Archive for the ‘Queens’ Category

sushi class

I love food. LOVE it. I suppose the argument could be made that everyone loves food since it provides the energy necessary to sustain life, but a respect for the machinations of human survival is not the same as truly appreciating the creation and experimentation of taste and flavor.

I do not possess the talents of culinary greatness, but I do enjoy cooking. I’ve lately been on a bit of a cornbread kick – not to brag, but my vanilla raspberry cornbread muffins were the talk of the latest family get-together – and once farmer’s market season kicks back into gear I’m planning on getting into homemade soups.

It’s very satisfying, because the act of preparing and eating a meal is the perfect marriage of both working with your hands to create and also stuffing your face with tasty treats.

sushi class

So for this month’s Treat Yo Self, I decided to take a cooking class and learn how to roll my own sushi, and invited my friend Kasie to come along.

Kasie and I met as undergrads at Utah State University, although she went on to complete a master’s at Columbia University whereas I chickened out of enrolling at Columbia after being accepted because I have debt-aversion ingrained into my DNA (the paltry salary I command as a journalist didn’t help either). We share a love of New York City and film, although her cinematic choices are sometimes swayed by the prospect of a shirtless Chris Pine.

She’s ok.

sushi class

For the class we went to Harmon’s Neighborhood Grocer at City Creek, which operates a charming little cooking school. The class was overseen by Chef Aaron, who walked us through the types of rice, fish and knives to buy as well as some practical tips for rolling, cutting and serving rolls.

sushi class

We donned our aprons and got to work, spreading rice and fish over seaweed for about three rolls each. Chef Aaron also taught us how to Julienne a cucumber – essentially shaving it into thin sheets rather than cutting circular slices – which is probably the only skill from the class that I’ll ever use at home. Not that the rest of the class wasn’t useful, I just don’t have many occasions – or the budget – that call for sushi-grade Ahi tuna.

We ate ourselves full on sushi during the class, which included dessert in the form of chili-chocolate gelato and sake sipped from traditional square wooden bowls, and decided to conduct our interview in the car during our drive home. This was my first experience with sake, and although Chef Aaron assured me we were sampling “the good stuff” with notes of licorice, I found it unpleasant, like taking a shot of very pungent rice vinegar.

sake

Wood’s Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Kasie Barger: What do you mean ‘who am I?’ Like, what’s my name?

WS: Yeah. It’s not an existential question. Who are you, and what do you do?

KB: My name is Kasie Barger and I’m a social worker at the University of Utah Hospital.

WS: How do you like that?

KB: I really love it, a lot. It’s exactly the job that I wanted. Dream job.

WS: So sushi class, what did you think?

KB: I loved it.

WS: Elaborate. What did you love?

KB: I really liked the chef man, named Aaron, and I don’t know, I’m not a seasoned sushi eater but I really enjoyed it and I thought it was delicious.

WS: Tell me about your culinary history. On a scale of 1 to Domestic Goddess what are you?

Sushi class

KB: I hate that, “domestic goddess,” I’m not a domestic goddess in any sense of the word. You mean, like, cooking?

WS: Yeah, do you often cook or do you go out for most of your meals?

KB:  I would say I enjoy cooking when it’s not for just me. I hate just cooking for myself because I feel like it’s a lot of work. But I do enjoy cooking and I think I’m decent at it but I don’t make fancy exotic things.

WS: Walk me through the class: what it entailed, what it was, what you did.

KB: We got there and the teacher gave us a brief history of Sushi – where it came from, all of that – showed us how to make the rice. What you do is you have the rice that you make in a rice cooker and then you put rice vinegar and, what was the other thing?

WS: Sugar and salt?

KB: Sugar and salt or something. You mix that together and that makes the rice. Then he walked us through how to make it. You have these cool mat rolling things and you put the seaweed on that and the rice on that ,like a grain or two thick, and then you just put whatever fish on there you want and you do this cool rolly-up thing and you have your sushi.

sushi class

WS: Sushi is a polarizing food. Are you squeamish about your food, are you picky?

KB: Yes, I am picky. Pretty picky.

WS: But you’re ok with seaweed and raw fish?

