Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Coach Bag

In homage to Mrs. Blanding's latest post, I snapped a picture of my Coach bag this morning, the one that was rescued from a trash can on the East Side. No kidding.

My friend Paul happened to be walking along behind a nattily dressed older fellow a number of years ago and observed the gentleman take his belongings out and unceremoniously dump the bag into a trashcan on a corner. Paul picked it up and brought it home, stored it under his bed, and gave it to me after a spring cleaning- god bless him. Made in 1994 by Coach, it's been to Italy, I can't tell you how many rehearsals and performances (perfect for scores), jaunts to the flea market, grocery stores and - of course- the library. A bottle of red wine fits nicely.

I clean it occasionally with a little mink oil. Like skin, the leather needs a little moisture, all its scrapes and bruises telling a tale. Sitting in the spot light, it's singing..

Good times and bum times, I've seen them all, and, my dear- I'm still here. 
From Follies by Stephen Sondheim  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

USS Maine Monument at Columbus Circle

Donald Trump paid to have the statuary re-gilded, his hotel being a stone's throw away. It was part of the deal, or so I heard (for more on Maine Monuments see here).

The  monument is a memorial to the sinking of the USS Maine. It was a big deal in 1898. See here for the details. It was erected at Columbus Circle shortly after the subway was built.

Hardly anyone know's what the Maine was about now. We have new wars now. New losses. New holes in the heart.

How to deal with that? Each generation finds its own way to remember those who have gone before.

There is something to be said for the grand manner of the late 19th century. It has a peacefulness that is classical in nature and is quite elegiac. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

15 Central Park West

I came up out of the subway at Columbus Circle at 59th street and snapped pics of the Main monument (next post), Time Warner building and Trump Hotel after a jaunt to the flea market on 24th street.

Walking just one block north, one finds the most expensive real estate on the Upper West Side: 15 Central Park West.

Perhaps the last grand building project on Central Park West (it takes up a city block), the tower to the left sits on what was once an empty lot, while the building to the immediate right faces Central Park and rises where the Mayflower Hotel once stood.

Detail from the main entrance facing the Park.  

literary walk

The Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in New York City. I've spent quite a bit of time here over the years researching and took these photos after leaving yesterday (it's a great place to write, especially at the research division on the 3rd floor- lots of natural light and much quiet). This is the second floor  - where the circulating collection is located - which looks out over Lincoln Center plaza.

A few step down and you are out onto the plaza. The signage let's you know where you are. But I can't tell you how many times I have been asked when on the plaza where the library is. Ok. So it seems to be tucked away at the back of the plaza. But the name is in red! Hard to miss, I think. A matter of looking but not seeing? In any case, turn to the left and you find yourself smack up against the north side of the Metropolitan Opera. 

Walk east along the building and you find yourself at the front where the gift shop and box office is located.

Keep walking out onto the plaza you might run into a group of guys (singers I think) having their picture taken. Avery Fisher hall is on their right. This is one of the great spaces in New York.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

CameraBag: Magazine

More shots of the apartment using CameraBag's 'Magazine' lens. I'd say it has something of a 1960's look, don't you think?

Yes. The stair is the entry, which is rather unusual and adds  a degree of charm (you come down into the apartment rather than through the kitchen which often happens in Brownstone apartments). At the bottom is a huge 10 foot tall Egyptian Revival pier mirror that hails from Brooklyn. It outranks the 9 foot bookcases across the room and nods to the window which is also 10 foot. A scene from real life, I had just been streaming Hardball to the flatscreen tucked away in the built-in bookcase that is slated to be taken out and replaced with a green velvet banquette.

Again: the wall above the mirror is begging to be filled - gallery style - with art. Everything is reaching up in this space. Sometimes you have to think big.

Friday, February 24, 2012

ciao, bello!

Two views of the apartment, looking towards the piano by virtue of CamerBag, a new App on my Iphone.

Yes. The walls are crying for something, but I'm not in a hurry. And yes, the mirror above the armoire has to go. Two are enough! (I am not counting the one under the piano which probably should go too.) I'm thinking something modern above the mirror above the piano. White and black expressionism in a slender gold frame. A touch of modern to lift the place out of the 19th century. 

The armoire is c. 1910 from Belgium, and originally held linens. Now it holds music. It is one of those ingenious affairs, coming apart completely, being held together with 4 screws. Just the thing for a place with a narrow stair and doorway. I love its warm European walnut. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bronze & Brass

Two bronze Chinese vases with dragon and cloud decoration grace the piano in the living room. While I don't know their exact age, I do know they were made into lamps in the 1880's.  (My Iphone has distorted the light somewhat, giving the shade a glare.) 

I had the shades made - fittingly perhaps - at the Oriental Lamp Company Company  on West 79th Street. For awhile, I thought they had gone out of business, but now surmise that they were revamping their website. The 1920's amber glass finials were found on Ebay.  

Here are the brass lamps that are on the mantel. Aesthetic Period (c. 1875) oil lamps, they have two scenes of flying birds; sparrows on one side and kingfishers on the other. The oil tanks are still intact, so they could be restored to their former glory if the apocalypse comes and the lights go out.

