SUPER FUN ISSUE JUST READ IT!
Eric Adams Watch! Mystery Tree Investigation!! NYC Floss Pics!!!
Welcome to Issue #52 of CAFÉ ANNE! And happy Thanksgiving!
For those who enjoyed the community fridge investigation in Issue #51, there’s more! Jillian Hess, the writer of the always fascinatingSubstack newsletter about note-taking who accompanied me on the fridge adventure, devoted an issue of her own publication to a look at the notes I took for the story. I know, it’s super meta!
I am also proud to announce I was the very first guest on a new video podcast, ENTER the TAINMENT, produced by my delightful friend Kid in Wisconsin. We talked about writing, blogging, novels, writing, Jordan Peterson, writing, Buddhism, linguistics (sort of) and writing. I think it’s a fascinating conversation—probably because it’s me and my pal discussing some of my favorite topics! Your experience may vary. Maybe watch while doing the dishes?
Speaking of Thanksgiving, gold-plated singing space turkey CAFÉ ANNE shoutouts to new paid subscribers Jolene H and Ingrid R, and DOUBLE gold-plated said turkey shoutouts to WV and Kelly B, who both opted for “founding member” subscriptions—which means they paid double the going rate for a free newsletter! That’s going to buy me a lot of pie. WV and Kelly B, you are both welcome to stop by for a slice!
HOUSEKEEPING: There will be no newsletter next Monday. I am taking the week off to enjoy the holiday. Next issue is December 5.
Meanwhile, I’m very excited about this week’s issue. It includes the latest edition of Eric Adams Watch, the results of my investigation into the QUEENS MYSTERY TREE and a Q&A with Kaitlin Kabrich, a Harlem resident who has taken hundreds of photos of discarded dental picks found on the streets of NYC. Please enjoy.
PS: Prompted by the mention of Worcestershire sauce and its uses in the community fridge story, reader David G in Brooklyn emailed to share a delightful recipe: “The best use for Worcestershire sauce is on cheese on toast—splash it on just before you melt it under the grill.”
He suggests cheddar cheese, or even “slumming it” with a slice of American.
My suggestion: Instead of turkey and stuffing, try serving this dish to your family at Thanksgiving. When they shower you with praise and gratitude, you can tell them to thank CAFÉ ANNE!
ERIC ADAMS WATCH
On Trash, Rats, Crystals and More Rats!
I continue to enjoy the exploits of Eric Adams, whom my friend Aharon refers to as “New York City’s first AI-generated Mayor.” As a profile in Politico put it, “In a city of weird people and weird mayors, Adams is maybe the most idiosyncratic figure to ever hold the office.”
Here, round-up #12 of the mayor’s doings:
November 1: Mr. Adams tweets a video of himself collecting trash on a subway car while fellow riders, somewhat predictably, totally ignore both the Mayor and the rolling cameras. One Twitter commenter responds: “This is the most useful thing you have ever done.”
November 10: The Economist quotes the Mayor declaring that he plans to make NYC livable by “fighting crime, fighting inequality, fighting rats!”
November 14: The Mayor, who has previously expressed his belief that Manhattan derives its power from its location atop a lode of magic healing crystals, posts an Instagram of himself bumping rock-bracelet fists with a celebrity: “Sharing the power of stones with my brother @marcanthony.”
November 18: The mayor devotes yet another press conference to his war on rats: “I hate rats, and we are going to kill some rats,” he declares. “Rats don’t run our city, New Yorkers do!…For far too long, the population of rodents has been able to roam around this city with a level of impunity, and we’re saying no to that!” In a response to a reporter’s question, Mr. Adams reveals that the vendetta is personal: “When I purchased my home I had a real rat infestation. We removed and killed 79 rats!”
Queens Mystery Tree Investigation!
Last week, I spent 90 minutes on a street corner in Queens asking passersby about an oddly decorated street tree.
As regular readers will recall, this adventure got started after my little brother sent a photo of a street tree he spotted on 45th Street and 43rd Avenue. “This little tree gets more interesting every time I walk by,” he wrote.
I asked him to check the tree again. Sure enough, he reported several new additions —a duck skeleton and an American flag!
Now I was really curious to learn who was behind this odd arboreal display. Was it worth an investigation? I took a poll. Two-thirds of CAFÉ ANNE readers encouraged me to go for it.
When my little brother invited me to come by for dinner last week (he was making meatloaf!) I knew it was time.
I prepared with some advance sleuthing on Google maps. I was hoping that the tree was standing outside someone’s house so that I could solve the mystery just by knocking on their front door. Alas, the Google Street View revealed that it’s located next to a Walgreen’s and across the street from a giant apartment building!
Which is why I resorted to questioning passersby on the street: “Do you know anything about this tree?”