KB: I’m picky when it comes to certain things. I don’t like tomatoes. That is one thing that I do not like so I feel like that makes me seam really picky because a lot of stuff has tomatoes in it.

WS: It’s a fairly common ingredient.

KB: But I love fish, all sorts of fish. I haven’t had a lot of sushi but everything I’ve had I’ve really enjoyed. So I’m picky on some things but not picky on others.

sushi

WS: What did you put into your sushi?

KB: I think I had one with Tuna, I can’t remember which kind. I had some lobster and imitation crab and I liked them all, I think the tuna was my favorite though.

WS: Anything that surprised you from the class?

KB: They had these, were they fish eggs?

WS: Flying fish eggs.

KB: These flying fish eggs that were bright orange and I was really hesitant about them at first but they really were delicious. They were a little crunchy and a little sweet and I couldn’t get enough.

WS: But you weren’t down with the Beluga?

KB: No. I tried the beluga caviar which they had, which is apparently really expensive, but it just tasted like salt to me. Like pure salt because I’m no fancy lady so apparently I don’t have a refined palate for things like that.

sushi class

WS: Let’s talk about food generally. You’re on death row, what’s your last meal?

KB: Oh gosh. Like I could have any food from anywhere?

WS: Any food from anywhere, before you die.

KB: This is so hard. I recently, in the past couple of years, have kind of been obsessed with Indian food and there’s an Indian place in Queens, New York called Jackson’s Diner which, don’t let the C or B health rating sketch you out because I ate there a couple of times and I did not die so that’s something. They have the best Indian food I’ve ever had. So I would say maybe that.

WS: Like a tikka masala?

KB: No they have this chicken korma that’s coconut based with cashews and chicken and it’s so good, and garlic naan.

WS: I think it’s amazing that you like Indian food, you’re ok with raw tuna, but you draw the line at tomatoes.

KB: It’s a texture thing with the tomatoes. It just makes me gag. I don’t like them. I can’t do it.

WS: Anything else you can’t do?

KB: I don’t like onions. I’m fine with the flavor and if they’re cooked in things but I don’t like raw onions.

WS: Yeah, I fancy myself to be a very open-minded eater but raw onions are tough.

KB: My main thing with food I don’t like is a texture thing. I don’t like cooked broccoli or cooked cauliflower but I really like it raw.

WS: You don’t like it mushy?

KB: If it’s cooked perfectly to where it’s not mushy I’m fine, but I don’t know what it is, it’s a texture thing.

WS: So what were you doing in Queens?

KB: We went for the Indian food. We and a couple of my friends had been hearing about how wonderful Jackson Diner was so we went to check it out.

WS: Did it live up to the hype?

KB: Obviously. I just said I want it for my last meal.

WS: Does it really have a B or C health rating?

KB: The last time we went I think it had a B and now it has a C.

WS: Would you still go?

KB: I don’t know, probably.

WS: I remember those ratings, it’s a big stigma in New York to have a low health grade.

KB: Oh it really is so I don’t know, maybe if I wanted it badly enough I would. It might be worth death actually so yeah, I would go back.

WS: Especially if it’s your last meal. Nothing to lose.

KB: Oh totally. I’m gonna die anyway. Might as well die happy.

WS: And well fed

KB: Yes

photo 1(6)

WS: Any other thoughts from the class today? Did you learn anything you might use in your own kitchen?

KB: No. I will say right now that I will never make sushi on my own.

WS: Why not?

KB: Too much work and I’m too scared to pick out the fish on my own, even though he explained how to do it, and you need all these fancy things. I just know myself well enough to know that I would never go through all that work to make it myself.

WS: Had you ever done a cooking class before?

KB: No I had not, actually. But I would definitely do one again.

WS: Why?

KB: I feel like I like cooking but it’s nice having a step-by-step guide and sushi is something I never would have made on my own, so I would take cooking classes more for things that I don’t know how to make and want to learn how to make.

WS: Prestige meals?

KB: Yes, prestige meals, to impress people. Now I can brag that I know how to make sushi.

WS: Even if you never do it again.

KB: Even if I never do it again, but I have the pictures.

WS: Facebook official.

