Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

How personal do you get on your blog?


I just discovered this new writer who is making me lose my shit on the subway. Her stories are so outrageous and searingly funny that I can’t stop grinning from ear to ear, shaking my head, and laughing out loud. I clutch my stomach and wipe the happy tears from my eyes. And then, I try to tame myself down. Because that’s what I do.

One of the reasons her writing is so strong is because it’s uninhibited, honest and raw. This chick really puts it all out there. Admittedly, not all of her stuff is up my alley (there’s an entire essay dedicated to the rankness of her farts), but many of her stories had me doubled over in pain from laughing so hard because nothing was off limits–ridiculous sex stories, truly mortifying moments, hysterical family memories.  She’s almost painfully self-aware, and ballsy enough to call attention to her baser qualities. She allowed herself to be very vulnerable and writes in a way that shows she’s clearly not afraid of embarrassing herself. But she also seems afraid to write things that have the potential to truly embarrass others, and that’s where I struggle most as someone who writes in the first-person as opposed to fiction.

how personal should i get on my blog?

The best writing, in my opinion, is just like this. You have to pretend there is no one reading your stuff in order to give yourself permission to really let go. You can’t look over your shoulder worrying “Who’s going to read this?”. You can’t pause and say, “But how will this make me look?” or “What will my mother think?”. Writing without those types of restrictions is refreshing and real, and reminds the reader that at the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of fools fumbling around trying to figure ourselves out.

I really wish I could let myself write this way, but I can’t. Turns out, I am an inhibited person in life and on paper. I have my reasons, and if you’re a blogger who finds herself holding back from writing the whole dirty truth, I bet you do too. My reasons are this: I have a husband, a family, a personal life and a full-time job to consider, and if something I write compromises any of those things, I’d have a really difficult time recovering from that. To me, that risk will never be worth any potential rewards.

So, back to this writer. Her name is Sara Barron, and if you like to laugh you should read her two books because she is truly funny in a way that I will never be. First of all, she ain’t afraid to let her freak flag fly, and will entertain you with many tales of sexual hilarity, including the time she got carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive masturbation and discovered her grandmother’s vibrator in a bedside table drawer. This is a classic distinction of what will always make someone like her funnier than someone like me– had this stuff happened to me, I would carry those tales with me until the day I died. Maybe I would share them at an intimate gathering of my very closest friends, but that’s it. They’d go no further. Two hilarious stories up in smoke, because I couldn’t handle embarrassing myself that way, and my family would (rightly) spear me with a long, pointy dagger if I publicly upset my grandmother. I would never want to bring negative attention to someone I love so much. Plus, I’m still counting on her to direct traffic to my blog.

The truth is, I’m not really at risk for that to happen anyway. I don’t have a ton of wild stories to tell because I’ve never been an incredibly wild person. I have been cautious and relatively conservative my whole life. At slumber parties, the other girls would sneak out the front door and have boys meet them down the street. I’d stay in the house, read magazines in the corner, then put myself to bed at a reasonable hour so I’d wake feeling refreshed in the morning. I usually shared my first few pancakes with the host’s mother; we’d clink juice glasses and swap sections of the newspaper.

I also have a hard time writing openly about my personal feelings. My observations– no problem. But my feelings? That’s very difficult. I’ve got the hang of “show, don’t tell”, particularly when it comes to describing a scene or a setting, but when it comes down to really shooting from the hip and writing from the heart, I struggle. I’m like the Georgia O’Keefe of blogging– all landscapes, no self-portraits.

I am a psychotherapist, and all day long I work within boundaries. Boundaries are huge with dorks like us. I have a job in which I purposely shroud my own background, personal feelings, values, and biases so that I can actively listen, accept and learn about everyone else’s. I have done such a good job at this that it’s now difficult to swing the other way– to let my guard down, to let someone in, to reveal too much. And yes, the idea that my clients would find this blog is something I worry about and tailor my writing around all the time. That’s why I have a different name at work than I do on here, and my Facebook page is named after a movie character. I’m wearing dark sunglasses and a big floppy hat in my Instagram photo. At my day job, my identity is not a secret, but my personal details are to always be sort of vague. This runs exactly counter to the kind of first-person writing I do, and I’m having so much trouble navigating that divide.

Like I said, I’m just another fool fumbling around, trying to figure it all out. With this blog, and the little book of essays I’m stringing together, I continue my quest to determine which stories to tell and how. I’m still trying to get a handle of knowing how far to push and when to pull back. The shape of things is still rather nebulous, with loose shapeless edges that stretch far from center. Nothing is tight; nothing is concrete or secure. It’s a bit of a freefall, frankly.

But there is one thing I do know for sure. My grandmother’s secrets will always be safe with me.



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Developing Self-Discipline


She was in the pool with one of my twin nephews while my foot dipped in and out of the water. I’d neglected to bring my bathing suit, and regretted it immediately. They looked really refreshed in there.

“What were the highlights of your summer?” My sweet sister-in-law asked, spinning a towheaded toddler around and around in the water. It looked like she was having one of hers right there.

I stumbled around that question for a minute, because while I checked off most of the boxes on my annual city-in-the-summer list, I didn’t do anything totally out of the ordinary. No travel, save for a brief, sweaty trip to Texas and nothing that would make SUMMER 2015 stick out in my mind as being particularly memorable.

(Wait, I take that back… seeing George Clinton and Parliament Funk on the beach was pretty bad-ass.) Plus…these views from a sunset cruise were awfully killer.

statue of liberty

night sky

This year, more than any other, has been about keeping my nose to the grindstone. This has been a year when work has definitely trumped play, where jumping right in has been replaced by patiently holding off. For me and Vin, this year has been all about saving. We pick up extra shifts when they’re available and turn down pricy events when offered. I have two main objectives this year–SAVE MONEY. FINISH ROUGH DRAFT–and anything that deters too significantly from that goal is usually something I graciously decline.

It’s called discipline, and I’m trying really hard to have more of it.

We watched Whiplash last week, a movie which hinges on the idea that discipline (and a bit of emotional torture) is the path to mastery; that if you really want to become great at something, you do it and you do it and you do it until your fingers bleed.

