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UPDATE: August 27, 2014: Subway Inn wins another stay of eviction. Maybe they will find a stone big enough? More updates to follow!

 

The Subway Inn; dive bar, landmark, home of the $6 draft, is closing.

Maybe I’m too hasty. The last word isn’t out yet. But there are some David and Goliath fights where it’s impossible for David to find a stone big enough to bring Goliath down. And the fight between a New York City real estate developer and a tenant is one of those.

Bummer.

The Subway Inn brings people of all stripes together. Regulars mix with tourists who mix with 20-somethings looking for a bargain. Stepping across the threshold turns strangers into friends.

My friends gathered there. We showed up late night and early evening (though I never made it at 10:00 AM when the bar opens) and after a formal function or two. I remember my flouncy, blue velvet dress against a red upholstered booth, rhinestone earrings glittering in the bar light and waiters in white coats bringing bottled beer and stepping out-of-the-way when a good song got us up dancing.

And the story-telling was excellent. A regular, tucked into the bar was happy to make room for me and tell me about his days delivering beer. He once dropped a keg right through the floor of the Subway Inn. He meant to heave it on the bar but the keg skidded by the bar top, gained momentum and crashed through the bar floor to lodge its edge in the actual subway platform below. He said it took years for the city to make a repair so “6 Train” riders had to step over the dent as they got on and off the train.

The Subway Inn is a time capsule. It appears as if nothing has changed since the bar opened in 1937. Not a single speck of dust has been disturbed in 77 years and now a wrecking ball is going to take care of clean-up.

Change is inevitable and often hard. Even when we’ll be better off for it, change can throw us off. The thing is, there’s no part of me – not even a teensy part, which can see how this will make New York City a better, more vibrant or more interesting place to live. And what’s happening to the Subway Inn is happening to independent shops all over the city. Landlords can get higher rent from chain stores and earn more money if they raze the old and replace it with luxury living opportunities.

If big names like Bobby Flay can’t win the rent wars (Mesa Grill is closed) what chance do the little guys have? Pearl Paint, after 50 years, is gone. Bowlmor, the oldest alley in the city and where I celebrated my 30th birthday, is closed as are all the businesses in that building. Luxury condos are moving in.

Union Square Café, a Danny Meyer restaurant, is on its way out and Chat ‘N Chew, where my friends and I have done exactly as the name requests, is gone. (There are more, lots more. Don’t even get me started on the book stores and newsstands. If you’re interested, check out Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, which chronicles the goings around town.)

The Subway Inn and independent places like it, make the fabric of New York City. They might not always contribute the finest thread to the tapestry but they’re the part of the pattern that makes you look twice. They’re the zing of interest, the beat of the street, the thing that makes you smile even if you don’t quite know why.

And they’re melting away as rent inflates and we march toward the sameness of big chain stores, banks, luxury buildings and super high-end restaurants with menus and prices that all look the same.

We are bleaching the tapestry of the city. We are turning New York beige.

I need a great drink and food to make myself feel better. Unfortunately, The Marrow (Bank St, NYC) didn’t sooth my nerves. Instead, my visit reinforced my worry that newer isn’t better.

A fair and balanced review requires several visits so let me admit straight off: My review will never be fair and balanced. My snarky tone could be the result of low blood sugar since the staff cleared and tossed my full plate before I could eat my fill and my request to wrap it fell on deaf ears. The Marrow might make the best pork chop in the entire world but I will never, ever know.

The margarita was “juicy” and out of balance. But it was a hot day so the citrus and ice was refreshing and Vitamin C is a good thing – keeps scurvy at bay.

Some advice if you decide to go: First, eat fast and don’t be afraid to slap any hand that makes a grab for your plate. And second, plan your outfit around the wallpaper. Yes, I said wallpaper. It’s so busy, it clashed with patron’s shirts. Between the fussy walls and beat up floors and booths, the vibe at The Marrow is confusing – something between eating at Versailles or in your Grandfather’s basement in Queens. 

Not beige but still a bummer.

Refreshing Scurvy Cure at The Marrow

Refreshing “Juicy” Scurvy Cure (Margarita) at The Marrow

 

 

 

So it happened again. And again. In fact, it has happened about once a week since Sandy Hook.

