Iris the Idiot’s Kitchen: Frankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake.

ricottacheesecakeFrankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake.
Only at Gaetana’s…and the Palace Kitchen.

gaetanaslogoMy friend Frankie is the proprietor of Gaetana’s, a neighborhood bar and restaurant on Christopher Street. Frankie hails from Brooklyn, and is 100% Italian-American by heritage. Specifically, Sicilian-American, with everything that implies. For example, at least in Frankie’s case, it implies an enormous brick wall festooned with Frank Sinatra memorabilia, the sounds of Sirius XM’s Sinatra station, a prominently displayed Italian flag and, at least occasionally, patrons who look and sound like they came right out of central casting. If youse know whud I mean.

None of this is intended to be the least bit ironic; nor am I dissing Frankie’s culture (it is, after all, very similar to my own Southern Italian heritage). Frankie is one of the most gregarious, generous, genuine people I know. He flirts shamelessly and charmingly with customers of all ages, genders, races, sexual orientations and whatever other demographic identities you might envision wandering in off of Christopher Street. (Well, with the exception of the panhandlers, who sometimes sneak in to hassle diners and drinkers; they get quickly and quietly escorted out.) On my first visit to the bar at his fine establishment, some fucking priest(!) ate my fucking pizza(!). Frankie gave me another one and two glasses of Chianti. For free.

gaetana&frankiejr

Frank Jr. (Frankie’s dad) & Gaetana.

Frankie’s mother—the late, great, beautiful, and by all accounts much loved Gaetana—was a wonderful cook, and Frankie was an eager and gifted student. Originally, he envisioned this restaurant venture of his as your basic neighborhood bar and pizza joint, but the menu quickly expanded to include dozens of dishes from the kitchen of his childhood:

  • pastas with marinara, clam sauce, pesto, garlic & oil, vodka sauce, a wicked hot fra diavolo or a sweet bolognese. Pumpkin ravioli in brown butter & sage. Lasagna to die for.
  • homemade meatballs, enormous pork chops piled with hot cherry peppers, shell steaks, several fresh fish dishes, jumbo shrimp scampi, chicken (Marsala, Milanese, Piccata, Pomodoro, Valdestano…).
  • traditional soups: Pasta Fagioli, Lentil, Stracciatella. Sometimes, Italian wedding.
  • cold antipasto, mussels in white wine with garlic and oil, fried calamari (ask for that with Frankie’s cocktail sauce instead of the marinara), amazing stuffed artichokes (fergawdsake people, save some of the homemade focaccia for dipping).
  • Pizza. Frankie’s pizza is my all time New York favorite—and that is saying something, my friends. (I am not alone in that assessment, either.)

All of it is made to order, with really fresh ingredients. In fact, if he has the ingredients, he’ll make you anything you want. Mangia.

There are countless upscale Italian restaurants in this city, places where the decor is opulent, there are sommeliers and Executive Chefs, the cuisine is trendy and inventive, the Barolo runs $350 a bottle and watching the wait staff perform is like watching dinner theatre. Frankie’s place is nothing like that. I mean that as the highest compliment. Gaetana’s is unpretentious, welcoming, casual, inexpensive (relatively speaking) and fun, with a quirky clientele. Frankie’s sister is a waitress there, he’s got old friends on staff, and no matter their ages all the bartenders are strictly old-school. In the parlance of the food critic/foodie/food snob, Gaetana’s is what’s called a “red sauce joint,” often derisively. Done this well? There ain’t no shame in that.

But then, Dear Lard, there is the ricotta cheesecake.

If you’ve never had it, there is nothing quite like it, which makes it kind of hard to explain. It’s not as sweet as typical (“New York style”) cheesecake, and it has the subtle-but-distinct flavor of fresh citrus. But it’s the texture that really sets it apart: it’s slightly more granular than creamy, with a lightly caramelized golden-brown “crust” on top. Let me put it this way: if you enjoy savory dishes made with Italian ricotta—lasagna, manicotti, cheese ravioli—and you like cheesecake, you will freaking love this. And it turns out many people who do not care for traditional cheesecake (myself included) really love it too. Like, a lot.

