I always love random conversations in line with strangers – for the most part. There was the time that I met an older couple, the man was a retired teacher, and we spoke about life and age and things I can’t remember. But it was pleasant and helped to pass the time.
Another time I was in line at Safeway in Canton buying a toothbrush. (I later learned this is the “pick-up” Safeway.) I met a German fellow who was voicing his complaints about the crime in Baltimore and how certainly other places like DC must be better. I ended up telling him about the character of Baltimore and the uniqueness of the people. People in Baltimore are rude in a very sincere, but unvicious way. It’s hard to describe, but somehow their rudeness is more pleasant than in DC. Then he bought me my toothbrush, since he seemed to appreciate the conversation or… something else. Heh.
While I was standing in line at Papaya Dog, I had one of my more favorite conversations. This time it was with an older gentleman. I usually love overhearing older people conversations, particularly snarky lines uttered under one’s breath by the husband of a nagging wife. He was talking to me and another older man about how it was his weekly treat to get the special. He was saying how he used to sit on the bench on the corner, eat his dog and watch the women. The other guy asked that his wife let him look. He responded, of course I can look. I replied well, as long as you don’t touch. He said, “Well when you’ve got the best, you don’t need the rest.”
You never know what you can learn.
With a location that reminds me of the troll under the bridge… right past the bridge on Calvert St. NW, Mama Ayesha’s is definitely a unique place. The decor is fascinating and in some cases down right beautiful. The deep reds remind me of entering the womb or perhaps Jeannie’s lamp, but it is soothing rather than frightening. There are intricate silver globes suspended from the ceiling and the strange piece of regular piping with holes punched in to simulate a water fall.
I ordered the shish kebab and my companion, M., ordered the kibbeh. The kebab initially came out cooked too rare to my tastes. They took it back and likely refired it. Some bits came out a bit charred, which may have hurt the efforts of any herbs and flavors on the outside. It was much like eating most other lamb, and would have benefited from increased tartness from better roasted vegetables and tomatoes or yogurt. I had a bite of M’s kibbeh, which is a ground lamb dish. While flavorful, it was chock full of what felt like filler or perhaps overzealously ground lamb.
Our server was indifferent, except when trying to upsell us on appetizers, drinks and dessert in rather obvious and irritating way. It was evident that he was not incredibly concerned with our dining experience. However, the person who delivered our meal was extremely pleasant and nice. I’ve heard that the service is great there, so perhaps we were just unfortunate in our server for the evening.
Having visited numerous cheap kebab shops, this was nothing special. At $16 a pop, a person would be better off heading to Food Factory or Moby Dick’s where the food is better. Granted you will not have the gorgeous atmosphere the restaurant provides.
<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/7/103770/Washington/Woodley-Park/Mama-Ayeshas.html”><img src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/logo/103770/minilogo.gif” alt=”Mama Ayesha’s in Washington” width=”104″ height=”15″/></a>
The classic cheap dog place is Grey’s Papaya. I wasn’t near enough to sample their fare, but I did make it to Papaya Dog (twice!) in one day. The first time was near Broadway in midtown. I ordered one dog with sauerkraut, mustard and ketchup with a papaya juice. I know dog purists say never put ketchup on a dog, but sometimes I like the sweet/tart contrast it provides to the bitter spice of a good mustard. The sauerkraut was not as sour as I anticipated and really made the dog excellent. The dog has a nice bite due to the natural casings. The second time around I had one dog that only had mustard and ketchup (due to ordering confusion) and it was definitely lacking without the accoutrements.
The true surprise was the papaya juice. My parents always love to make me eat papaya because it is so healthy. However, I’ve always found it to be flavorless and cloying. This juice was creamy with a hint of tartness. I could still make out the flavor of papaya, but it was not the gross flavor of the, perhaps, overripe fruits of home. The second visit yielded mango juice, which though creamy did not really accurately capture the wonderful flavors that a truly good mango can provide or those of vitasoy’s excellent mango juice boxes.
Still you cannot do better on a budget in New York – two dogs and a 16 oz. juice (other options include grapeade, pina colada and strawberry banana) only run you $3.
There’s so much to say about the trip to New York. A culture so different from the cookie-cutter nature of DC. Certainly there are those men and women who emulate the snottyness of Sex and the City, trying to one up each other in fashion and riches. But then there are women who lean out their windows to people watch and chat with one another (like 227!). Subway stations that have unique art and sometimes sculpture (ears sticking out of walls). Strange women with shark cars selling strange hats. Men wearing Ugg boots. Halal kebab food carts. Stores devoted solely to skeins of beautiful yarn in every color of the rainbow stacked along entire walls. Strange and foreign looking fabrics tacked to walls. Then there was the surreal almost Robert Doisneau-like image of a man walking down the street loaded with bags of cotton candy. What made it even more amusing was a conversation between a mother and a child… similar to many that I’ve heard in the store before.
Child: What is that?
Mom: I think they’re puffers or… flags. They’re flags.
Child: It looks like cotton candy to me.
Mom: No, it’s not cotton candy.
Most trips are planned with specific destinations in mind. Things are thought out; books and web sites are consulted. Not this time. The decisive moment came during a discussion about Beauty and the Geek, and ended with an insane desire to purchase clothes at my favorite store, Uni qlo.
I hopped on the bus, and sat behind two rather large ladies. And I sort of think they went to the bus bathroom together or something scary like that. The fellow next to me related to the person on the other end of his phone that he was a “young black rock star.”
Friday was filled with shopping and food. I went to my treasured Uni Qlo with its stacks of beautifully colored sweaters stacked to the high ceilings. At Pinkberry I saw an Asian man wearing Ugg boots. At the Blue Note jazz club later that evening we sat at the table next to the music reviewer from the Village Voice. They played Lush Life, one of my favorite Coltrane songs. I like old, twitchy drummers.
Wandered through town and stumbled upon the Candle Building, which is sheer street art amazingness.
Worst nightmare came to life. Trapped in Greyhound bus bathroom. Was saved by brute strength of Israeli soldier who ripped the door off the tracks. Hysterical laughter ensues.
Reviews of eating to come. More Candle Building info here: NY Times article