There are certain things experienced by those of us who live in New York that are hard to capture and explain to those of you who do not. Everyone knows about the crowds, tall buildings and Times Square of it all, the glam restaurants, not so glam subways, Broadway shows, designer shopping on Madison Avenue and knock-off designer shopping on Canal Street too. But what people do not see are the specific types who make up the real character of the city.
What’s ironic is the daily loneliness you witness despite a population of over 8 million. There’s the older woman at Duane Reade (big drugstore chain for you non New Yorkers) explaining to the glazed-eyed cashier why she’s switching to Dove after years of using Ivory (too drying, in case you’re interested). You may hear a young woman getting her nails done shouting on her cell phone to a girlfriend about her upcoming blind date—and you already know she’s going to be waiting for him to call again until he doesn’t. There’s the construction worker flirting with the incredibly patient, cute girl behind the deli counter, asking her when she gets off work for what seems to be the 100th time. You overhear a woman whose jacket is covered in pet hair asking the produce manager if she can buy just the tops of the carrots for her rabbit. And sometimes you’ll pass a sign, like this one, and not even know what to think.
All of this causes “Eleanor Rigby” to play on a loop inside your brain and breaks your heart a little every day if you allow yourself to stop and think about it.
But then you catch yourself and realize you are presuming too much. Maybe the cashier was also considering a facial cleanser switch and welcomed the insight. The blind date could very well call the loud woman (yeah, right). Or the deli girl may have had a fight with her boyfriend before she left for work and the construction worker’s winks made her feel pretty and appreciated. The pet rabbit may also be loved by the husband and children of his furry owner and maybe the parrotlett flew home into Jasmin’s waiting arms! All of these glasses really could be half full. But there is one character who exists in almost every apartment building with an overnight staff—the man or woman who likes to keep the doorman or concierge ‘company’ when all he really wants to do is play Sudoku. And no matter how you look at the contents of your glass these people must really be lonely. As a teenager I used to see the mother of a boy I went to grade school with (wearing just her house coat and slippers) complaining about her husband to the night desk clerk. In my first solo apartment there was the security guard hired to patrol the street who just hung out in our lobby talking to the doorman while who knows what was going down at the other end of the block. And in my current building there’s the Steve Buscemi lookalike who leans against the concierge’s desk talking about his favorite bands while his Starbucks Venti splashes in his jittery hand.
What I find unacceptable about these night crawlers is that they seem to have no boundaries or sense that they are infringing upon the quiet time every night shift worker counts on. They even show up empty handed! My feeling is if you need someone to chat with, and the captive staff member sitting downstairs is your only potential conversation partner, then at least bring down a beer or, even better, a nice piece of cake! To paraphrase Estelle Costanza after she met George’s future in-laws, “We’re sitting there like idiots without a piece of cake! It’s impolite!” Was there a wiser woman?
I ripped this recipe out of Food & Wine a few months ago and wow, am I ever glad I did. Your doorman will be too.
At Least Bring the Doorman a Piece of Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake
Food & Wine, October 2009 adapted from Lauren Chattman, Cake Keeper Cakes, Taunton Press 2009
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
One 13 ounce jar Nutella
Preheat oven to 325
Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, tapping out excess flour.
In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat eggs with vanilla.
In medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, using hand held mixer, (not sure why the recipe calls for hand held. I'm sure any kind would be fine) beat butter with sugar at medium high until fluffy, @ 3 minutes.
With mixer at medium-low speed gradually beat in egg mixture till fully incorporated.
Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated.
Continue beating for 30 seconds longer.
Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan.
Spread half of the Nutella on top.
Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella.
Top with the remaining batter.
Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not overmix.
Bake for @ 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick/cake tester inserted into center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours.
Cut cake into slices and serve to the doorman.