Saturday, August 30, 2008

NY Event Number Thirteen: Eating at Katz's Delicatessen

One of the things that had been added to my list a little bit ago, out of a fit of hunger one day, was to make sure I had a real New York Reuben before I left the country. It maybe prejudiced of me, but I doubt the English would understand the subtly of a good Reuben sandwich. The problem is, though, you have to really know where to go to pull this off--a lot of establishments in Manhattan sell Reubens, but few do it exceptionally. So I did a Google search before I ventured out for this one. Some notable places came up, all pricey, some reviewed poorly--rude waiters seem to be the trend at Carnegie especially. There was one, however, that peaked my interest.

During my time in NY, I have spent many an evening in the LES, drunkenly looking for a meal. This would not only ensure that something solid was in my stomach, but that the act of ingesting a foodstuff would keep me from passing out before I got to the subway. I usually ended up at Ray's Pizza (the one at 195 E. Houston), as it was cheap and I'd have little money left after whatever drunkest I was leaving. Also, there was always a curiously long line at the overpriced deli on the corner. In all those drunken nights, and any sober day that I found myself in the same neighborhood, I never made the connection of what I was passing while stumbling over to Ray's or heading out to some piece of off-off-off Broadway. It was Katz's Delicatessen--one of the oldest delis in New York City, a mecca for celebrity drop ins, and most notably the location of one of the more famous quasi-sex scenes in cinema history:

Yes, that's right: this is the place where Sally faked her orgasm. Knowing that clinched it for me--I'm a HUGE When Harry Met Sally fan--and Alex (one of the people in my life who, like Amy Lee and Lori, has made a point of trying to assist me with my list) and I set off, me for my Reuben, him for a brisket sandwich. (Despite Alex's Judaism, it would appear he's not a fan of Reubens. Strange, I know. But I digress.)

We got there at 4:45. Alex made a crack about us being senior citizens, eating dinner in the middle of the day. But thank goodness we did! When we arrived, there was a sign on the door saying that they would be closed from 6 to 10 that evening, re-opening after and staying open till their customary 3AM. I can't imagine ordering a salami sandwich and piece of cheesecake at any time past 11PM, but it's NY, so there's no doubt a market for it. We tried guessing at what it could be--a rehearsal dinner, some flight of fancy of a movie star (I quietly imagined DeNiro closing down the whole place for a nice dinner all on his own), some wealthy NY private schooled teenager throwing themselves a birthday party. We asked our waitress, a lovely middle aged woman who worked there as her second job what was going on. She didn't know, she wasn't working the party, and no one else on staff seemed to know either. She did inform us, however, that it costs $4,000 an hour to rent out the deli. This has to do, no doubt, with the reputation of the establishment, not the decor, which was nothing to brag about. But given the cost of the food, it may have been completely comparable to what the restaurant would have made that evening--my Reuben was $15.75, Alex's brisket was$14.45, and that was JUST for the sandwich, no side of fries, coleslaw extra, all that.

Our food came pretty fast, and was pretty decent--I was expecting something gargantuan, but the sandwich was totally manageable, unlike Carnegie's $21+ Reuben, which I have heard ranges around the size of an average adult male's head. We also got a plate of pickles to start with--standard fare at such an establishment--that had on it some pickled tomatoes which neither of us ventured to taste. I also got an egg cream, another NY first for myself, and only fitting given where we were eating. Overall, it was a good meal, though I still think a little too expensive.

On our way out there were cops manning the door, keeping out any would-be customers who wouldn't have been served in time before the start of the mystery party. When we were outside, Alex asked me if I'd seen the sign hanging from the ceiling with an arrow pointing down that read "Where Harry Met Sally--Hope You Had What She Had!" I totally missed it. Obviously, there's now at least one reason to come back to NY. And anyway, I don't think the British appreciate pastrami the way we do here. But that's what you get for kicking the Jewish out in 1290. Their loss!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

There's been a slight glitch in the system.

News came from former roommate and fellow London a-journey-er Heidi that Central sent us our packets regarding registration, etc. One of the first things she said: "You're going to be pissed."

It turns out that Central's registration for international students is on the 3rd. I was scheduled to fly out the 4th, post wedding and hour of cocktails. And my housing doesn't actually start till the 5th. So come Monday, I'll be e-mailing frantically to see if I can come at the time I had originally planned, and if not I'll be changing my flight, paying some kind of fee for that no doubt, and then seeing if I can get into my hall a couple days early (there is actually a chance that might happen). All in all, it sucks. But that's life, I guess--one curve ball after another. I'll be sad to miss Kate's big day, though. And I was excited for bridesmaid-dom, though perhaps foolishly so.

