Sunday, February 25, 2007


If I don't drive around the park,
I'm pretty sure to make my mark.
If I'm in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again.
If I abstain from fun and such,
I'll probably amount to much;
But I shall stay the way I am.
Because I do not give a damn.
~~Dorothy Parker

There is something exhilarating about being alone in a strange place with no deeds to do, no promises to keep. I wandered happily and without purpose. At Bryant Park they were setting up for Fashion Week. In the Garment District I luxuriated in richly colored textiles and piles of beads; in the Jewelry Mart, I eyed mounds of gold and polished gems with a benignly covetous gleam. With Jack at the 'Jack of Diamonds' counter, I negotiated my little golden apple down to $155. And still I did not buy.

Down on Canal Street, I drank in the boho pleasures of paint, paper, ink and such at the massive Pearl Art Supplies (thanks for the tip Mz Shoes!) and envied the clever young artists just beginning to explore their craft. On the streets, music blared and people of every shape, size and color moved restlessly among narrow stalls strewn with purses, dresses, bangles and beads, chatting on cell phones and calling to friends.

Heading back, I stumbled upon St. Patrick's Cathedral, where they were checking bags for contraband before letting anyone enter the nave. I never found out what they were searching for (sins, I thought) and stood back, admiring the soaring arches and stained glass. I left feeling only vaguely guilty, my sins intact.

Somewhere along the way, I turned a corner and ran into Ms. Dorothy yet again, at the lovely old Algonquin Hotel. I was greeted by an inquisitive cat named Matilda, whose name (as 'Resident Feline') is on the card presented to me by the genial bear of a doorman. I would liked to have lingered in that inviting, ghost-filled bar, and today I kind of wish I had. But it was getting dark and colder yet, and I had one more stop before I met the girls for dinner.

Central Park is an oasis in this bustling town, and beautiful in it's winter shades of mauve and gray. I stayed until I could take the cold no more, and headed back for the welcoming warmth of the hotel.


My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet's the air with curly smoke
From burning all my bridges.
~~Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

faute de mieux

Faute de Mieux

Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme--
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time.
~~ Dorothy Parker

Ms. Parker has been much on my mind of late, having just finished The Portable Dorothy Parker which, at 613 pages and about as many pounds, is not so much. Portable, I mean. So I didn't pack it. Turns out I didn't need to. The spirit of Ms. Parker kept popping up all over the place. That's New York for you. Full of ghosts.

I woke up a trifle fuzzy Tuesday, having enjoyed dinner the night before with Kim and her ebullient young assistant in an Irish pub so unabashadly inauthentic that the quesadillas were hot and the Guinness cold. We followed this cross-cultural repast with a round of very oddly-fashioned Old Fashioneds in our cozy, clubby hotel bar. Poor Kim once again had to get up early and was long gone before I woke up. Ever the trouper, I soldiered on.

"Oh, my...GOD!" I shouted to no one in particular as the revolving door tossed me headlong into a biting wind and temperatures somewhere south of the teens.

"Cab, Miss?" smiled my adorable, big-hearted doorman.

"No thanks. I'm walking."

I'm a California Girl now, a breed well known for our hardiness, I've no doubt. That and our refusal to wear fur. So I zipped up my short leather jacket, slipped on a pair of ancient gloves and headed off in the general direction of SoHo. At least I thought it was in the direction of SoHo. What I mean is, I exited the hotel and turned left at the corner. It seemed as good a direction as any. I was off to see the city.

I hit The Empire State Building for a late breakfast, where I had a huge mug of coffee and some homemade chicken soup (well, they said it was homemade, and who am I to question?) A kindly jewelry dealer did his best to sell me a very pretty gold charm that, though it sported a price tag of $595, he was willing to let me have for $175. Just because I was a visitor to this fair city, and so very charming.

Well, I am charming. And a tourist. But while I enjoy the game as well as the next gal, I had also promised Turk to keep my credit card firmly holstered for all but essentials. Try as I might I couldn't come up with a clever way to classify a shiny golden apple as strictly essential. I left my dealer with an expression of sorrow and a wave of regret.

