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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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If it’s possible to miss the signs of Halloween – the chill in the air, red and yellow leaves crunching under your feet and the costume and fun-size candy ads that have clogged the airwaves since August, I’d still know the holiday’s upon us.

Yes, I have a calendar. I also have an official Halloween Correspondent for margagogo.com. As a former colleague, she was endlessly disappointed with the Halloween spirit in our office. We are always in for candy but our energy wanes well before the costume stage. So she left her job behind to build a Halloween empire. As you can see, she’s been hugely successful.

Her Halloween flock is ready to go – they were ready a week ago.

All the feathers are hand cut and stitched. The little boy bird is wearing knitted legs. Yes, yellow, hand-knit bird pants. I think there are real feathers involved with the hats – I mean beaks. Last week they marched in a parade and costume tweaks are being made based on that test run. The trick-or-treat route is mapped. Halloween 2014 is almost in the books for margagogo.com‘s Halloween expert.

When she asked how I’m celebrating the holiday, I told her I’m dressing up like a “Candy-scarfing Lady” and eating Butterfingers till the candy cakes in my teeth and I’m loopy on sugar. No costumes or Halloween parties for me.

There was a time when I put a lot of effort into Halloween. I turned my creativity dial to “genius” and poured all of it into my costumes.

The problem is that “genius” sits on a narrow, precarious point. Success and disaster are just a teeter apart.

I once dressed up as a band-aid box. To make the box shape, I put a head hole in a board and let it rest across my shoulders to make the frame of the box. I painted the logo and art from a band-aid box into a sheet and attached it. Genius! But the execution didn’t hold up to real world demands. The frame was too wide so trick-or-treating became an obstacle course. I couldn’t walk next to anyone on the sidewalk and had to turn to the side to let people pass. Worst of all, I was too wide to get through porch doors, thus putting my candy haul in jeopardy.

One year I marched in my hometown Halloween parade dressed as a garbage bag. It was so great that the local paper took my name down for consideration in the costume contest. I made my costume out of a round plastic laundry basket. I cut out the bottom so I could step through, covered it with a heavy green garbage bag and then attached carefully select (and clean) trash all around the opening. Clever, right? You can be sure there wasn’t another person at the parade in a garbage bag costume. I had it in the bag! (Get it?) But nothing says “fail” like people stuffing their actual trash – dirty coffee cups and soiled food wrappers into my costume as I walked home from the parade route. And I didn’t win the contest. Not even an honorable mention. Maybe if I’d been a sexy garbage bag ….

Then there was the toothpaste tube. Yes, I dressed up as Crest. I’m proud to say I learned from earlier years. The toothpaste tube frame fit exactly on the span of my shoulders. No way I was going to be in my own way on the candy hunt. The costume was roomy enough to hide a puffy coat so cold weather wasn’t a hinderance to getting massive amounts of candy. But my cap was. The bucket I used for the tube cap rattled and jumped when I walked. It turned with each bump so I had to hold it steady with my hand or I couldn’t see. And, it seems I forgot to taper the bottom of the tube which might explain the tripping. (I’m only now enjoying the irony of dressing up like a tool for cavity prevention so I could go out begging for tooth decay.)

Possibly my favorite childhood costume was the Tootsie Pop. My father got some local college students to make it for me. They made the Tootsie Pop top out of a beer ball and drained said ball at a party while guests colored the giant Tootsie wrapper. I was cherry flavored and I wore all white for the stick. It was amazing. The height of genius! But, I was on the older range of trick-or-treaters and fair game for trouble-makers … and the face cut out in the beer ball didn’t allow for any peripheral vision. I couldn’t see the shaving cream coming and had no chance for evasive maneuvers. Have you ever seen a giant Tootsie Pop careen down the street? It’s not pretty.

Nearly all photographic evidence is missing so I can’t show you the band-aid box, garbage bag or Tootsie Pop. Please use your imagination. The people who made margagogo possible promise the pictures aren’t lost and they’ll keep looking.

So no dressing up for me. I’ve spent the last several Halloween’s in Maine with food, a fire in the stove and friends. And of course, Butterfingers and trick-or-treaters.

The first year, I was super excited for kids to come. I waited and waited and waited and then waited some more. Finally, I backed off the door sort of following the “watched pot” theory. So my friends rang the bell just to watch me dash from the kitchen, grab the candy bowl and skid to a halt in front of a door with no kids on the other side. Later my friends made knocking sounds and I fell for it again … and again.

