Category Archives: Chronicles of My Adventures

Reviews of places I’ve been, shows I’ve seen, things I’ve eaten, etc. These posts are past tense rather than discussions of upcoming events.

From the mouths of babes…

I normally use this blog (when I have the time to use it at all) to pour out my love for NYC in the form of recommendations, musings and advice. Today I am writing a post outside of that genre in the hopes that someone may be able to assist me in my work as a trainer of young New Yorkers.


 

In my day to day life as a nanny I am subjected to a barrage of criticism and thoughtlessly cruel remarks from the children I care for. Often these are in the form of questions that I feel obligated to answer to give them a better understanding of the peculiarities of our physical selves. In most cases I think they truly mean no harm and in others I assume they’re teasing me to indicate that we have a close relationship. In each instance I struggle with how to respond. I want to help them become empathetic, not to mention polite. I’m sure every parent and caregiver deals with similar moments. In the spirit of solidarity and in the hope of hearing other methods of handling such comments, here are some of mine. These are just related to my body; the commentary on my character and interests would go on far too long.

5yo “Your thighs are so pouffy. You have a lot of fat in them. If we didn’t have food anymore it would take you longer to die.

5yo pointing at calluses on my feet, “Why are your feet like that? Is something wrong with them?

9yo “Your legs feel scratchy. Why do you have hairs there? It’s gross.”

11yo “Your hair looks too shiny. Is it greasy? Maybe you should wash it more.

9yo “Why is your toe curved like that? What’s wrong with it? Is it deformed?

11yo “You shouldn’t wear tank tops; it’s gross.

11yo “Do you know your nail polish is chipped?

5yo looking at the freckles on my arms, “Do you have spots because you’re sick?

5yo noticing veins in my hands, “I thought only men had veins like that.”

9yo “Your nose is really big.”

11yo “You shouldn’t wear shorts because your thighs are big.”

11yo “Why don’t you wear makeup? It would make you look better.

9yo “Your feet are really big.

I consider myself to be beautiful and a fair number of people have told me they feel the same way but some of these comments do get under my skin. Do I need to shave my legs right before work so they won’t be scratchy? Maybe I should have them waxed? Should I stop wearing shorts? I have long powerful shapely legs and yet I find myself worrying if they’re fat. How do I get through to these children that words can be hurtful without making it impossible for them to ask questions? I don’t want to teach them that grown ups are so fragile they can’t handle a few critical remarks. I want them to have more confidence than I do, not less. When working with children every statement, every reaction, feels loaded. How do you handle these moments?

An Ode to Joe’s Pub

Everyone who has lived in NYC for more than a few months has a venue, perhaps more than one, that they hold near to their heart. We all have those places that have defined some aspect of our New York experience. The spot where you first saw that great band, or first drank some astonishing concoction that became ‘your drink.’ I have been here now for eleven years and of all the venues I have frequented the one that is most tightly woven into my life in NYC is Joe’s Pub.

The following appears on the Joe’s Pub website:

The New York Times has praised Joe’s Pub as at the “nexus” of “a downtown axis of clubs whose performers gleefully fuzz the boundaries between old and new, and between pop, rock, jazz, rhythm-and-blues, swing, country, world music and performance art.”

This very much describes the variety of performances I have seen on their stage. One of my first was a gospel singer whose name I no longer remember. I was invited to the show by my boss, perhaps the hippest partner in a law firm you can imagine. I felt very adult sitting at the tiny table, elbow to elbow with the well dressed crowd, sipping a fancy cocktail. The stage lights were dazzling, the sound system smooth and balanced, and the singer’s voice reverberated around the intimate space. I remember thinking that this must be how important people attend concerts, as opposed to the hot and echoey rooms where young people listen to music standing up and pushing each other for a clear view of the stage. I liked the comfort of sitting and absorbing the performance. I have since paid close attention to their upcoming shows and have enjoyed quite a variety of music from their tightly packed tables.

One of the most memorable was a performance by The Wet Spots, a duo who performs some of the raunchiest and most absurd songs I have had the pleasure of enjoying. Joe’s Pub is especially well suited to this kind of act. You’re close enough that the performers can pick on you and make you part of the act. The intimacy and the fact that you’re not standing and crowding the stage, allows the performers to really take the pulse of the crowd and adjust accordingly. Lady Rizo is another prime example of a performer who really blossoms on this stage. She’s performing there again soon as a matter of fact and I would very much recommend being part of her audience.

Joe’s Pub is also an excellent venue for performers who require a good deal of attention to detail. Sxip Shirey is best seen in this kind of venue. His use of music boxes, bells and marbles to make a variety of ethereal sounds can only be appreciated when you can actually see his maneuverings. If you see him in some larger venue, standing far back and craning your neck, you will entirely miss what makes his music magical.

Most recently I attended two performances by a wide variety of artists who had all studied under Barbara Maier Gustern. There were absurd costumes of many varieties and the biggest range of musical styles I think I’ve ever experienced in one show. I truly feel that this kind of show is only possible in a venue with an outstanding sound system and a professional staff. As much as pop-up venues and underground spaces foster creativity in the city, this kind of established venue has the ability to bring out the best in performers. I was very pleased to see one of my favorite musicians perform as part of the TRANSformative lineup; Natti Vogel is really best seen in this kind of environment. I think this photo by Albie Mitchell pretty much says it all.

Natti Vogel; photo by Albie Mitchell

Natti Vogel; photo by Albie Mitchell

For those of you who may still be searching for the venues that will define your experience, I recommend trying out Joe’s Pub. Sometimes the official venues offer something the underground venues lack- the smooth sound and comfortable seating that allow you to enjoy the details.

