Posts Tagged ‘Bagels


Fear the Schmear

The New York Post can be always be relied upon to deliver the important stories of the day that really make a difference in our harried, overcomplicated lives, such as this nugget about a woman who got tossed out of a Starbucks by the cops after getting into an argument with a barista about the way she was ordering a bagel. (It’s a biggie. It took a team of three reporters to cover it.)

She asked for a “toasted multigrain bagel,” and when the barista asked if she wanted butter or cheese on it, she dug her heels in the dirt and refused to specify or say “neither.” To her way of thinking, there wasĀ  no need to use their weird lingo.

“When you go to Burger King,” she told the Post, “you don’t have to list the six things you don’t want.”

No, lady, but when you go to Burger King, you don’t order a flame-grilled quarter-pound hamburger sandwich with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, mustard and ketchup on a sesame seed bun, either. You order a “Whopper.” You use the conventions of the fast-food place you’re in. We all feel like assholes when we order a chalupa, but that’s what Taco Bell calls it. We can’t be responsible for the fool who named it. Just suck it up, and move on. There’s a line behind you.

Continue reading ‘Fear the Schmear’


Keep the Change

In New York, one is blessed with good bagels. The best I have found are Kossar’s Bialys on the Lower East Side and Times Square Bagel. There must be dozens of others in the five boroughs, but these are the ones I have made a part of my life.

I found them on accident, between the subway and the office. But you can easily tell which ones are the good ones. The interiors are not clean. Poppy seeds and sesame seeds are scattered across the floor, as if to draw an army of birds. Large salt crystals and flour and flakes of dried garlic and onion. There are no fancy light fixtures or display cases. These places concentrate on the baked goods,not the presentation.

On the way in to work, I stopped at a cafe across the street from my building for a bagel and a banana.

One bland bagel with entirely the wrong texture, plus one banana, which took more energy and expense to transport to New York from the tropics than I can possibly justify with any nutritional benefit, came to a total of $2.50.

He readied his two quarters as I handed over three dollar bills

He dropped the coins into my hand, and before I could walk away, he slipped a bill out of the three I had given him.

He had slightly raised his chin and looked at me down the length of his nose. It was regal or perhaps arrogant. It could even be taken for suspiciousness. Maybe I had given him too much and it was gentle mocking to be more careful with my money.

I reached out and cautiously took it.

Maybe he was mistaken and only thought I had handed him $4 or that the total was really $1.50.

Yes, maybe I was going to end up on top here. Get more than I deserved. Take advantage of someone else’s mistake. I always feel tested in these moments. It was only a dollar. No great loss to him. But what did I think I was getting away with? How petty.

I lingered a bit in this moment, and I decided to say something.

“I gave you three dollars,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

I raised an eyebrow and cocked my head slightly.

In that moment I realized what that curious look on his face had meant. He was not making an error, nor had I given him too much. His grand expression was one of serene endowment. I am giving this to you, he seemed to say.

“Buy Lotto,” he said. “350 million.”

I’m accustomed to bartenders buying me the odd drink. But I’m not a regular at this cafe. Why would he give me a buck?

Maybe he knows how crappy his bagels are.

Why would he give me a buck? Why not?


All This for a Bagel?

It’s amazing what you can get for a buck on the Lower East Side: a toasted bagel with butter, a banana, and an earful of conspiracy theory.

A guy ordering a few slices of American cheese from the deli nearby struck up a conversatin with me out of nowhere.

“Did you see that Al Gore movie? What’s it called?” he said.

An Inconvenient Truth,” I said. “No, I haven’t seen it yet.”

He said he just loved it — “It’s so scary, because it’s all true” — and all but made me promise that I would see it at th earliest opportunity. I assured him I would. And I do plan to.

Then he asked me about another documentary, something called Loose Change, which I had not heard of. Many of my lefty friends have, I’m sure. Probably I’m just not paying enough attentinon.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s great. It explains how 9/11 was entirely set up by the government. It’ll knock your socks off! It goes through point by point and says how it was all set up.”

I was incredulous. Was a New Yorker actually suggesting that 9/11 was a government setup? Aren’t we past all of this five years later?

“It’s very convenient,” he continued, “that the only plane that didn’t make it was the one that was supposed to hit the White House.”

I can understand the frustration with our government. As he put it a moment later: “I tell you, I wish it had hit the White House. I’d like to bomb the White House. Take care of all of ’em at once.”

Nevermind that “all of ’em” don’t all work there.

I can even forgive an off-hand wish to see the neocons — gulp — eliminated. But to honestly believe that 9/11 is an elaborate construction of a government that has shown itself over the course of five and a half years to be, at best, incompetent, you’d have to be crazy or just uneducated. It’s just not in the realm of possibility, from what I can see.

“Thank god for term limits,” is all I could think to say.

There’s a good Wikipedia entry on the movie. In its objective, just-the-facts-ma’am way, it sort of debunks the movie by default. Loose Change sounds like a piece of crap. It was made by three guys with $2,000 and laptop using other people’s footage and logically misleading tactics.

I feel funny linking to a Wikipedia entry when Wikipedia is one of the sources cited by the filmmakers, a source which, as explained in the entry itself, is not entirely reliable enough to back up allegations as serious as those in Loose Change. So, how can it be reliable enough to debunk it, right? Well, it has a lot of reputable annotations. Seems good enough to me.

One of them, Screw Loose Change, is blog with a pretty comprehensive collection of debunkery.

