A year older

I walked through the saloon style swinging doors of McSorley’s Old Ale House and felt far removed from Manhattan.  The tables were full of loud Irish-accented men surrounded by empty beer mugs, which were strewn across the tables.  Men in grey shirts walked the sawdust covered floor clearing over a dozen “empties” with a single grab–Skill!  Quickly they would return to each wooden table top to slam down more foamy ales.

Arriving solo, I made my way to the far end of the bar right below the dust-covered wishbones* and ordered a light beer.  Light or Dark, that’s the only choice of beverage.  “We keep it simple here” said the bartender who I quickly began chatting with.  I beg to differ.  Simple, yes, but only in some ways:  Stools are nonexistent, cash registers have no use, beer is one of two options and the place is heated by an old fireplace in the middle of the room.  But the amount of memorabilia dating back 158 years (that’s how old this place is) makes me think that simple is not an appropriate description.  Every inch of the two rooms that make up the bar are covered with history.  Pictures, original WANTED posters, canes piled up in a corner (I like to think they were used by men in the 1800s) and so much more.  You just have to go to experience it for yourself!

Once my friends arrived (did I mention it was my birthday?) we asked to be seated.  Simple enough, one of the “men in grey” showed us to a table…a table where two men were already sitting.  This was our introduction to communal seating and it turned out to be quite the experience.  Imagine sitting, drinking with strangers, talking about the stories surrounding you (the stories plastered all over the walls) and about life in general.  Very “un-New York,” since people tend to stick to themselves  rather than engage in conversation with strangers.

It was a great spot to spend my birthday and I will soon be returning to share the enchantment with any and all visitors to NYC.

*These wishbones have been collected since World War I.  The soldiers had wishes to stay home, to come back alive and for the war to be over.  So they placed the wishbones on the chandelier and when they returned safely from war they would take the bone down.  The remaining bones are representations of soldiers lost in battle, those soldiers unable to return to the bar to take their wishbone down.  These bones have about an inch of dust on them, except for one at the very end.  One bone is actually very white and new.  This bone, I assume, is from a soldier fighting right now in the Middle East.  I hope that the next time I go to McSorley’s the bones are all old and dusty, meaning that this soldier has made it safely home!

Taking the bus alone, or something profound like that

I often make myself do things.  It seems a little funny saying it out loud but I literally make myself do things that I don’t want to do.  As if I am my own personal nagging mother**.  I tell myself that I know best and that even though I don’t want to do whatever it is I’m telling myself to do, I will thank myself later.  It’s kind of my stepping out of my comfort zone moments.  Am I the only one who has these conscious mental conversations?

I realize I might have just lost some readers as I sound like a crazy person, but I swear I’m not.  DON’T LEAVEEEE ME! OK enough.

Last night I had one of these “parenting” moments with myself.  I am a member of FIAF.  I paid the membership fee so now I feel like I want to get the most bang for my buck.  I enjoy going to the talks and events–that’s why I joined.  They can however be taxing after a long day of work.   Tired and hungry at 5pm, the last thing I usually want to do is travel to the Upper East side and attend an event, no matter how cool.

Tuesday nights are cinéma Tuesdays and they are free for us members.  I had never been and I really wanted to go but come 4pm I felt my eyes grow heavy and my stomach begin to rumble.  I wasn’t meeting anybody for the showing so it wouldn’t have been a problem to cancel on myself but I knew that I would love the movie and love being surrounded by French language once I got there.  So I made myself go.  I rewarded myself by walking uptown instead of taking the subway so that I could go into every single Zara on the way (Go in.  Not buy anything. This is key).

I was happy that I went, of course (the movie was great).

I know myself well and even though it takes energy to get myself moving, I find that forcing myself out of these comfortable boxes is all the more rewarding.  How do you think I found myself living in France for a year, or moving to NYC without a job, or letting go of my inhibitions and going on dates with strangers, or eating Tête de Veau (this is a story for another time).  I think we must try things (preferably jumping in with two feet) and if we don’t like the outcome, or if we somehow fall short of where we wanted to be, we haven’t failed but we have tried something new.  I’ll try anything twice!

