Three weeks ago I had an awesome weekend in New York. Kristen and I made it to the tail end of Zani's open studio at Hunter, where we got to see, among other things, videos he took of his grandmother during the first Iraq war - in my favorite, she's dressed like a soldier in a plastic helmet and is shooting a pink plastic repeating gun into the camera from the trenches on endless repeat. We were joined by Dan and retired to the local Hunter bar which had the highest concentration of asymetrical haircuts I've ever seen.
The next day was gorgeous and a bunch of us celebrated appropriately with a picnic in Central Park (Dan's genius idea) where I invented the surf & turf finger sandwich - lobster pate and prosciutto on ciabatta loaf. Magnifique! Then a trip out to the Czech beer garden in Astoria where I got shitfaced on my patented combination of beer in the afternoon on allergy medication.
Incidentally, I've been conducting an informal taste test of allergy meds this season, and I'd like to share my findings. On the one hand, you have reputable brands such as Allavert (with those heavenly melt-in-your-mouth tablets). Allavert is really just a soviet campaign to convince you that there *are* no allergens, they are all in your mind. They do Papa Stalin proud. But when I was combing the pharmacies of Philadelphia the following week, I tried the generic brand whose slogan should be, "Why not save money and just *sleep* through allergy season?" Until I make it through this pack, I am going to be one hell of a cheap date.
When I awoke from my coma the next morning, I made some stops at my friends' places in the suburbs - Greg's cool new place in Dobb's Ferry, and James & Sherrill's blossoming garden - and then headed out to Kenny's. He had invited me on my first ever hot air balloon ride. It was a big birthday prezzie from his mom who was there to see us off. I thanked her and all, but it wasn't until the following day that I found out how much she had shelled out for us to go: Five. HUNDRED. Dollars. Now I think maybe I should have kissed her on the lips.
Two balloons went up that day. We got to watch the one before ours fill up and right itself, and then the people on the ground released the straps and the thing shot up like a cork - at about the same speed a kid's balloon gets away from him. That fast. Which was when I started getting nervous. It also didn't help that we got there early enough to watch then attach the basket to the frame, which is done by inserting four teeny tiny pins. We're approaching the basket and Kenny says, "by the way, they wanted to know the total passenger weight - I had to guess how much you weigh." It turns out he underestimated by about 20 pounds. Which in ANY other instance would be flattering. I was a sport, though, and I waited until the second we were about to release the getaway straps to say, "Did I ever tell you I have panic attacks on chairlifts?"
It turns out I *love* hot air balloon rides. As soon as you're buoyant it's incredibly relaxing. It was a clear day and I could see the bottom of the riverbed, and we could have conversations with people on the ground, and we got up as high as 1000 feet at one point. It was awesome.
The ride was supposed to be 45 minutes, but we spent an extra 45 trying to find a place to land. Score! This meant flying in low through neighborhoods until we found one without electrical wires. We landed in this suburban development and all the neighborhood kids and their parents came running out. Our chasers were there with a bottle of champagne for the couple whose lawn we mauled, and they were totally sweet to us. They said to us later that they met some of their neighbors for the first time that day. We were like ambassadors for suburban peace! I'm totally going again as soon as I win the powerball.
More to come soon!