Anchors Away!

“You can live however you want in New York City,” an artist/mentor once told me when I was a teenager. She was right. I’ve lived in New York for over ten years and I keep discovering what kinds of experiences are possible in this city.

Polo shirt: bought at Find vintage in Portland, Maine, Shorts and sunglasses: Asos, Shoes: Cole Hann (from about 5 years ago!), vintage scarf

I thought I hated boats. I grew up in Maine and boating was part of my existence. While I loved exploring islands and the rocky coast, I also grew to loathe the tedium and seasickness that I felt when I traveled long distances by boat. As a result I’ve avoided myself from most things maritime since I was a teenager. However, like everything that I once thought I didn’t like, I recently reconsidered.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading Anne-So’s breathtaking accounts of re-learning to sail and then taking a trans-Atlantic journey via sailboat, but boating has been on my mind lately. When our friend C. offered to take us sailing on his father’s boat I had to jump at the chance.

The boat was moored at City Island, a small island off the Bronx that feels like a New England town: seafood shacks, clapboard covered houses, and the air full of wheeling gulls. C’s Dad reviewed safety and protocol aboard and soon we were hoisting sails and settling in for an afternoon on the water.  When we cut the engine and were propelled by nothing more than the wind and could hear the waves slapping against the side of the boat I felt like I was in a space connected to my memories growing up, the place where I am from and the where I am now. Looking back to the Manhattan skyline from across the glittering water, I felt like we weren’t just floating off an island off the Bronx, but in a space that was all its own. That’s why realized I needed to rethink my feelings about boats: they are a world apart, no matter where their port of call.

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Springtime Farm Wedding

While I am still in France, when I come home I will go directly upstate to Liberty View Farm to celebrate a wedding. It is the same farm we visited earlier this spring for another lovely celebration. This spring was the definitive kick off of wedding season for us. For the record, we are not getting married, but our friends sure are! Our refrigerator door currently has six wedding announcements for this year alone!

The best part of it is, though, that we are looking forward to all of them and each celebration will be unique and reflective of our friends who are getting married. That was especially true in late May when we piled into a rental car with a bunch of friends and headed upstate to the aforementioned Liberty View Farm for the marriage of R. and S.

Liberty View Farm is not far from Poughkeepsie and New Paltz, but sits nestled in a valley surrounded by apple orchards, making it feel serene and otherworldly. It is a working farm that grows apples, eggs and edible landscapes and also hosts weddings and events in a down home, relaxed environment that feels personal, elegant and comfortable.

I admit I’m a little short on ideas when it comes to new outfits for farm weddings, but I think this gingham and lace dress that I bought from Brooklyn Industries for a farm wedding last year does pretty well, don’t you? And besides, it matches the beehives!

Dress: Brooklyn Industries, Bag: Nolita by Les Composantes, Tights: American Apparel, Shoes: Robert Clergerie

Sunset among the apple orchards

Hey, Brooklyn! Let’s GO see art!

I’m really excited to tell you about a great, new project that I’m involved in. The Brooklyn Museum, my favorite museum in the world, has launched GO, a community-curated, open studio event.  During GO, Brooklyn-based artists are asked to open their studios to the community on September 8–9, 2012. Community members registered as voters will visit studios and nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to open at the Museum on Target First Saturday, December 1, 2012.

GO brings together so many of my favorite things: contemporary art, the Brooklyn art scene, social media, and the cultural life of the borough. Knowing that Brooklyn is a huge borough with 71 square miles and 67 different neighborhoods, the Brooklyn Museum is working with 22 neighborhood coordinators to help get the word out. I’m serving as a neighborhood coordinator for my favorite Brooklyn neighborhood, Sunset Park. If you see a redhead taking up posters or distributing GO postcards along 5th avenue or down in the industrial waterfront, that just might be me! You can meet the different coordinators, learn about art highlights in different neighborhoods, and learn more about the GO project on the very lively GO tumblr.

If you are artist with a studio in Brooklyn you have until June 29 to register to participate in the open studio weekend. You can find out more  and register on the GO website. If you don’t have a studio, but want to go see art in Brooklyn on September 8th and 9th, mark your calendar! Registration for voters opens August 1st.

