Thursday, November 27, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York on Thanksgiving Day.

Our Thanksgiving Day occurs on the fourth Thursday, after the first Monday of November, and therefore is not on a fixed date like Christmas. Sometimes this holiday occurs under rainy or snowy skies, and sometimes the chill of the air makes it a grand time to do a lot of cooking that involves having an oven's heat.

Besides being our traditional day to count our blessings, this day also provides the gateway to the Christmas season. A New York City tradition is the parade that has been sponsored by our big Macy's department store for many decades. Lots of Macy's employees participate in the parade, as do champion marching bands from all over America, and some semi-famous stars of stage and screen.

The big draw for the children attending the parade are the giant balloons in the shapes of many cartoon or storybook characters. The parade assembles on the western side of Central Park, and draws huge crowds as it makes its way downtown, ending up in front of Macy's. Often the only part of the parade that little children can actually see are the helium-filled balloons, that are steered along the route by teams of Macy folks holding on to cables, and hoping that the balloons do not escape their grip.

Keeping up the balloon theme, vendors are very much on the scene selling their own versions of balloons as souvenirs of the parade. It is hard for parents to avoid buying one of these for their child. Think of the parents who have a few children to please. The following photo also shows the entrance to the famous Dakota apartment house.

Let me show you all some of the big balloons. I will leave it to you to guess which character is which.

This one might be easier to name.

I love the colors in this picture and wonder which choice these little girls made. You might also get a glimpse of a gentleman selling cotton candy in the background. I think that he is counting his funds.
Here comes another fellow, just crossing 72 Street. Please note the blue sky.

I absolutely could not resist taking a photo of this large pup. He seemed to be very well trained.

In some years past, accidents involving balloons going out of control have occurred. The wind sock on the top of the street light pole is there to warn the parade marshals when the breezes might pose a risk. No problems like that today.

I could not resist taking a photo of this cutie. There were lots of colorful hats keeping little and big ears warm.

Since this is, after all, New York, there is much more police presence at the parade than there used to be. This copter was just a little too low to suit me, and I was glad when it hovered away.

Even when the weather is a good as it was this morning, standing in one place for a few hours can be tiring and you can suddenly feel a chill in your toes. I noticed that the vendors also noticed when folks began to drift away from the parade. (Keep in mind that the viewers were about 75 folks deep. Very few have an unobstructed view of the parade, unless on daddy's shoulders, or if daddy has thoughtfully brought along a ladder.)
And so, this photo shows the crowd beginning to thin, and the vendors perhaps beginning to run a sale on their souvenirs.
Some folks actually gathered up their families and made their retreat to bus, subway, car, or perhaps just foot, before the star of the show made his arrival. You might just be able to make out the bearded fellow in the red suit.

I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Last time that I wrote, it was just after our Election Day, and I was still in the free flow that my several weeks of vacation were providing. Tomorrow, I will return to the shop, and in the time since I went on vacation, much has changed.

Others might call me a workaholic, but I do not call myself one. I am a Virgo, and like to do things properly, think a lot, try to plan, etc. To step away from my demanding manager role for several weeks, was very difficult. I absorbed all the words about ... it's good for you, refresh yourself, it is part of the company's culture ... all that, and still, it was very difficult to schedule this break.

Well, oddly, my time off not only coincided with our marvelous election results, but also with the continuing descent of the financial markets, and the continuing uncertainty of what is to come. Ah, this Virgo has just tossed analysis to the sky. Let it be, etc.

During the past Monday through Wednesday, I attended a series of managers meetings held off site by my company. During those days we got much more info about how we will respond to the financial meltdown, and even had an amazing workshop by a representative of an organization called the Great Place to Work Institute. My employer has ranked highly in this Institute's surveys for the past five years.

There was a full moon on Wednesday. More input for the mix.

During my free time, I had had enough free time, without any clock, to daydream, paint, doodle, play with yarn, shop for boots, go to museums, get a hair cut, see friends that I have neglected and to let the demands of my job drift from my mind.

