The Insane Thing I Did (for Sanity)

2 11 2010

Some 200,000 folks descended on the National Mall this past Saturday, and I was among them. Yes, I departed my house at 5 a.m. Saturday morning, and then stood (for what seemed like hours) in the freezing cold in front of Citi Field, waiting with throngs of strangers for my turn to board one of the buses so graciously provided by Arianna Huffington and her eponymous Post. I was certainly not alone. Reports that the Huffington Post had corralled some 200 buses to take New Yorkers to D.C. and back (in one day!) did not exaggerate. In fact, I’m guessing it was more than that, since it seemed like there were nearly 10,000 people standing outside the field that morning. Crazy, huh? Or just crazy enough?

Now here’s the thing: I hate crowds. I avoid Times Square like the plague, and grumble the whole time I’m forced to walk through it. I once had a mini-panic attack on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. But this was different. Whether it was because it was 5:30 in the morning, or because it was so freezing, or, more likely, because these were “sane” people on the way to a Rally to Restore Sanity, this crowd was polite, friendly, fun even. There was no pushing to get out of the cold and onto a bus. There was no pushing period. Pleasant conversations, funny signs, friendly people. It was rather uplifting, exciting to be part of something so huge. (Read this guy’s great account for more.)

The bus ride was uneventful. A little sleeping (or trying to sleep). A break at a rest stop in Delaware. A conversation with the girl next to me about how winter is terrible but how California (she was from LA) does not have these gorgeous leaves at which we were looking. And then some traffic. Turns out, though, that I was on the lucky end. We arrived in D.C. around noon, while many others on the buses made it even later, missing much of the rally.

Once there, I pushed my way into the subway (er, Metro), still feeling rather spirited despite the now somewhat pushier crowd. Making my way out of the Metro took a good 20 minutes, as the crowd twisted serpentine and wound its way to the massive escalators. (I tried to get a photo of the throngs moving up the escalators, which looked like something out of a sci-fi thriller, but it didn’t come out.)

The rally itself was more of the same. Crowds. A bit more pushing now. Some irrational yelling to turn the sound louder (irrational, because the yelling itself drowned out what little sound you could hear). I heard about half of what was happening onstage. I saw none of it. I did not manage to meet up with my friend from California who was somewhere in the crowd. I was bumped by backpacks and elbows and maybe a silly sign or two.

And though a couple times I wanted to shove annoying backpack man who refused to stand still, for the most part, I was happy, even in the madness. Stephen Colbert was funny. Jon Stewart was, though some say tame, also uplifting. Tony Bennett sang “America the Beautiful.”

Then I, (by this point, I’ll admit, somewhat worse for the wear from the crowds) made my way back to the Metro, back to more lines, and back to the bus. I spent the next four hours gazing out the window, listening to my Buena Vista Social Club, and wondering if I’d just wasted a day. But the leaves were rather incandescent, and when they finally opened onto a vast river, lighting up either side with burnt oranges and fiery reds, I had my answer.

Yes, it was somewhat crazy to rise at 5:30 a.m. and to spend eight hours on a bus for a measly three hours being pushed around in a crowd on the Washington Mall, unable to see and barely able to hear. Yes, it might have been “saner” at stay at home and watch the live stream. But the fact was that i was part of something huge. And that’s what Saturday was about. It was about doing something insane to support something saner, and it was about being a part of something amazing. So the crowds, while first exhilarating and then exasperating, were a crucial component to what was ultimately a strange, but incredible, day.





Lit Crawl Love

13 09 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010 could not have been a more beautiful evening, and it was made all the more beautiful thanks to the surge of literary love that took over the East Village (literally, in some cases). The 16-venue event was nothing short of magical, with a buzz of energy in each room and overflowing onto the streets.

As promised, The Paris Review brought “it” — and it brought the crowds (we estimated 150 folks crammed into Fontana’s). There was also a lovely 9/11 tribute compliments of some beloved denizens of the Lower East Side, but the highlight of the night may have been the street takeover that occurred when one venue wanted to charge our guests admission.

The hippie staff at Yippie Cafe had agreed to wave their usual cover for our free event, but on the night of new management changed their tune. But lit lovers are not to be thwarted. We stuck it to the “hippie” man and took our Urban Lives reading to the streets, literally. It was a wonderful and powerful sight to see 50-some lovers of literature on the sidewalk listening, rapt, to the readers who took their turn on a planter box stage on Bleecker Street. Only at Litquake.

Thanks to all who made it a memorable night, and stay tuned for details of next year, and a possible springtime foray.





