“This Person Just Schlepped”

Guilty as charged, Ben Carlos Thypin.

I did indeed “just schlep all the way from LIC” on January 23, 2020 to attend and address Manhattan Community Board 2: but it wasn’t to “just shit all over Open New York.” And it certainly wasn’t much of a “schlep,” either, Mr. Thypin: it’s ackshually called a “direct subway ride.” Perchance I am out of the loop on just what exactly a schlep entails but a trip to Soho via New York City mass transit is especially quick and easy from Long Island City.

To clarify, I did not attend that CB2 meeting to shit all over you: I don’t need to do that because you and your fellow ONY members and supporters do a sufficient job of defecating all over you and your “organization” all by yourselves; your own words and actions reveal that.

If anything, you all make your critics’ work easy: all we have to do is shine a light on your words and actions.

The simple truth is I “schlepped” that night to CB2 out of love, to be another voice speaking up for historic preservation and to stand up against the way ONY operates, especially its deplorable age-shaming habit. I believe ONY’s pro-rampant-gentrification slant, condescending attitude, sporadic deceit and poor judgment do not serve any New York City neighborhood or community, especially one like glorious, unique and beloved Soho.

Again, I made this trip, I executed this “schlep,” out of love.

New York City, my hometown, is my first and most enduring love and I will always feel compelled to fight for it. I do what I do in Queens out of love and I said what I said at CB2 out of love. Last year, I stood up to and spoke out against Amazon HQ2LIC because Seattle warned New York that, among other aspects, Amazon “[hasn’t] been the best civic neighbor” and I care about who moves into my neighborhood, especially when they appear to be a global bully with a shady land deal. As a former executive search industry researcher and knowledge manager, I know a poor corporate culture when I read about one and Amazon reeked and acted like early 2000s Walmart: I wasn’t about to let an abusive tyrant just slide on in, using public land (our land, our city land) via a secretive, vague and breakable deal, without saying something about it. I love where I live: I will always stand up for it, out of my love.

There was no other reason for me to do this. This isn’t about my hatred of wealthy people or my need to be popular with radical groups: this is about how much I love my city, my enduring, magical, extraordinary city. Downtown Manhattan was where this country was born and for centuries now has never diminished as the city’s center: the whole area, most especially the airy lofts of Soho, deserves special consideration for preservation. Development is neither desired nor necessary in this area; repurposing is a better option and running an inventory of all unused spaces and apartments, especially chronically empty luxury apartments, is a logical next step.

I had no idea such a movement as yours existed until last year, when ONY member Justin Potter ran his quiet, inconsequential campaign against Senator Mike Gianaris before unsurprisingly dropping out earlier this month. Aside from supporting a skittish monopoly, Potter’s pro-Amazon supporters also advocated for the destruction of landmarked buildings, the elimination of historical districts and the demolition of brownstones: I was surprised such sentiment existed and was saddened to see it. The logic employed had some reason to it, though, even I had to admit that much: the promotion of a carless society in cities by increasing residential density near mass transit. But there was a brusqueness to this group’s engagement, a snappy impatience, an eye-rolling mocking snarkiness, a trigger-happy tendency towards insults and condescension.

Back in mid-2019, I was so unassuming when I first stumbled across ONY on Twitter that I had started following the account; I naïvely assumed too quickly that ONY was a pro-tenant organization because of the reference of wanting to be a neighbor in its Twitter bio. This implied ability to partner is soon revealed as conditional and ultimately insincere.

As I had witnessed with its pro-Amazon peers, I observed Yimby in New York to be a small group of easily identifiable and loquacious personalities; I became quickly acquainted with the tiny cadre of troupe players and what I suspected was a strategic and deliberate style of social engagement, and with which I was already familiar having witnessed Justin Potter in action. ONY members and supporters conduct themselves in a mocking, impatient, snarky, disrespectful manner.

Deliberate bad faith is consistently used by ONY: mockery is tossed as bait to throw off the main focus of discourse; disrespect is hurled in what seems a desire to get a reaction; words are purposefully twisted and nontangential accusations are created to deflect from the point at hand. This is a repeated pattern, seen in numerous public interactions, all by the same players, this same small group.

Good, fair and productive arguments include respectful debate, a reasonable and generous attitude and a sense of peerage and deference to the other person. Not with ONY members and supporters, though. You guys arrive at the ready with impertinent (and false) accusations of racism, classism and depravity. A pattern of accusations, the same accusations, over and over.

And that, Mr. Thypin, is what I strove to “shit all over” at CB2 on January 23: the repeated behavior, the insults, the bad faith engagement. I shine a light on it. You wish it was shit: because feces isn’t see-through. And what you all do and say is very easy to see through: it is all clear and self-evident to everyone but you and your small group, it seems.

