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Posts filed under ‘Food’

April 3, 2012

Veselka Incidents

NEW YORK, April 2 – I had a good reading at St. Marks Books. Exploded View Quarterly’s Jesse Pearson introduced me with several amusingly embarrassing vignettes from my past, including the sad tale of how I completely blew him off in 2005. I met a lot of interesting people. Many of my old New Jersey friends came out. Fader Magazine did a pleasant press thing. No skinheads beat me up.

Afterwards, me and a dozen other people from my past mutually decided we were hungry, so we all walked one block to Veselka, the Ukrainian diner that has stood on 2nd Ave for longer than 2nd Ave has existed. The restaurant’s Bloomberg-era renovations—better lighting, large Easter Egg wall decorations, the removal of a grubby back dining area—reflect not just NYC’s economic triumph, but also Veselka’s triumph over its nearby rival diners, Kiev and Odessa. Have Kiev and Odessa also remodeled? Doesn’t matter. No one I know eats there anymore.

As we all sat there celebrating my beating-free reading, I was struck by how many meals I’d eaten in this restaurant over the years. I compiled a list of notable incidents:

- In 1992, I left my table to use the men’s room, and when I returned the friend I was sitting with told me he’d leafed through my notebook of “terrible, embarrassing” lyrics. Later, I paid for his meal.

- Also in 1992, me and Neil Burke narrowly avoided a fistfight with a mustachioed New Jersey man. Neither of us can now remember what the fight had almost been about.

- In spring 1993, I was eating with a friend near the front door when a gang member we both knew—and we’d thought was imprisoned for life on a fairly airtight murder charge—walked through the door and sat down at the next table. We hurriedly finished our dinner and scurried out. Someday, when I am very old and living in a well-guarded space colony, I will perhaps write about this gang.

– In spring 2001, post concert, I ended up sitting at a table next to Drive Like Jehu / Hot Snakes / Obits frontman Rick Froberg and badgered him with compliments through my not-so-comically blown out frog voice. It was awkward.

- In early 2009, after an uneventful Veselka meal, I found myself crouched on the stoop next door, sobbing through a panic attack. Later, I gathered myself together enough to meet friends at a different restaurant, where my retelling of the panic attack failed to generate any chuckles. That was awkward too.

- In 2011, I ate a particularly nightmarish meal that resulted in a near catastrophe a few blocks and hours away. Later, I made some money writing about this incident.

- Also, Neil tells me of a Veselka’s meal where we watched a pre-teen steal his bicycle seat through the large window. Neil ran out, unchained his bike, and, seatless, chased the perp down and got his seat back. The rest of the meal apparently continued incident-free. I have no recollection of this.