Lit Crawl NYC

7 09 2010

It’s been madness over here, in the best of ways. The third annual Lit Crawl NYC will take place this Saturday, September 11, and I could not be more excited. We’ve got a great lineup, including (get ready to be amazed) The Paris Review, doing a sneak preview of their first issue with new editor Lorin Stein at the helm. It promises to be a stellar show, as does the return of the oh-so-fun BOMB-aoke and some battle of the sexes style trivia with Harper Perennial.

In short: mark your calendars folks. This is one night of literary mayhem that’s not to be missed. Also exciting (at least to the event’s humble co-founder/director) is our new “real” website, litcrawl.org and our official branding in line with Litquake. Who wouldn’t love the “See, Hear, Speak” monkeys?

Check out the full lineup!





Reading The Great Gatsby in West Hollywood

18 02 2010

I admit that I’m something of a California snob. I love the state, but there are parts of it I don’t love so much. The stretch between San Diego and Santa Barbara (namely, the LA area), in my opinion, leaves much to be desired. This partly stems from a running joke with Southern California college friends, and is partly a very realistic distaste for the crowded, smoggy, suburban sprawl that is much of Los Angeles.

I’m definitely more a San Francisco hippy than a valley girl. That said, I have some fabulous friends who live in (and actually love) LA, and their presence there had me making the occasional visits, though these days my New York residence means that trips to California are generally limited to the northern part, where the majority of family/friends reside (insert part legitimate/part sarcastic aw shucks here).

All this aside, I just discovered a very good reason to visit one of my least favorite parts of LA: in the congested, celebrity (and tourist) infested “village” of West Hollywood F. Scott Fitzgerald’s glitzy jazz age is returning in all its frenetic glory, at least for a few days. During the month of March, National Endowment for the Arts presents The Big Read: The Great Gatsby, complete with discussion groups, a walking tour of Fitzgerald’s LA, and much more.

Words I rarely utter: how I wish I could visit West Hollywood next month.





Salsa for Haiti

21 01 2010

As though the rush of the dance and the addicting beat of the music weren’t enough, another reason I love salsa so much: the community. I already had amazing friends in New York, but through salsa I’ve become part of a whole other community, a family really. There’s a sort of indescribable bond that comes along with this passion for Latin dance, something only others who are as passionate can truly understand.

It’s also, equally amazingly, a community of doers. Which is why I’m so happy to be attending the Haiti Relief Effort fundraiser at International Food House this Saturday. The band Orquesta Dee Jay will be on hand with live music, and the $10 entrance fee plus half of all food sales will go to the Red Cross Haiti Relief. Can’t beat fun for a good cause.

Saturday, January 23

6-10 pm

International Food House

240 W 35th St (btw 7th and 8th Ave)

$10 admission (also gets your free admission to Sangria Saturdays at Iguanas)





Not Another Place – Another Reason for Visiting Liverpool

21 10 2009
Courtesy of Go Penguins

Courtesy of Go Penguins

Antony Gormley and his Crosby Beach statues continue to fascinate me. And now I have another reason to love them (and Liverpool): they’ve inspired another installation linked to environmental protection. Not Another Place, installed Monday, October 19 on New Brighton Beach is the avian version of Gormley’s Another Place, the eerie, ethereal and amazing installation after which Not Another Place was inspired.

But Not Another Place has
another message altogether: they are part of Liverpool’s Year of the Environment, a movement focused on helping residents of and visitors to Liverpool to be more conscious of environmental hazards, with the hope, of course, that these newly more conscious will use that consciousness toward the greater good.

The penguins on the beach are meant to inspire, kicking off new piece of the project, in which the Environment Agency partners with Go Penguins, a project in conjunction with Wild in Art that will see this holiday season in Liverpool adorned by a “Winter’s Trail” of penguins throughout the town. The penguins will be designed by artists, both professional and amateur, and there is currently a call for penguin designs, open to the public. So many levels of inspiration. See more photos here.





Literary Movers and Shakers (and Litquake-ers)

9 10 2009

It’s that time of year again, and I (tear) am missing it. Litquake, the world’s best literary festival and big sister to LitCrawl NYC, begins tonight. And promises to be the best one yet. it had better be. It’s celebrating its 10th birthday. I’m especially sad to be missing Sarah Vowell, the North Beach Literary Tour and, of course, the Kerouac event, but as always the entire schedule looks phenomenal. Guess I’ll be spending the week doing a little extra reading…





Female Bonding at Tavern on the Green

29 09 2009

blog tavern

Last Thursday evening, the Empire State Building glowed ruby red, the color of the pair of magical slippers that returned Dorothy home to Kansas. I was nowhere near Kansas, though. Instead I was in a bit of a magical, though not entirely Emerald, City of my own, at a gala honoring the 70th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz at Tavern on the Green. It was a beautiful event, made all the more lovely by the whimsical setting, but there were a few things that made it even more exciting for me.

