Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Front hall night time still life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Race Relations

Ted and I go to a fantastic church, Judson Memorial Church, on Washington Square South, led by our minister, the genius Donna Schaper. The church is liberal, creative, artistic, smart, out-there -- we love it. Come visit us. Marc Jacobs did. http://www.judson.org/
One of the issues the church talks about often is race and the problems of race in our country. It has helped to move me forward.

Where I grew up in Utica, New York, -- well, in New Hartford actually, outside Utica, I did not know one black person. Not one. There were projects in downtown Utica but that was many worlds away. But my parents had no tolerance for any prejudice or prejudicial talk. It was wrong and absolutely not allowed; they were very clear and raised us well on that.

In New York City in 2008 I think I'm pretty good on the issue but I am far from perfect and the church inspires me to be better. I think this really is a nation of two different countries and it takes a lot of work and talk and change to bring them together and cross the divide. There is so much anger on the issue, from all sides. Everyone has very strong opinions on the subject; after the sermons at two services on race at Judson Church that I have been to, parishioners have stood up and pushed back on what they heard.

I was appalled and depressed by the court decision in April in the Sean Bell case. How can it be OK in New York City to pump fifty bullets into an unarmed black man?

But I am happy to read that the Italian Vogue issue that features all black models is a sell-out at the newsstand. Hats off to photographer Steven Meisel for instigating this project which was produced to counteract the scarcity of black models used in fashion shows, advertising, and editorial. Get a copy if you can. I haven't seen it but it looks crazy beautiful: http://jezebel.com/5024967/italian-vogues-all-black-issue-a-guided-tour

The other morning on the V train going to work sitting across from me in the subway car was a mother with two daughters. The mother -- pale white skin, long red hair, not young, maybe European. The daughters -- dark skin, crinkly black hair, one daughter maybe eleven, kind of tall and entering the gawky stage, the other daughter, younger, maybe five, both beautiful. The three of them were kind of intertwined on the seat. I thought there must be a striking dark-skinned father in the picture here. As they stepped off of the train in front of me at Third Avenue I thought why on earth should this family endure for one second any grief because of race. It doesn't make any sense. I think that with Barack Obama, we have an extraordinary, breathtaking opportunity for change.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Above are some flowers from the farmer's market that Ted arranged in our bedroom -- didn't he do a good job? The turquoise ceramic tile on the left and the white etched box on the right are both from Apartment 48, a charming store around the corner for little bits and gifts. www.apartment48.com
Below are more flowers, in the living room. We are boys who really do love summer. 

Irish Eyes

I got this little Belleek vase today on the left at an antique store that I haunt and placed it in front of a mirror in the living room. I love Belleek, the Irish porcelain decorated with shamrocks. What can I say, I'm Irish (mostly). My great-grandfather Dan O'Donnell came from County Sligo and arrived in New York on Sept 6, 1881. He became a railroad engineer in Herkimer, New York, and had eleven children, but that's another LONG story. When my cousin Mary Border and I went to Ireland in 1980, I brought my grandmother back some Belleek; I wonder what happened to that piece. On this little vase I love how the handpainted shamrocks climb up the side in one chain. If you click on the image to make it bigger you can see the shamrocks better. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mad Men

Like everyone else, I am being whipped into a p.r. frenzy over the premier on Sunday night of the new season of Mad Men on AMC. The entire first season was shown on AMC last Sunday and I recorded it on DVR, so we have been watching episodes all week. The show is excellent -- extremely well written and produced. It's quiet and the scenes are long, which is unusual on tv now.

I love the men's clothes. Set on Madison Avenue (get it?) in 1960, the men wear suits, in varying shades of grey, with single-breasted jackets and flat-front pants. I like grey clothes. I think they look good with grey hair (see below), and grey is softer than black which can be hard and harsh, especially in the winter when one needs to see light, bright colors.

With their grey suits the Mad Men wear white French cuff shirts, and narrow solid color ties. Short, slicked-back Clark Kent hair and a linen pocket square finishes the look. It's quintessentially American; no one else in the world looks like this. It's JFK, who is mentioned often in this show, and Cary Grant in North by Northwest. The style is strong, simple, clean, tailored. The clothes follow the lines of the body; there are no over-sized tee shirts or giantly pleated pants or baggy cargo shorts flopping about. It's flattering and handsome and never goes out of style. I think you can't go wrong with this kind of look.