Huffingtonpost.com lays out the stats. They report that, “including Tuesday’s incident at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, 74 school shootings have taken place in the approximately 18 months since the Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown shooting. The average school year typically lasts about 180 days, which means there have been roughly 270 school days, or 54 weeks, of class since the shooting at Newtown. With 74 total incidents over that period, the nation is averaging well over a shooting per school week.”

The data indicates that school shootings drop in the summer when regular classes let out so maybe we won’t have desperate, tragic headlines about school shootings in the coming weeks. But any reduction in violence won’t be the result of political action or a cultural shift, it will be because there are fewer kids and teachers in schools and therefore fewer targets.

Shall we declare the opening of each school year the official opening of Hunting Season on our children and educators?

Anyone offended?

More than a year ago, after Boston and after relatively flimsy gun legislation was defeated, I used my little blog as a soap box and pointed out that the people who show the most grace in the face of violence are the victims and not our elected leaders. (Post here.)

Mr. Richard Martinez, after his son was killed in a mass shooting in Santa Barbara a few weeks ago, bared his raw anguish to the world and said, “Not One More.” He didn’t ask for the spotlight. He didn’t want that moment but when it came upon him, he faced it. His talk is plain and his point is clear. He’s a hero though this accolade is surely meaningless and infuriating to him as he mourns and lives devastated in the aftermath of his son’s murder.

I live in New York so I turned to Senator Chuck Schumer, a democrat from New York and funneled a bit of Mr. Martinez’s outrage. I asked Mr. Schumer to “do something.” And I received a response! Chuck Schumer tells me that he shares my anger and has in fact acted! But thinking yourself an agent for change because you introduced a bill that went nowhere is as effective as any of us sharing Mr. Martinez’s grief with a hashtag on social media. The difference, and what makes Mr. Schumer’s self-promotion intolerable, is that Chuck Schumer and all of our elected officials have The Standing and The Office and The Access to do something now.

In his remarks yesterday on gun violence, our “Yes We Can” President sounded more like a “I Can’t Do This” President. Is there no one who can lead our country to a future where it’s safe for our children to go to school?

Maybe the next Rose Garden press conference should be on the issue of gun violence. All of our elected officials who want to be part of the solution can stand behind President Obama, chins up, faces in the sun and on camera. Maybe everyone with a seat at the table can put their Big Boy/Big Girl Pants on, calibrate their moral compass and do something.

So here we are, many months and 74 school shootings later and we are asking the same questions and engulfed in the same outrage.  All those months ago I wrote:

“I think mass killings are acts of terror and the person who carries out the carnage is a terrorist.  And you, our elected helpers, must act with the same urgency and solution based thought to prevent the next school shooting as you do to prevent other acts of terror.  You asked us to make you leaders.  You can’t be less heroic than innocent bystanders who never asked for the role.  It can’t be too much to ask for you to be honest, to engage in fair dialog and to put your personal interest after the interest of the country.”

And I’m back at it. I will hashtag and share and blog till my fingers are blue. I don’t profess to have the answers. But I believe without a doubt there’s a solution if our leaders follow the example of the victims and are brave enough to face the moment.

Will what I wrote here make any difference? Maybe not. But maybe it will move a reader or two to write a letter or two. And if you’re moved, I want to help!

Here’s a handy tool to find the contact information for your representatives and any representative in the country: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

The USPS has tools and options to automate the messaging and mailing of postcards: https://www.usps.com/send/create-mail-and-postage.htm

With my next post, margagogo.com will return to its regularly scheduled programming and be back to the business of drinking margaritas and eating and laughing. But today is for a pause and a plea to our elected officials (Republicans and Democrats): Do something.

Please.

 

 

 

 

 

I learned long ago that when life hands me limes, it’s up to me to figure out how to turn them into something tasty.

So when this sunny Cinco de Mayo crept up on me – and me, a margarita aficionado had no plans, I had to spring into recovery mode to turn limes into margaritas.