Another tidy little fact in all this is that you, sir, in particular, stand to make a profit in the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. And you already have, Scion Thypin: your family’s wealth expands way beyond real estate.

And I mean, if your tactics are fair, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when you receive criticism, right? You should be proud of how you operate: you don’t have anything to hide, do you?

And of course, I can express myself publicly, just like you can express yourself in such a fashion: that’s only fair, isn’t it? It’s only right, isn’t it?

Because, to me, two sides expressing their viewpoint seems like the crux of democracy: you have your opinion and I have mine and we both get to express our own opinions. No matter what our opinions are or how disparate they may be, they get to be expressed by us in public forums: that in itself is a beautiful thing; a democratic declaration.

And I don’t put you down, Mr. Thypin, for having an opinion, no matter how much I take issue with what you say. But what I *do* do is take issue with your opinions, aka your words. I then form specific arguments against your opinions, against the words you say. I use my words to express my issue with your words.

You, in turn, use your words to express your issue with me opening my mouth but you quite never get around to the part of specifically critiquing what comes out of my mouth: you only take issue with me expressing myself. You never address what it is that I say, instead you disparage me for opening my mouth. Conveniently, though, you ignore what I say.

Someone from ONY must have filmed the speakers at that January 2020 CB2 meeting: you have a history of photographing community speakers. I wonder if I was videotaped, if my words were captured. And if so, I wonder why no one posted what I said: I mean, it must have been absurd and untrue, right?

How come you never directly address what I say?

Because that’s what I do with you: I cite your own words and actions to depict how you and your ONY cohorts conduct yourselves and how you chronically treat other people. I seek to raise awareness about it: I wonder why you are not open to such relevant and fair criticism. And it’s not slanderous, either: if I am showing your own words and your own content along with published media about you, how can that be considered defamatory or even insulting? If you wrote it, you should be able to stand by it: all of it.


Like the sweet nothings you tweet to me.

Or your rejoicing in the destruction of brownstones in my neighborhood.

Your words and actions represent you: I assume you are proud of them. So it’s problematic how defensive you are about your own words or your real estate business and family legacy. It’s problematic how snarky, quick-tempered, overly dramatic, condescending and insulting ONY members and supporters are. It’s especially problematic as this behavior appears to be strategic and deliberate: even city officials have noted this obvious and clumsy conduct. Lower Manhattan District Leader Paul Newell’s tweet thread on your own history and comportment is gloriously thorough and revealing. Committeman Ben Yee called ONY out for something I experience for one whole day: the pile on.  My own pile on lasted 12 hours where I was falsely but deliberately accused of hating poor people and of being immoral. It was so obvious what you all were doing in that conversation with me: it was so telling. It shows who you all are.

At the end of that discourse, as I am wont to do, I asked you out for a cup of coffee. I am known for coffee terrorism: I have a reputation for wanting to meet people in person so to create a better rapport, to build a bridge and for me to learn more.

But you never took me up on that offer from a half a year ago. I wonder why.

Maybe because it is difficult for you to truly face any of the shit you do.

You most likely will never take me up on it, Mr. Thypin but my offer still stands.

Van Goner

January 21, 2020: Citing personal reasons in a statement released this morning, Jimmy Van Bramer announces he is dropping out of the Queens Borough President race. At last week’s Queens BP forum in Sunnyside, there was no hint of such trouble while Van Bramer scuffled enthusiastically with Queens Machine darling Donovan Richards over Amazon, bail reform and gentrification.

But today’s announcement follows months of neighborhood murmurings about Van Bramer’s quiet dissociation from his progressive base, despite his having been a soldier on the front lines in last year’s local fight against Amazon: it was as if he could not quite square his progressive past (albeit a shaky one: never forget 5Pointz) with his broader political aspirations.

And what better step for any ambitious Queens politician than Borough President? Until this morning, one could have argued the QBP race was JVB’s to lose: after all, he was the first to announce he was running for it and it seemed the perfect next move for this homegrown borough son.

So, what went wrong?

Although Twitter has already pondered this a.m. if the Queens Machine “made Jimmy an offer he could not refuse”, I think it’s more that Jimmy felt on his neck the hot dragon breath of more comfortable progressives like Costa Constantinides and Anthony Miranda.

Maybe Van Bramer did not expect such strong competition, especially from Miranda, whose campaign is being managed by AOC’s former campaign manager Vigie Ramos-Ríos and rising progressive activist Nick Haby.

Van Bramer will land on his feet for his next step whether aided by the Queens Machine or not. It’s a completely different Queens from when JVB first started his political career, a Queens which may no longer fit him and in which he may find he no longer fits. Progressive progrowing pains: it’s now a race between Costa and Miranda.

Queens wins either way.

@fuelgrannie Twitter suspension appeal

(This is the letter I sent to Twitter after my account was suspended: 36 hours after I submitted this appeal, I got my account back with no loss of content or followers. Names of accused parties have been changed: but those hoes know who they is…)

Thank you for this further opportunity to appeal the suspension of my @fuelgrannie Twitter account.

