Monthly Archives: February 2008

Just Another Manic Monday: Downtown Edition

There are some things that are quintessentially New York: Elaine’s, the (now defunct) CBGBs, Central Park, Washington Square Park and of course, the ubiquitous sounds of upstairs neighbors in your pre-war apartment. I used to joke that the woman above me had a pony running around up there. I heard her at all hours of the day and night, convinced she wore hooker heels to bed at night. There are also the occasional funky sounds of music scales being practiced and some DJ mixing. Nothing too overbearing, as there would be long stretches of silence in between the pony-clodding, but enough that anyone who comes over makes a joke about it.

Well, dear Uptown, I finally met my neighbor this evening when I noticed a sudden rainstorm had begun … coming from my bathroom ceiling. This has happened once before, luckily this time the water was (somewhat) clear. I heard water running from above me and quickly ran upstairs to find out what my neighbor was doing to cause such gushing.

My NeighborI knocked. And a woman of an undetermined age (ranging widely from early 40s-early 50s) answered the door. She had a punk rock meets Rizzo and the Pink Ladies look, spandex leggings, a black fitted cotton polo shirt with a hand-stitched leopard fur collar that was offset by her wildly frizzy hair and olive skin. The first thing she said to me was, “you have water leaking into your apartment too, don’t you?” and opened her door wide enough for me to enter and follow her into the bathroom.

Forget the water for a minute, I know I did. I love looking in people’s apartments, but hers now tops my fascination list. I stepped into the Culture Club circa 1984. The living room walls were neon green, which contrasted nicely with two electric blue bookcases, dingy white shag rug and white Formica console table fashioned to hold her DJ turntables and vast record collection. The small glimpse I got of the kitchen revealed hot pink walls and framed music posters and album covers, all featuring a younger version of the woman standing before me. As we made our way into the bathroom, I saw a closet full of crazy neon colored outfits and a wardrobe of what can be best described as costumes — I don’t think a cross-dresser or a stripper would wear most of the stuff in that closet. The bathroom itself had red walls and black-painted cabinets. Oh, and her ceiling was gushing like a tropical storm that happened to be fixed in one spot. We inspected the damage, lamented on the state of the building and the super and then, I left to wait for someone to come and open up my ceiling to inspect the damage — not before noticing the name “Lady Miss Keir,” written on the various posters and records hanging on the apartment walls.

Immediately upon returning to my apartment, I did what any other human being would do, I Googled “Lady Miss Keir.” Here’s what I got from our friends at Wikipedia:

Lady Miss Keir was the lead singer of pop band, Deee-Lite, a House and Club/Dance group formed in New York City. Their best known single is “Groove Is in the Heart“, from their 1990 debut album, World Clique. However, Deee-Lite achieved longer lasting success on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, where they scored six number-one hits. Lady Miss Keir still tours the world today as both a solo act and International DJ.”

Clearly the next thing that popped into my head was:

The chills that you/Spill up my back/Keep me filled with/Satisfaction when we’re done/Satisfaction of what’s to come/I couldn’t ask for another/No I couldn’t ask for another/Your groove I do deeply dig/No walls only the bridge/My supperdish, my succotash wish/(Sing it baby)/I couldn’t ask for another/No I couldn’t ask for another/Groove is in the heart/Ah-ah-ah-ah/Groove is in the heart/Ah-ah-ah-ah/Groove is in the heart/Groove is in the heart/Ah-ah-ah

I also found her website, where it occurred to me there was something I could do about all of the noise … I could click on her Tour page and see when she’d be out of town next to know, in advance, when I could expect silence. And what do you know, in two weeks she’ll be in Russia! Then, Helsinki and Vegas and on and on. It also occurred to me this is a great way to keep track of your neighbor’s schedule. I can now anticipate when I should expect the vocal exercises and DJ-ing to increase (before upcoming concerts) and when I can look forward to not being awakened at 3 am to sounds of high heels stamping in the bedroom above. I’ve now bookmarked the website to keep tabs on her. And, since I’m sure she has a Google alert set to any mentions of her name, a special shout out from your downstairs neighbor: Lady Miss Keir, I’ve downloaded “Groove is in the Heart,” and have just single-handedly increased your royalty check by 12 cents. After all, what are neighbors for?


What’s for Supper?

Hi snowy suburban friend,

After four inches of fluffy snow this morning, the central part of the city is super slushy. Spent the day uptown, crossing the Park three of four times by cab and the fourth on the cross-town bus. Intended to walk, boots and all, but ran short of time since I also had to visit the 10-year old’s school with boots for his after-school activity.

