Finding myself in Aurora Lady’s punk feminist world

Aurora Lady's shirt in Queens

When I first met LA-based artist, illustrator, writer, stylist, schemer and dreamer Aurora Lady I knew we would be friends for a long time. I loved her artistic vision, her bold illustrations, her passion for truth telling, and her penchant for feminist community building. When she told me she was coming out with a line of t-shirts I was thrilled, why would I want to wear anything else?

What I really love about Aurora’s work, whether it’s a t-shirt, a painting or photo shoot, is that she creates a whole alternate reality full of realized girl crushes, and powerful, glamorous, gnarly ladies. I was excited to talk to Aurora more about her t-shirt line and the inspiration behind it, so I interviewed her for the awesome blog Weird Sister .

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I just got one of her newest shirts, which proclaims “I nearly lost myself.” I loved the simple design and elegant handwriting. I had a tough winter, but managed to find myself again as spring arrived. I’m happy to say I feel more grounded, hopeful and powerful than ever. It’s also a testament that this is the first time EVER I have dared to wear a crop top (no, I did not even wear them the first time around in the 1990s).

Unisphere feminism

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When I placed my order for the shirt I wrote a note to Aurora that read like a confessional: I was afraid to wear the shirt, even though I loved the look. I felt self-conscious because I’m a curvy lady, and usually I pick clothes to hide, not showoff, my midriff. Aurora reassured me and told me that she too, felt like that, but the shirt enabled her to claim her power and feel more comfortable with herself.

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So I took a cue from her book and wore my shirt with a high-waisted pencil skirt and my favorite Stan Smith Adidas, a perfect outfit for exploring the post-industrial wilds of Brooklyn and celebrating the punk rock history of Queens at the Ramones exhibit at the Queens Museum (up through July 31, 2016).

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Embracing yourself, expressing who you are, not giving a damn about who might judge you. That’s the punk rock spirit.

2014 Year in Review: Travels, New Opportunities, Building Blocks

Of course it happens every year. I look back over the course of the past twelve months and think, “What, I’m back here already?” 2014 was quite the year for me with new opportunities, unexpected detours and of course a few road blocks on the path of my life. In some areas (especially for me right now professionally) possibilities seem to be opening or evolving, but of course nothing in life is smooth sailing, and while I’ve found some of what I hoped for and sought after I also felt like many things fell short or flat. In summary, it’s been another year of my life and I wanted to share the some of the highlights of the past twelve months with you.

January

Vision board 2014: what am I trying to manifest, Internet?

I kicked off 2014 by making a vision board that summarized what I envisioned for myself in the year ahead: technology, travel (to France), and cultivating a no-nonsense sense of style and self possession. Looking over it now, it’s amazing to see how much of this did materialize.

Saturday code looks good to me

I spent the first two months of the year mired in code and learned the basics of the Ruby on Rails programming language. While now my programming skills are pretty rusty, my taste of code was enough to kick off a career change and orient myself towards technical applications of my interest in creative entrepreneurship.

February

This commuting creature is really sad today is not a snow day

Winter 2014 was terrible in NYC. It was a never ending parade of ice, snow and below freezing temperatures. Note the two scarves in the photo above.

LA Zine Fest fashion: space tights! + docs, shorts & Gal's Rock tshirt!

I escaped the crushing NYC winter for a trip to LA that was focused around the LA Zine Fest. I got to hang out with my friend Meredith, who I met through zines and music over a decade ago in Portland, Oregon.

Zine fest redux!

March

Like the BO$$ of SXSW

My escape from the NYC winter continued with ten days in Austin for SxSW where I managed to speak on three panels at the Film, Interactive, and Music festivals and generally bummed around Austin seeing friends from all over, eating breakfast tacos, drinking free alcohol and riding a borrowed cruiser bike around like a boss.

Looking happy pre-music data happy hour talk #datarocks #sxsw

I had barely touched down from Austin and recovered from my ten day Tex-Mex hangover when I started my job on the Community team at Shapeways, a 3D printing service and marketplace. Thus began my introduction to the wonderful world of 3D printing and design, as well as some of the nicest and hardest working colleagues in the business.

