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Sword in the Stone

24 Jun

cover

“Be the change” has been my mantra for years.  In fact, when I was teaching in Michigan, I said it so often that students would sometimes attribute the quote to me (as an English instructor I used it as a “teachable moment” to discourage plagiarism by properly attributing it to its rightful owner – Gandhi).

Attribution issues aside, I was gratified to realize that the message was getting through because my students felt like the best hope for change, and when I left the classroom in 2012, I worried that I wouldn’t feel that hope anymore.

I need not have worried.  Thanks to technology and social media, I’m finding small pockets of people who are doing things they love and being the change in their own corner of the world.

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet from the Baltimore band, Blind Man Leading.  I followed the link, and watched one of the most uplifting band videos I’ve seen in a long time – maybe ever.  As I listened to the music and the band members (drummer/producer Paul Mercer, bass player/vocalist Tyler Wheeler, and guitarist/lead singer Dave Wentz) talk about what inspires them to make music, what struck me was their gratitude for their fans and their desire to build a community by making music that draws listeners together.

Dave explained, “Swords is a thank you to all of the people who listen,” Tyler followed, saying, “The purpose of this album is to get people to come out and listen,” and when Paul chimed in, “We appreciate all of the people who come to see us so much.  How do you capture that in a recording – that sense of community?” I was hooked.  These guys make music because they love both the creative process of making the music and the experience of gifting it to their listeners in their performances.

So, I tweeted back and told them they should come to Chicago, and to my surprise they responded!  As we engaged in a short exchange about a tour budget and how fan lottery winnings might be the way to fund it, I was amazed at their genuine interaction with fans via what can be such an impersonal medium.

I did a little research and listened to more of their music on their Bandcamp page, then bought the album, and listened to it for a few days.  The Bandcamp description of them as crafting and playing “…melodic, expressive songs that feature bright chords and upbeat, jazz-influenced rhythms” is absolutely accurate.  There’s something very honest and real about their music, and I felt uplifted hearing them sing, “You have choices.”

Dave, Paul, and Tyler in Philadelphia

Dave, Paul, and Tyler in Philadelphia – photo credit @amorealta (Paul’s Instagram)

So, being the rookie fan I am, I found the band’s email address and wrote them asking if they’d mind me blogging about them and their positive message. They responded much more quickly than I’d imagined they would, and were incredibly open to being part of my blog and generous about answering questions.

I wrote, “I’ll tell you that what really inspired me to want to write about you guys (beside the fact that I enjoyed your music) were two things in particular: the YouTube video where you talked about how you feel about your fans and the link on your page to the International Justice Mission.  In a world full of slickly packaged, commercialized music (which has its own place/value), I think music lovers are searching for (and often desperately craving) “real” experiences and it appears to me that this is something you guys strive to provide.”

To which Paul responded, “…we’re pretty fed up with the “slickly packaged, commercialized” part of the industry you’re alluding to, so we’ve made it a point to just write the best music we can and share it with people in an honest and genuine way. We seriously appreciate people who listen to the tunes and come to see us…we mean it when we say it means the world to us. So instead of complaining about the Modern Music Industry, or trying to be part of it, we simply try to connect with people through the music.”

When I wrote back and asked for background information, they immediately sent me links to their sites and a review of their album Bostonia.

It’s bands like this that give me hope.  They aren’t out to hit the top 40 (although, I’m sure they wouldn’t object to occupying a spot) or make a million dollars (though, again, I’m sure there would be few objections), they’re dedicated to making music that they love and music that they can share with audiences who appreciate their musical ability to create and fuel a community.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 9.35.59 AM

Design by Sam Paxton of Ghost Hotel

They’re currently working on their next EP release, Kerosene, and will be performing with Ghost Hotel and Seagulls on July 12 at Cafe Nola in Frederick, MD.

I don’t live close enough to make it to this performance, so I’m going to buy a lottery ticket with the hope that perhaps I can win the change that might make a tour possible!

 

 

 

Facebook: facebook.com/blindmanleading
Youtube: youtube.com/user/blindmanleading
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/blindmanleading
BandCamp: blindmanleading.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @BMLtheband
Instagram: instagram.com/blindmanleading

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Vivid in the Valley

5 Jun

silvery-ghosts-social

On this blog (and most everywhere else), I talk about dreaming big and having faith in those dreams.  I believe in this, and I try my best to walk the talk, but sometimes my faith wavers and the dream feels like it’s too far out of reach as unexpected detours take me miles away from where I’m headed.

It’s usually at that moment that someone or something presents itself as a hopeful sign of  Steve Jobs’ sage reminder that “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

This week I discovered the debut single from the ambient pop group Silvery Ghosts, and as I began to learn more about the band – and the singer/songwriter behind it – I realized that this was yet another sign that sometimes the long way around is the only way to get to where you belong.

In the past five years, band founder Hank Kim has been through what he calls “an amazing, humbling journey.”  Kim, a native of Dayton, Ohio, released his first album, Blue Alibi in 2005 after having been introduced to New York indie rock mainstay, Mike Daly.  According to Blue Alibi liner notes, Daly, on the rebound after having disbanded his group Whiskeytown, “…became intrigued with the singer’s raw, idiosyncratic voice and melodic hooks, chronicling the jagged tales of misfits, rebels, and other bruised souls, flailing at the ghosts of redemption, in turns that are both comic and heartbreaking.”

