Monthly Archives: May 2012

Bootie on a BOAT!

Back in Los Angeles, my favorite two places to go dancing with my friends were Bar Sinister and Bootie. Bar Sinister is LA’s gothiest club, the only goth club with an image to keep up. Sinister was pretentious enough to have a dress code, but the DJs stuck with a familiar set of music genres I never got tired of, and the over-the-top goth club scene was always just fun to be in. We always knew we could go there and just dance all night, however we wanted, and always feel comfortable in the club.

Bootie, like Bar Sinister, was someplace we could go to just dance, where we always knew we would like the music, and where we knew we would always feel right at home. But Bootie was a very different scene than the goth clubs. Bootie refers to “bootleg mashups”, those songs which are more than the sum of their parts. For those of you who do not know the genre, a mash-up is two or more songs which fit together, in melody, rhythm, or even in concept. They’re usually highly catchy, because they contain Top 40 music, and very danceable, because they have rap or dance songs in them. Most have a clever title, which is also a mashup.

There’s a handful of very well known mashup DJs, but only two that go so far as to run a nationally known dance club. Two DJs out of SanFrancisco, Adrien and the Mysterious D, started bringing their SF based dance club, Bootie, to LA in 2005. I’ve been going ever since. My friend Heather introduced me to it initially, and the I started bringing my friends Wendy and Zee. Over the years, we saw Bootie grow in size, going from the Echo club in Echo Park, a small club, to Safari SAMs in Hollywood, and then, when it outgrew that venue, back to the Echo’s downstairs, larger counterpart, the Echoplex. The club even went from once a month to being twice month, and was still always full. Bootie is so popular that it didn’t just grow in size, but grew in appeal, bringing in more and more different people. At first, it was just Echo Park hipsters, but with time, I saw all sort of both alternative and mainstream cultures represented. At the Echoplex in 2011, I would see punks, roller derby girls, rockabillies, ravers, you name it. And, of course, the club was always full of people who just loved to dance. Like we did. At Bootie, you didn’t have to be anyone. You just had to love the music, and be able to dance for hours.

When it came time to move to NYC, we were very sad about leaving behind our favorite dance club in LA. Bootie comes to NYC, but not often -only every two or three months. And I managed to miss it in March, when I was visiting BC last. Fortunately, it came back quickly, and on a BOAT. I’m guessing a dry land venue could not be found, but for a club that’s already sort of pirate themed, a boat is perfect. Ahoy! Arrrrr! Pirate reference here! Obviously, my friends and I all bought tickets the second they went on sale. And then we literally counted down until it was time to get on the boat. All we could think of was how much we loved Bootie, and how we knew we would spend the whole night blissfully dancing.

So, two weekends ago, we returned to Bootie. And for the most part, we did spend the night dancing. It was just a very long night. The thing is with boat tours is that you are on the boat for the duration of the tour. There is no leaving early, or arriving late. In order to be sure we were on the boat, we had arrived at the pier at midnight, the time we thought we needed to be on board. After some panicked searching for the boat, we checked our emails for more directions, and realized that the boat wouldn’t leave until 12:30. In reality, due to the will-call ticket process and the security checks, this ended up being almost a 1am departure. I did some mental math, realized that the 3am return had just become a 4am return, and prayed that the diet Red Bull I’d slammed back in the cab would keep me from becoming a napping heap in a corner.

After a trip to the restrooms (a year of working similar boats in the Seattle waterways taught me that one toilet ALWAYS goes out during a cruise), we went upstairs to the main dance floor for the promoting DJs’ sets. Because Bootie isn’t usually in NYC, the DJs were playing more of a “best of” than the new tracks they usually broke out over the course of an evening in LA. We knew most of these mashups, and loved them, and that was enough to keep dancing for a long time. As the DJs traded off, and kept playing, we would wander to the window to look out at the lights of Midtown, or of Hoboken, but, for most of the night we just danced.