Yesterday was a misty, then windy and rainy day in New York. After messing about in my apartment with various creative and practical tasks, I walked down Broadway to a lovely movie theatre just across from our glorious neighbor Lincoln Center, and got a big popcorn bucket to see me through the French film I Have Loved You So Long. It is a film I would recommend to any of you.

I walked back home, still in the mood that the film had induced. Got home late afternoon, and as I waited for the slow elevator to arrive at my lobby waiting post, I saw one of my favorite neighbors come through the front door of the apartment building. She was carrying a huge tote bag. Of course I greeted her, and began to talk about the rainy day. However, she then told me that she'd just been fired. She's a graduate of one of our Ivy League colleges, very energetic and devoted to her career. Her employer for the past 15 years has been a major magazine, part of a major media force.

Suddenly, the television, newspaper, Internet news reports of the recession impact just came crashing home. This hard working person is having her long built career abruptly stopped. She has had a job that many would dream of having, and now ... she does not.

Of course, we talked a long time, and I will say that she is very angry, but much more composed than I would have been had our roles been reversed.

Knowing that the coming weeks will hold many challenges for me as manager of a retail shop, I am so glad to have had these past three weeks pretty much away from the shop. It has given me a chance to recharge my energy, remember I am at heart an artist ... not a shop manager, and re-connect with my many old friends who remind me when and how I stray from that identity.

Today, I got groceries, visited the library, returning books, and picking up others, and did a bit of boot shopping. I wanted to find some that looked good and treated my feet well simultaneously. Got one cheap pair, but still want to find some more special styles.

Returning home, walking along a neighborhood sidewalk, I stopped to gaze in a florist shop that does really creative work, the windows are filled with sculptures done with the combinations of various plants, flowers, moss, whatever. All of a sudden, I heard a deep voice say, Hello, and turned to see the face of a man who was my lover many decades ago. Surely, the full moon was still operational.

He and I do encounter each other every so often and always immediately can just reconnect. He is also an artist. Each of us turned 63 this year.

Well, this chance meeting gained more strength, when we learned that we both saw that same French movie yesterday. He and I have some family histories that are similar, though we grew up in very different parts of the world. How very odd that we each saw that film, in the same theatre, just hours apart, and took from it many thoughts.

After a while this afternoon, we did our usual kiss and hug, and promise to see each other soon.

I came home, made dinner, started this blog.

Just now, I got a call from the shop with a Problem that has suddenly come up, and that I will face tomorrow. My vacation is over, my contemplative moments, thinking of past romance, are suddenly crumpled.

I will soon be going back on duty.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York, on the day after Election Day.

Usually, my Country Dreams refer to visions of what it would be like to not live in a big city. But today, I think that I will dream a bit about how my big country may evolve under the leadership of our newly elected President.

I was up very late last night watching the election reports both on television and on various web sites. It was quite thrilling to watch state after state, including some surprising states, fall into the Obama column. One of the surprising states was Virginia, where I was born long, long ago, and raised in a culture that would never have allowed Mr. Obama's candidacy, among other participations.

I cast my own vote late yesterday morning, and was fortunate not have had to wait at all. My polling place is in the cafeteria of a neighborhood school that hosts various election districts. The voting booths for the other districts all did seem to have lengthy queues, and that was wonderful to behold. Any time that there is a large turnout, everyone wins.

Having voted, I took a bus to mid-town, and met a friend for lunch. We had not seen each other in quite a long while, though we do continue to stay in touch. Our friendship goes back about 30 years, which is quite a while. It was grand to gobble our sandwiches, and talk, talk, talk. No one choked, even though we surely did a lot of laughing.

After that lunch, she had to return to work, and I walked home through Central Park. I hope that you will enjoy some of the views of the little pedicabs, various multi-colored trees, and some views of the aftermath of Sunday's marathon race.

The above picture is for a blogging pal, who loves trees.

Please note the tiny red balloons let in the tree on the path just ahead of where the marathon finish line was painted.

It is interesting to see that the same crews who helped set up all the apparratus for the marathon's finish line have to return to that scene of Sunday's glory on Tuesday to pack it all up again.

And that allows me to return to the election results. My friends and I are thrilled. Around midday, I went out to buy a "souvenir" copy of today's New York Times. No luck. Every newsstand for a mile or so along Broadway was totally sold out. This is a momentous day, and a day for celebrations.

