Flavor of the Greek

Chocolate baklava. I had no idea it existed and its existence is absolutely revelatory. Heaven in a bite-sized form upon my plate, sharing air with a coconut, almond, and traditional bitty baklava.

We went to Astoria, Queens, this evening – our first trek into the borough that didn’t involve an airplane (LaGuardia is in Queens) – which could as easily be called Little Greece. For that matter, maybe it is.

Our trek started off as so many of them do, with us deciding – maybe three months ago, around the time we moved here – that we needed good Greek food. It took three months before we made the 45-minute journey, partially because there’s enough to do in Manhattan to never have to leave the island, and partially because there have been more reasons to go to Brooklyn than any other borough.

Actually, for that matter, we’ve done more in the Bronx than Queens, which is saying something because it’s, you know, the Bronx. Sorry, Queens. And Staten Island remains the one borough I’ve neglected to take Steph to see. Soon, SI.

But we made up for it with sheer determination borne about a week ago to actually get the Greek food we’ve been discussing to death for so long, looked up some random places online when our network of friends, family members and acquaintances fell through with suggestions, and set off.

For anyone who hasn’t been there, it’s a very cute, if strange, area. Th train tracks run above ground, which means if you walk along 31st, every few minutes you have to pause in your conversation for the screeching and clanging of the subway going by. And despite the minor gridlock we might see going to and from our respective jobs or destinations, whatever Grand Central highway or access road we had to cross around 28th or something near the Neptune Diner was definitely an experience I haven’t had since moving here, if only for the fact that I’m just not near gluts of cars like that anymore.

But then we came upon well-lit streets with families and couples and all sorts of people walking by, lights strung up in trees, bright signs on the sidewalks, and we were enamored.

The restaurant we went to wasn’t gigantic, but it had Greek people eating there, or at least people who looked Greek and spoke Greek and shared ouzo with the strangers across the room, which is as much a mark of its favor as any number of stars in yelp or urbanspoon. The service was pretty bad and the initial basket of tough, tasteless, generic bread didn’t bode well for the evening, but the tzatziki sauce and its four accompanying spreads, together with the fresh-baked pita, followed by amazing entrees more than made up for it. I’d recommend the restaurant if you’re curious, but only with the caveat about what to expect from the waitstaff.

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Our desserts were complimentary, which was awesome, but other than assuming they were incredible and authentic Greek delicacies, no one gave us any indication of what we were eating. We still don’t know what we ate, but by gosh, those plates were clean a few minutes later!

It was a wonderful place to take a stroll, to stumble upon a bakery – which we did, although it’s not the one with the aforementioned chocolate baklava – to pass by a Chase bank where two large men might be wrestling with head locks included in the ATM area before smiling and punching each other (so manly!) and to just enjoy the beautiful, temperate evening as we made our way to another recommended eatery past dim, residential areas, about nine blocks away.

Bakery number three, here we come!

And now we’re back at the beginning, with the four micro desserts vying for attention on the plate.

Given both our obsessions, the other three didn’t stand much chance against the chocolate, but they were all delicious, especially when coupled with a cold, foamy frappe that delighted me with its wealth of foam. Seriously, like two-thirds of the cup.

Between all that food, all that sugar, and the caffeine in the evening, I see a long night ahead of us. But I wouldn’t do one thing differently.

Ok, maybe I’d get two chocolate baklava.

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The Daily Show with … John Oliver? Yes!

Steph and I were on The Daily Show today.

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Not on, as in sitting in front of guest-host John Oliver at that beautiful, black, granite-looking disc desk — although we were in his line of sight as he discussed the very serious documentary from Joshua Oppenheimer, The Killing Act. Nor would I say on as in we appeared on camera at any point, though I suppose that might have occurred and we weren’t aware of it.

Nor would I say we were on in any distinguishable way relative to those around us, not like the large, beefy guy two rows up who John described in the warmup as stuck in the middle of a Venn diagram with one circle representing friendly and the other representing threatening.

But, you know, on. The Daily Show. As in, our laughs mingled with other laughs and our clapping added to crowd clapping and our hooting contributed to the general noise at the beginning and end of the breaks and, well the jokes. Which they encouraged us to laugh at… loudly.

I guess I should start at the beginning. A couple months ago, Steph said she signed up for tickets to the show. We’d have to wait until today and then go through a complicated (not really) rigamarole to obtain the tickets, including me leaving work early and Steph sitting on a sidewalk for four hours to snag said tickets, but we were up for the challenge. And when I say we, I mean Steph, me one who has not yet started school. Give her a couple weeks and these events will be few and far between!

