Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jim Henson's Fantastic World.

I went out to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens on Sunday to see a childhood hero of mine: Jim Henson. I knew, when I first read about the show, that I wanted to see it but I don't think I quite realized how much I would remember, how many memories would come flooding back or how big I would smile. Fifteen of his iconic puppets are on display: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Bert & Ernie, Big Bird, the whole gang is there as well as countless drawings from Hensons career, vintage commercials he did, pre-Muppets sketches, you name it. The only missing piece would be if we could have rubbed their fleecy fur and hold their hands. Who doesn't want to take a picture sitting next to Kermit on that log? The crowd, no surprise, was mostly adults but I saw one little girl walking around with her own Kermit from home, her hand inside his body, just like Jim Henson did to operate Kermits features. Walking among the fuzzy and furry characters took me back in time. I could have sat for hours in those bright colored mini beanbags watching old clips of The Muppets, Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street. Thanks Jim.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Apartment hunting.

The view from my new apartment. Move in Nov 1st!

I've been in Manhattan for three months and in that time I've lived in two places, soon to be three. I started off on a friends couch in Brooklyn Heights. An adorable, easy, pretty neighborhood that almost made me want to stay put. But I wanted to live in Manhattan so I hit Craigslist and I hit the streets. After seeing 13 apartments all over downtown I settled on a place in the Lower East Side. It was a 2-bedroom apartment I would be sharing with an actress. I loved the apartment and my new roommate, my first roommate in over five years. Could I live with someone again? I hoped so. I had a view from my room. I had sun. I had space. I felt lucky and blessed.

This feeling only lasted two months. Sadly I have to move. On October 1st I found out I had to either pay more rent or move. So, I've spent the last three weeks pounding the pavement and trolling Craiglist. I ran from neighborhood to neighborhood. I was on time and I was late. I was depressed, angry, sad and most of all, anxious. Would I find something I liked just as much? Would I find something with as much space? Would I find anything at all? Would I be homeless? Well, after seeing 12 apartments I'm happy to report that I found just the right place (view above). On November 1st I will be moving to a new home. My new home for the next year. No roommates! (insert image of me jumping up for joy.)

Learning new things.

In New York City, with a population of 8,175,133 people, it's no surprise that I'm learning a few new tricks. These have come from people I know, strangers on subway platforms and new friends. Here are just a few of the 'how to survive in NYC' facts I've learned:

1. On even Avenues the traffic is going Uptown. This is only true on the West side-fyi. Conversely the odd streets are going downtown. I just learned this last week. A very helpful little factoid when you're trying to get a cab going the right way.

2. On even Streets the traffic goes East. Conversely the odd streets go West. The grid system was put into place in 1811, to unite regularity and order, and has undergone very little change since that original plan. There's more to learn here, maybe this book?

3. I hop on the F-train at the East Broadway station most days and it was just pointed out to me that the Uptown train, when it's about to arrive, is preceded by wind. I always noticed the wind but what I didn't realize was that the Brooklyn bound track side doesn't have the wind, it's preceded by a screechy sound. Total truth.

4. Yesterday I was wondering what people do with their A/C units in the winter. Leave em in. Take em out. No idea. Well, apparently there are companies who will come to your house, yank the unit, take it back to their shop, refurbish it, store it for the winter and then, when you're ready, come on out with it and pop it back in. Can you believe it? I can. And I can't. You gotta love New York.

5. When your Metro card is low the turnstile makes a beeping sound, a different beep than when it's just confirming that it's subtracting your fare. I never would have picked this up.

6. I have been dropping my clothes off at the Chinese laundromat down the street. What I didn't know is that once they get to know you you can call and have them pick up. And deliver. Wow.

Well, these are just a start. I've only been here three months, let's see what I find out in the next three.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Author's Eating.

Walking into Superfine I was disoriented and thrown off balance. Perhaps it was the change in sounds. I had just been sitting underneath the Manhattan Bridge, with its subway-car clanging cacophony to inside the Muzak filled restaurant. Only it's not Muzak. It's Beck. Early Beck. "What's with the early 90's music," Mike asked. "I know, it's like I'm in a hipster version of TGIFridays." To add to my disorientation the restaurant had seemingly endless levels and ramps, a multitude of tables to sit at, each with a different set of chairs and an empty fullness that reminded me of the bleachers at a friday night basketball game at my losing high school. The waiter pointed out at least six different tables we could sit at, none of them looked just right and when I asked to sit at one I do like he said, "No, not that one."

