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.