Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Short and Gray

Hair is just a state of mind.  Kidding.  It's about as real as anything we women (and men, too) think about when we look in the mirror (and even when we're not looking) - when to get it cut, when it needs to be colored, what the weather is going to do to it, will it have to be washed after a day at the beach, what a hat is going to do to it, will it be a "bad hair day," will I have "bed head," why her hair always looks better than mine, why it is always curly or frizzy or straight or limp, will something important  come up in between coloring appointments, what hair tools must I pack for travel, etc., etc.  It's a bit obsessive.  Interesting perhaps, but obsessive.  No, not even terribly interesting.  So, feel free to move on to another blog post...just this once.

My hair is curly (always has been, except when I've tried to beat it, in medieval torturous ways, into straight hair submission).  It was, until recently, quite long, and was also, until recently, dark brown.  However, sometimes, changes in one's life should be made in large clumps, like the large clumps of curly brown hair I saw on the floor under my hair salon chair a couple of months ago.  I did this because I felt it wasn't enough to simply have short brown hair; rather, I should have extremely short gray hair.  (Perhaps I should have had something else done with my head instead, like have it examined?)  

Nonetheless, I've decided that gray hair is in.  No?  Well, it's happening on my head in any case, so I decided to stop covering those little shiny silvery roots I started to see shoot out around my temple about two weeks after each coloring and see what was going on under there.  And about two months later, after I couldn't take the skunk stripe any longer, and I ran out of creative ways to pull it aside or back (when all that was left to consider was the Donald Trump option), it was time to cut.

During that growing time, I checked out every gray hair I saw on other people in the subway, on the street and everywhere I went.  I tried to take pics of a few, but it wasn't easy (they move too quickly!).  Trust me when I say that there are some beautiful and fashionable women with various shades of gray hair in all kinds of styles walking around New York City.  

Even in beauty salon windows -
Even on Lady Gaga, depending on the moment (not that she's my inspiration, but I resorted to that when trying to explain this move to my children; it didn't work on them either).  For further encouragement, I even resorted to the internet to see photos and read bios of beautiful, accomplished and well-known women (d'un certain âge) around the world, looking fabulous and confident with their gray hair.

Although it will not end world hunger or solve the geopolitical issues of the day, it was, in fact, a serious decision for me, as I am sure it is for each woman who finally cuts the cord from the dye bottle and her "colorist."  Another source of encouragement came from Anne Kreamer, who wrote an intelligent book on the subject called "Going Gray, What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Matters,"  which was triggered by her decision to do likewise.  I also have to thank Susan, my hair stylist at Devachan (the curly girl salon in New York), who  gave me wise, confident advice on growing out the gray and eventually did the cut and style for my short salt and pepper look.

Like weight loss (or weight gain perhaps), a quite different hair color also seems to  prompt a taste change in clothing and makeup colors and style.  This could get expensive.  What do I do now with all  of my brown and beige?  Thank goodness basic New York black is and has been my staple.

The moral of this story is that there is a happy ending.  I like the ease, I am still getting used to the look (quite frankly, I am almost 55, and this does bring me closer in appearance to that age), and I love the ease (did I mention that?).  With a summer of 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity yet to come (actually, it already began in full force over the Memorial Day weekend), I'm ready.  Bring it on!

Monday, May 30, 2011

You Know You Want To!

Been there, done that, thank you very much.  Fun once (actually twice), both times taking my breath away (oh yeah, that was the panic, as well as the view - ocean when I did it at a Club Med, but did I even look?).  However, if you're interested and prefer the NYC view, it's the Trapeze School, on the West Side Highway at Pier 40.  Seriously (well, how serious can I be talking about a trapeze school that's on top of a West Side New York pier?).

In fact, it is one of those memorable things one does that makes you smile and relive the panic simultaneously.  Can we say that about many things?  When most of my memory is gone, I'm betting that I'm not going to forget what it felt like to step off the tiny platform, after climbing the ladder never looking down, as my hands took that swinging bar into a death grip (sorry use of that word in this context).  I believe I was pushed off the platform, but that's another story.

