Q Train Uptown

Q is for Quiet

Quilled by Bonnie

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Q is for Quiet, and if you are a follower of End of the Line dining, that’s all you’ve heard from us lately. Quiet. Whispers from the ghost rails. This is the first post of 2017, and the year is nearly over. But while we may have slowed and quieted in this area, it’s all sparks and fire in others. From books coming out to making partner, we’ve been whipping up our own quiet storms in our professional lives this year.

Tania and I live on an eerie parallel with each other. We were born exactly three days apart in 1980 on opposite sides of the country, and then placed together in the same dorm room our freshman year of college. Since the parallel bent, and we crashed into each other’s lives, we’ve continued to operate on the same wavelength. Crossing major milestones at the same time. And 2017 was a mega year for both of us. In June, Tania was made partner at her firm, and in that same month, my first novel came out into the world. Who knows what will align next?

Last Sunday, we battled the beast of our schedules, and finally met up for a ride on the rails. It’s been so long since we’ve done this, that there’s even a new line! The Second Avenue Q. The MTA is building new tracks faster than we can complete the system! We needed to break inertia in a serious way, but also in a quick way, so we looked for a ride we’ve dubbed one of the “easy ones.” AKA: Not two and a half hours into the Bronx. We had to break ourselves back in easy.

After a brunch meeting in Williamsburg (the details of which I still have to remain Quiet about, but stay tuned!), I scooped up Tania at her apartment to head on out. She was eating soup when I arrived. Both of us off to a good start here, right? Eating BEFORE our dining adventure? We’re a little out of practice, I guess, but we are nothing if not good eaters, so we knew there would be space for more.

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The Q from Union Square is just a hop, skip and a jump up Second Avenue to the Upper East Side, a neighborhood which Tania admitted to me is her least favorite in Manhattan. I’ve always kind of thought of it as a place I would never be able to live, but I have never had strong feelings about it one way or another. Only that it used to be difficult to get to before this new train line!

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We tried for a very long time to take a selfie on the train. This is my favorite outtake.

The new station is very clean and spacious. The walls of the train stations are much like skin, abused by smoke and dirt and time. This one will inevitably break down into something more familiar. Scars to reflect years. There’s comfort in this.

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Right out of the train, we saw a restaurant with a red awning that promised artisanal wine, and thought since we had both eaten, perhaps a drink and a snack was more our speed. It seemed fancy-ish, with chandeliers, gold detailing, and a dark and moody vibe. We took a walk around the block for good measure, to see if something else caught our attention. Our observation of the block is there are many hospitals and massive housing complexes, and definitely the quiet that fits the theme of our trip.

We almost went here:

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Barking Dog NYC? Sounds like a Tania kind of place.

But circled back and went with our first instinct. Vinus and Marc. Tania also didn’t like the name, but that didn’t stop us.

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We arrived in that weird Twilight Zone hour that is post-brunch, pre-dinner service. When I used to wait tables and got stuck working brunch, I kind of liked this hour when things slowed down, and the menu shrunk, and the light started to fade. It is the hour for side work between services, and that is usually accompanied with we-made-it-through-brunch drinks. But as a diner, you kind of get forgotten about since you’re right in the changeover. Nonetheless, our server was very nice, and she let us order snacks from the bar menu even when the kitchen got prickly about that since it was still technically brunch menu time.

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Vinus and Marc is more southern comfort food than artisanal wine bar, and they have a brunch special where for $30, you can get an entrée and two drink PITCHERS. This is the equivalent of SIX DRINKS. We thought better of that and settled on fried pickles and guacamole. Tania ordered a tempranillo (at the server’s suggestion) and I got one of their $5 Mason Jar Cocktails, The High Bush: gin, blueberry syrup, cardamom syrup, lemon juice, splash of soda. I’m usually drawn to a gin cocktail on the menu, and the cardamom syrup sealed the deal. That’s one of my favorite flavors.

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Everything was salty-satisfying, and we sunk into our dark little corner, and chatted about all the things we needed to: our lives, our loves, our plans.

Why is it so hard to find a day? Tania asked me. When did that happen? That is such a good question. Is it a sign of age that your free time seems to shrink? I think I used to work even more hours than I do now, but always found it easy to make a plan with my friends. We don’t even have children yet! Tania and I concluded that we both just value our downtime more than we used to. It used to be full throttle all the time, but now I need my quiet nights at home, nights with my sweetie, and thereby the days and nights have shrunk.

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Bathroom Selfie Alert!

Really, there is just a new prioritization, or the need to prioritize in our lives, and the need to make sure there is a place for quiet time, but also a place the projects of our hearts. So, here is one: a quiet little post from a quiet Sunday afternoon, with noise bubbling under the surface. If we ever find our way back to the Upper East Side for brunch, maybe we’ll say screw it and drink the two pitchers each, and forget about responsibility and time. That’s still very much alive in us, even if we’re quieter about it.

 

D Train to Norwood – 205th Street

Drafted by Tania

There are a lot of compromises that we make to live in this great city. I find that sometimes when I go away, I often feel so happy to return….there is no place, really, that is better to live.  Other times I go away, and come back wondering why I do this to myself, there is no place, really, that is harder to live.  This first became apparent to me my freshman year of college.  Bonnie and I were sitting at St. Marks Bagel and Deli eating a pizza bagel, as we often did at that time, talking about what we were doing at school.  Bonnie had just written an essay about living in New York City, the crux of which was how she could no longer see the stars.  I supposed I had realized that fact before that moment, but it really struck me (and still does today).  We can’t see the stars or feel the grass beneath our feet or open our eyes without seeing a building.  We cannot escape this urban landscape.

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Well, the end of the D line is there to tell us a different story. After navigating a few logistical monkey wrenches, Bonnie and I met outside the Broadway Lafayette subway stop. With few expectations, we boarded the D train headed toward Norwood – 205 Street.  My expectations were so low actually, that I ate a hardboiled egg while I was waiting for Bonnie.

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When we exited on the train, it became clear that we were near the Botanical Garden. While we did come across several restaurants that normally would be completely acceptable for an end of the line dine, we decided to see what the Botanical Garden had to offer.  Coincidentally, Bonnie had been considering going to the Garden earlier in the week to get a whiff of the corpse flower, a flower that takes 10 years to bloom, does so for 36 hours and smells like rotting flesh.  While the bloom of death had closed, we figured that there must be at least a café.

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On the way to the garden, we passed through a park with a few shady characters and a bathroom fit for a horror movie. We arrived at the park to find a very pricey admission ticket, one that could be circumvented by dining at one of the garden’s two establishments.  Because we are fancy ladies, we selected the nicer of the two – the Hudson Garden Grill.

