Light at the end of the tunnel?

| 16 May 2016 | 03:36

East Side Encounters


A lease for life — The Second Avenue Subway has pretty much been the bane of the Upper East Side since the 1920s. Promises, promises about when there will be at the very least a light at the end of the tunnel — a functioning, operational subway. It’s nice (I guess) that the MTA has stationed a “Second Avenue Subway Community Center” in a storefront they lease on Second near 84th and 85th Streets. The knowledgeable staff gives talks and tours, explains delays and travails and the history and future of the almost century-old Second Avenue Subway project, which got “started” during the last Jazz Age. But it’s cold comfort to think that the MTA, after 100 years, is still talking about getting on track with the project and spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a landlord so that staffers can spin the delay. When I stopped by several months ago, I was told that the lease on the storefront was ending. Last time I looked, they were still there. Maybe it’s a lease with an option to renew, renew, renew. And maybe someone, not yet born, will be writing about it in 50 or 100 years from now.

Taking on the tabloids — Nothing like a NY tabloid. Screaming, sassy headlines. But how do you tell them apart? No mean feat, I found out when I tried to buy the New York Post at Duane Reade at 57th and Third. The multi-tier wire rack bears newspapers including the Post, the Daily News, the WSJ. I had read the News earlier in the day and wanted the Post. The newspaper rack stands alongside where you line up to pay. Long line waiting this early weekday evening. A staffer, seeing that I would stop at nothing to get the last Post — maybe even crashing the line — came to my rescue. Post on one rack. Daily News on another. He removed a paper from the rack and handed it to me. It was the News. I tried again. He gave me another News. Exasperated, I said that’s the News, not the Post. “It’s the same,” he insisted. This went on until I said, “Please take a paper from each rack and you’ll see that it’s not the same.” He did. And sure enough, we both were right — one said Daily News; the other New York Post. One up for moi. Both had almost identical headlines and photos. One up for him. ”See,” he said, “they’re both the same. Doesn’t matter which one you buy.” I assured him that even if he was right, I couldn’t read Cindy Adams in the News. “So let Murdoch put her on the front page, then you’ll know the difference.” OK.

Wet heads — The latest pitch around town is from hair salons offering a shampoo and haircut at a discount. Two ladies of a certain age were evaluating the offer. “You mean they wash your hair and no blow-dry,” one lady opined. “I never heard of such a thing. It’s a good thing my mother’s not around. She never let me go out with my head wet,” to which the other replied, “Hmm, my mother would send me to a dry bar for a blowout.” Sounds like the open and close of a generation’s gap.

Who gets the kids — Mom and three kids get on a crosstown bus. Kids start running to the back of the bus. Mom gets out her MetroCard. Uh oh. She has to pay outside or she can’t get on the bus. “Wait for me,” the harried mom shouted to the bus driver as she headed for the farebox. “If the light doesn’t change,” promised the charming driver. “But my kids, my kids are on the bus, don’t leave with my kids.” One of the kids, running to mom’s rescue, assured her, “Don’t worry mom, you can pick us up at the next stop. If you’re not there, we’re going home with him,” he said, pointing to the bus driver.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Bye-bye to a not-nice guy — One of my favorite restaurants is Beygolu, a Turkish restaurant, on the corner of Third and 81st. They are famous for fabulously fresh food, good wine, casual dining. My meze favorites are sucuk izgara — cumin- and garlic-spiced cured beef, taramasolota and hummus served with a puff of warm bread that’s unmatched, and mucvar (crisp zucchini pancakes with a soft mellow center). What they don’t have is a staple of most Turkish restaurants, haydari, a thick cream yogurt mixed with walnuts and garnished with dill. They do have cacik, also a yogurt dish, but with cucumber and mint. Doesn’t compare to haydari. I digress. Once owned by Orhan Yegen, a renowned Turkish chef, who opens fantastic restaurants, builds them up, and leaves. No loss. He’s a nasty guy. After leaving Beygolu, he opened Francela, a gourmet Turkish market, right next door to Beygolu, serving a similar menu for take-out. Among the take-outs is cacik. I asked Mr. Yegen, who was always around, if they had haydari. No, he said, they had cacik. I explained that I liked haydari because it’s mixed with walnuts. “Oh,” he said for all to hear, “she likes walnuts. I’ll buy her walnuts to throw in the cacik. No charge.” The good news: Francela’s has a store for rent sign in the window. Bye-bye Orhan Yegen better described as OY.