Object of the day: mini-me in 3D! #3dselfie #shapeways

April

California real/surreal

With winter still lingering into spring I snuck away, yet again, to Southern California to present at the Craftcation conference and to talk about the themes of goal setting and budgeting from my book Grow. I also got to meet some of my crafty, entrepreneurial inspirations, like Michelle Ward and Kari Chapin, and spend more time with my friends KC and Sharon, the masterminds behind the Academy of Handmade.

Craftcation Author SoCal DIY

At Craftcation with the amazing Michelle Ward

May/June

Double Gemini Birthday Girls!

For the 13th year in a row I celebrated my birthday with my Gemini twin Lauren and our amazing group of friends in Brooklyn. I also spent time at the NYC Popfest and the Northside Festival, leading me to coin the term “friend rock” or “young lifers” – a group of friends in about their 30s who all go to see each others’ bands. We’re not as cool as the young hotshots from Bushwick, but we’re not disconnected from them either.

Leaders in the friend rock scene: Brian, Aileen and Stephen

Young lifers: Brian (of Shelter Dogs/The Planes), Aileen (of Space Merchants), Jon (of The Black Black), Stephen (The Planes/Big Quiet)

I also go off my duff to compete in the Punk Rope Games and my team, Team Henri for a certain depressed French cat, did not come in last!

Let the Punk Rope Games begin! Let's go Team Cats Meow #cattitude

July
Jump!

I went to France for nearly two weeks! It was awesome! You can see my full photos of what I saw, where I walked and what I ate and bought on Flickr.

Paris nightwatch

I spent several days walking around Paris seeing friends and my favorite places and then jaunted off to Brittany with my family for a week in the picturesque harbor town of Paimpol.

Fishng boats, Port de Paimpol

View through the sea grass

And then back to Paris with my parents to witness the finish of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees.

Yellow Jersey!

Family Portrait II

August

Nothing motivates me to do yoga and Pilates more than my new tiger tights!

After my French excess of cheese and wine I decided it was time to start a regular yoga practice, which I’m proud to say I’ve kept up at least twice a week since August! These awesome tiger yoga pants help.

Beach Day!

I also spent a weekend in beautiful Cape May New Jersey for the marriage of my niece Heather and her amazing (now wife) Renee!

September

Rules had our debut show at Cake Shop in early September

Rules had our debut show at Cake Shop in early September

My band Rules had our debut show at Cake Shop on the Lower East Side in September and then jumped into recording for the 4 Track Challenge organized by Stephen from The Planes and Hearts Bleed Radio. You can hear the EP we created on Soundcloud.

We are double ready for the #4trackchallenge

The end of September was unseasonably warm, so I got one final bike ride to Rockaway Beach in, as well as got to indulge in a small feast at Rockaway Taco and hold on to the summer for one final gasp.

Summer redux: forever in our hearts

October

Aileen "Rock Locks" Brophy and The Space Merchants mainline the sun #zerofest

The Space Merchants play at Shea Stadium as part of Zero Fest

October kicked off with Zerofest, an awesome weekend-long fest celebrating the DIY music scene of Brooklyn that took place in friendly apartments, DIY spaces and low-key clubs all around Bushwick hosted by the ever energetic Jon Mann and Derek Hawkins, the forces behind the great Square Zeros music blog.

Dutch Evening #1

In mid-October I jetted off to Europe again for week-long trip to Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, where I spent most of my time working at Dutch Design Week, eating at Onder de Leidingstraat (below), and celebrating the opening of the new Shapeways factory!

Onder de Leidingstraat

You can see the complete photos from my Eindhoven work adventure on Flickr and read about my recommendations for where to eat, shop and party earlier on this here blog.

Back in the US I managed to organize a one-day conference on building a small business with 3D printing and you can see the complete proceedings on Shapeways’ YouTube channel.
November

Just Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, Alice Bag and Courtney Love hanging out

Liz Flyntz as Richard Hell, Amanda B. as Debbie Harry, me as Alice Bag and Marisha C. as Courtney Love at Pet Rescue

And then, Halloween! I collaborated with Brian LaRue at Pet Rescue to put on a Halloween Party that included rockers reading from rockstars memoirs in character and Operation Ivy, Smashing Pumpkins, and Guided by Voices cover bands. It was a magical evening and I hope it will be come an annual event.