5 Ideas for Cinco de Mayo Fun (for people like me who lack planning skills)

1. Make Guacamole and cry tears of joy. You can pick up all the ingredients on your way home and whip up a little love in a bowl. Since Guacamole is avocado mixed with anything, recipes vary. I like the simple set up that lets the ingredients stand out. My guacamole/guacrackole/crackamole recipe is:

  • 2 Avocados, mashed but chunky
  • 1 medium onion, white, chopped, about a cup
  • 1 medium tomato, juice and seeds removed, chopped
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Jalapeno to taste
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Liberal dash of love
  • Mix but don’t mush!
  • Eat fast so you don’t have to share!

2. Make Scarlet Margaritas! I found this recipe on myrecipe.com. We have recipe/taste tested and my independent panel of judges approve. The drinks are festive and a taste sensation. Win/Win.

Scarlet Margs!

Scarlet Margs!

 

3. Make Margaritas from Mix! Ok, I said it. Don’t hate me. Sometimes cutting corners is the only way to celebrate a holiday without adding stress. So if picking up all the ingredients for a fresh-made drink is too much, you can get by with a bottle of tequila and a bottle of mix. For the tequila, I still suggest Milagro. For the mix, you’re on your own. But what ever you do, do not follow the instructions on the mix bottle. Those recipes usually suggest a 3 to 1 ratio of mix to tequila. If you’re looking for a spike in blood sugar, this is the way to go. If you want a reasonable drink, experiment and cut back on the mix and increase the tequila (I suggest a ratio of 1 to 1). Add lots of ice and … a message from my Dad … drink responsibly.

4. Margarita Ice Cream! This is so easy to make you’ll almost feel guilty when your friends worship you for your ice cream making skills.  This recipe is from Nigella Lawson so it makes sense that it’s called Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream. After a rough year that included being choked by her husband, publically outed for a cocaine habit, banned from travelling to the US and getting divorced (well maybe that last one is a good thing) Nigella is someone who needs to turn her limes into something great. So thank goodness she has this recipe!

And this recipe is universally loved. When I made it, I got raves from someone who doesn’t like margaritas (gasp!), someone who doesn’t like ice cream (double gasp!) and someone who doesn’t drink at all (huh?). Everyone loves Margarita Ice Cream.

So check out Nigella Lawson’s site for all sorts of good stuff. I copied her recipe here (and did my best to convert measurements but please check them!)

  • 125ml lime juice (1/2 Cup)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Tequila (2T)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec (3T)
  • 150g icing sugar or powdered sugar (1 1/4 Cups)
  • 500ml double cream (2 Cups Heavy Cream)

 

Margarita Ice Cream

Margarita Ice Cream – I swear this picture doesn’t do this treat justice

 

5. Celebrate at a Place known for something other than Margaritas.  I’m turning my limes into an outing to Butter (NYC). Butter in Midtown is a cool space. It’s set underground and its high ceilings reach the street to let light shine into the restaurant. And they have Parker House Rolls – or at least what I remember as slightly sweet rolls, with a little salt on the top that were amazing (but maybe not Parker House shaped). And while I don’t exactly equate drinking margaritas with eating rolls, anything goes for this non-traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Butter NYC

Margarita & Flowers, Butter NYC

 

Here’s wishing you turn all the limes in your life into the best margaritas ever!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

I Dreamed a Dream

Yes, it’s true, I went to see Les Misérables this past weekend. While I was watching the show, I dreamed it was forty minutes shorter. But besides dreaming of a longer attention span, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dreams and why some are achievable and some seem out of reach.

In 6th Grade, my friends and I volunteered to clean the attic over our friend Kristin’s parent’s garage so we could have a clubhouse. We pushed and swallowed years of dust to carve out a meeting space. As much as an attic can, it sparkled when we finished.

We never met.

I don’t recall why we needed a clubhouse. Maybe Kristin’s parents just wanted their garage cleaned and knew they could trick us into doing it. Or maybe we had a mission in mind but doomed ourselves with lack of planning. But for whatever reason, we dreamt small and didn’t make it.

That same year, my 6th Grade class went on a trip to Washington D.C. and Gettysburg. I remember very little of the trip except for a light up board to illustrate troop movement during the battle of Gettysburg and a night in a hotel room signing choir songs in four-part harmony with my roommates. The light up board was educational. The singing was magical.

