“The Skies Belong to Us” #3

I can’t decide if The Skies Belongs to Us is like a good layer cake or a good lasagna.

It’s possible that I’m thinking about food metaphors because the school year has started (cries) and my mind is on teaching students how to organize compelling essays. Or maybe it’s because I read a good portion of Skies while eating the last pieces of my birthday cake (cries and weeps). Comparing it to cake might make it seem as if the book shouldn’t be taken seriously, that it’s more like dessert than something substantive. That isn’t the case. For all of the zaniness of the different hijacking plots, this is a book that invites us to think of how national crises manifest themselves in a country’s citizens—especially those citizens whose feelings of disenfranchisement chip away at their sense of moral duty. Still, I’m leaning towards cake over lasagna.

Dom wrote in her last post: “my incredulity has been tempered by compassion, and a bit of sadness.”
She’s is thinking about Holder (she refers to him by his first name):

On page 122, there’s an excerpt of the note that Roger had started to write to the captain of the plane, but which he gave up on when he couldn’t keep his thoughts straight. It’s completely incomprehensible; a word salad from someone who is clearly not in their right mind. Reading it broke my heart a little. Here was a man who had witnessed (and committed) unspeakable horrors, and yet, because of a mistake he made while trying to deal with that, he was sent back into the regular world with no help or support whatsoever.

I felt this way at a different moment. The mention of the other black guy on Holder’s flight made me sad and uncomfortable. As the crew and passengers try to figure out who among them is a threat, he is considered a suspect—for no other reason than a shared racial marker. He must have been as frightened and frustrated as the other passengers, and yet he had another burden to shoulder.

But back to the cake/lasagna that is this book.

Writing 101 teaches the structure of a good essay: the hook, the argument, the evidence, more evidence, some analysis, conclusions. You can see this in good writing everywhere. An op-ed, long non-fiction piece, or blog post begins with some anecdote that’s meant to stand in for the piece’s larger issue or theme. I do this in my literary criticism, start with some salient (or salacious) part of the text and then hang my argument on it. It’s a great model; think of it as the comfort food of writing. I thought Koerner was doing this and had sort of eased into the lasagna of his book: personal/historical/political,personal, historical/political, personal/historical/political. For roughly the first half of the book the personal focused primarily on the hijackers, either the motivation behind their attacks and/or what happened around the hijacking (NB: when parachuting out of a plane carrying your loot, don’t wear cowboy boots).

I liked that structure and the rhythm of it. It made the history feel more intimate and kept the focus on the people. I think it might be how Koerner avoids slipping into preaching (I’m fascinated by the absence of moralizing in the book thus far). But when we get to the Holder-Kerkow hijacking, Koerner starts mixing it up, adding layers within layers, and then it’s like an amazing novel, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Or, actually, I kind of know what’s going to happen next but I don’t know how it’s going to happen. I love that. As someone who grew up reading detective novels and who spends her time reading canonical British fiction, I’m pretty good at anticipating what’s going to happen next and, in some cases, how events will unfold. It means I’m usually reading for something else (patterns, rhetoric, ideology), and get distracted by what I want to say or write about what I’m reading.

That’s not the case here. At first I couldn’t put the book down because I was so surprised by its content; now I can’t put it down (even for my mandatory reading for school: Frankenstein, Northanger Abbey, the Romantic poets) because it’s crafted so well. Like a really amazing cake. A good lasagna is wonderful, but it’s actually really easy to make one. It’s almost fool proof. Oh sure, you can overcook the noodles, or not season the filling properly, or use store-bought mozzarella and bore yourself to death, but it’s basic and easy to learn. Cake, especially a layered cake takes skill.

