Last week’s column found me mired in tangential tragedy, accidental narcissism, and parental worry. But then, at a Sunday night Oscar party, amidst discussion of the silliness and interminable length of the broadcast, while eating a vast mosaic of Trader Joe’s wickedly delicious frozen appetizers, I watched Brooklynite Lupita Nyong’o (perhaps you’ve heard of her?) win a much deserved trophy and delight us all with her rare, composed brilliance. I got to enjoy Ellen being
Columnist Renee Dale
Ellen, always a reliable source of goodness and well being. Spike Jonze rightly won Best Original Screenplay for his masterpiece, Her, and 12 Years A Slave beat out the very overrated American Hustle for best picture. Also, John Travolta introduced us to the talents of a previous unknown, Adele Dazeem, and the workweek thereby began in convivial laughter and pleasant bafflement. It was such easy fun, and lighter than a passed puffed pastry washed down with the Prosecco I was drinking. A perfect way to hit the pillow on a Sunday night.
So this week, I remain committed to continued Lightness. Lightness damnit! I suggest that you download Pharrell’s familiar and chipper song Happy from GIRL, the happiest gosh darn album of the year, and listen to it as accompaniment while reading further—with some daffodils in a jelly jar sitting right next to you. Here’s a list of items I’d like to share, collected unscientifically, that I think will make you feel generally, overall, basically, pretty nice.
Let’s start small: Free Irish Soda Bread samples have been made available at Mazzola on the corner Union & Henry Street. I eat most of them when the staff turns their back, so it’s unlikely there will be any left for you. (Do they keep the mirror there next to the counter to shame you? Make you behave morally? I’ve never understood a mirror in a bakery.) Either way, I’ve been greedy and I’m sorry about that. I suppose this counts more as a makes me happy item; other people not so directly. Anyway, can’t you just be happy for me?
Now let’s go big: I think the sanitation department might come back soon and rescue us from the grime wave. It’s as if they’re here, but more in spirit than in practice. Their work is obviously deeply hampered by the weather, but it’s looking bleak in these parts. I’m tired of wondering if it’s actually snowing outside or just dirting. Also, there’s been a discarded toilet in front of our house awaiting pickup for a week, frozen into the snow at a jaunty angle. Like a beret. Every time we leave the house and encounter the commode, my nine year old says, simply, Jesus, Mom. So I would be happy, for example, if the toilet was taken away. This is anticipated happiness; very valuable to human beings. It’s also called hope.
Mardi Gras has just passed me by. I missed it again. It’s kind of a tradition, accidentally missing it. I’ll get there though, hopefully after I’m no longer frightened of Louisiana as an entire concept thanks to True Detective (more on this below). What we do have here is a new Blue Bottle Coffee right on Dean Street, and I suggest you order one of their much too tasty New Orleans Iced Coffees. It is a chicory, cane sugary encounter with bliss, and not scary at all. This combo will cost you the better part of ten dollars, but paired with one of their super spicy Ginger Molasses cookies—definitely a grown person’s treat—you’ll feel happy for the entire three minutes it takes to suck down all of the syrupy, rich, tingly flavors.
HBO’s True Detective
This one won’t actually make you happy per say; more like petrified in a subterranean, primal way. If you’re not already, please do watch HBO’s True Detective. It will scare me less if as many folks as possible are watching it, and couch cowering, and feeling just as traumatized by it as I am. There’s only one episode left this season, before it moves on and gets entirely recast, but you will find no spoilers here (except to promise the twitchy, jittery terror you’ll be racked with). Since we’re still in relative hibernation here in New York and game for episodic odysseys, there’s time to devour it. The whole season is available on demand for those of you lucky enough to be just now embarking. This makes me very jealous. And yet, unsinkably happy for you.
Scholarship on the show can be found everywhere online and in great, theorizing depth, so perhaps all I’ll say is that it will haunt your dreams and consume your waking hours, and that Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey will relentlessly cloud the periphery of your thoughts if they don’t taken up residence there completely. It’s terrifying. In a good way. The good guys are terrifying. The creeps are terrifying. The good guys are creeps. The bad guys are unspeakably bad. It’s brilliant and obsidian dark, created by talented novelist and story writer, Nic Pizzolatto. He masterfully weaves his literary ambitions into every scene of the pulsing narrative. Even when I consider the “women problem” the show has (no-name, writhing, gratuitous toplessness, background and foreground objectification of female bodies, all familiar to watchers of modern dramatic television), I still think it aims for honesty in depictions of hideous crimes against women and children; physical, emotional and psychological. Perpetrated by the heroes and villains alike. And now, I leave this spooky realm to eat free Irish Soda Bread cubes, before I become too afraid. If you are the Yellow King, or know the Yellow King, and you’re reading this, please leave me alone. That’d make me happy.
This here, is a happiness layup: On Monday, Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, appeared in his premiere home game this season as a Brooklyn Net. This is good for all of us in a million ways; good for sports, good for fans, good for kids. He rejoined the Nets, where he began his professional career in 2001, after an interesting year. He revealed to Sports Illustrated last May, “I’m a 34 year old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” Collins checked into the game Monday for the final minutes of a Nets 96-80 victory over the Chicago Bulls. Best of all, he hit the court at the Barclays, in front of a sellout crowd of 17,732, to a standing ovation. What could make a Brooklyn fan prouder that that? Perhaps only the fact that Collins wears number 98, in honor of Matthew Shepherd, who was murdered in 1998, because he was gay. The Nets will sign Collins to his second ten-day contract this week. Welcome home, number 98. I hope you’ll stay a while.
