Stoop recycling

imageIt’s easy to make fun of Park Slope and its earnest, politically-correct, kombucha-guzzling denizens. There are the bars that offer special happy hours for new mothers (“have a pint with your half pint”); the stroller traffic jams; the antics of the Park Slope Food Coop, dutifully reported in the Linewaiters’ Gazette; and kale, kale, kale, everywhere you turn, in places kale has no business being.

It’s easy to mock, and mock it I do (just ask Eric) – but I also love this neighborhood. Continue reading

Bodega strike

imageYesterday, Yemeni bodega owners across New York City went on a half-day strike against the Fake President’s Muslim ban, shuttering their stores at noon. (If you’re not from here, a word of explanation: bodegas are small neighborhood stores that sell groceries, sundries and quick eats, like the bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches that fuel city mornings.) You can read about the action – which drew thousands to a demonstration and prayer service outside Brooklyn Borough Hall – here.

This morning, the window of the bodega at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street in Park Slope was plastered with messages of support from school kids, other Fifth Avenue businesses and neighborhood residents.

I went in and bought a 4-pack of toilet paper, just because.

There goes the neighborhood

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Really rich people make really bad neighbors.

The process of gentrification is pretty far along in Park Slope, but the above-pictured sign on 1st street between 4th and 5th avenues still stopped me in my tracks. The block is divided between commercial spaces and condos at the 4th avenue end, and nice (but modest) brownstones closer to 5th avenue. It’s not, in other words, the kind of block you’d normally associate with house-hunting oligarchs.

And therein lies a tale. Continue reading

One Brooklyn runner’s totally idiosyncratic spectator’s guide to the TCS New York City Marathon

Welcome to Brooklyn, baby.

Welcome to Brooklyn, baby.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Originally published in October 2015, this post has been updated to reflect business closings (a sad fact of life for restaurants everywhere, perhaps especially in gentrifying sections of Brooklyn) and changes in hours. Please check back for an all-new round-up closer to the November 6 running of the 2016 TCS NYC Marathon.


This is for you, marathon spectators! Thanks for listening to our whining, humoring our obsession, pretending to understand our talk of intervals and tempo runs and split times and generally putting up with us throughout our months of training. As if all that isn’t enough, you’ve further agreed to stand outside for hours in whatever weather November 1 brings. Some of you have traveled long distances and invested significant sums of money to be here on marathon day.

You deserve the race of your life.

I’ve been a spectator along the marathon course about as many times as I’ve actually run the race, so I know a little bit about spectating. The main thing you need to know is that it’s great; prepare yourself for a wild, raucous, exciting time. It can also be a little tiring. It may be cold. Cheering for random strangers will leave you thirsty and hoarse. At some point, you will get hungry.

Since I’m a runner who gets cold and thirsty and hungry a lot, and who uses many of her runs to explore Brooklyn neighborhoods (including, of late, obsessively running portions of the marathon course), I can help. And I want to help, because your cheers are what make the New York City Marathon, in my biased opinion, the greatest race in the world. Continue reading

Coming soon: drunk painting

IMG_3337Look what’s coming to Fifth Avenue in Park Slope! Soon we’ll be able to get sloshed while daubing paint on canvas somewhere other than in the privacy of our own homes.

I was unfamiliar with this franchise concept, but on reflection, its appeal to frazzled moms who feel their creativity is being stifled makes it a natural for the neighborhood.

Thank god we still have Leopoldi Hardware and Save-on-Fifth for the rest of us.

A clumsy runner greets the new year

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My first running mishap of 2015 came early. Tuesday’s program called for a loop and a half of Prospect Park, cutting across Center Drive to run the bottom of the park twice. On my second half-loop, for variety’s sake, I went off-road and onto the wide dirt path that hugs the south shore of the lake. It was cold and windy, but the bitterest of the bitter cold hadn’t yet hit, and a light snow softened January’s sharp edges.

What a beautiful morning.

Until – whoosh. My foot skidded on a sheet of ice, my arms flailed (great as a comic effect, useless as a practical measure), and I went down hard.

Next came the sound of ice cracking as a runner-size hole opened and half-submerged me in a deep mud puddle – mud pond, really. I had two immediate (and equally useless) responses.

Useless response #1: yell “goddammitshitfuck” at the top of my lungs.

Useless response #2: attempt to use the unbroken ice around me as a support to lift myself out of the freezing water.

As anyone who ever watched a child-in-peril melodrama (winter edition) knows, #2 does not work. But sometimes you have to learn things for yourself, and I was surprised and outraged when my efforts led to the horrifying sound of more ice cracking, a wider hole, and a profound sense of futility.

