Punk Rope Games Recap

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat: Peter, Me, Marisha and Brian

For the first time since I was sixteen and used to compete in horse shows, I got up early on a Sunday morning for a sporting event. The event was the fourth annual Punk Rope Games, where teams of punk ropers competed in events like the chicken toss relay, as well as more “traditional” jump rope events, in addition to performing a fight song to show off their skills.

Gang of Genghis Khan conquer the doubles jump

I love punk rope because it combines fitness drills with serious fun, absurdity, music and team spirit. Tim and Shana, who run Punk Rope, are the most giving and energetic people who make the idea of fitness accessible to those who whose first impulse is not to be active.

The “Asian Contagion” team show off their infectious skills during their fight song. Jeremy (in the front) just got a bronze metal in a national jump rope competition!

My bandmate Marisha signed me up to participate in the games and after some brainstorming we opted for the surreal and based our look and name our favorite internet video of the moment of Henri, the depressed French cat.

This being our first games, and the fact we hardly practiced at all, meant that we manged to not score any points. I do think we nailed our 75 second “fight song” routine, which we did to that enduring 90s classic “Jump Around” by House of Pain. The downside of this is that song is now stuck in my head. And the lyrics are way worse than I remember.

Cat moves during our team “fight song” performance

Floor punch!

Concentration during the chicken toss relay

We also managed to heckle and cheer the other teams in bizarre, not quite French accents using odd expressions that proclaimed the superiority of the French culture and lifestyle (you all know I love France and I love to laugh at it too as much as I like to laugh at my own country).

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat

The teams performances and costumes made the event like a mash up between gym class and CHERYL, my favorite arty, off the hook dance party.

“Plague” from team Asian Contagion. She made her rat wig herself!

The eventual champions, Phat Positive, also put together a video to show off their skills even before the games. They have raised the bar for next year, and next year, my teammates and I will be ready.

Phat Positive performing their “fight song”

Phat Positive: 2012 Punk Rope games victors

However, my favorite part of the games was the after party, where we got to revel in the camaraderie that is Punk Rope. Of course, I had to change my clothes and put together  a relaxed, sporty outfit for the occasion.

Punk Rope Games after party outfit. T-shirt and skirt by American Apparel, ASOS “Deny” wedge sneakers. Thanks to Marisha for the photo!

What gets you up early on a Sunday morning?

The final scores. We scored a crying cat!

Thank you to Felicity Hogan for the great shots of Team Henri in action!

DIY White Mountain Writer’s Retreat

View across the valley of Hurricane Mountain

I love my life in New York City. It’s full to bursting with happenings, friends, and new ideas. I love that there is always a corner of the city I have not yet unexplored and new places to check out. However, this year I’ve also made a commitment to focus on my own practice as a writer and to finish a book project by September.

Covered bridge, New England pastoral

With a full-time job and full roster responsibilities and interests, I found that the book project was not getting done. It’s too easy to put off the really important, creative projects and focus on the less important. Watching my time drain away and my deadline approach I decided, “I need an artists residency where I can focus and get this done.”

The white mountains, pine trees, granite: the Mt. Washington valley in a nutshell

Here’s the problem: most artists residencies cost money. I don’t have money to spend on that kind of getaway right now. Many of them also require you apply and have work samples, which I’m still working on developing. So I thought, “What do artists residencies provide? Ah, space, time and a chance to focus.”  Then I realized: the book I am writing is about do-it-yourself culture, so why don’t I take my own advice and create my own residency?

The trail on Mt. Stanton

I took a week off from my day job and friends of my family were nice enough to let me stay in their “chalet” – an A-frame cabin they built in the 1960s in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When I was younger I went there with my parents, my parents’ friends and their kids. We would all pile in to the house for days of skiing and sledding and spend evenings cooking huge communal meals and playing board games. I loved returning to a place I knew as a child and rediscovering it.

