Bookmark This Bar

27 02 2009

Midtown Manhattan is, for the most part, a no man’s land when it comes to interesting places to dine or drink. I’ve recently, however, discovered Bookmarks, a smart little lounge atop the Library Hotel. I give fair warning now: when I visited this bar the other night the service was not so hot. But what it lacks in character, it makes up for in charm. Some may call the book theme kitchsy, but I, book nerd that I am, adored it. The list of unique (and extra strength) cocktails is long, and all bear the names of literary greats. Dickens has one, as does Hemingway (which, by the way, happens to be misspelled). I actually had my first taste of absinthe in a drink called, appropriately, the Oscar Wilde.

On the one side the mahogany-walled writer’s den has a working fireplace to defrost the brain on those cold winter nights. On the other side, the poetry garden invokes a seaside artist summer home, the type of retreat creative types need for relaxation and fresh ideas, if, of course, by retreat you mean a view up at the big buildings of Midtown. But somehow that is refreshing and idea-sparking in itself.

Bookmarks is located on the 14th floor of the Library Hotel, 299 Madison Ave at 41st St, (212) 204-5498

The Good Kind of Tour, Er… Race

24 02 2009

So I have to say that while the budget traveler in me cringes not a little at the thought of shelling out nearly $2,000 for an eight day trip, I’m definitely intrigued by the latest travel tour company, which is not really a tour at all, at least not in the canned organized tour group sense. Competitours is the lay person’s Amazing Race, complete with challenges and a grand prize. Travelers work in teams of two performing several challenges a day and videotaping themselves as they go, all the while competing against the other teams for a grand prize (another trip).

While ordinarily I am decidedly anti-tour when I can help it, this does sound like a great thing. There is the promise of visiting under the radar locations not ordinarily on the organized tour (though this brings up the quandary of risking what makes these places unique and great in the first place). The challenges aim to be educational immersion in ways that the typical organized tour traveler might not otherwise experience a place. There is that possibility for “unexpected encounters with local people and places,” the very thing that is lacking from most organized tours.

All in all, the tour has a lot of the aspects of travel I most value: the pushing of one’s own boundaries, unique perspective, and then of course there is the bonding aspect. And one mustn’t forget the opportunity for more travel.

Bottomline: if I had the money, would I do it? Uh, Duh!

Current Obsession: Flip, the Universal Color

23 02 2009

I’ll admit it. There was a time when I was a bit of a Mac rat. While living in San Francisco I developed a bit of an addiction to the makeup products and my roommate Megan and I frequented the nearby store on our beloved Union Street, partly to visit David, the fantastic artist there, whom we adopted as a good friend, and partly just because we liked to play with makeup.

Over the course of a year or so in the height of my addiction I amassed what we’ll just call a good quantity of makeup. Enough that I really don’t have to purchase anything but the essentials (foundation, which is the only thing that runs out in any rapidity) now. I have a train case full of colors I wear all the time and colors that I had no business buying (think Aquadisiac, good for nothing save that one never-going-to-come day when I decide to be a mermaid for Halloween).

Anyhow, after being a student and now a struggling artist, my lack of dispensable income and my overflow of product keeps me from entering a Mac store with any regularity. I did, however, visit one the other day to replace the aforementioned foundation, and there in the front was a color that was simply singing to me. I had to stop, ogle it, do the requisite sample on the hand, and after several minutes (a good 15, at least), turning it over and giving it as much affection as possible, I had to treat myself and purchase.

The color, Flip, is my latest obsession and, quite possibly, the best $14.50 ever spent. It’s sort a bronze tone with flecks of sheen that bounce off the eye in the prettiest of ways. The mix of golden/brownish/pinkish hues means it goes well with just about anything in my massive train case of shadows (save, perhaps for the confounded Aquadisiac), but it is also great just on its own.

