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What used to be Puttanesca, an Italian restaurant and my neighborhood local, is boarded up and beneath the “Post No Bills” warning, someone scrawled “Love Is The way” in white paint.

This week, someone with more time and more color, embellished the original.

I did love Puttanesca. I doubt the graffiti artist(s) want me to think of food when I see their work but every time I walk by the empty store front, I miss my local and wonder where it went.

One day it was there and the next, it wasn’t. Every table, every chair, every scrap was gone. All that remained was some dust and a few light fixtures left to glow within the cavernous space. The cute Serbian bartender who liked to talk literature and gave me free wine while I wrote blog posts at his bar, moved on to who knows where. The place where I ate (along with hundreds of others) post Super Storm Sandy, wiped out.

Is it possible to put a restaurant’s face on a milk carton?

What’s weird or weirder or maybe just weird to me is that they renovated just before closing. They expanded the bar area to cash in on the wine bar craze and they reopened a few months before they emptied out for good. Clearly, a plan went catawampus.

The building was sold. Could that be the twist?

It’s a corner lot, 6 stories, brick and a little run down. But it’s New York City real estate. The building reportedly sold for $17 million. It’s just a few blocks from “Billionaires Row.”

57th Street (which must be “Billionaires Row” though the moniker is new to me. It used to be, less colorfully, considered part of “Midtown”) is transformed with one high-end hotel next to the other and of course, there’s the monstrosity that gave us the most expensive apartment ever sold in NYC. The sale price? $100,471,452.77.  Yes, that’s right, $100,471,452.77 – I’m sure the seventy-seven cents sealed the deal. Don’t have $100,471,452.77 to fork out for an apartment? I suppose even some Billionaires might find that pricey. No worries! There’s an apartment for rent in the same building and it will only cost you $150,000 per month.  At that rate, you could live there for over 55 years before being all-in on the current high water mark in apartment cost.

I live a few blocks away from “Billionaires Row” so I get to bask in the glow and enjoy the halo effect from my neighbor’s bling-ness. Or to look at it another way, my rent went up 6% last year and 10% the year before.

Glow aside, I wonder if everyone else sees what I see: Do you see the people and places giving NYC its character – the very things that suck in Billionaires and non-Billionaires alike – leaving the city? (I wrote about this once in more detail. Check it out here and I’ll move off of this particular soapbox for now.)

I started with love and rambled quite a ways away. As I read back, I’m afraid I seem a bitter about Billionaires.

I’m really not … mostly … I mean Billionaires are people too and I’m very pro-people!

And love really should be the thread through it all so I invite anyone willing to take the stroll over to Hell’s Kitchen to join me at my new local, Bello. It’s been around since 1985, the Northern Italian food is tasty and when I sit at the bar, they give me a little extra splash of wine. I love a little extra splash. I also love the Rigatoni Matriciana.

I haven’t asked them to make me a margarita yet. They’re sort of hard-core on the Italian cuisine vibe so I haven’t made the leap. I’ll get to it though and I’ll give you an update when I do.

I don’t know if sky-high rent drove Puttanesca out of business but given the changes happening all around us, rent seems a likely culprit. On the bright side, I found Bello!

Maybe everything happens for a reason. Maybe I’ll see you at the bar, smiling over a big splash of wine. And hopefully, like the sign says, love is the root of it all.

PS to all Billionaires, Would-Be-Billionaires and Total-Non-Billionaires: The bar at Bello can be chatty so please join in. And FYI, I’m not one of those people who gets offended when someone offers to buy me a drink. So if you’re hesitating and debating, “Should I, shouldn’t I” the answer is always, “Yes, you should!” Love is the way and a lovely glass of wine is a fine and loving expression. And if you’re nice, I might buy you right back. It’s only neighborly. And while we’re on the subject, here’s good reading for any neighbor: The Gentrifier’s Guide To Not Being An Asshole – hot of the press from The Village Voice – a look at neighborhood change from a deeper perspective than my wine glass allows.

