Li’l vacation

I often feel that vacationing is a form of conspicuous consumption,* a feeling which doubtless is not shared by the many people I know who flaunt their lovely vacation photos at every opportunity. Still, I’m sure I take things too far in the other direction since I hardly ever go anywhere. Which means I hardly ever take any time off (which is not great, I’m working on it), since why would I use hard-earned vacation days to sit around at home?

Sometimes, however, I do manage to plan a nice sort of day (a staycation, if you will, but I won’t, it makes me grimace for some reason), as I did today, as a combo recovery-from-being-sick-for-like-a-month and getting-ready-for-a-busy-work-season respite. I doubt anywhere I went fell more than a mile from anywhere else, and it was all quite reachable from home. Or should have been, minus the emergency repairs on my train line today.

After waking up at an ungodly late hour and working around the train by waiting for a bus for a very long time (I should have probably taken a different bus, or walked to the express train stop, but such is life), I headed out on what was largely a food-based day, as will no doubt shock you. So below please enjoy my own conspicuous consumption:

First stop, Babydudes, where I got a nice, fruity iced coffee and the world’s most lovingly made sourdough waffle, and read The Reign of the Kingfisher, which I think I like but don’t quite love yet (it’s a sort of mystery novel wrapped up in superhero trappings). Perhaps I should have taken notes on the waffle; maybe one day I’ll try making one myself. [I dunno why the picture is so blurry, oops, but I didn’t want Babydudes to be left out of the ensuing photographic parade.]

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Next, the lovely Hunky Dory, which I’ve already told you I quite like. I had 2 of the world’s tiniest pancakes, along with tea eggs and a smoothly drinkable Bad Penny, made of sweet-potato bourbon, sweet vermouth, and orange-y wine (HD’s descriptor; it was delicious).

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Then I hung out in the botanic garden for a couple hours, and chatted with my best buddy in Miami on the phone, a dying art, and she had to go exactly when I arrived at my final destination, MeMe’s Diner, where the cake is so good I preemptively ordered a slice to go and the hospitality is a part of the mission (my server complimented me on reserving the cake, saying a lot of orders were coming in and it could disappear at any moment). While I admired the light in the sky, I ate a leisurely dinner of the world’s most instagrammable (and delicious) salad, bright pops of purple cauliflower and yellow raisins, underpinned by tahini and spice. And then home again not so many hours later than I started out, a little fortified for the busy coming days.

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*At least, the kind of vacation that involves flying to far-flung locations. Man, flying is really bad for the environment. Please don’t hate me for my crankiness.

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Quizzical

You may have noticed I have a lot of opinions about food and drink. Though I usually become a regular at places I find especially delicious, I’ve allowed myself one exception. Despite my indifference to its beer selection, I lived a decent chunk of the last 7 or 8 years inside Pacific Standard’s doors, and I do not regret it.

I don’t even remember why I first rolled into Pacific Standard with some friends. I think we were just looking for somewhere to hang out. I fell in love with its living room atmosphere, which soon became for me that ultimate cliche, a home away from home. I wrote my grad school application on one of its couches. I learned to care about football while watching the Giants play the 49ers (an ill-advised choice as a new Giants fan at a California-themed bar) and go on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I trash talked my way through many a cooperative card game.  But most important of all was the ritual of pub quiz.

I’d always thought it’d be nice to have a pub quiz team, even though I am not especially great at trivia. It seemed like the sort of thing cool grown-ups would do to hang out (or, well, like having Friends-type friends, but for nerds). It took a while for my team to cohere but it did, with four core members, along with many guests putting in appearances through the years, including a couple of notable ringers who’d join us at finals time. (We return the favor up in Williamsburg.)

My boyfriend is the quiz expert (one legendary tiebreaker round he wrote down about 30 New York counties in a minute), but I had my moments (food, subways, identifying pictures of dog breeds). Our two regular teammates also have their areas of expertise, particularly movies–a category my household is comically ill-equipped to contemplate–and a devotion to current events and the world around us (the quizmaster had an especial fondness for asking about meteor showers). Almost every Sunday, as easy as breathing, working, sleeping, we’d show up, get a table, spend a couple hours answering questions, play some board games, gird ourselves for the work week with some friendly faces. (I called one team our fremeses, since one of them used to work at one of my publishers and we developed a jovially insulting friendship of sorts; it turned out one of my current coworkers was also a quiz devotee.) Attending quiz was so much our default mode that lots of weeks we might not even bother to ask if anyone was showing up, since we knew they were unless we heard otherwise.

My team and its train portmanteau names (The Love Song of Jay Street–MetroTech our flagship) were pretty darn successful, generally coming in the top 3 each season once our lineup cohered. We rolled on through all sorts of stresses and joys, through endless summer walks and begrudging winter Lyft rides, fancy dinners and bar quesadillas, other friendships made and lost. Even when I wasn’t in a very good mood, I was grateful for the opportunity to keep in regular touch with my teammates, and to not give in to ennui and self-pity on otherwise dead-end Sunday nights. Most everyone I care about passed through Pacific Standard at some point or other, whether to play trivia for a night or a year or four, or just to help us drink away our winners’ bar tab or, one glorious time, our chosen keg of Berliner weisse.

I can’t believe it’s over. I keep reflexively trying to plan my weekends around it. I’m sure I’m forgetting a hundred things about it that I want to tell you. If you have any leads for the endless future of Sunday nights, let me know.

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Note: I was inspired to write this since one of our competitors wrote a lovely article for Grub Street encapsulating what made the bar, and especially the trivia, so great; I encourage you to read it.

Y tho

Many things about the present me would puzzle my past self, but perhaps the most surprising is that I go to the gym. I have in fact been so diligent in my gym-going habits that I have made other people feel bad in comparison. Gotta admit, this is really not a part of my self-concept. But it seems to be true.

By gym, I mean I go to the flagship McBurney Y on 14th St, ideally 3x a week, to walk and swim in the water. (I also do a quazillion stretches every day but won’t get into that.) Before I psyched myself up to first breach the Y’s doors in October of 2017, I probably hadn’t been swimming for 10 years. Happily, it’s like the proverbial bicycle and I’m back at it. It’s nice to move around without my knees complaining quite as loud. And to see such a wide range of other people move through the pool and the rest of the building, living their lives. (Sure beats a Tribeca Equinox.) And while I don’t quite feel the need to make friends at the Y, I do appreciate the familiar faces I encounter: the woman who used to try to get me to go to aqua aerobics class; the man I see many mornings who, when I once asked how are you, said something along the lines of, I’m good, and it takes a lot of effort!

Ah yes, another shocking fact. Sometimes (more than half the time, these days) I even go to the gym before work. *Youth self pulls the covers over her head, goes back to bed, while current self extols the virtues of early-morning exercise like a goddamn Y testimonial.*

Just as gratifying, though different, are the days when I hit the pool in the evening (it’s open ’til 11, after all). Like maybe it’s Friday and I am a grown-up now so I can go sit at a hotel speakeasy with a fancy spritz then hop the train down to the Y (“the train is not your friend!” I overheard; I disagree) and revel in the relative emptiness. Not totally empty though; late Y nights are not a secret. Someone must be reading all the testimonials.