Desk du jour

Embarking on my “self-imposed writer’s retreat” made me nervous at first: could I take my creativity seriously enough to devote my days to it? To allay my fears I needed a plan.

Simple lunch en terrace

I created a menu of healthy, easy to prepare meals so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend hours in the kitchen or only eat junk food.  I made a list of the writing tasks I needed to complete and a schedule for accomplishing them. I know I work best in the morning, so I made sure to get up by 7:30 and be writing by 8. I also know that I get really tired after lunch, so instead of forcing myself to keep working when I’m not going to be productive, I took a two-hour hike up a mountain behind the chalet, and wrote for four more hours when I returned. Finally, in the evenings after dinner I did smaller writing tasks, such as blog entries, correspondence and article drafting.

Morning coffee by the river

At the end of my four days in the mountains I had completed a first draft of my book. I also rediscovered the fact that writing, especially writing well, takes intense concentration and is hard work. It’s about sitting in a chair, focusing your mind and putting one word after another, even if it feels painful. I was proud that I mustered the creative self-discipline to pull this off. I also am pleased to confirm that I can, and want, to write for eight hours a day. Next step: make that possible more often.

Casual chalet summer style: J Crew t-shirt and shorts with espadrilles

I also found this: as a teenager I wanted nothing more than to get away from the woods of the northeast, but I’ve fallen back in love with this environment. I’m incredibly fond of the mountains where I spent childhood weekends and it was hard for me to leave the chalet after only four days.

A little beatnik, a little north woods: USMC jacket (stolen from my father), J Crew t-shirt, generic linen scarf, Mavi jeans, Converse sneakers

I loved my days of solitude, where my only human interaction was with the clerk at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store where I went to buy a bottle of Cotes du Rhone one evening. When I arrived at the chalet I felt emotionally on edge from all my running around New York City and constant engagement with so many different projects.  Waking up to dappled June sunlight, the sound of the river, and feeling like I spent my days in a tree house slowly helped me gain back perspective and I left feeling emotionally grounded and creatively accomplished.

A map of the white mountains at the chalet

I might just make my “self-imposed writer’s retreat” an annual event.

And lest you think I’ve become a monk thanks to four days in New Hampshire, on my way out of North Conway I succumbed to temptation, outlet shopping, and that state’s lack of sales tax and bought my first pair of Minnetonka moccasins since the 1980s.
After being a holdout... I buy my first pair of Minnetonkas since childhood!

One more caveat: after reading this entry are you surprised that my favorite book as a teenager was The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac?

Oooh Chickfactor

Rose Melberg of the Softies and Pam Berry of Black Tambourine during Black Tambourine's set. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo, originally posted on Brooklyn Vegan.

When the MC on the second night of Chickfactor zine’s For the Love of Pop 20th anniversary show admitted to being, “A zip code fetishists who sent concealed pocket money to mysterious post offices boxes in hopes that weeks, sometimes months, later news from the outside world in the form of zines and records would return to my mysterious post office box,” I shared a knowing look with the group of ladies I had come to the show with. We could relate. We all met each other through the post and once referred to ourselves as the “Zine Girl Army.”

Zine Girl Army reunited. Keight "Pink Tea," Eleanor "Indulgence" (me!), Marissa "Red Hooded Sweatshirt," Yumi "External Text." Photo by Laura "Other Ramona."

Chickfator was, at times, infuriatingly snobby and unabashedly self referential. The editors, Gail O’Hara and Pam Berry, had impeccable taste in independent and underground pop music. The magazine was mostly a showcase of the editors friends and they referred to them by their first name and the name of their project, for example “Gail Chickfator.” In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I loved to read it for a window into a world of indie musicians, both ladies and dudes, that interacted and partied and frankly, existed, somewhere outside of my small town, teenaged life. My friend Alex used to get so annoyed at Chickfactor’s inflated tone of self-importance he would rant ad nauseam on about it, but of course, couldn’t wait until the next issue came out. Chickfactor, and other zines like it, set the tone and the scene for today’s music blogs and helped paved the way for the explosion of indie pop bands like The Pains for Being Pure at Heart hitting it big time.