Mad Men inspired Michael Kors' Fall 2008 women's collection:

One thing I'm not crazy about is that the show seems sexist. It's all about the men, and the women revolve around the men like satellites, as in The Sopranos. (The creator of Mad Men is Matthew Weiner, who was a writer on The Sopranos.) It's not a very modern take. I understand that it's a period piece, set in the 60's, but still.

Let's see what happens this season.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mad Men, part 2

"New York: It is a masterpiece of some kind."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Silver. Mine.

Long story on the cover of the Advocate about how men are defying convention and not (gasp!) dying their grey, white or silver hair.

I've had increasingly grey hair for a long time (see above, in a picture that Ted took of me on South Beach). I've never thought once of dying it. My grandfather had snow white hair most of his adult life and my uncle Brian has thick beautiful white hair. It's an Irish thing. I truthfully love the color of my hair -- it goes from silver on the top to white on the sides. My haircutter actually asked me if I was coloring it that way. Would I look younger if it was brown? Maybe. It just wouldn't be me.

Hair that is dyed dark on guys looks strange to me. It's usually one solid color, and it looks fake. In general I'm not a big fan of a lot of artificial maintenance. I see guys at the gym with dark dyed hair, and something is going on with the face -- plastic surgery, Botox, acid peels -- you can't tell what exactly what, it just looks strange. To me that much maintenance just draws attention, and not in a good way. It doesn't look younger, it just looks odd.

Better to be comfortable with your hair and your face. I'm stunned by actresses (no names!) who have so much surgery on their faces that they can't emote -- they ruin the very instrument of their art. I say, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water, eat healthily with a lot of vegetables and fruit, drink moderately and don't smoke, maybe get a little sun, and like my grandmother used to say, "Smile a lot!" When a person cracks a smile, they look ten times more attractive.

As Joni Mitchell sang, "A smile is the best face lift."

Silver hair update: My friend Philip Monaghan who also has white hair advises me to "use a blue shampoo once a week to avoid mousy low lights." Who knew!

Monday, July 21, 2008

City Flowers

This art work is hanging in our living room, above flowers from the farmer's market that repeat the colors in the art. The work is by our friend artist Adam Dougherty, who is the son of Ted's best friend from college; it's actually a print of a colored paper collage depicting a corner in Brooklyn. Adam rendered the city elements, the buildings, street, sidewalk, lamp posts, in flower-bright colored paper -- pink, red, violet, blue -- so even though it's an urban scene, it looks to me like a garden. A city garden.

We recently went to an art opening Adam had in his apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where he had lined the walls with his paper collage portraits of famous people -- it was a dazzling display. He's a talented guy.

The World of Magazines

is a world I love. There are two articles about the magazine business in the Sunday New York Times:
BIG story about Si Newhouse

Piece about how fat September fashion issues are put together over the summer months

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summer Blooming

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Project Runway

is on y'all! The new season started this week on Bravo. You may not know it because there hasn't been one ad for it, not that I've seen anyway. Looks like Bravo is not spending one cent on it since the show is going to the Lifetime Network next season.

Love Project Runway. I don't know how to sew or make clothes so I am slightly amazed at how people can make an article of clothing in a couple of hours, much less make it out of recycling materials or food or whatever the challenge is that week.

I think the structure of the show is great. In the first half you watch how the contestants make clothes within the challenge, and in the second half you get to spend time with the judges -- funny Michael Kors, fashion editor Nina Garcia who is sharp without being mean, and a guest judge like Vera Wang or Zac Posen. You can learn a lot about design from the way they judge the clothes and the observations that they make.

Although this week I think they eliminated the wrong person; the woman who made the outfit of garbage bags should have gone. Definitely.