My spirit soared with the high notes; our bond grew with the harmony. We sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” like no four tweens in a hotel room ever had. I saw big things in our future (including solos for me but I was willing to share the spotlight). Next stop: Carnegie Hall. All we had to do is practice, practice, practice.

I was still dreaming BIG the next day, until a doubter brought me down. We arrived home and as we lumbered off the bus, a classmate sniped something like, “Hey, I hear you’re going on tour.”  A friend, our soprano, jumped to my defense! She said I didn’t mean it. She said everyone knows the idea of a singing group is just a joke.

I felt stripped bare, as if I’d ridden the bus home naked and everyone noticed the moment I stepped on the sidewalk. And, I thought, I wasn’t joking.

Before I let this story tug too hard on your heart, you need to know I have precious little musical aptitude. Years of piano lessons yielded one single, shaky performance of “Cockles And Muscles” and I hated every moment of practice. I didn’t go to a performing arts school and I wasn’t paying my dues in sweat or dancing my feet to bloody stumps. I doubt my friends had begun to consider their future and I’ve learned that it’s often easier to doubt than believe.

Around the same time my singing career crashed and burned on the sidewalk, I also wanted to be a hairdresser, a Supreme Court Justice, a dancer, an actor, a teacher and a large animal vet. Those are just the ones I remember.

The hairdresser dream came out of a day at the public pool. I styled my friend Tracy’s hair during the car ride home and Tracy’s mom said it looked so good that she didn’t want her to wash the chlorine out since doing so would ruin her do. Had scissors been in play that day, her mother would have taken a very different tone.

Dreams, it seems, are tricky business.

One magic moment can set your dream machine in motion and one harsh word can break it apart.

So how do parents know how to nurture children’s dreams? And how do dreamers know which dreams to follow and which to let go?

I’m mentoring a 14-year old girl and I see that she, like most 14-year-old kids, has trouble looking past the next big moment. She likes to dance. She wants to be a pediatrician but she doesn’t like science and she doesn’t intend to live away from her parents even for a second.  I think back to some of my dreams and what became of them and I wonder how I can influence my mentee to dream well and dream BIG.

I’ve noticed that practice often trumps natural ability. I overcame middle to poor athletic ability to be a starter on my high school soccer team and score a soccer scholarship to college. I did that even though I’m likely to trip over a crack in the sidewalk and I often don’t know my right from my left. But sports were a constant in my life and I was willing to put in the work to be a part of it. I was willing to pay my dues in sweat.

I want my mentee to know that dreams are in her grasp and maybe she can tell the fake ones from the real ones by deciding which she is willing to work for. The things she loves enough and has enough drive to sweat for might be the real deal.  And if she is willing to open it up to the light of day, make her intention clear and let people know what her dream is, then she is brave and wonderful and on the right path.

So I’m proud of her because she decided she wants to play volleyball so she goes to open gym after school to practice so she can try out for the team next year. She gets mad at herself when she makes a bad play and that makes her want to practice more. The dream to play volleyball was laying right in front of her. She picked it up and she’s going for it.

I’m grateful to her for reminding me of lessons long forgotten.

I have a dream that I sweat for on occasion. I pick it up and put it down. I take it for a walk in the sunshine and then drop it back in the closet. But it’s been with me my whole life. Even when I abandon it, it doesn’t leave me. And unlike the dream of being a singing star, I can practice, practice, practice and make this one come true.

I dream the dream of writing a novel. It is my intention to get it done. I also dream the dream of getting this novel published. That one is a little less in my control but I’m going for that too. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re dreaming of good food, drink and fun, please check out The Lion (NYC).  The Lion made lots of dreams come true when I went with The Independent Panel of Judges for an extended brunch. Everything was perfect – including that they forgot to put chicken in the Chicken Pot Pie. When we told the waiter we expected Chicken Pot Pie to have chicken in it, he pointed out that we were at a restaurant called The Lion and there aren’t any lions…. He then dreamed a dream that he could make us forget the kitchen’s “oops.”  He did an excellent job.