The cover of Chickfactor #10

No matter how you felt about it, Chickfactor had a magnetism and a draw larger than the publication itself. Twenty years later they were able to pull off a three-night extravaganza in two cities featuring bands who I thought had long since broke up with no chance of reunion. Lois, Small Factory, and Black Tambourine.  And the Aislers Set! A favorite band from the moment I heard them in 1998 until they stopped playing so frequently, perhaps circa 2004? Since my head has been in the sand about music since about 2008, I relied on Dominick to give me a hot tip about the reunion and bought tickets the minute they went on sale.

Zine Girl Army reunited and on the march!

More Zine Girl Army! This time with Laura!

The Chickfactor shows were like a class reunion of people I actually wanted to see. It was a reunion of those of us poured our hearts out in letters and cassette tapes and sent them to each other. Laster some of those friends became my everyday friends (and still are) and close neighbors. Seeing people I used to see at shows was almost as exciting as the music itself. Perhaps most awesome, Marissa “Red Hooded Sweatshirt” came down from Boston to join Laura “The Other Ramona,” Keight “Pink Tea,” Yumi “External Text” and me (Eleanor “Indulgence”) for pre-Aislers Set tacos. We all used to go to shows together in Boston and attend zine events around the northeast over ten years ago. When we sat down to eat tacos Laura turned to Marissa and said, “I haven’t seen you in 11 years!”

My friend Kirsten “Lightening Bug” surprised me by flying into Chicago. We staked out space by the front of the stage for Black Tambourine and the next night, for Aislers Set. She reminded me that she had visited me in NYC in 2002 to see the Aislers Set in Williasmburg when I said something to the effect of, “This neighborhood is just getting really gentrified” to explain it to her. “It’s our 10 year Aislers Set reunion!” she announced.

The reunited bands full of energy and sparkle and sounded as fresh as they did ten or fifteen or twenty years ago. Lois performed with Peter from Heavenly and Molly Neuman and played “Strumpet,” which I quoted on my senior page in the yearbook.

Lois performing with Pete from Heavenly. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo, originally posted on Brooklyn Vegan.

My heart raced as she sang, “I laugh too much, I talk too loud, people stare at me when I’m in a crowd, you say I walk around like I own the whole place, but I do, but anyone else can have it all too, just walk around the town like you own it.”  I turned to my friend Amelia, who also went to my high school, “This was on my senior page!” I whispered. She smiled, “I know.”

Pam Berry singing in Black Tambourine. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo, originally posted on Brooklyn Vegan.

Black Tambourine were revelatory. So many bands now are playing washed out, reverbed out, noisy music with bitter sweet vocals (ahem, my band might do this too), but Black Tambourine helped start that sound. Hearing them alive made all those who cite them as a reference seem pale in comparison.

Small Factory also rocked out with upbeat disappointment and plenty of jagged, self effacing lyrics. They played one my favorite song, singing the chorus loud and heartfelt, “I’m not giving up, I’m not giving up on nothing, I still believe in nothing, just not so much in love.” To hear these words ring out over buzzing guitars and a sea of people left me feeling like if I’m still here, still listening to this music and still loving it as much as ever, I must have done something right in my life.

The second night British folk singer Bridget St. John entranced me with her ethereal yet earthy songs, but the real highlight for me was The Aislers Set, who played at the very end of the night. My friends and I staked out space in the front of the stage and refused to move. “We’re doing this 90’s style!” Constance announced, meaning, we’re staking our claim and not moving, just like we used to do as younger music fans. It was worth it. To have no frustratingly tall people between us and Linton and watch every strum of her 12 string guitar was better than I could have even dared to hope for.

