Sunday, April 24, 2005

It followed me home

Just another part of city living: things that people have dropped or thrown or put out on the street. Not garbage or trash, but (possibly, potentially) useful objects that are simply lying on the sidewalk, sitting on a stoop or propped up on a street-level window sill. Every urbanite has seen and passed them without a second thought: a random glove, a newspaper, a shoe. Here are some of the things I've recently found on the street and liked enough to bring home with me:

  • Ceramic coffee mugs

  • Record albums

  • Cut flowers

  • Computer software (shrink-wrapped, unused)

  • Books (many books in many languages)

  • Money

  • Cashmere scarf

  • Wristwatch (yes, it works)

  • IKEA bookshelf

  • Magazines

  • Folding umbrellas

  • Golf umbrellas

  • Videotape of The Emperor's Club marked "Academy Reviewer Copy"

  • IVAR shelf unit

  • The Emperor's Club
  • Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    Writing, escaping and dissolving

    Tonight I attended a writing workshop organized by the NY Writers Coalition. The idea of the workshop is that each person writes and then -- if they wish -- reads their work to the assembled group. The session begins when the facilitator reads something or makes a reference that the writers can use a starting point.

    There are strict rules:
    1. No one has to read or comment on anyone else's writing unless they so desire.
    2. Writers can read only things they've written during that particular workshop.
    3. Comments should focus on feelings or reactions to the piece or its structure; no critiquing.
    4. Do not assume that the writer is discussing his or her own feelings or experiences.

    The first session tonight began with the facilitator reading a poem by New York chef/poet Frank Lima.

    Frank Lima Posted by Hello

    I'm Tired

    February 21, 1994
    I want you to grow old with me

    i.e. to catch up to me
    as I am becoming increasingly weary
    of writing poems to you

    the poems have
    discolored my life

    I'm tired of the mysterious truth
    after I touch you
    I'm tired of not knowing what you think about
    I'm tired of women who have the same name as you
    they don't know that I'm tired of them too

    I'm tired of the telephone
    of its beige lips
    telling me they love me
    and that you don't
    that you're a figment
    in my ear

    I don't want my poems to wear out anyone else again
    I don't want to die and have this machine at
    my bedside holding my hand
    draping me with its affectionate black ribbon
    wondering who will turn it on when I'm gone
    wondering if my soul will become a kiss again.

    Interestingly enough, the pieces we developed -- without any planning or discussion -- were very clearly divided by gender. The women wrote pieces that included references to escaping to Tahiti and drinking cocktails while being immersed in warm water; the men wrote about a heavy, pervasive weariness that extended down into (and even dissolved) their bones.

    We speculated about the commonality, and someone mentioned that while it could be a coincidence, it could also be interpreted as dipping into a collective unconsciousness. Usually, that sort of reference would make me uncomfortable -- or at least, skeptical -- but tonight, it seemed as though it might be a logical explanation for an extraordinary occurrence.

  • NY Writers Coalition

  • Frank Lima

  • Tahiti Legends Vactions
  • Sunday, April 17, 2005

    Sunday Brunch in Paris

    A blazingly gorgeous spring Sunday. Sunny enough to debate about whether to take a jacket (... or will it be so warm that I won't need one?). When I first moved into this place, back in 1998, I could look out the window, see passers-by on the street, and -- based on what they were wearing or carrying -- decide how to prepare myself for the outside world. If the pedestrians were rushing by with umbrellas, I made sure to carry one with me. If they pulled their scarfs up over their noses, tight against the wind, I'd remember to wear gloves and a muffler and a hat. But those days are gone. A few years ago, a developer began to build on the lot next door and, as the building rose, I gradually lost my view of the street. Now I look out upon walls, windows, roofs, but no people or dogs or cars, and wardrobe decisions are more of a crap shoot.

    Brunch at L'Express, a French bistro on Park Avenue South, with a friend who is preparing for a first trip to Paris. I brought along a little gift -- an illustrated guidebook purchased when I visited the Musée d'Orsay, the impressionist museum housed in a former train station.

    Musée d'Orsay Posted by Hello

    Guidebooks are odd things. You buy them when you go someplace, then bring them home and put them on a shelf forever. Why do we bring them home? Does anyone ever spend a quiet evening leafing through an old guidebook saying, "Ah, yes, that's where the ladies' room was at Vatican! Funny, I remembered it as being on the other side of the gift shop. Good thing I kept this guidebook handy!" So, the guide and a map of Paris will travel with someone who can actually put them to good use, and I'll have a tiny bit less stuff in this tiny apartment. For good measure, I threw in a few more guidebooks: Delphi, Windsor (England) and Brighton Pavillion.

    Then, having disposed of the excess books, walked over to the Strand Book Store and bought about a dozen more. In my own defense, they were all from the 49 cent cart. Okay, the price is no justification -- they'll still take up precious space -- but I just couldn't resist.

    Strolled through Union Square and wound up at the new Whole Foods Market -- three floors filled with fresh, fragrant, exotic dishes. Even though I'd only intended to look around, I snagged a chilled container of fresh, crunchy Gus's Pickles and carrying it, sloshing around the bag full of books, all the way home to Brooklyn. And, miraculously, not a single drop of pickle juice spilled.

  • L'Express

  • Musée d'Orsay

  • Strand Books

  • Whole Foods
  • Friday, April 08, 2005

    Ashes and Snow

    On this cold, windy but bright Friday, I went to Pier 54 (near W. 13th St.) on the Hudson River to visit the Nomadic Museum. I've heard that on most days there are long entrance lines, but today there was no waiting. I walked right inside and the colossal space was nearly empty.

    The Nomadic Museum is a 45,000-square-foot temporary space made from paper tubes, tea bags and 148 metal shipping containers. The building, which resembles a cross between a warehouse and a cathedral, is devoted exclusively to "Ashes and Snow," a multi-media exhibit of the work of Canadian photographer Gregory Colbert.

    The show opened in March and will remain in New York only until June 6; the entire museum and its contents will then be disassembled, shipped across the country and remounted in Los Angeles. Organizers plan for it to then continue its travels to Beijing, Paris and other stops that haven't yet been announced.

    Boy and Elephant Posted by Hello

    The structure is the result of a collaboration between Colbert and Japanese architect Shigeru Ban: they have created a mobile museum that is moving around the world to exhibit 199 large-scale, sepia-toned photographs of people and animals and a black and white film edited by Oscar winner Pietro Scalia and narrated by actor Lawrence Fishburne. The photos, the film, the lighting, the music and the space itself are awe-inspiring. At the end of the one-hour film, the narrator intones:

    Feather to fire
    Fire to blood
    Blood to bone
    Bone to marrow
    Marrow to ashes
    Ashes to snow

    After seeing the exhibit, I stopped into the Chelsea Market for a little nourishment: a soft, sweet pumpkin muffin and rich, dark coffee at Sarabeth's Kitchen. Also picked up a loaf of potato onion dill from Amy's Bread; with a bowl of steaming hot pea soup and a little salad, it'll make a nice, homey dinner.

  • Ashes and Snow

  • Chelsea Market

  • Sarabeth's Kitchen

  • Amy's Bread