Speaking of Lifetime, there is coverage in the media this week about the law suit that NBC, parent of Bravo, is filing against the Project Runway producer, The Weinstein Company, for moving the show to Lifetime. The co-chairman of The Weinstein Company is of course Harvey Weinstein, the co-founder of Miramax Films. Mr. Weinstein is now married to a fashion designer, Georgina Chapman, a co-designer of the Marchesa label, and he has become more involved in the fashion business. But besides the brouhaha over Project Runway, there was more bad news from Weinstein this week when it was announced that Marco Zanini, the new designer at Halston which is now owned by The Weinstein Company, is out the door after one year.

Companies trying to revive moribund brands by bringing in a fresh designer hope to create magic like Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, John Galliano at Dior, and Marc Jacobs in Vuitton, but it's not easy to find the right match.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I was looking at Men.style.com at the new Spring 2009 menswear collections, and I came across these shoes by Dries Van Noten, the Belgian designer. I'm a big fan of his work, for women and men. Like Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs, he doesn't follow trends; he does what he likes and in the end he sets trends himself. He is often inspired by flowers and his garden, and so for Spring 2008 his women's collection featured a mad mix of really wonderful big floral prints. You definitely would have to know what you're doing to put them together; these are not clothes for amateurs...

I love these men's shoes. They're kind of turn-of-the-century Edwardian and modern at the same time. He combines different color leathers, and adds a monk strap to a tie-up shoe. I think you could wear these with everything from grey flannel trousers to khakis to jeans. Just add a white shirt, and you've got style; these shoes do all the talking for you.

Michael Kors once told me, if you've got a good haircut, a good watch, and good shoes, then you've got style. Remember that.

Jane Comes to New York

My niece Jane, age ten, came to New York for a visit recently. Jane loves art and fashion so we have a lot of fun together. Years ago when Ted and I were in Guilford, Ct, visiting my parents with the rest of the family, we went into the living room and said to the group gathered there, "Who wants to go to the British Art Museum in New Haven?" "I do!" said one person. It was Jane. She was about four. And we have been going to museums together ever since.

On this visit we went to the Museum of Modern Art (top photo). On Fifth Avenue we ran into our friend April (bottom photo) who is a model and used to live below Ted and I before she and her husband Matt moved to Dumbo. April had befriended Jane so it was great fun to run into her coincidentally on the street. Jane said to April, "I like your sunglasses." (Dior.) 

Jane and I usually go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art but on our last trip there I discovered Jane likes modern art accidentally when we drifted out of the New Galleries for Nineteenth Century European Art, which I totally love, into the modern art gallery across the hall. Jane was circling Damien Hirst's gigantic shark floating in formaldehyde which scares me to look at.

So off we went to the Modern. At 11 am on a weekday it was positively packed with people. I have to say that for a ten year old, Jane really looks at everything carefully. She's not daunted by anything; she's completely open to it, whether it's chairs stuck to the wall or a giant pendulum swinging back and forth or a room that changes colors. One small room was completely black except for strobe lights that glittered on dripping water. Jane started dancing like Michael Jackson with his hat on, and watched her shadow on the floor. Jane gets it; I think she gets it better than I get it.

My brother Eric told me that when Jane got home she explained to her brother, Ben, age eight and very talented athletically, that art isn't just painting or sculpture; art can be anything.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Closing Night at Florent

On Gay Pride Weekend, Ted and I walked over to Florent, the legendary restaurant in the Meatpacking District which was closing that night. An incredible New York evening unfolded, complete with naked dancers. I wrote an email about the experience to family and friends, and my friend David Patrick Columbia published my account on his website New York Social Diary.com.
Read my story here (about half down the page):


Monday, July 14, 2008

Edward Albee's Occupant

We went last week to see Edward Albee's Occupant at the Peter Norton Space on West 42nd Street. The play, which is now closed, starred Mercedes Ruehl as the great artist Louise Nevelson. The Times gave it a good review so I got tickets and I'm very glad I did.

For dinner before the theater I called Le Madeline, a small French restaurant with a garden on Ninth Avenue that's been there forever. The phone message says it is closed, gone, moving somewhere else yet to be announced. No doubt a victim of escalating rent. Will there be nothing charming left on the island of Manhattan? Instead we went to Esca, the Mario Batali seafood restaurant, on 43rd Street. My brother Thom took me there a couple of years ago and I have been dreaming about the spaghetti with lobster and mint (hold the chilies) ever since. I'm happy to report that the dish is still amazing.

