Scenes from my work days (and lazy days) in this early summer twilight...
Errant clouds often give way to Oscar Peterson sounds while golden sunsets pair nicely with balcony rosé and the latest issue of Lula. It's easy to write sweet nothings and/or impassioned scribblings in a faded Shakespeare notebook with a pencil that smells of 1960s Beverly Hills pink. And though I can't seem to shake the afternoon coffee, it's no bother when cooled by a side of green apples slathered in whipped peanut butter from Canada. Summer reading? The Paris Review with a dash of mini Tolstoy.
"I'm not depending on fashion because what I do is very individual. This is mine, and I enjoy it, that is all. Nobody else has to like it. As long as when I look in the mirror--ah!--this is me."
I can't get enough of the wonderful Advanced Style blog. Not only does it illustrate how individual style can be inspiring later in life, it's full of wisdom from all kinds of golden girls. I particularly liked The New 90 Year Old post featuring this video with the sprightly Ilona Royce Smithkin.
I'm not alone when I say that octogenarian style-icon Iris Apfel is one of my heroes. A longtime New Yorker and polymathic aesthete, she lives her life in BOLD. From a legendary wardrobe bursting with eclectic accessories and whimsical ensembles that has been celebrated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute to her maximalist taste in interior design, the world Ms. Apfel has created for herself is utterly unique and entirely her own. She seems to relish living life by her own rules.
I've always wanted to know what Ms. Apfel's Manhattan apartment looks like, and this month's issue of Architectural Digest gives us a rare peek into her home life. It's just as I imagined and more. I especially loved learning more about her history, specifically that she used to be a copy girl:
"But after landing her first job as a $15-a-week copy girl at Women's Wear Daily, she figured out that advancement there was blocked because the editors she hoped to someday replace were, as she puts it, 'either too old to get pregnant or too young to die.'"
True words, even to this day. Perhaps inspiration for those of us who want to live by our own rules or break out and do something by ourselves in a different way. I don't know about you, but I think our world needs more color, whimsy, and individual exuberance. Also, gigantic glasses and multiple brooches on one lapel. I love you, Iris!
Tonight I will be spending the night--the entire night--with 499 people at the New York Public Library as part of a game called Find the Future, a game we have no idea how to play. All we know is that tomorrow morning, at 6 a.m., we will emerge all bleary-eyed and triumphant onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk brandishing new titles: Published Authors. What we write tonight, together, will be a book about our future. We think. We have no clue! What we do know is that we'll be writing something unprecedented and monumental. And what we complete will be published by the NYPL to be kept in its archives forever.
Needless to say, I'm still freaking out about getting to be a part of this. To enter, you had to write an essay discussing how you want to make history and change the world by finishing the statement: "By the year 2021, I will become the first person to..." I wrote about wanting to tell the story of my immigrant history spanning three cultures, two continents, and one woman. I want to tell this story through writing, film, and performance. I want to tell it with the curiosity of youth and the mark of age. I want to encourage other women to look way back into their pasts and find the ghosts with something to say, the women whose voices were silenced or never deemed worthy enough to be heard.
I hope I can start this process tonight tucked into a cozy corner or splayed out on that glorious marble three floors above 42nd and 5th. I hope I can leave something there that those who come after me can read 100 years from now. My family is the reason I do this, and I thank them for not only encouraging me to take part in this game but for sparking my interest in where I come from in the first place.
Starting Saturday, everyone will be able to take part in the Find the Future game online. You can also help the NYPL celebrate their centennial by checking out a new exhibit featuring pieces from their vast collection such as a John Keats letter to Fanny Brawne, journals from Jack Kerouac and Virginia Woolf, a copy of the Declaration of Independence written in Thomas Jefferson's hand, and Charles Dickens's letter opener featuring his pet cat Bob's taxidermied paw as a handle. Here are a few photos I took yesterday during one of their free, daily tours.
The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, a repository for the study of English Romanticism.
Charles Dickens's letter opener with cat paw handle.
A hidden reading room, one I plan on haunting tonight.
The journal and personal belongings of Jack Kerouac.
A doll's casket.
The entrance to the New York Public Library.
Please help support the NYPL and all local libraries!
Tonight's the last night of the Scene: Brooklyn Film Festival hosted by the Brooklyn Arts Council. Come on out to Galapagos Art Space for a screening of some of Brooklyn's finest short films followed by a party featuring the debut of the dynamic DJ duo DAS SCHMUCK (aka yours truly + my pal Douglas Q. Smith). It's gonna be a grand time!
