Thursday, December 13, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from a rainy, sleety New York with sidewalks that are slick with ice.

Now, does that sound like a winter wonderland? Well, not to me either, but it is what we have tonight. With our reasonably-well-functioning public transport, we New Yorkers are generally able to just go with the flow as the unpleasant side of winter tries to interfere with our pursuit of happiness.

But, this is getting close to Christmas, and we all do have lists to check off, parties to attend, and even the usual round of errands staring at us.

For myself, this was to be a day off with lots of required appearances, nonetheless. But the weather chased most of the requisites away. I not so quietly cheered.

I did not need to attend the previously scheduled meeting downtown at 9 this morning, and so I did not set my alarm clock and let the darker-than-usual sun up allow me to sleep a bit late. But then it was up and down to the basement laundry room (now undergoing some of the signs of renovation that the new owners of this building are bestowing upon all floors of their new property.)

The early morning was rain, then sleet, then snow, then a slow reversal of the earlier special effects. I figured that if I could wrap up in weather-proof and warm layers, I should, post laundry, set out to do lots of Christmas shopping, and other errands. And so I did.

A great achievement for this small-shoe-sized person, on this foul weather day, was that I took my dripping down-coated, damp-parcel-carrying person into a neighborhood shoe shop, and asked the staff (I was the only customer on this bad weather afternoon) what waterproof, snowproof and warm boots do you have in size 5.5? Well. They showed me a fine little style, made in Canada (Pondside, take note) and a very simple design with just a little bit of edge. Hey, that is me, very simple with just a bit of edge.

I was very glad to take those little black boots home with me and to have a chance to warm up before the next required appearance of the day.

My shop was to have its holiday dinner party tonight, but thank goodness when I got home and called the shop, those there had already decided wisely, to postpone that festivity.

Great. Because I had another festive function to attend late this afternoon, a retirement farewell reception for a dear friend whom I first met back in the early 1970's when we were both archivists at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There is no way that I would have missed attending this party, held in a rarefied lounge area of the Met. I definitely wanted to be there to honor my friend, but also to take another of my walks down memory lane. Sleet and snow and frozen sidewalks and a long wait for a crosstown bus, none of them were a deterrent.

Yes, it has been thirty years since I was an archivist at the Met, and in those thirty years I have been through many changes in my life. There were very few people whom I recognized at the party. Strangely, what interested me was that any regrets that I had wondered about ... whether I would be sorry to have given up the museum life, if re-entering that society this evening at a very high level would give me doubts about my decisions.... Well. None of that remotely true. The many people gathered about with glasses of wine, and tidbits to munch on, seemed sort of insular, a bit self-congratulatory. Virgo that I am, I could not help but check out various bits of body language, and wonder at the subtle messages that were being sent across the beautiful, large room. Messages that would mean little outside of that huge Museum building.

I was happy to see some other old pals, besides the honoree, and to chat a bit. Our old boss, a glamorous male, who featured in many society column photos, made a last minute appearance. It was fun to chat a bit with him. But all in all, I was glad to be able to take the elevator down to the first floor, and walk through the beautiful Museum lobby, out the front door and down the marble front stairs. I was so happy that all ice had been cleared from those marble steps! There was a very long wait for a bus to take me back westward across the park, but that time in the chilled evening air (with fur-edged hood up on my down coat at this point ... it was getting cold) gave me more time to contemplate some life decisions that I have made.

The career that I work so hard in now is very demanding, not very intellectually driven, but is very people focused. Tonight, as I look forward to another long day, mainly on my feet, tomorrow at the shop, I am glad that I have tried so many different ways to making my way in the world. Each career choice has had its reasons, and each aftermath has had its pluses and minuses. My current choice is still in the plus column, no matter how much I might whinge from time to time in this space.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

A late good afternoon from New York.

As many of you all know by now, I love reading. Most of my books now come from a great, quaint old members-only library, but the New York Public Library has a prominant spot in my heart.

I have borrowed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books from the Public Library, and about six years ago, made much use of its free access to computers when preparing resumes and correspondence as I sought to re-enter the working world.

For many years, I have donated a little bit of money each year to the NYPL, and think of it as a small thank you for all that the Library has given me. The main branch of the Library is a splendid stone building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. It has grand exhibition spaces where wonderful exhibits regularly appear; a rare books room that one can actually visit, after going through a few security hoops; a rare map department, a magnificent reading room arrayed with fine old books, and sparkling new computers. The building is a wonder, and many fine librarians are there daily to help everyone.

On a December Sunday each year, the Library holds a very festive holiday open house, to which all the Friends of the Library are invited. It is great fun. The place is magnificently decorated with greenery. Lots of music is played and sung. Many folks parade around in storybook costumes. Children are encouraged to attend (it is not a day for silence in the halls) and there are all sorts of entertainments for the children ... face painting, juggling lessons, magic and puppet shows, storytelling, origami, and more.

Lots of cookies, chedder cheese pastry twists, punch and lots of wine is served from many buffet tables throughout the many levels of the marble halls. In one ballroom sized area, a disco band plays for dancing, and a more elaborate buffet is on offer.

The party is great fun, and a queue forms outside the building on Fifth Avenue about an hour before the starting hour. It is so funny to have bustling Christmas shoppers stop in their tracks to ask those in the queue, what's happening, what's going on ... and to tell them it is a party, and ... if they were to become a Friend they could come to next year's party.

This year's version was just a enjoyable as those of years past. I am glad that the forecast precipitation held off, so that after I left the party, I did a bit of walking up Fifth Avenue with my camera and have tried to get a few photos to share with you all. I have pictures of the special windows in shops such as Lord & Taylor, Saks seen from Rockefeller Center, and best of all, Bergdorf Goodman. BG's windows always set the standard.

By four o'clock, the air was distinctly cold, and it was time to get myself home, change clothes, and get some groceries. Now I am cosy by the laptop, and hoping to be able to properly illustrate my Sunday blog so that you all will be able to see some city views.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good Evening from New York.

Today has been a really cold and windy day in New York. I had my little scrap of notated paper in my pocket as I headed out around 11 this morning, with the intent to get started on my Christmas list. Well. I waited a very long time on a windy corner for a bus to take me to the East Side of the park. I kept thinking, do I want to be even colder? Where is that elusive bus?

I had already done some errands on my west side of town, but needed to go eastward to go deeper into the Christmas shopping. Since I have to grab my free time when I can, every half-hour really does count.

Finally the bus arrived. My fellow twenty waiters and I boarded, and soon we wound through the Park's transverse road and emerged on to Fifth Avenue. I got off and got to stop one on my list. Done. On to stop two. But by this time the cold and the really huge crowds on the sidewalks of midtown were putting me off. (I do think that many of these folks on the sidewalks were out-of-town tourists, because they just did not walk at the pace that we New Yorkers sort of get used to.) I made one stop, and then returned home.

It was much more productive to stay cosy at home for the afternoon and continue my Christmas card painting. Great jazz music on my radio. A few phone calls with friends. Very relaxing. And warm.

This past week, our company held its annual holiday party, a few weeks earlier than usual. Don't think that we have ever before had the party in November. Anyhow, it was fun to have a chance to see folks that I usually only connect with via e-mail or phone calls. Great food and drink. Music, dancing. Venue located right on the edge of the Hudson River, with great big windows overlooking the water and the city skyline. Lovely.

We also learned this week of the year's great financial success for our company. This means a big profit sharing bonus for each of us, and hopes of more to come. I attended a meeting at which there was opportunity to share views with our company's founder, and of course I had to take advantage of that opportunity.

Perhaps not so great news is the past week's crime in the area of the shop. Last weekend as a club in the area closed up ca. 3 a.m., someone was stabbed to death. This club is a block away from our shop. Obviously the night life in the area is quite different from what normally goes on during business hours.

Ah, but wait. Also last week, there was an armed robbery in a shop at the corner of our block of Fifth Avenue at 4 p.m. Now this concerns me. Alarms me. Since learning of this incident from one of our delivery service's drivers, I have tried to find out more about what actually happened, and how we may get additional protection for the shop. I have been communicating with the robbed shop, the police and with my company. So far, I regret to say, I am not happy with the results of my communicating. Maybe I will feel differently by this time next week.

December is always a dicey time crime wise in this city. There is just so much money around, the nights are long, people are not attentive, all sorts of factors.

My concern as a manager is that I want those on my staff, and also my customers to be safe. I want to be safe myself! Making theory into reality is not always so easy. When it comes to safety, I am not of the laissez-faire school of thought. It is upsetting not to have calls to the local police precinct returned. When I go back to the shop tomorrow, I will try again to get some answers about what the police may be doing to provide the area with addtional protection during this glorious holiday season.

Meanwhile, my neighborhood's sidewalks now have the annual additions of lots of Christmas trees for sale. The trees mostly are trucked in from Canada, in all sizes from tres petit to twelve foot tall ones for the high-ceilinged grand apartments. It is great to walk past these trees just to breathe in the fragrance. Each one of these "encampments" is staffed 24/7 by heavily bundled up young entrepreneural folks who manage to make a bit of money each December. Most have boom boxes blaring forth various notions of Christmas music, usually not any of the carols that you all might recognize.