My discipline is far less severe and punishing, and I have done it for years. My discipline is waking up very early (today it was 5:30) and writing. My fingers have never bled, but they have definitely cramped so I feel as though I might be getting somewhere. I sit in my little backyard with my computer perched on a tiny rolling desk I purchased expressly for this purpose. I drink coffee–hot, never iced–and am almost always wearing something absolutely ridiculous–pajama pants, a mismatched tank top and usually one of my husband’s dirty button-downs he left out the night before. I am always wearing glasses–never contacts, not yet–and my hair is either very dirty or exceptionally clean with a towel coiled around it like a serpent. I type and type and type and then I lose myself and read with great concentration from the Book of Face, where my friends tell me all their secrets and post pictures of their children on the first day of school.

From there, my discipline is interrupted by one or two more refills of coffee, followed by subsequent trips to the bathroom, where it becomes aggressively necessary for me to scrub the toilet. I realize then that the sink looks a little grubby, so I scrub that too. Then I realize my mascara expired two years ago so I go on a bender throwing out old cosmetics. By this time, I have to pee again, and since the toilet is where all great ideas are born, I take this moment to appreciate the divine intervention my coffee inevitably provides each day as I write my great pages. I will leave this bathroom feeling fully inspired, my bladder temporarily free of interruption, my electric fingers ready to charge at that keyboard of mine. After washing my hands, of course.

And this, this is the discipline.

I am writing a book of essays, so I read books of essays rather compulsively, the same ones over and over by people I consider masters of the art–Didion, Daum, Crosley, and mostly Sedaris, because he is the freaking king of all kings. I read them now not for pleasure, but for education, checking for structure, pacing, dialogue and flow. I am not concerned about publishing anything; I am simply committing myself to finishing something. I make notes in the margins, flag certain passages with post-its (my dad calls them FLYTS for fucking little yellow things. He also calls capers “rat turds”, which would lead one to believe he dislikes them but nothing could be further from the truth.). Anyway, clearly I digress. The point is, my father has a special way of expressing himself, and I continue my pursuit of the same.

In Whiplash, the teacher instills in his students that the two most harmful words in the English language are “good job”. Subscribing to this notion, I’ve stopped patting myself on the back. I no longer look to my friends and readers for effusive praise and positive reinforcement. You won’t catch me winking in the mirror anytime soon.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have to get off the internet now. I need to go scrub my toilet and punch myself in the face.



*I was inspired to write about my creative process after reading a really funny post about how hard it is to blog on Avoiding Atrophy. Go check it out!


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Neighbors and New York City: This is not a love story

Sunday morning I was sitting in the yard drinking coffee when I was suddenly jolted awake by the bone-clattering caterwaul of a power drill. It was the guy next door, the one who’s been in heaps of legal trouble all related to his house (in these here parts we call folks like him a slumlord). In his lifelong pursuit to win America’s ugliest backyard contest, he was constructing some type of low-rent pergola, the kind of thing that looks beautiful in a country garden with vines and flowers or tomatoes growing all over it but looks absolutely ridiculous in urban settings. This pointy unfinished wooden structure had just been fashioned over a huge mound of concrete in the middle of his very narrow yard, a space that currently houses an avalanche of overgrown weeds, a few bricks of unused drywall, and in the past– a broken toilet.


Suddenly, drama unfolds…

“What the fuck are doing back here?” Hark! It is young Juliet on her balcony, calling down to her fair neighbor, the middle-aged slumlord with a power drill in his hand and a dollar sign in his heart.

“I’m minding my business. Why don’t you mind yours?!” He called back to her. Ah! Unrequited love! Heartwrenching.

“Your yard and your house look like shit! You don’t take care of anything back here, and now you’re building this stupid thing. I’m calling my landlord!” She didn’t waste time whispering sweet nothings. She yelled them– a girl who knows what she wants.

“I like it natural! Do you know natural? Do you understand NATURAL?” (I think he likes it natural).

Juliet got flustered and threw her hair over her shoulder before hightailing it off the balcony and back into her apartment. The slumlord continued to drill, muttering “crazy girl, crazy girl” to himself.

These are the people in my neighborhood.


I grew up in a quiet cul-de-sac lined with nice, unattached brick houses, manicured bushes and long driveways. It was a peaceful suburban subdivision where we all knew one another, and if we didn’t, we introduced ourselves so we could become allies, friends, compadres. Texans are a famously friendly people, and ignoring or displaying untoward hostility toward your neighbors is a big no-no. In my home state, it’s considered quite rude to pass your neighbor without a smile and a wave or a cheery, “Mornin’!” In my grandparents’ neighborhood, people who don’t wave back are assumed to be Communists. My father and his wife are best friends with their next-door neighbors; they eat dinner with them three times a week, and our families celebrate Christmas together. My wedding reception was in their backyard.

I have had to adjust to a different attitude regarding neighbors since moving to New York City. First of all, I have so many of them. I live in a three-family house, so I have neighbors on the two other floors. Our house is attached to two other three-family houses, both filled with a revolving door of interesting characters. Those people are my neighbors too. Then there are the houses that flank my next door neighbors’ two houses–people in my direct line of sight when they are perched on their balconies. All these houses are filled with people and technically they are all my neighbors, even if they never say hello back and I wouldn’t ask them for a cup of sugar if my birthday cake depended on it. If I make the choice to do yoga in my backyard wearing nothing but a pair of old boxer shorts, a scuba mask and a purple wig, there are at least 35-40 neighbors who will be able to easily witness this. Moreover, I could don this get-up, do yoga in my backyard, and I still wouldn’t be considered the weird neighbor.


Let’s start with the power drill guy to our right. For years, that house was like Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory– nobody ever came in and nobody ever came out. Then a few years ago, he started doing construction work in there– all without the proper permits and always at the worst possible times of day– Sunday morning, 10:30 pm on a Tuesday– drilling, hammering, pop music blasting through a boombox. He whittled a hideous pergola for his front steps, a ridiculous addition for a Queens row-house and an obvious eyesore from at least two blocks away. People started moving in, but the house was still in pretty wrecked shape. It always looked like it was in the middle of construction.