I also made myself take a bus last night.  I like doing new things (have you noticed?) but that doesn’t mean that I like feeling vulnerable the first time I’m doing it.  For the bus, I didn’t want to be “that girl” who didn’t know the protocol of bus usage.  After living a year abroad however, I learned that eliminating this prideful handicap is the only way to learn new things and be adventurous.  In France my mistakes were many and my “dumb” questions frequent,  but I grew enormously as a person and had amazing experiences by taking chances.  I still find myself nervous before doing new things (I’m human), but I make sure to DO them–this is where the nagging mother’s voice usually chimes in!

So I asked a stranger (favorite pastime from France) if I was waiting for the correct bus and if I could use the Metro card to board the bus (this would be considered the dumb question I guess).  Although I was totally 1) that girl who didn’t put her pass in the right way so the driver had to physically do it for me and 2) that girl who didn’t know you had to push the door open to get off, I survived and mastered the bus system.  It’s nice to knock things off the list of “things I haven’t yet done.”

So maybe I am crazy.  Maybe I think too much into things and talks to myself, but I don’t care because this go-hard-or-go-home, take chances mentality has blessed me with experiences in my life that I never would have had if I hadn’t talked myself into things and thrown myself forcefully from my comfortable zone.

**My own mother does not nag!  Just thought I would make that clear, since she is going to be reading this 🙂

Fashion Talks at French School

For five years the French Institute in NYC has invited its members (that’s me!) and those of the public to participate in soirées featuring fashion industry headliners.  This year Reed Krakoff, creative director at Coach for the last twenty years, kicked off FIAF’s annual event.

The night began with an introduction from Robbie Myers, Editor in Chief of ELLE magazine.  As I sat two rows back I had one of those, “only in NY moments.”  A moment where I realize how cool it was that I got to do something like this.  I miss France a lot, but for right now I think NYC has a lot to offer me.  And being able to go to an event where I am one among people I admire (Editor in Chief of a major magazine…right up my alley) is formidable!

So after Robbie’s introduction, Reed Krakoff and Pamela Golbin, Chief Curator of Fashion and Textiles at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, sat and had a casual chat in front of a sold-out crowd in the Florence Gould Hall on the Upper East Side.  Reed spoke of his beginnings at Coach and his newest venture, his self-titled brand which launched its first collection in 2010.

I loved having my eyes opened into this designer’s thoughts, inspirations and goals.  Reed didn’t grow up living and breathing fashion like some designers (Isaac Mizrahi for example).  He went through what he referred to as a “formal education” of fashion at Parsons School of Design.   Prior to Parsons, he had graduated from Tuffs with a dual degree in art and finance.  The later was his parents’ prerequisite before allowing him to pursue fashion at Parsons.  Before landing at Coach, Reed held positions at various American fashion houses including Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein.

Reed is a down to earth person.  One can understand that just by listening to him talk about his success (which abounds) and his goals for this budding brand, Reed Krakoff.  He is a family man (his 8-year old daughter in attendance last night was the only one to stump him with a question) and an extremely hard worker (with the millions of items developed at Coach every single day, he says that he still looks at each and every one).

I found it really interesting that Reed doesn’t think of FASHION when designing his collections.  He thinks more about shape and form, like an architect might (I haven’t met many designers, so this could be run-of-the-mill as that goes).  His creations are influenced by the culture which feeds him, but the fashion culture and trends are not what move him in certain directions.  His ideas are raw and pure.  He learned to be confident in his work saying that it is important to be sure as hell that “this is it” one day and then that it’s not the next.  But there also comes a point when you go with it and knowing when this is takes time.