Both sets of lamps were found at the flea market. The shades on these lamps came from Just Shades in the SoHo. I walked in with one lamp and saw the shades sitting on a shelf behind the register, knowing in an instant that they would work. They have a 1920's feel to them. They've been relined once already, the heat from a standard 40 watt bulb eating away the silk. I've since gotten smarter, and now use a narrower bulb so as to minimize the heat. So far, so good. 

Detail of the top. These lamps have the same amber and brass finials as those on the piano. Both pairs of lamps have a dialogue of warmth and light, the gold shades giving the room a glow in the evening. Speaking of which: I don't see them much used in current decoration. In that sense, they reference another time and era.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In praise of symmetry

The apartment at high noon on February 18th. This is as bright as it gets in February. That's right. Not everyone lives on the 23rd floor in Manhattan and has great light, though I love the light that we do have: you really see it change from minute to minute. It's Northern light, grayish-blue in color that washes across the ceiling during the day. I chose to balance it with warm colors used in the furnishings and cameo white walls that have a hint of yellow. The mantel tile was the starting point. I went with their brownish orange, finding burnt orange velvet for the two chairs and a carpet with a similar tone. Is it perfect? No. But I think it works, though I am ready to find a much large carpet that extends under the sofa and chair legs. Now that would be perfect, along with the big mirror that is languishing in the basement awaiting gesso and gilt. 

Symmetry cried out to be an element with the mantel being centrally located, the seating and shelving reinforcing this perception after moving pieces of paper cut to scale on graph paper. It was the only configuration that made sense, one that allowed a clear traffic pattern and gave the room coherence. 

While you can't quite tell from this photograph: the bookcases aren't the same length (the one on the left hides a steam pipe). Still, they create the desired illusion of symmetry. The other 'pairs' in the room keep the idea going. The lamps across the room on the piano (which you can't see in this photograph unfortunately) echo those on the mantel on a larger scale, the bronze Chinese vases with gold shades having similar, thought not identical, shape. Somehow, these two pairs give the room a wonderful calm. It doesn't take much I think: just a bit of planning and the where-with-all to keep going with an idea once you've started plus a bit of luck - the pink ottoman being a case in point.  I'm not a decorator, but I have had fun in this space. Once a month, it turns into a Salon for voice teachers and their musician friends. After everyone has gone, I always find myself saying: "The place is made for this!"  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chair & Church

Last summer I had the pleasure of singing with the Umbrian Serenades - a wonderful choral & cultural program founded by Paulo Faustini - and will be going again this coming summer. I'm really excited about that! 

I went through my photographs this morning from last summer's trip, looking for this wonderful chair in the former sacristy at the Montefalco Church Museum (as the name indicates, the church has been deconsecrated and is now a museum).  I love its faded and worn fabric. Not roped off, my colleagues and I sat in it before the concert began. I bet it's still there- waiting. 

This is where we stood in a semi-circle and sang a-cappella (the chair is in a room immediately to the right). The acoustics are the most amazing that I have ever heard. It's like singing in champagne. Interested in singing in Italy? Contact Paulo at the link above.

For a sonic tasting, click here. The recording was made under the arch with doors open, birds singing, on a glorious summer day. Can't wait to be singing in this wonderful space again. It really is a like-changing experience.

Geez.  I've used 'wonderful' in every paragraph. That's either bad writing or an honest-to-god feeling. I'm going with the latter.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Inspired by Grant K. Gibson, I downloaded a new app for my Iphone with the name of Camerabag and headed out to the Y for a swim, testing it out on the way back up Central Park West.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Afternoon Tea

A 1920's tea pot that I picked up some years ago at the Lambertville Flea Market (The Golden Nugget), just south of Lambertville, New Jersey. The cup and saucer are Lenox, and have a green label which dates it as pre-1950. The white is a touch more off-white than what is made now.

No dessert with this tea, the pasta at lunch being enough carbs for one day! I like Assam in the morning mostly and Darjeeling in the afternoon. When I do have a bit of yum, it's always from Soutine, a lovely French Bakery on West 70th Street on the Upper West Side.

Myzel's Chocolate

Licorice of the World

That's what the business card from Myzel's Chocolate says. And they aren't kidding. There must be 75 jars of salted and unsalted licorice in the long narrow place on 55th Street, right across from City Center. The place is presided over by Kamila and her mother who have a kitchen in the back. 

The website says the establishment is a "traditional European chocolatier." I believe it from the what I saw, tasted and brought home. There is a hands-on aspect to the place is quite engaging. 

I love dark chocolate and bought two large piece of chocolate bark with nuts and fruit. You can see it in the picture below on the second shelf. Seriously good stuff. Great with red wine. 

Of course, there was lots of chocolate wrapped up in anticipation of Valentine's Day. And that was a curious thing. I commented on this, and the gracious lady behind the counter - none other than Kamila herself- noted that she and her mother can never tell what is going to be popular, so they make a lot of everything. Well. Wouldn't you? 

I'm going back for more bark and a bag of assorted unsalted licorice. The stuff is amazing. Nothing like you've ever had before.