Someone once asked me if I am like a shark—if I stop moving, will I die? Which is to say, I have never been one for being idle. But this time, I may have outdone myself. Right now, I am simultaneously a full-time student and a full-time employee. Score, I have created a monstrosity that will truly screw with BLS unemployment statistics.
The past couple weeks in a nutshell: on March 4th, section B of the UNISG Food Culture & Communication masters program had their last day of classes. Booze was drunk. Tears were wept. Food was deep-fried. I packed my bags and flew to New York on March 7th. The next day, I went in for a job interview with Fresh, whose blog I had been writing for the last month. After a few more discussions, I landed a job on March 11th. Work started on the 14th, and I’ve been a working stiff ever since, for eight hours a day. Did I mention I still have this thing called a thesis to write by May 6th? Good thing I thrive on time pressure.
Meanwhile, I have been setting up life in a whole new world on the left side of the pond. The current digs are in Park Slope, a bastion of flaming liberal yuppies, fitness nuts running through Prospect Park and overprotective moms with posh baby strollers. In other words, these are my people. I’m just a few blocks away from the infamous Park Slope Food Coop (more on that later) and people constantly give away books on the sidewalks, anything from Shonen Jump magazines to analysis textbooks.
My one major hang-up: the “kitchen” is an illusory carnival of horrors. A friend commented that me living with this kitchen is like a CS major moving into a flat without internet access. How I yearn for counter space.
Luckily, unlike small-town Italy, there are myriad options for dining out and ordering in. I can satiate cravings any time I want. No more fussing around with stores that are closed between noon and 4 pm, on Sundays, Mondays and during the month of August. And they’ll even deliver food right to your doorstep. The convenience is mind-blowing; no wonder cooking is a dying art in America. Furthermore, I can get any ingredient I goddamn want. As I stood in Chinatown, clutching a bánh mì sandwich and ogling piles of avocados, star fruit and mangoes, chills of cathartic abundance were running down my spine. No need to hoard cilantro any more!
Then there’s all the life that wells up naturally in an urban center. Asking people what they did last weekend is actually interesting. A workshop on nettle infusions? You got it. A talk by Ira Glass on long-form storytelling? Sure thing.
You don’t even have to be looking for things to do. By chance, I walked into the Brooklyn Public Library just as Trevor Corson was about to speak. Corson is the author of two prominent books involving food: The Secret Life of Lobsters and The Story of Sushi. In short order, I learned that lobsters communicate by expelling urine from bladders located on the sides of their heads, and that female lobsters usually mate right after they’ve molted, when they are at their slowest and most vulnerable. Meanwhile, the male lobster eats the molted shell. If that doesn’t scream romance, then I don’t know what does.
Ah yes, I forgot to talk about my job. For all my friends who had a difficult time explaining what exactly I was studying in grad school, I’m afraid my job is going to be no easier on the ears. I am the new director of distribution and campaigns for Fresh, a media advocacy group. I support sustainable food systems through film education, organize petitions and campaigns to influence legislation, and provide information on real food to the Fresh community. I manage film screenings, keep abreast of the latest news on our food system, and fight to keep our website updated and compliant with Internet Explorer (wince). And when all is said and done, I feel like I am making a difference in the world.
One of the coolest aspects of this job is the location. Our office is part of the Brooklyn Creative League, a shared office space in Park Slope. (That makes my commute just 15 min of walking or 5 min of biking.) The BCL houses a wide variety of lawyers, architects, writers, film producers and more. Hanging out by the water cooler, I’ve met a freelance radio producer, a guy who is friends with Mark Bittman‘s nephew and a woman who writes for Vanity Fair. Every Wednesday, the office hosts communal salad lunches, where everyone brings one ingredient and we toss everything into salads. The bulletin board is covered with flyers for yoga classes, publishing tips and CSA sign-ups. Downstairs, the building houses Film Biz Recycling, which takes props and materials from movie sets, theater productions and department store windows and reuses or resells the products. Turns out that those (perfectly good) materials usually just get tossed.
In other words, this is hipster heaven. And for all you hipster-haters out there, well, if this is what it feels like to be wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
I do, however, want to sleep.