Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A whine on wine

I had a bit of an old-lady tantrum yesterday but I totally stand by it. 

I received an email link to a company that is marketng its wines to younger (though still legal) drinkers.  No doubt the company did its research and realised that some young people (“the millennials” as they seem to be called in marketing circles) feel intimidated by wine and they don’t feel equipped to make a sensible choice about what wine they, or their friends, might enjoy. 

Hey, I’ve been there. I know wine can be intimidating.  But my easy solution would be to ask someone.  Your family, friends, or even the guy at the wine store.  Even if you don’t know what varietal(s) you like or what region you prefer, even the L-plate wine drinker knows if they usually prefer white wine or red wine.  And any wine store worth its mettle should be able to steer you to success from there. 

But what did the wine company in question do?  Rather than value the intelligence of their intended market, they released a range of wines with labels bearing “LOL!!!”, “OMG!!!”, “LMAO!!!” and other such keyboard shortcuts.  Yes, those exclamation points are superfluous but again, they are the company’s idea, not mine.  To utter three little letters of my own: W.T.F (incidentally, this is the name of the company’s Pinot Noir).  I may not be a purist, but I am a linguist, and something about these products is slowly killing me on the inside.

Tapping into young-person’s vocab is a great way to show you have your finger on the social pulse.  And maybe I’m just turning into a crotchety old sag, but aren’t these texty labels tantamount to a giant neon sign above the head of the purchaser, screaming to all and sundry that he/she clearly doesn’t know what he/she is doing?  As I clutch my pearls and inhale my smelling salts, I have to despair: won’t anybody think of the children?!

And okay, fine.  I have to concede that contents aside, these labels are trying to encourage young drinkers to drink wine and on this front, I am totally on board.  I love wine, and I want lots of other legal-drinking-age people to love it too.  But will young drinkers actually learn anything about wine from drinking these ones?  I suspect not.  So I’m led to assume that this is just a dumb marketing stunt designed to move lots of product. And all I can say is, shame on you TXT Cellars.  Besides, the 2011 Consumer Research Study by the Wine Market Council suggests you clearly didn’t need to resort to this.  In the US at least, the survey reports trends that suggest that millennials are more likely than other groups to try wines they’ve never heard of before, they’re more likely to consult wine reviews and more likely to visit wine bars.  Millennials also consume more wine per occasion than we older soaks, and they readily use social media channels to talk about the wines they’re drinking.  They’re a switched-on, sophisticated bunch of consumers, so treat them accordingly.

Sigh.  In times like this, I reflect fondly on one of my favourite wine stores ever.  The owners, staff, teachers and patrons all used to say, “the best wine for you is the wine you like the best”.  So my advice to young drinkers looking to find the best wine for them, is to keep asking questions, keep sampling, and keep an open mind.  And learn how to spot an insult to your intelligence when you see one.

I have to go now.  It's 7pm and "Matlock" is on TV.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And zen what?

We’ve had a couple of really busy weeks at work.  You’d think that the frenzied days would knock me out and make me sleep like the dead, right?  In a just world, I suspect that would be the case.  But as it turns out, my brain has been totally wired and it’s been very hard for me to relax and wind down at the end of a frantic day.
I was discussing this very thing at the hair salon the other day and the guy shampooing my hair suggested that a half-bottle of wine was a solution that always seemed to work for him.  I had to agree he had a point, but both of us conceded that the morning-after effects could be a bit tough to take.  Someone else suggested reading – another worthwhile pursuit, to be sure, and one to which I often resort.  But then we said that sometimes an exciting book can make your mind race about the plot potential, then before you know it you’re no longer wired about your day, but instead you're daydreaming about a whole bunch of other things – and still, sleep does not come.
So during the week I wondered whether I ought to give meditation a try.  I have never done it before, and I’m not even sure what it’s really about, so I thought I’d have a go.  There is a Buddhist Meditation Center in Chelsea, not far from my hair salon, so I had every intention of going along to an introductory seminar there after my haircut on Saturday afternoon.  I didn’t have to book ahead of time either – just turn up, pay a small fee, and listen and learn.
As you've come to expect from me though, I totally decided to chicken out at the last minute.  Instead of my quest for zen, I decided to shop for second-hand books on the other side of town.  While this capitalist diversion certainly cheered me (body and soul), I still feel like I missed out on something. 
I have a small Buddha statue by my jewellery box at home and he is so roly-poly and smiley.  Every time I look at him, I can't help but wonder what really made me wimp out on the weekend.
You know what I've come to realise it is?  I’m a bit fearful about the whole meditation center concept.  In my head it’s about floor cushions, hemp pants and incense. 
Or perhaps it’s the fear that my instructor will be a past-life regressor with a bald head and long, scraggly beard; or worse, a young guy who only believes in mineral deodorant.  Or no deodorant at all. 
Or am I just afraid of being in a room with barefoot people?  All those sweaty feet smells.    Plus I can never remember if I’ve touched up my toenail polish. 
Do they make you chant in Buddhist meditation? I don’t want to chant.  I will repeat a mental chant or mantra to myself, if it helps, but I don’t want to say anything out loud. 
And I definitely don’t want to touch anyone.  There is a strict no-touch policy enforced when it comes to this meditation thing.  I get tense just thinking about it.  Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

