Off Track: Marathon Sunday or “How I Lazily Made My Way to the Finish Line”

Everyone has that one story they told once to a captive audience, the story where as you’re telling it you make a mental note: “This is my go-to story. This is how I will save parties when there’s a lull. I’ll be a savior. Everyone will love me and I’ll always be invited to everything because I’m the most popular person here. Look at all my fans, eating up my personal stories like they’re some kind of…good food. I’m gonna be famous!” This is not one of those stories. It does, however, start with the same anecdote I start it with every time I tell and retell it. I entered the lottery for the New York City Marathon in 2013 thinking I would never win because I never win anything. Of course, just my luck, the only contest I win is one where I’m charged $200+, have to physically train for months, and then run 26.2 miles in a day. That was the anecdote right there. It got a mild chuckle the first time I said it and now I’ve been chasing that chuckle ever since! Today being Marathon Sunday in all the boroughs of New York City, and a long stretch of the marathon running along the G line, I thought it would be a fun lil’ jaunt down memory lane to talk about the first, and very likely last, New York City Marathon I ever ran.

I’ve always had this weird desire burning in the deep far recesses of my brain to run a marathon. I was one of the worst runners on my high school cross-country and track teams, loved to watch TV and sit on the couch, recently battled cancer, ate like a 13-year-old boy whose parents were out of town for the weekend, and enjoyed a good alcoholic beverage or four. So you know, I was at peak physical fitness and totally thought entering my name in the lottery for the NYC marathon made a lot of sense. In my mind, I probably wouldn’t get in and if I did, well, I would cross that bridge when I’d get there. A few weeks after entering I received an email that said my name was selected and my debit card would be immediately charged a non-refundable entrance fee of over $200. So that bridge I would cross when I would get there – it was very quickly built, poorly I might add, over some white water rapids, and I would have to cross it or else it’s like, “Fuck, I just paid $200 for this dumbass bridge to cross this stupid ass marathon water, but I’m just gonna look at it and turn around and not even use the bridge. Shit.” I didn’t want that, so my fate was sealed. I began slowly crossing the bridge one very stubborn step at a time.

My first step was buying a training book meant for people who were couch potatoes trying to turn their lives around and not meld with their furniture. The obvious solution: running 26.2 miles. “Try to confuse us with an armchair as we run by you at mile 19!” was the tag line. It wasn’t, but that’s what I was thinking and what kept me going. While my training book offered tons of motivational words of wisdom from people who’ve done marathons before, trained using this method, or professional athletes, the only motivation I needed was from my friends, family, enemies, and strangers. I don’t meant that in a sappy way, I mean that in an antagonistic way, which was exactly what this Beyoncé loving, non-athlete needed, because “I twirl on my haters.” No one really took me seriously at first when I told them I was running a marathon. “You know that involves running, right?” “It’s not marathon viewings of Breaking Bad.” “How many times did you almost suffer from deep vein thrombosis last week from sitting in one place for too long staring into space?” The answer to that last question was always none because I love to give myself very amateur and painful massages. Really keeps the blood flowing. Once people started to believe me that I was really doing this, they started to actually believe in me. One friend admitted to me, “Yeah, you just…do things. If someone else said they were going to run a marathon, or quit their job, go on a cross country road trip, ‘figure it out,’ and then move to South Korea, I’d humor them, but wouldn’t believe them. But with you…you always seem to just do it.” And if you’re wondering, I did all those things (stories for another time). That’s the second time it clicked and became real to me. I was running a marathon. The first was when I checked my bank account and saw that yes, I am now officially broke, and the second was when my usually lovingly antagonistic support system became just plain old lovingly supportive. So now that people believed in me, I had to do it.

My training regimen told me to pick realistic goals that I could meet throughout the weeks leading up to the marathon. The first goal I set for myself was to run to my brothers apartment. It was six stops away from mine on the G at the time, so it felt far. The thing about living in the city and taking public transportation everywhere is your sense of how far away things truly are gets a little warped. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get there until week three of training if I was lucky. I got there on week one. It was like 2 miles away. Not that far in the marathon-sized scheme of things. I thought to myself, “Wow! I’m really meeting my #goals!” So I kept my goals low and continued to suck at training.

Because I kept my running #goals light and manageable, I decided to up the #goals ante in other departments. One goal: go ahead and order the chicken fingers and beer, but feel really guilty about it. Another goal: try to figure out by trial and error and many multiple purchases if your boobs were made to stuff into a sports bra. A third goal: determine that no, your boobs are pain and women are apparently not meant to do anything. Yet. Another. Goal: write an angry letter addressed simply to “the patriarchy.” Place it under your pillow and kiss it every night before bed. You can’t shake the feeling that this will feel important and timely at some future date, but your 2013 brain can’t understand why that is. Great marathon training #goal! More #goal: buy running shoes.

It finally got to the point where I had exhausted all possible “goals” that didn’t really have to do with running and had to focus on the running part of training. I was nearing 10 miles, the farthest I had ever run were I to achieve it. So I decided to make a new goal: try eating those weird goop-y pouches runners eat to give them energy. I tried. The chocolate flavor was gross and chalky and I almost threw up. I ran 10 miles. And not long after that I tripped while crossing the street in some platform sandals and injured the top of my foot.

It hurt to touch it, it hurt to bend it. With only a handful of weeks left, I saw my chances of completing my training and running the marathon slip away. I had been fundraising for Team in Training with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, if I didn’t run would all my backers think I was a bum, a zero, an F minus? I mean, sure, the money would still go to cancer research, but what about people paying attention to me while I ran? Why did I have to injure myself in the very unglamorous way of wearing impractical shoes because I thought they looked pretty? For fucks sake, on one of my training runs I ran a block and tripped over a cinder block and fell into the street and got all bloody and that only stopped me for the night because I had to go home and wash the cinder block out of my open wounds. What would become of the dreams I didn’t know I had? I decided to take a week to heal, look inward (sit and watch TV), and reflect (look at myself in the mirror and try out different hair-do’s).

After a week, and with only a few weeks left to train, I got back out there with several of my newfound goals (read: new purchases) in tow. I was now armed with a utility belt I could put disgusting goop into, along with pockets for water bottles. I had an arm band I could put my iPod into so I could listen to Beyoncé while I ran (yeah, I had an iPod. Let’s fight). Since it was now approaching November, I bought a headband to keep my ears warm while my hair was back. Look at me, ma, a well-outfitted runner. In the remaining weeks of my training I never ran more than 10 miles.

It was marathon week and the realization that I hadn’t even run the equivalent of a half marathon was sinking in. I got my registration packet with my number, some swag (yolo!), and a booklet with helpful marathon tips and info. I flipped to a random page, maybe 30 or so pages in, and read “some runners like to take baby aspirin to avoid sudden death.” I maintain to this day that if sudden death is a possibility while running the marathon and baby aspirin is the cure, that should’ve been in all caps, bold font on the cover of the information booklet. It also said to eat salt throughout the race and not switch up your routine from training. If you ate goop while training, eat goop during the race. So I heeded most of their advice. I bought some baby aspirin, I went to Pret a Manger and stole some salt packets, and marathon day I changed my routine completely.

The day of the race, I woke up early to catch a ferry to Staten Island where the marathon began. I had trained well…at setting realistic #goals, so I had set one for my marathon run: run hard enough to justify calling out sick from work the next day, but slow enough where I could still have the energy to celebrate with a beer or four at a bar afterward. That was what I was setting out to achieve, with my packets of salt and baby aspirin. At the base of the Verrazano Bridge, I remembered the tip “don’t switch up your routine.” Before running I had only ever had water and goop, but on marathon day they had set up stations with coffee and bagels and more swag. I also remembered one of those inspirational quotes in my training guide: “Listen to your body.” My body in that moment was saying, “You’re tired from getting up so early and bagels are delicious.” So I got a coffee and bagel. I was off to a great start. It was almost my scheduled start time, so I shed my top layer that I was leaving in a donation pile along with everyone else’s top layers they wouldn’t be running in. I had heard about writing your name on the shirt you were wearing during the marathon, which I had done the night before. Not really knowing what the purpose of it was, I wrote it on the back of my jersey, but as I approached the starting line, I noticed that everyone else’s names were written on their front. I quickly learned that it was so people along the marathon route could scream out your name as you ran towards them to keep you motivated and pumped. No one would be screaming out unless they knew me. A swing and a miss. I would have to dig down deep and hope people I knew would be along the route to cheer me on. I had told everyone to come, and the night before had a spaghetti party and people assured me they would be there, but what if they were distracted by a delicious looking brunch?

