Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Perfect View

The park wasn't here when I left for London in September, but when I came back to New York and took the same walk down North 6th Street to the waterfront, it greeted me with a happy shock--a spectacular view of Manhattan.

This was the Manhattan of dreams, film stills. Uninhibited by construction or obstruction, simply the panoramic, self assured fullness of the city. The sort of sight that takes one's breath away regardless of whether it's a first discovery. Across the glistening dark waters of the East River there glittered the city, its unmistakable silhouette, a living beckoning postcard, like the thrill of a first touch, the first skip of a heart soon to be in love.

The park itself is a bit unusual. On a Saturday afternoon drenched in sunlight and so vibrant with picnicking hipsters and thiftsters of the flea market next to it, that barely a petal of the green grass is visible, and the silver and metal planked pier that stretches into the river are fitted with bodies pressed against the railings, photographers snapping away. The park was built in conjunction with the East River Ferry, which serves as a tourist friendly, if still a bit of a locals' favorite, escapist indulgence, an alternative to muggy dark subway tunnels with a view worthy of the more expensive far, traveling along Brooklyn to the southmost tip of Manhattan, or to that strange suspended bit of hospital land of midtown and First Avenue.

The crowd at the park is a strange mix--there are the happy, well established residents of the glittering (if rather generic) stretches of luxury waterfront condos, and the slightly less groomed faces of the surrounding Williamsburg locals, then the prim and proper sets of Jewish families, or loud and gleeful neighborhood teens, who called the area home before the underground Duane Reade and the chain of major banks opened their glass doors. There are fishermen with tanned, hairy arms at the far end of the pier, poised for their silvery prey, enamored couples with an arm tight around a waist or shoulder, scenes befitting a movie romance, and the trotting of an array of dogs, glad for a new playground.

At night, regardless of the stifled air of the New York summer, out by the water there is the most exquisite of breezes, that ruffle skirt hems and whips strands of hair, pure, sensual pleasure against bare arms and legs. Especially lately, there are these perfect evenings that whisper of fall, the rippling of the water and the thousands of tiny golden specks in the buildings of that awe inspiring view, the glimpses of blinking headlights in the shift of the is a perfect wonder, even with the distractions of everything around it.

I've taken friends here, dates who were near strangers. But it is not a place that requires company. Lately, when I come, I am almost always alone. One evening there was a flash flood warning for New York, and the night before I woke up to a small pool of rainwater in my living room. But that day the rain came in sprouts, strong, but reasonable, and the gray sky outside awaited, alluring in its promise of coolness. I took my umbrella (from the 40's, the lovely faded peach and cream patterned thing I bought at an antique market in London), my iPod and walked to this same park, this same skyline that was transformed, the park quiet except for the steady platter of rain on ground, nearly empty but for a few scattered wanderers.

The city was shrouded in a gray mist, so still, magnificent in its grimness, its watercolored calm. The rain soaked the swaying edges of my long black skirt, but I was happy. I walked down the piers where the wind flipped the waterdrops sideways, where the whole city stood before me, and I took it in for my pleasure alone. I listened to the cooing of Fred Astaire, those aged yet timeless, enchanting melodies that carried me away from where I was, when I lived, and even, who I might have been. So happy!

Tonight, it is nearly 11, on a blessedly cool night, and I walked to the park through a different route. Perhaps because I remember the dulled, cloaked wet city of last time, but the lights seemed especially dazzling, a great shock, yet an assurance, a relief.

New York is rarely as beautiful from within as from afar, and I've been thinking a lot about at least a temporary goodbye. Its endless delights never stop, but perhaps my appreciation of them dampens. I barely notice the shops I once found so charming in the East Village, and though the dazzling costumed affairs of weekend nights still excite me, in my mind I'm already elsewhere. Paris, with its uniform apartments and tree lined parks, London, with its history in every white lace curtain, dainty tea set, rich in its (and mine) memories.

Yet it is this same unwavering painting of glamour and life, this same beautiful view before me of the city I live in that allows me to escape. It is the possibilities in those real lights at the tops of buildings, the distant yet pressing reminders of a hundred different worlds within one, coupled with the darling kiss of water tainted air on skin, the seduction songs of ages past, the familiar ease of forgetting that makes everything okay, if only for the precious mindless moments I spend here. New York, New York, sung, worshiped, by a thousand brilliant minds and voices, so vast and sprawling, here, simply still, and always, beautiful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer to Fall

Clothes are easy in the summer. Wear as little in as light of fabrics as possible, sheer chiffon and crisp cotton, accessorize minimally, wear the same dresses/skirt on alternating days, and voila. This has been more or less my uniform: sheer bow chiffon blouse a lucky recent find from Forever 21, my favorite (signature) H&M coral skirt, a flower in my hair, and other details that shift depending on the occasion: shade of lipstick, size and color of flower.

