Happy fortune teller

IMG_5866IMG_5868Last Saturday I took a long walk through the Village that included a stroll through Washington Square Park. I sat for a while on the side of the fountain, watching children run through the spray while hipsters—books (and e-books) in hand —cooled their feet and a Rottweiler bathed languidly against a backdrop of the arch and the Empire State Building. This, I thought, is Manhattan in the summer.

On my way out of the park, I passed a nondescript, brown dog standing inside a semi-circle of chalk labeled, “Happy Fortune Teller.” At the other end of the leash was a young woman in a long, flowing skirt with a sack slumped at her feet. I slowed down. I stopped and stared. Then I started walking again, passing under the shadow of the arch and out of the park.

Then I doubled back. If there was even a chance that that dog might read my fortune, I couldn’t live with myself if I passed it up. A dog telling fortunes—that’s everything I stand for. Lest you think I jumped to a ridiculous conclusion, I would like you to know that I had already passed several bands, a professional bubble-blower and a sand artist. A dog fortune teller seemed totally in context.

“Does this dog tell fortunes?” I asked the young woman, feeling stupid but so hopeful.

“No, we just had the bad luck of standing in this spot,” she said. I thought it was good luck, but I didn’t argue.

It turned out, the dog, Scarlett, was having a big day of her own. She was in Manhattan for the very first time, and feeling nervous about it, which is why I didn’t ask to take her picture. She was on her way to her parent’s wedding , in the company of her friendly human escort.

So a dog didn’t read my fortune, but:

  1. It is amazing how easy it is to make a small connection with other people in this city.
  2. Somewhere, there’s a person offering happy fortunes, and that should give us all hope.

New York weekend

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photoAugustBlogDSC_00811) Before she left town for the weekend, one of my new friends asked me to check in on her potted herb garden, which meant she handed me the key to access not only her balcony, but the rooftop of our building. The roof. Our building is only five stories tall, but because we live on one of the highest points in the entire city, the view is freaking amazing. Being up there was like taking a vacation inside our own building, which we both sorely needed.

2) I started and ended my weekend at an adorable little cafe called Savor Brooklyn. It is about a mile from our place on a quiet residential street in Windsor Terrace, and I had never seen it before until I signed up for a month of  yoga at a studio on the same block. It is adorable, quiet and bright. It seems to be run entirely by a husband/wife team, and not only does their menu say they source local, last week I watched the husband snip basil leaves off of one of his plants to make bruschetta (which he brought me a piece of for free.) They don’t seem to have much business (location, location, location is not on their side), which makes me feel irrationally guilty every time I walk by without stopping. So Friday I stopped for lunch (pillowy, handmade ravioli), and Sunday Jeff and I both went in for breakfast (frittatas) on our way to the farmers’s market, which is also on the same amazing block.

3) My major accomplishment this weekend was reading almost all of three New Yorkers. Notice all the books looking on with contempt and a sense of neglect. Takeaways: Bloomberg’s incomprehensible wealth has made him the rare politician who can’t be bought, and a hard act to follow; ideas of all kinds are best spread through many conversations with people you trust (a concept that fascinates me because I have long seen it play out in the ways I have changed my habits and the ways I have brought change to my surroundings); you can forge great works of art so long as you mean well (a curator from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is a major character in this piece, which also has one of THE best endings in any article I’ve ever read. Kudos to Alec Wilkinson); even great chefs still approach food with an air of wonder and experimentation (bonus takeaway: renewed faith in the craft of food journalism.)

4) Speaking of food, I made one of my favorite meals Sunday night: Tomato bisque with zucchini fritters. I’ll try to say a little more about this one later in the week.

Two first dates

IMG_2097I feel like I am riding a whole wave of love from the universe at the moment, and I am trying to recognize it with all the gratitude in my heart without fearing the inevitable shifting tide that is always part of life. Exactly four years ago I had a week that felt a little like this—in fact, it was such a good week that it has lived in infamy in my memory as The Best Week Ever. There was travel, there were parties, new friends and very old friends, a stellar (literally) meteor show, even a new car. It was like winning a game show.

So what happened last week? Several things, but first and foremost, I went on two really good first dates.

I’ve never actually dated as an adult, but every time I talk about the struggle of making new friends I sound like a dating cliche. I’ve met lots of nice New York women in all the usual places—the farmers’ market, walking the dog, at food events and cocktail parties—but I have found it nearly impossible to take things to the next level. Information is exchanged, we friend each other on Facebook, but then what? Contacting someone you hardly know and proposing that you get together can seem so insurmountably daunting. Laid bare. Like you are admitting straight out—to the very person you want to impress—that the conversation you shared over wine/cookies/dog poop was the closest thing you’ve had to friendship all week. Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable. And yet….