Anyway, after revealing his dreams of decapitating the American government, the guy shifted the conversation to big business and Ken Lay. He mentioned a movie called Enron: Where did your Money Go?, or something, playing at some local cinema, as well as a few others I don’t remember. He went on and on about white collar crime and the persecution of the poor and middle classes… Halliburton… bla bla bla… much of which, in the cases of the big scandals, is probably true.

The shop owner, in a futile attempt to save me, tried to wave him off. “Leave him alone. Leave the pooor guy alone!”

I certainly wasn’t doing anything to save myself. Why am I so nice to strangers? I didn’t want to argue with him, but I didn’t want to indulge him either.

Then he veered over to The Media and of course the insidious desire to lie to the public and cover up all the Truth exposed by these messianic amateur filmmakers. He told me I should listen to WBAI, which is not controlled by corporate sponsorship, if I wanted to know the truth. Maybe it is good, but should I go by this guy’s endorsement?

Meanwhile, my bagel was getting cold.

People who live in the United States — which is not the panacea of democracy it wants to be, but which is obviously better than a great many other places in the world, arguably most — are free to criticize the motivations of government and big business. That’s fine. Hooray for democracy: You can wish George W. Bush dead and not get arrested.

But if you think the dark forces of government and big business are as oppressive and dangerous and ravenous as he seems to believe, if you’re that freaked out about the world, how can you wake up and just go about your work like normal every day? If what he thinks is true is really true, I’d be either terrified to the point of suicide or fighting mad. I wouldn’t be wasting my time in the deli telling some guy who works in the neighborhood to watch some documentaries. I’d be on the next boat out of here.

But, oh… he was so smug. He knew it all. He was so safe and above it, and we were all duped. I suppose just before Bush, Cheney, Condi, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Gonzalez, the executives of the New York Times and Andrew Fastow merge and absorb the ghost of Ken Lay to assume their true form as an unspeakably grotesque leviathan, sent here by unseen forces to destroy the world, this guy and the rest of the Believers will be rescued by a passing fleet of space ships and whisked away to an alien civilization where milk doesn’t go sour and flowers don’t wilt.

Maybe I have more faith in the rest of the world outside of Washington to know better than a few guys with a couple thousand dollars and a laptop what’s going on in America. But maybe I’m just naïve.


A Lesson Learned

I walked into Kossar’s this morning on the way to work, asked for a single everything bagel, and dug out my wallet. To my horror, I discovered not a single one-dollar bill. Just the dreaded twenties. The blood drained from my face as the bagel lady grabbed a square of tissue paper and fished out a bagel.

“Nevermind,” I said. “I don’t have any small bills. Nevermind.”

“Huh?” she said.

“Nevermind,” I repeated. “No small bills.”

She glanced down at the bagel she was just about to stuff into a paper bag, looking somewhat put out, then back up at me. She seemed on teh verge of saying something. Rather than let her offer to give it to me on credit, as she had done once before to my humiliation, I threw open the door and leaped out onto the sidewalk.

As I high-tailed it the hell out the there, I hated myself quietly. So stupid! I thought. I almost didn’t even go in ā€” why did I have to get a bagel anyway? Why didn’t I check my wallet first? As the self-admonishment faded, I recognized a weak buzz of pride from within. I can learn from my mistakes.


New York Lesson No. 329: Large Bills, Small Change

I resent having no choice at 99% of the ATMs out there but to get $20 bills. I remember a time when one could get $5 and $10 bills as well as the 20s depending on the amount requested. Now, rarely, I’ll find one that dispenses 10s.

What am I gonna do about it, though, right?

All I had one morning was a $20 bill, and I really wanted a bagel. I stopped at Kossar’s Bialys on the way to work, because their bagels are lovely. I asked the baker for a sesame-seed bagel and sheepishly pulled the bill out of my wallet ā€” “It’s all I have,” I pleaded pre-emptively. One glimpse of Andrew Jackson and she began to protest, rolling her eyes and sighing loudly.

“Oh, no, no, no, no,” she said.

“OK, I’m sorry,” I said, turning red, wanting to run. “I’ll just come back later.”

I was willing to run down to Rite Aid or something and get a pack of gum to get change so I could run back for the bagel. (They’re good bagels!) But I guess she recognized me from my many visits there, because she told me to go ahead, take the bagel, and just come back later to pay her. Because, as she sized me up and committed my face to memory, she knew: If I did not pay her, I’d never be able to set foot in that place again.

I was shamed. I had just bought a 65-cent bagel on credit.

I returned to pay her back just minutes later after getting a coffee down the block. I tried to give her a whole dollar for her trouble but she refused and gave me back 35 cents.

New York can be a small town, too.

She might have taken a $20 later in the day after collecting a lot of smaller bills and loose change. The typical purchase at Kossar’s must be less than a couple bucks per person. And it’s a pain to take a bunch of smaller bills early in the morning. I was once verbally flogged at a post office in Minneapolis for daring to use a $20 bill early in the morning.

“You know, you’re lucky we do the early-bird service. And now you’re gonna come in here and gimme a twenty? Gimme a break.”

So much for Minnesota Nice.

Incidentally, a friend of mine recently got two $50 bills from an ATM when he withdrew $100 from his account. To his gastronomical disappointment, none of the Indian restaurants in my neighborhood would take a $50 from him. So, he had to do without some really, really good chow.

…Until he came upon a Taco Bell that would take his $50.

He was forced to substitute a burrito supreme for sag paneer. Thanks, Chase Manhattan!

the untallied hours