Tomorrow will be a day to begin to get serious about what this change to our government can mean. I so hope that Mr. Obama will be able to continue to motivate the citizens of this country to be more than dreamers, to convince them to contribute to our country's future, in many ways. United we stand, divided we fall ... this can be more than an antique motto.

I have seen many elections, worked on many campaigns, seen hopes rise and fall. Often these past hopes seems to be tied to the fate of just one person, the President elect. Right now, we do seem to have the sense that something different has occurred. Each one of us can take on some responsibility in our own lives to carry this difference to many more tomorrows' worth of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There are also many people who are not at all pleased with the election results, and some of them have begun their vocalizing. The challenge is to keep holding the positive attitudes and not be drawn into negative imagery. I think this time, we just might manage to make more of our dreams come true.

It is lovely to hear so much support of the election from overseas. Thanks to all. We really are all in this together.

May we all work hard and wisely, and dream well, and let's have great results.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

When I first began writing these posts, I wrote much more frequently than I have done recently. Why I have not written recently, that is a bit of a mystery. Surely, each day still contains 24 hours. Surely, my life has not taken on any additional excitement that would keep me from writing.

Perhaps it is just a question of the seasons. The four seasons of the calendar year, and the seasons, or seasoning, that enter each of our lives. Sometimes we rush to do a particular task, or to great a new friend, or to explore a fresh interest. Time will pass as we learn what these aspects contribute to our entrenched sense of our very own self. And with that time, we slowly embrace these additions to our knowlege of who we are, who we might yet turn out to be.
Many of us might remember when the summer vacation (holiday) from school seemed endless. Some of us may remember other parts of our younger years in which time seemed to pass at a different speed. How was it that I once made all my own clothes, had numerous boyfriends (with all the demands and delights that time provided,) read book after book, painted so many canvasses, learned how to make silkscreen prints, etchings, drypoints. I did all this while holding down very demanding jobs, and seeing films and plays, traveling abroad, having dinner with friends, preparing dinners for lots of friends. Baked two loaves of bread every weekend. Grew flowers and vegetables. And so on.

Do we all slow down eventually, and have to learn how to re-prioritize? I can clearly remember a time when prioritizing did not figure in my thoughts.

Well, for about a week now, I have been luxuriating in the art of relaxation. In light of the current financial turmoil, I had decided not to travel during the holiday time I had long ago gained permission to spend away from the usual demands of the shop. My city is great fun to enjoy, and even better to just explore, without too many plans.

What have I been doing.

I have commenced the delightful annual task of painting each of my Christmas cards. For decades, I have used the motif of a tea cup, and just let the decorative style take over, with lots of red and green and gold.

I have been working on more fair isle knitted squares for my long time coverlet project. The coverlet grows larger, and its expanse is welcome as the New York nights grow colder.

I have been enjoying the beauty of Central Park as the trees turn yellow, gold, red. The lawns remain a brilliant emerald. The Shakespeare Garden area has lots of summer plants that have gone to seed or to pod, and the after-hours designs of these plants produce lovely botanical sculptures.

It has been grand to see my dear friends whom I seem to usually have difficulty seeing. We lunch at various spots around town, and talk, talk and talk some more. These friends are such treasures ... we have known each for decades, and at this point really have no secrets from each others. We just share our evolution with each other, sometimes indulging in deep nostalgia for times we have mutually loved much more than the current time. We can also help each other to respond to the challenges posed by the future. Truly, many of us are quite frightened by the financial mess, but we cheer each other up.

Currently at the Metropolitan Museum a show is on view by one of my absolute favorite artists, Giorgio Morandi. I have been to see this exhibit several times, and will return for more visits. On each visit, I have been struck by the many folks also in attendance. Many of these folks are Italians. My city is indeed an international city, and it is wonderful to feel that energy.

Today, I went with an old friend to the Morgan Library to see a very elegantly presented exhibit of the preparatory drawings and watercolors that led to the magnificent Babar stories. Again, I was struck by the international element of New York. As we toured the exhibit, we were joined by several small school group tours. One of the groups was conducted in French. It was so charming to be reading the handwritten French text that went along with the paintings, and to hear the very young French voices in the background eagerly exploring the adventures of a very young elephant who was to become king.