Anyway, here’s the timeline of events:

11: Steph arrives and sits.

12: She’s still sitting.

1: Yep, but now there are a bunch more people waiting.

2: Still waiting. Meanwhile, I’m working very hard in the West Village area.

2:30: Finally! Steph gets ticket 1 and reserves number 2 for me, which I must nab by 4 or it gets released into the wild.

3: I leave work and Steph? Steph is still waiting there. She has a lot of patience.

3:40: I get there and grab my awesome seat. We also commit a faux pas by being surprised it’s John Oliver instead of Jon Stewart hosting the show… In front of the show’s worker bees. One woman threatens, semi-seriously, to take our tickets away.

4: We get chased from sitting in front of the studio until 4:30.

4:30-6: Lectures from the staff on our conduct and rules (no gum!), then we get herded through a metal detector and they take my bag. And Steph’s. Sadly, mine had my phone in it, so no pictures in the studio during the allowed time, although we took some crappy ones with Steph’s awesome phone.

6ish: A warm up monkey, as he called himself, warmed us up (duh.) and taught us how to laugh really loud. I mean, really loud. I thought my voice would go.

6:15ish: John came on! He talked to the audience a bit, came up with his Venn diagram comment, and then started the show. The whole thing took about a half hour to film with only two retakes, which I found pretty impressive.

At the end, I made peace with the woman who seemed affronted that we wanted to see Jon Stewart – the show was pretty damn awesome even without him. And now we wait six months til we can go again. In the meantime, we’re trying to figure out the other shows we can attend in this manner in New York. I think we’re addicted.

Oh, and here it is, your moment of zen:

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Blame it on the alcohol

I am no longer 21.

Nothing really reminds you of your aging like drinking and seeing how long it takes to recover.

Steph and I went out Saturday night with a friend of mine from DC, someone I used to work with at the newspaper in Colorado TEN years ago. That should have been my first clue – that I’ve been in the workforce for longer than that.

The notable part of this is not her accompanying us – although that was certainly fun and definitely the catalyst to our evening out – it was that this was our first time spending an evening out drinking… since we arrived. Yes, that’s right, it took almost exactly three months for us two little homebodies to actually stay out past 10 o’clock.

It started off in a great venue a little below midtown called The Ginger Man. I’d like to say there was an amazing reason for us to have chosen this place, but it was solely because it was the only bar in the city we could find that had one of my favorite beers on tap – the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. Yum.

Great beer, and at 8.2% alcohol and with my complete lack of tolerance, it was no shocker that I was definitely well on my way to drunkenness by about 9.

We left to try something a little different and made our way down via cab to the West Village to go to what I would lovingly call a hole-in-the-wall bar. I wish I could say I was being colloquial or cute, but it almost literally is a hole in the wall. This #lgbt bar called Cubbyhole probably allowed about 40 people overall, although more kept arriving. I was about 10 feet across and maybe 20 feet deep. One drink later, and we were trying another place, also allegedly good for lesbian nightlife, although our friend is not a lesbian.

Much to our dismay, Cowgirls was more restaurant than bar, and lacking almost any kind of patronage, just a sad ramshackle collection of rooms, at least that night. Despite the promise of amazing margaritas, we gave up and left.

Off to The Duplex we went, just a few blocks away, to stumble into a piano bar stuffed with people all basically sitting and watching a performance (at the piano, duh), and up we went to the second floor to get the next drink and people watch as a stereotypical older butch lesbian made out with her seated, uh, woman, and a group of gay guys with yet another stereotype – fag hag – sat nearby. Admittedly, without questioning her, I could be wrong in my assessment, but it was a youngish woman seated among a ring of maybe eight gay men, so I’m going to err on the side of being right.

At minutes to midnight, we called it quits. I could have fallen asleep on the bench, and I know Steph felt the same. Our friend didn’t seem too sad about leaving either, although she may have just been indulging our inner 90-year-olds.

Got to bed relatively early by “going out in NYC standards,” by which I mean around 1 am, but a good, old-fashioned hangover hit me around 6 and lingered for a few hours before sleep returned and allowed me some relief.

Steph, two-plus years older (and having had more to drink), felt no ill effects I could discern.

The night itself was a lot of fun, even with the hit-and-miss of trying out several new bars. I loved that we didn’t have to worry about finding designated drivers – the subways were quite busy with people moving along in their Saturday night adventures and a cab would have been reasonably priced and easily accessible within Manhattan. And the people watching was insane and worth the subsequent squidginess from my little hangover.