Take my birthday cake for example: lemon cake with lemon curd and vanilla cream icing (it’s called Brooklyn Sunshine and you can get it from Heavenly Crumbs, but you have to order it a few days ahead). Perfectly layered with icing that didn’t leave an aftertaste or that slimy post-icing feeling in your mouth. Just when you were enjoying the cake, a bit of lemon curd would get in there and the icing is pretty and thick enough to let you know you’re eating cake for a special reason but not so thick as to overpower the cake the way the icing on those dry monstrosities that Magnolia Bakery calls cupcakes does. For me, the heart of this book is the national crisis, and Holder and Kerchow are the icing. I’m not quite sure why, so this analogy could fall apart at any moment, but I suspect it’s because they’re the shiny, compelling decoration that pulled me into the cake.

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“The Skies Belong to Us” Post #1

For two people who don’t live in the same city, Dominique and I have done a lot together over the last eight years or so.   It goes too far to say we’re like sisters, but we are a lot alike.  In fact, when I showed up in Toronto in May to be part of her wedding, her father, after spending ten minutes watching us together, noted just how alike we are–not just mischievous, but mischievous in the exact same way (she refers to me as “smart ass” quite a bit).  We don’t have the same taste in television shows (mine is good and hers is, well, let’s just say it’s something other than good), but we like so many of the same books.  So many.  We recommend them to one another, agree that they’re great, and then go our separate reading ways.  But after we survived the death march of 2013 (otherwise known as 10 hours in three-inch heels and formal gowns) we agreed on two things: we need to take a trip together and we should read a book together…at the same time.

We’re reading The Skies Belong to Us.  It’s my choice because three smart folks recommended it and because it’s non-fiction and that’s what I want to read these days.  From the book’s website:

THE STORY
In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of The Skies Belong to Us pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history.

It’s a fascinating story, and already I feel like I’m in the hands of a good storyteller and someone who has done his homework.  Given how many other things I should be reading right now, it’s nice to know that this vacation away from my other reading has an excellent guide.

Random first thoughts:
Koerner wants to attribute Cathy Kerkow’s attraction to the Black Panthers to the break up of her family saying her rebelliousness is “rooted in in the trauma of her family’s dissolution several years before.”  But I’ve started Skies right after watching “Orange is the New Black”–another story of a talented, privileged white girl who needs to sow her rebellious oats by visiting the world of the dangerous and/or the marginalized.  For Piper Chapman it’s lesbian drug dealers and for Kerkow it’s the Black Panthers.   So this grates a bit.  In general I’m not a fan of the this-is-why-people-do-bad-things approach to understanding a character (I’m looking at you “Mad Men”), but I certainly understand the impulse.  Further, this is not fiction, and the point of the book is to tell us who Kerkow and Roger Holder are and how they hooked up.  It just seems too easy.  Her choices might just be that…choices.  It makes me wonder how this story would read if told by a different author: a woman (black, white, or of any hue), a black man, a historian.

My father was in Vietnam in 1968, the first year of my life (he was sent over a month after I was born and came back a year later).  We never talk about it, and I don’t watch war movies, so it’s jarring to read what he must have seen over there while my mother and I were living in my aunt’s attic in Amsterdam.  I’ve always seen Vietnam as more of a metaphor than a lived historical event, so it’s hard to read about it, particularly when I remember stories my mom told me about how my dad’s absence affected her.  And, unlike movies where I can cover my eyes if I don’t like what’s on the screen, I have to read all of Koerner’s vivid descriptions. They’re harrowing. I don’t know how anyone recovers from those horrors, and Koerner puts those dots together so carefully that it’s easy to understand Holder’s choices.

I got the Prefontaine reference without looking it up–but only because I dated an economics professor in grad school who was a marathon runner.  He had a poster of him in his home office.

Dom, I’m curious to know how the references to American politics read to you.  The name Thomas Dodd might as well have been written in bold for me.  I didn’t know his story (I looked it up), but his son is Chris Dodd, who also went on to be a senator for the state of Connecticut and is now president of the Motion Picture Association of America. That last bit doesn’t really matter, but since I’m sure this book will be made into a movie (or maybe not because I’m not sure how mainstream America will feel about this interracial couple; how far has “Scandal” taken us?*) and it points out some eerie coincidences in the first few chapters, I’m going to note it.