Within moments we were transported to beautiful grassy fields and flower filled walkways – no sign of the city apparent from any vantage point. The restaurant itself was lovely – airy with big windows looking on to the gardens.  The food was absolutely delicious.  We started with some Sancerre and Sparkling Rose.  We had monkey bread (which we were informed was made fresh each day by the monkeys from the zoo) and a sampler plate of the most wonderful delicacies from the sea – octopus terrine, boquerones, lobster rolls, mini lox bagels, tuna and sea urchin toast.  We also shared soft shell crab with ramps and jasmine rice.  Everything was a dream.  A vacation at the end of the line – can you imagine!?

After lunch we ambled through the garden. While we could not gain access to the greenhouses and other exhibits, the walk itself was beautiful.  We awkwardly tried to sneak in, but to no avail.  They tried to check our ticket and we scampered away. We did check out the gift and garden shop.  While there are two things in life that I can never resist buying – plants and produce – I showed restraint.  We also stopped in the more casual café for a quick drink and enjoyed a little live jazz on our way out…

After an entirely unexpected relaxing afternoon we headed back to the city on a train bound for grand central – a 20 minute train ride, but a world away.

 

2 Train to Brooklyn

2 is for: My 2 Cents

2ted by: Bonnie

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Tania said something to me during our most recent End of the Line Dining trip that hasn’t left my head. It had, of course, been awhile since we took our last trip. When we started this project, we were raring to go, hitting two end of the lines a month. Now, our pace has slackened to once every couple of months. I just counted and we have twenty-four ends left. So there’s definitely a couple more years of journeys ahead. So much has already happened. We wrote down our goals when we started, and I’ve already accomplished them. I’ve realigned, reconfigured, and reconstructed a hundred times. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve gotten an MFA. I’ve sold my first novel! I’ve worked my ass off, and this is what brings me to what Tania said while we were catching up.

“I don’t know when I became one of those people who works all the time.”

Now, if anyone has a real-life, grown up job, it’s Tania. I (try to) sit at my desk every day and make stories for people to eventually bind into books to read. Tania sits at the big girl table at a major accounting firm every day and has done so since the year 2000! In all the years with all the success and accomplishment, she has managed to keep a perfect balance with the other aspects of her life. In other words, she hasn’t been one of those people who works all the time, despite the demands of her job.

But recently, it feels like work work work!

That’s New York though, isn’t it? Ask ANY one in your life how things are going lately and I would say that nine times out of ten, that person will answer, I’ve been SO busy!

Tania and I met up one Saturday a few weeks ago, somewhat of a feat considering how much she’s been travelling for work. The pictures will show that I still had long hair, so if you know when I cut it off, you will know how long I’ve sat on writing this post. We met at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street to catch the 2 Train downtown to Flatbush Avenue/Brooklyn College. We spent the 45 minute train ride catching up, as usual. I was feeling a little drained and was on my second cold in two weeks. We were definitely hoping that the presence of the college would mean the presence of something tasty to eat.

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When we descended upon the neighborhood, the first place we saw was Target. Don’t you always need something from Target? This particular time, we both needed to use the bathroom. And of course, we were tempted to do a little shopping, but decided that if we still felt like it after eating, we would come back.

 

One of the next things we saw was a skate shop. Now, a year and a half ago, I may never have noticed a skate shop. Now that I cohabitate with a handsome skater, I notice all kinds of things I never did before. We didn’t go in though.

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We found the Brooklyn College campus, which isn’t difficult as it is the neighborhood’s main feature. It looked like a college campus should, with majestic brick buildings and great lawns and iron gateways.

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This is surrounded by a residential neighborhood, with most of the commerce along Flatbush Avenue. We passed a window full of brightly patterned fabrics, a sign above reading “God’s Grace.”

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The door was locked, but we knocked to get buzzed in. It smelled like curry, there was a television playing, and we were not greeted by the friendliest of salespeople. On the contrary, it felt like we were seriously interrupting someone’s lunch. Still, Tania managed to get a few different pieces of fabric. I think she’s going to make pillows out of them.

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The thing is, we definitely were not passing by any interesting places to eat. A thing that happens at many end of lines. We had spotted a Dallas BBQ right off the train, and were reserving it as a last resort if we didn’t find anything.

Well, we didn’t.

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So, when in Rome, eat where the locals do! Even if that’s Dallas BBQ. I’d never been to a Dallas BBQ, so the choice felt right.

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It is one of those massive, multi-level restaurants. Neither of us was drinking, but the cocktail selection looked off the hook. A place to get those giant fruity drinks with, like, booze bottles sticking out of them and other wacky accouterments. Like this: Tsunami Royale with a bottle of moscato poured into it.

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The server was sweet to go through all the drink specials and their ingredients. I should have written them down because they were wild.

Tania got a virgin piña colada.

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We didn’t share as we usually do. We were at a Dallas BBQ so I had to do baby back ribs, right?

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Well, Tania is pescatarian, so I had to ride solo for the rib special lunch, while she ordered the grilled shrimp platter.

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The food tasted exactly like you know it does. That’s the thing with chain restaurants. That shit is streamlined. And hits a particularly satisfying part of my nostalgia, as a person who grew up going out to them almost exclusively for special dinners. Even though I’d never been to a Dallas BBQ, I knew what it would taste like, and I knew there would be a shitload of food. Yes, I used shit twice (now three times) in this paragraph.

But I didn’t know we’d get mini cupcakes with our bill. That was a surprise treat.

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And we didn’t go back to Target. We boarded the 2 train, but with different plans on how to get home quickest. We had enough time on the train together for Tania to teach me a little bit about snapchat.

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But we had different transfers. I switched to the bus. Tania to the 4.

About a year ago, I decided to try to cut the phrase- I’m so busy- out of my life. I do get busy. Insanely busy. But cutting out that response as my go-to has created a shift in my head and my life. I’m not actually that busy. I can always find time for the things I want to do. As my dad always says, I don’t have any trouble having a good time.

Sometimes the pendulum shifts one way though, and we have to put in those hours. Break our backs. Eat dinner at our desks. Skip the yoga classes. Fall behind on Game of Thrones. Tania is at one end of the pendulum right now, but I have no fear she will swing back and find the balance again.

Until then, I’ll take our bi-monthly train excursions and savor every moment.

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J to Broad Street

Jotted by: Tania

I am a creature of habit.  I am not a seeker of change.  Although I have moved from apartment to apartment, I still live on the same square block as I did when I first moved to Brooklyn in 2002.  The neighborhood where I live however, Williamsburg, has changed dramatically.  Gone are the days where a kid out of college could afford (with their own hard earned money) to rent an apartment one block from the Bedford L and an art gallery on Kent Ave.  Gone are all the places I didn’t really care all that much about until they were gone – like Kings Pharmacy.  A restaurant around the street from me recently closed and someone covered the brick building with yellow tape that read “Gentrification in Process”.  I think they are a bit late to the party. “Gentrification Complete”.

