Sweden in New York

21 06 2009

We’ve already established that the Swedes are great at their design. They also, incidentally, know how to throw a great party. Friday, June 19, was my birthday. It was also the day of the Swedish Consulate’s annual Swedish Midsummer Festival, when New York’s Swedish community convenes on Battery Park to eat herring and decorate the May Pole. Despite the storms that have stolen our New York summer, Friday we had a lovely reprieve, rendering the evening, with its huge ivy-covered cross, floral crowns and the setting sun glinting off the lady in the harbor, rather magical. I’m not Swedish, nor have I been, but yet again, I’m a fan.





Waiting for Is Worth It

9 06 2009

Much as I sometimes complain about my experience at NYU, I’ll say it was a good experience. I found a few great professors and met some great people, but more than that, it did two things.

It brought me to New York, city of vibrant people, where summer brings an array of free arts and culture, from the Atlantic Avenue Art Walk this weekend, where vairous stores and galleries along Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue opened themselves up to display cool artwork (the best, I’d say, was the screenprinting) to the Museum Mile Festival this evening, where, despite the promise of thunder showers, countless throngs are likely to show up for street food and games and, oh yes, free admission to some of the cities favorite cultural hot spots along the famed Museum Mile.

It also gave me an opportunity to acquire inexpensive tickets to Broadway shows, which is how I got to see, on Friday night, Waiting for Godot. Now, I’ve studied Godot, and seen it twice before, but never with Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin (and John Goodman and John Glover), who make the absurd premise of Beckett’s masterpiece more lighthearted than bleak, in a way that has audiences laughing with joy even as the cringe at the poignant pathetic situation in which the tramps, Estragon and Vladimir find themselves. It was, well, worth waiting for.





Literary Mayhem

12 05 2009

So it turns out working a “real job” means much less time for things like blogging (not that I’m complaining). However, most of my free time lately has been devoted to yet another labor of love. The second Lit Crawl NYC is taking place this weekend and it’s going to be leaner, meaner and a whole lot of fun. We have real programs this time around (I just sent them off to be printed) and real sponsors  and Jack and Jane, the brilliant masterminds behind Litquake, will both be participating.

Plus, people are talking. Just yesterday, we were in The New Yorker. Go us!

I’d go on gushing, but, alas, I don’t quite have the time. Check out more at litquake.org/ny and if you’re anywhere near Manhattan on Saturday, May 16, you’d be missing out if you didn’t make your way down to the East Village to crawl a bit.





Piece of Home

2 10 2008

Tomorrow evening marks the opening night of Litquake, San Francisco’s 10 day literary extravaganza, and (in my humble opinion) the best thing to happen to literature in a very long time. Now in its sixth year, Litquake overflows the already great city of San Francisco with writers and readers who gather nightly at various locales for readings and revelry, with everything from comedy to a special Kidquake, because it’s never too early to hook ’em on books.

If I sound like I’m gushing, it’s because, well, I am. I had the fortune of working on Litquake for two years, and, at the risk of sounding dramatic (and offending family and friends) it was one of the hardest-to-leave-behind aspects of my California life. It is wistfully that I announce it this year, since, alas, I will be here in New York rather than at opening night with Porchlight Storytelling or any of the other great events in this year’s stellar lineup.

I know, I live in New York City, capitol of all things literary, right? And we have the New Yorker (capitol of all magazines literary) Festival, right? Right. I am surrounded by brilliant writers and fantastic reading series and the New Yorker Festival, but it’s not quite the same. For one thing, events at the New Yorker Festival sell out in a hot second, and for another, at at least $20 a pop, this poor struggling writer can’t afford to go to too many of them.  Litquake, on the other hand, is many days of inexpensive (and often free) readings. So my whining is not for naught.

What’s a girl to do? Bring the festival here, that’s what. And I did! This year, I joined forces with a fellow San Francisco transplant to put on a Lit Crawl here in NYC. Lit Crawl, is the phenomenal culminating evening of Litquake, a literary pub crawl that literally takes readers to the streets of the Mission District.

This year in SF they have 45 venues in total. Our modest Lit Crawl New York, which started in the Lower East Side and then crawled to the East Village and along the L train to Williamsburg, had 17, but it was a huge success (in my humble opinion). The literary community really rallied round us, and we had big name particpants from the New Yorker’s Ben Greenman to readers from Bloomsbury and Penguin. it was enough to draw New Yorkers out, even on a rainy night. I heard nothing but good things and queries about when the next will be. And so, though I can’t be in SF, at least I had the next best thing. (And now I catch my breath before it’s time to start planning for next year!)

Does it get much cooler then crowds of readers drowned in red light? Not likely.

Does it get much cooler than crowds of readers drowned in red light? Not likely.