Linton and Alicia of the Aislers Set

I love the Aislers Set. Their songs are catchy and poppy, and Linton’s lyrics are like stories that you tell someone about the small thoughts you have everyday that somehow add up to a profound reflection on your life. Her imagery always makes me soar, “The queen of every rooftop,” is one line I love. Their sound is big – big guitars, big pounding drums, big layers and harmonies, but still delicate and jangly.

As I soaked in their songs I realized a significant portoin of my life from about age 18 to 23 was spent listening to the Aislers Set. When they played “Mary’s Song,” with its wistful start and bass line that comes in like a tug on your heart strings tears came to my eyes. In away, I thought, my dreams from the time I listened to these records on repeat have come true, but I still feel the same wistfulness and longing that this song so perfectly captures.

When the Aislers Set took the stage an audience member cried out, “It’s been too long!” Indeed, it has been. My life has been missing the Aislers Set.

The multi-talented Linton. Trumpet and guitar at the same time!

I don’t know if there will ever be a new issue of Chickfactor, but if there is I will surely read it. I am grateful for the community I know and got to re-experience at the shows thanks to zines and 90’s indie rock. I’m grateful that creative people who make music and help make my world so great are in my city and I don’t have to wait for their letters in my mailbox. I’m grateful the rise of social media has made keeping tabs on a wider scene so much easier. But the Chickfactor shows also demonstrated how much was built during those days of zip code fetishism. As Lois sang, “I make a scene, I read about my scene in a magazine.” She then added, “I’m glad that for me at that time it was magazines because Tumblr just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

Corita at SXSW!

Corita rock guitar moves at SXSW

I am still in a bit of a time warp and there’s so much to stay about my first time at South by Southwest (or SXSW). The days passed like blurs and I tried to absorb as much as I could of the frenetic atmosphere around me. I’ve garnered enough material for several blog posts, but first and foremost I wanted to share these photos taken by A.’s friend JC of Corita’s shows. It was our first time playing out of New York State (in fact our first time playing outside of Manhattan or Brooklyn), our first time playing out of doors, and my first time playing with sunglasses (it’s bright when you play outside in the afternoon). South by was magical because people who did not know us, who actually cared about seeing music, saw and liked our band and told us so. Does that ever happen in New York? Rarely. Thank you again to Austin Girls Rock Camp and Waterloo Cycles for hosting us. It was refreshing to play like minded-venues with like-mined bands and we loved being outside with the wind in our hair!

Corita rocks the bike shop

With three singers and two mics you make do

This is my new favorite picture of myself, or at least my rock persona

Corita pulled out the stops and busted out the rock (moves)

There’s a set on Flickr and more blog entries about all my reflections and musical discoveries coming soon.

Corita's Waterloo Cycles Setlist (with typo)

Corita Press Photos by Stefano Giovannini

Corita: Eleanor (Guitar and Vocals), Nick (Drums), Marisha (Guitar and Vocals), Aileen (Bass and Vocals). Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

One of my favorite part of being in a band is the opportunity to collaborate with other creative people. I’m here at South by South West (full report to be published soon) and one thing I’m learning is that while bands need to increasingly take care of the business aspect of being a band, they also cannot possibly do everything single thing themselves. Those of us who have been in and around the punk scene have known this for years, but it’s nice to see a dialogue about collaboration and supporting each other creatively happening at the highest levels of the music industry.

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

Getting really good photos was one area where we as a band knew we need to reach out and collaborate with another artist. To get ready for SXSW, and to have the first of what we hope are many great press photos taken by photographers we love, my band Corita worked with Stefano Giovannini, who has shot for bands like Sonic Youth and Cat Power, as well as documented daily life around New York City. He shoots on location and authentically captures expression, mood and the relationships between people.

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

We chose bold colors and simple props from Party City for our shoot (most of which we didn’t end up using). We were a little bit nervous before we met Stefano – what would he be like? Would he understand our vision? Would he help us shape it? Would he be good to work with? When we met him we immediately felt at ease. He is a genuine, hard working artist who gently directs you so that he can get the best photos possible. So I am proud to share with you Corita’s four “official” press photos and one very special “out take.” Enjoy!

