Category Archives: interview

WORLD SERIES GAME 2: Watching Baseball in Belgium



I watched Game Two of the World Series at Zack’s place. It was me, Zack, and a Joanne, a Phillies fan. I got through the day on glee and many cups of coffee after the 14-inning victory the night before. The olfactory aftermath of all the anxiety-inducing moments of the game clung to my shirt, but I couldn’t not wear it.

The thing about most of these games is that most of the time things don’t look great for the Royals until the end and fans can never get too comfortable, but the Royals got in gear early this time. The Mets were first to score but they never got more than one run on the board. The Royals were losing until the fifth inning and then scored four whole runs in one inning, and then three more runs in the eighth. The real Johnny Cueto showed up. He pitched the whole game. The bullpen never even made it out onto the field. At one point the cameras showed Herrera, Madson, Davis, Duffy and Hochevar all sitting on a bench in the bullpen. The Royals’ vaunted bullpen, who are usually as fierce as shotput throwers looked instead like bored Catholic schoolboys lined up on a pew.


and the bullpen is…quiet

What can I say about this game? It was easy for me to eat, it was easy for me to drink, it was easy for me to watch, and so hard for me to write about.

But while I was sitting on a couch a little past dinner time in the Upper West Side of New York City, my sister Beanie was up at 1 a.m. at an Irish bar in Ghent, Belgium, watching the World Series. Her trip to Ghent was part of her first trip abroad, a two-week foray across the Atlantic that started in England, hopped across the channel, wound its way through Belgium, France and across the channel again to conclude in Ireland. Her travel buddy for most of the trip was her friend Jamie, a fellow Kansas Citian.

Beanie was incommunicado through most of the trip, but one dispatch did come through: a picture of Beanie and Jamie holding cardboard signs, posing in front of a balding man in a large truck.

As far as we knew hitchhiking was not part of her travel plans, so what happened? Well, the World Series happened. Beanie and Jamie missed the 14-inning saga that was Game 1 and did want to concede another game. Upon converging in Kansas City for the holidays, Beanie treated us to quite a yarn, one that involved a lot of beer, a little baseball, enemy fans, guys in semis, something called a BlaBlaCar, and a strange trip to Paris. I decided to interview Beanie about the whole thing, and here is the story of how she watched Game 2 of the World Series:

Did you have any idea how you were going to watch baseball in Europe?

No, but was the World Series and I had watched all the playoff games up to that point. At the hostel we were staying there was a guy from Toronto, and the Royals had just beaten the Toronto Blue Jays. And he was like Aww, screw you guys I’m cheering for the Mets, and that motivated us to find a way. So, we went to this bar and we asked the guy there if they would show baseball. But the game started at one in the morning and they weren’t going to stay open for us to watch baseball, so they recommended this Irish pub that was really close to our hostel. The guy was all like, (launches into Belgian accent) They might play it for you. I don’t know. Baseball is boring.

So, in America Irish pubs are not really Irish but here there was an Irish person working at the Irish pub, and it’s like you’re in Ireland, in Ghent, in Belgium, Europe. And we were like Hey, can you play the World Series? It’s baseball? Just this once? It’s our team and they’re playing and we gotta win! And he was like (launches into Irish accent) We’d be happy to have yeh, but could yeh bring yer friends yeh know? It’s really late, but that’s fine, if yeh bring enough people we’ll play the game for yeh. And we promised him we’d bring people—so many people.

We go back to the hostel and there’s Americans, including this guy from California who was all about the Giants and hated the Royals. We try to rally up some people—there were a lot of people there, but we only rallied two of them.


Yeah, sad. One was a British lady who was a huge alcoholic and this other girl who lives in L.A. We brought them to the bar and it wasn’t very heartening. There’s not a lot of people at the bar so we’re kind of desperate, but we see this group of guys outside, and I think, Oh! They’ll want to come and watch the game with us, because we’re girls.

I gave them a saucy wave as they were passing and they saw us and did a double take, and waved back. And they came in and we were like Come watch baseball with us, or else we can’t watch it!

