Monthly Archives: February 2009

Let Google Do the Walking (map)

Did you know that google maps has a beta site to search walking directions!?

Whereas I’m married to HopStop for public transport directions and tend to search “more street walking/fewer transfers,” I discovered google’s new map feature for walking, great for a girl/mother on the go – especially with kids in tow, when one needs to plan ahead.

So here’s today’s itinerary, pbj-704927-main_fullthanks in great part to the magic of the internet:
The Peanut Butter & Co
http://www.ilovepeanutbutter.com
240 Sullivan St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 677-3995
Greenwich Village, between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets, a block south of Washington Square Park and NYU.

And since it began as a sort of sunny and a not-quite freezing 40 degree day, after a late lunch, we planned to hoof it to the tip of the island and visit the skyscraper museum check the website for hours http://www.skyscraper.org/
39 battery park place
New York, NY 10007
212-968-1961

Turns out, I’m the only one in my family who has voiced an interest in this museum despite the school boy’s knowledge of the tallest towers around the world, but we were to meet friends, young and old, for the afternoon so a peanut butter laden tummy and a playdate is good incentive to ponder the towers.

And then, thanks to google maps, I noted that the walking directions are in beta. The site says, “Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.”

Walking directions
TO 39 Battery Park Place FROM 240 Sullivan Street

BUT not so fast. I needed to heed google’s little warning about the path. Little did I realize that google maps didn’t recognize my destination address. Instead, it offered a choice and in haste, I selected 39 Park Place, oops.
1.Head southwest on Sullivan St towardBleecker St 0.5 mi
2.Slight left at 6th Ave/Ave of the Americas 0.4 mi
3.Slight right at Church St 0.4 mi
4.Turn right at Park Pl
Destination will be on the right 148 feet

The directions delivered us to an AT&T store where the staff welcomed and allowed us to use their computer to search for our destination. Still, many blocks north of where we were meant to be with a cold wind getting the best of our spirits, we grabbed a cab and relied on what we could have used in the first place, a laminated folding street map of NYC. Thankfully, the other mom in our gaggle had a map because our taxi driver had no idea how to get to Battery Park City.

Photo by Charles C. Ebbets for The New York Herald Tribune

Photo by Charles C. Ebbets for The New York Herald Tribune

The museum offers a small gallery space with some models, lots of images and some interactive features. There’s a good bookstore with lots of yes, books and architecture related toys and puzzles. Good for a rainy day or warm(er) day than today when you can stroll along the Battery Park esplanade or through Tribeca, taking in all the loft sites, high, low, new, and in between.

Have to say that the piece de la resistance of the day was the Peanut Butter Company in the Village. Our crowd sampled a fluffernutter, yum; the Elvis (crunchy peanut butter, honey and bananas), and a peanut butter BLT. I’d skip the tomato next time because the texture didn’t feel right on my tongue next to the crunchy sweet salty taste of the peanut butter, but bacon and peanut butter, that worked! The little sandwich shop is most crowded on Saturday afternoons but by 2 or 3pm, when we were there, the excitement died down and peanut butter lovers lolled around as they savored their gooey indulgences.

All in a days outing and then, home again, home again, jiggity jig.

33 Variations

“Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend. ”
– Ludwig van Beethoven

True artists are their art. There is no separation between the human being and their creation; humans are merely a vessel for their creation.

These are some of the hypotheses offered in Moisés Kaufman’s new play, 33 Variations, which is currently in previews tn-500_fondawm0129211488at the Eugene O’Neill Theater. The idea of combining the story of how a series of songs came to be through the eyes of both Beethoven, himself, and the musicologist studying his sketches nearly two hundred years later, is what initially drew me to this play. When it was announced Jane Fonda, after a 46 year absence from the stage, had signed on to play musicologist, Dr. Katherine Brandt, I bought my ticket knowing that the words “sold out” would likely follow soon after.