Let me end this seasonal New York report with the vision of sidewalks lined with stands of lovely green Christmas trees awaiting adoption.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Happy Thanksgiving from New York.

It is now Thanksgiving evening, not at all the same idea as the eve of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving in the United States is a holiday begun to commemorate a day very early in our country's history. Some say the first thanksgiving was in Massachusetts. Some in my native Virginia say no way, we were there first.

In any case, giving thanks for our blessings, and for our daily survival is never a bad idea.

Today I can give thanks for several immediate blessings.

First is that the strong cold symptons that were attacking my bio system on Tuesday night now seem to be in abeyance. Yes, I do have a sniffle now and then, but no fever or threat of germ/virus entrenchment.

Second is that I can even communicate tonight, since this morning I spent lots of minutes on the phone with a geographically distant person on a computer helpline. My computer was on life support, and its life was supported. Cheers to global resources.

I am still somewhat concerned about what has recently caused more problems than I have previously ever experienced on the computer. But for now, glad to be with you.

Usually on Thanksgiving, I will take the two block walk over to the edge of Central Park to see some of the famous Thanksgiving Day parade. It is always fun to see the reactions in the faces of the watching children to the progression of bands, floats, and huge balloons. Today, I stayed home and made sure to banish my cold. Those folks who did get to see the parade pass by were lucky in the weather, no rain, no sleet, no snow. Moderate temperature.

My day was spent working on more of my watercolor painted Christmas cards, and taking in lots of liquids.

Lucky me ... tomorrow I have also scheduled as a day off, so if I do feel ever better, it will be a great opportunity to get out and about. This is such a glorious time of year in New York, that there really is never enough time to enjoy all that is on offer.

(I am still on the hunt for shoes/boots, and that hunting trip alone could take a week.) Maybe it is better to just let the perfect pair of footwear to find me.

Hoping that this will actually get posted, as I am still typing and clicking without my prior confidence in the system.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good Friday evening from New York.

Winter is pushing its way into our city. The wind today was very strong, creating brilliantly blue sky, but also creating the need to bundle up. The trees in the Park are still mostly green, but by Monday, I expect they will have gone orangy, golden or even ruddy.

Right now, I feel as if I have somewhat squandered my day off. But then, if I pass by a looking glass, and see my splendid new hair cut, I revise that opinion. Do any of you also put off getting your hair styled, for various reasons, well beyond the prime time? And then, when the appointment is made, and the appointment is kept, and the stylist works the magic with the scissors, just take a look at yourself and think ... wow, that really did make a difference?

Well, that is my pattern for decades.

After this afternoon's visit to my stylist, even the blustery breezes could not disturb the shape that had been skillfully returned to my hair. What a treat.

The treat was welcome after yesterday, during which I logged in a twelve-hour work day. My choice, I keep reminding myself that I do make the schedule! The day began with a monthly get-together of various shop managers, designers, merchandisers, advertisers, etc., at which we review the pluses and minuses of each and every item in the prior month's collection. It is so much fun to bounce our opinions (and those of our customers, too) around the room. We all learn a lot, and hope that these sessions will yield an even more successful collection in six months' time.

After the meeting, I returned to the shop for the requisite responsibilities there, and then finished up with an after hours meeting with all the members of the staff. That meeting went well, and was also a time for sharing info, and ideas, and problems and solutions. (We had caterers bring in lovely sandwiches, salads and beautiful pastries. And...we also opened some of the white wine we keep on the premises for such occasions.)

When I got home, I found a phone message from a former colleague from a long ago career (I have known her for over 20 years.) She is in NYC for a quick visit and I look forward to seeing her tomorrow. How I hope that when she drops by the shop, the atmosphere will be relaxed enough for me to have a real reunion conversation.

Here are two more clothing selections I have made from our current collection: a black cashmere sweater with a v-neck line and some frontal shirring detailing and 3/4 sleeves. And an oddly appealing, to me anyway, green silk/linen skirt with embroidery around the lower foot of the skirt and some tulle around the hemline. The green is sort of a blued-loden green

Readers, I plan to wear this skirt over narrow black silk or velvet trousers, and under a black velvet dress/tunic. the black cashmere sweater will go over the dress. Good thing that I got the new hair cut, so at least that will be chic without doubt. Oh, will most likely wear some black boots. (My intention is to be able to sell at least some of these components to customers day after day!)

The company for which I work has been honored as one of the "best places to work in America" for several years and is up for this recognition yet again. So, this Monday, reps from the team that makes that judgement will be visiting my shop in the afternoon. This should be interesting. I suggested to my team that they should just be their usual fine selves. Nothing unusual. Just regular appearance and performance.

Then last night our vacuum cleaner (hoover to you?) died suddenly. We very much hope that the responsible dept of our company will be able to send us a worth replacement before Monday. We don't want our store to be a most dusty place to work!

Pleasant dreams to all.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Last Sunday, I returned to the shop after my gloriously relaxing and self indulgent weeks off.
Truth teller that I am, how I wish that I could have been able to have many more weeks at home, reading, painting, visiting with friends, writing, walking in the Park, looking a good and bad art in galleries and museums. Truth teller that I am, it was necessary to return to the job.

And so I did.

Unsurprisingly, nothing terrible occured during my absence, but also many chores and responsibilities were also left unattended to. I just felt so "wanted" upon my return. Last Sunday was a bit of a demon day, with so many unanswered phone calls, e-mails, customer-related questions, etc. But all in all, it was not awful to go back to the scene.

My new mom assistant had returned to work while I was away, so we had many items to discuss during the past week. I cannot expect her to catch up instantly, yet need to update her as quickly as possible about the most pressing developments/changes during her six months' leave. We are getting there.

I am a bit concerned about the eventual impact on our business of the current sub-prime mortgage credit crisis flowing through the economic system, but so far our customers still seem quite ready to hand their credit cards across the counter, when they find clothes that they do like.

I played a bit of catch up with my own clothing selections, choosing three new items from the current collections, a very bright orangy-red wide v-neck merino wool tunic, black velvet narrow leg trousers and a black velvel cap-sleeved, ballet necklined, knee length dress/tunic. I still have to choose additional items, but these three will add some interesting combination possibilities to my existing wardrobe. The idea is to illustrate for the customers how flexible our clothing can be. Everyone can find her own way to wear it.

Now. On to culture and mortality. Abrupt swerve from the frivolity of fashion.

This morning's radio news told me that Norman Mailer had died earlier this morning. When I was a young adult in New York, he was very much a presence in the city, even running for mayor at one point, but aside from that he was a prize winning novelist, who was politically attuned. In Brooklyn, everyone knew just which was his house ... the one with the beautiful blue stained glass swan window.

He was a talent, an icon, but also an accessible icon. Nowadays, the celebrities of art and culture often seem to live in another universe. In the 1960's and 70's, this was less true.

About ten years ago, I went to a book reading at a neighborhood bookshop. The featured author was Mr. Mailer. That bookshop fell under the relentless pressure of Barnes and Noble some time ago.

Anyhow, I took along to the reading my aged copy of Mailer's great Vietnam War era book, Armies of the Night, hoping that he would sign it for me. Well, of course, he did. But what memory I still smile at is that the legendary macho icon Mailer, just looked up at me from the signing desk at which he was seated, smiled with a twinkle, and said, "I never can remember, is it Frances with an i or an e?" We chatted a bit more, and then he wrote a sweet note in my yellow-paged old book.

And so tonight, another literary person of note has left us. Perhaps those of you who live in other parts of the world will also feel, as you grow older, a bit of sadness when you learn that someone you have known all your adult life as part of the cultural world, will no longer write, paint, play music. Of course, it is good to appreciate the future talents, but how I do cherish the art that has accompanied me so far though my own live.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Monday, October 29, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

It has now been over a week that I have not been in the shop. I admit that I have thought about the shop, and have even allowed my telephone's answering machine vigilance to let one call ... from the shop ... to come through. In the big picture, I am glad that I did answer that call.
Will try not to think about the info that it imparted until my return to the work place.

So. What have I been doing?

How wonderful to be able to make up my own personal schedule every day! I wake early and ease into the morning as it suits me. Sometimes, even as the days do grow shorter, I awake before daylight, courtesy of the noise from the construction site across the street, that noisily seeks to create very costly housing to replace the apartments in which many families raised many generations.

There are still many of my interests (baking, cooking real meals, seeing some more of my old friends) that I have to attend to. But, I have been painting away each day, working on this year's watercolor Christmas cards. I do so love making these little paintings. What is tricky is to not rush them. To approach each card as its own creativity. I just listen to FM radio in the background, and settle in with my brushes, water and paints. And the paper, of course. Time melts.

All of a sudden, early morning has turned to lunch time. I stop. Make a quick lunch. Toasted cheese sandwich. Tea. Apple. Back to painting.