Bookworms or bugs?

I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to deal with an e-reader.  I mean, I certainly love the idea of them – the convenience, the portability, and the streamlined look and feel.   I watch people reading them on the trains and they always look so secure; effortlessly holding onto the pole with one hand, and their e-reader in the other.  That sort of balancing act isn’t always so easy with real books. 

E-readers won’t cut it for me because as far as I am concerned, books aren’t just about content.  And my enjoyment of books just doesn’t just come from the words on the page. 

I love the weight of a book in my hands.  It is the bulk of someone’s hard work, imagination and creativity.  I love turning crisp pages, or even well-worn ones (sometimes especially those).  I like the way old books smell.  Old things don’t always smell so good.  I enjoy reading random phrases – or entire paragraphs – that people have underlined.  Or notes they have made in the margins.  I love reading back over the notes I’ve made in margins.  I don’t care that some books make my handbag bulge or force me to cradle the book in my arms, just so I can bring it along with me.  I will often forsake trashy magazines at the hair salon, just so I can squeeze a few more chapters in.  A chapter or two read at night will be just the thing to relax my brain after a long day.  To my mind, the book is always better than the movie.  But I also love it when the book and the movie are nothing alike, but you only know that for sure if you’ve actually read the book first.  Sigh, bliss.

Always a fan of a bookshop or fair, I was totally hooked when I spent about 90 minutes getting lost in Strand Bookstore in the East Village.  Home to 18 miles of books, the store is jam-packed with new and used, popular, rare and even out-of-print works.  I wandered in with no idea what I was looking for and as I started to browse the shelves, my attention was drawn to the leather-bound classics at the very back of the store.  As I thumbed the creaking spines, so many familiar titles leapt out at me.  Well-known authors, like old friends, stared back at me.  Austen, Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare – they were all there.  In the end I settled on a leather-bound but second-hand copy of the American classic, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.  Eight chapters in, and I’m convinced the book should have come with its own pack of Kleenex.  And I know how this book ends too, so it’s only going to get worse.  Not a book to read in public, unless you don’t mind public displays of snivelling and random outrage.

Then of course I find out today that people are being cautioned about buying second-hand goods because of bedbugs!  Can you believe it?  That never occurred to me.  I thought the biggest problem you had with second-hand stuff was dust.  Is this bedbug thing just an urban legend?  I think if Strand had infected me, I’d be itching and scratching already but so far, so good. 

And besides, if bedbugs are going to live in second-hand things that I buy, perhaps instead of complaining about it, I should just appreciate their excellent taste?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just open the window, already!

So this website developer has a neat little tool that tracks where my readers come from, and it surprised me greatly to learn that I have a fairly regular audience in the Maldives, Russia, and even Turkey.  Holla, you guys!

Then of course I worried because some of the stuff I've chosen to write about on here offers a scary insight into how my brain works (or doesn't).  But they keep coming back, so they mustn't mind, right?  Perhaps it's nice to know there's always someone out there weirder than you are.  So today's post is another exhibition of weirdness, dedicated to my friends in the far-flung lands.

