Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's not me, it's Manhattan!

NYC parties hard. Like, really hard. Getting smashed is a totally celebrated, public affair. How could it be anything else? Unless you lock yourself in your apartment every night to drink alone until your eyes cross, everyone in NYC knows you're drunk.

I was 27 when I moved here and had started to ease up on the wild nights and dangerous behavior while living in Chicago. I had been dating a sommelier after seperating from my husband and at that time a bender for me involved switching from white wine to red wine at a dinner party. Maybe a digestif or brandy after dessert if we were feeling frisky.

When I landed on the streets of Manhattan, I backslid to about age 20 when I was a legitimately drunk, human wrecking ball who picked fights, fell out of windows and threw food at people.

Even when I would misbehave in Chicago I could go about my business of gettin' saucy outside of the house and maybe 3 or 4 people would know how much I had to drink: the bartender, my 1 or 2 other friends at the dive, and my scornful husband. ( it's not like I never invited him to come have a few cocktails with me. Lighten up, right?)

I could covertly sneak out the back door of the bar, walk through the alley to my parked car and have a tranquil, solo, 10 block drive home. Just me and my drunk thoughts and behavior that no one had to know about. I could go home and pig out on my heavily stocked refrigerator and pantry because in the old days I would grocery shop like a normal person, using a car to bring home many items at once.

Getting sloppy drunk in other cities never really posed a huge problem because I could quickly and privately get home to terrorize my own abode or whatever it is that I like to do before passing out.

Living in NYC, it takes a while to sink in that just because you're done drinking and whooping it up for the night, doesn't mean the adventure is over. Nowhere near especially if you live in Brooklyn. And you better believe that those moments of privately being a drunk terror or passing out, now happen in public.

A 40 block sojourn down Manhattan's 2nd Ave, or a 60 minute escapade on the subway, is a completely different story when you are plastered beyond hope. I thought I had it together as an alcohol abuser and NYC sent me back to drunk school.

Total, amateur behavior on my part.

I would however like to explain myself and other respectable, hard working New Yorkers who overdo it when it comes to drinking. There are really good reasons that support this behavior and I like to consider them valid to justify the money, sanity, health, and calories I have wasted on hooch.

Here are not ten, but eleven reasons:

1. This place shakes you to your core when you first arrive, so you sooth your stress with booze

2. No one drives, therefore you can become a menace on two feet instead of 4 wheels which is an improvement in my mind

3. You can walk only 2 blocks and pass about 25 places that have some sort of "thing" happening that involves alcohol; some of it free

4. This place is guhhhhh-ross. Personally, I like being a little out of it to dull my sense of smell, and to not have to clearly witness the homeless dude sitting bare-assed across from me on the train

5. There are so many people in your face at all times that again, being numb makes it easier to handle

6. Everyone works really hard, therefore everyone parties really hard, OR your parents are rich enough to support your drunk, degenerate lifestyle

7. Pizza can be shoved into your face at all times should you become too inibriated

8. You can sleep off some of that hangover on the subway

9. If you are totally immobile, friends can dump you into a car and put your life into the hands of a stranger to drive you home safely for $30

10. It's a great way to avoid going home to your awful apartment and insane roommate who lives in the common area

11. Drinking is glamorous according to billboards and I always think and do what a billboard tells me to think and do---no questions asked.

I would say I hit an all time low this past summer after surpassing the previous summer's all time low when footage surfaced of me yelling and jumping on filthy matresses outside of Planet Rose Karaoke Bar on a Sunday Night.

This footage was taken after being kicked out of the bar for tearing a poster off the wall and also repeatedly reaching over the bar to turn on the blender every time the bartender was busy on the other end because it made me laugh. I just get a bit out of control sometimes.

Since then, I have settled down considerably and credit that to not drinking in Manhattan anymore. I keep the drunk antics local-- in my neighborhood mostly. I seem to have a long track record of falling into the streets of Manhattan, dropping food on myself and others, and paying exorbitant amounts for cabs only to get lost in Queens somewhere. You have to ease up on this behavior at some point and I find that my life is more tolerable and even safer now that I am a Brooklyn drunk.

I would rather slip down the smooth marble stairs of my boyfriend's 4th floor walk-up in Park Slope while drinking white wine from a plastic to-go cup instead of falling down the greasy subway stairs at the 8th Avenue A-C-E station ever again.

