No Sleep in Brooklyn

Posted on December 07, 2018

The other day I took a muscle relaxer for back pain and leg cramps and this resulted in heavy sleep, then the next day I drank really strong black tea and milk, often with ice in a glass skull mug with a straw. By the end of that day I began to feel fearful with a thumping heart and had panicked dreams all night. Eventually waking early the following morning, I decide to head down to open my mailbox, looking for a check I’ve been expecting. I also have a thank you card to mail for a job interview. The worst outcome would be to see one of my neighbors on the coop board, because many of my conflicts and petty fears originate there, and also I’m trying not to reveal my unemployment. 

Sure enough it’s half past six and exactly the person I don’t want to see is in the elevator. But then I remember our face to face encounters are always better. He’s wearing a sweatshirt that says “I went to Stuyvesant so just assume I’m right.” I guess even though he’s retired that high school achievement is still a source of major identity for him. Of course he asks if I’m working at home and of course I say I am, even though I look like I’ve been up doing crack all night and I certainly am not working at anything. 

I do take a walk up hill with my little gold envelope. This interview didn’t go especially well, I have already sent the card for the one that went better on the same day. While having this walk I observe my new neighborhood. I do feel a bit of an imposter here, but I’m having a day of imposter syndrome and try not to feel that too deep. We don’t have a coffee shop here. I could get a smoothie, but I can’t get a chai, I can’t get a vegan Ovenly cookie, I can’t get a coffee with soy milk, or that new silly oat milk or whatever unless I’m at home. I do appreciate the fruit shakes we have in this neighborhood but I have to be in the mood. For Ali's Roti I have to have cash, and be in the mood to walk up the hill and wait on line. But I do pass the restaurant and they are not open yet. I realize I haven’t had their breakfast lineup which I think includes porridge but the staff is still setting up. 

 One of the places I can go, and do go is the family run White Castle which has the vegan Impossible burgers, if you get them without cheese. You wouldn’t think I would have much in common with Wu-Tan but there we are. I can’t get a vegan slice, or pad thai on foot, but I can get vegan fast food, just pretty much rolling out my door. I like the family that owns it, they have employees too, but it’s often family members, and they advertise this on their work shirts. Today, this early in the 24 hour cycle of the White Castle there is a problem with the ordering screen. They rebooted the system and the girl has to call to find out where my burgers are on the screen. I can see she’s drinking from this gorgeous over the top travel mug that’s like 20 oz at least, is kind of pink iridescent, with a gold tone sippy top. She’s working and sipping out of that and I feel like she’s really honoring the coffee in her life. The other worker is wearing a headset for the drive through, and she’s got a folded up square of paper between the speaker and her ear. She’s the one who makes my hash browns. There is a solitary couple facing outward at the bar that faces the drive thru exit, it’s like they are disowning the rest of us. 

And then a woman comes in, she’s wearing flip flops, and she has kind of ashy ankles and feet. She’s wearing a sweatshirt as a makeshift head wrap, but she’s got patterned leggings that look fine, and her top and skirt looks fine. She’s holding a thin section of newspaper with a large red printed area, and a book. She keeps laughing and writing on the paper, and slapping the book, in between attempts to get staff attention. The staff is kind of in their own world, but they also know what’s coming. This restaurant has only one bathroom, it’s marked the ladies room and you have to be buzzed in. I actually only know this from coming here and listening to interactions with customers and staff. I’ve never seen even the door and since I live across the street I’ve not needed it. Anyway this woman leans and stretches to get noticed behind the counter and then says “ha! Ha!” and writes a notation on her paper. She finally asks to use the ladies room, but no one hears her. 

Finally my burgers are entered in the computer, it’s a long wait for those because they only start them when ordered on a separate grill. My hash browns are long done and sitting under the red lights. The woman finally asks again to use the bathroom as one of the counter ladies floats toward the back to make my order. And the employee says very sweetly “No, it’s just for customers baby. You will have to go somewhere else.” And the long skirt wearing lady, with the feet that have a look of street life, walks out the door. I know I have a longish wait and I stand and turn around towards the windows, which have a panorama view of two intersections. The sweatshirt headed woman walks into the little island in the parking lot with bushy landscaping. And I can’t see her but I can see her bobbing sweatshirt headdress. And I realize she’s doing her ladies room business in there. It goes quickly so I assume she’s only peed in the White Castle bushes.