Wandering in Prospect Heights

Walking in a westerly direction from my current apartment at Franklin and Park Pl. I was amazed by the number of new buildings that have popped up in recent years. Some are certainly ugly concrete blocks with ‘artful’ triangular windows, but others manage to blend and add character in equal measure. The neighborhood is changing. NYC is always in a state of flux. The longer I live here (it’s been almost 11 years now) the more tempting it is to feel nostalgic about how it was when I moved. I remember when anything east of Washington was ‘scary’ (for a white girl from Buffalo). I remember when Grand Space (the hippie colony on Bergen and Grand) was the only place with lights on for blocks. Now there’s a condo building down the street. Progress can make long time residents feel shut out, left behind. Who are all these yuppies with strollers? Why are there so many men with absurd beards and ironic tattoos? This is the way of the city. I wouldn’t have 1970s NYC back for all the cocaine fueled parties in the world. I’m glad that the city is safer, that new housing stock is being built, that organic produce can be purchased at Bob & Betty’s Market. I will admit that I wish brunch for one at Dean St. Cafe didn’t cost me $25 and that the line at Ample Hills Creamery was less than 25 minutes in duration, but I’m happy that they both exist. The rent is too damn high but I don’t believe that NYC is less vibrant, less artistic, less surprising than it was ten years ago, or twenty, or fifty. The city changes. The artists change.

This amazing and totally crazy piece of art by Swoon, which memorializes Red Hook after Sandy, is on display at the Brooklyn Museum. During a recent visit there were Caribbean immigrants, yuppies with strollers, old Jewish ladies and Hispanic families wandering through.

Currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum, Swoon: Submerged Motherlands.

Currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum, Swoon: Submerged Motherlands.

Is this piece of art less meaningful because it’s displayed at a museum? Rather than see it as overly establishment I would like to see the Brooklyn Museum as a vital and interesting venue because of their choice to display this piece of art. Where else would it find such a diverse audience? I don’t believe that art is only important when only a few people know about it; art is meant to be exposed to the public. NYC has always been a place where a vast variety of people have access to a vast variety of art. This is what makes it vital and exciting as a place and I don’t believe that this quality has disappeared. NYC is just as full of wonder as it ever was (but now you can take the subway at 2am and not be mugged).

Nude with a Goose Strikes Again!

Nude with a Goose, the fledgling curatorial partnership of Berit Hoff and Shannon McEneaney, recently had their second exhibition. If you didn’t read my post about their first show you should check it out for all the background info… These lovely ladies have taken it upon themselves to singlehandedly bring to light the strange, beautiful and thought provoking art that is hiding in the studio apartments of young artists all over the city. At the same time they are creating opportunities to curate instead of waiting for the art world to give them their dream jobs.

Their latest exhibit, Exposure, brought together 60 artists for a one-night-only event that was part exhibit and part nightclub, with Essential (a 12 year old party/event organization) handling the second part. The works shown ranged from oil paintings to sculptures made with unrecognizable materials. I will just tell you a bit about a few of my favorites.

Elisa Garcia de la Huerta’s brilliant photography addressed the theme in a more subtle way than some of the other works. The vibrant colors exposed details of her images in such a way that the viewer was continually drawn back to them from far corners of the room. I haven’t been able to find them online but if I do I’ll provide a link- check back.

Carlton Sturgill‘s work connects to the theme in a more direct way; the semi-nude woman in his painting is faceless and inviting.

Carlton Scott Sturgill

Emily Johnson’s charcoal drawing is more disturbing the longer you look at it. At first it appears to be people stacked up in a formation like cheerleaders performing, but as you look closer you see that instead of torsos each figure has a second set of legs, making the structure a tower of legs alone. To me this plays with the idea of exposure in a unique way- the exposure of the viewer’s first impression as false. I have failed to find a website for Ms. Johnson but I will appeal to Nude with a Goose- check back.

Marisa DeMarco‘s painting of a face in black and white, framed by pink headphones, is lovely. The chord to the headphones is unplugged and pointing straight to the left, as though waiting for the right music to color in the person, to expose them, or perhaps to show that when we are unplugged we are exposed as colorless. The style feels very Pop Art and while thought provoking the piece doesn’t feel overly combative.

Finally, while I cannot explain how Abdolreza Aminlari‘s piece deals with the theme, I can tell you that I found it compelling. It reminds me of Etch a Sketch in a strange way, but also of experiments with magnets in my High School physics class.

Abdolreza Aminlari

I am looking forward to seeing the next show by Nude with a Goose and I encourage you to keep tabs on them in the future!

Pushy by Discovery

Everyone has certain music that immediately brings them back to a particular place and time. On New Year’s Eve 2009 K and I found ourselves, somewhat by accident and somewhat by design, listening to a band we had never heard of in Cameo Gallery in Wburg. The singer was wearing these absurd sequin covered pants (or was it a dress? I’ll admit parts of the evening are blurry) and she was rocking them. I mean this woman had serious style and the music was exactly right for that moment. We felt energized and empowered. My photos of that show are even blurrier than my memories but when I hear Broke by Discovery I instantly get that rush of excitement.

I have got to find some peace

I can’t afford to go

but I can’t afford to love you anymore…

Can I walk the night alone?

Discovery recently released a new record, Pushy, (available on iTunes), and it’s full of Kathleen Cholewka’s intense personal style, together with the impressive musical additions of her bandmates. I particularly enjoy Lex Marsh’s sax. It’s the sort of sound that makes you want to be in a crowd of people, toasting to new experiences with your very closest friends. You can check them out in June at Goodbye Blue Monday.

Discovery