One thing I love about New York City is how it works on so many levels - highway/bike lane at street level, then Pier 40 of Hudson River Park (housing ball fields), and above it all, this cool trapeze school.  Best view in town, I'm sure, if you can stop swinging long enough to look...or open your eyes!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Caffeinated Weekends - Ground Support

I really need to remember this place, for it's a breath of fresh air in the middle of the bustling, sometimes overwhelming, hyped-up shopping and gallery hopping experience that defines Soho on West Broadway.  Ground Support, 399 West Broadway near Spring (no website), in fact, is located in a former art gallery.  By downtown New York espresso bar standards, it's huge and airy, with a skylight that permits the bright sun (when lucky enough to have such a day) to spotlight one of the customer tables.  It definitely seems to be a neighborhood "regulars" kind of place, both for breakfast and lunchtime noshing and/or caffeine fixes.

There's a long zinc bar for sit-downs, and four large wooden picnic tables, accommodating a number of computer workers during the times I was there.  Ground Support serves Ceci Cela croissants as well as interesting muffins from somewhere else I can't remember the name of.  I tried a whole wheat cherry pineapple muffin, which was incredibly filling but seemed virtuous.   And their coffees are Intelligentsia.  

Sandwiches were being made nonstop by two people behind the zinc bar.  Veg sandwich was heavy on cauliflower, not what I expected in a veggie sandwich but, with feta cheese and an interesting aioli among other things, made for a crunchy change of pace.  Everything was super fresh, and they have a variety of clever sandwiches and salad.  Cookies, too, of course. 

Bref, it's roomy, very relaxing, a good place for a light meal as well as your caffeine, and the baristas are patient and enthusiastic (when I couldn't make up my mind, I was encouraged to try the muffin for something different). Plus, there are outside benches for optimal only-in-Soho people and dog watching (or are the dogs watching the Soho people?). 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lost in translation?

Seen yesterday in the store windows of French Connection on West Broadway in Soho:

"You are unsolvable mysterie, puzzle unworkable cryptic galaxie?"

"You are woman?"

"You make every thud sound like musique?"
What?  Seriously?  If this is English, I'm feeling much better about French!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ships and Roses

It's summer!  Boy, did that happen fast, at least in New York.  Aside from a day or two of spring, mostly we had cold and rain.  But, enough for the weather report.  That's just background for why the bike came out of hibernation yesterday.  It took me for a little test ride (its wheels and my legs) along the bike path that runs parallel to the West Side Highway before it went in for its annual spring tune-up.  And along the way, we wanted to check out the first full day of Fleet Week.  We got stopped in front of the pier by a hoard of photographers pointing their cameras at a tour bus.  It took a while to figure out that, with slow motion timing, one by one, Miss America and her counterparts (Miss New York, etc.) were emerging from said bus, posing for the multitudes of cameras (ok, a dozen maybe), and then sauntering into, where?  The visiting aircraft carrier?  To entertain the sailors?  How retro the whole thing looked to me and to the many other cyclists and walkers, male and female, who had to stand there and watch this display.
Riding back home I was struck by a marvelous flowery scent in the breeze, rare for a highway certainly.  What a great idea - rows and rows of rose bushes along the inside bike path of the West Side Highway.  Considering we New Yorkers live so closely beside  one another, no matter what our means of locomotion - automobile and taxi riders, joggers, walkers, cyclists, strollers, etc.,  - anything to improve the ambiance and provide the perception of division between the highway and the cyclists  is quite appreciated!  And the fact that the "aroma" wasn't exhaust fumes is miraculous.

PS - the real Mses. America of Fleet Week -

Thursday, May 26, 2011

shén me?

We all know we're multi-lingual here in New York.  But, the signs just posted in Central Park announcing the new prohibition of smoking in parks that went into effect three days ago had me do a double-take.  English and Spanish, sure.  But, CHINESE?
Talk about globalism - here's a New York City sign, in Mandarin, as described by a UK newspaper in the linked article.

