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.





Ties of Memory

26 03 2009

I don’t know if these things have any correlation, but I’m sure somehow they must. A little over a year ago I reconnected with my best friend from high school. Rachel and I met freshman year during cheerleading tryouts (we bonded over the fact that we both cheered even though cheerleaders themselves seemed the bane of our existence) and were pretty much inseparable for four years.

In many ways we were about as different as two people can be: she a pint-sized, Beatles-loving, thrift store shopping, artistic type and me loving jazz and country, verging on preppy and incapable of drawing a believable stick figure. Yet in many more ways we were utterly the same, and the combination of our similarities and differences balanced out to make us, in all ways, kindred spirits.

Rachel and I had a bond I’d never had with anyone else, nor can I truly say I’ve had that same bond with anyone since. It’s that very rare connection that is so much more than friendship; we balanced each other, leaned on each other, sent each other into fits of uncontrollable laughter over the most ridiculous of discussions and even had conversations during which words were spare and sometimes wholly absent.

Then somehow, after college ended, Rachel and I lost touch for some time. But all the time that we didn’t speak I thought of Rachel often; at random moments I’d be making the cookies she used to love or reading a book of poetry and Rachel would crop up in some way. Then, finally, we were back in touch, and though years had passed (during which time she’d had a baby, I’d moved to New York and we’d both pursued advanced degrees), it was the same fantastic and unique connection we’d had all those years ago, and now even stronger somehow.

I say all this because it just so happens that while I was in New York working on my MA in English and exploring various aspects and instances of memory through literature, Rachel was working with memory through art. This is one of those strange and rare coincidences that seems too incredible to be merely coincidence. I am certain that it speaks volumes to bonds of friendship and female intuition that are stronger than the miles or even the silence. Despite years apart my friend and I were still linked by the one thing we had of each other during that time: memory.

Whether this speaks to the strength of memory or the strength of female friendship I’m still uncertain. More likely, it’s a combination of the two and whatever it is, it’s amazing.





Guest Post: A Girl’s Wish

26 12 2008

Holiday travel is always stressful, but well worth it when you arrive to hugs and the smiling faces of some of the cutest kids in the world. We’ve not done much but around the house, so I have little to report in terms of Colorado, but, in the vein of female bonding and passing the torch to a new generation of writers, I present some holiday cheer in the form of a guest blog. Without further ado, “A Girl’s Wish,” a story by Miss Olivia Jean Russo, age seven.

A Girl’s Wish

One day a  girl named Sarah wanted a webkinz Racon. She asked her mom. Her mom said no. So one night Sarah heard a sound on the roof. She climed up on the roof  and saw  Santa with  a webkinz Racon. She went up to Santa and was  so happy. She got to ride in his sleigh. Because she was so happy she got to go to the north pole and see the elves. The next day Sarah’s mom was  wondering where Sarah was. Sarah was watching tv with Mrs . Clause. They were watching  Elf. When Elf was over Sarah had to go home. When she was home she got to go Christmas shopping with her mom.

About the Author

Hi my name is Olivia Russo. I have two dogs. My favorite food is ice cream. I have five people in my family. My friends call me Liv. My mom sometimes calls me sassy pants when Iam bad. my favorite animal is a dog.I like to go to the pool with my family.We also like to go to Sweet Tomatos. We like to go camping at Horsetooth reservoir. I like to go on rides on the boat. Ilike to jet ski and snow ski. When I grow up I want to be an author and write all kinds of stories. I want to live in Hawaii because you get to swim jet ski and swim with the dolphins.

Written by Olivia Russo and typed (exactly as written) by Olivia Russo and Lauren Markel

Budding Young Writers, Lauren Markel (left) and Olivia Russo

Budding Young Writers, Lauren Markel (left) and Olivia Russo





Fan Mail

10 10 2008

There’s nothing to make a gal feel great like a little adoration. Being the youngest in my family by many years, I am aunty to 11 children, most of whom, to varying degrees, consider me the fun young aunt, different and cooler than their parents and other aunts/uncles. Any I, of course revel in this fact.

This morning, to my great delight, I found this comment from one niece. Her sister, however, had other things to say. My oldest brother, Gregg, has three daughters. His youngest, Olivia, has always had an inexplicable and yet wholly welcome affinity for me. She tends to prefer me to just about everyone else in the vicinity, often including her own mother. Wherever I am, you don’t have to look far to find Olivia.

And, though incredibly diplomatic, my darling does not keep her love of Titi (as the kids call me) under wraps. When teased by my brother Scott, who insists (to the point of annoyance, as only Scott can do) that he is her favorite person, little Olivia stands firm. And when this past summer Scott got her to call him her favorite uncle (by letting her OD on frosting), the darling quickly turned to me and added, “He said uncle,” just to make sure there was no question of my having slipped from favor.

