Saturday, October 31, 2009

Baby's First NYC Halloween Parade

This is my third Halloween in New York yet I have never been to the mother of all Halloween Parades until tonight.

Here is what the official website's FACT SHEET says about this parade:


Now in its 36th year, New York's Village Halloween Parade is...

  • The nation's largest public Halloween celebration
  • Named as The Greatest Event on Earth by Festivals International for October 31
  • Attended by over 2 million people, seen by over 1 million on TV
  • The nation's only major night Parade
  • Seen LIVE on NY 1 Television
  • Listed as one of the 100 Things to do Before You Die
  • Pretty impressive. NYC vets Sue and Sean joined me and it was fun times as always with them. We even walked to Washington Square Park afterwards amidst all the mayhem. Then it was clearly time to go home.

    And wouldn't you know it, my fellow bandmate John Henderson was piping in the parade. (Right behind the float with the stripper on the stripper pole! - Beats marching behind horses any day!!)

    Eyeballs made from using exercise balls as molds. Smart.
    John coming out of rank to shake my hand!

    Gender bending, Oz-style.
    Swine Flu
    We are so not dressed but we are ADORABLE! (Sean, Sue, Pat)

    Beef is what's for dinner.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Shake Shack

    Jon Stewart has talked about it. It is an New York City cultural phenomenon even for being so young. And it is on the Upper West Side as well as Madison Square Park. It is the Shake Shack - basically a high end burger, fries, shake joint - the brain child of celebrity chef Danny Meyers of Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern fame.

    Since I will be moving soon to the West Village I seem to act like I am leaving Upper West Side Island never to return so I must go back to all my favorite places NOW! Silly (and fattening and expensive) notion really since the UWS is 3 express stops from where I am moving.

    But tonight I was feeling it and had a Shack Burger, fries and a Vanilla Custard shake. Mmmmmm.

    The burgers are some of the best I have had.

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    My Park

    I had to go from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side. I found myself walking to the crosstown busstop and then thought "You have two legs, you have time, you LOVE this park, why are you not walking through it to get to the other side?!"

    Wow, what was I thinking?

    It really takes no time to walk across Central Park, and though it is beautiful in every season, I think it is most beautiful in Autumn. It seems designed for this time of year. The different colors of the leaves offset by beautiful lampposts and rock formations and bodies of water and bridges.

    I cannot fully explain the feeling of walking through this park alone at this time of year.

    It is LIFE. That is all I know to say about it.

    It is a dip, a wading into LIFE.

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Immobile Mobility

    Not a great photo, but this is a walker locked up on the street. What KIND of kharma would someone have to would....?

    Tony Westbrook

    What a great evening! My pal Tony played the Center! Yes, Tony Westbrook put on a one man show at the LGBT Center in New York City. It is just down the street from Broadway and very well lit.

    Tony was so good to me before I ever laid eyes on him. We have a mutual pal Joe in California and before I moved to New York Tony talked to me on the phone through the fear of finding housing and getting settled. Whatta guy.

    He is a singer and put on a grand show tonight. I loved it because the funny, nice man that he is in real life really came through. I felt that he was singing to us in his living room (though the neighbors would have banged because he can really project!) He was comfortable and in fine voice. I loved his stories, his songs and the warmth.

    Here is the deal: I support and admire any friend who wants to do something and does it. This is what Tony did tonight. Encore, Westbrook!!

    My arty shot of Tony singing with a gay movement photo from the 1970s. So powerful, but I don't know what I am trying to say with it!

    He spoke about his arm extensions. Here is one.

    Me with the star of the evening.

    My lunch

    Chicken curry soup and Vietnamese friend thingies. Excellent.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

    Ellie's son Roger is out from San Francisco ( we switched places as he is a New York native) and Ellie had me over for dinner. It was a wonderful visit as always and it was great to see Roger again. I love that Ellie was in her housedress and I took my shoes off and Roger wore a raincoat to the dinner table. The conversation was as interesting. What a great night.

    We finished off with viewing of the Les parapluies de Cherbourg (Umbrellas of Cherbourg) starring a very young and beautiful Catherine Deneuve and directed by Jacques Demy. I had never seen it before but both Ellie and Roger had seen it 100s of times. Very interesting flick. It is sung through and I was sad when Roger said Catherine didn't do her own singing. Probably the Marni Nixon of France did it! Quelle I don't know what!

    Anyway it was a perfect choice on such a rainy night.

    Merci Ellie et Roget!!!

    The Police Building 240 Centre Street

    I am going to let the following link write today's entry. I came across this building after leaving jury duty for the day and was blown away that this was once Police HQ. So beautiful. Why can't it still be the HQ?!

    About The Police Building, 240 Centre Street

    New York City is full of surprises, but none more than startling than this building.