Woodstock Chalet Weekend!

Relaxed chalet style: Built by Wendy jacket, cable knit sweater made by my mom, Mavi jeas, Swedish Hasbeens boots, vintage Coach purse (and unfortunately long hair!)

Imagine a place, not far from every day life, where you can let down your guard and truly be yourself. Imagine a place where you can dwell in a liminal space where you can give into your whims and be cocooned in warmth, friendship and peace. This place exists, on the map as well as in the imagination, in a tradition my friends and I have come to call “Chalet Weekend.”

View from my bedroom window

The place is a rental chalet that sleeps twelve in the storied town of Woodstock, New York. Woodstock has been a place of escape and a home to artists and counter cultural visionaries for over 100 years. The chalet on Happy Cat Lane is quirky in layout, with lots of impractical architectural details and exposed wood. Most importantly there is a fireplace and two huge, seductively soft couches, an open kitchen and comfortable beds. It’s on a quiet dirt road not far from the artist’s colony Byrdcliffe, which itself offers another kind of retreat from the world.

Wood fire, Bloody Mary, happiness

Hah hah.

Morgane makes cookies from locally made cookie dough, an easy dessert!

These pancakes I am making are somehow really funny (and I get to show off my Petit Bateau shirt, bien sur)

Two birthday girls means two birthday cakes (made by moi)! Tres leches with caramel whipped cream and coconut and lemon cake infused with Rosemary with Rosehip and Lavender frosting.

I used to hate on upstate New York, but now I’ve completely fallen under the spell of its gauzy light and rural charm. After the hectic grind of city life it feels a little bit like cheating to escape to the quiet woods for a few days. For me there is nothing better to combat the winter blues than a fire, cooking huge meals, celebrating birthdays and getting so absorbed in my friends and the present moment everything else just falls away.

Where do you go to escape the daily grind?

Hudson River, by Saugerties

Saugerties Lighthouse

Kayaks at the Saugerties Lighthouse

For the practicalities: you can find plenty of amazing homes for rent upstate (or anywhere) on Home Away, Air BNB, or VRBO (which is connected to Home Away). The cheapest car rentals in New York City tend to be from All Car Rent-a- Car and there is also the affordable and convenient Adirondack Trailways bus. My three stops in Woodstock always are: Sunflower Natural Foods Market, Bread Alone bakery (amazing organic bagels, pastries, bread, sandwiches and coffee), and Woodstock Meats, a butcher shop with artisanal meats and cheeses and chalet essentials like firewood.

Chalet weekend crew! (sans K.)

A Year at 20 Jay

Lovely light and sky

I’ll return to the escapism of the tropics in a moment, but I couldn’t help but note that it has been a year and a few days since I started a new job in DUMBO (which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Brooklyn. The neighborhood is wedged between the river, the BQE, the Navy Yard and old factories. It is home to galleries, arts organizations, fancy boutiques and a growing number of condos, yet still retains its quiet, cobbled, industrial feel. From my desk I have a view of the East River and use my iPhone to document the changing of the weather, seasons, clouds, light and sky. I’ve become an astute observer of light on smoke stacks and passing ferries, barges and tugs on the river. Enjoy my little window on New York City. There is a full set on Flickr.

Obligatory DUMBO afternoon view!

20 Jay Street #5

Early twilight in Brooklyn

20 Jay Street #6

Good morning, Brooklyn!

Searching for peace and clarity this morning

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:

To Occupied to Occupy

One afternoon the other week my office was dismissed early from work due to unfounded fears that the Occupy Wallstreet movement was planning to shut down the NYC subway system. Now for my French readers the shutting down of a part of the city’s transit system due to a strike or a protest is a regular occurrence that provokes some grumbling, some shrugs, and, usually, begrudging support. In New York, however, it seemed to be provoke a lot of fear and confusion.  As one of my Facebook friends smartly commented, “Don’t the protesters know that the 1% does not take the subway? They take taxis, sheesh” (or have private cars).