It was too late to dwell on it and looking up at the Verrazano it was the final time it really hit me: you’re fucking running the marathon. It was crowded and a slow start but it started. Running across the Verrazano, I put my headphones in, ready to listen to some music like I did while training. But before I could press play I heard someone scream my name behind me. “Oh, I guess people running the race will cheer me on,” I thought. Then someone ran right up next to me and someone I went to high school with was running alongside me, seeing my name on the back of my jersey. A swing and a…point. We started running together, I told him how my training had been going, our conversation took the logical turn of talking about Homeland, which at the time was still a relevant show (although going downhill quick) and pointing out that the terrorists all use Skype seemed like a fresh observation. I figured at some point he would take off in front of me, but we kept running together, catching up after years of not seeing each other. I told him to look out for my boyfriend who told me where he was going to be standing, holding a picture of our cat he hand printed from the computer. He was at the mile marker he said he would be at and every subsequent mile marker he said he would be at, winning MVP in the category of “cheer.” My newfound running mate and I compared notes about who would be there as support and where we expected to see them. At one point, we ran right by two of my friends from high school that were there to cheer me on, and my running friend said, “Wasn’t that [name redacted]?” I looked back, and there they were, scanning the crowd not realizing that I had just run by. I screamed their names and they waved, a little confused to see me running with someone they also knew but we hadn’t seen in years. All they could get out was: “You’re not supposed to be screaming our name, we’re supposed to be screaming yours!” Oops. Every few miles when I saw my boyfriend and the print out of our cat I would check in to see where other cheerleaders of mine were. My sister and brother and some friends and in-laws and strangers would be at this mile. This friend keeps missing me. So and so and such and such are by McCarren Park. Whenever I would get to them, just where my boyfriend said they would be, they would always be there screaming, singing, jumping, braying. Holding signs that ran the gamut from creative to…a print out of my cat. At one point I was looking at the spectators at the exact right moment and saw one of my friends running alongside me on the sidewalk. It was in Greenpoint and too packed to make it more than just a half of a block, but watching her frantically try to stay with me while timidly pushing people out of the way felt like a scene from a movie that doesn’t exist.

I passed Dough where I was hoping they would be handing out doughnut samples for the runners. I had been telling my high school running mate about the doughnut place for miles, I was really hoping they wouldn’t let me down. There weren’t free doughnut samples, which in hindsight was probably for the best. My new running companion cheered me up by remarking that there were so many people on the street handing out orange slices and gatorade and bananas it was like we were trick or treating, but for hours in the middle of the day in November. I really liked that idea and finally at mile 13.1, a half marathon distance, I turned to my new/old friend and told him he had to keep running ahead. This was the farthest I had ever run ever in my life. I hadn’t stopped once. I was mixing up my routine left right and center. I was latching onto this trick or treating theory like my life depended on it, I didn’t want to hold him back and the halfway point being a bridge I made the snap decision to walk all the bridges and run all the boroughs. He made sure I was okay and kept running. Then as soon as I set foot in Queens, I ran again.

Friends I had yet to see were right over the bridge in Queens. A co-worker who wasn’t even there for me spotted me, screamed in my face, took a video and sent it to everyone in our office. I drank a Gatorade, had some salt, kept trucking. None of this was normal. Crossing over into Manhattan, I had still yet to see my wife. Yeah, that’s right, I have a boyfriend and a wife. It’s 2017, get with the times. My boyfriend had met up with me soon after I crossed into Manhattan. “She’s at mile 19!” he screamed, already knowing what I was going to ask. I was nearing mile 19, my energy was fading a little, and suddenly I hear U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” and I saw my wife, flanked by two of our best friends who were actually married (my wife and I are not actually married. Again, it’s 2017. Keep up). I am so indifferent to U2 but something about having run 19 miles, finally seeing some of the best people in the world screaming my name and that power anthem guitar, I just started jumping up and down and ran so fast over to them and acted like a complete buffoon. It wasn’t smart, but it felt right in the moment.

After leaving them, I felt energized. A man in the marathon was eating a pizza while propelling himself forward with his feet while he sat in a wheelchair. None of this was normal. Some men were dressed like fire fighters. Writing my name on the back of my jersey, while at one point seemed like a rookie mistake, proved a stroke of unintended genius. Not only did I get to run with someone who essentially made it possible for me to break my own personal record by distracting me from my own limits, but other runners kept coming up to me during the race and asking if I knew the score. For awhile, I thought I was being pranked, akin with someone giving you too much tuna in a sandwich at a deli. What you might not know about me is that I also share a name with a city that apparently was playing some big sports match/game during the marathon. Thinking that I was showing pride in that city and cheering on “other sport,” I spent the second half of my race being asked every 15 minutes if I knew the score. I started just making it up. “4-72. Our boys or girls are really making a good show of it out there on that grass court. So many points in the goal hoop.”

I was closing in on Central Park, I saw my roommate who I didn’t think would be able to make it at mile 24. I heard my sister was running through the fields in Central Park trying to catch me after making bad public transportation choices (we all later joked that we no longer wanted to do the Amazing Race with her. But honestly, I’ll fucking do it with anyone). Everyone was convening near the finish line, my brother and sister in law being the closest to the actual finish as it was near impossible to get through for security reasons. I crossed the finish line, assessing my situation quickly. I decided that, yes, I can get beer, yes I am sore, I met my #goals. The sun set while I was trying to navigate my way through the exit from Central Park, what felt like an additional mile and a half. Because I had stopped moving and the sun was gone, my temperature dropped by leaps and bounds and I suddenly couldn’t feel my feet and hands. I knew my cheerleaders were somewhere close so I just started screaming names of people I had seen over the last 26.2 miles. I could hear people screaming my name in reply and eventually I just thought, fuck it, I just ran a marathon, and to quote Beyoncé, “I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want,” and cut through the roped off corralling area and found my friends. We were looking for a bar to celebrate, I couldn’t feel my extremities, I was convinced my toenails had fallen off. None of this was normal, My sister in law was concerned when I asked if my hand was making a fist or not inside my gloves because I couldn’t feel them, so after finding a bar she located a local seller of those foot and hand heating pouches. She bought so many that I still have some and they’re probably expired and not good to keep around. Somehow, the fates aligned and we found the one bar that was a block away from the marathon, was virtually empty, and was playing almost exclusively Beyoncé. I got the feeling in all of my parts back, I still had all my toenails, and because you don’t run on your shoulders, I was able to pop my shoulders to the beat of all of Beyoncé’s hits. When the adrenaline wore off several hours later, I hobbled into a cab. I truly did it. I really was too sore to go to work the next day.

I have not run a marathon since then, but I set a new #goal for myself. I made it while running the marathon and seeing everyone along the way cheering on people they knew or didn’t know or just screaming indiscriminately at the heavens. I want to be one of those people (preferably one of them sitting down with a beer at a outdoor bar). Today’s marathon was the closest I ever got to reaching my goal, but seeing everyone run by, I was so overcome with inexplicable emotions that I had to remove myself before people asked me if I was okay, or more realistically if I was physically unwell. In short, I learned a lot from the marathon, but apparently I didn’t learn enough, because I’m re-entering the lottery. Fingers crossed I don’t win.

Sisters: like Tia and Tamera except a restaurant and not two human relatives

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A cool restaurant/bar/live music venue in an old hardware store with a lot of wooden details…in Brooklyn?! Well, I never!

  • Subway stop: Clinton-Washington
  • Walk from subway: 7 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
  • Location: 900 Fulton St between Washington Ave and Waverly Ave

In the not too distant past, there was a time when I had many lofty dreams, several of which stemmed from blogs that seemed to be going nowhere. Never one to easily learn a lesson, here we are today, writing yet another blog entry on yet another blog that may or may not be read. Why do I bring this up? Because in reinvigorating the “Off the G” brand with it’s first real post, I’m merging this blog with another blog that maybe had potential, but just faded into the deep recesses of the internet. I’m of course talking about my barely read blog that I co-wrote with my sister all about being a sister, growing up sisters, and having a sister. The blog was aptly named “Sisters.” The title really let our readers know right from the start just what to expect in creativity and originality. So when thinking of restarting this blog, I could think of only one place and only one person that I could go explore it with. If you haven’t put two and two together yet, I’m talking about going to a place called Sisters with my sister. A couple of weeks ago, while my sister was in town, we made the trip to our namesake to try out their “New American” cuisine because we’re forward thinkers and “Old American” is so last year. Make American New Again!

When first approaching Sisters, you’re greeted by a pretty narrow set of doors and windows, above which they advertise all the important meals of the day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Music. How can they fit all those foods, including the music food, inside what looks like a very tiny space? Sorcery?! Close. Much like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter is deceptively small from the outside being that it’s in the back of a dank pub, so is Sisters much larger than it appears. But instead of tapping on some bricks with a wand to enter, you simply have to look to your left and you’ll notice that there’s actually another set of doors that leads into the restaurant. Ya got pranked.

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I bet you do want to enter through these doors. Think again, friend. THINK AGAIN.

