Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week 9: Brooklyn and Manhattan and Jersey City

We returned to New York on Sunday, this time booking a week-long stay in a studio apartment in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. We wanted to arrive early as our Airbnb host had a busy Sunday and we didn’t want to keep him waiting. We walked around the neighborhood, eventually stopping for a cup of coffee and a sit at Blue Marble Ice Cream which has an inspiring initiative: They also created, a non-profit initiative, and this has gotten me thinking about how my Sweetie Pie project could become partners with a nonprofit initiative, helping to create awareness about food deserts and help feed people in America. I started researching American-based end hunger initiatives. My friend Kendra in Chicago had planted the seed by posing the idea that it would be great if Sweetie Pie could help create awareness about food deserts in America.

At Blue Marble, we were asked if we wanted to paint pumpkins, miniature ones, in preparation for Halloween. I’m not big on dressing up for Halloween, but I love pumpkin carving and this was as close as I’d get to it this year. I sat there and painted a pumpkin and chatted with the pumpkin-painting host, Brianna. She and her sister both work at the shop, having moved to Brooklyn from Northern Wisconsin.  Though they’re on the East side of Wisconsin, they’d heard of the towns we’ll be visiting this winter.

Sunday night we wanted to have a simple night so we walked around Union Square, popped into this place:

And then had dinner where we could watch a little of the World Series.

On Monday we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is so amazing and so full of important works, it’s more than I could take in in a day. Here’s a sampling:

 They also have a new acquisition, in collaboration with San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by William Kentridge:

If I had to name the one most joyous moment during this trip to New York City, it would be hard, but while we were in the contemporary exhibition wings of the museum, we kept hearing this circus-like music coming from somewhere, and anyone who knows anything about me, knows I’m crazy about all things circus. When I found the source of it, William Kentridge’s 30 minute video/installation piece, I was filled with such delight. I just loved all the things going on at once, the music, the different videos projected on the wall, and the giant breathing machine in the middle of the room. School chairs were scattered around the room and people sat for varying lengths of time while the videos and music looped.  I ran out and got Larry, and was happy to see his delight as he walked in and took it in.

After that, we took a beautiful fall stroll through Central Park, rambling through the rambles, the Shakespeare Garden, and Strawberry Fields, until we made our way to 7th Avenue, cutting across to 9th, and headed down to Theater row on 42nd Street passing through Hell’s Kitchen. 

We’d decided this time we wanted to see some off and off-off broadway works, but the listings were so vast, we became overwhelmed. I finally searched for solo performance  works, as I used to be a solo performance artist and Larry loves that kind of work. It turned out the United Solo Festival was going on while we were visiting which showcases 120 works over 8 weeks. But how to choose one? That turned out being easy: we quickly searched the work being performed during the week we were there and found out Larry’s friend from San Francisco, Lorraine Olsen, was performing her solo show on Monday night, so we got our tickets online and went to see a wonderfully performed piece about Olsen’s life as an artists’ model. That was a wonderful coincidence and Larry and Lorraine were so happy to see each other.  She is an amazing performer and actress and if you get a chance to see her work, we highly recommend it.

While we were waiting for the performance, another, off-broadway show caught our eye, Beth Henley’s “The Jacksonian.” I’ve always loved Henley’s “Miss Firecracker Contest” and “Crimes of the Heart” and had the chance to act in  “Crimes of the Heart” in 2004. This play starred Glenne Headley, Bill Pullman, Ed Harris, and Amy Madigan. Wow. We found out it was playing in previews this week so we got tickets for the following night. This is an amazing article about the play:

Tuesday, we met one of my friends from San Francisco for lunch in Chelsea. She happened to be visiting her daughter. Another lovely coincidence. Then we dropped down to the Lower East Side to our favorite movie theater, Sunshine Cinemas, where we saw Daniel Radcliffe in “Kill Your Darlings” before heading back up to midtown for another night of theater.

We absolutely loved the play and were delighted by the surprise that there was a question and answer session afterwards with Bill Pullman and Beth Henley afterwards. It was a beautiful night. Since the play was based on Henley’s life, and the most autobiographical of her works, she said a lot of inspiring things about telling the truth and the freedom it offers. Her words give me courage as I launch on my memoir writing project.

Wednesday was this great full day of meeting with friends from my days at University of California, Irvine’s graduate program in creative writing. These friends fill a special place in my heart. I don’t know if it’s because we all share such a passion for writing, or if they saw me at my worst—my most depressed, my meanest, but I always feel very full and alive spending time with friends from UC Irvine. We took the subway up to Bushwick in Broolyn to meet my friend Brando and his girlfriend Erin. Brando was less than 24 hours from final deadline for his second book, Five Fathers—his memoir and follow up book to his novel The Madonnas of Echo Park. He is a super talented writer and I’ve used Madonnas in my college classrooms. My students absolutely adore his book.  He and his lovely girlfriend Erin, a poet and editor, treated us to lunch at Roberta’s, Bushwick’s famous pizza joint: We had a lovely visit over a delicious lunch and then toured around the upcoming neighborhood of Bushwick where we felt right at home since it’s Latin working class slowly being filled with hipsters, just like our Mission neighborhood in San Francisco.

Then we let Brando get back to the last twelve pages of edits. I read an early draft of this book and can’t wait until the finished product comes out on Father’s Day of this year.