I’m “officially” consulting for the Center for Curatorial Leadership and the offices are on east 80th street one half block from Eli’s.

eli’sWowie. To think we’ve lived here for nearly 18 months without entering this fancy food emporium. (ok, I did once at some point in the time but it was a blur and I was distracted by and on a mission in search of decorative paper goods (which are in abundance). From the outside, the joint doesn’t look tremendously inviting. A passerby catches a glimpse of the flower “market” on the corner but continuing north on Third Ave, Eli’s café offers drab atmosphere but the food is grrrrrreat. And just north of that, enter THE market which is greater than great. Jars and foods are beautifully displayed floor to ceiling. I shopped in anticipation of the ten-year old and friends who were to come to the apartment after sledding in the Park. While an initial invite for hot chocolate was extended, I added gorgeous marshmallows, cheese puffs, veggie chicken soup and grilled cheese on brioche to the mix. And then I discovered the balls of pizza dough, uncooked chocolate chippers and oatmeal raisin cookies good for slicing and baking. Since it was snowy, the market wasn’t crowded, it was lots of fun simply looking at the displays.

As I waited in what was a three person check out line, I remembered my early years spent across town on the Upper West side. My parents loved Zabar’s where they’d pick up bagels and nova scotia salmon for weekend morning. The guys behind the counter were always a bit gruff with their New Yawk accents. The orange lettering of the Aabar’s logo remains the same on that side of town. Every now and then I wander into that location in the hope that I’ll find healthy dinner-fare to serve the family. Revisiting the folks’ past doesn’t make me feel as sad as it did initially upon our return. Instead, I’m slowly coming to recall the happy memories. In today’s food indulgence, I suspect the gratitude for the parents has to do with their sharing with me an appreciation of food, of good design, of color


By the way, I rarely find anything “healthy” to serve the family from Zabars (uws). It always strikes me as fatty, gross and no one ever eats the stuff anyway. The kids like Zabars egg salad and sliced mangos. Picky picky picky. Which brings me back to the eastside.

The boys opted out of sledding which meant that they stayed west for play ergo my second east-west-east trip. Guess what we’re having for dinner?

More Tales From the ‘burbs

Sitting in my childhood bedroom, trying to do work, make calls, be productive while distractions abound: my dad knocks on the door to inform me there’s a deer in the backyard and I should come and take a look (didn’t even notice I was on a conference call); my mom yells upstairs for me to email her an address of a mutual friend; then shortly after calls my cell to ask if I would edit her real estate listing for her right now because it needs to be sent out in ten minutes. All of this, of course, leads to me unloading the dishwasher, setting the table for tonight’s dinner party and then getting ready for said dinner party.

5040.jpgAs I try to get in a free hour of work before the guests arrive, I hear the thumping of a microphone coming from the living room below me. Then, the first few bars of an electronic version of a Billy Joel song. And finally, my sister’s half speaking-half singing voice trying to keep up with the lyrics to “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me,” as they flash across the TV screen. Most families have cocktail hour on Friday evenings, mine has Karaoke hour. Let the ear-bleeding begin!

P.S. She scored a 25 out of a possible 100 on her rendition of that tune. I’m sure Billy Joel would be super proud.


Tales from the ‘burbs

I left downtown last night to hop a train to the ‘burbs in anticipation of a morning meeting with a client in NJ. Things did not go quite as planned this morning when I woke up to the following scene outside my childhood bedroom window
Snow day
My client called shortly thereafter to cancel our meeting. Snow day! Well, not quite. I am taking advantage of the day and cuddling up on the couch doing work in my sweats, surrounded by window-paned views of a winter wonderland — and the occasional snuggle from the pup.

Now back to work!


and another thing, on Parenting Teens, this just in…maybe I…

Ueban Baby

Following is a second and final set of answers from Erin Sheehan, the community editor for UrbanBaby, who took questions from readers this week about parenting in New York City and other urban areas. A previous set of answers was posted on Feb. 13.

All of these questions bring back a lot of memories. But as a mother of a 15-year-old, I’d love to see a blog or column address raising teenagers in the city — limits, money, friends, Internet access – all the good stuff. New York Times, take me up on this!


Your sentiments echo some of UrbanBaby’s message board users. We have users of all ages and in different life stages. Some join the community because they are still interested in connecting with other mothers on issues that all women continue to face regardless of the ages of their children. We’ve even had members admit that they do not have children, but they continue to tap into the UrbanBaby community for advice, support, entertainment and the sharing of life experience. After a quick search, I found numerous blogs dedicated to parents raising teenagers, but I was not able to find one specifically for New York City moms. Perhaps you have thought about staring one yourself?

A Night Uptown


I spent the evening in your neck of the Manhattan woods, at Columbus Circle’s Jazz at Lincoln Center in the beautiful Allen Room. I met KW there to see the Punch Brothers play — a group of good-looking and extremely talented 20-something musicians. I have a small crush on Noam, the banjo player, but an even larger crush on the Allen Room itself. There’s something both intimate and vast about the space. It’s like your brain can’t decide how to classify the size because of the incredible view of Columbus Circle, Central Park, the uptown skyline. The “spectacular-ness” of the night increased when, just as the music slowed down, the evening’s special guest, the eclipse, covered the moon.