And then there is the reading. Milla and Jane have, for a longish time, recommended to me the books of David Mitchell. Well, I went into the fiction level stacks of my wonderful library and found four books by Mr. Mitchell. I checked out his first novel. Ghostwritten. And since opening the book have been treating myself to his enormous talent. I am usually a fast reader, but in this case have been able to temper that so I can really appreciate the writer's talent.

Yes, I do have other books still on my to read stack, but they must wait for now.

Many days last week were rainy here, even as the west coast was partched and fires raged. My uncle lives near San Diego, and did voluntarily evacuate his beautiful home. Luckily, he was able to return home to find unwelcome sooty debris the only damage. Still. I am so glad that he did not elect to wait it out at home. The fires came within two miles of his house!

On the housing front, the new owners of this apartment building continue to post messages announcing the latest stages of their renovation plans. Updating the electrical infrastructure is now underway, necessitating the sealing of the stairway nearest "my" front door. The building does have three elevators, but I have preferred just walking down the stairs as the quickest way to the ground floor. Now, I must use an alternate staircase or just wait, and wait, for the elevator.

There is a chance that this electrical improvement may require entry to my own apartment, but I am promised prior notification.

In my heart, I feel that the renovation and its aftermath (the conversion of the building to a condominium/cooperative financial status) will not harm me, all the in-between stages do upset me.

So, today with my luxury of free time, I took a little trip down memory lane, via the express subway train, to the Brooklyn neighborhood where I lived in the early 1970's. It was extraordinary to see the changes since I last visited (maybe 10 years ago.)

My part of Brooklyn back then was made up of lots of brownstone houses (four stories tall) with the occasional governmental or other official-sort of building that would be about 10 stories. Well, not now. Many huge buildings have taken root across the old landscape. These are not architecturally beautiful buildings. They are just big. They have banks, or chain drugstores, or real estate firm offices on their ground floors.

I walked over to take a look at my old block. Many of the houses, including the one in which I lived, now have little plaques by their front door, that extol their status as historic land-marked buildings. My former residence was build in 1848. That is old by New York standards.

Across the street where I remember vacant lots, now stand new townhouses. Bland. Same height as the 1848 houses, but oh so bland. Sort of tepid variations of Michael Graves architecture. But the entire block now looks very, very expensive.

The biggest shock was what I saw covering the front door (parlor floor, or first floor level, UK style.) A very elaborate, but very strong and off-putting black wrought iron gate. The house now has its residents in jail. There is irony here, because back when I lived there, we joked about the Brooklyn House of Detention (i.e. a very tall jail) that was at the end of our block. Every now and then someone escaped, and there would be police all over the place, but mostly, it was just a very sad place where family members lined up around the block to see their detained loved ones during visiting hours.

So. Today, I saw what gentrification can do to a neighborhood in thirty years. Glamorized some parts. Mostly those parts that are bought and paid for, and safely enclosed behind iron bars. Back in the 1970's, we did not have a gate across our front door. We were artists, writers, film-makers to be, without much worth stealing. We had mainly our talents and our dreams of creating something we would be proud of.

I do wonder who now lives behind that wrought iron gate.

After this revelation, I walked back to the subway station, came back under the river to Manhattan, stopped by a great little coffee place to get some of their house blend (on sale) ground for my French press coffee maker. Then, back on another subway train, with David Mitchell's magic words, uptown to my current neighborhood. And I continued my painting.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Can you all imagine it? I am now into day three of a few weeks of vacation. I will not be traveling to any lovely distant location. The dollar is in the cellar. I will wait until it starts back up the steps again before packing my passport and suitcase.

Meanwhile, I am so enjoying being able to be a tourist in my own home town. The answering machine will screen out any calls fromt the shop and I won't look at any e-mails that might be from a job-related source. Bliss!

Even though I valiantly tried to tie up the little loose ends before departing the shop last week, I had to leave certain matters unresolved. My best efforts to close some issues did not receive timely responses from others, so ... I will not be available to futher pursue those resolutions.

Saturday, I stopped by the box office of a Broadway theatre to enquire re tickets for a Brit import that is due to officially open here during my time off. Tom Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll, originally done at the Royal Court. Well. Lucky me got instant gratification and a ticket for a preview performance on that very Saturday night.

I am a Stoppard fan since seeing a ... preview performance decades ago of his "Rosencrantz...." and was curious to see this one, as I have known people who lived in Prague during the 1960's, love real rock n roll, and wanted to see the original cast in London, but could not afford to travel.

So, the original cast came to me! My last minute ticket placed me in the fourth row of the orchestra (stalls) big, expensive treat for me. I enjoyed the play very much, the ideas in it are provocative, the time frame continues my recent reflection on my early adulthood in the 1960's and 70's. The use of the music of the period and the specific "liner notes" from the important recordings just pushed lots of buttons in my memory lane.

Lots to think about with regard to revolutions, politics, honesty, male and female relations, just all sorts of stuff. Grand performances, especially by the leads, Brian Cox, Sinead Cusack and Rufus Sewell. Due my prized spot in row C, I was somewhat disconcerted at times during the play to find that Mr Sewell had focused his rather intense eyes upon me. Probably because most of the others in my high-priced area were white-haired, older even than I am, and probably were not reacting to the music with the same memories as I was.

I am relaxing more each day. Getting the required errands accomplished, but still finding time to actually do some painting. I have begun my individually painted watercolor Christmas cards. They do take lots of time to do, but I so enjoy making them each year, as each one is a special gift for folks that I have known for years.

This afternoon's painting session was jolted about 4 pm by what sounded like a drill coming through a wall of this apartment. The source of the roar and vibration was work being done in the vacant apartment next door to mine. I have mentioned that this building has recently been sold to new owners, who doubtless want to convert the building from rental apartments to condos or coops. So, when an apartment becomes empty, the demolition/renovation begins.

Now I realize what sounds I have been missing while at the shop! Even so, it is great to have some time off.

Tomorrow a friend and I will visit some galleries and have a lunch to talk, talk, talk. And eat and drink some, too. Then on Wednesday, another pal and I will go to a sample sale that we love to visit each year. The sale is held by a company that specializes in beautiful Italian leather goods and cashmere. Great styles and amazing bargains. Then, we too will have lots to talk about at another lunch.

And so, my leisurely time off will go forward.

I love getting up early in the morning knowing that the day will be filled with whatever I choose.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

It has been so long since I last posted anything here. Does this mean nothing has happened or that far too much has happened. Or that I have just been too pressed for time or too tired to write.

I think that it is probably some combination of all the excuses. My intention is always that this blog serves as a diary that I will share with others, so I do apologize for being a bit stingy as October arrived. It has been such pleasure to read what you all have written!

The shop has taken more and more of my time, and I am glad to say that our sales have been wonderful, morale has been high and much has been great.

In between the joy, however, I have been trying to help the transition back to service of my new-mom-assistant who will return before the month's end, while trying to transition out a staff member whose performance continues to need improvement, and simultaneously, try of figure out what will be the future of the superb lady who has been my acting assistant manager for the past months. I do not want to loose here talents, and all that she has contributed to the now "all together now" feel of the staff.

I am well aware that some of the candor that I have expressed to my superiors has not been happily received. I am now way too old to reconfigure my "corporate" face, so will just have to see what develops.

While all this was going on inside my work place, autumn has gradually been arriving in the City.
The Park is beginning to sort of dry out and crisp up, even though the lawns are still brilliantly green. We had a very rainy day this week that was swept out by an extremely windy day that blew in much cooler days. I took a walk through the Park on that windy day and saw all sorts of leaves on the paths and lawns, and suddenly came upon a sound check underway at the old bandshell. Check, Check, One two, One two.

Had my sketchbook with me, so sat on a bench and drew some trees, while shivering slightly and wondering what sorts of music was about to be performed in front of the motly bunch of observers (passing tourists, competing skateboarding teenaged boys ... not in school that afternoon, gliding rollerbladers looking for dance partners, dog walking folks and other non-descripts like me.) Turned out to be some sort of promo venture by an unknown record promoter, of a country blue grass band, a country rock female vocal group, and even more grim a stand up comedian from New Jersey.

The performers were in reverse order of the above list, and suddenly the weather turned cooler, I finished my tree drawing and headed home for a cup of tea.

Let's see, what else. Well, on a mid-week day off, I elected to take part in my company's effort to unite the IT department's efforts with its beneficiaries. I got invited to go to New Jersey (see reference above to comedian) to visit the HQ of the company's IT gurus. I had a fabulously instructive day and got lots of info to take back to the shop. Strangely, I got up extra early that day to be sure to get the proper train, etc, but early on trying to check my e-mails, discovered that this very laptop had caught a very bad cold overnight.

So, for the first time ever, I got on the phone to the Dell help line in whatever country those calls are answered. I got great, polite, skilled help. Or else we would not be communicating right now! It was a good way to begin a day devoted to seeing what a well-functioning IT department can do.

Now...big finish.