(In my defense, I had gotten way too hammered and was trying to eat a gigantic torta from the 14th street Taco Truck as I descended into the station. I lost my balance a little bit, and tried to steady myself with the railing, but it was so slick with grime and grease that I just sort of slid down the stairs hanging onto the railing the way you would ride down a fire pole, but on a 45 degree angle. I strained all of the muscle in my right arm while my left arm held the torta high in the air, still intact. See what Manhattan does to me?!?)

I would rather deal with the bland, limited food selection available to me late at night in my neighborhood after a bender in my living room than ever try and walk down 2nd avenue in the East Village, plastered, eating lamb vindaloo again. I of course turned my high heel on the curb, fell into the street, tossed vindaloo into the air only to have it shower back down onto me, scraped my bare knees on the AIDS riddled pavement and then rode the train home covered in curry stains vaguely resembling shit. To make matters worse, I had nothing to put on my bloody knees so I was drunk, crying, openly bleeding, and aparrently had lost control of my bowels.

30. minute. ride. in. public.

I have yet to be hit by a car in Midtown, but I have had embarrassingly close calls due to carelessly stepping into traffic because I'm blinded with the bliss of eating a lobster roll. I have however been hit by a pizza delivery guy on a mountain bike as I stepped into the street while simultaneously trying to yank open an impenetrable bag of chips. That hurts and you certainly don't get free pizza just because it fell out of his basket and into the street.

And I will be damned if I don't ride my little cruiser through the streets of Brooklyn all summer long from destination to destination instead of getting into a cab for an epic ride home from Manhattan's Upper West Side to Brooklyn's South Side that costs way too much money. And I will hoof it from Grand Army Plaza to my front door if it means avoiding a 90 minute train ride from the West Village to 4th Avenue,where instead of getting off on your stop you pass out and wake up in Coney Island at 5am, disoriented and surrounded by ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds.

It could be considered a little close minded to blame all of my problems on Manhattan. It could also be considered a bit cuckoo to control my life by avoiding the city all together. But, well, I have sort of put the kybosh on the Big Apple for now.

I just find that until I am ready to behave, it's best to stay away from the world's biggest playground for people with substance abuse problems. I want to be able to re-introduce myself to the city as a more composed, industry oriented individual who can handle herself at a business lunch with a glass of wine or two; someone who can be trusted to walk by a mattress lying in the street and view it as garbage instead of a trampoline.

Until that day comes, I will be working on myself here in Park Slope's South end, 1 less drink at a time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

South Slope Morning

Wow. Does anyone else live in a building where without warning, demolition workers start tearing down the walls in your hallway at 8:30am?

I wanted to spring out of bed and scream at what I assumed to be my upstairs neighbors working on an art project---they restore statues, art pieces, signs, you name it. For a week, I have walked into my building to the shocking sight of a 7ft. tall Goofy statue resting in the hall with a gigantic garbage bags wrapped around his newly formed arms and hands.

It was only slightly more disturbing than when I would come home to see the looming giant resting in the hallway sans arms with a completely blissed out look on his face that only Goofy could possess in such troubling moments. "Gawsh! I seem to have misplaced my arms! Hoo Hoo!" Creepy.

But no, this was not the neighbors, this was the definite sound of a blunt mallet smashing into a wall outside my door, dry wall crumbling and falling down a long flight of stairs with every blow. My entire apartment feels as though it could cave in at any moment, so this sound is very alarming to me.

I guess I am annoyed that I already live above the landlords and their Dry Cleaning Shop. I am home during the day and wake up to the whirring of giant machines steaming and pressing clothing mixed with talk radio turned up to a mind boggling volume. Every time they "dry clean" a batch, we have a minor brown out in the apartment. This happens every 20 minutes or so. The exhaust pipe that I am certain only releases noxious, harmful fumes is of course outside my bedroom window. On top of this the heat from all of the machinery, steam machines, and electricity turn my apartment into a sauna. Fine.