They say change is the one constant in life- Williamsburg has changed, the East Village has changed, New York City has changed.  I hear people say all the time how they miss the old New York.  It’s just not like it used to be, is it?  Sometimes it is, actually.  To all the change haters out there – I give you Fraunces Tavern.  For those of you who think that New York has lost its grit – I say what is grittier than the Revolutionary War?

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On a recent weekend, Bonnie and I boarded the J train at Marcy Avenue headed for Broad Street.  We tried to recall if we had been to Broad Street, and what we might expect when we exited the station.  The best we could come up with was ‘some official looking buildings – maybe’.

What we did not expect was to have the shortest hunt for a restaurant in End of the Line dining history.  I would say that the exploratory phase of our excursions usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  Within 5 minutes of exiting the train we both locked eyes with this beautiful old building, the kind of place you might drive 5 hours to New Hampshire to visit.  It looked so warm and inviting, it drew us in.  I figured it must be prohibitively expensive, and certainly not that kind of place we could waltz in with our jeans and sweatshirts, but I was wrong.  You could not find two more pleased ladies than Bonnie or me as we entered Fraunces Tavern.

Not only do I take extreme please in saying the name “Fraunces”, but I also took extreme pleasure in the dining and museum experience it had to offer.  Yes, museum.  I am going to take the liberty now of quoting from Wikipedia, so please forgive me, but I really think you should know these facts.  Fraunces Tavern dates back to 1762.  The location played a prominent role in pre-Revolution, American Revolution and post-Revolution history, serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British, and housing federal offices in the Early Republic. It has been owned by Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc. since 1904, which carried out a major conjectural reconstruction, and claim it is Manhattan‘s oldest surviving building.   And guess what – you can eat there too!

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We were seated in one of many dining rooms with long wooden tables and a lovely fireplace.  We decided we could not pass up the $30 brunch special – one appetizer, one entrée and 2 mimosas or bloody marys.  Bonnie selected mimosas, scotch eggs and the Gotham’s Palate (smoked salmon), and I had bloody marys, clam chowder and eggs Florentine.  For those of you who don’t know what a scotch egg is, it’s an egg wrapped in meat and fried.  I’ll leave that to Bonnie.   We both really enjoyed the food, it was exactly what you would want in a brunch.

After we ate, we decided to explore the restaurant and take advantage of the complimentary admission to the museum that was offered.  Each room was more incredible than the next.  There was a beautiful old whiskey library, a dining room with ornate murals and a proper tavern where they play traditional Irish music on Sundays.  How have we never heard of Fraunces Tavern before?  So many wasted opportunities to have amazing birthday gatherings or a place to bring relatives visiting from out of town.  Perhaps New York’s best kept secret.

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Bonnie and I ascended the stairs to the museum and started off with a video about history (an area where my expertise is shockingly nil).  I decided I was going to pay attention.  I learned that I was standing in the very same spot where George Washington said farewell to his troops and that there were lots of tears and hugs.  Bonnie did not have the opportunity to learn this because she was fiddling around on her phone taking care of some apartment maintenance issue.  She did rejoin me, though, in time for some fun in the flag room.  As a consolation prize for not learning as much about history as I did, I decided to buy Bonnie a quill pen.  It was also very reasonably priced.

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Bonnie and I left the restaurant and dabbled in a bit more history as we winded our way to the Sephora to buy eyebrow pencils.  In the event that you are interested, Bonnie and I both have eyebrows that are naturally lighter than our chosen (Bonnie) or given (Tania) hair colors and neither of us know anything about applying eyebrow pencil.  A day of learning indeed.

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We discovered in the subway, that our new best kept secret was prominently displayed on a sign of places to visit in the vicinity of that stop.   I’m not really worried though – who looks at those?  Fraunces Tavern – I hope you never change – you have made a really good run of it up until now.  For all of you that seek old New York – I don’t think it gets older than this.

Update:  Bonnie sent me a postcard using her new quill pen.  She has awful quill penmanship and it was hardly legible.  Good effort though.  The pen has now been repurposed as a cat toy.

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C Train Downtown

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C is for Clarity
Crafted by: Bonnie

I love the Fall. To me, it not only means I like my wardrobe better (flannels, boots, leather, layers, yes please), but that I buckle down and focus. Growing up in California, I was never as attached to the seasons as I’ve grown to be in my twelve years in New York. I had no concept of what it meant to survive a season. Even though I hate to sweat and my skin is as sensitive to the sun as a baby’s, I need the summer to let loose and be free. But it gets hard. The hangovers, the chafing, the weird heat rashes? When the season turns, I’m ready for productivity. Much as spring is the reward for surviving winter, fall is the red, orange and yellow garland around this horse’s neck. The prize. I feel my best in the fall.

So it goes without saying that Tania and I decided it’s time to kick End of the Line Dining back in gear. Focus. Clarity. No more excuses. No more starting the posts with It’s been so long since we’ve written

The plan was to meet on the Downtown A platform and roll the dice- Far Rockaway or Lefferts Blvd (this train has two end points). We’d get on whichever arrived first. Lady Luck had a different idea for us though. A trains were not running all the way to the end of the line, so we improvised and hopped on the C to Euclid.

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Thirty-five minutes later (express stops are our friend), we arrived at Euclid aaaaand….

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Pitkin! Hey, that’s almost my name! Side note: when I was in kindergarten, I had a friend named Chrissy Pitkin. It was… confusing. Pitkin, Pipkin. What’s in a name?

So we found ourselves in East New York. Not exactly how we thought we’d spend our Sunday afternoon, but we are open minded. As end-of-the-line diners, we are accustomed to being swept up in the (autumn) breeze.

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Have you been to East New York? I know you’ve driven through on your way to the beach, but many of us don’t have a reason to stay. From what I understand, East New York gives us a pretty good idea of what the parts of Brooklyn that are now full of condos and juice bars and boutique toy stores, used to be. It gives us an idea of why no one rode the L train even to Bedford, and no one went past Avenue A in the East Village. It certainly isn’t common to see two white girls strolling through and taking pictures of the architecture and community gardens.

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Our intention is never to exploit or objectify though. We do all this in earnest. Because we love the city, every corner of it. We seek the road less traveled. And then maybe we find this:  Help Us written in blood. But fear not! It’s not East New York that’s so scary, but Halloween!

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Which gave Tania the idea that perhaps the discount and 99 cent stores would be much more affordable out here for decorations than in Williamsburg. So now we had a mission. Lunch, yes. Observations, yes. But also, Halloween decorations.

Not finding much by way of 99 cent stores OR lunch along Pitkin (a sketchy pizza joint seemed a better option than the Chinese with the plexiglass shield between the kitchen and customer but still), we trudged forth.
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We almost settled for Burger King (we probably will at some point) (and the Oreo shake advertised in the window looked delicious!), but then Tania recognized the area as where she would come meet her little sister when she was part of the Big Sister program. She knew there was a vibrant pocket somewhere close. So we went on.