Tonight I will pack my bags for yet another multi-day set of managers meetings at an off site location...a conference center right in the flight path of a suburban airport. I will be up about 5 tomorrow morning so I can catch the proper train.

But. This afternoon, I had the privilege of attending an address, at famed Art Deco palace Radio City Music Hall, by H.H. the Dalai Lama. I was given a ticket by a Tibetan work colleague and got to sit next to his family to share this experience.

I am not so enamoured of organized religions, but do think of myself as a fairly spiritual person, who does try to do good, and not to be swept away by negative thoughts or deeds. So, it was quite interesting to be in this grand hall, and to listen carefully to what the DL had to say.

I have read several of his books, but have not really studied Buddhism as such. I just feel tonight that I was in the presence of a very wise 72 year old man, who has traveled much, thought much, and has much to contribute. What he says is deceptively simple. I feel very much encouraged to continue to try to be a good version of myself. To not give up on a positive attitude towards life. To believe that the future will be better. To realize that everyone, even as he admitted, the DL can have have a bad day, or to be very irritated by some incident.

What a way to prepare for a series of business meetings, don't you think?

Pleasant dreams to all. See you later this week.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

The calendars are whispering that September ends today, October begins tomorrow. How can this be true? I may have asked this question around this time of year, last year, but this year I do really mean it.

I am looking forward to a break in my usual schedule, and that break will begin mid-October. So much needs to be done before then. I suspect that many items on that long list will not be completed. Even so, a break will be welcome.

The past week flew past.

I had hoped to have lunch with a childhood friend, now resident in the U.K., while she was in New York visiting one of her sons. But, even though we had many e-mails planning the best day for this get together, it only took one staff member coming down with a very bad cold to squelch the lunch.

I was at least able to see my old pal and one of her very handsome sons for a brief, brief hug and chat at the shop. The shop was so busy, I had to keep breaking away from the catch-up conversation to go help customers. There was absolutely no way that I could have left the shop for a long lunch. I was disappointed, but if I am supposed to display responsibility to my staff, that is what I have to do.

On another day, I used half of my day off to attend a quarterly company meeting at the the company's showroom in the Garment District on Seventh Avenue. These meetings are unlike most other company meetings, in that stretching exercises and meditation minutes intersperse reports on spring fashions, quarterly sales, and profit-sharing estimates. We are having a very good year, and the profit sharing bonus looks to be very generous. More about that will be known in about six weeks.

We had our semi-annual special event in the shop on Thursday, offering refreshments, $25 off each purchase, a gift with each purchase, and the opportunity to help us support a worthy philanthropy that encourages leadership, rather than followship, in young girls. (We contribute 10% of the day's take to the charity.)

These events take a fair amount of planning, and the actual day is a very high energy, demanding, somewhat exhiliarating experience. On my way to the shop that day, I stopped into the bank to cash a petty cash reconciliation check for the prior month's expenses. As one does, I sort of zoned out in the bank queue, going through mental lists of event-related tasks ahead of me.

Then. From my right, I heard a male voice say, "Hello, Frances." I turned and saw a man smiling at me. He looked a bit familiar. Well. The man was someone with whom I lived for a number of years back in the 1970's.
He recognized me. I would not have recognized him otherwise. (This same scenario occured on a sidewalk about twelve years ago, and at time, I shamefully admit not knowing who he was even after he said his first name.)

On Thursday, I did speak to him for a little bit, wanting to be polite, but also wanting to flee. Finally, the bank teller said, "Next," and so I was able to say bye bye. Of course, when I was finished at the teller's window, he was still there waiting to talk some more. So, I did talk a little more, and then said that I really did have to get to work.

I left the bank in a daze, going through many memories, and thoughts of bridges crossed, forks in roads, all that sort of thing. I did wait for the "walk" sign before crossing the busy street, so I got to the store intact, if quite shaken.

The day was incredible, and I really had no more time to think of the encounter at the bank. We did about $32,000 in business. Wow.

I was so tired at the end of the day. Just spent.

Luckily, I had given myself the next day off. After getting through the usual errands, I pretty much vegetated in the late afternoon. That was luxury.

Back to work yesterday for another hectic nine hours. And I am still behind on various projects. And still cannot seem to convince my bosses that we need more staff. I am still in the dark as to what will really happen with regard to the return of my new mom assistant manager.

The week that begins today will be pivotal, if some of these staffing needs are to be addressed before my mid-month break. During the week prior to my vacation, I will be out of the store for four days of managers' meetings. So...that is really three weeks during which the shop will not have its manager (me) present. This may turn out to be all for the good. Especially if chaos erupts, as it very well may.

I do know that as long as I keep patching up the schedule, making sure that all runs smoothly, there is less incentive for anyone else to discover the joys of this level of responsible dedication. Opportunity is about to knock.

Hoping that you all will have a lovely Sunday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from sunny New York.

On such a crisp late summer day, I surely should be outside. And before long I will swap my indoor rubber flip flops for socks and sturdier shoes and have a long walk in the park.

But before then, taking advantage of a welcome bit of free time, I have been trying to sort out a number of experiences from the past few days. Sometimes, I wonder if I am in fact living several parallel lives. I do not mean this in sci-fi sort of way, but rather that I have my inner self-image, and continually find that my actual daily physical time seems to be lived by a totally different person.

Last Saturday, I went to see a small exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. My MOMA membership is about to expire and I do not plan to renew it immediately. So, I am trying to make a few quick visits before the end of October.

The exhibit I saw on Saturday was quite eccentric, and centered upon ten year's correspondence between a MOMA curator and a young artist who was trying to leave his Michigan university and family, and move to New York, find patronage and pursue his creativity. His correspondence was itself creative. None of it was an actual letter on stationery in an envelope. It could be a scroll, a tiny many-layers-of-folded tissue paper with a word on each fold, all sorts of formats.

My particular interest in the exhibit arose because in the decade following the period of the correspondence I knew the artist well. He had come to New York, continued to collect patrons, and to slowly create a new persona for himself, leaving his Michigan background very far in the background. He traveled to Japan, he was an artist in residence at a rather surprising choice, the Hudson Institute think tank. His fame grew from a number of successful "happenings," beautifully staged. Conceptual art can be awful. His was mostly magical. And always, he was very good at the self-promotion that can be essential for artists' survival.

Somewhere in this cramped apartment I have some little bits and pieces of his work that are perhaps as significant as anything on view at MOMA. Or perhaps they are not.

As time passed, our lives went in different directions. I would continue to see some of his gallery exhibits, at major NYC spots like Mary Boone Gallery, and see him in party photos in French "Vogue."

Looking at the pieces in the exhibit, I took a long meander down memory lane, and thought about what my life was like when I was in my late twenties. New York has never been a gentle place, but my memories do yield a collection of experiences that seem lighter, less cynical, maybe just younger.

I was actually alone in the MOMA gallery room the entire time that I looked at the show. I wonder how many other folks have visited the exhibit and had similar memories to mine. As I left the museum, I was still sort of not quite in the present tense, but full of contemplation. Having time for contemplation is a luxury for me these days.

Yesterday, Tuesday, was to be a day off for me. However, I had arranged a meeting to fit the schedule of a visiting top human resources lady, so that we could sit down, in a location outside the shop, to talk with one of my staff members, very seriously, about the need for her to improve her performance.

I had drafted a form that ultimately we would sign, regarding this need for improvement. My draft had been reviewed and very slightly revised by the HR lady. On Monday evening, I had taken home all the prior personnel files for this staff member. She has worked for the company for almost eight years. My company is very benevolent, often seeming to pride itself on rescue missions. I have been the manager of my shop for about a year and one half, and had intentionally not read old personnel file, preferring to form my own impressions of my staff.

Well. The eight-year file was full of prior need for improvement forms. It seemed as though over and over and over, prior managers had come to the edge of terminating the employee, and then pulled back. All the forms addressed failings similar to what my form detailed. I realized, that again, I was being called upon to be the "heavy." To do what others had not been able to do.

Yesterday's meeting went much as I anticipated it would. The staff member was defensive, and did not agree with much of what I had written, although she did accept some of the comments. She does not realize how much the pace and demands of the shop have changed, and that what might have been accepted four, five, six or even seven years ago, just will not cut it now. We asked that she think about the improvements that we had requested, and that we would meet again in two weeks to re-assess progress.

She then said that she was rather upset and did not want to go back to the store, but would like to take the rest of the day off. I told her several times, that of course she had that choice, but that making that choice was another example of letting down the rest of her colleagues. And that it meant that I would lose my day off, since someone would have to fill in for her and it was too late to make other arrangements. She stuck to her wish to go home and went home.

It was a very busy day. Customers were well served. We juggled priorities all day, more or less productively. The HR lady did come back to the shop also, and had a brief visit with each of those other staff members present. The earlier meeting remains a confidential matter, but of course everyone was buzzing with curiosity.

My plans for yesterday afternoon (glamorous grocery shopping, laundry and house cleaning were shelved. I have got some of those duties taken care of already today.

Inside my head, I still think of myself as the would be artist who left her childhood home to live in New York and enjoyed the comraderie of other like-minded folks. I am a person who actually makes art.

