Monday, January 18, 2010

Found Weekend

An ode to oatmeal: After making my porridge from the brands, 360 Organic, Best Old Style, and Quaker Oats, I can tell you -- I like the Quaker. It's what I know, it reminds me of childhood, it tastes best. This is not a paid advertisement!

So, the weekend I decided to take in this village that I have lived in for 13 years.

Since my apartment can be a distraction -- part bachelor pad, part museum, part library, and part womb, I needed to continue writing my screenplays somewhere more inspiring.

I went to the 100 year old New York City Public Library on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. It's one of the most beautiful buildings in the world - second only, in personal inspiration, to the Opera House in Budapest (I've included photos of both).

The jewel in the crown is easily the Rose Reading Room - an enormous, majestic and dramatic room in the finest Beaux-Arts style. I sat down in the heavy wooden chair in space 488 at one of the banquetesque tables which would rival anything commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House castle during Elizabethian times (Of all the famous castles in England, why would I chose this one? Because I grew up in Chatsworth, California up from Devonshire Street -- now, which one came first [CA, or UK] is a matter of intense debate!).

It takes a few minutes...OK, a half hour, before you can refocus your senses on the work in front of you. I wrote on my laptop until closing time -- which is announced not by a security guard whispering to the egalitarian mass of readers that the day is at end, rather, but by the very abrupt manner of shutting off the lights in this cavernous castle of books. There is no such thing as a "soft" closing at the New York Public Library.

It was dinner time so I met my friend, Ms. Skeptical Doctor, at a diner for some salad and lentil soup...I'll save my Greek diner trips for when, and if, I dive back into omelettes or gyros.

The next day I headed out to Brooklyn Heights to the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) museum. Built in an old subway station, this museum has subway cars going back to the early 1900's. Sitting on one of these old cars you immediately see where the nickname, still used today, for subway riders, "Strap-hangers," came from. These old cars had nylon straps to hang onto. As a testament to my new lifestyle, and endeavor, I looked at the old fashioned ads that ran the length of the subway above the windows, just like today, and thought of the diets of the people that crowded into this 100 year old subway car. Really, dude? You thought of people's diets? Well, yeah, I did. I remembered reading how in those pre- preservative days that people back then ate half, to 1/3 the amount of sugars, fats and oils than we do today. One of the questions I had for Dr. Fuhrman, who is obviously quite critical of the old accepted standard of nutrition - the four food groups - was why children were so much healthier and thinner back in the day, with less cases of heart disease in adults. The main reason, besides a sedentary livelihood of today's children, is the obnoxiously high amount of saturated fats, and preservatives in today's food. So, since the days of riding on this subway car built in the early 1900's we have had some amazing advancements in clean food preparedness and refrigeration, but the advancements in chemicals for our food has decreased our general health precipitously.

What's the best way to figure out which are the healthiest foods to eat without a degree in chemistry? Easy - eat mostly what is grown. Takes out the guess work, and takes out the unhealthy toxins in your body.

Brooklyn Heights is not too far from the Brooklyn Bridge so I decided to walk back to the city.

Succumbing to my once or twice a week vice, I grabbed a cigar for the walk home.

Strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge at night, smoking a cigar, listening to my iPod, looking at the vista that is New York City was awesome. The span is over a mile, and the confluence of history, and beauty is second to none. The walk put me in a terrific state of mind as I looked upon this giant marvel of a bridge, the vast East River below, and one of the largest metropolises in the world. What I did not feel was that I did not feel small. Actually, I felt quite large -- it is my life that I am changing, and walking in lighter steps with a firm control over my eating and drinking habits I felt exhilarated!

Once in Manhattan I walked a few steps over to a small clapboard red building flirting on the penumbra of that iconic stone wonder of the world. In this three story, 200 year old building at 279 Water Street is the Bridge Cafe. Reportedly, the oldest drinking establishment in New York City, the Bridge Cafe is nothing like I expected. Whereas many of the oldest saloons in NYC wear its age, dust, decaying crevices, and antique fixtures with pride (McSorley's, Pete's Tavern, Old Town Tavern, White Horse Tavern, and the newly renovated P.J. Clarke's), the Bridge Cafe looks like a colonial structure on the outside, with an interior of simple, clean, steady charm.

The history is there -- a deep and documented history. But, what separates this one-time brothel to local seamen, and dockworkers of the early 19th Century from other historic taverns is the food. In a word: spectacular.

Drinking a non-alcoholic beer while staring at one of the finest collections of bourbon and scotch I have seen, I chatted with Adam the bartender, who's family has owned the place for the past 30 years. Debates about the oldest bar in NYC are as animated as debates about the best steak house, but my new friend was not recalcitrant in the Bridge Cafe's "oldest" moniker, rather he was a scholarly sponge of NYC bar history - one of my favorite topics to discuss. He is also a vegetarian, and his impact on the exceptional menu is this: amongst the delicious looking meat, fowl, and fish, are fantastic vegetarian and vegan dishes.

I ordered the three bean soup which even without any chicken stock was hearty, healthy, and fantastic - especially on a cold January evening. The vegetarian Spanish tapas appetizer was one of the best I ever tasted. Minced olives, delectable peppers, and very, very, very lightly fried artichoke hearts. My meal was the sort that erased any memory of my current vegan, read "healthy," quest - it was just damn good food!

I ended the evening at the Merc Bar, a lounge in SOHO, at a friend's party where my diet came up for discussion again. Naturally. It was nice to hear that one of the guys from my Halloween night (Vegan Eve) whom I had not seen since then had trouble recognizing me.

That evening there was the same debate of when I would re-introduce liquor into my diet, and the more it is discussed the more I think I will keep the non-drinking and veganism in lockstep to the end.

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