An August Day Unlike Any Other

Yesterday proved to be a somber day as the FDNY honored another brother lost. A veteran fireman who survived 9/11 was lay to rest having perished in a condemned building, one of the last standing from the terrorist attacks. Rockefeller Center, and its surrounding streets, was a sea of blue; the melancholy hymns of sorrow could be heard from every corporate office nearby.

This year will mark the 6th since the tragedy that befell NYC. In some ways we have learned nothing from our loss; and in others we have learned more than we could ever hope to about death. Not one for conspiracy theories or curses, I find it eerie that these recent deaths are occurring so close to the anniversary date. Almost as if the grounds themselves are trying to tell the world they are sacred, hallowed.


A summer day is never quite complete without a pining for, if not a moment at, the beach. The weather this past week has been abominable. An unlikely term I suppose but the cold came too quickly. We went from light silks and cotton sheers to pulling out leather coats and sweaters in the middle of August. August!?! I know that most people are at odds about the meaning of global warming but there has been a definitive shift in our climate pattern.

The water was at battle with itself today: suck the swimmers out to sea or slap them back onto the shore. Perhaps that's a harsh description but the water was not its usual self. Maybe it's because I'm not a strong swimmer but I prefer to feel the ocean feeling me, its waves cleansing the weariness from my soul after a chaotic week. There was none of that this afternoon. The strength of the undertow was disconcerting; there were pockets of water that surely could have been riptides, water-filled quicksand. I was quite content to return to the blanket to nap and read my book--Paulo Coelho's latest, The Witch of Portobello, instead of getting sloshed about.

On this late afternoon in what is supposed to be the hottest month of the summer, I noticed that one thing was missing from the shore: jellyfish. August is for swimming with the fear of being stung by a jellyfish, it's practically a rites of passage. And to date, I haven't seen one yet. Strange, no?

I joined Lillian, Rob and their family for a good old-fashioned block party tonight. Lillian and I met at Suzanne's birthday dinner back in February. We took the train back to Brooklyn together, forming a friendship on the ride home. I missed the rides and the band but came just in time for dessert: apple pie & cupcakes. I cannot remember the last time I attended a block party; I'm afraid to say that it might have been nearly (gulp) 15 years ago.

Suzanne & Jason were there with their children Lauren & Noah whom I haven't seen in at least two years. Time just keeps on moving whether we are present in all the moments in between or not. I was thinking about that last night when Luiz and I were walking through the Village. We had stopped for a slice of Joe's Pizza (the lightest Neapolitan I've had in years that wasn't dripping with oil) and then went to Cones for a gelato/sorbet. As we walked around the block it was hard to fathom how many places I had known (Shotzkin's, Boxers, among others) were gone and replaced by new hot venues (mostly gelateria's, pizza shops and Beard Papa's cream puff shops).

Anyway, it was comforting to be in the company of an Italian family. Lillian's mom spoke in Sicilian, so many words and phrases my mom and grandmother would recite. She spoke of the fig tree in their backyard and how it produced both white and dark green figs; how her husband had cut off the branches last winter so that he could wrap it and keep it warm from the drop in temperature; how the tree had sprouted nearly twice its harvest from last year.

All of it reminded me of the block parties we used to have. Lisa's family would barbecue and we would play volleyball over the fence in the driveway, later having dessert and coffee at her house and then again at my house under the awning on the porch. Easily crossing the streets without fear of cars racing by, the streets blocked off with police sawhorses. Sitting on each other's stoops listening to the adult chatter; and now here we are the adults. Names from my childhood flood my brain: Peter & Mark, Alice, Frank Jude & Prudy, Lisa...where are they all now? Back when we were kids everyone knew each others names, we were part of each other's lives. Hardly anyone knows one another anymore, hardly anyone speaks let alone smiles at anyone they don't know. We share the same commute to and from the train station and don't even acknowledge each other. How did it get to be this way?


