Is there a worse month to be an ex-film student?
Knowing how my friends are doing, it’s hard to argue.
Not only does January bring with it the existential baggage of a new year wherein you are still jobless, but there aren’t any movies to relieve the stress. Mike Sweeny, my Ohioan friend who had jumped out from his ramshackle shelter selling Christmas trees on Christopher St to greet my mother, was too busy to see what was left one day, as he was filling out applications for restaurants. My friend and produce Dave “Packer” Broad who had assistant directed the movie Big Fan (number 8 on my top 10 list this year) found himself signing up for the DGA Assistant Director Training Program. Because, as Dave said, “at least they pay”. Even Zach Weintraub, who had had a relatively good past month with his acceptance into Cinequest and his steady job working as a Topman at Topshop, was starting to feel some of the less endearing effects of his couch-surfing homelessness as he spent nights on Rob Malone’s floor while Rob’s roomate’s Kansan posse took his usual space on the “flip n’ fuck”.
“What’s a ‘flip n’ fuck?'” I asked Zach in person, the night he came over to stay in my mini-loft rather then spend another floor-ridden night before heading off to work 4 hours later.
“It’s like a piece of foam that folds into three.” He told me. “Then like unfolds into a bed. So like, you can fuck on it then.”
But try as I might, I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept.
“But if you folded… the foam, then wouldn’t it just like… bounce back?” I wondered. The pieces of foam I knew were solid affairs and a chair made out them would have no back. It would be a stress to sit on, confusing.
Zach continued to try in vain to explain it to me as my searches for it on Google Image Search just kept coming up with porn and more porn.
“Well what did you expect to find searching for that?” Eva asked me, matter-of-factly, as she lounged, stretched-out, upside-down on my bed.
She had a point.
But anyway, you knew it was a sad month when Dan Pleck, my friend the conspiracy theorist and critic of U.S. policy, was bragging to me that he had taken the test to be a census taker, when I told him that I already had two days ago.
“Damn, man.” He commented. “You’re like two steps ahead of me.” Except neither one of us had a job.
To be fair, I’d done not so bad with my free time, though I wasted most of it with a relapse into online gaming. I’d written a new movie I wanted to make and during a surprisingly successful revival of the writing group, was green-lit by my friends that this was a project worth supporting. I’d met with my producer. I’d sent out more films to festivals. I saw Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog at the Film Forum and Youth in Revolt at a screening from the NYU mailing list I’m luckily still on. Stray Dog, which Mike saw with me the day after he was too busy with applications, was a method-style Japanese noir with Toshiro Mifune in the lead role literally adopting the mannerisms of a dog on the hunt, something mirrored in the villain of the film and representative of the “apres-guerre” soldiers in 40s Japan. Revolt on the other hand was a relative waste of time and especially good actors as the director, Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) didn’t have the cojones to make an Apatow-style comedy and the alternative he presented lacked both the laughs and the honesty of Superbad or Adventureland.
Neither one of them sated me though and even more importantly, what was there actually on the horizon. The Book of Eli wasn’t exactly the sort of movie I saw on a regular basis and only Rob Malone could love something as Paul Bettany-ish as the upcoming Legion. What does it mean when the best-looking movie for the enxt three weeks appears to be a film about an aging, Bostonite Mel Gibson kicking some ass? I’m not sure but it isn’t good.
So what did I do with my time wandering, movieless and trying to escape the claustrophobia of my constant online gaming?
I found some good brownies.
