Saturday, February 23, 2008

A New York State of Mind

The story I am about to tell starts on an up note and ends in a bit of a fart, to be completely blunt. Here is how it went.

I went to New York for a job interview. I was bright eyed and not at all bushy tailed. Actually, I was pretty well-groomed. I was really intent on landing the job in question, I had spent an entire week on preparing for the interview (instead of writing my dissertation. Oops), and tossing and turning all night because I am just compulsive like that.

I arrived in New York with a Boston chip on my shoulder. While I usually have an ok time in NY, I am very happy to get home to Boston – clean, unsmelly, comfortable Boston. Well, this time was a little different. This time, I walked the streets constantly trying the city on for size and summing up, trying to decide if I could live there, for real. This time was different in that I loved it.

The Hudson

I don’t know what changed. I loved New York best when I was walking around the city by myself, most of the time with very little idea of where I am. I loved all the shops and all the little (and big) streets, the amazing food, and the people. Aaah, the people. I, for one, don’t need strangers to smile and say hello to me. It weirds me out.

Well, if this preamble hasn’t been foreshadowing enough, let me cut this short by saying that the whole job business crashed and burned (no, I am pretty sure I did not get the job. No, I do not know what/who I am going to be if/when I grow up). Herein lies the fart of this story. It has got to be the peak of irony that the moment I become completely excited about moving to New York is the moment where my chances to do so fall through. I don’t get it. Bah.

I do have some awesome food to remember New York by, however. Kalustyan’s was the result of lone city wanderings, carried out on approximately 5 hours of sleep after closing down a couple of bars the night (ok, morning) before.

The little Middle Eastern spice shop is packed to the gills. There is practically no air left inside. It’s filled with spices and ingredients I have only read about and never seen. Huge raisins in clear glass bins, teas made of barely distressed whole tea leaves, and something like twenty different sugars. OMG. There is a teeny cafĂ© upstairs with just three tables lining the window.

Even the salt n pepa shakers were adorable. Film-covered, worn, and beaten, yes, but adorable and antiquey, like they came over from the old country along with the owner/cook.

I ordered a baba ganoush sandwich and kibbe, sat by the window for a couple of hours reading another rationing of Jane Austen (Persuasion, this time), thinking about the city and trying not to think about the next couple of months. It was serene. The sandwich was amazing. Such unremarkable ingredients (pale tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, ordinary pita) blended into the best wrap I have ever had, ever. Home made hot sauce of incredible depth and complexity of taste drowned the anemic tomatoes and spilled onto the smoky, creamy baba ganoush and cooling, crunchy lettuce. It was by far the best baba ganoush I have ever had.

The kibbe was warm and moist, like a little fatty meat foil to the creamy baba ganoush sandwich. It was perfect and perfectly New York.

I may have missed my goal of relocating this time around, but I hope to my way over there eventually. Luckily, Boston is a pretty close second. I am happy here, for now.

P.S. HTML has gotten the best of me yet again. Sorry that the font looks weird. I ran out of patience while trying to fix it.


JC said...

Well, I hope you get to live wherever you want. All those people in New York would make my head explode.

aimee said...

I was amazed by how much I enjoyed New York. I went fully expecting to hate it, but left thinking I'd quite like to live there. Fear not, I'm sure more opportunities will arise.

I, for one, love when strangers smile and say hello (as long as they're not weirdybonk types). There seems to be a code of conduct in the UK, wherby you are only permitted to do so if you're walking in the countryside. Or have a dog. I find it quite amusing.

Alicia said...

I just say hi to everyone if I am by myself in a lonely (backwater) place where I think I could easily get abducted. I think people who are thinking about doing something bad to me will be put off by a big smile and a wave or very friendly hi. Then they will leave me alone and kidnap the next person instead. In a crowded city, I might not even say hi if I know you.

Tell us what job you were interviewing for!

leena! said...

Hey Anna! Just wanted to let you know I tagged you for a meme! 5 sordid facts about you...check out my blog for details!

One Food Guy said...

I once had a Boston chip on my shoulder (born and raised,) actually I still do when it comes to baseball, but after working in Manhattan for six months I came to love the city. I love it for its food. I love it for its diversity. I love it for the things you can see in NY's Chinatown you just can't see anywhere else. I love it for how easy it is to use the subway - it's not that confusing people, can you read a map? I love it because in a city of 8 million people, a city with 13,000 yellow cabs, I got the same cab driver twice in two weeks...I still look for him when I'm back in the city so I can get in and get that drink we promised each other if I got in his cab a third time.