At the end of 2001, in the wake of destruction, Kim and Daly walked into Soho’s Magic Shop and began the hopeful process of recording what would become the base for the rest of the album’s tracks.  Over the next two years, they worked with “…Dan Rieser (Marcy Playground, Norah Jones), drummer Alan Bezozi (Freedy Johnston), keyboardist John Deley (Dido), bassist Joe Quigley, and Sir Tim Bright, the renaissance man of Avenue U, who lent his distinctive touch to everything from the guitar and 6-string bass to the harmonium…” to produce an album that cleverly combined acoustic storytelling traditions with the yearning ache of Kim’s vocals and gave it a musical backing that transcended eras planting him squarely in the center of the power pop movement.

If you think I’m overstating the case, give “May/December Girl” a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

For various reasons, the album didn’t get the attention it deserved, but Kim was undeterred and set about working on his sophomore effort.  It would take him nearly four years to record Notorious Rainproof Smile, which moved Kim’s vocals away from the acoustic crooner style toward an edgier, indie rock sound.  The effort took its toll, and by the time it was ready for release he felt lost.  According to Kim, “I didn’t even bother to give the record a proper release.  I thought I was done as a musician and a songwriter.  I felt like the biggest fake – that I didn’t really have anything to say that anyone would want to hear.  All of the old demons were barking real loud.”

At that point, Kim let go of the music and began to reinvent himself by enrolling in acting school and starting his own business.  It wasn’t until 2010, after a failed relationship, that Kim felt the reemerging urge to create music.  In the spring of that year, he sat down at his computer and let loose the river of raw, uncensored thoughts and emotions that would become the basis for Love & Other Ephemera.

Finally hitting the studio in 2013, Kim tapped Nate Martinez (formerly of Pela and Theiving Irons) to produce the album.  According to the band’s website, together they worked to capture musical ephemera, a sound that Kim calls, “music without boundaries…the sense of searching for truthful expression that may or may not be relevant years from now but captures the emotional essence of a given moment in time.” They combined elements of modern electronic music and programming with traditional tools like piano and acoustic guitar as well as touches of Eastern sounds including the Saz (a Turkish 7-Stringed instrument with the intonation of a mandolin) and the sitar. Kim also brought gifted vocalist Kelli Scarr (who collaborated with Moby on 2010’s “Gone to Sleep”) on board for eight of the albums ten tracks.

In Silvery Ghosts’ first single, Vivid in the Valley, the combination of Scarr’s ripe, sultry voice languidly wrapping around the sophisticated ache of Kim’s trademark croon fans the embers and makes the song positively burn.  The official music video is currently being edited by director, Jeaneen Lund.

The release of Love & Other Ephemera on June 9 signals both the rebirth and the return of an artist who has embraced the pain of the past, recognizing that “All the twists and turns of the past were necessary for me to find my voice as a singer and an artist.”  As he looks forward to what is next,  Kim explains, “Silvery Ghosts is an opportunity to finally assert myself.  I feel like the training wheels are coming off with this record.  I may actually know what the hell I’m doing.  It’s a great feeling.”

Once again, I’m reminded that it’s the journey that matters. All of the twists, turns, and detours that create our rich, memorable lives are what we carry and, ultimately, leave behind.

The destination is simply the satisfaction of knowing we’ve finally connected all the dots.

Updated June 10: Lund’s video was posted, and all I can say is that this better come with a fire extinguisher because it’s SMOKIN’ HOT!

Silvery Ghosts will perform on June 23 at Rockwood Music Hall in New York.

Soundcloud:https://soundcloud.com/silvery-ghosts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SilveryGhosts
Website: http://www.silveryghosts.com

Christmas in New York (2012)

13 Nov

Saks Fifth Avenue, NYC – photo by NYC Insider Guide

I won’t be in NYC for Christmas this year, but professional changes are afoot and I’m closer to NYC than I’ve been since I started writing this blog – next year may just be the year!

Meanwhile, it’s time to pull together the yearly list of NYC Christmas happenings!

1. Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting – Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It’s the 80th tree to be lit in Rockefeller Square, and this year the tree will be lit with more than 300,000 energy efficient LED lights making the celebration both traditional and forward thinking!

2. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Rockettes kick off the Christmas season is high style!!

3. Department Store Holiday Window Displays 

Bergdorf Goodman holiday window – photo by Ricky Zehavi for Bergdorf Goodman

Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor  unveiled their windows on Tuesday, November 13.  Barney’s showed off their “Electric Holiday” video and talked with Sean James, Christie’s Vice President of Managed Services, about how they made the magic happen.  Macy’s and Henri Bendel revealed their windows on Thursday, November 15.  The grand prize goes to Bergdorf Goodman’s beautiful holiday windows inspired by the Great Gatsby and the “roaring 20s” era.

4. Holiday Markets, Shops and Fairs

As usual, there are a large number of wonderful places to buy unique holiday gifts in New York City!  Most of the markets and shops open up around November 14, and stay open until the end of December.