The kids finally showed and I lucked out with more candy than kids so I didn’t have to share my Butterfingers. My carved pumpkin was the best ever made in the entire world, my friends were funny, nobody chased me with shaving cream or stuffed garbage in my shirt. I didn’t trip, I could see and I fit through all my doors. It was pretty perfect.

New York City is of course, Halloween central. Nobody does it better if you like that sort of thing. I got into the spirit this week by heading to the West Village for dinner at Extra Virgin (West 4th St, NYC). Extra Virgin is a Village classic. The American, Comfort, Classic and Inspired food is always amazing. The bartender can mix a drink, the staff is friendly and Sunday night is Spaghetti and Meatballs night. Yum. So please go to Extra Virgin (or don’t so there will be more room for me).

And order a margarita. In honor of Halloween, I had them make mine extra spooky.

 

Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night!

 

 

 

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As a recovering smartphone addict, I’ve needed my next text so badly that I’ve neglected friends, dropped out of conversation, let vacation scenery wiz by unnoticed and walked entire blocks without seeing where I was going.

For me, distracted walking is guaranteed to lead to disaster. With eyes wide open and no obstacles in my way, I’ve managed to damage my property and my body.

I’ve misjudged the curb and ended up in tears more times than I can count. Once, playing soccer, I broke my ankle and cracked my tibia. I wasn’t doing fancy tricks or going in for a tackle. There was no collision; no heart-stopping, breath-holding moment of impact. I just tripped myself.

Turtle_On_Its_Back_Cartoon_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_090122-130120-872048And then there was the 42nd street Incident. One cold night, crossing 42nd Street with a large and weighty backpack strapped to my shoulders, I tipped over. I landed on my back, smack in the middle of the street, arms and legs flailing. It took a team of coordinated and shocked New Yorker’s to hoist me to my feet. It was humiliating, life-endangering and to top it off, even though I landed on my back, I managed to put a hole in the knee of my brand new jeans.

All of this without any “help” from a smart phone.

People should be taking tumbles and trips of the most un-fun kind.  There should be more broken ankles, bruised shins and skinned knees. I don’t wish pain on anyone. I just don’t see how we can routinely cross the street like this and come out unscathed.

And, we are in fact, hurting ourselves. I read an estimate that at least 10% of injuries landing people in the ER are caused by cell phone distraction. The number may be bigger. People tend not to self report embarrassing things like falling through an open manhole while playing Cut The Rope.

The problem of distracted walking is so bad that in London, they’ve installed bumpers around light poles. Really? Yes. You can read about it here.

I hope New York City won’t resort to bubble wrapping light posts, mail boxes and the few remaining pay phone stands to keep us safe from ourselves. But these obstacles are very real – as are pot holes, traffic, uneven sidewalks and surly, surging crowds.

For me, getting my nose out of my phone was a survival imperative. Let’s face it, I need all my faculties synched and focused when I’m walking. So I put myself on a 12 Step Program: 12 steps without looking at my phone … then another 12 steps with no phone and then another. Now I make it to and fro without a tweet or a text.

Once I picked up my head, I noticed all the people around me walking with their heads down. For these shots, I held my phone up and allowed distracted walkers to move themselves into my frame. Not a single person noticed a stranger taking their picture. I was sure I’d have some explaining to do. I was sure that in New York City, a city where there’s so much to see, that someone would look up.

Paying more attention to my phone than my feet isn’t just physically hazardous. It’s also socially awkward and stifles the senses.

I know, I know. I’m like the friend who finds their soul mate and can’t believe anyone lives single or the person who reads about Chia Seeds or tries Boot Camp – completely drinks the Kool-Aid and wants you love it as much as they do. I think I’m on to something though and I’ve discovered more than just how to avoid a visit to Roosevelt Hospital’s ER.

I came to Candy Crush late in the craze but made up for it with lots of enthusiastic play time. One Christmas, my mother and I spent so much time blowing up sugary confections that my then 7-year-old niece apologized for introducing us to the game. I’ve sat at dinner and pulled my phone out of my purse because I think I hear my text ping or because I haven’t and I wonder why nobody is texting.

And New York City (any city, any place) has a lot to offer or a lot to be missed. There’s architecture and art and love isn’t just in the air, it’s on the street right in front of you! You just have to look up, look around, pay attention.

So come on everyone, give it a try. Save your ankle bones, protect your knees and lift your spirits. Put your phones down and pick your eyes up.

If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to Tupac.

"Hollar If Ya Hear Me" closed but keep your eyes open - it will be back!

“Hollar If Ya Hear Me” closed but keep your eyes open – it will be back!