The only way up and out was to plunge my hands under the water to find solid ground. I did that and struggled to my feet, soaked to the skin. There was no Lassie to the rescue. There was no Saint Bernard with a flask of warming brandy. There was only a bundled-up walker, who clucked sympathetically as she passed but did not stop, and two miles between me and home.

I resumed my run, because what else could I do?

It was quite impressive how quickly my gloves and jacket froze solid. Running through the deserted park in that state was tough; running through the populated streets of Park Slope was even tougher. Knots of people are always milling around New York Methodist Hospital, and though you have to work hard to attract attention here in the Big City, I did get a few sidelong glances as I passed them. When I finally made it to our building, I understood why. The face reflected in the entry way mirror was that of a doomed polar explorer: frosted eyebrows, full-face ice beard, desperate, haunted eyes.

A plush robe, a hot drink and a warm shower chased away the deep chill surprisingly quickly. The bruise on my left hip is more stubborn, and I’ve spent the past two days charting its progress. It’s 6 inches long and 3 inches at its widest (yes, I measured) and is shaped like Jamaica flipped upside down. At first, with its concentric rings of different colors, it looked a bit like a topographic map. Later, I saw in it a swatch of old-fashioned chintz: two billowing pink cabbage roses surrounded by soft-edged foliage in pastel shades of purple, blue and green. Now it’s mostly darkened to midnight violet.

Though Eric can’t look at it without grimacing, I find it endlessly fascinating and oddly beautiful.

Postscript – when I ran by the site of the incident yesterday morning (safely on-road this time), I saw that park maintenance vehicles had been over the spot with a vengeance, breaking the ice and churning up the (now frozen) mud. It was my bad luck to be out running during what was probably a short window of danger, when enough snow had fallen to hide the ice but park workers had not yet rolled through.

A fond farewell to M&S

The way the storefront at 312 5th Avenue is supposed to look.

The way the storefront at 312 5th Avenue is supposed to look.

Long before I moved to Brooklyn for real, I was a regular visitor to Park Slope – and a regular customer at M&S Prime Meats. The main reason I made that DTW-LGA flight so many times was to see Eric, of course . . .  but having an honest-to-God Italo-Uruguayan pork store, one that made its own mozzarella, PRACTICALLY ACROSS THE STREET kind of sealed the deal.

M&S is where I bought ricotta to spoon over fresh strawberries. It’s where I gazed wistfully at aged-til-just-this-side-of-funky slabs of beef, splurging on extra-thick rib-eye steaks once a year. It’s where I ran when I was out of pancetta, or needed spicy broccoli rabe or roasted red peppers. It’s where I discovered the joy of lard bread.

This past Sunday, after 10 days in Michigan, I dropped by to stock up. The window that usually featured hand-lettered lists of specials and odd newspaper clippings (most recently, tabloid coverage of Luis Suarez’s infamous bite out of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder) had been transformed – I was going to say “defaced” – with slick invitations to check out somebody called “Russo” on Yelp. That was jarring. But the note on the door was worse:

We are sorry to inform you that M&S Prime Meats will close it (sic) doors permanently in August.
Due to Mel’s health problems, he can no longer spend and dedicate the time necessary to the store like it requires.
Luckily our good friend Jack, from Russo’s fresh mozzarella and pasta will be taking over the store and we know he will do a great job caring for it.
We would like to thank every single one of you for your support throughout these years, We will miss you.

THANK YOU and A BIG HUG FOR YOU GUYS and GOOD LUCK.

Mel

In retrospect, there were signs. Common items were inexplicably in short supply. Mel seemed glum and detached. Sometimes I’d enter the store and just stand there, waiting for someone to emerge from the back.

But this . . . this was far too abrupt.

I went back the following day hoping to catch Mel. I found him out front, shooting the breeze with a group of UPS guys on lunch break. “I just want to give you a hug,” I blurted out, and did. We exchanged a few pleasantries, I told him how much I loved the store, he basically repeated what he’d written in the letter, we wished one another good luck and good health, and that was that.

It’s probably just as well that my words stayed dammed up; food memories are like dreams, not nearly as interesting to others as they are to you. Still, it’s remarkable how many milestones in my Brooklyn life have involved food from M&S, starting with the first brunch Eric and I hosted together (sausage, red pepper and broccoli rabe frittatas), to our wedding party at the Bell House (ricotta for the cheesecake, plus something like ten loaves of lard bread), to our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple (those aforementioned rib-eye steaks).

Thanks for the memories, Mel.