Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Buckleys Three

My heavens, it was 90 degrees today in New York City. It must be a record for April the 27th. And I loved it. I rode my bicycle over to the Hudson River and ran along the park. The river park was packed with New Yorkers, pale-skinned, emerging from a hard cold winter.

Then I bicycled to the Chelsea Piers gym and went swimming. I love summer weather, I really do.

Another pleasure of the day was reading an excerpt in The New York Times Magazine from a new book by Christopher Buckley about life with his parents, Pat and William F. Christopher was their only child, and the book, called Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir, will be published in May.

Christopher Buckley, age 4, with his parents.

Christopher's mother Pat Buckley, a legendary figure in New York society, died in April, 2007. After that, I wrote an article about her great style for Bergdorf Goodman magazine. For that piece I talked to Christopher on the phone and his daughter Caitlin who spoke at her grandmother's memorial service; father and daughter were both charming. Eleven months later William F. Buckley died, and my heart went out to Christopher who lost both parents within one year. Now Christopher, an accomplished writer, has authored a book about his parents and The Times excerpted it today. It's a fascinating portrait of two complicated people. I loved the part about how Pat used to tell fibs, like claiming that the Queen and King of England stayed at her family's home in Vancouver. You can read the story here, and listen to an audio slide show of Christopher talking about his parents -- don't you love the internets? Here is the story I wrote about Pat Buckley, below (click to enlarge). Her style was her art and she was truly an original.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grey Gardens

Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange
We watched on HBO last Saturday night Grey Gardens starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. I'm a little late getting to this, but I've been busy at a new job at an ad agency. I see the blogosphere is lit up with posts about Grey Gardens but I'm surprised when I see some bloggers say they were unfamiliar until now with the iconic story of Grey Gardens.

In 1975 the Mayles brothers made the documentary Grey Gardens about the mother and daughter, "big" Edie Beale and "little" Edie Beale. Mother Edie was the sister of "Black Jack" Bouvier, the father of Jackie Kennedy Onassis so daughter Edie was Jackie's cousin. The mother and daughter live in the family house, Grey Gardens in East Hampton, but have fallen from their high perch into poverty and destitution. The documentary reveals that despite their circumstance they are colorful characters, especially little Edie who dresses eccentrically, for instance tying a sweater around her head as a scarf and wearing a table cloth as a skirt.

Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore
Later, Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post bought Grey Gardens and renovated it. Consequently, Rufus Wainwright wrote a song called "Grey Gardens" which begins with little Edie's lament from the documentary, "It's very difficult to keep the line between the past and present, you know what I mean?" Fashion magazine editors and fashion designers have been inspired by Grey Gardens as well; I remember when Peter Som did a collection based on Grey Gardens.

In 2006 the musical Grey Gardens came to Broadway starring Christine Ebersol as little Edie and Mary Louise Wilson as big Edie (Wilson previously played Diana Vreeland in the Off-Broadway show Full Gallop). The musical was great - I saw it with me mum. Both the stars won Tonys. Christine Ebersol in particular was spectacular -- hilarious in her eccentricities and heartbreaking in the situation she is trapped in. She sings the funniest song about clothes and style called "The Revolutionary Costume for Today":
"You fight City Hall
With a Persian shawl
That used to hang on the bedroom wall
Pinned under the chin
Adorned with a pin
And pulled into a twist."
"The best kind of shoes
To express bold views
Are strapless mules in assertive hues
Like fuchsia or peach
Except on the beach
In which case you wear flats."

"We're in the revolution, so win the revolution with style!"

Christine Eberosol
It stopped the show; she brought down the house.

Which brings us to the movie on HBO which features a lot of flashbacks that explain how the Beales ended up as they did. I thought the performances by Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore were great; those girls have the acting chops. Jeanne Tripplehorn also stars as Jackie Kennedy Onassis who arrives in a chauffeured car and offers to clean up the house. "Ari and I will do what we can." It's a mesmerizing moment as she looks around with wide Jackie eyes to take in the squalor surrounding her aunt and cousin. This movie ends though with a saccharine scene to sweeten the tale which feels tacked-on and untrue.

