“Did you get my text message?” I asked.
“Yeah, the one where you said thanks for the ice cream, but replaced thanks with my name.”
“Yeah!” I said with enthusiasm. “That one!”
It was a slow day before another night working at the movie theater.
I had plans to go see “I’m Still Here” with former U.S. Census employee Rob Malone, back when everybody just assumed it was fake.
I had time to kill though, a problem I still have, somewhere between work and waking up, since when I’m at work at the end of the night I just want to go home, and when I’m home I just find myself sitting and staring and not knowing what to do.
“You should go see Blake.” Rob told me after a description of my peripatetic state. “He can cheer you up. He has ice cream.”
He did indeed.
My friend Blake LaRue, having previously ditched me at a job fair for the movie theater I work at, had kept with his 17 year-old self-image by obtaining an even more youth-prone job as a super-scooper at a hep ice cream joint.
“Have you had lunch?” I asked Blake after obtaining some directions.
“Good, don’t.” I told him.
There was a reason why.
This reason was called a laffa, an Israeli burrito that is difficult to find, even in New York City.
This one was stuffed with spit-roasted Chicken Shawarma, two type of cabbage, french fries (called “chips” in Israel), lettuce, Israeli salad (chopped tomatoes and cucmbers), tahini and s’rug, which is a sweet chili-derived Israeli hot sauce.
In Israel, when I ate almost the exact same thing, stores selling them at a comparably high quality could be found as frequently as New York bodegas and I heard tales from my Israeli military escorts on laffa-eating competitions on weekend retreats.
Here, I have only found them at the renamed University Pita, previously part of an Israeli chain mistakenly called Olympic Pita, which was one of the true hard-core Israeli joints I had found. Other places such as Taim and Balaboosta (owned by the same wonderful owner) made Israeli food more palatable and added their spin and 12 Chairs, though unmistakeably an Israeli ex-pat place, was really more of a coffee shop/bistro. University Pita was the sort of place I could have found in Tel Aviv, and when the proprietor there went to cut my laffa in half, I laughed brashly at the idea that I might have to eat my laffa one half at a time.
As it was though, I barely got through one of those halfs, my stomach reeling. It was delicious as ever, the different textures and flavors coalescing into a greasy nebula, but my stomach was no black hole.
I brought the other half to a happy and spritely Mr. LaRue, who quaffed it like it wasn’t no thing.
“What is this?” Blake asked half-way through.
“Don’t worry about it.” I told him. “Eat.”
“There’s like, still half a marble in there.” Blake informed me, as I grimly showed him as far as it was possible for me to make it through his improvised sundae.
I had paid for the brownie, but Blake had provided me with the rest, perhaps out of some sort of barter for the laffa, but most likely out of the same sort of showmanship that leads me to invite my friends to come see free movies at the theater.
That is, when you work a low-level job, being able to do something for your friends is just about the only way you can get some self-worth out of the deal.
As for the “marbles”, they were not as I would have guessed a reference to the literal marbles they sold by the counter (“The kiddos love ’em.” Blake explained), but rather a reference both to the name of the ice cream shop (“Blue Marble Ice Cream”) and the shape of a perfect scoop, sitting on a cone.
“Do you really have to call it a marble?” I asked Blake.
“Well, it’s about two baby marbles.” He said, gesturing toward the bulletin board advertising the smaller size.
The sundae he made for me had a “Deep-Dark Brownie”, some Oreo ice cream, whipped cream (“Homemade!” Blake chimed) and some hot fudge that needed to be warmed when I got there, as he was just opening.
Blake seemed at home there, in the ice cream shop and I was surprised that he was already opening the store after two weeks working there, while I wasn’t even allowed to work in the cafe in my movie theater.
In fact, it was a resentment that extended sometimes through my job, where I wondered all for my situation there, how much people actually liked me and bristled a bit at the idea that there was some sort of family dynamic I was excluded from. When I saw so-cal Andy, who I rec’d for the job, chilling around with my co-workers while I drooped behind a concessions counter, I wondered whether the grass was greener, or there was just something wrong with me.
Blake was his own boss and his own manager though, there. Of course he had them, but they didn’t much check in. He was free there to take tips and sell ice cream and bike home, or at least he would have been, except that his bike was hit by a truck while parked on the sidewalk and Blake had offered a reward for the culprit, advertising ice cream for information, with a sign pointing inside the store.
Again, Blake seemed happy, even though he wouldn’t tell me about his love life, except that it was “depressing.” But he said so with a smile.
“You’re just saying that so I won’t advertise your torrid affairs on the ‘gram.” I told him.
“Really? Have you started referring to your own blog in the third person?” Blake replied.
Which shut me the hell up to eat my ice cream.