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

And I can help but think that this one was subtly influenced by the ending of my very favorite CHERYL video.

CHERYL: 7-ELEVEN from CHERYL on Vimeo.

And one more special out take just for you:

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

I think that taken together these pictures speak volumes about what, exactly, I love about my band and the music that we create together.

Go By Train

View from the Amtrak Northeast Regional

A little interlude in this crazy season of work and travel to meditate on the chance to take time out from everyday life. Traveling by train always has a calming effect on me. It is as if I hit “pause” on my life. I am content to watch the world pass from the windows and let my thoughts wander. On a one-day work trip to Providence last week I got to pass my favorite part of the Amtrak journey between New York and points north: Connecticut’s marches and water ways, which are always full of dazzling light and views.

On the Amtrak bridge heading out of New York, looking towards Queens and the Bronx

Faire du Sport!

Punk rope, punk rock

Getting ready for Punk Rope class

I used to wear my avoidance of sport as a badge of nerd culture pride. In high school after I quite the field hockey team I was allowed to take an “individualized athletic program” where I could practice the sport of my choosing for 3 hours a week. That amount of time seems like nothing now, but as a teenager it seemed like torture. I came from a place where long legged, blonde haired, soccer and lacrosse playing girls ruled the school. The rest of us just didn’t count quite as much. I wanted nothing to do with this culture. So the activities I chose to complete my sport requirement for high school graduation: horseback riding, modern dance, and roller skating.

I know the classic New Year’s resolution is to “loose weight and exercise.” As you know if you read this blog regularly, last year I lost 20 pounds and became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I don’t need (or want) to keep loosing, but I want to maintain and find a “new normal” for the level of activity that I do. While  I’ve practiced different sports intermittently for a long time: ballet, yoga, biking and swimming, I was never consistent about exercise. I’d do something for awhile and then stop, but I know I need to stay consistent to keep the weight off (I also need to keep tracking food as most of my weight gain or loss came from changing the way I ate).

Activities that I like both have some skill to them, so they get better with practice, but are open to anyone. I also like when they can be practiced independently, but have the potential to be social. The high school nerd in me still hates the idea of sport, so I have to trick myself into doing something that’s fun (ballet! swimming!), or useful (biking! It gets you places!).

January bike ride

Low and behold, in my determination to exercise regularly, I’ve come across a few classes in the New York-area I absolutely love, as well as some helpful resources I want to share in case you too have a resolution to get out there and get in shape.

I had the time of my life in the adult beginner ballet class at Mark Morris‘ studio in downtown Brooklyn, which I took with four other friends. It’s extremely motivating to know you are practicing at a school with some of the best modern dancers, and they also have life music in every class! Now that I am done with grad school I can’t wait to go back.

The class that changed my relationship to fitness was my friend Emily Kramer’s Spirit Boxing workshops. Open to women and trans people, these classes combine boxing conditioning with yoga stretching and centering. I found myself engaged on a physical, emotional, and intellectual level and felt supported, despite how out of shape I was. This class showed me I could do things I never thought possible, like run around Prospect Park and learn how to throw effective punches.

Lately I’ve been hitting up the Punk Rope class at the Greenpoint Y with my bandmate M. There’s classes in different parts of the country, but Tim and Shawna, the punk rope originators, run a high energy class with a new theme, sound track, and special exercises and drills every week. They call it “recess meets bootcamp” and I think that’s accurate! It’s so fun to jump to punk songs I don’t even notice how much I’m sweating. Plus, they got me to do sprinting drills, something I have not done since middle school!

I also want to add that what is so great about Tim and Shawna of Punk Rope and Emily of Spirit Boxing is that they are all activists dedicated to promoting health and fitness for kids who may not learn the value of exercise and healthy eating at school or home for many reasons. Learning from these teachers is inspiring on a deeper level.