And all of these guys were from England. They didn’t really care about baseball, they cared about drinking and flirting, but whatever, the more people that were there the better it was for us to watch the game. Jamie was explaining baseball to the British girl from the hostel, which she later said was way harder to explain than she ever thought it would be—to explain that well, now they’re, you know, pitching and they have to get three strikes to be out, but there’s balls and they can walk. It sounds crazy.

Did anyone know anything about baseball?


Did they know what the World Series was and why you wanted to watch it?

We told them it was our hometown and we had gone last year but we lost so this year we have to win. We were like, It’s really important, guys! C’mon! This is a big deal!

Did anyone cheer for the Royals out of solidarity even though they didn’t know what was going on?

Yeah, everyone was rooting for the Royals. It was an international support group. And we were playing this drinking game with these Irish people and every time the Royals did really well Jamie and I stopped what we were doing and went YEEAAHHHHHH, RRRRROYALS!!! and we were going crazy—the only ones going crazy.



At some point one of the British guys, he was like forty, a big brutish guy–he was arm wrestling me and he wins and he’s like, Yeah! I’m such a man! And then he singled out Jamie, who is like five-foot-two and a hundred pounds, and he says You’re next. And I’m like Hey! Why don’t you arm wrestle someone your own size and be a big man that way?

I go to the Irish bartender, because Irish and English people don’t get along, right? So I go up to him and I’m like Hey, do you want to arm wrestle that guy? He wants to arm wrestle my friend, but she’s tiny. It’s not challenging. You should do it! And he says yes. So I had it all set up, this arm wrestling fight, and I bring them both together and once they saw each other in person up close they were both scared that they were gonna lose and they backed out, and I was like You’re a fucking pussy! You’re gonna arm wrestle this little tiny girl but not this guy? Screw you! Obviously I’m really drunk at this point–

Okay, but do you remember anything about the game?

Ha ha, I remember…not a lot. I remember the bases were loaded at some point…but no, I can’t really say too much about the game.

Okay, so what time does the game end back in Europe?

At 4:30. We were in bed at five.

Did you have plans for the next morning?

Our plan was to do this: we had a train from Ghent and we had to get to the train station at 7:30. Going to bed at five was not a good idea. I was so drunk because I was taking shots and drinking Guinness all night that I didn’t set my alarm. Jamie set three alarms and her alarms go off, but she didn’t get up at all for any of those alarms. So at ten in the morning, she says Beanie, we missed the train. She sounded really calm. But it didn’t help. I was freaking out. The train was twenty euros so it’s a big deal when you’re poor in Europe and you’re trying to save all your money and you miss the train. We were supposed to take the train to Lille, in France, and from there we were going to take a blah blah car at 10:20 to Paris.

Wait. What is a blah blah car?

A BlaBlaCar is like Uber, but long distance and you plan it ahead of time. It was really hard for us to find a BlaBla to get to Paris from Ghent. The only one was this guy driving from Lille to Paris at 10:30 in the morning, so when we didn’t get up in the morning in time for our train we were like, Fuck, and then we were like, Shit, because all the trains to Paris after that were eighty dollars. We were looking for more BlaBlaCars, and none of them were working out. We were kind of running out of options and we hadn’t booked another night in the hostel.We had talked about hitchhiking before so we Googled how to hitchhike in Europe. The Internet was like, have some pieces of cardboard and one of them should say were you need to go, and the other should say SVP, for s’il vous plait, if you’re trying to go to France and be polite. We decided to try it. It’s legal, we’re traveling together and I’m not going to spend eighty dollars on a train.

So we asked the hostel guy for pieces of cardboard and permanent marker, and he says, Oh, are you trying to hitchhike? And we’re all, Maybe we are, maybe we’re not. And he’s like, I have hitchhiked 65,000 kilometers. Let me help you. He told us where to go, what corner, what side of the street, what our signs should say. So we made our signs and went to this triangle overlooking a bridge going to the highway.