Once you step inside you’re like, “Wait a minute, this is huge! And I can see the sky through the ceiling! Are you sure this isn’t from Harry Potter? They can see the ceiling in their dining hall because of some ancient enchantments.” Wrong again! No magic here, unless you want to call the ability of skylights made of glass to show us the outside world above us magic. In that case, yes, magic. Once you take your eyes off the sky and focus more on your physical surroundings, you’re immediately struck by how modern, designy, wooden, and overall Brooklyn-like this place feels. Almost too cool for school, but not really because I went there once for breakfast and there was a Norwegian sailing group made up of 15 or so middle-aged Nordic men speaking their native tongue and I’m assuming swapping stories about the stormy seas. They were also drinking large quantities of wine at 11am on a Tuesday. So maybe they’re also too cool for school. Do Norwegian sailors go to school? Something I will ask Siri later. Back to the look of Sisters. I wish I could say that my sister and I matched the interior and gave off the same effortlessly stylish vibe, but for some reason that day we decided it would be fun if one of us wore all black and the other all pink as we pretended we were gearing up for an early Halloween. Also, we had spent the first half of the day watching the movie “Sisters,” starring Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, ordering coffee to be delivered to my door, and wearing sweatpants until we got dressed at 2pm. When we go decide to go with the sisters theme, we go all out. While we may not have matched the impeccably designed interior, we did match their large and in charge size. We thought the first room we stepped into was it, and then we were led back to another room, past a DJ booth where DJ Bianca was on the ones and twos (hey, I know lingo! I’m hip!), past another bar, and right next to a stage. “Now I’m beginning to think we stepped through a wardrobe into Narnia!” my sister exclaimed. “No, wrong series!” I screamed, as I slapped the glass of water she was about to drink out of her hand, causing it to shatter on the floor and us to be kicked out. Blog entry over.

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The bar in the way back room would’ve been impressive enough on it’s own, but instead Sisters likes to have two well designed bars. Maybe their bars are…sisters…? If so, which bar is Beyonce and which one is Solange?

Just kidding. That last exchange didn’t happen because my sister doesn’t think in terms of Young Adult fantasy series. Being that Sisters is in Brooklyn, the menu of course has a multitude of delicious, healthy sounding dishes that I skipped right over to order the Sisters Mac and Cheese, because being around my sister makes me feel small and like a child. Just kidding, I’m a real jokester! This paragraph is full of jokes! In truth, I just like to eat lots of cheese. It had mushrooms in it, though, so I got my veggies for the day. And since one helping of cheese isn’t enough to satiate my need for cheese, we also ordered the baked wine and cheese. As a reminder, I’m a big fat fuck who has coffee delivered to my door.

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Very much I’m an adult

In addition to the plethora of cheese, Sisters also offers a very well curated cocktail list, because again, this is in Brooklyn. Say you’re in the mood for something called Holidays in the USA because you like to associate holidays with apples and getting wasted on bourbon, Sisters has you covered! More of a fan of the name Pink Orpheus? Me too, despite the fact that I don’t know what coconut orgeat is. Say you like your cocktails with peppers, don’t worry there’s always Geryon’s Revenge, which I like to call Greyjoy, Theon’s Revenge. Man, I must be on a real fantasy series kick right now. At least I’m maturing into more adult choices in literature as this post goes on. I guess that’s just the beauty of Sisters. It matures you.

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Holidays in the USA, Pink Orpheus, and Geryon’s Revenge, I think in order from top to bottom. The bottom two are up for debate. Maybe Sisters will read this and correct me. I welcome it, in fact I encourage it, and it also wouldn’t be the first time!

How does it mature you, you may ask? Well, a week after visiting Sisters with my sister, I decided, hey, maybe I should get off my ass and pretend to be a productive member of society. I hopped on the G and made my way back to Sisters IN DAYLIGHT…FOR BREAKFAST…AND COFFEE. And I ordered a side salad. Sure, the side salad came with burrata, and after the coffee I ordered a Michelada, but I had to balance out the salad. But I’m not the only one who’s maturing. Next week, Sisters is celebrating it’s two year anniversary. If it were a human, it would be walking and talking, but probably talking in it’s own made up language that no one understands, but once you spend enough time with the two year old, you begin to understand that when they say “Dan” they really mean you. You know, regular two year old shit. I guess, if I were really trying to make this analogy work, I could say that Sisters has their own language, too. They’re a cafe in the morning, a brunch place on the weekends, a music venue with live DJs, a restaurant with inventive dishes at night, possibly a place of magic and sorcery. They can’t really be labelled, but you can get a feel for what they are by hanging out with them. Could you also say that about sisters? I know I don’t. I speak English with my sister.

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Burrata and michelada. They almost rhyme.

This is where I’ll leave you for now, with the image of me trying to grasp the English language and how it rhymes and if I speak it with sister. There will be more to come, written in some semblance of English, and as always-

-Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Wait Here to Board

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Kids these days will never remember when you had to figure out the hard way where to stand to board the G 

Much like the G stops at weird locations on the platform, has service changes causing detours and delays, never makes it’s way into the “big city” of Manhattan, and has never reached it’s goal weight of eight cars, this blog has had it’s share of stops and goes. But also like the G, this is the little blog that could. So many months, many credit card debts, and many trips overseas and off the G later, THE BLOG IS BACK, BABY.

Why now, you ask? Well, faithful reader, you can thank a stranger who recently sat near me on the G train. She was riding with her two young sons and I was only going three stops. As always, I secretly tasked my fellow straphangers with leaving me with a lasting impression. “I’ve only got three stops, so y’all better make it quick or else I will get off this train and never think of you again,” I think to myself. In most cases, the impressions left by other riders are not the best. I’m not fond of the “It’s showtime!” guys. I’m also not really a fan of the guy I got into a full on elbow war with. Or the guy who yelled at my sister and I for looking at pictures on my camera that I had taken that day. My sister shortly moved out of the city after that incident. New York City subway riders are not always the most forgiving and can be a constant reminder of everything that we all hate about this city. But this ride was different.

At every stop, the boys would scream out, desperately searching their mother for a negative response. “Are we getting off here??!!” “No, not yet.” And then a loud guttural shriek of glee as her sons would yell, “Yay! We get to stay on the G!” We would pull into another stop and the same exchange, with one addendum: “Hey! There’s another train over there! What train is it?!” “It’s another G going the other way.” “ANOTHER G TRAIN! YAY!” As we pulled into the Broadway stop their mother said, “This is the first stop I ever lived at when I moved to New York. And then your father and I moved a couple stops away to Classon Ave. And now we live by Carroll.” “YAY!” Much like the first 10 minutes of Up, I had a crash course glimpse into this family’s life as seen through where they had lived along the G. And this story didn’t end with zero children and a dead wife! I got off at the next stop, a pure, unadulterated love for the G train washing over me. That family had done what so few had done on the subway; made it an enjoyable commute. “I shall immortalize you one day on a rarely updated and even more rarely read blog about things that are found above ground,” I yelled to them as I got lost in the sea of people getting off at Metropolitan Ave. “What are you saying? I can’t hear you! Are you threatening my family?” the mother screamed back. “Stand clear of the closing doors,” the conductor muttered out in a barely audible slur of words. The doors closed and I watched them zoom past me through the subway car window while I stood stationary on the platform, getting jostled from side to side by people trying to get their lives on the surface. Some of that happened and some of it didn’t but I never reveal what’s fact and fiction because it keeps the tension at a maximum.

Fast forward to today, a month later from this fateful G subway ride. I’ve listened to too many podcasts about the upcoming election and I’m just getting really worn down and upset and worried. I get out of work earlier than expected. Work is conveniently located on the G, just like my apartment. I put in my headphones as I walk down the stairs to the subway. But as I listen to Trump’s entitled voice echoing through my ears, I look at the time left on the episode I just started. 53 minutes. I see that back-lit green G, a beacon of hope coming down the track. I know I have 20 minutes until I get home, if I walk slowly. I quickly switch to my music because fuck Trump and I also am not gonna finish the episode anyway. Listening to happy people singing about being happy and in love sheds a different light on the night time commute home after work as opposed to sad people talking about sad things. I got off the train at my stop just as “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis (a highly underrated song) came on. I put the song on repeat for my walk to my apartment and as soon as I’m inside the door of my apartment I start pumping my fists in the air at the semi-triumphant part of the song (around the 2:38 mark, for those looking to reenact in their own abode). It’s more of a ballad than an anthem, so the triumphant part is a little understated, but under the right circumstances it does the trick. After an appropriate amount of time spent dancing it out, I sat down and opened my computer, and here we are. The blog is back.

But where did it go? Well, it’s more like, where did I go. I went to a couple different countries, went to see Beyonce, went to a couple different coasts, officiated a wedding, and every once in awhile someone would bring up Off the G. “It’ll be back,” I always promised, knowing I’ve had a couple of failed blogs in my rear view mirror. I hoped this one wouldn’t end up in the same graveyard. As I had explained in an email to an owner of one of the businesses I had previously written about, I love personal storytelling, traveling, humor, and the weird little community that is the G train. This blog is not supposed to be any one of those things, but some hybrid weird marriage of all of them. And now that I’ve officiated a wedding, I’m more qualified than ever to stand at the helm of this (hopefully not sinking) ship. Or train. This is a subway blog so I should keep my metaphors somewhat train related. I’m more qualified than ever to mumble nonsense that no one can understand while I conduct this train. And in the spirit of fully embracing my past, I’ll be using one of my former blogs as a theme for my first real blog post back, dropping later this week. Will it be the blog I started with my college friend where we wrote about the poops we recently had? You’ll have to read it to find out (It’s not. That’s a very niche audience that I don’t really want to attract here).

