Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Gap, Revealed

     I looked over from the line I was standing in at The Gap in midtown and started to laugh.

     "Wow," I said, turning to the young woman behind me and pointing out to her the scantily-clad mannequin to our left. "I noticed fashion was getting a little more risque, but I think this might be stretching it..."

     "Did they do that on purpose?" she wondered.

     "I don't know, can't really tell these days, what with some of the outfits the ladies are wearing, the over-the-knee boots and knee socks, short skirts...Maybe they've finally decided to just be honest, to offer up a little window into what people really hope to get out of wearing some of these sexier styles."

     The girl nodded but looked a little scared at my rant. Right then, as we continued to stare at the headless vixen with the perfect pecs and the beckoning open zipper, a woman (the young woman's mother, it turned out,) came alongside the mannequin with a shocked expression and tugged a bit at her cardigan to try to cover her exposed breasts.

    I lost it. It was hilarious, perfect. The woman came toward me shaking her head. "What if a man was up here?" she asked, mortified.

     I laughed. "You mean men haven't seen that before?" I asked.

     By this point, I was up at the cashier, who had already alerted her manager to the issue of the half-dressed mannequin. Apparently, it was not on purpose. The manager, I daresay, was not at all amused as she ran over to button up the sales-figure's figure behind closed material. I had placed a gold star on the babe's plastic breast that might be there still, a reminder of what people are so often TRYING to do by dressing well...The Gap is, I guess, supposed to be more subtle in its marketing.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Joys of Childbirth

I was eavesdropping. I make no apologies anymore in cafes, when I pipe in to other people's private conversations. If I have something valuable to say (the decision of whether or not it's valuable made, of course, by me) I say it.

When Riannon Price rubbed her belly and began to discuss the many variables inherent in giving birth, I had to speak across Naidre's to add my twenty-two cents.

"You just have to relax and let nature take it's course, you have to visualize the baby," I said. "We are meant to do this, and the only thing that creates a problem is if we clench and are nervous. It's amazing, enjoy it."

She looked at me then, skeptical. "I'm not sure I want the epidural..." she said.

I laughed. "Luckily, with my first, I had a doctor who had just had her third child, she came in and said not 'if' but 'when.' I got it, and it was great, it helped me relax. I had no qualms with the second one."

Rhiannon has the usual concerns, about doctors giving a c-section to speed things up, about the potentially scary side-effects of the epidural. It's not that these things aren't ever issues, but together, in aggregrate, if you focus on them, they add to the already fearsome prospect of parenting. The worry over things you can't necessarily control will definitely be a problem, while these other things are mere possibilities.

I loved giving birth, both times. My pregnancies were not without scares (all false alarms from diagnostic tests delivered in the hope of helping but that proved only harmful in the end) and my deliveries too were not without their panic moments. But the beautiful, magical idea that I could bring a new baby into the world trumped all of that, as it should.

Rhiannon seemed calm, with a beautiful smile. I have no doubt she will be able to put all her concerns aside and deliver her baby with great aplomb, even, maybe, enjoy the process.

"It's nice to hear someone be positive..." Rhiannon said. It's true, most people focus on the pain.

I waved off the slim memory of pain. "You're bringing a person into the world, what else matters?" I said. "Plus, what no one tells you is that the pain subsides during contractions, you get a little rest!"

I gave her a gold star and the recommendation to drink a glass of wine before labor, to get the epidural if she wanted it or needed it. I passed along the great wisdom of a Lamaze coach  who dressed-down a control-freak Dad, concerned that his wife's use of drugs would harm HIS baby.

"'For as long as women have been having babies, people have found what they can to ease the pain,' she said, 'Indians used peyote...'"

Whatever it takes to relax and enjoy (within reason, of course,) Rhiannon should do. It is, after all, the greatest gift to be able to give the gift of life! It can be, and should be, fun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Doing What We Want

Jeremy is an old soul in a young man's body, clad as he often is in a cardigan, listening to Fleetwood Mac, a great band who broke up long before he was born. He actually eschews Facebook in favor of face to face friends.

I visit Parco often just to engage the bearded twenty-something in conversation, to feel better and more hopeful about the future of our youth. I quiz him sometimes, like the other day.