We had someone stop after two minutes, and we were really embarrassed. It’s kind of humiliating to hitchhike, because you’re like a hobo. So this guy was an old man and he didn’t know much English and he kept mentioning this town. But the guy at the hostel was like, Just go to Paris, don’t go anywhere else. They have to say Paris. But the guy was not saying Paris. And he kept saying this other town, and we kept saying, No, no, no, just Paris. And he was confused and we were blocking traffic so we said, It’s okay thank you so much, bye.

And then this other guy stopped and he was young and cute and he was in this work car. He was, I dunno, a mechanic? I’m not sure. But he kept mentioning the same city that the older guy kept talking about. He spoke better English so we asked him if this town was on the way to Paris and he said yes. But he only had one seat, so we didn’t go with that guy. But at least we figured out that this town was legitimate. Another work truck stopped, and they mentioned the same town, that it was a truck stop. We decide to get in the truck with these four guys in their Carhart jackets and all their tools.

It was dark by the time we got to the truck stop and there were not a lot of people passing through.There was this one guy that was creepy. He kept asking us why we were going to Paris, and he was staring at us with his—he had White Walker eyes. Jamie and I had a code for Are you creeped out? which was Are you hungry? I asked Jamie if she was hungry and she said she was starving. So we walked away from that guy and found another guy who was going to another town near Paris. He was really cool, he had a semi. Jamie sat in the passenger seat and I sat in a little bed behind the seats. All his bags were there and my feet were where his pillow was. I wondered what he did in the bed when he was by himself. And then he told us, When we get to the border, make sure you hide, because there’s only supposed to be two people in here.

The guy picked the back roads for us, but traffic was so bad. When we crossed the border I ducked down behind the passenger seat. We were with that guy for three or four hours. I fell asleep at one point because I was really tired, obviously. He was really nice. He talked about his brother. I asked him what he thought about when he was on the road, he said he thought about his family.

When he dropped us off at the truck stop we grabbed some food and powered up before we continued hitchhiking because we really hadn’t slept. It was three in the morning and we were near the parking lot. No one was stopping. At some point, though, this one guy just shows up smoking a cigarette. He stopped for a second, and waved and motioned at us. We see where he goes and he’s parked at the rest stop. We walked over to him and asked if he was going to give us a ride. And he says (launches into French accent), I eat, and then, yes. He was French, he didn’t speak a lot of English. Jamie asks me Hey, are you hungry? and I’m like, No, I think I’m okay.

He was nice. He smelled like B.O. And cigarettes. I wanted to practice French so I saw this as an opportunity to do that before I got to Paris, because he didn’t really know English. I was thrown into the deep end, but it was funny. I’d ask him something in French in the simplest way I could think of and he always, always, almost always looked at me like I said something really weird. So I was like, Nevermind. Nevermind. Just nevermind. And he would do the same thing. He would say something in French, and I would be like, What? What? And he’d say, Nevermind—in French. We never really had a full conversation. At one point I asked him about something that was on a sign that I kept seeing on the highway—I didn’t know what the hell it said. I repeated to him what the sign said—I don’t even remember what it said –and he didn’t know what I was saying. And then I said Comment se dit sign? And he didn’t know what I was talking about, so I point at it—while he’s driving. That thing right there—that thing we’re passing right now! We’re on the highway and everything’s moving really fast—he was lost, and kept shaking his head. I don’t know, I don’t know, he said. So I’m like, Nevermind, again. But, he took us to the hostel and he gave us the whole French kiss on both cheeks thing, lit a cigarette and left.

And that’s how we got to Paris.




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Big Nick Himself

Nick Imirziades, better known as Big Nick

Nick Imirziades, better known as Big Nick

This is the unabridged interview I did with Big Nick, back in 2012.

When did you first get into the restaurant business? 51 years ago. First place 76 and Broadway. It was a diner, open 24 hrs a day. I was working there, then after that I came to big Nicks. After that I opened another restaurant I was working in the day time at the restaurants and going to school at night. I got a hotel restaurant management degree at NYC College in BKLYN.

