Caffe Reggio, Birthdays, etc
Happy Sunday, my love. I just had a meeting that went so well I am feeling anxiety about it and holding a heating pad to my stomach because I’m still in a phase where success is a little scary to me and makes me feel anxious and write run on sentences like this. I’ll keep you posted on that one, promise. For now, let’s talk birthdays.
Yes, it was my birthday this week, and because it’s still hard for me to accept love I’m actively acknowledging that it happened.
(It didn’t just “happen.”)
(It was GLORIOUS.)
But not really because of me. All week José kept asking me what I wanted to do. Like most years, I couldn’t think of anything. I’ve always defaulted to being “cooler” than a birthday, to pretend I don’t want anything, not get my hopes up and therefore not be disappointed. So obviously adult me wasn’t going to cut it this year. José suggested I turn, instead, to little t.
Unlike her adult counterpart, little t had tons of answers regarding birthday plans.
First answer, inexplicably, was a birthday crown. I wasn’t really sure on this one, but I trust her, so José and I found a kid’s store. I figured at the very least it would be a really fun place to go on my birthday. Boy, was I wrong on that one. De Kinderfeestwinkel, which translates directly to “The Children’s party store,” was not just a fun place. It was heaven on earth, and it had an entire section of crowns, birthday and otherwise.
Both little and big t were pretty amped about this. Everyone else shopping in there was a child. No worries.
I found a silver crown that seemed pretty obvious, but still posted a poll to my Instagram followers about whether or not I should go for it. The crown received the most positive votes I’ve ever received on a poll. So that was a no brainer.
We also picked up the prettiest balloons I’ve ever seen, because see last paragraph re: De Kinderfeestwinkel being paradise.
As we discussed, little t was in charge of this birthday, and so far she had steered me right. So when she told me she wanted those balloons on her bike, I obliged (well, let’s be honest, José obliged, because had I affixed those balloons to my bike they’d have been in the sky three seconds later).
And then I was on a balloon bike. Amsterdam is a wondrous place, but I don’t know that they’re as silly and whimsical as I often am, so it went over … okay. If you saw me on Wednesday, I hope you were amused and didn’t roll your eyes. When I first started biking, I experienced three things. (1) Terror at how much attention this called to me (2) Glee at how much attention this called to me (3) Acceptance at how much attention this called to me because it was my barthday.
Now that the balloons were affixed, it was time for a new journal.
This one dates back, because I had the deep, deep privilege of having the greatest dad of all time. Way before this was an instagrammable term, he used to let me take one “mental health day” a month. On said day, we would go down to the West Village. The trip always involved a hot chocolate at Caffe Reggio.
I don’t know if you’ve been to Reggio, but it is a rare perfect unchanged New York institution. It is not hip. It will not make you a flat white. It does not have WiFi, and, happily, is not attempting to be a clean lined California knock off.
Reggio has not changed in the near century of its existence. Not for Hemingway, not for Bob Dylan, and certainly not for little t and her epic dad Michael. While writing this I checked with my mother to see if there were any photos of us there, but of course it was pre iPhone and honestly we were too busy enjoying ourselves to document. In case you haven’t had the privilege yet, I found a photo from the Googles to let you know just how perfect Caffe Reggio really is.
A venerable feast for the eyes and the soul. The best and only acceptable table for our mental health days was painted green and carved into an arch in the wall.
I’d sit there with my dad and we would talk about art. About dreams, about history. Afterwards, we would sit in Washington Square Park or see a classic movie at film forum if they were doing a kids thing. Sometimes we’d go see his friends in the village. On my favorite days, we’d go to a local stationery store.
Little t was happy to duplicate this in 2021, and I’m grateful to have found a spot in Amsterdam that rivals (and beats, if I’m being brutally honest), any place I’ve ever found anywhere else.
Vlieger Papier, aka every dream you’ve ever had in your life in a place, is a two floor extravaganza filled with all colors and kinds of paper you could ever want. The bottom floor has paper, the top floor has journals, sketchbooks and pens.
At Vlieger we met the amazing Karen, who shares our enthusiasm for the store and also makes her own facemasks out of paper. I fell in art-love with Karen, bought two journals, some gorgeous envelopes and a Van Gogh hologram postcard (which yes, is every bit as incredible as you’re hopefully imagining).
Next it was time for sandwiches. I mean, it’s always time for sandwiches, but on your birthday I feel like that’s extra the case. So we went to my favorite place Singel 404, a holdover from my former years in Holland. Despite our continuous terror at being without masks, Singel happened to have a table open so close to the canal that we were nowhere near anyone / in danger of falling in.
The sandwiches were very good. It was now time for cake. I baked a chocolate cake for my birthday, because I am no slouch and also because Amsterdam doesn’t make as good of a cake as I do. This is not a dig. It is a fact that makes me very sad. If you or anyone you know has a cake place that you think rivals mine, please, please, tell me where it is. Because when I am depressed I do not want to make my own cake. I want to order it.
Anyway, no worries on cake woes, let’s get back to the story. Here I am eating my cake. José bought me a star sparkler which was very excited to sparkle / actively trying to murder me by means of sparks.
We closed out the birthday watching my favorite movie since forever, Amelie. Please enjoy the extra detail of the thermometer next to my mug, because I am nothing if not forever Jewish. All of the happiness of the birthday made me feel very sick and wonder if I had coronavirus (see opening paragraph). José was very patient with me.
I’m grateful he was, because I’m still catching up to this new reality of accepting beauty. Every year of my life it has rained on my birthday, even when I lived in desert climates. This year it stayed beautiful and sunny right up until the moment we entered the house (when it then reverted back to a beautiful Amsterdam drizzle). I know it probably sounds absurd, but I’m counting my lucky stars for this little fact and not ignoring it.
Actually I should edit - We had an outdoor birthday party planned for yesterday with all my friends, but that was marred by rain. Of course as we all now know this is because of me, because I control the weather. Clearly my birthday party served as a decoy and the universe got confused. We called off the birthday but the brilliant Tisha, who you’ve heard of a few times here, had baked a homemade cake with their family because they aren’t satisfied with great human and needed to be best human.
They dropped off the cake along with a present and this recipe for the cake. My friend Marjolein also had driven an hour and had a perishable bouquet of flowers (what did I doooo to deserveee these people).
So we set up four chairs on our terrace. We ate chocolate cake and roti kukus. It poured and poured and José brought out fresh mint tea and four blankets. It was the coziest, dreamiest, most loved I’ve felt in years.
It was magical and remains magical, and I’m finally okay (heating pad and all) with a reality where those are the facts. Coronavirus took so much from us this year. I owe little t a lot for deciding to thrive despite it. I am so thankful this year for Vlieger paper, for my dad, for you. Whether your birthday is coming up or isn’t for another year, I hope your very own little you has some thoughts for what you could do today to celebrate big you.
Because you deserve it.
See you next week,
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