5. New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show

Within the enchanting setting of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, model trains zip over bridges and past replicas of New York landmarks made of plant parts such as nuts, bark, and leaves. Show favorites include the original Yankee Stadium, Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn Bridge.

This year visitors will get an insider’s look at how the replicas are constructed. Models in different stages of completion will show how a structure destined for the Holiday Train Show is framed and begins taking shape through the addition of plant material. Photos, interpretive panels, tools, and supplies help tell the story of how the magic comes together.

6. Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square

On Monday, November 26, 2012 the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District and presenting sponsor Time Warner will host the Thirteenth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square – New York City’s largest holiday festival! Winter’s Eve kicks off with a neighborhood tree lighting ceremony with world renowned singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, cast members of Avenue Q, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, WABC-TV’s Sade Baderinwa, and special guest Laurie Berkner from 5:00pm – 6:00pm. Winter’s Eve continues through the evening and features free entertainmentfood tastingsin-store activities and shopping around and about this colorful and vibrant neighborhood.

7. Macy’s 86th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade

The parade that needs no explanation!

8. New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop Gala

Towering 22 and 23 stories above the million or so partiers on 7th Avenue and Broadway below, the Sentry Center offers a commanding view of the incredible festivities in Times Square and the famous Times Square Waterford Crystal ball itself. You can watch the crowds as they gather in the streets outside while you enjoy an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, DJ dance music and of course, the view to end all views! At midnight the ball drop,fireworks and confetti will create the perfect backdrop scenery for welcoming in the New Year in Times Square.

I won’t be able to join in the festivities this year, but I remain optimistic that 2013 will be the year I celebrate Christmas in New York!

Happy Holidays to all!

Christmas in New York (2011)

19 Nov

Photo by My Kind of Town.com

It’s time for Christmas in New York – again!

There are a lot of folks searching for information about Christmas in New York, so I thought I’d give a run down of what’s happening this year.  Last year, I wrote a Wish List of things I’d like to see, so this year I’ll continue the tradition and add some of the things that I didn’t include and a few new events!

Christmas List 2011

1. New York City Christmas Lights Tour.

This is a 3-6 hour fully customizable tour of the city’s Christmas lights.  The tour will be tailored to your group’s interests, knowledge of the city, native language, and even to where you want to be picked up at the start of the tour!

2. New York City Ballet The Nutcracker

“With Tschaikovsky’s incomparable score, hundreds of dazzling costumes, a one-ton tree that magically grows and grows, and a million watts of illuminated excitement, this traditional Christmas ballet is the definitive holiday must-see!” Tickets are $55-135, depending on performance and seats, and performances run November 25 – December 31, 2011.

3. Macy’s Holiday Window Display

This year Macy’s theme is “Make a Wish,” and features ornaments made by celebrities (on sale inside the store for $9.99 each with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Make a Wish Foundation). This year’s windows (designed by Paul Olszewski) will introduce the use of 3-D screens that do not require glasses in order for guests to view the images. The giant screen in Window 6 will allow visitors to make their own digital ornament and send it to their smart phone to be used as holiday wallpaper.

4. National Chorale Messiah Sing-in

With 17 conductors, 4 soloists, and an audience chorus of over 3,000, how can you go wrong with the Messiah sing-in?  You can’t.  December 20, 7:30 pm at Lincoln Center.

5. Brew York, New York

This really isn’t a “Christmas event,” but for those folks who love good beer, Chris O’Leary (a professed “beer geek” who lives in Brooklyn) provides a calendar of brew related events in the New York area.  His calendars are works of brew art, and run all year-round!

6. The Big Apple Circus

Ironically, this year’s Big Apple Circus show is called “Dream Big”! Flying through the air with the greatest of ease these acrobats, jugglers, and performers entertain audiences with their skill and talent for doing what most would consider impossible.  Designed to delight and entertain children of all ages, this show runs until January 2012.

7. 28th Annual Tree Lighting – South Street Seaport

On Friday, November 25th, TODAY Show personality and fashion expert Jill Martin will host one of New York City’s most beloved holiday traditions, with a 40-foot tree serving as the centerpiece of a seven-minute “Sparkle at the Seaport” light show spectacular. Festivities will kick-off with performances by the Darren Wallis Jazz Trio and the Soul Tigers Marching Band. All-male barbershop chorus, The Big Apple Chorus, will perform seasonal favorites, and costumed characters will help Santa Claus countdown to the tree lighting ceremony. To round-off the evening, Ronnie Spector will give a special performance, making it a night to remember for the whole family.

8. Twelfth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square

Monday, November 28 at 5:30 pm (no matter what the weather!) stores, restaurants, cultural organizations and public spaces in the district will be buzzing with activities for both children and adults. At the same time, sidewalks along Broadway from Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle to 68th Street will be alive with performers, street musicians, jugglers, stilt-walkers and more, making for a festive fun-filled stroll through the streets of this dynamic Upper West Side neighborhood.

9. Union Square Holiday Market

Between November 18 through December 24, Union Square will play host to a holiday market with over 100 local vendors!  Hours: Monday – Friday, 11:00am to 8:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am to 8:00pm; Sunday, 11:00am to 7:00pm.