Just as I do, Frankie comes from an Italian-American cooking tradition where family recipes are not written down anywhere and consist mainly of a string of helpful directives like, “Then add the chopped garlic.” How much garlic? “You know, enough.” In all likelihood this is why I had to beg him for the recipe for more than a year. One night, after the usual good-natured teasing and terribly insincere pouting on my part, he finally slammed his fist down on the bar and said, “That’s it! I’m giving you the recipe right now!” He tore a page out of a datebook, went into the kitchen and shortly thereafter handed me this:

frankierecipe I was so happy I nearly wept with joy. Naturally, I failed to notice that there were certain key pieces of information missing, things one typically thinks of when one hears the word “recipe.” Things I noticed the next day, like how (and how long) do you mix these ingredients? How long do you bake it? What’s the best way to cool it? And what on Earth does the cryptic scrawl “IN WATER” mean? I suddenly had a vision of Frankie in his kitchen going through the motions of making a ricotta cheesecake from memory, checking how much ricotta cheese comes in a commercial container and furiously jotting down approximations of everything else (“about, I dunno, a cuppa parmesan? what, maybe six ounces of orange juice? a couple, say, six eggs?”)

But it didn’t matter. It was indeed a recipe, Italian-style, a form of art in which I am fluent. I knew I would figure it out. And here it is.

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Frankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake

NON-FOOD ITEMS YOU WILL NEED

zester

  • an electric mixer (or a handheld whisk + something called “stamina”)
  • a zester* (or multi-function grater)
  • a loaf pan (for water)
  • a working oven
  • a refrigerator
  • a springform pan**

*<—This is a zester. Use it to scrape the brightly colored skin off of the orange and lemon, taking as little of the white pith underneath as possible.
IMPORTANT SAFETY WARNING: without advanced-level training the zester is not recommended for use in the Bedroom.

springformpan**This is a springform pan.
It’s a pretty nifty 2-part thingy that seals tightly
to enclose the filling. After baking, you release the latch
to remove the band around the sides. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs ricotta cheese (whole milk)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons vanilla extract***
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 oz. orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • dusting of powdered sugar
  • fruit garnish (optional)

madagascarvanilla***Frankie wrote “2 Tbs” but he might have mean teaspoons here. Then again, maybe not. I keep forgetting to ask him. So I use about 1½ tablespoons of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla’s Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract. TRUE FACT: you really can’t go wrong here.

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Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Place a standard loaf pan filled halfway with water on the oven’s lower shelf. Lightly coat the inside of the springform pan with unsalted butter. If it’s not a non-stick pan give it a light coat of flour, too.

Zest the lemon and the orange, and combine the zest with all the other ingredients (except the powdered sugar and optional fruit) in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix on medium-high until well-blended (about 2 mins).

ricottacheesecake1

BEFORE…

Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Place the springform pan on the top shelf of the oven. (NOTE: it’s fairly heavy, almost full to the brim and highly liquid at this stage, so take your time and be careful. IOW, don’t be like me.)

coolingcheesecake

…AFTER.

Bake for about 1½ hours. Maybe more. Maybe less. I don’t know. What I’m saying is your mileage will vary because mine certainly does, depending on the temperature accuracy of the oven I’m using and how often I open the door to check it, the diameter of the springform pan (larger than 9″ means a shallower cheesecake that bakes in less time), the altitude of the kitchen, the liquid content of the particular ricotta brand (which also varies with the same brand), and probably a bunch of other stuff I don’t know anything about.

*sigh*

goldenbrownricottacheesecake

Mah done cake.

For me, the best way to determine when it is finished baking is to shake the oven rack a little bit and observe the consistency: it should appear firmer (and more golden brown) around the edges, and more jiggly in the center. Like jello. Mine bakes in a little more than an hour and a half, sometimes an hour and 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a cooling rack for twenty minutes. The cheesecake will flatten a little bit and begin to pull away from the sides. Carefully run a butter knife around the sides of the pan to keep it from sticking. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to cool for 3 hours. Then cover the pan pan with a lid or foil and let it cool in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve: remove the springform band. Optional: transfer cheesecake to a cake stand or plate by first loosening the bottom with a knife or thin spatula and then sliding it carefully onto the desired surface. Good luck with that.

Slice into wedges, extract each wedge with a cake server and plate it.

Optional: add fruit garnish to the plate—berries and oranges work well, and provide a nice counterpoint. I would definitely try kiwi, peaches (raw or cooked), maybe pineapple.

Dust each plated slice with powdered sugar right before serving.

Taste Frankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake.

