An Uptown Odyssey (with food!)

I went into NYU confident in my expertise.

New York City was fucking frightening to an outsider. Traffic lights were misleading, bicyclists were everywhere, Chinatown was indecipherable without a guide–this would be my ticket, people would want to hang out with me cause I knew the score, I knew where to go, what to do, who to see and when and where again and also where to get a good Papaya-drink-for-a-buck, I was ON.

I spent freshman year in a 16′ by 16′ by 16′ box of a dorm room smoking pot and drinking until I could see classic 1980s LED video games when I closed my eyes.

So much for that plan.

Subsequently, my school and my location have tethered me somewhat to lower Manhattan, my home and where I love and grew up all my life-thus-far, but still there is a world beyond 14th st.

I think.

Luckily, I had both occasion and time to peruse that world above today: two doctors appointments on 16th St and 57th St respectively. I would get out into the world.

The morning brought me a welcome non-hangover. The previous night was spent getting drunker than I would have liked with a 40-something Russian Jew whose business card named him exclusively as “SERGE” and a bartender who tried to console me for my lady-problems by telling me that he was 36 and had been dating a series of 21 year-olds.

“No wonder I’m having trouble finding a girl my age: you’ve taken them.” I told him, which caused him to move on to talking to the fashion publicist sitting next to me.

The bar, Bar 108, was decent, one I had been wanting to try, big with wide windows on Houston St. In an age of recession, I didn’t know how somewhere so obviously opulent could exist as a bar alone, but I was mostly pleasantly surprised. Beers were 5 bucks for a draft and 6 for a Hoegaarden (Wheat beers are cool) and SERGE kept buying me and the friend I was with shots of vodka and berating us for our youth and idealism.

“When I was in Moscow 1987, not a single flower at shops.” He recounted. “I was 17 and you-know-what-I-did? I flew to Russian Asia, to Uzbek, to bring my girl I was dating flower.”

“Thassweet.” I commented after a shot.

“You know why?” He asked and announced with Russian-Jewish flourish. “Because I was retard. You want woman, market yourself like a tool. You are vibrator she keeps in her closet.”

Sage words.

Later, we discovered SERGE was the owner of a Vodka company and that the shots he kept buying us were promotional, but they still got me drunk and home early enough that I could sleep it off and wasn’t hungover for therapy at 9:50.

For those of you who question why I might be in therapy, welcome to my blog.

However, before therapy, I indulged in the guilty self-loathing pleasure of a foodie: McDonald’s.

I have been, for most of my teenage life, an ardent hater of breakfast. Eggs and pancakes seem strictly inferior to me to the more texturally interesting and flavor-intensive meals of lunch and dinner. So, as such, when my sleeping patterns require a morning meal, I seek out lunch for breakfast. This is often more difficult than one might imagine and price intensive. One foray into attempting this, an early morning Turkey Burger at Johnny Rocket’s, led to an enema-like bout with food poisoning that left me incapacitated for days.

McDonald’s Southern-Fried Chicken-Biscuit is pretty good lunch material and costs $3.02, so it doesn’t take out on me the cost of a real extra meal. Plus, the combination of Chicken and Biscuits has always been a good one and as far as I can tell, unlike a onetime-childhood-plesure, the McNugget, the meat in the Chicken-Biscuit is real.

I purchased one and was on my way.

After talking for a while about whether I was the person I described in my blog or whether that was a character or whether I was playing that character and then recording it in an-endless-feedback-cycle-and-so-on (a topic of a previous post), I headed uptown for a diagnosis of my second sinus infection in two months.

To be honest, I have no idea really what a sinus infection is, only that is vaguely like a cold. I guess I was never brought up understanding the sinus.

I fault the school system.

Anyway the camera they put up my nose (!) found “pus-y yellow deposits” which made me cringe and I sought to quell such thoughts with lunch.

Upon the prompting of a street-given-coupon, I ventured down to another fast-food weakness of mine: Chicken Bar, formerly known as Ranch1. Even though they’re fast food of a sort, they’re New York fast food (unlike McDonald’s) and they just make a really good Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

The sandwich comes on a soft lightly-sesame-seeded semi-hero with a salad of radicchio, lettuce and toasted almonds, along with some Roasted Red Pepper aioli, fries and a soda which cost me $5.70. A veritable steal.

Even though I had eaten lunch though and was filled with the elation of a good meal, I still wanted to venture around the area in search of cart-food I hadn’t tried. The east 50s are known for their prodigous carts and trucks due to the convergence of high-real-estate costs and the upper-middle-class office workers who work in the behemoth office buildings of that part of Park Avenue.

On my trek downward, down Park Avenue, a sign caught my eye:

“Chicken Mini-Roll: $2.50”

Whatever it was, this seemed like too good to pass up. The cart was called Kwik Gourmet and newspaper ads blown up on the side of it advertised the chef as “formerly of the Russian Tea Room”. Wowza. The “Chicken Mini-Roll” ended up being the find of my trip. It was lightly-spiced cart-grilled-pieces of chicken on a toasted-mini-hot-dog-bun served open-faced with greens, red onion, a little red sauce, Indo-Pak masala spice and a heaping of yogurt-garlic sauce.

“Is that raita?” I asked, naming the delicious Indian condiment.

“Different people call it different things.” The cart man answered. “Some people call it white sauce, some people call it Tzatziki, some call it Raita, mostly Indian people.”

“I like Indian people.” I said.

“OK, OK.” The cart man signaled that my food was ready and gave it over.

A melange of flavors and constant-yums made for a good-but-messy walk into Grand Central where I grabbed a brownie and a train in that order.

Grand Central’s Food Court is the best of its kind that I know of, filled with unique and interesting examples of mostly already existing food-outlets in Manhattan, creating a nice synthesis. The place I got the brownie ($3) was The Little Pie Company, a place known for having the otherwise-unfindable-in-New-York Banana Cream Pie and I also tasted the “Chocolate Mascarpone” and “Cookies and Cream” Gelatos from Ciao Bella, which I tried out of order and so thought each was the other.

I hopped the train, saved the brownie (too full) and hoped I’d have enough time to write this and finish “Golden Boy” by Cliford Odets before “Major Playwrights: Cliford Odets”, but of course, I don’t, since I have to say where everything is.

***

AN UPTOWN ODYSSEY (WITH FOOD!)

– BAR 108

NW Corner of Thompson and Houston Sts.

1 to Houston St. ACEBDFV to West 4th.

-MCDONALDS

Southern-Style Chicken Biscuit- $3.02

Various locations

-CHICKEN BAR

No.1 Meal w/Fries, Soda, Coupon- $5.70

52nd St bet. Lexington and 3rd Aves.

EV6 to 51 St.

-KWIK GOURMET

Chicken Mini-Roll- $2.50

SW Corner of 47th and Park.

4567 to Grand Central.

-GRAND CENTRAL FOOD COURT (Little Pie Company, Ciao Bella and more)

Brownie (w or w/o Walnuts)- $3 Gelato- Various prices.

4567 to Grand Central.

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