To make a long story short, I’ll sum up: He divided his three-family house into 9 separate units, rented them out to way more than nine people, took all their money, and ended up on the 7 o’clock news before finally hunkering down in a jail cell for a few months. Inevitably, the house filled with squatters who sometimes smoked cigarettes in the junky backyard but mostly kept a low profile as they lived in a house without a kitchen or electricity. The front door acquired a big note on the front: VACATE IMMEDIATELY: LIVING HERE IS PERILOUS TO LIFE, but that wasn’t a strong enough deterrent. The night two firetrucks and three police cars parked out front and raided the building was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. The most scandalous thing to ever happen in my childhood neighborhood was when someone tagged “The fuck?” on an offbeat sculpture in the Thompson family’s front yard.

astoria, queens
Now, to our left: The people in the house to the left are actually very nice; it’s just been really difficult to track who actually lives there because there are about 1,000 people on the front porch at all times. It’s unclear if the residents of this house are legal residents of this country. What I do know is that someone in that house is celebrating a birthday, a graduation, a retirement, or a quincinera every single week. Martha Stewart never threw this many parties, and never this festive. Karaoke, strobe lights, dance contests, pinatas– all regular features. This is a house that left their Christmas decorations up for two years straight, so whenever I would give directions to my apartment I’d tell friends to look for the sun-bleached Santa on a choo-choo train and hook a right. The other night I came home from work at 9pm (*NYC man. Don’t do it. They’ll bleed you dry!), and looked to my left to find a woman sleeping on a blow-up mattress on the front porch. I wasn’t sure if she was doing some end-of-summer camping or if they are finally running out of room at the inn.

And then there is our own house. We’ve rented this spot nine years now, and have seen top-floor dwellers come and go. Almost all of the renters have been couples around our age and we were friendly and chatty with almost all of them, save for a few who didn’t stay too long. Over the past year the two apartments above us have each changed hands twice, and Vin and I are getting tired of the old-song-and-dance/getting-to-know-you routine. I have met and spoken with each of the four other people in this house exactly once apiece, and I get the feeling all of them think that is perfectly adequate. We will not be hosting potlucks, they will not be borrowing sugar. As long as everyone puts their recyclables in the correct bin, I don’t really give a flip anymore what anyone does here. We’re not friends, we’re not allies, we’re not compadres. We will definitely not be spending Christmas together.

Several days ago a mound of soil was scooped out of a flower pot and dumped right in the middle of our front porch, blocking the path to the steps.

“Vinny, did you see the dirt on the front porch? What was that about?”. Little did I know, not only had Vinny seen the dirt, he was actually quite offended by its presence.

“Who makes a mess like that and doesn’t clean up after themselves? Who DOES that?”. On the way into the apartment, Vin kicked the dirt mound to the side of the porch, but refused to sweep it up out of principle.

It’s been five days and the soil is still there. We keep stepping around it, waiting for the offending party to clean up their own damn mess.

Vinny’s face glows red every time he steps in the door, unable to believe humans would behave this way. “Are these people savages? Do they really expect someone else to clean up after them?”.

I’m actually starting to think that the people in our house are innocent in this crime. After all, why would someone plop a mound of dirt on their own front porch? Maybe some precocious teen ran up our steps, scooped dirt out of the flower pot and dumped it on our porch for a silly prank. Maybe it was the mailman, bored or frustrated on a random Tuesday, trying to give himself some tension relief before heading home. Or perhaps it was the pergola-loving slumlord from next door. Maybe he’d confused Juliet on her balcony to his right with the blonde girl in her yard to his left. Maybe he’d dumped the soil on the porch as retribution for the verbal assault he encountered on Sunday. Maybe spilling dirt on a neighbor’s porch was his way of acting out. Or maybe he just really likes it natural. Do you understand natural?

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You Can’t Go Home Again


Hoboken was the first place I lived when I moved to the New York City area. It’s a teeny little town–only one square mile–on the other side of the Hudson River. To you non-NYC folk, this means that Hoboken is in New Jersey which means my Queens-born husband has a tendency to stick his nose up in its general direction. I’ve hinted during our house-hunt that I’d be open to buying in Hoboken. Vin has been less enthusiastic about the idea. (I believe the phrase he used was “over my dead body”, which means there’s still a 50% chance of me moving there.)

Anyway, it’s set up like this: Once you get off the train that connects the city to Hoboken, you walk along the waterfront, where you get some really killer views of lower Manhattan. The next street is all gorgeous old brownstones, the kind that give you chest pains and make you reconsider a career in finance. The street after that is almost 100% bars, restaurants and tiny boutiques. The rest of the town is mostly tree-lined and residential. It’s a nice-looking place.

hoboken waterfront frank sinatra park

But Hoboken is a chicken wing town. What I mean is, any town with a superfluous amount of beer and chicken wing specials on any given weeknight is a very young town. If you live in Hoboken, chances are you are either very old and Italian, around 29 1/2 with a yuppie spouse and a fat little baby, or fresh out of a dorm room. It’s very well known as a recent-post-grad haven. You can’t throw a rock in Hoboken without hitting someone between the ages of 22 and 25.

I don’t remember how I heard about Hoboken, but I found my first roommates there via craigslist, which in 1999 was still pretty new and considered an excellent way to get yourself murdered. I responded to an ad for an “open house” to find a third roommate for a place on 8th and Willow, and showed up drenched in sweat at the tail end of July with about 25 other girls in their early 20s. We were all trying to win favor with the two lucky lease-bearers, two 24-year-old girls offering an incredibly small, windowless bedroom to the person least likely to stab them in their sleep.  The bedroom for rent was right in the middle of the apartment, dark and tiny, with a door that swung into the room instead of out into the hallway, so that every time you tried to leave you’d have to wedge yourself through the narrow slot between your twin-sized bed and the wall. But at $550, it was a steal. I got the final rose that day and moved in three weeks later, a bold move on my roommates’ end since I was broke and unemployed with no prospects on the horizon. 