It is lovely. Honey warm tones and gold. I've found the thin gold bracelet rather indispensable--a gift from my mom. I remember seeing her wear it all the time when I was younger, not exact memories but faint images of her with it on her wrist. Now I feel naked without it. When my outfits are already so bare, it adds a touch of thoughtfulness that makes me feel that much more together.

But I've been dreaming, dreaming of the golden leaves and cool days of the fall...and the back to school signs and brown tones, blazers and jackets already in stores doesn't help. I have long skirts and coats in the closet I long to wear so desperately...I thought though it is far too early I'd play dress up and plan ahead!

A perfect new blazer (H&M) and gray over the knee socks (Sock Dreams) and patent leather Oxford heels (Macy's, long ago), Tolstoy and oh my! Rolled up sleeves and cuffed pants! Long walks without fear of sweat or discomfort! Fall is probably my favorite season in New York (second only to those unbelievable white blanketed snow days of winter)

All that I need is a perfect fall colored classic bag. I've been lusting after this Mulberry Conker Red Polly from My-Wardrobe:

I adore the old fashioned handle and the golden clasp, the timeless pebbled leather finish and silhouette, academic and serious, and yet hip view. Paired with a navy coat, black tights and oxfords (or, really, anything)...maybe it's a l way of savings away, but someday! In the meantime I can just dream...mid 60s weather and leaf lined streets...visit the website for more designer pieces to covet, from Marc Jacobs to Chloe, and even the preppy chic of Ralph Lauren for men)

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Defense of the Kindle

I read an editorial by a bibliophile that suggested that publishers launch a sexy ad campaign in favor of the print book to combat Kindle's impressive marketing, citing books' sensory pleasures: the smell; the feel in your hands; that crisp, appealing crinkle of a turned page and smooth snap of a dust jacket. It does sound seductive--but then anything can be made so with a few quick sketches of words, anything can be made romantic.

I would know--I'm a writer, sorceress of language, slave to literature, beauty, romance. My life has been marked by books, tens of thousands of pages and titles and authors, covers and characters I can barely keep track of. It is my favorite refuge, my ultimate comfort, an always reliable pleasure. I would be delighted with a life spent looking out windows, with a book and pen and paper. I read Tolstoy as others would chain watch Sex and the City. I stop and eagerly browse at every used books stand I pass on the street. My first, dream job, was to work at the local bookstore (and I did). I am no stranger to the sensory and aesthetic pleasures of a book. I linger in bookstores, brushing my hands over matte covers and ivory pages, lusting after particularly exquisite covers. I fantasize constantly about the exact appearance, texture of my first published novel: the artist who would draw the illustration, my name in exact lettering, the typography and lines and spacing of each page, even the exact way the spine creases in the hands of adoring readers.

I am an avid bibliophile--and, I love my Kindle.

Let me tell you about my Kindle. It is an impromptu gift, from someone close. Most of the time it rests inside a bubble mailer manila envelope, creased and folded from all the wear, in one of my purses, or sits, naked, at my bedside. It is covered with a lovely white and blue porcelain art skin/decal that catches the eye and sets off the grey and black of the screen. The first book I bought for it was Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet, but now I've worked through quite a few more--David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Tolstoy's War and Peace, Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, Somerset's Of Human Bondage, Dickens's Bleak House...(I have a thing for 700 pages plus 19th Century literature), as well as a dozen samples and a few new books I recently acquired. I can hardly leave the house without it in my purse.

It is there when I stand in the insufferable heat and humidity, the microwave of subway stations, awaiting the L train to take me home. It is there amidst a crowded train, when my one hand grips the poles so as to not topple over in the lurch of the train and high heels. It is there, next to me, on the tables of countless restaurants where I like to dine alone. It is there in parks, in offices, on couches, in bed, next to the cozy glow of my lamp and candle flames on the other end of my room. It is there to distract me when my mind is a mess of tortured laments. It is there when I take the ferry across the rolling waters of the East River to Governor's Island, where I find a white wicker and wood rocking chair on the patio of some old lovely house, and rock slightly back and force as I begin to read Proust. And when it is with me, so are all the vibrant characters and times and scenes from the particular book I'm reading. So is instant escape, freedom, relief.

I always read voraciously, but now I read constantly, incessantly. Before I debated the merits of a heavy bag with a creased paperback, but now even on a short errand run I can't imagine the brief subway ride without my constant literary companion. Before, when I struggled to locate volumes on the dim shelves of the library, with a few button presses I find just what I want and curl up with a smile. Before, when I heard recommendations, I scribbled them in notebooks and soon forgot them. Now I find and buy and can delve into a new world, instantly.

