Posts Tagged ‘NYC’

On Private Agonies

I’ve been thinking a bit about the recent suicide of fashion designer L’Wren Scott, which has been in the news a lot lately. I wasn’t super-knowledgeable about her designs — though I heard her dresses were immaculately cut — and while I remembered she was a stylist at a time when being a stylist was a “thing,” I didn’t know much about her outside of her work and her famous Rolling Stone boyfriend. She was one of those “fashion sphinxes” in my mind immaculate, glamorous in a very intimidating, dramatic way, a bit rarefied and remote. Though by all media accounts she was a lovely person, she had a smooth, shiny surface. The surface, obviously, covered a lot of pain and suffering, and though I didn’t know her, my heart goes out to her loved ones and family.

Suicide has not often touched my life on a personal level. When I have heard about it in my life, it has usually been a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, that kind of thing. Except for once. It was someone that I knew very briefly, one of those early 20s/NYC friendships where someone might orbit within your circle for an enchanted half-season and then drift out of it, lost to a thicket of projects, relationships, dates, road trips, career changes and just life. I will call her Emily, though that isn’t her real name. She was the ex-girlfriend of my roommate. They were still friends, and one day she stopped by to see him at the duplex apartment where I lived.

I remember when I met Emily, she turned to me and gave me such a huge, genuine smile, one that lit up her huge blue eyes. It was 1997 or so, and I was new to NYC and getting used to the fake smiles, the way people scan you up and down discreetly or sort of just half-grin and stare over your head, looking for someone else more important to talk to. But Emily’s smile was warm and welcoming, and she looked you straight in the eye. She wore all black, kind of early 90s Daria-tomboy, and a baseball cap worn backwards, which on her looked very, very cool. She was pale and blond — a white-blonde, her hair long and straight and fine. She looked like she could be the slightly sporty-Goth tomboy member of the Breeders. You could tell immediately she was intelligent from the way she listened and spoke; you could tell she was kind because she immediately offered you whatever drink or gum or food she had in her hands. We got along instantly.

I was just 21, 22, and I was looking for mentors, or at least big-sister types that could give me a model of how to get through my new city with a certain verve and aplomb. I had a career mentor, a dark, exotic, beautiful woman who hired me on my first film jobs. But Emily was my fun, creative big sister, someone to play and have fun with, at least for a little while.

Though we met initially in the foyer of my apartment, our friendship really developed over the phone. She would call to talk to her ex, getting his advice and counsel, and I would answer the phone — this was the age well before cell phones, an era of answering machines and landlines and cordless phones. We would always end up talking for 15-20 minutes before she asked for my roommate. She would always ask how I was doing, what I was up to: she was genuinely interested, and had a friendly, easy way of offering advice without being busy or a know-it-all.

And she told me what she was up to: she worked as a film programmer, but her dream was to play music. She had gone through some difficult breakups, I think. I loved talking to her, so of course I was excited when she finally said, “We should hang out! Let’s go to the East Village and get dinner next week!” Honestly, I was so excited, more excited to hang out with Emily than I was to go out with any of the guys I was dating at the time.


Look of the Week: In Which I Re-Enact My Particular Version of My NYC 90s with a Pair of Fancy Track Pants

Lately I have been intrigued by the emergence of what I call the “fancy track pant” in fashion. It all began, like many weird yet strangely awesome ideas in fashion, with Phoebe Philo’s work at Celine, the bougie French brand she is quickly turning a heritage-level powerhouse. She showed a pair of black leather track pants in her pre-fall 2012 collection (and was subsequently photographed in them for a Vogue interview.) And I was kind of into the idea. Not literally — I’ve long learned that if I’m going to wear something slouchy on my hips, it has to be a fairly liquid, supple material, or else it just doesn’t look right. But I loved the idea of taking this sporty, athletic item and luxing and toughing it up with unconventional materials, keeping the ease but making it fancier. It was just a matter of finding an accessible equivalent for me.