The gastronomic delights at Brucie will warm your belly and your soul
Three neighborhood restaurants have been keeping me occupied lately, and pinging between them has provided some of the best meals I’ve had in ages. I find myself happily trapped in a Brucie, Dover, La Slowteria dining triangle. Everything on the menu at Brucie on Court Street makes me happy. The meatball parmigiana sandwich on the brunch menu? The fried potatoes with aioli and pecorino? Dangerous repeat offenses will be committed once you try them. I recently ordered the beet, feta and jalapeno lasagna, and I’m not even a real vegetarian, just someone who says, you know, I could be. Presently, there’s the issue of my regular meatball hero orders. Tell me, where has beet, feta and jalapeno lasagna been all of my life? Or all of yours, for that matter. What’s wrong with all other places that don’t serve this dish? I require it now, like water. And shelter. And speaking of shelter, Brucie’s décor and atmosphere is singular and warm; the music is great, and the staff is excellent. They have a sense of humor too; a much needed antidote to the why so serious query I often feel when dining out. For example, there was, apropos of not very much, a Beyonce themed Valentine’s Day dinner this year, with a dish called Breastiny’s Child on the menu. Your dates at Brucie will be nothing less than twinkly and romantic, and your family meals will be robust and lively.
Much has been said already about Dover, the second place opened by the team behind much acclaimed Battersby, but I add my voice just to say that the Chicken for Two is excellent, and the winter vegetable gratin it arrives with is even better. We engaged in a fork war to covetously scrape the sides of the petite cast iron serving dish. I lost, but valiantly, and without a grudge. Again, very charming, friendly service, even as the staff must attempt to balance gorgeously presented plates of food on tables the size of bar stools. Only three things fell off of ours and onto the floor during the meal.
La Slowteria, a Mexican restaurant even further down on Court, is fantastic and transporting as well. Guacamole was cheerfully prepared tableside and served with tostadas, while we sipped sangria. And very refined entrees like El Sol, a shrimp and chorizo dish, existed alongside more simple preparations on the menu. Everything is incredibly fresh and layered with flavor. The food, and the vibe, is sophisticated and relaxed simultaneously.
This is weird, yes, a long shot idea, but try it: I advise you to ask your child, or any old kid with a sense of humor, to read aloud the cartoons of Roz Chast. One of our kids, almost ten years old, sat on the couch and cracked open the giant Theories of Everything treasury by Chast and began reading to us. He’d turn the book around to show us the illustrations, like an elementary school teacher, and then resume reading the text in an affectless, ten-year-old-boy tone. It was somehow—due to his ignorance of some of the jokes, combined with his enjoyment of the parts he did understand followed by our laughter—the most hilarious way to spend an evening. I bet Roz would be thrilled.
Mutu: Le Noble Savage, at The Brooklyn Museum
Fine art makes me happy, so I note: The remarkable Wangechi Mutu show at the Brooklyn Museum closes on March 9. Mutu is a Kenyan born, Brooklyn based artist, and the show includes over 50 pieces of her work, including fantastical collages and haunting video installations. You’ll encounter both the startlingly beautiful and the grotesque. It makes for a memorable and wonderful encounter, and shouldn’t be missed.
Another major exhibition opening April 18 at the Brooklyn Museum is Ai Weiwei: According To What? Weiwei, the prolific Chinese contemporary artist, will have over 30 works in the show, many dealing with facets of human rights, culture, and freedom, and all of them undoubtedly representative of his fascinating, interdisciplinary career.
Finally, a question. Do you love Paris? Paris, France? I do. If you do too, you’ll be happy to discover that Brooklyn feels even more Parisian now, what with all the French people of course, but also the piles of frozen dog poop everywhere. Super Paris-like. Step lively! Merde ahead.
And I almost forgot…try this. Say out loud: Supposably, Expresso, Chipoltay, Exscape and Lieberry. Pronouncing words that way is funny. And it makes me happy to imagine you doing it.
In the time it took to read this, we crept a little bit closer to Spring. It’s nigh! It is, as a matter of fact, only 13 days away. What a happy thing to report. As the great philosopher Matthew McConaughey might be moved to say about such a thing: Alright, Alright, Alright.
Renee Dale is a writer living in (where else?) Brooklyn. She and her fiancé and their four kids live in a narrow, tilting “house” in Cobble Hill. Or is it Carroll Gardens? When Renee isn’t writing, she’s engaged in various museum and natural history pursuits and can often be found lurking the Hall of African Mammals. In this column, she brings her anthropological talents to bear, covering everything from parenting to local news to whatever else bursts forth in our Brooklyn life and times.
Renee tweets @ReneeMDale
And you can visit her website here:
Read Renee’s other columns:
Brady Bunch Brooklyn: Renee’s Very Modern Family
The Awkward Stew: You and Your Sitter at 1 a.m. http://southbrooklynpost.com/2013/11/renee-dale-the-awkward-stew/
This Problem is Not Sexy: Too Early Sexualization of Girls http://southbrooklynpost.com/2013/11/renee-dale-sexualization-of-girls/
Rated P for Permanent: Dale advocates for adding some R-rated classics to your child’s repertoire
A Little S&M With Your Crispy Kale: Dining in Brooklyn
Home, Sick: Face It. Nothing Is Getting Done Today
Aerobeds: The Reason for the Season
All Good Things: The Best Things to Do Right Here, Right Now
I Love Her: Film Review & Essay
Nets! Nets! Nets! Brooklyn, It Seems, Is Currently In the House
Short People Got No Reason To Still Be Awake
Some Things You Know You Know
Jolie Laide Brooklyn
What If It Happened To, You Know, Me?