There have been some germs going around our office lately and people have been dropping like flies.  And not just for a day or two either.  When they succumb to the latest strain of cold/flu, they are down for the count.  I don't know whether it's a cold brewing, or just because I slept with my windows closed last night and my room got super-stuffy, but my subsconscious went on the rampage last night.  My dream wasn't as disturbing as the one I had the other night, but it still woke me up at 2am.  And I really hate that.

Last night's dream was one of those that chopped and changed all over the place, but it was still in full and living colour, as all my dreams are.  The majority of this dream took place in a bar and I was there with a guy from my previous job, and a girl I used to be best friends with a million years ago.  In my real life, they don't even know each other exists, but in this dream we all knew each other (but I could tell we hadn't seen each other in a while).

I'm not sure what the guy was up to, but after we had left school the girl had become a primary school teacher, so while we were sitting at the table in the bar she was grading the kids' schoolwork.  People in the bar kept coming up to me and asking if I was feeling okay.  I told them I was fine of course, and neither of my friends reacted so I wasn't sure what was going on.

Then one of the guys from the bar gave me back my digital camera and no kidding, there were over 400 photos on there.  I slowly went back through them, and it was all very much like those photo montages at the end of "The Hangover" movies.  In my dream I was looking down at myself, scrolling through the images and cringing at seeing myself in all these compromising and horrible photos, and I couldn't remember any of it happening.  There was me falling off the bar; me having my knee bandaged by the barman (presumably this prompted the earlier concern of the patrons); me dancing with friends I literally haven't seen in twenty years; me leading a conga line; and finally, me fast asleep at the bar as the party rages on around me.

Now I don't need a dream dictionary to interpret the symbolism in this one. But what intrigued me was why my subconscious chose those two people to be in the dream with me.  In life, they're polar opposites and would never have anything in common (other than knowing me).   And even then, I haven't seen either of them in a really long time, and yet there they were in my mind.  Weird.

When I woke up at 2am and finally opened the window, I managed to fall back to sleep and left the bar-dream behind.  My next dream was about playing with my dog back home in Australia.  A good puppy dream.  At last.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not the stuff of nightmares

When I moved to London, I was so taken with the city that I was a dedicated tourist.  I spent whatever spare change I had on tickets - train ones, theatre ones, concert ones.  When London was all about The Proms at Royal Albert Hall, I went there and I had an amazing time.  So when I moved to New York, I was curious about the OTHER famous concert hall I'd heard so much about - Carnegie Hall.  The fact that it has taken me over a year to get there is immaterial, really.  Because tonight I finally made it.  Not on stage (yet), but propped up nice and tall on a plush red velvet chair in a box seat at Carnegie Hall.  I'll take that.

Right at the outset though, I have to give London props.  From the street, Royal Albert Hall is way more impressive than Carnegie, architecturally-speaking at least.  Royal Albert Hall is this imposing monolith that stands alone on a busy London street, opposite the gorgeous Kensington Gardens.  Carnegie Hall, on the other hand, is one of those buildings that is on top of you before you realise it.  The Hall is in a busy part of New York, surrounded by restaurants and diners and tourist hotspots.  It's the sort of place you need to stand back from in order to appreciate it.  And whoever gets that chance in this city?  On the plus side, Carnegie Hall is beautifully-situated for the geographically-challenged.  I emerged from my subway station tonight and it was just right there.  No lead-up, no fanfare.  And really, I didn't mind that so much.

The entry and hallways of Carnegie Hall are like a throwback to yesteryear.  Chandeliers, framed photos of famous musicians and conductors, red velvet carpet, and uniformed ushers.  I wanted to see if the splendour extended into the bar area, so I headed downstairs to order something bubbly.  With the exception of some slouchy waitstaff, there was nobody there.  My plastic glass of cava was less than satisfactory, made more disappointing that the barstools are set up around the room, but facing the walls.  I'm not sure what kind of pre-show atmosphere the interior designers were aiming for here.  With 15 minutes to spare until showtime, I called into the gift shop to have a look around.  Nothing too remarkable, other than one of my Pilates instructors working at the register.  Small world, no?

Ascending the wide marble steps to the second tier of the Hall, I was quite excited as the usher showed me down a narrow hallway, past all the numbered doors to the box seats.  Tonight I had what was behind door number 54, a front-row seat, from which I began to people-watch from up on high.