So, just to reiterate, I’m back. And this time I’m not going anywhere. I’ll just keep writing about the G, shouting into the abyss of the internet, hoping something happens with this, but also being okay with it if it doesn’t. Because I love the G, always forever, and I will always-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Straphanger’s Delight #3: Hot Bird and Speedy Romeo [A former autobody shop face-off where everybody wins]

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Don’t be fooled by the car stuff and Liquors sign. There’s actually some fine ass pizza behind those walls! It’s Speedy Romeo and the picture that I took that showed you both sides got deleted from my phone because phones are hard and technology is hard but pizza is good, especially this pizza.

  • Subway stops: Hot Bird and Clinton-Washington; Speedy Romeo at Classon Ave
  • Walk from subway: 9 minutes from Clinton-Washington to Hot Bird; 2 minutes from Classon Ave to Speedy Romeo
  • Neighborhoods: Hot Bird in Prospect Heights; Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill
  • Locations: Hot Bird at 546 Clinton Ave on the corner of Atlantic Ave; Speedy Romeo at 376 Classon Ave on the corner of Greene Ave

It’s that magical time of the month, the middle. For March that means being somewhere between a lion and a lamb, a limb, if you will. For Off the G it means it’s time for another installment of everyone’s favoritely named feature: “Straphanger’s Delight!” For those of you who are new readers, first off, welcome, thank you, I don’t know how you found this blog, please never stop reading this blog, and feel free to email me and tell me how talented and pretty I am. Also, a quick explanation of what Straphanger’s Delight is. It’s when I take two businesses along the G line that share some kind of common bond and talk about them together. This week I felt like truly embracing the yo-yo-ing weather of March and talk about a place that’s good for the warm outdoor weather and the cold nights that you want to sit by a wood burning fire eating pizza and meats, both in former auto parts shops. Did you follow that? You mean you can’t understand my tangential train of thought that has led me to this post? Did my brain never fully develop or am I stuck in a state of arrested development, like the show? These are questions I ask myself daily. Anyway, this post is about Hot Bird, a bar with plenty of outdoor seating in Prospect Heights, and Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill, a restaurant with a woodfire oven for pizza and a grill cooking up the nicest cuts of meats and octopuses you’ve ever seen. And what brings these two together in a Straphanger’s Delight? They’re both obviously located in old auto body shops, because this is Brooklyn after all. So much like the weather and my brain, let’s ping pong back and forth talking about these two G-line delights.

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One of the aforementioned G-line [Straphanger’s] delights: Hot Bird. Don’t let the smoke from the fire pit confuse you; there actually is no smoking. Please read all the signs lining the fence.

On a cold, March night, after a warm March day, I found myself ducking out from the rain and looking for a nice hot place to get some hot eats. So you’re thinking to yourself, Hot Bird, right? It’s got “hot” right there in the name. Nope, I’m actually talking about Speedy Romeo. Their hardwood fired pizzas are cooked in an open kitchen for the whole restaurant to see, and if you’re like me, take so many pictures of that eventually people start to notice. All of my other posts up to this point have seen me taking really, just truly shitty pictures, because I’ve been nervous about telling businesses about my blog so I tried to be discreet. But after a day fighting with my phone after it repeatedly deleted all my photos, I rebelled against my old ways and my phone, threw caution to the wind, said “fuck it,” and took as many non-discreet pictures as I could. But don’t worry kids! The photos are still poor quality because I’ve got a brand to maintain! Anyway, back to what’s actually important: pizza. The times I’ve come to Speedy Romeo, it’s always been incredibly popular, and while there’s a bit of a wait, you can wait it out drinking around the bar/kitchen (as I said before, it’s a good view, so it’s kinda worth it to have a wait), or you can go to a bodega nearby and buy a Powerball ticket. I suggest this because I did that once, and while I didn’t win, I felt like a winner because pizza is fucking delicious. Aside from the bar/kitchen, there’s also an open grill that you can watch the cooks firing up some of the most succulent looking protein dishes this side of the Rockies. There is regular seating, but we were lucky enough to get a seat at the bar next to the kitchen. This meant not only getting to see them prepare everything, which did NOT make it easier to order because I wanted to eat all the pizzas and meats, but you also got to bathe in the warmth from the pizza oven. Perfect for a cold night out on the town, or anytime because I like being warm always.

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A coupla chefs, a coupla pizza boxes, bada bing, bada boom, you’ve got a Clinton Hill Speedy Romeo

There aren’t a ton of remnants from it’s former auto body shop days. Aside from some mechanical stuff that I’m assuming was for car repairs (but to be honest could have been for cooking. I don’t know how to cook. Or repair a car) and the outside which is adorned with all kinds of car insignias, what really stands out is the painted portrait of a horse in the kitchen, watching over all the dishes before they go out. No, he can’t taste them, HE’S A PAINTING. And yes, he is Speedy Romeo, a former champion racehorse who is the namesake for this restaurant. If you’ve read any of my former posts, you know that I’m a sucker for a good animal portrait that watches over a bar or dining room. So honestly, the food could’ve been truly awful and I would’ve been like, “But it’s great because a horse watches you eat.” But obviously, you know that’s not true. One peek at their website and you’ll see words like “Michelin” “Jean George” “New York Rising Star,” which I don’t even need to give you the context to because you know that means good things, or at least you think you know that it means good things because you watch Top Chef and you once watched your friend make pasta. I’ll get into the food a little later. But let’s quickly pop on to the G and go one stop to check out Hot Bird.

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Quickly, let me slip in this pic of Speedy Romeo, the horse, and a horseshoe, that I can only assume was taken right from his now bare hoof.

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The bar, and name of the bar. I think it’s named after a car. That rhymed!!

Let’s imagine for a minute that it’s a beautiful, sunny, summer day. You want to get together with a bunch of friends and drink outside, before you go eat pizza alone at Speedy Romeo because you don’t want to share. Day drinking outside, what a splendid idea! Oh, oops, you pay way too much for a tiny ass apartment with no outdoor space, unless you want to sit on the curb near a fire hydrant because no one can park there so you can spread out a little bit. But, oops, again, there are open container laws so what’s a girl to do?! That’s when you call up your friends and you all meet at Hot Bird for some beers and maybe a couple cocktails. Pick your poison. Hot Bird is a bit opposite from Speedy Romeo. While there’s a fire if you insist on sitting outside for your drinks even if it’s cold and you’re a maniac, to truly enjoy the outdoors it’s best to come on a nice, spring or summer day. There’s not a ton of food options except for a taco “truck” located next to their outdoor seating. And the outside is not covered in automobile insignia. While Speedy Romeo might wear its former auto body shop-ness on the outside, the orange fence walls of Hot Bird don’t readily suggest that greasers used to operate on cars behind those walls. However, step inside and you’ll see plenty of old remnants of a bygone car shop, down to the name of the bar and the shades outside that are reminiscent of those things on the tops of gas station pumps. What are those called? Again, I don’t know anything about cars.

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Much like Dorothy had to follow her yellow brick road, just follow the orange wooden slats around the corner of Atlantic Ave onto Clinton Ave and just like that, you’re at Hot Bird. Again, no smoking.

While Hot Bird might be seen as a destination wedding for those who like to get married on former blacktop while people they don’t know surround them getting slowly drunk throughout the day, if you’re wanting to go there even in bad weather, there is always the indoor bar, which is where you have to go anyway to order your drinks. You might be forced inside even if it is nice weather because I have been known to go to Hot Bird on some of the first nice days after the winter moths, only to go 15 minutes after it opens and the place is packed to the gills. You’ll be sitting on the very tippy edge of one of the picnic tables while a group of 17 close friends laugh and catch up about their EXCITING! and INTERESTING! ENDEAVORS! In scenarios like that, it’s a better option to head inside. The space, while still having ample seating, is very open with a large window that illuminates the room and makes you feel like you’re just outside adjacent. Which is because you are. Outside adjacent is a term I just came up with and it actually means inside. To be real though, it can get very unbearably hot in New York in the summer, who are we kidding. And this isn’t Southeast Asia or anything, so it’s not like it’s fun. You’re just hot in the city, where everything starts to smell like rotting garbage, and you’re sweating, looking for any air conditioned building you can find so you can run to the bathroom and rinse your pits off in the sink. On days like this, you’re gonna want to go with the indoor seating and take in all of the garage themed decor. Don’t worry. The decor is clean and you won’t leave covered in grease, but if you order the tacos you might leave covered in sweat. Because I ordered them for the first time ever last week and those tacos are muy caliente! If that is correct spelling, grammar, and says what I think it says, then the 5 week Spanish class that I took 3 years ago is basically just paying for itself!

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In putting this picture up, I realize that you can’t really see the size and openness of the indoor part of Hot Bird. So I guess you just have to trust me that it’s large. Do you trust me? You should. I’m very smart.

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Hot Bird’s “taco truck,” with bird decal and no wheels. Don’t let the impending spring and summer be the only thing that makes you sweat! These tacos will have you panting!