My replacement dress for my friend Rachel's wedding in Durham, NC

My replacement dress for my friend Rachel’s wedding in Durham, NC

I spent a whirlwind few days bouncing from Detroit to Durham, North Carolina where I managed to forget the dress I brought for a friend’s wedding and had to find a quick (and equally beautiful) replacement. I think I succeeded!

Playing guitar in Rules at Bar Matchless

Playing guitar in Rules at Bar Matchless

Rules squeaked in another show and then I had the luck of seeing all the members of the “Young Lifer/Friend Rock” scene play in a jumble of new bands in the first ever lottery band showcase – so much fun and especially poignant as I just found out that Trash Bar, where the show was held and where I spent many a drunken evening circa 2006, will succumb to Williamsburg’s insanely high rents.

Lottery Band Show: Brooklyn Indie Rock Class of 2014

Lottery Band Show: Brooklyn Indie Rock Class of 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December

December, all told, was a pretty quiet month and concluded with a trip home to Maine and a party with friends here in Brooklyn. I don’t have any huge conclusions about 2014 except that I think it was a year of building what’s to come next – it wasn’t a year of breakthroughs, but a slow turn towards figuring out what it means to live my life how I want it to be, in my 30s, here in Brooklyn.

A coveted pair of LL Bean duck boots

A coveted pair of LL Bean duck boots my Mom found for me for Christmas

Maine winter sky

Here’s to you and more adventures, opportunities and changes to learn and grow in 2015!

Goodbye to All of You (who want to go)

Sunset Park at winter twilight is a surreal and magical place

I composed this post while I was walking home through the silent, Brooklyn, evening during a mid-winter snowstorm. I love the times when NYC is quiet and feels like it’s taking a rare, much needed pause. I just had drinks at my favorite local bar with K., the kind of place that is dim and mellow, with chatty bar tenders and perfect Manhattans every night of the week except Friday and Saturday evenings, when it seems to be taken over by obnoxious hordes. We were talking about the difficulty and constant hustle of establishing ones self and building a satisfying professional life in New York City. Somedays it feels particularly out of reach. The economy is markedly improved in recent years, because of that, more and more people want to come to live here. I always maintained that creative, smart people had a better chance to find work here than elsewhere because there were simply more opportunities available. However, there’s also a lot more competition.

New York will always draw the young, the not-so-young, the creative and ambitious. That’s part of what makes it an exciting place to be. But now with the “brand” of Brooklyn being synonymous with global cool, silicon alley rivaling silicon valley for tech innovation, and shows like Girls broadcasting an unrealistic version of what it means to be a twenty-something in Brooklyn the NYC cool factor is having a real cultural moment. I feel like it’s really putting a lot of pressure, financial and otherwise, on opportunities like jobs, social events and housing for people in my age range.

... Except if they do

Moments like this never fail… by Dzine

Lately I found myself discouraging my peers who casts doubts on living in NYC from moving out. “I spent time in 24 different US cities last year!” I tell them, “I loved them all, they are all interesting places full of creative, smart people doing cool things, but I don’t want to live in any of them! I want to live here!” I say.

“Look at the access you have to culture, public transit, great food, innovative projects, and you don’t have to own a car!” I’ll argue.

“Feel the lack of social pressure!” I’ll implore, “You can be exactly who you want to be here!”

But tonight I had a change of heart. I realized I wasn’t so much trying to convince them to stay as to convince myself that I have made the right decision. It’s as if I’m worried I’ll be left clinging to a relationship that’s run its course out of nostalgia of how things used to be when the object of my affection, and all of my friends, have moved on. What I realized is that I need to feel confident enough about my decision to dig my heels in here and stay and let others go through their own discovery process with what they need in a place to live and what they need in life.