Sitting across from the seminal* writer, Mike S., I was a bit tongue tied. I didn't know where to start, what to say first, what to share, or in my case, overshare. We hadn't seen each other in a few years and we hadn't lived in the same town in at least ten years, probably more. I'm getting to an age where years fly by like minutes and keeping track of them is a losing battle so I'm going to let the accounting sit at ten years.

Before we rushed to fill the void with catch up banter we decided to look at the menu and get our order in. In further TGIFridayness the menu is done on a white dry-erase board with the days specials, about twelve choices in total--they read like an outdated cafe menu in a small midwest town. You know what I'm talking' about: chicken panini, portobello sandwich (for the vegetarian of course), grilled steak sandwich, fusili pasta and a garden salad. In a city dense with 5-star restaurants Zagat'd, Yelp'd and Michelen'd up the ying yang it's a wonder this place even exists: a comfortable place with semi-decent bar food in a hipster Brooklyn enclave underneath two bridges.

I'm here to see Mike--first up in my "Author's Eating" series (Thank you Mike) where I break bread with a writer, ask some questions and learn a little something about them. It's a writer meets food meltdown. Mike requested not to be featured as my first sandwich, claiming that he's not actually "published" but I say phooey to that flim-flam. But to honor his request, let's consider this a beta edible post.

Reminiscing about old friends, past apartments and new jobs we quickly lost track of time. When our lunches showed up we took a moment to lift food to mouth. Mike's plate had a tangled mound of softly browned, long skinny fries sitting next to a chicken sandwich--chicken nestled into a plain white italian roll. I hoped there was something else between those slices but my critical eye forgot to tell my sarcastic mouth to ask.

Looking down I noticed my tomato soup and garden salad. The soup looked good--I tasted it. It was vegan, almost, which meant it was boring, almost. Almost save for a raft of gorgonzola floating on the top. It tasted like fresh tomato sauce. From a can. The salad fared better to my taste buds. I quickly forked up a bite of the farm fresh greens and was greeted with just the right touch of lemon, olive oil and s & p. It was so good but so small, I wanted to order three more plates.

And we're back to Mike. He's telling me about his eighteen-month son Cole. It's a not so complicated, adorable story whose punchline is that now Cole points to a darkened TV and asks "Tennis?" along with a hand motion Mike taught him, as if he's batting a ball back and forth and a soft little "Pshew" escaping his little kid lips.

"So, tell me about your biggest tagline," I asked Mike, who works for a fancy nameless agency nearby. "Oh, well, that was something I did with my favorite Brazilian Creative Director. A tag that included absolutely no copy. Just a heart. An equals sign. And a soccer ball. It was for Puma during World Cup. "I like," I said.

Trying hard to eat my lunch slow, one leaf at a time, I tried to stretch out my meal, but soon I'm done while Mike delicately finished his sandwich, squeezing it gently, lest the chicken slide out, between thumb and forefingers, pinky finger up. Looking at him, looking at his plate, he spins the plate so the fries point towards me. "Want some?" Of course I do. They're not good but I'm still hungry and they're fries. You don't argue with fries.

Wrapping up our lunch I'd like to close out this beta issue of Author's Eating with my ratings:
Conversation: 9
Company: 10
Food: 4.5
Atmosphere: 5
Writers Craft: 2 (I need to ask more questions next time)

Thanks for joining me Mike.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Friday art walk.

Art filled day: Daphne Guiness at FIT, Richard Serra steel and translucent architectural models.

Last friday I had a much needed art day with a good friend visiting from San Francisco. Our first stop was for sustenance, aka a big fat breakfast. We shared the blueberry pancakes and farmers eggs with roasted tomatoes at Clinton Street Bakery. The sun-filled restaurant was a wonderful way to start the day. And yeah, those pancakes were pretty damn good. Light and fluffy, not dense, covered and filled with blueberries. I almost couldn't stop myself from finishing them. Their baked goods looked amazing, worth a trip back I'm sure.