The idea that America didn’t have a law about hijacking planes cracks me up.  Like no one thought to put up on of those “Please Don’t Take This Plane” signs.   I guess you can’t think of everything.

For the most part, I really like the writing.  It only bugs me when Koerner writes about Kerkow’s “abundant charms.”  It feels like he’s reaching and trying to be a “writer” when it’s clear he’s already a very good one.

That’s it for now…Dom will blog her thoughts at some point.

*As a black woman in America, I feel I have to go on record and say I have no problems with black men dating white women. Or black women dating white men (I’ve done it). Or people dating other people. The heart wants what the heart wants, and I don’t politicize or historicize that.
 

Tyvek

Tyvek /tˈvɛk/ is a brand of flashspun, high-density polyethyelene fibers, a synthetic material; the name is a registered trademark  of DuPont. The material is very strong; it is difficult to tear but can easily be cut with scissors or a knife. Water vapor can pass through Tyvek (highly breathable), but not liquid water, so the material lends itself to a variety of applications: envelopes, car covers, air and water intrusion barriers (housewrap) under house siding, labels, wristbands, mycology, and graphics.  (from wikipedia)

 

I live on a mixed block in Bed-Stuy.  It’s not a picturesque brownstone block.  The buildings here are either brand new with no personality or dilapidated without being charming.  My neighbors are Pratt students, yuppies who haven’t yet had their puppies, young guys with dreads who think they have a band, large Chassidic families, and an alarmingly jolly Texan who I’ve come to like a bit because he’s kind enough to knock and remind me when I’ve left my keys in my door.  There’s a playground next door to me and it’s shared by everyone—the school kids (mostly black) during their recess, Chassidic kids and their moms (and on Saturday night their dads), moms of color with their own kids in strollers, black families who BBQ for special occasions, and guys playing chess.   There’s a guy on my block who plays Soca music loudly during the day and then, in odd moments, vintage Amy Grant.  On his porch he has a huge cardboard cut out of some island destination.  A man on the street told me once that he drinks all the time.  My building super sounds like an extra from the Borat film. He hoses down our walkway everyday in the summer and keeps it clear whenever there is snow and wonders aloud why a woman my age, especially one with plants on her balcony, is single: “You don’t, you don’t, you don’t have anyone?  A man?  But the flowers up there.  Everyone talks how pretty they are.” Sometimes the Chassidic women smile shyly at me.

The Southern girl in me says hi to all of my elderly neighbors (the urban feminist does her best to avoid the invasive gaze of men), and they all say hi back.  Except for my neighbor across the street.  I say hi, she looks through me, or away from me, or around me.  On days when I’m off to campus she is always on her porch, and I can’t help myself from at least mumbling good morning.  The building she lives in, a two-story, single-family dwelling I think it’s called, is falling apart.  From the street you can see rotted wood planks under the eaves of a roof that needs replacing.  There are gaps between the boards.  The one window at the front of the house is covered by a large bush.  Her stoop is painted that same orange you see on construction cones and gates.  She sweeps it everyday.

As far as I can tell, she doesn’t do the stoop visiting that the other folks in my neighborhood seem to enjoy.

For the first two years I lived here, she lived next door to an empty lot.  I don’t know what was there before, but when I got here it was covered in grass, weeds, and bushes. You could see an old tire or three.   For a little while there was an abandoned car.   A wooden gate appeared one morning (and was instantly covered in graffiti).  From my balcony I could see people, men, going in from time to time and looking around. Some sort of small bulldozer came in one day and picked at the ground, gave up and went home.

They cleared the ground in earnest one weekend, and the side of my neighbor’s building was covered in Tyvek. I hadn’t noticed how far back her building went until they put the Tyvek up.  I also hadn’t noticed the chimney.  It’s a big building, and it’s all hers.  You never see anyone else go in or come out.  I know because I’m out here on my balcony all the time.  First thing in the morning, over lunch, late in the afternoon, and in the evenings playing on-line scrabble against my dad.