At 22, Hoboken was like heaven. I’d never lived in walking distance of anything before, so having groceries and cocktails and tampons only a block away was very liberating. I’d temp and job-hunt in the cit during the day, then at night I’d put on cute outfits and lip gloss and try to meet new friends., either in Hoboken or back in Manhattan. The local restaurants and bars were packed with people my own age, so it felt like college got extended by a year or two. There was a dance club two blocks away and I liked to wear really tight pants and make out with relatively attractive strangers there. We lived next door to a greasy Chinese takeout restaurant, which I believed was the greatest gift God had ever given me. I lived on egg rolls and ambition. They were good times.

For the past 14 years, I have looked back on those early Hoboken days with great fondness and affection. So on occasion, I like to call up my friend Kim– who lives in New Jersey– to see if she’ll grab dinner or drinks with me in my old stomping grounds. I hadn’t been there on a Friday night in a while, but it’s safe to say that Hoboken Friday Night hasn’t changed a bit.

But holy shit… I sure have.

I chose a restaurant that was Mexican/Japanese fusion, meaning I could have chips and guac as an appetizer and sushi as the main event which is basically my idea of a perfect evening. We sat in a precious little backyard with Christmas lights strung up through trees. I had a strawberry- jalapeño margarita to whet my appetite, and excitement began to build around the “Guacamole Trio” we ordered.

guacamole and chips

When it arrived I was disturbed to discover that they had topped three tiny bowls of fairly decent guacamole with ill-advised toppings– a heavy dose of cotija cheese (bland at best, but not completely mad at it), a smattering of diced pineapple (eh…okay, but I prefer mango), and a handful of soft, buttery-yellow corn kernels straight out of a can (OFF WITH THEIR HEADS). Not only were we in New Jersey, world-renowned for their delectably sweet farm-fresh corn, but we were also smack dab in the middle of summer produce season, putting fresh corn at a cost of like, I don’t know, two cents an ear? Haven’t they seen all the documentaries? Corn is the cheapest food product in the freaking world. Plus, who puts corn in their guacamole anyway? It was like a crime against delicious appetizers. And New Jersey farmers. And Mexico! (And Japan, by proxy). 

After our meal, I suggested we go to a rooftop bar around the corner where I’ve oft romanticized one luxurious night I had as a plump-faced 23-year-old, getting smashed with girlfriends while admiring the New York City skyline. At 38, the first stop in the bar is naturally the restroom, a petite space with a meager line and an impudent little patron using one of two narrow stalls as her personal phone booth while young girls with tanned skin and short skirts waited patiently outside the door for their turn to empty their aching bladders, filled to the brim with cheap beer and sparkling wine. When it was finally my turn at bat, I tried to imbue my flush with disapproval, holding the lever down slightly longer than necessary to discursively coax the birdy from her perch. She remained undeterred, so I soaped and rinsed my hands, then made a second attempt at eviction by giving myself the most thorough electric hand-dry of the 21st century. (*as this post goes live, it’s now three days later, and she is still in the stall screaming: “No…I’m at City Something…I can’t remember what it’s called…whatever, it’s on 14th Street, use google maps”.) Eventually I surrendered and dragged Kim upstairs to the roof top deck, where I hoped to enjoy a cocktail (I was imagining gin or vodka, infused with cucumber and fragrant fresh herbs), a great skyline view, and most importantly, a chair.

The space was 1,000 times smaller and less appealing than I remembered it, with a huge crowd of recent college grads all standing and packed tightly around three large TVs, sloshing beer and blowing smoke up each others’ nostrils. I grimaced at Kim–who at almost 30 is my very youngest friend–and said, “Girl, no. I can’t do this. Can we go find some ice cream or something?”


My second Hoboken home was on the top floor of this five-story walk-up building. My butt was a work of art.

So we walked back down the main street littered with bars and restaurants and eventually landed on a crepe place.  I ordered a simple crepe with lemon and sugar and a vanilla latte. We took a seat out on the sidewalk so we could enjoy the nice summer breeze and the sweet spicy fragrance of buffalo sauce tickling the air. When our desserts arrived, I took one look at my little glass mug and immediately recognized my “latte” as Maxwell House International Cafe Style Beverage Mix, that aluminum box of chalky powder one keeps in his or her desk drawer for emergency purposes only. My eggy crepe had been mopped with a sugary, lemon-flavored goo which stuck like gum to the roof of my mouth and made me long for Paris, or at the very least, the charming bistro in my neighborhood where crisp, delicate, lace-like crepes are spun from organic buckwheat flour before a gauzy sprinkle of powdered sugar and the gentlest squeeze of bright lemon fall upon them like light summer rain.

I looked around at the passerby–clean-cut bros in button-down shirts and packs of nubile young women in summer dresses and high heels, full of life and excitement and enough energy to yank them back into the city they had just returned from after a full day of work. The girls were prepared to walk blocks and blocks to the train in those heels, and they were flaunting the types of hairstyles that looked freshly blown. It all just looked like so much effort. Did I really do all that? Was this really my life at one time? My God, it seems like so long ago.

It was an interesting moment for me, for not only was I confronted with the fact I was now a crotchety old fart, but somewhere along the way I’d also become incredibly snobby. Where was the cooly unconcerned 22-year-old of yore, chatting with strangers and living life with unrestrained joie de vivre? Whatever happened to that young girl in tight pants making out with strangers and scarfing $2 egg rolls after a night at the club? Maybe she is gone forever, and all that’s left is a straight-laced working stiff with a love for quality food and sensible footwear. Perhaps this is just the course life follows, a few buoyant years of chirpy, non-chalantness before pining for watering holes where one can enjoy meaningful conversation, adequate seating and corn-free guacamole.

Or maybe that 22-year-girl is still there; she’s just trapped between her twin bed and a narrow wall in a tiny house on Willow Street, on the other side of the river. 