As expected, I was the youngest person in the theater, by a good 30+ years — and that’s being generous. Nearly everyone at the Sunday matinee I attended came to see Jane. They thought they had an idea of the Jane they were going to see: Barefoot In the Park Jane, Klute Jane, Julia Jane, Coming Home Jane, The China Syndrome Jane, and, maybe even Hanoi Jane. If you grew up in my generation, however, your point of reference is more likely to be this Jane:jane-fonda2
which is probably why the audience tipped in favor of the grey-headed set.

But now the older crowd has one-upped their younger, theater-going counterparts, because 33 Variations is a beautiful, exquisite, modern work of theater. It is everything a play should be and more. Frankly, I’m almost surprised it made it up to Broadway and didn’t find a home downtown. It has the feel of experimental theater with a spare, but detailed and ingenious set, which combines pen, ink, paper, piano, sound, words, and musical visuals, via a screen on stage.

Moisés Kaufman has created an original piece of theater that marries language and music in an arresting fashion. To hear each line played on a piano by Diane Walsh, while Ludwigkellermannandfonda van Beethoven (played tremendously by Zach Grenier) “thinks” each note through out loud allows you to feel as if you are right there with him. In the words of Dr. Katherine Brandt, “I feel like I am looking over his shoulder as he composes.”

There were beautiful moments of straight monologue underscored, softly, by the piano, that nearly had me in tears. Like when Dr. Brandt says Beethoven’s variations stopped time: “They found moments to live in and expand. Right before he takes her hand to dance, when he misses a step, or asks, ‘will she like me? ‘” And, the goal of the present-day story in 33 Variations is to stop time as well. Katherine needs time to finish her paper, to learn more about her daughter, and to leave the world with one last thesis proved.

Oddly enough, for a woman so well-learned, Dr. Brandt seems content not having any sort of self-exploration beyond her investigation into the past of others. The story might be at fault here, but this is where Jane Fonda shines the brightest. In Dr. Katherine Brandt, Fonda has created a character, a vessel, that does not allow second-guessing. She comes up with a hypothesis and proves it, no further questions asked. The confidence, cockiness and self-absorption run high, but instead of writing the character off as a bitch, Fonda plays her as a deeply flawed, but fiercely intelligent woman. Perhaps the kind of woman we all are, deep down. She may show a few cracks, but does not break. She is, quite possibly, the ultimate expression of the public woman.

The supporting cast carve their own characters so meticulously, it feels as if each of them take turns becoming our lead actor, from Susan Kellerman (Katherine’s German counterpart, in more ways than one) to Samantha Mathis (who portrays Katherine’s daughter) and the dynamic Don Amendolia (as the music publisher, Diabelli who composes the thema on which Beethoven’s variations are based), Erik Steele (as “Friend of Beethoven”), Colin Hanks as “Nurse Mike,” (who manages to make the most of a part thatfullcompany331 could use a little more), and of course, Zach Grenier as Ludwig van Beethoven, they are all vital notes in each of the variations. It is a testament to both Kaufman as a writer-director, and the cast themselves, who appear to have the utmost respect for each other and allow each character, each variation, its moment to shine.

With all the revivals and adaptations, it’s rare to walk out of a theater feeling as if you’ve witnessed something unique and learned a few things along the way, but 33 Variations allowed me to feel a glimmer of promise for the future of theater. Hopefully, this play will inspire the work of other playwrights and perhaps in their work, we’ll catch a similar turn of phrase, a note, emotion, or maybe even discover the next Beethoven.
–Downtown

Hollywood, NYC

East Side
Living uptown can be a crack up. En route to school one morning, just steps from our building we saw film notices for “Gossip Girl,” one of our favorite emissions. And beyond that stood two paparazzi, “guys, it’s 7:30am,” I snapped their picture as they took ours.

West Side
Same morning, 15 minutes later, across town, more television crews were set up to shoot “Kings.” The great thing about their scenes were bicycles for rent, similar to the system in place in Paris, and recycling bins alongside trash cans. Too bad it’s only make believe.

