Don't Look a Gift Lunch in the Mouth
The last of the Harrisburg meals varied from poor British Isle fare, like Welsh Rare'bit and baked roots, to Feudal lord-sized lamb burgers from a small farm in Lane County. By that point, we were broke and dinner came down to whatever remained. On the final day of our stay, we were scraping ingredients from the corners of cabinets, half-cans of beans, sprouting potatoes, picking the scanty produce our garden yielded, including raspberries for pancakes, looking for eggs in the hen house and getting brutalized by Stew, the rooster. I woke up one morning and he was a man: innocently, I brought them out a plate of compost, and the minute I pulled back the chicken wire, Stew was lunging at me, talons first. My hair caught on the gate, and I was stuck screaming, switching him with a stick to assert my dominance. By the time Robert came to the back door, I was fleeing across the lawn, trailed by a rooster with murder in his eye. "Kick him," Robert said. "Kick him so he knows who's boss!" So I turned, the rooster at my shin, and kicked him. He fell back on his tail feathers for a moment only to jettison toward me ten-fold -- and now I'd kicked a rooster.
I got back to Brooklyn a week ago, early in the morning, and then slept for three hours. When I got up, it appeared the auto-drip had broken in my absence, so a house guest made some cowboy coffee in a sauce pan. When she poured it into mugs, the grounds floated at the top for a second but she assured me they would sink, and at worst, I'd strain a little through my teeth. We sat on my fire escape, drinking a great, deep, smooth cup of dark Italian coffee, smoking a cigarette, and I couldn't have been happier to be anywhere else. For those first few days, almost all of my friends were gathered in 260 Gates, between three apartments, and returning to Brooklyn is like returning to my wildest dreams only no dreaming. Gab and I met Matthew on the sand in Brighton Beach, where he lives now, and swam, and afterward picked out things from a Russian deli -- they're so good at boiling and stuffing! Beef and carrot dumpling, the bottom of which is soft, white chicken, cabbage rolls -- including tarragon soda, and then had a sheet picnic on the beach. It was July 2nd, but there were four firework displays going on along the bay, one right there on Coney Island.
Then I started working full time, running the little health food store I've worked at since I moved to Brooklyn, just for a week while my boss visited his family in the Dominican Republic. Early one morning, grabbing my coffee next door, I met a spry, sharp elderly Israeli man wearing Nike Dunks, a cowboy hat, and using his iPhone. He asked me if I was from Virginia, said I looked like I came from an intellectual family, that I must have known growing up that I was loved. He asked if he could bring me lunch while I worked. At noon he came in, poised but dragging his leg slightly. He set a warm paper bag on the counter and took out two sandwiches: a garlic bagel full of lamb kabob. "I get this every day," he said. "The bagel from the coffee shop, and the lamb from the Arab place. They make my favorite salad," an item that he also produced from the bag, one for each of us: tabbouleh, tomatoes, onion, green cabbage, purple cabbage, lettuce, parsley, onion, a good pickle. "Whatever you don't get from the tomato," he said, "you get from the onion. The calcium and all of that." At the end, a golden brown filo dough pastry that looked like a delicate ball of fishing wire, filled with dates, honey, and walnuts. He told me about New York real estate, about kibbutz in Israel, about Turkish coffee and his boyhood. He brought me this lunch for four days.