A lot in this big ol' world is overrated. Magnolia Cupcakes, Mystic River, Desperate Housewives, the climb up inside the Statue of Liberty, Real Simple magazine, Sephora...all have piqued my interest but ultimately failed to deliver. The Eiffel Tower, even, left me a little flat, and the one time I bungee-jumped, it was more Meh than Whee. But I promise you, dear readers, that I am not hard to impress, not jaded, not critical. Yes, I may be a New Yorker, of some sort, but I am not the type who upon reaching the summit of Mt. Everest looks around and complains about the draft**.
I've been complaining a lot lately, about winter, about turning 30, about my apartment, about my friends (I removed an entry, actually -- I had posted a faux-SatC entry about a bachelorette party and removed it recently. I just felt like it was bad mojo to have public complaints about a friend online. Am working on attracting positive energy. No, really!). I've been trying to think of funny stories to share, or thoughtful reflections, but the truth is that I feel very FLAT lately, if that makes sense. Not unhappy, just un. And in an effort to put some fizz back into my champagne flute, I want to stop complaining and start talking about Things That Are Wonderful. There are many. Just because I found The Secret Life of Bees to be crap and think the beach is a bit too sandy doesn't mean I don't have profound appreciation for all manners of cool shit.
For every complaint I have lodged and every eye I have rolled, let me instead tell you about things that are unbelievably NOT overrated, possibly even underrated, and Perfect Just As They Are. I want to tell you about the meal I had on the first day of this year, with Kent and Emilie and Jake, at Babbo. It was not cheap, and the only reservation I could get was for 6pm, but every penny was worth it and then some, because Babbo lived up to it's hype and gave my belly some of the best food I've eaten. Emilie and I were talking about the pappardelle with chanterelles YESTERDAY, because the food was Just. That. Good. People complain about the branding of Mario Batalli, that he is becoming a franchise, that he is an asshole, that reservations are too hard to get and the restaurant is full of tourists, that the wine pairings are a rip off, and to all those people I want to yell STEP OFF ASSFACE, because I don't care. And I don�t care because that food was so damn good. The room was nice, the service was great, the wine was yummy, the company was perfect, and the food...the food! It was one of my top three best meals, I think. Not overrated, worth the hype, worth the wait, worth the expense. I would very much like to go again and try more of the meat dishes, although the pasta was SO. DAMN. GOOD.
There is beauty in a great meal, and there is also beauty in the unparalleled joy that comes from pulling on fuzzy pajama pants at the end of the day. It never, ever feels less that dreamy. Waking up in the morning knowing that the warm body next to you has to get up first, that you have at least fifteen more minutes in bed, is also heaven.
The coast of northern and central California have moved me to tears, literal tears on my face because the beauty is too much, too big, and anyone who thinks we are more that just itty bitty creatures on a big and beautiful planet need to take the drive down Highway 1 for some perspective. It is glorious, every time. As is flying over the Grand Canyon. I haven't visited yet in person, but that sucker is big. Is grand.
What is the line from "Six Degrees of Separation?" Slapping the hand of God, when she visits the Sistine Chapel and is taken up to that ceiling? I can't remember, but the notion stays with me, and when I stand nose-to-canvas with a Cezanne, I get it. This Piece, at the MoMA, stops me in my tracks. The exhibit of Richard Avedon's work at the Met, 2000ish, still exhilierates, even if only in memory.
My new neighborhoodie makes me ridiculously happy every time I look at it. I have apparently been talking about neighborhoodies.com way too damn much, because my husband finally just ordered me one and surprised me with it on Saturday. Mine says "pane, vino e fromaggio" which means bread, wine & cheese and pretty much sums me up. Fuzzy sweatshirts from significant others are never overrated. For our anniversary in February (2nd, which is Cotton), I got Kent one too. It says Steak Frites.
And Central Park is lovely, absolutely lovely, every time of the year, from top to bottom. There is a Conservatory Garden on the east side, at about 105th Street, that I never even knew about until last summer.
I look at the Empire State Building every single day, I walk directly towards it as I head home every night, and it never fails to impress, that I am here, that it is cutting into the sky, that this is my life and my city. Whether it's hazy or dark or snowing or clear as ice, the antenna in the sky is downright cinematic.
And not to dwell too much on food, but grapefruits, mangoes, grape tomatoes, apricot pastries, grilled peaches, vanilla ice cream, raw oysters, fluke sashimi, seaweed salad, corndogs, crab legs, avacado, good bread, bad nachos and sloppy cheeseburgers are all signs that god exists. Fish tacos from a roadside stand in southern California are better than any other fish taco you will ever have, and Mexican food from the Mission is worth the journey, whether you are coming from Cow Hollow or Cobble Hill. A spicy Bloody Mary when you are hungover tastes better than anything on the planet. Food is amazing. I crave -- CRAVE -- the grilled sardines over poached eggs on country toast at Della Rovere. The dinner I had last year at Jewel Bako was a highlight, the white hermitage we drank was completely worth it's price tag.
Yes, the Napa Valley is overrun with tourists and costs too much and Highway 29 gets clogged with cars and the hotels are a rip-off, but it is worth it, I promise you, to visit, and visit often, in as many seasons as you can.
And finally, Veronica Mars is a really, really good show.