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10 Amazing Brunch/Breakfast Spots in NYC


A month or two ago I had a morning doctor’s visit before work. The appointment wrapped up much faster than I’d anticipated, so I had time to take myself out for a leisurely breakfast before heading to the office. I measured my choices, and decided to go to a Ukranian diner called Veselka in the East Village. I sat outside, pulled out a book and ate a terrific omelette with a side of latkes while watching people walk their dogs and ride their bikes. It was such a relaxed (dare I say, civilized?) start to my day.

My perspective and priorities shifted that morning. Before then, I had always hoped for wild fame and massive fortune, the kind of income that made designer clothing and long vacations a possibility. But that morning I realized that the only thing I really want in life is to have enough time and money to be able to take myself out for breakfast everyday.

That’s it. That’s the life. I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to cook for myself. I want to sit outside under a striped awning, drink a good cup of coffee, and have someone with a friendly smile bring me a plate of eggs or pancakes.

When I’ve finally reached my financial goal, you’ll be able to find me at one of these places:

best brunch in nyc


1. Chavela’s, Crown Heights

When you grow up in Texas, nothing trumps a good Mexican breakfast, and this place is IT. I was immediately blown away by this place; the atmosphere, food, even the plating– absolutely perfect. The Huevos Ahogados were to die for. In my opinion, everything–food, books, countertops, your children– should be smothered in Jalapeño hollandaise.

Huevos Ahogados with jalapeño hollandaise at Chavela’s. Photo by

2. Hudson Clearwater, Chelsea

This restaurant is so charming! It has no door available on the front of the building, so you have to peep around the corner for entry into a tiny garden, then walk up the stairs. Great atmosphere and really awesome food at this place. Try the Southern Eggs Benedict (poached eggs, house-cured ham, sautéed spinach, more jalapeño hollandaise on a biscuit) or the unbelievable cornflake-crusted French Toast with cinnamon cream. Yum!!

3. Sugar Freak, Astoria

Louisiana homestyle cooking GONE MAD. The menu here is ridiculous in the best way possible, but prepare yourself for an afternoon of lazy afterward. Funnel-cake pancakes? Mac and cheese topped with jambalaya? Praline-bacon-Lousiana BBQ Shrimp Benedict served on a grit cake? Lawd have mercy!!

cherry pepper cornbread waffle w pulled pork sugar freak

Cherry-pepper cornbread waffle with pulled pork at Sugar Freak. Photo by

4. Balthazar, SOHO

No tip-toeing around this one, Balthazar is expensive. But it’s the real-deal-holyfield of brunches. Go here when someone else is picking up the tab (visiting parents, expense account) because this place is special, and so are you. Best latte I’ve ever had, and the eggs benedict and sour cream waffles are total classics. You can also pick up baked goods and coffee at the small bakery next door for eating on the go.

5.  Veselka, East Village

Everybody in NYC loves this solid Ukranian diner, for good reason. Great food, open 24 hours, reasonable prices, no attitude. Oh! And they serve breakfast everyday, all day. Plus, where else can you find blueberry pierogies?

Photo by

6. Sarabeth’s, multiple locations in Manhattan

You know them for their fancy jams in your grocery store, we know them for their classically tasteful brunches all over this town. Can’t really go wrong with a breakfast or brunch at Sarabeth’s. I could really go for some lemon and ricotta pancakes with blackberries right about now…

7. Tal Bagels, locations on the Upper West and Upper East Side

I don’t eat bagels often, but when I do, I schlep to the Upper West Side to indulge in an Everything toasted with full-fat cream cheese, piles of lox and sliced red onions at Tal. An extravagant dining experience this is not, but this casual shop is my favorite place in the city to grab a really great bagel and schmear. Perfectly chewy on the inside, slight crunch to the edge.


Bagel with lox and cream cheese at Tal. Photo by

8. Peaches Hothouse, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

I have always said that should I ever be lucky enough to make it into heaven I would like to be welcomed at the pearly gates with a bucket of fried chicken. I’ve tried a lot of fried chicken in this town–not all of it, but a lot– and so far, Peaches Hothouse has earned a special place in my heart. Go with a friend– one of you order fried chicken (Nashville style)– and one of you order the French toast with bourbon peaches. First you split the plate. Then you split the pants. Then you go to heaven, and do it all over again.

9. The Haab, Woodside, Queens

This tiny hidden gem of a neighborhood joint is serving up some of the best Mexican breakfast in New York City, and I consider myself a tough critic in that category. Go as early as possible (they open at 6am!) to snag a table and order the incredible Huevos Tapatios– two eggs over easy with Mexican sausage served on a fried tortilla with both spicy and creamy sauces on top. At $8.95, it might be the best bargain in this whole town.

yelp the haab

Photo courtesy of

10. Milk & Roses, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

When a delightful backyard is the setting you’re after, you’ll have a hard time doing better than garden seating at Milk & Roses. With all the quirky hats and tattoos, you’ll feel like you’re sitting right in the middle of a GIRLS episode, but that’s part of the charm. Try the apricot pancakes or their righteous BLT.

Garden at Milk & Roses, Greenpoint. Photo by




Ovelia, MP Taverna, Il Bambino, Queens Kickshaw (get the smoked gouda-black bean-guava jam sandwich!), Cafe Triskell (best authentic French crepes in NYC)


Long Island City:

Sage General Store (Try the chicken chilaquiles or the Wisconsin Pizza with bacon, ricotta, caramelized onions and creme fraiche! )



Jack’s Wife Freda, Cafe Mogador, Ciao for Now, Clinton Street Baking Company, Gallow Green, Doughnut Plant


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Now you’re in New York


He was leaning against the railing in baggage claim, all bent elbows and casually cocked knees. He had a full head of very thick dark hair and tortoise-rimmed glasses like Clark Kent; his shirt was untucked but ironed, in shoes reserved for people who summer in places like Nantucket or “The Cape”. His stubble was only four or five days old, and it made the rest of him look more relaxed. On our wedding day, I requested not a fresh-shaved face but five-day stubble. In my opinion, five-day stubble is the perfect amount of facial hair on a man.