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We made our way to Liberty Ave, and to one of my favorite discount department stores! Was this the original? Liberty on Liberty? And would they have Halloween decorations???

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Wellllllllll…..

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It seems Liberty was getting a jump start on Christmas instead. So our mission was not yet accomplished. That’s okay. We’d only just begun. Rounding the bend, we spotted a store with some spooky spangle outside, including these vintage looking masks.

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His masks were cool, but the rest of the loot was limited. A little further down the road however, we hit the jackpot.

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Tania was right. Very reasonably priced. I totally got that jack-o-lantern tote for a dollar, not to mention some iron on patches to fix my favorite black jeans, also one dollar. Tania got that ghoul and the spider webs and that googly-eyed mask in the lower left and so much more!

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Be my Frankenstein?

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Is this mask Michael Jackson? It didn’t say!

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Now with one mission accomplished, the next goal was food.

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Had we settled for whoppers and fries, we never would have discovered Grant Caffe on Liberty Ave. A far better option, and the neighborhood agreed, for it kept a steady flow of customers our entire meal.

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Tania and I do love a diner. There have been more than one on our End of the Line adventures.

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And Tania faced her usual dilemma: sweet or savory… sweet or savory… Will waffles with strawberries and bananas be as satisfying as a mushroom omelet or a veggie burger and onion rings? The eternal question when ordering brunch, am I right?028

Hmmmmm… corned beef hash. You know? I’ve never had corned beef before. Not because I’m opposed, I’ve just never had the occasion. Is now the time?029

Certainly coffee is in order.

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Cute spot, isn’t it?

I did it. I went for the corned beef hash with hollandaise. When opportunity strikes, I swing away…

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And waffles for the win!

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She looks excited, no?

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I look like I just shoved some hash browns in my face before I realized Tania was going to take a picture.

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And so we ate. And talked. About love, about life, about aspirations and dreams. Like we always do. Like we always will. Then turned our gaze out the window.

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What did I see? Well, if you must know, this bangin’ leopard print skirt for one dollar! We must go!

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Pretty Girl never disappoints. Oh la la!

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Then we walked toward the J train home, since it doesn’t matter how we return.

We spotted some inspirational graffiti.

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And found some reassurance.

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And after winding back around home…

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Tania did this to her apartment!

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Happy Halloween! May the season bring you clarity and focus, apples and pumpkin spice, and all the space to dream and do.

6 Train Uptown

The Six to Pelham Bay Park Several months later.

Scripted by Tania

Sometimes I have a mental block against writing these posts.   It’s a bit like phoning a friend that you haven’t talked to in ages.  It never feels like the right time, or that there is enough time to give it the attention that it deserves.  So it goes undone. Until one day, you decide to bite the bullet and do it, and you wonder why it needed to take so long.

Three seasons ago, Bonnie and I embarked on the long journey up the 6 line to Pelham Bay Park.  We received a request for our presence – the first time in End of the Line dining history.  An email came had come through to the Boxcar Girls:

If you happen to take the 6 to the last stop north (Pelham Bay Park), walk over to Buhre Avenue. Zeppieri & Sons Italian Bakery, our family business, has been in Pelham Bay of the Bronx for over 50 years. Known in the area for our homemade bread (ask for a loaf of Pane de Casa to take home, or get an “S” roll buttered), our pastries (cannolis, red velvet cupcakes, a slice of tiramisu or strawberry shortcake) and our pies and cakes. If you have dinner in the area, it’s the perfect stop for some dessert and treats to go.

Neither of us are one to say no – especially to delicious treats, so we decided to go for it.  We met at the Union Square station, and headed for Pelham Bay Park.  On the ride, catching up as usual, Bonnie shared with me a story that so perfectly captures the person that she is and the person that we all love so much.  Bonnie’s aunt had passed away after a struggle with cancer.  She had been asked to speak at the funeral, a truly difficult thing to do for a loved one.  In an attempt to make it through, Bonnie decided to focus on a word(s) to catch her when the tears started to come.  I think we all do that to some extent – mine usually in reverse – thinking of something sad when I am about to laugh at an inappropriate time.  The exceptional thing, though, is that up there in the middle of her eulogy – Bonnie decided to share her safe words with the entire group.  Those words – Chicken Chow Mein.  In a time of grief, Bonnie made people smile, even chuckle a bit – and those who subsequently got up to speak also used Chicken Chow Mein to make it through.  It never ceases to amaze me how genuine Bonnie is, with a strength and openness that carries her though the good times and the bad….and so many of us as well.

We finally arrived at Pelham Bay, after one of our lengthiest train rides to day.  You might recognize the name from that novel/film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.  In the novel, a train leaving the Pelham Bay station at 1:23pm gets high jacked.  After that film, for many years, the MTA banned any schedule with a train departure at 1:23, either in the early morning or afternoon.  It is no longer a policy, but it is still widely agreed that dispatchers keep the superstition alive and never leave at that time.  I didn’t think anyone paid that much attention to train times – except Bonnie and me when we time our trips.

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When you exit the train, there is an area where you can catch a bus to City Island.  Bonnie lived on City Island one summer, renting a house to write.  If you haven’t been to City Island, I would certainly recommend it.  A small fishing island with several seafood restaurants, it’s a nice escape from the city itself.

We walked around a bit, trying to orient ourselves.  We knew from the email that we received that the bakery was on Buhre Avenue, and we were able to locate both the street and the bakery within minutes (thankfully, on a cold January day).  We wandered past the bakery and settled on a diner, which was about our speed for the day.  I think that I was craving pancakes, although that is not what I ordered.  I ALWAYS want pancakes, but ultimately talk myself out of it for their lack of nutritional value.  It is funny, because I rarely use that measuring stick for other foods – just pancakes.

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In any case, George’s Family Restaurant served us well.  It was everything you want a dinner to be – an extremely large menu (in size and variety of cuisine), breakfast all day and exotic cocktails suggestions (although we did not partake).  I had my standard veggie burger with mushrooms and swiss and Bonnie had a burger as well.  They were generous with the slaw and pickles.  The fries were sufficiently crispy.  We left happy and ready for some pastries.

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When we arrived at Zeppieri & Sons, we decided not to make ourselves known.  We anonymously ordered cannolis and cookies from a girl at the counter who was polite, but seemingly unimpressed.  I was once told that some restaurants keep pictures of the NY Times restaurant reviewers up near the kitchen, so the wait staff can be alert in the event of their arrival.  I secretly thought maybe they had our picture up at Zeppieri & Sons.  I’m kidding, of course.

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The pastries, which we ate while waiting for the train home, were delicious as expected.