Ah, but the version of myself who jumps awake at the earliest light or alarm beep (whichever signals first) is quite another person. This person has difficult meetings during which she must harden her heart, this person does not make art, has a difficult time keeping up with creative friends, is thankful for continued good health and stamina, has found a way to support herself, often feels that the treadmill on which she daily runs keeps being set to faster and faster speeds. This is all the same person.

I expect that many of you who might read this feel or have felt similarly about your owns lives, althought the specifics vary. It is quite marvelous that we can be so supportive.

Still too early to wish you my usual pleasant dreams.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Yesterday started grey and muggy, but the heavy atmosphere was abruptly broken by a crackling afternoon thunderstorm. Today, the recipient of that that change was a gorgeous day.

Both days were originally scheduled as days off, but intervening commitments altered that plan.
I got half of each day free to get my laundry and grocery shopping done, plus meet up with a friend at a cafe and see how late summer is treating Central Park.

Yesterday afternoon's commitment was actually quite informative and entertaining. I got to attend a "fitting" session at my company's design center. The session involved about a dozen outfits that will be part of the Spring 2008 collection. Months ago, I had attended a brainstorming session at the same location that sort of kicked of the early stages of creating this seasonal collection, so it was quite an experience to see where those early notions had led.

I was present as sort of an auditor, observing how the design team would review the various ensembles that were to be modeled by two sample-sized ladies. The design team and other technical experts present would carefully look at the effect of each separate garment, and also how that piece worked with the other pieces being worn by the model. Critique was done. Notes and adjustments were made as deemed wise. Some pieces were judged to be absolutely fine and ok'd for final production.

What was really exciting was that every so often, the team would turn to me, as the only one present who actually works with customers on a daily basis, for my opinion. Both my personal esthetic opinion, but also what I felt would be the reaction of next spring's customers to the product. It was an amazing opportunity to have my say, and for the most part, I feel that I was both candid and diplomatic.

However, I am one who will speak my mind, as as someone who used to sew all my clothes, has followed decades of fashion trends, and just loves design, it was very difficult for me to praise anything that I truly thought was no good. So, I did give some "constructive" criticism on a few ensembles. I think that my words offended at least one or two members of the design team, who take themselves fairly seriously, and were not expecting to hear what I said. Too late now. I said what I said. (At the end of the session, I did speak to one of the veterans of the team, about whether I should take another look at a piece that I had deemed sort of soporific, and she said, Nah, don't worry about it. What you said was honestly what you felt. That's good for us to know.)

It really was fun. All sorts of notes were taken and computer entries made and photos clicked of various stages of the design decisions made. Being present gave me a much better notion of just what goes into creating a finished collection. I would love to attend another session, and hope that being outspoken will not result in my being banned.

This morning I was off to a very early meeting of store managers from my district. The agenda was very mixed, and as usual time ran out before all topics were covered. I did make a point of sort of cornering my boss's boss (who chaired the meeting) afterwards to try to sort out some matters that need sorting out to help my store to continue to be properly staffed. I think that I got my points across and also heard my boss's boss's points. We are not totally in agreement, but at least we better understand what situations do need attention.

This evening I am heavier by the consumption of several slices of various types of chocolate cakes, due to the generosity of my fellow managers at this morning's meeting and that of an afternoon cafe stay with friends. This was my 62nd birthday. It seems amazing to me that I could be this old, and now actually qualified to collect our country's Social Security (national pension plan with its iffy present and future funding.) There is no way that I plan to retire any time soon, but it is strangely comforting to know that I have crossed the line to qualify for the minimum amount of monthly payments.

Back to work tomorrow. Many challenges await. Even better, I also will have the day off on Saturday!

Pleasant dreams.

Monday, September 10, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

What a grey, muggy Monday has appeared unto us. It is the kind of dawn that does not energize. Well, it does not energize me.

I will try to counter that lethargy with my cups of strong coffee, and focus on presenting my favorite smells and sounds, as requested by Exmoor Jane. I will just toss them out as they occur to me.

One. Any form of cooking that involves brown sugar and melted butter creates an aroma that I find irresistible.

Two. Lavender, fresh, dried or making an appearance in soaps.

Three. King's College choir singing "Once in Royal David's City" will make me cry.

Four. Hearing almost any Bob Marley song will make me want to dance.

Five. Freshly ground strong coffee. Freshly brewed strong coffee.

Six. Hearing almost any word from a dear friend whom I've not heard from recently.

Seven. Fried bacon.

Eight. Bossa nova music played by my favorite street saxophonist, who plays in Central Park on moody, cloudy days.

Nine. Chocolate. Up close.

Ten. Ripe peaches.

Eleven. The sound and even the smell of being close to someone I love.

Twelve. The sound of laughter from someone I know, or even someone I do not know, particularly if it is a child's laugh. I include the sound of children giggling in this entry.

Any of the above would be a very welcome sensory signal. Many of them would make pleasant combinations, too.

I hope that you all will find that we share some of the twelve.

It is still grey and muggy, but I am feeling energized. Off to work!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Knowing that I was going to see Michael Palin yesterday evening, and having the day off, I decided it would be wise to get a needed haircut. No need to look shabby on such an occasion.
So, off to the salon for another expert cut, and I now once again look like the photo.

My stylist and I agreed that hair coloring is something that I will most likely never get into. My stylist is currently looking radiant in very red hair. It is dramatic, but suits her. She told me that her boss has given her a raise, which means that her rates will go up, but not for her devoted old time following including me. Relief!

Besides the treat of the styling, I also just did a lot of leisurely errand rounds, and picked up a bunch of books at the library, including a few recommended by Jane and Milla. My library is such a grand resource. I generally read fairly recent books, but if you go into the "stacks" and ride the funny little cage of an elevator from floor to floor, you can come upon what are most likely very valuable old first editions (and I am not even talking about the actual rare book room.) It is just a great place to wander about in, get lost in, and then ... come upon a treasure.

So...after all that leisurely errand doing, and leisurely prowling in the library stacks, I all of a sudden realized that I had better get a move on, get back over to the west side, have a quick dinner and hop it down to the book store, or probably would not stand a chance to actually entering the Michael Palin reading I wanted to attend.

Quick, quick and quick. Almost on time I was briskly walking along Broadway, headed for the book shop, when I saw a neighbor, and of course, stopped to say hello and see what the gossip was about the apartment building. All we old-timers are concerned about the ramifications of the new owners. The neighbor I encountered said she was still okay, since she like me, is a protected tenant. However, she told of another tenant who is not protected, who is in the process of fighting a recently initiated eviction process. Oh boy!

I just did not want to think about such traumas then, and don't want to right now, either.

On to the site of the reading. Well, it was mobbed. Every chair already taken, and every standing room spot also taken. What was left was the option to watch the proceedings through a glass wall and hear what was being read via closed circuit television. Those of us who arrived only 20 minutes early went for that option.

And, it was very entertaining. Palin is engaging, funny, energetic. He read scattered parts from the Diaries 1969-1979, The Python Years. For those of the gathered fans such as myself, it was a welcome step back in time. There were lots of young and very young people there as well, some of who probably were not born before 1990 or later. We had a great time.

Palin took lots of questions, and then sat down with his selection of felt tipped pens to sign anything that was put before him. Not just the current book for sale. No indeed. Folks had brought along all sorts of Python stuff for his signature. He signed them all. Lots of photos were taken. He just kept chatting with everyone, smiling and signing. A real gent.

What amazed me was that I did not recognize anyone in the assembled bunch of fans.

Today was also a day off for me. But, as is often the case, it was necessary for me to drop by the shop for a few hours to take care of a few things. Wish it were otherwise, but it was not.

Then a quick walk over to the greenmarket to replenish my produce assortment. Tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, squash, nectarines, and peaches. Scrumptious.

Back uptown for a few more errands, and then a bit of reading and working on my current knitting project. Today was mild, but overcast, so the light was not right for me to work on my oil painting. Got to wait for another day with real sun.

Had a few phone calls with friends, and a few that were shop-related too.

Then, off to another neighborhood bookshop for tonight's reading by Joyce Carol Oates.
I did take along a few notes that I had made from you all regarding possible questions for her, should the opportunity present itself.

I have seen many photos of JCO over the years and knew that she was a tiny person, with a very recognizable face. In person all this is true, but her presence and movement add another definition.

She does have a pointy chin and a rather heart-shaped face, seemed to wear no make up other than a reddish lipstick. Hair seemed undyed, and rather wispy sort of winging out from an irregular off-center parting. I wondered if she did comb it. Do not think so.

Very bony shoulders. Tiny body. Very large hands in proportion to her arms and the rest of her frame. She moves them around a lot.

She wore a strange white jacket open in front. The jacket was edged in fluting ruffles of the same white material. She seemed to have a yellowish blouse with long sleeves on under the jacket. She carried a small black fabric handbag with her to the podium. Her large glasses were in the handbag. She pulled out the glasses to read and when finished reading, returned them to the handbag.

