Week 45: Chaperoning a High School Dance in the South Bronx and Ground Short Rib Burgers

This Friday, I was asked to chaperone the dance at my high school in the South Bronx. Filled with nostalgia of of my high school dances of days past, I gave a resounding:

"Sign me up!"

I have learned, as I get older, that our memories are sometimes selective and often flat-out wrong. The reality of the situation set in when the ops manager cocked her head at me and said, "You sure about that, Foley?"

What I had either overlooked, or simply forgotten, was that I had just enlisted in the ranks of a team of adults with the sole goal of keeping some three hundred fifteen-year-olds from engaging in sexual intercourse at school. 

"No one gets pregnant at the dance," the ops manager shook her finger at me. "You need to make sure of that."

For a frame of reference, the Bronx has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in New York by a long-shot.

We were briefed on covering the exits, making sure to prohibit these hormone-time bombs from exploding on school grounds. Teachers from past years recounted tales of the debauchery of our scholars in the past. My stomach did a full barrel roll that day when I observed a student in another classroom jump up on top of her chair and proceed to twerk, as if it were going out of style (it's not).

To add icing to the already volatile cake, the dance's name was of poor taste. In reference to the power grid failures that often plague NYC, and not at all in reference to memory-loss-induced by drinking, the dance was called the "Blackout Party." Shit.

I arrived that night at 7:00, full of fear and trepidation, for what was about to transpire over the next three hours.

And then, it turned out to be a high school dance.

The first hour, the students spent mulling around, in distinct, gender-segregated groups. Dancing, tame, tame dancing, began in the second hour and consumed most of the student body over the final hour. Aside from the occasional few moves that the church elders would not approve of, I couldn't get over how boring these kids were. And that made me happier than words could describe.

Then I saw a couple of my freshmen making out and I threw up in my mouth a little bit. Overall, though, I couldn't have been more pleased with how timid and awkward that dance was, in the truest spirit of high school dances.

Week 45: Whitmans

The measure of a perfect burger is if you can eat it as it comes; you don't need to add ketchup, hot sauce, take off or add any ingredients, or send it back to be less/more cooked. Just like with a fine steak, the only issue should be how quickly you can devour it without choking, because it's delicious and you earned it.

Whitmans, a cozy little joint in the East Village, satisfies all of the above prerequisites in a way only a handful of other burgers have in my life. While all the add-ons and extra ingredients are finely crafted, it comes down to one thing: the meat. This is where they discriminate themselves from the pack, by creating patties of ground short rib meat. It makes all the difference. The the tenderness and quality of the meat elevates the patty beyond the realm of typical burger, to the point it needs nothing extraneous, only to exist. And that would be enough. However, the two burgers I sampled just used that as a baseline, and then shot out to outer-space. 

My burger of choice featured a blend of short rib, brisket, and three kinds of unrelentingly spicy peppers, one of which was habanero. The balance of savory and spicy was flawless - I had to make a conscious effort to pace myself on the burger.

Number two involved two short rib patties practically bursting at the seams with a layer of blue cheese, to the point that it physically squirted at you when you bit in. Both were perfect as presented, requiring little else than to be picked up and consumed. My biggest complaint was that there weren't six more of them on my plate.

Come to Whitmans and embrace a burger in the truest sense of the word.