Tired and ready to get home, we boarded the train….only to be stopped in our tracks just a few stops later.  After an interminable pause at one of the stations, we were informed to disembark from the train.  Someone had been hit.  Riders filed off the train –  some looking disorientated and others angry at the inconvenience – looking around the platform for a sign of what was happening.  A sense of dread and morbid curiosity was soon allayed by the appearance of a man, surrounded by authorities, who looked as if he just had a tangle with a domestic cat.  It looked not so much as if the train hit him, as if maybe he tripped and was slightly skimmed by a moving car.

In the face of a lengthy investigation, an irritated populace exited onto the streets of Harlem.  Too far to call for an Uber, we boarded a bus to the nearest subway station and found our way home….a journey that felt, at the time, almost as long as the time it has taken me to write this post.

E Train Uptown

E is for Everything you missed while we took a break from End of the Line

Explained by: Bonnie

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Hello! Did you lose faith you’d ever see another post from us? Did you think that maybe we wouldn’t finish what we started? That we’d fallen OFF THE RAILS? Fear not! The Box Car girls are back with another adventure. We have a tale to tell of shopping madness, a weird underground food court, and a nostalgic chain restaurant….

Tania and I wanted to ease back into things since we’d really dropped the ball on EOLD as of late. We missed spring and most of winter (do you blame us? It was a cold one!). Tania also gets insanely busy with work in the spring, and I was busy juggling my multitude of jobs and projects. [Check-in! Since we last spoke: I’ve begun teaching at a community college, I’ve produced an original play at a Brooklyn high school with Mary and teenagers, I’ve watched 156 episodes of Friends (maybe that’s why I haven’t finished my novel revision), and that boyfriend who I may have mentioned, moved in with me. Holy pile-up, Batman!]

So, when I suggested Jamaica, Tania didn’t want to deal. It didn’t seem ease-back-in-worthy. After all, when you haven’t run in awhile, you don’t jump back in with a half-marathon, am I right? Our first impression of Jamaica was not favorable. But I needed to pick up a paycheck at Plaza College (that new job) off the E train line, so we just went ahead and killed two birds with one stone. Easy enough

I met up with Tania at Union Square. I was admittedly a little tipsy since I had been catching some rays by the Hudson with a Lemonade-Rita, while killing time before meeting up (when did I become such a lightweight?).

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The buzz wore off during the ride. Not that my company was a buzz-kill or anything! But one Lemon-rita does not make for a full afternoon.

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The Jamaica at the end of the E train was much different than what we saw at the end of the F line. On the contrary, the end of the E was a bargain shopper’s paradise! Every one of those cheap clothing stores we secretly love (Rainbow, Mandee, Strawberry, you know what I’m talking about) was out there and surrounded by many new gems of cheap clothing I can’t resist. I had an event coming up that I needed an all-white outfit for, so we had our eyes peeled.

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In the end though, the only person who made any purchases was Tania. But I’d say she scored with a white mesh and ribbing cape contraption thing. When she stepped out of the dressing room, another shopper told her she looked high fashion. Like she could be in the magazines. Unfortunately, there is no photographic evidence of this score.

The strangest part about this shopping mecca though? No restaurants! I don’t know about you, but I always get hungry when I shop. I actually think I’m just always hungry, to be honest. But nothing gets me quite as hungry as riding a train to the end of the line, and trying on tulle skirts and white denim.

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Where, oh where, are the restaurants in Jamaica?

Both of our phones had died by the time we found a basement food court. I so wish that we could have captured what this dimly-lit twilight zone was like, with its fading fluorescents casting a greenish glow against brown tile, and lethargic, zombie-like workers. The food options were Chinese, Japanese, and maybe a burger? A few lonely souls sat, eating out of Styrofoam containers. The stores nearby were half-filled, like a liquidation sale had happened and was later abandoned. There were jewelers, a very old shoe repair man, and formal wear fit for any event in the 1980s.  We had seriously stepped back in time (especially with the absence of cell phones). But we had also maybe stepped onto the set of a zombie apocalypse movie. Or maybe it wasn’t a movie set? Yikes! I’m glad we got out of there alive!

At that point, we remembered we had passed an Applebee’s right off the train. We decided to head back in that direction and make a concerted effort to find something else along the way, but if we found nothing, we’d check out the Jamaica Applebee’s. And I’m sorry, but those Caribbean buffets we seem to spy at all the end-of-the-lines never look appetizing. We do make an effort to find something unique and off the beaten track, but we know there will be occasions where we have to hit a chain. And look how it welcomed us back!

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Applebee’s is a restaurant of my youth. I remember when the first one came to Chico, California. I even remember the jingle that was always on TV (Pass the pasta! Pass the pasta! Pass the pasta, please. Pass the paaaaaastaaaaaaa. The pasta at Applebee’s! America’s favorite neighbor! Applebee’s!) (Or wait, was it America’s favorite flavor? I’m second guessing myself). Applebee’s was the SPOT for the Pipkins. I always love the big crazy salads at places like that with, like, breaded chicken and tortilla chips and ranch dressing. I have a soft spot in my heart for chain restaurants like Applebee’s or Olive Garden or Chili’s. It’s just true. I used to rebel, but now I reminisce. With a giant cocktail in a souvenir glass in my hand, that is.

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Speaking of cocktails, we were both ready to Celebrate Jamaica, and get the buzz back on. Off the bat, I ordered a Bass Ale, and Tania got a margarita. I plugged my phone in to charge, so we could grab these shots of our food and our quintessential across-the-table shot.

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Here’s what we ate…

Thai Shrimp Salad:

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Sriracha Shrimp:

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip:

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It was as mediocre as one could expect. Why did this food taste so good in Chico? I think chain restaurants taste worse in New York and better in small towns. Do you agree? I really think that’s true. But why? I think I need to conduct a study. The first time I ever had lobster was at a Red Lobster (with Tania) in a small town outside of San Francisco. It tasted great. But I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that the Red Lobster in Times Square is disgusting. And expensive. Anyone want to test this theory with me? It will require some road trips and some chain restaurant eating. Next food adventure project? The Suburban Chain Gang? (thanks, Tessa, for that brilliant title idea).

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Anyway, I’m glad to be back on the rails. I feel free again. Nothing like the stop and go of a subway car as we chug along to the last stop. Nothing like hearing “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” as many times as we do to get to the end, with the hope of some secret pocket of food. We didn’t find the secret spot in Jamaica. Not saying it doesn’t exist. And we still have to go there a few more times for a few more end-of-the-lines, so we’ll be reporting back.

Until then, eat well, and avoid the chains in NYC. We’ll see you again soon. Promise.

(Insert Chili’s jingle: I want my baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back…)

A Train Uptown

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A is for Attestation

Accounted by: Bonnie

Awesome Photos by: Andy Curtin

I tend to wax philosophical in these End of the Line Dining posts. In this account, it is my intention to stick to the facts, and tell the story in a straightforward matter. Just as Alice did with her Adventures in Wonderland, I will begin at the beginning, and when I get to the end, I will stop. Here it goes: my attestation.