Now, please forgive me, I cannot remember the name of the book from which she read. (Perhaps it is "The Museum of Dr. Moses") It is a hard cover collection of shortstories, and I think they are what she referred to as genre fiction (i.e. gothic, horror) rather than what she referred to as literary fiction.

She spoke quite a bit about the supposition of a connection with readers that a genre fiction writer has. She referenced workks of H.P. Lovecraft and Poe. She also spoke of loving to read the descriptive passages in Hardy and DH Lawrence.

She also spoke of the impact of the Bela Lugosi "Dracula" film on her young mind, perhaps somehow connected to her Hungarian grandfather.

Most of what Ms. Oates said, and her answers to various questions posed were delivered in a very dry manner, actually provoking quite a few laughs. She said that she liked trying to investigate states of mind in the world even though they might not be very pleasant.

She said that she does lots of preparation before beginning a book, and once she actually begins a book, she sees it through to completion.

I did get to be the final questioner of the evening, and made sure that she knew I was carrying with me unseen readers from the UK. I asked the question about how she selects her protagonist. She took quite a long time in answering, saying that the selection of a name was very important, and that she understood that the writer Elmore Leonard felt the same way about his characters. She cites examples of very good names that of Hamlet and Heathcliffe.

She felt that the title of the book, the first and last sentences established the structure a certain landscape from which the rest of the book's river and tributaries would flow.

Hoping that will give you all a bit of an idea of what was on offer in two book shops along Broadway on two September evenings.

Back to work for me tomorrow.

Pleasant dreams.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York on the first evening of September.

September starts our city's fall cultural calendar. There will be many, many events to attend, exhibits to see, concerts to hear. The nights will begin to cool. Even though now we still see green lawns and roses in bloom, soon we will see leaves turning yellow, rust, red, burnished brown. The leaves will fall.

I have posted some photos of some old paintings. One is from a series that I once busied myself with, interested in the textures of rocks and the beauty of vistas. The other combined another exploring of rocks, or rather pebbles and leaves. The summer during which I painted those leaves had been a very hot and dry summer, very unlike 2007. Green leaves were dropping and lying in crispy ripples all over the Park.

It is always a challenge to come upon changes that we do not anticipate, or welcome. I have seen many of these changes in my life, and am not too sure that experience has made me wiser.

When I was a young adult, freshly in New York, there were many changes to the accepted culture of the prior decade (the 50's) that were eagerly, maybe even greedily embraced. I felt that having moved to this city from where I grew up in the south meant that I had sort of jumped across more than a mere decade.

Ah, but at that same time, my generation as R. Daltrey might say, faced some not so great bits too. The Vietnam War, and the draft affected every family that I knew. It certainly affected how we viewed pursuit of happiness, govenmental responsibility and truthfulness, even our sense of time. Music, theatre, art, film bounced off of this dynamic.

In a way, perhaps that decade was a bit of an extended autumn. Before a winter.

It is swell to be able to trade ideas, and information, and experiences with you all on the site. Sometimes I think that my country has really lost the plot. People are very plugged into various electronic devices for hours each day, and this allows them the luxury to not communicate with each other. Many people ride in cars all by themselves, listening to some electronic device. Cell phones may provide some emergency access that is great, but back when, we just had pay phones on street corners. Many people listen only only to those whose opinions they share.

This has been a tough week on the political front over here. The current adminstration is reaping what it sowed, but we have to reap with it. The many candidates have campaigns that do not promise much in the way of improvement. Another poor harvest this fall.

But, today was a day off and I did get to the local farmers greenmarket and did find some more gloriously ripe tomatoes. I did go to a bank and got some euros and then bought a card. I will put the euros and the card into an envelope and give it to one of my staff members who will make her very first trip to Europe this week. She can use those euros to have a glass of something, in a cafe somewhere, as she realizes that the world is wider.

This afternoon, I treated myself to a view, on television, of the excellent Roger Federer in action at the U.S. Open. It is quite wonderful to see his grace, skill and good manners.

We had a very busy selling week at the shop, and our efforts also included organizing after-closing-hour evening moves of heavy fixtures off the sales floor on two nights, and returning the same heavies back to the floor the next morning. Overnight the cleared maple wood floor was beautifully refinished. It looks like a new floor was laid.

Before I began writing this, I had some sort of plan about what I wanted to express, and it did include praising the generous spirits who have made our site such a pleasure to visit.

I think that I have gone off the path, having not scribbled down any notes to guide me. Since I always think of the blog as a diary, I usually do not want to make preparatory notes, but rather just start typing. So, that is what I have done tonight, the first night of September.

Remember, officially it is still summer!

Pleasant dreams to all.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

As it is already late, I won't write too much tonight. This is more by way of just staying in touch.

We are quickly coming up on our Labor Day weekend, which traditionally marks the end of summer, start of fall. Our summer weather has never quite gotten in gear this year, bit of brief hot and humid, but mostly cooler, much cooler than usual.

In the shop, we have made good use of the cooler days, and have already done quite well with our fall woolens. We have been selling lots of wool coats in August!

The past two weeks' financial news re sub prime loans have no doubt begun to sew seeds of fear in the minds of many of our customers. Their mortgages and credit card balances may now have much higher interest rates. This may dampen enthusiasm for the beautiful styles we now have available.

I have stolen a few hours to try on some of these new styles, trying to select the pieces that will be my "uniform" for September. Alas, I am having a difficult time finding items that properly fit me. I am too scrawny on top. Need broader shoulders. Or something.

So far, I have only managed to select one beautiful red cardigan. The color becomes me, and I am sure that when I wear it, the sweater will sell.

We just ended our "retail" August month, and once again, beat our goal. So, it will be another bonus!

Tomorrow night we are scheduled for night one of a two- or maybe even three-night process to refinish the floor in the shop. Much moving around of heavy fixtures will be needed each night and on each following morning. I had heavily lobbied to shut the shop on an August Sunday to get the job over with in one long day, but ... no the answer came. We cannot close for a day.

So...we will have much aggravation. I am sure that many staff members (possibly including me) will find the smell of the refinishing liquids repellent. Some staff may want to leave immediately. But the shop shall stay open. I do hope that I exaggerate the problems.

Speaking of problems, it seems as if much is going on in lives of dear people who contribute to the site. If I were less tired, I could add a few tales myself. But this Sunday evening, I think that I will leave it, merely recounting some retail tales.

If I ever get another day off (must happen sometime this week) I may write more, or may no longer think that any of what concerns me now is still worth worrying about. Time can be our friend.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

My week long holiday, spent in my home town, ended yesterday.

I still am feeling all of the pleasures that week brought me. I woke when it suited me. I spoke to whom I wished. I walked to destinations that appealed. I took a bus, or a subway when that destination was further than I wanted to walk.

Best of all, the opportunity existed to re-connect with many of my old pals. Some of these folks also keep worker's hours, some are more free lance, or even not dependent on work for livelihood. Many of these friends have schedules that conflict with my usual timings.

So...what a delight to have so many lunches, all over New York last week in the company of people whom I have known for as many as forty years. That is a shockingly high number of years, but also quite a tribute our wishes to stay in contact. We have gone through our early adulthood, with lots of hopes and energy, through not-s0-early adulthood and the reality that it brought us, to a later stage of adulthood that we now wallow in, wondering how that many years have passed.

These friends and I know each other well. We know all our family stories, our successes, disappointments, and above all, our resilience. Friends indeed.

What else happened on my vacation. I had the nerve to begin an oil painting. When I went back to work, in my lovely employer's retail world five years ago, I stopped painting on canvas. I did not have the time, or the calm to even contemplate doing a "real" painting, and would settle for nothing less. As the years passed, doubts entered my confidence that I could still manage to paint anything worth the effort. My handwriting has declined, and I wondered if that signalled some sort of diminished hand/eye coordination. How we doubt ourselves!

So...I had some canvasses stacked about in a corner of my apartment. I had some paint that I was sure had not totally dried up. I had some brushes that seemed okay, but others seemed quite raggedy. I also was not sure of the clarity of the old bottle of turpentine.

On day two of my vacation I made a very swift round trip, via surprisingly on time subway trains, to a downtown discount art supply shop, and got new turp, and four new brushes in the shapes and sizes that I always wear down first. Back home quickly before I lost the confidence to begin. I began a new painting, on a very beautifully sunny morning.

I have the northern light outside my window in the room where I paint. Natural light is very important to me. So...all was good. I began a new still life, featuring a beautiful, if humble, blue and white transfer ware cup and saucer that I bought on my last visit to London.

The cup and saucer were bought from an antiques dealer I had visited for many years, who had a little shop within "Alfie's Antiques Market," on Church Street, off the Edgware Road. (That area has featured in some dramatic news coverage in the past few years, but I think of it in terms of pretty china, or silver or antique textile treasures brought back to the States. When I bought this blue and white, the old lady with the stand/shop said that she would soon be closing up because business was so bad, it cost more for her to come up to London than she made in a day's trading. So, I will not see her again. Painting the cup and saucer fills me with many memories of what I have seen along those blocks of Church Street.