I can even deal with the weekly Sunday night drum circle upstairs, and the relentless noise of traffic on 5th Aveue but come on! No warning to tenants that there is going to be demolition outside your door that also happens to limit entering and exiting the building? I don't care if you have a thick, Greek accent and feel like you can't successfully communicate this to me. I think notice is more than fair, goddammit. Other than my roomie, we are a building full of artists and freelancers who need to sleep until 11 or 12pm! A little courtesy for my alternative lifestyle, please! Arghhh.

So, I decided to step out for a bit and work on my laptop but that usually ends in an infuriating scenario.

You see, our apartment also extends part way over a coffee shop which is a haven for Brooklyn 'lifers'. You know the kind---born in the neighborhood and will die in the neigborhood type of Brooklyn person. These are the scariest people on earth. In my immediate location, I get to co-habitate the local cafe with a group of women who are all in their 70's and sit out front and hijack the little patio. They refer to everyone as faggots, and they talk about their golden days in the mafia. Yup, mafia. You're either with them or they vocally plot your death every time you walk in and out of the apartment and don't greet them properly. They're not kidding.

They got mad at the barista one day for no apparent reason and sat at the front table in a semi-circle talking about how they were going to kick her ass. This coffee shop is a long-time staple in the neighborhood, 28 years old as a matter of fact and they were honest to god talking about beating the owner's daughter with a bat because she didn't give them a 4th free refill.

Compared to their 70 plus years in the 'hood', this coffee shop is still the new kid in town, does nothing right, and in their warped opinion is apparently one of the reasons why the neighborhood is 'going down the shitter'. Yeah, they hate that place so much that they camp out and stuff their faces with delicious pastries and cafe au laits all day, every day, hogging the tables. It's actually pretty ridiculous to watch someone grudgingly eat a scone.


( photo of a South Brooklyn local )

So, I of course forgot my headphones and here I am back upstairs since the atmosphere of Pearl Jam skipping on a shitty boom box mixed with 4 hags exchanging recipes for Italian Sausage isn't exactly conducive to writing.

I think I will go take a relaxing stroll somehwere less obnoxious---perhaps Times Square? A wrecking yard? Airport tarmac?

Ahhhhh, New York, how DO you do it?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Individual seeks full time humiliation

Job hunting in NYC. There's nothing like it. After eating a sleeve of Peeps, I spent a portion of Easter Sunday on craigslist with the hope that there would be less competition responding to ads on the holy of all holy days. This is exactly where my life has found itself. It's not a pretty place. My relationship with craigslist is an abusive one and I keep crawlin' back for some more mistreatment.

Don't get me wrong, I located my current roommate and apartment via craigslist rentals and I enjoy them both immensely. I responded to the Writing/Editing post that The Printed Blog put on craigslist and found myself legitimately published a handful of times this year. There is good stuff out there to be had! If you want the sex, you can get the sex---if you want to learn how to play theramin, someone out there on craigslist is offering lessons! There's even free stuff and who doesn't love a dresser missing a drawer!

My main gripe is going after restaurant jobs in NYC. It's outrageous. I currently have one job that is part time and not a terribly realistic amount of income. Actually, it's not cutting it at all so here i am all day responding to stupid posts on craigslist trying to sound peppy but also relaxed in my brief little intro as I then PASTE (note: potential employers HATE attachments and will NOT consider you for work as they so adamantly write in their bullshit ads) my resume into the body of the email, thus encountering all sorts of formatting problems and making my resume look even more embarrassing than it already is.

I've encountered a few obstacles with this job hunt. I refuse to work in Manhattan ever again and I know I am not the only server who feels that way. It makes the Brooklyn competition an absolute show-down. Cue E.L.O.

So I scour the pages looking for jobs in my surrounding neighborhoods which are few and far between, compared to the breakneck speed of turn-over in the city. I have found myself showing up for a restaurant "audition". Yeah. That's what I said. Nope, not an interview. Some of these places have "open calls" where you can make it or break it in the service industry. You would think it was a try-out for American Idol the way people get all decked out, line-up for this crap and try to sell themselves in less than 5 minutes. How do you sum up ten years of grueling, thankless work in the service industry in less than 5 minutes?! Like that I guess. It's a business for clowns.

Other places have you "guest bartend" or "guest serve" which is an absolutely assinine thing to put someone up to if they've never worked with your menu, customers, co-workers, kitchen or staff. I know now that a place like this does not care about the quality of their product if they are unwilling to train someone. But before I knew better, I showed up for one of these "guest jobs" in the West Village.