I can't imagine my life now without it, this gray screen I love above my iPhone, iPod, Macbook Air, this indispensable partner on train rides and flights. The Kindle is built for that, the dedicated reader with an infinite appetite in mind, not the casual browser who maybe once in a long while goes home to read a buzzed about new book, but the reader who can't live without books. So when I mention my beloved Ebook reader to friends, and they, in shocked tones of betrayal, tell me that they could never--abandon the smell, the sound of pages flipping, the feel of the weight of a book in their hands, I cringe inside. As if by owning a Kindle I'm turning back on my love of literature! As if they accuse me, the most passionate defender of language of words, to be a tourist, a traitor!

The rise of E-books doesn't demote the role of literature, far from it. In fact, the ease and accessibility of new technology can only help spread the act of reading as a leisure activity, free it from its old, very real, practical constraints. Sure, thick hardcover volumes are wonderfully romantic--but try bringing that on a day trip, on the subway, to class, on a flight to another country. And with the vast free library of classics available to E-readers, seemingly daunting literary masters comes with no obligation and become featherweight delights (seriously, read Anna Karenina--it is a page turner and far more enjoyable than the old Russian master's stuffy reputation might have you think). E-books don't mean the end of reading or publishing--in fact, publishers make better profits from Kindle books than the process of printing and distribution of physical novels. Embracing the rise of the E-Book, and not fighting it, is one of the smartest decisions publishers can make in this age where the very industry is in danger. But just as the MP3 didn't destroy the music industry, and only helped to create a more open, welcoming arena, this new technology and format won't ruin books and the people who love to read or create them.

Besides, publishers don't need an expensive campaign to remind the world of the pleasure of a print book--for those who love it already, it can't be forgotten or ignored. Every time I pass by an used books stand, I still stop and browse, and sometimes come home with surprise finds that stay at my bedside. Only, I might check if it's available on Kindle classics free first...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Book Lover's Paradise: 20 Ebooks for $20!

Harper Perennial is doing a fantastic promotion for August that features 20 of their backlist titles for 99¢ each in various E-Book format! This is like Christmas in the summer. I've been stuck reading lots of 19th century and otherwise older literature, and I'm excited to catch up on some modern writers I've missed. My head spins from browsing all the options and I want to buy all 20 now and read them all at once...(it is not completely impossible that I might actually do that), but in case you're a bit joyfully overwhelmed too, over the next few days I'm going to read samples and reviews of each title and give you my brief impressions to help pick out your next buy.

I'm not sure whether this is better news than discovering that Edith Wharton's complete works are available for the Kindle in one neat package for 99¢...but either way I'm ecstatic and can't wait to share what I discover!

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Olden Days...

I am not a fashion blogger. I am not a fashion blogger because I have a very small wardrobe (and I've learned that I prefer it that way) and not many (if any) designer clothes, and most of what I own is from H&M or Target designer collabs from the past. I wear the same pieces all the time--just a few in slightly different combinations--for days and days and it makes me happy because they're all just right. I shop all the time but end up buying very little. But still! I get very much joy each morning, getting dressed.

Occasionally (and especially lately--) I discover things that I really fall in love with and long to share. I've been trying new things, slightly different things that I love--less cute and sweet and maybe a bit more classic, timeless. Longer skirts and simplier outfits. Pearls and black pumps. Eras of the past (though I am terrible with buying real vintage clothes because allergies and impatience and things that don't fit right) and subtlety and never, ever, casual, and all that jazz.

So, H&M has been answering my prayers. This dress!

Sheer navy with tiny polka dots, an adorable collar I can't quite deal with in the summer, a loose waist, a long skirt with an ever so playful visible shorter hemline, a full, twirly skirt!

I'm a little obsessed. And in love. The first of many H&M dresses from recently to be so inspiring. I've been in a 1920s phase--so, pearls, one set that's a real pearl chocker, and another long chain of glass pearls I accidentally tied and delighted in finding it looked good! Black suede pumps with a pleaded square bow (from here, and so comfortable!), and of course, that necessary flower in my hair.

I couldn't justified going out to work in all this, so I simplified this in real life with one set of pearls and a more subtle flower in hair. Still, walking down to the hot oven of the subways, amidst colorful tribal patterned dresses and golden flat sandals, shorts and tank tops, I felt like I might have come from another world, another time. C'est magnifique.

(Hi world! I'm blogging again. For your sake and for mine, about frivolous pretty things or sad, real things. This time I won't worry about what I can or can't do so much, and just do.)