10. American Museum of Natural History’s Origami Holiday Tree

From November 19, 2011 to January 2, 2012 the American Museum of Natural History  displays the annual origami holiday tree.  This year’s tree decorations pay tribute to some of the largest and most impressive animals and inanimate objects found in the Museum halls through the art of origami.

I can’t be in New York City this Christmas, but my thoughts will be filled with all of the wonderful things to look forward to doing when my dreams come true!

Happy Holidays!

A Heart in New York

2 Oct

Photo by DMT

I’m so homesick for New York.

A few weeks ago, while dog sitting for a friend, I watched “Hitch” – and cried.  It wasn’t the heartwarming message about being yourself and trusting that the right person will come along and love who you are that made me cry [although, that is a legitimate thing to get teary about].  I cried because when Eva Mendes left her loft to go to work, I caught a glimpse of the cobblestone streets of SoHo and a painfully deep longing to be back in New York City ripped through me, again.

Subway platform. Photo by DMT

I’m homesick for the sound of the subway train cars pulling into the station, the woosh of the doors opening and closing, and the feel of being tugged forward in space as it moves forward toward it’s next stop.  I miss the way New Yorkers are able to create a discreet bubble of space, even on the most crowded subway car, by simply shifting their gaze and looking away from those immediately surrounding them.  D. once said that in a city of eight million, he loves the fact that he can still be a solitary man [and then added, “No Neil Diamond jokes, please.”].

I’m homesick for the way it feels to walk down streets bathed in sunshine on one block and shrouded in shade, the next.  I ache to feel the shift in seasons as the city responds to the earth’s rotation and adjusts.  I’ve always said that fall in Michigan is, perhaps, the most wonderful part of living in this state because the brilliant foliage highlights all of the natural beauty this state has to offer, but I’d trade it all, right now, to be experiencing the smooth slide from September into October in New York City.

I want to open my eyes and see the brilliant kaleidoscope of buildings, traffic, and people.  I want to listen to the cacophonous symphony of sounds that honk and beep and shout out the rhythm to the soundtrack of the city.  I want to feel the solid pavement under my feet as I bounce down steps that sink into the connective tissue that is the subway.  I want to breathe deep smell the scent of the city from the Hudson Bay all the way to Harlem. I want to wrap my arms around the city and pull it close enough to feel the pulsing, throbbing force that embodies all of my hopes and dreams.

I’ve been walking the streets of the city again, thanks to Google Earth, and as a result, my night time dreams are filled with vivid images of vintage clothing stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and small corner bodegas.  In my dreams the streets come to life; living and breathing, as traffic rushes by frantically marking the minutes with the constant clicking pulse of the cab drivers’ rooftop signs.  In Service. Dark.  In Service. Dark.

The other night I dreamed I lived in a huge apartment inside a building that seemed to soar through the sky.  One entire wall of my home was made up of floor to ceiling windows that let in light that illuminated every corner and warmed my face while I stood sipping my early morning cup of coffee.  Standing next to the windows, I could see the entire city waking up as the sun began to rise, its rays bouncing off of the steel and glass as it stretched toward the sky. I woke up smiling.

TriBeCa. Photo by DMT

I dream of spending Saturdays walking the High Line, the elevated 1.5 mile park that runs from the West Village through to Hell’s Kitchen.  Or browsing one of the Brooklyn Flea Markets looking for that “one of a kind” purchase that will turn a dumpy studio apartment into an avant-garde showcase of original flea market discoveries.  Or browsing the collections at the New York Public Library, then sitting down in Bryant Park with a cup of hot coffee and losing myself in a newly discovered literary treasure.

It’s not that I don’t love where I am right now, it’s that I can feel New York pulling me closer and my will to resist is weakening.  I know what’s practical, what’s rational, and what’s reasonable, but when the city begins to weave its seductive magic, I become helplessly tangled in its spell.

It’s not that I think I can move any faster than I am or make things happen any quicker than they already are, it’s just that the intense ache that occasionally pushes its way into my daily life, reminds me that the city’s out there – impatiently waiting – and that I need to take action and get myself moving in its direction again.

I don’t want to cry because I miss New York City; I want to cry because I can’t believe I no longer do.

Only in New York

20 Aug

Manhattan Skyline - photo by MAG

This blog celebrated its one-year anniversary last week, and I had hoped to mark the occasion by finishing up the entries about my trip, but that didn’t happen. So, today I am going to highlight some of the best moments of my trip.

I loved all of the unexpected adventures I had in New York – most were the result of getting lost because I didn’t follow directions, but then that’s the best way to experience things – organically.

St. Anthony of Padua - photo by MAG

Some of the best finds were the day I walked from SoHo to 27th & 5th and got lost not once, but twice!  That was the day I walked past The Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua on the corner of Houston and Sullivan and heard the most beautiful music floating out of the doors, into the street.  I wandered in and found the organist practicing for mass while the partitioners sat in the pews praying and chatting with one another.  There was something comforting about looking around and seeing generations of people gathered in a place that contains so much history; so many memories.