It’s easy and universal and oh-so-pretty, which is why I’m naming it numero uno travel color. It’s perfect for the girl on the go who can’t pack too much. Simply bring along Flip, or better yet, pick up a palette and fill it with Flip and some complementary colors (I recommend something in a brown, a purple, or even something with a bit of orange). They sell empty palettes to fill on your own and they are flat, light weight and make it easy to pack all your makeup needs in one spot. Leave it to Mac to make it easy. Now if only someone would explain what possessed me to put bright turquoise on my eyes…

Warning: Highly Addictive

16 02 2009

During a recent catch-up brunch with Tiffany, she reported back, that her California trip was fantastic (no surprise) and, much to my delight (and envy), that the visit to Ano Nuevo State Beach was the major highlight. As I mentioned back when she was planning this trip, the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo, just outside San Francisco, have long been an obsession of mine, though I’ve yet to make it to see them myself.

Tiff’s visit, during which she saw a very long fight between two males and a live birth (according to her naturalist guide, a very rare sighting) only made me more angry that I never went while living there, though my mother has since informed me that we did in fact visit the beach once, but that, alas, there was only one seal there when we did. The fact that I have no recollection of this is shocking, given my current obsession with them and the fact that I generally remember almost everything. Anyhow, my dear mother has brought the elephant seals to me, or, rather, the California park system (and a very generous donor) have.

I recently received in the mail this clipping from our local newspaper, sent by my mother and announcing that the seals are now eligible to become worldwide stars (or simply the subjects of mass voyeurism). Regardless, Ano Nuevo has installed a high definition webcam, the first of its kind in any California State Park and worth a whopping $20,000. The camera covers the entire nine acre island and allows nature lovers all over the world to witness the fighting, mating and general life practices of the fascinating elephant seals. I’ve finally seen my first (in memory) elephant seal, and have left the player up on my desktop. Not only are the nature sounds sort of soothing, but a quick visit to the beach is a great escape from a cold New York work day. As I type this post, all is bathed in a rosy glow as the sun rises in California. Check it out for yourself, but be warned: you won’t be able to pull yourself away. I myself and waiting to catch that elusive live birth…

Penny: A Few Friday Laughs

13 02 2009

It’s been a long and strange week and this Friday I’m in need of a few of Annie Dillard’s proverbial pennies to pick up my spirits. A few that I’ve found: book group, hot tea, my new photo wall (I’ve covered part of my enormous walls with a collage of some of my favorite travel moments and am very proud of how it turned out), and…

New York Magazine. Every week, this little collection of paper gives me a reason to look forward to Mondays, when it will arrive in my mailbox, and even more so to Tuesdays, when it is my subway reading. While John Heilmann‘s column is always a highlight for its great perspective and ability to keep me more politically aware, this week it was two other columns that thrilled me.

First was a review of Will Ferrell’s short turn on Broadway as good ol’ Dubbya in You’re Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush. Will Ferrell poking fun at George W. as a final goodbye. On Broadway. I don’t think much more needs to be said about that. It simply brings a smile to the face.

Second is the cover story on Demetri Martin, comedic genius of the new comedic era. I discovered Martin months ago when a friend sent me a video of him doing flip art comedy (which I just discovered is no longer available: tear), and I must have watched the thing 50 times, never getting sick of his simple, but brilliant jokes. The fact that he now has a show, Important Things With Demetri Martin, which is being produced by John Stewart and will soon air on Comedy Central is enough to make this book lover/online television enthusiast want to go out and purchase a TV, and cable. And after reading the article, I love him even more. I’ll say nothing else. The article speaks for itself, and so does this:

New York Times Travel Show

10 02 2009

On Saturday afternoon, at a travel writing workshop in a stale (but relatively packed) subterranean room in the terrible Javits Center, Max Hartshorne and Kent St. John, editors from, both mentioned that travel writers are some of the worst complainers out there. It was funny, but as I sat there, tired and a little grumpy from a long day of wandering the show floor carting increasingly heavier bags of pamphlets and materials on sundry places and cursing the Q train that would inevitably be as slow getting me home as it was delivering me that morning, I realized they were certainly correct. I mean I was, after all, at a TRAVEL SHOW, and despite the throngs wandering aimlessly through the crowded booths, I had seen some good dancing, sipped the Peruvian corn drink Chicha, and entered countless drawings, one of which I am bound (please, please?) to win.