You may wish to turn your head to see the young elephant as the photo was intended. This not very young photographer is too dumb to figure out how to turn the picture around. Please forgive me. I am on holiday and trying to avoid any sense of responsibility.

Do you see how time can be spent so enjoyably when one is released from the demands usually made on a daily basis?

I have not looked at any e-mails related to the shop. I have let any phone calls just go to the answering machine. I have tossed my mantle of responsibility over the wall.

I have seen many beautiful autumn displays on the front steps of brownstone houses in my neighborhood. The folks who arranged these did it for their pleasure, but also for the pleasure of the passersby. In a big city like this, it is an extraordinary gift and show much trust in the good will of the passersby.

Still, amid all this relaxation, I do continue to keep an eye on the final tremors of our political season. Not many days to go now.

This post has meandered a bit, and I am glad that it has felt free to go along those varied paths. If all has gone according to plan, I will have left you all a few pictures along the way.

Pleasant dreams.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

I am determined not to write a blog with what will be tomorrow's date.

By the time many of you may see this posting, it will be tomorrow. A familiar day and month but a new year. Let's think of that ... a new year. Every day presents us with so many fresh possibilities.

So. Today was a glorious September day, clear of sky and ... for the city ... fresh of air.

And a day off for me. After finishing off the required laundry, food gathering and bill paying duties, I set off for various parts of this amazing city.

I returned a not-quite-finished book to the library and picked up another book that I still need to finish. It is called Netherland, and has cricket as a subtext, and features a man from the Netherlands who is living in NYC, in the legendary Chelsea Hotel, post ... that date that I am not going to write about.

Having taken care of that book swap, I hopped a Fifth Ave. bus and rode down the the eastern border of beautiful green Central Park to visit the Museum of Modern Art, indulging in the treat of taking on a membership card. I took the museum escalator up and down, seeing some old fave paintings, but also stopping for a good while to see a very good show of paintings, prints, drawings and sketchbooks by Ernst Kirchner ... The Berlin Street. He had such a way of showing the motion of folks on the streets, mostly at night.

MOMA is to have another big night-featuring show opening soon, Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night. I expect to use my membership card a bunch of times during that show's run.

Then, home for lunch. And then, back downtown to our wonderful local school The Fashion Institute of Technology, that has a gallery space that features fabulous exhibits. The current show is ... Gothic ... dark glamor. What a treat. Mostly black clothes, some very extravagant in their elegance, some very extreme in their intent. Some by major designers ... Galliano, McQueen, Rei Kawakubo, etc., but others by much more cult-y designers. Staged in a dark room with spectacular lighting, including a projected image of a moon that waxed and waned.

Lots of young design students were trying to outwit the security guards, in their attempts to click some photos of the designs on their phones. Not too many students trying to do any sketching today ... maybe that is yesterday's method.

Tomorrow, I will be back to work, starting early with a meeting to review the most recent collection of styles ... the September collection. Then it will be back to the shop for many hours.
Ah, but the long hours tomorrow will end, and then I will have some more days off. Maybe, I will be able to do some old fashioned sketching myself.

Pleasant dreams.

Monday, August 25, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

The calendar tells us that summer will change into autumn in September, but here in New York we are being given all sorts of signs that summer has left the stage.

The weather is cool. I have the apartment windows open, but the fan is in the off position. Again, as in past years, I compliment myself on my continued reluctance to buy and install an air conditioner. Got past another summer!

There are so many other signs outside the borders of the apartment. (Let me say for the record that the awful Painting in the Lobby is there for the duration. I have had a little truth to power session with some folks who I took to have been responsible for the awful Painting's purchase and installation. I let them know that if I were a prospective tenant and saw It, I would no longer be interested in trying to move into this building.)

Now, let me move on to other seasonal signs.

New York is a city that offers much to those with millions to spend, but also offers much to those who have a bit of curiosity, or time, or patience.