It's a waitressing nightmare come to fruition. You know the one---nothing is where it should be, you keep forgetting to bring things to the table, you can't read the writing on your own tickets all while the dining room keeps expanding in size and filling up with more people.

I showed up at this little cafe and was literally just thrown into the mix. I wanted to die for 5 hours as I was working with a server who was beyond pissed that she had to work with a "guest server" so she was passive aggressive towards me and when I would ask questions she would just become exasperated and say "I'll just do it." WOW. I certainly learned alot that day but it wasn't at DOMA. May you rot in hell, provider of murky coffee and stank attitudes.

Then there is the situation of the manager who never gets back to you after you've dropped off a resume and they say to "check back--But don't call." Great. So then you have to play the guessing game of "how many times do I casually drop in to chat before crossing the line into full blown stalker territory/ and/or will they even be present since I have no way of knowing because they said not to call."

I felt like I was in the beginning stages of dating someone. "Should I wait 2 or 3 days to see him again? I don't want to seem depserate, but I definitely want him to know I am interested." Clearly I wasn't stalker-ish enough because the job slipped out from under me the day prior and I walked out of there scorned. I sort of glared at the current wait staff who I had fantasized to be my new summer server friends and had made easy conversation with in the prior weeks. They were dead to me now and they averted eye contact.

It's never been a problem to just pick up an extra side gig as a server. But man oh man times are tough right now and I really don't want another one of these jobs as is!

I promised myself that the place I work at currently would be my restaurant swan song. I love it there, it's a great job with good hours, and I intend to have to quit because I finally have gotten some financial stability out of my other endeavors. I don't want to quit because I am sick of it, or because they are sick of me, or because I am 70 years old and still a server and broke my hip while hauling around a bus tub. I want it to be over and done with on adult, positive terms when the time comes. That is my fantasy for saying goodbye to the service industry and I'm being messed with, goddamnit.

But what's worse than not wanting to get a crap job on the side is that I CAN'T get one. I got turned down after an interview at a pressed sandwich cafe! Competition was much too fierce it turns out in the field of serving people dinner that was made on a Panini grill. Now my ego's taking a a beating right along with the bank account.

A Gentleman's Club on the west side called SCORES is hiring. They promise alot of $$$$$$$$ in their craigslist ad. I mean, why have dignity now? Yes, sure, I could at least handle being turned away because I am horribly pale and have been told I look like Debra Winger. But not being hired to serve people 3 dollar side salads and free coke refills because someone is MORE qualified than me to perform this embarrassing job? Well, That's just vulgar, and I have got to draw the line somewhere if I am going to be a self-respecting, and above all, employed individual.

Friday, April 3, 2009


( this is a photo of me suffering through yet ANOTHER shitty Mexican food experience in NYC)

It's time to address this bad joke.

The Mexican food here is disheartening to say the least. I wander the streets longingly peering into windows searching for tacos garnished with lime, cilantro and diced onion. I bow my head and continue to scuffle down the street in the pouring rain. It's been 3 years of this sad, sad life I live after being the self proclaimed Taco Queen of Chicago. I didn't know my legacy would come to such a brutal halt in the city that never sleeps and also apparently is reallllllly mixed up about how to make some palatable verde.

My first experience was at a little shithole called San Loco on NY's lower east side. Oh, my, GOD. I have had better Central American food in AMSTERDAM and that place would put mayonnaise on a shoe and serve it to you because everyone is higher than balls.

I recall walking into San Loco with new friends after living in NYC for about 2 weeks. I was like---"Hey---I love to eat as much Mexican food as possible---do you know a delicious place we could go to?" and soon to be terminated friends were like, "hell yeah---San Loco!"

I knew something was wrong when there was a lanky, greasy haired twenty-something in a super tight, Bad Finger t-shirt taking orders. He was not pleased to serve me and was none too accomodating when I asked if they could make an avocado tostada. I craned my neck to look back into the kitchen and it was staffed with more extras from the film Blow Up. I knew this was going to be sub par, but how sub par, I couldn't have readied myself for.