Filled up and happy we walked over to FIT to see the Daphne Guinness show. Selected for her status as a both a muse and a fashion icon, FIT displayed her clothes in a museum setting, arranging her collection into several thematic ranges: dandyism, armor, chic, exoticism, and sparkly. The show didn't wow me like the Alexander McQueen show at the Met, but it certainly was nice to wander around and get close to the clothes without throngs of other people jostling me for position. One nice element was that you could walk all the way around the mannequins, so you could see the backs of the dresses, albeit through a scrim. I always hope for more content from a museum exhibition: when was the dress purchased, what did it cost, where did Guinness wear it, etc. In the end, I walked away having pretend shopped through her wardrobe but not really getting much sense for who Guinness is and why she selects and wears what she does. Anyway, the show is free and definitely worth an hour of your time.

From there we headed to Chelsea to see two more shows: Richard Serra at Gagosian and Do Ho Suh at Lehmann Maupin. I can't really say much about Richard Serra that you don't already know. His art takes over a room, it could take over a field. I like looking at his sculptures, I like sneaking my hand to brush the metal when I walk past it. I like the color, the warm and glowing rusty orange, glowing like fire but cool to the touch. In this show you can walk in and around, out and about, a series of arcs that have inner walkways that you can lose yourself in. I stumbled on an art student (probably) sitting on the floor and sketching with charcoal. I wouldn't have minded a little picnic down there between the metal sheets.

From Gagosian we headed over to see an exhibit of Korean sculptor, Do Ho Suh, at Lehmann Maupin Gallery. His work is about home and identity, a confusing state for a Korean living in Providence. One piece, Home Within Home, shows his house from Korea dropped in by a parachute and rammed into his home in Providence. Both homes have been replicated in exacting detail. They aren't miniatures, maybe one step up from that, mediumtures. The refrigerator is sliced on the diagonal and shown, split open, with half of everything. Half a lettuce, half a bottle of wine, half a turkey.

Also on display is another version of Home Within Home, this time made from translucent resin. The two homes have been merged together, formed and then split into four quadrants (as shown in the picture above). My favorite show of the three, it's closing on October 22nd, blink and it will be gone.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The wallpaper of my youth.

Growing up I lived in a stucco-covered townhouse in the San Fernando Valley. It was a two-story condo that I lived in with my older bother and my sometimes single Mom. It had three bedrooms upstairs. Mine was in the corner, right next to my Moms room. My brothers room was smaller and darker. I don't remember how I lucked into the better room but I never pointed out the disparity. My bedroom had one window that looked out at another condo and looked down at a cement walkway edged by dark green ferns. My room was big, a long rectangle that could fit two twin beds, a large table and a long dresser. The walls of my room were covered in Duran Duran posters, fashion models and a flowered wallpaper that was girly and graphic at the same time. I picked it out, along with my Mom, after much deliberation at the local wallpaper store. My first choice had been sold out, a crushing blow to a teenager who rarely gets to make such big decisions. Sold out. Trying not to tear up over such a small thing; yet I can remember what a big decision it seemed in my mind. Huge. I couldn't imagine how I could land on a choice and actually be happy with the outcome. The store had rows and rows of choices in every color and pattern. Up, down, over and across. I kept looking for the one, finally settling on a pink floral pattern that had a black and white grid underneath it. Even back then I was strong and opinionated but I also aspired to be feminine and soft, just like the wallpaper. A fine line no one was helping me learn. "Are you sure?" my Mom probably asked. It seemed very me, and, knowing me, I was probably very definitive. My parents put it up one weekend, I think I helped a little. Carrying long strips from the hallway into the room, standing there while my short stepdad, standing on his small step stool placed it up high and then scraped downward with a squeegee to make sure it had no bubbles. Looking up, as he attempted to line up the grid, It was only then that I realized I had picked a complicated pattern. Maybe that's when I first began to hone my critical eye. When we were finally done I was happy. Excited to have something to stare at while lying in bed. Thinking back on that time I surprise my now self. Surprised I didn't hate it in one week. Surprised that, even now, I still remember it so fondly.