OK, OK, I get the message.  Chinese is the language to learn, not French.  Mais pas pour moi! (I'll leave that to others, merci beaucoup.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sooooo New York!

Isn't this just so New York?  I'm counting the days (there are many) until I go to Paris, but still, I won't find THIS in Paris!

The great water tanks of the Upper West Side!
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Love this poster!  Also, the film was pas mal.  It's kind of like the poster, which is pretty, colorful, whimsical and charming.  It's not "Annie Hall," "Manhattan" or even "Vicky Christina Barcelona."   (I am a huge fan, but a bit picky about my favorites.)  That said, however, my smile muscles had a workout, and I felt warm all over after.  In a light way, the movie implores us to live our genuine lives, find our dreams and follow them, perhaps even giving up security, status, money and convention along the way.  And the movie, again lightly, acknowledges through disapproving and disbelieving family members that such a path can alienate  those same folks (as if life's not hard enough!).   On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the movie didn't say all those things and that it's just a simple comedy.  And, if so, well, that was just my take.  Perhaps I was simply making the whole thing up in order to fulfill my own dreams.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Wonderful World of the French Language

I was recently asked for a list of my favorite resources for French language learning.   For better or worse, I use electronics now more than textbooks and anything made of paper products.  Gathering together all my stuff, this is what I came up with.  A huge part of the ease of learning this way is due to the iphone/ipod/ipad.  And use of the apps and podcasts is dependent on them.  Of course, this long list does not even come close to being exhaustive of all that is available out there in cyberspace with which to learn French, at every level.  Isn't technology grand?

Apps (all are free except the dictionary):

Larousse French Dictionary (this one isn't free, maybe $5, but fantastic with complete conjugations and detailed definitions, examples and voice pronunciations).
Le Monde.fr (newspaper)
Le Figaro.fr (newspaper)
Le Point.fr (news magazine)
Libération (newspaper)
Marianne2.fr (news magazine)
RFI (live streaming radio)
France 24 (live streaming of TV news)
Verbe2Verbe Verb Trainer Lite (verb conjugation tester)
French Morning New York (little articles in French about stuff in NY)
Elle (magazine)
TV5Monde (also TV clips of all sorts)
7 jours (news clips and comprehension tester, various levels)

Podcasts (subscribe through itunes, all free):

One Thing in a French Day (short stories of daily life in Paris by a sweet-voiced Parisienne; she includes transcripts for reading along)
RFI - Apprendre le francais  (news bits and descriptions in French of meanings of French words)
Coffee Break French (this is the only one that is possibly easy enough for a true beginner, but not really)
Learn French by Podcast (generally more advanced than Coffee Break French, with much use of idioms)
Le Masque et La Plume (criticism of books, movies or theater, weekly radio show on France Inter)


http://players.tv-radio.com/radiofrance/playerfranceinter.php ; (French radio - mostly talk, some music)
http://www.ortholud.com/grammaire/adj/possessif/leur_ou_leurs.php ; (grammar games and tester)
http://www.leconjugueur.com/ ; (conjugations tester)
http://www.wordreference.com/fren/point (really good online dictionary - recommended by my French teacher)
http://www.france2.fr/ (French TV)
http://www.canalplus.fr/c-divertissement/pid3351-c-le-petit-journal.html?vid=413750 (French TV comedy show ala "The Daily Show," making light fun of French politicians and celebs)
http://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/tap4.html (University of Texas French language teaching website)
http://www.lemonde.fr/ (newspaper; obviously, all the newspapers and magazines available as apps also exist online).
This should be enough to get fully immersed in French without needing a passport!  It's such a great pleasure to even be able to peek through this portal into French culture and perspective on everything from world issues to style through a bit of language understanding.  Of course, now that I've gotten started, I can't stop!  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Caffeinated Weekends - Stumptown

Stumptown at the Ace Hotel is an experience.  Not just because the beverages and pastries are excellent.  It's because of the Ace Hotel.  But, first about Stumptown Coffee Roasters.  They serve the typical espresso drinks, very well prepared and, interesting to me, served in actual ceramic coffee cups unless you specifically ask for to-go paper cups.  How civilized!  They expect we will enjoy our drink right there. But where?  The space is long, narrow and has no seating.  There is a full length of bar-height counter at which to stand along the floor-to-ceiling window which faces onto 29th Street just east of Broadway, sunny and bright when the weather is likewise (ditto, gray and rainy most of this spring).