Around the time of my last post, I was suffering from something which I assumed was a sinus infection but turned out to be a cold. Since I know you must be interested in the basis of such an assumption, I’ll tell you: Since I had gotten allergic before the prolonged effects set in, I assumed that my allergies had triggered the infection, has had happened before. In desperation, in those few days between Christmas and New Year, I called my ear-eye-nose-throat guy, begging to be seen for the panacea-like antibiotics that could cure such an infection over night. But the severe-sounding Eastern European receptionist (they’re always either Eastern European or from Queens) informed that since I wasn’t a frequent flyer and hadn’t been in (almost a year) the doctor couldn’t see me, but they’d give me some antibiotics if I’d come in for the new year. I got the worst of both worlds as I avoided the anti-biotics that no doctor had diagnosed me as needing but came in for my appointment nonetheless. My doctor informed me, after sticking a pliable metal tube down both my nostrils, that I was allergic to my entire household, which had been aggravating and prolonging my cold and advised I take allergy medicines daily. The only thing that cheered me up from this, I suppose, was an excellent gluten-free brownie I had gotten 15 minutes previous.
I know what you are thinking: those words, “Gluten-Free”. In my mind they are synonymous with other words like “Dry”, “Inedible” and almost worst of all, “Healthy”, a word that the word “Brownie” should have a constant restraining order against. But when I went in to Petit Cafe, looking for some time to kill before my doctor, I feel like I was justly suspicious when I saw the signs on everything, “Gluten-Free”, but when I talked to the baker, who was preparing sandwiches behind the counter, he told me that his mother was a celiac and so he just got used growing up to making things that way. When I bought a brownie from there, which I couldn’t even see, I asked right after if I could take a look, but when it looked fudgy and square and thin I nodded and took with it me. To be fair, it was better than most brownies I’ve had and certainly at bakeries. Bakeries often err too much in making their brownies towards a cake-like confection. This leaves the brownie thick without being chocolatey. Here instead, the brownie was thin and the chocolate concentrated, the rice flour, used instead of the wheat, made it less starchy and gooier. As I waited in the Catholic Hospital Annex waiting room where my doctor’s office was, it was my only get-away and a welcome one at that, from my fellow waiters, Medicare-types who seemed to have frowning bodies as well as faces. When I mentioned to my doctor that the brownie was worth checking out, he responded that his daughter was white-water-rafting in Israel, next please.
That same day though, I did a mitzvah and got rewarded. I was calling my mom to tell her, as I sometimes did, about my brownie-conquest when her boss picked up her cellphone informing that she’d left it at work. I picked it up as matter of courtesy and owing to the fact that really, I had nothing better to do. In return, later that evening, my mother brought Eva and I twin cupcakes from the Blue Ribbon Bakery on Bedford St, packaged immaculately in reversed paper soup containers with the base of the cupcake on the top of the lid. Eva marveled at this, as she had had the technology at her work something similar when people asked for cupcakes on the go, but had never thought to think of it. The cupcakes were perhaps not the sugar-rush of Magnolia, but the real attraction was the cake itself, underneath the frosting, baked until only lightly crispy on its surface, covered sensibly, with milk-chocolate frosting in a combination to which it was obvious much thought had gone into. Now I’m usually an enemy of the “Blue Ribbon” brand, a New York institution spanning several restaurants including the vaunted Blue Ribbon Sushi (no sign) with which I used to share a garbage depositiory, a brasserie and a restaurant also called Blue Ribbon Bakery that served lunch and brunch and the rest. It was this restaurant that turned me against them, serving up a chicken sandwich that had disgusting “sliced chicken” with a super-salty olive tapenade for 15 bucks, something I thought laughable next to my staple pestoed monstrosity that I got at Jane, closeby. But Blue Ribbon Bakery, the bakery, across the street from the restaurant is somewhere where everything is always, at least good. I used to get Arnold Palmers there (a favorite beverage) even though they were THREE FIFTY (!!!), just because they were so much better than anywhere else I’d get them. These cupcakes were no slouches or letdowns in the terms of their constant quality.
