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Wandered over to Washington Square to watch the goings-on for a while. The day is a ten, perfect early fall, not a cloud in the sky, a bit breezy with a hint of chill to come. Too bright for me actually, I prefer clouds, some fog maybe ... but hey, it's Sunday. It's early still, everyone's warming up including the fountain which starts to rise as I head for shade and settle on a bench.
Bare-skinned sun worshippers on the wrong side of the fountain duck the drifting mist while a doggie goes crazy in the pool furiously barking at frothing water, drowning out the Amish women choir gathered nearby with their outrunners of preachers who can usually be avoided by not making eye contact. Works with drug pushers as well.
Just then Master Lee struts into view dragging his huge valise filled with the tools of his trade, he'll be juggling an apple, a sword and a flaming baton, the plywood will be splinters after a karate chop; he's part Black he says ... from the waist down. Across the park The Theater For The New City sets up stage for 'Biotech', sure to include evil polluters, rapacious landlords and some heavy-duty breakdancing. Suddenly everyone's pointing up, a skywriting plane (NOW SPRINT ?) gets the tourists all excited.
All this time I watch a good-looking man standing near the arch, an actor I imagine, holding a small sign, up high when I first arrive but as time goes by his pacing increases, he looks at his watch more often, the sign disappears from view. Body language says it's not gonna happen. He's been stood up. I can't take it anymore and wander over, past him to see the sign. BIG ONION WALKING TOURS it says. I can't get myself to ask for details, but I'm sure he'll get over it, he's young; I leave the park and head on east.
I'm standing there in the middle of Grand Central with all the tourists without a connection. No phone. No Internet. Must be my account, I probably goofed updating my credit card and the monthly charge didn't go through. Grand Central, in the middle of Manhattan. There has to be a T-Mobile outlet somewhere nearby but how to find it. Can't goggle, can't call for help. It's a terrible feeling.
The Apple Store right up those steps to the West Balcony should be able to help. I am directed outside, just a few blocks on Lexington Ave so I go wandering north. No T-Mobile but there is AT&T .They tell me T-Mobile used to be right there on the corner but moved further north. I head further north. No such. I'm going to miss the riots in Miami! A subway entrance reminds me that there is a T-Mobile store near Astor Place, home territory. I hop on a downtown train.
Wander up Third Ave from Astor Place. The storefront is now a bodega and a drug store. Six blocks to 14th Street where I head crosstown to Best Buy. They direct me two more blocks west where I finally find T-Mobile and get my charges straightened out. No alerts on the phone.
Decide to take a break on Washington Square which is just a few blocks down Fifth Avenue but by this time I'm overheated and can't relax. Even the jazz combo with a cool sax doesn't help. Sax ... trumpet. I'm missing the arrest and indictment! A stand nearby displays a plastic tray full of pre-rolls, I watch a few customers light up. It's tempting but can't quite see myself doing that in the middle of the Square with a million people looking at me.
I head east, crossing Broadway past a T-Mobile store, and make it home just in time to see him drive off cheered on by a small crowd. I did get to see the only arrest that day, a grinning protester blocking traffic in a striped prison outfit, hauled off by the cops.
Hard to believe ... I had root beer with dinner back then? Will have to try that again soon. The place has gone through some more changes since. It was The Kitchen Sink at one point and now it's a Greek restaurant.
It's a cheap-dinner-out night; we head for the Moonstruck Diner on Second Avenue, changed names from Cooper Diner a while back. It's your standard New York coffee shop with a huge menu of dishes that only sound interesting though this particular one does some nice 3-egg omelets and french fries. Occasionally the burgers turn out super, but that's a bit erratic; avoid any trimmings, bacon is made from stale cardboard. I have my favorites lox and onion omelet with a root beer, Roomie does the Western one with a coke. Good.
Years ago the Cooper Diner was located across the street and before that it was called BiniBon, same menu, where infamously in 1981 Jack Henry Abbott used a kitchen knife to kill a waiter, the promising young actor named Richard Adan. Just 6 weeks earlier with much help from the writer Norman Mailer, Abbott had been paroled from prison where had spent most of his life and where he had killed another inmate. He was the toast of the New York literary society during his short stint of freedom before returning to prison after the murder. On the witness stand, weeping, he admitted the deed but pleaded that it was a tragic misunderstanding born of his lifetime of exposure to prison violence. Mr. Abbott went on to author "In the Belly of the Beast" and other works and hanged himself in his cell four years ago this month.
Back in the mid 1700's the explorer James Bruce described an Ethiopian feast, followed by an orgy, in which slabs of meat were cut off live cattle outside the banquette hall while guests feasted on them, serenaded by the bleating of butchered livestock. Honored guests at the front of the table got the first juicy cuts, by the time the servings got to those at the end of the table the meat would be drained of blood, dry and tough. We've progressed to steak tartar, one of my favorites, or kifto in the Ethiopian style often served impossibly spicy, same raw meat but hopefully garnered more in line with today's sensibilities. We also no longer recommend orgies on a full stomach.
They didn't have kifto on the day we visited this restaurant, we should have ordered ahead, but this was one of the tastiest meals in memory. Sorry to say the place closed shortly thereafter and none of the other Ethiopian restaurants in the City ever come close to it.
We head deep into the Alphabets for dinner and order a bottle of Chateau Tellagh, Medea Rouge 2003, first Algerian wine I recall having. It goes well with our Ethiopian dinner at Meskel - "Ethiopian Home Cooking". Meskel Combination consists of heaped stews of spiced lamb, beef and various condiments: tibs wat, beg alicha, kik alicha, miser wat and gomen besega*, all served family-style on a platter of injera, perfectly spongy sourdough-like bread similar to crepes made from fermented tef, an Ethiopian grain. There's a separate plate of rolled injera. Who's going to eat all that? But by the time we're done the bread is done as well. It's all finger food, not a fork, knife or spoon in sight: tear off a piece of injera, collect some stew from the platter and try to to get it all neatly to your mouth. Our second entree, a whole deep-fried fish with a side of spicy tatar sauce gets demolished and picked clean by eager fingers as well. The injera from the bottom of the plate is the best part, soaked as it is with the combined flavors of all the dishes. We waddle home.
still need to deal with some Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream waiting in the wings ...
* Tibs wat is made with beef or lamb sautéed in butter with onions, garlic, and green peppers. Beg alicha is a mild lamb stew cooked with clarified butter and a variety of herbs. Kik alicha is a delicious yellow split pea stew that is mildly spiced and flavored with ginger and garlic. Misir wat is a thick stew made of whole green lentils with onion, garlic, and ginger. Gomen besiga is lamb and collard greens gently cooked with clarified butter with just a hint of Ethiopian cardamom.