When I lived in Clinton Hill, just on the edge of Bed-Stuy, I fell in love with the brown lady brownstone owners.  I would see them here and there cleaning their front porches in the morning.  They are women of a certain age—maybe late 50s (it’s hard to tell with black folks)—and they remind me of my Dutch aunts who scrub their stoops every single day, without fail.  The brown lady brownstone owners have flowers and potted plants near the door. And the doors are all gorgeous and gleaming.  Right after my landlord told me I could no longer afford his building, I chatted for a bit with a woman sanding the front door of her brownstone. It seems she is remodeling it herself.

The building in the lot across the street, next door to my neighbor is going up fast.  The men arrive in two small waves—Hispanic men first, sometimes in a large van, and then white men in trucks.  They start early and this week they’ve started laying the brick layer by layer over the Tyvek.  They stand in a row and layer.  You can’t see them from street level, but I’m one floor up, so I can see it all happening.  So can the Chassidic children.  There’s a little guy who sits on his balcony and watches them for long stretches of time.  Sometimes his mother lets him peek in the gate.  Men in full orthodox gear stop by everyday to check the progress.

My neighbor has started sweeping more than her stoop.  She sweeps in front of the gate—on the sidewalk, in the street, around the construction gate.  She’s methodical about it and sweeps around the men as they show up for work.

Last night I heard her voice for the first time in two years: she was yelling at some Chassidic kids who were pushing their toys on her sidewalk.  “Get away. Go away. Get. the. fuck away.”

For Julia, as she mourns

Dear Julia,
I don’t normally respond to these mass shootings.  I’m left too numb by them, feel too helpless.  I don’t think of myself as particularly cynical, but in many ways I am and moments like these bring that cynicism to the surface.  But you asked what I thought, and I do have some thoughts.  I don’t think they are helpful, that I have anything particularly useful to say.  But I suspect you just want to know what others are feeling.

So here it goes. My thoughts, like yours, are unedited and unvarnished.

Today I had a rare day away from the news (radio, television, the internet, social media).  I’ve had severe pain in my right arm and shoulder for the last few weeks, so I decided to cash in on a massage deal and went to the Village for the day.  My plan was to have a cream tea and then to treat myself to a massage.  I heard in the background this morning that there had been a shooting, but I’m numb to gun violence, so what little time I spent on-line today was spent reading about Cory Booker, reading Ta-Nehisi Coates and joking around with his readers.

I went to the Village and promptly got lost.

All of this is to stay that I didn’t know until about six o’clock about this new, all too familiar tragedy.

It was very strange to be so out of step with everyone (I usually watch news events unfold in real time).  I “returned” to the world, after roaming around the Village, having a one-hour massage, and then tea and scones to an e-mail from my mother and then a phone call telling me about the killings.

She is too sad to talk.

My twitter feed was a jumble of rage and mundane announcements.  My facebook timeline begged for gun control.

As I tried to catch up with the news (and maybe with the grieving), all I could really think about was the ritual of it.  We have rituals around everything, even the murder of innocents. I knew without watching exactly what happened while I was away.

“Breaking News” flashed across news channels
Pictures of a parking lot
People crying
Images of first responders
Speculation
Misinformation

I knew that the president spoke and that what he said would resonate with most of us
I knew that Trayvon Martin and the other recently murdered would be mentioned
I knew that some group that speaks on behalf of communities of color would note the special mourning sparked by deaths of suburban white children while scores of poor black kids in poor black neighborhoods are only mourned on a national level

I was sure that NRA would dig in somehow and that defenders of gun ownership would make astonishingly stupid statements, dipped in paranoia:
Cars kill people but we still let people drive
We have to arm ourselves against the government
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
My cold, dead hands!

