New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Saturday, February 05, 2005


I've just gotten back from my regular Saturday kumite class at the dojo. I took the subway back home to Brooklyn and got out at the corner of Metropolitan and Union. The weather has been beautiful all day, real feel-good weather. It felt great to be outside and I walked east up Metropolitan and stopped by the local Italian bakery and got a loaf of bread, then went to my local Italian butcher and bought some chicken breasts to cook tonight.

I like my butcher. He's a real white-haired Brooklyn Italian butcher, and he drives a Buick Roadmaster that sometimes has Florida plates. Some time ago there some argument between two cable TV companies, the result of which was there was no MSG network being broadcast, thus no Yankees baseball for New Yorkers to enjoy (it was summertime). He railed against the greed of the cable companies. "Sonamabitch maddafukers" he said when I brought up how it would be nice to watch the Yankees game but it's a shame we can't.

Tonight he and his assistant were there and I told him I needed six bucks worth of chicken breasts, and he said I would get a pound and a half (at four bucks a pound, natch) but ended up giving me 1.68 pounds (I saw it on the scale). He hooks everybody up, or at least makes it look that way. Cool old dude.

When I walked out of the butcher shop it was a nice moment. The sun had just set and to the west straight down Metropolitan Avenue the sky was a brilliant palate of pink and red and orange and blue. I could see the silhouette of lower Manhattan behind the eastern span of the Williamsburg Bridge. I could see the outline of the Woolworth Building, where I used to work for an internet company that seemed like a good idea at the time. It's one of my favorite buildings in New York and standing there I felt really good about living in such a nice city despite its challenges.

Kumite was wonderful as always. It wasn't my best fighting and it wasn't my worst, it was just a tough, fun experience, working on perfect technique but also slugging it out with a couple of guys. I showered and dressed and came home feeling the endorphin rush that karate consistently provides.

Of course the main reason for this New York City Diary blog entry is to tell everybody about our annual Black Belt Dinner last night. It was held at a restaurant called Sal Anthony's S.P.Q.R. It's on Mulberry Street between Hester and Grand Streets "in the heart of Little Italy" as they tell you on the site, and it's true.

I was busy at work but fortunately was able to get out at around 6:25 p.m. and booked downtown, clad in my spiffy new used Brooks Brothers blue blazer, which apparently I can't shut up about. New Shodans (first-degree black belts) like me were expected, in accordance with tradition, to help out by serving food to the senior black belts (fourth degree and higher) and taking care of various things. My job turned out to be pretty important: I was one of two doormen who took names and took tickets and sold tickets to people who hadn't purchased them yet. Our tasks involved money handling, name remembering, basic mathematics, all underscored with our finest decorum.

I think there were about 200 people in our reception hall, and there was a rush hour between 7:00 and 8:00 in the evening where we were quite busy. In the end we hung in very well and didn't lose any money.

Eventually I did get to eat, and the food was excellent. I had a little of everything, several types of pasta, ravioli, chicken, sausage-and-peppers, vegetables, calamari, salad, and bread. The only thing I didn't have was booze. There was plenty of drinking going on, the bar was hopping and the red wine was flowing, but I was so busy working the door that I didn't want to bend my elbow any more than I had to.

After dinner Kaicho said a few words of appreciation and encouragement, and one by one (sometimes two by two) people got up and said a few words in honor of the event, which is a pretty big deal in the dojo, more than I had realized. There were no guests that I could see, the only people in the place (we had our own hall upstairs from the regular restaurant, which is pretty big itself) were restaurant staff and about 200 black belts.

People get up and talk at many karate events, but it's not too often that they get up and sing, and dance, and do comic routines, but all of that happened last night. There were some comical moments and memorable songs, from rock to oldies to Italian opera, all a cappella. The purpose of the dinner is to let everybody relax and get to know each other better in a comfortable environment, and that certainly happened.

They were still going strong when I left at 10:30 p.m. I would have stayed later but Jenn was still home sick and I wanted to get her some chicken soup and TheraFlu, and that's exactly what I did. She had been sleeping much of the day so she stayed up with me and sipped her hot apple-cinnamon flavored TheraFlu cocktail and I told her about the dinner.

We slept late, until 10:30 a.m. Jenn said she is feeling about 50 percent, which, if you're an optimist, is better-than-bad. We hung out, drank coffee, listened to public radio, and read the weekend sections of the various newspapers that I had brought home.

After we got the mail (which included my paycheck) I went out and hopped on the subway for exactly two stops and one trip under the East River to 14th Street and First Avenue. I deposited my paycheck at the bank, bought three onion bagels and a half pound of egg salad from David's Bagels, and came home.

We enjoyed the bagels. I got my stuff, went to karate, and there you have it. A nice New York day. Tonight is looking like a mellow night. I'll stay home and care for my sick wife. Maybe I'll buy a bottle of Guinness.

One more thing before I forget. I didn't now what the letters S.P.Q.R. stood for so Friday afternoon before I left work I looked it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica online. It's Senatus Populusque Romanus, the Senate and the people of Rome. I was surprised at how many people already knew that. I didn't. But now I do.


Blogger Jenn said...

Your sick wife is very grateful for your company (and your decision to buy Theraflu and chicken noodle soup).

7:46 PM  

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