KB: Yeah. Facebook and Instagram official.

WS: So you’d recommend cooking classes?

KB: I would. Can we talk about something else really quick?

WS: Sure

KB: That one girl who was there and then her…

WS: The super young girl with the super old man?

KB: YEAH! I thought that was her dad and then they were all over each other.

WS: Definitely not her dad. I thought the same thing. How big an age gap do you think that was?

KB: I don’t know. She looked maybe like 30?

WS: Yeah.

KB: Like 30ish, I’m horrible with ages so I don’t know, and then he was at least 50. He was old.

WS: As soon as they started snuggling with each other I thought…I bet she’s closer to 40 than she looks. But maybe not.

KB: I feel like she’s probably a gold digger.

WS: Love is blind, and all that.

KB: Yes. And now I sound super judgmental but I was like ‘oh. That’s happening.’ And they were just attached at the hip.

WS: They’re a great couple for the “Girlfriend or Daughter” game.

KB: Whatever makes them happy though. What are your thoughts on older men with younger women?

WS: What are my thoughts? Like, am I for or against?

KB: I don’t know, I’m just curious.

WS: Once women reach a certain age they can date whoever they want. What creeps me out though is when girls in their 20s are with the super old guy. I had a friend who literally as a 24 year old was dating a man in his 60s and in no world is that ok. Once you’re older, do what you gotta do, but if you’re still in your 20s I get a little creeped out.

KB: So I’m 24, what’s the oldest age that is appropriate for me to date?

WS: You’re 24?

KB: Yes

WS: 32

KB: All right, I’m on board with that.

WS: And that’s just when it starts to be weird. If he was 33 it wouldn’t be, like, atrocious. We’d still be friends.

KB: What about the reverse?

WS: The reverse is a whole different ball game. For one thing it’s so rare. You so rarely see an older woman with a younger guy. I don’t know.  I’ve never dated anyone older than me, I’ve barely dated anyone at all, so who knows.

Anything you want to promote?

KB: That I’m a strong smart sensual woman.

WS: Are you on twitter?

KB: Nope

WS: Instagram?

KB: Yes, @KasieBarger

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dpp_1
I never moved as a kid. My parents still live in my childhood home in Huntsville (technically just outside of Huntsville) which is, as a matter of fact, where I am currently sitting as I write this post.
At 25, I have lived in 5 different cities. I don’t count “moves” that occur within the same municipality. Were I still a child, and therefore subject to the early developmental abandonment issues, I would, but it seems common for college-age students to bounce around a bit which is why I don’t classify Alva Heights, The Bunker and Brooklane as separate moves. It works on principle but also means that I need to find another explanation for my abandonment issues.
But I digress. It all started in Huntsville. Like I said before, I actually grew up outside of Huntsville in unincorporated Weber County. That’s how small MY home town is, it’s not even technically a town.
I’m very proud of that. I love that right now as I look out my window the nearest home is a half-mile away. I love that I can shoot clay pigeons off of my deck and light a fire in the backyard. I love that I can walk outside at night and scream and no one will hear me. I also love that our drinking water comes straight out of the ground. Trust me, you’ve never tasted anything so refreshing on a hot day.
Sadly, however, the constraints of society are such that eventually I had to pass through the mountains (quite literally, it’s the only way out) and go to the city. After 18 good years of camping, horseback riding, river running and mountain biking, I stuffed everything I owned into the back of the Cavalier and headed up to Logan for college.
Under the guidance of my friend Jesse, me and a few pals from Weber High School moved into the luxurious Alva C. Snow Hall. Snow remains, to this day, the nicest dorm on campus but even without community bathrooms it’s not somewhere you can live for more than one academic year.
 