I wrote this past fall about the backlash many artists and writers have felt against the city because they moved here to pursue their artistic dreams and felt that the reality fell short of their romantic notions. I start to wonder why I stayed and stayed devoted to the the idea that one can build a creative life here or anywhere. And then I realized this:

My romantic notions of my New York City life lasted about 3 weeks. I moved here in late August of 2001 to start college. On September 11th, I realized with a sinking feeling how little I knew about world politics, NYC, or what my life would look for feel like after that day. I realized quickly that the city owed me nothing and any attempt I might have to control my experience here would be in vain. It was in that moment I knew I could throw in the towel and go back to the life I had in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine or stay and tough it out. I knew if I stayed I was making a long term commitment to the city. I decided to stay.

I’ve stayed in NYC through loneliness, depress, recession, my saturn returns (if you believe in that stuff), and long enough to build up a career and now, begin pursuing a different direction. I’ve earned two degrees, become fluent in a second language, started to learn to code, played in bands, written a book, become a confident NYC cyclist, planned and then abandoned plans to move to Paris or LA, and most of all, eeked out a somewhat stable life for myself working in the arts, culture and education field, while nurturing friendships, hopes, dreams and plans.

Our rock'n'roll lifestyle to do list

NYC rock’n’roll life style to do list at my band practice space

In high school a teacher told me, “You can live however you want in New York City,” when I confessed to her my dream to study and live here. Since then I’ve taken her advice to heart. But living how you want in NYC often means doing so on the city’s terms. And that can be a tough proposition. So, if you find you can’t live how you want here, there’s no harm and no foul. There’s a place out there for you. It’s waiting. Go. there are so many places to be be cultured, innovative and interesting. To launch new businesses and make new art. And no matter what, New York City’s frenetic rhythm continues, whether it’s the current barometer of cultural cool or not, and honestly, whether you or I are here at all.  But I plan to be here. You are always welcome to come back to visit.

Writerly love for New York City

New York you do not disappoint take 2

Every New York-based publication I’ve picked up lately has had an article about young people, mostly writers or artists or other privileged creative types, packing up their bags and saying “Good riddance” to New York City. Many of them are inspired by the new anthology edited by Sari Barton, Goodbye to All That: On Loving and Leaving New York. The publisher must have had some great PR work because big articles about this “trend” heavily reference the book and have appeared quite notably in New York Magazine and the New York Times. The articles all mention that Joan Didion’s iconic essay “Goodbye to All That” inspired much of the writing (as well as the title) and Didion’s essay is certainly among my favorites ever written about being young and creative in New York City. However, reading all of these articles I felt a kernel of annoyance welling up in me. Of course I don’t begrudge anyone’s decision to leave the city, but I realized that I’ve been through an opposite thought process this past year, and wanted to give the city a little writerly love.

This time last year I was convinced I needed to get out of New York City. I felt done with it and, further more, done with the high cost of living, terrible weather, and the fact that it smells like garbage most of the time. A year ago I was convinced that at present I would be packing my bags and my cat and heading out to sunny Los Angeles.

Before I tell you about my change of heart about New York, let’s review the facts: The New York City is expensive and only seems to be getting more so. Rents are insane, it’s difficult to find a decent place to live, and daily life often feels like one hassle after another. Everything feels intensely competitive, it really does smell like garbage most of the time, extreme injustice and inequality gets thrown in your face almost every second, and commuting on the over burdened subway system sucks.

When I moved here to go to college I told myself I would leave soon after. I kept giving myself “one more year in New York” until I decamped to Portland, Oregon or Paris. That “one more year” became “three more years” became “I’m not going to leave.” I realized that the community I’d cultivated here couldn’t be picked up and moved to another place and that New York offered the kind of opportunities I wanted to find.