This got me to thinking about my (largely unexpressed) thoughts on the Occupy movement. First and foremost, this fall I’m far too occupied to participate, unfortunately. In this terrible economy I made the decision to go back to university for my master’s degree and continue to work full time. When I began in the fall of 2009 I had the vain hope that by the time I finished the economy would be improved and I would be able to find a leadership position in an arts organization that pays a living wage. Still waiting on that one. However, this leaves me very little time for anything that is not work, school or a pressing concern related to my life or one of the many projects I have going.

But more seriously and to the point: what do I think of the Occupy movement? And isn’t contesting the policies that large corporations, banks, lobbyists and the US government supported that got us into this economic mess more important than my selfish concerns? In short, yes, they are, but…

Overall, I support the Occupy Wallstreet movement wholeheartedly. I think that their biggest victory has been to move forward and reframe the political and media discourse in the United States and world-wide. The movement has brought critique of the United States’ unequal, inefficient and unethical economic, labor and education policies to a mainstream audience. It has brought a more progressive tone to debates around the role of government in the economy and private life, which is a real relief after the rise of the Tea Party movement last year.

For me personally it is very heartening to see this style of protest come back in the United States after it the anti-globalization and anti-war movements (both of which I participated in) were squashed by Bush and the general post-9/11 political climate.  It’s also disgusting (and sadly unsurprising) to see how power continues to react when threatened, whether those are police on a California college campus or on the streets of New York.

However, as a student (soon to be graduate!) of public policy, the Occupy Wallstreet movement has not articulated any concrete list of policy goals. This is a strength, because it allows the movement to appeal to a broad range of people. After all, if you are claiming to represent the 99 percent (or even the 95% or the 90%) that is a huge range of people and opinions. However, this is also a weakness because it prevents the movement from gaining political support in a way that laws can be enacted and policies can be changed.

The Occupy movement has also gained much attention because it is led and fueled by young people. It has captured the imagination of highly educated people who have found no gainful employment due to the economy and have every right to be frustrated. Of course, organized labor, activists of all stripes, veterans and a diverse crowd has also joined in the movement. Many people involved in their early twenties are coming of age politically through their participation. I remember the feeling of being 19 to 22 and protesting, feeling like it could radically shift the way the world was organized. I do not write this condescendingly when I saw that protest is a right of passage and an inalienable right. However, many “occupiers” did not experience the way the Bush administration squashed opposition to the war in Iraq or debate around any number of his policies. I feel in many ways the institutional memory between US protest movements is short (or nonexistent) and the Occupy protestors are learning lessons that those protesting for years, between the 1950s and the 2000s, had to learn again and again.

I think what I feel is important to note is that in the United States we live in an economic and governmental that is incapable of radical change. It was set up that way and that has only become more entrenched. Do I think this is right? No, I think it’s an incredible inefficient, undemocratic system, but I also think that to retain any sense of democracy it will only change gradually. This is again why I am grateful for Occupy Wallstreet for re-framing  political debate, which Nicholas Kristoff wrote about eloquently in the New York Times.

To shift the conversation in the media and the mind of the general public away from “Will their camp be cleared again? Will the protest movement survive the winter? Who are these hippes?” it is high time that Occupy Wallstreet (even though it is leaderless, I know) put forth some policy alternatives for debate and discussion. This may mean that less than 99% of people support what they are trying to accomplish, but it will also increase their changes of having a lasting impact on our policy and not just our political imagination. It’s also important for the movement to grasp some political and economic realities of the political process in the US. Paul Krugman and Adam Davidson have a few important points to consider.

These economic times have produced a lot of uncertainty, a lot of hardship, and a lot of anger. It’s important to have a public place to go with those feelings and to find a place of hope and inspiration. However, it’s also important to construct sustainable survival strategies, to help people in small ways every day, to promote equity throughout society, and to think about economic and personal innovation despite the system we live in. That’s the role I’ve carved out for myself working in education and the arts. It’s not for everyone, but it’s what works for me. It’s small, it’s quiet, but I believe in it and that’s what I will continue to push for, day-in, day-out.