We lived on the top floor (the fifth) which we nicknamed Alva Heights and I fell in with a band of villains there (2 Daves, 2 Bens, 2 Zachs and … Joe and Mitch) which we nicknamed Sigma Alpha Eta (SAH, or Snow Alva Heights) as a joke about how stupid we all thought Fraternities were. This was in 2005 and was the seeds of my 7-year feud with the USU chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon but THAT is a story for another day.
Summer came, though, and with it came Brazil. I try to avoid talking about my LDS Mission as much as possible (my feelings about it are “conflicted” at best) but I can’t really avoid it in THIS post, now can I? Funny story, the other day I was walking with some co-workers and we passed a mobile blood drive bus and we joked about giving blood.
“I can’t” my coworker said.
“Why not?” someone asked.
“Oh, you can’t ever if you’ve had sex with a man,” he said.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it caught me a little off guard so I hurried to say something to avoid a lag in the conversation.
“Oh, I can’t either since I lived in Brazil.” I said.
“Oh, what were you doing there?” He asked.
I’m sure you can see the problem here. All that these New Yorkers know about Mormons is that we have multiple wives (false) and that we hate gay people (well…) so I didn’t want to follow “I’ve had sex with a man” with “I was a Mormon missionary” so I lied and said “I was doing humanitarian work.”
Bad Idea! For the next 5 blocks I had to make up a series of lies about the orphanages I helped build.
But I digress.
 
For the next 2 years I lived out of a suitcase (2, technically) moving, on average, every 9 weeks (not kidding). It’s odd, I know that I technically “lived” in Pernambuco, Brazil. I ate its food, heard its music (forro, absolutely terrible) and walked its streets, but since I didn’t recreate at all there it’s hard to say that I really “know” Recife. I really should go back sometime when I could have some fun and enjoy it, but if I’m going to drop two grand on a vacation it seems like I should go somewhere new.
Either way, I learned Portuguese, got robbed twice, had two women propose to me, saw (from a distance) the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, watched a couple of men die, saw a couple of men already-dead and, you know, added a few more Mormons to the ranks.
I was only home in Huntsville for 3 weeks before I moved back to Logan. My sister got married and moved to Australia, I packed up the Corolla the next day. My mom was a wreck.
 
First, it was the Bunker, a house with an unfinished basement where we stored the piano, drum set, and a lopsided pool table. It was overpriced, cold in the winter and just on the edge of “near-campus” which was murder to our social lives. Not that it mattered, I’ve never been very social anyway (I blame the small town…and by “blame” I mean “thank”).
It was also where the slow and steady elimination of my friends to the iron grasp of marriage began. Mitch got engaged before the ink was dry on the lease and moved out a few months later. Ben took his place and immediately met Natalie (I totally introduced them) and got engaged that summer when we moved to Brooklane. Ironically enough (or was it?) Dave, who took Ben’s place at Brooklane, got engaged next and got married the following summer. At least he made it through a full academic year.
That engagement was no surprise, they had been putting it off over and over again while his girlfriend/fiance/wife bounced around the country for swag internships (ambitious women, ha, nothing but trouble). Right on his heels though were Trevor and Haley (I totally introduced them) and not to virtually every one of my friends from Jr. High and High School. Conventional wisdom would suggest that there’s something wrong with me, I choose to look at it as being the only sane person in the world.
 
 
 
School, as all things must, ended and I began the next inevitable phase of my progression to adult-hood: the perpetual intern. I packed up the Corrola again and headed south to Salt Lake City (Capitol!). I always figured that I would end up in Salt Lake City, there’s only so many options for a journalist in Utah so it was either SLC or head out of state to, I don’t know, New York? Oh wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
I loved Salt Lake, more than I even thought I would. I also loved The Deseret News, more than I thought I would, and (fingers crossed) will be heading back there in the new future. Salt Lake strikes me as the perfect-sized city. It has just the right amount of hidden gems (Bay Leaf, so awesome) without being sheer urban sprawl. I’ve also been very impressed with the way the movers and shakers try to stick to what SLC does best without trying to be bigger than its shoes. I always roll my eyes when the USU business students talk about making the Huntsman School a “Top Tier Business College.” USU, and the Huntsman School, is never going to be Ivy League, ever. Most of us are perfectly ok with that (as evidenced by our decision to go there) so just stick to what your good at, give the kids a good education and enjoy USU for what it is.
But I digress, Salt Lake City does that. One example, when Modest Mouse played the opening show of the 2010 Twilight Concert Series, something like 40,000 people showed up. So what did they do next year, book Nickelback? No! They opened with Explosions in the Sky, and it was awesome.
 