This year I felt like I spent almost as much time out of New York as in it. I traveled all around the Midwest, Texas and the West and East Coasts. I made multiple trip to Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Portland, Oregon. I was charmed by places I’d never been to before, like Omaha, Cincinnati, and Tulsa. I found that with the growth in appreciation for things that are handmade and locally produced wherever I went to I was never too far from cold brew iced coffee, artisanal cocktails, and farm-to-table meals.  I met inspiring people who are pursuing creative and entrepreneurial projects and working to help others in their towns and cities do the same. I think on the Grow book tours alone I visited 24 different cities, and visited even more when I factor in other work and family travel. So I feel like I got a pretty good sense of the country in a pretty short period of time. And what all that travel showed me is that while I think it’s crucial to get out of the city and that so many places have wonderful things to offer, New York is the only place I want to come back to. It’s the place I want to call home.

New York you do not disappoint take 1

There’s a huge number of smart, talented, driven and creative people living here and those are the types of people who I want to be around. Those are the people I want to meet and learn from and have as my friends. As I work to transition my career from arts nonprofits to creative startups I realized that it’s much easier to do this in a city that is a center of both cultural organizations and a huge, quickly growing number of startup businesses. I also realized that, as much as I complain about it, New York has a great infrastructure in terms of public transportation and is getting progressively more and more bikeable.

Is it hard to “make it” as a writer and creative here? Sure it is, but where is it not? Does one need to live in NYC to write, play music, make art or launch the next cool start up? No, of course not, but I find that is I want to find people who are doing these things, there’s a great concentration of them in NYC. On a typical day here I can write in a bustling coffee shop, ride my bike across a bridge that is an architectural icon, visit a world class museum, browse a farmers market, learn to code, go to a punk rock exercise class, head to band practice and then a dance party that puts an emphasis on fake blood and homemade costumes. This is the way I want to live my life.

Beyond all of this is the feeling that I can be exactly who I am in New York City. The city is vast and diverse and as such, there’s far less pressure to cave into social norms, or to live life according on anyone’s schedule except my own.

I also know that New York City owes me nothing. What I’m able to do here is directly related to what I’m willing to put in. The city does not owe me a living and I fear that those who quit the city with a feeling of “Good riddance!” deep down felt like somehow they were owed something simply because they were young, smart, privileged and wanted to make their way here.

Working job #2. Sunset is a reward for the hustle.

Of course, leaving a city is a highly personal decision. I think New York has something for everyone if you are willing to look for it, but it won’t offer it up without a fight. Whether you stay somewhere depends on your personal goals. For example, I know a suburban or rural lifestyle with a car, dog, yard, house and children is absolutely not for me.

Of course, New York is changing and not always for the better. Is the city better off because of the plethora of glassy luxury condos and Duane Reades that have sprouted up over the past few years? I’d say not really, but I also think that New York has a grittiness that difficult to tame. Does the level of inequality here drive me crazy? Absolutely. But living in New York is messy, complicated, intense and frustrating. It’s also exhilarating, rewarding and completely absorbing. I’m a high energy intense person who loves a good challenge and need a city that matches these qualities in me. So hello to all of this. This is one writer who is happy she’s stayed.

GO See Art in Brooklyn This Weekend!

As some of you know, for the past few months I’ve been working on GO, a borough-wide, community-curated open studio event organized by the Brooklyn Museum. After months of planning, preparation and outreach the open studio weekend is upon us! This Saturday and Sunday, September 8th and 9th, over 1,700 artists with studios all over Brooklyn will open their doors to you from 11 am to 7 pm.  I am so excited about GO because it showcases the diversity of artistic talent that Brooklyn has to offer. It also gives viewers the chance to see art in places they never knew artists were working, whether that’s under their nose in their own neighborhood or farther afield.

I’ve been working as the neighborhood coordinator for my beloved neighborhood, Sunset Park, where 160 artists will open their studios! I knew artists worked in the neighborhood, but I’ve been so pleased about just how many artists there are and how many want to participate in GO. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to think about how we can continue to promote art in Sunset Park as a group and our first small step is a Tumblr page, Sunset Park Artists, for participating artists to share images of new work and work in progress. There’s also two fantastic nonprofits, Chashama and the New York Art Residency and Studio Foundation that offer artists affordable studio space, and many artists with studios in these buildings are participating. I’ve also put together a Sunset Park guide of places to eat and hang out before, after or during seeing studios. Why not make a weekend out of coming to Sunset Park? All of these sites give you a little taste of what you will find here in the neighborhood!

