Every once in a blue moon I wake up bright and early and certain that the best thing in the world to eat—nay, the only thing in the world to eat—would be a cinnamon sugar doughnut from the Lower East Side’s Doughnut Plant. This morning I whizzed over the Williamsburg Bridge while the sun was still creeping over the horizon, slid my car into a no-parking zone on Essex Street, and leapt out with my nightgown only slightly peeping out of my trench coat. The place smelled exactly how I imagine Willa Wonka’s factory would smell, and between the big grin this plastered on my face and my crazy lady flasher chic, I visibly alarmed the normally impassive Hungover Harriets working counter. Which rendered the entire venture even more of a delicious caper. One bite proved enough–doughnuts pack such a powerful speedball of fat and sugar that more would’ve sent me in Belushi’s footsteps–but, man, did I love that bite. All rise for Her Eminence, Lady Doughnut Sunday.
Early this morning was lovely—clear, bright, and cool enough to merit a light sweater—so I kept wandering after I fetched my Americano. The old Italians were beatifically sipping espressos on their stoops; the neighborhood dogs seemed especially glad to be alive; even the Polish ladies managed thin smiles. It was so lovely that I felt unexpectedly melancholy about being on my own. No family with whom to somersault into the day, no strong arm through which to link my own. So I did what I always do when I feel blue: I wandered some more.
After a bit I stumbled upon a bagel place I’d never noticed before. As soon as I entered I knew it’d been a misstep. Junky mid-’90s music was blaring; the countermen looked like they’d gone from clubbing to schmearing with nary a wink of sleep. I ordered anyway. As a New Yorker, I consider it my civic responsibility to monitor all iterations of the city’s signature baked good.
Ahead of me in line stood an older couple who looked even more nonplussed than I felt. Both were clad head to toe in cheerful pastels that clashed boldly with their sour expressions, and the obvious care they’d taken with their clothing–neatly pressed and perfectly matched, right down to their socks–seemed obstinate rather than fastidious. Overall a fascinating fuck-you lurked in all that Sunday finery. When I leaned in to catch their conversation, though, they clammed right up, so I had to content myself with sneaking tiny looks at them as I inspected the shrilly tinted doughnuts on display. The man’s eyebrows and mustache were so bushy and grey they inhabited a century of their own, and she wore a pout so pronounced that the effect was more of a sulking bulldog than of the coquette she once might have been. Both sported the ornery bulk of people who weren’t going to modify their diets no matter how they’d been advised. I imagined they’d been together for at least 50 years, if only because they were too stubborn to part ways. Continue Reading →
En route to the coffee shop this Sunday morning, I was about as cross as I ever get. My 12-year-old car had been making a noise so ominous that I’d been forced to hoof it through the rain, and my cute umbrella was nowhere to be found. To make matters worse I was uncharacteristically nursing a hangover, which not only made coffee essential but the walk to fetch it pure misery.
Suffice it to say I’d not had the greatest Saturday night. It’d been the stuff of which Cathy Comics, rather than French movies, were made, and my hangover stemmed as much from the company I’d kept as from anything I’d actually imbibed.
So it was a morning when no one would’ve dared claim I was looking my best. Puffy-eyed and sallow, I was wearing the same matronly blue dress I’ve worn nearly every morning this summer—in my defense, dresses with pockets are very hard to come by—and my unbrushed hair stank of other people’s cigarettes and bad perfume. Nonetheless, as I passed the local pasticcera, one of the Italian fellows loitering under its awning looked me up and down, let out a low wolf whistle, and winked. Instantly I felt a million times better.
I’ve never been offended by that kind of male attention, never thought it compromised any of my deeply felt feminist principles. True, I don’t dig hustles or the you-like-what-I-like-so-I-like-you narcissism that passes for modern courtship. But a guy who just puts it out there without telegraphing his desire as a threat? Fuggedaboutit. That’s old-school Brooklyn in the very best way. More to the point, that’s Italian men.
To be clear, I don’t mean “Italian-American” men. I am referring to the men who were born in Italy rather than the ones who have an Italian grandmother. I am referring to the men who bolt espressos rather than Dunkin’ Doughnut coffees to keep their hearts beating. I am referring to the men who mostly speak in grunts, hisses, and explicit hand gestures.
I had one of those boyfriends. He was tall and broad-shouldered with long, ropy arms, old-soul eyes, and tanned, rosy skin. I met him not far from the Long Island beach house my friends and I rented one summer. He was working construction as a literal WOP—that old derogatory acronym for an Italian guy without papers—and when I walked by his site he whistled through his teeth. I looked up to find him nodding his head. “Principessa,” he said. Or at least that’s what I thought he said. I was distracted by his slow, sexy grin. Continue Reading →