    Smack in the middle of Little Italy's tenements is this spectacular Baroque-revival-style palace.

    Almost more incongruous, this ornate structure was built as the headquarters of the city's Police Department. It was designed by Hoppin & Koen in 1909, when architects and planners were still under the influence of the image of the "White City," the Beaux Arts inspired notion of a beautiful city that had been highlighted at the World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

    At the time of its construction, the city still nurtured the idea of developing a magnificent new city government complex in the City Hall area and this was one of the fruits.

    The building's dome harkens to the great cupola of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, albeit not quite so ornate. But its wedge-shape at the north end where it has its own fenced park also evokes memories of Venice and its great promontory buildings.

    Usually, planners hope that major projects such as this can not only enliven and invigorate a neighborhood but also lead to a considerable redevelopment and gentrification. Such dreams, however, were not realized here as the Little Italy community has not been eager for new development, although in the last quarter of the 20th Century it did witness an upgrading of its main thoroughfare nearby with a variety of urban design ploys that helped its retail activity.

    In 1973, the city opened a new headquarters for the Police Department, a huge modernistic, red brick box to the east of the Municipal Building, and this building fell into limbo after many years of neglect.

    S.I.T.E. (Sculpture In The Environment), a famous New York design group, teamed with some architects and Canadian developers a few years later to try to redevelop this building as a deluxe hotel, a use that made perfect sense given the grandeur of its exterior and the scale of the interiors. Financing, however, was difficult to obtain as the area was distinctly off the beaten jet set path.

    The success of SoHo and NoHo revived interest in the property and in 1988 it was converted into cooperative apartments. The developers of the conversion were Arthur D. Emil, John J. Ferchill and Edward R. Downe Jr. Mr. Downe, the head of Downe Communications, took over one of the grandest apartments to house part of his very extensive collection of 20th Century American Art.

    The Downe apartment was not the most spectacular as it was not the one with the Dome.

    The 55-unit conversion, designed by Ehrenkrantz Group & Eckstut, was remarkable and one of the nation's finest examples of re-use of historical properties. The building has an entrance at the midblock of its Centre Street frontage that leads up a few stairs to a lobby spacious and dazzling enough to rival all luxury hotels in the city. Almost all the apartments are large and different and many have very tall ceilings. One of the most desirable includes the garden and another has the terrace overlooking the garden.

    The building is, without question, the premier residence in Lower Manhattan based on the quality of the building and the apartments. Its location, however, remains rather awkward, but has improved slightly. The former gun shops and "press shacks" for the reporters that covered the police beat are gone and Little Italy is in full blossom a block or two away at Café Roma, the best Italian café, in the city, or Café Ferrara, the more large and more famous institution.

    While the majestic building does not boast some modern conveniences such as a health club and pool, it has some fireplaces and, most importantly, a grandeur that rivals the best of the long-gone Millionaire's Row on Fifth Avenue.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Locanda Verde

    I met Cheline for lunch at Locanda Verde in Tribeca. We had a great time as always and the food was good/fine, but nothing was as gastronomically memorable as the Sheeps' Milk Ricotta with sea salt and herbs. It was truly divine. Soft and creamy and the salt and herbs and virgin olive oil made it feel like eating was now a spa treatment.

    The grilled bread that accompanied had that audible crunch followed by a falling backward onto down pillows feeling that went so well with this creamy sheepy elixir.

    I will think of this dish and I will pop in here and sit and eat just it next time.

    And if I don't finish it all (doubtful) I will take the rest home and give myself a facial using the bread as a buff pad.

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Sutton Place pumpkin with 59th Street Bridge and East River in the background.

    Mitch's First Bagpipe Lesson

    My sister Eileen is guestblogging today about my nephew Mitch's first bagpipe lesson. I am SO proud. Take it away, Eileen:

    Today a dream came true. My son, Mitchell, will learn to play the bagpipes, as did his grandmother, mother, and uncle before him. When my son was a baby and went to his first Scottish Games sponsored by the Caledonian Club in Pleasanton, my mother made him a wee kilt. He wore this kilt not realizing the unspoken destiny we would all hope he would pursue. I am not terribly subtle, but somehow I managed not to spoil the idea with any overbearing Mamma Rose coercion. I guess I can credit Mitch’s interest in the pipes to our regular visits to the Scottish Games where pipers and drummers march and strut in head to toe Scottish regalia. Most of all I credit Mitch’s uncles, Pat and Sean, for sharing their expertise at the pipes and drums. Example is contagious. During Uncle Pat’s visits, he would help Mitch to put his fingers on my old child size chanter and blow. He even bought him a set of miniature pipes from one of his trips to Scotland.

