and halve your dudes. (look, you’re a cook! you’re chopping!)

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boil a pot of water and cook the beauties for 3 min, drain them, and then plop into ice water immediately so they can stop cooking. drain once more.

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chop some more, then marry them.

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who let the white beans out? I did.

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introducing your red onion dressing…

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that was one small red onion, 2 1/2 tbsp of white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 lemon, and a scoop of dijon.

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for the crunchy touch.

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and it only tastes better seven years later.

18

Mar

liar liar pants on fire

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Ali Brill had (real) Doc Martens. Anne Linder had (Super) Nintendo. Laura Goldberg had (her own) set of house keys. Amanda Staiano got (professional) manicures. Danna Weber had an older sister (who knew about sex). I had plenty of things but none of those things. I always wanted what I didn’t have. (To a degree, I still want what I don’t have.) We are who we are. I have a funny story to tell. (And I’m probably paying the price for it today, I’ll never know.) And it’s about wanting something I didn’t have. (Glasses.) I was 9 and I wanted glasses. I wanted glasses because my dentist told me I couldn’t have braces. I couldn’t have braces because I didn’t need braces. (What did he know?) I was on to the next best man in a white coat: my optometrist. Just a normal day getting my eyes checked is how I played it. I lied frequently as a kid so lying about letters I saw during the visual acuity test was going to be a breeze. But I jumped the gun and called As Ws and Ps Ks when I should have been calling Ds Os and Es Bs. I was given a prescription for glasses but I was also given a pirate’s eye patch to wear with them. The patch would help my one (ridiculously) weak eye get stronger. If I recall correctly, my mom paid a whopping $100 for my (fake) glasses. I hated wearing that eye patch, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I had faked the eye test. She’d be mad and I’d get punished. And I was still banking on (real) Doc Martens. I had to wear the patch. I wore it over my left eye. I remember watching Wheel of Fortune one night and thinking: If only I could see the letters! If only I could see the letters! I couldn’t see the letters with that damn eye patch. As if 4th grade life wasn’t hard enough (with Lenny Soberman stealing my hat), now I had to sit through class wearing an eye patch. No one said: “Hey, nice glasses.” My 4th grade class picture has me sitting front row, wearing (way too) circular blue frames, high-tops, and a black vest with pink rosebuds right where the nipples go. (Anne Linder loves this picture.) I really thought I fared a chance at looking cool when the glasses rolled around, but it’s never what you think is cool that makes you cool. Ali Brill wasn’t cool because she had (real) Doc Martens. She was cool because she watched movies like Back to the Beach. Anne Linder wasn’t cool because she had (Super) Nintendo. She was cool because she loved drinking milk. Laura Goldberg wasn’t cool because she had (her own) set of house keys. She was cool because she had freckles. Amanda Staiano wasn’t cool because she got (professional) manicures. She was cool because she was Italian. And Danna Weber wasn’t cool because she had an older sister (who knew about sex). She was cool because she was the first one to think of freezing lemon Ssips juice packs to eat with a spoon. Or so I still think. Who knows what cool is anymore?

10

Mar

like a bike ride down ocean parkway

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At the airport, on our way to St. Maarten, Michael turned to me and said: “Know what you should write about while it’s fresh?”

Two weeks later, to think that my reminiscence of our wedding day could ever shrink and fade like an old photograph seems implausible. If a normal weekday-workday were filled up with as many brilliant moments as February 24th, 2013 was, I’d be a walking burst of sunshine sifting through a daily grind that no longer felt like a grind. Morning commutes into SoHo would have me smiling bright at strangers and my street cart coffee would taste like cappuccino in a cobblestoned piazza. An overflowing inbox of bolded emails would all say one affable, amorous thing after the next, and conference rooms would be reserved not for meetings but for further merriness the cubicles only failed to contain. Peking duck cones and Pigs-in-the-blanket would fly around on platters, making pit stops at my desk first before moving on to the President. The Join.me numbers got dialed to get you to join me on the dance flo’. But these are not the workdays we are given. And if they were, how would the really good ones stand out? Stay fresh?

There’s no such thing as a difficult conversation on your wedding day, thank god. Nothing needs be worked out, analyzed, reported on. You are there to commit yourself to the one, new person you now love the most in life and to be surrounded by the ones who can attest to loving you almost as much. I can’t really begin to chronicle, nor do I want to chronicle, every split second that made up this wedding day, but like an old photograph will help do, I feel like writing up a slice of life into its moments.