Most of us would rail against the NRA
Some of us would call for better mental health services
Someone would say “let’s not name the killer”
Pundits would say they shouldn’t opine about the situation.  And then opine about the situation.

Social media would be a twitter

Eventually, I will cry along with everyone.

And wait for the next cycle to begin.
Your friend
In solidarity,
Tricia

For Nora and My Inner Sally

I sometimes feel sad when celebrities die, very sad, but I don’t join in public grieving. Even when great people pass, I am mournful but rarely feel bereft.* I lost interest in Ephron’s movies over the years. Her characters can’t bear the weight of my feminist-womanist-Marxist gaze. But when I saw she died I was crushed. I started crying immediately and called my mother. She has no idea who Nora Ephron is, but I called her anyway because that’s what you do when you lose a friend.

She certainly wasn’t a friend in the usual way, and I had no interest in meeting her, but her heroines—quirky, high maintenance, hopeless romantics—managed to get through my cynicism. And I don’t care if it’s a cliché to say it: I love Sally. Love that she is uptight and a bit of a know it all. That she orders so much on the side.

Sure I loved Claire Huxtable and Murphy Brown and Julia Sugarbaker. Still love their sass and their strength (sometimes I watch old clips of Julia Sugarbaker just to stiffen my spine). But just like there’s always been a part of me that is Mary Richards, there is a part of me that is Sally and that woman in “You’ve Got Mail” on the Upper West Side.

Especially in my closet.

When I see pictures of myself from the past, in men’s ties and hats and funky scarves, I know that Annie Hall seeped in when I wasn’t looking. That phase passed (along with my Birkenstock phase, thank the fashion gods), but Sally (and her iterations) has remained.

So when I heard that Nora died, I thought of the pearl gray dress I bought earlier this year and the linen skirt with the side pleat that needs to go to the dry cleaners. I’m drawn to clean lines and, for the most part, muted colors. Given a choice, I will always choose tea-length skirts and ballet flats. I venture out from time to time, but even my favorite, bright red linen dress looks like something that Sally might have worn—if she could pull off such a bold color. There’s a sweetness to that style that I’ve always been drawn to.

I may live in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, walk by a huge portrait of Jay Z every single day, and sign e-mails to my colleague-friends “Omar,” but I also wore a twin set to a Trinidadian Cooler Fete, a fact that makes everyone who knows what that must have looked like laugh out loud.

And just last week, when I was overcompensating because I’m fairly certain the afro I’m sporting these days makes me look like a boy and I tried to balance it out by putting on a mini skirt and heels, I didn’t feel a bit like myself. It didn’t matter how great my friends told me I looked, the outfit was just not me. Even if the skirt was seersucker pink, and I wore it with a pink cardigan.

Sometimes “You’ve Got Mail” will come on, and I’ll roll my eyes and change the channel, but I always come back to see the taupe and grey linen dress with the cardigan and the skimmers. It’s a sweet scene with Ryan and Hanks in some garden. There are flowers and a dog. And I can just about get past the horrible politics of the story.

I’ve wondered over the last few years, as I’ve settled more comfortably into the many different parts of me—the Mary Richards and the Omar Little, the Julia Sugarbaker and the Clare Huxtable—if I still feel such a strong connection to Nora’s women. Then I look in my closet and know that I still do.

*(exceptions include Etta James and Lucille Clifton)

one.three.twelve: Roberta’s

Although we had missed Lucali’s in April, our May adventure took us to Roberta’s in Bushwick and not back to Carroll Gardens. Our plan was to celebrate Karen’s birthday, so the choice was hers. It was Roberta’s she wanted, so it was Roberta’s she got! And it was quite an adventure to get there. Unlike the other pizza places we’ve visited this year, Roberta’s is not a “local” place; rather, it’s a place whose main clientele is made up of people who travel to Bushwick specifically to try their most excellent food.

You have to really want to get there, and it’s best to get there early. Even on a weeknight, the place was packed by 7:30. The friendly, funky folks only deal in cash.

