Saturday, January 31, 2009

Museum a Month - Guggenheim

I admit that before today, I had never been inside a New York City museum. On past trips here with friends, if they suggested a museum, I suggested we split up for the next few hours - "You go to the museum, I'm going tooo...go walk around." I reasoned with only a few days here, there was SO much more I'd rather see of New York than just the inside of a building. And my excuse for not going in the last 18 months of living here? "Oh, I live here. I can go anytime."

Maybe it was the Bush twins' letter urging me to "Go", or it was the start of a new year and new habits, or it was the question of how long will I live here that made me finally resolve to explore the inside of these museums I've paraded past for years. This year I will go to one museum a month - the "Museum a Month" club of which I'm currently the founder, president and only committed member.

Not having a museum whose works I most wanted to see, I picked the Guggenheim as my first stop because it has the most unusual architecture and layout (and I did check its website to discover a new exhibit began this weekend.)  

I invited a friend along to make the trip 50 or so blocks north to the museum. We hopped off the bus, walked a few blocks and arrived at the museum with faces flushed from the cold. We navigated through the tourists crowding the lobby, paid the entry fee, and picked up head phones for the audio tour. Meredith opted for no head phones - a decision she would later regret when she wanted to talk to pass the time but I was listening to the monotonous droll - I mean, informative descriptions of the pieces.

We began circling the floors of the Guggenheim - art displayed in rooms and nooks off the spiraling ramp that is the interior of the building - its layout a piece of art in its own rite. The bottom floors were interesting and just what I expect of a museum - Monet's, Renoir's, other artists who I didn't recognize but appreciated nonetheless. But the higher we circled, the crazier the art became. The dream room of buzzing noises and flashing lights? The guy who hypnotized himself to be his mom and wrote descriptions of family pictures as if he was her? The cut out slice of wall with debris piled neatly on the floor in front of it? Maybe I was weary from the climb, or maybe the air was thinner on the higher floors and thus adversely affecting my ability to process what I was seeing as "art", but the untraditional pieces definitely entertained, and we spent the last ramp laughing and calling to each other, "Oh my gosh - you will not believe this one!"

But at the end of the climb I realized that - in the end - not believing something is what art is - a creation designed to be viewed in beauty or wonder or confusion. One person's thought or vision given life for others to see and question or believe as they will.

One museum down - 11 to go!  

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sun-Maid Message

Raisins are just a boring staple in my snack world, easy to stash away in my purse and carry around until I'm either desperate for something to eat or feel it's time for a healthy bite. In fact, the only thing that keeps me coming back for more is the desire to discover the message printed on the top flap of the little red box. I must say, flipping open that little cardboard flap creates a thrill of anticipation that I'm sure the marketing genious at Sun-Maid knew it would for millions of people, if not just for me. Messages so profound in their brevity, I've been known to rip the flap off and tuck it away somewhere so I'll see it again - jammed in my mirror frame, mixed in my change purse, crunched up in my coat pocket.

The taste of my box today can be described as inspiring, with a hint of motivation:

"Stay curious and you will travel to the ends of the earth."

So refreshing was that raisin box, that I was spurred to compose a message I hope Sun-Maid will consider for its next box printing:

"Words add flavor."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Even super villains shop for toilet paper

Domestic duties topped my social calendar tonight - a visit to Bed, Bath & Beyond for cleaning supplies followed by a few loads at the laundromat. Not glamorous or interesting tasks by New York standards, but essential chores nonetheless.

Arriving at Bed, Bath & Beyond, I grabbed a hand basket and weaved toward the back of the store through the humidifiers, microwaves and kitchen utensils until coming face to face with a shopping cart and having to step aside so it could pass. My eyes locked on the cart driver, who passed with a nod as I stared. "I know that face - that mouth and chin!" I thought with a mischievous thrill saved only for celebrity spotting.

Wanting to make sure the face belonged to who I thought it did (the rational side of my brain thinking "No way could it be him - he's too famous to be pushing a cart unnoticed through Bed, Bath & Beyond!"), I sidled up beside an employee who I thought shared my same "Is it or isn't it?" expression.

"Excuse me," I said, "where is the laundry detergent?" needing a buffer question so as not to appear so star struck. I didn't even let him answer before blurting, "and did you see that guy who just walked by? The one pushing the cart? He went that way. With the dark-haired girl? He's famous isn't he? What's his name? You know? That guy. The mean, scary guy in Batman? No - Spiderman! Yes - he's the mean guy in Spiderman! What's his name?"

Blank stare. "I didn't see him, miss."