Please go and when you do, try the Chicken Pot Pie. I’m not joking. Even chicken-less, it was pretty good.

And if you dream of margaritas – order one! It was tasty and they don’t skimp on the tequila!

Margarita at The Lion. They didn't forget the tequila!

Margarita at The Lion. They didn’t forget the tequila!

 

 

There are a billion reasons to travel.

I won’t list all billion here because my blog is not the cause of anyone’s eyestrain! I want you to use your eyes for very important things – like booking a trip to Iceland. Pronto!

Really.

Iceland is the kind of place that imagination and research can’t do justice. When I read up on Iceland, I learned the Gulf Stream moderates the temperature so the island’s northern location doesn’t mean sub-zero misery. But I had no clue what it was like to spend an afternoon in a sun-hail-rain-snow-sun-storm. I didn’t know that going up a few feet, really just a few feet, could change the world from dry to snow-covered and stormy. Without making the trip, I wouldn’t have learned that the weather is changeable and brutal and beautiful and works to form not only the character of the landscape but of the people.  As we walked the streets of Reykjavik, sun smiling on our faces and hail biting our cheeks, our guide told us that “… Iceland doesn’t have weather, it has examples of weather.”  He also told us that there isn’t any bad weather, just bad clothing. (My damp, loose weave wool mittens that begged the wind and rain to turn my hands blue proved his point.)

These people can really roll with change … except when they can’t.

If you live in Iceland, 50% of the calories you consume are imported.  That must take some planning. While the geo-thermal power is impressive and gives heat and electricity to the majority of the country, it doesn’t make it cheaper or easier to buy a car or a camera or any of the other goods and services that come cheap and easy to someone living someplace other than Iceland. Lots more planning!

So go to Iceland! Expect the people to be lovely and happy to see you. And expect a quick “No” if you ask for something that strays outside the norm. (In our case, it was a late-night bottle of wine in the hotel bar and the need for a detour around a snow-closed road that caused a reflexive “No” but we worked it out.)

And when you’re there, order a margarita (or two). You’ll enjoy them because the food and cocktail scene in Reykjavik is alive and well.  Eat a lot of lamb and fish and absolutely have dinner at Dill and Grill Market (both in Reykjavik). Dill has a tasting menu with wine paring and is an experience you’ll never forget. Grill Market has amazing food served in a very cool space. I had “Red Fish.” It was described as a very ugly, angry fish that can make you sick if you come in contact with it while it’s alive. But they promised me that when they cook it, they get the ugly out and it’s delicious. And it was.

If only we had another few nights in Iceland I feel sure we’d have seen the one thing we missed: Northern Lights. For now, I have to settle for pictures on the Internet. But I feel pretty sure I’ll be back someday so I have another chance.

Thanks for reading – If you go, you should also expect to be blown away by the landscape. I hope you enjoy my pictures!

 

I think what I liked best is that the people seem to have their priorities straight!

And they have a sense of humor! Reykjavik is full of street and public art.

And the landscape is like nothing you’ve ever seen.

And finally, one of my favorite signs ever!

Do you think Iceland is used to dealing with silly tourists?

Do you think Iceland is used to dealing with silly tourists?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humor Required!

Yes, it’s winter.

It happens every year but this winter is extra dreary because it’s actually cold and snowy and icy and grey … and did I mention it’s really, really cold? Since anyone who resides in the ever-widening snow belt has to slog through it every day, we also endlessly talk about the weather. There’s no escape, even in our conversation, and that’s making winter even drearier.

So while New York City is likely running out of road salt, budgeted overtime hours for plow drivers and possibly patience the good citizens are, thankfully, funny as ever.

Since the weather drove me inside for the little exercise I get, I can report on SoulCycle’s hilarious request that clients practice good hygiene (they call it doing laundry).  The bikes are close together and they worry that when your neighbor takes a deep, cleansing breath, they might choke on your odor.  Flywheel’s attempt to be hip and cool with everything down to the locker instructions is also worth a chuckle as they dare you to lock up your Blackberry.

NYC, you’re doing great! Let’s keep up the humor and keep our heads on!

Greensquare Tavern, 5 West 21st St, NYC, is holding up their end in the humor department.

