All autumn long I’ve been bracing myself for yet another cold winter in the land where Canadian and American coins mingle without any distinction, where ice is oh so nice when it’s in your glass but not spread across your driveway. Expecting a long, cold dreary season, I thought it best to retreat, to take a little respite from blogging, and to regroup. Now that January comes to a close and I am knee deep in layer upon layer, I am ready to focus on what’s really important — beer and blogging.
I am very fortunate to live in a beer town, a place that knows and appreciates a good brew. Take for instance, the limited edition of Boxing Day Bitter by Middle Ages Brewing Co., an amber ale, bittered with British and American hops. It only lasts about two months, and I made sure to get some before it runs out. Nothing says winter in Central New York better than a Boxing Day Bitter. Just what the doctor ordered.
The winter so far has been surprisingly mild and unexpectedly bearable. Maybe it’s the beer or perhaps it’s all the recent traveling to my dear places of Miami and New York. During a rare cold South Florida spell, nothing is better than a $4 bottle of IPA at Zeke’s on Lincoln Road. Correction: free Yuengling’s at Coral Gables’ The Bar isn’t so bad either. Nothing can top drinking a Warsteiner Dunkel out of Das Boot without trying to avoid those pesky air bubbles at the bottom!
Seriously, what really mattered most was being back home. Funny, I left South Florida a little over a year ago, and I still consider myself a Floridian. When I meet people, I naturally tell them I am from Miami, without any thought that this fact is slowly slipping away. I officially reentered the citizenry of New Yorkdom when I turned in my Florida drivers license and plates; when I began to adopt the Midwestern tinge of a Central New York accent; when I stopped calling my friends “mamitas” and no longer spoke in my choppy Spanglish. To go back to Miami is to step into a comfortable role, to spend time with dear friends, to drink out of glass boots and dance to funky vibes and try to maintain a sense of decorum. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but the scene remains the same, at least for now.
Another home away from home is New York City. While I’m sure that many people from all over feel this way, I am truly in my element when my feet step on the concrete and I walk through the city. From Washington Heights to Midtown to the Village, I walk with a smile on the inside. Nostalgia hits me when I walk in my former neighborhood and pass by my old apartment building between Broadway and Amsterdam. Since I’ve moved closer to New York, it’s now easier for me to visit at my leisure. While I miss the Florida sun, I think I missed New York more while I was down there.
Now that I’m back, I am able to explore the nooks and crannies of pub and beer life, urban style.Looking for a place with a great draft selection and with enough televisions to watch college basketball, I found Stout, located near Madison Square Garden. I’m able to enjoy just about anything I can think of, eat a good chicken wing or two, and watch the game while surrounded by a lively crowd. I think Stout is my new ‘place,’ for every time I’m in the city, one way or another I end up there.
I truly stumbled upon a gem in Chelsea, by the name of Peter McManus Café. Unpretentious, seriously Irish New York, and yet again, a pretty damn good chicken wing or two. So I drank a few Yuenglings, decent beers but nothing that blew my mind. What did impress me was the bartender John, who made me feel right at home, charged my cell phone as it was dying, and even gave me a shot of Jameson’s and wished me well as I was on my journey back home to Upstate. Next time I’m in New York, I’ll add McManus to my growing list along with the Cupping Room Café, where that Old Speckled Hen hit the right spot and warmed me up for a Blue Point.
So as I reminisce with old friends and revisit the places where we got into trouble and dance like we used to, my connections with them take on a new life of their own, and what’s old is new. As I accept the cold and dreary fact of life that is in Upstate New York, I enjoy the company of new friends over a $5 pitcher of Yuengling at a dive campus bar, eat a yummy burger and carve out a little niche that I call home. Winter isn’t so bad after all.