We then took the L train to Williamsburg, because we just had to see the neighborhood that is first to the San Francisco Mission’s second in hipness. A bit like Valencia Street in our city, we found our way to the Williamsburg Bridge and crossed over on foot to the Lower East Side, finding our way to the famous Donut Plant for peanut butter and jelly and peanut butter and banana cream donuts. The best we ever had.

Then we headed down to Jersey City to meet with Kitt, another friend from graduate school whom I delighted to be able to get to know more on each trip to New York City. Kitt is my age and an inspiring woman, being a late mom—she has a two and a half year old, and living through a cancer diagnosis during her pregnancy. She’s also a brilliant writer and has worked in publishing for years and years. She’s also working on a memoir and is taking a memoir-writing class right now and has been feeding me the assignments as well as her versions of them. I can’t wait to read her memoir about her difficult but loveable Australian Shepherd and how Georgie stayed by her side and how her partner Jim stayed by their side through all of Georgie’s training. This was my first time meeting Kitt’s partner Jim and I just loved him. He is an electrical engineer and stand up comic and just a really down to earth guy. I couldn’t be happier for my friends that they have such solid partners in their lives.


 The next day we were really tired from that full  and fun day, but we decided to brave the rain and walk the Highline, my absolute favorite thing to do in New York City. It was a lovely day and the fall foliage on the Highline was amazing. It’s an abandoned elevated railroad that was renovated in 2009 as a park and it has amazing landscaping, innovative design (like places to sit), and tons of art along the way. With views of the Hudson and overlooking the City on the other side, it offers a peaceful perspective on the City. Photos are below. We took a detour on 23rd Street to see a little of Chelsea, including the Hotel Chelsea, where many artists lived and which had a Lou Reed memorial outside of it. We sat in the Donut Plant next door, taking a rest and drinking coffee. Then we went back to walk the rest of the Highline.

By this time, it was late afternoon on Halloween, and it was great to see people appearing in costume.

We headed up to Times Square after the Highline, had an early dinner, gawked at the many people in costume, and ducked into a movie—“Don John” which was quite delightful. I love love love Julianne Moore and loved the way the movie turned on its head the younger woman cast beside older man tradition.

Then home to bed and a day of rest on Friday, doing laundry at the downstairs Laundromat with the nicest bunch of neighborhood folk I could imagine. We felt a part of such a kind community the whole time we were in New York. People were so helpful and would stop to help if we looked confused or lost. Which we did a lot!

Friday night, I was excited to have dinner with another friend from graduate school, Genevieve. Originally from a small town North of New York City, Genevieve inspires me because she has reinvented herself more times than I have and has lived in so many cities and done so many things. Three years ago, she moved to New York City, leaving her job at Mattel Toys in Los Angeles where she named dolls. In New York, she trained to teach ESL, which she now does full time, piecing together jobs at different universities throughout the city. She’s also an amazing poet. We met in Nolita, where we’d first hung out in New York in 2005 for a friend’s wedding, and we traipsed the same streets we had walked on that trip. It was nice to have some girlfriend time. Then Larry joined us for a walk to Greenwich Village and a coffee before we said goodbye and headed to our homes.

Saturday was our last day  in town and we wanted to see the Belgian blue grass movie, The Broken Circle Breakdown, which we’d been seeing previews for since our last trip to New York. Our only regret was that we didn’t change our plans when we saw that the filmmaker was going to be at the 7 PM showing for a Q&A. We’d rushed to the theater and were just on a trajectory to get there on time, that we didn’t pause long enough to discuss a change in our days plans. This film blew our minds. We both love music and it gave me a new appreciation for bluegrass. The acting was phenomenal and I don’t even remember subtitles. So much of the work was done on the faces and in the visuals. It’s based on a play and it’s not necessarily all told in sequence, so it helped open my world, just like the Henley play we saw, which also wasn’t told in sequence, about sequencing narratives as I begin to prepare for that feat this winter. We strongly recommend this film if it comes to your town.

Later, after walking awhile, we had one last dinner at Katz’s deli. A super fun New York experience. Then we went back to Brooklyn.

We were originally going to leave on Sunday, but it was the New York marathon and we thought we might have trouble getting out of town, so we decided to stay until Monday. I had breakfast with my friend Whitney, who was a close friend when I lived in Marfa, Texas and who now lives in Brooklyn, just walking distance from where we were staying. She is looking and doing fabulous, working as a writer for Marie Claire. She was joined by Marfa’s Tom Michael, who I hadn’t seen since I lived in Marfa seven years ago. He’s been busy running Marfa’s NPR station and nurturing his growing family. He’d come to New York to run the marathon, but an injury kept him from participating. It was a great chance to get to know him a little bit, and to catch up on Marfa gossip, which I realized was much more fun to do from a distance. Sometimes, I miss Marfa so much, it’s painful. It’s the most beautiful place I ever had the chance to live in and the sunrises and landscape there is breathtaking. But I am truly a city girl—the bigger the city the better—so it might be hard to live there full time again.

We went to yet another movie on Sunday, in downtown Brooklyn. We saw Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips then ate a local pub before heading back to our studio for one last night. I was so sad about leaving Brooklyn that I cried that night. But Brooklyn will be there when I want to return—and we headed onward the next day—to Danbury, Connecticut. 

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