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I’ve been actively watching what I eat. And by that I mean I eat whatever I want but track each morsel, with laser-like focus, as it makes its journey to my mouth.

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s not Food’s journey. Food isn’t trying to get into your mouth!” Really? Are you sure about that? Think about it this way: If Food doesn’t have a mind and influence of its own, they why can’t I stop eating the tasty bites?

My relationship with Food is by far the most complicated in my life. (That’s a bold statement for someone like me who’s made many questionable dating choices.)

Food is celebration, sorrow, entertainment, quality time and nourishment but it’s rarely just fuel. I get the concept of “calories in” and “calories out” and the impact of that delta on my waistline. I still find it’s easier to get the calories in. So this time of year, after the high of the holidays and as we slog through the last slow, grinding, snow-filled days of winter, my meager attempts at mindfulness are taxed to the max. That’s a problem.

About 2 years ago I lost weight and thankfully I haven’t found it again, though those pounds stalk me.

I didn’t have a weight loss plan. When my doctor asked how I lost the weight, I told her I was on the “close my mouth” diet – Food can’t jump in if you don’t give it an opening. I ate what I wanted. I just ate less and less often.

The cornerstone of my weight-loss plan was (and still is) my diet donut. Every morning, I have one old-fashioned donut. And here is where the mysterious and mythical power of Food peeks out from behind the curtain.

The diet donut isn’t about portion control. Food has always been a little standoffish with me in the mornings and I don’t pig out at breakfast. It isn’t a health choice. After all, donuts are fried and to the best of my knowledge, a kale, beet, chia seed flavor donut is yet to be invented. The diet donut is a bit funny and a bit of comfort. I remember going to an old-time cider mill as a kid and getting crisp and hot, real-deal donuts. My diet donut is not one of these. It is not the stuff of memories.

I think my daily, diet donut is all part of Food’s master plan. It’s just tasty enough to call me back again and again and just bad enough to prime me for even more deliciously bad things. Like last Sunday at brunch when I thought it was a good idea to have a margarita with my cinnamon strudel cake at Sonny’s (Portland, ME).

You should go to Sonny’s if you’re ever in Portland. The brunch was awesome (even the parts with protein and no tequila) and they take their drinks seriously. When you go, you should take me. Let’s do it before I give up donuts and pry loose Food’s grip on me.

I will quit them one day – donuts, that is. It is my intention to break up with them and keep up the diet. I’m just not ready. I’m not ready to take Food on and break its mysterious hold on me … maybe after one more great meal…?

Disclosure: I wrote a draft of this post back in January after an amazing dinner with margagogo correspondents at Meadowsweet (Brooklyn, NY). The Down East Bureau Chief, the Head of Borough Research and margagogo’s Medical Director all gathered for one of the best strategy sessions ever. The food and drink at Meadowsweet was so good, I’d go back there as fast as the subway will take me. After dinner, we moved the meeting over to Baby’s All Right. It was NOT all right (Ok, you probably saw coming and it was double cheap because I stole it from a Yelp review.) But the waitress promised us a pitcher of margaritas with “like 7,000” limes.

7,000 of anything plays perfectly into my notion of excess so even though there was live music in the back and different music blasting in the front and even though our pitcher of margs was “like” 6,995 limes short of the promise, the evening was great.

So tonight I will go home and have soup and an apple for dinner as a token step toward freedom from tasty treats. But as I slurp soup, I’ll be thinking of friends and margaritas and dinners and cake and all the great things I can do with 7,000 limes – like maybe make a donut.

Baby's All Right

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I love my nieces’ chubby-knuckled hands. I know they’re growing into confident women with the strong grip necessary to lift a margarita and become margagogo staffers.

I like candle light reflected on a tin ceiling. It dances.

Alphabet pretzels (all 26 letters plus “@”) are endless party fun. They’re even better when they’re baked in butter. I’m hopeful that 2015 will see the introduction of the hashtag pretzel. #PretzelFun

Brownies, a treat that’s not quite a cake and not quite a cookie, are inspired. The person who invented them is a culinary genius and has contributed to my happiness too many times to count.