Because despite the hijinx with wacky clothes and patrician accents, you see again that this story is a tragedy. It's like watching a car accident happening in front of your eyes; you wonder how these characters can go from their fizzy wealth in the 30's to such deprivation and destitution. And there is the relationship between them. They are both singers, two creative, artistic people who don't get their chance. When little Edie goes off to New York City to pursue acting, the mother refuses to give her blessing and diminishes her daughter's dreams. Consequently the mother sabotages the daughter and little Edie ends up back at Grey Gardens. For her part, little Edie doesn't try again to be independent; she remains child-like and dependent, and pays the price for not growing up. The mother has the opportunity to sell the house and move to Florida, but she refuses to leave Grey Gardens and they both stay in horrible conditions. There is some madness here; it is a train wreck. It's poignant to watch for anyone who has gone through the process of growing up, becoming an independent adult, taking care of themselves and creating their own vision in life, and I think that may explain the enduring and universal appeal of Grey Gardens.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Spring Bike Ride

An artist's palette now blooming on West 12th Street in Greenwich Village

I did something fun today; I rode my bicycle downtown along the Hudson River to my new job at an ad agency. I am a bicycle boy and love to ride around town. The weather was nice so I thought I would give it a try. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

It was a beautiful morning along the river. I passed daffodils and felt free and heard Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" in my head. It was all very Dutch.

When I got downtown, I had to find a place to lock my bike. This is the World Trade Center, ground zero, across from where I work.

There is a Jeff Koons sculpture in front of my building, and a lot of construction going on all over the place downtown. It's like working in Dubai. Construction workers in hard hats everywhere; it's one big building site.

After work, I rode my bike up to the gym at the Chelsea Piers. This is a playing field at Battery Park and the river beyond.

I love being near the river. I love water, beaches, islands, sea.

Yes, that is the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

Spring was bursting out all over.

A tree blossomed over the bike path, with the river beyond. What a nice way to travel to work. Aren't I lucky.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Beginnings

Colors in bloom at the Saturday Farmer's Market.

What a week I had. On Monday I got a call from an ad agency I had been in touch with. They asked if I could start work in a freelance capacity on Tuesday. I'd love to, I said. I was laid off in the magazine publishing business in October but on Tuesday morning, I went back to work. This agency is located downtown in the financial district on the top floor of a new building. Extremely chic offices. Floor to ceiling glass and 360 degree views: uptown, the East River, the harbor, the Hudson River. Jaw-dropping actually. Very interesting work, good people around me, and when I look up, I see the Empire State Building uptown. Thrilled to be there. Loving it.

On Saturday morning TD and I went over to the Farmer's Market at Union Square where the spring flowers are in full bloom (above). Unfortunately Union Square is under construction like every other corner of Manhattan and so the extremely popular and populous Farmer's Market is squished into a small and dangerous space which kind of defeats the purpose of going there to buy healthy food. "Only in New York, kids, only in New York." Hopefully the situation will be rectified soon.

On the way over to the market, TD said our friend Josh who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, had invited us to come out to visit him and go to the opening day of the Fort Greene Flea, the great new flea market there. And so after going to the gym we did just that.

The Fort Greene Flea was started last year and includes hand-chosen vendors selling antiques, clothes, food, furniture. Great looking crowd, a lot of cool boys and cool girls in tee shirts and jeans but with precise haircuts and good glasses so you know there is some style going on. I met a fellow blogging friend, Matt Fox, from Fine and Dandy Shop. I recognized him from his Facebook pictures! The flea market was swell -- I highly recommend it.

Afterwards we went to find Josh. He was having a stoop sale in front of his building. The spring green buds on the trees were just waiting to burst.

Josh is a film maker, and when we moved off of Jane Street three years ago which was a traumatic experience he followed us with his camera. He's now made a short film which we are going to see soon. Maybe I can put a clip up on the blog.

We walked down some beautiful streets in Fort Greene

lined with great old houses. And you know they all have gardens behind them...

We took the Q train home over the Manhattan Bridge. I love an above-ground subway ride that involves views of the river below

and sun shining through the car.

At the Fort Greene Flea I got this little glass vase with metal legs. I like things "with legs" -- furniture, plant stands, magazine racks. It lends an airy, graceful feeling when things are lifted up.

Then we ordered some Mexican food.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Flowers

Here we have the last installment of Flower Week at Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things, and some good news at the end. I mentioned on Saturday that I bought bunches of tulips and daffodils to bring to Judson Memorial Church on Sunday, and this is what I did with them. I had previously bought a long white cloth which covers the altar table, and a case of six-inch clear glass cylindrical vases. I cut the flowers down and put a couple tulips and daffodils into each vase.

Families with children decorated eggs, and I brought colorful plastic eggs with jelly beans inside. I scattered these plus votive candles on the altar table.

It kind of looked like a field of flowers.

I love the colors of Easter. Something about them hits the child within.

Colors like these just make the eye happy.