"Black is the uniform of poets. We lined them up and gave them new customs..." - Poem #2 by Richard Hell and Patti Smith
I have not wept openly at a concert since I witnessed Tori Amos sing "Me and a Gun" a capella in the firefly light of Austin, TX, sometime around 1996. Last night marks occasion #2. We arrived at Milk Studios around 8pm for Steven Sebring's ILLUMINATION: Who Are Poets exhibition expecting a short poetry reading, as promised, by his friend and subject Patti Smith. The entire exhibition celebrates the work of poets--lyrical and otherwise--such as Jim Carroll, Neil Young, Michael Stipe, Philip Glass, Joey Ramone, Richard Hell, and Ms. Smith herself. The performance that was given, however, was something else altogether.
The room was wall to wall with the usual black bedraggled fashion-slash-artist armada, and we all staked our spots in front of the small, piano covered stage an hour before anything started. It was sweaty and close, but no one cared, and when the music finally faded (REM over the loudspeakers, coincidentally), Michael Stipe took the stage to snap us to attention with his fingers. Patti emerged, her hands clutching several sheets of paper, and she gave a ferocious reading of Poem #2, dedicating it to Richard Hell, and finished by tossing all of her sheets to the nonexistent wind as the piano tinkered on, the rest of us hooping and hollering, happy with what we thought was the entire performance. But, lo, there was more...
What followed was Patti singing a soft, stripped-down version of Neil Young's "It's a Dream" (which started my tear-train), her longtime bandmate Lenny Kaye honoring his other former bandmate Jim Carroll with a song, and Patti reciting her emotional poem, Radio Baghdad, while her daughter Jessie Smith played a Philip Glass piece on the piano. Then there was the moment of true tears, the opening chords to REM's "Everybody Hurts." Everyone looked over at Mr. Stipe, who was standing behind the piano merely watching, mind you, clearly not intending to participate. Then, as Patti began to sing, she "accidentally" forgot all of the words, and he jumped on the stage to rescue her. Together they led us all in a sing-a-long which saw not only me, but several softies, bawling our eyes out as we shouted the lyrics with not one, but two of our heroes in a smallish concrete room on the westside of Manhattan.
I know I'm being dramatic as I type this, but it was that kind of night. This was not the song that ended the show, however. Joey Ramone was the last honored poet, and his musical homage included another sing-a-long which Patti insisted the audience lead, this time to "Blitzkrieg Bop." There wasn't a single person in that place--not even the coolest of the cool--who wasn't smiling and singing along to the chorus. It made me wonder, hope really, that maybe we could all leave that room remembering the importance of a poet's words, be they spoken, shouted, keyed, strummed, or read.
They're piling in the backseat
They're generating steam heat
Pulsating to the back beat
The Blitzkrieg Bop
I went to a screening of Bill Cunningham New York at the MoMA a few months ago and had no idea it would affect me the way that it did. I couldn't stop thinking about it--or Bill--all night. Like the man himself, it is charming, heartfelt, tenacious, courageous, beautiful, subtle, and deep. A moving portrait of an individual as well as an ode to individualism, I urge you to go and see it.
Queens was overtaken by zine hungry zombies this weekend as Printed Matter's annual New York Art Book Fair descended upon MOMA's PS1 in Long Island City. Hordes of messy coiffed, brogue-wearing, bespectacled book lovers came from as far away as New Zealand, Japan, and the esoteric shores of Essex, UK, to both shop and sell vast selections of art, zine, graphic, and comic tomes from established and emerging creators the world over.
One of my favorite sellers was San Francisco's Needles & Pens, which introduced me to this fun Marlon Brando comic:
In between dodging a symphony of (intended?) B.O. and a never ending barrage of tote bags, I wrote a haiku about the experience.
Hi there! Please excuse my latent postings, but I'm in the midst of moving apartments. Moving is always such a thrilling time isn't it? For the past year or so I've lived in an airy yet oddly oversized space that I thought would be hard to say goodbye to. Strangely, I'm ready to embrace a cozier more uniquely detailed space. Something with soul in its bones and ghosts in the ceilings. That's what I find most exciting about living in NYC--the possibility of tapping into the ancestral energy of a place.
Mr. H and I have a good feeling that our new home will be filled with inspiration. Thus, we decided to christen it with something bold. This will give you an idea...