We were all struggling with the woes of life, but Joan still managed to rock an adorable spring dress, Karen had on a lovely necklace that matched an adorable blouse, and I am enjoying my first summer as a “thin” person who can comfortably wear tank tops without feeling too exposed. It’s no small feat to look good when you feel bad, so color me impressed. Despite crankiness of all kinds, it was hard not to feel incredibly lucky to be on another pizza adventure.

What we ate

Appetizers

Spicy Mixed Olives

Bibb Lettuce (dried cherry vinaigrette, gorgonzola, roasted walnuts)

Pies

Margherita: mozzarella, tomato, basil

R.P.S.: tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, roasted red peppers

Dessert

Shaker pie

The Reviews

Joan

After our April attempt was thwarted (venue closed for vacation), we decided to double up later in the year. Karen recommended this venue in Bushwick, a section of Brooklyn I almost never visit. This particular outing was remarkable for a few reasons: 1) it was a belated celebration of Karen’s birthday, 2) we chose a non-weekend day, and 3) it was freaking hot – I’m talking August heat!  It was also an occasion to which we all brought some collateral baggage – work drama, traffic jam frustration, a twisted ankle.  Add a non-air conditioned venue and no one felt like adding alcohol to the mix. In fact, this was the most scaled-down event so far – one salad and a dish of olives to start, two pies, and one dessert that was not shared (by mutual consent). Of course, we ordered a margherita (the standard by which all pizzas are judged) and a second pie with soppresata. The arrival of the pies elicited sighs of pleasure, followed by a deeply satisfying first bite. My initial reaction – the margherita had a better balance of sauce and cheese and dough than I had tasted on previous occasions. The sauce, in particular, really stood out for me. The crust was satisfyingly thin and crisp the way I prefer it, although it did not have enough flavor on its own to make me want to devour it naked.  The sopressata on the second pie was almost too salty – a little more spiciness would have added some complexity to the taste. However, that did not stop me from eating the last slice even though I was pretty full by that time. I was also extremely hot, sweaty and had a throbbing ankle, so that is probably what I will remember long after I’m able to recall the taste of the pizza.  Sometimes it’s not only about the pizza.

Tricia

After vowing, in the same voice that Scarlett O’Hara uses in “Gone with the Wind,” that I will NEVER cross the Brooklyn Bridge between the hours of 4:00 and 8:00 again, I was very happy to meet my girlfriends for our delayed pizza night.  I wasn’t even daunted by the fact that I couldn’t find the front door without help.  I arrived late, tired, dragged down by problems at work and with a terrible headache, so Roberta’s had some serious work to do.

The first good thing I noticed is the way the space is organized with long tables that allow for chatting between groups of diners.  We shared a long table with a couple of guys, which made it a lot easier for me to ask whether or not the Shaker Pie was worth ordering.  The vibe is a mix of laid back but organized, and I suspect that on cooler days it’s quite pleasant to eat in the garden.  The heat and a pounding headache made me opt for water rather than wine, but the wine list looks promising, so when I go back (and I plan to), I look forward to trying it out.

I don’t eat olives, so I was happy to order the salad.  Bibb lettuce may replace arugula as my favorite salad green.  Okay, it won’t, but it comes in a close second.  This salad was perfect.  The dried cherry vinaigrette was tart and coated each part of the lettuce without being overwhelming. I hate pools of salad dressing.  While the salad was light (it’s a salad; that’s it’s job!) it also had enough substance to feel like a meal.  It was the best part of my experience.  I liked the pizza quite a bit, and I think the cheese was distributed perfectly so that each bite of each pie was a blend of wonderful sauce, cheese, and goodness.  My main quibble was with the crust.  The consistency was perfect but it lacked a certain kind of presence.  It seemed more like a vehicle for the toppings than part of the pizza, which is too bad because I could tell that it wanted to be part of the pie.  I’m thinking that it a little bit of sea salt would have made it perfect.