So, if you want to sit and linger with that not-to-go coffee cup, what to do?  Just walk through the door that leads into the Ace Hotel.  This is a happening place, the likes of which I'd never seen before.  Yes, I feel slightly older than the average age here (maybe a lot older), but there's enough variety here to not make anyone feel out of place and I never have.

The large roomy lobby is so comfortable.  You can sit there and read or work on computer, or order food from their restaurant, The Breslin, or bring in your coffee and pastry from Stumptown, or order a "real" drink from the bar at the back of the lobby, or whatever.  It's as dark as the photo, conducive to computer use, I suppose?  Or to falling asleep, as I noticed a young woman, with her book open on her lap, had done.  And no one noticed?  Or bothered to notice.  There are large long communal tables for the computer users, with power sources, of course.  And loads of sofas, big upholstered chairs and coffee tables.  Great place.  Great coffee.  Fascinating concept which absolutely works.  I think it's one of the most comfortable spots in town.

If only I had a reason to be on 29th Street more often.  After lunch in Koreatown, maybe?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Midtown Tunnel

It never ceases to amaze me.  Was I walking around New York for the last 30 years completely blinded by work, chores, child-rearing and daily pressures?  The title of my blog is unfortunately more accurate than I intended.  How did I miss this?
It's a funny little tunnel that serves no purpose (it's art!) tucked between two buildings on 48th Street ("Music Row") between Seventh Avenue and Sixth Avenue, across the street from the Cort Theater.  (It was McGraw-Hill's contribution to the public passageway between 48th and 49th Streets when its building on Sixth Avenue was built in 1972 as part of the Rockefeller Center Extension.)  
Good to know there are others out there who do live with their eyes open.  There they were, taking pictures, linking arms, walking through and posing in and around this plexiglass tunnel under a waterfall. Just plain old no-purpose fun.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

NY Biking

I'm thrilled about all the new bike lanes here (unlike many of my fellow New Yorkers, whom I disown from having such a viewpoint!), and I can't wait for some decent weather to dust off and tune up my Dahon bike, slap on mon casque and try them out, especially the busy network of new lanes in the East Village and Lower East Side.  We still have a way to go towards becoming a Berlin or Paris or Portland, but what's been happening, though controversial, is a great beginning.   At least I hope it's a beginning.  And I sense there ought to be more to come, especially if we are successful with the pilot Vélib-style bike sharing program I've been reading will arrive this summer.

In anticipation, I've been noticing some bike signposts.  But I find they're about as clear as mud, especially if I were to only see them for a nanosecond as I whiz by on a bike in the middle of a fast-moving pack of other cyclists, each of us either trying to understand and follow their guidelines, or worse (and more likely), ignoring them.
If I pass left, does this mean I have to go backwards?
This means traffic is moving in all directions?  How helpful.

In desperation, we'll just try to wipe out New York behavior.
And therein lies the biggest challenge - behavior.  We've got to somehow modify our cyclists' "Tour de France" mentality into that of a cycling commuter.  When I saw how cyclists rode in Berlin, I was in such awe.  For example, they stop at traffic lights, they stay in their lanes (and they expect pedestrians to stay in theirs) and they are for the most part commuters.  They're serious about their rules of the road - when I was sightseeing through Berlin on foot, I got a few choice words yelled at me in German (not that I knew what they meant, but they sounded frightening) a couple of times when I inadvertently stopped in the bike lane portion of the sidewalk to check my map or guidebook.  And when I was sightseeing by bike, it was such a pleasure.  Automobile drivers know to watch out for cyclists as well.  If we manage to get to this level of cycling civility before I get too old to ride as a commuter, I will be satisfied.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Overgrown New York

A recent walk along and through Riverside Park during yet another rainy, damp day yielded the equivalent in appearance and feel to the English countryside.  Green prevails! 