Just in time for the end of fashion week and right when I finished reading The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Marc Jacobs opened his latest namesake boutique, Bookmarc, featuring--you guessed it!--books, and lots of 'em. The petite corner shop replaces the former Biography Bookshop (newly relocated and renamed) and features a well-edited selection of art tomes and colorful paperbacks in addition to Marc's signature assortment of motley accessories (think journals, pencils, and cute book bags), which are specifically designed for and sold exclusively at the store. Also worth noting: Bookmarc carries Olympia Le-Tan's fantastically clever, hand-made and embroidered book clutches. I've got my eye on Mr. Dracula below...
I met Carlen Altman a few years ago during an improv class at Upright Citizens Brigade. We made each other laugh and may or may not have caused our teacher to quit halfway through our term (our teacher's hatred for both our constant snickering and a rather infamous--and well loved--Catholic School Girls sketch was no secret). Carlen always liked to call me a "beauty doll", which I thought was special until I realized she called everyone a beauty doll. Sometimes she would say it sweetly with a smile and other times like she was about to slice my throat open with a pencil. Either way, I found it endearing.
After several years in the big, bad city, Carlen has gone on to helm a variety of fantastic projects, one of which is her line of Jewish Rosaries. She was also featured in a bunch of cute outfits for a Lucky magazine spread awhile back. When I ran into her last night, she was wearing some of her newly designed pieces, and folks, they BLEW MY MIND. What you see above is a large, silver ring with a bearded man holding a tablet. What you don't see is that the beard can move up and down... like the man is ranting, chomping, or laughing at you from that middle finger. It's GENIUS.
Carlen also designed a zig-zag necklace (seen in the photo above) that transforms into a star, which you can see below.
She also has a chuckling pharaoh ring and a pyramid ring that opens up to reveal a mummy inside. Fantastic!!
All of these new pieces as well as a few more from her "Jew-elry" collection should be available soon. You should check out her blog for updates (and for a good laugh). This beauty doll is a serious riot.
Last Wednesday, my friend, Deirdre Corley, and I decided to put our freelance hours to use by hitting up Mario Batali's new Italian behemoth, Eataly. "All in the name of research!" we decreed while trying to figure out the best way to eat our way through the place on a limited budget. I can tell you right now that our wallets (and tummies) were extremely happy.
Now, I know there's been a bit of a backlash (this being New York, of course) that Eataly is too big and brash. That it's a vanity project. That it's nothing more than a gimmicky mega-store ready to rob your soul. Really people, this is midtown. Aren't we used to this by now? Also, who doesn't want freshly made mozzarella, interesting varieties of pasta you can't find in this country, and a vegetable butcher who'll cut your stuff for free? Yeah, maybe it all sounds a little "boo-zhee." Maybe you don't care about silky chocolate gelato or honey robbed from a eucalyptus tree. But maybe you don't know you want this stuff yet. Maybe you just need to try. it. Trust me when I type this: you do. You really, really do.
Upon opening the heavy metal doors on 23rd Street (or 5th Avenue or 24th Street--this place wraps around the block), you're greeted by bright lights and a culinary wonderland explosion. There are lobster mushrooms mingling with morels, white asparagus pointing at eggplants; there's a cheese man who'll tell you what you want based on what you like, and a vegetable butcher waiting for you to throw her some artichokes. If you're overwhelmed at this point--we were--you can take a breather at any one of the dozen standing tables next to the mozza man and order yourself a glass a wine and some freshly sliced cheese and meat. We would have done this if Martha Stewart hadn't been taking over the place with her camera crew and whatnot. Thanks for nothin', Lady M!
Once you're out of the cheese n' veggie area, you're confronted with more dairy delights to your right as well as mini desserts behind glass, a panini station, honey and jams galore, a gelateria, and the Lavazza coffee bar beyond that which seemed to be packed on our way in and out.
Happy Post-Labor Day to you! This is my favorite time of year. Everything starts to take on a newer, cooler sheen as we glide out of summer and into fall. This back-to-school time of year is all about new beginnings. It's about sloughing off the mosquitos, preparing to layer back into the cozy, and really mapping out how you want to live out the latter part of the year. For me, the end of summer and beginning of autumn should always be celebrated with brunch.
I gathered with some of my friends in the backyard of a sleepy, homespun cafe nestled within Brooklyn's forgotten Navy Yards. We sipped Bloody Marys and thick coffee in the shade of a birdhouse tree while the sun made lazy patterns across the metal table. It was breezy and quiet, the air often punctuated by the sounds of our laughter or the constant clanking of forks on the one plate with the vanishing sourdough pancake. We strolled onto the cobblestoned street, said hello to bikers in their braids and Belstaff, and then made our way to the Admiral's Mansion.
