Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring has Sprung

When I left for Asia 10 day ago, New York was still in the depths of winter grey. But now, Spring is beginning to show its colorful self, even if the days are still cold and blustery. Here are some signs of life from the weekend, around the East Village and Tompkins Square Park.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


In Hong Kong and Shanghai for 10 days x

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lotions, Potions & More

Last week I had the most mind blowing cosmetic experience ever. Every year, Cosmetic Executive Women Inc. (CEW) host their Beauty Awards to recognize the most innovative beauty products of the year. The awards are judged by CEW members (think most of the cosmetic industry from manufacturers to retailers to trade media), industry professionals and experts in the field of beauty. These awards are the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a product/brand, and with the help of little pink winners' stickers and a massive media push, a CEW award can generate millions of dollars more in sales for a beauty company.

Needless to say, every brand no matter how big or small or well known or established, enters these awards - assuming they can afford the $425 per product entry. And that's where the fun part begins. In order for voting members to get a better grasp of each product's benefits, technology, claims etc, there is a Beauty Awards Demonstration evening, whereby most entrants take a spot for a display on a fold-up table and have the opportunity to "sell" their product to discerning judges. Up to 4000 beauty junkies, cosmetic mavens and serious industry insiders peruse the multitude of products, nodding solemnly as the advisors earnestly discuss and demonstrate the merits of peptides, nano technology, salicylic acid, lash plumping fibers and lip anti oxidants, in the hope their product will be chosen as a finalist.

This year there are 516 entries across skincare, makeup, body care, men's grooming, sun care, haircare and fragrance, and most of them were being demonstrated at a cavernous space on West 18th St this week.

I have never been so overwhelmed in my life. If you thought it was difficult choosing your cosmetics from a supermarket aisle or a department store or pharmacy, you should see the number of brands that are on the market entire. You have your stalwarts - Estee Lauder, Lancome, L'Oreal and Maybelline - your hipper-than-thou - MAC, Nars, Bumble and bumble - your kooky - Benefit, Hard Candy and flirt - your upstarts - Strivectin, Dr. Brandt and Roc - your eco-conscious - Ojon, Origins and Burt's Bees  - and your unknowns - The Socializer? Pixi by Petra? Carol's Daughter? And that doesn't even touch the (skin's) surface. But the best part of the whole night? A goodie bag so heavy and stuffed so full of samples that you need a personal assistant to carry the tote home. Here is a shot of my loot.

OMG. I think I am in heaven but my skin is already crying "enough" as I slather and smear and blend and massage a different concoction morning and night. Lucky friends who come to my place to share the spoils!

Images: CEW

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Any of my friends will tell you that I am a book fiend. I spend hours in bookshops wherever I am. I feel a gravitational pull through the door even if it is full of languages I can't speak.

Part of the charm of living in the West Village is that I am literally surrounded by the most wonderful if not eclectic group of bookshops. Most of them are independent and all are trying to stay afloat in this age of kindles, i-pads and nooks. I wanted to share my faves.

First up is a tribute to a shop no longer with us. The Oscar Wilde Bookshop was a Christopher St icon that unfortunately, fell victim to the past year's financial blowout. Founded in 1967 by Craig Rodwell - who was an early lover of Harvey Milk's - it preceded the Stonewall Riots and became America's first gay bookstore. It was a haven for gays at a time when most gay activists used fake names for fear of arrest and New York's first gay pride march was planned here.

Now the space has been taken over by what I have to admit is a lovely store called Albertine General. It sells gorgeous flea market-type pieces, like antique jewelry, vintage glassware and bronze paper weights.

Next up is my fave, Three Lives and Co. It's your true neighborhood bookstore that is frequented by local writers whose signed books grace the wooden bookshelves (Peter Carey is reputed to live nearby but I am yet to bump into him). It has a wonky wooden floor and a little step up to the novels section at the back that I continually trip up due to looking at the book spines rather than the floor. The way they display their books means that every time you enter the store, you see something you have never seen anywhere before or it looks more enticing here than at Barnes & Noble, so you just have to buy it. And there is usually someone in earnest dialogue with the person at the till, so you overhear fascinating snippets of literary conversation. It's a bit like getting the goss when you have a ciggie outside the office (I do miss those days).

If you are into suspense, murder and whodunits, look no further than Partners & Crime on Greenwich Ave. They profess to have read every book they recommend and host regular readings and signings. They stock first editions, hard-to-finds and out-of-prints all in a little basement store.

If cooking is your thing and you are looking for that book of your mother's mother that you threw out too hastily, or a rare 18th century culinary tome, Bonnie Slotnick's ramshackle space on west 10th St is the place to go. Entering via what can only be described as a stable door, this tiny shop is jam packed floor to ceiling with every food author worth his or her salt. I actually reconnected with my childhood here when I found 'my' Winnie the Pooh cookbook first published in 1969.
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?" "What's for breakfast?" said Pooh.

Staying on cook books but going a little further southwest, there is a rare find on Greenwich St, almost to Tribeca. Joanne Hendrick's Cook Books is housed in an 1850's townhouse. It is so tiny it is easy to miss, save for a metal plaque on a beautiful old wooden door.