Every summer, a number of concert series are offered free of charge in various venus across the City's five boroughs. I am very lucky to have quick walking access to two sites of much music, Central Park and Lincoln Center. My schedule at the shop has prevented me from sampling a much of these musical feasts as I would have preferred this summer. But still. The feast was there for many folks to enjoy.

This past weekend marked the final concerts Outdoor at Lincoln Center. Lincoln Center is our lovely westside cultural center, featuring an opera house, and two other magnificent concert halls, a theatre and the Julliard School. But in the summer, the plaza surrounding these buildings host a wonderful out of doors, free, series of concerts. This summer, the plaza has been under renovation (just like my apartment building) and so the range of the concerts was lessened. Shrunk.

However, many show did go on. Yesterday was the annual celebration of the Roots of American Music Festival. The aged legend Pete Seeger performed. Early yesterday afternoon, I walked over and took a seat on a folding chair in a somewhat shaded spot to watch a marvelous collection of aged blues performers sing wise old songs in a concert labeled Music Makers Blues Review. If you go to you will see more about an organization that is trying to not let the living sources of great blues music go hungry.

The music was wonderful.

Next on the schedule was the crazy punk/rockabilly/all sorts of stuff band The Knitters, lead by John Doe and Exene Cevernka (formerly married and formerly of the band X.) Again, fabulous music. They take old tunes, tunes they have written, twist them around and blast them right out at you.

Then, since the first two concerts ran long, and it was getting on to my supper time, and I do need to have supper, I left LC to go home to have supper. And then walked back downtown again (about a 10 minute walk) in time to hear the last few songs by the next act, Charlie Hayden and Friends. Country music, traditions mixed with jazz.

By the time that set concluded the sky was deep blue, and a star had appeared overhead. Also overhead we could see, but thank goodness, not hear, the recurrent passovers by planes and copters.

I was so lucky that a kind young man let me know that the seat next to him was available ... tenth row from the stage. The stage hand roadies rushed about trying to reset the equipment for the grand finale.

As I looked around me, I marveled at the variety of folks in the audience, all colors, ages, sizes, some having brought along their dogs, unwilling spouses, backpacks, zimmer frames, opera glasses, cups of beer, cell phones, tattoos (lots of those,) fetching little straw fedoras, picnic suppers, trophy wives, children ... toddlers and older, too. It was just such a rich mix, the sort of gathering that always makes me very glad to endure what I do in order to live here.

Okay, so finally all the twiddling with the amps, and lights, and guitar tuning was perfected.
And...we got to hear a fantastically energetic and affectionate New York neighbor of ours, Patti Smith just sing all those wild and crazy and wise tunes of hers. And her band still has Lenny Kaye on guitar. And now even has added her son Jackson Smith. We had a love fest ... audience and performer. Seated near me was a very enthusiastic sari-wearing Indian lady who knew all the tunes and could dance to them. She continued to offer translations to her husband.

The music went on until at ultimate encore time, Patti said that there were only 4 minutes left (union electricians, etc.) and so ... she and the band would just deliver the most that they could manage in four minutes. And they did.

What a lovely way to close out a summer season. Interestingly, both Patti and the Knitters repeatedly urged the audience to remember to vote, and to get our friends and family to vote.

As I write this tonight, I have the television on in the next room, with coverage of opening night of the Democrat Party's convention. Not long from now our country will again been going to the polls. I have voted so many times in my life, but still get a little kick of enthusiasm from singing along with Patti ... people got the power.

Pleasant dreams to you all.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

As we approach the night of the full moon, how I wish that I could tell you that the vile painting has been removed from the lobby of the building in which I live. I cannot. It is still there, and has continued to collect many comments from folk who pass by it. So far, I have not heard anything favorable.

I so appreciate all the comments on my prior post! You all give me evidence that there are others in this year 2008 who also live in circumstances not within their control. Well ... if we want to go very global, do any of us live in a place that we control? Should that awful lobby painting take on symbolic status? Nah. It's just ugly.

The elevator repair continues. We have intermittent contact with the remaining two elevators for our travels upward and downward. I am so glad to be within foot climbing reach of each destination. The stairs may be strewn with debris from the renovation, but they still work!

