When Kerol gently and gaily proposed sharing my experience in New York City on paper (not from a tourist’s slanted POV but as a student turned suburbanite for some seven long years), a number of chemical and biological reactions went off inside my chest. What felt like a pinball rocketed around the four chambers of my heart and ricocheted against my ribcage, causing quite a ruckus.
Sure, some of my sweetest memories were spun in The Big Apple, but some flashbacks are also cue for anxiety. Joan Didion said it better than I ever could in Goodbye to All That (1967):
“...it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand the lesson in the story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the fair.”
What follows are periodical journal entries salvaged from the cesspit of Evernote. While I cannot take credit for the annexed dates and neighbourhoods (the application automatically does that), I am glad for the context they provide. Less of a self-guided “walking tour” and more of a time capsule, here you have my first retrospective in print. Past and present tenses co-mingle. Please be gentle, for there may be glitches.
Hurricane Irene Day I
Saturday, Aug 27, 2011 | Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
A portent of disaster, everyone’s panicky actions prompted me to take action likewise. This morning saw me on tiptoes at the nearby grocers, fingers splayed in a breathless effort to grab the last dusty can of Goya chickpeas off the topmost shelf. Survival has no shame.
With “Stock up on non-perishable goods” ticked off my to-do list, I caught the bus to Cambridge Place. My good deed for the day? Helping [my friend] Anthony wire down his deck chairs and grill, lest they be reduced to rubble in his backyard. A tour of his art studio was followed by an attempt to seduce me with strawberries and a foot massage. Ignoring his crude joke about Filipino Longanisa, I did, nevertheless, stay on for carrot and cucumber slaw, and lamb burgers.
The wind was whipping about quite frightfully when I dipped back to my home. Weekender bag packed, I trudged to [my friend] Sam’s brownstone so as not to die alone.
Hurricane Irene Day II
Sunday, Aug 28, 2011 | Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Alternating between the alarming and the amusing, the news is our only means of connection with the outside world now. In the Rockaways, fearless surfers are shredding gnarly waves, risking their lives for “the big one”. Meanwhile in Maryland, a crazed couple is carrying on with their beachside wedding, white dress or not.
Idiocies and idiosyncrasies aside, Sam sure knows a thing or two about food. He demonstrates the proper way to halve an avocado and, using the sharp edge of a knife, executes a nifty trick that makes the pit pop right out. Each cavity is filled with generous pools of olive oil and balsamic vinegar; the way one liquid straddles the other brings meromictic lakes to mind.
Lettuce leaves are tossed, feta is cubed, duck confit is seared, and an amazing supper slowly takes shape. Though unclassy, I relish in the irony of dessert — Zingers, a member of the Hostess family and a close cousin to the Twinkie, are snack cakes found stacked next to newspaper racks in bodegas as 1) an afterthought; 2) a staple, and; 3) an insignia of Americana. Blunts are passed back and forth from opposite ends of the couch as Anthony Bourdain yelps on about edible exoticisms in No Reservations.
This story appeared in Chemistry Issue. To continue reading, you can buy print or digital.