A Thai-Brazilian Thursday

An oasis vanished like a mirage in the desert. There's never a worthy explanation. Restaurants in this city have an abbreviated life span. There are so many factors that contribute to its demise, and it's hard to tell or guess, what will breathe life into a space. For the Casablanca Tea Room, I suspect the combination of a Moroccan cafe and upscale boutique combined with the encroachment of other (i.e., Babouche) bedazzled casbahs didn't help much. It's a shame too because one really did feel pleasantly lost surrounded by the whitewashed canopied walls and lattice. As if climbing those metal stairs, transported you to an exotic locale where sand and wind reigned. I think I will miss that feeling most, that and the delicious Moroccan mint tea served in teapots worthy of Aladdin's genie.


Prem-on Thai

The food was mediocre Thai but the decor now that is something to write about. Similar in design to Spice, Prem-on-Thai has a futuristic motif. Double glass doors lead into a dining area reminiscent of a mess hall one might find if they crossed West Elm's catalog with a scene in The Fifth Element. Low ceilings, espresso wood floors with submerged floorboard lighting designed in a hopscotch pattern lead to a lotus-seated Buddha enclosed in glass. The unisex bathroom found behind an inconspicuous door toward the rear of the restaurant (it looked like a For Employees Only service entrance) featured a communal sink with a water-trough like basin complete with a waterfall chute faucet. I would love to have that in my shower!

Zinc Bar

Two blocks east on West Houston a set of wood and metal stairs lead to a subterranean beatnik-era bar and performance space. Kristin, Luiz & I were lucky to arrive when we did, snagging the last corner table for three. The layout of the space reminds me of a modern punk guitar with its long neck and juxtaposed base. Zinc Bar's long narrow entryway was lined with a row of 8 or 10 low tables and leather poufs. The room was low lit with nautical ceiling lights and red votive candles on each copper-top table. The Brazilian band, Choro Ensemble, had a 4' x 4' performance space. Choro, which means "cry" in Portuguese, is a popular form of Brazilian music that dates back to the early 19th century. The five-member band featured ukelele (or cavaquinho), guitar, bass guitar, tambourine and flute. As Luiz explained to us earlier, the string instruments are played unconventionally strummed more often than with a pick, the tambourine is played like a set of bongo drums...and the flute, who knew one could breathe so rapidly into the wind.

The Nanny Diaries

In case you have a soft spot for chick flicks, I would recommend you skip The Nanny Diaries. They tried for magical (as in modern day Mary Poppins without the carpetbag) and failed. It's only redeeming quality was in the narrative presentation as an anthropological field guide. I had never read the book but it's my understanding that it was written as such. Nonetheless, Scarlett Johansson such a talented actress, like movie stars back in the '40s sultry and strong ought to have picked a better role to engage in for this summer film viewing. I imagine playing Annie the Nanny will do nothing for her career; I only hope that it paid well or at the very least enough to increase her rate quota per motion picture.


Living For the Weekend

Sunday always comes too fast. Even when the weekend is moving at a mellow pace, its end date comes quickly. There's only so much one can get done and yet we try to accomplish a lifetime of things in two days. Some of us succeed, exhausted at the start of a new week pining for another 48-hour block for time to relax. We end up living for the weekends whether we want to or not.

There is a novelty gift company, Quotable Cards, and they once printed a greeting card that said something to the effect of how we should live each day as if it were a little life. If each day were a new beginning, a new reality (far more entertaining than say the movie Groundhog Day) it might change our perspective of what our place is in it. How can we live each day based on this philosophy? It seems simple enough: spend the time with people who bring you joy and love, engage in activities that inspire and motivate, enjoy your surroundings no matter how simple or complex, involve yourself in the world around you--just one random act of kindness can move mountains.

It is late, I should be asleep. I've almost been awake for 24 hours but my mind is not quiet enough for slumber. My eyes grow weary but my fingers are hard-pressed to type. Years ago when my writing practice was disciplined, the flow was easy to attain. Nowadays it takes an effort to commit my words and thoughts to the page, even though once I start it's hard to imagine that it was a challenge.


Kristin and I have been talking about getting back to the beach--with just a few more weekends left (most of them planned already) to the summer, we have to be more diligent. The sand was solid from yesterday's rain but the wind's velocity swept it onto everything in sight. We try to choose a Zen space for our blanket not too far from the lifeguard but we attract noise and distraction like a positive to a negative end of a magnet. The only respite to the boom box and harsh Soprano-like voices is the sea. Today was refreshing, but despite a multitude of sandbars the undertow remained strong, and the storm had chilled the usually tepid August bathwater.