The failing little topiary fir tree outside the building entrance has been replaced. It and its stronger, older topiary brother tree have now been also surrounded by additional plantings. I may yet have the courage to get the camera out to show you how real estate folks can even mess up plantings, but not tonight.

I know that the weather across the Atlantic has been grim. I remember that the only time that I ever traveled to London in August was the coldest trip I ever experienced. I wore all my packed layers simultaneously. I remember stopping by the South Molton St. Sassoon shop (part of my usual stops) for a very extreme hair cut, wearing all my layers, and having the top stylist exclaim how he really liked my "gear." I was so glad to be warm!

I have again retreated into to yesteryear.

Back to now. Work has been stressful. The rains we have had in the past weeks have caused leaks in the "back stage" parts of the shop. I report these problems, hoping that those who can fix it will fix it. Not yet. It is raining right now. Wonder what I will find tomorrow morning.

Have also been dealing with a variety of "human resources" issues. I may never go into greater details here, but will confess that it is so very tiring to do the very best job I can imagine being able to do, and still find that there are still issues outstanding.

Earlier this week, I so enjoyed being able to get together with old NYC friends who were making their more or less annual visit back east from their home in California. It is wonderful to just get back into conversation with folks that you know so well.

Is that not a beauty of this site. That we can trade our written conversations, day by day, and every bit of it just continues to strengthen the interests we share with each other.

Pleasant dreams.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

I have so enjoyed reading about the beautiful countrified summers being experienced by so many of you. I read of garden teas, gorgeous flowers (proved by splendid photos,) visits t0 pubs, visits to other beautiful places.

And then, I realize that I should share some of my current city views with you.

Perhaps you will recall that my apartment building was fairly recently sold to a corporation. I am lucky to be a protected tenant, so am entitled to remain in my tiny flat, as I watch other, more vulnerable tenants packing up and moving out.

As their apartments are vacated, they are renovated. Dishwashers, sanding of floors, painting of walls, and perhaps a few more improvements yield rents double what we vets are paying.

The public spaces are also being "improved." Out on the sidewalk entrance to the building, we have two large concrete planters in which have been installed mini fir trees. One of the trees is already not looking very healthy. At the base of each of these minis are some weakening begonias and lengthening vines of some sort. The curbside cherry and ginkgo trees out front have had periwinkles planted at their bases. The periwinkles don't look much better than the begonia. (In past summers, we had impatiens (busy lizzies) where the periwinkles struggle, and the impatiens were toughies who blossomed.

Our hallways are being smoothed; the prior prickly stucco finish is being banished. One of our three elevators is now out of its vertical tunnel. It will be replaced by a better, modern vehicle. Meanwhile, we can count on the stairs to see us through, when the two remaining elevators just don't show up at their requested station.

But. The worst is the lobby. The flooring has been re tiled with slippery, slightly metallic tiling.

The old lobby decor was not pretty, but did not try to be flash; it did not aspire to any sort of beauty. It was content to be functional.

Today a very large, very awful abstract painting was added to the lobby mix. I regret that I will have to see this every time I enter or leave this building. I feel very sorry for the doormen who sit at their post a few yards away from this monstrosity, hour after hour.

The painting could not have been created by a painter. I asked if it was a temporary measure, but was assured that it will be a permanent fixture.

Do you all see why I rely on my country dreams?

Best wishes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

The humidity is bearable, as is the temperature. We were able to sell quite a few wool and cashmere sweaters at the shop today. These are strange times.

I think that the incredibly wonderful Cowgirl has asked me to come up with some random thoughts. Random thoughts just run through my mind all the time. Let me choose a sampling.

1. I prefer pasta to rice for my carbohydrates ... but there is nothing like a baked potato.

2. I can live along with a lot of dust at home, but need to have my workplace clean, clean clean.

3. I wish that I had a sister, but have found many surrogate sisters though friendship.

4. The last time I was in a church for a service was at my father's memorial service, some years ago.

5. I hold out hope to some day have a garden, and a puppy ... Milla ... that one is for you!

6. It really bothers me that I learned Latin, French and Russian, and now feel each of them drifting from my mind. Latin was to give me eternal help in spelling and any reader of this post knows that has not held up.