I have been using the name fuelgrannie since the internet’s inception in mid-1990s: I was, wisely, protective of my identity back then and was reticent to use my real name. “fuelgrannie” was a moniker I chose after some consideration as I wanted a name that I would feel comfortable using for years, a name that would grow with me and consistently reflect who I am. This name, “fuel” for the band Fuel and “grannie” to celebrate aging, has become my literal brand, a brand which further solidified during my ten years of use on Twitter. fuelgrannie is also the name of my Instagram, New York Times commenter and Reddit accounts but it started as my very first and still active email account. My first foray into public engagement was on the MTV message boards, the dinosaur precursor to modern social media, some two decades ago where I interacted with people from all over the country and the world; I still have paper printouts of scores of other users wishing me happy birthday one year. fuelgrannie has had an established online presence and personality since even before the new millennium.

The fuelgrannie name means a great deal to me personally but it is also tied to my professional efforts: it is a brand name in effect, a brand which has been developing for almost a quarter of a century now. My social media is part of my work resume: I am proud to send prospective clients my Twitter profile; I am proud of the following I have grown and I am especially proud of the content I provide, crafted from thoughtful and careful research. This past year, I provided boots-on-ground investigative reporting and analysis from the front lines of the Amazon HQ2 fiasco as the tech company attempted to set up camp near where I live in Long Island City, Queens. Recently, I have also been drawing attention to the Queens democratic political machine: my tweets are critical and truthful information that voters and other interested parties should have access to.  I am known for my data-packed tweet threads, my sourcing, my deliberateness and my honesty: these tweets are my work and they serve to educate the general public. My fuelgrannie name remains recognizable and trustworthy: I am a reliable source for journalists, politicians and activists.

And I have ticked off a few people along the way.

As the Amazon deal crumbled in Long Island City this past February, I was swiftly blocked by Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, Brian Huseman and Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski, the latter a Long Island City homeowner. Since then, a few minor local politicians along with a selection of local property owners have also blocked me, furious at my stance against what was ultimately a shady business deal from which Amazon itself bailed very quickly, making the whole fiasco appear even more suspicious. Time has shown I had neither bad judgment nor poor research when it comes to this company.

The name “fuelgrannie” has become a reviled character to the pro-Amazon supporters in my borough: I have been sent tweets with memes of people defecating; I have been called “crazy,” “delusional,” “kook,” “asshole,” “immoral,” “callous;” I have been told I should have been beaten as a child; I have been sent gifs of people getting kicked in the neck. I do not begrudge anyone their response to me as they must endure the consequences of their actions; they alone make themselves look less credible when they insinuate violence or have no cogent argument against me other than claiming my insanity. Even now as my account remains suspended, my detractors are openly celebrating my absence.

But I rarely act in kind. My arguments use facts, reposted tweets/tweet threads and other cogent research. I never lie, I always take full responsibility for my content and my own words, good bad and ugly. Most of the time I strive to be respectful, especially when someone is engaging with me in a disrespectful manner, because such an attitude comes naturally to me and also because it makes my opponents’ bad behavior more apparent. My timeline reflects such conduct and I’ve frequently experienced people telling me in real life that they can’t believe what I go through and how well I handle it. I am now heavily involved in the Queens political scene and am known for my honesty, my bravery, my ability to articulate and my fair way of fighting. Most of the time.

Because there have been rare times when I have hit below the belt. And there have been (more) times when I have blind-tweeted in a shady, petty manner. And there have been times when I have been directly impatient, unkind, quick-tempered and disrespectful to other users but that only happens when I get repeatedly provoked and I make the choice not to rise above the situation. But that just does not happen that often with me, which my tweets reflect. It doesn’t make me look good when I take the low road, nor does it make me feel good, or even feel like myself, when I do stoop to do it. Again, my timeline attests to that: my overall and consistent mode of argument engagement is patient, knowledgeable, tolerant, thorough and respectful. I stop engagement with people when they insinuate violence, when they are caught lying or when they solely want to fight endless fights. I do not indulge gratuitous Twitter wars: I have neither the time nor the inclination.

I do however, selectively chose to defend myself when it’s necessary. I have been accused (quite strangely since I am broke as a joke) of being a secret millionaire. In real life however, I have a profoundly developmentally disabled sibling for whom I have partial financial responsibility since our parents left us with almost no inheritance when they died: these personal facts have been called lies and my brother has been mocked directly to me. These were tweets I could not report because they didn’t fit the criteria for reporting under your terms of service: but I still endured that bullying without reacting back in an inappropriate manner.