While we were waiting, we were given a basket of chips and what seemed to be a cough syrup cup filled with pickles and something full of hot vinegar ass nuggets. They may have been trying to pass it off as salsa. I am a salsa fiend. I will mow down a basket of tortilla chips quicker than you can say "dia de los muertos" if there is good salsa involved--the perfect amount of soupiness, onion, cilantro, and heat are all I need to gorge myself silly.

You can usually tell how much of a let down a place is going to be based on the chips and salsa they drop off on the table, or gasp, the lack of free chips and salsa all together.

I was at a place called Blockheads which is a newfangled "mexican restaurant" that's "FUN!" and has high energy and a fast pace and alot of tofu options for VEGANS who want to enjoy themselves too. Uh-uh. No. Their chips and salsa though bottomless, was pretttttty gross. So much so, that I could only bring myself to polish off 2 bowls by myself. It was the kind of salsa that you buy at a gas station----where the choices are either Pace or Tostitos brand which we all know tastes like spicy, chunky ketchup. The chips were overly salted and bordering on stale because of their shelf-life of 3 years.

I went with a plate of rice and beans because the options for tacos, burritos, or platters were so ridiculously overpriced to put anything on them that I just couldn't bring myself to spend 12 dollars on a burrito that was undoubtedly going to be a nightmare.

I hate menus that try and act like they're your peppy, helpful friend and that you're a retard. If you're going to literally write stuff on a menu like, "Allright!You're almost done making a combo platter. Choose 2 more of these shitty toppings for no charge, but if you want any of the typical ingredients that would normally constitute the food item you ordered, you're gonna have to pay out the ass for that!"

Tacos---the way you like 'em! $7.50
Choose your first 2 ingredients for no extra charge: Tortilla or a Plate
For $5 more, add lettuce and tomatoes!
Meat eater? No Problem. Choose boiled Chicken or Beef from a bag for an additional $3!
We've got the cheese! Choose pepperjack or Parmesan for an Italian Taco! $2 each!

That's right, only $17.50 for tacos with alllllllllll the fixins!

It's far less embarrassing to just point at a picture of food.

Blockheads and San Loco makes me so mad that I literally want to throw a brick through their stupid windows.

Almost as mad as the time I was duped into grabbing something to eat from Brooklyn's own Yummy Taco which I refer to as Great Wall Taco or Crummy Taco. Before I could totally process the fact that the person taking my order was Asian American and the whole staff was sitting behind the counter eating lo-mein, I had ordered a guacamole taco and a chorizo taco.

Before I sat down, the tacos were ready. I walked up to the counter to grab my tray with the foil wrapped ticking time bombs and bit into what tasted like Naan or Parata bread stuffed with super fake sausage that you would find on a Stouffer's french bread pizza. I set that down and bit into my "guacamole" taco which was grey-ish in color. I couldn't eat it although I will admit to choking down the chorizo taco. I pretended it was lamb vindaloo. My brain could sort of process that a little more than believing it was a taco. I walked out of there disappointed and per usual, infuriated.

I don't get it. Hipsters and Asian-Americans are running the taco joints making a mockery of Mexican food, Latinos are serving up Middle Eastern food that's totally gross and off the mark and Arab-Americans are running bodegas and selling stale bagels and croissanwiches. I am not mad at these groups in particular, it's just yet another trend of bad food in NYC. Can we be a melting pot in different ways please?

I am just here to say, No more MOCKERIAS!!!!!

As it stands, these are the only places I have had honest to goodness authentic tacos, tostadas, burritos, tortas and sopes:

*The Taco Truck that parks on 14th street and 8th Avenue is fantastic
*Sunset Park---it's a really Southern part of Brooklyn where Spanish is a first language
*5th Ave. and 21st in South Park Slope, there's a little Mexican bakery and in the back they crank out killer tacos and tortas, everything grilled to order.

As for Tex-Mex that's tasty, I love the fish tacos at Snack Dragon on 3rd street and Avenue B in Manhattan, Pacifico on Smith and Pacific in Boerum Hill Brooklyn, and Alma in Red Hook which is more of a fusion, upscale type of retaurant.

Please feel free to post some places you might know of that know how to appropriately garnish a taco with lime, cilantro and onion.
And please feel free to post a warning against a place that is infuriatingly bad.

Until then, good luck out there eating Crunchy Orange Chicken Tacos. Actually, that sounds delicious.....