How many people have come today? I have no idea. I am lost. There was a two block line, from 11 oclock in the morning until now.

Are you tired? I’m not that tired. I never get tired when I talk about restaurants, you know? It’s part of my life. That’s why I succeeded so far for so many years. I’m never tired of it. It’s in my blood after all these years. It’s the proof in the pudding that I’ve been open for so long and I’ve studied this kind of work, too. I started from zero. I started as a dish washer, you know? I’ve run this business for fifty years and I’ve never compromised quality with quantity. The main thing is to keep people happy, you know?

What is your favorite thing on the menu? Hambuger. My menu is endless, it never ends. It is an Italian place, a Greek place, an American place, an international place. It’s one of the biggest menus in New York City. We cater to all different kinds of people. It’s a destination, not just for people in the neighborhood. They read about it in all different magazines. Tourists, they come over here with their books. We have all different kinds of hamburgers for all different kinds of people. Different strokes for different folks. I like the bacon cheese-burger myself. We have breakfast, we have late snacks, we are open twenty four hours a day. We don’t even have a key for the door. We were here during a bad time on the West side, when the west side was a jungle all around. They used to throw people out of hotel windows—the pimps they used to throw the girls out of the windows. 72nd street was a needle park, with all kinds of junkies. I came from the other side without speaking one word of English. I started out as a dishwasher and because I was dedicated I succeeded.

What do you like about the Upper West Side? The Upper West Side is great because the neighborhood is not like the East side. The East side is cold. The West Side is always more warm. You see more small businesses that have been around

Why have 1962 prices? I wanted to return a favor to the people who came to my place for so many years. I wanted to use this day to say thank you to them.

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The Ides of February, Part II

Is there such thing as a typical Valentine’s Day? There seems to be a pervasive narrative of candlelit dinners and red roses, but how often does this happen to most people? Unless you’re in a long-term committed relationship, the prospect of having this type of Valentine’s Day is kind of far-fetched. And even if you happen to be dating someone during the ides of February, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your evening is going to be spent in amorous bliss. A few years ago Valentine’s Day coincided with a bed bug problem in my then-boyfriend’s apartment. He gave me chocolates, which we enjoyed despite our exhaustion after several nights spent avoiding sleep for fear of being attacked by six-legged vampires. We ate them sitting amidst piles of belongings that had to be stashed into garbage bags ahead of the exterminator’s visit.

Not romantic.

At any rate, I found three strangers at a writing group I like to go to and spoke to them about their Valentine’s Day plans, and it turns out none of them involve candles.

This is Jeffrey

This is Jeffrey

This is Jeffrey, who works at an Apple store doing employee training and sales “stuff”.

What are your plans this Valentine’s Day?

I’m working, and since I’m working early-ish on Saturday, I’ll be going to bed early-ish today.

What has been your worst Valentine’s Day experience?

I went to my Grandpa’s funeral on Valentine’s Day last year, so that was probably my worst.

Do you have a best Valentine’s Day experience?

I guess a Valentine’s Day when I was a kid, because when you’re a kid it’s fun, it’s just giving your friends Valentines and getting Valentines.

What do you think about Valentine’s Day now?

It’s definitely overrated; I think Valentine’s Day and Halloween are in the running for holidays that don’t mean anything but are super-duper overrated and I never had the motivation to do really anything for them. As a guy who loves romantic comedies I feel like I should love Valentine’s Day, but I’m just blasé.

This is Amari

This is Amari

Meet Amari. Amari has two jobs. She works at a restaurant as a hostess, and also works at a wine shop (she is one of the only female employees there), where she will be spending Valentine’s Day.

Are you going to try to do anything celebratory at work for Valentine’s Day?

We are going to drink heavily and we’re making cupcakes and cookies.

What is a type of wine you would recommend for someone on a budget?

Prosecco. It’s usually 20 bucks, and it’s sparkly.

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day?

Yes, one of my ex-boyfriends brought me flowers during the day. He was supposed to be working, he was the manager, and he just left work and came to the house to bring me flowers. For me that was the biggest thing. It was very simple, but for him to risk his job is very serious.