Not long after I left the church and ventured forth, I discovered the man cave of all man caves – Little Lebowski.  The funniest part of the whole adventure was that at the moment I was discovering it, D. texted me and asked where I was.  “I’m at 215 Thompson Street, do you know it?” I quickly replied.  “No, what is it?” he texted back. “Dude, it’s the Little Lebowski Shop!”  D. laughed and then asked if they give discounts for those of us who have been ordained as priests in the Church of Dudeism [both D. and I became Revs a couple of years ago, and we even have certificates to prove it].  I told him I’d go in and ask – so I did.

215 Thompson St. - photo by MAG

Roy, dressed in a bowling shirt and shoes, told me that he’d give me a 10% discount for being ordained as his eyes followed another customer out the door.  “But that guy,” he said disgustedly, “that guy doesn’t get shit!”  I gave him a puzzled look, and he explained, “He asked me for a discount, I told him no, and then he picked up a shirt and said he’d pay me $20.00 for it.  I told him the price was $25.00.  Damn tourists, they ruin the city this time of year, don’t you think?”  I bit my tongue and nodded slightly as I turned to survey the store.  Roy continued his hilarious running commentary by telling me about the history of the store, the movie and then offering suggestions about which t-shirt I should buy [I ended up with the one that has a picture of Walter, and the words “You are about to enter a world of pain”].  He gave me the discount and told me he’d give D. one, too, if he stopped by.

My next stop was the Museum of Sex on 5th Ave and 27th Street.  Talk about an interesting place!  The whole museum is full of..well…sex.  But it’s not just porn, there are floors dedicated to comics, magazines, sexual products, sexual history, and the entire top floor was dedicated to documenting the work of burlesque performers.  That was interesting because they don’t generally sit for still photos since their profession is about live performance, but this group of performers had collaborated with photographers to create still images that reflected the personalities of each individual performer.  Some of the photos were breathtakingly beautiful, and some were downright shocking, but all of them were uniquely informative.

Around the time I finished touring the museum, D. texted to say he might be able to break away from work and grab a cup of coffee.  When I told him I’d start heading back toward SoHo, he responded by telling me not to head back now since he wouldn’t be free for at least an hour – maybe two.  I texted back, “Well, I’ll be walking, and you know how I am about directions and focus!  Just text me and let me know if I need to hop the subway, okay?”  D’s next text earnestly asked, “Wow, are you afraid of the subway or do you just like walking that much?”  I laughed and replied, “A little of both, but mostly I love the freedom of being able to walk everywhere!”

I made it back to SoHo around 7:30, and at that point, D. was able to take time for a dinner break, so we headed over to Mexican Radio where we had some excellent fish tacos and I got to try D’s Negro Modelo – two thumbs up!  After dinner, D. headed back to work and I walked from SoHo back to Jane Street.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - photo by MAG

I spent the next day wandering around the Upper East Side, and visiting the Metropolitan Museum.  I wasn’t up for the Alexander McQueen exhibit – mainly because I didn’t feel like waiting for hours in a line just to get rushed through the displays of his iconic designs.

One of my favorite exhibits at the museum was the exhibit of night photography.  My favorite was Alvin Langdon Coburn’s “Broadway at Night” [c. 1911].  Under the photo was a quote from Coburn that read, “It is only at twilight that the city reveals itself to me in the fulness of its beauty, when the arc lights on the Avenue click into being…”  Bernice Abbott’s photo “Nightview New York” [c. 1932] was also strikingly beautiful.

That evening I met D. for coffee and so we could say adieu since the next evening I had a ticket to tour the Manhattan bay by boat [thanks to D.’s eagle Groupon eye!] and wouldn’t be able to make it back to SoHo again.  When I ordered a decaf coffee, the baristo behind the counter told me they were out of decaf because they were about to close, but would I be willing to accept a decaf Cafe Americano? [or something like that, I think].  I asked him if it was the same, and he assured me that every cup of coffee was freshly made, then lowering his voice to a conspiratorial level, he confided, “Everything is made with love here. Well, except the green tea – that’s positively malevolent.”

D. and I laughed pretty hard as the baristo went to get our drinks.  It was kind of fitting that the coffee shop closed just as we were saying goodbye – no tears, no long drawn out promises to “see you soon,” just a quick hug and a smile, and then D. headed back to work and I headed off – in the wrong direction.   Fortunately, the wrong direction meant I came across Rice to Riches, and was able to pick up some mango rice pudding to take back to the hotel for a late-night snack.  And since J. loves the little portable plastic dishes the rice pudding comes in, I killed two birds with one stone!

My two favorite moments in New York came the next day when native New Yorkers proved their mettle.

The first moment occurred while I was walking up 7th Ave toward the fashion district.  As I approached a corner in Chelsea, I found myself walking behind a little old man wearing a grey windbreaker and a Yankees ball cap.  The old guy was kind of bent over, his eyes on the ground in front of him, and although he was shuffling, it was with purpose.  As we approached the other side of the street, I could see a Chelsea mom [you know the type, white polo shirt – collar up – jean skirt, Top Siders] and her two kids on the opposite corner.  The younger kid was blocking the old guy’s way, but the kid didn’t move and the old guy kept shuffling forward undeterred by the kid’s presence.  At the last moment, Chelsea mom grabbed the kid and pulled him out of the way, and the old guy shuffled by without even looking up.  Chelsea mom got huffy, turned toward the old guy and said rather loudly, “Well, you could have said excuse me!” And in true New Yorker form, the old guy turned his head slightly and shot back, “Fuck you!”