We met up with Luiz for dinner in Long Island City at Bella Via, a decent neighborhood bistro though I'm glad it's not in my neighborhood. The tortellini in broth was al dente, the peas slightly frozen. The coal-fired pizza wasn't as crisp as we had hoped, the cappuccinos flat. The air conditioner overzealous. I vaguely remember visiting Larissa when she lived here, and how adamant she was about not eating at Bella Via (this is before the LIC's rebirth); their reputation has sustained itself after all these years. I don't think I'll go back.


Kudos to the brave soul's creativity in importing sand from the Jersey shore and for the idea storm to host a weekly outdoor dance party on the East River. The crowd was hard to define--had Manhattanites shipped themselves over in a taxi, or were they hipsters from nearby trendy Brooklyn 'hoods or perhaps the local residents buying property in luxury condos? It didn't matter really because here in this open air space with with a fantastic view of Manhattan DJs dueled their vinyls and iPods (as part of Turntables on the Hudson). Harry's Water Taxi Beach Party presented a safe, outdoor environment to dance for pure enjoyment. No pressure to drink or toke (though the burning incense hid any sort of evidence for the latter), revelers got their groove on, the plywood floors and on the sandy faux beach. All for a mere $3 (+$ if you had beverages).



stormy weather

An overdue good night's sleep set the course for my last summer Friday, waking at 11 was a treat. I had breakfast with Dad and after a score of household chores made my way to Riis. Jacob Riis Park for those of you who don't know is part of the Gateway National Parks in Jamaica Bay, Queens. It's an oasis of a beach that my family has frequented since I was a child. Who needs to trek out to the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore when paradise is a short jaunt away?

Crossing the Gil Hodges bridge there appeared to be a threat of rain but I thought nothing of it; there hadn't been a call for rain in any of the forecasts I'd heard. I parked and walked toward a spot near the lifeguard, spread out my blanket and sat down to relish in the peace and quiet of a lazy Friday afternoon. There were few people on the beach, and with the dark cloud looming a majority of the morning crowd had cleared out. Thunder, soft, subtle but enough of a warning that the lifeguard whistled everyone out of the water and off of the beach. I hadn't even taken off my T-shirt.

The morning had been clear and sun-filled, warm with a light breeze. I had left the house too late. Heading back to the car I looked toward the sky to see a patch of whiter clouds behind the stormy patch. Maybe I could wait it out. I could think of worse places to be in a thunderstorm. Somehow the comfort and safety of my car not too far from the coast with a natural stereo of waves crashing, a storm rumbling, the falling rain leaving fingerprints on stone and glass seemed just right, for now.

It's a light summer rain airy and free. The kind meant for dancing on grass, puddle jumping in bare feet, kissing. The rain drops like shooting stars, fireworks...the seagulls seem at a loss of what to do, where to go, there caws are sorrowful as they fly low. The sky has lightened but the rain persists. On the radio, the meteorologist delivers a thunderstorm watch until 4:45pm in surrounding areas. I have another (9) minutes to wait out the storm, hoping for it to pass.

Flashes of lightning are drifting east toward Long Island, the thunder following reluctantly. It's hard to guess if the rain will let up. With a true summer storm, the sky gives little indication to what will happen next. By now the sand is surely soaken through but I bet the water is warm and perfect for body surfing. It's raining harder now, the birds seek refuge in the sky. There are less then a dozen cars left in the parking lot, including my own. The sky is nearly white, a paler shade of gray, and still it rains on.

Photo Source: http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/


50% Off La Vida Femme

Last night Paula, Nikki and I attended a women's seminar entitled Men & Magnetism. Not knowing what to expect we went in with open minds and walked out with yet another funny story to tell at a party.

La Vida Femme was so similar to an event I attended with Kristin, Lisa Robyn (author of The Corporate Dominatrix, a great read for all you ladies out there in corporate America) and Emily earlier this year that I had to laugh. I wonder if I should tip off Mama Gena about her copycat, I wouldn't be surprised if the Barbie doll facilitator was a former disciple.

Within minutes of arriving, we were directed to the yoga studio at the Soho Equinox where a selection of Sex in the City inspired women populated the room. Decked out in summer sheaths and Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses, stilettos from the likes of Christian Louboutin, sequin-bespeckled wedge thongs and Tory Burch flats, the crowd was full of smiles and seemingly extroverted women.