Or listen to Annie Lennox … or if you don’t know that musical reference, don’t worry. Just know this: The streets where I walk are a little safer now that I’m phone free. It could be argued that I’ve lost my chance to “bump” into someone interesting but I’ve increased my chance to make eye contact. I still slip when out with a group of friends. Social media sometimes sucks me back, but I try to stay in the moment – ready and present for potential magic.

We found some magic at The Spyglass Rooftop Bar at the Archer Hotel (38th St, NYC). Rooftop bars in NYC are crowded and magic can be tough to spot in a packed room. But the bouncer hooked us up with comfy seats and an amazing view of the Empire State Building and the Eternal Lights from the 9/11 Memorial. And they serve Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc. (It’s much too busy to order a margarita here. Stick with something simple.)

Cakebread Cellars believes that life’s occasions are elevated by good wine, good food and good people – and I couldn’t agree more.

Life’s occasions are also elevated by keeping your head up and your phone stowed so you see more than you miss and you have the chance to capture every, single, magic moment.

Magic captured at the rooftop of the Archer Hotel

Magic captured at the rooftop of the Archer Hotel

 

 

 

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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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At the end of each year, my friends pick a theme for the year to come.

Finding a few words to set a tone for the days ahead is tricky business.  Add in the wish to balance humor with momentum and the need to come up with a single idea that will gain mass acceptance and you get an idea of the care that goes into each theme choice.

Despite our best efforts, some have been more successful than others.

The Year of The Hard Body:  We gave ourselves latitude on this one. We could meet the goal by improving personal fitness or by dating a hot guy who already had a hard body.  This was a spectacular failure on both counts.

The Year of Amore:  I think this was the year I dated a guy with a cheese phobia. Amore? Not quite.

The Year of Giving:  What I gave must have been brain cells because I really don’t remember how we followed through on the theme’s intention.  I do recall an attempt to be giving of spirit.  I gave a second, third and fourth chance to the guy I was dating and as a result, I have the distinction of being broken up with four times in four months.

The Year of the Bitch:  This might have been an over-correction after The Year of Giving.

The Year of No Fear:  Awesome because it rhymes, this theme was about going after dreams.  I wrote a novel.  I didn’t get it published before the theme expired so fear set in. Maybe this theme should be renewed.

The Year of Fun:  It had been a while since we had a contagious giggle. You know, when it’s hard to say the exact funny thing that sets the laughter in motion but it starts to roll and if you stop, you can’t look your friends in the eye without starting again. We had so much fun in this year that I decided to replay it because the next year was …

The Year of Yes:  I’ve come to believe all those childhood promises:  Ask and ye shall receive; You reap what you sow; I’m rubber and you’re glue ….  So it felt reckless for “yes” to be the standard for the year.  There are a lot of things that nobody should say yes to and there’s no need to invite them around.  So I went rogue and repeated our most successful theme, The Year of Fun.

The Year of Adventure:  We defined “Adventure” as anything new.  Anytime we were on the fence about a plan and wondered if we should bother with the first date or the museum exhibition or the out of the blue plans with new friends, we said, “Well, it is the year of adventure!” And we went. We also went to Turkey and Greece (and for the record, I was able to get excellent margaritas in both countries.)

This year is The Year of Well and Good.  This suggests balance and every past theme rolls into this one.  We need to be giving and bitchy, have fun and adventure, be fit in body and mind and be all around good citizens. I think we’re off to a good start. I’m mentoring a 14-year old through IMentor and if all goes well, I will mentor her straight into college. We are lending our effort to Cycle for Survival to raise money for research into cures for “rare” cancers.  Because Cycle for Survival requires getting on a bike, I’ve finally started to exercise.  And, we’ve booked a trip to Iceland with hopes of seeing the Aurora Borealis.

And the year has only begun!

My adventure to find the perfect margarita continues.

I checked out Park Kitchen. It’s brand new in the lobby of newly renovated Park Central Hotel (NYC).  The space is graciously designed though it’s impossible to forget, even for a moment, that you’re in the middle of a hotel lobby.

I didn’t have much hope for the margarita since lobby bars, even in New York City, often disappoint.  When my drink appeared, the bright yellow hue made me think I was looking at high-end mix abuse.

Park Kitchen Marg - Well & Good!

Park Kitchen Marg – Well & Good!

But it was good and strong.  The flavors well-balanced and the tequila was the clear star.

I left feeling both well and good.

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Yes, Easter was more than a week ago. But this post is about hunting for what you want (and waiting) so the time lag is fitting.