Then, via bike, truck, and taxi, we journeyed to the more industrial part of Brooklyn to tap dance along the concrete, pastel popsicles in hand...
It was unwrapping a future heirloom and a couple of books from my family (thank you, thank you!)
It was tickling the ivories on a piano card from faraway friends right before peeling the paper off of a mysterious moustache from H.
It was lolling about in my pajamas before receiving that lonely subway ride I've been wanting for months.
It was pink champagne, baked eggs on polenta, and mousse au chocolat in my favorite faux Paris.
It was tripping through Chelsea (Galleries, why are you always closed??), dodging sweaty tourists uptown, and buying some shower gel just because we had a discount.
It was fingering clothes we can't afford, taking a cab instead of a train, and ducking into the cinema to beat the heat. It was there that we nuzzled into the mezzanine, giggled at the Coen Brothers, and felt as if we'd gone back in time. Je T'aime!
And a martini spiked with sweet "S'Wonderful", my favorite song (thank you, Mr. Gillespie).
It was a birthday to remember on a steamy Memorial Day weekend that saw most New Yorkers running for the other islands. It was an escape to the familiar and all that I adore about this magical city that I get to call home. It was waking up after it was all over knowing there was still a whole day left..no work, no anxiety, and no alarm. It was returning to the home I've made without ever having left it, dozing without regret, and feeling safe in our li'l urban treehouse.
As the sun went down yesterday, we shuffled hand-in-hand into our local watering hole. There on the couches was our merry Band of Brooklyn (and Washington Heights!) Brothers already sipping cold ones and slouching in the heat. The music was Built to Spill, Johnny Cash, and The Clash, and we munched on gummy bears until dinner. Then it was over Mexican beer, too much chili con queso, and that always present laughter that I finally said good bye to another number and hello to another year. There in the light of the fireflies I'm convinced flew up from Texas.
HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE and THANK YOU THANK YOU, LOVED ONES!
We live near an Italian funeral home that has a lovely fish pond out in front. Sometimes, depending on the day, there are ornate silver hearses parked along the curb. Always, there are men in suits out in front. The suited men seem nice when we pass on our way to the subway every day even though evidence of a nod or smile is rare. Words are never exchanged, but they respect the passersby as we respect them.
This morning, I had a particularly forceful spring in my step. I set off down the street guided by my clacking boots that seemed to march faster than I could keep up. I rounded the corner in front of the funeral home while passing a woman with a stroller. Directly in front of her was a tall gentleman in a black suit and hat. I recognized him from the funeral home. He stopped and turned to face me.
MAN: I hear you're coming.
ME: (Stopping dead in my tracks.) Excuse me?
MAN: I hear you're coming! (He gestures to the entrance of the funeral home behind him.) (Pause. Pause. Pause pause pause.)
ME: Yes. (Pause) What?
MAN: I HEAR YOU'RE COMING. (MAN smiles, turns, and walks inside.)
Baffled, I continued my trek to the subway and thought, "Did he just say 'I hear you're coming or I heard you coming?" Surely he meant heard! Surely. I reached into my bag, pulled out my iPod, and set it to shuffle. The first song?
The uptown F train was crowded as usual. Straphangers smooshed together in a morning rush hour clump. I lucked out with a seat and wedged myself between the end of the partition near the door and a man in a cap and navy blue overcoat. The genleman occupying the space directly in front of my knees wore a black trench, black slacks, and a stern scowl. HIs glasses were tortoise. Everyone else was a quilt of tweeds, denims, courdoroys, iPods, paperbacks, and downward gazes stitched together into my periphery.
He entered at East Broadway. The door opened and closed followed by a loud grumble. There was nary an inch to move, but I could hear feet shuffling and bodies edging modestly out of His way. The hair on the back of my neck stood up when it hit us. My stomach flipped and collapsed. I looked up just as the man in the black trench and tortoise glasses seized my eyes with dissolving disgust. It hit us again. Stronger, louder, and foul foul foul. I turned to the left to take a look at Him but only caught a sliver of curly hair and a slice of ruddy skin. Again it hit us. The rot of pickling skin. The hot breath of a deeply blackened lung. He was one of the walking dead, and He wanted to be heard.