I appreciate a well placed curse word. Sometimes, it’s truly satisfying to let one rip.

Margaritas and chocolate. Chocolate and margaritas. This blog could have just as easily been called “chocagogo” and I could run around looking for the best chocolate to eat and share.

I’m lucky to have great role models and blessed to love and be loved.

I like snickerdoodles. They taste good but mostly I like them because “sinckerdoodle” is silly to say.

I have a really cool jacket that earns me tons of compliments every time I wear it. I’m lucky to have had the choice to buy it or not.

My parents are together, happy, healthy and busier than I am.

I like to make my bed with fresh, warm sheets straight out of the dryer. Then I like to get in it right away.

Volunteering makes me feel connected and I’m glad to lend a hand. I believe good intentions can start a domino effect so a small act might be bigger than I think.

Comfortable shoes are a relief.

Holiday lights and decorations and music fill me with a peaceful, warm feeling. Have you ever listened to a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing “Silent Night?” The first time I heard it, it moved me to tears.

I’m grateful for so many things big and small.

When the world becomes too scary, I count my blessings. Being grateful helps me catch my breath and soothes my soul. From Ferguson to Brooklyn to Peshawar (and lots of places in-between) there is so much pain and fear and confusion and many, many souls to soothe.  I wish I had some answers – any answers. I wish I had a broad and healing touch. It is so much. It’s so big.

So I take a deep breath and count my blessings.

And I’m grateful for my nieces’ chubby-knuckled hands.

Hope, Robert Indiana - NYC

Hope, Robert Indiana – NYC

 

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I think America’s love affair with the automobile has less do to with the romance of the open road and everything to do with the grossness of the shared travel experience.

In your car, you’re the master of your destiny. Sure, getting stuck in traffic can mess up a schedule. But you can control your departure time. No need to plan around catching the 10:03 train out of Penn Station. And you have complete control over who rides with you. Your seat mates are hand-picked. You know, before you invite someone into your car, if they have suspicious hygiene habits. You might even appreciate your passenger’s annoying quirks and because you’re friends (or family) you can tell them to “cut it out” if they become too much.

You’re not locked in a hurtling tin missile full of cell phone chatting, coughing, seat hogs who can’t spell etiquette let along display the graciousness required for group harmony.

You can probably tell that I’m bitter because I’m car-less.

Yes, I’m a mass transit user. I take at least one plane trip each month. I ride the subway and I’ve taken a few MegaBus trips. In the last several weeks, I’ve jumped on Amtrak for several round trips. I’ve had lots of experience. I’ve had hours to endure and lots of time to think.

My last Amtrak trip was especially hideous. I fought my baser instincts (as I always do) and didn’t try to protect the empty seat next to me. As much as I’d like a buffer, everyone has a right to a seat and they shouldn’t have to work hard to get one. I don’t need the conductor announcement asking riders to be courteous. I am the picture of courtesy. So when a Converse clad hipster asked if the seat next to me was taken, I beamed, “It’s all yours!”

It was a beautiful moment. He was polite, I was polite. The possibilities stretched before us. Maybe we’d strike up a conversation about the latest must-have plaid shirt or about which Brooklyn restaurants are curing artisanal bacon in their basements.

And then it hit me. The smell. His smell.  He had a dank and stale dirty hair, over-worn clothes smell.

Between his foul odor and his gurgling – yes, he had a rumbling, wet cough, I felt as if he’d unzipped his chest, plucked out a lung and pulled it down over my head. The train ride was four hours long.

Maybe Amtrak could increase ridership over night if they took a page from Soul Cycle’s book. Soul Cycle, a popular spin class, felt the need to put a list of rules up in their gyms reminding riders that nobody wants to share their odor. Check out #3.

Soul Etiquette SoulCycle 1024x695 Soulcycle brands spinning and spirituality

Maybe we’re all a bit bonkers and need to be told to leave our phone out of an exercise class and to be kind. Maybe odor control isn’t just an automatic, well-of-course-I-don’t-want-to-stink kind of thing. Soul Cycle is on to something (and I’m deeply sorry I giggled at the list and I swear, that will never happen again).  It seems we need rules. We do better when we have standards to live up to and guidelines to follow.

