Vlad the Impaler is on my list of research topics for my novel. Also known as Vlad Dracula, he was Bram Stoker's inspiration for his bloodthirsty Count. I'm also a big fan of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. It's impossible how simultaneously awful and entertaining this Spike TV show is, which pits the two against each other in bloody, simulated battle.
Ethan and I had a great two-day staycation yesterday that I swear felt like a week away in a foreign land. We awoke late on Tuesday and did the dishes: an essential technique for the restful stay- or vacation is to return to a clean home. We put on our comfortable shoes, shoved a few essentials into a backpack, and set out for Brighton Beach. This is about eight miles from our place in Park Slope.
There's something nice that happens to your brain when you walk to where you're going. The prettiest park of this walk was the hour-long jaunt along Prospect Park to the happening little strip of restaurants in Ditmas Park. We stopped for some pre-lunch martinis at Sycamore, a cute little bar with a flower shop in front, which was partaking in the usual World Cup madness.
"What teams do you root for?" I asked the bartender.
He shrugged. "Honestly, for me it's just an excuse to drink early."
I applaud such a sensible attitude to the World Cup. After our delicious drinks in the sunny courtyard, we decided to just skip lunch and grab a few Kind Bars. The olives in the martinis had furnished a lot of valuable nutrients, and we had places to go. Ethan got an iced coffee at Vox Pop, an adorable lefty coffee shop which gives me Brown University flashbacks, and we were off.
It was another two hours of walking or so before we got to the hotel. We took Ocean Parkway most of the way and then switched over to Coney Island Avenue. Chasids and Muslims, cheek to cheek. Some tempting taquerias. Mysterious stores that manufactured awnings, coffins, flowerpots. The avenues clicked off from H down to Y and we could smell the ocean. The last few blocks were a little tough, and we were really ready to lie down by the time we got to our posh accommodations at the Comfort Inn on Emmons Avenue.
The staycation is all about simple pleasures, such as taking your shoes off after walking three hours. We nestled in and were pleased to find that Harry Potter: The Half-Blood Prince was on HBO.
"This movie makes no sense," Ethan commented.
Which was totally true, but I still like anything with magic in it. We discussed how anything that gets really, really popular is forced to overreach itself. Not so with the staycation. We showered and I changed into my silk dress which can be crunched into a ball in a backpack and still look good. Then we got a cab to Primorski, a Russian-Georgian Restaurant/night club, which featured such searingly loud music that Ethan pulled out earplugs and offered me some.
I elected to put an earplug in the far ear only, so I could still hear what Ethan was saying. The singer was an Asian woman who sounded like a Russian man. Her entire backing band was on tape. We drank a great deal of something called Polar Bear vodka, and ate some okay blini, okay pickles, okay eggplant wrapped around walnuts, and inedible smoked salmon that actually arrived frozen.
"This is frozen," I told the waiter.
"Doesn't it go awesome with the vodka?" he said.
"I don't think it's really supposed to be frozen."
"You don't like it?"
He finally took it back. The meal might have been super disappointing were it not for the Georgian Cheese Pie, which arrived last, like hope at the bottom of Pandora's Chest. Crispy crust surrounds vast quantities of warm, gooey cheese. We got up and danced, and it was like everyone at the restaurant was at the same bar mitzvah.
Afterward we staggered out into the balmy, sea-scented evening and walked back to the hotel, stopping along the way (it sounds impossible to me now, but is true) for cheesecake.
The next day we called the front desk and got them to give us a later checkout so we could get our full amout of Comfort out of the Comfort Inn. Then we packed up and went swimming. The nice thing about Brighton Beach is that, pretty much no matter who you are, you will see people there who make you feel really good about your fitness level, and you don't need to worry about pesky little things like bikini waxing. If you don't use a walker, you are one of the beautiful people.
We didn't stay too long in the water, since it's a little scary to think about all the pee and pollutants in there. Hopefully all the vodka coursing through our bloodstream destroyed any tapeworms. We hit our last stop, Cafe Glechik, a Ukranian dumpling joint, where we drank compote, ate cabbage dumplings, baked dumplings "Moscow Style" and Ukranian sausage with kasha. It was okay but a little bland, and we were both fairly distended with dumplings as we set off on the walk home.
It was really, really hot yesterday. Ethan kept saying he wanted to find some kind of glade to lie down in "just for a second" as we began the long trudge home. He kept repeating the word "glade" and glancing longingly down side streets, but there are no glades to be found off of Coney Island Avenue. In retrospect, this was probably for the best. I think if we'd gone down for a nap we might have had difficulty getting up.
Conversation was sparse on the walk home. Occasionally one of us would complain about our feet or say "I can still feel the dumplings." We got a bracing iced coffee in the Hasidic neighborhood and watched a bit of Ghana vs Germany. The letters of the alphabet got lower and lower.
Finally we got back to Sycamore! Ethan had another martini but I got a ginger sidecar and we sat in the courtyard letting our staycation wash over us. I rubbed Ethan's feet. Next to us was a sexually charged group: a table of girls with one guy. The guy was clearly fishing for easy prey, every remark calculated to appeal to the woman in the group with the lowest self-esteem. I thought how nice it is to be with the one person you want to be with. No games, no worries that you're missing out on something better.
It was another hour back to Park Slope, and because we didn't want to quite end the staycation yet, and also because we agreed the food at Brighton Beach had been a little underwhelming, we went to Dram Shop, where I'd heard they serve a great burger. As I write this now, I am severely tempted to go back and get another. It's a humble burger rather than a fancy schmancy one -- two thin, square patties, shredded iceberg lettuce, pickles, mayo, goopy American cheese -- and it's really just about perfect. The crowd of young, frat boy types and the awful music are a big bummer, but if you concentrate hard enough on the burger, everything else goes away.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.
They build their houses with sand and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.
The sea surges up with laughter and pale gleams the smile of the sea beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby's cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea beach.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships get wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.