Tonight's show had a bit of buzz about it.  A Little Nightmare Music is a collaboration by pianist Richard Hyung-Ki Joo and violinist Aleksey Igudesman (known as Igudesman and Joo).  They made it big on Youtube a while back and people have been raving about them ever since.  I read about them on some random email that found its way to me, but otherwise I'm sorry to say I'd never heard of them.  The guys are classically-trained but they take the beautiful classics that we all know, and they manipulate them.  They change the keys, the time signatures, they even do mash-ups with pop songs or Broadway tunes.  And they're genuinely funny too, so the energy on-stage is really good.

Unbeknownst to me though, tonight's show was an extra special treat because of two surprise guests who turned up to play.  Firstly, the world-famous violinist Joshua Bell performed.  Do you remember him?  There was an email going around this guy playing violin in the subway, and no one stopped to appreciate it.  So the message seemed to be we're all self-centred a-holes who are too busy to stop and notice the simple beauty of music.  Anyway, that was Joshua Bell playing the violin in that email.  And hey, I paused at Carnegie Hall and I really liked him.  Joshua did good, man.  But the second special guest - and the one I almost lost my shit about - was the one and only BILLY JOEL.  I honestly thought they were pulling my leg with that one.  It was the only point in the show that I regretted being so high up (and old, and needing new glasses).  How old is Billy Joel anyway?  I don't even care - he has still got "it".  The man is a legend, and he hammed it up with the guys so well, performing his own hit that he wrote for Ray Charles, "Baby Grand".

American audiences are good with the standing ovations, but even I got in on the act this time.  Igudesman and Joo are really talented and if you get the chance to see them, you really should.  Just cross your fingers they bring Joshua and Billy along.  Meanwhile I'm going to find out where Mr. Joel plays these days.  He's got to be, right?  He's the Piano Man, for pity's sakes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting Snappy

OK, break out your dream dictionaries because last night's journey into the subconscious was a doozy.  Explain this, if you can.

I was walking through a hotel and it was like a maze of rooms, each one unlocked and inter-connected, so I very rarely had to go into the main corridor.  I could just keep weaving in and out of hotel rooms.
But on the bed in one room, half-covered in a blanket, was a huge crocodile.  It had its mouth ajar and the blanket was covering its eyes.  I poked it with a broom (as you do) but it didn't flinch.  Still, I was fairly convinced it was still alive, so I left it alone and kept going through hotel rooms. 
I began to hear a dog whimpering and as I followed the sound, it bought me back to the crocodile again.  I stood back a fair way and peered into the crocodile's mouth.  Inside, and totally intact, was a little Airedale terrier pup (click the link here to see images, if you don't know the breed I mean).  
The poor little thing was just stuck in there, unable to move because the crocodile refused to move.  It didn't crush him, but it didn't free him either.  So the puppy whimpered a bit and every now and again just closed his eyes, seemingly defeated.  And I couldn't do anything.

So I woke up.

Right - over to you.  Anyone?!

Behind the 8-(butter)ball

I bought a bottle of wine on the walk home from dinner last night.  A Pinot Noir from Oregon.  I have known for a long time that Oregon produces some tasty Pinot, though admittedly this assurance comes only from having tried Willamette Valley ones.  I know I tried a Californian Pinot once too, but the memory of that bottle hasn't stayed with me so as as result, when it comes to Pinot, I've been on Team Oregon ever since. 

On this occasion I decided to stretch out a bit and try a bottle from "Oregon" which, I should have realised, is about as specific as an Aussie wine that comes from "the southeast".  I really should know better, shouldn't I?  And yet the varietal and state were right, and the price-point was reasonable, so I jumped in.  There is seriously something to be said for trusting one's instincts.  The wine did not please me, not even after the second glass (when so many things usually please me).

I mention all this because in the midst of my wine-tasting experiment, I was also doing my knee exercises.  Standing on one leg and bending my knee with a resistance Theraband, a thought occurred to me that bordered on brilliant.  I wondered whether losing 10 pounds would fix my knee.  After all, less weight on my body means less pressure on my knee, ergo less pain.  Right?  I poured another glass of wine to celebrate my genius.