"So," I said as I sidled up for my long-shot double espresso, "do you do everything your doctor says?"

He paused in the midst of the pour. "Well," he said, "yeah..." He shrugged then. "Well, except for the smoking."

I doubled over and danced up and down. Thank goodness the little cafe was empty.

"That's amazing," I said, "hilarious."

It turns out for all the great wisdom Jeremy has offered up, I had never given him a star. I was glad. This was a perfect moment.

The truth is, no one does much they don't want to do, even when it comes to potentially helping their own health. It is hard to change habits, especially habits we have in spite of what common sentiment might say, in spite of what even "statistics" tell us might shave years off our lives. The truth, which Jeremy knows well, is that no one, not even one's trusted doctor, knows very much for sure. Smoking gives some people lung cancer, while others get off scot free. We have to debate these decisions for ourselves, weigh what matters to us in the moment with potential unproveable longterm affects.

Gold star to Jeremy for being a free thinker, for making a choice for himself that others might judge harshly. He has that right. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Truth and Nothing But

She walked up to the front desk at the Prospect Park Y to turn in a check she'd found for $300, a check for someone else.

"How are you?" one of the cleaning staff asked.

"Shitty," she said.

I doubled over.

"I love that!" I said. "People never say that."

She smiled slightly as she handed the found check over. It was obvious she could have used the money herself.

"What can I say," she said, shrugging her shoulders, resigned and proud at the same time, "I'm honest. I tell the truth."

As I reached for my gold stars, there was a commotion among the ladies who worked there who had gathered round.

"It's the gold star lady!" they said.

I handed one to Miss Shitty first, for her honesty, then handed them around to the staff so that no one would feel left out. It is the holidays after all, and they do work hard. Plus, I love to be generous and stars are a cheap way to make someone's day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


During the dog days of winter, it is our furry friends who stand, sadly, out in the cold, shivering on their little paws.

In front of Parco, though, Nora Fish's dogs look enviably warm and toasty. They are clad in fabulous sweaters the likes of which I wouldn't mind for myself in a slightly different shape.

Nora, a freelance graphic designer, has had so many comments and compliments on the sweaters as she meanders around the neighborhood, that she has decided to build a business to sell them. Tootaloops already has six orders!

It is a reinvention of sorts for her or at least an interesting addition to her current creative endeavors, a necessity in this economy and in life in general. When things get boring, try your hand at something new. Nora is an inspiration in this regard, and for that I gave her a gold star.

E-mail for one of Nora's awesome sweaters.

Monday, December 13, 2010

License to be Bold, At Any Age

Across from me on the subway were three older ladies. One wore a purple hat and red gloves, the other two both wore red hats and red scarves.

Was it red or purple that those ladies that travel together in the same bold, life-affirming, I’m-still-kicking-and-I’m-cooler-than-you color wear, I wondered, looking down at my own long purple scarf.

"Are you part of that red hat group, or purple?" I leaned across to ask.

They looked at each other and laughed. No, it was purely by accident that they all wore red and purple, they weren't part of the Red Hat Society, though they knew of it.

"There's a group of Loise’s too who travel around together," one said with a shrug, cocking her purple cap with eyes closed against the ridiculousness of it all.

"I guess sharing a name is as good a reason as any to hang out with people," I said with a sarcastic laugh.

I gave these ladies gold stars and they were excited, though they declined when I asked them if I could take their picture. They wanted no publicity for being their bold selves. They were doing it only for themselves, for one another, for people who mattered in their lives. I loved it.

There is something about being able to pull off bold colors, to wear them proudly like a badge of courage amidst the New York City crowds. It marks a bravery we hopefully find in youth but that, often, doesn't come except with age if at all.

There is a poem by Brit Jenny Joseph, from 1961, when she was 30, that inspired the Red Hat Society's development and their mission to, among other things, "celebrate life...forge solid friendship...explore new interests...fulfill potential...and lead healthy lifestyles." No small order.

Jenny Joseph

Ms. Joseph's words are words to live by, at any age:


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick the flowers in other peoples' gardens

And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickles for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Thank you Ms. Joseph! Gold star for trying to inspire yourself and others. Hopefully, you still seize life in the same manner, whether you wear red and purple or not.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Art Basel Inspiration

Days after my return from Miami, my slight tan faded in the distance, I am still figuring why it is that I want, no NEED to return to Art Basel every year.

