Tuesday, August 20, 2013

where I live

I live in a neighborhood in south Brooklyn that few people have ever heard of, even other Brooklynites. I'd like to keep it that way. Too many Brooklyn neighborhoods have of late been colonized by youngish people priced out of Manhattan, and their new neighborhoods have become trendy and expensive (Williamsburg, for instance, and Greenpoint and Bushwick). Ours may not be at risk of falling victim to this trend as we're not very close to Manhattan, but I'm still not going to name it. Suffice is to say that we're somewhat near Sheepshead Bay.

It had been a working-class Italian neighborhood, but most of the Italians are gone. There are still a few Italian grocery stores and restaurants. But for the most part, the neighborhood is mixed working-class. Avenue U is the main drag. On the opposite side of U from where we live, there is a colony of rich Orthodox Syrian Jews, who live in large private homes. So we also have a decent smattering of kosher food stores and other stores that cater to the wealthy (designer clothing, fancy tabletop goods, fine jewelry). It's basically a safe, family-oriented neighborhood.

There are a number of industrial businesses under the elevated subway line (about five blocks from us); the jewelry company where I used to work is one of them. There are quite a few factories and auto repair shops. It's the only stretch of the neighborhood that's less than pleasant. Quite a few Mexicans and South Americans work there, so there are some Mexican businesses near the subway - including a little grocery where I can always get good mangoes and avocados.

The only thing we don't really have is a good supermarket. There's a Met Food about fifteen blocks away, but it's a pretty old market, narrow aisles etc., and I don't trust any of their perishables. But they're not bad for packaged foods. There's an excellent Shop-Rite a few subway stops away - we used to shop there, carry our perishables back on the train, and have the rest delivered. But they won't deliver to our area any more. We used Fresh Direct for a while (shop online and they deliver), but we had problems with spoiled meat a few times (though they always gave a store credit, no questions asked), and the prices aren't that great. So we're back to mixed shopping. Paper goods and cat products at a few cheapie places nearby; chicken and pork and beef from an Italian deli; other groceries, wherever. Produce is a bit of a problem. A wonderful kosher produce store closes during the summer, and is only open on weekdays the rest of the year. There is a really shitty produce market up toward Met Food; every time I go in there, everything looks pretty icky except the bananas. I shop some at the Union Square Greenmarket, near my office, especially this time of year, when there are great tomatoes and stone fruit. I've recently discovered Trader Joe's, also near my office, which has canned tuna at a great price and other useful groceries. It's basically impossible to get a decent loaf of whole-grain bread where I live, so I've been buying unsliced loaves at the Greenmarket, but just discovered whole-grain bread at Trader Joe's for a dollar less. (Counting pennies, as always.)

We have a great mom-and-pop pharmacy near us for prescriptions, and a Rite-Aid for discount-drug-store stuff (cosmetics, shampoo, deodorant). We have a store called Meats Supreme which is good for cold cuts, but we've gotten spoiled meat from them as well. (Got a couple of well-priced and excellent packs of beef and pork from Trader Joe' recently.)

For fish, we're a short bus ride from the second-largest Chinatown in Brooklyn, with many groceries full of gently priced fresh seafood. You can get salmon fillet at $5.99 a pound, which is mostly what I crave. We also sometimes buy white fillets of some sort (sole, flounder, etc) and occasionally shrimp. There is a kosher fish market a few blocks from where we live, but it is quite expensive and of course you can't get things like shrimp.

I don't consider our neighborhood all that great for walking, and we don't have a park of any sort. But we're decently close to Coney Island (a few train stops) and not that far from Prospect Park (two buses).

We've been there about six years and doubt we'll be moving any time soon (although we'd love a bigger apartment). It's still cheap, we have a good landlord, and you need all kind of good credit and hefty income to rent an apartment these days.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

odds and ends

Here are me, my mane, and Raghu Dixit. My phone was out of juice, and Barry is not good with his camera, so Raghu had someone take the pic with his phone and then posted it to Twitter.

So many random things on my mind...

I work a block from the Union Square Greenmarket, which is the best farmer's market in the city, and especially wonderful in the summer. Yesterday I came home with: local peaches, local nectarines, two kinds of plums (shiro and Santa Rosa), a quart of small heirloom tomatoes, a couple of Kirby cucumbers, French breakfast radishes (very mild), and a couple of young, mild red onions. Ate tuna last night mixed with chopped onion, tomatoes, cucumber and radishes. When I'm there, I tend to buy as much as I can carry. Barry is especially fond of the heirloom tomatoes. He loves tomatoes, but they're basically horrible and flavorless for most of the year. Most tomatoes have been bred to travel well and to be "attractive" (round shape), so most of them end up kind of hard and mealy...they look good but don't taste like much. "Heirlooms" are grown from old, non-hybrid seeds, and are grown outdoors and in season (as opposed to year-round in greenhouses), so they not only taste wonderful, but they're bumpy and delicate and irregular and all kinds of wild colors. When they're around, we basically eat them with everything, or eat them plain, and then buy more.

Splurged a bit today (hey, it's payday) at Sephora on a rollerball of Marc Jacobs' Honey. I got some small samples a week or so ago, and I love it, which is no small thing, considering that I am way picky about cologne and have only ever liked wearing a handful: Bellodgia (Caron), Coco (Chanel), Rush (Gucci), and Escape (Calvin Klein). I've tried others, but those are the ones I return to over and over. I go to Sephora a lot and just walk around and look at things, and always feel rather daring when I actually buy something, since you're basically spending at least $15 for a single item. And my inner cheapskate comes out when I look at $23 lipsticks, no matter how nice they are. I also bought a facial treatment I really like, an at-home facial peel. It's for daily use (yeah, right), but a box of five lasts me a month and only costs $15.

This is Patricia, who does cat rescue and set up near my office on nice days. She's a little wacky, but I love her to pieces. She never lets anyone touch the cats - but she lets me. This is earlier today - she's bottle-feeding three-week-old kittens. I admired one of them today, and she just handed it to me. We've tried to adopt from her a couple of times, and as much as she likes Barry and me, and knows we are long-time cat owners, she stalled and stalled and made excuses until we gave up. She kept saying she had to check this and that with her sister, that her sister would call us, and it never happened, even when we were trying to adopt an older cat - we thought she'd let him go easily, since older cats are much harder to place than little kittens. Still, since she lets me hold tiny kittens, we're still pals.