And so, despite my griping, as, according to Max and Kent, only a good travel writer can do, I’d say, overall, the show was a success. I missed, alas, the trade day on Friday, so had to face the crowds of people actually planning trips, but I collected some great information and cultivated some new wanderlust. Top of the list now, in addition to the longstanding Petra and Russia, are Brescia, Guatemala, and(random, I know) Maine. I met a few people in the industry and ran into a few from the World Hum party and I came home with perhaps more information than I will ever need.

Some standout booths were: the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance, GoPhilanthropic, and Intrepid Travel. In addition to’s very popular and informative wrokshop, I also attended “What’s New for Solo and Women Travelers” (answer: women are traveling sans males more often and are getting gustier about it all the time) and Travel Through the Eyes of Travel Writers, a panel talking about travel and travel writing tips from some of the best established in the business.

Perhaps the most entertaining moments of the day, however, were spent gawking at all the costumed enthusiasts at the nearby Comic Con (yikes) and then discovering the little known “booth” occupied by “Brooklyn Rugby.” Read: two Brooklyn boys who were turned away from Comic Con and managed to find themselves a table on the show floor, which they decorated with pamphlets from an interesting (and totally without rhyme or reason) array of destinations. I think I may have been the only one to stumble dazedly into their booth after a long day of gazing at tables overflowing with literature. At least they said I was the honorary winner of their drawing (a “front row” seat at the next Brooklyn rugby match), and had the pleasure of poking fun at their rumpled, “just rolled out of bed to attend Comic Con” attire.

All in all, a successful day, and I did my best not to complain about the crowded subway car that took the local route home. (When I say “did my best” I mean “failed miserably.”)

The Small World of Travel Writers

6 02 2009

It’s a huge world out there. And no one knows that better than travel writers.  And yet, in the travel writing world one learns quickly (as I did at a party last night for World Hum) that the world of travel writing is rather a small one. There, crammed into the tiny basement of the fantastic Lolita Bar, were countless writers and lovers of travel from all  publications and areas. The fascinating thing is that most know each other, and the even better thing is that, in the world of travel writing, even if we don’t know each other, there is that common bond of world exploration that is a constant and inexhaustible topic of conversation.

But the small world gets even smaller as so: First, I finally met Mr. David Farley, curator of the Restless Legs Reading Series, with whom I had only before emailed since he was a part of the first Lit Crawl (and very popular, I might add). But second, there I was, meeting new people, when I spotted a familiar face and yet could not place how it was familiar. It was driving me crazy trying to figure out how I knew this guy at the party, until I finally approached and he recognized me, though also did not know from where. Finally after a few moments we realized: we had been in the same travel writing class last year in Buenos Aires! Now if that isn’t a small world, I’m not sure what is. And then, of course, we both got to swapping travel stories and then pining over how much more there is to explore in that bright big world out there.

Tomorrow it’s off to the NY Times Travel Show for more of the big (small) world of travel.

The Next Best Thing

5 02 2009

I keep harping on this Argentina thing, I know. But yesterday, as I braved 19 (feels like 2) degree weather, and bent forward to protect myself from crazy winds that slanted the heavily pouring snow, I couldn’t help but pretend it was last year and I was sweating away in sunny Buenos Aires. To make myself feel better, I read about the new up-and-coming Tango scene in Miami. Tango, it seems, is the new salsa in balmy Miami, where milongas are cropping up and folks are trading the swinging hips of salsa for the regimented, sensual steps of tango (lessons required: this is one dance where improvisation just doesn’t quite work).

While I do love salsa, I can understand why the folks in Miami have a new craze. Tango is intense, riveting, and out and out dificil, but oh so amazing to watch. Observe, for example, this intricate footwork from a milonga in BA.

However, Miami, though closer than BA, is currently  still tough to get to, so I figured I’d see if  there were places closer to home to heat up the cold winter nights with a little dancing. Sure enough, there are…

Those serious about learning the dance can check out Triangulo, where a month of classes is $70 ($55 for university and high school students). Those just looking for one hot night, check out Richard Lipkin’s Guide to Argentine Tango in New York, which has a calendar jam-packed with tango happenings all over the city and beyond, and more places for classes as well. Dance Tango lists milongas and classes as well as shows, for those who love the dance but may not be ready to strut their own stuff quite yet.