I am happy to provide you with these tweets. These tweets were sent by accounts whose tweets I have consistently reported on my behalf and the behalf of others being abused. I have been trolled and, in some cases, bullied and harassed by these accounts: I have had to endure that whether I am able to report an offending tweet or not. Having my personal situation mocked, dismissed or found to not be credible has been the toughest burden to endure here on Twitter and I am very proud of how I have handled myself when I have been bullied about my personal details.

I have also noted to you, Twitter, when I report these tweets, the history and context of these engagements. Two accounts in particular have been quasi-violent with me [in this blogpost, I will refer to them as Loudie and Windie; in my appeal to Twitter, I supplied their account handles]. Loudie and Windie are part of the local pro-Amazon gang, they are both landlords and they both deliberately behave in a similar disrespectful, long-winded and irrational manner. They shame people for their physical appearance; they mock female sex workers; one even posted the name and street address of a local progressive activist; I have not been the only target of their irrational, untrue and cruel tirades. Whenever I have reported them, along with notation of the history of their consistently poor engagement with me, I have never seen them suffer any consequences other than the doxing incident because that instance was so extreme and I was not the only person to report it.

But many times, their conduct and behavior are condoned by Twitter because their offensive tweets remain and their attitude and engagement have never toned down. And yet here I am, the person who ends up with the suspended account. Even as I write this now, I have no idea specifically why my account was suspended and I do hope some clarity can be given to me.

What I suspect happened is that I was hyperly reported this past week, the timing of which curiously coincides with the October monthly meeting of a group I will refer to in this blogpost as GrowthieNewYork [in my appeal to Twitter, I supplied their account handle], a pro-Amazon, pro-gentrification, pro-development local group whose members have been aggressive with me and a few have blocked me. Their mode of conduct is surprisingly similar to Loudie and Windie and their sock puppet cohorts, who have trolled me for months now; they also engage in a specific behavior known as “flying monkeys,” as in the Wizard of Oz, where many accounts swoop in to silence, overwhelm, shame and ultimately stop any dissention. In my case, it is my anti-gentrification efforts and my criticism of the GrowthieNewYork organization

GrowthieNewYork is proudly YIMBY, meaning “Yes in My Back Yard” as they aim to get rid of historical districts in New York City by advocating for the tearing down of landmarked buildings with taller nondescript structures to then take their place. They generally engage in groups for battle with various single accounts who dare to engage or confront them: they mock aesthetic appreciation, dismiss the need for lower income housing and become disrespectful exaggerators when confronted on their tactics.

But more importantly, GrowthieNewYork has been dishonest about its not-for-profit status, about which I had been recently tweeting. I suspect news of efforts was shared at their monthly meeting, which occurred this past Wednesday, and I suspect they encouraged a bombardment of reports against me. My suspension occurred less than 48 hours later: again, I hope you can kindly provide the specific reason as to why and I wonder if my suspicion is right and that from Wednesday to Friday, Oct 2 – Oct 4, 2019, you received a barrage of complaints about me.

And again, I am happy to provide a list of accounts which may have been involved in this barrage: members of GrowthieNewYork, other local and national YIMBY activists, accounts with bike and avocado emojis in their handles. I can share a thread in which I engaged where I was bombarded by about ten accounts and endured a “flying monkey” pile-on which I handled with truth and research even while a select few of those accounts behaved inappropriately, but not in violation of your TOS so I could not report the tweets and instead defended myself. I wonder if those accounts could have played a part in suspending my account.

And that alone, getting a group together to try to silence another account, is, in effect, breaking your terms of service: it is harassment and bullying and I ask you to take that aspect seriously. I suspect YIMBY accounts conspired to get my account suspended and I ask you to take that into consideration with the processing of this case.

I ask also for you to please consider the ten years’ worth of work and research I have posted on my Twitter account: I had assumed this content would never be in jeopardy of being removed and that once I had publicly published it, it could be easily sourced and available for anyone to see it, learn from it and use it. I created this content, it is important to me and it has served my community well: I implore you to please that into consideration as well. My work has helped raise awareness: I am proud of my reputation and visibility in my neighborhood, borough and with the causes I promote. My work has been valuable and even significant in its own way. If you chose to never reinstate my account, I ask that you be able to please provide me with the decade’s worth of work and content I created. I appreciate you own this data but I argue that I half-own it, too, as its creator and I ask to at least be able to get it back in my possession for my own use.

I am happy to delete any specific tweets which have been determined to be inappropriate for the site and in the effort and good faith to get my account back: again, I look forward to learning what I actually did to earn this suspension. I have no idea what I did: that’s why I think this was a deliberately targeted campaign against me.

I ask for you to please give me back my fuelgrannie name and presence on your website. It is part of who I am, it is tied to my work and ability to generate income (it will be inconsistent for my brand to have to create another account riffing off of an already weird name) and it is a self-assigned moniker I have been using for almost half of my life now. I have conducted myself well on Twitter, I have grown from a cheerleader for Queens with a few hundred followers to an advocate for justice and transparency with over 3600 hundred followers: I have worked hard for every one of those followers, some of whom are so important to me, like the Exonerated Five and I ask that these online relationships and connections be restored.