Time is one thing that Reed has been blessed with in the industry that seems to constantly be in a rush.  “Today designers aren’t given time.  They get two collections and then must redefine a brand,” which is more or less impossible he said.  Shows like Project Runway where time is the game show factor attest to this.

Reed was also blessed with opportunity.  He realizes how lucky he was when Lew Frankfort, chairman and chief executive officer of the brand, took a chance hiring him back in 1996.  SInce then he has risen to the challenges before him while also creating new endeavors along the way, which is where RK comes into play.  A new goal and new adventure.

The two fashion houses are separate but related being that the same man operates both.  The operation however is different for the two, one being a powerhouse already and the other being a baby that still needs time to grow.   True to his driven personality he has big goals for the brand, wanting it to be a brand that people know intuitively.  A brand that similar to a bookstore poster he saw while in Paris which listed 20th century artists with one word, could be whittled down to a simple, all telling description.  For the man who took a 500 million dollar company to a 4 billion dollar powerhouse, I think this is possible!

It was all-in-all a unique night for me.  One that I hope I will have the opportunity to do again sometime.

Free makeup from the sponsors!

Munchin’ on some brunch

Yesterday I began a new chapter on this journey.  I have been living in Brooklyn since February thanks to a friend’s convenient traveling schedule.  But nobody can leave New York for too long and he eventually came back to claim his space. So as of yesterday I am no longer a Brooklyn resident.  I think I will refer to myself as a nomad for the next month until I move into my very own NYC apartment at the end of April.

To say au revoir to Brooklyn I thought it best to have a nice brunch.  Brunch has a special place in my heart, being the one thing I really missed while in France.  And New Yorkers seem to appreciate a weekend brunch just as much, making me a very happy girl!

My idea was to go to Café Colette because one of my favorite bloggers had written or tweeted about it.  I don’t remember which blogger or which social media outlet but I know that I have wanted to check out this café for a while now.

Walking up Berry Street however, something else caught our eye.  Across the street from the destination spot we saw a restaurant with its large windows open, allowing customers to use the sill as a seat.  The idea of sitting half outside/half inside seemed ideal on the sunny afternoon.  We stood at a cross roads (literally).  It was one of those moments where you have to decide if you go with a planned adventure or a spur-of-the-moment decision.  Both brunch spots were unknown territory, but Spring-fever had taken full-effect and the quasi-outdoor seating won the battle.

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That’s how we found ourselves enjoying fruity drinks and savory eggs at the Latin/Italian restaurant Miranda.  Being St Patty’s day we also threw in some Irish soda bread for effect.  I can’t compare this place with Café Colette (it is still on the list), but I can say that I will be returning very soon.  The people were kind, the food delicious and the large selection of wine that lined the walls tugged at my heart strings.

I enjoyed the smoked salmon scramble (eggs with goat cheese, chives, smoked salmon and served with the house chile de arbol hot sauce) and the self-named cocktail “la miranda” (moscato, prosecco and guava).

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Rêveries Musicales (Music Musings)

I walked into Rockwood Music Hall last night and was immediately taken by the power of the voice coming from behind a grand piano.  The lights were a dim red and the small saloon-type venue was dark.  Above me I could see plush couches and chairs behind a cast-iron railing.  This balcony seating mixed with the little circular tables scattered on the ground level hugging the stage reminded me of the Moulin Rouge.  From the movies of course, as I have only ever posed in front of and never stepped inside of Paris’ iconic bar.

My friend Sissy had proposed the idea of going to hear Heather Christian sing last night.  Sissy is quite critical of singers and she has every right to be.  She herself studied music at the New School and is making a career being a singer.  I can only imagine the critiques that go through her head when listening to a new song or artist (similar to me after taking my film class at JMU. I literally couldn’t just enjoy a movie without picking apart the technical aspects).  So when she said that Heather’s singing was indescribable and amazing I knew this had to be good stuff.  Based on the number of goosebumps crawling my skin during the entire set, I can attest that this was indeed good stuff!