The facts: On December 16th , 2014, at 8:38pm Tania, Andy and I met on the platform of the A train at 14th Street and rode uptown to Inwood/ 207th Street. My boyfriend, Jim…(oh yes, if you haven’t heard by now, I’m in deep with a really great guy named Jim) (Remember in my last post when I said: “The romantic in me can still hope that my man is wandering in some sphere right now and when we collide it will be fireworks”? Well, it happened. Fireworks and all)… Anyway, Jim was going to come with us, a double date, but bailed at the last minute. Some people don’t think riding a train to the end of the line sounds fun when they have to get up at 6 a.m. the next day. I say, any day is a fine day for an end of the line dining adventure. He’ll learn.

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The back story: Inwood/207th Street is where Andy’s mother grew up. He told me that back in the day (and actually maybe still to this day) a lot of Wall Street people lived in this hood since they could take the A train straight down to the financial district.

Another back story: I went to this neighborhood with Jim back in October when Christian’s nephew got married. He was my date. The reception was at a place called La Marina, and we had a magical time dancing the night away surrounded by the bride’s family and a view of the George Washington Bridge and a few too many gin and tonics. From this journey, I had a vague idea of the lay of the land, and a feeling we’d find a good spot to dine. The neighborhood has a bustle to it. Cute restaurants and bars. I thought if we headed toward Dyckman Street, we’d be A-OK.

So I met Tania and Andy on the platform. We were all bursting with holiday cheer. Well, I don’t know if Andy was bursting with holiday cheer, but we were all in good spirits. After I got over my mild annoyance at the last-minute bail-out, that is. (Sorry Jim, I’ll tell better stories later. There are lots. I assure you, readers). Tania was armed with blank Christmas cards and an assortment of pens. In case we needed an activity on the ride. We were squeezing in one more End of the Line trip in 2014 before I left for California the following weekend and we all got lost in the mayhem of the season.

As planned, we got off the train and headed toward Dyckman Street, guided by my distant memory of restaurants and bars. Here are some things we saw along the way:

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Tania told me she could imagine my living in a house like this.

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Away in a Manger

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Oh! Holy Night

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Jolly Old St. Nicholas

There was a slight drizzle, but the night was warm.

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We wandered toward the water when we reached Dyckman, and almost went with a corner mofongo joint, but instead found our way into Mama Sushi. Sometimes I think there is a great spirit of End of the Line Dining that leads us exactly where we need to go. As you know, we rely wholly on instinct and wandering, not on our smart phones, maps and pre-reading of yelp reviews. So when we just let go and trust, there seems to be a divine helping hand. This time was no exception.

Okay, first of all, Mama Sushi is a DOMINICAN AND JAPANESE FUSION RESTAURANT.

Did you hear that?

DOMINICAN AND JAPANESE FUSION. Wait until you hear about the rolls we ordered. Just wait.

The atmosphere was lively. The room packed with parties of people and a healthy dose of holiday cheer. We sat down and were immediately given very attentive service. But the magic started when the owner, Susana, Mama Sushi herself, came up to our table to greet us.

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She was so excited about the night. They were celebrating an expansion with family and friends, and promised that later there would be karaoke. In Spanish. But she still hoped we would stay. She asked us if we were new to the neighborhood (a common question with this project, people always wonder how we found our way to their neighborhoods) and welcomed us whole-heartedly. We had a good laugh over how we must stick out, and then a debate over who was more of a dead giveaway: Andy or me? What do you think?

Andy?

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Or me?

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Right away, I ordered a drink called Japanese Sex. Because, well, why not? Ingredients: Bacardi Coconut Rum, Amaretto Disaronno, and Green Liqueur. Green Liqueur? Okay, fine. Tania and Andy ordered margaritas. On the server’s recommendation we ordered spring rolls and shrimp dumplings to start while we looked over the menu. We toasted the holidays and friendship and adventure, then ordered the following:

Salmon Tempura Roll: Salmon tempura, bacon, crispy white cheese & onion tempura & topped with sweet plantain, grilled steak or chicken, spicy kani and sofrito. (We chose steak, naturally, and no, this is not a joke).

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Hot Mama Roll: Tuna tartar, smoked salmon, cucumber, avocado & jalapeno, topped with sweet plantain and ginger.

Shrimp Teriyaki Bento Box: swerved with miso soup, white rice and a California roll.

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We ate and drank, swept up in the atmosphere. There was house music playing, and a general feeling that the room was about to party once the karaoke machine got fired up. There was also a great feeling of love in the air. Susana had a very infectious love for her restaurant and for her loyal customers. And she welcomed us right into the vibes.

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The food was… Well… what would you expect with that extreme combination of flavors? A bursting explosion in your mouth? That’s what I hoped for. And while there weren’t any oral nuclear explosions, the food did taste pretty good. Not wildly amazing, but pretty good. Probably because of all the love that went into the preparation. Love tastes good, doesn’t it? There’s a difference when something is prepared with pride. And I will definitely give Mama Sushi that.

Then the karaoke started. Susana, Mama Sushi, sang first. She belted out a heartfelt ballad in Spanish, on a wireless mic, wandering through the restaurant and serenading her customers. I swear I saw Tania get teary-eyed during the performance but she claims otherwise. It was a very moving and special performance to witness nonetheless.

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We did feel a little bit trapped, like when is the right time to dash for the door? Definitely not mid-song. But we were ready to trek back to Brooklyn after our meal (and tres leches for dessert). So after Susana’s performance, we got up to leave. She blocked our path and asked on the microphone why we were going. Of course. No quiet exits for the likes of us.  I said we just wanted to hear her sing, but we had to head home. She liked that. Though once we were outside, we did hear her say into the microphone:

Los Gringos no cantan.

Haha. Los Gringos no cantan. I guess we were the gringos. And I guess we didn’t sing, but I’ve been known to tear up a karaoke performance, so that’s not entirely true. But that night it was not in the cards. I wanted to get back to Brooklyn to snuggle into bed with my boyfriend, and Tania and Andy wanted to stop by a bar to see a friend DJ on the way home. We had other things to do.

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But we left with the love of the restaurant vibrating through our bones. Or at least a slight buzz from the crazy cocktails and the subsequent rounds of Asahi. I personally felt warm just with the feeling that we were witness to a very special moment in time. And that’s what I love about this project. We are observers and participants in all the nooks and crannies of our city. We go off the beaten track and find that other people are trying to live and love too, just like us.

Things got a little funny on the train ride home though.

You thought I was wrapping up a sweet tale of holiday cheer? Well, let’s not forget how crazy the holiday times make us too.

There was a man in a bright orange suit and an ankle-length black fur coat on board with us. He sat there with a friend and we didn’t think too much of him, other than the fact that he had a fantastic outfit on. When his friend left the train a few stops down the line, he got up and started ranting. Now, I usually tune out people’s rants, but this guy was loud and aggressive. He went on and on about how he was responsible for everyone on the train’s freedom, how he fought for us, and how no one appreciates what he’s done for the country, etc. etc. Things got sticky when he stood face to face with a couple of Hispanic guys and basically told them they had no right to be in our country.

