Plus! Hermit/Anchorite Poll Results!! Singapore Police!!!
Wow! Powerful story! My reverent attitude toward bagels feels justified.
I taught in Singapore for a few summers while in graduate school, and I can tell you, their state-run ads are no joke! I'm going to have to search deep in my camera roll to find some of the photos I took. I remember one with a gorilla and a slogan that was something like "don't make trouble."
And the bagel roller is just as charming and fascinating as I'd hoped he'd be. Love all the pictures and this inside look into how NY's favorite food gets made.
The reveal of Alex Baka already having a Thai restaurant of his own was such a plot twist. And wow, he really does move fast in that video. That Singapore Police Force image looks like a poster for some TV show.
How did I miss last week’s post and poll! 😩 I’d vote Hermit with the fresh air and roaming, but, alas, I am too late….
Lovely story. Papa Baka makes babies like he makes bagels!
Hi Anne, I am one of your overseas readers and visited NYC quite a few times (I am old 😉) and love your newsletter (as you know - but now I finally decided to create a log in so I could post here instead of sending you mails - extra work for you!).
I was totally flabbergasted by the bagel guy. The amount of work hours, the production, the way he spends his only day not rolling bagels! (indeed - what a surprising twist!) - man, this is what I would call ambition and an immense drive. I do feel totally lazy and unambitious now.
But what I really wanted to say was that I lived in the US in the nineties and in the Netherlands bagels didn't (really) exist yet. So after my stint in Cleveland, Ohio (yes, you can get great bagels there as well), I really had to "detox". I missed my American bagels!!!
The last time I visited NYC was in May 2022, after about 12 years of absence. And I was shocked that downtown Manhattan was now filled with European chains like Pret a Manger and Le Pain Quotidien, instead of all those yummy small delicatessen stores (did I remember this incorrectly...?) where I would ogle the bagels in the window, since I would usually eat one for breakfast but since I wasn't used to the half a pound ;-) of cream cheese they would "schmear" it with, I usually couldn't eat anything else for the rest of the day. Luckily I was staying in Queens! (first time ever in that part of town, and I managed to find bagels there). But I really did wonder what happened to all the bagel places and if people somehow thought they had become too unhealthy and therefore now only lunched after buying an expensive quinoa kale salad from Whole Foods.
(I promise I will keep future reactions shorter!)
Great edition Anne.
I missed the hermit quiz last week but I’d definitely go for hermit. The alternative sounds so claustrophobic!
I do wonder whether there’s a case for taking some time out every now and then to go on an adventure alone. I have a friend who is going on a yoga retreat on her own (with strangers mind). Sounds great!
As an Australian who has only recently discovered the joy of bagels, I am now addicted. I have them for breakfast every morning. And it seems it's all I talk about now, because I just had a chat in the comments of BAT about this. Where I just found out about lox (no thank you) and egg bagles (yes please!). Thank you for profile impressive and awesome every day people. I prefer your style of news to the other BS by A LOT!!
“2) It is the PERFECT excuse for turning stuff down. "Sounds great but I CAN'T because I'm in a small room built into a church FOR LIFE. Tell the Cirque de Soleil performers I think they're VERY talented." OMG, Aharon hit it out of the park with that one!!!
“…a special page devoted to “Police Day” —though isn’t every day Police Day in Singapore?... It almost makes me feel grateful for the prosaic tone of the NYPD home page, which is currently advertising for school crossing guards…” We never appreciate how good we have it!!
“An hour in, he cranked up the music (pop, reggaeton) to get motivated and started rolling.” It is comforting to realize that the day begins the same way across the spectrum, from Neurosurgeons to prolific Bagel-Rollers!
"Do you ever go outside during your shift?" I asked. “No,” he said, "it's like you're in jail! Sometimes I call my wife, my dad, my mom. My bosses come down and talk to me, so there's some interaction throughout the day, but mostly I'm here alone." MY GAWD, ANNE!! Alex is a bagel-rolling ANCHORITE!!
“After earning a three-year college degree in business administration, he moved right back to Woodside, Queens and landed a job at a bagel shop in Astoria—” Which confirms the advice I gave both of my sons in junior high…YOU DON’T NEED TO GO TO COLLEGE, especially for 4 or more years…you can get a two-year degree or learn a trade (one son is making over $100,000/year on a two year degree as a Power Plant Operator, while not having a PhD and seating people at Cheesecake Factory while carrying $300,000 in school loans; and the youngest, while making a bit less, is VERY FULFILLED as an in-demand, highly skilled, welder, who has job security for the rest of his life…just like Alex has! Neither are anchorites.
"What?" I said. "On top of working 100 hours a week as a bagel roller, you own a Thai restaurant?" WOW!!! Gawd bless him!!!
"Was that the first time you met her?" I asked. “When you got married?" "The day I gave her the ring!" he said…” Of course a story: When I was in 8th grade, my mother’s father, an immigrant from Romania (really Macedonia…I carry the genes of Alexander the Great..I’m sure of it, LOL!!), called our house, I picked up the phone and he told me that he had arranged a marriage for me with the daughter of a Greek businessman, whom he worked for…I told him, “But Tutta, I’m only in 8th grade!” and he said it didn’t matter because we’d be married when I turned 16, so I had time to sow my wild oats…Since the divorce rate in this country is over 60%, (and I’m divorced from my 1st wife), I for one think Alex in onto something! His wife is stunning!
“We gazed at my sorry-looking initial efforts.” Anne they’ll look better boiled and baked! Did you ever see a newborn? My oldest looked like E.T. when he arrived.
I know it’s just a typo but the Latin American country is Colombia not Columbia which is a river that separates Oregon from Washington.
Really enjoyed reading about Mr Baka’s life; his success is ensured!
Alex Baka!!! I think I know him from GC. Great profile!
Fantastic interview, Anne, as usual! Alex is a powerhouse! I started getting a craving for bagels, and I don’t even particularly like them (don’t tell Alex). Your interviews and writing style remind me of Susan Orlean, but you have a much more robust sense of humor. How about publishing a book of some of your newsletter posts? I would also like to read more about you and your background—maybe someone could interview you? Have a great week!
Anne -- so fun as usual. A bagel exposé in the best place for it. Alex was great and someone you just want to root for! The picture you to provided of him was interesting. His wrists are enormous and probably better developed than just about anyone. 3M bagels is just crazy. Kudos to NYers for calling bullshit on the carb craze! Your Dad's comment, correcting and clarifying as only a parent can. Awesome!
Maybe I’ll have my grandchildren read about Alex and get off their asses. Maybe I will also!
Aharon is the best!
I enjoyed reading about Alex, thank you! You know, I think I could probably cut it in Singapore; it sounds a lot like Catholic school (chewing gum is verboten in both places).