So today was supposed to be the start of a bread-free week.  Only I was distracted at lunch by a tempting piece of Russian coffee cake, so I ended up ordering a vegetable foccaccia, instead of a vegetable frittata.  Stupid coffee cake.  I bought that too.

The only thing saving me from myself at the moment is my Pilates studio, which keeps sending me discounted lesson plans.  My gym has changed hands now and has become one of those sweaty juggernauts full of young, hip athletes and over-the-top instructors teaching high-energy classes that I'm not sure I'd survive.  Banned as I've been from the treadmill (thanks to my physical therapist), I might just have to sit on a stationary bike for a while and suss things out. 

And maybe when I'm out of wine, foccaccia and Russian coffee cake, I can have another go at losing those 10 pounds.  My knee will surely thank me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

cheerleader minnie mouse
Originally uploaded by Elysia in Wonderland.

Sometimes I think I can be quite a smart person, and then there are other times when I wonder how I've been allowed to get this far in life.

A month ago I ran-walked the NYC Half Marathon and (in retrospect anyway), it was a really great day. Less than a week after that race, I signed up for another one.  Today in Central Park was the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women's Half-Marathon.  Where my race actually left the Park and hit the streets, this one stayed within the confines and took two circuits (and a bit) of Central Park springtime fabulousness.  My knee has still been cactus and admittedly I've been doing too much eating, drinking, slothing and not enough training so right across the board I wasn't feeling fit enough for today's 13.1 miles.

But that didn't stop me from getting up early and cheering on my training buddies Flock, Flora and also Reeds (who had flown in all the way from Texas to haul ass in the sunshine).  I was so excited for them as they rounded the bends and ran towards me.  I was sensibly standing at the Central Park Boathouse - in the easy vicinity of both coffee AND toilets.  Mind you, this was a race just for women, so you can imagine the line up for the loos!

And I unleashed my New Yorker a few times too, yelling at stupid tourists who tried to play chicken with the runners and bolt across the running course.  Why can't people just wait a couple of minutes until the runners have gone past?  Ridiculous.  But on behalf of the 8,000+ ladies out there today, I let the tourists have it.  The race volunteers didn't mace me either, which was a relief.  Let's face it, I think I just said what they were feeling anyway.

But do you know that despite all the cheering I was doing, yelling till I was hoarse and clapping until my hands hurt, it didn't occur to me until AFTER the race that I could have actually walked this thing today.  I paid for the race, I had registered for it all, and yet I didn't bother to collect my race materials cause I knew I wasn't up to the run-walking.  But there was nothing stopping me walking it.  Where the NYC Half had prescribed a 3-hour time limit, today's race had a 4-hour time limit so I would have had heaps of time to dawdle along at my own pace. And yet not once did that thought pop into my head.  I mean, honestly.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Reeds was also kind enough to include me in her family dinner (well, late lunch) this afternoon so I almost felt like I'd run the race with her.  We all traded war stories about electrolyte Gu, needing to pee at inappropriate times during the race, and how good it feels to have people cheer for you and give you that little extra push to keep going.  Glory days.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

In like a shot?

When I was about 12 years old, a boy told me that I have funny knees.  And of course, I believed him.  I didn't know why my knees were funny, but they had been declared so by an independent third party, so I just took it as gospel and believed it ever since.

So when I started having problems with my knees during the half-marathon training, I went to see a physical therapist.  I wondered whether he would finally affirm - but with medical certainty this time - that my knees were indeed funny.  He didn't.  In fact, he looked at ME funny when I suggested it.  We moved on.

Over the past few weeks, my knee has responded to treatment and then it hasn't.  Since I've been resting my knee from running activity, the swelling in my joints has calmed down somewhat, but it still hasn't gone away.  In fact, there are days when it actually hurts a bit just to stand still.  Apparently I am prone to hyper-extending my knee (where you stand up super straight and then you lock your knees back), so that is complicating things. I have to learn a new way of standing - not so rigid, but with a bit more rapper-slouch.  Can y'all dig it?

Plus I have to do a bunch of silly exercises, some with rubber tension bands and some without.  My hamstrings are not doing what they are supposed to do, so I've got to strengthen those, and my calf muscles are so tight they are not helping at all.  It seems my lower extremities are just a hot mess.