Yuck.

Then somehow, a rather large woman got involved—hands in faces and yelling and all of that—when suddenly she was kicking the shit out of him with her umbrella. He fought back, sure. But she was winning. When the train pulled into the next stop, we moved out of that car and informed the driver there was a fight going on.

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And there we sat in the station at 163rd Street. Waiting for the police to come. While the crazy man stood on the platform yelling more off-color remarks about the people on the train.

While we were waylaid, Tania pulled out her Christmas card supplies. Yes, this is what I love about Tania. We’re delayed so we may as well write Christmas cards? It’s so deeply Tania that I smile just thinking about it. That’s what we did. While we waited for the police to come and for the craziness to die down, I wrote a card to Tania, Tania wrote to Andy, and Andy wrote to me.

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Once we finally got moving, at the next stop another character boarded the train. She entered calling everyone her sugar boo-boos, and when the driver announced we would be operating express she exclaimed with utter joy:

YES! YES! PRAISE JESUS! I’m going to see my man! Express! YES! God is good! Thank you Lord! Thank you Jesus!

Guess she was excited to go see her man too.

With the announcement at the next stop of the express stops, she made the same grand exclamations! YES! God is good!

Then promptly fell asleep. Guess all that excitement wore her out.

Wore us out too. I was happy to crawl into bed with my sugar boo-boo, full of the magic and adventure of the evening. He asked me how it was, and I said: Well, you’re just going to have to read the post, aren’t you?

YES!

6 Train Downtown

Back to the Bridge

By: Tania

I have put off writing this post for quite a while now. The events of this end of the line dining experience were the perfect intersection of our young selves and our still young, albeit slightly older, selves – and I figured I would not forget. So here goes from my foggy memory with digital assistance.

Bonnie and I met on the platform of the 6 train in Union Square at 7:30 for a short trip downtown to Brooklyn Bridge. I know this because of the following text still in my phone’s crystal clear memory: “Meet on the platform yeah? Front-ish car? See you at 7:30.” It is likely a safe bet that I was 5 minutes late, and I slightly recall running so that we could board the approaching train.

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Hopstop tells me the ride should have been between 7 and 9 minutes long – and that sounds about right. We were going for simple.

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We exited the train at City Hall Park, night having already fallen. Downtown Manhattan is abuzz in the daytime, but is not what you would call a happening place at night. Many of the eating establishments, mostly chains, close after the work crowd clears.

We decided to wander along the periphery of the park, and what should we come across?

A fountain. The very same fountain where we stood 13 years ago. You may recall Bonnie’s eloquent description in the 1 train to South Ferry post “One day, we went to City Hall Park (most likely after a Brooklyn Bridge walk), and we found a fountain. In that fountain we made wishes, and Tania reminded me how she felt with the penny in her fingertips (must have been in 2000 or maybe early 2001). She said she can only remember a couple times in her life when she felt so happy and satisfied that she honestly didn’t know what to wish for. And there was a kind of charmed feeling in the air.

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So there we were again. Happy and satisfied, but not without wishes and certainly not on our way to the Tavern on the Green. Bonnie and I made cast our pennies into the water (we will let you know what they are once they come true, and I have a feeling they will), took some pictures and moved on. The fountain is still magical, but there seemed to be some strange characters lurking on the benches, and we were hungry.

We decided to take a turn onto one of the smaller cobblestone streets. Ann Street is one of the oldest streets in New York, but beyond the cobblestone, the construction and modern establishments mask its beautiful age. It is hard to imagine that this was once the site of PT Barnum’s museum in the 1800’s, home to the celebrated midget “General Tom Thumb” and the “Fiji Mermaid”.

I would venture to say that downtown Manhattan has received a rather ugly modern face lift. I take a look and think she would have been much prettier if she just aged naturally. You can still see the beauty in a few of the remaining building facades and though a lit window here and there, but you have to pay attention.

Bonnie and I are naturally window peekers. We spied a mysterious, opulent parlor in an otherwise abandoned and gutted building. It was like the entire thing was being demolished save for that one room….a room that we knocked on and could not gain access to. We also spied the back window of 121 Fulton Street, and it looked inviting enough to us. The menu did not really impress, but it was nice enough, and I was glad to see that if we dined long enough, I would be able to see the Giants game on one of the TV screens (the one and only time I am ever happy to see a TV in a dining establishment). As most of you know, the Giants have already won the World Series (YAY)….that is how long I have dragged my feet on this post!

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As usual, we decided to share. Unfortunately, the only picture I took of the menu was the ‘Spicy & Jammy’ wine list. Judging from the pictures, our slightly forgettable but better than expected dinner consisted of an artichoke dip with tortilla chips, tuna tartar and a salad with grilled shrimp. It was solid bar food, and we enjoyed it with a glass of wine each.

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After dinner, we debated on whether or not to take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. As mentioned in a previous post or two, Brooklyn Bridge was the place that Bonnie and I went together our first year in college when we needed to clear our heads. Our serene place. The rules were as follows – no turning around until you reach the mid-way point of the Bridge, then quickly turn around and enjoy the view. Take in the whole experience in one glance. The view, centered on the World Trade Center, took your breath away. We came here many times together and would bring our nearest and dearest when they came to visit.

I don’t believe Bonnie and I have been to the bridge together since before September 11th, and certainly not since the new WTC has been built. We decided to go for it. We talked about how our 18-year-old selves would feel about our 34-year-old selves and the lives we have led up until this point. We agreed that our 18 year old selves would have thought we would have had children and had settled down by now – but would have been proud of the lives we have led and the people we have become.

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We turned around a quarter of the way across the bridge and were underwhelmed. Maybe it’s because the view is different, or because we did not follow our own rules. We agreed that next time we meet on the bridge that we won’t half ass it. I still have faith in the view ahead.

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N Train Uptown

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N is for Nature/Nurture

Noted by: BoNnie

A few years ago, my parents had a trip planned to see me in New York (they live in California). My dad had just had hip replacement surgery though, and wasn’t quite up for flying. These were the doctor’s orders, not his, for if you know the man, you know he’d rather be right back into the ocean with his scuba gear strapped to his back than be a patient in the sick bed. He doesn’t milk it, is what I’m saying, though maybe my mom would have a different opinion as his stay-at-home-nurse. Anyway, the point of this is that my mom, instead of cancelling her trip, decided to come out without him.

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There is a man growing out of my head.

I’m one of those unusual people with parents that are still married (weird, right?) and as such, I tend to experience them as a unit. My weekly phone calls are even with both of them on the line. What transpired that first mom and daughter time in NYC was so special to us that we’ve made it an annual tradition. We tend to do the things that we probably wouldn’t do if Dad were around. Not saying it’s better or worse, just saying it’s something special—something that’s just ours.