But we probably won’t be going out like that too often. I would not dare to say it won’t happen again, just not often. Maybe once every six months or so.

Just long enough to forget that I’m no longer 21.

Pour some sugar in me

I never thought I’d say this, but twitter is helping me get to know New York.

How?

Through sugar.

For anyone who has not read any of my previous blogs, I have a serious weakness for sweets, preferably ice cream. Luckily, I also have a tendency to walk everywhere, which affords me the ability to eat what I want, within reason.

Friday was not reasonable.

For starters, I took a jaunt with a colleague to Molly’s in SoHo on Bleecker and got two cupcakes, which Steph and I later devoured in a bus stop about a hundred feet from the front door of my office.

That was about as far as I could handle carrying them without eating them; they’re that good. And they’d been sitting on my desk for more than an hour as I waited for the workday to end and Steph to arrive. I’m actually quite impressed with my own restraint.

Well, it was the only part of the evening I showed any restraint at all.

I mean, we had just scarfed down two gooey cupcakes with full awareness we were on the way to a “pop-up party” hosted by Ben & Jerry’s to introduce New Yorkers to the city’s personal flavor. And I do mean ice cream. I had learned about it on twitter for my work handle, @prnlgbt (B & J’s is very gay friendly), and RSVPd immediately.

No matter, Steph and I decided to walk there, from near Varick and Houston to 15th and, well, the Hudson. Pier 57, to be exact. A warehouse-style space with gigantic shipping containers hanging by who knows what, acting as a ceiling and looking both sturdy and precarious at the same time.

Music pulsed. People queued. Ben & Jerry’s volunteers or worker bees, dressed in tie-dyed shirts, brought trays of “snacks” to be snatched up quickly by those in line – snacks like mac & cheese, chicken wings, pulled pork sliders, cups of baked beans… All free. Nothing good for you. We ate it all.

Still waiting in line for ice cream.

Most of the way through the line, there was a tray of cookies and brownies, I suppose as an appetizer for dessert. Is there such a thing? There is now!

Of course I indulged. Why not?

And then we got our ice cream scoop, with caramel popcorn as gargantuan sprinkles and chunks of brownie inside. Caramel swirls too.

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I feel both euphoric and a little ill thinking about it, even now.

We worked off maybe the equivalent of one popcorn piece playing complimentary air hockey and carnival basketball, then indulged in the crazy beatboxing skills of, uh, two random guys. They really were talented, but my ears were swirling with sugar and my elevated heart rate, so I didn’t hear their names.

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Then we walked the remaining sixty blocks home. I assume it was about equivalent to the half frosting on one cupcake, but it’s something. And I vowed never to have so much sugar again.

After today, I mean. We already shared a cupcake today.

You down with OCD, yeah you know me

New York is reviving a neurotic part of me I thought I had buried under at least a few inches of silt.

When I was younger, maybe around middle school and a little after, I had some weird … habits. Tendencies. Idiosyncrasies.

Like always landing on the top or bottom step with my right foot, or wanting to walk into a room only with my right foot, based on a Latin (as in e pluribus unum, not Hispanic) adage that said walking into a room with your right foot spoke of power and luck. Darn that sixth grade class and subsequent five more years of Latin class.

I used to memorize whether stairs were even or odd, so I could know whether I had to start with my right foot or my left to hit the top step with my right foot, and at my worst, when I didn’t know which foot to start with, I would stutter step to switch my feet so I could still land on the final stair with my right foot.

I hated that I felt compelled to do this. I felt out of control. I specifically focused on getting rid of this need somewhere in high school, focusing so much on not landing on my “preferred” foot until it became second nature to no longer count stairs.

My self-created cure lasted more than 15 years, but there’s something about this place that is exacerbating these unusual behaviors. Or maybe it’s just that our apartment has stairs and I haven’t used stairs regularly since my life in Boston in 2005/2006. I don’t stutter step anymore, but there’s at least one stairwell in my apartment building that I know is even, even, odd, and I hate that I know that. Although I start on whatever foot naturally hits the bottom stair, I still hate that I know whether I’ll hit the final step with my left or right foot.

It doesn’t just have to do with stairs, either. It’s less about OCD than my stair obsession, but I’m compulsively competitive and have discovered an unimpeachable need to walk faster than anyone else on the sidewalk with me. If someone is going considerably faster than me, either because they just walk faster or because they have longer legs (not hard when you’re 5’4″), I don’t run to beat them. But I’m aware of it. And if someone is just going a hair faster and I hear them coming upon me, I speed up so they can’t pass me.