I wonder if I should say something, don’t know what good it would do if I did. Ultimately inertia makes the decision for me. More people come in, and they look serious about their morning, rolling suitcases, and I feel like I blend in more with the atmosphere of people who have been up all night, but maybe no one can tell. One older woman wants a breakfast sandwich but she’s trying to get egg whites. The counter worker is asking if she wants the breakfast slider which is eggs cheese and bacon, or “The breakfast” which is on whole wheat toast, and as far as I can tell is also that same stuff but not tiny sized. The employee keeps saying “The breakfast is on wheat toast, do you want it, it’s $3.46” and she leaves to ring up an order from a car and comes back and asks again if she wants it. Finally the woman concedes that she will order “The Breakfast” and pays with exact change. I look out into the street, through those windows again. A cement truck comes up Remsen avenue, has the word “City” on the front painted in graffiti style. I’m handed a greasy clear bag with my food.  The drum turbine of the truck also has the same word “City” as it spins by, turning up East New York Avenue, “City”…”City”…”City.”

Family vacation in Westbrook CT

Posted on July 22, 2014

So here are some of my pictures of my sisters, and their cousins, my neice at the beach. Westbrook is on the Long Island Sound, the Sound is very calm like a lake, but still salty and with tides. My dad and his wife rent a place there every year now for the last eight years. So it’s become a family tradition.

image by Amber Sexton

I don’t know what more to say really…I don’t have any kids but it’s always neat to take pictures of the kids because they are doing stuff, also they are my family and sweet girls.

image by Amber Sexton

image by Amber Sexton

We had a fire on the beach, and I’ve never been up there when there was a fire. The neighbors always seem to have fires and set off fireworks. This year we had sparklers, and I remembered all the joy of sparklers, and also burning blisters onto my fingers touching the hot wire when the sparkler was spent.

image by Amber Sexton

The neighbors, also use glow sticks, and set off roman candles, we are sparkler only people.

image by Amber Sexton

The neighbors also light sky lanterns, which are positively transfixing floating across the sky. I didn’t have a lens to take an image that would make it look like anything other than a glowing dot. Or a series of them, because they sent out several. I thought they were so beautiful, but I also couldn’t shake how irresponsible it was to send a flame out in a little balloon in the sky. Of course it seemed like it was fine, but my stepmom had seen one fall and hit a house once and go out. Luckily it did, it’s litter being dropped somewhere out of your eyeshot also. Still it was a guilty pleasure, looking at these glowing floating flames fly off into the distance and wink out when they got too tiny to see. I hoped that they really went out at that point and never caught anything on fire and were just living a short life that I didn’t have to be nervous about. But I’m more the sparklers type, where you know if you do something dumb, then it’s just your own fingers to worry about.

image by Amber Sexton

Steam City

Posted on May 18, 2014

So I posted an incident on facebook the other day, I was walking on 9th Avenue a woman with a British accent said to her friend “Why does steam come out of the sewers here it’s so disgusting.” I turned around and explained we have a steam system with underground pipes that Con Ed pumps into some buildings and sometimes you can see it come out of the top.

It never occurred to me that someone would not know about the steam system, but then I realized it’s unusual. I’m just from here and simply used to it as a part of the infrastructure. Even for New Yorkers it can be mysterious and easily forgotten, still it sometimes escapes out into the street, and you remember it’s there. It’s not quite like turning on a light, so you don’t notice it. I don’t even know if the building I work in uses it, though there are steam vents right outside. It of course doesn’t feel very modern, but it’s an amazing system and I have been poking around on Con Edison and wikipedia, most other articles on the internet seem to be using these two as sources.

image by Amber Sexton


From ConEd

“...New York Steam’s first central steam boiler plant, located at Cortlandt, Dey, Greenwich, and Washington Streets, was completed in 1881 and included 48 boilers and a 225-foot chimney — at the time, it was one of the tallest features of the lower New York skyline, second only to the spire of Trinity Church. The district steam installation was so novel it was the cover story of the November 19, 1881 issue of Scientific American.

