Posts Tagged ‘food’


One of the things I really love about New York City is there are restaurants serving almost every kind of food from all over the world – except, in my experience, really good Texas barbecue beef and pork. I know from the good stuff, having gone to college in Houston. I used to buy barbecued meat at the Houston airport (yes, believe it, airport food doesn’t always suck) from a vendor who knew how to wrap for air travel, and bring it to my dad, who couldn’t get enough of the rich smoky goodness. (O.K., now I’ve made myself really hungry and I don’t have time and money to fly to Houston for dinner!) And if you readers out there do actually know of good Texas BBQ in New York City, please, please, please let me know.

Anyway, lots and lots of yummy interesting food can be had in the city. And it’s always fun discovering new places. So, one day, I was shopping in the East Village with a friend and we decided it was time to chow down. But where? So, many choices and a whole lotta “been there, done that” – we wanted to try someplace new.

So, we’re walking along, perusing menus in the windows of restaurants that displayed them, and peering into the interior of others to decide if we deemed them worth a try. Nothing really struck us as very compelling and different.

As we were approaching the end of one block, we saw a guy wearing a waiter’s uniform come tearing around the corner. He held something furry at arm’s length, that swung from his clenched fist.

What the hell? My friend and I stood transfixed, watching.

The critter was about half the length of his arm and the tail, which he was holding it by, was fluffy with fur. But it was not the right shape to be a cat. And furry meant not a huge rat. It was a grayish color. No stripes on the tail, so not a raccoon.

The waiter continued running till he came to a tree in a sidewalk planter that was full of weeds. He threw the creature into the planter and vigorously scrubbed his palms against his apron. He looked down at the animal and shuddered with fear or disgust, and then rapidly disappeared around the corner he’d come from.

“That’s too big and hairy to be a rat,” I said to my friend. 

He agreed.

“I can’t stand it; I gotta know,” I said.

We both grinned and walked toward the mysterious critter.

Nervously, we approached the planter and peered into the weeds. Was it still alive? I wondered. If so, it was likely to be pissed at its rough treatment and might take it out on us. If it was dead, it might smell really bad, which is not my idea of an appetizing pre-dinner experience.

But we had to know.

Unfortunately, this was in my pre-smart phone days and I didn’t have a camera handy. So, no emailing a photo to a friend to ask, “what the heck is this?” Or Googling guesses as to the animal’s identity.

But from what I remember from the last time I went to the Bronx zoo, we were looking at a very stiff and very dead possum.

Yes, a possum.

Now we have lots of squirrels, mice, pigeons, a hawk or two and, unfortunately, rats in NYC. But possums are not native to the area. You don’t see them just hanging around in Central Park or ambling along your window sills. On the other hand, we have our share of nutty characters who like their exotic pets, illegal thought they may be to keep in an apartment. (Goggle “NYC tiger in apartment” for some examples of really stupid “pet” owners.)

I don’t know much about possums – whether they are dirty, disease-ridden creatures, or cuddle worthy (the later is unlikely given the sharp-looking claws the dead one was sporting). But I and my friend were pretty sure we didn’t want to go to a restaurant that had them hanging out in the kitchen, or wherever that waiter had found it.

“I think we should skip that block entirely,” I said to my friend, pointing in the direction from which the waiter had come.

“Ya, think?” my friend agreed. “Eighth Street’s got some good eats,” he suggested.

So, onward we headed, eventually finding a nice cheap Middle Eastern restaurant that seemed completely free of possums.

(And props to me for never once making puns about the impossumbilty of it all!)


New Yorkers are used to seeing homeless people on the streets and sidewalks – almost every street and sidewalk – sometimes more than one begging on a single block. You get jaded. You can’t help it. I mean, what am I, a social worker? Am I supposed to give to these people who may be junkies, alcoholics, meth heads, or wackos? I’ve been attacked, pushed, shoved and spit on by these, these … people.