I realized years ago that I deeply appreciate people who are able to communicate directly, so I’m striving to be the kind of person who will tell someone straight-out, “I really like you, and I still don’t have a very big community of friends here. Would you like to get together sometime?”

It sounds easy, but oh the fear of liking more than you’re liked, of loving more than you’re loved! It happens in all stages of friendship. I think most of us never quite get over the childhood fear that we are not our best friend’s best friend, or the more adult fear that loving someone platonically, and admitting it, really is okay. I heard something on a podcast recently (The Moth?) that really broke my heart: A man said that young men are drawn to war in part because it is the only place where men can love each other fully without the fear that they will be misunderstood. When your life is in another man’s hands and you are cocooned in all the machismo of an armored tank, then you can relax and love. Then you can let your guard down.

Women have it easy, comparatively. And yet.

This past week, however, I fought the good fight. I met honesty with honesty. Pizza was consumed. At one point I marched myself up to the door of a new neighbor who I hadn’t seen in two months, and I knocked. In less than five minutes we’d made plans to go to the beach, where we laid (almost) bare in more ways than one. Sunburns aside, it was a very, very good day.

Getting our Thanksgiving on: Thanksgiving Eve

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Photos above by Peter

Photos above by Peter

By now I’m sure you’ve seen this video, which demonstrates what will happen if gay men aren’t allowed to marry each other. Well, ladies, I am here to tell you that what every girl needs is not one, but two gay husbands. I imported mine special from England, which really added a little class to my holiday preparations, but I digress. Peter and Richard arrived the Friday before Thanksgiving, so by Wednesday they had spent plenty of time exploring, and I had shown them lots of great NYC spots, like the cemetery and our local taco truck. Thrilling! I told them the one thing we had to do on Wednesday was go into Manhattan and pick up our turkey from Violet Hill Farms at Union Market, which is becoming an annual tradition (here I am last year in the same green coat with the turkey in my bag). They said that they were happy to go with me to the farmers’ market (!) and that furthermore, we could do whatever I wanted while we were in Manhattan. Oh sweet mother of all things holy.

To understand why this was such a big deal, you have know that my actual husband is a straight man. You also have to understand that with all of  all of Manhattan — capital of the world, center of culture — laid at my feet, I only had one thing in mind: The hats.

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But I’m going to do a separate post about the hats so I can explain properly.

First we went to the market, where we browsed the Christmas stalls (and no one rushed me!), found our turkey (Richard named her Nigella on account of her breasts) and picked up a few stray veggies (they helped me carry everything!). They even bought me flowers. Then we headed uptown for the hats and gazed at the Flatiron Building for a while before heading back to Brooklyn, where we walked for blocks and blocks and bought even more food. This was where the British part really came in handy, because they were incapable of complaining, even when I made them carry 30 pounds of groceries and we got off at the wrong subway stop by accident.

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After all that, they were still game to go back into Manhattan to see the parade balloons being inflated. They might not have been game, but they are British, so they weren’t about to tell me how they actually felt. It takes about an hour to get to the Natural History Museum, which is where all of the Macy’s balloons wait for their big moment. We climbed out of the subway and saw this:
(Photo by Peter)

(Photo by Peter)

Poor elf! The Smurfs, Buzz Lightyear and even Santa were in the same, sad situation. If the other balloons faired better, we never found out because after about a block we were shuffled into a line that apparently led to the real line. After 45 minutes in the line line, we bailed, happy that we had at least got a glimpse of the magic that is 300,000 cubic feet of corralled helium.

When all was said and done, I felt a little bad that we had spent so much time on the balloon expedition, but all in all I think I did a good job of exposing them to all that is Thanksgiving Eve in NYC: the food procurement, the crowds, the excessive walking with heavy bags. And New York played her part well. On the way to the grocery in Brooklyn, we were walking past a row of lovely brownstones on a mostly deserted street when we noticed a man standing on a stoop with a bouquet of flowers. Just as we passed the house, an older woman opened the door and greeted him with the kind of surprised jubilation you usually only see in movies. He was home for the holiday. When you spend nearly an hour in a line line, packed like sardines on the sidewalk, all the humanity can seem like too much. But it is that same proximity and shared public space that makes my favorite New York moments possible.