Elvira, the testimonial devotee, hushed the crowd and cooed about how we all looked like a luscious summer garden. I nearly choked on my blondie as Paula snickered and Nikki chuckled nearby. Elvira proceeded to tell us how she had met the mastermind behind LVF at a workshop, and was inspired to sign herself up for coaching. The 58-year old blond told of a former life that included a heavier self, in huge debt and freshly scarred from a bad break up and how within a "9-month gestation period with LVF" (her words not mine) she found herself with a 6-figure job, close to being debt-free, 50 lbs lighter and dating a fantastic younger man. All thanks to Ms. La Vida Femme. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? It's amazing how all these self-help workshops pile it on so thick...and even more amazing that these seemingly well-groomed, levelheaded, outgoing women were buying into it!

The mini workshop lasted about an hour and Ms. Barbie and her cohort, a mature Jessica Simpson lookalike led us through mini exercises:

- the free-dance (Mama Gena did that one too)
- the "feel good smile" meditation
- lessons on how to channel your inner "supermodel/superhero/secret celebrity"
- the surefire visualization techniques to answering the "what do I/why do I want" question
- and the affirmation what I want in a "GingerbreadStud" man

They encouraged us to find our light and flow, that we have the choice of choosing our attitude (and yes they referred to The Secret), how our state of being is imperative to the laws of attraction. Nothing we haven't heard or read before right? Before the closing remarks we were instructed to kiss our paper GingerbreadStud, for some reason I kissed mine on the forehead which elicited a chuckle from the girls...It could have been that the sketch reminded me of a child but I thought I read some place that the forehead is an erogenous zone. [I checked that out once I got home, and while that's true, it's more a tip for men about women--"Don’t just kiss on the lips though try the cheeks, eyelids, forehead, nose, neck, or earlobes and do it with passion and variety." Source: http://ezinearticles.com/?Female-Erogenous-Zones.]

After our little make-out session the ladies of La Vida Femme applauded our intiative and invited us to attend the continuation of the Feminine Magnetism seminar at a discounted price, half-off the full cost for the one-time only (2) hour group workshop.

We thought not and made a silent retreat to Puck Fair to celebrate our inner selves for having a sense of humor about the evening's turn of events.

Karaoke 17

It's hugely possible now that after karaoking twice, that I have been bitten by the bug. I cannot wait until the next time and hope to grab the posse for some serious crooning.

This time around we were bidding friends from work a fond farewell...its funny what a sampling of drink (or for those who do not drink, enthusiasm) can do for the innovative wannabe singer in all of us.

This is where we went: http://www.karaoke17.com - they have a special happy hour Mon - Wed but we've always reserved a room (@ $6/pp/hour). The rooms have a sectional couch with tables, your personal flat screen with a touch pad to enter the songs and (2) microphones. You can order pitchers of beer (bottom shelf), mixed drinks and water via a phone on the wall.

Everyone picks songs of their choice and proper karaoke etiquette allows that person to sing their song solo on the mic or with back up on the chorus. That rule proves to be difficult to follow as the night progresses and as the drinks pour, toward the end of the evening you've got more of a caroling choir than anything else. It's also recommended that you set the ground rules of the veto committee (when deleting songs) before the night gets under way as people's choices are unwittingly removed from the song list before they've had a chance to sing them.

Some of the songs sung Wednesday night: Come on Eileen, Cream (Prince), Rosanna & Africa (Toto), You Don't Bring Me Flowers, I Got You Babe, Here I Go Again, My Humps, Porcelain (Moby), You Get What You Give, Wanted Dead or Alive, Brown-Eyed Girl, Brown Sugar, Guantanamera, Don't You Want Me Baby (Human League), Little Red Corvette, 1999, Like A Prayer, I Think We're Alone Now, Baby Hit Me One More Time...among others.

Each person has an individual style and genre, for me it definitely 80s and female vocalists in particular.

Helen recommended the site: www.singshot.com for karaoke enthusiasts. Using just your computer, USB unidirectional microphone and broadband connection you too can try your hat at American Idol reality from the comfort of your own home.

If I ever find the microphone in this apartment (I've been losing things these last few weeks) I may very well try the site out.


