Last July I was walking in Soho and came to a cross street. While waiting for a break in traffic, a young man wearing dark jeans and an olive parka walked up and stood next to me. I glanced over to share a smile and noticed he had a French bulldog puppy at the end of a leash.
“A Frenchy!” I cooed. “They’re my favorite. Can I pet her?”
He took a hard look at me, wrinkled up his face in thought, and said, “No. I don’t think so.” Just then the traffic cleared and the man and his pup crossed the street.
And so my “Why I Hate New York” list was born.
Without even trying, the list grew to over fifty items: “My three-train commute to work,” “The woman on the subway who didn’t offer a pregnant lady her seat,” “The men who only call after midnight,” “The twelve dollar bowl of Cheerios,” “The guy in McCarren Park with life-sized suspenders tattooed on his chest.”
The slightest social infraction prompted an entry in my Moleskine of hatred. Once my roommate asked me to split the cost of a stamp we used to mail in our rent checks, and I couldn’t scribble “Cheap assholes” fast enough.
I didn’t tell anyone about my little secret, worried they’d find it obsessive or – even worse – ask to see it. A dangerous request considering there was a 98 percent chance they were on it.
Three months and two notebooks later, I took a break from the hate mongering long enough to question why I was doing it. Did I find it therapeutic? What was I planning to do with all the material? Was the whole thing a joke to me? Though I didn’t have specific answers, one thing was sure: it wasn’t making me any happier.
“Negativity only begets negativity,” I thought. “What if, for a change, I started recording things I loved about New York? If I put positive energy out into the world, maybe it will come back to me.” I vowed to retire my pessimistic ways and put on my happy hat.
Here’s the part where I tell you my life took a complete 180 and love began to pour into me like an eight-dollar glass of ginger ale in Times Square. (That’s a thing, by the way, and you better believe it made the list.) But five months into the experiment and I can honestly tell you I’m no happier than when I started.
That’s not to say I haven’t witnessed some beautiful acts of kindness or met some inspiring people. I’m thankful to the group of women who invited me to join their book club when I asked them what book they were discussing at a bar. And I couldn’t be prouder of the trivia team I joined, at first knowing only one person, that finally took home the title last week. But when I add the pros to the cons, it doesn’t change the fact that I constantly feel like I’m walking around a crowded party looking for a warm face to talk to.
“The first year is the hardest,” everyone told me when I first moved here, as I’m sure they told you. In a way I expected to wake up on the 366th day and instantly love this place. Surely there had to be an element of magic involved, because goodwill and friendliness weren’t speeding things along.
I initially moved to New York for my dream job, and I’ve been here for a total of one and a half years now. And while you may think that’s not enough time to give the city a chance, I’ve lived in enough places to know when something feels right. And this doesn’t feel right.
That New York City isn’t for everyone is about as shocking as the fact that Paula Dean has diabetes. But what’s less obvious is that you don’t have to feel ashamed for not cutting it. In the wise words of Jay Z, “The city, it’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it.” I’m okay admitting that I’m a member of the half that didn’t make it. But that just means there’s a whole other half out there that’s thriving, and I sincerely hope you’re* one of them.
*Unless you’re the asshole who wouldn’t let me pet his puppy.
Jon Beacham really wants to talk pleasantries with you over a warm cup of tea.
But he’ll settle for sending you love notes of sorts.
The cordial bookmonger-turned-letterpress artisan has launched a new correspondence subscription to bring people closer together and share his adoration of the written word.
Here’s how it works: Send $125 to Beacham, and he’ll mail you five pieces of art and letterpress ephemera over the course of a year. The postal curiosities are never repeated and range from poems and books to collages and poster-size broadsides.
Give Beacham insight into your interests (Hemingway novels, antique maps), and he’ll do his best to customize deliveries. More often than not, though, they’re dictated by whatever he’s working on at the moment.
Minus the tea bag.
To subscribe, mail payment and address details to Jon Beacham, 190 Bedford Avenue, number 228, Brooklyn, New York 11249. For more information, go to thebrotherinelysium.com.
The temperature is plummeting, and along with it your enthusiasm to leave the house. When cabin fever strikes, grab one of our recommended books (or download it onto your Kindle) and get cozy at any of these six low-key cafes across Brooklyn.
The Place: Milk and Roses | 1110 Manhattan Avenue | Greenpoint
Why Try: If you took everything you loved in a café (legit food, unpretentious baristas, room to spread out) and shook it up like a snow globe, you’d get Milk and Roses. This bistro, run by a charismatic French transplant, is aaaaall the way up on Manhattan Avenue – just shy of Queens – but well worth the journey.
Suggested Reading: There’s a strict “No laptop” policy on the weekends, meaning you can uncover the hidden symbolism in Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding minus the distracting clickety clack of a keyboard.
How to get there: G train to Greenpoint Avenue, exit at Manhattan and Java and head 6 blocks north.
The Place: Van Horn Sandwich Shop | 231 Court Street | Cobble Hill
Why Try: There’s only enough seating for four people at the window overlooking the always-bustling Court Street. Though it’s prime real estate and there’s always a ton of traffic, you’ll never be asked to move or pressured to ordering something from the waiters (though we dare you not to).
Suggested Reading: Reading Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food will certainly make you hungry. Order arguably one of the best chicken sandwiches in Brooklyn as you chew on the role of food in your life.
How to get there: F or G train to Bergen Street, exit at Smith and Warren and head one block west.
The Place: Sit & Wonder | 688 Washington Avenue | Prospect Heights
Why Try: As the name suggests, this is the place to go to do your best thinking. It’s library-quite and the patrons are happy to keep to themselves. Stumptown Coffee flows like water, which means you’ll be fully fueled for your marathon reading session.