The wind was bracing and I was rolling. There is an excitement to this place that is uniquely it's own. So much has been written about New York and by far better writers than I that all I can do is think in cliches; that it's all about movement and bodies; rhythm and jazz. It's commerce and money and poverty and pride, an energy at once exhuberant and grim. The atmosphere throbs with life; movers and strivers and hustlers and jivers. I grew up in New York but lived my life out on the eastern half of Long Island. I haven't been back here in years, and I'd forgotten how much I loved this loud, noisy, dirty, vibrant city.

Oh, lead me to a quiet cell
Where never footfall rankles,
And bar the window passing well,
And gyve my wrists and ankles.

Oh, wrap my eyes with linen fair,
With hempen cord go bind me,
And, of your mercy, leave me there,
Nor tell them where to find me.

Oh, lock the portal as you go,
And see its bolts be double....
Come back in half an hour or so,
And I will be in trouble.

... Dorothy Parker, Portrait of the Artist

Sunday, February 11, 2007

the sleeping gypsy

Sleep seems to be the one thing I do really well of late. Or at least with any level of commitment. I awoke at 10:00am on Monday with Kim pounding on the hotel door, which I had apparently bolted in a trance after she'd left that morning. She'd been up since 6:00am to set up, had to change into suitable executive attire and get back to the convention floor immediately. Ever the supportive sister-in-law, I went back to bed and fell asleep. Immediately.

Kim said she didn't need me to help work the convention this time around, assuring me that this was because she had a new assistant and was well-staffed and that it in no way reflected poorly on my prior performance as itinerant booth babe. I am not sure I'm entirely convinced. Still, let it never be said that anyone has to tell me twice not to go to work. Foot loose and fancy-free, I headed for the nearest museum right at the crack of noon-ish.

We were staying at an historic midtown hotel, originally built by William Randolph Hearst for Marion Davies as a Manhattan pied-a-terre for those times, one imagines, when a castle in San Simeon just isn't enough. It is elegant and traditional and has one of my very favorite New York things; a smartly uniformed doorman. This one was young and cute and I swear I caught a trace of a brogue.

"Where is the entrance to
MoMA?" I inquired. Just because I could.

"Right across the street, Miss," he replied with a wave of his white-gloved hand. I haven't been called 'miss' since I was twenty. I love this doorman.

I'm not much for video installations as a rule but found myself entranced by one that I wandered into on the first floor. The room was completely blackened, the only light coming from images of solitary nudes, completely submerged underwater, that were projected on several large screens on the wall. On the floor in front of each screen were slabs of polished black marble that reflected the image projected immediately above it.

The effect was that of watching bodies suspended in sensory deprivation tanks, floating in the existential void immediately below the viewer; one step would be all it would take to plunge into the abyss. New-age music surrounded, broken by the occasional explosion as digital bodies took the plunge once again. It was mesmerizing; eternity's mysteries beckoning from the depths of a blackened pool. Beguiling.

But time was not unlimited and color and light beckoned too from the upper floors ~ Gorky, Pollock, Rauschenberg. Van Gogh, Picasso and Cezanne. Humor there, too; Klee, Miro and Magritte. These are the places I go when I don't know where I need to be.

I come to contemplate the incredible imaginative resources of the creative mind; it's ability to communicate yearning or sorrow, wonder and joy. To seek answers when words fail even to form the questions. Or just to find answers to practical issues of line and form.

It is easy to lose oneself in the sensual, tactile application of paint and fiber to canvas. To marvel at the ability of two-dimensional objects to express other-dimensional emotions and ideas. And I am struck that many of these canvases appear more animated to my eye than many of the video installations downstairs.
Studying Rauschenberg, I found a solution to a problem that had led me to put a piece on the back burner for a while. It is a reminder that, in the words of renowned video artist Bill Viola, every project has its own secret destination, and that it is important to stay open when it comes to the act of creation:

"A lot of what making art is, is just being open, and empty. And putting yourself in the right place for things to, literally, come together."*

A lot of living is like that too. Being open and receptive to change; to allow one's life to present it's own solutions, in it's own time. Learning patience.

I have always wanted to see Matisse's The Red Studio and it is here. The colors are more muted than I had thought, the red darker, the greens grayer. At first I'm a little disappointed, then I understand. This is private space; his vision, not mine. As anyone who has ever lost themselves in an activity that fully engages the mind knows, time and space are dissolved, rendered meaningless in the artist's studio; here, only the process, and the objects of his own creation have substance and stability. I could live a lifetime in this red studio. This too is mesmerizing. This too beckons.