Last—and this is important—try to remember that there is no god. Good luck with that too.

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Some notes from comparing other recipes.

Frankie’s recipe has no crust; other recipes I found have a crust, and I have tasted many delicious ricotta cheescakes that do. Frankie says that at least the traditional Sicilian recipe has no crust, and I have to say with this recipe I do not miss it. The texture of the top edge acts as a kind of crust, and of course without making crust the whole operation is simpler. One recipe I found said to coat the bottom of the pan with a mixture of sugar and breadcrumbs over the butter.

frankiewater

Spring Form Pan
IN
WATER
350°”
Wut.

 

Some recipes say to bake the springform pan in a larger pan filled with water to a level about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Maybe this is what Frankie may have meant by this.—> Maybe I’ll try it next time, but it really doesn’t seem to be necessary. (Some recipes don’t even mention water at all.)

There are recipes that call for half or less of the ricotta, and some that also add cream cheese. Some have less sugar. One recipe I found has rum in it (which seems more Caribbean than Italian, but is probably delicious regardless); another is made with honey.

Some require a food processor instead of a mixer; others require straining the ricotta beforehand.

I also came across one with a lower baking temperature (300 F/150 C).

Regarding bake time, one recipe suggested baking for one hour, and then turning the oven off but keeping the cheesecake in for another hour before removing it. This seems like a cool idea, but I’d have to test it.

I’ve seen directions to cool the cake in the refrigerator uncovered for one hour instead of three (and then keep it covered until it cools completely, “6-8 hours.”).

See the many recipes for yourself on the Google Machine.

And take look at these images for other variations and different serving suggestions.

My advice is to start with Frankie’s Mom’s recipe—it’s easy and delicious—and maybe then explore more challenging recipes. Lard knows I never will.

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Voted.

I voted. Pretty much straight Green Party ticket wherever running, write-ins everywhere else. Glenn Greenwald for NY State Attorney General! Edward Snowden for Public Advocate!

Cue the YOU’RE WASTING YOUR VOTE! cries from people who voted for the servants of Goldman Sachs. Here’s a thought: one of us actually takes voting seriously.

Happy Monday.

Christopher Columbus was a huge fucking shitweasel.

And yet, there is a ginormous parade honoring him today on Fifth Avenue, from 44th to 72nd Streets, preceded by a “Columbus Day Mass” this morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Fifth Avenue at 50th Street). This stupid parade attracts nearly a million spectators, and is allegedly “the largest celebration of Italian-American culture in the world.” Now normally, we would just be enraged and disgusted at the moral depravity and/or willful ignorance required to celebrate the legacy of this man. Well, there was that one time when Palace archnemesis Antonin Scalia was the Grand Inquisitor or whatever of said parade, and we naturally thought this might finally provide the ideal opportunity to realize our life-long dream of mooning him. As luck would have it, we had bronchitis and a raging fever that day, and could barely get out of bed. : |

But today, we are not only enraged and disgusted at the moral depravity and/or willful ignorance required to celebrate the legacy of this man. No, today we are also annoyed and vexed, because we unfortunately have to go to midtown. And our destination is only one short block from the parade route. Midtown is terrible every day of course, and thus we avoid it like the plague it so clearly is. But shut down Fifth Avenue and dozens of surrounding streets? And drop an extra million people there, not a single one of whom will have seen—much less intended to heed—Johnny T’s NYC Tourist Tips? Let’s just say if there were ever an urgent need for breakfast cocktails, this would be it.

paraderouteA promise is a promise. Off we go.

Happy Monday.

Johnny T’s NYC Tourist Tips.

nycpalaceflagAs the Palace is based within the geographic confines of New York City, we take it as one of our primary obligations to serve as an ambassador on behalf of the city we love. Yes, of course we have regaled Loyal Readers™ with plenty of sappy posts on this very subject. But as we were toiling around in the Palace library this morning, we realized that our online diplomatic efforts could be nicely supplemented with a concise collection of resources for the actual (or virtual) tourist.

In the process of gathering links I came across a video, which I think serves as a perfect introduction to both the city itself and to the new Palace library collection: Johnny T’s NYC Tourist Tips.

Hahaha. Sounds exactly right.

In case you’re interested, here is our new NYC section. Enjoy. Or get out of the way.

NYC:

[Palace posts that reference NYC can be found here.]

A day in the life.