“I really don’t at all,” said a young lady walking a white dog. “It’s always like this when I walk by, since I moved here, a year and a half ago.”
“But things keep being added,” I said.
“There’s always a new knick-knack,” she agreed. “I assume Christmas won’t be any different!”
A young fellow in a baseball cap suggested I expand my investigation: “There’s another tree maybe a block away that changes as well,” he said. “Close to the entrance to the subway station.” He provided detailed directions.
I went for a look. But whoever was decorating this tree was clearly not the person behind the original. Totally different aesthetic!
I returned to the first tree and gave it a fresh inspection. There had been some changes since my brother last stopped by a few weeks ago. Someone had attached two jack-o-lantern buckets to the trunk.
Also, both the thermometer and creepy framed gnome portrait had vanished!
Taking a closer look at the tree, I realized that the main trunk was broken off at the five-foot mark—the additional height was provided by a single branch shooting straight up from the trunk, supporting a modest canopy of fall leaves. Something terrible had happened to this tree!
I was thrilled when the next passerby filled me in.
“A couple years, the top broke off in a big storm,” said Vitali Ogorodnikov, who lives down the block. “Everybody kind of wrote it off. It was sad! It was a nice little tree. And then we saw this little stem kind of sprout on the side. It was like the Little Engine that Could.”
“I was looking at the tree everyday when I passed by, and I was really rooting for the tree, pardon the pun,” Mr. Ogorodnikov continued. “But the nice thing is, it turns out I’m not the only who cared about it. First I noticed that somebody pruned a couple smaller, weaker branches and left only the single, strongest branch, and tied it with a zip tie to keep it vertical so it’d be the new major stem.”
“Then it just began to accumulate these things,” he went on. “Somebody put a flag on it and the little fence to keep dogs from going on it, and someone began throwing out seeds and bread for the birds. I feel like there’s a lot of people at work here. That’s what I’m imagining, because it’s so piecemeal. And that’s one of the things I love about this community in general. It’s like people care, and have a personal investment in things and are willing to actually go in and put in their little piece of action. Any neighborhood in the city really thrives when people make it their own place. Just as you take care of your own backyard, you take care of your communal backyard in a sense. And that’s what this tree represents to me.”
Mr. Ogorodnikov wasn’t the only person with a theory. One lady, who didn’t speak much English, declared with great authority that it’s a pet memorial: “For a dog. Dead!”
A lady in a suit suggested the instigator lives in the apartment building across the street. “I hope you find an answer, I’d like to know!”
I tried staking out the apartment building, but no one came in or out. I jotted down the superintendent’s number to try later.
Another man suggested that the tree was the handiwork of someone at the Walgreen’s, so next I tried the drug store, starting with the cashier. She knew nothing, but introduced me to the lady in the photo department, who also knew nothing.
“Is there anyone who’s been working in the store for a while who might know?” I asked.
The photo department lady led me to an office the size of a closet in the back of the store and kindly introduced me to the manager lady, who was looking a little harried. She’d noticed the tree but knew nothing about its back story. “I just come in the store and that’s it,” she said. “I don’t hang around.”
I went back outside. Even though it had gotten dark and started to rain, I interviewed another half-dozen passersby. No one had an answer. But one lady had a brilliant suggestion: “Maybe leave a note?”
So I left a message with my phone number!
I was worried that the ink would run in the rain, but when I passed by the tree again after dinner at my brother’s, it was holding up just fine.
After that, I waited, and waited, and waited. For four days. And then yesterday morning, I got a long text from a strange number!
We have a coffee date for next week! As you might imagine, I’m crazy with excitement about this!!! I should have a full account of my meetup in the next issue of CAFÉ ANNE.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask the tree’s caretaker, please leave them in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAFÉ ANNE Q&A
NYC is Paved With Floss Picks!
By day, Harlem resident Kaitlin Kabrich is a project manager for a pharmaceutical company. But after hours, she’s engaged in her favorite pastime—taking long walks through the streets of New York City. And whenever they appear in the scene, she takes photos of disposable plastic floss picks discarded by passersby.
Ms. Kabrich, 38, has taken hundreds of these snapshots. Until now, she’s shown them only to friends. But last week, she shared a dozen of her best shots with CAFÉ ANNE, and was sweet enough to chat for a bit about her pastime.
The following Q&A has been edited, condensed and slightly rearranged to make it more fun to read.
For people who are not familiar, can you explain what a floss pick is?
It’s a little piece of plastic shaped like a U with a piece of dental floss permanently affixed to it, so that you can floss your teeth without having one continual piece of string. And then the back end of it has a pick.
And they come in packs of 100 so you can throw them away after you use them, right? Do you use them yourself rather than regular floss?
