Monthly Archives: September 2007

Park Slope Saturday

Today was the first full day I didn’t leave Park Slope since I moved here three weeks ago. This meant a break from the 30-40 minute commute that I normally make to my office in Midtown Manhattan. It was nice to sit around at home, watch some college football, and be lazy with Melanie.

After slowly waking up around 1pm, we had a very late brunch at 12th Street Cafe on 8th Ave, which is cozy, big-windowed restaurant with an excellent $14 deal that includes coffee, freshly-squeezed orange juice, delicious bread basket, and a choice of an entree. Right before we left the apartment, I had caught a few minutes of Tyler Florence on Food Network making tacos and salsa. The beautiful close-up shots of the food made me crave Mexican, especially the taste of cilantro and red onions. Lucky for me, the menu included the South Slope Wrap, a breakfast burrito served with verde salsa. Melanie ordered a salmon eggs benedict. The food came out in a hurry, and I quickly devoured my breakfast burrito like a hungry hyena. Unfortunately, Melanie’s eggs were undercooked, and she had to send it back to the kitchen. She felt bad about it, and it didn’t help that the punk-ass waiter gave her a bit of an attitude. When her dish came out again, the eggs were better but the heat of the eggs cooked the smoked salmon underneath, which, in my mind, makes for a nasty taste and texture. Hopefully we’ll have a better experience the next time.

On our way back, we stopped at Ladybird Bakery to pick up a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie (it was yummy), and we walked over an avenue to check out wines at a liquor and wine store. We picked up a South African chenin blanc, a cheap Bordeaux, and a shiraz/pinotage blend. I had originally picked up a bottle of 100% pinotage from the shelf assuming it would be priced similarly to the wines next to it (around $10-$15), but when I went to pay for everything, the store clerk, who was probably also the owner of the store, asked if I knew I was buying a $30 bottle. She had seen that all my other bottles were under $15 and suspected I had assumed incorrectly about the pinotage. Slightly embarrassed, I asked if she had another pinotage that was closer to the prices of the other wines. She said no, but said she had a shiraz/pinotage blend that had “enough pinotage you can taste it.” Not that I would really know the difference, but it sounded good, and I took the bottle. I also bought myself a bottle of dry vermouth to make myself a martini with the gin I had at home. Did you know that vermouth is a kind of flavored wine? I always thought it was a type of hard liquor.

Back at home, we spent most of the afternoon on the couch trying to digest. After a couple of hours, we went to the gym to work out. Harbor Fitness is literally 100 feet from the entrance of our apartment. I can probably make it to the gym door-to-door in less than a minute. It’s a luxury that I hope to take advantage of on a consistent basis. Today, I started with a quick mile (under 8 min, which is pretty good for me) and went on to do some row machine (I hit the wall at 800m – pathetic), bench press, pull-ups, and abs. A middle-aged man working on the tricep pull-down machine saw me doing ten pull-ups, shook his head, and said to me: “Man, you making me jealous. I can barely do two. I need to get to where you’re at.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I told him that I couldn’t do more than a few just a year ago but had gradually gotten better. I did ten more and walked away. I must admit – it feels good to be able to do pull-ups fairly easily. I remember when doing four of them was painful. Now, we even have a pull-up bar at the office and keep track of pull-ups we do each day. It’s a good way to keep the blood flowing, especially when you sit in front of the computer all day, and it creates healthy competition. After working out, we walked back to our apartment and sat around the couch some more before being compelled to wash up and hunt for dinner.

Mel and I walked six blocks north to C-Town, a large grocery store on 9th Street. We bought flounder and scallops for dinner as well as some other goodies for the rest of the week. I also picked up some radishes and once again confused them with beets. I also bought a jar of olives for the martini. Mel and I carried all our grocery back in a canvas tote bag, one of Mel’s environmental mandates.