In suburban news, Pirate caught a bat tonight! This happening reminds me of the old adage,

"Bats are just mice with wings, little girl."

It also reminds me of what a bad ass my little Pirata is. Oh, Hai dao, I will miss you!

(Can I just say, it's quite the slow news day, when I'm reporting the prey of my cat. Just putting that out there.)


Above, the victim of Pirate's assualt.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Feelings/Nothing more than Feelings"

I woke up today, early, feeling crummy. What had woken me, and kept me awake was my mind working at how I could, if I was able to, transport a fan I'd left at my former apartment back to New Jersey after my next upcoming visit. I still have stuff there, and have been toting a bit of it out, here and there, over the past couple weeks. After the last visit, I still haven't unpacked, partly because I haven't made the time to, and partly because I'm doing fine without all the stuff in that suitcase, so there's been no immediacy attached to that task. There isn't much immediacy attached to any task, really. But I leave in forty-four days. So something is clearly amiss.

My mother lately has been on me to decide what exactly I'm taking and what pieces of clothing I have in the house that I can be rid of permanently. She's seeing this, I think, as an opportunity to purge things. I cannot bring myself to even naturally think about packing, let alone force myself to focus on throwing things out. I've always been pretty materially-based, no matter how petty or un-yogic that may seem. I've always been a little messy. I have a lot of "stuff"--I keep getting reminded of this every time I move, of how much useless "stuff" I own. I am an only child, pretty spoiled I don't mind telling you, and "stuff" became important at some point. And I'm used to getting what I want (sometimes it takes longer than I expect it to, but most of the time I still get it). Now I'm stuck with so many things I wanted, but don't need. For instance, I can't keep track of how many books I own that I haven't read. I was at some one's apartment a few weeks ago, and I remarked on their collection of DVDs and VHS tapes--they had maybe twelve DVDs, and something, again, just over ten cassettes. This person has some years on me, and I was curious as to how he hadn't acquired more over the time of our age difference. He said he wasn't one who was really into owning things. It struck me then, that this idea had never occurred to me. I'm too much a materialist and grew up to support capitalism well--I am, of course, an American. But now, here I am, awake in bed just after five AM, wondering to myself:

LEA (V.O.):
Is it humanly possible to transport a baseball bat, a 9lb Body Bar, another HUGE suitcase full of stuff, and a large, rather cumbersome indoor fan, which I could really use in a room that gets no real ventilation? Is there some kind of bungie-attachment I can work out?

Then I look around my room and wonder:

Where's the shit going to go, anyway?

Having moved in some capacity almost every year for the past six years, at about the rate of two times per year (move in, move out), the thought has often crossed my mind that it would just be easier if there was a fire that engulfed everything, just letting me start over without anything. As some one who's seen a house after it's been burned to the ground--my grandparent's house back in the mid-nineties--I can tell you from experience, the reality of a fire is pretty horrifying. Yet, there I am again, with the same old fantasy of me with a matchbook, striking, striking out my whole past and maybe part of my present, just to lose the sense of baggage that comes with it all. Just dropping a match on the floor after I pour out some gasoline.

Helping some one packing up their apartment a few weeks ago, the movee talked about a married couple she had known who had been having problems, which ultimately ended in their separation. The couple had a couple of children and owned a house, and one day picked up and went their separate ways (I'm guessing one of them took the kids), abandoning the house and everything in it. Just left. The movee and her boyfriend drove over to clean it out--I can only assume to help sell it--to clean out this ghost house, that still had toys in the children's rooms. They just threw everything into garbage bags as quickly as they could--if they'd lingered at all, it would have got to them, that feeling of eeriness, of disquiet that comes from seeing rooms of things unused and in this case strangely out of context: a family home, complete with accessories, but without a family.

(And what about that vintage dress at Eleni's? She'd meant to try and mend it. How am I to get that back?)

I feel like Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth, all her things on her back, or Steve Martin, leaving Bernadette Peters in The Jerk (God I love that scene). All this useless crap, and to what end?