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Yes, this is my mom with Randy Jackson. This was during her last trip, but not during the End of the Line Dining 🙂

We’ve been to many subversive theatrical experiences (a Joey Arias extravaganza complete with penises in various forms, and many FringeNYC productions); we’ve partaken in drunken feasts at Roberta’s; and we’ve traipsed around the underbelly of Brooklyn (at least the parts that are sort of mom-friendly, though my mom can handle much more than you might think!)

All that lead up is just to say that Mom was in town, we were due up for an End of the Line trip, I hadn’t seen Tania’s mom in ages (she’s a short train ride away in Connecticut), and so everything was in place for the double mother-daughter subway extravaganza. And while I’ve said my mom can handle more than you might think, we still wanted to choose one of the easier end of the line destinations, and therefore it was to be the N Train to Astoria.

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I’ve always loved Tania’s mom, Sally Jo. She’s got a spirit that is contagious. I find her to be deeply interested in the world around her, and not afraid to live life to the fullest. She’s not afraid, for example, to ask for a taste of something on the menu when she doesn’t want to get the whole thing (you never know, right?) and she’s always up for a good time. From the year that Tania and I lived in the dorms together and she’d make her periodical visits to the city, to the Thanksgivings I spent with her family, and even some time in San Francisco at the Museum Mechanique sharing a good chuckle with “Laughing Sal”, I’ve always enjoyed my time with her. Most of all I love how much Sally loves Tania. It’s apparent in her every action.

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Laughing Sal

Getting to know someone’s parents really reveals a lot about a person. And I always find it fascinating to meet someone’s maker, so to speak. But if you mash that together with your own maker then you’ve got multiple levels of relating going on. It’s pretty special energy. I think back to the years living with my parents, and which of my friends’ parents my own got along with. There weren’t any great friendships formed from it. Parents are sort of just forced into interaction during the years that their kids choose to spend time together. There is no guarantee that they will like each other just because their kids do.

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I’m happy to report though that it seemed like Tania’s mom and my mom liked each other just fine. Did they exchange contact information and will they keep in touch? Well, no, but we just completed a circle in a way. A circle of understanding.

Okay, long winded intro is up.

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We met on the Union Square platform of the N train to trek up for our second journey to Astoria (the first being the Q train a year ago). The train was rushing into the station, and we could see each other down the platform, so we all ran to meet in the center car, and just made it as the doors closed.

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After catching our breath, the introductions were made. We chatted about my mom’s trip, did some reminiscing, and before we knew it we were on the streets of Astoria. As we strolled along, Sally shared a particularly amusing story about a mugger whose attack weapon was a dildo (!!), as we headed in the direction of a restaurant that this helpful Astoria resident recommended:

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Thanks, friendly neighborhood guy!

Along the walk, we were all in agreement that there were some very beautiful gardens to look at. Both our moms tend a garden. My mom has her tomatoes and her zucchinis, and Tania’s mom grows all kinds of things from flowers to vegetables. I’m the one of the bunch with the brown thumb. I manage to keep a cat alive just fine, but I even killed an aloe plant which barely needs to be watered, so you catch my drift. Still I love a fresh vegetable or flower so kudos to those who have that kind of patience.

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We travelled down Ditmars Blvd and arrived at the recommended destination.

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Tania and I both felt a little uneasy about it though. The menu looked a little whatever, and we wanted to take a quick peek down the road at the remaining possibilities. Since we had been walking for some time, we left our moms in their chairs while we continued the exploration. Just to be sure.

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There was a park right on the next block by the water (Astoria Park), and a corner restaurant that seemed to be more interesting and lively. We made the choice to move our mothers there without even looking at the menu to see what type of cuisine it was.

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Which turned out to be Greek. Fine with us! When in Rome, errrr, Astoria!

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We agreed to share food and we all have our little nitpicks—no meat but fish for Tania, no lamb or mushrooms for me, no eggplant for my mom—which presented a small challenge but we got through it quickly, and came around to these items:

Spinach Pie Authentic Greek

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Greek Salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, feta cheese, olives)

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Tzantziki (yogurt, cucumber, mild garlic*, dill spread)

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* uhhhh, the garlic was not mild at all, but I do like it garlicky!

Traditional Saganaki (baked cheese)

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Dolmades Yialantzi (hand rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs)

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Grilled Shrimp

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Mom refused to take a picture with her face and the shrimp’s face

That was topped off with three glasses of red wine to start our afternoon off right. They brought us bread and butter, which we devoured (my emergency pretzel stash in my bag had held us off before the walk, but we were starving by the time we sat down to eat!)

The food was delicious. My mom has a slight problem with decapitating shrimp (sorry, Mom, but those actually are little animals with eyes and heads that we are eating), but otherwise we enjoyed everything. Even without the taste of lamb stew that Tania’s mom wanted. They did send us a complimentary dessert. And you know what the best tasting dessert is, right?

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We strolled through the park afterward and snapped these shots:

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Then spent some time with the pooches that were up for adoption and hanging around the park.

Sally made the comment that I’m more like she is and that Tania is more like my mom. Well, we were born just three days apart from each other, maybe we were switched at birth! Though that’d be hard between a New Jersey and a California hospital.

It’s funny to think of that, actually. Here are these two women on opposite sides of the country, pregnant at the exact same time with two girls that were destined to find each other as sisters one day. There’s something kind of witchy about it, if you ask me. Something that can trip me out if I think about it too long.

People exist on their own tracks and spheres and then suddenly those worlds collide and everything changes. By that token, as those two women birthed and reared the two of us, we at the same time decided to apply to NYU, got accepted, and then ended up in the same dorm room together. How do we find anyone? Stuff like that still feels like magic to me. The romantic in me can still hope that my man is wondering in some sphere right now and when we collide it will be fireworks.

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Anyway, this End of the Line trip was magical in its own way. There’s magic in the creation of another person I think, and then it’s so interesting to think of what that person got from their parents. I like to think that I got my dad’s determination and ferocity, but that those qualities are tempered with my mother’s generosity and kindness. Tania says from her mom she got the love and ability to appreciate the the subtleties in life like a flower or the way a dog’s ear flops.

Those people passed those things on to us, and then I could list off a million great things that have happened in my life as a direct result of Tania. I consider Tania to be my family. My own parents have always been very fond of Tania, and regularly ask how she’s doing. I bet they too can get tripped out thinking about us two kiddos in the dorms at NYU in 1998 and where we’ve come to since. My dad (not so) secretly hoping that I’d have taken a similar path to Tania’s. But really, we are on the same path, still. After all our many twists and turns. We’re here. We’re family.

And she didn’t even have to marry my little brother for that to happen.

So, Στην υγειά σου! To family and all its many shapes and forms!

(That was “Cheers” in Greek, if you couldn’t tell!)

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