The guy was holding a simple bouquet of purple flowers and I became extremely invested in seeing him reunite with whomever he’d brought them for. Picking up someone at the airport is always thoughtful, but in New York City, where few people drive and cabs are plentiful, the gesture is especially loving because it’s completely unnecessary. The only reason you pick someone up from the airport is because you want to make his or her life easier and more pleasant. In New York City, you only meet someone at the airpot when you simply can’t wait another minute to see them.

We’d received a text message that our baggage was delayed and wouldn’t hit the carousel until the next plane had landed, which actually worked out great because I got to stick around longer and wait for the reunion. The guy was starting to look a little anxious, but he refused to take out his cell phone and fiddle around with texting or twitter to kill time. He was fully present for this person’s arrival and didn’t want to distract himself from it. I liked this about him.

And then…there she was. Long and lean in simple but chic black clothes, with sleek dark hair and a wide-brimmed hat that tipped over her eye like a wink.

He walked up slowly and admired her for a minute before reaching to hold her, and then they made out in the middle of baggage claim like she had just come back from war, even though her outfit indicated something more like Rome or Paris….Vienna maybe?

They kissed for a good three minutes while her suitcase went round and round, blissfully unaware of the crowds rushing past them in a dizzy blur. Outside the glass doors, the roar of honking taxis and buses made my ears burn, but inside La Guardia, on an average Sunday night, two people who looked way too beautiful for the real world turned baggage claim into a movie set and I knew I was back in New York City.

i love NYC


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Never Give a Hoarder a Cupcake


We got excited about a two-family house on a quiet, tree-lined street off of Ditmars and decided to check it out. A crowd had already gathered on the sidewalk, and a hulking Greek agent stood on the front steps with his hands on his hips like the Jolly Green Giant, waiting to show us his plentiful crop. Ho-ho-ho, seller’s market.

As we approached, the realtor said to Vin:  “Didn’t I sell you a vape last week, man?” The realtor must have confused him with some other long-haired guy in the neighborhood, because the only thing Vin ever smoked was a box of eclairs.

“Uhmmmm, noooo. Do I just look like the kind of guy who would buy a vape?” Vin asked. This was off to an excellent, super professional start.

We chatted a little bit about what we were looking for and where we currently lived. When I told him the cross streets of our current apartment, the realtor mentioned that his doctor’s office was on the next corner.

“That’s where I go to deal with my emotions,” he said flatly. Oddly enough, the next thing out of his mouth was, “So what do you do?”

“I help people manage their emotions,” I replied.

“Oh, I was just kidding about that last part. I don’t need to work through my emotions. I don’t have any.”

for sale

This was not the house we saw or the realtor we spoke to. I’m sure Anthony has emotions.


He took us quickly through the first floor apartment and down to the basement, which was bursting at the quickly fraying seams and stuffed from floor to ceiling with several decades’ worth of crap.

Suddenly, out of nowhere a man appeared from behind the boxes, like he’d just parted the dank and dusty sea and entered the promise land. His large belly sunk like a boulder beneath his tight white undershirt and his hair had not been combed. Like the real estate agent, his attention went immediately to Vin.

“Are you in the military?” he asked my husband, who at the time was wearing blue jeans, a surf t-shirt and a glorious mane of long brown hair.

I made a grab for the bulk of his hair and asked, ‘Does this guy look like he’s in the military?”

I regretted my sarcasm immediately when the realtor introduced him as the owner. Everyone knows you’re supposed to sweet-talk the owners if you want to close the deal. A friend told me she wrote a lovely letter to the owner of the house she wanted to buy, and it paid off royally. Damnit, I knew I should have baked something.

I quickly changed my tune and told him what a nice big house he had. The room smelled of mildew and general wetness, and the ceiling was about five inches above my head and ten minutes away from giving up all hope. I put a smile on my face and silently prayed that an avalanche of knick-knacks and old newspapers could hold on upstairs for one more day, or at least until we’d left the basement.

We were then lead back upstairs to check out the first level apartment, which in essence didn’t look so bad. A few nice windows, decent width, wood floors I could actually see. There were a few other real estate agents in the room, one of whom gave us an innocuous warning before heading up another set of stairs to see the second apartment.

“There’s a woman who lives up there. She was the owner’s mother’s best friend. She worked many years as a school teacher, so you may see some lesson plans on the wall.”

“Great,” I say. “Maybe I’ll learn something.”

We began the climb, and immediately understood that he had completely undersold the situation, especially to someone in the mental health profession. This apartment was a case study in hoarding. I was–of course—fascinated, but also claustrophobic and sweating bullets. We were on the third floor, surrounded by a half dozen people and 35 years of clutter, and there was no fan or A.C.

We were walking through what the literature refers to as “goat paths”, narrow strips of clear area, surrounded on all sides by piles and piles of stuff.  Every centimeter of wall space was covered with something– a picture, a receipt from 1990, a newspaper clipping, a note, an index card, a journal entry scribbled in Greek or Spanish. The ground was so completely covered there was no way of determining if the floors were tile, carpet, parquet, or stained with the blood of a thousand men. There could have been meat buried in the floorboards for all we knew.

The current tenant was standing in the kitchen by the stove, wearing an old housedress and sponge curlers in her hair. She was very sweet and asked me if I spoke Greek, or Latin, or Spanish or something other than English. I hate disappointing people. Especially teachers.

We thanked her for allowing us into her home, and made the walk back downstairs, wiping the sweat from our foreheads with the backs of our hands. On the way down, I thought to myself:  Whatever happened to home staging? Is that still a thing, or is it just not a thing in New York City?

“Listen,” I said to the realtors, who were hanging out in the living room. “How are they going to get all of this stuff out of here? You know you can’t just go in there and throw it all away, right?” Anyone who’s seen the show Hoarders knows that, but I wasn’t sure if they’d seen the program or not.  If they had, they probably would have hired a specialist to come in here before they invited the neighborhood to walk in and inspect the house.

“Oh no, it’s no problem. She’s moving back to Greece, so we’re just going to take it all down and ship it to her country.” This plan did not sound likely to me at all.

“You’re really going to take down a million little pieces of paper and ship them to Greece? I don’t know about that…I think you’re going to have to call a professional therapeutic team in here to work with her.”

