28 February 2019

The Movies

I don't think I've ever been identified as a cinephile.  Sure, if I like a film I will talk about it, and possibly analyze it, but it's not a deep passion, not the way books and certain TV shows are for me.  Still, as a child, going to the movies was one of life's greatest pleasures.  We had a theater just two blocks away, so it wasn't a hassle to get there, and when I was a little older and IMAX type, stadium seating developed, it meant a fun trip to the city or maybe Forest Hills, each of which was a little different, and really it didn't take much to get excited about even the most mediocre movie.

In the past decade I rarely go to the movie theater.  I didn't suddenly fall out of love with the experience, but I find there's so many reasons to stay away, and wait for its release on the streaming sites.  That actually leads to the first reason:

Shorter wait: When Titanic came out at the end of 1997 I saw it four times in the theater.  I never do that anymore.  It played in the theater for months, and then it came out on VHS in September of 1998.  I remember this specifically because I held on the receipt for sentimental reasons: I purchased the video in the Borders located in the World Trade Center.  I'll never let go of that receipt!  The point is that if I didn't see the movie in the theaters, I would have had to wait 9 months to see it, and if I hadn't bought it, I would have probably have had to wait til I could get it at Blockbuster, which could take forever.  The only film I saw last year in the theater was Bohemian Rhapsody.  It was available digitally less than three months after its theater release date.  Hence, I normally just wait.

But what about spoilers? you may ask.  Yes, what about them?  When the last Avengers movie came out, it was released first in the UK.  I was checking a group I follow on Facebook, one that has nothing to do with movies, and before I realized what I was reading, some lovely person had posted all the spoilers for that movie.  Now I didn't want to bother spending the money.  That brings us to point 2:

Is It Worth It? The price of a ticket locally is $16.40.  Ouch.  What if I didn't like the movie?  There's no refund.  And that's not counting snacks or dinner afterward.  As a single person that's enough of an expense, but imagine paying for a family?  I know that box office earnings influence marketing and future film making, but I can't fork over cash to help a statistic.  If I wait a few months, the movie, whether I like it or not, will likely be available on one of the streaming sites I subscribe to...

Stream Away: I subscribe to a number of services that offer enough movies, new and old, to satisfy my viewing needs.  It's too much, and I know I spend enough time watching stuff, but it's still a better value.

Crowds!!!  I admit that sometimes, watching a superhero movie with an audience, and hearing their reaction along with my own, can be fun.  Overall, though, I don't care for sitting in crowds, and prefer to sit on an aisle, which is normally not the best angle, and not guaranteed in a popular movie.  When I saw Bohemian Rhapsody I picked a theater that had reserved seating, which is a good idea, until you find that someone is sitting in your seat.  Somehow I had the courage (foolhardiness?) to ask the guy to move, but even that action took away some of the enjoyment.  Then there's the other noises that are unwelcome - like conversation, chewing, babies crying, that as I get older bring out the crabby in me to a higher degree.  It's a shame.  

Leaving the house: This can work for and against going to the movies.  On a rainy day off, it's nice to make a pillow fort and catch up on some Netflix, rather than sitting a soggy self on a carpeted chair, placing umbrella on a sticky floor.  BUT it can also be fun to use the movies as an excuse to get out of the house.  This depends on one's current mood.

Ah!  But what about the 'surround sound', the huge screens, the special effects and 3D?  Yes, it's cool, but I also think these can be overwhelming.  Again, that's me.  I have sensory issues. I'm still not sure if the migraine I got the day after seeing Avatar in 3D came from the movie or the cheap champagne I tried later on.  I don't care for 3D because it costs extra, and I don't like putting glasses on top of my glasses.  No, I don't want to put on contact lenses so I can look cute in the dark!

To bring this around to my central theme of tea - it's terribly awkward to take tea in a theater.  There's also the matter of not being able to pause for the inevitable bathroom break.  We need intermissions, like they have in Bollywood films.  

I'm obviously not anti-theater, but I prefer to limit my visits to absolute must-sees (or a free ticket, but sometimes not even then if I'm not in the mood.)  I can compare my preferences to going to the beach.  I like it, but once or twice a year is more than enough for me.

Viewing is better when there's a cat atop oneself.

26 February 2019

Taking Coffee With Catherine: Anxiety Woman Goes to Bird & Branch

I must have expressed on this blog, at least once, my disdain for Times Square.  I didn't mind it so much when I was younger, but it gets all the more irritating to pass as I live on.  I cannot control myself from saying "Nope,", and "I don't want to be here", when I find myself passing the area.    It's an artificially lit outdoor crowded circus: what's to like?  And I mean the clown kind of circus, not the Piccadilly kind, though I've gone off Piccadilly Circus nowadays as well.  IF I'm seeing a Broadway show, I must go there as a necessary evil, but even then I'd rather not linger outdoors.

There are a few side streets off Times Square that I can tolerate, because side streets in general are usually by nature quieter, even with theatergoer spillage.  So, to find a cafe right in "Hell's Kitchen" that is not (yet) a chain, and had welcoming space to sit and relax and have my cheat coffee, was a life bonus.  Welcome to Bird & Branch!