It's very peaceful, so peaceful in fact that I have never seen so few people on the paths along the river.  A very different New York City... 
the George Washington Bridge is up there, somewhere

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ABT at the Met

It's that time of year, when I suddenly start visiting the Metropolitan Opera House about once a week for almost two months!  It's ABT's Met season, of which I receive my annual dosage, happily, every spring, as I began doing when I moved to New York oh-so-many years ago.

I'm a total sucker for the schmaltz of full-length ballet, with its lush live orchestral music, opulent costumes, beautiful people (both on stage and in the audience), and their boy-meets-swan, boy-gets-swan, boy-loses-swan plots.  As the song says, "Everything is beautiful at the ballet...."  And so it is.  I lose myself there, and when I was a young girl dreaming of someday being a dancer, that is also where I found myself.  Ballet will always be a part of me, even if I now can't get any closer to getting up on point than I can to pitching for the Yankees.

Last night I was lucky enough to attend ABT's star-filled Opening Night Gala.  A chance to get all decked out in gown and heels!  And to dance (OK, so it's only on a dance floor in front of a fabulous band, rather than on the Met stage in front of thousands).

At the end of the night, Cinderella needed to lose the heels - both of them - ouch, pinch, too much!  So much for thinking about toe shoes again; now I remember exactly what that felt like. 

ABT will be at the Met through July 9.   I plan to bring my Kleenex and be awestruck as always.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Carry On

On a gloomy day, it's hard to keep writing about the somewhat superficial things that are the icing to our daily cake.  I love icing, mind you.  To me, it's not just a gooey, sweet disguise to cover the real deal underneath; nope, the cake wouldn't interest me at all without it.  And the more and darker chocolate, the better (or cream cheese icing on carrot cake, which I still dream about).

New York today is a gloomy one, though, and apparently just one of a full week of them we can expect around here.  Au contraire, however, is Paris, which I know has had a fabulous and warm spring (unless you're a farmer, in which case it's too dry, this year, but there will be other years for the farmers).  

There is something about adulthood which offers so much, opens so many doors to much that is so beautiful, if we want to find it.  But it also permits us to push aside the curtain behind which the "man behind the curtain" resides, pulling the levers and cables that control the sounds, lights, smoke and mirrors that are there to distract us.

And yet, as we know (and likely had nightmares about - I know I did - the first few times we watched "The Wizard of Oz" - fyi, I firmly believe that movie should be R-rated), the man behind the curtain controls nothing but the distractions.

I apologize for the gloomy post today.  When I began this blog in April, I felt it would be my outlet to display only beautiful and pleasurable events and surroundings which are always so much more enhanced when shared.  I learned this through the joy and sharing of dear friends, some of whom live far away and some of whom I will no longer see in this life.  They taught me that the joy of the new discovery is multiplied in the sharing of it.  And so, selfishly, I share with you what pleases me through the posts I've created to date.

Life is more than that, of course, and life at its most difficult is when we need people in our lives the most, as well.  Today is one of those days, as I watch the rain that came down suddenly, quick, hard and loudly, almost as if the skies burst into tears.

There are no pictures for it.  At its most difficult, it is simply incomprehensible.  I can't even get a picture in my mind, much less in a camera.

And then there is nothing left to do but carry on.  Enjoy what's there in front of us, hold the people dear to us, try to sleep a good sleep, and wake up to another day.  I guess.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Caffeinated Weekends - Lucid

1. Easily understood; intelligible.
2. Mentally sound; sane or rational.
3. Translucent or transparent.

I'd love to be able to say that all my days and all my experiences meet those definitions, but Friday was definitely not one of them.  Nonetheless, I did find a very civilized (and very early) start to that day at Lucid.  It's an adorable tiny espresso bar on Lexington Avenue between 37th and 38th Streets.  It's the type of place I might expect to find on every other block in the East Village or Lower East Side but  would  never be found  right where I found it.  That means I need to try to remember exactly where I found it!