He didn’t miss a step.

The Harbor Tour boat - photo by MAG

The second moment occurred on the boat tour later that evening.  I was texting D. photos of the scenery we were passing, when D. texted back, “I must tell you, these are some pretty boring pictures you’re sending me.  The NYPD impound lot?  Brooklyn? Where’s the Manhattan skyline?”  I texted back that this was the Hidden Harbor Tour sponsored by the Working Harbor Committee.

Just as D. was lamenting the fact that he’d sent me on a tour of harbors rather than Manhattan, the tour guide started answering questions from the tourists sitting up on top of the boat.  The first question was whether or not terrorists could enter the U.S. via shipping containers.  The tour guide responded very seriously, “Well, if they do, they’re dead before the containers are opened.  Next question?”  I bit my tongue in order to hold back the laughter as I texted D. back and told him that not only was I enjoying the boat ride, but also that the answer to that question was worth the price of the entire trip.  D. responded, “Well, as long as you’re having fun…”  to which I replied, “Seriously dude, I’m going to have fun no matter where I am!”

Il Porto on Fulton Street - photo by MAG

After the boat tour, I stopped at Il Porto on Fulton Street and had a delicious salmon dinner while simultaneously looking at lower Manhattan and watching a soccer match on the bar television.  Heaven, indeed.  After dinner, I walked up Fulton to Nassau Street and caught the subway back to 14th Street. I walked now familiar route to my hotel where I packed my bags and prepared to depart early the next morning.

As the airport shuttle drove through the streets the next morning, I got a little teary.  I didn’t want to leave New York.  What I really wanted to do was go back to Michigan, pack up my things and just move, but common sense told me that was not a rational or reasonable choice, so I dried my tears and toughened up for the trip home. As I was checking my suitcase, the airline porter, a very kind fatherly man, asked me, “Why do those beautiful eyes look so sad?”  I was startled that he’d noticed, and the tears began to well up before I could stop them.

What could I say to that?  I wanted to let it flow and tell him how much I loved New York and how badly I was already aching to return, but that’s not something you say to strangers, so I took a deep breath and said, “I’m heading back to Detroit.”  He nodded knowingly as he handed me my boarding pass, and told me not to put my scarf in my suitcase because it would be cold on the plane.

I love New Yorkers.

It’s taken me a long time to blog about my trip to New York.  I’ve been back in Michigan for two months now, and while life has been busy, I think I know why I’ve been reluctant to wrap this up.

It means things are going to change – again – but I don’t know how.

New York feels a long way away, and some days I am so homesick for it that it hurts, and other days I can set it aside and do things that I love so I don’t have to think about missing the city.

This weekend J. is in New York, and she’s been acting as my “supplier” as she wanders the city seeking out all of the restaurants she’s read about in Gourmet and/or Bon Appetite. When I saw the first photo she sent, I knew I was a goner.  It was a simple shot of a city corner, and my pulse quickened, my heart raced as I looked closely at the scene.

I love New York in a way that is not reasonable or rational, and no matter how long it takes or how many different avenues I have to take in order to get there – I am going to get there.

At the Strand Bookstore - photo by MAG

New York City will be my home.

Waiting for Tonight

31 May

SoHo Fire Escape. Photo by DMT

New York City is just around the corner – only 11 days till lift off [and landing]!

As I sift through my incredibly long list of “Things I Want to Do” and work on outlining a tentative schedule for plans, I can feel my heart pounding and my pulse racing just thinking about what it will be like to finally be in New York City!

I imagine it will feel a bit like coming home.  How I can “come home” to a city that I’ve only once visited, I’m not sure, but that’s what it feels like right now.

I’ll arrive on Saturday afternoon, and make my way to my home base for the trip, The Jane.  Hopefully, D. will be able to meet me along the way, but if not, I’m sure I’ll do just fine following his detailed directions, and relying on the kindness of strangers, if need be.  Saturday afternoon is wide open to possibilities, so I’m not sure what I’ll be doing – it’s probably best to be flexible, since travel has a way of messing up even the best laid plans!

On Sunday morning, my plan is to rise early and enjoy a peaceful breakfast at The PATH Cafe in the West Village.  After breakfast, I plan to head over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the 10:00 am mass.  I may be a “recovering Catholic,” but I can’t wait to experience the history, architecture, and beautiful choral music at this iconic NYC landmark.  Sunday afternoon may entail a personal tour of the city, courtesy of my good friend, D, if his schedule works out. My backup plan is to visit Central Park and take the “Arts and Architecture Tour” of the park – the city has provides a map and an audio guide, which I have already downloaded!  Sunday evening, I might head over to Tom Soter’s Sunday Night Improv and catch the 8:00 pm show.

5th Avenue Store - photo by Apple

My Monday plans involve visiting the Apple Retail Stores on 5th Avenue and in SoHo!  I’m so excited to have a chance to take a look at these stores “up close and personal!” I’m a little disappointed that I’ll miss the June 8 discussion with filmmaker Ahmed Ahmed and the demonstration of the “Lucky Peach” app by famed Momofuku chef, David Chang.  I’m slowly but surely learning that you can’t do it all.