I mean, yes, I could run around in actual track bottoms. I actually did this in the late 90s when I first moved to NYC and was working in the film industry, mostly in various art departments on commercials, industrials and the occasional movie. You have to remember that streetwear and street style, of course, wasn’t the easily accessible phenomenon that it is now. Ha, even the Internet wasn’t the 24-7 thing it is now back then. (Gee, I am old.) So you actually had to be in a city and walk on the streets to see street style, or gasp, buy an actual magazine that would run street style photos. And in those days, there was a strand of NYC street style that was this amazingly insouciant mix of hip-hop/athletic, skater, rave, minimalism and kind of a Daryl K-ish, sleek elegant post-punk. The girls everyone was into were Chloe Sevigny and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and if you mashed those two together (with a dash of Kim Gordon and early 90s Sofia Coppola because she got all French-y), that was pretty ideal. That was the thing I remember the girls wearing: a nice, slightly sloucy Daryl K. trouser — kind of like a really great grown-up pair of Dickies, just cut waaaaaay better for a lady bottom — with a cool baby tee and maybe a skater shoe, Vans or something. Really clean, really functional. Cool but composed. That was kind of my jam, my sartorial ideal around the late 90s.


Feminist Performance Art for Teenagers, Apps for Creative Spirits & My Monthly Mixtape

Ah, yes, the inspiration/round-up post of this week’s sparks, as I call them: things that got me thinking, feeling, thinking again and sometimes dreaming and scheming. Suggestions? What’s got your interest lately? Please let me know in comments below!

Please Let Carrie Bradshaw Go to CBGBs

I’ve written before about my odd fandom for “The Carrie Diaries,” its mix of 80s NYC nostalgia and its refashioning of Carrie Bradshaw as a wide-eyed innocent. It’s a standard issue CW/Josh Schwartz kind of show, but one thing I’m really enjoying are the references to NYC hotspots at the time: Indochine, Mudd Club, all of those mythic venues you read about in social histories of the city. Last week’s episode featured a central scene where Carrie and her good friend Mouse get into real-life storied avant-garde performance space Franklin Furnace and are confronted with feminist performance art! (Basically: a fictional porn star sits on a throne at a gallery, people put money in a jar and she flashes them her hoo-ha. Very Karen Finley-like.)

First: I think it’s just rad that feminist performance art has made it into a mainstream American TV show. I was also amused by the mild satirizing/earnest shoutout of sex-positive “reclaiming your vagina” discourse — as well as a knowing wink to the original SATC show. There’s an odd pleasure in seeing how this show on this very commercial network refracts gritty NYC downtown history — seeing what it elides, distorts and glosses over, but also what it cheers and bestows its affection upon. I’d be happy if Carrie got to CBGBs or Max’s Kansas City, but now it’s kind of my dream that the show makes it into the early 90s and there’s a shoutout to riot grrrl somewhere. Please, someone at the CW, make this happen! You can option my screenplay about 90s zine girls if you want!

I Heart These Apps

I write about technology as a day-job, but it’s taken me forever to get an iPhone, due to my own contrarian nature, my personal laziness and general rather-spend-my-money-on-other-thingsness. But now I have one, and use apps all the time. I review apps for my day job, but I don’t often get to write about them from my personal perspective of a creative lady writer and artist — nor do I get to write about them in my personal voice. But this is my blog, and I can say what I want and how I want! Which is: I’m proud to hype up some apps I’ve found particularly useful and creative-sparking. My favorites right now include WorkFlowy, which is essentially a giant list-making app. It sounds nightmarish but it is not: it’s very simple and elegant and it has made a big difference in organizing my time and things-to-do in such a way that I spend a lot less time doing these things — so I can spend more time actually making work.

Also: in the interest of streamlining digital clutter, I discovered Feedly, which ports my RSS reader to my iPhone. And for fun, Hello Kitty Mahjong wiles away minutes spend otherwise standing in lines that don’t move at various places and times. It is super cute. If you have other apps you use, iPhone brethren, please let me know — I am always interested to know what people use and how.

Monthly Mixtape: Surprisingly Energetic for a Cold January

Usually in January I hunker down with music and treat it more like a security blanket, swaddling my spirit in familiarity and comfort. Maybe it is the sense of possibility that January can have, but this particular month I actually felt myself much more open to new sounds. So here they are, some old, some new, some rediscoveries.