So, About Last Night…

16 08 2008

Famous last words? In this case, yes. Last night we were treated to the very true, and very hilarious war stories of someone who has said, or thought, that phrase many a time: 52 to be exact. I’m talking about 52 Man Pickup, a hilarious one woman show that’s currently airing as part of the New York Fringe Festival.

First, on the Fringe Festival: WOW. That’s all there really is to say about the Fringe Festival, I think. Saying more would be wasting valuable time that could be spent enjoying the various and fantastic plays that are popping up all over the city during August (it runs until the 24th).  The number (and quality) of the shows is simply overwhelming and sort of leaves me speechless, and trying to figure out which shows to see next.  It is, in short, “the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues.” I repeat: WOW.

So I will stick to one show, one woman (and one “Gay on Piano”) and 52 cards. Comedienne extraordinaire Desiree Burch, is fabulous, from the moment she takes the stage, clad in a bustier and sucking a lollipop to the very end. And in between is the side-splitting hilarity of her forays into the New York, um… social scene where she, um… interacts with firemen, editors, aspiring musicians, male cheerleaders, and a whole lotta Daves. With a little help from Daniel Ajl Kitrosser, the fabulous “Gay on Piano” and a little help from the audience, Ms. Burch details some of the most salacious stories of the theat-ah, and elicits some of the most gutteral laughs along with it. We laughed, we winced, and a fabulous time was had by all.

52 Man Pickup is playing at The Jazz Gallery: 8/14 @ 7:45, 8/18 @ 9:15, 8/20 @ 5:30, 8/21@10 and 8/23@3





Flashbacks (or Something More)

15 04 2008

I think Argentina’s stalking me. Or haunting me. Or calling to me in some strange mental telepathy sort of way. Or perhaps I’m channeling Argentina and making it all up. Whatever the case, it’s been cropping up a lot.

It’s going to seem hokey, but while there I felt I had some sort of spirit/force/what-have-you watching out for me. I’m pretty sure it was Gaga, my maternal grandmother who passed away before I was born but who, I’ve always been told, had a strong adventurous spirit and was in all an amazing woman. I grew up jealous that my siblings have Gaga stories and I never got to know her. In my recent adventures, it only seemed right to speak to a strong female force in my life—who, incidentally, came to San Francisco from Hong Kong (by herself) at age 22, knowing no one (and my mom was worried about my move to NYC).

In my recent adventures, I got to know Gaga. Just when I was feeling exhausted or sick or lonely, I’d get pulled into a parade at Carnaval or stumble upon a beautiful Ash Wednesday ceremony. And it always seemed that I’d recently asked her for help. Call it what you will, I think my grandmother was looking out for me.

Then I came home, and during the job-hunting struggles of late I’ve had the distinct feeling that Gaga is giving me the silent treatment. Last week was especially rough (a separate post all to itself), and I went into the weekend feeling particularly frustrated and all around glum.

Then on Saturday I sat in Washington Square Park to enjoy beautiful weather and a band playing the greatest hits of Marvin Gaye. The man on the bench next to me was wearing a bracelet, a wooden saint bracelet that just about every male in Argentina sports. I happen to have one of these bracelets. It was given to me by Dario, who I met on a bus to Buenos Aires at the end of my trip. This experience warrants a separate post in itself, but for today’s purposes, it’s only necessary to say that in a particularly weak moment I called on Gaga and then met Dario (which happens, in addition to everything else, to be my nephew’s name). He gave me not only interesting conversation and perspective but a bracelet by which to remember him.

I wore the bracelet the rest of my trip and periodically put it on now that I’m home. It’s not fashionable, but it makes me happy. I wasn’t wearing it Saturday (I put it on when I got home), but the sight of another wearing it here in New York gave me that same sense of happiness, and a sense of peace that this is indeed a small world and a good one. I didn’t talk to said male because he seemed to have lost that Argentine friendliness, but I vowed to email Dario and tell him about it. (I have yet to do this, but I will. And then I’ll blog about it.)

Since then, Argentina’s been all over. This morning in DailyCandy there was a deal for a Pachamama massage at the Iguazu Day Spa, and while I didn’t make it to Iguazu I am definitely simpatica with Mother Earth (as the Pachamama is also known). I won’t be getting the Pachamama massage any time soon, but it seemed a weird coincidence since I keep hearing about things from Argentina.

Perhaps more bizarre was my experience yesterday. After an afternoon of struggling through the headache that is taxes (yes I’m one of those brilliant people who waited until the last possible minute) I heard a street band on my way to work. This is not uncommon (see above), and yet yesterday’s band was different: something about the horns and the rhythms was distinctive. Though I was surrounded by tall buildings and fast-walking people, for a second I turned the corner expecting a group of brightly colored diablos dancing around on a dusty street.