I look forward to the next steps in this process and I hope very much to get my name back on a site where it had grown and thrived because there is no replacing a name I have used and invested in. Because most of all, I just want my name and my brand back.

Many thanks for your time and attention to this issue which means so much to me. I hope to resolve this as fairly as possible. I ask for you to consider my length of time on Twitter, my engagement carriage over the years and the possibility that my suspension may have been a strategic and deliberate attack against me by an organized group.

With appreciation, CM


Twitter has compelled me back to blogging and I am psyched to be back: it had been on my mind for some time to return and get back to public longform prose.

For the past half-decade or so, I have been working on two memoirs, various essays, and a few published articles but much of my day-to-day writing has been on social media, especially Twitter. Tweeting with its 280-character-per-post limit, presents the challenge of crafting sharp, sensical, truthful brevity which lends to its own art form: nothing in this modern world beats a perfect tweet. Twitter is also the best platform for sharing news and information with one’s own lean-spined analysis: it’s quick, it’s interactive and it’s no place to hide, except for private accounts, as discourse is as much of the game as self-expression is.

Blogging now allows me, once again, a useful sounding board: a place where I can spitball what I’ve been sharing on Twitter. My critics reprimand me in tweets on my engagement: I am told that I “rant,” that I am “a kook,” so perchance I can exorcise some of my alleged insanity on here instead beyond 280-character chunks.

Initially I had started using Twitter to promote Queens and its events; I went from solely following Long Island City accounts when I first joined in 2009 to then embracing my whole borough and investigating it more in person. As the years passed, I became more involved in social justice issues, especially ones affecting New York City, like the Exonerated 5. In 2015, I started tweet-yelling at Donald Trump: to my friends, I was “crazy” as I never stopped worrying about him being elected in 2016 and it turns out I had reason to be concerned.

But it was Amazon’s announcement in November 2018 to set up half of its HQ2 in Long Island City, my home, which has defined my recent Twitter engagement: my backyard, my borough, justice and politics all entwined in this debacle. Amazon ducked out of its deal in February 2019 but the patina of its exit remains, thick, in this community, we are a neighborhood divided: a tale of two Long Island Cities. This is where I will workshop my side of the story, my perspective. It is quite a story to tell, part Dickensian corporate mystery, part local Hatfield/McCoy soap opera and it is still on-going: right now, the ballots for the recent Queens District Attorney race are being manually counted as Queens remains the center of progressive politics in the country, maybe even in the world.

I look forward to following how the DA race plays out and I will also be sharing my experience of what it has been like being on the front lines of the local Amazon social media discussions (where anyone can thusly be involved if they so desire) and also what kind of organization Amazon is. There is a lot of misinformation out there so it is meaningful to have a platform to flesh out each issue about this company, each consequence, each misstep: more people need to educate themselves on just what Amazon is. I hope to break it down as clearly as I can.

January 2, 2015: Soup for Dayz, Day 2

Happy official New Year, my angels! Hope you rang it in exactly as you wanted (I was in bed at 10pm, per my usual NYE routine: rockstar) and here’s to 2015 being a year which brings you strength, joy, clarity and continued health. Always be grateful for what you have and who you are.

And of course, I broke my resolution to blog every day right exactly on New Year’s Day itself, but it was worth it. I finished a job application last evening after spending the day hanging out with my awesome neighbors; the latter being an especially delightful event from which I still feel energized today. There is nothing better than connecting with other people and having a good time and great conversation, nothing better at all (not even those three long, mentholated cigarettes we smoked, as a rare treat, frontin’ like bad kids!).

Back to the magnificent Soup fah Dayzzzz!

Now we’re on Day 2. This may even be a workday for you so you can do this second day of cooking after you get home from your job. The most time-consuming part has already been completed now that the base has been attacked; the next steps are building on that base and letting the flavors steep and develop.

Take the casserole out of the fridge and put it back under that really low flame, at a bare simmer. You’re not working for heat here: you are working for time and building cohesion. The soup will be in the form of a very concentrated stew, not taking up much room in the casserole; there may even be a coagulation of oil at the top, which is fine. Give another good round of spanking with some fresh ground pepper and cut up another lemon into 8 pieces, carefully removing seeds, and squeeze by hand into the soup. Add another half cup or so of water so to maintain the liquid content: those veggies need to stay nice and saturated. Use a wooden spoon to scrape down any errant pieces off the side of the casserole pot: get all the bits back into the mixture. Cover and let simmer at the lowest heat possible to ease it out of refrigerator mode.