I also have developed a protective bubble around me. For Steph, getting here and riding the subway each day has made her more relaxed about the people you inevitably come into contact with on the train. You can’t help it, especially around rush hour. For me… It’s the opposite.

Don’t come near me.

Don’t touch me.

Why must you stand there with your arm reaching across my body to hold the silver pole instead of the one closer to you?

I do my best to zone out, but I have not mastered it yet, and the heat here is anti-mitigating. Let’s just say, it inflames more than just my skin.

I am not ashamed of anything in here, but I will not be controlled by it either. So, it’s back to, maybe, square three, which is at least better than square one.

Unless I land in square three with my left foot.

Special delivery

If delivery companies had their way, everyone in New York would be a poor, fat hermit with Vitamin D deficiency.

What’s the purpose of leaving the house when everything you could ever need can be delivered to your front door?

All kinds of restaurant food. Coffee. Seriously, a single cup of coffee. Kitty litter. Dry cleaning. Prescriptions. Boxes of cereal. Laundry. Groceries. Furniture. Wait, that’s not too surprising.

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My point being: why would anyone ever need to leave the house? I suppose if you don’t leave the house, the delivery of dry clean-only clothes becomes pretty moot; who are your dressing up for, your cats?

Actually, now that I think about it, this unnamed human could have a dog, too, since there are so many services that come to your place of residence and walk your dog for you. For that matter, they walk your children for you too if you pay them enough. But that’s another discussion.

It’s odd, going from New Mexico, where the only thing you can order is nationwide chain pizza that tastes essentially like the box it comes in. Sadly, when Domino’s started having other items on the menu besides pizza, I would order chicken wings and sandwiches just because they could be delivered. Luckily, I grew out of that disgusting phase.

I couldn’t even get Chinese food delivered (that I remember).

And now I’m in a city where I can order pancakes from one restaurant, coffee from another, probably the utensils from a third. And when I drop a strawberry on my white button-down shirt, as I inevitably would, I can call to get the shirt picked up to be cleaned and dropped back off, probably in the same day.

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I wish I knew what the allure of all this delivery is, beyond the obvious. Are New Yorkers that lazy? I assume some of them think they’re that busy, and a small percentage of them actually are. Do they have so much disposable income that they not only can pay for the food but for some stocky guy on a bicycle to whiz the wrong way on a one-way street wearing an ugly vest with the name of a delivery service on the back just to drop off a cup of coffee? It’s New York, people! Even if there’s not a Starbucks on every corner – and with 300+ in Manhattan alone, there are few corners without one – there are other coffee shops.

But this is not a rant. Having delivery options, even if I don’t take advantage of them, is astounding. How exciting to know I can get anything delivered at probably any time – although I have yet to explore that aspect of things – to any location, practically. Pizza delivered to a park bench? Sure! Dog food to my work? Why not!

So far I’ve had my dry cleaning delivered once because it was free and, you know, why not. I’ve been known to leave my dry cleaning at the cleaners for a week past the time I should have picked it up, so I suppose this is a help to the cleaners – clears space and all that. It’s practically a public service

Of course, if I start getting all my food delivered and quit my job so I never have to leave the house, I’ll probably be writing more. Feel free to become alarmed if I begin posting multiple times a day.

Pretty and witty and… dare I say it? Gay!

Holy gay Gotham, Batman.

This past weekend was gay pride in New York, and with the recent Supreme Court victories, it was a madhouse. I was agog at how rainbows just took over lower and eastern Manhattan during the weekend. It’s like half the city owned their 3-plus on the Kinsey Scale and came out to support. In fact, maybe it’s just better to say I was impressed with how many people came out to support even if they weren’t gay.

The Dyke March was almost indescribable. Lesbians, transwomen, bi girls, supporters, groups I’m sure I should be mentioning, all took to the streets in a peaceful march that is not called a parade because they don’t get permission to do it – although the barricades and police presence would make it seem otherwise.

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The women came in all shapes and sizes and ages and genders… In Albuquerque, hell, even in Boston, definitely in Colorado, I never saw this many women participating in an event for people like me. I saw bois and leather dykes and femmes and andros and they were teens to eighties wearing rainbows and glitter and sometimes not much more than that and laughing and smiling as they walked almost thirty blocks.