Suddenly, the train screeched to a halt, and the doors opened at 2nd Avenue. More people than usual scurried out, and He came into focus as they hurriedly dispersed. There was a dark mustache, navy blue zip-up sweatshirt, and eyes gray and shifting. He shouted in a foreign tongue while swaying and shooing people out of the door like a matador with an invisible cape. Once they were out and the doors shut again, He struggled to find stable footing while all nearby straphangers scattered. Footing was found with a slam against the partition nearest to my head.
Already being aware of Him to my immediate left, I leaned into the man in the navy blue overcoat on my right as I raised the book I'd been reading aloft to protect myself from His incoming elbow. He caught Himself just in time but kept the elbow suspended in front of my face. I looked to the man in the navy blue overcoat. The man in the navy blue overcoat looked away. I twsited my chin up to The Elbow while trying not to breathe in the stench of stagnant tobacco and ethanol. The Elbow would not move. With a tiny inhale, I lightly tapped the edge of my book into His lower back.
He stirred. He awoke. He whooshed around to face me. Both eyes fixed on mine, He lowered his lids while each corner of His mouth furled upwards in a closed-mouth grin. "Excuse me..." He mumbled. "Excuse me...YOU." I couldn't move for fear that I'd make Him angry by not accepting His apology.
"You..." He mumbled again.
I said nothing.
"YOU, youuu, YOU!" He began to spit.
I began to shiver.
"YOU, YOU... Jeeeew. " He hissed, "YOU JEWISH. YOU. JEW!"
My throat went dry. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to move. He was transfixed on me and swaying in fetid delirium. I looked to the man in the black trench for help, but he, like the man in the navy blue overcoat, averted his gaze while closing a gaping mouth. The train lurched to a halt again as my eyes moistened.
The door opened, and another rush of people stampeded out. I leapt out of my seat and into another available one further down in the train. As I fell into it, catching my breath and clutching my bag to my chest, I watched Him sink into the space I had just occupied. He promptly let His head fall to His chest, and I believe He fell asleep.
I have finally come to a point in my life where I've learned how to be on time. Chalk it up to a job I like. Chalk it up to maturity. Whatever it is, it suits me well. Know why? When you're early, you have extra minutes to explore the unknown in this town, and I'm the most curious of cats. That being said, I arrived uptown for work super early last week and decided to walk down 58th street to see what I could find. It was a bit out of the way, but I've never explored 58th between 5th and 6th Avenues, so I turned the corner into unknown territory.
Traipsing along in the sleepy rain, I came across a grey awning with the words "Fika" and "Espresso Bar". Since I hadn't had my morning coffee yet, I decided to go in. Inside was this tiny, white tiled space with a glass case full of confectionary delights and a bearded man pulling coffee from a mod espresso machine. There was a patient line of neighbors and workers from the nearby (and newly demolished) Plaza Hotel, and it smelled like coffee heaven. While waiting, I discovered that Fika is New York City's "First Swedish Espresso Bar" specializing in Lofbergs Lila's Swedish coffee beans as well as assorted Swedish snacks and chocolate. The aesthetic was clean and minimal, and I pretended I was in an undiscovered Ingmar Bergman film.
When it was my turn, the delightful bearded man took my coffee order with a smile and then smiled again as he handed it over. He said, "WAIT! I must-a-give you da cover for da coffee so ya not burn ya hand!" He put on the cover, then motioned for me to "fill da cup of da coffee with da chocolate!" To my left was a two tiered tower of both white and dark chocolate chips for da fillin' of da cup. HELLO, FAVORITE COFFEE PLACE EVER.
I got off the subway again this morning and realized, yet again, that I had 15 minutes to kill. It would be a Fika morning! I entered the sugar cube space and was met by the smiling Delightful Bearded Man and this diminuitive elderly woman who must have been a neighbor. I stood in line behind her. When her turn came, Delightful Bearded Man lunged over the counter and embraced this woman with arms full of Swedish rainbows and sunshine. He whispered, "How are ya, my angel?" She squealed with delight. An 8 year old in an 80 year old body. She said, "I am wonderful, my dear. What do you have for me today?" He motioned towards the back of the shop to a unseen area and replied, "Fresh orange juice for my sweet." It was a verbal tennis match of loveliness.
Delightful Bearded Man then took my order warning me again to not burn da hands. On my way out, I heard his Angel asking about his weekend. Having forgotten to add my chocolate chips, I sipped the sweetness of their plesantries.
This has nothing to do with Bjorn Borg, but I really like the music of Peter Bjorn and John and urge you to check them out. Also, please visit Fika sometime if you either live in or plan on visiting New York.