Still, after two hours,I realized that the boat was just going up and down the Hudson, and not really going anywhere that was interesting. By the third time the boat went up towards the West 50s, i was getting tired, and even a little bored. We went downstairs to listen to the guest DJ, DJ Lobsterdust, and to dance under the black lights on the lower deck, for a change. But when we came up, I noticed that several other people on the ship were also a little bored. The boat was spotted with couples making out, far more hookups than we usually saw at Bootie. Bootie is not usually a meat market, but I suppose, on a boat, with three hours in a small space, it increases the odds a bit.

Standing by the door, I heard the DJ calling out that he still had CDs to give away, and I realized that we had been going to this club for so long that the CDs people fought over in 2005 were now obsolete. CDs, to me, are tiny liabilities, clutter, physical objects that take up space. I know I can download the same songs and listen to them on a device, without ever touching a CD. The fact that the DJ was still handing out physical media made me realize that times had actually changed around Bootie. Bootie, while always awesome, is simply no longer cutting edge.

In fact, mashups are so mainstream now that they show up as part of corporate America. The sound team used them as the music that preceded the SAP CEO’s keynote at SAPPHIRE, playing twenty minutes of mashups while over ten thousand conference attendees found seats at the Orlando Convention Center. This, to me, meant Mashups were now acceptable to play at a corporate event run by a huge German software company. Mashups were even considered for promotions on an ice cream brand handled by the agency I freelanced for last fall. Mashups are no longer relegated to underground clubs in hipster West Coast cities. Going to Bootie now is starting to take on a faint patina of nostalgia, a sense of being timeless instead of being on the front edge of time.

By 4am, everyone was starting to slow down, and when the pier came in sight, people started lining up for the door. We were some of the first ones off, and we ran to catch a cab. It took two more blocks of walking east to find one, but eventually, we flagged one down and took it to Houston and 1st. I could have hopped on a train right then, but I decided to stay out for a bit longer, and go for a post-dancing snack with my friends. Also, by then, I was hungry, and a bowl of matzoh ball soup sounded perfect. So, at a comrade’s suggestion, we all went to Katz’s Deli, picked up plated of salty, delicious deli food, and sat down to rest our aching feet and replenish with beef sandwiches, French fries, pickles and soup.

After the meal, we went outside, and realized the sky was getting light. It was almost five in the morning. We had successfully managed to stay out all night. For me, this was a victory. It was a triumph over Getting Older, a victory over the exhaustion that I fall into at the end of the day. It was a success to not be the Mommy Cliche who goes home early. I had stayed out all night just being me, just Jillian, a me that wasn’t a mommy or a wife, but who was out dancing all night. It may not have been the smartest decision, but it was my decision.

Seeing the sky get light, rejuvenated by soup and pickles, and with the last of that Red Bull still in my system, I wanted to go watch the sun rise over the East River. It would have been amazing, to me, to stand in the Lower East Side, and see the sun come up over Brooklyn. But everyone else was tired, and wanted to just grab a cab and head up to their apartments. And I knew that not only was it not very safe for me to go wandering around the LES before 5am, but that exhaustion would hit me sooner rather than later. I also knew my already sore feet would become unbearable if i kept going, and that i would be limping from blisters soon.

So instead of going to look for a sunrise over the East River, I went to the F train, took it home to Park Slope, and walked home. But even at 5am, exactly seven hours after I had left my own house, I still walked with a bounce in my step, still with a mashup song in my heart. I walked home from the subway, under a rapidly lightening Brooklyn sky, and thought about how much I love my life, and how happy I am to have what I have, in New York City, with my dearest friends to dance lal night with, and then my husband and son to come home to.

food appreciation for preschoolers

To date, we’ve been pretty lucky with Ben and eating. This is because when he was very small, our pediatrician gave us the Best. Advice. Ever: “just put the food in front of him”. So we did. And we kept putting it in front of him. I read somewhere that a kid has to try a new food at least five times before they will eat it, so we just kept trying. Now, Ben will taste almost anything new, even if it takes months for him to actually eat it, and we have managed to get him to eat a fairly good variety of fruits and vegetables. He eats vegetables with hummus (usually carrots, cucumber or celery) most nights as an “appetizer” before dinner. And he will eat ANYTHING that is fruit based. Berries, apples, bananas, oranges, melons, peaches…if its fruit, even a new fruit, he will eat it.

