Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Love/Hate Relationship

I love New York. Wait, let me rephrase that: I hate New York. But seriously, my relationship with this city is somewhere between murderous and newlywedy. Every day I wake up to the sound of my fantastic upstairs neighbors stomping around in heels. I brush my teeth with overpriced toothpaste, pull my hair into a loose bun and grab my heaviest wool coat, my walking shoes and purple gloves. I lock all thirty-five deadbolts on the front door of our apartment, hold my breath through the smells of other people's B.O. in the hallway and burst out the front door with a large gulp of polluted, construction-dust air. I slip on the 3-day old New York Times plastered to the stoop, falling into dog excrement as someone yells, "You suck!" from a delivery van stuck in traffic in front of me. I wait for a subway car that will be so crowded I'll be forced to stand in someone's armpit and get asked for money (that I don't have) at least three times a day. This is my lady, New York, and although she sh*ts on me pretty consistently I still cannot thank her enough for not spitting me out the moment I set foot in this concrete jungle. The city I love (hate).

That doesn't mean I won't be ready to pack up and move out of the Upper East Side the minute our lease has expired, which happens to be at the end of March. We're not yet ready to leave the Empire State, so we're seeking a change of pace in lovely Brooklyn. Am I ready to move to Brooklyn? Yes. Is Brooklyn ready for a pale, sarcastic chef who wears fake pearls and K-Mart moccasins and a faux-hawked math freak who wears ties for "fun"? No; my guess is that we're going to get eaten alive. Do they even broadcast "Jeopardy" in Brooklyn? Remind me to look into that…

At the end of December I was wound so tight with stress and cold air - I think I yelled at an infant for taking my seat on the subway. I was walking around with a frown on my face, hating everyone that looked at me the wrong way and didn't jump out of my path as I approached. It was bad, and I needed a vacation STAT! Enter my in-laws, living in the gorgeous and ideal Dallas. We were fortunate enough to spend the holiday in Texas with them and my sister-in-law, her husband and my Godson were also in town. It was one big, happy family reunion and we definitely made the rounds, visiting everyone and anyone who would have us. We saw aunts, uncles, grandmas, cousins, brothers, neighbors, toddlers, pre-teens and best friends. We danced, made pasta, drank beer, mingled, ordered pizza, opened presents, took preventative flu medicine, slept in, rode an old-fashioned train, ate candy/cookies/cake/pie, shopped the deals, talked, relaxed…phew. It was wonderful, and I didn't think once about my hectic New York City lifestyle.

I'm always amazed at how adaptable Steve and I are to our surroundings. As New Yawkers, we're tough, rude and decisive. When do I want my dry-cleaning delivered, you ask? In an hour, but make it quick I'm busy. When we're in Indiana, we tend to convince ourselves that we are happy to be back in the Midwest. OMG, I'm so happy the sun hasn't come out for three weeks. Wow, it feels warmer than 3 degrees Fahrenheit! My favorite transformation, however, occurs in the air somewhere over Tennessee on our way to Dallas, Texas. All of a sudden, Steve looks tanner, his hawk gets a little higher and he sits straighter and calmer. My hair lightens, black mascara magically appears on my lids and I have the extreme desire to buy a Chevy Tahoe. We start throwing in little ya'lls everywhere, and saying things like, "I'm fixin' to get ready to go to the kitchen, honey pie. Can I get you some chips and queso?" When I'm out and about in Dallas, I smile at everyone, and strike up conversations with random "natives." I feel special when someone looks at me like I belong here, like I was born a Texan. Today, I had to return an item of clothing I bought at a Dallas mall over our Christmas vacation.

"Hi, I bought this shirt at one of your stores in Dallas, I hope that won't be a problem."

"No, not at all, I'll just make the even exchange."

"Oh I'm so glad, because I bought it in Dallas."

"Yep, not a problem, ma'am. Just give me a second."

"Cool…Dallas…gotta love that Dallas! Doo doo doo…did I mention I bought this in Dallas?"

She wasn't impressed. Whatever.

As the week came to an end, we boarded the airplane with 20 pounds of extra luggage and a few less knots in our city-worn muscles. Three hours later we circled into the New York area, descended into LaGuardia Airport, grabbed our luggage and…waited in a snow-filled line for 45 minutes for a taxi. Crossing the Triboro Bridge back into Manhattan, though, was a religious experience: the Empire State Building shone like a beacon in the smog-filled skyline. I could almost smell the burnt street meat, urine-soaked trash piles and cigarette smoke coming from 15-year old lungs. I felt the most myself, however, when Steve got in a fight with our cab driver. Welcome home.

Since then, the muscle knots have returned and the luggage has been unpacked. What remains, as always does when I travel to Dallas, is a storybook sense that somewhere, far away, exists my own personal sanctum where the weather is mild and you can get chips and queso at any hour of the night. But for now, we're back in New York with some new clothes, a refreshed attitude and a new year to look forward to. 2010 was epic – whatcha got for me 2011?

Happy New Year!


I adapted this from a Food Network recipe that seemed a little…excessive. It was a huge hit at our Thanksgiving table, and will definitely become a staple for years to come. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Serves 8+

You will need:

-3 large sweet potatoes

-1 cup sugar

-2 eggs, beaten

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup butter, room temperature

-1/2 cup heavy cream

-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Topping (optional):

-1/4 cup butter, cold

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Poke potatoes several times with a fork and bake in oven until very soft, about 45 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F.

Scoop potato out into a bowl and whip with a hand mixer. Add sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla. Mix well and put in a greased casserole. Set aside.

In a food processor, chop butter and brown sugar together until it's a course, sandy consistency. Fold in the pecans and distribute evenly over casserole. Bake for 25 minutes, or until top is brown.