First, I was reunited with a friend I made last year at Fashion Week; Misty and I happened to sit together at one show and then I spent the G Star party drooling over Tyson Beckford with her and her sister. It was one of those fun connecting moments that go along with being both a writer and female, but then, unfortunately, Misty and I lost touch. Until Fashion Week came up again and, though I didn’t attend this time around, we got back in touch and, fast forward a week, I attended the gala with the very same ladies. Such a treat, and yet another testament to those great, fun, female bonds.

Second, we bonded even further over other fun female bonds: the discovery that Lorna Luft, Judy Garland’s daughter who performed that night, happened also to play Paulette in Grease 2. As a grown woman I wholly admit that Grease 2 is a pretty awful movie. But I’ll just as soon admit that, awful though it may be, I still kind of love it. And the reason I love it (and can still belt words and moves to “Cool Rider“) is because that movie represents a basic bond between my big sister and me. Kristen and watched that movie countless times while I was growing up, always over sunflower seeds and chewy Sweet Tarts, and every time I bond with someone else (almost always female) who knows all the words to “Who’s That Guy?,” I do so with those memories in mind.

Paulette (I mean Lorna) was lovely, and paid beautiful homage to her own female role model, with a rendition of one of her mother’s songs, as well as some songs from the movie. (Unfortunately, the video I took did not turn out.) And so, in all, it was a lovely evening, and a great celebration of gal pals, but one that could only be possible in New York City.





US Open!

4 09 2009
Nice seats, eh?

Nice seats, eh?

In case you didn’t know it, there’s a big tennis competition going on. I know it (even though I don’t know for certain is “tennis competition” is the proper term). I know it because last night, for very first time, I visited the US Open. The great people at Olympus had a nice comfortable box for several members of the press to play with cameras and watch Roger Federer and Serena Williams.

Federer

Though I only vaguely understand tennis, it was great fun. I took a camera down to some seats within spitting distance of the court and played a little with photography, gawked at Kim Cattrall just two boxes away (it can’t all be tennis, right?) and even watched (and learned a little about tennis). But best of all, I participated in another little bit of New York greatness, watched at home by the rest of the world. Gotta love New York.

Some thoughts and observation on my first US Open experience:

  • You don’t have to be as quiet here as you see people being in those Wimbledon movies. You do, I learned from another journalist, at the real Wimbledon.
  • The poor ball boys must be under a lot of pressure. The race nervously on and off the court and always seem more than a little bit worried.

ball boy

  • On that note, what’s the deal with the need for so many tennis balls anyhow? The ball boys pick up the balls after each play, and then are constantly feeding the players new balls. It all seems a little absurd to me. But fascinating.
  • Serena Williams is quite fun to watch, but I was distracted by her amazing ability to play so well weighted down with all that bling she has going on (she was wearing huge hoop earrings and a very heavy-looking necklace).
  • Last, the US Open is just yet another very cool thing about living in New York.




Social Media for Social Change

24 08 2009

Mark your calendars folks. My friends at Sosauce just alerted me that on Tuesday, September1, they will be co-sponsoring and taking part in the New Media & Youth Action Conference next month. The conference will bring young people together for a free all-day community youth forum discussing important issues from health to cultural diplomacy. The goal is to give young people an open platform to discuss and learn about how they can get involved in and better their worlds. Sosauce co-founder Sean Pfitzenmaier will join other media and non-profit players, including Angela Atchison of E+Co and Richard Graves of Fired Up Media to speak to and empower young people.

The focus here is in my opinion a brilliant one: teach young people how to use social media networks like Sosauce to effect change in their worlds. If there is one thing I learned in my days as a tutor at the Harlem Children’s Zone, it’s that young people are addicted to social media. Though this was the bane of my existence when it kept them from focusing on the learning we needed to accomplish, if that obsession could be harnessed in a productive way, I think we are headed for a much better world. Thanks, Sosauce, and everyone else who is working to make that possible.

The conference takes place on Tuesday, September 1 from 10 am until 3 pm at the Interchurch Center in Morningside Heights (475 Riverside Dr # 530). For more information about the New Media & Youth Action Conference, please check out the official site, or if you’re a social networking addict, visit New Media & Youth Action on Sosauce or on Facebook.