No one wanted to share dessert!  Let’s just all sit with that for a minute (well, I’m used to Karen wanting her own dessert, but I can usually count on Joan for a bite or two).  It was just me, the Shaker Pie, and a fork.  The Meyers lemons used for the custard needed a bit of zing, but you couldn’t ask for fresher tasting pie or flakier crust.  I just think a pinch of something (perhaps nutmeg?) would have given the dessert more personality.

I wouldn’t race back to Roberta’s, but, if someone else was driving I’d definitely go back to try out the rest of the menu…and the wine…and the garden.

Karen

Alas, pizza alone does not create joy.

It was the middle of a very difficult week for me when we hit Roberta’s, and my spirits were low.  Neither the charm of the low-key rustic interior — with long communal wood tables and a slightly rumpled-looking clientele tucked away inside a nondescript, industrial looking low cement building in the nowheresville of Bushwick – nor the charm of my upbeat and decidedly more fashion-forward companions could do much to uplift me or draw my conversation out.  And that’s a shame, because Roberta’s is really very good.

This pizza reminded me that in fact, it doesn’t have to be all about the crust after all.  Thin-crusted and adequately crispy on the edges, this pie was saucier and cheesier than any of the other brick oven varieties we’ve had in our journey so far.  The mozzarella and the marinara melded together and spread unapologetically over the top, with a mild tomato flavor punctuated by a few pungent bits of basil.  Each piece even flopped over in the middle the way a nice, wet slice joint wedge will do.  I enjoyed the sopressata pie, but wished we’d opted for the spicy version of the meat, which would have given it some much-needed zing.  Still it was tasty and satisfying, more real pizza than cuisine, slightly upscale but still saying: ‘Hey, you, you’re a New Yorker — you know how we do.’

Some spicy green and red olives to start – and they were spicy — and a Diet Coke (oh the shame) were my only accompaniments for this meal, making it a simpler, lighter, and dare I say quicker than usual meal for us, which was just fine since it was the hottest day of the year thus far but they’d decided not to turn the air conditioning on yet.  It’s  probably impolite of me to mention the bill since my companions very generously treated me in celebration of my recent birthday, but Roberta’s seems very reasonably priced.  But while my taste buds were pleased and my tummy pleasantly full, my heart still left a bit heavy.  Next time, I’ll remember to bring my own joy.


one. three. twelve: Lucali’s (strike one)

We had a plan. We knew what we were up against. And we had. a. plan. Get to Lucali’s early (what I think of the Senior Citizen’s Eating Hour), stand in line forever, and try some of their famed pies. I wore comfortable shoes! I should have known that it wasn’t going to work out when I found parking a mere block away from the restaurant. And then I couldn’t find it! Where were the lines? Where was the pizza smell?

Then I spotted Karen, standing all alone, in front of an empty Lucali’s. The handwritten sign simply read, “On Vacation April 22-28.”

Now I don’t want to begrudge working people time off, but…

So there we were in Carroll Gardens, wondering where to eat and wondering how a closed Lucali’s was going to alter the Saturday night dinner crowd. I was trying to figure out some sort of displacement theory, relieved that Karen had told people to go to Luna Rossa so that we could get a chance to get in somewhere.

Although we weren’t going to eat pizza, this didn’t mean we weren’t going to eat out, and so we headed out. The first place we went, Blue Napkin Something or Other was selling fried chicken at stupid prices and had a 90-minute wait, so we went over to one of my favorite places, Watty & Meg , and got a table right away.

We had good wine (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre Yves Cheron ‘Les Dentelles’ 07 & Grignolono Luca Ferraris ‘Vigna del Casot’ 08), hamburgers and amazing french fries, and steak frites. For dessert we went to Sweet Melissa’s Patisserie. I don’t remember what everyone got, but I devoured my rhubarb&strawberry crumble miracle (my name for it) as soon as I got home and into my cozies (I warmed it up first!).

We’ll be back to pizza next month! Be sure to check in.