I’ve never been good at hunting for anything.

I remember being very young and lining up in a park for an Easter Egg Hunt.  By “hunt” I mean bright-colored plastic eggs set in plain sight on the lawn.  I plotted a complex strategy for a toddler (run straight forward and grab eggs) and visualized my empty basket filled with Easter bounty.  I came up empty.

In the minutes it took the throng of kids to grab every egg in sight, I managed to collect just one, single, broken, empty egg.  Where did I go wrong?

  • I might not have sprinted off the start line.
  • I probably should have better assessed the competition and repositioned to be in a cluster with weaker kids.
  • And, it’s fair to say that between my glasses (since age 2) and my eye-patch (a constant childhood accessory), that I couldn’t tell a clump of  grass from an Easter Egg.
Glasses, eye-patch, perfect

Glasses, eye-patch, perfect. But who did my hair?

One-eyed - Is it any wonder I couldn't find an Easter Egg?

One-eyed – Is it any wonder I couldn’t find an Easter Egg?

Sometimes, even with the best of plans, reality stacks against you.

This past Easter weekend, reality topped strategy when we embarked on a hunt for a great margarita in the great state of Vermont.

We started off at SoLo Farm & Table in Londonderry, VT.  Recently nominated by Bon Appetite as one of 2012 best restaurants, it was a strategically sound choice.  Great restaurants have great bars, right?

The food at SoLo is worth the trip.  I loved the Oxtail croquettes.  They were a menu special and quite special they were.  I love croquettes so much that I could probably devote a blog to them, so I’m biased.  If you go and they have these on the menu, get two orders.

We also had Duck Confit Hash (this was a little weird and skip-able) and Pekin Duck Breast and Roasted Suckling Pig (amazing). If I go again, I’ll remember the portions are giant and order for sharing and more tasting.  This meal was so good I was sad when I was full.

I was also a little sad because I didn’t find the margarita I was looking for at SoLo.  It was off-balance with too much citrus  and not much tequila.  I think the flower was sad for me too.

The margarita hunt continued in Manchester, VT at the chic and spendy Equinox Hotel.

We spa-ed and lunched and I ordered a margarita at the fancy-schmancy Marsh Tavern.  I was sure the Equinox employed top-notch mixologists and my hunt would be over in moments. And then my “margarita, rocks” came “up” in a martini glass.

Marsh Tavern Marg

Marsh Tavern Marg

It looks like a gift from heaven with the sunlight glinting off the glass. But it just tasted weird. Like maybe lavender infused the home-made mix.  The independent panel of judges reports that the Bloody Mary was just “meh”.  So the drink ordering tip at Marsh Tavern is go for wine.

We sat at the table, pooling our mental powers to come up with a sound strategy for finding a good margarita – we Googled it.

After ruling out the option to buy a franchise to a chain called “Margaritas” we settled on a local called Gringo Jacks.  A Yelp review suggested the best way to enjoy Gringos was after a long hike … we spent several hours shopping (and that’s almost the same thing) so off to Gringo Jacks we went.

Cactus Glass - 'Nuff Said

Cactus Glass – ‘Nuff Said

My newly appointed Syracuse Bureau Chief has a smart rule of thumb – A margarita that comes in a cactus glass probably isn’t that good. ‘Nuff said.  And with this third margarita try, I started to think that I needed to refine my search – there seems to be a tequila shortage in Vermont and someone needs to get to the bottom of that.

But if you hike or ski or don’t do either, and  you’re with a big group, this is a bright, happy place to be.

I promise there is a moral to this story. And there’s a happy ending too.

Finally, I found Easter Eggs – LOTS of them.

Easter Eggs!!

Easter Eggs!!

We eventually did find a GREAT margarita – back in New York City at Mesa Grill. And who doesn’t want to grill and chill with Bobby Flay and this seriously good marg?

Mesa Grill, NYC

Mesa Grill, NYC

Now to the moral: Sometimes, the journey is the point and the thing you think you need, really isn’t important. Yes, I do love a good margarita and I couldn’t find one in Vermont (sorry, Vermont, it’s true). But I had something even better – good friends who were willing to humor me and help in the hunt.  We also had parking mishaps and discount shopping and lots of laughter. And I know the laughter was genuine since the drinks didn’t have any tequila in them.

And mostly we had fun.

When you have friends, your molcajete is always overflowing.

Rosa

Coming soon: A margarita to fall down for.

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A midnight ride in a mouse. What could go wrong?