Aside from the blue sky and sunshine we saw before heading in to the vast climate-controlled art collections, the experience offered inspiration in spades, direct signs of the incredible efforts of artists of all kinds, new and old, creators of all kinds that aim to raise our consciousness and our spirits in all sorts of ways. I could have given away thousands of gold stars and might, should have if I wasn't so busy taking it all in.

I did, of course, give away a bunch.
Regina Kravitz got a gold star for her amazing zippered hat.

"It's a Kokin hat," she said, imbuing the name of a designer I am too clueless to have heard of.

"Well, it's awesome," I said.

We talked about how the people-watching, the fashion show as we rested our eyes from the visual art on display, was almost as scintillating as the show itself. Turns out, Ms. Kravitz is a clothing designer, something that didn't surprise me at all given her great personal style. She is starting a new line for her RIK designs, "relaxed spa-like clothes," she said. I will definitely be on the lookout.

It is not an easy industry, "impossible," she said. "I should be Diane Von Furstenberg but..."'s so hard to figure a way to the top of the heap. She stays on top of the latest ways of self-promotion, the social networks and such. She is on the circuit, she is out and about looking stylish, which is in and of itself great marketing! Based on her personal look, I am totally tempted to buy her new clothes or take advantage of her styling services.

My friend Miok and I met artist Per Adolfsen at the bar of the Raleigh. The Dane was in fine form and we got a glimpse of his art on his Blackberry, which didn't quite do it justice. The next day, we visited it in person at the booth of the Dusseldorf-based gallery, Schuebbe Projects, that is representing him.

"I love it!" I said.

He smiled. "But you have to say that, no?"

I laughed. Per does not pull punches, he's straight up. That's why I like him. "It's true, I do, but I actually mean it."

Per has only been painting for a few years but he is already commanding a pretty penny for his pieces. The one on display is going, if it goes, for $16,500.

I love the swirling chaos of them, love swirls in general both for their freedom of movement and their metaphor. As Per describes his thinking, a window into why his paintbrush goes where it goes, "I paint things out of order, chaos. Things don't make sense. We can't control life, or always put things together by making systems."

Gold star for bucking systems, for being bold in one's brush strokes, in life. Per gave a big smile and slapped his gold star straight on. He is a star in the making.

Xiliary Twil, from the St. Helena, CA-based office of gallery Caldwell Snyder got a star for her sunny demeanor, something that shone out in the art she stood by (in more ways than one) of rising art star Paul Balmer.

I could have stood all day in front of the bright cityscape of a fantastical landscape, lived happily in its midst.

"It could be anywhere you want it to be," Xiliary said.

"Excellent, I get to use my imagination," I said.

Too often, we expect to be told what something is, given someone else's opinion instead of being asked what we think, what we want something to be.

I loved Xiliary's side pony and told her so. "I think the side pony is totally back," I said.

She nodded in agreement. "I might do Princess Leah too..."

Absolutely. Now is a time of whimsy and fantasy, a time for make-believe worlds the likes of which Paul Balmer creates with his brilliant hand.

I was blown away by the energetic drawings behind Andrea Zieher of ZieherSmith gallery. She introduced me, sadly, only in spirit, to artist Eddie Martinez and his amazing work.

"He never stops painting, it just needs to come out," she explained.

Staring, mesmerized at the magical depictions of daily objects reimagined, I nodded. "I can see that."

In an interviewwith Mr. Martinez in a little book that Andrea gave me (even before I gave her her gold star!), he said one of his inspirations was Hockney because, he said, "he just always goes for it, whatever he's doing...he's still just fucking doing it every day."

I love that, I'm going to use it, give Eddie a gold star for the phrase if ever I should have the luck to meet him: just fucking do it, every day!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Forms of Fine Art.


Gold stars go out to the gorgeous female form. Artist after artist from Picasso to even more modern portrayers, try to do it justice, to offer up literal or figurative meaning to the mother sex in all types of media.

At Art Basel in Miami Beach this past week, in a city known for its Double-D mammaries, even on store mannequins, breasts and the women attached to them played a front-and-center role. (Pun intended.)