Since we’re talking food, let’s pretend on the hypothetical day I mentioned so long ago in this post that the sun is setting and you’re looking to go gorge yourself on some hot meats and melted cheese. That’s when you get back on that G and keep ridin’, as I implore you to do at the end of every one of my posts. But again, these two former garages are only one G stop away so you won’t be on that little train that barely can for too long. Get off at the Classon stop, and head back to Speedy Romeo. If you’re keeping track, then you might remember that our hypothetical day actually started by going to Hot Bird, it was just this post that started off talking about Speedy Romeo. Because that’s me. Always keeping you on your toes. Anyway, back to our hypothetical day in which you go to Speedy Romeo for dinner after Hot Bird for day drinking, because you’re a lover of car repairs of yore. I know I’ve mentioned a few pizza places on this blog before. And as wonderful and unique as they all are, Speedy Romeo may just be my favorite. For one, if you branch out and decide to get something from the grill, YOU’RE NOT DUMB. Yes, you’re at a pizza place, and yes, for many pizza places, if you decide to go off the pizza menu, you can expect some version of a pasta dish and maybe a salad with some prime iceberg lettuce from the corner deli. But Speedy Romeo don’t play like that. I said it before and I’ll say it again, watch them cook those slabs of meat and those whole fish on that grill. Everything here is cooked using woodfire, either a grill or a stove, and I’m now a convert that woodfire might be the only way to cook. We got the grilled octopus and I have never had a better octopus in my life. And I mentioned Southeast Asia above for a reason, because I’ve spent my fair share of time there and they eat all the seafoods there. And even still, this was the best octopus. It’s not rubbery, it’s not tough, it’s not chewy, and it won’t make my sister throw up upon first bite like that octopus she tried in Japan that one time. It’s got all of the great flavors of octopus without that weird, chewy, ouch-my-jaw-hurts mouth feel that you might sometimes get.

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It’s pizza by candlelight. Say “I love you” with two full pizzas.

Obviously, the good food doesn’t stop there. I’m a sucker for eggs. On everything. So when I saw the Kind Brother on their menu, complete with a farm egg, wild mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, and sage I was like, “Check please! But first give me that pizza and then I’ll order one more pizza and then a couple more beers and then…I’ll take the check!” In short, I was excited and metaphorically shot my wad. Is that too much? I don’t know anymore, it’s come to my attention recently that not everyone appreciates my lack of a filter and I’m really having an internal struggle over it. Back to the pizza. It was delicious in all the right ways. I love egg and cheese. I have gone days in a row where I’ve later realized that every meal I had was some kind of incarnation of meat, cheese, and egg. So the Kind Brother really spoke to me on a very deep, personal level. And although I easily ate my weight in octopus, egg, pizza, cheese, meats, crust, sauces, etc., they were kind enough to treat us to a branded marshmallow chocolate cake. And when they say branded, they truly mean branded. Like with a branding iron. At your table. And I said, “But I’m so delicate and full!” And then ate the whole thing. Because it was a FUCKING BRANDED MARSHMALLOW. You don’t come by those everyday. And while I think the whole reason we were given the cake was so I could take a picture of it, the only one I got that was even somewhat decent was post branding, as you can see below. Again, this is one of those times where you must learn to trust me, thank you. The art of table-side cooking is usually reserved for making guacamole, but I think Speedy Romeo is on the brink of starting a new trend in table-side branding.

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Marshmallow branded chocolate cake, post branding. Sorry kids, I’m not a photographer. I’m not a writer either, though, and yet here we all are

With your dessert now fully consumed and your belly really testing the limits of the seams on your pants, your hypothetical day has come to a close and you’ve only had to ride the G to two neighboring different stops to experience two very different takes on an old auto parts shop. With the hypothetical day ending so ends this post and my inability to really have that whole hypothetical day as a through line. Oops. Maybe I’ll be better at writing this thing next time. There’s only one way to find out and that’s to-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Trivia Thursday: Putnam’s Pub & Cooker

I’m sure there’s some kind of clever caption about the Irish flag and the impending St. Patrick’s Day holiday, but I just can’t come up with it

  • Subway stop: Clinton-Washington
  • Walk from subway: 8 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
  • Location: 419 Myrtle Ave, on the corner of Clinton Ave
  • Trivia Nights: Wednesdays at 8:30pm

It’s been two weeks, or 14 days, or 336 hours, or 20,160 minutes, or 1,209,600 seconds (roughly) since our last Trivia Thursday. I don’t know how you tell time and this isn’t a song from Rent, so let’s just say it’s been a fortnight and call it a day. With that passage of time it could mean only one thing. It’s time for another Trivia Thursday! This week’s is a doozy, because if you search for trivia in Brooklyn this will often come up as the top one in the borough. And I have to say, having been to many trivias in many different states and no other countries, I have to agree that this trivia is among my favorites. So you’re likely at this point at the edge of your seat, wondering what it is. Might I direct your attention to the title of this particular post. Oh, you don’t take directions from blogs? Okay, then I guess I’ll tell you what the place is in the body of my blog, as all the best authors do. All the best authors have blogs, right? Oh, they have vlogs now? Noted. Anyway, we’re talking Putnam’s Pub & Cooker in Clinton Hill!

An illuminated beer always makes the losing at trivia a little more palatable

What makes trivia at Putnam’s so great? Well, for starters, even if you’re not there for trivia, they have a nice offering of food, drinks, and merriment. They have oysters for those who need to order oysters every time they see them on a menu (that’s me I’m describing), they have a nice list of beers on tap, and if you’re feeling funky, why not order some cheeseburger spring rolls? Feeling cheap? Show up before 7 and you can take part in the centuries old tradition of happy hour! So even if you don’t win at trivia you can still feel like less of a failure at life for scoring them cheap eats and booze!

Putnam’s trivia is of course very popular so it’s no surprise that my team, “Glance Steinbaum, DDS, At Your Service,” didn’t even crack the top ten, but the way you play the game can be strategic and all ride on that last question. For example, if we had gotten the last question right, we would’ve been in the top 5, but the world is full of coulda, shoulda, wouldas and you just can’t dwell on them.

Sometimes you just get a sheet of looseleaf paper at trivia. Sometimes you get something a little more complex. As they say, “different strokes for different folks.”

So how does the trivia all work? What is this “strategy” that you speak of? Well, if you have very good eyesight you can try to look at the picture above to figure out the rules. Or I can try to break them down for you in a way that won’t be too boring to read when you’re not actively participating in trivia. There are four rounds of five questions. The first four questions for every round are between 1-4 points but you get to decide how much you want to wager for each question. “Well, then I’ll just wager 4 points for every question to maximize how many potential points I get,” you’re thinking to yourself. You just think you’re so smart don’t you. You probably are the kinda person who thinks they’re the only ones who don’t pay for cable anymore and just use Hulu and other streaming sites to watch TV because you’re SO SMART. Well you’re not because that’s not how the points work in this trivia. You have to wager 1, 2, 3, and 4 for every round, so aside from the 5th bonus question that you don’t get to pick the value of, each round maxes out at 10 points. Which brings me to the fifth bonus question in every round. The first round it starts out at 5 points, then it gradually grows in intensity with every round, making the very last question worth 10 points, which could be the ultimate in game changers. Are you following me up to this point? It’s actually not that confusing. I just tend to explain things using the maximum amount of words.

 

In case you forgot, let this picture serve as a reminder that Putnam’s is a bar


 

Let’s say there are some questions that you feel like you might know, the answer is at the tip of your tongue, but you could really use some audio or visual assistance in locating that answer from the deep recesses of your brain. Don’t worry, they got you. The categories for each question, the questions themselves, AND the answers are all shown on a TV screen by the bar. Each question also comes with an  accompanying song that’s meant to either act as a hint or throw you off the scent. When will it not be a hint? You’ll never know, until they reveal the answer and then you’ll know. And when all is said and done, what are the prizes? Just a $100 bar tab for the winner, no big deal. And second and third prize aren’t too shabby either with a $50 and $25 bar tab respectively. 

What also makes this such a well running trivia is that it’s not run by some big wig quiz master company. These questions, clues, and misleads come straight from the brain of the MC, meaning that they understand what they’re asking you, why they’re asking it, and they’re equipped to fight anyone who might contest an answer. I don’t actually know about that last part, but I always appreciate it when the person asking the questions at trivia actually knows the answer and can explain to you why it’s right.

So if you’re looking for probably the best bar trivia in Brooklyn, or at least the most involved, complex, and brain straining trivia, I found it for you. And if that’s not your bag, the weather’s getting nice and they have outdoor seating so you can watch from the great outdoors as the trivia participants toil away indoors. And as always-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Other Half Brewing Company: how the other half lives, if you’re a wine drinker and not a beer drinker. Otherwise, if you are a beer drinker, it’s a brewery!

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Nothing like an afternoon beer to make you forget about the real world and all of it’s responsibilities

  • Subway stop: Smith and 9th St
  • Walk from subway: 3 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens
  • Location: 195 Centre St., between Smith St and Hamilton Ave near the BQE

While this was supposed to be posted yesterday, a small bout of food poisoning had me sidelined, keeping me from writing all about this Carroll Gardens’ brewery, Other Half Brewing Company. I guess you could argue that spontaneously vomming into a bush while walking down the sidewalk seems somewhat fitting for a post about a brewery, but in this case the two are not related, other than one leading to the delay of the blog post about the other. But I digress. Perhaps the name “Other Half” is meant for those drinkers among us who are a bit more classy, those who might like craft beers for their delicious taste, and like to bring their entire family to a brewery on a Sunday afternoon. Ya know, the other half. The half of drinkers that’s not in college or trying to drown their daily problems in booze. The half that DOESN’T do that. That other half. Are you with me so far or has my food poisoning spread to my brain?

