Monday, April 18, 2011

Housing Works Garden and Cookbook Sale

 Image: Housing Works

This just in from The Housing Works Bookstore.

What:   Spring sale! 30% off all cookbooks and gardening books.

Want to make sushi? Grow flowers? Bake cupcakes? Turn your fire escape into a farm? We’ve got hundreds of new and special stock books for all your food and garden needs, all on sale!

When:   April 22nd - 25th.

Housing Works Bookstore Café

126 Crosby St. btwn Houston and Prince

Phone: 212-334-3324     

Another reason to attend this sale: Crosby Street happens to be one of my favourite streets in New York. It is beautiful. Despite the uber-expensive apartments poised above it, at ground level it is still cobble stones and delivery entrances and vans offloading and fire escapes. It is long and narrow and empty enough to seem timeless and placeless,  yet it could be nowhere but New York, either. I used to walk down it at 7 in the morning, in sepia light, in my staff-issued Agnes B little black dress, on my way from the Broadway-Lafayette subway to my morning shift at Balthazar. I was fired from the same shift one day when I answered the phone sleepily from bed to have my manager demand irately, Where are you? Did you decide just to not show up?!

I was new to New York, I was working hard, if not effectively, waitressing and singing, I had just overcome my fear of the subway, and my work at Balthazar had made me fall in love with Crosby Street. I had scrambled my schedule. Being fired was a relief.

At Balthazar it was terribly stressful timing customers' eggs in the behemoth machine on the bar counter that boiled multiple eggs at once. Four customers, four or eight different eggs. Meryl Streep's daughters demanded that the chocolate bread be removed from the bread basket and drank a lot of Earl Grey tea. A male customer lingered with an outrageously large tip prominently displayed and was still there by the time my shift ended, asking in an oilsome way whether anyone had ever left me such a huge tip, and how about lunch. The busboys made no money and were cut in on our tips, which we pooled. When I went to fetch the money owed me, it had mysteriously disappeared. But I worked with nice people and many of them are still there.

I went to work at The French Roast on Park Avenue, open 24/7.

At The French Roast I worked lunches and nights and once had to return a plate to the kitchen three times to have the cooks remove the same little black hair. It kept turning up in a different place. It was a goats cheese salad. The customer was very patient. He also asked me out. Months later I collapsed in the bathroom in tears and could not carry on with my shift. That morning, my boyfriend who loved me more than anything else in the world, had at last, in the face of relentless questioning, confessed the extent of his cheating on me. A chorus girl in North Carolina. Her name was Sunshine.

Back in our building after work I sat at the foot of the stairs in the same little black dress which had switched allegiances nicely, and was unable to climb them. Later I heard Nina Simone's song and knew exactly what she meant. Oh stairs, you look so high tonight...Within ten days I had a tickle in my throat, and missed a crucial entrance in a complicated Bach Cantata with the Allentown Symphony. Whooping cough, as it turned out, contracted on the 6 train, uptown. A little boy, coughing his lungs out. A doctor in Cape Town, baffled by my symptoms, asked in exasperation, Well, what do you think you have? Cancer, or TB? Nice bedside manner.

I missed my vaccination booster when I was 15, dodging the session at school.

And that is how I landed up designing gardens! And that is how I found my Frenchman. I already had my cat. He saw it all.

I still love Balthazar. And Crosby Street.

I haven't been sick since. Not really. That was when I realized what our emotions can do to our bodies, if we let them. Change your whole life. Skipping vaccinations doesn't help, either.

About Housing Works:

The bookstore is staffed almost entirely by volunteers and 100% of its profits go to Housing Works, Inc., which provides housing, healthcare, job training, and advocacy for New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. As an independent cultural center, it offers patrons a unique opportunity to join the
fight against AIDS and homelessness simply by buying or donating books; eating at our cafe; coming to concerts, readings, and special events; or volunteering on our staff.

You can also read about Crosby Street in Richard Goodman's new book, A New York Memoir.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog today and you mentioned two of my most favourite shops and cafes. And when they're both together...heaven!

    I've just been writing about our Community Garden on my blog, which I helped to set up and is maintained by Volunteers, most of whom are quite severely disabled. So it was interesting to read about Housing Works.

  2. I'm so pleased you popped by and many thanks for the kind comments.

    We're keeping our fingers crossed for September!

  3. So true about emotions, stress does wonders for the bugs lying in wait. Whooping cough-ack!

    I received an email about the sale at Housing Works, although I did not post (lazy, busy, both).

    If I did post, I would've thought of w18th street, where I first worked after college, and during, in a lightbulb warehouse across the street from HW, and where I trudged daily to learn product codes for exit signs and lamp ballasts. That which I left, despite angry boss, to do rooftop gardening, saying goodbye to w18th st for good.

  4. Can one say gritty and charming in the same sentence? Well, this is!

    Housing Works, Montague St, inherited my NY boots, winter hats and gloves, sold me that lovely wool coat and some books and bits and pieces.

    And Crosby Street is all you invoke. :-)

  5. Now that is the kind of post I live for.

    Informative, witty, poignant and evocative.

    May i have some more please sir?


  6. Restaurants' loss is gardening's gain. I love it that you still have a "tip story" that you remember. I think everyone who has waited tables does.

    Design away... and take lots of pictures.

  7. Nicely done, Marie. I used to have an editor who said "leave out the personal" (this, after they told me they wanted my column to be first person and to say "I" all the time!). But you wound your own story so skilfully into the narrative about the street and the store, it hardly seemed like we were travelling back in time. And you sing??

  8. Stupid, stupid old boyfriend. Thanks for a wonderful story.

  9. Loved, loved this post! I felt I was there.

  10. Thank you everyone. The long-ago, sad Marie thanks you, too :-)


Comments left 4 days or later after a post's publish-date will be moderated (purely for spam control). Please be patient, you will be seen!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...