Nature, music and the urban energy all combined to create a truly magical moment, where only the lights of the city and rose glow of the stage spots looked like candles in the ink black night. One of those moments that reminds me of why I love New York.


Talkin’ About No Generation

“I don’t have a generation,” stated Suzanne Vale in Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical film, Postcards From the Edge. “Well then I think you’d better get one,” her agent, Marty Wiener, answered with a smile.

The generation label has a lot to do with identity. You’re given a label: The Greatest Generation, The Silent Generation, The Lost Generation, Generation Jones, The Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y. But then there are those like me, and perhaps, Suzanne Vale, caught in the middle — on the cusp of two generations.

I was born in 1981, under a new president, a new decade and a few years before MTV hit the airwaves. I can identify with most everything that falls under Generation X, but they seem to scoff at the notion of including any children of the 80s in their club. On the other hand, I can’t really relate to Generation Y, my sister’s generation (1982-1997), because I didn’t spend my ultra-formative years on a computer, watching reality tv or thinking I didn’t have to work as hard as my parents to succeed.

At our multi-generational gathering in the Meatpacking District the other evening, I talked with Jeff Gordinier, author of the upcoming book, X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking. When defining Generation X, Jeff turned to what most other Gen Xers would, and averaged it out from about 1962-1977. What happens to those in the middle? They’re just hanging out on the cusp?

Which leads me to the idea that perhaps people in these “cusp years,” are more likely to wonder about their identity and feel without focus throughout their lives. Are we a part of the generation that’s making a difference? Or are we “all about Me?” And if we are truly in the middle, how do you strike a balance between the two, giving back, but still thinking about yourself? Perhaps that’s just part of the eternal struggle in every individual and not a generational thing at all. Still, it would be nice to not always feel like I’m on the edge. I’d like it if someone handed me one of the many road maps we use to navigate in a lifetime. It might make the trip feel a little more Hollywood and a little less like a Robert Frost poem.




so, in an effort to not complete this week’s hw on time, in addition to speaking with you, replying to a handful of email requests  etc, I’ve successfully learned that three family “trips” are available for this foursome come late march. Think Vietnam, New Zealand, Sicily and Costa Rica. Any sound fab, the first and last above all. In addition to convincing the husband/physician/scientist/bread-winner, I’ll need to make a decision in the next 24 hours.

It’s no secret that the grey days of Feb truly have the best of me and no joke that last year I PROMISED myself I wouldn’t wallow in my misery but instead go somewhere this year. I haven’t and despite my threats to my family that I will leave, I won’t. I love them dearly so since I’m not going anywhere solo, I hope to figure out a way to get out and explore. As a family. a privileged one who decided some time ago that travel enriches us, much more so than any material objects (of which none, I need not add but will, are we lacking). SO:images.jpg

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

john lennon. somehow i think this applies.

xo ut


all this is to say that I often have to shake my head, smile and breathe deeply in gratitude and wonderment over the life that is mine!

Imagine, waking up early yesterday morning, leaving the house while the 10 +14 year old are still sleeping, the doctor/scientist/husband was in Denver (speaking), to head downtown to Pastis (thankful for your suggestion) to interview Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architecture for Humanity. He spoke (non-stop) about his laudible efforts for 2+ hours before we shared a cab north. He was in NYC for a meeting with Judith Rodin, Director and Darren Walker VP Programs of the Rockefeller Fdtn (he’d met Judith Rodin in Davos late last month). I’d been at the RF last month for a leadership meeting with Foundation people and the Center for Curatorial Leadership. Darren headed the meeting… small world dept.

AND then, after finally returning home, I took the 10 yr old to his play date on w 81st street overlooking the Museum of N History. He and his friends have weekly rubber band wars. it’s funny bc the boys all come from terribly pc families and we indulge the battles mightily, goggles and all. While he was at war, the14 yr old and I went to the Met’s Costume Institute for a meeting with

Dear S,

What a treat… thank you for indulging the young mind. Honestly, despite her mild appearance, the 14 yr old thrived from your wisdom and clarity vis a vis focus and direction of her history project.

Meanwhile, we are grateful to you for the suggestion that we meander up to the second floor and wander through the keyhole to the Astor Court. Wow, what a special place and well kept secret. It was a perfect way to exit following our informative meeting (that is after a brief look through the exhibition. the 14 yr old was particular taken by the luxurious lilac silk faille dress by Vivienne Westwood and the Manolo Blahnik/Damien Hirst polka dot print boots. She recognized the polka dots as Hirst’s immediately. Guess I’ve done my job!)