Now we can start to add more ingredients, some which will be repeats. I prefer not to use carrots to the soup base because of the lovely sweetness they bring to cooking (you may want to, however, for that exact reason) but I will certainly add in those fab orange puppies now at this stage of the game. I use one large carrot, pared and then sliced into discs about ¼ inch think. I then cut each disc into tiny pie-shaped pieces. The smaller discs I just cut into halves or quarters, but the larger slices I will cut into eighths, sometimes even more: again, my theory is, the smaller the pieces, the greater the melody when it’s finished. The soup even looks nicer with all these tiny pieces, especially the carrots which add that pop of color. If you want, throw in more than one carrot, just make sure you chop it all down to size.

Also at this point, after I have added the carrot, I like to add in another onion flavor layer, perhaps maybe a bunch of gorgeous scallions: cut the white bulbs into thin slices and then separate all the little round rings (again, as always: tiny pieces are this soup’s best friend); chop the leaf greens finely, discarding any yucky bits but feel free to use as much of the leaves as you want, just make sure you chop them to oblivion. That’s one of the great things about this concoction, and any other homemade soup for that matter, you can use as much of your vegetables as possible.

Another option for this second round of onion-ation is to add any stinky bulb(s) you may have hanging around, even the proverbial half red onion wrapped in tinfoil that seems to live in all of our refrigerators. Yes, even if it is kinda old and sorta dryish: this soup’ll wake it right up and benefit from what is always dependable onion-osity. Discard the papery ends and top layer, because those do not cook well; I’ve tried because I hate to waste food but they don’t absorb the moisture. One option with those pieces is to pop them in the oven until they get crispy, not burned, to eat as a chip of sorts, but that’s really stretching the whole no-waste routine; sometimes some things just have to go straight to composting. With the usable onion you have left (and you know what I am going to say), chop it down to itty bitty, teeny weeny bits and then chop those down even more.

To cement this second day, let’s toss in more garlic, shall we? No such thing ever as too much garlic for this Queens girl. We don’t need another whole head here (but you could do that, if you want: and if you do, when are you having me over for dinner?) so you could use as few as two or three cloves although I suggest using at least five for this stage, especially if they’re not that big.

Here’s my lesson on garlic dicing: slice a clove into thin lengthwise discs, by standing it on its side and carefully cutting from top to bottom. Stack the discs, as many as you can; I can usually stack two to three at a time, sometimes more, if they’ll stay in line. Julienne those discs lengthwise into little sticks. Line up the tiny julienned sticks and cut those down crosswise, millimeter by millimeter, making a nice pile of garlic mulch and making sure to cut down any overly large pieces. Since we’re not cooking these directly in oil, as we did on Day 1, you want to make sure you have finely chopped these garlic segments to death, honey. Like to a consistency of grainy paste.

Throw in that garlic mulch, spank the black pepper grinder anew, stir the soup, wipe down any errant pieces with a wooden spoon, cover the pot and let this simmer for at least an hour, preferably closer to two hours. Check every twenty minutes, making sure the heat is as low as possible. Your home will smell awesome. After two hours, turn off the heat, let cool for about an hour and then pop back in the fridge.

Day 2 over! The mingle-ation continues as this soup keeps being heated and cooled while the days pass: just like with any fabulous dame, it just gets better and better with time. Directions on Day 3 are forthcoming, kittens…

A sad note from my wonderful borough of Queens concerning this exact subject: the home cooking of soup. There was a horrific fire in the LeFrak City housing complex in Corona which claimed three lives on Wednesday night, New Year’s Eve. Homemade soup meant to celebrate the incoming year was left unattended on the stove and caused a blaze which killed a middle-aged couple and their niece. My heart goes out to this family: there but for the grace of the universe go I and all of us chefs. Here’s to every one of us always being mindful of our cooking and never, ever leaving the home with any kind of unsupervised fire going, be it a candle or a low simmering soup. Even if you are running out of the house for only a minute during the cooking of, say, this amazing Soup for Dayz or any other wonderful creation: turn the fire off, blow the candle out. It’s never worth it to take that chance. Always be aware of an open flame and always, always take care, for your sake and your neighbors’ sakes.

The number one rule in the kitchen, above all, is safety. It ain’t gonna taste like anything if you’re not alive to eat it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014: Soup For Dayz, Day 1

This is the recipe for what I basically live on: it’s a hearty, vegetarian, salt-free stock with which I create meals. It’s cheap and healthy (xactly: just like me) and no-fail (yup: not like me at all). Even though I am providing some sort of a concrete process for the base, it, as well as the other stuff you throw in, can be played around with and you can use whatever you have in the fridge or whatever’s good and/or on sale at the market.

The base is a variation of a mirepoix or holy trinity, with celery and onion: I then add garlic at the last minute, instead of bell peppers or carrots, which I may or may not throw in later. The magic ingredient of this handiwork is time which you sneak in over the course of a few days. Many times, I’ll have one batch of this soup in the “build” stage on the stove and then another, more finished batch in the fridge, ready for chowtime. This soup does not go bad, it just gets better and better with time (again true: just like me).