You should go here, not only because the signage is funny but because the food is fresh, organic and good.

If you order a margarita, the joke is on you so please steer clear. This is more of a pull of beer, pour of wine kind of place.  We ordered meatballs and being New Yorker’s, expected a single meatball centered on a giant white plate to be set between us.  But instead of gingerly cutting tiny food in half and wondering what else we’d eat, we got a bowl – and not a single meatball in a giant, but an actual bowl of meatballs!

We left Greensquare tavern nourished by the food and connected to the restaurant through our mutual dislike of Jury Duty Justin Bieber.

And we are warmed by the promise of Spring!

Spring And Margarita Magic

This weekend, New York opened its slushy, crusty coat of winter to give us a glimpse of the blue sky and heart-warming hope of spring.  It was a spectacular February weather weekend.  It was also National Margarita Day. Coincidence?  I think not.

Spring and Margaritas have a lot on common.  In their best form, they both have a pleasant hue.  Both can make you forget your troubles.  Both can inspire love and adventure.  Both can change your perspective.

I can’t say which had more influence this weekend – spring-like weather or Margaritas.  But the good citizens of New York City were out in force and in the mood to celebrate.  I think of their numbers and zeal as an unofficial parade in honor of National Margarita Day.

There was a man on the sidewalk, tucked into the shadowy crevice of a building.  Usually this kind of beginning would have a bad ending – but not on National Margarita Day!  He was air-swinging a “golf club.” He had a cigarette perched between his lips.  He inhaled on the back swing and exhaled on the forward swing so his hands cut through his giant puff of smoke.  He smoked with no hands and golfed with no club and looked thrilled.

The grifters, dressed as your children’s favorite characters, had an extra spring in their step.  Elmo and Cookie Monster gave exuberant high-fives as they stuffed tips in their fanny packs.  Their costumes could harbor margarita sippy cups.  I picture a hat with two cup holders and straws under those furry heads.  Or maybe it was just the sunshine?

Coats were off and skin was out.  Ladies on the way to the gym let their calves loose and left their coats at home.  Grateful faces sat on benches, cheeks turned to the sun, soaking up Vitamin D.

And love was in the air.  I sat, sipping a margarita and eavesdropping on the people next to me.  Eavesdropping is a New York City hobby.  In more polite moments (or when we can’t get close enough to listen) we call it “people watching.” But I was flat-out listening to a couple on their first date. as he explained that he isn’t rich and isn’t successful but he’s glad about that because he really likes to scramble.  His ex-wife is a vindictive person and he’s in a good place about their break-up. He views it as a blessing because had they stayed together, he would have killed her.  Oh, and he cries in therapy weekly.

I tend to think that first dates need better game.  It’s wise to keep murderous thoughts to yourself if you’re hoping for date #2.  But thank the margaritas – either overconsumption or the magic in the air … she was leaning in.  I wish them well! And, I’ve taken a mental snapshot of his face if he ever comes up in an online dating match.

I went a little crazy too.

At Quality Italian, I turned down Aprile Super Oakville (2010) from Gargiulo Vineyards in favor of a margarita. Super Oakville is Gargiulo Vineyards version of a Super Tuscan or Brunello and Brunello is my favorite wine treat.  But margaritas are well, margaritas.  And I’m nothing if not dedicated to my research.

We had Chicken Parmigiana for Two (which is really enough for six).  It’s a giant, round chicken parm disguised as a pizza.  The chickens I’m used to eating doesn’t come flat and round so I’m sure a lot of manipulation (I don’t want to know) goes into this entrée.

We shared Dry-Aged Porterhouse Agnolotti and a bunch of sides.  If you go, bring your appetite.  Quality Italian is a steakhouse and the dinner menu is protein-heavy and priced to match.

And if you go, bring a lot of friends.  Even the best restaurant is helped by good company and on this night, the company was really good.

The weather here in New York has turned cold again so we tuck our skin under coats and scarves and bend our heads against the wind.   But the sun is out and hints of spring linger … and margarita magic is still (always) in the air.  I hope you can all feel it and I hope you had a wonderful National Margarita Day!

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