It was cathartic. In the small town where I lived in Colorado, it took years before I knew a smattering of lesbians beyond my girlfriend at the time. In Boston, despite being an amazingly liberal city, I wasn’t dating anyone and only had straight friends until the last few months before I moved to Albuquerque. My one Pride in Boston, I went by myself on a rainy weekend to a sad parade that mostly was chased out by the inclement weather. New Mexico was surprisingly gay-friendly, and I enjoyed the pride parade each year, but at less than one-tenth the size of New York, it didn’t prepare me for the extravaganza of this past weekend.

And when you have people in your life who aren’t supportive of your life and loving relationship, it’s absolutely good for the soul to see so many people who are.

Beyond the thousands of women marching down Fifth Ave – how many people can say they’ve done that?? – Steph and I also attended the actual Pride parade the next day.

This is not an event for the faint of heart.

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Between the beating sun, the more than four-hour length – we abandoned ship about four hours after it started and it still was continuing – the happy shrieks and yells punctuated by floats manned by DJs and blasting rock or techno or some other loud music that made you want to shake your thang (haha, I’m so dorky), the barely-there clothing where you can sometimes see more than you want, and as my friend who went with me said, it’s never with the person you’d want to see showing more than they should, it was extravagant.

We heard almost a million people showed for it, and I could believe it. The sides were packed layers deep, and although we worked our way to the front of the barricades, there were people who had definitely taken the time to set up shop with chairs and coolers and who knew they’d be there eight, nine hours.

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Marching bands danced by, condoms were tossed into the crowds, cheerleaders performed routines, gigantic groups of employees in matching shirts wandered with signs and smiles, floats with drag queens and dancers and glistening bodies rolled past, the occupants occasionally posing for pictures from news and other photographers, and rainbow after rainbow illustrated the reason we were all there.

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The shops nearby were not slouches either – rainbows in the windows, rainbows on the signs, drinks named for gay pride, Starbucks employees with rainbow coffee cups on their shirts, even an ice cream in Brooklyn called the “perfect marriage” with swirls of color throughout. It was welcoming, even if the cynic in me knows a bunch of them just did it to entice the gays into spending.

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I don’t consider my being a lesbian to be a representation of everything I am – in fact, other than my having a female partner, I barely acknowledge it beyond the twitter pages curate for work (@prnlgbt keeps me up to date on lgbt issues!). But for one weekend, in one city, as a member of many minority groups, it’s nice to feel a part of the majority for just a moment. Even if that majority doesn’t extend beyond a few streets.

(Kudos to those who made it through this, my longest post!)

Taxi ride

I took my first solo cab ride today.

I specify that it was a solo ride because I’ve gone in cabs with other people – three to be exact – and today I made the conscious decision to use the cab instead of the subway or my own feet.

Everyone who knows today was my first cab ride, because I’m lame enough to mention it as a thing to be proud of, is astonished that I haven’t really taken advantage of the cabs around here.

I mean, apart from the one we attempted to flag down on our way to dinner in the Lower East Side when it was raining, and thus impossible to get cabs, we haven’t even tried. Public transportation, for as potentially smelly or hot as it is, is everywhere and gets me everywhere I need to be, like MasterCard.

And I have to say, after these four cab rides, one solo, that they were … boring. Based on TV
shows and movies and just good ol’ word of mouth, I assumed my cab ride would be insanity punctuated by bouts of wishing for my death to come quickly with maybe a few moments of hanging out on two wheels, riding on the sidewalks and general death-defying hilarity.

Instead, I was tucked into the back of a cab with a guy who said maybe five words, drove very carefully through traffic that almost made me wish I had taken the subway – although I made it to my meeting in time anyway, so it didn’t really matter – and stopped smoothly on a busy corner. He didn’t slam on the brakes and lurch down the street and cut people off and give other drivers the finger and all those “typical” New York cabbie experiences you hear about.

And if you think I sound disappointed, you’d be right. I wanted the experience! I wanted to say I survived a crazy cab ride and consider it a rite of passage for living in New York, a la eating a great bagel or not reacting when a guy pees in a subway car (I failed at that one, but I’m sure I’ll get another chance).

It probably would have worked out if I had gotten into the unmarked white town car yesterday that pulled over when my coworker was trying to flag the one behind it. And by unmarked, I mean seriously – no lights n top, no plexiglass between the passengers and driver, no meter I could see… Although the license ate did say livery as it drove away when we rejected it. Hey, who knows where we would have ended up if we head taken that. Shudder.

I’m sure there will be another opportunity to live through a chaotic cab ride. Eight million people need a lot of cabs so I’m banking on getting one driven by a cabby with a flair for the dramatic.

And I’m not talking about the Cash Cab.