One time, I gave a client with a hoarding issue a cupcake for his birthday. He was very touched by the gesture and looked at it wistfully before speaking.

“You recognize I’m never going to eat this, right?” He was going to keep the cupcake on a nice plate in his fridge and look at it every so often. It was a gift, and therefore had meaning and significance. I wondered how many “cupcakes” this woman had been given over the years.

I looked around the house one last time before parting. It had good bones, some nice solid woodwork, and was on a beautiful street. But I was standing on land that was about to become a battlefield, as the current dwellers were about to go head to head with a group of eager real estate agents who were probably going to rush them and their stuff out of this house as quickly as possible. This was New York City, where time is of the essence.

And because there must be a moral to every story, like the teacher upstairs I too want to post some lessons on my wall. I’m leaving them here, in the hopes that someone may learn something.

1. Never put an offer on a home where you cannot see the floor. 2. Do not involve yourself with a real estate agent who claims to have no emotions. And above all, unless they are very, very hungry, never give a hoarder a cupcake.







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This is Marriage (2)


Sometimes, when walking to dinner in our neighborhood together, I like to imagine we are Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise, two young, alluring people with sharp tongues and bright ideas who spend hours just walking around and talking about the greatest things in life– philosophy, passion, love, sex, books, travel, food. We wander slowly, treading carefully down cobble stone streets, using our hands to fill out our sentences. We ping-pong ideas off one another, and almost never run out of things to say. It’s easier to picture us like this when we’re strolling by tiny sidewalk cafes and charming fruit stands because our town in Queens looks vaguely European that way. It becomes a challenge when passing Dunkin’ Donuts or the auto body shop just off the feeder road.

These have been my favorite moments of the last 14 years, the length of time it’s taken us to go from coworkers to friends to partners to spouses. We started our walks on lunch breaks, two kids fairly low on the totem pole escaping their cubicles to go play outside. We’d walk all the way down from 23rd to 14th Street, pointing out women we knew were models and artfully dodging people from Greenpeace or Planned Parenthood asking for money or overpriced midtown salons trying to sell us a full day of beauty. We’d grab a bowl of noodles, plop ourselves on a park bench in Union Square and watch the world go by.

We never go out to lunch together now. Instead, I pack sensible combinations of protein, carbs and fat in our small shared kitchen and send you out into the world with a bag full of Tupperware. Now we take walks in search of brunch and dinner and always ice cream. And even if the meal isn’t memorable, the walk usually is because the setting keeps changing, but you are my constant. I get to admire your profile and you always hold my hand. Palm folded into palm– never fingers intertwined–because according to you, lacing fingers is for teenagers and puppy love and we are beyond all that.

When we first started dating we’d have 5-hour phone marathons where we’d yammer on and on about everything under the sun until we both passed out from exhaustion. A friend of yours said talking like that would never last, and he was right. There isn’t much to catch each other up on now; we share a home and a life, and as a result, our anecdotes.

Sometimes it feels like we’re going to run out of new things to say, and then one of us tells a story the other one has never heard before, and we both feel giddy with excitement. You’ll tell me about the kid who grew up on your block or the time you tried to impress a girl by speaking your shared native language, or I’ll share a memory that involved falling down or running into things when I wasn’t paying attention.

I’ll remind myself to be a better wife and a kinder person and encourage you to keep talking about what it is you do for a living, which, on a cognitive level is difficult for me to understand.

I’ll think about how lucky I am to create more history with someone as funny and sweet as you, and you’ll look at me with your head cocked slightly to the right with the corners of your mouth turned up and paint the words I love you with the curves of your face.

Last night when we walked to dinner we talked about growing older, not just the physical act of it, but what it must feel like to look in the mirror and see a wise old face that doesn’t quite match up with the young, dumb fool you feel like on the inside. We talked about Facebook and social media, and the kids who are growing up on it, and how one day they’ll be able to look back at nearly every day of their childhood and catch a glimpse of it, like one of those flip books where you turn the pages a mile a minute so it looks like the change happened while you blinked. Then I asked if you thought my feet were getting fat. There is room for all of it.

I doubt the way we talk to each other is anything extraordinary, but sometimes it feels that way. I doubt I love my husband more than anyone else loves theirs, but sometimes I think that I might. Sometimes it feels like we’re two characters in a movie, swapping thoughts and ideas and stories and there is something really romantic about all of it. Sometimes I think I should stop to write it all down, that these everyday conversations with my husband are not banal or mundane, but poignant and memorable.

And then it occurs to me that the two of us are probably not extraordinary at all, that this must be what everyone thinks after having a really good talk with someone they love.


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If you’re gonna spew, spew into this

A therapist’s office is supposed to promote relaxation. We paint the room in soft, soothing colors and turn on lamps instead of overhead lights. Some buy fresh flowers once a week (not me, I’ve got a house to buy) while others invest in fine leather sofas or beautiful, non-threatening artwork. You want to create an atmosphere that feels safe, calm and serene.

That is exponentially harder to do once someone has barfed all over it.

Due to difficulty finding childcare, several of my clients occasionally bring their small children into sessions. It is painfully boring for them as I have nothing in there that could entertain a child, so I usually just ply them with office letterhead and a red pen and tell them to draw their mother a picture. One day, a cute kindergartner came in with his mom. She was wise enough to supply him with an iPad, so we could talk and he could remain occupied.

His mother and I were in the middle of a very serious discussion when all of the sudden, without warning or fanfare, the little boy stood up, turned to face my big leather chair and puked up his entire homeroom all over it. It happened on a Friday, and if you went to elementary school in the United States during this century, you know that means pizza day. My pale green office was suddenly awash with pink.

I’m guessing mothers are accustomed to acts of violent and spontaneous barfing from time to time, but as a non-mother, this child’s sudden volcanic ejection caught me completely off guard. It was alarming to be in the position of having vomit on the chair, the rug and the floor and I looked longingly at the sink bizarrely placed in the corner of my office. It finally had an opportunity to serve a purpose, and the moment was completely wasted.

