Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Friday, April 30, 2010
In September 1984, after a lazy summer in Paris, I moved to New York, where I slept on the floor of my friend Glenn's Upper West Side studio and looked unsuccessfully for my first job. I was also unsuccessful finding strong Paris coffee; although there were places that served Cappuccino, they weren't necessarily on the Upper West Side and they weren't generally open first thing in the morning. Where you went instead was a diner, there was one on every other block of Broadway, and what you drank was "regular coffee." Hot coffee with milk, no sugar. Depending on the diner -- and probably the luck of your timing vis a vis the brew cycle -- the results ranged from surprisingly savorable to expectedly ordinary. But the stuff always worked.
I probably never gave it any thought, but if I had, I would have guessed that the iconic New York coffee cup was created by an association of Greek coffee shop owners. (Although "diner" is the preferred New York term, we used "diner" and "coffee shop" interchangeably.) It turns out that it was created by one not-Greek man, whose life is sketched out in a fascinating New York Times obituary today. Leslie Buck, Auschwitz survivor, U.S. immigrant, and young professional on the rise, made a really brilliant marketing decision for a company that was "keen to crack New York's hot-cup market." And, of course, designed the damn thing himself, despite a lack of any such training.
It's a classic New York story, and although my own came later and shares nothing in common with Mr. Buck's except the ubiquity of Greek diners and blue Anthora cups, it makes me nostalgic for my first days in the city. If I were there today, I'd buy a cup of diner coffee and remember: that first cool blue October Sunday when you'd wake with a hangover, stop by a diner for a regular coffee, then walk down the street sipping greedily, breathing in the newly fresh air and coming gradually alive, growing more and more excited by the possibilities of the beautiful day ahead.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
There is what you want, and what you have. You want a digital camera to document your beautiful life, and you want a more beautiful life. Instead, your camera was stolen from your home in Indonesia, and your computer is so slow that you can't upload the photos you can't take anyway. But you're an American, an optimist, and so you take your Saturdays as they come -- and then vote against your own interests in the next election. Ha ha, just kidding, unless you are a Republican, which you are not. So...
You get up at 7:30 with the usual recent sinus pain. You make coffee (Trader Joe's Bay Blend) and hope that will do its magic, and then your special orange juice concoction: two squeezed oranges plus fizzy Poland Spring with lemon whatever-it-is-they-add. You end up with something just like the top photo above. (Not really, but since you don't have a camera, this will have to represent the deliciousness.)
Then you walk to Georgetown with two goals in mind: Buy the new Vampire Weekend and get a decent haircut. Vampire Weekend turns out to be a problem. Barnes & Noble is barely trying with the music thing, and the last "record store" in Washington is having an "everything must go" sort of sale. Actually, it's a bit surprising that not all of Georgetown Park is having an "everything must go" sale... you worked there 26 years ago, and it was pretty worthless even then. Your employer, the offputtingly named "Davisons of Bermuda," sold incredibly scratchy wool sweaters you couldn't possibly wear in Bermuda, should you ever find yourself in Bermuda, which you didn't and haven't and won't.
On the way home, you go back to Barnes & Noble to buy a magazine, barely even bothering to be enraged about the COMPLETE ABSENCE of newsstands in DC. Of course magazines must be bought at a Barnes & Noble in a big city like Washington, and what could be less irritating? TimeOut New York has Vampire Weekend on the cover, plus lots of pictures of hearty winter stews, so wins by a landslide over Dwell, GQ, and every single music magazine in the world (or, in any case, the Barnes & Noble racks, and it's important to remember that this is a store that has done nothing wrong ever, like putting interesting small bookstores out of business with ruthless discounting, or contributing to the "people you meet in heaven" decline of American culture.)
...Where were you? Oh yes, home again. Time for breakfast, because really the thought of food in the first two to three hours of the day is basically unappealing. Scrambled eggs with horseradish and a piece of toast over a couple of moves on Lexulous. (You're ahead, but early days still...) And then a nap. Normally you are nap-averse, but sinus pain will create all sorts of new behavior. Your second big hit, after "Allergies, Allergies," will be "The Nose Knows What it Wants." An hour and another Lexulous move (for 31 points) later, you are off to your gym, which looks like photo three.
Actually, your gym, while empirically the most expensive gym in Washington, looks nothing like that. It has windows, which is a boon in basement-oriented DC, but the other members are surly and wear absurd clothing (how hard IS a tee shirt and sweatpants, folks?) and there is just a general aura of bad karma (hmm... along with the naps, you are using words like aura and karma, probably incorrectly). Of course, it doesn't help that it's in a Ritz-Carlton.
Hey, good news: Football starts in twelve. In the meantime, you've been struggling with your piece-of-nonsense PC to post this, and listening to one of your theme songs while you wait for your Vampire fix. You know, you can you will you do you must aspire. And while imperfection and irritation sit on either shoulder, holding hands, occasionally (when the temperature rises above freezing) a good day just rolls on in. And then you find that what you have is (mysteriously) enough. You may celebrate that now with an actual cocktail -- photo TK.