I also appreciate the NYC tips – it’s not a bad place, just have to find “my” niche in which being a mother is only one part…

Again, thank you. You truly made a difference.


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Date: Feb 20, 2008 12:44 PM
Subject: I’m going to start adding these to utdt
To: Wowie. Sounds like a great session. Could’ve used it but too tired – too much hw + I didn’t even take a stab @ my own. HATE that. So, only hw for me today (betw pick up @ 3 + making fucking dinner – the kidlets started watching the foodnet work which is so ironic, considering our cupboards r bare save mushroom spreads + fancy jams, lots of wine + the requisite special k, skim milk, oj + grapefruit juice for the dr/scientist husband)Ps. Maybe we should post our emails on ut/dt? This would capture our lives, what do u thin? Wonder if there’s an app 4 the blkberry (which I recommend over the iphone – reviews I’ve read favor the bb.)

Xo ut.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

—–Original Message—–
From: Ashley Van Buren

Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2008 23:31:45
To: Subject: Re: today’s giving life, 12 books

Wow, 4:30, I am IMPRESSED! I was asleep way before that!

Tonight was good. x speaks a mile a minute. Doesn’t take ANY breaths. I just watched her talk, in awe of her lung capacity. Rest of conversation was actually really interesting. y told us how she got started. x, q and y told us about how they met their husbands — all really great stories. Then the NY vs. LA talk (with more people in your corner than you would think). Then we talked about the things we fear the most (situational things) I couldn’t come up with anything good. After ten years of being completely claustrophobic to the point of panic attacks and avoiding airplanes, once you get over that hurdle, anything is possible because you’ve learned how to control your body’s reaction to fear. So maybe that’s why I can’t think of anything.

Next meeting is Tuesday the 18th at 7 PM, location TBD.

Hope the homework is relatively painless.

And kidlets, I LOVE that term! So cute.

Off to write my ALK intro and edit her responses.


On Feb 19, 2008, at 9:23 PM, someone wrote:

hope tonight was fun. cameron (was great, spoke a mile a minute, didn’t need questions but now I need to give the responses some shape… AFTER I do my freakin’ homework.

AFTER I put the kidlets to sleep.

and last night I stayed up til 4:30 reading about your boyfriend.

my prediction: Cameron will go into politics or policy, ie the UN. They could use him. He can’t travel the world as he does FOREVER! And he’s got a wife and daughter, Josephine.

“Advocacy, instigation and implementation.”
Most of the world’s architects are trained in the Western world, but most of the work that needs urgent doing is located in the developing world, especially areas ravaged by wars and natural disasters. Within these wastelands, there’s a role for architects, though few dare to go there.

TED talk:

and as a result of his TED prize:
the Architecture challenge (aka the open source design competition) sss

uptownies head down

At the suggestion of a kind member of the MMA Costume Institute staff, I accompanied the 14 year old to The Tenement Museum at 108 Orchard Street. She’d received an email response to her history project inquiry vis a vis the influence of immigrants to the US on fashion in the early 1900’s. I love that place and remember loving it when it opened in 1988. I went so far as writing a letter to Ben and Jerry suggesting that they might want to underwrite the Museum’s efforts – a younger version of the current connector that I’ve come to be.

Tickets are required to enter the Museum. We visited two apartments that had been lived in by families who worked in the garment industry. It served as a relevant foundation for the 14-year old’s project. Prior to our tour, we brunched at Little Giant, half a block away, and enjoyed fab mac and cheese and/or oatmeal.

The Lower East side foray which was especially meaningful given that our “educator” began the tour by asking each of the 15 tour”ists” to talk a bit about their ancestry. Austria, Poland, Italy, Greece, Dominican Republic, England, Ireland. Quite the melting pot and I learned that 85% of American Jews who arrived in the US in the early 1900’s lived at some point on the LES… that’s us, baby.

Afterward, we headed west for a visit to Devachan (the curly hair salon) where the 14 year old will go in two week’s time for a cut. She needed “product” and we were lucky enough to catch her stylist, Rick, who gave her an impromptu consultation on how to use the products. While he explained haircare, he took a snip of her lucious golden locks! The crazy thing was that every person, male or female, that came in or exited the salon had wavy or curly hair, styled just so. Made me feel good for the 14 year old curly head. Despite being an exotic beauty on the UES, she fit in perfectly with the downtown fashionistas.

In keeping with the fashion theme for the day, we entered the Rem Koolhaas designed Prada store on Broadway and Prince and Ted Meuhling’s fab store on Howard Street where it intersects with Crosby. We ended the day with hot chocolate at the Cupping Room and a quick gift exchange at the Coach store. The 14 year old didn’t wince or complain a bit… good things in small packages. Gotta love the adventure.