Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New York break: or, break from New York

Where am I?
this place once seemed so huge to me... Posted by Hello
Correct. The last subway stop on the F line puts me in Coney Island. Home of the first Nathan’s hotdog and of the original Cyclone rollercoaster. I came here occasionally as a kid, on the hot, doggy days of summer. Today, the beach is empty and the water is warm enough for birds only.

But wait, is this really Brooklyn’s tip or is it Russia? As I walk up the beach toward Brighton, I suddenly hear Russian. Everywhere around me, Russian. The sun brings out the people – older, retired people mostly, some with baby buggies, minding the malcziki and dzievuszki. But mainly, they have created a gathering place, clustering around benches that line the boardwalk, speaking passionately about…everything important: gossip type talk, melodic, expressively presented. Hairstyles, makeup, clothes are from half a century ago. But then, that was their time in the sun, that’s when they conquered the world. Or at least this small portion of it, at Brighton Beach.
three on a bench Posted by Hello
did she knit this for her precious pup? Posted by Hello
some read. most talk. Posted by Hello
all you need is the music. and the diners. Posted by Hello
blog author photographing reflection of boardwalk and self Posted by Hello
next door, at the Moscow Bar: "on Saturday evening live music" Posted by Hello
a Russian girl in a Russian coat Posted by Hello
In the nearby park, they play dominoes. A man’s game! None of the wimpy women at the tables. So where are the women? Back on the boardwalk. Telling stories of their men, I’m sure. Or, looking out at the ocean, unscrambling thoughts, dreaming.
what's more interesting: the game or the players? Posted by Hello
intent and intense Posted by Hello
lovely. Posted by Hello
looking at the other side of the ocean... Posted by Hello

New York break: dasvidanya dzievuszki..

Back in September, Tory, chef (and now proprietor) at Madison's L’Etoile, said to me “you should go to my favorite place in New York -- the Russian Vodka Room.

I have come to New York frequently over the past year, but I have never made it to the Russian Vodka Room. Until last night.

The room is small, dark, narrow. A jazzy guitarist is playing at the side, a guy at the piano accompanies him. A few men sit at the bar. They’re Russian. The waitresses are Russian as well. My friend and I find an empty table in the corner – there aren’t many, we are lucky. The menu is all about vodka. And pirozki. She and I split a carafe of the apple pomegranate infused vodka. Then the cranberry one. Then a carafe of the pear infusion. Carafe – it’s like wine, isn’t it? A carafe implies easy drinking, a sip, then another, ummmm, delicious! This stuff is so good! I haven’t had vodka in so long!

Next thought – this stuff is potent! The music continues, people come and go, my friend and I talk about old times, new times. We haven’t seen each other in years… She looks the same… another carafe? Sure, but add some food, the shots are going down smoothly, but they need something to arrest the easy flow.

The hours pass… the guitarist packs his bags. The men at the bar sigh in the Russian life-is-tough way… the couples, scattered around the dark room, are quietly mumbling to each other.. My friend and I divide the pirozki, then order some cheese and bread… the carafes appear, magically, the waitress seems to know when they need to be refilled. I’ve stopped counting.

Outside, the air is cool, refreshing. We take a cab… who can walk after that? The RVR, at 265 west 52nd. Go there, order a carafe. Or more. Tell the waitress “spasiba,” lean back, think sleighs and onion domes, birch trees and balalajkas. Dream in audacious ways, talk big, brag about your past. Break bread, drink vodka, feel the weight of the world on your Polish or Russian shoulder. Na zdrowie!
it's all about pain and suffering... Posted by Hello
to your health... Posted by Hello