Killerfemme active lifestyle: pumping iron with red nails

Finally, for learning to train on your own (and getting over fear and inertia) I found the site Stumptuous.com to be really helpful. While it’s geared towards women interested in lifting weights it’s got great advice for anyone who wants to pump iron, do it safely, and is dubious of gym culture.

What are your New Years resolutions? What have you found is the exercise for you?

I’ll also leave you with a little extra inspiration:

Happy New Year! Bonne Annee!

Last night's shoes

Wishing all of you sparkling celebrations for the end of 2011 and start of 2012. May the new year bring your health, happiness, love and laughter. Thank you for reading, for your comments, for sharing little bits of your life with me and reading little bits of mine. I am really looking forward to this next year. There are adventures planned, thinking and reflecting to do, and a big surprise on the way (no, I’m not pregnant or getting married). There will hopefully be great outfits, fun shoes, and great places near and far to explore and share it all with you. Bisous et bonnes fêtes!

Master’s Degree Statistics

Thesis is done. My life can resume. That is all.

On Friday I handed in my thesis and completed two and a half years of study toward my Master of Public Administration degree. (In case you are curious, it is entitled “The Creative Fabric of the City: The Relationship Between City Governments and Arts Organizations in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.”) One thing I learned in my MPA program was not to be afraid of math. In fact, while I entered a math skeptic, I emerged a math enthusiast. After required courses in statistics, budgeting and financial analysis, economics and an elective in the economics of public finance (yes, I really did take that out of my own free will) I am constantly channeling my budgeting professor and telling other math skeptics (especially artists), “Don’t be afraid of numbers! Numbers tell a story! A budget is just the story of your project told in numbers!”
Just a few books to kick off my thesis reading.

So, in that spirit, here is the story of my Master’s degree, in numbers:

Total number of months in program: 27

Month GRE was taken: February 2009

Month I was accepted to the program: May 2009

Month program began: September 2009

Date I turned in my thesis: December 16, 2011

Age when I began my degree: 28

Age when I completed my degree: 30

Total number of courses: 14

Total number of credits: 42

Length of a weeknight class: 2.5 hours

Total number of hours spent in class: 560

Approximate number of cups of Earl Grey tea consumed before or during class: 150

Approximate money spent on Earl Grey tea: $250

Total tuition and fees paid to the City University of New York: $14,229

Total student debt incurred: $0

Total library fines incurred: $30

Number of citations in my thesis: 177

Number of pages in my thesis: 146 (includes full interview notes)

Number of inane power point presentations by my fellow classmates I had to sit through: 70

Number of inane power point presentations I had to give: 9

Times I went to class with the world’s worst hangover: 1 (it was a Sunday class, after a CHERYL dance party, forgive me)

Maximum number of flights of stairs I had to climb due to broken escalators to get to class in the “Vertical Campus:” 12

Year the broken escalators in the vertical campus were supposed to be repaired: 2011

Year when the broken escalators will actually be repaired: ??

Pairs of shoes that I bought this fall to deal with the stress of working full time and completing my degree: 11 (oh no, that’s embarrassing, I might have spent as much on shoes this semester as I did on tuition, with graduation comes a rethinking of my financial priorities)

Number of Master of Public Administration degrees earned: 1

Be a a philanthropist this holiday season!

Lights and the Moon

Paris steet decorations, 15eme, 2007

In lieu of showing you a list of all the ridiculous glittery shoes that I dream of and the stupid expensive perfume I want, I thought I would tell you about how you can become a philanthropist, a patron of the arts, and a contributor to social change this holiday season. Instead of being a period of extreme conspicuous consumption, for me the holidays are a time when I really think about how my limited money can really give back to the world and create value that goes beyond its monetary worth. While I contribute to charitable causes here and there throughout the year, the holidays are when I take the chunk of my income that I would usually allot to holiday presents and give it to charities and causes that are close to my ethics, interests and values, as well as those of my family.  Nobody needs more stuff, even stuff that sparkles, and I think my small contributions go a lot further helping these organizations and causes then to buy another glitter goo-gah.