Among the things left in the New York apartment are undelivered love letters, far past their time to be sent. What am I to do with those? I kept them because every time I went back to them, I was moved by what I read there, thought "These are real," and couldn't dare part with them. But what are they now but sentiments spent in vain, more so because they were never read by the addressee rather than the hopelessness that had surrounded that affair. What am I to do with them? I thought about using them for artistic fodder, but A.R. Gurney already wrote that play.

And the journals--I journal CONSTANTLY, and have built up quite the collection over time, though much of my journalling I'd like to forget. Another fantasy bonfire. But somehow, that seems like more of a crime.

All of these questions about things and where they go, what's useful and what's not, are elevated even moreso by the idea that: I'm not coming back. When I initially started telling people about going, one of the first, and what turned out to be the most common reaction was: "

VARIOUS VOICES, ETC:
You're not coming back, are you? You're going to find some British man, get married, and you're not going to come back.

Granted, this had been the childhood dream, compacted with guaranteed seasons at the RSC, and some project involving Judi Dench, and no doubt a West End revival of some American musical, of which I would be perfect for, no doubt. But time and experience have taught me, things don't always work out the way you plan. I can't bring myself to think about a lifetime I haven't had yet, don't know how to pack for it. And who can really plan for life anyway?

My parents have this saying whenever they leave for a trip, "If we forgot something, we'll just buy it when we get there." This covers those little inconsequentials like soap, hair pins, extra underwear, golf balls. My worry is that I'll forget something important, something vital. But as I look around at all of my unused things I wonder, "What, at all, is vital?"

As I said earlier on in this entry, I've always been a bit of a mess. By this I mean I've always been messy. My room has always been cluttered--not dirty but in disarray. I could use the assistance of a good Feng Shui agent. On the more messier and perhaps more "morbid" days, I have occasionally wondered, "If I died today, what would they think of my room?" Very much like that age old advice of always remembering to wear clean underwear, just in case you end up in an emergency room. And that always bothered me, knowing people wouldn't be able to just box things up, but that they'd have to clean up after me first. So now I'm functioning under the impression that I have to clean my room out right now for the rest of my life, just in case popular opinion's right, and I don't come back.

This entry is obviously uncharacteristic of what I try to do here. I try to write about art I'm working on, or what I think works about art that I see. However, not having a project currently in the works, combined with the isolation I've been feeling out in the boonies, have given me time to process more what's going on with me. And being aware for the most part of who's reading this blog thanks to Google Analysis (I see you, Alan!) and comments on entries, I feel like I'm expressing these thoughts to the people that I'd do so to normally, so I feel less guilty about the indulgence. And these are supposed to be letters to you all, of a sort. I guess whatever you have to tell yourself.
And now I think I'll make breakfast because that always feels like an accomplishment. And I know I don't have to think about packing any cookware. So it's safe.

Beaker: play me out.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August 21st's Movies and Plays


It was an Ava Gardner day on TCM. I got in most of East Side, West Side and all of The Hucksters, which was really more of a Clark Gable (yum) Deborah Kerr vehicle. The play I partook in was Alex Goldberg's I'm In Love With Your Wife. I tried to start Ibsen's Ghosts, but I figure I can wait for syphilis. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Temporary Goals


It's no secret I have a lot of time on my hands. So for every day I'm home in New Jersey, I am going to try to read at least ONE play and watch ONE movie. This will:


  1. Keep my Netflix cue in check and running.

  2. Help me decide which play scripts/theatre books I can donate to my high school and what I need to keep. (Incidentally, if anyone out there is looking for anything in particular, let me know, I may be able to oblige you.)

  3. Hopefully enlighten me.

  4. Hopefully entertain me. For a while.

There's only so far a girl can jog in one day, anyway.


Today's play(s):


2.5 Minute Ride & 101 humiliating stories, both by Lisa Kron


Today's movie(s):


Good Night and Good Luck, and Capote<--both of which I've had since May. Ah, Netflix. Thank goodness for no late fees.


RANDOM TRIVIA: Capote and Lisa Kron have an obscure connection. Who is it? A postcard from Lebabnon to anyone who knows!


(Dudes, if you can't get it, don't worry. It's REALLY obscure.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Out of the Empire, Into the Garden


Hello, my six loyal readers! Did you miss me?