    Mitch turned nine in September and is ready as ever to learn to play an instrument. Some boys at school started to talk about guitar and Mitch began to ask. Unnerved, I jumped into action and made the call to the Prince Charles Pipe Band. I wanted Mitch on the high road to pipes because anyone can take the low road to guitar. Sorry, but that’s my take. And I should know because after four years of chanter playing, I became a guitar girl for masses at my grammar school parish. My guitar instructor was my best friend, Mary Pat. Guitar chords were a breeze compared to the pipes’ reed, bag, chanter, and drones.

    The Caledonian Club Hall is in South San Francisco near Colma. Pictures of our relatives and family friends cover the walls. Past Chief Henderson is Mitch’s great grandfather. Past Chief Uncle Tommy Fraser is on display in every room. Mitch’s lessons will be every Sunday morning at 9:00am. After a great start of practicing the scale on the chanter with his teacher Mr. Merriman (our former teacher) we got some practice assignments and headed out.

    That morning, Mitch asked if we were near where grandpa and grandma are buried. Very nearby I responded. Would he like to visit? He would. We picked up some fall colored roses at the Costco ¼ of a mile away and made our way across a soaking wet lawn under a sunny fall sky. Mitch brought his chanter at my request. I used my Peet’s coffee mug to transport fresh water. After he “tuned” his chanter during my flower preparations, I introduced the young piper and Mitch tooted and tweeted his first chanter performance for his grandparents. We said the Our Father and some private prayers.

    I prayed that grandma would help Mitch stick with the pipes and enjoy his new adventure. As Mr. Merriman told him this morning, he will be part of a group of young kids who will progress together through the band and become good friends. His uncles can attest that being part of a pipe band means that he will have friends for life.

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Teri and The American Museum of Natural History

    My friend Teri was in New York with her brother Dana and their friend Joann. We grew up playing in bagpipe bands together. They are en route to Egypt. Teri's son Cesar and his fiancee Jen joined from Maryland and we all went to the Museum of Natural History What a great time. It was a joy to see them all AND see this museum. Keep in mind I live less than a block away, I see the building every day, and I play bagpipes in front of it yet in the two years I have lived in New York I had never been. Until today. Why? Because it is right there; I can always go!

    And I had forgotten The Star of India is in there. I live down the street from the largest and most famous star sapphire in the world! Wow.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Tears on my Tracks

    Crying on the subway. Rarely do I do this. Well, frankly, never until today.

    I was reading an article in New York Magazine by David Amsden and just starting crying. Tears rolling down my eyes. People wear their pants around their ankles on the subway, others vomit and pass out, so tears is not the weirdest thing on the MTA, but it was odd to have just such an involuntary reaction on the way to jury duty.

    I think I only cried at written material once before (The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - don't ask me why). I only cry at every movie, a lot of commercials and, Family Ties when I was hungover.

    This article is about a teenager from the Woodstock, NY area named Killian Mansfield who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called synovial sarcoma. He had to have part of his jaw removed and endless painful treatments. Meanwhile he became a killer ukulele player and decided to record an album before his death to raise money for Hope & Heroes, the integrative cancer therapy program at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

    He rounded up all these amazing musicians and did it. He did it. He couldn't wear earphones in the sessions because the pain against his skin was too much. Tumours developed in his mouth and throat. He left here last August. With a completed album and a lot of very loving family and friends and grateful kids.

    I know this story screams "Movie of the Week" or "we have heard it before" or "Meryl Streep as his mom!" but each of these stories is a triumph, an inspiration and a reality check. Wow, whatta a bloke! What an incredibly passionate young man. What a dreamer in the best way! I am moved to tears once again just writing this. Cancer will always affect me in such a deep way after going through it with my mum. I have never been the same person after that. But Killian, my God, he was 16 when he died.

    This kid didn't get to be 47 and wonder what happened to his career and why he doesn't own.

    Read the article here

    Buy the album and help raise money for "Hope and Heroes" here.

    Rest in Peace, Killian. You're a good man.

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Avenue of the Strongest

    Coming upon some interesting sights and smells and places here in the City Hall area as I do my jury duty. I saw this "Avenue of the Strongest" street and took a snap of the sign. Not a great pick, but I thought "What the hell is that?"

    It is named after New York's Sanitation workers.

    "The word 'strongest' has to do with the fact that the members of our department make 13,000 tons of garbage and 2,200 tons of recycling disappear each day," said Lucien Chalfen, a spokesperson for the city's Department of Sanitation.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Scarpe Diem

    So much history in Lower Manhattan. I had some time while down here for jury duty and got to walk around Trinity Church. Here is the grave of Alexander Hamilton. He was the first treasurer of the United States and was mortally wounded by Aaron Burr during their famous duel.

    There is now a men's discount shoestore behind his eternal place of rest.

    Chinatown, Scenes from

    My court is right next to Chinatown. There is so much to explore here. I just love it.