I think I've mentioned my cheat coffee days before.  Though I love tea, sometimes I crave coffee, but it rarely agrees with me.  I try to have a latte of some sort once a month, so the craving is settled, but my health isn't destroyed.  On this occasion, I was suffering from the remains of another cold - the gross kind where dairy is out of the question.  So I chose a Blackbird, a signature drink of theirs that contains macadamia milk and blackberry syrup.  It was gorgeous, though I will say you have to be in the mood for that blackberry flavor.

Just me, a fox. and a bird living in harmony.

When I arrived, there were a few people on one side of the shop, and an empty table that could sit four people comfortably.  As always, I prefer to sit in a less populated spot, and with my need to blow my nose grossly, I thought a slight quarantine would be best.

I felt as if I were far removed from the busiest part of Midtown.  Got some writing done, felt like I was on a mini-vacation...until a man and his daughter? came and sat down at my table without asking.  Why do people do this?  There was at least one other table open, but they had to just plop down during non-rush hour and spoil my peace.  Without asking.

Do I expect too much?  Possibly, but it just took me out of my happy mood.  I just don't get why people can't even ask.  It's making my efforts to find nice cafes in New York nearly impossible.  How do they know I'm not contagious?  (I might have been, the cold was a few days old at that point.)  Also, what if I'm meeting someone?  I just don't understand the lack of courtesy.  I never will.

I do want to return, to try their pastries which looked amazing, and their tea because I must.  I'll just have to get one of the smaller tables or learn how to give Zenobia-like looks of death (not that that deters Freddie, so never mind.)

If you're not a complete neurotic like me, or even if you are, do visit Bird & Branch if you're in the area.  The name itself makes it worth it, as does its menu.

Love planty plants in my cafes.

Pretty and pristine at once.


07 February 2019


As y'all now by now, my sister Bonnie lives in Texas.  Surprisingly (to me, anyway) there are many, many coffee destinations, which also tends to translate to tea destinations.  That's because these places likely carry decent brands of tea, so although they may focus on the coffee, you can be like me and get a nice herbal blend, or even a decent Breakfast blend, and a pastry, and curl up with a book to pass the time. 

My sister knows how much I love this, and even more so, she knows how much I love places that aren't overwhelming.  So when she texted me about a new spot she visited, she said "they have a good tea selection too and some real cozy nooks", I nearly booked a ticket right then and there.

She's not the only one who knows how to lure me.  My good friend in Florida shared a picture from Instagram of a cafe with walls full of books.    That and being tired of the winter sorely tempted me to check my miles (which are much lower than they should be.)

I'm not really in the mood for travel at the moment, though.  I've had some changes at work recently, which I haven't come to terms with mentally.  Did I mention I don't like change?  The cats at home are still not best friends, so I don't want anyone else to have to deal with them yet.  My finances are pretty sad, and though a No-Spend month/year has proven difficult to carry out, I've cut down on quite a lot of unnecessary shopping.  Food and cat items are enough to knock my budget senseless!  Even so, I'm desperate for warm, cozy, snug, relaxed moments, and though I get a few of these at home when the kitties are both napping, I find a decided lack outdoors.

I get that I live in one of the busiest cities in the world.  It doesn't make for easy locating of snug hole-in-the-wall cafes.  I keep looking.  Note I said snug, not smug.  That I can find in spades.

Madame Sou Sou is not a bad choice.  It's a little pastry cafe two blocks from the Astoria Bookshop, but each time I've stopped by, despite it nearly always being the weekend, I manage to find a nice table in the corner.  Even when there are plenty of people there, it doesn't feel oppressive.  And so far I've liked everything I ordered from there.  I'm afraid to devote a whole post on this cafe, because if it catches on too much it'll become...the dreaded word...packed.

So I'll whine on.

Some people love a bustling cafe.  Lots of chatter, people to and fro, and caffeine!  For me, this is the recipe for a panic attack.  I hate loud voices, chewing noises, and blaring music.  I firmly dislike being brushed against as I'm trying to read or write.  It's bad enough I have to deal with this on my commute.  The problem is that this is almost inescapable in New York.  If you've found a quiet table, someone will want to share the table with you.  If you're reading, the guy at the next table will want to talk about what you're reading.  Though I can't say I've never initiated a conversation out of doors, it's often not what I'm after when I'm on my own.

Of course, some of this problem is down to real estate, because what else is new?  It is difficult to open and maintain a business profitably because most businesses rent, and rent in New York is ridiculously high, both for residences and shops.  So a cafe, for example, can't always offer the luxury of opening a place full of tables with their own elbow space, and cozy enclaves.  I get that.  I don't like it, but I get it.  Recently I tried out Ateaz in the Upper East Side.  Its widest appeal for me was that it had a decent amount of stretching room, and tables by the window where you could both people watch and be away from actual people.  I visited in the evening, which means it may be more populated at different times, but this at least was a plus for them.  I didn't care for their spinach pie, but I'm from Astoria, so the bar is set high for me (spanakopita!)

This is not something affecting my daily quality of life, but it would be just fantastic if I could map out more tea/coffee spots that are friendly to my senses.  Bonnie has done this for me in San Antonio - everything is bigger in Texas, but in spacing things out you end up finding privacy - but the struggle continues in New York.   It's not always easy in London, either, and I wouldn't mind having ample opportunity to find some real cozy nooks there!  Alas, the budget.

Suggestions are welcome.

The big advantage of San Antonio is bigness.