I’m too often influenced by what I see in the movies and on television. Take smoking for example – I don’t particularly like the taste or enjoy it, but after watching Humphrey Bogart and Tony Leung light up over and over again in beautiful classics, it was hard not to imitate. I’ve been obsessed recently with Mad Men, the television drama series on AMC about men in the advertising industry in the 1960s, and watching the characters down cup after cup of cocktails and hard liquor made me want to do the same. Hence, the effort to make myself a martini on a Saturday evening. With no shaker and no martini glass, I made do with two regular glass cups and mixed about 2 ounces of gin with a couple table spoons of martini (I’m just speculating the amounts that I eyeballed). I transferred from glass to glass with ice and used our huge pasta strainer to get the ice out. I dropped two olives in and braced myself for the first sip. I’ve never been much of a martini fan, but since I had gin available, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try. Within three sips, I was a bit buzzed. I sat on the couch and alternated between taking sips and nibbling on sliced radishes with salt. I couldn’t say that the experience was altogether pleasurable, but I thought that if I drank more regularly, I could get used to a martini. And since there are many ways you can prepare one (varying amounts of vermouth and gin, different garnishes, etc.), I told myself this wouldn’t be the last time. One can’t go on drinking gin and tonic forever, can he?

Dinner, prepared with expert efficiency by Melanie, was delicious. The scallops were sliced up and mixed with a squash-and-zucchini risotto and the flounder filets were pan-poached with lemon and dill. These paired very nicely with the chenin blanc. Altogether a very light and flavorful meal, but the glutton in me went for seconds and stuffed myself with the rest of the risotto. I need more self-discipline. We had strawberries and watched Superman Returns on HBO.

For most of the day, I consciously avoided thinking about work. Mindlessly watching television and focusing on what next to drink and eat made it easy for most of the day, but there were moments when a work-related thought would cause a brief moment of anxiety or dread. Whether it was an upcoming deadline, a project I didn’t feel like working on, or issues with finances, I was struck with an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach – the kind I used to feel on Sunday nights before a long week ahead in high school. For the most part, I still enjoy being at work and facing the challenges of running a business. But sometimes, I feel like the simplicity of doing what I like has been replaced by a complex ambition that has no real goal. It’s not so much the sheer amount of work, I think, as it is a state of mind. How did I get to be like this? And how can I make things simpler?

More pull-ups and trips to the gym perhaps. Or more martinis. More days in Park Slope.

Learning to Write Again

I think it’s about time for a run-down update of what’s been going on and also a tentative promise that I’ll write more frequently in the coming months.

The past six weeks have been transition upon transition. First was my company’s move from my former bedroom-turned-office to a commercial space in Midtown Manhattan. Yesterday was a painful (like, literally – my body aches) and long overdue move to Brooklyn, where I will be living with Melanie in Park Slope. And in between have been the shuffling of projects, meeting of new clients, and adjusting to a slimmer body.

Some highlights that I hope to savor later on when it gets colder:

  • wearing Weekenders t-shirts every other day, basking in its yellow glow
  • taking our Barrel intern Pramila out to Una Pizza Neopolitana on her last day and giving her a $30 Uniqlo gift certificate for all the unpaid enthusiasm
  • putting in floor boards and other grueling things to make Barrel office better
  • tick-marking pull-ups we do each day on the whiteboard (the goal is to get 1,000 a month)
  • pairing Chilean cabernet sauvignon with pork bulgogi to see if it works (it did)
  • listening to What’s Up Fatlip over and over again and watching the music video nonstop
  • favorite New Yorker articles read on the toilet this summer
  • late night On Demand episodes of Mad Men
  • yogurt with flax seed granola in the mornings
  • becoming frequent Enterprise renters and superstar movers

The past couple of months have really gone by in a blur. Most of it has had to do with the all-consuming schedule of work – when I’m not working on a particular project, I’m doing something for the physical office space or trying to sketch new ideas for the business. The excitement is still there, and I wake up with entrepreneurial urges often enough to make mornings bearable. This constant tending and re-tending has given me a present-is-most-important focus – it’s been hard to just put things on hold to contemplate the past and to speculate the future. And this has been a bit alarming – I’ve been so wrapped up with the day-to-day actions that the bigger picture disappears and only the tasks at hand serve as drivers for all my activities. Being busy and constantly exposed to a fast-paced environment can be fun and exhilarating, but maybe that’s where a term like “tunnel vision” can start to take on some more negative connotations. Life becomes a rush, and although there’s no defined goal or destination, there’s always a series of motions (like checking Blackberries, responding to emails, talking fast on the phone) that make you believe you’re on your way. At least that’s what I’ve noticed more and more in myself.

Maybe it’s time to slow down. Take an afternoon off. Read a book and watch a movie. Hike a mountain. Bake a cake. Plant some herbs…