It’s Cold Outside

imagesThough the streets of the City have been quiet over the past few days of an extended Presidents Weekend, I’ve been out and about strolling the boulevard. Prim and proper Park Avenue matrons continue to wear their fine furs, given the chilly climate. I’m talking financial and weather. It’s unlikely anyone has been spared the crash of the stock market and it’s repeatedly said that no one is buying anything so my conclusion is that the wearers of these coats are utilitarian in wearing their old furs to keep warm. Somehow, given the hard economic times, seems a suitable sign of the times, dead animals combined with luxe. Brrrrr.blog-real-housewives-nyc-full-cast

Love, Loss, And What I Wore

Tonight I went to a reading of Nora and Delia Ephron’s new play, Love, Loss, And What I Wore, based on the book of the same title. The series of six readings benefit Dress for Success, founded by one of our White Room Women.

The reading I went to starred Joyce Van Patten, Kristen Schaal, Kathy Najimy, Heather Burns and America Ferrerra. The women did a beautiful job. The stories were both personal and entirely relatable. Monologue topics included: what a woman wore to her first, second, third and fourth wedding, to purses, why women love/hate black, and even Brownie uniforms. The language and rhythm was snappy, poignant, honest and sometimes melancholy, but always followed by laughter. There was even a clothing rack with hangers and sandwich boards of illustrations of each dress (by the book’s author) hanging from it.

Though the illustration idea was fun — and even though it was only a reading — I did want to see more of each dress. I wanted to see the texture, the cut, more of thepicture-1 color. I wanted to touch them, just as the words touched me. Which got me thinking … it would have been interesting to incorporate designers of each of these visions. Based on the stories and text, I would love to see what each designer would create. How would they translate the words into clothing?

The Ephron sisters cut an interesting pattern, and I’m curious to see how they tailor this piece, because right now it’s well on its way to becoming the next little black dress.

P.S. I think I had the best seat in the house, right behind the nearly identical heads of Nora and Delia — a hand’s length away from wanting to “un-pop” Nora’s popped collar. I sooo wanted to climb into their brains and listen to what they were thinking.

Also in the house: Tina Brown, Gloria Steinem, Cindy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Judith Light. I’m sure there were several other faces I should have recognized, but I was too busy looking at what everyone was wearing.
–Downtown

Lunchtime at Bernie’s

Couldn’t help but note the midday delivery as I walked by the East 64th Street residence of the infamous “not-yet-an-outlaw” but conveniently living-outside-of-the-law Bernie Madoff. lunchtime-at-bernies-1 If you look carefully, mid-photo, please note the folding chair upon which sits a reporter (or could he be a security officer)? Parked diagonally across the street, often times I encounter a TV truck ready and waiting for action. On-going drama and deceit at its absolute worst. Shame.

UPDATE 28 Feb
In case you didn’t catch last week’s “New York” magazine’s profile of “The Monster Mench” by Steve Fishman,

Illustration by Riccardo Vecchio for New York Magazine, published February 22, 2009

Illustration by Riccardo Vecchio for New York Magazine, published February 22, 2009

click through to it here.

and if that doesn’t give you a clear picture, Tom Hays for the Associated Press shares holocaust survivor, writer and one who lost with Madoff, Eli Weisel’s perspective here.

Could make you lose your appetite.

