Stories From Greene Avenue

“I want to paint Montreal as a rather fantastic city, which it was, because nobody knows today what it was like. And I’m one of the last survivors, or rapidly becoming one.”
- Christopher Plummer, actor

December 28, 2011, Montreal: Nick’s Restaurant has been a staple on Greene Avenue since Nick Alevisatos first arrived in Montreal from Greece in 1920. At Nick’s place and in the surrounding neighborhood of Westmount, Nick and his wife poured their heart into the restaurant and raised five children, most of whom would later carry on the family business on this bustling street. It’s the same street I’ve seen for many years depicted in the painting above. It’s the scene of memories for our family, too, ever since my father arrived on Greene Avenue from Chicago in 1972 to begin work a few doors down from Nick’s place.

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Ode to DCA

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“These places whose outlook matches and legitimates our own, we tend to honour with the term ‘home’. Our homes do not have to offer us permanent occupancy or store our clothes to merit the name. To speak of home in relation to a building is simply to recognise its harmony with our own prized internal song. Home can be an airport or a library, a garden or a motorway diner. Our love of home is in turn an acknowledgement of the degree to which our identity is not self-determined.”

-The Architecture of Happiness,” Alain De Botton

November 23, 2011, Washington, DC: You can see it in people’s expressions. I’m supposed to dread today at the airport. Of all travel days, this is the worst. But you know what? I love the airport on a day like this. Maybe I’ve watched the airport montage in ‘Love, Actually’ one too many times, but the scene at the airport on a busy day like today suits me. I feel like I’m right where I belong.

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Perfectly Peregrine

November 23, 2011, Washington, DC: About once a week, I stop into Peregrine Espresso by Eastern Market on my way out of the city. With each early visit, I grow more envious of my neighbors who spend the morning here, hunched over their laptops, strong coffee in hand, comfortably working in the bright shop surrounded by wide, lime green, horizontal stripes adorning its walls. Some coffee shops are afternoon joints — rainy day places that lure you in with big armchairs, dark furnishings and quiet strength. Peregrine is most certainly meant for mornings. Its floor-to-ceiling front window, its hardwood floors, its geometric artwork, and its limited, cut-to-the-chase drink menu welcome you to wake up. Here is an atmosphere that encourages you to caffeinate. To sit up straight. To stay sharp. I always hate to leave with coffee to go rather than dive in right here.

This morning, I am one of the lucky ones. Today I am working from home.

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Neighborhood Nomad: Sara’s Brooklyn Ballroom

This is the first in a series featuring the neighborhoods and living spaces that readers call home. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomad.

November 20, 2011, Washington, DC: Sara is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met in the first grade in Baltimore, Md., stayed in close touch after my family moved away, and eventually became college roommates in two adjoining 80-square-foot dorm rooms in Manhattan. When Sara first emailed me this summer about her new place in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope, I couldn’t picture it. “I found a new apartment just a couple of blocks away from my current one,” she wrote. “Let’s just say I think my new apartment used to be the ballroom!”

Then she sent a photo. Wow. Then I saw for myself last weekend. Double wow.

Read on for an interview (and photos!) with Sara about her Brooklyn Ballroom.

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Can You Keep Up With This City?

“I carry the place around the world in my heart but sometimes I try to shake it off in my dreams.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald on New York

November 17, 2011, Washington, DC: Last weekend wore me out. For the past few nights, I’ve come home from work unable to write and unable to think. New York is tiring.

But it’s tiring for all the right reasons. In one weekend, we saw nearly twenty percent of our wedding guests, dined and celebrated with immediate and extended family, ran into an old friend at one in the morning, made treks up to Columbia and out to Brooklyn, and descended back into another hometown.

There are so many reasons to love New York City it’s downright exhausting.

If we lived here again, could we keep up? Would our pace slow to a semblance of sanity if we didn’t have to pack it all into a weekend? Or would the city still whisk us away?

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Back to College: Morningside Heights

“There is no question there is an unseen world; the question is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?”
-Woody Allen

November 13, 2011, New York: I went back to school this weekend. After ten years away from Morningside Heights, I returned to the New York neighborhood in which I lived as a college student. My husband came along for the trip down memory lane.

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Map of Mornings: Union Square & Gramercy Park

This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.

November 13, 2011, New York:  Saturday morning in Union Square begins with a jackhammer, a film crew, a farmer’s market, and a column of steam rising from the street outside L’Express. After a visit to 71 Irving Place for a cup of coffee on one of my favorite city blocks, I begin this walk through a neighborhood I’ve come to know well over the course of a decade.

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