Why is all this important? Because my nieces have been looking at my blog. Several months back I wrote about Olivia’s older sisters in a post about passing on a love of travel, and in this one about baking. Olivia was not mentioned in these posts, in part because she was uncharacteristically not at my side during these interactions, and in part because I intended a separate post about her, which then never came about. It will now, however…

This morning I woke to the following email, titled “it’s your darling”:

I read your blog  you didint write about me . When are you going to do that? Why did you write about  all my sisters and not me? I’m your darling appendige . And your pretend godchild . Do you relly love me or not ? If you don’t write about  me I will like uncle scott more then you! I’m serius with you are you worred about that? now or never

From the word “appendage” (which I have used with and defined for her in the past) I’m guessing she may have had some help crafting this note. It’s entirely possible that Scott put her up to it. It’s also entirely possible that she is really that enraged. Whatever the case, it looks as though my next post will be that long belated story of Olivia’s tea party. And soon.

Me and my shadow.

Me and my shadow.





September Highlights

7 10 2008

It’s definitely autumn in New York. The air is crisp, some leaves have started to change color, and I’m left bewildered and wondering what happened to September. Oh right, September was that quick little month during which I: started a new job at the Harlem Children’s Zone, scurried around Fashion Week, and curated a major literary extravaganza.

Somewhere between the sore feet and the frantic running, I managed to fit in two of my favorite things: travel and girlfriends. I got to take a little trip to the tiny town of Altoona, PA, where my dear high school friend Rachel, whom I hadn’t seen in a frightening five years happened to be for a wedding. My travel time of six hours each way about equaled the waking hours I spent in Altoona. The trip itself consisted of crashing the wedding, brunching and talking the following day at Friendly’s (east coast staple) followed by a long and thorough exploration of Target (more talking) before re-crossing the highway and returning to the hotel to lounge and talk some more. It was a simple trip and an amazing one, the kind that proves it does not matter where you are, or how long you travel, so long as it’s to meet a good friend.

And speaking of long trips, my lovely and amazing friend Liz made a huge one across the pond to visit me in New York. We walked all over town, gorged on sweets, and talked until it seemed we must have sucked the air out of the room. And still had so much left to say. It was fun to see New York through unAmerican eyes, but the best part was the realization that over a two week stint in Argentina I had made a lifetime friend. The wonders of travel.

Even more amazing, that in the midst of the chaos of September, I managed to fit in quality time with two amazing women and two great friends (old and new) who, in vastly different ways, are something of kindred spirits to me. I wonder what October will hold?





Small, Small World – And a Conundrum

18 07 2008

For people who love to travel, the world seems like a very big place. Massive. As in, It’s-so-huge-that-I’ll-never-possibly-get-to-all-the-places-I-want-to-go GIGANTIC.

But then there are times when something will happen to make you realize how small the world really is. Like, for example, when you meet a girl in Buenos Aires (who happens to be from London), and she then becomes a great friend. It’s an even smaller world when that initial girl emails and says that her friend (who happens to be from Brazil) is going to be in New York.

And so one Sunday afternoon you find yourself in the Lower East Side (of New York) drinking beer (from Belgium) with Marina (from Brazil) who met Liz (from London) at Carnaval (in Brazil)—and you’re all linked through Argentina (from which no one involved happens to hail). Whew. Looks like travel makes it a small world after all. Sorry for annoying song reference. It was inevitable.

True story? Funny you should ask. Yes. It most certainly is a true story. I showed lovely Marina around New York on Sunday, and marveled at her marveling at New York (and the fact that she had yet to meet a New Yorker who was actually from New York). Then on Tuesday I went with Marina to see the New York Philharmonic play (for free) in Central Park. Through her met numerous other small world souls (from all over the world) through an organization called Couchsurfing, which requires a blog all its own but for today’s purposes helps travelers meet people and find free places to stay (making the world less expensive and thus smaller).

And now for the conundrum. The great thing about having someone in town who isn’t even from America is that you really get to see New York (and the US) through a different lens. And you find yourself explaining things that seem so commonplace, such as leaving your credit card at the bar to keep a tab open and what is a Zagat.

But then there was a question I couldn’t answer. “What types of food are very American?” Simple enough, right? Hot dog. Apple pie. Watermelon? (And then I get stuck in things like hamburgers that seem repetitive.) But it turns out there was more to the question: one goes to Italy and brings home Limoncello; you get champagne from France, alfajores from Argentina (you didn’t think I’d not mention those, did you?). But what should Marina take back to Brazil from America?

And hence the conundrum. I have no answer. She surely wouldn’t bring back hot dogs. Or apple pie or watermelon for that matter. Bourbon is American, but who wants to bring that back? If she were in San Francisco I would suggest Ghirardelli chocolate, but given we’re in New York that won’t do. And thus I’m stumped. So. Thoughts? If anyone can shed light on this little dilemma, please, please enlighten me. And Marina.





Flashback: Summer at the Lake

10 07 2008

It seems somewhat odd to blog about my trip home in terms of “travel” but California is so chock full of beautiful places and fun things to do, how could one not? My trip home started in one of the prettiest places in California (and Nevada). The Russo clan headed up to Lake Tahoe for the 2008 family reunion. Thanks to vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner), we took over a lovely (and massive) house, complete with hot tub and loft for the kids, and spent three relaxing days playing in the sun.

