Bus route

I’m at the M79 bus stop on Amsterdam Avenue, where the bus has to hang a left turn before heading crosstown. An elderly couple walks up to the stop, haltingly, looking around a lot, loitering in the street.

Her: “Is this the bus stop?”

Him: “Yes, it is.”

“Do you think this is the one that goes across town?”

“Yes, this is it.”

“It’s a funny stop.”

“I guess it is.”

They look around some more.

The wife turns to me. “Does this bus go across town?”

“Yes,” I say, “this is the crosstown bus.”

“Thank you,” she says.

She turns back to her husband, who looks at her, impassively.

Her: “I believed you…!”

The Carnegie Deli

I have a thing for Jewish delicatessens. I’ve enjoyed many a deli sandwich over the years, from my formative days at Eppes Essen in Livingston, New Jersey, to once-a-year visits to the Stage before a Broadway show, to breaking Passover at Yachabebe, the one Jewish deli in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Jersey-style sloppy joe sandwiches from Nana’s, to far-too-few Second Avenue Deli visits, to greasy indulgent deliveries from Sarge’s, to once-a-year visits to Rein’s Deli in northern Connecticut, to semi-regular visits to Artie’s up the street from my apartment, to delicious off-hours runs to the legendary Katz’s on the Lower East Side. They’re all delicious in their own way.

Yet none of them resonates with me like the Carnegie did. I’m not entirely sure why. My personal history ran through all of its competitors. I didn’t go all that often. But as I got to know what makes a great deli, and a great deli sandwich, my go-to became corned beef at the Carnegie, as often as I could justify it.

When I worked in the neighborhood, I used to round up a group of coworkers for take-out every month or so. I’d stop in with friends from out of town, and occasionally with family. My wife and I had our rehearsal dinner in the back room the night before our wedding–Sandy, the manager (his business card read “M.B.D.” What’s that, you’d ask him? “Married the Boss’s Daughter,” he’d say with a wink), gave us a strict time window and told us to just order off the menu. In true New York deli fashion, at the end of our booking window the restaurant was seating new customers in the space before we even vacated the room.

New York being New York, change is inevitable, and so tomorrow is the Carnegie’s last day in business. I’m irrationally sad and have been pining for a sandwich since I heard the news. But then, I was last there in 2015, and I haven’t made it there in the three month farewell window. Sandy, our one personal connection, went through an ugly divorce from Marian, the owner (and “boss’s daughter”), several years ago. They closed the back room a ways back, and most of my Carnegie meals have been take-out, anyway.

Besides, there will be more deli in my future. As I write this, my parents and children are on the way to Artie’s to pick up some lunch (having been unable to get through to the Carnegie by phone to place an order today). The Carnegie still inexplicably and deliciously runs a food stand at Madison Square Garden. I’ll get back to Katz’s soon. And I’ll find other delicious corned beef, I’m sure. Heck, my wife’s cousins own the Mill Basin Deli, which I have yet to visit; hopefully the next time I scratch my corned beef itch, I do it in Brooklyn.

Still, I had a soft spot in my heart for the Carnegie, with its true New York flavor, both metaphorically and literally. It will be missed.

For an even better farewell, read Jake Dell’s farewell letter to the Carnegie in the New York Times, especially the last line.

The year in cities, 2016

Now in its twelfth year, I’m listing in this space all the places I went in 2016 and spent the night. Repeat visits denoted with an asterisk. (I’m already excited for next year.)

New York *
Lake Buena Vista, FL *
Palm Beach Gardens, FL *
Las Vegas, NV *
New City, NY *
Livingston, NJ *
Winter Haven, FL
Longboat Key, FL *
Denver, CO *
Saratoga Springs, NY
Bolton Landing, NY
Portland, ME
Gloucester, MA *
Edgartown, MA *

Ten years of the Line Diet

In early 2006, I was working a suit-and-tie job in the beauty industry, and I felt fat. Well, really, I was fat: I’d climbed back to the highest weight of my life, matching my high in the winter of 2001. That first time, it resulted in a two-week crash diet to fit into a tuxedo for a wedding, which led to six months of powerful weight loss, and I found myself thirty pounds lighter and thrilled.

In ’06, I lacked some of the motivations I had five years earlier, but I still wanted to work on my weight. I decided that I’d keep myself honest by weighing myself every day. And I put my weigh-ins into an Excel spreadsheet when I got into work each day so I could visualize my progress. I put “challenge” in the filename as an encouragement.

I’ve been jotting down my weight ever since, and in the same Excel file throughout. In 2009, a website and app called the Line Diet popularized this method of dieting, but I just kept at my spreadsheet, adding a fresh tab every now and again, and noting my weight whenever I stepped on the scale. I’m still at it: my last weigh-in was on Wednesday, and it’s in the file.

The other day I realized I had accumulated a full decade of health data in one place. So I pulled my charts into a single sheet to see how I’ve done with my weight.

The most interesting thing to me is that it’s not very interesting. I haven’t had any truly aggressive diets in a long time, so the recent years lack the big drops I had early on. And when my weight gets out of hand, I tend to abandon the scale, so the high end of my data is muted. (There’s interesting stuff hiding in there, though. For example, if you look closely, you can find the blank section where I went off the rails and gained 16 pounds in four months.)

The weigh-ins I do have show that I’ve basically stayed in the same 15-pound band for the past ten years. Not bad! And since my last truly heavy stretch, I’ve managed to lose more than 10 pounds and keep them off. This calendar year, in fact, my weight has tracked steadily downward.

More importantly, while I haven’t gotten back to skinny just yet, I’ve done well at keeping my weight in check. As of Wednesday, I was back within 10 pounds of what I weighed when I graduated high school, 25 years ago—not yet the slender guy from 2001, but a pretty good place to be. And thanks to my trusty Excel spreadsheet, I’m motivated again to try and get there.