I'm back in New Jersey again. I was here two weeks ago for a few days, then went up to Newburyport, Massachusetts for a HUGE Irish family wedding, then headed straight back to the city where I remained until this afternoon when I returned to New Jersey again, going straight to a dinner with the mother of my best friend from grade/high school who is getting married on the 4th of October. I'm in the wedding party and we needed to discuss "business," as it were. And if the date, October 4th, seems familiar for any reason, it's probably because I may have mentioned that's the EXACT DAY I AM FLYING OVER TO ENGLAND. I go to the wedding, stand for pictures, do one hour of cocktails, then dash to the airport to make my boarding time. A friend of mine said, "Sounds like the beginning of a romantic comedy to me." I sure hope so, but Clive Owen is already taken, and anything else will just be a disappointment. Be that as it may, the agenda for that day, rushed as it is, pretty much seems to echo what's going to be happening for the next month and change--one thing after another, right up until I fly away. It's kind of overwhelming, but part of that I think has to do with the fact I haven't had a chance to really sit down and look at my schedule totally fleshed out. I'm coming in blind, and that's always stressful. And stress is not something I should be readily subjecting myself to, especially given my surroundings.

My parents recently moved to a small condo from the house I spent most of my formative years in, biding time and saving money on property taxes till they move into Another house that they'll stay in for a few years until they retire in Georgia. It's a cute, temporary home, and everything seems to fit pretty well, although I still have several boxes stacked in my two closets. (That's right, New York apartment dwellers: TWO closets. In my bedroom. Built in. Go ahead: Weep.) There's a teeny yard out back, and I look forward to sitting out with my beloved cat, Pirate--who is so much better than bully Luke Skywalker back in the NYC apartment--taking jogs out to the nearby reservoir, visiting local farmers' markets, driving again (despite the price of gas), and visiting the mall for goodness sakes.

And yet, with all of these pieces of goodness, there is lack of contentment. It's the human condition--what can you do? I'd be lying if I didn't admit that after fourteen hours of being here on my first day back that I was utterly, completely, and seemingly hopelessly B-O-R-E-D. Coming back from the city every year during undergrad became a sort of experiment in tolerance to change in environment, a large factor being what time things close around here:

LEA:
"What do you mean I can't get an everything bagel, toasted, with veggie cream cheese and lox delivered to me? It's only 1AM! No, no--What is your problem,
guy?!"

The hazard of the suburbs is of course the "family factor"--everyone has one, or they're looking to, and so to support this they keep hours that would be acceptable for living such a life. And so every store closes at 6PM (occasionally 9 on the weekends), lights go out along the highway at restaurants and bars, and most parties break up around 11PM. This is terribly contrary to Big City Living.

The town I'm in is also basically comprised of one strip of road off a major highway (not the Turnpike, you jerks) that contains the following: a church, complete with graveyard; a door store--barns, domestic, etc; the Dollhouse Factory<--this may be the most fascinating part of this town, and I will try to explore tomorrow; a motorcycle shop; a mom and pop establishment that may be a staple for breakfasts over a copy of the Courier News or Star Ledger (I have yet to find the Times in any "local" establishment); a pricey yet atmospheric resturant called the Lebanon Hotel, that has its own tavern, the Fox and the Hound; a Stewart's; a lot of houses.

That's pretty much it.

But moving away from these suburban dulldroms, I do have some progress to report in terms of moving to John Bull's Island.

  1. At a recent dentist's appointment I found out that despite having not had a cleaning or formal dentist appointment in over two years, I had no cavities! Hooray! This is especially exciting, as it proves that I can take care of my teeth reasonably well, which will be very important given where I'll be living next year. "Land-of-Notoriously-Bad-Dental-Care" here I come!
  2. I FINALLY FINISHED MY ON-LINE VISA APPLICATION. And I paid for it. I'm $220 less rich than I was before, and I have an appointment at the visa office in NYC next Thursday (when I'll be back in town--"Transitory" is my middle name!). More on gathering the appropriate paperwork for said appointment in the coming days--I promise!
  3. Housing has been confirmed and the deposit has been paid-->15 GPS non-refundable processing fee, and a 250GPS deposit for my space. If you want to see my digs, take the virtual tour here. It comes with its own electric kettle!
  4. The exchange rate has gone down! Not by much, mind, but every little counts. Back in April it had gone up around $2.11 to the pound, and now it's down at $1.86. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it adds up--trust me. And it made my day.

I'd stay longer and continue to wax philosophical, but it's late here in the near-wilderness, and not even Turner Classic Movies can entice me to stay up. More about feelings another time, if at all. We all know I hate that. Well, you six do, anyway.

You six. You know.