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Classy beer glasses and an ever-changing menu for classy and ever-changing people

Other Half beers can be found all over, including in previous blog post subject, 61 Local. But there’s no better place to go to get that real Other Half lifestyle than the brewery. Being in Carroll Gardens, you would be right in assuming the clientele is a nice happy mix of people who like to get day drunk because it’s not a work day and they have no responsibilities, but also have a refined palette, and people who have a small family with kids and pets alike, and they will bring the whole family there because nothing says “family fun” like watching Daddy desperately hold onto his youth, getting sloshed at 3pm. Just kidding, your kid’s cute and I was eyeing that King Charles Spaniel someone brought with them like it was a doughnut wrapped in bacon that I would take home and raise in my own image. Honestly, I have no problem with people bringing their kids to a bar or brewery as long as it’s kid friendly, the kid tends to keep to stay with their original group, and the kid is not a laptop. One of these days I am going to steal someone’s laptop at a cafe or bar, to teach them a lesson.

Anyway, you might expect a brewery in Carroll Gardens that serves delicious craft beers has a storefront that you can’t miss. But you’d be wrong. Because, located near the BQE, the exterior looks just like it’s located underneath a highway. I walked right by it to where a cat was cozy-ing up to a big cart full of hops. It took me a minute to realize, wait, this is the block where the brewery is and this is a huge pile of hops (a common ingredient in beer, ya chumps), so I must’ve walked right by the brewery. I had. The door is very non-descript and covered in chipping paint, to give it that “authentic” feel.

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Good thing a cat made me stop on the sidewalk, otherwise I probably would’ve walked right by this place

The hops-loving stray cat is a perfect introductory symbol for the Brooklyn-ness of this brewery. After walking into what seems like an abandoned front door, you’re greeted with a rustic, wood interior, bearded men, a taxidermy antelope head, a lot of hodge-podge decorations, and an “every man for himself” seating arrangement. This brewery knows what it is and where it is, and it doesn’t try to shy away from that, and there’s something somewhat refreshing about a place that so unapologetically leans into every Brooklyn stereotype. There’s a certain set of people who tend to gravitate towards craft beers and they know it and fuck it, they’re here for you. What’s that? You want to know another refreshing aspect of Other Half Brewing Company? Their beers are not only nutritious, but are actually affordable. Walking down Smith or Court St only a few minutes away, you could easily shell out a lot more money on the same beer, but stop being a lazy bum, walk a few more minutes to the brewery, and get yourself some reasonably priced beer. The taxidermy antelope head commands you!

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He COMMANDS you.

As mentioned above, this is definitely a first-come, first-serve seating type of establishment, so unless you plan on getting there as soon as they open, or staying until last call, if it’s a weekend, plan on standing. Otherwise, reevaluate your life and maybe have some free time during a week day. What are you doing with your life that’s honestly THAT important? But let’s say it is a weekend that you go, it’s been open for a few hours and the one communal table has no seats left. You can crowd around the table on the little ledges that are mounted on the walls for people who like to awkwardly eye the people who are sitting, trying to mind control them into standing up (which is exactly what I did, and after an hour IT WORKED), or you can walk a little further into the room, by the bathroom where you’ll see a door leading to an entire other room. That room will likely also be crowded and standing room only, but it’s another room and you can see some of the brewing machinery, bucket things. I don’t know what they’re called. They probably have a tour where they explain everything. If they do, I didn’t go on it. I was too busy trying to sit down.

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Looking a little crowded on that side, too. I’ll just chill out underneath the antelope head and shoot daggers out of my eyes at the people who are sitting, thanks!

So, all of this talk about the space probably has you wondering, why the fuck do I care? What about the beer? Well, I wouldn’t have even opened up a tab to write this if the beer was shit. And I’m a lover of a good pun or a good reference to my cat’s name, and their offerings happened to achieve both. And if you’re scrolling up to try and figure out what my cat’s name is based off of the menu that was posted above, his name is not “Peach Wood Aged” or “Other Half IPA.” It’s Nug. So I ordered the Super Nugget because I always honor and respect my son, even when he’s at home sleeping on a pile of my clothes and getting cat hair all over them. If you’re a stout fan like I am, there is absolutely nothing to complain about with that Super Nugget. In fact, if you know what kind of beer you gravitate towards, they probably offer it in it’s best form. Their sour beer was a sour beer to end all sour beers (I’m not a sour beer fan myself, so not one of my top picks, but that’s not the point I’m making). Their IPA makes good use of that hops pile I saw earlier in the day. And their Make It Rain…was liquid like rain is. And because my cat couldn’t be there, eventually the cat we saw earlier on the sidewalk snuck in and made all the friends and got all the pettings and purred in a sign of solidarity towards my apartment-bound cat who couldn’t make the trip.

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A Super Nugget on the right and a Canni Baal on the left. You wish you were drinking them right now. I wish I was drinking them right now. I’ve been drinking Gatorade and Ginger Ale all day.

If you’re a lover of good beer, the occasional cat spotting, the occasional dog spotting, and wood, it’s worth going to the Other Half Brewing Company. If all of that scares you a little bit, because you’re a loser who doesn’t know how to step outside of their comfort zone, just relax and take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. Are you afraid that you won’t fit in? Are you worried that everyone else will know way more about beer than you? Don’t let your anxieties get in your way. They are largely in your head. Also, there’s a cat there that will love and respect you so you don’t have to feel so alone. It’s okay. Oh no…my food poisoning…it’s spread to my heart…goodbye…until next time…

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Here’s a picture of where you order the beer, because I didn’t know where to include that before

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Madiba: The most delicious way to pretend you’re not in Brooklyn, but actually in South Africa

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Usually these sidewalks are lined with tables and chairs, filled with customers soaking up the sun enjoying brunch. But this is Brooklyn, not South Africa, and that means in February or March it’s usually cold. So quit griping and go inside.

  • Subway stop: Clinton-Washington or Fulton St.
  • Walk from subway: 6 minutes from either stop
  • Neighborhood: Fort Greene
  • Location: 195 Dekalb Ave on the corner of Carlton Ave

It’s nearing the end of winter in New York City which means a lot of things; you’re slowly growing weary of just coming home and watching Netflix until your eyes bleed, you’re far enough removed from the holidays that you’re starting to think you might have money again and are online shopping for yourself because you’ve convinced yourself you deserve this, and the weather is wildly fluctuating from day to day. One day it’s 65 degrees and you’re wearing sandals and eating outside and the very next day it’s 27 degrees and you already forgot what it means to bundle up while looking good so you just throw on 5 sweatshirts, a parka, winter boats, and flannel lined pants, all while cursing March. It’s in like a lion and out like a lamb every. Goddamn. Day. Those occasional glimpses into the warm weather are enough of a teaser to turn that online shopping into an impulse buy of a plane ticket to a nicer climate because you just can’t stand it anymore. But STOP. You can pretend you’re going to a much warmer and more flavorful place by just taking the G to this 17 year-old Fort Greene staple, Madiba. Serving South African cuisine with many, many, many portraits of a smiling Nelson Mandela watching over you, you can save a few hundred dollars and pretend you’re in Johannesburg for the night.

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Nelson “Tata Madiba” Mandela happily watches you enjoy your seafood and curry. If you don’t enjoy it, first off, what’s wrong with you, and second, I guess he’s just taunting you and not happily watching you. In either scenario, he’s a painting and he’s smiling.

Having never actually been to Madiba until recently, I knew I had to go soon when I started seeing campaigns posted online and on their doors that said “Save Madiba!” I’ve unfortunately had to watch some of my favorite places along the G close down recently, before even getting to write about them for all of my RABID FANS, due to increasing rent costs causing even the more successful businesses to close their doors. I had looked at Madiba’s menu before, I had seen people enjoying cocktails on the sidewalk on sunny days, and I had even seen their posters bashing Trump next to their entrance. I knew that even though I had yet to go to Madiba myself it was already a local favorite for so many and would likely become a favorite of my own. So before I even delve too far into my usual ramblings, I would like to plead everyone to please patronize Madiba. Do not make this the next ScratchBread, which continually had a line out the door and had the best breakfast sandwiches in town, but still had to close. Madiba had an IndieGoGo campaign that closed at the end of January so as of writing this it seems that it’s either in good shape or not accepting donations anymore. Either way, the best way to ensure it stays open, is to go there and tell your friends to go there, and I’m about to tell you why.

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It’s hard to properly express through a photo how amazing this “Isopho” Cape Seafood Soup is. But I can tell you that it was very filling and kept me alive for two days straight. And this is day three and I’m still surviving off of that seafood.

Their food gave my seafood loving bones new life. And their Chicken Livers Peri-Peri made my former childhood picky eater self shrivel up and die. Their cocktail names that celebrated all things South African, and all things Obama for that matter, had me thinking I was on the beach in the middle of the day, totally not knowing that while I was sitting in Fort Greene enjoying my dinner, it had turned dark and the temperature had dropped to 33 degrees. I even became a convert of curry, a kind of food I’ve never really taken a liking to. Does that make me unpopular? I feel like curry has the kind of feverish following that kale has which I ACTIVELY DESPISE. So I’m sorry if I offended you with my lack of love for curry. But know that I did like Madiba’s curry. So get off my jock.