Once someone has puked in a therapy office, there is no more talk–there is only action–so I was more than pleased to be the professional person who needed to quickly flee the room in order to obtain enough paper towels to remove this incident from my chair, my rug, and my short-term memory.

I ran down to the basement. There were enough boxes of Kleenex to get a theater full of women through a Sunday matinee of Beaches, and not a single roll of paper towel to be found. I made a quick call to the janitor (clean up on aisle 9!) while discreetly asking people if they were hoarding towels in their offices. Finally the psychiatrist gave up his sad little roll, and I brought it upstairs.

The mother was on her hands and knees, furiously mopping off her kids’ backpack and my furniture with whatever errant cloth she could find. Meanwhile, the kid looked completely non-plussed and was back to playing with the ipad in another chair. He was smiling broadly and his little legs swung back and forth without a care. He looked like he was ready for his Friday night to get underway, maybe hit up an arcade or a G-rated flick on the way home. He wasn’t even crying. I cry every time I puke. It’s just so…upsetting.

I began to long for my own childhood. A simpler time when someone else was there to kiss my boo-boos, wipe away tears, undo my mistakes, and clean up my barf.

Maybe I should talk to my therapist about this.

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Health Freaks


When you live in a neighborhood like ours, you begin to recognize people on the street because you see them everyday. There is one teeny-tiny lady I pass frequently who’s around 4’8″, weighs under 100 pounds and appears about two coughs away from dying. She might only be 45 years old, but she looks like every old Italian or Greek widow ever portrayed in cinema, and always seems to be wearing a roomy black shift dress that billows away from her gaunt, withering frame like a Hefty bag.

On Friday morning, she sat hunched over the bench outside my local bakery, the one that smells like meat at 8 a.m. because the owner of the bbq joint two doors down smokes brisket in their kitchen. She had on big dark sunglasses and round-toed orthopedic shoes that made her spindly legs look like toothpicks stuck into cocktail wieners. She had a cigarette in each of her hands, taking one last puff from the right one before using it to light the left. She looked like someone who had long ago thrown up both arms and exclaimed “Well! I’ve had a good run! Fuck all!”, and seeing her chain-smoking at eight in the morning made me want to hop on a treadmill, munch on an apple, chug a gallon of water and floss my teeth all at the same time. I felt a sense of urgency in my life, a pressing need to straighten up and fly right, and so before heading into work, I decided to buy a green drink.

I walked into a chain shop called Juice Press, where the girl behind the counter looked like Denise Huxtable after dropping out of Hillman and turning hippie. My jaw dropped when I saw the price list, and I almost told the chalkboard menu to go fuck itself for featuring a $15 smoothie. I don’t care if you’re blending gold chips or crack rocks into it, there is never any excuse for selling a booze-free drink for over ten bucks. If I’m gonna spend $15 on a meal, it better be in solid form and include a large piece of chicken.

So I walked down the street to a coffee shop that also makes juices and smoothies for under eight bucks. I make smoothies all the time at home, usually putting a mix of baby spinach and fresh mint in them which creates a nice subtle nutrient boost without the bitterness of other greens. This place didn’t use any spinach– just kale– so I went ahead and ordered the classic, a mix of kale and banana and berries and just a splash of apple juice. It looked like sea algae, had the mouthfeel of peat moss and tasted like apple-infused garbage. It began the separation process immediately, the fiber from the greens segregating itself from the liquid like it was insulted to share the same cup.

(Image from

The barista had some extra kale smoothie left in the blender, and offered to give me the excess.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” I said, and encouraged him to drink it himself or give it to someone else behind the bar. Nobody wanted it of course, so I was left with more smoothie than I knew what to do with. I tossed back the excess like a shot of tequila, and instantly knew that drinking a whole cup of this stuff would be like trying to finish one of those ropes courses, where you have push through the pain to get to the glory.

I brought it to work, where it sat on my desk taunting me with its healing powers: I AM YOUR ONLY HOPE. DRINK ME NOW OR DECAY PREMATURELY LATER.  I shook it to make it all one color and texture again, then took another sip, this one even grosser than the first because the chill was wearing off. The only thing saving this smoothie was its frosty temperature and the longer I postponed the inevitable, the more lukewarm and the less palatable it got. It was thick and mealy, like trying to suck applesauce out of a straw.

A milkshake would have been gone in three minutes, tops, but this thing followed me around for hours. It came with me to chat with a coworker. We went outside for a breath of fresh air. It followed me upstairs to a staff meeting and plopped itself on the long conference table, squaring off against a big glass bowl of fun-sized Milky Ways. Halfway through the meeting I picked it up and took a big gulp in my effort to be rid of it, and made the puckered, horrified face I usually reserve for people who feel nothing when they hear the first few bars of Don’t Stop Believin’. My colleague across from me shook his head and smirked, not just because of my complete lack of poker face, but because he knew he had a big ham sandwich waiting for him on his desk downstairs.

At this point, the smoothie was nothing more than a prop. I had no intention of drinking it anymore, but I felt guilty throwing pricy food away. It hung around the rest of the day on my desk, a paragon of health maintenance and self-care.

Eventually a client wrinkled her nose and asked, “Jennifer, what is that?”

“Oh, it’s just a smoothie. There are greens in in, which explains the color.” I tried not to dissuade anyone from trying a green smoothie and seeing how they like it. In my line of work it’s important for people to learn how to make healthy decisions for themselves.


That night, Vinny and I had our usual Friday night summit of where to go out for dinner. We toyed with a few lighter options, but eventually settled on sharing a big plate of fried chicken at the new place down the street, promptly followed by a walk to the frozen yogurt place where I topped my Nutella-flavored treat with crushed Butterfingers and joy. Vin piled his with rainbow cookies, smashed oreos, and a river of hot fudge.

We’ve had a good run.


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About Jenn.


Kindly ignore the "food/friends/fun" part on the top of this page. It no longer describes this blog; I just don't know how to change it. Pretend it says something more accurate like "Stories of my Life", or "For a good time, read Jenn". About Me: I'm a 30-something Texan who moved to New York, became a therapist, and married a guy named Vinny from Queens. I delight in observing the world around me, and write about it here.


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