that which we hadn't asked for
...we hold these myths
to be true…
that which we hadn’t asked for
By Joshua Lewin
One year, to celebrate a birthday, we took a trip to New York City. As we often do; or at least, as we often have since. When we go now, we generally drive, out of—I suppose—some false sense of the freedom and flexibility that driving offers in the cities at either end of the trip. This fragile sense is quickly dashed with a wrong turn, or a chewed up street, feeding into the solid cliff face of intersectional traffic.
Parking, though, is rarely an issue. At least, not for us. She is very good at parking. And despite a general disaffinity for rising earlier than needed, rising early in New York for the express purpose of moving a car from one side of the street to the other—and then back again—is a chore she takes on with seeming pleasure; looking the part of the New Yorker that she is, somewhere deep within her core, buried, but not forgotten.
I suppose the other reason we drive is because, these days, we are always at work of some kind. We often have that car packed with the obligatory stuff that might need carrying to, or carrying back. And we might need to reserve the option to cut short, and return; laden with stuff, or not.
But on that day, that year, we were on the bus. The bus is cheap, and not as unreliable as the word sounds. And it is a great place to discover new things. Or old things. Or things that aren’t new, or old, just things that you wouldn’t have otherwise looked for, or noticed.
Later that night, after the bus had returned back where it had come from, we ate at a very special little restaurant. This would prove to be one of our favorite of the more expensive restaurants we occasionally make the time, and reserve the budget, to visit. A great restaurant (and they are not all so great, the expensive ones), where we ate things that surprised and delighted us; things that got us thinking. And we left with one pocket full of one pretty oyster shell—after the cooks had shared with us a bite of their own after work snack, as we closed the place down.
That was a great experience, but not the one this story is actually about. This story is actually about what happened between the bus ride, and that restaurant. This is a story about a place called BunKer.
BunKer is bigger, now, than it was then, which we are very happy to see. The BunKer of this story was small. Tiny. A place that disappeared on the map as we made our way to it; a place that was hard to find.
To get there, we had to ride a train as far as it would go. As far as it would go, in this case, was not even too near to where we needed to get. So we walked.
It was dark, and it was cold; the kind of city 5pm that reminds you why you could never live in New York year round; that you aren’t that kind of resilient. It was the crushing dark and cold that leaves you dreaming of weather breaks and happy hours, and forces you to pull thick wool hats down close to your eyes; the kind of hats we forgot to bring—or rather, hadn’t planned on needing.
We walked. We walked past boarded up industrial buildings, and we walked past an unexplained, and unattended, fire safely smoldering in a parking lot. We walked past things—things tinted drab and pale in the kind of sucked out twilight of a city dying to chew you up and spit you out like clean bone.
We walked in search of something—a promise from a magazine rescued from a destiny of forgotten and unintentionally bent pages, because of the boredom of a bus.
We walked until we got there. Getting there happened about ten minutes after it had finally seemed unlikely to happen at all. Getting there itself became a treat and a surprise. And even then, we waited; we waited for one of about 8 tables, and then one was ours.
We ate—noodles, and rolls, and something else I’m sure, but most importantly we ate Banh Xeo. A dish I occasionally do my best (getting better) to recreate in homage to [our] original.
We drank—artichoke tea. We remembered to look, and be willing to notice that which we hadn’t asked for, and we remembered to be ready to discover, and to share, what we uncovered.
Ko. 8 Extra Pl, New York, NY 10003
Bunker. 99 Scott Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237