I love New York, I just can't stand the Yankees! Go Red Sox!

Anna said...

JC - I think the throngs of people are going to take some getting used to, but it wouldn't be NY without them. The throngs make the city what it is. They also give it that distinctive aroma :)

Aimee - Ah! I was just thinking about you. So dog owners get to smile at people all crazy-like? I am not sure I approve. I must be supremely jaded, because people who randomly smile at me make me totally uncomfortable. I don't know, I think smiles are kind of personal, really. At least genuine smiles. The non-genuine smiles are just a waste of facial muscle energy and I fail to see the point. Whew.

Alicia - I will post a comment about the job next week. I don't want to be all vocal about which job it was until I have received confirmation that I did not, in fact, get hired. All sorts of sciency people make their way across this blog, so I am going to keep it on the down low for now.
I think your head would explode in NY as well. Don't know why I think this, but I do.

Leena - Cool! I love memes. Will check it out. Feel all popular :)

One Food Guy - Woohoo Red Sox! If I do wind up moving away from Boston, I am going to buy so much Red Sox crap. That way, no one will ever confuse me for a New Yorker. Not like I had that problem this time around... They saw me coming a mile away and knew I wasn't one of them. Why? How?? Do I not look mean enough? I find that difficult to believe. Maybe I wasn't shoving back enough. The food really is amazing there. There is plenty of crap, I am sure, but even the teeny, random divey places have some amazing food. Cab drivers are scary though, just as they are here.

aimee said...

Ah! Good thoughts, I'm sure!

Dog owners smile because they're all smug and proud of their cute pups. I smile at dog owners in the hope that they'll let me play with their dogs! Fake smiles aren't worth a thing, you're right. But I think it's entirely possible to smile genuinely at strangers. And if someone I don't know from Adam takes the time and the effort to smile at me, well quite honestly, it fills me with joy :)

lara griffiths said...

hey anna.
neat about the new york thing. i think we would visit you in either city.... esp. since you made it out to TEXAS.

One Food Guy said...

Crazy cab drivers, Anna? Have you been to Jamaica? THEY are crazy cab drivers!

Or India, I'm in India right now and I get an adrenaline rush every time I get in cab (also called an auto, as in autorickshaw. It's a three wheeled vehicle with what I think is a lawnmower engine ;) ) It's nut's, they're nuts, and they drive absolutely crazy - I'll send a video when I get back stateside!

Anna said...

Aimee - I am in such awful dog withdrawal. I don't smile at dog owners, I leer at them jealously and possessively. Probably not the best approach if I want to be let near their dogs so that I can squeeze them. Lovingly, of course.

Lara - Oooh visit! How does May 6 sound? I am defending! Finally. Never thought the day would come. I may still screw it up at the last minute, mind you, but for now it on for May 6.

One Food Guy - Oh Indian rickshaw drivers are in a category all their own. Scary doesn't begin to describe a road with no lanes, hardly any pavement, throngs of people, and random cattle walking about. I know, I have been their too. Three wheels seem insufficient to deal with all those threats.

sarah said...

it was 85 degrees yesterday. you should look for a job here in LA ;) (by the way, i fell in love with all those little appetizer-y mediterranean things last year)

White On Rice Couple said...

Your post makes us want to visit New York as soon as possible and the photo of the Hudson is beautiful!

jimmybuttons said...

sorry about the drive-by, but i read a comment on another blog that the USPS had lost a copy of magic bullets that you had won on eBay. you asked if someone could post mp3s, and i found them here:

just another MC4 fan trying to make the world a better place!! sharing is caring!!

RIP WIZ!! the music lives on!!

Anna said...

Sarah - Thank you for coming by! Don't think I can do the West coast. I am not nearly patient enough. The place seems way too laid back for anxious me. Although the produce y'all have over there may be enough to sway me.

White on rice couple - Thank you! Do go and eat tons. And take some gorgeous pictures, like you always do :) Seriously gorgeous. Drooly, ridiculously gorgeous.

Jimmybuttons - Awesome! Thank you so much! I actually managed to find another CD on EBay (it wasn't easy) and love it. Love It. Music lives on, indeed!