On we went down West 42nd Street, the farthest we had ever been, between 10th and 11th Avenue, with huge silver condo skyscrapers rising up all around. Who is going to live in all these high-rise luxury condos? As we walked there I said, "Edward Albee's Occupant is such a strange title for a play about Louise Nevelson. I can never remember it -- it's not intuitive. I wonder why he called it that."

In the play the sculptor Louise Nevelson comes back from the dead to be interviewed by a man played by Larry Bryggman. The play is beautifully written by Mr. Albee and Mercedes Ruehl was fantastic. From our second row seats I couldn't take my eyes off her as she was wrapped up in vividly colored robes and a gigantic necklace and a turban. She wore humongous eyelashes -- "double sable eyelashes" -- which the actress fluttered to dramatic effect. "I dress like me. I am the total of everything I do," she said.

The artist recounts being born in Russia into a Jewish family that moved to Maine. She married Mr. Nevelson and described her upper-middle-class life in New York City as a wife and mother which made her completely miserable. After a "ten-year nervous breakdown," she went to Europe and took art lessons where she was told she had no notable talent. Back in New York it took another twenty-seven years for her to discover herself as an artist and create the huge painted wooden box-like sculptures that came to be recognized as masterpieces of modern art.

She suffered greatly but finally in the end she found herself. Along the way she was inspired and fed by Picasso, the mystics, primitive art. She told a great story about the power of clothes. The Metropolitan Museum showed an exhibition of Japanese robes, and one garment had golden medallions woven onto gold cloth. The robe was so beautiuful that she sat down in front of it and cried, and concluded that life was worth living. "I went home and it gave me a whole new light."

Like Sunday in the Park with George (see below), this play is about the struggle, the process of being an artist. Though it took her many years, Louise Nevelson persisted and didn't give up. "I wanted to grow into being somebody." It took her a long, long time to arrive at the moment when she truly, deeply identified her own unique sculpture, her own singular voice.

She was strong, she was positive, and people around me were nodding. "You're going to be your own special self," she said, "You're going to occupy that space if it kills you."


The Occupant.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Boy and His Bike

A couple of weekends ago we were awakened early on a Saturday morning by a loud motor racket -- a jerk across the street was power washing the sidewalk at 8 am. Nice.

When I had looked out our third floor window to see what the noise was, I glanced down below and my heart sank because I saw that my beloved bicycle, which had been locked to the stair railing, was gone.

It was a brown Suburban Schwinn and I had had it for I bet eight years. There is literally no room in the building or our apartment for it so I had to lock it up outside below. Someone had somehow unlocked the lock, taken the bike, and locked the lock again. The chain hung forlornly off the wrought iron railing.

I've been a bike rider in New York since 1987. I'm not a serious bicyclist, but I toot around the neighborhood, I scoot over to the gym, sometimes I ride up to Central Park. Riding a bicycle makes me feel free. It gives me freedom to go where ever I want in the city. I'm not bound to walking, or motor transportation. My spirit breezes along unbound. I feel like I felt when I was about ten years old, bombing around Morris Circle where we lived in New Hartford, New York, and my bike was my friend.

I've had numerous bicycles in New York City and had numerous bicycles stolen. Once Ted bought me a brand new bike and the very first day I had it, it was stolen from where I had locked it up in front of Paragon Sporting Goods. When we lived at 35 Jane Street, someone came into the building and tore the balustrade out of the stair banister to take my bike which was locked there. Once I stopped at a deli and asked the man working outside to watch my bike for a minute while I ran inside. I loved that bike -- it was apple green and had a white patent seat. When I came out, I saw someone riding away on it, up Eighth Avenue. Do not ask a deli man to watch your bike.

All my bikes I buy, used, at the flea market. I like old-fashioned bikes with fenders and upright handle bars. This last brown Schwinn was big and sturdy. I'm a tall guy and it fit me well. I was crushed to lose it, and was a bit out of sorts without a bike. I found it hard to get around, having to walk everywhere. It takes me about 25 minutes to walk to the gym, and about seven minutes on a bike. I felt strangely earth-bound. And, of course, in the summer-time, you want your bike.