Behind the altar table on the stage Kim Kelly arranged beautiful spring-blooming branches. We had an Easter meal after the service and we moved the vases, eggs and candles onto the tables where people sat and ate. Clever, no?

After church we went to my friend Abby's for brunch. The Easter basket I made was a big hit. It was great fun to be with Abby and her family. Back in the day, Abby and I were single in the city, and now it is such a joy to be with her and her family. We're like Will and Grace, but grown up.

Altogether a beautiful Easter day filled with color and love and the promise of new beginnings. Speaking of, I am starting freelance work tomorrow at a major ad agency. Thrilled and excited.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

The great gift of Easter is hope and new beginnings.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Preparing for Easter

In keeping with the flower theme, TD and I went over to the Union Square Farmer's Market this morning because I am bringing flowers to our great church, Judson Memorial Church, for Easter tomorrow along with another member, Kim Kelly. Unfortunately this morning it was pouring rain. I felt bad for the farmers who definitely could have done more holiday business if it was a nice day. I got bunches of tulips and daffodils. More on these flowers later. In the blowing deluge the flower lady said, "Thanks for coming out on this lovely shopping day!"

TD got a beautiful white hydrangea and put it in our blackberry cache pot from Tiffany's which happens to be one of my very favorite possessions.

It is a cherished gift from my aunt Ellen. I've said here before that I love botanical patterns that aren't florals and this is a perfect example of that. Berries, leaves and vines on a cross hatch texture create a design that looks like something Claude Monet would have had in his dining room at Giverny. When TD and I had a commitment ceremony in 2000, we received the rest of the blackberry pattern which includes plates I use every day and a tea set which comes out on cold winter days. Love it.

My friend Abby invited us to brunch tomorrow after church. Abby is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and she and her husband John have three of the cutest kids on the planet earth. We are going to bring them an Easter basket and decided to dye eggs.

With an exacto knife I poked little holes in the eggs and blew out the insides.

Into bowls of water I put a dollop of vinegar and drops of food coloring.

I left the eggs in the coloring for awhile.

Colorful plastic eggs came from the drug store. We had this basket in a closet along with some pale blue Easter grass made out of paper. I like it better than the shiny green plastic grass.

These gourmet jelly beans are in gorgeous, sophisticated, mottled colors. Jelly beans are beautiful now!

I put some jelly beans into the plastic eggs. The plastic eggs are hinged. Clever. Bell thinks so too.

The plastic eggs went into the basket along with some little marshmallow chicks TD bought. When the dyed eggs were dry, we decorated them with magic markers. We made a little card and tied it on to the basket handle with a green ribbon. Voila.

Happy Easter, Happy Holidays my friends!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Flower Week

here at Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things. Today I went up to the Flower Show at Macy's in Herald Square. I had not been before. The main floor was packed with colorful blossoms.
(click on the photos to see them better)

Fixtures over the counters held plants in a range of shapes and sizes.

Bright colors enlivened the sales floor.

At the front doors flamingos were decorated with pink flowers. This to me is a "Flower Don't." I personally do not like flowers, or anything for that matter, twisted and transformed into unnatural shapes. I'm not a big fan of topiaries, for example, or plastic surgery. I say, take what is natural and make that as beautiful as possible; don't try to shape it into something different all together.

The arrangements that I liked best draped and flowed over the fixtures, as if in natural profusion.

I wished the show was a little more wild and imaginative. Next I jumped on the subway to do an errand at Lincoln Center. Crammed unexpectedly into the point at the intersection of Broadway and Columbus was a little farmer's market bursting with spring flowers.

After that I walked across Central Park from the west side to the east side at 72nd Street. I love Central Park. It and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are I think my favorite two things in New York; if I ever win the Lotto they are both getting money. I would love to live near Central Park but TD does not want to live uptown, and that's another story. The park is to me wonderfully restorative; when you get inside you really are removed from the city. It's a stroke of genius at the center of New York.

Walk with me across the park. Entering at Central Park West is Strawberry Fields, commemorating John Lennon who was killed across the street outside his home at The Dakota. Although it snowed yesterday, today was gentle and bright. On the trees spring green buds warmed in the sun.

In the park a father and son played catch.

At the center the Bethesda Fountain overlooks the boating pond. A lot of people were out enjoying the sun.

Daffodils sprouted on a hill. A friend once said daffodils in the park are like "little poems."

Near Fifth Avenue flowering trees bloomed.

I love how the blossoms go from white to pink with the blue sky beyond.
It was a beautiful afternoon in Central Park; wasn't I lucky to be there.