* LA times West Magazine Jan. 28 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The terrorists don't hate us for our freedoms

They hate us for our fabulous hair products.

My One Pass frequent flyer reward ticket required a Saturday overnight stay, so I flew to Houston and spent the evening hanging out with my brother at his gig, where I proceeded to party like it was 1985. In retrospect, this was probably not wise. In retrospect, I probably should have partied like it was 2035, and I was safely tucked away in a home somewhere. Or just acted my age and not partied at all. As if that were an option.

I was due at the airport first thing in the morning to fly to New York to meet Kim. I knew I was in trouble when I arrived at George Bush Intercontinental and the the sky cap couldn't check my bag because the flight was leaving within 15 minutes.

I am a seasoned traveler. I have a few miles under my belt and I know that being late for a plane never used to be that big a deal. You shouldered your bag, put your shoes, belt and jacket back on and ran like hell. If you missed the flight, you caught the next. You had your stuff and you lost only time and a little dignity.

No more.

I've flown several times since the new TSA restrictions limiting carry-on gels, liquids and lotions and had the routine down pat; there was only a powder compact, lipstick and eye pencil in my carry-on. Everything else a girl could possibly need for a few days in Manhattan was in my suitcase, which should have been safely stowed in checked luggage, but was now subject to
TSA requirements, wide open and vulnerable before a uniformed man with a badge, gloves and absolutely no appreciation of the importance of exfoliants.

When he found the zippered case with it's treasure trove of toiletries, his eyes widened at the depth of my cluelessness. I explained that I had expected to check the bag but couldn't because I was late for the plane, which was leaving in less than 10 minutes. He pulled out a tiny plastic baggy ~ a sandwich bag, really ~ explaining that everything I needed had to fit in that one container. And as he started putting some things in the bag and tossing others into the tray, we began to barter.

In all fairness, he was a nice and amiable young man and did his best to be accommodating. We were smiles all around.

The Design Line silk drops shine serum had to go; the L'oreal Color Saving Conditioner with Vitamin E and UV filter could stay. When the ziplock wouldn't close (and it absolutely had to close) I traded the Aquafresh toothpaste and mouthwash for the Joey New York Line Up Night Moisturizer. The Origins Never A Dull Moment Skin Brightening Face Polisher with fruit enzymes appeared non-negotiable, but when he picked up the brand new bottle of eau de toilette I'd just gotten, he responded to my horrified recoil and cry of "Oh, no! Not the Chanel...!" with a sympathetic, "No, no; I think it's small enough to make the cut," and jammed it into the baggy. When I couldn't get it to close, he took it and pulled it tight by the sheer force of pity and goodwill. In truth, he was adorable. I blessed him, grabbed my now slightly lighter bag and staggered off running toward the gate.

The plane, of course, had long since departed. A laughing Continental employee informed me, when I told her where I was going, "Not on this plane you're not," re-booked me on a flight leaving within the hour and directed me to the new gate in terminal E.

"Go down to the end of the corridor, make a left, make a right; about a half mile you'll find an escalator. Take that up to the train on level 3. Ride that to the end of the line. That's Terminal D. From there you'll take a cab, or a camel if you can find one..." Or something like that. I stopped hearing her after the phrase 'take the train'. It was starting to feel like a very long day.

I boarded the plane and took the window seat next to a large woman in a hijab, mother to an adorable toddler whose screams upon taxiing were so ferocious that the attendants threatened to take the plane back to the gate if she couldn't control him. I took my pillow and leaned against window.

"What is wrong? Do you have a headache?" she inquired.

"I do."

"Is it a migraine?"

"No. Just a headache."

"Oh, I am sorry." She grabbed her son, who was climbing over me to get to the window. "Come," she said, "she is in no mood for you."

I smiled wanly. I appreciated the gesture and really wanted to be friendlier, but last night's tequila was banging around my skull and I was still mourning the loss of all those lovely personal grooming products.

During the course of the flight, as the child wailed and the woman's sharp elbows wacked me repeatedly in my ever-diminishing space, I closed my eyes, contemplating just how one would go about assembling a WMD on a crowded plane with an ounce of perfume, some hair gel and a pair of nail clippers without anybody noticing.

I still don't know if it's possible. I rather suspect that it isn't. But I do know that the meditation proved surprisingly soothing, and I drifted to sleep with a smile on my face.