Do you have a worst Valentine’s Day?

Not yet!

Do you think some of your male co-workers will take t his date as an occasion to hit on you?

They do already…

This is Patrick--the towel is to soak up all the sludge soup from the street

This is Patrick–the towel is to soak up all the sludge soup from the street

Patrick is a fifth grade English and History teacher.

What are you going to do for Valentine’s Day?

I think my girlfriend and I are going to do our taxes.

What’s been your worst Valentine’s Day?

There was a single Valentine’s Day when I was single during a break up in the middle of a long term relationship. We has split up and later got back together, but we had split up during Valentine’s Day. It was heartbroken Valentine’s Day. That was probably the worst.

What was your best Valentine’s Day?

I had one travelling in Europe. That was pretty fantastic. We were in Vienna at the time.

What did you guys do?

Not much. We stayed in the hotel room and just…had a nice Valentine’s Day.

What kind Valentine’s Day talk is there among your students?

At fifth grade there’s this spring ritual, where later in the school year the boys and girls would start seeing each other in a different way and the girls essentially—it’s very ritualistic—the girls seem to elect one of their own to shove toward one of the boys whom the boys have elected, to force them into some sort of chase, or date or see a movie together or something, but it’s funny because it’s all about the boy’s relationship to the other boys and the girl’s relationship to the other girls, and it has very little to do with either of them. It’s a very funny little ritual that happens every year without fail.


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The Ides of February, Part I

Let’s talk about Valentine’s Day. There’s a lot of people here in New York City. Many of them are strangers, and many of them have different takes on this holiday. There are those who love it and there are those who love to hate it. Others think it’s a conspiracy between Hallmark and Disney to hijack our concept of love, and some people are simply busting their asses to to make sure your day is extra special, or at least to make sure that you don’t suddenly become single on Valentine’s Day.

I’m hoping to find several types of people over the next few days. First I bring you Betty Zafiros, the owner of Fort Washington Florist, which has been in the Zafiros family for over 95 years. When I interviewed Betty, she was up to her neck in red roses and not much else. I mean, come on people. Have a little mercy. Order some zinnias or something to break the monotony of thorns and red that your poor florist has to go through every year.

Betty would never utter a word against the red rose (or any flower, for that matter), but one of her personal favorite is the orchid.

At any rate, I have bumped into Betty already on a few different occasions, and she let me interview her despite the fact that she was busily yanking petals off red roses so they could achieve that slender, coy look that so many desire.

Meet Betty Zafiros, florist.

Meet Betty Zafiros, florist.

 What are your Valentine’s Day Plans?

My Valentine’s Day plans are that I’m not going home. We’ll be here a full 48 hours trying to make everything beautiful for the beautiful people receiving these flowers and gifts.

What is your ideal Valentine’s Day? If you could engineer the perfect Valentine’s Day, what would it be like?

Very simple: very, very busy, pleasing thousands of people, beautiful weather, and happy Valentines. That’s my perfect Valentine’s Day. Very hard to achieve.

How many customers do you predict you have by Valentine’s Day?

Well, the weather is pretty bad. I can’t give you a precise count. Most people are the same day, last minute, the day before—I do have a box of orders, but Valentine’s is a last minute thing. People always forget until the end.  And this year the weather’s lousy.

What is the most elaborate, strange or creative Valentine’s Day order you’ve had?

Very simple: 500 red roses in a humongous arrangement.

For one person?

For one person. We needed two people to carry it. It was going to an apartment in the Bronx.

Whoa. Do you know anything about this couple’s story? Was he proposing to her on Valentine’s Day or something?

No. Just in love with her.

Fort Washington Florist has received numerous accolades from customers. Betty pulls colors together as masterfully as Monet, and in the blink of an eye can whip together a bouquet worthy of Van Gogh still life. If you want to order a bouquet for someone you love–or yourself, call 212 795 2978, visit Fort Washington Florist, or go the storefront at 4257 Broadway and meet Betty yourself. 

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