"You had to have seen him! He just walked by right here - and he's famous!" I insisted, trying to keep my voice down since the actor in question was still within earshot.

"Didn't see him."

Another Bed, Bath & Beyond employee overheard our conversation and offered up the confirmation I was looking for, "The Green Goblin - he's in here all the time!"

"Ha! Yes - he's the Green Goblin!" I smugged to the blankly staring employee before turning and skipping on down the aisle, the basket of cleaners swinging in my hand, happy that my night of chores turned into a fun story, and strangely satisfied that even super villains have to shop for toilet paper.

Green Goblin - actor Willem Dafoe.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Tulips

With thousands of pictures saved to my iPhotos, it's always a surprise to see which one randomly appears as my background screen saver when the photos rotate each minute. Truth be told, I spend excessive amounts of time minimizing whatever it may be I'm reading or writing on the computer to get a full screen image of the picture.

The last few weeks my tulip pictures from Keukenhof have rotated onto my computer screen with such frequency that I can't decide whether it's the winter gods teasing me with spring or my subconscious dreams materializing before me. I find these pictures so delicately beautiful, so explosively colorful, so intensely inspiring that my breath catches each time a tulip photo appears. I stare dreamily at my computer screen for the next minute until it fades away, and I'm left hopeful it resurfaces again soon.

So, what can be deemed as one part selfish agenda and one part selfless giving, I'm compelled to not contain the photos to just my computer screen, but to share the beauty with you! I'll post a new flower each week for your viewing pleasure - this first tulip one of my absolute favorites. "Orange Burst" - as I have named it - because burst is exactly what my heart does everytime I look at it!

(I took all the pictures in Holland in April 2008 at Keukenhof gardens.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009


When I read snippets of the letter Jenna and Barbara Bush wrote to the new daugthers of the White House, Sasha and Malia, I got a little choked up. Knowing the feelings that prompted the letter were surely even stronger than the words they wrote, I sympathized with the Bush twins as they realized a chapter of their lives was over.

The part of their letter that particularly struck me is the following:

"...go to anything and everything you possibly can: the Kennedy Center for theater, State Dinners, Christmas parties (the White House staff party is our favorite!), museum openings, arrival ceremonies, and walks around the monuments. Just go. Four years goes by so fast, so absorb it all, enjoy it all!"

"Just go...absorb it all, enjoy it all!" I like to think I have that mindset about living in New York - never wanting to just sit in my apartment watching TV when I can be out experiencing the life of the city. The Bush twins' advice spoke as much to me as to their intended recipients, and I've renewed my commitment to enjoy living in the city that not everyone who dreams of is blessed to experience.

Read the complete letter by Jenna and Barbara Bush:'s_Most_Popular

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Overnight Success

Working in fashion in New York City, I'm constantly reading fashion articles and magazines and thinking of ways to promote the brand. So, I'm accustomed to the chatter of the business, the endless droll it sometimes becomes. But it was surprising to see how much interest not only the fashion world but the whole country took in the fashion choices of the Obama's throughout the campaign and inauguration; now even regular Joe's know the names "Isabel Toledo" and "Jason Wu" - relative unknowns before January 20th.

So, it got me thinking - if only I could get MObama (as the fashion blogs call her) to wear a RazzleDazzleNewYork t-shirt...

The windows of Barney's New York - the exclusive retailer of Isabel Toledo - took advantage of the newfound celebrity with her designs featured in the window along with signs declaring, "We love that Mrs. Obama loves Isabel Toledo" and "Congratulations to Mrs. Obama and Isabel Toledo."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Perplexing Periwinkle

Spotted: A periwinkle stovepipe - oh my!

In a city of five million variations of black coats, I should have known someone would be THAT person. I've rationalized since last year when I bought my bohemoth winter coat - please note: in black - that the only person who would actually select the periwinkle color option would be someone living in Colorado who wears it for skiing or someone in Montana who wears it because she just doesn't know better. But my reasonings were dashed today when I spotted a Manhattanite loudly and proudly wearing a periwinkle stovepipe!

After stopping stunned in the middle of the sidewalk, I immediately turned an about face, scrambled a few steps to follow her and snapped a picture. I can only hope to assume she is a tourist, but judging from her tote bag (kind of looked like work), her upper east side location (Bernie Madoff's apartment is the closest tourist attraction), and her walking alone (tourists almost always travel in packs), I fear either she's lost from planet Barney or she's a very misguided one of us.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New York today...tomorrow the world!

Walking home this evening I overheard a young girl say to her friend, "New York today...tomorrow the world!" From what I gathered, the comment stemmed from the girls and their moms having come to the city for a shopping trip just for the day, and now the girl had dreams of shopping trips even bigger and better in the future.