Nerves got the best of me at exactly 4:44am Sunday, 2/24/13. My stomach in knots had me up in the dark from those minutes forward through the morning, at which point my tongue was aflame from all the fresh ginger I’d been chewing. I sat in my living room, looking out the windows, and breathing deeply. My friend, Rebecca, had stayed the night with me while Michael slept at his parents’ house, and as I looked back at her sleeping soundly in my bed, all I could think about was how thankful I was not to be alone in the dim before sunrise. Rarely do I feel sick but when I do I get scared that the feeling will never go away, that I will need to push through life feeling nauseous and woozy. At 6am, with hot tea and deep breathing apparently not on my side, I texted Sackett Street for parental suggestions that one day I know I will have down pat and under my belt, ready for doling out: Fresh sliced ginger, bananas, crackers, lots of water to stay hydrated. Don’t go for a run this morning. Done and done. Sunday morning turned into a mending test. Could I feel better by the time I had to walk the aisle? I thought back to the night before the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, last May, when all my energy went to nipping a nasty sore throat in the bud. I worked and worked at ridding it, practically willing myself to feel better, having silent conversations in my head with God, ridiculous stuff. I can’t push natural remedies enough. (Although I’ve never gone the quick fix route.) They’re real and they work. Apple cider vinegar mixed with water. Bananas. Blueberries. Crackers. Fresh ginger. By noon, I was good to go.

Four hours later, sitting in the back room of the Green Building, surrounded by my best girlfriends and guyfriends, minutes before walking out into what I’d been daydreaming about for the last 5 ½ months, God said “just kidding!” to our conversation and hit me with knots. It’s normal, everyone said, and an L&B’s pizza bite attached to a toothpick was handed to me. Comfort flowed through my body at that point. Right! L&B’s pizza bites. Outside the back room, these were being served to everyone – a little “welcome to the wedding!” pre-ceremony nosh and one of our first wedding brainstorms Michael and I had stamped our feet down with approval. And we’ll serve L&B’s! Yes. Obviously. After a morning of straight up ginger, water, and bananas, L&B’s had never tasted this good. (Well, maybe it had.) In that moment, the real cure for my nerves had been familiar, memory-lane food.

Call me an emotional eater, but that quick nosh swung me back 4 ½ years ago to the springtime bike ride Michael and I took from Carroll Gardens to L&B’s. It was our first time bike riding together, and our relationship was still so new that I remember still trying to impressively dress. The weather was too warm for skinny jeans, but I threw them on anyway. After some sticky pedaling to 3rd Street to pick him up, I found him wearing a full-on bicycle-racing suit, filling water bottles, and pumping air into his tires. We went back to Sackett Street to not only change into shorts… but to get my helmet, too. Safety before beauty, I guess. (My mom can thank him for that.) We biked along Ocean Parkway talking about things I wish I could remember (perhaps I should have written them down) and finally ended up at L&B’s, eating squares outside, sharing spumoni, and feeling Brooklyn. We took a picture that day and I’ve had it framed ever since because it was a good day. A really good day. Looking back, it was the brief realization that I could be (and should be) as comfortable as I ever want or need to be with him. Shows need not be put on. 

I thought about that as my parents walked me down the aisle. Even though ceremonies, by ritual significance, possess somewhat of a theatrical quality, I really wanted ours to feel like that bike ride down Ocean Parkway. It totally did. 

27

Feb

romantic feelings reciprocated

I didn’t grow up dreaming of my wedding day like a lot of young girlies do. I dreamt of having boyfriends and romantic feelings reciprocated, but never did I go so far as to picture a wedding day. When Michael and I got engaged 5 ½ months ago, my first thought was to throw a picnic table party in the vacant lot next to our apartment. We’d do it in the summertime, hire my friend’s band to sing and get everyone sweating, make toasts with Brooklyn beer and my father-in-law’s wine, throw a slideshow of photographs up onto the concrete wall of the building when the sun started setting. Neighbors wouldn’t complain because it’d be like a good, old-fashioned block party. But it was September and we didn’t want to wait until next summer. Why wait? I’d like to chalk it up to being far too in love to have to hold out until the dog days, but in reality it was because neither of us wanted to mask an entire year with planning a wedding. Decisions can be made. You just have to make them. Some can even be made in a matter of minutes. Lucky for us, we knew we wanted to keep the celebration in the neighborhood. The Green Building sat smack dab between our parents’ homes – it was the perfect event space – and what could be better than walking to your own wedding? We had a cloudy Sunday all to ourselves after a rainy Saturday of not a whole lot. Our invitation called February 24th a day in the “hazy shade of winter” and that’s what it felt like. Cold, but not too cold, March felt right around the corner, and I got away with leaving my stockings back at the apartment. From our second floor windows I crouched down to steal better looks at Michael, suited up, down on the Columbia Street sidewalk. Once outside he looked even better - him in Palermo pink, a skinny black tie, clandestine skulls and crossbones in a place I won’t give up. His presence felt good and warm, like it always does, and the knots in my stomach got a head start on unraveling. Later on, standing up in front of so many people in an effort to declare romantic feelings reciprocated, life was only made easier because Michael was up there with me. I could never have gotten married without him.