In my babysitting days, getting off at Christopher Street on Sundays in the middle of Brunch Land was the hardest part of the trip. As much as I loved watching this adorable four year old, it was still Sunday morning, and sitting for three hours at a table drinking mimosas seemed like a luxury for another world. It was also a huge reminder than my schedule followed its own rhythm, a rhythm I had little control over. A few years passed and the world of brunch finally opened up to me. Granted, we usually still used Groupons, but still, we weren’t working over brunch, it was actually an option to spend our Sunday this way.
If you’re not from the NYC area, you may be wondering what all the hype is about. I’m sure other cities brunch, but I have never witnessed a following for this late-morning, hangover curing/causing, meal as enthusiastic as New Yorkers. Brunch was always a treasure hunt. We knew of a restaurant on the Lower East Side while I was wedding planning that featured a $9 unlimited mimosa deal. The trick was that they were an Italian restaurant, mainly known for dinner. So if you weren’t into brunch pizzas, you were out of luck. We were heartbroken when we learned that due to flooding, it was closed “indefinitely.” I passed the spot recently and it looks like it’s being turned into a hipster wine bar. Finding these little magical spots was like a goldmine, and you’d keep it to yourself as much as possible.
Another two years have passed, and a major sign of getting older is my inability to justify spending $60+ dollars on sitting and drinking spiked orange juice for four hours. I miss the company though, and the feeling like I had nowhere else to be. But my time has become so precious to me–since I’m now pursuing my acting career over top of a full-time job– that is it often spent running around to class or running around at home. The luxury has become less about money and more about the ever-elusive time.
So here’s the deal. I’ve found a way to carve out my own “brunch”, even if it’s by myself on the floor of Penn Station. Allow me to explain.
After moving to North Jersey, though wonderful for many reasons, my social life made a sharp decline. It’s hard to convince myself that two hours of travel, $14, and rushing to make train schedules is worth it for happy hour. It’s doable, but draining. My time outside of my office is for writing, working on scenes for class, keeping the momentum going on my acting career, and you know- eating and sleeping. It’s enough. But brunch provided something that none of these things can– time to pause, eat something delicious, and just take I’m everything around me. Brunch is about people watching, reveling in a day off, and buying something that you by no means need. Now these things, I can do. Even if it isn’t traditional.
For example: last Sunday I got up at 6am after a rocky night of sleep and made the 7am train to Manhattan for rehearsal. I rehearsed from 9-10:30 and then had class from 11-2. I then stumbled, half-asleep, around midtown looking for a script. I made it to Penn Station a half hour before my 4:11 train, exhausted and jaded from the weekend midtown crowd. So I decided to “brunch”-all on my own. I grabbed a Crispy Cream donut and coffee, picked a spot by the Amtrak area, and plopped down on the floor. There were two delayed Amtrak trains to Boston and DC, so people watching was incredible. It was a slice of life of the Eastern Seaboard, stumbling around Penn Station with the, “I’m in NYC, does that mean I’m gonna get mugged? I haven’t been here since the 90s!” look on their faces. I sound like a terrible person, but no one was in danger, just grouchy. And as an actor, watching grumpy people wait for trains is GOLD.
Quite often recently, brunch has been in my backyard with no one else around at all. It may be 15 minutes, but it’s mine. I don’t have to clean, organize, memorize a scene, send any emails, or get on any trains. I’m just in the backyard impressed that I haven’t totally killed my garden yet. And the best part? I didn’t spend $60 on mimosas and runny eggs!
My point here is not to put down the tradition of brunch. I dream of someday taking up a Mediterranean lifestyle by sipping espresso in a courtyard for three hours and watch the people go by. But that isn’t reality right now. At this point in my life, I have my backyard, a moment on the train, or people watching the floor of Penn Station. And that’s enough for me.