Friday, January 27, 2012

honey, honey

I was in San Francisco last week, and, on one afternoon, my friend Andrew took me and our friend Sarah to this store in his neighborhood called Her Majesty's Secret Beekeeper, which calls itself "the only urban beekeeping store in America." Andrew had been talking this store up for hours beforehand, and, per usual, I was responding with skepticism. I asked if there were going to be any bee hives in the store; Andrew rolled his eyes and said, "Yes, so many."

Well, let me tell you now before I even launch into the tale: if you ever find yourself in San Francisco, you've got to hit up this place.

We walked in and were immediately greeted by four chickens who were scampering around the wooden floor. There was a fifty-something man - not to be all "New York" about it, but he looked like the kind of dude who'd be playing a ukulele in a top hat on the A train - carving something at a woodworking station set up in the middle of the store. He barely looked up at us.

Sarah went to pick up the chickens (both males were named "Edward," we were told; both females, "Henrietta") while Andrew and I approached the counter, where there were jars of three different kinds of honey sticks: blueberry, sage and a third kind I can't remember.

I asked the man which of the three flavors was his favorite, and he grimaced. "I don't have a favorite." He looked at us with apparent disdain. "By the way, 'blueberry' doesn't mean they taste like blueberries. It means that's what those bees ate..." Andrew bought three blueberry sticks for the three of us.

Because I was in that kind of mood and it was that kind of store, I asked the man if he had ever seen "Bee Movie." He smiled, I think; it was hard to tell because of his white beard.

"No, I don't see movies like that," he said. "So many factual errors. I wouldn't be able to stand it."

"Do you like bee puns?" I asked.

You would have thought I'd asked him if he was OK with murder. "No."

"There's so many though..." I said, almost tauntingly (I'm not really sure what I was going for). "'Honey, I shrunk the kids...,' 'Bee-utiful'..."

He looked up at me from his carving apparatus.

"Once someone lost a wallet here so two police officers showed up," he said. "They spent a good five minutes making bee puns before getting down to business..." He looked off into space.

We took some pictures with our iPhones of Sarah holding the chickens. (When I asked him why there were chickens in a honey store, he said, "they keep me company.")

We bought three more honey sticks -- this time, sage.

"These aren't as sweet," Andrew said, slurping the honey out of the plastic casing.

"Sage is really bringing me down," I said.

"Isn't that a Joni Mitchell song?" the storekeeper quipped. And this time I was certain he was smiling.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"who should go first?"

Few things make me feel closer to a good friend - reaffirmed in our bond - than meeting a new person together at a party. I'll be standing with Kelly by the drinks table and someone will approach and make a rum & coke and then turn and ask us "how we know the birthday girl." Kelly and I will give each other this brief, smirk-y look - "who should go first?" - before answering in turn. Revealing our jobs and neighborhoods, we'll both talk in this exuberant, uncharacteristically friendly manner, like we're giving a tour at an art museum. As Kelly tells the stranger where she's from, I'll gaze at her proudly, maybe nod my head a few times. I'll chime in with a personal detail about her - "she's the only New Yorker who still has a flip phone!" - that adds an exclamation point to our evident closeness without overdoing it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

the new year

This week has been rough. I'd imagine the first week of a new year is pretty crummy for everyone. We see it as this opportunity to set some lofty goals, "restart" our lives, "live strong" and all that. I'm going to exercise all the time and be sooooOOooooOOoo productive and work on being this really present/supportive friend and stop looking at Facebook profiles that make me feel sad and weird. But, inevitably, it's January 5th and you're slumped on your couch watching a "Kourtney and Kim Take New York" marathon and your iPhone screen starts inexplicably freezing so you throw it on your bed and you haven't been to the gym all week and, sure, this is like any number of 2011 evenings, but it stings more on January 5th. Everything was going to be different this year.

This was my mindset as I got on the subway Thursday night.

On New Year's Eve, last Saturday, my friend Marissa and I had taken the 3 train uptown to head to a party on the Upper West Side. We were sitting across from a group of four friends who looked like they were right out of ABC Family central casting. The one female was perky and pretty and wearing skinny jeans and several layers and a jaunty hat that would have looked ridiculous on any woman who did not have the face of a Neutrogena spokesmodel. The men were rugged and handsome and looked Australian (they weren't). The most striking of the three had unkempt shoulder-length hair and Jake Gyllenhaal facial scruff. He didn't say much to his three friends (he was standing even though there was an open seat next to his sitting companions); he seemed almost ill at ease, as if he were one of their cousins who was visiting for the weekend, tagging along for New Year's Eve revelry before heading back to Chicago on Monday. We got off the train right as they all broke out into laughter over some joke one of them made about either a streaker or a stickler, I couldn't quite hear (the former seems more likely). I told Marissa, "If the CW ever remakes 'Tarzan' in 'modern day NYC' where Tarzan is like undercover as a NYU undergrad when he's not swinging on vines, that guy's their guy."

Five nights later, Thursday night, after a distressingly lethargic day, I put on two different coats over a sweatshirt and left for my brother's apartment in the East Village to retrieve an air mattress. I got off the subway and power-walked through the cold to his place. I picked up the air mattress (which my brother had stuffed in a gift bag adorned with the logos of various NHL teams) and immediately turned around and walked back to the subway. I zoned out by the track as the 4 train approached, thinking about the e-mails I had to remember to write when I got home. The doors opened and... out walked Tarzan. The same guy. I did a double take as I moved into the car, hitting the woman behind me with the air mattress bag. And then the doors closed and the train lurched forward and everything felt different. What is this world in which you run into the same stranger twice in one week? In New York City, no less! I felt like I was on a J.J. Abrams TV show or in a prologue to a psychological thriller novel. The coincidence meant absolutely nothing and also everything. How can you feel self-pity and glumness when there is just so much strangeness out there - so much amusing, weird, bizarre happenstance all the time all around you? You don't need resolutions or expectations or rebirths; you just need to go outside.