Suggested Reading: The café houses an impressive selection of books at your disposal. One may come in handy when you need a break from Julian Barnes’ heady The Sense of an Ending.
How to get there: S train to Park Place, exit at Prospect and Franklin, head west three blocks and make a right at Washington Avenue.
The Place: Atlas Café | 116 Havemeyer Street | Williamsburg
Why Try: offManhattan asked three bibliophiles for their favorite place to devour a book, and they all said Atlas. They credit the big open windows and the natural light that abounds in this no-fuss café. Apparently the word is out, they admitted, and it can get a bit crowded at times, so have a back-up plan.
Suggested Reading: There’s free wifi if you need to look up that massive word you just read in Infinite Jest by the ever-sesquipedalian David Foster Wallace.
How to get there: L train to Lorimer, head west on Metropolitan Ave and make a left at Havermeyer.
The Place: Union Hall | 702 Union Street | Park Slope
Why Try: Fireplaces. Comfy couches. Book-covered walls. Late hours. If this place doesn’t scream Stay a while, I don’t know what does. Being a pub, you can order an adult beverage like a seasonal drink served warm (hot toddy, coming right up) while losing yourself in a book.
Suggested Reading: Reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? has you questioning your true friends. Screw ‘em all and make new ones during a pick-up game of bocce ball.
How to get there: D, N, or R train to Union Street, exit at Union and Fourth and head east on Union one block.
The Place: UrbanVintage | 294 Grand Avenue | Clinton Hill
Why Try: Not only is the owner of this corner bistro slash home goods boutique an absolute pleasure, but she also makes a mean chicken noodle soup. But that’s not to say the vegan pastries, pressed sandwiches, or crop-to-cup coffee should be overlooked.
Suggested Reading: If it’s a trip down memory lane you seek, purchase an antique relic for your home after going back in time with 11/22/63 by Steven King.
How to get there: G train to Clinton/Washington Avenue, exit at Lafayette and Waverly, head west on Lafayette one block and make a right onto Grand Avenue.
View Six Places to Read in Brooklyn on a map.
Originally published for OffManhattan.com.
There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal, especially when it’s prepared by people who know their way around the kitchen. See if you can score yourself a spot at any of these five hush-hush supper clubs throughout Brooklyn for a delish dinner.
Eat with Neighbor
What: E.W.N. is run by Archie and Emily, an adorable couple serving up wholesome American food (think dishes like wild mushroom toast, hazelnut and chard ravioli) in their artistic loft.
When: Approximately once a month.
Ted and Amy
What: Ted and Amy (named after chef favorites Ted Allen and Amy Sedaris) is hosted by Kara Masi, a self-proclaimed “decent home cook” who brings omnivores together at her apartment for themed dinners that revolve according to seasonal ingredients.
Where: Ft. Greene
When: Once a week.
Whisk and Ladle
What: Classic cuisine is the star of the menu at this (mostly) weekly supper club hosted by three friends in their 95-year old renovated factory building on the Williamsburg waterfront.
When: Most Sunday nights.
Brooklyn Edible Social Club
What: This cooking collective is led by a chef with over a decade of prestigious dining experience (think The French Laundry and Gordon Ramsay) and a food-loving designer. The five-course artisanal dinner parties they host feature seasonal ingredients from local and responsible farms.
Where: South Brooklyn
When: Every Saturday.
The Cardamom Club – Update: The Cardamom Club has suspended operation.
What: Buds Biss & Auria have (at least) one thing in common: They love cooking with Cardamom. Hence the eclectic dishes (everything from pan-Asian to Indian) they whip up at their place or yours for groups of 10 or more.
Where: Midwood, Brooklyn. A short walk from the Newkirk Station on the Q line.
When: Just about every Saturday.
Photo: Courtesy of psfk
Originally written for Offmanhattan.com
Detective: I’m going to ask you one last time, sunny, and this time I want the truth. Where were you the morning of July 16?
Sun: I already told you. I was up in the sky.
D: Then how do you explain this? (lifts up his shirt and points to his pale belly)
S: Were you wearing a shirt from Mott 50? The innovative men and women’s clothing line uses fabrics that absorb harmful rays before they can cause sun-related skin damage.
D: All right, hotshot. What’s the difference between a regular old tee and one from Mott 50?
S: Ordinary cotton tees protect you against sunburn-causing UVB rays alone. Mott 50 clothing guards you against UVB and UVA rays, so you’re guarded against cancer and premature wrinkles as well.
D: I’m warming up to this idea. Keep talking.
S: Mott 50 makes more than just T-shirts. Think jersey maxidresses, poplin tunics, piqué polos, and bamboo zip-ups in a variety of playful prints and solids.
D: All right, you’re free to go. Those were all my burning questions.
Available online at mott50.com, $35-$145.
Originally written for DailyCandy Everywhere.
I’m bummin’, diary. Been dying to check out that Frenchie place on Randolph, but it’s shaping up to be a ramen kind of night. When did it get so hard to meet new people?
Discovered Grubwithus, a new website connecting people through meals across Chicago. Members choose a restaurant, date, and time and create an open reservation. Anyone interested in tagging along can purchase a spot at the table, which covers the cost of a prix fixe menu served family style. Pretty neat, huh?
Before you snag a seat, you can see who else is attending and what dishes will be served. Good food and hungry strangers? We’ll find plenty to talk about.
Grabbed Japanese food with some Grubwithus peeps last night. We’ve already made plans for next weekend. Can’t wait to dish all about it.
Available online at grubwith.us.
Photo: Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images
Originally written for DailyCandy Chicago.