They have just what you need in a good espresso bar  - a bright red La Marzocco espresso machine that the two young women who run the shop know how to use with care and flair, and tasty croissants, muffins and other good baked stuff, some from Ceci Cela and some that are baked on the premises.  There are just two tables for sitting Franco-style (to read Le Figaro, perhaps?) and a skinny stand-up counter for a quick espresso gulp Italo-style.  But, even if you're looking to sit, sip and read a novel for a while, this is possible and exactly what I saw when I was there (however, at 7:15am on a Friday, even that didn't seem quite lucid to me).  This tiny café is warm, inviting and has none of the cold corporate franchise feel of most other larger coffee alternatives in the neighborhood (you know who you are). 

If only the rest of the day had been as lucid.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


With thanks to the Beatles for today's inspiration, after seeing "Rain" on Broadway the other night (no, not really recommending it unless you're just crazy for the Beatles, but it did remind me of how much I've loved so many of their songs and, damn, how many lyrics I still have completely memorized over 50+ years).  And it also gave me a real jolt of realizing how differently their words resonate at my current age than they did when they were first heard by my much younger (and probably also less aurally-challenged) ears.  I'm sure you know what I mean.  

Read these and see if there's not a moment that rises up in your memory, or a tough moment in fact right now, that is warmed, comforted and perhaps strengthened just a little bit, to "fly" by these very simple words - 


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.
Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.
Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
I took this photo in the Galapagos - that bird soared!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fisch for the Hip

Shopping vintage and consignment boutiques isn't the most efficient way to obtain clothes and accessories; you can't just walk in with a particular item, size and color in mind, then try it on and walk out with your purchase.  But it's certainly one of the most adventurous, more like a game of treasure hunt, with a lot of luck and timing involved.  This requires time, which most of us have not enough of.  However, if you're willing to spend some of your hard-earned time in this enjoyable pursuit (that is, if you already enjoy shopping - if not, just skip this post, see you tomorrow), you can locate pleasures of this kind in many neighborhoods of NYC. 

I particularly enjoy shopping at Fisch for the Hip in Chelsea.  First and most importantly, it was Marya's find, whose taste I aspire to, so I think of her whenever I enter.  (Until then, the thought of buying - much less trying on - clothes that had been owned by someone else never crossed my mind, and kind of repulsed me, if I'm being honest.)  Second, when they say their stuff is "designer," they really mean it.  Part of the fun is being able to try on so many designers in one place that I'd never find in one store (except perhaps Barneys), that, at retail, would sell for thousands of dollars.  Here, it is possible to find Missoni, Prada, Chanel, and so many other big names in European and American designer clothing, and try them on with a view to an actual purchase.  The sales people are attentive and helpful.  The shop also carries men's clothing, including designer suits, along with jeans and more casual items for both men and women.  And the handbags are, well...I just have to walk past them quickly and look away, or else I'd be in big trouble.  They probably have more Hermès bags than any consignment shop in New York.

By the way, I came, I shopped, I conquered.  Took a while, but was well worth it!  If you're looking for some retail therapy of a more original kind, this is a great place to see how consignment shopping works at its best.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Oyster Bar

A classic of Grand Central Station, but so often neglected by us New Yorkers, is The Oyster Bar.  The two times I've ever dined there (using the term "dined" somewhat loosely when you're sitting at a counter bar for a total of 45 minutes while waiting for a train and a bowl of chowder, hoping the latter arrives before the former) were with friends who live in Washington, DC and in Paris, at their requests.  For some reason (perhaps the middling quality of the cuisine?), this isn't a place that quickly comes to the minds of those of us who live here.  
OK, is the food the greatest?  Nah, but the seriously classic throwback-to-another-time ambience and those Guastavino ceiling tile vaults make it a must-do at least once in a New York visit, even if that visit has an open-ended return to somewhere else (ie., you live here).  And, if you're into seafood like oysters, clams, mussels, or even for that quick bowl of chower, it sure beats the noisy food hall in Grand Central's lower level - for recognition points back home, relative comfort (there's plenty of seating) and speed of service.  

At least once, and take pictures!