A man and his cookie – a dream comes true… a Lifetime original movie, presented by Nabisco

Norm - 1, Cookie - 0

Norm - 1, Cookie - 0

Jackson Heights is known for great food, and much of it inexpensive. Four of New York Magazine’s top five food carts set up near my apartment. Some of the city’s best Thai food is within walking distance. And Pio Pio, what the food Gods envisioned when they made chicken edible, is also just a jaunt away. But the baked goods around here are terrible. A decent cookie, until recently, was more scarce than a seat on the 7 train at rush hour, during the US Open, a Mets home stand, periodic track maintenance and a sick passenger delay.

I moved to Jackson Heights in 2004, chasing dreams of ever-rising apartment values in New York’s housing hinterlands. That I’d planted my stake in a cookie wasteland didn’t even occur to me. One evening, giving in to my ever-present cookie craving, I set out after the chocolate chip variety. The neighborhood is teeming with Colombian bakeries; my search would no doubt be short and, ahem, sweet. It ended over an hour later in a local bodega with a prepackaged cookie. Ten bakeries, within a five-block radius, and not a single chocolate chip cookie.

What I did find, over and over, was the same damn stale, crumbly cookie that every grocery store in every city sells in prepackaged form. Most of the bakeries didn’t have space to actually bake anything. They were bakeries in name only. What a scam! What a cruel trick! I broke down outside the bodega, sobbing on my knees on a busy street corner, rain falling as the camera looked down from above. Where was I? What had I done? “Nooooooooooooooooo!”

I set out again a few nights later for a place I thought I maybe saw something almost passable. Thar be cookies in them thar hills. The semi-sweet biscuit-type impostor (sprinkles… you don’t fool me) satisfied my craving, sort of. I checked back regularly after that, peaking through the glass door and into the display case as I walked by. Sometimes they had the cookie impostor, sometimes they didn’t. If they did, I’d get one with a cup of coffee. Colombian bakeries around here generally know coffee. I’d sit at the counter munching and slurping and reading flyers in Spanish for nightclubs and cell phones not requiring social security numbers. I don’t know Spanish. The cookie impostor became good enough after a few visits, though it sometimes tasted slightly of pepper. Who knows what was going on there? For wont of a better option, I returned time and again, year after year. This was my sad existence.

I took 8 pictures, and every one has that damn homeless guy in it.

I took 8 pictures, and every one has that damn homeless guy in it.

One evening last Fall my wife and I were suppressing the vague guilty feeling brought on by yet another delicious and woefully under-priced meal out. We strolled down 82nd Street past the movie theater and 47 nail and eyebrow places toward home. I stopped short on the sidewalk. My wife turned a few steps later to see me staring into the adjacent store, a thin line of drool hanging from the corner of my mouth. I slowly raised my arm and pointed. Behind the glass doors, shiny silver trim and oppressive neon was a huge display case filled with actual baked goods. It seemed to go on forever.

I only sampled one cookie from Tulcingo that night—a thick, chewy sugar cookie with a cherry-flavored center. Any more might have short-circuited my brain beyond repair. We returned a week or so later for a sampling of baked goods to serve at a small election-night gathering. A glorious night got that much better.

The cookie place has since become an almost daily stop in my travels through unemployment. My energy starts to fade along about 3:00 every afternoon. That means it’s snack time. I put on a pot of coffee or lately visit the local Dunkin’ Donuts for an ice beverage large enough to bathe in. Then it’s on to Tulcingo. I generally gravitate toward the same cookie I got that first time. But options abound—jelly-filled sandwich cookies, sugar cookies with pineapple-flavored centers, half-chocolate cookies, half-strawberry cookies. Being indecisive (and a glutton), I sometimes plop two on my round, tin serving tray and walk them up to the counter. The cashiers recognize me—the cookie-loving gringo.

Last week Tulcingo took their game to a whole new level. They came correct. They got straight-up gangsta in the 718 Jackson Hizz-eights. Word… and s**t. Since I’m out of Hip-Hop lingo, we’ll just leave it there. You get the point. Their latest baking innovation is a cookie split into four sections—chocolate, strawberry, lemon and sugar—with a jelly center. My head almost exploded upon first sight. It was phat and fly (if gravity allows that). Any chance of me going back to those stale pepper cookie impostors went right out the window with my first bite. Unemployment, or at least my mid-day break, just got a little better. And maybe one day soon I’ll be packing them for lunch at my new job.

Please help me buy more cookies

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  1. Melissa wrote:

    I sooo want a cookie right now. I used to buy these amazing (small bakery store) snickerdoodle cookies before I had to move.

    Job hunting is a ridiculous sport. I hope to take an advantage by educating my meager brain. I’m currently reading, “The Job Coach for Young Professionals.” One of the author’s motto’s is…”You can successfully land your dream job.” It is actually one of the better books I have come across.

    I wonder if anyone is hiring for the position of The cookie taste tester? lol

    Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  2. underemployed. wrote:

    Great blog (as always)…Would love to see a blog (or your thoughts) on those jobs that do not disclose salary until the third interview. I have head three experiences with this “used car salesmanship” approach and it sucks. Three employers dragged me throught the process only to reveal EVENTUALLY that they would pay entry level wages in the LOW 20’s – one was $10/hr! But I had a great conversation with a marketing agency last week that within 15 minutes of the conversation, disclosed the salary (60’s) because he “did not want to waste our time”… thoughts? experiences? Thx.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  3. Tina wrote:

    Underemployed: I think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask what the salary range is prior to going to the interview. It saves both sides time and the company is obviously interested in your skill sets based on your resume.

    If the range is slightly lower then what you want you still may decide it’s worth the effort/time to interview if the position sounds interesting. Learning opportunities, perks and flexibility may be enough compensation to settle for a lower salary. If the company doesn’t want to provide a range, I’m not sure I’d bother with the interview…but that’s just me. Time is money and I want a company that’s going to be open and respectful of my time as I am with theirs. Am I idealistic in this current age of the “employers market”? Maybe. But I really don’t want to work for a company that is using the current economic environment to treat its employees poorly – and I see that happening a lot.

    Good luck. In the meantime, eat a cookie! 😉

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink
  4. Bridget wrote:

    Awww… I’ll make you a custom batch, Norm.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
  5. Norm wrote:

    I’m going to hold you to that. I take my cookies very seriously.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

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