Heather has an almost soulful vibe with a southern twang (a Mississippi girl).  She has no apologies for performing both high energy sound that features unique quirky sounds (she was like her very own instrument at times) and thought-provoking ballades.  Her lyrics are relatable but what draws you in first is the sound.  I found myself just listening to the way her voice effortlessly carried through the room.  And when those sounds did travel up to my brain and process, I heard the words and was moved (hence the goosebumps formed).  Her guitarist for the night, Gabe (Gabriel Gordon from Wax Poetic) even mentioned that he found himself getting mesmerized and lost in her words while on stage.  So much so that he felt he messed up on his cords (this is so not true by the way–no flaws were noticed).

After the show, when we were discussing the show (normal post show affaire), someone said how great it was to not be able to “place” Heather’s music into a genre or be able to say, “she sounds like so-and-so.”  It is something a musician strives for; individuality and uniqueness in their craft.  So hats off Heather!

**a short video of her show will be on my tumblr later today**

A stroll in the park

This past weekend, new friends in attendance, I explored a bit of the city.  We were blessed with a sunny New York weekend and there is no better way to take advantage of that then to spend it in the great outdoors.  And in NYC this means Central Park!

As we strolled along the paths of the 843 acre park I couldn’t help but think of similar moments I’d had in France.  One of my first weekends I was asked to join some friends for a Sunday afternoon in Dijon.  We would go to the Parc de la Colombière and then a movie (movies were one of a few things open on a Sunday).  I spent a nice afternoon walking and talking with my friends but at the time I remember it all feeling a bit strange.  The concept of walking around a park with no real motive, dressed in normal clothes (not workout clothes) and just meandering around was foreign to me.  My friends and family at home never did such a thing.  I would go for a run or take a walk for exercise but would never call a friend to casually take a walk with me in jeans.

After some months, I adopted many French ideas and habits; taking walks on a Sunday afternoon being one of them.  So when I came to NYC I was excited to see the trend transferred over and Central Park filled with both joggers and wanderers like myself 🙂

Bethesda Terrace Arcade

 Naumburg Bandshell

The price of friends

As an Au Pair in France attending French class was mandatory.  I had no problem with this stipulation being I was there to learn the language and become French. I also honestly wasn’t about to spend all day every day in a village with 100 people!

So about three times a week I went into Dijon and studied all aspects of the French language at L’Alliance Francaise.  It ended up being the best thing I ever did because I met all of my friends at school, something that is not easy to do once you hit a certain age.

I’m not saying that I am old, but once you leave the bubble of college and academia there are limited resources to rencontrer des gens.  Sure there are the nights out at a bar or you could always go out with your friend’s friends.  There are also those weird set-ups which start by someone saying, “you would really get along with so-and-so.”  These conversations lead to what I will call friend-dates.  They highly resemble blind date situations but might actually be more awkward, if possible.

So last month, when I moved to NYC I found myself in a situation much like my last year in France: I had very few friends to call up and go out with.  I have no problem reaching out to old friends (I’ve actually enjoyed that), or tagging along with another friend’s group, but there is something to be said about having your own friends to call up.  Someone to grab a coffee with, try a new restaurant or come with you to an event you heard about but don’t want to go to solo.

Think back to the last time you met a friend.  It was probably move-in day in college, the first day of class, or the day you finally went to that class at the gym (because just joining the gym doesn’t usually lead to making friends. Too many sweaty preoccupied people with headphones on).  Wherever it was, chances are it was an organized event.

So when you’re social, single, moving to a new city and working 9-5, there are limited options for friends.

Besides needing some side-kicks in my life, I also have been feeling a longing for that home away from home: France.  Go figure!  The past few nights have been spent with French movies (Paris and L’arnacoeur) and I wake up from my French dreams (no really I am still dreaming and thinking in French) and want so badly to speak French to anyone who I come across.  Oh la la, j’ai une probleme!