Obviously, this makes meals easier. Having Ben accept and eventually eat new foods means that we prepare one meal for everyone, with no substitutes, most of the time. We used to give him frozen mixed vegetables at almost every meal, with the green beans picked out, instead of whatever “adult” vegetable we were eating. Now, he eats the green vegetables we eat: broccoli, asparagus, green beans. I still cook a limited variety of those green vegetables to keep it to the Big Three above, or related varieties (broccolette, for example), but mostly, I can cook a meal with a protein, whole grain, and vegetable, and serve it to the kid, and have him eat it with minimal fuss. We have even been able to get him to eat vegetables when they show up in food outside the home, like when he got bok choy in his dumpling soup.

This isn’t to say Ben doesn’t prefer the usual “kid food”: the basic sweet or salty foods all kids eat. He would much rather live off granola bars and cheese sticks, fries with ketchup, grilled cheese, Mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, pasta, etc. He is never going to turn down candy, especially M&Ms. He still wants nothing to do with a lot of foods, like sweet potatoes, and it’s tough to get him to eat more than a few bites of non-fried fish that isn’t salmon. But overall, he is pretty good about eating whatever healthy food we put in front of him. With the nutritional problems that run rampant in Western society these days, and a 30% child obesity rate in America that is partially linked to “kid foods”, this makes me extremely thankful to have a little boy who will eat more than the usual monotone of junk designed for a “child palate”.

So we are fortunate here, because Ben is an agreeable kid. But I still wanted his vegetable repertoire to expand. So I picked up “French Children Eat Everything”, a book by a Vancouver academic who moved to France for a year with her two small daughters, and had to adjust to the French “food rules”. Rules like “kids eat what the adults eat” and “slow food is happy food”. Those are rules I can agree with. Also, obviously, I want one of those Euro-trained kids who will go to a nice restaurant and eat a multi -course meal. Mostly though, I just want a kid who eats a healthy variety of food, including the vegetable based foods I think are delicious, like beet salad with goat cheese, or roasted Brussels sprouts, or collard green wraps with avocado or hummus.

So I ramped up the food introductions last week, through a variety of tactics. We got Ben to eat lettuce based salad, a food he previously said he “didn’t eat “, by introducing it to him with ranch dressing, and then rolling to vinaigrette. On Sunday, he tried the lentil and carrot salads on offer from a bistro’s food booth at the 5th Ave Street Fair, and he ended up eating several bites of each. And last night, I took a literal page out of “French Kids” and cooked one of the recipes: beet purée. But I cooked it because, when we were in the grocery store Sunday night. Ben pointed at beets and asked, “What’s this, Mama?”. I explained it was beets, and he told me, “I would like to try that.”. Of course, he didn’t eat more than two bites of the resulting dish, which was actually delicious, since it was really a puree of three parts zucchini and one part beet, with butter and salt added. But he tried it, and I will keep trying it on him and hope he develops an eventual taste for beets.

One of the most successful tactics to date, however, has been leveraging screen time. I used Ratatouille as an introduction to, well, ratatouille. I used a Sesame Street segment about colorful foods to bring in more colorful vegetables. And now, our new favorite show is Around the World in 80 Plates. Ben likes “cooking” (standing on a stool to help prep simple foods with Paul), and I figured a cooking show that goes around the world would be a great way to learn about cultures AND introduce new foods. This is actually working, because after watching last week’s episode in Lyon, France, he wanted to go shop for and cook the foods we saw on the show. So we went to the farmers market on Saturday (by bike, naturally) and bought the ingredients for salad Lyonnaise:


That is Ben’s salad, above. I rendered duck prosciutto (instead of slab bacon) in a bit of olive oil, and poached the eggs. Ben shook the dressing, made from the rendered fat and red wine vinegar, and the assembled the salads after I tossed the arugula with the dressing. We all then broke and mixed in our egg yolks, and Ben actually ate half his salad.