The painting is going well. I got enough of it established during last week that I will be able to go back to it, when I have a spare few hours or more, and polish it. Hand and eye still are coordinated. What a relief.

I did lots of hours of reading as well, finally beginning an absorbing, and perhaps inspiring book by the Dalai Lama, given to me by a Tibetan man who is part of our store staff. Tonight he is in Nepal, visiting his family. I hope that his trip will be safe.

It was possible to see lots of bad art in galleries, some good art in Museums, and hear very good music for free under the stars during the annual Lincoln Center out-of-doors festival. I live less that ten minutes' walk from Lincoln Center.

My week off also gave me time to do much thinking, sleeping, eating properly prepared meals (prepared both by me, and also, as I ate all those lunches with old friends, by skilled chefs.)

Back to work. Already have faced a few challenging, if somewhat banal, emergencies. My staff were very glad to see me. Today I got to the shop before 8, to host the company's visual/creative wizzards' conversion of the shop from the August to the September collection. The sales floor looks very beautiful. The front window display is very creative and beckoning.
Our business should be fantastic as fall arrive. We are lucky that New York is now in a cool spell, perhaps as a result of weather fronts being rearranged by the hurricane in the Caribbean.

I heard many compliments from company big wigs. Their words are nice to the ear, but I know that the weather of compliments can also change quickly. Nice to hear now, but be able to take shelter!

Tomorrow I have a day off. Time for errands. Counting my blessings.
It has been fun to read lots of your blogs during the past week. I did not always leave comments, but always liked the opportunity to travel to many other parts of the world without leaving my keyboard.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

It is a beautiful morning, quite unlike yesterday when part of our city (Brooklyn) actually had a tornado pass through. The rest of the city and area settled for an intense thunderstorm and many inches rain in a very short period.

I had planned to get to the shop early to meet the new cleaners, well before our official open-up time. That plan went to smithereens, as I discovered that our public transportation system had lost its struggle to keep up with the weather. Flooded tracks, signal problems. Many subways not running at all by 8 a.m. Not enough buses pulled into service to take up some of the slack.

So, we New Yorkers either decided to stay at home (not an option for me) or to walk to our destination. In heat and humidity that were other storm souvenirs. Two and one half miles for me. I was a bit limp on arrival at the shop. The cleaners also had not been able to arrive.

I drank a lot of water. Then realized that something looked a bit different in the office part of the shop. Wet spots spread across the ceiling tiles. Plastic covers over the fluorescent light fixtures were full of water. Oh boy. There was more. One of these plastic covers had not been able to take the pressure of the water, and had fallen to the stairwell below it. Releasing lots of water.

The stockroom in the shop basement was flooded. Not deeply flooded, no damage to any of our goods, but still. Oh boy.

About this time my stock associate arrived with his own transportation story and then we got into action. Made phone calls, more phone calls, showed everything to the superintendant of the building so that he could contact the landlord. More phone calls to our corporate offices, the cleaning company, all sorts of folks.

Time to open the shop.

As the day wore on, everything began to get sorted out. Half of my staff were unable to come to work. Very few customers came in. We kept seeing lots of people walking purposefully back and forth on the Fifth Avenue sidewalk outside our front window. They were either just reaching their destination, or leaving that destination to try to return home.

Having gotten official permission to close a bit early, I prepared a little "early closing" sign for our window, and we began to prep the sales floor for the evening. Then...of course, customers began to come in. So, we did not close early, but actually had some good business during that last hour.

Then we closed the shop, locked the door and went home. I treated myself to a long, but uncrowded, bus ride back uptown.

So many people were greatly inconvenienced by the transportation problems. My day was relatively mild. But it was so good to finally have a shower!

And I did have pleasant dreams.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from a very hot and humid New York.

This is one of those days when I do wish that this apartment had air conditioning. Usually this wish passes within a few days after a big thunderstorm clears the air.

I had a day off, that began with an early morning appointment with my dentist. The appointment was uneventful. Thank goodness. I do like my dentist, but am always glad when she dismisses me after I have written out the requisite check. I do have some dental insurance via my employer, but over here it is pay first, then wait to be compensated with a check in the mail.

In any event it was good to have the rest of the day to myself, to get various errands done, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

Next week I have scheduled myself an entire week off. This will be the longest break that I have had from the shop since...well, I am not entirely sure, possibly in over a year. I do look forward to relaxing, seeing my NYC pals that have been very much neglected, doing some artwork, reading, maybe even a little traveling to nearby spots.

I love the anticipation of a vacation, almost more than the time off itself. I am sure that while I am away from the shop that all sorts of stuff will happen that will give me a wake-up call upon my return. I am so trying to strengthen my separation from responsibility techniques. Need to practice them!

Tomorrow I need to be at the shop before 9 a.m. to meet up with the new cleaners. Until they get used to their weekly/monthly requirements, I sort of want to make sure that we are on the same page. They came to the shop for a "big" monthly clean last Wednesday evening and all went well, so I hope for the same tomorrow.

Even with this hot weather, we are promoting early fall wools in the shop, and even wearing them. We keep the air conditioner going for sure. It is always the case that we are ahead of the natural season in our styles, while the "wear now" clothing is beautifully displayed in the sale area. Makes them even more attractive!

I am so sorry to have been reading about the H & M troubles in Surrey. If true that the pharmaceutical company is the source of the problems, well...hope that something is done to prevent any future escaping microbes. Good grief.

This evening I already wrote a version of this blog, but could not get it to post. So, this will be an abbreviated version, before I turn in for the night.

Pleasant dreams.

Monday, July 30, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from a very humid New York.

The last time that I wrote, there had been a big, news making, steam explosion across town. Since then, our friend Mother Nature has been supplying the steam.

Unlike the rains and flooding that have ravaged you all across the Atlantic, our weather is still relatively normal for this season, but still has that insistance that reminds me of why summer is not my favorite season. Just standing on a subway platform waiting more than seven minutes for a train can be a test of one's ability to transcend one's environment. I always carry a book but sometimes that is not enough!

I have been trying to keep up with what all of you have been writing, and admit that I am falling behind. Summer lethargy is a lame excuse, but I will raise it, anyway. It is so delightful to see pictures of your gardens and their beauty.

Although I do not have any summer vacation (holiday) plans, I am gonna take a week off during August, and have been managing to grab an extra day off during the most recent weeks. It is quite fine to have that time off, and the chance that it provides to rediscover my true identity.

However, I find that when I return to work, I face a collection of pile ups that make me ... almost ... reconsider my decision to have that third day off each week.

The shop continues to make and exceed its monthy sales goals, so we continue to share the bonuses. I continue to think that an extra staff member would allow us to extend that glory.

We have gotten our August collection on the sales floor, and it is being well received, even in the heat of late July. Airconditioning and its faux season atmosphere is so strange. We are wearing at least one item each in a light-weight wool. Crazy.

Last week I attended the monthly Focus Group meeting at which we discuss and evaluate the styles from the prior month's collection. I truly enjoy these encounters, because they bring together folks from many departments of the company, and we can really hear each other's thoughts. The meetings last for about two hours, and never seem quite long enough.

My days off did allow me to finish the latest H. Potter book, so if anyone ever wants to assemble a group of those who have read it, I am ready. (We call the stairs that lead to the shop's basement stockroom the "stairway of forgetfulness," as it is frenquently true that one's mission leaves one's memory on the way up or down that flight of stairs.)

Enough of this happy talk. Last week I learned that my assistant manager, the new mom, has elected to have an additional two months's (unpaid) leave, and therefore will not return to the shop before late October. This is not a big surprise, but I admit that I am surprised that she did not give me any personal call/heads up/whatever prior to making her official application to the Human Resources folks to get approval of the leave extension. I know that, if our roles were reversed, my inclination would definitely have led me to talk with her.

So...instead of having my official assistant back in the shop before the end of August, I now face the possibility of having to return my "acting" assistant to her proper shop at that time and then to face an unknown. Rest assured readers, that I am on the case, and do not fancy myself as a martyr. My acting assistant would love to remain in the shop with me. And I will have a serious conversation with the HR lady tomorrow about how to plot the future. (Deep in my heart, I wonder if the new mom and husband might actually be wanting to relocate away from NYC during the next months, as I know that they have done some scouting around various other parts of the States prior to starting their family.)

At midday today, I had my television on to see the joint press appearance of Pres. Bush and P.M. Brown. Mr. Brown showed good manners. Mr. Bush showed his usual usual. As someone who has prior experience in political campaigns, and is still a bit of news junkie, I have to say that right now I just despair. This site is probably not the appropriate place to say any more.

There are many other work-related bits that I will not detail, but there are enough of them to keep me from really getting back into my artwork. I have at least been filling a page or two in my sketchbook. And today, I did take the camera over the the Shakespeare Garden area of Central Park for a few snaps.

If all goes well, I will try to post another picture of one of my still lifes, and some flowers from the Park.

I wish you all very pleasant dreams.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good Evening from New York.