And the physical therapist yesterday suggested I get steroid injections in my knee - and that he could not administer them, but I would need to see an osteopath.  Do I really want to do this?  Is this what having a funny knee has come to?  I am not squeamish about injections but I am not sure that at my age, pumping goop into my joints is a really great idea.  I need to think about it.

I asked my phsyical therapist if I could just persuade him to come to my office and sit with me all day, cradling my knee in his hands so I wouldn't feel pain.  To my surprise, he said no.  Perhaps I should think of a package that provides toilet breaks and health insurance.  And a salary.  I missed out those parts in the earlier job offer.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Push and Pull, Give and Get

So it's been just over two weeks and I still haven't run a single step since the NYC Half-Marathon.  Not one.  Not even running for the bus. Don't look at me like that.  It's enough that I'm looking at me like that.

And when I remind you that I'm technically in training for my next half-marathon on April 15, no doubt you are looking even further down your nose at me.  Believe me - I know!

But today I got back in the saddle by lying flat on my back at Pilates. I had a new instructor tonight and a very softly-spoken one to boot.  And if I thought my knee was bad, my hearing is so much worse.  So I knew I was in for a cracker class.  As my muscles strained, so did my ears - straining to hear the calming, dulcet tones of the sadist that was trying to turn me into a pretzel.  My hamstrings cried, my inner thighs didn't know what the hell was going on, and my hip joint spasmed in a way that told me it was most displeased.

After an hour of pulleys and springs, twists and turns, we were done.  I almost fell off the Reformer machine in relief.  The instructor came over to me and said I had actually done a really good job.  I peered up at him and must have had quite a look on my face, cause he laughed really hard and slapped me on the back.  He said something about my strong inner thighs, and he shuffled off.

I think I need a hearing aid.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Loving New York, one dish at a time

I had a really delicious dinner out last night at Nice Matin, on the Upper West Side; though I had no idea this little French gem was hidden away so close to my beloved Zabar's.  The evening started with bubbles and continued with red wines, punctuated by buttery, garlicky escargots and a delicious roast duck braised in blood orange juice with endives, and a creamy polenta on the side.  We stopped off on the way home for a glass of Pedro Ximenez "Don PX" at tiny Wine and Roses just to round out the rich meal.  Like molten raisins in a glass - this dessert wine was just heavenly.

Only 48 hours ago, I actually told myself I was going to pull back on the eating and drinking particularly since it's all I seem to have been doing since the NYC Half-Marathon two weeks ago.  But as many people know, my Dad (aka Special K) has been staying with me and when one has house guests, one casts one's healthy eating plan aside and throws oneself into playing the 'hostest with the mostest'.  Because when one's family goes away, one gets very sad very quickly.

My healthy eating plan was not the only thing to get cast aside when Special K came to town.  I also neglected to keep up this blog.  So rather than write post after lengthy post I'm going to give you the dot-point recap of our adventure together.  Hold onto your hats, kids - this might get rough:

