Friday, February 12, 2016

New York Bagels

What is a New York bagel? Don't be fooled by its many imitators: a New York bagel is something special. A bagel should be slightly chewy but not tire your jaw. It must be fresh and contain no preservatives. A New York bagel is one of those things that you recognize when you eat it.
A real bagel is made in the authentic New York tradition: dough is made and kneaded, then it's boiled in a kettle, and finally it's baked in an oven to make the outside crispy. Some companies shorten the process by steam-cooking but their products don't deserve to be called bagels; they're soft and flavorless.
Our local newspaper recently reported on a nationwide search for the best bagel in America -- and the winner was a store on Long Island. This shouldn't surprise anyone; bagels are a way of life here. I think there's a law that every strip-mall on Long Island must contain at least one bagel store.
The winning store (A&S Bagels in Franklin Square) has some unusual features. First, I learned it's open 24/7. Yup, it never closes. If you hanker for a bagel at 4:00 in the morning on a Tuesday, they'll satisfy your hunger. Second, it always has a line. Always. Third, they do a big wholesale business. Secret: many "bagel stores" don't make their own bagels; they buy them pre-made from A&S and merely bake them to appear homemade.
I went to A&S today to check out the store and its wares. The store is a ratty old building in a crummy industrial area. Their building is huge but has only a tiny room open to the public; obviously, most of the space is devoted to bagel-making. There is no dining area, just two cashiers at a counter. The cashiers are crusty old women who learned how to put on makeup in the 1950's. Even though I deliberately visited at an off-hour, there was a line. There's always a line.
With all these negatives, I figured the bagels must be pretty damn good to attract attention. And they are. In a word, they are perfect. They have the exact right consistency of chewy. They are fresh as a snowflake and made with natural ingredients. A bagel you can bring home to Momma. Also, they have a nice variety of 20 different flavors: I had a cheddar cheese bagel that had as much cheese on it as bread. Yumm.
Do you eat bagels?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meet The Bloggers

I like bloggers. I admire what they do. The effort to blog is hard and the impulse to share is generous. People willing to blog are usually kind, diligent and stylish.

That's why I'm starting a series of interviews with bloggers. After checking with you last month to see who'd be interested, twenty hands quickly shot up. I've started the process by contacting four bloggers and have material for a first batch of interviews. I'm going to pace them at one every two weeks which feels right. The first interview will go up this weekend.

I believe you'll be impressed and entertained. My questions are truly novel and the bloggers' answers are interesting. The interviews use my curiosity as a wedge to uncover fascinating insights from bloggers who say things you wouldn't expect. Reading them will be fun.

The first interview is with vintage-fashion blogger Jessica from Western Canada. The second interview has a European flavor and features Tiina from Finland/England. (Yes, her name actually has two i's.) Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cat Helmets

Aren't these cat-helmets adorable?! I want one. They're sold here.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

At The Last Minute

I subscribe to a literary magazine called The Sun. It publishes short pieces of autobiography on varying topics. The subject for the next issue is "At The Last Minute."

I'm submitting a description of an event that occurred to me long ago. I remember the event vividly and enjoy pondering its meaning. If you're interested, it follows...

The eldest son of immigrants, I carry the weight of my family's dreams. It's a leaden backpack. My parents view my accomplishments as their accomplishments; my life is a barometer of their success in a new land.

Forty years ago, I was an average athlete in high school, good enough to make the baseball and wrestling teams but not better than kids of other schools. We had a mid-season wrestling match with a neighboring team that was unimportant. Nothing was at stake, but the Earth shook that day.

For reasons unknown to me, my parents invited their fellow-immigrant friends to watch me compete. A bevy of wildly-enthusiastic supporters sat in the stands to cheer me on. Their presence was unnerving: their boisterous shouts pelted me like snowballs.

My opponent in the match was superior in ability but not insurmountably so; I knew I could beat him if I mustered sustained high effort. The match began. I slowly fell behind in points. The trend continued and time grew short. Eventually I realized I couldn't make up the point-deficiency with remaining time available; my only hope of winning was to pin my opponent to the mat, an outcome as rare as knocking out a boxer.

I searched for an opportunity. I saw none. I pursued with increasing concern; disappointing my family, in front of their close friends, was simply unacceptable. I could not let that happen, no matter what.

Suddenly, my opponent twisted his body, allowing me to grab his arm and place it into a half-nelson. I slid my free arm around the back of his neck. Our position was set for my signature move -- a wrestling hold so potent I could defeat anyone with it: leverage trumps size and strength. My opponent, not realizing he had lost the match, expressed hope in struggling against my hold. I let him wrestle, physically and psychologically, with the situation. After tussling, our bodies settled into quiescent calm as I heard desperate calls from the crowd who were watching time run out. Sensing the right moment, I flipped the doomed combatant over, locked him in place, and heard the ref smack the mat three times announcing victory. The crowd roared: their nervous uncertainty was resolved by a last-minute victory.

I looked up. I saw a group of working-class adults whose lives possessed few satisfactions. They were jubilantly celebrating, a rare experience for them. Their glee stunned me: my small athletic effort was fulfilling a larger aspiration, a dream of immigrants. Making it in America, after fleeing war-torn Europe during World War II, was their goal and it was happening in front of me. I play a role in this drama, something I hadn't understood until that moment.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Snow Day

It's snowing today here in New York. Heavier and wetter than usual, which creates beautiful visual images. Here are some...



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Playing With Pants

After avoiding pants for years, I'm now exploring their possibilities -- and learning they can be feminine and fun. This outfit below started with the pants and I added pieces to complement them.

What do you think?