The next day, walking home from meeting and a job interview (somewhere unpaid), I decided, since I had walked all the way from down at Wall St, to treat myself to something good. So on my way home, I passed somewhere near me that had a sign outside that less advertised than warned forcefully: “Due to High Volume Demand, BROWNIES are now first come, first serve”. The emphasis was theirs and I figures that if they had to put up a sign about their brownies, warning in advance, maybe there was something there. The play, City Girl Bakery, also seemed like a prospective replacement for our previous Writing Group location: a small coffee shop across the street from me where by the end of the night, Dave and I were forced to sit on bean-bags. The space was somewhat bigger, featured free wi-fi and the “City Girl Valhrona Brownie” that I was about to try. As I walked out the door with it in hand, I took a bite to feel a standard-grade tight-spongy interior but was stopped in my tracks by a shock of chocolate. I picked up my phone. “Dad,” I said. “You have to try this.” My dad, for all his bragging of his “apple and small soup” lunches, is notoriously picky about his brownies, only settling for ones that offer chocolate without embellishments like frosting or nuts. Even he was justly awed by the brownie I brought back, even taking off a small piece to keep for himself, but I noted, a bigger piece than he’d usually take.
Such a Dad-approved brownie is something indeed.
Finally, since dessert can’t solve everything, here, briefly are two sandwiches worth your time.
Walking back from Wall St, that other day, I took it upon myself to stop and get some lunch at a place I’d be wondering about: The Cowgirl Seahorse at the South Street Seaport. The Cowgirl uptown in the village is a place that held specially for me. It’s the place my parents took me when they could go nowhere else with their wailing baby. It’s the place I had many birthdays afterwards and the place my parents took Rob on New Year’s Day to celebrate his birthday, when he was away from his parents. It’s the place where I tried and failed to make a documentary about in my Sophomore documentary class and the place where, more recently, a cute waitress always comes by and talks to me animatedly about her pre-med plans and her past as a modern dancer. The Seahorse was their new restaurant, a place more for tourists and business-types than the left-leaning families and gay folk who came to the Village location. I sat at the bar and ordered a chicken sandwich advertised as “Buffalo’d”, which the bartender, who introduced himself as “Johnny”, recommended to me with the hush puppies. The Sandwich was very good, with a good shock of spice and a fluffy, oily crunch that was virtuous in that wasn’t tooth-breakingly crispy. The hush puppies were a little too much for me, with the load of food, but succeeded quite spectacularly in quelling the heat of the sandwich.
It’s safe to say I spent the rest of the day farting.
But when I’m not downtown on a special occasion, an outpost of City Bakery called “Birdbath” does nicely, around the corner from me. They’re a little too earnest about being “green” and some of the things on their menu sound kind of overly weird to this effect (“Maple-Bacon Biscuit” and “Rice Milk Muffin with Ginger” come to mind), but an “Open-Faced Cilantro-Chicken Sandwich”, which is actually a pressed panini, might be my current favorite sandwich, displacing even Jane. It’s got an intense pesto-ish flavor with some serious spice and some cheese that melts anonymously but does a good job cooling it down and adding to the texture. Best of all, at $8.50, it’s half the price of Jane’s “Grilled Chicken Sandwich”, without the obligation to eat all those french fries.
So next time there might be more movies.
Next time, I might have a job.
Till then, I’ll be eating my way through this recession.
That is, until I run out of money.
Then, well, I won’t.
Gluten-Free Brownie- $3.50
Corner of Greenwich Ave and West 11th St.
123 to 14th St
BLUE RIBBON BAKERY (the bakery)-
Chocolate Cupcake- $3-5 dollars
Bedford St bet. Downing and 6th Ave.
1 to Houston, ACEBDFV to West 4th
CITY GIRL BAKERY-
City Girl Valhrona Brownie- $3.50
Thompson St. bet. Spring and Broome Sts.
CE to Spring St, ACE to Canal St.
Buffalo’d Chicken Sandwich w/Hush Puppies and Cole Slaw- $10.95
Corner of Dover and South St (South St Seaport)
ACJMZ2345 to Fulton St.
BIRDBATH (City Bakery)-
Open-Faced Cilantro-Chicken Sandwich- $8.50
Prince St bet. Thompson and West Broadway
CE to Spring, BDFV to Broadway-Lafayette