Thursday BARB UP July 27, 2017

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For most of the 90’s, I ate at least one meal a day at a restaurant called Shopsin’s. I lived on Morton Street, a sleepy West Village street, where it was rumored that John Belushi once lived. In fact, the apartment I moved into was a hand-me-down from Jon Stewart; he’d recently gotten a gig on a show called Short Attention Span Theatre and had upgraded his living quarters to the more upscale Printing House around the corner. But Jon was not yet famous. He was my friend, a stand up, and subletting his place from a former Shopsin’s regular. I wandered into The Store, as it was called by the family, the regulars, those in the know, on the second day of living in my Morton Street apartment and fell in love with the world that was Shopsin’s: a former grocery store that was now a restaurant, with a 7 page menu, a serene waitress/owner–Eve Shopsin–, and an outspoken chef–Kenny Shopsin. And oh the children–five of them–each with his or her own distinct personality. Every regular–which is what I became–has their own legacy within the Shopsin world. I preferred to sit in the window seat, a three top; I earned that privilege over time, but I’d still have to have a person sharing the table with me, such were the rules of The Store. Evie would often give me her opinion on my dates, the friends I brought in, like that. I was set up on a blind date with a man who I’d say is the love of my life; I’d told Evie about him, he too was a regular, and anytime he came to The Store, she’d call me at home and tell me that he was there. In fact, one of those times, I grabbed my dog, and walked by the store, spotting him in the window, this gorgeous long haired long limbed boy I would soon call my boyfriend. Minda–one of their twin daughters–and I became friends at some point, and when she was college aged, she came on a few road trips with me and my friends.The sons I knew from afar, they ranged in age, but mostly they were always so young, too young for me to get to know in a non-creepy way. There was Jose, the short order cook, who smiled kindly at me and gave me a pair of gold earrings for my newborn daughter, wanting her to have a pair for when she got her ears pierced. And Kenny. Well, Kenny took me in. I was a finicky eater; on returning from Australia, he asked me what I ate with gusto. I told him about the tofu veggie scramble. Within days, he had perfected a recipe for it, and I made it onto the menu: Marcelle’s Tofu Scramble. My favorite dish was the Wild Rice Taboule though—pine nuts, wild black rice, parsley, tomatoes, other things too. Kenny would fry up a pita bread with it, or maybe he’d butter it, I have no idea, but it was the perfect texture of soft and crispy with flavor. It’s possible that got my tag too, I’m not sure. When I began publishing BUST, Evie would devour through whatever issue I brought in, so supportive she was. During my pregnancy, they would put a copy of my sonogram up in the window. Kenny and Evie knew the details of my life; they knew I’d asked my best friend Kendrick to be my birth partner, they knew my due date, they even knew who I planned to have in the delivery room. Kenny had a t-shirt made for The Inseminator with “Inseminator” emblazoned across the chest. A week or so before Evie died, she took the bus uptown to see my new apartment, on the Upper West Side. We spent the afternoon wandering around my neighborhood. She had just given up smoking, was taking up guitar. When Kenny called me the day after she passed, he’d found my number on a scrap of paper in her pants. I was a regular. I was a person who was allowed to sit at the table, eat their meals, watch the Kenny and Evie show. And so, when I saw that Mara–Tamara Shopsin that is, twin sister of Minda–wrote a book about The Store, I ordered it, read it, and bathed in my nostalgia, of my relationship with the duo that had such impact upon my younger-life. “Arbitrary Stupid Goal” is that book. I hope you pick it up.

Michelle Obama: “Teachers, a kind word can mean the world to a young girl.”

Good for Hills.

Rashida Jones: “I believe in individuality and the freedom to express yourself however you want, but don’t all the ways we perform our sexuality all look the same?”

Monica Helms: “Well, all the myths about trans people in the military was the same myth that they liked to pass about gay people in the military. “We can’t handle the job, it’s gonna be too much trouble, what about the bathroom issues…” Geez, I hear the same things over and over and over again.”

Rallying around your family.

Pumping that milk.

Sex stuff.

And now have a laugh with Janeane Garofalo.


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