I said I would try something new; something off the beaten path of familiarity that I so often re-visit. I was searching for something completely different on the outside and hoping that it might lead me to something comforting on the inside. So I finally agreed to check out Brooklyn and I agreed to let him lead the way. He said we would have a good time, that I should relax and enjoy myself. And off we went, as I accepted the offer, threw caution to the wind and demolished all expectations for adventures with strangers.
139 North 6th Street – On the first night, we arrived at a most interesting location with a plastic dolphin overhead and a hanging surfboard bearing the name “Surf Bar.” The inside was just as intriguing, with lava lamps and decorated with bikini-clad Barbie dolls under a ceiling held together with more surfboards. With my first step, my rhinestone-studded peep toe pumps sank into a foot of sand. While swallowing a micro panic attack, I reminded myself that tonight was not about me. It was about what lay beyond and I was going to accept all things that came my way. Amused with my inexperience here, my date reassured me and sat me next to him at the bar. We ordered a green concoction served to us in massive goblets. They were Frozen Coconut Mojitos, and they were delicious. Despite being peculiar in appearance, this minty, fruity-sweet cocktail was the perfect beginning to our night. After all, frozen drinks are all the more refreshing in neon colors.
We discussed the crowds and the atmosphere. Our conversation was casual and seemed to parallel the venue with its quirkiness, sometimes growing more intimate with each other like the darker corners of the small, enclosed dining area, then with a splash of humor like the misplaced, checkered table cloths. After a few more frozen, grass colored tropical beverages, I developed a sincere appreciation for this intentionally eccentric Californian restaurant/bar. My date had finally elicited a confession from me that this certainly would never have been a venue of my choice, yet my toes were buried in the sand, happily wiggling around as I sat on a wooden bar stool enthusiastically immersed in random conversation. I looked at Malibu Barbie straddling her coconut on the bar top and thought, you know what, Barbie? I like your corner of the world here, with your casual, shoe-free kind. And I smiled at my date as I made a mental note to return to this little Brooklyn neighborhood.
114 North 6th Street – It didn’t take long before we were headed back to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I accepted his invitation for this night more willingly than I had the previous one, determined to prove to myself I had no boundaries, that I was willing and able to conquer any type of environment and crowd and, most of all, because I wanted to embody the diversity that I craved. Disco balls and bulbous swinging seats greeted us as we walked into Sea restaurant. The DJ was spinning under red and violet lights. A golden Buddha stood at the end of a long, narrow Koi pond luring us in. My date ordered a round of Lychee martinis to match the ambiance, mixing up Eastern culture and cuisine.
With dinner as the main act of the night, we seated ourselves comfortably and took our time choosing tasty Thai fusion items from the menu. I was surprised at his deftness in ordering Thai dishes and what might have been a hidden penchant for Asian tastes; that of course, being my favorite cuisine of them all. As our plates began arriving one after the other, we continually polished them off while I dared him to name which world region’s cuisine reigned supreme. We debated the dexterity of ancient Eastern cultures versus the creativity of European modernists. I was impressed. As I licked the tamarind chili sauce off my fingers from my last chicken wing, I acknowledged another successful night without the weight of expectations. I could have sworn Golden Buddha winked at me. It never ceases to amaze me where, or within whom, a kindred spirit might hide.
83 North 7th Street – It was date no. 3. Brushing off suggestions for Manhattan neighborhoods, I proudly proclaimed I was looking forward to another adventure (and my next discovery) in Williamsburg (having managed to just begin digesting the personality of the borough that is Brooklyn). This time we strolled up to an unassuming brick building with an unmarked entrance on the corner. Humble in its appearance, I was itching to find out what lay on the other side of the door. I glanced at my date for a clue as he held the door open for me. Stepping in, it immediately felt as if the backdrop of Williamsburg disappeared behind us, leading us through a portal into old world Italy. The close quarters and low ceilings of the dining area in the foyer of D.O.C. Wine Bar simulated meal time at an Italian neighbor’s 19th century home. Charmed by its Old World magic, I eagerly browsed my parchment paper menu by candle light, my curiosity growing as I was unable to decipher any of the handwritten Italian.
My well-mannered date, chivalrous as always, ordered us a red and white wine special to start the night off with. I let him take the lead in ordering our meat and cheese selections as I marveled over the antiquity in the décor. He offered a brief description of the menu items as he named our selections, my mouth watering as I tried to pronounce such things as Prosciutto Crudo di Parma, Cacciatorino and Caciotta Al Tartufo. It was romantic and disarming. Hidden away from the world in this modestly sized restaurant and wine bar, I never wanted to leave this moment that this establishment had crafted so well. Inside the ground level of a seemingly lackluster brick building, I had found my next “New York Favorite” as we sampled a mix of their exotic, savory items. As we toasted our glasses, I knew this little experiment of mine had succeeded. There was one solitary lemon to decorate our table, as if to remind us of the zest of life found in even the most quaint of places, as long as you’re willing to stop in for a visit.
As my third exploration of Brooklyn drew to a close, I walked up the steps to my Queens home and suddenly wondered, were my recent adventures truly experimental? Or had these opportunities been lying in wait all along? Who – or what exactly – was I giving a chance to? I decided, as I prepared to crawl under my covers, that boroughs outside of my own were certainly ok to delve into. I decided that, like my wardrobe, re-invention of the self is necessary and, more importantly, the unlikely crowds that lead you into your re-invented stages of life are certainly worth a second, third, or fourth chance. With tired satisfaction, I began planning my next excursion behind heavy eyelids and I knew just who I’d like to accompany me there on a hopeful fourth date.