Hmmm. They are actually people. They are actually my fellow human beings. I don’t know for sure what led them to beg, plead and sometimes literally cry, tears running down their dirty faces, for a dollar, a quarter, a mere penny. Some may have gotten themselves into this fix due to their lifestyle; some may be crazy; or they might have been sane when they first were forced to live on the streets and the became crazy.

As a science fiction fan (stay with me, folks, I swear this is related), I think about the apocalyptic movies and TV shows I’m seen where a lone human, shell-shocked and desperate to find another survivor, searches through rubble and walks down eerily empty city streets hoping to see another human. The lone human, usually the hero, is often grubby, streaked with dirt and debris and, presumably, if he or she has been searching for a while, doesn’t smell very appealing.

See where am I going with this?

If said hero comes upon another human, the hero is elated, relieved that another of his kind survived. They might even embrace, forgiving of any body odor or ragged clothing. These fellow humans wouldn’t care if one had been a banker, lawyer or a street person in their past lives.

So, with those kinds of thought and images deep in my brain, but still a jaded New Yorker, I sighed when I saw a man begging outside the supermarket on a bitterly cold winter afternoon. Great, I thought. Now I have to avoid this guy twice, both going into and exiting the supermarket. Rather clever positioning on the guy’s part, actually.

I don’t often go to that particular market, but they have a few items the health food stores don’t carry. I couldn’t find the frozen veggie dinner I was looking for, but I did find a gorgeous plant, a new flavor of Belgian beer, and a yummy-sounding raspberry chocolate bar. I bought ’em all.

The exit is a double-door situation, giving me time to put my gloves back on. The homeless man was still smack-dab in the middle of the entrance and exit of the supermarket. And as I set my bag down to button back up my warm new winter coat I got for Christmas, I heard the beer bottles clink and saw the plant tip. I grabbed the bag to protect my groceries: the beer, the chocolate bar and the beautiful plant. Not a single nutritious necessary-for-sustaining-life item among ’em.

Alexa, I chided myself, are you really going to give the poor guy outside the cold shoulder a second time? I mean, my shoulders are toasty and warm. His jacket has holes in it and looks more appropriate for summer than 19 degrees with a bitter wind chill, and his bare hands are almost as red as my stylish leather gloves.

I took off my gloves, still standing inside the double-door exit area. I looked for small bills. Maybe a couple of singles ,,, screw it! I removed a bill, put back on my gloves, picked up my “groceries” and exited the store.

I walked up to the man – gosh, he was old enough to be my grandfather. This homeless man should be enjoying a warm Florida afternoon in a rocking chair on his porch.

I handed him a five dollar bill and said, “Take care.” Lame! Shouldn’t I say something more profound?

He looked me in the eyes – many homeless won’t even raise their heads to look at who gives them money – and his face crinkled into a huge grin, revealing many missing teeth. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you, bless you. I wish you a joyous year,” he said. He looked at the $5 for a long moment.

“Bless you, too. I hope things get better for you.” Also, kind of lame, but I didn’t know what else to say. A tear rolled down my face. I smiled back at him. And hurried away from my fellow human, embarrassed by overwhelming emotion. (I hate to cry in front of anyone. Makes me seem less the tough New Yorker.)

No one – NO ONE! Should be that grateful for a $5 bill.

The tears were really flowing now, and I didn’t want them to freeze on my face. I stopped to wipe them away, and take a deep breath to calm myself. I wasn’t crying just out of pity, but at the thought that I had helped one human being have a slightly better day. I felt grateful and more than a bit guilty that I could afford to buy frivolous thing like those in my grocery bag.

No, I’m not a social worker. And I can’t give $5 or even $1 to every homeless person I pass. But I could help one old man have a meal tonight, and if he spent part of my gift on a bottle of booze as well, that was his business. He was entitled to a little drink of joy, too. After all, I lifted his spirits and he lifted mine.