I am deeply, madly in love with so many things in this city, in this world. On days when I am cold and bored and cranky and want to start punching random people in the neck, I have taken to walking around, pretending that my favorite people are with me to share, and in my head I take all those favorite people to different favorite places. It is an excellent game and puts me in a v. good mood, even when I have just dropped my MetroCard in dirty street water puddle and have to reach INTO THE DIRTY STREET WATER for it and feel HAIR touch my hand. When that happens, I simply pretend Brit is with me, because she would shudder, offer a tissue and then suggest we go shopping for earrings to make up for the offensive puddle.
I think I want to take Pineapple Girl to Bergdorf, up to the 7th Floor, where we can look at all the gorgeous china patterns and fancy stationary. Then we would cross the street and go into Smythson of Bond, for more paper-ogling. I would then wisk her downtown for lunch at Fanelli Cafe, which is my favorite dive, and afterwards we would walk down Prince Street to Elizabeth, and visit Papivore. She might also like Cath Kidson very much, and I would also like to buy her a gelato from Ciao Bella.
I want to take Hannah to Chelsea Market and get bread from Amy's and then walk over to Union Square for the greenmarket. And because in this game, money is no object, we would have lunch at Le Bernadin and then walk until we were hungry again, and eat at Della Rovere. We would eat a lot, including the braised veal cheeks and the previously mentioned sardines, the gnocchi with braised rabbit, the yellowtail crudo, the lemon pannetone pudding, the sweet potato fritter things, and some proseco and then lots of wine.
I would ask Chiara to schedule her visit around the Mermaid Parade, and I would take her out to Coney Island for it. I have never attended the Mermaid Parade, but I cannot think of another friend of mine who would be better suited to it than Chiara. We would eat Italian ices and later have dinner at Alma, where there is a lovely view of the skyline, and would stuff our faces with guacamole.
When Jecca comes to visit I will take her to the rooftop garden at the Met, where the drinks are expensive and bad but the view makes it all worthwhile. We can have $9 frozen margaritas in plastic glasses and look over the green, green treetops of Central Park and wear our sunglasses and imagine what it would be like to live in one of the condos above us on 5th Avenue (again, am wanting to refer to Six Degrees of Separation). I would take her to the Pakistani Tea House, a place I have never been but have heard is amazing and I feel like Jecca would be up for the adventure. I would like to walk with her over the Brooklyn Bridge and get ice creams at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, then walk through Brooklyn Heights to Cobble Hill, stopping at the big dog park to look at the dogs playing. Maybe Kent would be there with Tuesday...then I would show her my neighborhood and have dinner at Frankie's. I would also like to show her the main library at 42nd Street, because I think she would love the big reading room, and I also think she would like that tiny used book store whose name I can't think of that's on Columbus somewhere in the 80's, maybe, the one that looks like it should be in movie about a mysterious crime and an intrepid bookstore owner. I think I would also take her to Washington Square Park, so that she could see where Harry met Sally (well, left her after meeting her).
If my brother M and his fianc�e came to visit, I would take them to Stone Park Cafe (where we would certainly have to wait, damn you Bruni and your two stars!) because my brother can be a kind of finicky eater and SPC has something for everyone and is a nice walk and has the previously-mentioned bar across the street that my brother would like a lot, I think. Maybe we'd go for lunch, then walk about Prospect Park and perhaps go see the Botanical Gardens. Just not in April or May, because my allergies are wicked. I'd take V to a fancy bridal salon so she could feel like a princess, and I'd go makeup shopping with her at Bergdorf (which I would also like to do when I take PG there). I think while V and I were shopping, Kent and my brother would get a drink at the ESPN Zone, because for some reason, they like it. Then we would all meet up and take the train up to Yankee Stadium for a night game on a hot, summer night and I would have nachos and M and I would complain about the lack of malts, standard fare at A's games.
When Emilie comes to visit, I will drag her to lots and lots of places with me. We will have pastries at Almondine in DUMBO and I will point out the loft(s) of my dreams and then we will go shopping at Barneys. We will walk uptown to 73rd and have paninis at Via Quadronno. We will take a taxi back to Brooklyn and shop ourselves silly, and then go for truffles at The Chocolate Room, and have a glass of wine at the wine bar nearby. I think I would take her to Blue Ribbon for sushi, and we'd definitely have to go see HurlyBurly. After seeing the play we would have cocktails at that tiny place above the Japanese restaurant on 10th Street, the one that only lets you in if there are enough seats to sit down. I also want her to meet Beck and Brit, so we would all go out for something fun and yummy, maybe to a wine tasting and then to dinner at Applewood. We would also have lunch at 'ino, and invite Maxwell to meet us, and then walk around the West Village speculating which brownstone was Gwyneth's before she sold it. And I would take her to BookCourt to show her my local bookstore, and also to the Community Bookstore on 7th because she is a McSweeny's fan. If Jake wanted to come too, that would be great, and I would take Kent and Emilie and Jake to AOC Bedford. I would make Emilie bring her neighborhoodie with her to New York, and I would take her to the new store on Atlantic Avenue and make her show them her hoodie.
And someone, someday is going to take me to that Trapeze School on the west side. Seems like a good 30th Birthday activity, no?
* The title of a favorite book of mine and basically what this entry is
** Paraphrasing (not ganking!) Jim David, a comedian I have seen perform lots and lots