My suggestion is to start this process on a lazy weekend morning or afternoon; you’ll need to tend to this for about three hours at its start and I suggest using a large 5 to 6 quart casserole pot for the cookage process. You’ll cook this for dayz, bunny: it tastes so much better, just like love, if it isn’t brand new.

DAY 1 – here’s what you need for the base:

1 big yellow or white onion, or two smaller ones

½ bunch of celery, give or take a few stalks – you want to have about the same amount of celery and onion

Chop these up as finely as you can bear: the finer the chop, the more potential for flavor so take your time, turn up some music and chop away; get it all down to tiny pieces – you’ll have roughly two cups or so of each vegetable. There’s nothing wrong with doubling this recipe, too; just bear in mind it may take longer to cook it all down.

In the casserole pot, gently heat up some olive oil on low heat for about a minute: use enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pot, a good long pour; you can always add in more, as you need, since you don’t want your vegetables to burn or get dried out.

After that minute of heating the oil, add in the finely chopped onion and celery: the oil should never get too hot; you don’t want to shock or scald the veggies. Coat the celery and onion mixture, making sure all of it gets good and oiled; even add more olive oil if you need. Make sure your heat stays at an extremely low simmer, then top the mixture off with a good spanking of freshly ground black pepper (be generous because you won’t be using salt, so this will help the flavor as well as the cooking) and let this simmer, very low and covered, until the onions and celery get really soft. This will take some time; I let this go for well over an hour, usually close to two hours (remember: you won’t be eating this tonight, you are just building your base). Check on the mixture and stir every 15 to 20 minutes or so: make sure the heat stays super low and add more oil, if you need, to keep the mixture soft, and definitely feel free to re-pepper.

During this time, chop a half a head of garlic, about 10 – 12 cloves or so. If you are like me and living in a world where no such thing as too much garlic, use the whole dang head. Chop every clove by hand as finely as you can, itty bitty pieces, to almost a paste. Yes, it takes time so catch up on some crappy TV on your DVR and not feel guilty about it. Pretend each clove is an absurd old problem that you are literally cutting down to size. The finer the chop, the more tasty the final product: chop, chop, chop, chop and chop away with love in your heart.

After 90 minutes to two hours, your celery and onion (the dynamic duo for the time being) should be nice, soft and translucent: add a little more oil, pepper it up and stir for minute or two so that the added oil gets some heat.

We’re now about to enter phase 2: where the dynamic duo meets the superhero garlic and the angels above your head sing to the newly formed trinity.

Add in the garlic, stir well and stay put by the mixture. It’s important that the garlic not get burned or fried, so this phase only takes about two minutes, tops. Once you start to really smell the garlic, once all the fabulousness has been released by the heat after about a minute, give it another thirty seconds or so, stirring and smearing it all around, getting the celery and onion good and saturated with the miracle that is garlic.

Phase 3: another nice, long sleepy phase – add a little bit of water, like a half a cup or so, to this mixture no more than two minutes after you have added the garlic. You could even add white wine, if you’d like, for some zing. If you are a total cheater (and I ain’t hatin, playa), you could actually add some other stock, but it’s healthier if you stick to H2O because this will allow what you have slaved over to actually come through once you are finished. Believe me, it’s worth the wait. The addition of this liquid will allow the ingredients to continue to soften and mix.

Cut up a lemon into 8 pieces, making sure to remove all seeds. Carefully squeeze out each piece into the mixture, checking for and removing any errant seeds; squeeze out every last drop you can. You could use a juicer but I think you get more juice if you do this by hand; as well, there is something about the ceremony of squeezing, and chopping by hand. It just tastes better, in my opinion.

Phase 4: let’s call this mixture “soup” – we’ve earned the name and it certainly has by now. With both the water and lemon juice, the soup should be a nice and chunky dense mix. Add some more freshly ground pepper and let it continue to simmer, over that low heat, for another hour. Then turn the heat off, keep it covered and let it sit to cool enough to go into the fridge, for about another hour or so (no worries if this is longer: it’s not going to turn into poison if it doesn’t go into the fridge immediately after an hour).

Whew: Day 1 is ovah! Instructions for Dayz 2 and on are forthcoming.

Happy New Year, by the way! My resolution is to blog every day. Let’s see if that happens. I am just glad I finally started this thing this year and I am very excited to see what the next year brings. 2014 was the end of some stupid stuff for me so I bet 2015 will be the start of some not-so-stupid stuff, just like this post depicts the start of some not-so-stupid soup: the elixir of the earthling! Soup for DAYZZZZZZ!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014: Wheels

I geeked out over the sunset yesterday. And I may do it again today: second day here at my coolbeans temp gig, with three huge windows behind me plus it’s another slow day at the office, kids. As I write, glorious upon mcglorious roiling clouds are foaming up the New York skyline and, as this amateur photographer can tell you, clouds are a sunset lover’s best friends.