But internships, like all things, come to an end and through an eerie display of sure luck I was offered the chance to intern for the premier Entertainment magazine in the country. Even in the beginning, I knew I wouldn’t be there for long. New York just isn’t my city and 6 months was the perfect amount of time.
As far as the move is concerned, I tried to get everything I owned into suitcases which proved “successful” in a way but also completely disastrous. If I ever move cross-country again I’m just paying for some organization (fed ex, u-haul, whatever) to move it for me. At least I learned my lesson by the time I came home, I hired a car service to pick me up at my apartment and just tipped the guy at the airport to handle my bags for me. My parents raised me save money wherever I could, but some comforts are just worth paying a little extra for.
I lived in queens which was less than enthralling. I had two roommates, one in his mid-thirties and one in his early-20s. I don’t think I spent a single minute with them outside of the apartment. Also, there was no water pressure and I’m a man who enjoys a strong, hot shower in the morning.
So when my time was up at EW, I graciously made my exit. Most people would have stayed, waited tables or done whatever it took to be close when the next opportunity came their way. I’m not most people, and as a result I probably won’t get another shot at the “big time” but that’s just fine, I really missed my car.
Plus, I didn’t leave until I got an article in the magazine.
 
How do you like THEM apples?

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*Suggested audio accompaniment for this post. Click here.

My year began on the roof of The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas which, if I do say so myself, if a pretty decent way to ring in the new. As I write this, it is unseasonably warm in New York City which is ironic because exactly one year ago it was unseasonably cold in the city of sin. We sat by the side of the pools, enjoying the view of the Strip below, laughing and joking with revelers and huddling together for body warmth.


Six days later I turned 24, which I still have a hard time believing. For the longest time my residual self-image was a geeky 17-year-old kid with acne and while I have admitted to some aging, I still see myself as a 21-year-old in peak physical condition. *Sigh*

I hate birthdays, always have, but love that mine always happened to fall within Christmas Vacation because it allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do during the day with as minimal human contact as possible. I decided that for 2011 I wanted to go snowboarding, eat Brazilian food and then watch Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I would post a picture here of me on a snowboard but despite my incessant nagging, Tyler Barlow (who purports to be technologically inclined) has YET to upload them. Fail.


2011, I expect, will be notable in my memory for two reasons: my quarter-life crisis and, similarly, my graduating year at Utah State University. It was the year that saw my transition from rabble-rousing student journalist at The Utah Statesman to starving journalist desperate for work in the daily grind. I went from the editor in chief of a publication, responsible for keeping a steady hand on objectivity while still shining a light on the conversations that the community at large had — and would try to — silence to an intern, scrambling to make any noticeable impression I could between shifts of sorting mail (*note, I never had to sort any mail at The Des, I was extremely well-treated there).


I think I’ll remember 2011 for the stories I wrote, as well. It was the year that I went to Sundance, declared war against the sense of social entitlement at USU, covered the sentencing of Brian David Mitchell, got a statement from the family of a murdered Salt Lake woman and interviewed Bruce Campbell. I stood in crime scenes and red carpets, press conferences and press screenings. I also saw Wood’s Stock hit 1,000 monthly readers, which makes me very proud.


In other student news, I returned to Vegas for to see The Aggies win the WAC championship and lost quite a bit of money on the roulette table (I would say the amount but my mom reads this blog and she hasn’t heard that story yet). No regrets, though. I relayed for life and helped raise thousands of dollars for Cancer research and finally scratched “crowd surf” off of my bucket list at the Hare Krishna festival of light.


Then I graduated, alongside some of my closest friends.


As far as personal growth, I kept my m.o. of falling out of contact with nearly everyone in my life during transitions periods. Admittedly Facebook makes keeping up the appearance of friendship easier, so thanks for that one Zuckie. So, to all of you out there who haven’t heard from me in a while, I’m sorry and just remember that even though I hate phone calls I’m still thinking about you, value our time together and hope you’re doing well.