I don’t usually blog like this. It’s too personal. You probably know what I mean.

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I awoke to streaming sunshine and crystal clear blue skies.

I needed to mail a birthday card today, and didn’t want to miss the early mail truck pickup. Still I lingered a little too long over coffee, trading emails, poring over my research for a piece I’m working on for The Feminist Hivemind, and making plans to see After Tiller with a friend tomorrow at Film Forum on Houston.

Shit. Better get going. Shower. Check weather. Holy $#!+! It’s fifty fucking degrees outside! Dig through closet looking for sweaters. Get distracted piling up shirts I haven’t worn in a year. (New York Rule Number 6,722: if you haven’t worn it in a year, give it away or donate it. You need the closet space.) Ooh, look. A black sweater. I haven’t seen one since April.

I eschew makeup as usual, but I do manage to catch a glimpse of my hair in a mirror as I’m heading out the door. Jeezus Christ. It looks like an explosion of jungle overgrowth—and not in that ridiculously sexy way fashionable black women wear big, thick hair. Nope: mine is a tangled mass of wild waves, ringlets, cowlicks, frizz and random straight pieces sticking out, patchy golds and browns and a few wiry grays. My fucking head appears indistinguishable from a dirty old straw broom. I try artfully rearranging it. Parting it. Pulling on the bangs. A headband. Ponytail. Barrettes. None of this is even remotely helping. And I don’t have time to look for my winter hats.

Fuck it.

On the way to the post office is The Meadow, a store that can really only be described as the kind of place that can make one believe in magic. Not the supernatural kind, silly. The magic of an atmosphere suffused with whimsy, color and exotic scent—unmistakably earthly delights. The Meadow specializes in “Finishing Salt, Chocolate, Cocktail Bitters and Flowers,” and as you might imagine it smells really, really nice inside. Lately they’ve been promoting Himalayan salt block cooking, whatever that is. Gorgeous slabs of salt are stacked in the front window. Every time I pass by I wonder whether someone with my level of cooking “skill” could take on such a thing (probably not), and even if so, whether it would be worth it. (Probably not.)

themeadowI bought a little something there. You’ll never guess what. (HINT: it was neither finishing salt, cocktail bitters nor flowers.)

I dropped off my unloved shirts at my local thrift store Housing Works, and took a stroll around the shop. There were some affordable eye-catching finds…

hw

Clockwise from top left: 4-panel carved walnut screen (perfect for hanging all my feather boas!); vintage framed carved wood/painting; oversized wicker and wood chair; metal and lucite chandelier.

…none of which I have any use for, let alone room for. The chances of me finding what I’m actually looking for there are next to nil. (No one ever donates nice coasters. I know this, because I’ve been trolling thrift shops for nice coasters for years. Shit, if I had nice coasters I guess I wouldn’t give ‘em up either, because apparently nice coasters are rarer than Central Park Bigfoot sightings.) That’s the thing about thrift shops: you cannot go in looking for any specific something. You go in with an open mind and a well-honed sense of restraint for impulse buys, or you’re doomed. MOVING ON.

Steve Madden on Bleecker had some boots in the window, and, as it happens, I am in the market for boots. (New York is notoriously hard on shoes. After two years of resoling two pairs of boots that I love, they’re looking a bit beat up). The impossibly trendy sales clerks ignored me (my hair!) which is just as well. Because $500. For a single pair of boots. That aren’t even waterproof. And will almost certainly hurt my feet. MOVING ON.

I headed to a [REDACTED] store over on [REDACTED]. I would say more, except that I was shopping for a gift for someone who is known to read this very blog. Mission: unsuccessful. MOVING ON.

Whoa. Now I’m really hungry. I meant to eat a banana and some nuts before I left the Palace, but with all this Film Forum friend planning, old shirt collecting and MY GAWD THE HAIR I spaced it. I head toward Morandi.