On March 3, 1882, the company supplied steam to its first customer, the United Bank Building at 88-92 Broadway, on the corner of Wall Street. By December 1882, New York Steam boasted 62 customers. By 1886, the firm had 350 customers and five miles of mains, and began an expansion uptown. The system proved its reliability by operating throughout the deadly blizzard of March 11-14, 1888. Through the years, the company expanded and made numerous improvements in the design of steam meters, controls, insulation, and even the pipes themselves.

The company built by Wallace Andrews was to go on to even greater success during the 20th century, but he was not to see it. During the night of April 7, 1899, Andrews and much of his family perished in a house fire. His brother-in-law, G.C. St. John, who was out of town when the tragic fire occurred, was made president of the company and guided it for more than a decade during a prolonged legal battle over Andrews’ will.

The paralyzing effects of the litigation made necessary a financial reorganization that lasted from 1918 to 1921, but ultimately left the company, now called the New York Steam Corporation, prepared for a new era of expansion. By 1932, the tremendous Kips Bay Station (occupying the entire block along the East River between 35th and 36th Streets) and five other stations provided steam to more than 2,500 buildings. Among them were some of New York’s most famous landmarks: Grand Central Terminal, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Daily News Building, Tudor City, Pennsylvania Station and Hotel, and Rockefeller Center. Just about every new skyscraper was a testament to the efficiency and reliability of steam service: most were built without smokestacks or individual heating plants.

During the 1930s, the New York Steam Company maintained mutually beneficial business arrangements that would be a portent of its eventual consolidation. The company supplied steam to the Consolidated Gas Company and its affiliated gas and electric companies in Manhattan. In turn, The New York Edison Company supplied steam from its Waterside and Fourteenth Street electric generating stations during the morning hours on cold days to help meet peak energy needs. In 1932, Consolidated Gas acquired approximately 75 percent of New York Steam’s common stock, and on March 8, 1954, the New York Steam Company fully merged with Consolidated Edison.

Today, Con Edison operates the largest district steam system in the United States. The system contains 105 miles of mains and service pipes, providing steam for heating, hot water, and air conditioning to approximately 1,800 customers in Manhattan.”


image by Amber Sexton

Steam can be co generated at the same time as electricity so it’s considered more green than some other types of heat. But yet, the central steam system only serves a portion of Manhattan, none of the boroughs and probably has seen the end of it’s expansion. We’ve also had a few steam pipe explosions in my memory. This is one of the more recent ones that I recall. I remember an older one in Gramercy which contaminated some people’s apartments with asbestos and killed two workers. New York, on the infrastructure cutting edge during the industrial age, now seems to posses a patchwork of decaying systems which may fail spectacularly at any time. Yet steam is still mostly just chugging along, you don’t hear about it until something goes wrong, people don’t tend to complain about the prices or anything since all the customers are commercial, entire buildings rather than individuals paying a bill.

When it’s wet, big orange and white plastic stacks come out over the steam manholes, water hitting the hot pipes turns to vapor and has to vent. And that can be beautiful. There’s no doubt that the steam in the city has a very noir movie feel. At night if you are where there are steam vents it can seem like the small clouds coming from ground level and the tops of buildings are setting the scene for New York, to play the part of New York in a film. It’s good to step off a curb in your heels and get in a cab at these moments, or pull your hat down over your face and your coat tighter, so you can be an extra passing through the narrative. Leave your small trace in the vaporous night and disappear.

image by Amber Sexton

Lime shortage desperation: Mineola Tangelito

Posted on April 28, 2014

If you are fellow traveller in home mixology and live on the east coast, you are likely paying out the ass for the saddest looking limes, if you can get them. Conserving limes, thinking of alternatives, I thought I would use some of one of my fave citrus fruits, the sour sweet Mineola Tangelo in a mojito. And it’s a yummy thing if not the same as lime, because what really is. It’s not sweet like many other oranges, and very piquant so it can help replace the tang of your missing lime.