  • Beecher's Cheese Shop - Now I've been raving about this place because of their grilled cheese martini (which nobody wants to try with me).  But the thing about Beecher's is that they are around the corner from my beloved Italian hangoutmy hair salon and my Pilates studio, so I have no excuse whatsoever to stay away from the store.  I dragged Dad in there the day before the half-marathon so that I could load up on carbs (their mac & cheese is amazing, by the way).  But while we were there, we also watched the guys actually making cheese in these huge steel vats on-site.  It's impressive stuff, and tasty to boot.
  • Union Square - With Special K still on the hunt for an iPad, or tablet or netbook or similar, we headed into Union Square, through the farmer's market, to see what the 24-hour Best Buy store could offer.  Along the way we stopped in at Fish's Eddy and I kicked myself AGAIN for not buying the New York Times Crossword Puzzle book (which they don't sell online but it does exist, I promise).  I pick it up every time I'm in the store and I never buy it.  What's wrong with me, man?
  • Our next stop was Williamsburg, for Special K's first visit to Brooklyn.  I don't know this neighbourhood well at all; in fact, I really don't know Brooklyn well at all.  But I had gathered some intelligence from friends beforehand and Special K was happy just to wander Bedford Avenue and remark on the (very obvious) differences between Manhattan and this part of Brooklyn.  Lots of bearded, skinny-jeaned hipsters to be sure, but just as many young families and local artists exhibiting their wares along the sidewalks (footpaths, for those of you playing along at home).  But Special K definitely liked Williamsburg, and certainly we lucked out with the weather that day, and people were making the most of the gorgeous outdoor cafes and all the parks and softball ovals were being used and it was gorgeous.  By this point, and unbeknownst to me at the time, we'd wandered into Greenpoint and called into a great Belgian beer bar called Spritzenhaus for a cleansing ale (though mine was allegedly non-alcoholic, as I was still pre-race at this stage).
  • Having hauled ass the 13.1 miles of the NYC Half-Marathon route, I was famished.  Several days after the race, once I'd gained mobility back into my legs, I felt entirely justified dragging Special K to Neely's Barbecue Parlor.  I can't watch the Neely's on The Food Network (well, I won't watch them) but I certainly love a good feed of BBQ - and I know Special K does too - so it seemed a good dinner choice.  And it totally was. My Memphis-style ribs were amazing, and they serve margaritas in Mason jars, for heaven's sakes.  I had two of them.  Hmm in retrospect, that was unwise, but at the time it was an inspired idea.
  • Because I was at work during the week, Special K had lunch with me a couple of times.  We went to my local Mexican hangout but I also took him to Macchiato, showed him the Grand Central Market and my new favourite coffee place, complete with hipsters especially imported from Brooklyn (note: disappointing website-in-development, but awesome and fully-developed coffee and mad bagel-toasting skills).
  • With the exception of some pizza and pasta from nearby Patsy's and some Thai take-out, home-cooked meals and lots of cold beers featured prominently when Special K came to stay.  My freezer is now chock-full of delicious leftovers that I refuse to label, because frankly I like the surprises.
  • Our weekend was not exactly a sunny one, though we took full advantage of the Saturday sunshine to get out on the water and ride the East River Ferry over to Brooklyn.  We revisited Williamsburg a bit, enjoying a couple of coldies with Peacock the bartender at a subterranean (but awesome) bar.  Retracing our earlier steps, we got back to Greenpoint and enjoyed a Polish meal at a totally unpronounceable - but obviously authentic - restaurant.  Obviously the dishes were not as good as my Granny makes, but we ate it to be polite.  After all those calories and carbs, we needed to walk.  So we rode the ferry south to Brooklyn Bridge Park/DUMBO (which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge back onto Manhattan.  It was fantastic, even though we had to dodge about 3,000 fellow pedestrians and almost as many cyclists.  We then wandered through the Financial District back to the Wall Street ferry station, and rode the ferry northbound back to my place - resting our aching feed and tired brains.
  • I absconded from work this week too and took Special K back to our mutual favourite, Katz's.  This time we didn't need a waiter to take care of us; we ordered our lunch at the counter, just like the locals.  There is just something special about their amazing matzo ball soup, with a half-pastrami sandwich alongside.  I was a very happy little camper.  Ditto Special K, who got through all his pastrami on rye.  Cue that food coma again.
  • I took Special K along to a cooking class with me earlier this week, which I really enjoyed.  We learned how to make basic vegetarian Indian meals, including delicious samosa that I am totally committed to trying at home.  The rest of the menu included braised fish in a tamarind-coconut curry; sag paneer (spinach curry with fresh cheese, that we made from scratch); and chana masala (chickpea curry).  All served up with roti (soft, flaky bread - that we also made ourselves).  It was all really tasty and dead-easy.
  • But of course why cook for yourself when there are thousands of New York restaurants just aching to do it for you?  And so it was that the following night (Special K's last night with us), we went to a wonderful Indian restaurant called Dhaba, not far from our house.  We ate so much and drank so much, we all slipped into food comas shortly after getting home.
It was really great having Special K here again, and I'm so relieved that he is starting to love New York like I do.  As we travelled around together, we always commented how good it would have been to have Mum with us.  But that is a job for next time.  Besides, I don't think we could have got Mum along to see John Carter and The Hunger Games with us; they are definite Daddy-Daughter dates I think.