Perhaps it was my tax haze, but it seemed so real I was almost there, and I really did expect a parade. Is it all coincidence? Wishful thinking? Or am I simply going insane? Or could it be Gaga telling me to hang in there and remember my adventures (and her)? The jury is still out on all that. In the meantime, however, I will continue to wear Dario’s bracelet and to remember my parade.

And for fun, this video I took in Tilcara which captures my diablo abduction. You’ll see the girl next to me be pulled into the parade, then I laugh before my diablo grabs me and chaos ensues as I get pulled into the parade. It’s like the Blair Witch Project (except much less scary… and real).





Fiercely Funny

13 04 2008

A little PSA for anyone in New York tomorrow who wants to witness some hilarious (and hysterical) women at their best. Bust Magazine is sponsoring a fundraiser in support of the inaugural Hysterical Festival, a woman’s comedy festival that will take place in New York this fall. The festival’s goal is to honor fierce funny females, and the fundraiser’s goal is to (you guessed it) raise funds to do just that. And with funny female voices like Heather Lawless and Rachel Feinstein,  it’s bound to be a barrel of laughs to boot.

The show goes on at Comix Comedy Club on 14th Street and 9th Avenue and starts at 8 pm. Tickets are $15 pre-event and $20 at the door.





Horsing Around

18 03 2008

Ginobli mingles with some furry friends on the way to the parade.
Ginobli mingles with some furry friends on the way to the parade.
It’s amazing how much joy a stuffed (pet) horse can bring. The horse, Ginobli belongs to Libby, and I’ve come to think of myself as his honorary aunty.

A few important things to know about Ginobli (or Ginobs as his friends know him):

  • Libby “won” him (but he’s a free horse so we don’t say that around him) at Dave and Busters two years ago and he’s been part of the family ever since.
  • He’s named after NBA star Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs. (Another fact of interest: Manu is from Bahia Blanca in southern Argentina.)
  • He’s not just a stuffed horse, and he’s certainly not a dog. He’s a Clydesdale.
  • His favorite song is Crazy Horses by The Osmonds. And…
  • He makes friends everywhere he goes.

Ginobli on the wall.

Ginobli meets his twin.
Resemblance? I think so.

Yesterday, Ginobs went to St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York. He started at the end, on 86th Street and worked his way down to the Met at 82nd, charming many a spectator along the way.

Ginobli and the big green hat.

He was so popular, grand marshal Tommy Smyth was probably jealous. He even acquired presents along the way, like a glittery green bowler hat from a kind lady whose child refused to wear it.

Ginobli’s Marach calendar shot.
The parade itself was your usual parade fare: walls of firemen and law enforcement marched, along with a few school groups, several bag-piping troupes, and ladies and gents in antique garb. Far more amusing were the crowds that populated its sidelines. We’re talking hardcore Irish here: giant green hats, gold sequined pants, green hair, necklaces, anything you might think of. These New Yorkers love their St. Pat’s.

But the parade is only the precursor to the massive party that followed in Irish pubs around the city (specifically, as I noted earlier, on Third Ave.) After all the crowd entertaining, Ginobs was tired and cold and insisted on having one beer, so off we stopped at Pat O’Brien’s. Almost immediately we were engulfed by firemen cheering for Ginobli, taking photos with him, and insisting on buying his mother and aunt (whom I think they felt sorry for since we’re both jobless) beers, so that ONE beer turned into three or four, and Ginobli found himself crowd surfing.

Ginobli and the crowd.

All in all, an eventful day for Ginobs. And Libby and I learned a few things too…

  • Wandering around the streets with a huge stuffed horse will get you some pretty strange looks, unless you’re at the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  • Horsing around gives you a whole new perspective on otherwise somewhat ordinary experiences.
  • Horsing around is a lot more fun with a real (stuffed) horse (er, I mean Clydesdale) around.




The Other Green Travel

16 03 2008

St. Patrick’s Day is not just a day in the tri-State area. The Irish set here really make the revelry last. As long as they can. The festivities start with the Hoboken Parade (usually the first weekend in March). Die-hard Irish and party devotees head across the river for a day of green beer and raucous parties. I’ve not attended myself, but have heard from friends that it’s chaos in the streets and there are lines to get into the bars.

Then comes St. Patty’s itself, which is marked by a whole weekend (whichever falls closer the the actual day) of green-clad Manhattanites, and many visitors, stumbling through Manhattan’s street at all hours of the night, and all hours of the day for that matter. These devotees aren’t messing around: the party often starts with beer over breakfast.