This tactic of involving Ben in cooking doesn’t always work. Ben still refused to eat the mussels he helped me prepare. Or rather, he ate one, announced he did not like it, and so I quickly cooked him some plain fish as a protein substitute to go with the fries I made to accompany said mussels. But that’s OK. The point is that he ate the mussel before saying he did not like it. He tried a spoonful of beet purée last night before dismissing it. He tastes things, and then talks about how it tastes. Like we did with broccoli, we will get there with other foods. We will just have to keep offering these foods to him, along with foods he already knows and likes, and remind him that every food was, at one time, a new one he didn’t know he enjoyed.

Sharing the world from the back of my bike

I consider the bicycle to be the perfect solution for short distance transportation. Its faster than walking, yet isn’t at a speed where i lose connection to the world around me. In a car, you’re cut off from the world around you; in a subway, the subway is the world around you. On a bike, I can speed through the streets of NYC, from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back, and see, feel, and even smell every detail of the city around me. (This is more pleasant when it’s a passing restaurant than when it’s Garbage Tuesday). Living in a city as dense and fascinating as New York, i think riding a bike is the perfect way to get around.

And, because I am from the Pacific Northwest, being able to ride my bike in a city is important to me. I still take the same joy from flying through a city street, from outpacing a car in traffic, from seeking a path through the urban landscape, that I did as a teenager. Riding through traffic, I’m focused on the calculations of my own movement, and the movement of the objects around me: cars, pedestrians, buses, Other cyclists. I’m in a zone where I am totally immersed in the present moment, where I’m focused on being in motion through a fascinating, and often beautiful, world around me. I’m in complete control of my speed, connected with both the machine I’m using to move, and the world I’m moving through, and it’s an amazing mind-clearing experience.

But in all of this, I just love riding a bike because it allows me to really see the city I now live in. I can go anywhere without worrying about traffic or parking. I can see the streets around me, yet have time to notice details. And I can experience the most beautiful places in New York, along the waterways and historical edges of the city, and choose to stop, to slow down, to pass by. I am fully immersed in the city. I am able to know the city better from my bike, by covering more of it at bike speed, than I ever could otherwise.

So, of course, I have been waiting to share this with Ben. I had been planning to acquire a trailer bike: one of those half-bikes for children that attaches to a grownups bike. I mentioned this to Paul’s cousin in law when we last visited Philadelphia for Easter. She immediately went to her garage, and handed me the bike she had been using with her youngest child. “We never use it anymore,” she said. “Take it, and send a picture.”. I was delighted. It was like getting a new toy, and I couldn’t wait to connect it to my newly tuned up and fixed up bike, and head off into Brooklyn with my baby.

It took us a month, while we searched for a missing hitch piece, but Ben and I finally started riding together this weekend. I connected up the trailer bike to my bike, and did a test run with it, up to the bike store to pump up Bens tire. Ben was apprehensive at first, but finally allowed himself to be coaxed onto the bike. Then, once he felt safe, we started moving. Once he realized he wasnt going to fall, he sat on the bike, thrilled to be moving so fast, and occasionally trying to pedal (his little legs are JUST a bit short, so he can’t really pedal yet, but he does half rotations when he can). After the first test ride, Ben proclaimed the trailer bike to be “awesome”. With that endorsement, we took off our on first neighborhood adventure, and set off to ride around Prospect Park.