“Bathroom?” I asked him.
I guess I feel like at some point in each post here I have to sum up where I think I am with my life, make a decision as to how I’m doing, or what I’m doing, or how I feel about it all.
My therapist got back into town last weekend from an extended absence (a “vacation”, she calls it) and so it was a similar process there.
I’m not really sure what to say.
I blew another audition, trying to figure out what a casting director wanted from me. I got yelled at at work for supposedly talking shit. I even made a cameo on that reality show I was on, again, something which seemed ok when I saw it, but left me feeling empty and meaningless afterward.
As I later told a friend, I tried to have a real conversation in a “reality” setting and just felt like it went over poorly with jabs at my low self-esteem flying and just thinking that I must have name-dropped the wrong restaurants at the wrong time.
The answers to my insecurities are present, if not accessible. If I want to feel less bad about auditioning, learn more acting and work on my craft. If I want to feel less bad about a cameo, then don’t think about it, it’s over. And work?
Well who gives a shit anyway? It’s a movie theater.
Wasn’t the whole point that this was a low-pressure job?
When my therapist returned, we talked about the article about twenty-somethings that was in the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago.
Is it possible that until “emerging adulthood” becomes some sort of “difficult period” like puberty or adolescence, we could just classify it as a disease, like alcohol or depression?
I feel like most of the people I know my age are in some form of depression, marked by both a massive crushing uncertainty and a desire to take root.
It’s hard to think both “is this the rest of my life?” and “if this isn’t. what will be?” both at the same time.
I am not sure if I should be acting, writing, working in a movie theater, writing about food, going back to school, god-knows-what.
When Bethenny Frankel asked me “what do you do now”, I didn’t know what to tell her, because I don’t know what it is I do that defines me, or what should.
I ended up talking about food writing, but only because it was something we had in common, even though my only experience with it was getting ignominiously turned down for a job.
One person told me a story about an editor who now, at the end of her career, is going blind and has already lost the use of one eye. She cannot tell her publishers, or let anyone know, lest they deem her unfit. After all, how can you be fit to judge prose when you can’t even read it properly?
I’m not sure what else to add to that.
I ate some chicken yesterday, but the chicken almost took backseat.
This was the main attraction.
Cheesy Fried Mashed Potatoes with Pimento Cheddar Cheese.
They didn’t even need ketchup, though I got some anyway.
The place I got them from was called Hill Country Chicken, an off-shoot of the famously pretty-good Hill Country BBQ, which is around the corner from the new joint.
After pretty decent reviews in Eater and Midtown Lunch, I checked them out on their first weekend day open.
They specialized in various forms of fried chicken, with accoutrements, and some deep-fried avocado, which I used to lure Eva with.
We met up there with an old friend, Najia Dar, a med student who is too busy to come see a movie, but who’s been pretty reliable lately about eating, which I respect.
I got 5 tenders (deep fried, skinless, bread-crumb-batter) and a “blistered corn salad” (very good) along with a biscuit I first stole from Najia and then gave most of to Eva, out of a mix of affectionate food-giving and some guilt that the restaurant had given her a chicken wrap by accident the first time she ordered it.
That Najia was impressed by the food is worth noting since, as she herself said, she is in fact from Texas, whereto the “Hill Country” of the restaurant title’s refers.
The tenders themselves were big and meaty, if not a little boring and my disappointment in them mostly stemmed from both the poor choice of a ranch sauce to compliment them (the server’s suggestion) and a superior version of the dish I used to get up in Hell’s Kitchen at Good+Plenty To Go. The corn salad though was excellent and vinegary, laced with spicy peppers and cherry tomatoes.
I didn’t finish my last tender, mostly because of those fried mashed potatoes, the description of which… well, I can’t manage.
You’ll just have to try them yourself.
“I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to try the pie milkshake.” I told Eva as we walked back downtown. I knew Eva was a fan of both pies and milkshakes in their individual forms.
“It’s okay.” She said with an air of half-disappointment.
As we stopped by Stogo, the cream-less ice cream joint, she asked me if I wanted some.
“No thanks.” I told her. “I’m fine.”
Chicken Shawarma Laffa (w/the works) and a Diet Coke- $12
12th St bet. University Pl and 5th Ave.
NQR456L to Union Square.
BLUE MARBLE ICE CREAM
Deep Dark Brownie (w/a friend’s free ice cream)- $4
Corner of Atlantic Ave and Bond St in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
ACG to Hoyt-Schemerhorn Sts.
HILL COUNTRY CHICKEN
5 Texas Tenders, Blistered Corn Salad and Cheesy Fried Mashed Potatoes (w/a stolen biscuit from a friend)- $16
NW corner of 25th and Bway.
NR to 23rd St.