Note: This story was supposed to run in Our Town Downtown‘s print edition. It was cut. Alas! Instead, it ran online.
In the beginning, I took a dive. Rather, I took to dives, spending my early twenties wrapped in the stiff embrace of cheap gin and tonics served by bartenders with one foot in the grave, the other itching to kick misbehaving boozers in the can.
Though I’d like to recall this era otherwise, the fact is that I was miserable. I worked a dead-end gig at a porn publisher, cranking out fantasies that’d make my mom blush—especially the mother-son scenarios. I earned just enough to buy the post-work drinks that numbed the pain of writing about the sex I wasn’t having. It was an ugly circle that ensured a steady diet of hangovers and self-loathing.
After summoning the guts to quit, I appraised my life: I liked drinking and I liked writing. Why not combine the two passions? I dragged myself out of bars long enough to pitch magazines, websites and newspapers. Most turned me down. One took a flyer on an unknown writer: the New York Press. Then-editor Jeff Koyen gave me a weekly column on a subject dear to my liver—bars. Continue reading
Posted in Beer
Tagged Beer, Brewed Awakening, cheap gin, Dive Bars, georgi vodka, gin and tonics, Gut Instinct, Holiday Cocktail Lounge, honky tonk, New York City, victory prima pils
Note: This is actually my final New York Press column. So long, fair newspaper.
New York is caught in the claws of lobster fever, the latest stop on the city’s food trend bus. One minute, folks are frothing over the latest Pat LaFrieda–blend burger. The next, everyone’s gone gaga for fried chicken or perhaps pizza with a crust as thin as my patience for dealing with fleeting fads.
As a grub and grog journalist, I’m duty bound to ID trends, then call bullshit the instant restaurants board the bandwagon. Food trucks and meatballs, methinks you’ve jumped the shark. Let me tell you, covering food trends can be a tedious, ceaseless merry-go-round. New York is unable to appreciate superlative standbys. “New” rules the urban roost, and the city’s old roosters barely merit a mention until they’re sentenced to the chopping block. May I sing you another Mars Bar requiem?
The recent death of the New York Press marked the end of Mondays as I’ve known them. Allow me to explain:
I moved to New York City on Halloween weekend 2000, my sights set on, well, nothing. I did not relocate to this town to make it big in journalism. I came here because I was offered a free bedroom in Astoria, Queens. My only other option was moving back home with my parents in Ohio and sharing a bunk bed with my little brother. He sometimes snores.
In the beginning, I kept my journalism degree hidden in a drawer. Instead of trying to earn a living slinging words, I instead temped for fashion companies including Prada and Gucci, for whom I stood statue still in a hallway and informed customers that the elevator was out of service. At the end of my second day as a Gucci statue, my supervisor asked me how I liked the job. “I feel like I’m wasting my college degree,” I said, honesty getting in the way of ass kissing. I was not called back for a third day. Continue reading
Behold! My sausage flag!
“You’re not wearing your flesh-colored bathing suit,” my fiancée told me last Sunday morn.
“It’s my birthday!” I said. She shook her head and narrowed her eyes as if my words were the noonday sun, a look I’ll have plenty of time to get used to over the ensuing, oh, 40 or 50 years. “Just because you’re turning 33 doesn’t mean that you should look like you’re nude. You blend into the sand.” Dear readers, that’s the point of wearing a scandalously short swimsuit the approximate color of a Caucasian. Continue reading
Behold! The almighty Cuisinart!
When I was a newly minted teenager, wrestling with unruly hairs in unfamiliar places, my mother gave me a gift that would steer the direction of my culinary life.
“Josh,” she said, “they had an amazing sale at Kroger”—our local southwestern-Ohio grocer. “I bought you a Cuisinart food processor.” Like one of Barker’s Beauties from The Price Is Right, she enthusiastically showed off the multipurpose food processor packing sharp chopping implements. I was blindsided by silence. Why’d she buy me a Cuisinart? We already owned one, which I used to blend stir-fry sauces composed of soy sauce, ginger, garlic and a splash of sesame oil.
Instead of saying “thank you,” I wondered why. “It’s not for now,” she said. “It’s for when you go to college.” At the time, I was still navigating the uncertain waters of middle school. I was more concerned with my first kiss, a moment that would have to wait till I was nearly 16, seated in a powder-blue Toyota Tercel while Taco Bell nachos congealed in my lap. Continue reading
Meet He Nan Flavor’s fab black bean sauce lo mein noodles. Photo: Flickr/Eating in Translation
“Hon, hon!” I called, summoning my fiancée to my desk. “Come quick!” She dropped her Us Weekly and sauntered over. “What’s so important?” she wondered, miffed that I shattered her R&R. “Look!” I said, pointing to the news broadcast on my computer screen: Flushing restaurant Henan Feng Wei had opened an outpost in Manhattan’s Chinatown. “Really? You called me over to tell me that?” “It’s amazing,” I said, smiling wide enough to worry the Joker. “It’s… something,” she said, returning to celebrity gossip. I know, I know. Most New Yorkers, even the ones who love me most, probably greeted this news—if it even rated on their radar—with the same shoulder-shrugging befuddlement I have when I hear of American Idol also-rans. Each person geeks out differently. And for this hard-core fan of Far East eats, the announcement was groundbreaking. Continue reading
My search: “sad drunk.” The result? A six-year-old girl. Internet, you scare me.
“I’m going to read you something,” my fiancée says, pulling her computer close to her peepers.
“For men going through a midlife crisis, one of the top complaints is the lack of close friends.”
“I think I’m about 15 years away from a midlife crisis,” I reply. “It’s not like I have a hankering to buy a cherry-red Porsche and go clubbing to hit on cocktail waitresses— yet.” She rolls her eyes, knowing an emotional dodge when she sees one. “You know what I mean,” she says, clicking on an episode of The Biggest Loser.