Last night I decided to take a hold of my French nostalgia and check out the possibility of French in NYC.  Familiar with the Alliance Francaise, I knew the NYC organization was extensive.  So after a quick tour of the site I decided to head uptown and check it out.

The first Tuesdays of the month are busy there.  Movies are shown, fairs are presented, conversation hours are enjoyed and a 30-minute free class is offered every hour from 4-7pm.  My plan: go to a free class and check out the scene.  As you all know by now, my plans usually take detours and last night was no exception.  In the process of keeping with “the plan,” I got to talking with the director and she explained how the membership and school were different.  We decided that for me, someone who just wants to talk and keep up with French culture, a membership might be better than classes.  So I gave my free class to the grateful person behind me (it was the last spot) and headed upstairs for some wine and conversation.

What a great choice it was too because I ended up meeting some friends! YAY 🙂

One night and I find an outlet for my French and some friends!  All I had to do was pay a fee…. But that just might be the price of friendship for the mid-twenties crowd.

No interest in the Pinterest

I began this MARCH FIRST post about how I have been having trouble finishing my posts.  (Creative topic, I know)

I currently have four posts in draft form and can’t seem to think coherently enough to finish them.  I seem to get to a point in writing where I doubt the idea I started with, become uninterested or find my mind drifting on to create another half-written post.  Ironically enough, the first post I’ve finished in a while was that one–the one about not being able to finish a post.

And now I am deleting it.

Because I have been intrigued by all the recent hype over Pinterest.  I know it has been around for a while now, but for some reason in the past three days Pinterest has ended up on my radar a trillion times.

It began with a Forbes article, then a friend posted a “pin” to Facebook, and to top off the week (and create such an annoyance to get me writing), I just finished a conversation with a friend about whether or not I use Pinterest.  He thought I “struck him as one who would be a user.”  I had to tell myself not to take offense to that, being that my ideas toward Pinterest are that it is an outlet for a bunch of wedding obsessed sorority girls to post their dreams, color schemes and other “oh so cute” wish lists.

(I swear I’ve become less cynical within the past year.)

Anyways, my journalistic mind began asking questions and I wondered what I was missing and why this site was suddenly dropped in front of my face so many times.

I always assumed Pinterest was for posting other people’s ideas, pictures and recipes that you liked.  Being a creative person (journalist, photographer and traveler), I never liked the idea of using someone else’s ideas on my own sites.  I would rather post my own photos than copy-and-paste someone else’s into my creative domain.  This is why on my Tumblr, an inspiration board-type outlet for me, I try to keep what I can original work.  There are times when this gets complicated (because I am inspired and want to share) and in these times I always note that the work is not mine.

Then I came across an article and all of my preconceived notions about Pinterest were challenged.  I was correct that Pinterest “etiquette” is anti-self promotion but I was wrong to think so narrowly of the site’s uses.  Although Forbes writer Susan Adams understands “the rules,” she also sees Pinterest as an opportunity to mix it up.  Showcasing ones own work while at the same time pining outside sources is the clever new twist.

An interesting idea, however, I am not yet a convert.  Social media sites are my sidekicks.  Twitter is never closed on my iPhone, Tumblr is my go-to for inspiration displacement and I share my mind-riveting 😉 thoughts here on my blog.  Not to mention there is Facebook and LinkedIn…How many social media sites do we really need?  I am ok with our generations current social media Mod Podge as long as each has a different and specific role.  In my mind presently Pinterest would just be a replica of my Tumblr.  If I can find a way to make Pinterest more of a portfolio situation as Susan Adams suggests, then I may just hop on the wagon.  Until then, you will find me tumbling, tweeting and writing as I have no interest in the Pinterest 🙂

Do you use Pinterest?  How do you use it?  Original work or internet pulling?

Would you use it as a portfolio for a job search?