Though there are Irish bars and pubs all over the city, I’ve decided that Third Ave. between 18th Street and 30th Street is the Irish pub hub. Last night, decked out in my own green (and no, I don’t own green stilettos, nor even green shoes for that matter, though perhaps they should go on the list), I made my way up Third Ave. to meet some friends at the Mad Hatter. Along the way I passed Pug Uglies—where last year I saw a real Irish band, in full traditional dress, parade through the world’s tiniest (and most crowded) parade route—and several other Irish bars, all drenched in green lights and overflowing with the aforementioned green devotees, now barely able to walk due to the day’s long party.

The scene at the Mad Hatter was about the same as its pub neighbors, and after one beer my friends and I retired to the next likely St. Pat’s party place: Mexicana Mama’s, where we swapped guiness and U2 for the less traditional margarita and Mariachis. Somehow it was no less crowded, however. We waited an hour for our table, but the great food and the Mariachi serenade (we chose the ever-popular “De Colores“) made the wait worth it.

We ended the night with one last Guiness (which I only pretended to drink, ssh don’t tell) at O’Neill’s Irish Pub, also, remarkably, on Third Ave. but in the Forties (see, I must be onto something), where we listened to an Irish band and watched in rapture as the guy on the end gently tapped a large drum-like instrument (yes, that is the technical term). Over the crowds at this point, I didn’t enjoy the music for very long before I was ready to go home.

I’ll make up for it tomorrow when I visit the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade (the perks of not having a day job). It starts at 44th Street (at 11 a.m.) and winds its way up Fifth Ave., stopping near St. Patrick’s Cathedral where the Archbishop of New York, His Eminence Cardinal Edward Eaganwill watch and bless the parade. Given my penchant for partaking in parades, I’ll be avoiding the temptation this time around by watching closer to the end (86th Street), and then I’ll report back tomorrow.





More With the Shoes

12 03 2008

Not long ago, when I announced the change in title that my blog underwent (psst…speaking of changes, check out my newly updated About page. It now goes with the shoe theme too!), I mentioned that I had more shoe posts in the works. And then I never wrote them. I’m trying to spread out the shoe love, but I think it’s time for another.

To recap: when we last left off with the saga of Suzanne’s shoes, she had sent home a pair of unruly strappy sandals that refused to let her salsa dance, and then quarreled with a pair of brand new hiking boots that broke three days into wearing them (the mud is another story, but that she was actually proud of).

Ok, strange third person voiceover finished. So after the hiking boots fiasco I decided that the only shoes a traveling girl can depend on are her flip flops.

I arrived in San Salvador de Jujuy on a Thursday afternoon, excited to explore Argentina’s northwest and more excited to experience their Carnaval. I was informed that I would be hard-pressed to find a bed in any of the Carnaval towns I wanted to visit. On a last minute whim, the girl I was traveling with at the time, Da, and I packed small backpacks with a few days worth of clothes, left our big packs at the hostel in San Salvador and headed up to Uquia, with the brilliant idea of sleeping near Humahuaca, going to Carnaval the next day, and staying up with the festival all night before catching a morning bus back to San Salvador. The short of a much longer story (that I will one day figure out how to tell in a short blog post) is that we finally made it to Humahuaca on Friday night.

In Humahuaca, it was cold (this is where I bought the famous llama sweater, which despite my offers no one seems to want), and I had only my flip flops. There were sneakers in my pack, but that was back in San Salvador, so it seemed I was destined to have cold feet in Humahuaca. But, true California girl that I am, I was still devoted to my beloved flip flops, which had yet to fail me…

Until, that is, while strolling the fair on the edge of town, I walked right into a giant metal post that was sticking up from the ground. Plowed into is more like it. My toe, not protected by shoe was massively hurt for the space of about 10 seconds, but then pain gave over to the blissful re-realization that I was still at Carnaval, and I continued walking. A few moments later, however, my foot felt a little wet and sticky and to my horror I looked down to discover that my no longer hurting toe was gushing blood. I had busted the skin on the end of it.

Da and I raced through the fair asking where there was a pharmacy, but given that it was now late and festival time I decided it wouldn’t be open and settled for dousing my toe in hand sanitizer, wrapping it in toilet paper, and buying a pair of socks (oh the things you’re willing to do when you travel). Then we went to enjoy some Carnaval grub. But when my toe started throbbing halfway through dinner I decided perhaps a pharmacy wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. To my relief, they were still open (probably for idiots just like me who only bring flip flops to a crowded festival on dirt roads) and I purchased some sort of ointment that I hoped was anti-bacterial.

I spent the next two nights wearing socks with my flip flops and limping slightly, but ultimately I didn’t wind up losing my toe, so all was good. My relationship with my flip flops, however, has not been the same since. I blame myself really.

Lesson learned: Think before you pack. Period.