Quintessential Quotes

Lately I've been discovering quotes that resonate with me on some level, here are a couple (I'll update this post periodically):

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
- Henry James

I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life. - Ronald Reagan


The Speed of Light

Life seems to be moving at the speed of light these days. The summer is nearly over, how on earth did we get to mid-August?

Apartment living has been wonderful. The sofa looks great (yes I know I need to POST photos), positioned catty corner in the living room with a reading lamp between it and the hallway to the bedroom. I haven't had time to lasso a few good men into carrying the bookcase downstairs yet but have I had a minor fiasco in trying to find a suitable rug. There was a cable wool rug featured in the most recent West Elm catalog that had possibilities. I bought (2) 3x5's in gray thinking that would afford me more flexibility on placement. What a mistake. For one, the rug (pile) was too thick. Second, the color (gray) was all wrong, it didn’t offer enough contrast. I decided then and there to bring them back to the store (of course they are still propped up against the wall in the living room but there is intent!) As I rolled the one rug up and back into its plastic sheath, I discovered an even better reason to not keep them: The rug shed more than two Tiggers together!

Sharon suggested I get a leather shag rug from Overstock, it sure 'looks' great but I'm hesitant to order it without the opportunity to touch and feel.

Lisa suggested a Berber rug though to be honest I'm not sure it will look any different from the cable rug.

Then I had a brainstorm, maybe I could get away without having a rug at all. But then I started to think about the change of seasons and the thought of winter, cold feet and sitting on hardwood floors vanquished that thought straightaway. I wonder if I went back to IKEA for additional sheepskin rugs if that would suffice. They are certainly fluffy enough and together with the floor pillows it would create extra comfort and seating. Something to think about....

I haven't had much time to devote to free associating design ideas for the apartment, or for the blog for that matter. Sorry about that! It feels good to be catching up on things. There have been a lot of changes at work including added responsibilities (be careful what you wish for) and people announcing their soon to be departures. I haven't even been there four (4) months yet and there have already been so many changes (one of our tech guys is also leaving to get his Master’s at Stanford). Though I can't (or won't) complain. I'll take this any day over the stagnant waters Conde Nast.

The greatest challenge with the move is an establishment of boundaries for both my dad and I. Tigger's placement (meaning where he lives) is an issue. He appears to be confused about where he belongs (why else would he talk so much). After months of telling him not to go downstairs (for fear of any unnecessary accidents), he now finds me living there without him. And though he comes to visit now and again, for the most part he remains in the heart of the house. I would love him to be downstairs with me but then he would be alone all day. Staying with Dad upstairs allows him (3) floors to roam but I'm sure Dad would be none too happy with having full responsibility Tigger , and lord knows Tigger’s diet would go the way of the Chia pet. Dad would most certainly forget (yes, that's starting too) the feeding schedule. And, I would miss Tigger terribly; there’s nothing quite as comforting as your 18-lb. hunk of love offering the kitty march massage when you’re feeling blue. Last night we cuddled on the couch together, Tigger’s body is no joke the same length/depth as the couch. And of course I realized I’ll need to cover the twill with a sheet…I really wish he would let me brush him more.

Anyway I’ve learned to train myself to enter and exit through the apartment entrance (rather than going through the house). The door jamb has consistently proven to be an obstacle. It's nearly impossible to close the door with ease. There is hardly any room to get a good grip on the door knob and the clearance to pull it shut is worse than a tight parking space. Dad has plans to fix that, so we'll see.

Then there is the closet situation--the onus here is on me. Besides having to coordinate with Ingrid to utilize her organizational expertise, I have been moving very slowly in bringing all my clothes downstairs. I never realized how much stuff I have. Maybe I can tackle that this weekend.

Lastly, the greatest impediment to full independent living is that I still don't have a full working range and therefore when I am home early enough to eat, I have to go upstairs. Who knew once the contractor was 90% complete that it would be an effort to carve out time (on both of our schedules) to get back on track and complete the job? Heck I still owe him money, surely that alone would be an incentive. Then again he and his wife did just have twins (they also have a little boy), and from watching Rich & Caroline with their brood of three, time goes out the window faster than the creation of the speed of light.

Just another chapter in the Zen of patience...