A mojito is a drink I don’t normally measure, and you can adjust to taste, but I did measure things here just to write out the recipe. Another note is I used to be a very vigorous muddler, and now I try to be gentler with the mint. Aggressive crushing of the mint brings out a lot of grassy taste from the leaves and it can be really more fragrant and nice without serious mashing, you can use more mint or decide what level of crushing you like.

For this I used:
3 oz Smith & Cross gold rum (so much molasses taste in this rum, if you like white rum which is more trad for a mojito do that)
1/2 a pathetic ping pong ball sized lime (omit if you have none ha ha ha)
1 healthy fat wedge of Mineola Tangelo
1 wedge of same for garnish
A couple sprigs of mint
1/2-3/4 oz of simple or gomme syrup, or superfine sugar to taste.
Seltzer to top off your glass
Crushed ice

Crush some ice via whatever method and place in the bottom of your glass, it will stand up your mint sprig real nice, add your wedge of orange garnish too. Squeeze whatever you can get out of your sad lime half, same for the nice chunk of tangelo into your shaker, muddle, then add mint leaves and lightly crush trying not to really mash the leaves. Add your sweetener and rum, and shake with whole ice cubes till chilled. Taste and adjust sweetener if needed. Once it’s how you like it, strain into your glass and top with soda.

Sip while dabbing your dewy brow in the heat, real or imagined.

image by Amber Sexton

Go-Kart cocktail

Posted on February 14, 2014

So I’m back to making cocktail posts, I’ve actually been exploring a lot of new drinks but I’ve not been thrilled with the photographs. But it’s just become time to post another recipe. This is one I have worked on myself, and it’s really simple and not super special or anything but I made it. I am focusing on fruit based drinks, spirits, liqueurs this year for trying new things. That’s because I’ve limited funds and when I buy a couple of these bottles I have to find lots of ways to use them.

In the fall I made a huge batch of orgeat syrup. And I realized I have to find ways to use it other than in Mai Tai’s. Mai Tai’s are a favorite of mine and I couldn’t really do a more perfect post than this one. And it has a photo by my old friend Tony Cenicola. But I digress, I realized that I had a huge amount of orgeat (which btw I made with this recipe here.) And I knew orgeat is good in a Japanese cocktail, so it goes well in brandy and cognac. But I only had apple brandy and I knew I didn’t want a drink as sweet as the traditional Japanese cocktail. So I came up with this, which seemed like it was in the family of the Side Car, the Jack Rose and the Japanese cocktail so I called it the Go-Kart.

For this drink you need either an American apple brandy or Calvados, and it shouldn’t be an expensive Calvados, one made with apples only and no pears. I’ve made this drink with two kinds of the more alcoholic apple jack too. But it’s more got more of a fruity apple flavor with something like Laird’s 7-1/2 year brandy or Calvados. The Laird’s aged stuff is not always around but you can usually get all kinds of Calvados. I made this one with some Groult Pays d’Auge, which is 3 years old made of apples only and around $30-$35. It is nicer with an older apple brandy, but price can be an issue of course.

So the recipe is:
2 oz apple brandy of your choice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz orgeat syrup
4-5 healthy shakes of Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

Shake or stir with ice as desired, strain into a chilled glass.

I’ve tried numerous bitters, every one in the house, in this drink. All of them were good, but many overpowered the apple notes, which was surprisingly easy to do. The rhubarb bitters has an acidic cherry brightness going for it and it works so well with the apple, and the natural slightly cherry taste of the almonds that make up orgeat. I liked that there wasn’t a dominant spice taste, which stands up better in a whiskey drink.

image by Amber Sexton

I wish I had some stem-on cocktail cherries, I’ve vowed not to buy anymore of the artificially colored bastards. I meant to make my own last summer but laziness and busted brokeness took over. A Luxardo cherry is delicious in this but it’s kind of ugly. So this is lacking a garnish. An apple slice just seemed really cliche. Anyway this is tested on friends and paramours and gets a thumbs up.

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