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A not so artistic shot of one of their Durban Style Curries, a sort of “choose your own adventure” when it comes to ordering. You pick the main ingredient, either vegetable, chicken, lamb, or seafood, then the style, either curry & rice, breyani, durban bunny chow, or roti. Pictured here is chicken with curry and rice. If that didn’t quite make sense to you, I’m sorry but this is a caption not a how-to guide.

Let’s break this down a little bit, much like they broke down the chicken for the livers and curry (zing!). There are a few different areas within Madiba that you can nosh on your sea meats and sip on your ‘tails. If the weather is nice, which, who knows, it’s snowing while I write this, but in an hour it could be 90 and sunny, definitely sit outside. There’s nothing better than people watching while getting day drunk, especially so close to Fort Greene Park where you’re bound to see people getting ready for a run in the park, walking their dogs, or pushing their kids in a stroller. Hey, passerby, you enjoy that, I’m just gonna sit here and chug my Shongololo, a tequila, guava juice, lemon-lime juice, Cayenne pepper concoction. Yes, they’re fucking delicious and yes, the name is fun to say.

 

Shongololo and Chicken Livers Peri-Peri. If you’re like me and sweat when you eat, even when eating Skittles, you will sweat. But it’s a good way to clean out your system.

 

If it’s cold and you HAVE to go inside, don’t fret. As I said above, there are plenty of fun decorations and portraits to fill that people watching void, plus excellent music, sometimes live, sometimes a playlist, sometimes recorded and live. A piano in the small bar/lounge area was sometimes played by people walking by, attempting to seamlessly integrate it into the playlist that was broadcast throughout the restaurant. So while there wasn’t scheduled live music when I was there, I can say that there was technically live music.

 

For the comfortable seat lover in all of us, please enjoy these couches in the bar area. And for the vaguely hut-like bathroom lover in all of us, Madiba’s got you covered there, too, immediately to the left of the couches

There are two indoor areas that you can choose from, the bar area with small couches and tables and a bathroom that’s designed to look somewhat like a hut from the outside (don’t worry, there are Nelson Mandela pictures by the bar), and the main dining room, with high ceilings and even higher paintings. That’s not true, the paintings do not extend past the ceiling. The dining room is a step down from the lounge/bar/comfort zone, but if you can’t handle the step there might be hope for you yet. The wait staff is very friendly, sometimes dancing their way to your table, hot plates of food in hand. I also noticed a door that went directly from the sidewalk into the dining room. I would not be surprised if the wait staff opened up that door for you so you could get in, in case there wasn’t and room left outside or in the lounge area. Knowing that sometimes, a disabled entrance can lead you on a tour through the back area and kitchen, it’s nice that there are multiple options for disabled seating that don’t send you through a separate, embarrassing route, all while retaining that cool eclectic vibe and architecture that makes their indoor seating so fun. So kudos to you, Madiba. You did good.

 

The dining area, as seen when walking in from the bar. I need to be more confident when whipping out my phone and taking pictures of these places, because I try to be discreet but then I just grt blurry pictures like this and everyone still sees me snapping photos anyway.

Now that we’ve talked about the space, we really need to talk more about the food and the drinks. I said it before, there food would’ve been enough. It doesn’t hurt that they have a very cool vibe and ambience and all that shit. But they could hang their hat on their food alone and be more than okay. Unfortunately, when I went, it was dark and I couldn’t really snag a great photo of the food I ordered, but if you go to their website, you’ll see some professional level photos of some professional level food. And while our meal was not quite a kaleidoscope of colors, you can see that they’ve got things on their menu that include every color of the rainbow. Speaking of colorful rainbows, listen to the ingredients in this cocktail: rum, OJ, cranberry, mango and guava nectars garnished with lychee. What might you call that? An Obama Mama, you dumb idiot.

 

One Obama Mama, coming right up!

 

One picture of Obama in a corner, also coming right up!

I will be honest, this weather is really starting to get me down. The fact that this blog at times feels like I’m just screaming into an abyss, in so much as very few people read it and I’m definitely just talking to myself, is also a bit of a kick in the pants. But something about Madiba got me excited about being in Brooklyn in late February/early March, and the writing of this post just fucking flowed right out of me. And that’s gotta be worth something, right? So if you’re experiencing the same sense of cabin fever, and the occasional peaks of sunlight just make it even worse when it goes back to below freezing, don’t buy a ticket out of town. Buy a seafood soup and keep Madiba around to stave off future generations of seasonal affective disorder. And as always-
Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Take Out Tuesday: Bar Bruno

There’s nothing quite like a Squirt to wash down your Mexican cuisine

  • Subway stops delivered to: Bergen St and Carroll St, with plans to expand their delivery area
  • Neighborhoods delivered to: Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens on the west side of Smith St
  • Location: 520 Henry St on the corner of Union St

We’ve finally made it, kids. It’s Off the G’s much anticipated second Take Out Tuesday post. Calm down and clean yourselves off, it’s just a blog! Today, I’m talking about take out from Bar Bruno, a Mexican Bistro in Carroll Gardens that could still technically be considered along the G line, but if you’re as lazy as I am, the long trek from the Carroll Stop on Smith St to Henry St, where Bar Bruno is located, is arduous and taxing, especially when it’s cold out. I mean, I guess the weather is nice out at this exact moment in time and you do get rewarded with a delicious meal to refuel your system if you were to visit the physical establishment, but that’s not what this feature is about. So stop nitpicking and just let the take out wash over you.

 

An uncomfortable close up of some fish tacos.


While their delivery zone is currently not that large, really only covering the west side of Smith St in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, it’s still worth ordering if you’re in that area. For starters, because the delivery area is on the smaller side, you don’t have to wait very long for food. After I placed a recent order on Seamless and they estimated it would take an hour, I accepted that challenge head on, knowing full well that sometimes, as much as I love them, Seamless is full of shit. Sure enough, 20 minutes after my initial order, the doorbell rang and there was my food. The Seamless app was still telling me some bullshit about staring into a crystal ball and the food being currently prepared. Get your act together, Seamless. I love you, but COME ON.

I’m the kind of person who likes to sample a little bit of everything off a menu, which is perfect when I’m with more than just myself, but a real punch in the wallet when I’m ordering for one. Browsing the menu when I ordered, I decided on some smaller plates so I could try a little bit of everything while avoiding being evicted because I ran out of money. I decided on an old standby, Ensenada Tacos, or fish tacos for those of us who don’t know what Ensenada is. Which I don’t. Good thing I have a blog where I largely talk about food! I’m clearly very qualified! I also ordered a side of fried plantains and a little dessert, which I’ll get into later. Because I have a sweet tooth and waiting to eat dessert to get my sugar fix was just simply NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, I also ordered a Mexican soda. But not just any Mexican soda. I ordered the lesser known, lemon lime delicacy known simply as “Squirt.”

 

Squirt from on high. And fried plantains.


Nothing quite says “thirst quencher” like a soda called “Squirt.” Despite the fact that I had never heard of Squirt, it did not disappoint, in flavor or name. And since you can’t really order beer or a cocktail to come with your food delivery, Squirt is definitely the next best thing. While I was ready to sample a few dishes and wash them down with my Squirt, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the delivery bag and found some tortilla chips as well. They do not want their patrons to finish their meals hungry. Either that or they thought my order was for multiple people and a nice way of saying, “Thank you for bringing us to the attention of more than just one person by ordering in pairs,” was to throw in some complimentary chips. Either way, I ate all of them.

Finally, having doubled my weight in Mexican foods and sodas, it was time to keep eating. I bring you now to the dessert potion of my take out from Bar Bruno: churros and chocolate sauce.

 

If I were in charge of naming churros based on seeing a picture of them alone, I would probably call them “Lil Sweet Nubs,” or “Sugar Logs.” This is why I don’t work in marketing


I will be totally real with you all and show you how little I knew about other cultures and cuisines in my youth (that has marginally changed as I’ve matured, but only marginally). The first time I ever had churros was at Epcot Center in Disney World. I didn’t even know what I was ordering, I just got nervous and pointed to the first thing I saw on the menu. That game time decision changed me forever. Churros are delicious. And these Bar Bruno churros changed my perception of churros YET AGAIN. Churros with chocolate?! Why have I never done this before?! (Am I on a fast track to diabetes?)

If you’re looking to mix some sweet and savory Mexican flavors together, and you’re in the Carroll Gardens or Cobble Hill area but have been sitting on the couch so long that your flesh has started to grow into the fabric of the couch, might I recommend Bar Bruno. If you are a little more mobile, but just like, “I don’t want to miss my stories on TV,” you can still order from them, I won’t judge. Or you can also just go there and person, and of course-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Gutter Bar: like the Elks Lodge, but with bowling and people in their 20s and 30s

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A look down the bowling lanes. Most of my throws were gutter balls, which I did on purpose to honor their name.

