Friday evening is quiet. I go for a walk at 7pm, as the sun’s setting, to a nearby park that has become my regular walking destination. Couples are sharing benches, dogs are greeting each other, the air is warmer than it has been. Later, I make a new favorite dish, one that my friend got me into. I’ve been enjoying cooking more, unwinding at the end of a long and productive day. I eat in front of the TV, watching a show that’s not very good yet I’m on season 3.
The next morning, I citibike down to east flatbush. I had ended up in this neighborhood a few weeks ago for the first time, and it reminded me why I love this city – there are endless places to explore and each are distinct; offering a slightly different pace of life, a different visual environment, a different collection of shops, cafes, and restaurants to enjoy. I was particularly drawn back to east flatbush after my first visit because it reminded me quite strongly of New Haven, a place I hadn’t realized I would feel so nostalgic for. Just like parts of New Haven, there’s a mix of standalone homes, townhouses, and apartment buildings that give variety to each street here, and the neighborhood seems just a little too quiet – like half the people walking down the street disappeared just before you turned the corner.
I go to a coffee shop called Hamlet. They are pretty busy but most people are getting to-go so there are several open tables. Saturday is often a half workday for me – today I spend a few hours adding an unnecessary feature to one of the apps I’ve been working on. I haven’t eaten anything yet today and the black drip coffee’s effect is doubled, making me feel fiendishly productive and nearly ecstatic whenever I have a small victory on the coding project. Techno music is the new backdrop to nearly all of my time spent working, and today I listen to a several hour-long set from an artist that I’m excited to see at the end of summer, at a music festival. The first third is the best part of the set, so I end up listening to that part over and over.
My friend is hosting a home-cooked dinner at the warehouse on saturday night, the first of what may become a regular event. I’d been asked to bring a couple bottles of nice wine that would complement the menu. On the way back from the coffee shop, I head to a nearby wine shop and am able to find all three that I’m looking for; a greek assyrtiko, an italian garganega, and a californian pinot noir.
The dinner is a mix of friends, people I’ve met once or twice, and people I’ve never met before. In typical warehouse fashion, live-mixed electronic music sets the tone for an unusual but very nice event – a fusion of delicious food and interesting conversation (and good wine). I’ve been less social recently, which has made me feel more enthusiastic about and present at the things that I do choose to go to. Hopefully, the summer will hopefully bring more events like this dinner, but for now my balance of work and play feels right.
Somehow, at 3am, I end up at my favorite techno club, a place I’ve come to enjoy going alone. The music’s too loud to talk over anyway, and I like not feeling any obligation about whether the people I bring are having a good time or not. Plus, none of my friends like this type of music. The DJ tonight is playing “hardstyle” techno – the unrelenting music quickly envelopes me as I weave into the crowd. There’s no wrong way to dance to any music, but particularly so with this genre – move, flail, bop, jump, it’s all on the table and you’re going to feel great doing it.
I usually like staying on the dance floor to experience a DJ’s set from start to finish – for much the same reason as I like listening to an album from front to back. It takes some time to get lost in the music, for everyday thoughts to evaporate and for a connection to form with the bass. But, the music tonight is just a little too loud and the dancing a little too exhausting that I take a break about halfway through. I wander to the other room of the club, which is always an exact contrast to the main room; the lights more colorful and constant, the music more slow and trance-y.
My favorite coffee shop in new york recently opened in my neighborhood, about a mile from me. It reminds me of a place I would visit when traveling to another city and wish that I could transport back to my home. Your favorite coffee place shouldn’t be right next door to, or two blocks from, where you live – it should be a decent walk away. The walk is necessary for turning a quick coffee pick-up into one-of-the-things-you-did-today. The coffee place has to be good enough to trick yourself into making the walk, but the walk is the real treat, not the good coffee. This new favorite coffee place reminds me of my favorite coffee shop in london – a converted watch house next to a cemetery. There, sitting in the modern interior, wrapped in the warm smell of coffee, with a full day of exploring ahead and no responsibilities to speak of, was blissful. A little moment I’ll remember for years to come. My new neighborhood spot is not housed in a historic building, but it has equally good coffee and a similar modern aesthetic.
On sunday I walk to this coffee place and meet a friend. We chat with the baristas about their menu – which immediately conveys the caliber of the coffee shop. They offer a flat white, not typical in this country, and which was my preferred order when I was in london. My friend asks if anyone ever orders a long black, and I learn that some espresso drinks require pressing water through the grounds for a longer amount of time than others. Their machine is dialed in to make a particular type of espresso shot which wouldn’t befit the long black.
The late afternoon weather is beautiful on my walk back home. I stop at one intersection and gaze down the street. I feel momentarily transported to last summer which, in my memory, was hot straight through from June 1st to August 31st. I remember the evening walks I would take then, and how the neighborhood transforms on those super hot days – the heat seems to drain away the color, turning the houses pastel, the trees brown, and the road a dull black. I better enjoy the spring weather while it lasts.
HBO has returned my appreciation for watching one episode of a TV show each week. I look forward to the sunday night releases, first with The Last of Us and now Succession, and get to enjoy the season over a longer period than if it was released all at once. I feel like a teenager again, excited to watch the next episode of american idol or survivor with my sister.