If I learned nothing from 30 Rock, it’s that a trip to Ikea can make nails scratch against the chalkboard of a relationship.
It turns out it’s actually true: apparently the stress of buying large items or even confronting the possibility of what a future might look like can drive some couples to tear at each other’s throats (literally or figuratively, I’m not sure). So when SE told me he wanted to go to Ikea, I said sure, thinking ‘What a fun thing to do on a Saturday!’ all the while keeping Liz Lemon and Criss in the back of my mind. SE hadn't watched too much 30 Rock, so he didn't know.
But we didn’t fight, surprisingly. While SE would be happier in a room that looks more like Don Draper’s apartment and I would be pleased as punch to be in a place that looks like the Madonna Inn in California, we began to find things we liked that overlapped and made each other happy. And all SE really wanted to get there was a knife. I did find that being in there made me extremely tired—I noticed that the setup is not unlike a casino in Vegas, where there are no windows or clocks so you cannot quickly comprehend the passage of time and force yourself to leave quicker. By the time we had lunch after finishing the top floor (meatballs and ligonberries, of course), I was half in the bag, but continued to make my way through the marketplace, even procuring some cute, colorful plates and bowls and plastic Tupperware-esque containers along the way. I passed out for a hot minute in the ‘As-Is’ section after grumbling about the probably poorly behaved children who left their footprints all over some furniture that was perfectly good aside from the occasional scratch.
We then decided to explore Red Hook a bit, walking down Beard Street to some of the piers. Growing up in Brooklyn, Red Hook was not ever a place you went for anything on purpose, SE told me. Nevertheless, it was this gorgeous, crisp, bright blue, cloudless day and for a while we just stood on the pier. This was not before going to a place called Nobletree Coffee, however. I wanted some coffee, and Google Maps said it was close by, so I decided to go. Now, having been there, I can say that Nobletree is undoubtedly one of these places that people who hate gentrification also despise—a place with a wooden bar and cold brew coffee on draft, its baristas with mustaches and suspenders not so much for irony but for quirky enjoyment, flavor profiles listed for each coffee they sell. These people love coffee, take coffee super seriously and, I hoped, would not snarl at you if you wanted to add some fake sugar to your latte like I did. You walk up to the bar and order from a barista in no particular order, perhaps the same way you might at a bar that did not serve coffee. You just catch the barista’s eye and order, much to the confusion of people who tried waiting in a line and were then thrown off when people just kept walking up to the bar past them. I ordered a latte, was asked if I wanted to open a tab (????), declined, and paid for my beverahhhhge. I am not a regular coffee drinker, so I don’t normally have an opinion about the flavor of the stuff, much less know anything about what a good cup of coffee tastes like. There was a place near Grand Army Plaza I used to love because their coffee tasted like fudge, but they closed and since I hadn’t actually been able to drink coffee for a long time. But I had been feeling better these days, so I decided to go for it. And let me tell you—it’s one of the best made cups of coffee I think I’ve ever had. It was the kind of cup of coffee that makes you understand what coffee is supposed to taste like, simultaneously nutty and fruity and creamy with no bitter aftertaste. What sorcery was this? Even SE, who can drink coffee but hates it, tried it and said “I still don’t like coffee, but that’s the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” What higher praise can someone ask for? I felt like a gentrifying gentrifier, but damn that’s some good coffee.
We walked along the waterfront a little bit, then hopped on the Water Taxi back to Manhattan (fun fact: the ferry to and from Ikea is free on the weekends, and also picks you up from Van Brunt street in Red Hook), the sky beginning to glow orange as the first inklings of sunset twinkled across the sky. Arriving back in Manhattan, we walk from Pier 11 at Wall Street back to the train, passing the building that doubles as The Continental, the assassins’ hotel in one of SE’s favorite movies, John Wick. I take pictures of him in front of it so he can send to a friend who’s equally obsessed with the film. We head back uptown and for no good reason eat Chocolate Chip Cookies at Insomnia Cookies, the warm, gooey chocolate a perfect counter for the chilly night. SE likes the outside of the cookies and I like the inside, so he peels off the edges for himself and gives the wobbly, chocolatey centers to me. It’s a perfect appetizer before we head downtown to the barbecue spot Blue Smoke, where every Sunday they have 50 cent wings. The wings are grilled then tossed in what they call their Alabama white sauce, creamy and savory and tangy and oh my goodness. Every bite is juicy and flavorful, a wing worth writing home about.
SE planned us a gorgeous day (my only addition was the coffee), and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Give me some furniture, some cookies, some wings, and my good man on a Sunday and I’ll be just fine.