Also, I’m either maturing — or becoming more introverted, funny how similar that can be sometimes — because most nights after I get home from work I just want to take it easy, read a book, watch some tv and fall asleep before midnight. I’ve managed to compartmentalize my need for diversion to the weekends which is, I think, a healthy thing to do. As a sidenote, I’m halfway through the book I’m writing that I planned on finishing during the summer, then during November, then by January and now by March. Progress, nonetheless.


I lived in 3 different cities this year. Three apartments for a combined total of 8 different roommates. In Logan it was Tony that didn’t wash his dishes, in Salt Lake it was everyone but me, Al and Will and in Queens it’s Jared who, by the way, blew his nose 30 times this morning. Yes, I counted and yes, it was an even 30. I’ve needed a reading lamp since May but I don’t want to buy anything until I’ve “settled.” Right now I don’t care where I live, I just want a reading lamp, a gym membership and some potted plants.


I hate to skim over the last half of the year but it’s too fresh. I’ve seen Broadway shows (best, How To Succeed, worst, Spiderman by a long shot) and concerts, (special shout out to Carbon Leaf, The Decemberists and Ted Leo) gone to world-famous museums (The Met, no contest) and landmarks. I’m working at my “dream” job where I watch endless amounts of movies and tv and interview celebrities but at the cost of my other dream of having enough living space to do pushups in the morning and a front lawn large enough to hose the mud off of my mountain bike (two more items missing from my life, the bike itself and the activity for which it attracts the mud), oh yeah and I really miss driving. And in theory, I’m supposed to meet someone and get married at some point and since my name isn’t Woodstein I’m not sure I’m in the right place. New York has been great, and it will be a fantastic memory looking back after I’ve moved on to whatever comes next.

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I live in Elmhurst.

Here, your location is never as simple as city and state. There is the city, New York. You live within it’s boundaries. You pay its taxes and elect its mayor. But you do not live in New York City.

Where you actually live is a series of concentric circles. You live at a number, on a street, in a neighborhood, that is part of a borough, which makes up the greater New York metropolitan area. I live on 48th Avenue, in Elmhurst, the borough of Queens, the city of New York. The city that never sleeps.

Queens sleeps. Unlike the hustle and bustle and constant flickering lights of its sister across the river, walking home on the cold streets of Queens at midnight or later is a parade of locked storefronts where bodies, obscured by layers, bundle and curl for the night.

My particular corner of Queens is little Korea. Every day on my morning commute I pass groceries selling odd-looking fruit and restaurants boasting specials that I can not read. The church on the corner is Episcopal. I didn’t know there were Episcopal Koreans. You learn something new every day in New York City.

On the subway — either of the two that I take every morning to work in Midtown and every evening back — I play a game. I count the Caucasians. In the morning there’s usually a few. Middle-aged women clutching heavy bags and men in Yamakas. I’ve always admired the Jews. Mormons get razzed for our holy underwear and it’s just a t-shirt that no one sees. I wonder where they work, especially the Hasidics. Obviously we’ve come far enough in our society that a Hasidic Jew can work anywhere I can, but I have to wonder if anyone would take me seriously at the magazine if I showed up to the morning meeting in a top hat and curly sideburns. In the end it doesn’t really matter, as they undoubtedly make more money at their job than I do at mine.

Yes, that’s a prejudiced statement and yes, it’s also true. I’ve always found it funny how people take offense to jokes about Jews with money. It’s usually people who aren’t Jewish who call you out for such behavior. I doubt the Jewish people care, they’re laughing their way to the bank. Is it really offensive to be positively-stereotyped? Do men take offense at being GOOD drivers? Do Republicans really mind being called shrewd Machiavellians? Trust me, we don’t.

I went to the laundromat this weekend. It didn’t seem necessary to shower just to watch my clothing tumble so I put on my laundry jeans — you know, that pair you only wear when your real pants are dirty — a black concert t-shirt, a red knit cap and a giant pair of neon-orange over-the-ear headphones. Why was I wearing a knit cap? I don’t wear a lot of hats to begin with and besides my black fedora — obviously — I didn’t bother packing a lot of headwear. When choosing between two items you’ll never use, go with the one that takes up the least amount of space. I wasn’t about to wear my fedora to the laundromat, so red knit cap it was.