Regardless of her reason for saying what she did, the line struck me. I can't keep from repeating it (and repeating it) myself - in my best super hero impersonation: hands on hips, fist rising to the sky, flaming red hair blowing behind me as I rise higher than the New York City skyscrapers, sights set on new lands near and far.

And the bubble caption above my head wonders, "Why not?"

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The high temperatures seven of the last nine days have been at or below 32 degrees. Today's high is 21, and the low is 6. Yesterday the high was 17. Snow has stayed piled on cars, gutters, fire escapes, shrubs, rooftops - everywhere - for the last week. The streets are quiet with most people staying indoors as much as possible.

New York City is frozen.

And with no city energy pumping through my veins, I am frozen. My normal fast walking pace has slowed to an even gait; my head stays tucked into a cap and hood and buried into a scarf. My line of sight is narrowed to just what is straight ahead - there is no looking all around me when I'm burrowed deep into my bulky coat.

So my eyes fixate on the images before me, images I see everyday, yet somehow now in my slowed down mind they look different - freezing, perhaps, into my vision. I stop in the middle of Park Avenue and notice the arch of the street lights repeating at every intersection, a graceful canopy decorating the length of the street. On Lexington I see a maze of zigzagged fire escapes on the sides of buildings, almost creating a contemporary piece of art. On the corner of 3rd Avenue, the line of yellow cabs turning one after another seems almost a well-timed parade, the rhythmic swoosh of the tires audible in the cold quiet air.

Everywhere I look I see something I've seen before, but not really. Never experiencing it with such crispness and stilled observance. Maybe the freezing temperatures slow the city down so only its bare necessities are functioning, bringing them sharply into focus.

As the frozen day drew to a close, the last image my mind recorded was the one of my best buddies Lauren and Jake as they turned to walk away after our dinner. Since they move from New York tomorrow, I had the sharp realization that this is probably the last time I will see them together in the city, the image of them walking hand in hand down the street is frozen in my mind.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jury Duty Changed My Life

I would like to say Jury Duty changed my life by giving me a newfound respect for our American legal system, or because I now see the power of a democratic society which understands the value of right versus wrong. I'd even like to say I felt a certain freedom in "taking my opportunity to cease my power and let my voice be heard," as Diane Sawyer circa 1993 urged us potential jurors to do via taped video in the Jury Assembly Room from 8:45 to 9:00 AM Monday morning.

Considering I grabbed my purse and coat and tripped over a few knees as I shoved down my row and out the Assembly Room door a little after 9:05 at the jury proctor's first mention of, "If anyone has cause to not serve today, speak now or forever-", it's needless to say, I did not hold my peace but found myself across the street, pleading my case for postponement.

No, Jury Duty changed me because I had to take the 6 subway downtown to New York City Hall, find my assigned juror building and get through security by 8:45 AM, and for a girl who doesn't have to be at work until 10:00 AM, waking up at 6:30 in the morning is a life-altering experience. Since Sunday I've gone to bed at night by 11:30 at the latest and woken up - unaided by my trusty alarm clock - by 6:00 or 6:30 every morning. I've always prided myself as being a night owl, boasting of how much I can get done in the hour or two before bed, but I never knew there was a whole world waiting for me in the morning! A world where I feel quiet and rested, and a few steps ahead of the game as I look out my window at the lightless sky and dark apartment buildings. Replying to emails, writing some RazzleDazzle, reading news sites, saying my prayers, eating a good breakfast, getting ready unrushed - never would I have guessed I'm an early bird who craves the worm!

And as for the jury postponement - mark my words, when July rolls around and my duty is unable to be postponed again, I'll find myself void of this newfound morning freedom and sequestered for the summer on a mob murder case.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Remnant reminders

Construction just up the street from my apartment has annoyed me for months. Not because I could hear banging and drilling in my apartment, but because "the project" dominated the sidewalk and my ability to walk it freely. Every time I left the apartment to go anywhere, I had to go underneath, around or through the mess of two by fours and machinery. And on top of that - literally - the scaffolding covering the sidewalk (a byproduct of all construction projects in the city) was an obtrusive eyesore for the street, a congregating area for random shady-looking people, and a constant source of fear for objects that could fall on my head.

I had no idea - and never stopped to consider - what the final product was planned to be; my only concern was to get through the area without stepping on a nail or being heckled by the workers. Even so, I did notice the building taking shape little by little each week - the foundation beams soon became walls that were soon painted and given necessary lights and fixtures. A few months into the project, I remember thinking as I scurried by, "This pile of nothing is becoming something!"