    Men playing Xiang qi - Chinese chess. So my sister-in-law Leiyan tells me. She can't believe my photos are not from China as they look just like her native country to her!

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    New York City Living: It's in the Bag

    More than any other city, I think, when you set out in New York you pack for the day. And evening. Sure when you are in other cities, you are gone from morning until night, but you put it all in the trunk of your car. In New York you hang it off your shoulder.

    So no garment bags or blow dryers. Or Home Depot purchases to return.

    At the onset of the day or the night before (when you have just gotten in from being out for the entirety of that day) you calculate appropriate dress for many venues and times of day ("This can be later tucked in." "Pack a tie." "Tonight will this say 'Urban Evening' or just 'Dumpy Middle-Aged Guy'?")

    You think of the changing climate and pack an umbrella and sunglasses.

    Reading material for subway and quick moment in park or at coffee house (And sadly today "coffee house" most often really means Starbucks.) Magazines usually. Hardcovers are too heavy.

    Pens. Eye glass repair kit. Breath mints.

    You are now carrying your medicine cabinet, vanity and office on your back.

    Cell phone, headphones, directions, resumes just in case, notes for everything. Hopstop printout for directions that link all today's venues.


    Then there is the strategy planning:

    "If I leave at this time then I can drop this bag off at the gym to work out tonight and then I can bring this to that which I will take back so I won't have that except for this morning. Then I have to get back to gym to work out but I will need this for all day so I better remember to take that out of that bag and not leave it there, but...)"

    The commuter war games can go on a long time.

    Pack food?

    Bring this to drop off, but don't forget to pick this up, but not before you go to that appointment or you will look like a suburban shopper when you are trying to look like an employable Manhattanite.

    It is all a fine art. And one gets better at it (or more lax) with time.

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    The Big Appleton

    Carri was in town from Wisconsin and we met up for a walk in the park. It was a LOVELY day and the park just performs so well on lovely Autumn days. Last time I saw Carri was in her backyard of her amazingly beautiful vintage house in Appleton, WI. I hope for a bi-coastal Wisconsin mash-up one of these days with all the ex-pat Wisconsin buddies and a few of us wannabes!

    The Algonquin Hotel

    Ellie took me to the Jazz Brunch at the famous Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan.

    Walking into the lobby is like being transported in time and you can almost sense the roundtable and Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley trading bon mots.

    We were further transported when we went into the Oak Room where we had the most divine table right in front of the grand piano. We dined and chatted like it was the 40's and then Barbara Carroll came and tickled those ivories at 80 plus years of age (though you would never know it) like she was born to it. No music, no lyrics, no water glass. I was amazed. I really enjoyed every bit of it. It was swell!

    Barbara Carroll

    One of the songs Ms. Carroll sang was "Do You Miss New York?" by Dave Frishberg. ( Click on the song and read the lyrics because no site would let me copy and paste them.) It is about those who have left New York for Los Angeles. I was struck, of course, because I left Los Angeles for New York. It is really very good and not terribly LA bashing, but more about what stirs one about New York City and becomes infused in the blood.

    Sitting in this beautiful room, in this famous hotel, next to my excellent friend and listening to Barbara Carroll sing "Do You Miss New York?" made me realize that I would and I am staying put.

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    4 Scottish Lassies

    My cousin Bren, well my mum's first cousin's ex-wife's sister, but I feel so much closer than that, came to New York with 3 other retired school teachers from Scotland. We got to spend the whole day together tripping around the Big Apple.

    I lived in Scotland for 3 years and Bren's sister, my "aunt" Maureen, put me up and was SO good to me. I always felt really close to the family and it was great to have Bren come here. (Maureen will only get on a plane for my ordination, she tells me knowingly!)

    I like this shot. So rural, yet urban! Love every second of the Highline!

    Margarite, me, Margaret, Bren and Maureen after a screening of "Where the Wild Things Are."

    The rooftop at the Metropolitan Museum. You simply must get there!


    Lana and I went to MOMA today. We had a walk and talk amongst the Warhols and Picassos. And then we had lunch in the cafe.

    Like so many before her, Lana does not like her photo taken so all I have to represent are our hands with Times Square as a backdrop.

    As she would say, "Sweet!"

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Life in the Village

    Someday I will sit down at my computer with a cat watching me and I will look out the window and I will write something wonderful.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Odds and Ends

    Going to court every day brings me to another part of town. So amazing. There is this beautiful old fire house, since converted to something else, but can you believe they made firehouses like this? How great. How grand.

    And the wonderment of Chinatown is a stone's throw. Great produce and great noodles places. I love the mystery of it all.

    It doesn't show here, but it was raining and I walked into the middle of this football pitch and I was all alone surrounded by massive civic buildings and looked up at the sky as the rain came down on me and the grass. Exhilarating.

    Today's Starter

    I added summer roles today to my soup. Yum.