I found out quickly that, while having the trailer bike on the back doesn’t affect my balance too much, it does mean I have to adjust to the added weight. I can’t turn corners too sharply, and I can’t stop suddenly, so I do have to ride in a more conservative way than I usually do. The trailer bike also adds over sixty pounds (the bike is 30 pounds and Ben weighs about 36 pounds), so I’m riding with a lot more weight than I’m used to.

But it is so worth it to be able to ride with Ben on the back of the bike! It opens up a whole range of Brooklyn for us to experience. Yesterday, we actually saw the other side of Prospect Park, parts of the park we’ve never been to because it just took too long to walk there. We looped the whole park in less than half an hour, when it would take hours, even with Ben’s trike, to cover that much ground, if we had been going to the library or the Greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza, we could have covered the mile and change up there in ten minutes, and not in the twenty-plus it usually takes us. Small differences, but when you’re dealing with a small child and his short little legs, they become bigger differences. Plan changing differences. Suddenly, extra minutes add up into hours, and I can travel without planning around subway lines, around bus schedules, or around Ben’s ability to walk or ride his trike.

Saturday, we managed to loop the park and pick up take -out on the way home. Yesterday, we decided on an even bigger adventure. After hearing that Ben’s BFF Aidan, and his dad Brian, were going up to DUMBO to visit Brooklyn Bridge Oark and ride the carousel, we decided to bike up and meet them. I checked a bike map of Brooklyn, loaded up the kiddo, and off we went. We coasted down the hill, from Park Slope down to Gowanus, and then headed north though Carroll Gardens into Cobble Hill. We pedaled through Brooklyn Heights, and downtown Brooklyn, and finally came out at the new waterfront park. After some confusion, we made our way to the little beach between the bridges, whe Ben happily threw rocks into the East River for twenty minutes while I gulped water and rested.

We had a lovely time at the park, too. Aidan and Ben got to ride the carousel. For them, it was just a carousel ride, but for us grownups, it’s an experience. Jane’s Carousel is in a clear plastic enclosure on the East River, to protect it from the weather. It is an exquisitely restored carousel that was orginally commissioned, like a work of art, for the then prosperous city of Youngstown, OH, in 1922. The horses are beautifully carved and painted, the floor is honey-colored wood, and even the ceiling is gorgeously detailed, painted with flowers and vines and butterflies. It’s a fantasy carousel, even more so because of where it’s located, across from Manhattan, with views of both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. The music it plays is from a pipe organ and an automated drum, and combined with the grass, the sunshine and all the happy families out for Mothers Day, it felt more like we were in a small town, part of a community, than in the big, impersonal city. It was just astonishingly beautiful, and it made Ben so happy to ride the carousel with his buddy.

After that though, we had to say our goodbyes and ride home. We followed the bike lanes back down through Red Hook, east into Carroll Gardens, down through Gowanus, over the canals, und the subway…and back to the start of the hill up to Park Slope. They don’t call it the Slope because it’s flat. It’s called Park Slope because there is a very long slope that leads up to the neighborhood. It’s just under a mile, five long streets, from 2nd Avenue to 7th Avenue. I shifted down several gears, and took it one street at a time. Unfortunately, by then, Ben was starting to get tired, hungry and crabby, and was whining that the hill would make him more tired. As I pushed the pedals, gasped for breath, and just tried to keep moving, i kept hearing “I’m tired, Mama. I don’t want to ride anymore,” and only the threat of walking (“I will stop this bike and we can both walk it home!”) got him to stop whining.

But we made it home successfully, albeit with slightly frayed nerves. And except for those last few minutes, it was a wonderful bonding experience. While that bonding is the best part of the rides, I also love that being on a bike lets Ben see the world around him. While we were riding through Cobble Hill, he suddenly observed, “These are pretty houses, Mama.”. And they were. We were in a section of brick town homes, some painted colors, some left reddish brown, and Ben noticed that. I want my baby to grow up to really notice and observe the world around him. Letting him see it from the back of my bike is worth every second of the ride up the Slope.