One day the protective scaffolding finally came down, revealing detailed work that had been hidden from my street view, and I was surprised at the refining and advancement that had taken place without me being aware. Still though, boards covered the facade and paper blocked the view through the windows, so it was impossible to guess the outward appearance, much less what finishing was going on inside the heart of the building.

When I returned to New York after my Christmas and New Years travels, and I made my way up the street for the first time in a few weeks, I stopped in my tracks beside the construction area. It was no longer a construction area at all - coverings had been removed to unveil a finished building. From the dirt and splintered wood had risen a sleek and strong building with a surprising purpose - it is the community facility for an Asian church called Remnant Presbyterian!

Now those who gather outside on the street have a Bible in hand rather than a beverage in a brown paper bag. What once was the black eye of the street now is its shining halo. The remnant now for me of those months of annoying construction is the reminder that I, too, am a work in progress, and that I should not be quick to judge those areas (and people) of my life that are messy, troublesome or need a little nailing into place...maybe something beautiful is under construction!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gossip Girl

I rarely watch Gossip Girl anymore - the CW television show set on the Upper East Side of Manhattan - but I'm still intrigued by the characters who portray the fictional lives of spoiled rich kids. How can I not take interest when its art imitating life is a depiction of my well-to-do New York City neighbors? But, like I said, I rarely if ever watch the show anymore, but I do always keep an eye out for the actors around the city - any one of them being a good celebrity spotting to brag about.

Walking to work this morning, several trailors and crew trucks lined Park Avenue, and I spotted a "No Parking" sign that revealed Gossip Girl was filming in the area all day. Yes! The timing couldn't have been more perfect, because as I walked up the relatively empty block between 62nd and 63rd Streets, resident bad boy Chuck Bass walked directly toward me, wearing a skinny three piece suit and a snooty leer across his face the way only Chuck Bass can. Our gazes locked for several paces as we approached each other, and I struggled with the internal battle I always do when making eye contact with a passing famous face - do I say something or do I just pass like it's no big deal? I decided to return his signature glare with one of my own but did throw in a, "Hey Chuck Bass!" as our shoulders passed.

"Hey East Siders - Spotted: C brooding at a redhead on Park. He's probably been drinking before noon again. Sad." You know you love me - XOXO - Gossip Girl

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chance Encounters

I'm debating whether I can stamp an "Only in New York" sticker on the following story, or if I should simply reason that New Yorkers have an inclination to find opportunity in every encounter, always ready to create an experience - just like the city in which we live.

The story begins the weekend before I moved to New York, when I went on a beach trip to Destin and randomly met a girl who had just moved back to Alabama after several years in New York. You can imagine our conversation - one girl about to move to the city of her dreams and one girl just back from her adventure. Meeting her was a sign that New York was destined for me - I would go and have my own discoveries and experience life there for myself. The beach trip ended, I went back to Birmingham and on to New York, and I didn't think much of her again.

Until my flight back to New York on the evening of December 26th. Waking from my nap in the dark and quiet plane when we landed in New York, I gathered my bags and looked across the aisle as I waited to exit. My eyes locked on the face of a blonde girl with shining eyes and an enthusiastic smile seated across from me, and I knew it was her - what's-her-name from the beach!

I reached my hand across the aisle and tapped her shoulder, "I think I met you-" I began, "on the beach!" she finished. We reintroduced - Emily is her name - and chatted all the way from the plane to the taxi line, there exchanging numbers and making plans to meet when I got back from Holland.

We met at John's Pizzeria, a restaurant in the heart of the theater district, normally bustling, but tonight relatively empty, making a seat at the bar and audible conversation easy to come by. An overly friendly policeman who "has worked tha area fa yeeahs, knows everybudy who's anybudy" at the nearby theaters saw opportunity in us girls and boasted, "if ya wanna go see Phantom tanight, I can get ya in." As perfectly unplanned opportunities go, the theater for Phantom of the Opera is located directly across the street from John's, and it's the only Broadway show with a Monday evening performance. Not ones to turn down an experience, we accepted immediately.

If waiting with the theater manager to be escorted to our free seats in the Producer's Box wasn't opportunistic enough of an experience, I had the surprise of encountering two friends from the South who were on a visit to New York. Shaking my head at the chance encounters leading to chance opportunity leading to more chance encounters, Emily and I laughed at this being the perfect randomly chanced upon show: it's one I had previously paid for and slept through, thus wanted to see again, and it's the first show she saw on Broadway - the one that made her fall in love with performing and prompted her to move to New York to pursue her Broadway dream.