(Some) Russos in Tahoe

(Some) Russos in Tahoe

Which got me thinking about all the great times I’ve spent in Tahoe in the past. It really is an ideal getaway spot, especially since it’s a mere 4-5 hours from the Bay Area. This trip, we spent all our time at the beach, playing in the lake, kayaking, making sand animals (yes sand animals)…

But beyond the lake there is so much else to do. The former Olympic Village at Squaw Valley has a swimming lagoon (in case there’s not enough water in the lake), a spa, and a roller skating rink, not to mention the cable car that provides some pretty stellar views of the area. They even offer sunset and full moon hikes. Then there’s hiking, biking and horseback riding through the lush wooded areas. Even walking through the houses makes for a pretty workout.

Then there’s Emerald Bay, one of my favorite Tahoe spots. There is little that rivals Emerald Bay when it comes to pristine, intense natural beauty. As a child I joined our family friends at their cabin in Tahoe every summer, and the highlight of those trips was always the day Uncle Mike piled us into the boat and headed over to Emerald Bay, where it’s not just the striking green water that fascinates. Perhaps more fascinating is the craggy Fannette Island (the lake’s only island) atop which sits a mythical-looking miniature castle. Then there is Vikingsholm, the ornate Scandinavian mansion on the shore (which can of course be toured). Hiking around the bay affords some stunning views, but there is something about being on that rich green water and circling the island that excites.

The grown-up side of Tahoe has everything from casinos to great restaurants (my favorite being the classic, right-on-the-lake Sunnyside). But my adult Tahoe highlight centers around girl’s weekend, life vests, and the Truckee River. That would be river rafting, folks, because when it comes to fun in the sun (and fun with water) Tahoe has a little bit of everything.

Other Great things about Tahoe?

What do you get when you put my mom and her grandchildren on the beach? A Christmas card, of course.

What do you get when you put my mom and her grandchildren on the beach? A Christmas card, of course.

Some Tahoe resources:

Keep Tahoe Blue: In California “Keep Tahoe Blue” bumper stickers are about as prevalent as those that read “A village in Texas is missing its idiot.” But the former slogan is far more hopeful: it’s the battle cry of the Tahoe Improvement and Conservation Association, devoted to protecting the lake and its surrounds. Visit the site for history and to learn how to help.

tahoe.com: A trip planning tool with information on lodging, activities, food, and more.

Tahoe World: The latest in Tahoe entertainment, complete with a calendar of happenings.





Hey June

4 06 2008

Today is June 4, and I’ve finally gotten around to changing my calendar. Not because I enjoy fashionably late but simply because it’s behind my door (near the shoe rack) and I happened to forget it was there. And so, in honor of June, some assorted, random musings (in list form, of course):

  • On June: June’s photograph on my Elliot Erwitt calendar happens to be one of my all time favorites: laughing woman kisses man, as seen through the side window of a car parked on the beach. (I would go into the social commentary ramifications of said photo, but I like it too much to go there). I find it serendipitous that it’s the photo for my birthday month and was taken in my home state. June will be a good month.
  • On the letter E: I seem to gravitate toward that letter, or specifically that letter in pairs. There’s Edward Estlin Cummings (also known as E.E.) whose quirky poetry style I adore, and there’s Elliott Erwitt, whose black and white photography is hilarious, thoughtful, and all around amazing.
  • On EE 1: Cummings has been my favorite poet since since high school, when I mimicked his quirky, artistic grammatical style in a paper. The only book I have of his, 100 Selected Poems, was given to me in high school by my dear friend Rachel, who shares my love of all things quirky and artistic. The well-loved volume made the trek to New York and contains my favorite poem, “anyone lived in a pretty how town,” but not my second favorite: “One winter afternoon,” which I love for the line “(at the magical hour/when is becomes if)” (enough, even, to talk about it here in a blog about my beloved summer).
  • On EE 2: I first discovered Elliot Erwitt and his lovely photography when I stumbled upon a special exhibit of his at the Prado while traveling with my college gal pals. We were obsessed, and now I look for him every once in a while to see what he’s doing lately. There’s something incredibly uplifting about his shots. And, of course, they’re quirky and artistic.
  • On friends: Since both EEs seem to make me think of the ladies with whom I (at two very different life stages) discovered them, and since (ahem, a confession) I saw Sex and the City this weekend (the new roomie twisted my arm), an homage to girlfriends and their incredible knack for being quirky and artistic.
  • On SATC: Since I’ve now confessed to seeing it (though will still see it again on Friday), a second confession: I cried unabashedly through most of it, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know me well and know that I am, on all accounts, a crier. Nevertheless, Hollywood-ized though it was, it didn’t lose those three fantastic components: girlfriends, girl power, and New York City.
  • On New York City: Since I seem to be as SATC obsessed as all those countless fans who traveled to my city to see the movie, I’ll end with movie and city. My buds at EuroCheapo had SATC fever last week too, and posted a great blog about how “Cheapo Bradshaw” might see NYC. Great tips Cheapos!
  • On shoes: Alas, the gold stilettos are sick. I just discovered that they are breaking, so it’s off to the shoe doctor. Please oh please, nice shoe miracle worker, help my gold stilettos! But today, because, it’s rainy (and hot) it’s Havaianas for me.