Here is the track listing below:


On Being a Semi-Retired Libertine


The pleasure of talking with old friends is how they remind you of crazy things you’ve done in the past. Sneaking backstage, making out with abandon, champagne nights and next-day brunches wearing sunglasses and a disheveled vibe: stories like these dot the past like rhinestones from a broken bracelet, crushd on a nightclub floor.

But not anymore. Don’t get me wrong: I love my life now. But sometimes the Stooges’ Fun House pops up on my iPod or I look at my old studded boots or my crazy party dresses in my closet, getting antsy as they wait to retake the stage. Or I uncover a whole sheaf of tickets, old matchbooks, flyers, an old all-access/VIP badge — the mementos of a rock ‘n roll-tinged life. And I miss those nocturnal adventures, the sense of openness and fun that comes from living from your wits, improvising fly-by-night.


I guess I’ve been thinking about my wild nights lately because of the noise surrounding the 10th anniversary of Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights. The record itself wasn’t anthemic for me, but Interpol (and other bands of that time, like the Walkmen, Calla, the Strokes, etc.) came up in New York at the same time I arrived in the city — we are, so to speak, of the same micro-generation. I remember seeing them at mod nights in the late 90s, at Don Hill’s Britpop night, at Bar 13 on Sunday night — the crown jewel of my week back then, when I saved up my money for drinks and saved up my best clothes for stomping around to Northern soul classics with skinny boys in skinny suits and ties.

It’s a weird thing, then, to hear your improvident youth — stomping grounds, bold-faced names you used to catch when reading the listings in Paper — memorialized in an “oral history” of the band and the record. Like looking at all those memories through the end of a telescope, and when you pull away, you realize that time in your life is a land even more distant than you realized. The boat is pulling away from the harbor, not coming in.

Of course, I moved away from NYC, and even if I wanted to live a rock ‘n roll life in the small Midwestern town I live in now, it’d be hard to come by unless I wanted to spend all my time in semi-crappy bars, the dim light disguising papery-leathery skin and a bleary-eyed existential fatigue. There’s always going to be a remnant of my old raucous glam punk self that judges such virtue and good, clean living as boring, I guess — but hopefully she’s in the twilight of the past, turning on her own bright lights somewhere.


I’ve been thinking about 2013 and what I want to create, filling in my little planner for the next year and evaluating this one. And one of the strands that’s been intriguing me is how to carry on the libertine spirit while still being a wised-up grown-up. I don’t want to be unimaginative and ape the past, because that’s uncreative. And I don’t want to mistake the trappings for the core of the teaching.

Underneath the champagne, the late nights and the decadence, the spirit of the libertine is someone connected to joie de vivre, someone with a mainline to pleasure. The libertine isn’t just a good-time girl: she’s keen on fun, on soaking all her senses with the most beautiful sensations and sights possible. She trusts the wisdom of bodies and questions the received knowledge of the world that surrounds her, a rebel of pleasure in a world full of puritans. Both liberation and libertine share the same root: a desire for wide-open freedom and the space to move and create within it. You don’t need a bar, or shows, or even a cocktail for this state of mind — just a trust in the sensuality of experience, an imagination and a love of freedom.

I guess I’m looking for ways to keep my champagne spirits intact, even as what I find pleasurable shifts away from the traditionally hedonistic and the booze-soaked. (Though, don’t get me wrong — I still love myself a fine drink.) I take pleasure now in how I can make basil thrive in my kitchen window; I find pleasure in the peculiar high I get from the 3-kilometer mark when I run a 5K; I like that when I kiss a boy now, I know I’ll be kissing him for a long time. How do libertines grow up? How can you keep connected to pleasure and mischievous adventure, and still live a life full of love, riches, and other wonderful things? I’m thinking in 2013 I’d like to find out…

(My favorite record by Interpol will actually always be Antics, just like my favorite from the Strokes will always be Room on Fire. Here’s “Slow Hands.”)