Printemps Lit Up for the Holidays

Printemps dressed up for the holidays, 2010.

On Christmas morning I give my family members small things, like an eco-friendly ornament or some delicious, artisanal snack  produced in Brooklyn (shhh… I’m not telling what I’m giving this year) and a card that tells them about the cause I donated to.

This holiday season, I will be supporting:

The Independent Publishing Resource Center

Located in Portland, Oregon the IPRC has computers, work space, a letter press print shop and library for all things zine and independent comic related that also offers classes and workshops. They do fantastic work around supporting young people, media literary and empowerment and provide an important touch stone for the independent publishing community.

WMPG

Because this community radio station introduced me to independent music and is a vital source of alternative news, local issues, and music programming in a rural area.

Literacy for Incarcerated Teens

Because everyone deserves access to literature and reading and critical thinking bring hope.

Brooklyn Public Library

Because I use this resource almost every day and I don’t want to be a free rider. They provide vital programming and resources to people of all ages in Brooklyn and have the most dedicated staff of librarians.

Heifer International

Because by giving people living in poverty animals and skills that can help them secure their livelihood they support empowerment, not a cycle of dependency on aid.

The Food Bank for New York City

Because hunger in urban areas in unacceptable in this day and age.

The Good Shepard Food Bank in Maine

Because hunger in rural ares is unacceptable in this day and age.

Full apple boughs

A farm in NY State

Hurricane Irene Relief for Upstate New York Farms

I buy local produce whenever possible and am a member of the Sunset Park CSA. The hurricane left NYC unscathed, but seriously effected our neighbors upstate. It left fields under water during one of the key points in the growing and harvest season, ruining farmers crops and livelihoods. Put your money where your farm to table ethics are.

The Coalition for the Homeless

Because homelessness in NYC is at an all time high of at least 41,000 people and without a secure place to live it is almost impossible to build a secure life.

I will also be looking to donate to the artist projects and organizations on Artspire, the website for the New York Foundation for the Arts’ fiscal sponsorship program (full disclosure, they are my employer and I co-run this program). The great thing about Artspire is you can make a tax deductible donation to an individual artists project. What about this one, which will showcase young dancers and composers and benefit Central Park?   You could also look through the many great projects on RocketHub, Kickstarter and Indie GoGo (though in most cases you can’t get a tax deduction for giving through those sites), like this one supporting 131 Washington, a DIY show and art venue in my hometown of Portland, Maine! Or how about helping out Booklyn, a Brooklyn-based book artists alliance which provides key representation for artist book makers?

Also, this holiday season you can be a patron of the arts by buying handmade products. I know venues like Etsy, the Brooklyn Flea, and the Bust Craftacular (which is this weekend) have popularized this option, so you have many options for discovering the perfect handmade item. What about something like the recently released Remedy Quarterly full of recipes and stories about food and feeling good? Perfect for a cold winter evening. Or how about Alejandra O’Leary’s new CD? Supporting independent musicians is always in style.

Remedy Quarterly by Kelly Carumbula

You can also learn a new skill with a friend. Like beer brewing at Bitter and Esters, a new, friendly brew shop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Or what about a membership to your favorite local cultural institution? While the big guys like the Met and the MoMA are always popular, what about something like the Brooklyn Historical Society or the Queens Museum of Art (or you can adopt a building on the NYC panorama, the most affordable NYC real estate you could own!)? Discover an amazing cultural institution you never knew was as cool as it is!

There are just so many ways to contribute your hard-earned catch to holidays gifts that have deep meaning and will be worth the investment. They are so much more gratifying to give then something from a chain store. Giving back is my favorite thing about the holidays, even more then pretty white lights everywhere, and something I look forward to all year.

What charitable causes and organizations will you be giving to this year?

Galleries Lafayette

Galleries Lafayette, 2010.