Depending on how I hit the traffic lights, I often pass through a tiny park across the street from the restaurant on my way to or from. There’s a monument there which always godandfamouscatches my eye, because the side of its granite base that I see on my route says “GOD AND FAMOUS.” It’s a part of a quote that wraps around the whole block, but taken alone it just strikes me as…well, really weird. The kind of thing that triggers cascades of thought in all sorts of unexpected directions. God and famous. Wut? Do you win a game show or something, and get to pick whether you get to be either God or famous? If you win the bonus round do you get to be both God and famous? I paused to take a picture of it for my Loyal Readers™ (of course). It had warmed up a little and the sky was still blazing blue. People were seated on the handful of benches, reading newspapers and whatnot. I felt anchored to that spot, just wanted to stand there, and breathe. I read a sign about the park:

McCarthy Square

The 1811 Commissioners’ Plan—the far-reaching gridiron pattern which laid out the streets and avenues of Manhattan—had little immediate impact on the western part of Greenwich Village. The grid was intended to provide a system for the orderly development of land between 14th Street and Washington Heights. However the geography of the West Village had evolved in an unregulated fashion since colonial days, emerging from marshland to farmland and then from a rural suburb to a densely settled residential, commercial, and industrial neighborhood full of crooked streets.

Not until the 1910s and 1920s were Seventh and Eighth Avenues extended south of 14th Street. As a result, a number of small irregular parcels were created, including the traffic island at Charles Street, Waverly Place, and Seventh Avenue South. This parcel was acquired as a street and developed by the Borough President of Manhattan. In 1943 by Local Law #16 the City Council named the site in memory of Private First Class Bernard Joseph McCarthy, who was born and raised in Greenwich Village. A Marine, McCarthy was killed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in August 1942 at the age of twenty-two. His was the first reported death of a Greenwich Village resident in the war.

The original version of McCarthy Square’s central flagpole originally stood on the grounds of the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. It was moved to this site and embellished with an inscribed base of Deer Isle granite on behalf of neighborhood residents and the Dr. George A. Hayunga Maritime Post #1069 of the American Legion. Both the park and the memorial flagstaff were dedicated in June 1943, a tribute to a brave son of Greenwich Village, the first to fall for his country in World War II.

At about eye level there are colorful little houses set into the greenery. Why? Well, why not? (There’s probably some only-in-New-York story there.)

mccarthysquare

McCarthy Square.

vermentinoMorandi was bustling. I sat at the bar, and said hello to the bartender. Before I said anything more he had already poured me a glass of Vermentino. Okay, then. I ordered one of the lunch specials: orecchiette with spinach and butternut squash. More Vermentino, more email, and then a coffee. Goddamn, they make good coffee.

On my way out, I see Philip Seymour Hoffman and a companion at a table by the door, smiling and relaxing post-lunch. I run into a lot of famous (and infamous) people at my regular haunts, and I never, EVER do this, but for some reason (the Vermentino? the sunshine glistening off of Hoffman’s eminently recognizable silky pale-gold mop?) I was going to plotz down right next to him and ask if I could take a picture with him.

Then I remembered: OMFG hair.

There would be no photographs.

I took the long way home.

It turned out to be a good mail day at the Palace. Samantha Irby’s book Meaty finally arrived. (I loooove her blog.)

meatybitchesgottaeat

It will go right on top of the stack of books I really want to read but never seem to get to.

I have a dinner date tonight with My Amazing Lover™.

FFS I gotta blow-dry my bangs.

Flashmob FTW.

Inspired. And inspiring.

September 5th, 2013, Raleigh, NC – As Walmart workers petition managers to reinstate employees who have been unfairly treated, a flash mob breaks out.

Wilbur on Daily Kos said:

I signed in just to recommend this.  It is one of the most important diaries I have seen on dailyKos because it shows that individuals are beginning to understand and use the Internet for their own rights.  It makes me much more confident about 2014.

Just a note about whether this is a flash mob or a step show.  They are NOT mutually exclusive.  As a matter of fact flash mobs almost always have a purpose whether a Michael Jackson dance or playing Beethoven’s 7th.  What a flash mob is when people interconnect using the Internet to engage in some function at a specific place and time for a specific period.  The people arrive confident they will be joined by other members of the event, but not knowing for sure who is going to be there.  At the agree upon time the flash mob comes together in the chosen venue, it performs their event, and then it quickly disperses.

What this will do in protest if it is used like it was used here is completely take away the power of the militarized police.  The mob quickly makes its point and then disperses into the air before the police can arrive and arrest anybody.  The events need to be both entertaining and focused to be effective, but they can be more effective than long term occupations.  I am hoping this is the direction Occupy Wall Street goes.  When police arrive in all their regalia they are left staring at empty space.

This, my beloved Loyal Readers™, is civil disobedience of the most excellent kind.