The headphones are a recent acquisition. They were free. I don’t particularly care for over-the-ear headphones. Sure, the sound quality is better, but in most circumstances I find them to be gaudy, bulky, showy monstrosities that the kind of people who like to longboard and collect vinyl records tend to wear. I neither longboard nor collect vinyl records but my ear buds are starting to freak out and if I’m going to be sitting in a laundromat for an hour I want to be able to listen to my music in comfort.

So there I was, the only white guy in Queens, sitting at a laundromat filled entirely with Hispanics and Koreans on a Saturday morning. I have no doubt that they thought I was some sort of delinquent rapist. They had no way of knowing that Carbon Leaf is a celtic-inspired alt-rock band with folk influences. There was no reason for them to assume that my obnoxiously bright headphones were just a poor kid taking advantage of a free deal and I would hardly expect them to understand that I was wearing a knit cap because I needed to cover up my bed-head and didn’t really have another option.

To them, I was a minority. I was a minority in my grunge-rock t-shirt, my pot-head hat and my big, neon, skater-punk headphones. I was Kevin Federline, or worse, Fred Durst. I’ve been a minority before, but the circumstances were considerably different. In that case, I was perpetually well-dressed compared to the locals and their women would offer themselves to me on the street. Partly because my rich white seed would do wonders for their economic situation and partly because they knew full-well that I was a squirley virgin and the sound of exotic women calling me “Delicious” would mess with my mind.

I doubt that anyone at the laundromat noticed that I was reading a TIME magazine. Delinquent rapists don’t read TIME magazine, they don’t read at all. They flip through the pages of the alternative free weekly to get to the back where the tattoo/piercing parlor and escort service advertisements are or they just sit, empty handed, and scowl at passers-by.

I saw this kid on the train the other day, he was wearing a face mask with the image of some sort of clown or skull, or clown skull. He had a curly black ponytail that poked out of a black trucker hat. He was like 14. Part of me wanted to mess with him just so I could pull his ponytail and tear that stupid mask off his face. I’d bet $200 that he had braces, and acne. His name was probably something like Julien, or Samuel and he was on his way to violin practice, or Latin lessons. Every kid in New York has some weird extra-curricular activity. They can’t go play outside — there is no outside — so instead of playing football with their friends or kicking rocks down the road they learn calligraphy or go see a therapist so that their parents don’t have to deal with talking to them.

A while back someone asked me “What do you guys do in Utah?” They were younger, barely out of high school so I answered the question. I told them that I do a lot of mountain biking and camping, that we hike and horseback ride. I’ve been through this game enough times that I’ve learned to always start with the activities that your interrogators have likely never experienced. If I was a recreation para-glider, I would lead with that.

“What do you guys do?” I asked. This is when the horrible person within me started to rise to the surface. These kids were middle-class Queens Hispanics. They lived within miles of Broadway, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and some of the finest dining in America. By virtue of my profession I had probably had more “New York Moments” in 4 months than these kids had in several years growing up in THE city. “Well,” she said. “Everything is so expensive, we usually just end up going to someone’s house to watch a movie or play Rock Band.”

My natural reaction to this would be to cock my eyebrow, say “Good thing you don’t live in Utah,” and walk away like a B.A. from an explosion. I did not. I smiled and said “Cool, Rock Band is fun” and then changed the subject by asking what movies they had seen lately. I take this as a sign that I’m beginning to grow up. Either that or my subconscious was afraid that even though I was at a religious function, if I got too smart someone would knife me. They do that in New York, knife people, at least that’s what I’ve been conditioned to believe my whole life. In New York, people knife you. In Wisconsin, they offer you doughnuts. In Japan, they bow and in Germany they yell and punch you in the face. No matter where you are, though, you can change the subject by asking what movies they’ve seen lately. Everybody likes to talk about movies and besides McDonald’s, Hollywood is America’s chief global export.

So there I was, sitting at the laundromat in Queens, watching my clothes tumble. I know for a fact that they thought I was some screwed up punk. Why else would a dumb white-boy be sitting at a grimy laundromat in Queens in big neon headphones and a knit cap. Yes, it was prejudiced of them and this is prejudiced of me. That’s life, we all kind of suck sometimes.

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