Tonight on the television there is coverage of a steam pipe explosion on the east side of our midtown. This would be far away from where I live or work, but near to transportation hub Grand Central Station and the art decon architectural wonder of the Chrysler Building. Various forms of public transport have been disrupted, even though the actuall street blocks involved are not vast. The main lasting worry is of toxics, and asbestos that may have been moistly spewed into the air.

I am glad not to have been near it. About the time of the accident, I was still in my neighborhood mega-cinema, indulging my Harry Potter fandom in the newest film. If I had not read the books, I do not know what I might have made of the movie. But I have read the books, and greatly admire Ms. Rowling for her achievement.

I love the look of the film, and its coy references to all sorts of things, from mythology, to modern politics, to old films, to ... all sorts of things.

The cameos from actors that I love are wonderful, although I do think that we saw one peek too many of Mr. Fiennes. But...Staunton, Gambon, Smith, Oldham, Rickman, Bonham Carter, Thewlis, Thompson, Coltrane...and others, what a treat. There was rather a lot of steamy vapors (my theme tonight is steam!) and shattered glass, but I so enjoyed being transported.
And I did not mind that the editors left a lot of Luna in the film. And... n.b., exJane, that wallpaper with the family tree....

So, I emerge from the theatre to see a number of sophisticate fire dept. vehicles speeding down Broadway, and do not smell smoke. I assume that something has occured, but not in my neighborhood and that I will see it on the news. True.

I had treated myself to the movie, to celebrate actually taking a half day off.

Early this morning, I got to the store about 7:30, to prepare for the 8 a.m. meeting. I travelled in a torrential rain (that may have contributed to this evening's steam set off ... the rain, not my commute, please forgive my sloppy writing.)

Meeting went fine, but at its end, as I tried to just tie up a few loose ends before commencing my "day off," I noticed drips from the ceiling of my office, and summoned the building's superintendent. Sure enough, the rain had found some vulnerable points to enter. I notified all necessary parties within my company, and the super said he would notify the landlord (his boss.)

I then left the store! One small step for delegation.

Tomorrow we shall try to re-set the sales floor with our August collection. It is beautiful and should sell well. I do how that today's expected deliveries of the balance of the collection have arrived. I resisted the temptation to call the shop to check. I will find out tomorrow.

After all the rain, it is very humid here tonight, even far away from the steam.

Pleasant dreams to all.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Sometimes I think that my calendar and clock are playing tricks with me. Messing with my mind. I wonder how was it possible, decades ago, for me to do so much more in a day. Have I slowed down. Has that relativity thing caught me in a tangle?

Days have passed since I last wrote here, and right now I really should not be writing. I have a very early meeting at the shop at which I have to do a long-postponed presentation of a customer service oriented exercise. I do not want to be at the shop at 7:45 a.m. My staff certainly do not want to be there at 8 a.m. The company requires it. We have waited to do this for months. We are advised that we must do it or else. Or else, what?

That is my thinking not like a manager but as myself. I will be at the shop very early and we will get past this required hurdle. We may even enjoy it.

Tomorrow I have scheduled as a day off. Once past the hurdle, the day is mine again.

Trying to remember how to work my camera (remember in early July my exuberance at beginning to play with it) I will try to post another photo alongside these words. It is of another old painting of mine. I haven't had time to learn how to set up my little camera easel, so I just shot the painting against a carpet on the floor.

Another sign of falling standards.

It is such a pleasure to visit the site and see all the generous words from lovely people. Have patience with me, as I try to rejoin you all as more of a participant, and not just an observer.

Pleasant dreams.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

An early good evening from New York.

I have added a picture of one of the two entrances to my corner subway (tube/metro) station, to give you all an idea of my neighborhood. As days go by, I plan to show you around my neighborhood, and even...for the some corners of my very small, cluttered apartment.

This will all go to show why I do have country dreams!

To have this third day off this week is such a splurge.

Even better, this morning I had an e-mail from my assistant manager, who now, thankfully, is recovering from the difficulties she encountered giving birth to her precious new baby boy.
I will be talking with her later this evening. Any of you who have read my prior blogs will know how worried I have been, and how reluctant to call her home phone to inquire. My delicate patience is now rewarded. has this free day gone? Apartment is a bit cleaner than before, but still not ready for any magazine shoot. Just wait until you see some views. It is a challenge to take photos that do not betray the massive piles of ... magazines, art materials, needlework projects, newspapers, books waiting to be read (with no more room on the shelves.) Well, you may be getting my drift ...this is no glamor spot! But it is home sweet home to me.

Weather here today was not as lovely as before, the overcast skies lingered past last night's July 4 fireworks. Humid too. Bit of a shower.

I went down to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) (attention, UPL!) to see the Richard Serra exhibit. Had my member's card scanned by a no-doubt-very-underpaid-MOMA employee, and up the escalator I went to do my stroll through Mr. Serra's metal curves. Think of a wrought iron maze that slants toward you as you explore its depths. Or think of cautiously entering a snail shell (albeit a huge one, organgy metal, 20 feet tall, tipping toward you as you enter its opening. I have been to many of Serra' s gallery shows, and seen it on display out of doors (best place to view it) and made quick work of today's reunion.

Hard to tell what my fellow museum visitors made of the show. In NYC, no one wants to let on any sort of dismay at any emperor's new clothes. I enjoyed looking at various folks' clothes and tried to figure out who was from what country. Japan, definitely. Also Italy. Not sure about the rest.

Dropped by the other midtown palace of style, Bergdorf Goodman, hoping to meet up with my long time make-up lady (who is now head of her department.) But she was lucky to have today off, so I just got a lipstick ... Another Valuable Method to Chase Blues Away, and returned back to my neighborhood to the mini-greenmarket (too early for real tomatoes) and took care of other grocery and wine needs.

I checked on the goings on at the shop, so that tomorrow won't be too much of a shock, and also was able to make contact with a dear London friend of many years. Since my work day has gone into overdrive, and the five-hour time difference stands between us, I have been having a hard time getting a catch-up telephone call with her. She just got back from a trip to the south of France (Sally ... so sunny and hot that it was hard to stay outside for long!)

What I did not manage to accomplish today was to add anything to my sketchbook, but right now I feel as if that activity will come more easily in the next few days.

Perhaps a page has been turned from my excessive devotion to the working day.

I wish very pleasant dreams to all.


City Views, Country Dreams ... Five Steps to a Smile

Good morning from New York.

I have been tagged with the question about ways to cheer up, so thought I would start a little bit blue and see where this goes.

Sometimes, just listening to music is good; almost always dancing to music is even better.

Going for a walk and watching what is going on all around is a good shake up of the status quo.

Housecleaning can take care of dust on furniture, floors, and give a rinse to one's mood, too.

Reading, book or magazine or even ... a blog ... can help to change the mood station.

For me, drawing or painting will always take me to a totally different state of mind.

And, of course, I have some terrific friends to connect with and share both good and not so good times.

I realize I have gone past five, but maybe even taking a nap (getting caught up on rest) can be cheering. And then there are all those food groups!

All of these methods seem obvious when one is not down in a particular dump, but can be quite handy to call upon in gloomier moments.

Now, let's have a big smile!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Tomorrow is the day that we celebrate our Independence Day. 1976. From England.
And here am I on the eve of Independence Day, being so glad to have so many people across the Atlantic with whom to communicate.

I have today celebrated my second private independence day, with a second day off. Tomorrow I will return to the shop to see what has happened while I was away, and also to see if any customers want to buy nice clothes on a holiday. As a "civilian," I was never one to shop on holidays, usually preferring to get together with friends, or travel somewhere.

Thanks to all who gave comments on my initial posting of a photo. I got opportunity today to play with my new toy, the digital camera. I took some shots around the neighborhood and also in Central Park. Those pictures I will eventually share with you.

After taking care of a bunch of stored-up errands this morning, I had a stroll in the Park, and then ventured downtown to have a much delayed hair cut. Now I am not so shaggy as has been true for the past busy weeks. To commemorate both the haircut and the new camera, I prevailed upon my lovely stylist to click a photo of her handiwork. And have posted it here (I hope!)

The salon is not too far from my shop, on... or actually above... lower Fifth Avenue, and the photo looks across Fifth to some other older buildings. This area has been through many eras, and is currently undergoing somewhat of a resurgence. Lots of shops at street level, above are residential lofts, salons, music studios, photography-related businesses and studios, internet-related businesses, design studios. The average building is about 12 or less stories tall, so daylight is possible at street level.

After the recent doings in London and Glasgow, I note a bit of increased police presence in New York, but really not too different from our contemporary "normal." When I was taking the photos round town today, I could easily have included some overhead helicopters in some shots, but elected to go with the clear, beautiful blue sky.

Hoping that the beautiful weather that we have had for the past two days will speed across the ocean to you. There is a tulip magnolia tree near my corner in full summer leafiness, that somehow is now producing its second 2007 crop of blooms. I will definitely have to take a picture to show you.

Pleasant dreams to all.