I get in my own way a lot. I realize that.
I only know two ways to do things: overboard, or not at all. I’m that peculiar kind of perfectionist who will stay at my computer until 3 a.m. trying to fix something, or re-cut the same photograph six times because I can’t get the color just right, or watch the entire seven-hour first season of “Downton Abbey” in one stretch; yet I’ll leave a sink full of dirty dishes for days, or consistently talk myself out of going for a run, or never get around to finishing “Gravity’s Rainbow” despite having first picked it up two decades ago. (I’ll read it sometime. I swear.) If I can’t do something the best — if I can’t get it right, if I can’t win — then I’d rather not do it.
I am always asking my mother for advice on dinner parties, and she is always telling me that I’m taking on too much. I can’t help myself. (Plus, may I point out, she does the exact same thing.) If I’m going to have people over, I have to cook and host the most perfect dinner ever, or I may as well eat takeout alone in my pajamas. This past Friday, up on the roof of my building, I hosted my very first barbecue. I bought four pounds of ground beef, beef hot dogs and turkey hot dogs; I planned to make three kinds of salad — corn and basil salad, Caprese, and peach-tomato salad — and dessert. Before dinner, we’d have dip, crudite, cheese and crackers. I got a case of beer, a bottle of rose and a bottle of prosecco, as well as lemonade in case people didn’t want to drink alcohol. And of course, in addition to a gleaming Weber Smokey Joe grill, I purchased barbecue tools, a grill brush, a chimney starter, lighter cubes and charcoal. Oh, and I ordered a floor pillow from Amazon in case it rained and everyone had to cram into my apartment, where I might not have enough chairs.
It was all, of course, too much. My mother could have told me that. Not everyone was able to make it, so only a few people ended up coming over; but it would have been too much even under normal circumstances. I’ve got leftover corn and peaches and lemonade to last me for weeks. (Anyone want some ground beef?) Still, I’m all right with that. This is who I am. Go big or go home.
This personality trait lends itself pretty well to editing, but not so much to writing. That is to say, I’m a good editor because I’ll dedicate myself to working on a piece of writing until it’s right; but when it comes to doing any writing of my own, my loopy perfectionism intimidates me, so much so that I’m afraid even to begin. No one gets writing perfect on the first try, and if someone tells you they do, then they’re either brilliant or lying. (I am also suspicious of anyone who tells me they “love writing,” but that’s a topic for another day.)
All this is a long way of saying that I haven’t updated this blog in a while because I … well, I get in my own way. I’ve eaten numerous wings in the last month or two, and taken pictures and sometimes even notes, and then I get all up in my head and feel that I have to write the perfect post, and therefore I do nothing. But that’s the wrong approach. Sometimes, you can’t write the perfect post or dine at the hottest restaurant or cook a superfluous meal. You won’t accomplish anything in life — you won’t actually live life — unless you put aside your own self-flagellating neuroses, your impossible-to-meet standards, and just take a step outside, type something, give it a shot and let that be enough.
And so. To type something. Last week I had plans to meet some former colleagues for a drink, and one of them suggested Beer Authority, a multi-level pub near Port Authority. I had never heard of it before, but it was conveniently located, and they had a happy hour and food; and for once, since someone else picked the place, I didn’t have to spend hours agonizing about the perfect place to go. Besides, I didn’t care about the place so much as spending quality time with some people I don’t see nearly enough. I was in.
We discovered right off the bat that the happy hour at Beer Authority is only available on the tiny downstairs level, not the spacious upstairs or the roof deck. The downstairs area had a bar with maybe six stools, as well as a ledge running around two sides of the room, but no tables. My friend and I weighed our options. Enjoy the evening air, or save a buck on each drink? We opted for the latter. I’m a sucker for happy hour.
“What’ll you have?” the white-haired, Irish-accented bartender asked genially as we settled on our stools. “IPA, stout …?” (I didn’t realize this at the time, but Beer Authority prides itself on its selection of craft beers.) He seemed to want to pick something for us, so I told him I’d have an IPA. When he asked what kind of IPA I normally liked, I said, “Not too light — on the ale side,” while my friend chimed in, “I’ll also have an IPA, but on the other side, lighter.” He nodded with that “I know what to do” look and poured me a Great Divide IPA, while my friend received a Victory Headwaters (which the website identifies it as a pale ale). Mine hit the spot. It was exactly what I wanted, without knowing I had wanted it. At that moment, I would have taken any other recommendation the bartender cared to give me. I was his.
Our other friend showed up, and, as she doesn’t drink alcohol, she ordered a pineapple juice and cranberry juice — “hard, on the rocks,” she joked. He placed the juice glass in front of her, and then, as she paid, reached out took it back. “I can’t in good conscience charge you two dollars for that,” he said. Out came a pint glass, which he filled to the brim with juices and ice. I was pretty sure that now she was his, too.
The menu had buffalo wings on it, and naturally I had to order them, even if I was going eat the entire plate myself. I don’t have too much to say about them, to be honest. They were just all right. They weren’t too spicy, and the flavor was decent, albeit a bit tinny; the consistency that made me suspect they were breaded or at least floured, which the best buffalo wings shouldn’t, in my opinion, be. It was almost like eating Burger King fries — they’re crispy enough, but because they were coated with something first, you almost feel like they cheated. (I could be wrong about how they cooked them, but regardless, the outside didn’t have that satisfying snap I always like in a wing.)
After two beers and our food, we asked for the bill, and the bartender told us what we owed. I asked him for a receipt, since I’m still in networking mode, and hence in “maybe I could write this off” mode. (Dear IRS: These were former coworkers, and we talked about work and the industry and the job market. Don’t audit me!) The bartender pulled out a pen and carefully wrote one out for me on a cocktail napkin. It felt like a souvenir.
The wings may have been forgettable, but Beer Authority impressed me with the friendliness and knowledge of its staff, the quality of its beers, and its ability to be exactly what we needed it to be. My friends and I headed outside, buzzing from the warm conversation and the experience of being together again. We grinned at one another. “We needed that,” we agreed, and promised to do it again soon. It was early enough that it was still light outside, the summer sky refusing to acknowledge that night was upon us. We hugged and went our separate ways.
I didn’t have an epic meal, I didn’t drink to excess, I didn’t cross anything off my bucket list and I was home in time to get some work done. But all in all, it was a lovely night. It was perfection.
613 8th Avenue and 40th Street
Midtown/Times Square, New York