Party Conversation Cheat Sheet: March Edition


March, the month that promised spring and then reneged, has delivered some delicious talking points, from a compendium to the 99 essential restaurants in Brooklyn to John Oliver’s sharp takedown of March Madness. Here are 10 of the month’s most memorable stories to add to your party banter this weekend.

1. Full disclosure: I maniacally love March Madness. A lifelong college basketball fan, I do things like take the first two days of the tournament off of work and eat multiple meals in the same bar so that I don’t miss a single crazy upset. I bite off all my nails, I yell loudly at exciting parts and send my dog into fits of panic, and I once many years ago almost got into it with a smug child who was trash talking when my team was losing (not proud of that, btw). This is embarrassing not just because, in Brooklyn, I’m an overly earnest fan of a very conventional, kind of fratty thing in a land where many seem to believe that the only acceptable sports are bocce and pretending to follow futbol, but also because it is becoming harder and harder to justify supporting the multi-billion-dollar March Madness machine and to excuse the NCAA for its unapologetic profiteering on the backs of the so-called student athletes whose talent and hard work it exploits. John Oliver’s hilarious but sharp and unsparing takedown of the whole business, which aired earlier this month on Last Week Tonight, is required watching if you want to fully grasp just how preposterous the situation is.

One of two rooms in Yenifer’s dungeon. Photo: Heather Dockray

One of two rooms in Yenifer’s dungeon. Photo: Heather Dockray

2. In a city where real estate prices are an evergreen topic of conversation at every dinner party, our story of one Park Slope woman and her unorthodox method for coming up with the monthly rent on her 3-bedroom apartment–running a BDSM dungeon out of it–will at least give you a new and risque point of entry to well-trodden territory.

3. Mad Men returns for its final season on April 5, and if you haven’t had a chance to travel out to Queens for the exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image yet, you can kill some time reviewing, debating, and maybe even watching the list of movies that Matthew Weiner claimed were hugely influential on the show and required viewing for anyone who worked on it.

Photo: Kate Hooker

All Hands, a volunteer organization dedicated to rebuilding areas affected by natural disasters, is one of the nonprofits picking up the slack in the city’s Sandy Recovery efforts. Photo: Kate Hooker

4. I consider myself a reasonably well-informed, community-minded, and not entirely self-absorbed Brooklyn resident, but I had no idea how many of our neighbors are still dealing with unaddressed property damage from Sandy until I volunteered for a day with All Hands, a nonprofit that has set up a long-term recovery project based out of Coney Island. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity where you’ll learn a ton about construction (I shot a nail gun!) and produce tangible results in a short amount of time (I helped frame a wall in less than a day), check out my account and sign up.

Photo: Meghan White

The nicked wooden game tables are fitted with troughs where players can set their dominoes. Photo: Meghan White

5. Meghan White of Narratively explores the Bajan Caribbean Domino League in this longread about the ritual, rules, and serious competition that brings hundreds of Brooklynites together in basements in Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Brownsville, and cultivates nostalgia for their West Indian roots.

6. In case you missed it, The New York Times ran a fascinating oped by a psychiatrist who argues that women are vastly overmedicated with antidepressants and antianxiety medications–more so than men and to the detriment of society. According to the writer, who has a new book out called Moody Bitches: The Truth about the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy, a certain degree of emotionality is healthy for women, is dictated by female biology, and should not be suppressed or blunted to satisfy the constant societal pressure placed upon women to restrain their tears, anger, and anxiety.

Photo: Nicole Franzen

Coffee service at Maison Premiere. Photo: Nicole Franzen

7. The Village Voice, and especially the Village Voice’s restaurant coverage, lost a lot of points with me when they unceremoniously dumped Robert Sietsema, an institution in the New York food scene and a champion of deserving but otherwise unsung ethnic eateries in the outer boroughs, a few years back. Nonetheless, I was impressed by how much they got right in their list of 99 Essential Restaurants In Brooklyn earlier this month. If nothing else, being reminded of how many spots I have yet to hit up lessened the blow of the news that Prospect Heights favorite 606 R&D didn’t survive the winter from hell.

A hidden shoe repair shop in Grand Central. Photo: Jeremiah Moss

A hidden shoe repair shop in Grand Central. Photo: Jeremiah Moss

8. On the subject of our favorite haunts going the way of the landline, the excellent site Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York has been meticulously chronicling the shuttering–for the most part due to egregious rent hikes–of beloved neighborhood institutions all over the city for nearly a decade. Now the man behind the blog, Jeremiah Moss, is taking a more aggressive tack in his crusade against the lame banks and chain yogurt shops steamrolling the Mars Bars and Second Avenue Delis of the world: He’s leading a grassroots campaign to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, legislation that will help to preserve the small businesses that make New York unique. Brian Lehrer had a great interview with Moss, which is not his real name, on why we really need to get serious about leveling the playing field for mom-and-pops.

9. The New Yorker’s investigative piece on a Belfast mother of 10 who was “disappeared” by the IRA in the early ’70s and the repeatedly frustrated attempts by her children to seek justice is an engrossing read that will make any train ride or flight fly by and give you lots to discuss at your next social engagement.

10. Unfortunately, the grim Germanwings crash–and the vexing revelation that the 28-year-old pilot destroyed the plane and killed all of its passengers on purpose–is on everyone’s mind this week. Despite the recent spate of high-profile commercial airline crashes reported in the media, Slate assures us that 2014 was actually the safest year on record in terms of total crashes. But after spending all afternoon yesterday processing the random, terrifying destruction in the East Village, I think someone needs to look into the recent spate of high-profile gas explosions in New York City.

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