Commuter: Volume 1

I got a job in New York City. Previously, I avoided visiting friends in the city because I had an inordinate fear of public transportation. Faring just fine in the underground of Washington DC, I was convinced that the New York City subway was different. Growing up, we saw plays as a family in the city and shared fancy meals sporadically.  Blue collar, we indulged in the majesty of the big city for birthdays and holidays predominately, or some fridays to get scungili at a hole in the wall in Little Italy. We always drove, piling in to the car with snacks and the latest traveling companion, be it a doll which evolved into a puzzle, which evolved into a smart phone. I had never ridden the subway alone and can count on one hand the number of times I rode with a friend. I was afraid of it perhaps because I hadn't experienced it enough. 


The first three weeks of my position as a Community Manager at Bullfrog+Baum, a place I had longed to work since graduation, I took three different routes. My second day of work there was a blizzard, and in two weeks, two derailments at Penn Station. Strong start, I know.  Needless to say I have adopted the Hoboken route and file into the Path each morning with the other worker bees. My dear friend Doug helped me navigate the first day, coaching me where to get on and where to get off. My brother Mike is a commuter too so I screenshot his patient instructions and cling to them. A month in, it finally feels smooth and rhythmic. I've taken the subway alone a few times now to different client meetings around the city, my colleagues all exceedingly helpful and tolerant of my travel neurosis. I know people desire to stand out, but when it comes to travel, I want to fit in. I don't want to look lost, or nervous. I want to earn the badge of a proper commuter.


There is something inexplicably romantic about a train. We are sharing a confined space for a brief moment in time, heading in the same direction to very different destinations.  Whose brow is furrowed with concern over financial hardship, who came from a fight with a loved one, who had to peel themselves away from the arms of their partner? I wonder if anyone is running away. Or fleeing for the comfort of home. 


Most people keep their heads down or in a device. This dance is the routine and there is no need for human connection. This is the means to earn a living. I'm still bright eyed and amazed by the crunch of the metal in the vestibules, the patience of the conductors, and the passing scenery in the clouded window. I have this peculiar fixation with eye contact. I like to smile at strangers but oddly enough only if they seem open to that type of exchange. Some are not and stonewall the attempt. Others like the mother struggling to keep her child's Johnny Rocket balloon contained in a crowded train, is more than happy to engage. 

More soon, this is my stop.  

Chelsea Market

After work at Miss Martha's one afternoon, rather than go straight home, I met a dear friend of mine for dinner and a show in the lovely NYC. We walked considerably far, I suppose anything is far when it is smoldering, and stumbled upon one of my favorite places of all time: Chelsea Market. From a foodie's perspective, it is heaven on Earth, home to some of the most unique quality retailers. From a healthy eater's perspective, however, it poses a bit of a challenge. The first hallway we traversed, we passed three bakeries...among them the Fat Witch Bakery. They make specialty brownies of all delectable sorts, among other yum yums. Let's just say it took very much will power to keep walking.

For dinner we settled on Friedman's Lunch, and despite the enticing option of Macaroni and Cheese, I chose the Vegetable and Hummus sandwich on toasted sourdough; I had some turkey added. The sandwich included sprouts, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and for good measure a bit of avocado. It was filling, luckily, and lovely coupled with some brewed mint iced tea. Sadly, it was not much compared to my friend Catherine's pastrami on rye, but it was a good lesson in self-control.

After dinner we went to Buonitalia Italian market and my mouth fell to the floor, in salivation. The rows of imported Italian specialties reminded me fondly of the summer I spent in L'Aquila, Abruzzo, my freshman year of college. It happened to be the very place I met Catherine so it was a special moment of nostalgia for us. Let us pause and pledge allegiance to prosciutto and other cured meats... Yum. Again, I had to practice admirable self control in this place. I walked by each item, reading each label, and appreciating the quality of the foods. I did not purchase all I would have liked to but I did admire that culinary palace. I managed to buy my nana and mama their favorite Italian cookies, biscotti con panna. I enjoy watching other people eat the things I wish I could, oddly enough. I have one bite and share the experience without the overindulgence and crippling guilt of eating one too many biscotti.

One our way out, Catherine grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from Jacque Torres' fine chocolate shop... I elected to eat one the Chocolate Chip Spiced Cupcakes I made instead; they happen to be a yummy WW recipe. The cookie did have huge chocolate chunks folded into the batter but the residual grease left over at the end was not the most appealing. The aroma of a nearby Creperie was phenomenal and I do think that the entire experience was a good test for me. I must say, I passed with flying colors. I did not purchase any items from the Gift Basket store as I often do, snacking for days on unnecessary calories. No milkshake from Ronnibrook Dairy, no baguette from Amy's Bread, nor vat of Nutella from Buonitalia. I am quite proud. When I hit my next weight goal, I will return for one of those cookies though, but for now I can do without.

We walked to the subway and found the theatre just in time... We saw the New York Musical Theatre Festival's Best of Fest and it was PHENOMENAL. Really a spectacular display which showcased up and coming composers, shows, and talent. I was drooling, this time not over cookies, but over talented young men. Sadly most of them had significant others....other dreadfully talented young men. Sigh...

Regardless I forwent drinks and snacks at the theatre and simply enjoyed the performance, a new sentiment for me. Who does not love the Kit Kats at intermission, I ask you. But all in all it was yet another artistic/culinary experience, with many more to come.