What’s Christmas without a gingerbread house? Every year our firm helps to get into the holiday spirit by buying a gingerbread house, with the proceeds going to charity, and then displaying the creation in our first floor lobby. This year’s elaborate creation, prepared to benefit the St. Stephen’s Community House, was prepared by Cameron Mitchell restaurants.
Today we were in lower Manhattan and decided to drop in on Zuccotti Park, lately the home of the Occupy Wall Street gang. You can find it in the financial district, very close to the location of the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial.
Zuccotti Park has a sign that says “Open to the public” but, ironically, it was totally blocked off from public access by temporary fencing — presumably because it was being cleaned by a guy riding a street sweeper machine — and there was a significant police presence in the immediate area. The area also featured a decorated Christmas tree and lots of holiday lighting, rather than tents, so it didn’t bear any resemblance to the encampment of protesters that was the subject of so much media attention.
Still, we could make a few observations. First, Zuccotti Park is not really much of a “park.” Instead, I would call it a plaza. It’s almost entirely covered with concrete and stone, with stone benches and a few trees. It couldn’t have been a comfortable place to camp, or sleep. Second, it’s much smaller than I thought it would be — a small square, really. It’s hard to imagine it was the site of dozens of tents, a working chow line, and so forth.
The Occupy Wall Streeters appear to be largely gone from their former headquarters, although I did see a few people with signs — including one guy who seemed to be protesting Occupy Wall Street and what its leaders had done with the money they received in contributions.
Have you ever had an otherwise pleasant dining experience marred by the fact that you sat next to some blowhard? It happened to us last night.
I didn’t notice the couple when we passed their table and were seated at the next table over. As soon as we were seated, however, I heard the guy’s droning nasal voice yammering non-stop, with nary an interruption from his unfortunate dining companion. I tried hard to tune it out — really, I did — but his voice was so loud and insistent in explaining some mind-numbing workplace occurrence that it kept intruding into our dinner table conversation. I think he was a professor or literary type; at one point he actually held forth on how quotation marks should always precede punctuation marks. (Seriously!) This tweedy tool was so dull and self-absorbed he could have bored his own mother.
When the couple finally left it was a relief, but there was one last moment of interest. As they were gathering their things, the guy, perhaps experiencing a faint moment of self-awareness, finally asked the woman a question, about one of her friends. When she said the friend had been on a respirator for 45 days — I swear I am not making this up! — the guy didn’t know what to say, so he muttered something, then said, brightly, “let’s do it again soon!”
I sat with my back to the couple and I never turned around, although I was tempted. I’m not sure what the appropriate etiquette is in that situation, although I expect it doesn’t involve telling the Leaden Professor to shut his yap and stop boring the entire restaurant with his dim-witted yakking.
Last night we went to the famous Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem. Sylvia describes herself — on the menu, at least — as the”Queen of Soul Food,” and if every member of royalty performed as capably as she does we might all still be living under monarchies.
We decided to go all in on the soul food experience. We began with catfish fingers and chicken livers with Sylvia’s brown gravy. The catfish fingers were light and well fried, and the chicken livers, served with onions and some fine gravy, were exceptionally good. The brown gravy in particular was a revelation; I could easily have sopped up every bit of that rich goodness with cornbread, gobbled it down, and been quite happy about making a spectacle of myself.
For an entree I had fried chicken (a leg and thigh), with mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese as my sides, and some corn bread. I love fried chicken, and Sylvia’s version showed me why. The chicken was moist and well seasoned; I ate it with my hands and enjoyed licking my fingers afterward. (Russell ate his chicken with a knife and fork, but I think a fundamental part of the fried chicken experience lies in using your hands.) I topped off the meal with a tasty, and locally brewed, Sugar Hill draft beer.
Sylvia’s food was great, and packed a real “stick to your ribs” punch. After the meal we hauled ourselves out of our chairs and walked back to the Columbia campus area though the busy Harlem streets, enjoying the holiday decorations.
Yesterday, as we waited in the Christopher Street/Sheridan Square station for the next train, I was struck by the lattice-like appearance of the tracks and steel pillars. It was like a lesson in drawing to one-point perspective, sprung to life and ready to be enjoyed by anyone who noticed.