Joanne specializes in antiquarian, out of print and unusual food and wine books, menus and tableware!

This city is full of beautiful book stores. I think my faves up town deserve their own post at a later date.

Images: Arts Journal, Oscar Wilde Books, on the inside, endless banquet, flickr, mine

Monday, March 8, 2010

Charles Addams's New York

We all grew up on the Addams family TV series. Who can forget "Thing", Uncle Fester and Cousin Itt, to name a few of my favorite characters. I think it was the beautiful Morticia who first made me dream of long, figure-hugging gowns and immaculate makeup. Even though she was always portrayed in black and white, I just know she had a perfect porcelain complexion and wore the deepest, dark, blood red lipstick. They made every real family look so dull in comparison. Why didn't my parents duel with swords before dinner or my grandmother make biscuits with dead lizards as decoration?  The only member of my family who faintly resembled one of the Adamms family was my brother, who was an expert in killing spiders and leaving them in the least expected places.

But did you know this "creepy and kooky" family was born out of years of cartoons for the New Yorker? The characters were in fact created by a Mr Charles Addams who hailed from New Jersey and whose work is now is the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York.  Mr Addams was an apparently mild-mannered man with a wickedly macabre sense of humor.  His cartoons - all set in New York - appeared in the New Yorker for over 50 years. His first cartoon ran in 1936 and he continued to contribute more than 1500 works until he died in the eighties.

Addams loved to draw in detail the brownstones and skyscrapers of New York. It was against this perfect rendering of a city that the unexpected happened. You have to scan the seemingly normal scene to find the joke, and it was this city of realism that made the joke all the more jarring. Whether it is a milk truck parked in Brooklyn that has an udder, or a bitter housewife in a department store asking for "blunt instruments", or an Indian on a shrink's couch being told his neurosis stems from resentment for his ancestors selling Manhattan for $24, we enter a subversive and comical view of the city where one cringes whilst laughing out loud.

The ghoulish Addams family clan started appearing as anonymous characters moving through the New York cityscape in 1938. Readers clamored for more of the weird family and the editor of the New Yorker encouraged Addams to explore the "tasty little household" further. Addams used his family to turn the ideal of the nuclear family of the 40's and 50's on its head.

"It's the children darling, back from camp"

By 1964 the Addams family was so popular they were immortalized in that wonderful 1964 TV series that never dates. Unfortunately for New Yorker readers, the editor thought this was far too commercial, so the family ended their residence in print until two decades later. Luckily for us, the Museum of the City of New York has been collecting these cartoons for years, so we can enjoy Addams' perverse world again for a short time. And for those who like to click their fingers....

Images:, new york times

Friday, March 5, 2010

Les Chiens de New York

It has been often said that Paris is the canine capital of the world. When strolling along the romantic "rues", you have to look down instead of up to sidestep the dog poop, and you will often share a table at a cafe with some pampered pooch.

Well, I challenge that Parisian claim to fame. New Yorkers are almost more obsessed with dogs than they are with nail bars. Considering most apartments in Manhattan are smaller than a laundry basket, I have no idea where all these four legged creatures reside. But believe me when I say there are enough Great Danes to question what continent we are on, german shepherds to make you feel terrified - or safe depending on your point of view - and labradors to lick you to death. Of course, petit pups also make an excellent fashion accessory here. The canine of choice in my 'hood is the pug and in Chelsea they love the miniature rat-like breeds. I think there are more doggie day care centers downtown than child care centers, I have 2 puppy stores on my street and the canine accessory stores here rival Bergdorf's and Barney's.

But the most amazing aspect of this urban phenomenon are the dog wardrobes - particularly in winter. A dog cannot just be a dog in this town. It's bad enough that they are not allowed to pee against a tree or run on the grass, but have you ever seen a dog in boots??! Welcome to the chicest parade in town:

Images from top: vogue, mine, nycgo, bill cunningham, new york times, new york post, getty images

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Walking Men

When traveling to different cities around the world, have you ever stopped to look at the traffic icons for "stop" and "walk"? Have you ever noticed how different each country's icons are and wondered what they would look like lined up next to each other so you can see how different they really are?

Well, now you can see 99 of them 'walking' the streets of Tribeca. Sick of all the construction sites and boring worksite facades in lower Manhattan, the Downtown Alliance, a non profit group, is commissioning art to visually refresh the current urban landscape. They have produced a public art program called Re:Construction. The aim is to turn construction sites into canvasses for "innovative public art and architecture".  One of the first pieces of art is Israeli-born photographer Maya Barkai's "Walking Men 99". This 500 foot long work covers the fence of 99 Church St, where the city's tallest residential tower and hotel is being developed. 

Barkai has always been fascinated by the global walk icons, so has constructed here 99 of them marching side by side along the plywood wall. To collect them all, Barkai set up a website where she asked travelers to post photos of the walking men from around the world. She then put them together by city. They include a soldier from Fredericia, Denmark, a man in a hat from East Berlin, and a token pony-tailed girl from Utrecht, Netherlands! I must go down and find our aussie walking man. 

IMAGES: Carol Vogel for New York Times, downtownny, walkingmen99