Tuesday is my Museum Day!  I plan to visit MoMA during the day, and attend the 33rd Annual Museum Mile Festival that evening.  As an added bonus, a few former students who have relocated from Michigan to Manhattan might join me that evening!

Wednesday is an open day – right now.  I might check out Brooklyn and then again, I might just follow my bliss and do whatever catches my fancy that day.  Who knows?

As far as food goes, J. has armed me with a list of possibilities that would keep me busy for at least three months, so I’m just going to remain flexible and see what I feel like trying depending on where I’m at in the city!

Now I only have to wait eleven more nights for the adventure to begin!

One Year to Move Soundtrack

Night Moves

25 Apr

Financial District. Photo by DMT

T minus 47 and counting!

I’ve been exploring options for evening activities in New York City, and I can barely contain my excitement!  There are hundreds of things to do in the city in June – and the vast majority of them are FREE!

From June 6-July 30, Shakespeare in the Park will be staging both Measure for Measure and All’s Well that Ends Well!  Free tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the Delacourte Theater in Central Park, but the line appears to begin at 6:00 am on the day of the performance with distribution beginning at 1:00 pm.  I’m familiar with these types of lines, so the question will be whether or not I want to spend a portion of one of my days waiting in line for a ticket.  It could be an adventure, though, so I haven’t ruled it out!

On June 14, from 5:45-9:00 pm NYC hosts the 33rd Annual Museum Mile Festival.  Called “New York’s Biggest Block Party” the festival covers 23 blocks and offers free admission to nine of the city’s most popular museums.  This year’s opening ceremony will take place at El Museo del Barrio, and then move into the streets for a festival of art, music and street performances designed to excite and entertain visitors and residents alike.

Broadway offers Rush and SRO tickets to popular shows at substantially discounted prices, if one is willing to get up early and be at the box office hours before it opens.

Nasty Mondays at Le Poisson Rouge sound like an amazing mix of rock, punk, country, new wave, alternative, where “no genre is off limits and no era is out of place”according to Barcelona DJs Max and Soren! The only drawback might be that NYC clubs are geared toward the terminally hip, and at 44, I think I might have crossed the line from hip to middle-aged and boring about ten years ago, but you never know unless you try!

On June 14, the Joyce Theater will stage Performance A of Rioult. The Joyce says, “Acclaimed for exquisite, sensual dancers and masterful choreography, RIOULT presents two world premieres on two diverse and superb programs. Program A features the much-anticipated world premiere of Bare Bach, an evening of powerful dances, set to Bach masterpieces, that magically transforms the experience of the composer’s works. Program B switches gears with a world premiere, performed to the music of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Aaron Jay Kernis that inaugurates RIOULT’s Dance to Contemporary Composers series. Passionate, intensely human, intelligent work for audiences who are ready to be deeply moved — see RIOULT.”  A limited number of discounted tickets [$10.00!] can be purchased by calling Joyce Charge at 212-242-0800.

What excites me about the nightlife in New York City is that there is so much to do for so little money!  I recognize that the trade off might be time spent waiting in line or having less than perfect seats at a show, but the reality is that performances and events are about the experience of being part of community of observers and participants.

And while I have no idea what I’ll actually be able to experience while in New York, I am intrigued and excited by the “night moves” that the city has to offer!

One Year to Move Soundtrack

Rhinestone Cowboy

21 Apr

Photo by DMT

51 days and counting!

I can’t believe that I’ll be in New York City in less than two months! I can’t wait to learn “every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway,” though I think that Google earth has given me a pretty good preview of them.

I’ve been “walking” the city streets and mapping out all of the places I’d like to visit during my stay, and I’ve been forced to acknowledge the fact that what I’d like to do and what I can actually do in five days are two radically different things.  My list of “things I’d like to do” would require me to sublet an apartment for a few months – and pick the winning Mega Millions lottery ticket.

The good thing about continuing to dream and plan is that it means the possibilities are actually endless!

So far, my list includes visiting MoMA to see the Boris Mikhailov photography exhibit “Case History”, the Museum of New York City to see “Movable Feast: Fresh Produce and the NYC Green Cart System”, the Whitney Museum of American Art to see Cory Archangel’s exhibit “Pro Tools”, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum to see Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral just because I’d like to hear the choir sing in such a beautiful environment.

My dining plans currently include a visit to 4Food for one of their “burgers with a hole,” Momofuku Noodle Bar  whose offerings change on a daily basis [today’s lunch prix fixe menu includes oyster buns, prawn ramen and coconut tangerine cake truffles!], Katz’s Deli for a good old pastrami sandwich, Pommes Frites [because who wouldn’t like to eat authentic Belgian french fries for a late night snack?], Penelope for an egg sandwich or pumpkin waffles [and because their website is so darn cute!], and…about a hundred other places!

I’m dreaming of all the things I’ll do “with a subway token and a dollar tucked in my shoe,” however, this “Rhinestone Cowgirl” should probably tuck her cash [substantially more than one dollar] somewhere other than inside her platform sandals.

One Year to Move Soundtrack

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

21 Mar

East Village. Photo by DMT

82 days and counting!