New York City has a great tradition of flashmobs: often they are just for fun and entertainment, but flashmob protests of a political nature are not uncommon (e.g. Occupy deployed them). I would very much love to see the use of this tactic expanded. For one thing, I think if the phenomenon really took hold it could turn out to be something of a prophylactic against aggrieved mobs turning violent instead. It doesn’t need to be a tightly choreographed event like the Walmart protest: ordinary people can participate in something simpler that requires only showing up, and perhaps holding a sign or note. If (when?) people show up in big enough numbers, at the very least we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching America’s Owners and their goons in government and major media piss themselves. Maybe they’d even throw us a table scrap. Or, possibly, two!

May our revolution be remembered for its joyous dancing, clapping, singing, chanting and stepping. Otherwise, the terrorists win.

Reasons.

I take a lot of pictures with my iPhone, but I rarely end up doing anything with them. Taking a picture or five has become more of a ritual to mark a moment for myself, an acknowledgment of the here-and-now, than it is anything else. Once in a while, I will flip through them and be reminded of those moments and the reasons I wanted to capture them in the first place. Individually, they are scattershot, disjointed and unconnected. Taken as a whole, however, what comes across I think is not only a portrait of my life, but how I feel about it.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but just FYI I am still in love with New York City. It has changed over the years since I moved here; indeed it is in constant flux. It has also changed me (I would like to think for the better). Here are reasons 7,951 through 7,963 why I love my home.

Drinks with friends at Grand Central.

Waiting for a late train to take her upstate after dinner, we went for the rosé champagne because…OMFG rosé champagne.

drinksgrandcentral

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Grand Central.

No joke, people. It’s a beautiful building, inside and out. It makes me feel like I’ve time-traveled back to a century ago. (That’s the Chrysler Building on the right.)

grandcentralchrysler__________

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.

Does your town have a Big Gay Ice Cream Shop? With a sparkepony unicorn licking a rainbow ice cream cone for its logo? NO I DON’T THINK SO.

biggayicecreamshop__________

Thrift shop finds.

As we are a full-service Palace, we are of course always on the lookout for exciting new thrones. This one is lovely, but doesn’t quite work with our color palette.

throne2

We ended up buying these shorts instead. As you can see, they are badass.

skullshorts__________

World class cocktails.

These vodka martinis were made by my friend Claiborne at Left Bank. Just tell him “Broken Shed, dry, up, with a twist.”

martinis__________

World class desserts.

Traditional Italian desserts at Gaetanas (from foreground to background): ricotta cheesecake made daily from the owner’s mom’s recipe, pistachio tartufo and canolli. The bartender is my friend Dick, a Shakespearean actor who is at least as sweet as anything he’s serving.

desserts__________

FDNY.

Hotties. ‘Swut I’m sayin’.

FDNYhotties__________

Secret gardens.

Lush, quiet sanctuaries abound, if you know where to look for them. This garden is at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, just off of Hudson Street. Plenty of benches, no cell phone chatter allowed.

secretgardens__________

Amazing people.

This is Mian Ayyub, a cab driver. When *someone* left her iPhone in his cab, he brought it back to the West Village from the Upper East Side where his next fare had taken him—and would not accept money for his time and trouble.

mianayyub__________

Matilda the Musical.

I am not a big fan of Broadway generally, nor musical theatre particularly. But I have seen this show three times now—and I’d go again. It’s based on the brilliantly subversive book by Roald Dahl, with music and lyrics by Palace fave Tim Minchin.

matilda__________

Cobblestone streets.

I don’t know why I like them. They make for a rough ride in a cab, and at crosswalks they’re tough on your feet, especially in heels. (Cobblestone streets are a major reason why I do not even wear heels anymore, unless there is door-to-door round-trip transportation via car.) I just…I like ‘em, okay?

cobblestone__________

Moonrise.

Sometimes natural beauty catches me unaware, and it’s all the more breathtaking for its juxtaposition with the city that frames it.

moonrisenewyorkThere’s no getting around it. This city is a part of who I am.

Personal notes.

It’s been quiet on the posting front while the Palace has been entertaining family members: two teenage girls. They are, of course, amazing people and I am thoroughly enjoying my time with them. As we share significant DNA it should not be all that surprising that some of their interests and mine overlap, e.g. food, music, theatre, urban hiking, high-end pedicures, ignoring everyone while riveted to an iPhone, staying up late watching movies and sleeping in. It should be equally unsurprising that some of their interests and mine do not, in fact, overlap (see “teenage girls”). This manifests itself in numerous ways, the most egregious example of which can be summed up in one word: Macy’s.