Before I had braces I did. I think they're just easier. And I use them more than once. My nephew, who was eleven at the time that I started this, he was like, “Kait, why don’t you just throw them away?” and I was like, “There might be some mint left on it! They’re still new after one use. You can rinse it off and use it again.” He said, “Ewww! Gross!”
Then when I started seeing them on the ground, I would take a picture and send it to him and say, “Look Garrett! The pick hasn’t even been activated yet, we could still use this one!”
And then I started seeing them everywhere. It it kind of became, to me, almost a funny wink from the universe.
I know that sounds really funny, but I get really into my work and into my life. So I consciously take what I call mindful walks. I ended up walking a lot for a variety of reasons, but mostly for my mental health, especially during the pandemic. No AirPods allowed, no podcasts. It’s about being present while I'm walking.
So I’m saying hi to the dogs, I'm saying hi to the doormen, I'm noticing the world around me. And that included noticing these floss picks.
So it becomes like, a whimsical, humorous nod from the universe. I take myself so seriously sometimes. And it's just like, it's ridiculous! It’s funny and it makes me laugh and helps me just stay present in the world.
To me, the fact that you keep finding floss picks on the street means that people are flossing in the street.
I've thought about this quite a bit, because I've only ever seen one person flossing in public. Clearly, there's a lot more flossing happening. But I think that people have them in their pocket and then they pull something out of their pocket, and it falls out. That's the story that I tell myself, at least.
So you don't think people are flossing on the street?
I feel like I would have seen it, because I'm in tune enough to see anyone flossing on the street. I think they're like, discreetly doing it in the back alleys or something, and then they drop it. I see so many of them in the crosswalk, and I don't think people are flossing in the crosswalk. I think it falls out of their pocket.
Thinking about people flossing on the street reminded me of those people who clip their nails on the subway.
Oh yeah. That's so bad. It's so bad!
Where do you spot the most floss picks?
I'm in Harlem now. There's the same amount in Harlem as there were where I lived on the Upper West Side, around 75th and West End—we're talking bougie—and it's like, nope, a lot of floss picks there, a lot of floss picks in the Village. They’re kind of everywhere. If you go to a more rural area, like in Pennsylvania, they're in the parking lot.
It’s funny to me how we’re all concerned about the most basic things, like gunk in our teeth. Vanity is funny to me.
How many picks do you think you see in a typical week?
It kind of depends on how much I walk. The other day I was telling my friend about it and he didn't believe me, but on one walk, I saw four.
It is ridiculous. But other times, I don't see any for a while. Or if I see one that I've seen before, I don't document it again.
You've taken hundreds of these photos, and sent me about a dozen examples. Why did you choose the photos you chose?
I look at the color behind them, the background. There's one, I don't know if I sent it—I'm at a formal event, a black-tie event. And what should appear? A floss pick.
I think my most favorite one was the wedding. It was such a beautiful day. I was just walking along Central Park West. I have a joke with one of my friends. Every time I go to Central Park and every time I go to Grand Central, people are getting married, and I snap a picture and I send it to my friend. So I took a photo and then 20 feet later, there was a floss pick. The surprise and delight for me was through the moon! It was so delightful to me!
Do you have any intentions for all these photos?
I thought about it quite a bit. I thought about an Instagram, and I think I'm going to call it Floss Pics of NYC.
Or you could start a Pick Tok!
That’s so funny. Yeah, I toyed with making videos, but I don’t know, I just like the pictures.
How about a coffee table book?
Maybe. Maybe once I get Instagram famous, someone will want to make a book deal with me!
But I don't know if other people are going to like them. I've been on first dates and had to explain to why I need to stop and take a picture. And they think it's weird.
I think the right person would love this about you. If they didn’t, that’s a huge red flag, right?
Yes. To me, it’s always funny and will always snap me back to being present. The humor, the ridiculousness of it. And that's when I'm my best self! It brings a lot of joy.
You know what’s funny? I've never seen a floss pick on the street.
You will now! Everyone’s going to start seeing floss picks because they’re everywhere!
The day after we spoke, Ms. Kabrich launched her Instagram account. She’ll be adding photos on a regular basis. Check it out! @NYCFlossPics
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As a kid, I have a faint memory of the educational magazine for children, Highlights. There were always photos where you looked for stuff hidden in plain sight. I think this was the magazine of choice at Physician and Dental offices. A modern version could easily be "find the floss pick". Your investigation into the tree is a tribute to your persistence. To build on the theme, since we get a formal over the top table at Thanksgiving, why not add a floss pick as the final utensil everyone gets at the table perhaps next to the bread plate. Then, late in the evening after cleanup you can look to see if people feel empowered to leave their spent picks in random places around the house. Looking forward to your interview with the tree-keeper. He is definitely going anti-establishment since he frequents a small independent coffee shop next to Dunkin Donuts. Stick it to the man! Enjoy your holidays.