Joe’s Dairy

I ate the best mozzarella of my life because I broke a lamp. Monday night, I roasted a chicken. My brother and I are living in an apartment in Crown Heights, spacious stolid and on its way to homey, stuffy with a supply of recirculated hot air; we have barely any furniture, only two folding chairs and a black vinyl card table (no really, we’re sleeping on air mattresses and keep our clothes in duffel bags). Like an awkward teenager, the apartment is alternatively big and cramped in all the wrong places: a cavernous central room opens into a tiny kitchen. The building smells funky, like incense and cooking, and I look forward to an evening ritual, smiling and stepping over neighborhood kids playing on the front stoop. New York has been gloomy and cold this June, and so we have not yet lamented our lack of AC. Tower fans stand dormant, awaiting desperate use; the nights are cold, because I did not bring a blanket, anticipating tropical temperatures. The apartment needs some minor repairs, most obviously burnt out lightbulbs in that big family room. After eating in the dark, I decided to change the lightbulb, a chore I had put off despite the ready availability of a step stool, previously invaluable for changing smoke alarm batteries and hanging blinds. Finally though, I tired of missing my face with the fork. The ceilings seem abnormally high, built for little giants, and our stool leaves me just shy of dunking on a basket strung up above the windows. I stacked a book on the stool and mounted that stupid wobbling perch, barely able to rest my hand on the glass light fixture even on my boosted tiptoes. Holding the lightbulb in my left hand, I turned the fixture with my right, spinning it to no obvious gain. Suddenly, the fixture popped out of its notch and dropped into my tensed palm, bounced, bobbled, and dropped over my shoulder to the floor. Glass fragments speckled the floor; praise be to Tom Sachs’s “How to Sweep” and a judiciously applied Swiffer pad. Unfortunately, condensation had collected on the inside of the light and water dripped along the brass mouldings. My laptop, set on the vinyl table underneath, must have taken a good two tablespoons. I wiped it dry, but this morning at work, no power!—so post-multiple Apple store visits, genius bar be damned, and a data recovery shop, I’m still minus one operational laptop. My generous bosses gave me the afternoon off, and I went to Film Form for the Spaghetti Western festival. “Navajo Joe” is a queer film that merits more extensive discussion elsewhere; needless to say, Burt Reynolds makes a strange Indian. Before the movie, I wandered into Joe’s Dairy, a cheese and Italian comestibles store at the corner of West Houston and Sullivan Street. The shop is hardly large enough for three customers, and the man in front of me allowed his conversation to drag ad infinitum, at least until the cashier gestured me forward to break his concentration. “He was telling me about his sick sister,” the cashier said, and warned me that the buffalo milk mozzarella was small (“a quarter pound”) and expensive (“$6”) but delicious (“you’ll love it—you might eat it before you get home”). I watched Navajo Joe with the deli tub wrapped in a brown paper sack wrapped in my laptopless backpack, and then beat it back to Brooklyn on the C. I used the leftover chicken in a pasta sauce and served the mozzarella as an appetizer, sprinkled with salt and pepper. There is better mozzarella in the world, perhaps, but Joe’s creamy textured breath, the suggestion of resistance, its cold liquid shiver resonating in the joint of jawbone and skull, I mean, Joe’s is pretty great. And where else can you wait patiently in a short line and look at olives, get treated like a dear friend, a kid until you’re 50, and watch a man pull marshmallowy ropes of curd out the corner of your eye? I felt more human after Joe’s Americana-Italiana; I forgot my technological woes in a ball of cheese.

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One response to “Joe’s Dairy

  1. Sorry to hear about your laptop. Glad to hear about your mozzarella. Good luck in your new place. Brooklyn is happy to have you!

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