The Best Things in Life Are Free

I met a friend visiting from the west coast for drinks tonight at the Campbell Apartment. It was a lot of fun to catch up and finally see her on my coast, for a change. As the evening began to wind down, I asked her what her older daughter was doing for the summer. “She’ll be living in New York, actually,” said my friend. “And interning a bit with a friend’s father’s company.” We began talking about all the things her daughter should see and do while she’s in town. I mentioned how many free things there are to do and take advantage of. I was met with an interesting, candid response, “Well,” said my friend, “these girls are affluent, so I doubt they’ll be doing anything like that.” She wasn’t wrong with what she said, and it wasn’t said offensively, simply stated as a fact. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much that sucks in a way. As great as it is to see New York from a position of wealth, it’s also fun (though sometimes difficult) to see it when you don’t have a ton of money, especially when you’re young. I could wax on poetically, but because it’s late, and I’m tired, here’s a list of the things one could miss if they didn’t take advantage of a “free” New York:

Walking through Central Park (vs. whizzing through in a cab)
Navigating the subways (and subway performers)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Walking Washington Square Park, Gramercy Park, Union Square, Times Square, Cooper Square, Battery Park, etc.
Grand Army Plaza
The New York Public Library
The Performing Arts Library
Hanging out at Lincoln Center
Watching artists paint pictures of restaurants and buildings on Cornelia Street
Encountering tourists — everywhere!
Barney’s window displays
Discovering Minetta Lane
Downtown theaters
St. Mark’s Place
Observing the characters at fashion week at Bryant Park

Granted, all of these things could be experienced from town cars, taxis and perhaps even on their own two feet. But sometimes when the experience comes easily, it doesn’t mean as much or feel as rewarding. Like coming into a warm, cozy apartment after walking ten blocks from the freezing cold subway, to finding a way to get drinks for free, or getting into an event when you don’t have tickets. Those things just feel so good. And, I’m sure there aresunset_over_new_york_city_1932 experiences that these girls will have that most New Yorkers never will in their lifetime. But, more than anything, in New York it’s the possibility of what you may encounter and the unexpected that you do encounter that makes this city so fascinating. The trick is do it all, the free, the not-so-free and the down-right expensive. Open yourself up to it all, as much as you can, and hold on tight.
–Downtown

Will the Groundhog see her Shadow?

Five bottles of red wine, three bottles of white, eight bottles of Pellegrino, four six packs of beer, one case of 8 oz. bottles of sprite, 12 eight ounce bottles of coke, 12 bottles of orangina and tap water sum up this evening’s super bowl consumption. The kids watched much of the game, lasted for Bruce Springsteen’s first seranade only to walk away and have their seats taken by their elders for “Glory Days.”

I’m consumed by the unemployment rate, having researched the Bureau of Labor Statistics for my business reporting class. The week ending January 30, 2009 saw a loss of 100,000 jobs and that’s after unemployment benefits reached 588,000 the previous week ending January 24, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Yikes.

On that note, I’ve been following Erica Smith’s blog, http://graphicdesignr.net/papercuts/ as she reports on layoffs in the newspaper industry. Smith is a graphic designer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and she’s on to something. In researching unemployment, I found a few other job “trackers,” though I don’t know the veracity or objectivity of the tallys. There’s one for lawyers, an agrregator for all layoff related headlines. It’s daunting and I suspect this is but the tip of the unemployment tally iceberg.

And finally, the 11-year old and the physician/scientist/husband (mine, the boy’s dad) were playing catch in the Park today. The boy removed his jacket, placed it on a nearby bench. A few minutes into play, a woman sat down near the jacket and minutes later, she and the jacket were gone. Now, the guys didn’t see the woman take the coat. They searched high and low only to conclude she’d stolen it. My take: if the woman needs a lightweight jacket that badly, I hope it helps keep her warm. The husband’s take: it’s wrong and he doesn’t condone stealing. I don’t either but man, unless a person is in great despair, who removes a coat in broad daylight, practically right in front of you?

So this all brings me to Groundhog Day. I’m afraid much of our country is under a dark shadow that will take much more than a robust stimulus package to shine sunlight. Apologies for the doom and gloom but despite this evening’s jovial soiree held in conjunction with the superbowl, I’m afraid Glory Days are yet to come. This is just the beginning. The good news, according to legend, if the groundhog doesn’t see her shadow, there will be an early spring. Good news for whomever it is with the lightweight jacket.