Inhuman Swill : Queens : Page 2
            

Woman in burqa
Pushing her grocery cart
Texting on her phone

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Infidel dog

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Infidel dog
This morning,
with a high of seventy degrees in the forecast,
amazing for a November in Chicago,
I drove the dog to Warren Park.
That's where we go for a special treat
instead of our usual neighborhood walk,
because the squirrel chasing is most excellent,
and there are never any cops there to harass you,
a scofflaw walking his dog off its leash.

We like to run up the steps of the sledding hill,
which a parks department sign actually proclaims "Sledding Hill,"
and then charge down the slope,
after which we make our way around the skirt of the hill
where the squirrels rummage through the leaves
like so many bargain hunters.
We crunch crunch crunch across the orange carpet,
and if we're lucky we spot a squirrel far enough out
in the open that Ella can chase it full-bore
back to its tree.
She has never once caught one.
Or at any rate never killed one.

Next we like to follow the cinder jogging path
all the way around the little nine-hole golf course embedded
like an off-center yolk
in the albumen of the park,
and that's exactly what we did this morning.
I walked in the leaves at the side of the path,
trying to encourage Ella to do the same,
but unless she has a rodent, lagomorph or marsupial in her sights
she prefers to walk on pavement. Go figure.

We were on the south side of the golf course,
the tall chain-link fence meant to protect us from flying balls
off to our left,
when I saw two men coming our way along the path,
youngish men—younger than I, at any rate—
neatly bearded men dressed in long robes the color of wet sand.
It was already warm enough out that I was regretting
the heavy coat I wore over my hooded sweatshirt.
I snapped my fingers imperiously,
calling for Ella to return to my side,
to leave the path and get out of the way
of the two youngish men engaged in animated talk.

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And a brine chaser, please

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While Laura and I were in New York City about a month ago, we were introduced to a drink called the "pickle back"—a shot of Irish whiskey followed by a pickle-brine chaser. Yes, I was dubious too, but it was the best new drink I'd tasted in ages. Of course, the pickle juice needs to be of high quality. You can't just use the liquid from a bottle of Vlasic dill chips.

We first experienced the pickle back at Sweet Afton in Queens ([info]ecmyers was there!), so imagine our surprise when at Whiskey Tavern in Chinatown the next evening we found two varieties of pickle back on the menu! It's apparently a growing trend in bars in the know, as detailed in this New York Post article:

Give Pickle Juice a Shot

Time to invest in cucumber futures?

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Recompense

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Speaking of electrical problems, do you remember that nine-day blackout we had in Queens a couple of years ago? I swung by the old apartment one day last week to pick up our mail (which our stupid old post office has thus far utterly failed to forward), and found amongst the pieces a check from ConEd back in New York. It was a hundred bucks in compensation for the power outage. We didn't have it as bad as some, since for some reason we at least had power for the appliances in the back half of our apartment, but hey, I'm not going to turn down money from a utility. In fact, given the state of banks lately, I deposited it as fast as I could.

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Old shoe week

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John eat BRAINS!
Going home to New York City is as comfortable as slipping on an old shoe. I flew there Tuesday afternoon with just a backpack and the parka on my back, and I was immediately at ease and confident in a way I don't yet feel in Chicago. The only bad part was that I was alone, since Laura was on a concurrent business trip to Rochester.

But I wasn't solitary for long. I took a cab from Laguardia to my borrowed apartment in Astoria, Queens, dumped off most of the contents of my pack, and headed into the city. After a quick stop at my old office, I met John Klima, in from Iowa way, at the Tor offices in the Flatiron Building. I acquired an advance copy of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, I chatted with Patrick Nielsen Hayden for a minute or two, and John and I hauled his bags back to Astoria on the subway.

We had a full evening ahead, but before I tell you about it I have to back up several months and remind you of the segment of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" that Laura and I caught back in July:

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We thought we could beat the thunderstorms. That is why last Monday evening I walked thirty minutes to a showing of Live Free or Die Hard, while Laura biked to Pipers Alley to meet up with the running group she was attending for the first time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my movie, even the patently preposterous parts toward the end, and I emerged to discover that it had rained while I was inside. A lot. Laura, on the other hand, ran with the group and biked home in it.