The guy at the flea market didn't have any big bikes so I looked on CraigsList and saw that someone would be selling several bikes outside of Gottino, a new wine bar around the corner on Greenwich Avenue at 4:00. It said, "vintage 1977 bicycles." I thought, "1977 is now vintage??" I was college in 1977, and that doesn't seem like antique history.

I went over and found a nice looking woman in Persol sunglasses lining up bikes on the sidewalk. We love the Persols. She said, "I just talked to my aunt in New Hampshire and she said it's cool up there!" I knew I could work with this woman. I instantly eyed a large shining blue Schwinn bike that I liked. How much? $200. That was more than the $100-$125 I usually spend on a bike but I liked this bike and I wanted to solve this dilemma. I rode it down the block, and she lifted up the seat higher for me. She said, "Chain the seat to the bicycle because this is an original Schwinn seat and they will definitely steal this seat. Also these are original pedals and they'll steal the petals. You can't buy these petals anymore." I offered her $180. "For you, ok," she said, "You look so cute on it."

I rode my new bike home and picked up my lock and chain and rode up to the bicycle repair store on West 22nd Street. This is the store that used to be on West 14th Street where I once saw Leonardo DiCaprio, but they were forced out because of high rent. I've been coming to these guys for twenty years. I asked them to raise up the handle bar, and I bought a little bell ($5) because I had a bell on my last bike, and once you have a bell on your bike you can't live without it. Then I asked them to chain the seat to the bike ($5). I pointed to my lock and chain and said, "This is a good lock, right?" When I bought it years ago for $75 (it cost more than the bike), it was the best lock available. The guys laughed. "They can open that now with a Bic pen, it was in the newspaper." I missed that article. They recommended a new lock ($45).

$235 spent on a used bicycle today. Love the bike. Hope they don't steal it. Every time we look out the window I say to Ted, "Is my bike still there?"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sunday in the Park with George

Ted and I went with friends recently to see the production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George at Studio 54 just before it closed. Ted took me to see the original Sunday in the Park in 1985 just after we met. That was a big iconic production with stars Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin. When at the end the Seurat painting came together on stage it took my breath away.

This was a smaller production but just as moving. It came from London so the actors had English accents which struck me at first as funny for French characters. But as actors they enunciated everything very carefully and I could really understand the script and lyrics better. The smaller theater made it more intimate.

The play is about George Seurat’s struggle to be an artist in the first act, and his great grandson’s struggle to be an artist in the second act. But it’s really about all artists and their quest to make art, and surely about Stephen Sondheim’s experience as an artist.

Ted said “I miss the big orchestra,” but I wasn’t really knowledgeable enough to notice it. When at the end I saw four musicians stand up to take a bow, I couldn’t believe that they had created all that gorgeous music. The music and the songs are beautiful, and I said to Ted, “I think it is Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece.” It is a work of art about art.

Any creative person who toils at bringing forth something from themselves can relate to the themes of the show. “Anything you do let it come from you then it will be true,” sings Dot, the artist’s girlfriend. “Give us more to see.”

The front hall in our apartment at night -- painting by the friend of a friend, flowers from the farmer's market, crazy painted table from I can't remember where. I love candlelight -- I am a candles guy, the more the better. Candles cast a romantic nineteenth century glow and make everything look better. I would live by candlelight, except you can't read...

This is Union Square. Yes. The middle of New York City. I took it on a Saturday morning when we went to the farmer's market. We love to shop on Saturdays during the summer for vegetables, salad, fruit, flowers. It feels good to eat food all week long that is fresh and grown in the area.

Beautiful Thing #1

We'll start this blog with TD, Ted Dawson, my partner in life and crime since the summer of 1985 when we met, twice, but that's another story. Ted is a graphic designer and artist, and has his own art studio on 14th Street. He's smart, funny, kind, patient, generous, wise, extremely talented, compassionate, and easy on the eyes. We have a good time together. We enjoy life together. I'm lucky I get to spend all my days with him -- I wake up in the morning and there he is; the life goes on and on.

I took this picture of Ted sleeping last weekend when we were on Fire Island staying in the condo of our friends Harlan and Toby who were out of the country. Sweet dreams, TD.