To learn more about participating in GO as a viewer and voter, search neighborhoods and explore the profiles participating artists visit gobrooklynart.org. If you want more information about Sunset Park artists stop by the Green Fig Cafe on Saturday or Sunday between 11 and 3 and I’ll give you all the information you need to get out and see art. See you in the studios!

The Summer So Far

Beach life, Fourth of July edition

Robert Moses State Park, July 4

It’s a cliche to say it, but can you believe how fast the summer goes? All around me I see announcements for “the last (your summertime activity here) of the season!” Already? I’m still sorting through my photos from France and there will be a myriad of posts coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s a little review of my summer activity so far. Enjoy and bon week-end!

Fireworks over manhattan (from Brooklyn)

Fireworks from a Greenpoint roof, July 4

Landing in Iceland with the midnight sun

11:30 pm “sunset” in Iceland, mid-July

Paris et ses nuages vue de haute

Rainy Paris, from le Ciel de Paris, Tour de Montparnasse

Prendre un apéro plus haute que la tour Eiffel... Check!

Cheers! With Byglam in Paris

Reportage direct de Paris: le temps de merde continue

Moody Paris skies, mid-July

Petit dej pour mon dej

Paris may have rain, but also, croissants!

Quiiiiick! Le soleil!!!!

And when Paris is sunny, there’s no where better!

Sète! Quelle belle ville! Merci @clumsy_maria pour la Tournée!

Escape to Sete and the sun in the south of France

Super déjeuner avec les fruits de mer et @clumsy_maria

Seafood feast in Sete with Clumsy Maria

A taste of the sweet life

Pool time in Provence

Beaux couleurs!

Exploring Provence by bike, mid-July

Merci mes amies pour le super soirée!

Back to Paris to wish our friends Au Revoir!

Made it to the farm in time for a beautiful ceremony!

…and directly to upstate New York for a beautiful farm wedding!

Mission of Burma hipster paradise

Mission of Burma, Ted Leo and Wild Flag for free in Prospect Park

It was a lovely beach day!

Back to Robert Moses State Park, early August

Chillin' with @easylovernyc

Corita played a show at Don Pedro’s with Easy Lover (above), Paper Fleet and Space Merchants

Now it's the ladies' turn! Let's go Brooklyn Bombshells!

Brooklyn Bombshells won a rollerderby match at Coney Island!

On a ferris wheel looking out on Coney Island...

… and after Corita rode the Wonder Wheel

Toasting a Brooklyn day well lived!

A toast to a summer well spent!

Corita on Film

Sometimes you have to travel far away to meet someone who lives next door. That was certainly the case when my band Corita went to Austin this spring to play (unofficial) shows during the South by South West music festival. We were lucky enough to play with bands from all over the country, including bands from Brooklyn! We met Jim Campbell when he was playing in Moonmen on the Moon, Man and he gave us a 7″ of his band Paper Fleet.  While we were playing Jim shot this great footage of Corita playing our song “Degrees of Freedom”  on Super 8. Fastforward a few months and he managed to splice together audio recording he made and the film and voila! Corita’s very own home movie! Enjoy our punk rock parking lot performance.

We also just played a show last night with Paper Fleet at Don Pedro’s in Williamsburg. It’s such a treat to play with bands that you respect and enjoy. In addition, Don Pedro’s is much improved as a venue since the last time I went there a few years ago. They have a menu featuring delicious homemade burgers and there’s even a vintage store, Mystery Train Vintage, in the basement (!). So last night not only did Jim make another great video of Corita (this time on a digital camera and of our song “Remember That You Will Die”), but I also scored a Guess denim dress and a vintage braided leather belt – a whole new show outfit for $26. Punk rock!

I also want to point out that in this show outfit I am wearing my new, beloved t-shirt from Gal’s Rock boutique in Paris. It’s a whole store devoted to the music and fashion of women who make rock music! I will write more about it when I finally get around to posting my photos from my France trip, but suffice it to say that the t-shirt contains the names of all my favorite bands from the US and the UK in the 1990s. Yes, please!