This is my own (un)doing, really. On a previous visit, they had been looking for shoes (and other items that apparently pass for “clothing” among The Kids These Days™). As savvy New Yorkers know, whenever new women’s shoes are required, one proceeds directly to the main shoe floor at Macy’s 34th Street. However, and I cannot stress this enough, this proceeding MUST be undertaken under the most stringent of protocols:

1. Find out what time Macy’s opens tomorrow, and set your alarm accordingly.

2. Roll out of bed, dress, brush your teeth, eat a quick breakfast, gulp down some coffee and transport yourself to the vicinity of 34th Street and Broadway, timing your arrival — and this is key, people — to fifteen minutes after the doors open*. You will thereby be exposed to the smallest number of tourists, the shortest wait times for service and maximum available stock.

3. Go directly to the new shoe floor on 2. Do not be distracted by any objects on 1.

4. Select shoes. This may take significantly longer than anticipated, given that the new shoe floor on 2 is, like its esteemed predecessor on 5, a sprawling affair that takes up an entire floor of an entire building.

5. Interact with a helpful sales worker to determine the availability of selected shoes in the desired size and color(s). Repeat step 4 if necessary.

6. Pay at the register.

7. GTFO! ASAP! Run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit!

7. Immediately celebrate your successful mission with a cocktail. You deserve it.

These strict protocols also apply to shopping for jeans, lingerie, dresses and other items that apparently pass for “clothing” among The Kids These Days™.

Now, when I had originally suggested to these teens that we hit Macy’s for shoes etc., they were disappointed. “Macy’s,” to them, represented a badly lit store in their local mall with a limited shoe department that catered to “old ladies.” (*ahem* I resemble that remark…) I insisted that they humor me, so off we went the next morning to Macy’s 34th Street and what would ultimately turn out to be the Greatest Ever Shopping Extravaganza Ever In History Ever. We were to attempt to repeat this legendary feat on Tuesday, and they were quite enthusiastic. QUITE. Until, of course, it came time to execute Step 2. When the doors open at 9:00 am, sleeping until 11:30am does not bode well for a successful mission. There were people ahead of us in the shoe department! No more size eights! Lines for fitting rooms! It was bloody awful. The entire ordeal lasted about three and a half hours, and required many, many cocktails afterward to recover.

But truth be told, I am enjoying this little break from following news events and social media so intensely, including yesterday’s FINAL SUPER IMPORTANT FEC FUNDRAISING DEADLINE! BOEHNER! PAUL RYAN! YOUR SUPPORTER RECORD: $0.00! OMFG!!!11!! Although I did flip a few bucks to Alan Grayson, because Alan Grayson is still awesome (“Eight months into the 113th Congress, Rep. Alan Grayson has passed more amendments than any other Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat or Republican.”)

And we could hardly fail to notice (a) the Bradley Manning verdict, (b) Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and has left Moscow airport, and (c) Glenn Greenwald & Co. at The Guardian revealed more classified information and documents about the NSA’s shenanigans yesterday morning, just before senior intelligence officials were about to lie to testify before the Senate judiciary committee. Hahaha. Good one, Glenn. We are also relived to report that, with mostly minor exceptions, the PowerPoint slides released by The Guardian detailing an Orwellian program ripe for abuse called XKeyscore are not nearly as embarrassing as the PRISM slides.

Speaking of news: Patron Saint of the Palace PZ Myers ran our previous post, Casualties of War, as a guest post at Pharyngula, resulting in a serious uptick in our hit count this week. (Hello Horde! Meet my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™.) The comments on the thread are overwhelmingly complimentary, and led to some interesting discussions. Loyal Readers™ may recall that this is why we have a shrine to PZ Myers in the first place.

Finally, we have been busy with a major expansion of the Palace infrastructure, which I hope to reveal soon. But not soon enough, I’m afraid, for today we are off to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. In Times Square, fer chrissakes. Dawg help me.

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*There are people who make it a point to arrive at Macy’s before the doors open, and cluster in unseemly throngs around said doors. Needless to say, you do not want to be anywhere near such people, and fifteen minutes usually gives them ample time to disperse.