Thousands of gallery owners in town from all over the world for the United States' signature annual art fair, offered up their best booby depictions in booths spread out across convention halls, hotel rooms and massive mobile tents. It is only fitting that it take place in the city that, pound for pound, probably puts the most skin on display, at least when weather permits.  

Below is a sampling of the great works...


The prices, mostly, were well beyond my range, in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands or beyond. Mostly, I didn't even ask, but this tile below caught my eye.

"How much is it?" I asked tentatively.

"It's 40," the woman seated in the gallery's booth offered. "This is the artist, Yves Martin," she said, gesturing toward a man who nodded at me with pride.

"Uh," I said, looking at Yves, having made this mistake before, "Forty...?"

They laughed. "Forty dollars," he said.

I offered up cash, straight to the painter, and the piece was mine. Victory. I had made a purchase. I was the last of the really big spenders in support of artists and their rendering of human life givers in their infinite beauty.

The tile, along with the string bikini I bought for myself--shameful at 40, I know--both offer homage to the body, imperfections and all. Of the latter I will provide no photos, though, just a gold star to myself, for trying!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Coffee and Concern

As I waited in line at the Juan Valdez in Cafe at the American Airlines terminal of JFK, I listened to the young lady behind the counter advising an airport worker, a man, about his health. He just shook his head.

"Are you sayin' my doctors are lyin'?" he asked her, clearly annoyed. She shrugged. Her instincts and nursing school experience told her maybe they were wrong, maybe he should try something else, I couldn't exactly understand what.

She kept on him as she counted out his change. As she handed it to him, she looked at him intently.

"Are you going to quit smoking?" she demanded.

He just stuck his hand out for the change and remained silent, his face a bit red out of exasperation as he walked away.

I smiled at her and lifted my glasses as I walked up. "Are you married to that man?" I asked. The exchange sounded familiar, demands made, frustration on both sides.

She laughed. "No, she is," she said, pointing to her co-worker. "Nah, just kiddin'."

"So, you're just trying to help him?" I said.

She nodded. "Trying..." she said.

 "Well," I said, "men don't usually listen. The only reason I'm still married to my husband after almost 15 years is that he will often just admit that he's an idiot," I said.

I got the laughs I was looking for from the ladies right on cue. There is no faster way to bond with women than to talk about how dumb men can be, how far superior the female sex is as species.

"And that man?" I said, "The one you were trying to help? You know how long we would last? About two seconds. He clearly doesn't listen even though if he did it would probably help."

The ladies nodded in agreement, still laughing. None of them were married and they were impressed I had been with my husband for 15 years.

I shrugged. "It's not easy," I said. "Communication in general is hard."

"My friend said if she got married again, she would only do it for money," one of them said.

Funny, I was actually purchasing a copy of Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Lisa Scottoline's "Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog." It seemed apropos to the conversation, not even on purpose.

I gave Tamika, Melissa and Morgan gold stars. As they posed happily for their picture, I laughed.

"You look like you should form a girl band," I said. I wished them much luck in their relationships, and they wished me luck in mine.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Lucky Spot

I smiled at the man as I rushed down 15th St., late as usual, whistling. He stood by his car, paced a bit back and forth, ready to burst.

I slowed as he began to speak to me. "I got it, right away, for the first time!" he said excitedly as he gestured at his car. His enthusiasm was infectious. I had to stop.

"Got what?" I asked.

"A parking space! Right here! Right where I want to park! Without driving around for half an hour!"

I laughed. Only in New York would such a thing be met by such excitement, such glee, would such a thing as a good parking space be the thing you needed to flag down a stranger to share. There was only one thing to do. Despite running late, I had to give Jim Green a gold star. I mean, day in and day out, the man has set out hopefully to find the perfect spot.

He has been patient, but patience begins to wear thin without reward. And then one day, one fine day, his dream comes true: he glides in to the perfect spot without even a second thought, without worry or a search. Such luck must have been divined, otherworldly, worthy--of course--of a star.

Mr. Green put the star right on his lucky car and posed for a pic. He had time to spare to get to his job as a coach at Prospect Park Tennis Center a few blocks away, through the park.