First, I’m a New Yorker whose apartment is a mouse superhighway.  City mice are not cute and the rental car company should have handed me a shot of tequila along with the keys when they rented me a car designed to look like a giant, red mouse.

Tiny, with a mouse face. The car is the “Spark” but a better name is “Arrgggh!”

Thankfully my living room seems to be a thruway, not a destination so I squelch my squeamishness.  But getting into a mouse car required a whole new level of resilience.  I kept focus.  It was a way from A to B and I really wanted to get from A to B.  Once inside, it looked like a car so what it looked like on the outside only mattered to other drivers and to the cop who pulled me over when I drove through his mousetrap.

I’m not above speeding but my mouse wheezed when I hit the gas so I obeyed all posted signs.  Liquid courage isn’t practical when driving (as I said, I really did want to get from A to B) so no tequila shots were consumed in order for me to get into this car.  I stopped at the light.  I took a legal right turn.  So when flashing blue lights pierced the black night, my heart jerked as I snapped the car to the side of the road.

The officer approached, cop car lights still spinning, a flashlight beam on the license plate and then in the back window and then he was just behind my left shoulder, waiting.

And I couldn’t get the window down.

When I got into the mouse, I made time for the basics: Ignition, steering wheel, gas, break, lights and radio and I was off.  With a chill in the air, I never considered I’d open a window on my midnight drive and in this crucial moment, I had no idea where the window controls were.

My fingers flew to the door and started frantic button pushing.  First the door locks, “click, click, click, click.”  Then a new button and the rear window on the passenger side started to slide down “ZZZZRRR,” then the back driver side window, “ZZZZRRRR.”  Then one up the other all the way down, “ZZZZRRR, ZZZZRRR”.  Then the front passenger window started down “ZZZZRRR”.  Finally success! The driver side window started to move but flustered, I had my fingers on so many switches that when I tried to stop the other windows from rolling, I picked up the wrong finger. My window stopped moving, only an inch down, and the other three windows, on various paths of up or down kept going, “ZZZZRRR, ZZZZRRR, ZZZZRRR”

For some reason, the officer was not amused.  He didn’t smile or congratulate me on my herculean achievement of getting my window down.  I squinted at the flashlight beam in my face and ignored the wind whistling through the four open windows.

“License and registration, please.”

“I can give you my license but this is a rental car. Would you like the contract?”

He looked at my documents, asked me to confirm the address on my license, walked to the front of the car, walked back and pointed the flashlight back in my face.

“How long have you had the rental car?”

“About half an hour.”

“I see. Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?”

“No.”

“Your back lights are not on.”

Could it be that the spark had no spark? Surely not and I pointed to my dashboard, all lit up and a sure sign of electrical activity.  With an “uh huh”  he reached through the window to the light controller and turned it one more click up. “There you go, you just have to turn them on.”

“You have to turn the lights on …  more?” I asked and pointed again to the glowing dash as proof that I wasn’t a stupid as I appeared though I realize evidence had stacked up against me.

I think he wanted to make me feel better when he said, “Well, you did have your headlights on so that’s good.”

And then my copper let me go. He bade me goodnight, got into his car, pulled out just a schooch and waited for me to pull safely on to the road.

I was grateful all around.  He didn’t give me a ticket and he saved me.  One of the speeding pick up trucks that regularly travels this road could easily make roadkill out of me and my mouse.  But now I just wanted him to leave.  I didn’t want to drive away with the windows down and I didn’t want to further embarrass myself, or give him a chance to reconsider, by staying put and taking the time to work out the controls.  So I pulled out, wind rushing, windchill dropping and drove, freezing, keeping my eyes and the car on the road while subtly trying to put the windows back in place.

After any flat-out embarrassing experience, a drink is in order.  In a case like this, I suggest you go straight to Swine  @SwineNYC  (531 Hudson St, NYC).  (And if the officer who pulled me over and let me go is reading this and gets my less than subtle pig reference, I just want to say it’s only to carry the theme of this post and I have the utmost respect for you and the work you do.)

Swine has all sorts of pig products, like potato chip nachos with pork belly.  And they have an inventive drink list.  After a near arrest, who could resist having a “Pig in the City” or a “Buck Up”?

Swine Cocktail List

With a drink called “Pig In The City” how can you go wrong?

They also have a super friendly neighborhood vibe.  So you can pull up a bar stool and tell them a story like this while they mix you up some comfort food and drink and they will laugh with you – and if they want to laugh at you, they’ll be kind enough to do it while you aren’t looking.
And they made me a great margarita. (Well, actually, more than one. After all, I wasn’t driving.)

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