Thursday, May 27, 2010

A tree grows in Brooklyn...and many, many trees grow all the way from Durham to Brooklyn

Last weekend I was in blessed, blessed Texas.  The weekend before the CR-V and I embarked on the longest road trip we've ever taken together - today's topic of discussion.  This weekend I'm looking forward to not traveling at all.  Homegirl needs some down time.

Back to that road trip I mentioned.  My little sissy (although she really is remarkably taller than me, so maybe I should go with the more accurate "younger sissy"...oh, Erin) wrapped up year two of legal studies at one Duke University and prepared to embark on the summer internship.  In...New York City!  Much apartment debating, sublet from random person in Brooklyn (subletting is an odd, odd concept to me...someone just moves into your space!  And you leave your stuff there!  I don't think I trust enough for that), housing situation is set.  Only thing...any sane person doesn't really want to deal with a car in New York City when an all-encompassing subway, coupled with your very own legs and occasional taxi or bus, can get you anywhere you need to go. does one get one's self and all one's self's stuff to the ci-tay?  Enter fellow East Coast sister who ambitiously offered to drive down to Durham, load up sissy and stuff, journey to Brooklyn and deposit sissy and stuff there, then drive back to D.C.  Yipes.  That's a lot of driving.  But sister adventures await!

I headed down on Thursday after work, encountering only the usual city delays getting out of D.C. instead of any epic traffic disasters, and proceeded to drive through hours and hours of dark, scary forest.  I've made the drive before, but I think I forgot just how boring and foresty it all is.  So, so many trees.  Nothing but trees.  And you have to just trust those roadside signs that tell you there's a Chick-fil-A waiting, just on the other side of those trees - because you can't see the darn thing for yourself.  Sometimes I do miss those wide open plains of West Texas.  But I made it!  A little last minute packing, as many sister-hugs as I could manage, and a little last minute clearing out of the fridge, where I was more than happy to take care of a couple of those's just too bad we forgot to eat the strawberries in the morning.  That's just going to be ugly come August.

We actually left at the time we said we would leave in the morning (go us!), and after waving goodbye to the apartment and the poor abandoned car and most of Durham, we grabbed some lovely (literally - just look at it!  They don't do that at Starbucks...) coffee at Joe Van Gogh and set off on our journey through six states, a district, and two boroughs.

It took a long time.  And many, many dollars worth of tolls.  But we made it!  And you know what greets you as you drive into Brooklyn?  An official sign declaring "Welcome to Brooklyn!  Not Just A Borough, An Experience!" - delightful.

After leaving sissy's worldly possessions sitting in the street (don't worry - they were still inside my car), we chilled at Blackbird Parlour for a little while, enjoying some tastiness and soaking up the Brooklyn vibes while waiting for the key drop-off from subletter's friend.  And of course I took pictures of our food!  We were in need of veggies and such after our speedy Arby's lunch.

Acquired keys, navigated to temporary home, found parking spot almost directly in front of said home (miracle of miracles!), unloaded, contemplated exploring neighborhood, decided we were tired and should probably do that in daylight instead, knocked back a couple of "Gilmore Girls" with a little celebratory "yay, you live here!" wine.  Proceed to sleep like rocks.

Hellooooo, Brooklyn!  After confirming that the car survived the night as well, we set out to explore.  And on our short walk to breakfast (where I felt obligated to eat a ginormous bagel and took great pleasure in doing so) at Brooklyn Standard Deli, we saw delightful Polish pastries...

...and witnessed a guy learning how to drive a bus (yipes!) and giggled at some confused produce signage at a local store...

...and discovered a ton of grocery options in the space of just a few blocks that carried things like giant vats of pickles and sauerkraut and packages of pierogis and proteins labeled "misc." and tubs of jellied chicken and crazy mystery Polish jams (among many other products)...

Ok, I promise I'll show you pictures of things other than food.  It's just that I find it SO fascinating!  I really, really do.  But you know this already.

Fortified by coffee, we did a little more neighborhood wandering and discovered some delightful restaurants and shops before making a quick stop in McCarren Park to finish off the coffee, observe all kinds of people and their four-legged companions, and give the parents a quick call to reassure them that all was well in 'da Brooklyn.  Just look at all that green!  We also found pretty much every paperback book you could want for sale along the sidewalks before dropping down into the Bedford subway stop to zip ourselves into Manhattan for the rest of the day.  Which I'll tell you about later - for now we're just going to focus on the other borough.  And apparently food.  But come on, did you expect anything different?

So after an exhausting day in the ci-tay, of course we woke up in need of coffee the next morning.  And the fascination with subletting continues.  In search of a hidden coffee maker (how does a kitchen even function without a coffee maker?!?), my detective skills unearthed some ground coffee hanging out in the freezer...meaning there MUST be a coffee maker somewhere...and this gal has an endless supply of coffee mugs (well, as endless a supply as one can support in a dishwasher-less Brooklyn apartment)...but the contraption she uses to make coffee ends up looking something like this:

You do NOT make coffee by plopping some plastic contraption on top of a mug and then filling it with a filter and grounds and hoping for the best.  Fortunately, we were quite capable of boiling water for tea, which along with a couple of muffins made for a delightful pre-breakfast since we had brunch plans at The Habitat (discovered courtesy of the Serious Eats New York Brooklyn: Greenpoint neighborhood guide - I knew excessive food blog habits would pay off at some point).  They had coffee, thank goodness, with plenty of refills, and they also had bloody marys and mimosas and huevos rancheros and a buttermilk biscuit benedict that made me very, very happy.  They also weren't very well-lit, which doesn't lend itself to awesome pictures, which does lend itself to leaving a camera in a bag and just enjoying the delciousness.

Our relatively short walk to and from brunch also allowed us to discover: (1) a full-sized normal-like grocery store with a parking lot and everything, (2) more beautiful Polish pastries (I'm thinking maybe just go in and point at what you should work, right?), (3) a street after my own heart:

(4) supposedly delicious food from an establishment by the name of "Yummy Taco," (5) hipsters, (6) a Starbucks with frappuccino offerings displayed on nothing less than a movie marquee, (7) many adorable puppies waiting on their owners outside various stores, (8) a flyer and enthusiastic sales pitch from a young man who really, really wanted us to check out the rummage sale for the Polish Dance Something Something, and (9) a very Amanda-like grocery store that made her very happy with its amazing selection of healthy (and familiar) for that aisle of "Polish only" food that I think is unavoidable in her area.

We made our way back to the apartment, where I did a photo session for the parents to assure them of her living space and safety, and then I hit the road to drive that final 232 miles back home.  Tolls to get myself from Brooklyn back to the D of C: $11 at the Verrazano Bridge, $5.95 to get through the state of New Jersey, $3 to get into Delaware and another $4 to get out (so many dollars for such a tiny state!), and a final $2 for the tunnel in Baltimore.  I don't think those tolls will ever cease to amaze me...and neither will grocery stores.

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