  • Subway stop: Nassau Ave
  • Walk from subway: 6 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Williamsburg. Or maybe Greenpoint. Different strokes for different folks
  • Location: 200 N 14th St, between Berry St and Wythe Ave

Here at Off the G, we like to keep up with all the latest trends. I’m always like, “Hashtag, yolo, snapchat, buzzfeed, etc, miscellaneous.” So in keeping with what’s currently a semi-trend on the blog, I’m going to continue to bring you more alternatives to restaurants along the G line. It can be hard to find things along the G in the winter other than restaurants and bars, but I’m making it my mission, at least for the last few posts, to give you other options. If I’m being totally honest though, don’t be shocked if the next post is about food. Because this is New York City after all and there is no shortage of food and restaurant options. So with that rambling intro out of the way, today we’re talking all about bowling and Gutter Bar, near the Nassau Ave stop. It could be in Williamsburg, it could be in Greenpoint, I am not a cartographer so I don’t know.

Gutter is niche enough to appeal to serious bowlers who have actual talent, but also gimmicky enough (in a good way) to attract bachelor parties and casual to non-bowlers such as myself. You’d think all of these clashing personalities might make for a raucous bowling alley experience, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Everyone tends to stick to their areas with their pitchers of beer, respectfully interacting with their fellow bowlers when it’s appropriate. And because of my extreme awkwardness this is ideal for me. Take for example the last time I was there; there was a bachelor party complete with blow up doll, a woman with a real “professional flair” to her throw, and me, who is lucky if I bowl above a zero. And for those who don’t understand scoring in bowling, a perfect score is a 300. So, it’s safe to say I’m not very good.

Check out that form! She knows her way around a bowling ball, and also helped me find a ball that I could actually use because I’m weak

Let’s say that bowling isn’t really your bag, and the closest you’ve come to bowling yourself is watching “The Big Lebowski,” or ordering a White Russian from the Lebowski Bar in Reykjavík, which is an actual place. Anyway, back to The Gutter. There’s a whole bar attached to the bowling lanes, in fact that’s what you see when you step foot inside. If you have bad peripheral vision you might not even notice that there is a bowling alley attached to the bar if you’re just there getting drinks, and not fully understand the name of the place or why there are also bowling shoes directly to the right of where you order your drinks.

What one might see when first walking into The Gutter. Minus the people, because it seems unlikely that the same people stand in the exact same spot at all times

The bar has a certain vibe that feels akin to those old guy lounges in small towns, like an Elks Club. The difference here is that this place doesn’t make you feel like you’re a loser after high school prom getting a free breakfast from the Elks Club community, but instead you remember you’re an adult and can legally drink, and thus can drown those insecurities in booze! This watering hole’s decorations are well cultivated, complete with rotating bowling facts and your standard beer paraphernalia blanketing the walls. And the beer paraphernalia doesn’t stop at the walls, there’s also hanging ceiling lights adorned with beer logos you don’t typically see. No Bud Light here, they’re all about the Schlitz! Let’s say you still want to engage in some light competitive sport, but bowling is just not in the cards for you. Maybe you’ve stubbed your toe and it’s too swollen to fit into a bowling show. Or maybe you have absolute no muscle mass and can’t hold a bowling ball, something I’m dangerously close to myself. There’s a pool table in the bar area where you can challenge your friends, enemies, lovers, young uncles, old uncles, and sisters to a game, all while staring past the strangers sitting at the booths so you can look through the windows into the bowling alley to watch people attempting a more physically strenuous activity.

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Looking past the lazy bar patrons sitting in their booths at the people bowling.

If you’re looking for food, you might experience a classic case of s.o.l., however they do allow outside food, so you can use their binder full of women…oops, binder full of DELIVERY MENUS, and order food from a nearby food place. A restaurant, if you will. Not into supporting local businesses? Okay. That’s cool too, I guess. Just do you and not care about anyone else. You probably won’t be the only one ordering food from outside if you’re feeling self conscious. So don’t fret!

If all of this isn’t enticing enough for you, let’s say you really only like to leave the house for live music and shitting in public places, well, guess what?! They got you covered there, too! Just past the bathrooms where you can enjoy your public shit, there’s a small back room where they host concerts. While I’ve never been to a concert at Gutter myself, I have had the pleasure of listening in on the live music while trying to force a recent piercing back into my tragus (which is a part of the ear, ya perv), and while the process of trying to put fresh metal back into my bloody ear isn’t the most enjoyable experience, the background music provided a pleasant soundtrack to my pain.

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Just in case you’re wondering what The Gutter looks like from the outside, it’s pretty non-descript. Good views of the Empire State Building, though.

As some of you might remember from a few years ago, there was once a time when The Gutter was in the news for something some may have found a little scary. I’m talking of course of the time that someone in New York City was found out to have ebola during that big U.S. ebola scare, and they released where the person with said disease had been in New York City before it was discovered that he had ebola. On that list: The Gutter. I’m happy to report that I’ve been there on numerous occasions since and am ebola-free. Also, that was years ago. If you don’t understand how ebola spreads, I would suggest you google it. You’re fine. So switch up the old routine, play some bowling (is that how you talk about bowling? Bowl some bowling?), and remember to-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G

Morbid Anatomy Museum: a coffee/gift shop of curiosities

Take this as your first, and possibly only warning: some of these pictures may be graphic. Oops.

  • Subway stop: 4th Ave. and 9th St.
  • Walk from subway: 3.5 minutes
  • Neighborhood: Gowanus
  • Location: 424-A 3rd Ave at 7th St

It’s a weekend in Brooklyn. You’ve done the whole brunch scene way too many times and you’re starting to feel anxious, like you’re crawling out of your skin with that almost claustrophobic feeling of doing the same thing, seeing the same people, staring at the same four walls, day in and day out. There is no better way to cure that skin crawling feeling then heading to Gowanus and stepping inside the Morbid Anatomy Museum. Nothing says, “I feel comfortable with my body and my womanhood!” like a turn-of-the-century wax replica of a baby being pulled out of a woman’s lower half during child birth! In all sincerity, nothing snaps you out of the winter duldrums like a visit to the Morbid Anatomy Museum where their current exhibit shows medical abnormalities from “simpler times” through the aid of lifelike wax busts and statues. Ever wonder what happens to a woman’s guttyworks post corset? Look no more! Just look below!

I honestly can’t tell you if this looks good or bad. I’m not a doctor!

From the outside, this could’ve been an unassuming former club, given it’s relatively box like architecture. But the owners want to let you know that this place means business, and that business is morbid anatomy. Therefore they’ve painted the name “Morbid Anatomy Museum” in bright white wrapping around the corner of the building so it sticks out against the black sides. In case you were still confused about what you were getting yourself into, there’s a giant set of bones in the window. Still not sure? Just walk inside. You’re greeted by a small shop with really happy images of unicorns covering the walls and babies laughter echoes through the room. Oh, whoops. I was having a momentary daymare. A small shop selling shirts, cards and other knick knacks emblazoned with images of the grotesque and, well, morbid awaits you.

 

If you’re not sure what you’re getting yourself into by going here, then you probably can’t read


A cheap ticket price of $8 will allow you entry to their upstairs rotating exhibit. If you don’t want to shell out the dough, or are unable to take the stairs, there are plenty of things to look at in the coffee shop/souvenir shop area, including a Ferris wheel being ridden by taxidermy hamsters, a personal highlight for me. Immediately next to the Ferris wheel? A taxidermy rodent driving a miniature convertible. Don’t feel like you’re being shorted by missing the second floor, is what I’m saying. There’s a lot of discoveries to be made amidst the plethora of weird objects on the first floor.
 

A view of the downstairs area, which doubles as a work station the same way so many coffee shops in Brooklyn do these days


If you do make it upstairs prepare to be amazed, terrified, confused, and ultimately a little bit queasy, but in a good way. If you’re going to go here, this is all the things you want to feel. It’s hard to write about the second floor as the exhibit rotates, but after months of trying to go with my baby nephew I finally went last week and realized it was probably best he missed out on this excursion. Referring to the guide I was provided at the entrance to the exhibit, I was lucky enough to identify wax figures of syphilis, babies being circumcised, turn of the century diseases, and like I mentioned before, childbirth! Here’s your warning, if you don’t want to see the childbirth figure, don’t look, because it’s gonna be right below these words:
 

Ah, the miracle of life

 

Once you’ve finished taking in all the sights upstairs and the hair on the back of your neck is sufficiently standing on end, head back downstairs and grab a coffee and a peanut butter cookie to snap you back into the 21st century. The barista is friendly and will tell you what cars to rent on your next trip overseas, at least they will if you’re me. Nothing cures what might be ailing you, mentally and physically, like a coffee and a cookie. Maybe all those figures and wax busts on the second floor could’ve learned a thing a two from that life lesson I just dropped on you.

 

Hey! That’s not morbid!

 
I’m not an expert on the things that can be found at what some might call this modern day “cabinet of curiosities,” but they have plenty of staff and curators who can help you with any questions you may have. Such as: “Why do you have a full on life size statue of a serial killer near some taxidermy deer heads in the hallway leading to the bathroom?” But really, don’t question anything, just pull a Sheryl Sandberg and lean into it already! Embrace it, whole hog (I believe that’s a saying). You will not find another place like this in all of New York and that’s especially rare along the G line. So with that in mind-

Keep r-i-d-i-n

-Off the G