So it was that when I arrived home I found her recuperating on the couch in front of the television. She had the Travel Channel on, and had paused the live feed. "You need to watch this," she said. "Before you do anything else. I guarantee it will make you happy."

This is what she showed me:

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Astoria Sidewalk
Every Sunday morning, Laura and I walk Ella through our neighborhood to Astoria Park for a pre-9:00 am romp with her friends. It takes about half an hour to get there. Last Sunday, Laura brought the camera along and took pictures.

Astoria has the largest population of Greeks outside of Greece, or so I am told. It's the kind of neighborhood with a Dunkin' Donuts on one block and a supper club called ΠANΘEON on the next. Astoria's sister city is Athens, which donated a couple of statues to a little park on 30th Avenue called Athens Square.

We don't always walk through Athens Square on the way to Astoria Park, but when we do Ella usually barks at the Socrates statue. (Had she lived in ancient Athens, she'd have been one of the citizens calling for the death of Socrates.) Sunday, though, she couldn't be bothered.

From Athens Square, it's another twenty minutes or so to Astoria Park. There's a children's playground in the park that overlooks the once-dangerous East River channel known as Hell Gate. Only in a Greek neighborhood would the playground be named after Charybdis, the ravenous sea monster of Greek mythology responsible for whirlpools.

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Waxing the camel

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Last night was the end of an era. It was by only the most fortuitous of chances that we were there for it.

Laura and I had taken [info]curmudgeon to the incomparable Kabab Cafe before, to be entertained, charmed, and provoked by our friend Ali El Sayed's patter and transported by his food. With Laura and me moving soon, doing it again while Curmudgeon was in town was critical.

Turns out it was more critical than we knew. Ali told us, "I'm glad you are here tonight. Tomorrow I will be closed. I leave for 25 days in Egypt." He went on to explain that on his return, he will begin renovating Kabab Cafe—again. He will change the menu, begin serving breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner, and train chefs to take over for him. He will then take his menu over to his brother Moustafa's excellent nearby restaurant Mombar, where he will sometimes cook and sometimes help oversee operations of both restaurants. He will use his trip to Egypt to work out plans for the new venture.

The changes are exciting, since Ali finally won't be tied to his tiny kitchen. But it was also a poignant evening—the last night of the Kabab Cafe we've known all these years. There were only two other diners there when we arrived, but even with the pick of tables in the place, Ali suggested we sit in the niche near the door so he could talk to us over the counter of his kitchen. We drank too much Argentine Malbec while we enjoyed mixed appetizers of hummus, babaganouj, falafel, fried Swiss chard, apples, pears, and more; a more than appetizer portion of pumpkin dumplings in a spicy sauce; goat chops; beef short ribs; and an amazing dish of sand shark tail. I broke out a bottle of Balvenie Portwood 21yo I'd brought for us—Ali included—to enjoy along with dessert, which was a plate of selected Mediterranean pastries from the bakery down the street, together with yogurt and various fruits. I had thick coffee too.

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Undeliverable

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It must be a year now since we moved from our old place. Last week we received a whole mess of holiday cards, automatically forwarded from our old address, from folks who apparently didn't get the memo about our change of address.

Today, though, I got word from a friend that a holiday card they had sent to the old address was returned as undeliverable. This means two things:

  1. Our 12-month forwarding order has just expired.
  2. There is no longer a house at 23-33 31st Avenue where the mail carrier can deposit unforwarded letters.
Yes, our old house is gone. Not a brick remains. It's now a giant hole in the ground surrounded by a tall plywood fence (though the Google satellite image, off by a couple hundred feet, still shows the happy house unmolested). We need to go take some pictures.

I hope there's no critical snail mail out there on its way to the wrong address, because it ain't gonna reach us.

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