And so here I am with… drum roll please …  margagogo’s Official Rules for Harmonious Travel.

The first few apply to all Transit Options (Trains, Planes, Subways, Buses and even Taxis)

Be clean. This includes hair, teeth, clothes – everything on or about you should be spiffy. Once, on a plane trip back from Istanbul, I sat next to a young man who smelled so bad that every time he shifted enough to accidentally air out his pits, I nearly suffocated. When he lifted his arm to take his drink from the flight attendant, I feared I’d faint. I think he was an exchange student off on his first big adventure. I wanted to tell him that the hero, the guy who gets the girl (or the guy), is never smelly. If you think of it from a purely selfish point of view, you never know who you’re going to sit next to – your future spouse, your future boss … or the person who doesn’t speak to you and hates you because they have to share your air.

Smiles Everyone, Smiles! Though it’s a risk, it’s possible to say “hello” without being obligated to chat for the duration of the trip. And I’ve heard (I’m sure I should quote a study here) that being nice in general is not only a good thing for other people but it makes you feel happier. So, when we’re all in it together, being nice is a win/win.

Make an Effort! Make an effort to keep your germs to yourself. Even if you believe that coughing into your elbow doesn’t make a bit of difference, everyone appreciates the effort. Same goes with crying babies. Effort gets you sympathy. Apathy, even due to complete exhaustion, earns ire.

Air Travel:

– If you’re sitting in Row 28, don’t put your luggage in the overhead at Row 5. That just messes everyone up and causes a giant traffic jam when the person in Row 5 has to fight against the tide to get the stuff they had to store in the space above your seat.

– Board as your row is called. As tempting as it is to try to board first, you just gum up the works.

– Please leave your beer soaked rabbit and cabbage curry hot pepper surprise at home. Nobody cares that it was your dear Grandmother’s special recipe. They just care how it smells.

Subway Travel:

– There is a special place in heaven for the subway rider who willingly gives up their position in the car to step out when it isn’t their stop so they can clear the path for people getting off. Please do this.

– Don’t lean on the pole. People need something to hold on to when standing on a moving train. Nobody wants that thing to be your belt loop or any part of you.

– Please take your backpack off. Believe me, you have no idea how big that thing is.

Bus & Train Travel:

– Shhhhhh. I might want to know what you’re having for dinner so if you stand up and make a general announcement, something like, “If anyone wants to swap recipes, meet me in the café car in 10,” I might join you. But, I don’t want to hear a lengthy cell phone discussion about peas, or roast beef or what your Aunt Jane did at dinner the night before.

And finally, always share. I’m not woman enough to tackle the age-old problem of who gets the arm rest. But, I do know that you shouldn’t try to save the seat next to you for an imaginary friend. Share the aisle space. Don’t hang out in the bathroom, tuck stuff under the seat in front of you if it will fit. Put it on your lap if your ride is short. When you get your private plane or train or bus, you can do whatever you want. (And when you do get that private ride, please invite me along. I’m an excellent passenger.)

See, isn’t everyone feeling happy now? (Did I leave anything out? Feel free to share – sharing’s good!)

If you want to feel happier – or even happiest (and at this point you’re not afraid of a subway ride) go check out the new bar on 121 West 10th street, NYC called The Happiest Hour.  They smile, they’re kind and the only odor I detected was from the free french fries they kept bringing out and setting on the bar. Yes, I said free french fries – could they get any more friendly?

The vibe is tropical retreat meets old school diner meets high-end cocktail bar. Picture getting a grilled cheese in Havana. And you should get the grilled cheese – it was warm, buttery, cheesy goodness and it came with tomato soup. The fries were bottomless. The margarita was excellent.

The Happiest Hour was worth the trip. There was harmony. The Happiest Hour lives up to its name … and they haven’t even published a list of rules.

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

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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!

 

 

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