Last week I booked my flight to New York City, and wrote about conquering fears through researching my options.  This week I think it a good idea to share the resources I used [and will be using] to make my decisions.

A couple of months ago, while surfing the web at work and becoming quite frustrated, a travel-savvy co-worker literally leaned over my computer and pointed my web browser to the Kayak site. Kayak is a site that consolidates information from hundreds of other travel sites, and allows users to find flights, hotel rooms, cars and the best deals on all things travel-related. That small act of kindness led me to download the Kayak app for my iPhone and allowed me to search for flights at my convenience, bookmark the options I found, and program settings to notify me when ticket prices changed.  As a result, I was able to find the exact flight times and dates I needed, and paid less than $300.00 for my ticket.

During our 2007 trip, J. and I stayed at the cozy SoHotel, and enjoyed everything about it. Well, almost everything. J. does not enjoy sharing a room with me because apparently I snore – rather loudly.  We promised that the next time we traveled together, we’d find a hotel where we could book separate rooms at a reasonable rate.  Reasonable rates for separate rooms in New York City?  Right.

Never doubt the [research] power or perseverance of a woman who requires a good night’s sleep.

J. found the perfect place at The Jane.  Located at 113 Jane Street in the West Village, the hotel was designed by William A. Boring [most well-known for the Ellis Island immigrant station] and originally built as a hotel for sailors. As a result, The Jane offers rooms with a single twin bed – much like a ship’s cabin – and shared bathrooms on each floor.  The rooms are surprisingly well outfitted for such a small space, and offer flat screen televisions, iPod docking stations, and Wifi access – all for the reasonable price of $99.00 a night [plus a 14.75% city/state tax and a $3.50 hotel occupancy fee – quite a switch from the hotel’s original fee of “.25 per night for sailors, and .50 per night for all others.” I wish].

The hotel was renovated in 2008, and is absolutely beautiful – both inside and out! If you want to learn more, read Christopher Gray’s wonderful article in the NY Times, entitled “Popeye Slept Here, and Now Olive Oyl Can, Too!”, about The Jane’s history.

One thing that has made me simultaneously excited and nervous about traveling to New York is the public transportation system [and not just because I hold out hope that Rod Stewart will, in fact, be there singing to me. C’mon, this blog is all about dreaming big!!].  I loved the bus and subway system during the last trip, but that was because I was with an experienced traveler who knew how to efficiently navigate the system.  This time, I’m on my own, and although I have an incredibly good sense of direction [late night holiday season excursions in downtown Detroit notwithstanding], I tend to get flustered when I feel like I don’t know where I’m going or how to get there.

One would think that the teacher in me would be able to negate this fear.  After all, how many times have students heard me say, “The only stupid question is one that is not asked”?

Right.

The truth is that I get nervous because I’m afraid of looking out of place.  That make me nervous because I’m worried that what they say about New York will be true – visitors are easily targeted because they don’t look like they know where they’re going.  I don’t want to become a statistic, but then who does?

My biggest fear was how to get from La Guardia Airport to the hotel because I knew I’d have to take both a bus and the subway, but I had no idea how to determine that itinerary.  I got fairly worked up about the problem, until I realized I had a big gun [of information] at my disposal  – a native New Yorker.

I immediately wrote D. who gave me several options – the bus/subway combo, which would take an hour or so, at a cost of $2.50 or the cab option, which would cut travel to 30 minutes or less, but cost me $30-40.00.  D. kindly advised me that the bus option would be “a pain in the ass if you have big luggage,” to which I replied, “I travel pretty light -one bag [on wheels] and one purse – now, the number of pairs of heels in the bag…”

I also located David Pogue’s succinct NY Times review of the most helpful navigation apps for New York City.  I downloaded HopStop, an app that gives travelers both walking and transit directions to and from any location in NYC, and found it useful as I started planning my time in the city. I have also been using my iPhone map app to get acclimated to where things are, and that makes me feel a little more secure.

What I can actually do while in New York is yet another concern because while I want to have a great time, I do not have the budget [this time!] to live large in the Big Apple.  Though, I must admit, that there is something incredibly fun and challenging about figuring out how I can have the best experience for the least amount of money.  I think this is a throw back to the fact that I derive the greatest satisfaction from that which meets my needs at the lowest cost – those who know me will recognize this as the “cost-per-use-benefit analysis” that I use for buying shoes.

As I plan my meals in New York, I’ve found Urbanspoon New York to be incredibly useful.  This app allows users to search by location, type of food and price, and provides links to reviews, both by restaurant critics and the average customer.  The mobile app has a feature that I’ve grown to love as I’ve used it – you can lock one of the three categories [I lock price in the $ zone] and then “spin” the wheel to get a location and type of cuisine!  I’ve started compiling a list of places that sound deliciously interesting!

Finally, for anyone planning any kind of trip, Slide Share posted the “Fifty Mobile Travel Apps You Should Know.” I’ve found many of them interesting for my urban trip, but there are lots of apps aimed at helping those who are driving to their destinations, as well.  It’s a great presentation with a lot of useful information!

I’m excited about the planning because it will provide me with so many options that once I’m actually in New York City I won’t waste a moment being nervous or worried about what to do or where to go.

This girl is going to have fun!

One Year to Move Soundtrack

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