I failed photography as a class the only time I took it in the 7th grade: I handed in a portfolio of only three pictures; one was of a puddle with no reflection. The best thing I remember out of that class was my teacher Mrs. Lazar’s exclamation when she touched a very hot lamp: she bellowed out in agony, in front of us not-so-innocent thirteen-year-olds, “Jesus Christ on wheels!” The picture which instantly sprouted in my head was that of the savior of all Christians stumbling around on key-tightened roller skates; for some reason, my mind decided that Jesus would not have fared well on wheels. The phrase however could have also meant he was hell on wheels, a real pro, albeit probably not too thrilled to be referred to as “hell” on anything, maybe even not thrilled to be newly on wheels. Maybe it meant he was in a car, or driving a van of sorts, as long-haired guys did back when I was a teenager. Googling the phrase hasn’t unearthed much: Leonardo di Caprio seems to have said it in a movie (couldn’t tell which) and a person dissing Taylor Swift also used it in a blog comment. The fact that my photography teacher was in pain has always made me equate this phrase with something bad, or perhaps something that is just incongruous, like a man from the first century flailing about on metal skates. It’s a phrase that’s never left me: it was my photography education experience in a nutshell.

Until I got my iPhone in the fall of 2011.

That changed everything.

Oh you iPhone camera you: you little taker-of-exactly-what-I-am-looking-at, you. You’ve changed my life. You put Jesus Christ back on terra firma. Now, I get it: now, I understand what all the fuss over photographic documentation is all about. Now I am addicted to capturing, or at least trying to, all the beauty around me, the majority of which involves the setting sun. I had already been a big fan of witnessing the sunset, especially now that I live out here, in the sweet borough of Queens, where we gasp at that large yellow orb lowering like buttah through the slits of majestic buildings, creating a sharp dark, promising urban silhouette; night wakes up gorgeously over in our neck of the woods.

For years, I had already been hauling my fat cheeks down to Hunters Point, to darling Gantry Plaza State Park, to behold the kir-colored skies, to see the far off lane of airplanes line up so to march their descent along the span of the purple East River, towards one of our two airports. I had been instantaneously sprung: open air, low buildings and an expansive water view were not elements I experienced growing up in Manhattan, and the sight of so much light and play of color made my eyeballs and heart join hands and sing. I never considered I could capture on film what I saw with any justice; when vacationing, store-bought postcards always depicted foreign beauty much better than any crappy camera I had brought along. I had given up on trying, quite content with my own memories being an alternate self-camera, all the documentation I needed.

But for some reason, one evening down by the gantries, out on my favorite third pier, the one where you can look straight down 42nd Street, as the river lapped in the dusk breeze, I pulled out my iPhone and took a shot of the Chrysler and United Nations buildings, as they seemed to paint a path of metallic light on the water.

When I got home, I looked at it. “Not bad,” I thought. That first photo is now my phone screen saver, all golden reflection and cobalt twilight sky. And that’s pretty much all she wrote: I have never stopped taking photos since then, chasing the sunset whenever I can.

And yesterday, I was ridiculous. I didn’t need to chase it: an insane bloody sky, spectacular spreading and fast-moving clouds were right over my shoulder, here at the reception desk, where I find myself lucky to be temping. (Notice that I am blogging too: #thankfulforaquietweek) I literally sat on the office window radiator, something that no humble object should ever be subjected to. Gasping “god!” while sucking in my breath, muttering in tongues, drooling like I had found gold (I had, kinda: red, sunsetty gold), I craned my neck and torso, getting as close to the window glass as possible and took pic after pic after pic. I knew around 3:00pm that the day’s demise was going to be something special: it was the clouds. The clouds bounce the light, the clouds give reflection to absurd colors and those insane colors give me evidence of something so much greater than this world, than us, than this life.

The most incredible part of a sunset is the aching quickness with which it changes: it’s over before you know it so you shouldn’t take your eyes away for a second. When it’s at its most unbearably beautiful, when the whole world seems to be consumed by a violet glow, it’s suddenly gone, like a death. It’s over: it was so amazing, so devastatingly pure and now it’s gone, now it’s just growing darkness, ordinary and predictable night setting in, like a hungry in-law.

That’s why I take photos: to catch that moment, that moment when the sky is neither blue from air nor yellow from sun. I use my phone to cement proof that pink exists outside of flowers, that blood oranges live above us for a few seconds, that red flows when it’s not blood. I want to make the ephemeral last, I want to debunk natural order, I want to stop time. And I want to keep it, keep it with me always, take it off its wheels and make it stay a while.