7. I do think of 7 as a lucky number, but also quite like 3 and 9.

Pleasant dreams to all. xo

Sunday, July 27, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York on a darkening Sunday afternoon.

Forecasters predicted thunderstorms and one of those storms seems to be trying to arrive as I type. My little living room grows darker and darker. Usually around this time in late afternoon, my south-facing window is flooding the room with light.

Earlier today I did manage to take a walk over to Central Park and will be sharing some of my photos with you all, but not all at once. It seems so difficult for me to find time to write blogs these days, that maybe having a stock of photos will help to encourage me!

How I wish that the shop was not taking so much of my time. We are having wonderful successes with each month's collection, and making many customers happy, but this effort is just not the same as having a summer holiday.

My armchair travels have included reading many beautiful blog postings, and it's really quite amazing to have a quick hop across an ocean or two while eating breakfast.

My other way to visit the world comes when the shop is visited by tourists from so many countries. I have had the pleasure of chatting with folks from France, Italy, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Ecuador, India, Pakistan, India, Chile, Argentina, Japan and on and on. As a young girl growing up in Virginia, I never dreamed that I would meet people from so many places!

This chatting, however, sometimes just makes me yearn to actually go somewhere. The shop's scheduling requirements keep me from getting too ambitious with this dreaming, but I have determined from my boss that it will be permitted for me to have as many as two weeks' off at a time. Most likely I will be doing this in late October stretching into early November. (This could mean that I will have to apply for an absentee ballot to vote in the upcoming elections.)

Many of you, whose blogs delight me, live in places that I have visited and would love to see again. However, I keep thinking that I would also like to see a place that would be new to me.

Please do let me have any suggestions that you'd like to leave. Maybe setting travel as a theme will encourage me to blog more frequently.

Meanwhile, best wishes to you all.

Monday, June 2, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

In the past few days New York has welcomed the warmth of early summer weather (no matter what the calendar might require) and has also seen yet more deaths arise from falling construction cranes that are supposed to be regulated, inspected, and are required to continue our building boom. Some of you who live outside the States will have read that we are in an undeclared recession and that a real estate bubble may be the latest suspect for this problem.

When new 25-storied, and taller, buildings are erected on the site of demolished shorter buildings, the contractors and financial wizards in charge of the construction do require the presence of towering cranes. These intricate pieces of machinery are delivered to the street where the construction is ongoing, and then erected themselves, bit by bit, until they reach a height beyond that of many nearby buildings. Windy days may tempt danger for construction sites, from falling debris, or from unstable cranes, or from other possibilities.

Our city needs to constantly reinvent itself, to show it is thriving, to climb upward, upward physically and symbolically.

Our city and our country are showing signs of economic weakening. Shortcuts may currently be taking place in the construction industry. The construction industry has connections to the financial and political worlds. It is often difficult to find a reason for a disaster, after the disaster occurs. Meanwhile, the mostly male construction crews are glad to make the money that their very difficult, dangerous jobs pay. Until there is a disaster. Then the story makes a few news cycles and many of us who live in the city try to avoid blocks where we can see cranes teetering above.

Some memories will fade. More old buildings will be demolished, and more new towers will be erected.

Having delivered that less than lovely tribute to late spring in New York, I would like to once again thank all the fellow posters for showing so many beautiful pictures of their spring gardens. Those images are the source of my country dreams.

I would now like to tell a more uplifting tale of how small our world can be.

Many of you are aware that I manage a shop. The advertising campaigns for our company have for some time featured photos of a beautiful model who has lovely long, grey hair. She is also a friendly, multi-talented person, as I have discovered on visits she has made to the shop.

A few weeks ago, I assisted a Swedish customer, who was visiting New York, from her home in France. We have many international visitors. This is one of the charms of being in the shop.
The Swedish lady confided to me that she was a playwright, and that one of her plays was currently being performed in a major Stockholm theatre. But there was more. She told me that one of the characters in her play was actually inspired by our model with the beautiful long, grey hair. In fact, a special "peruke" had been designed for the actress playing the role.

I just found this story so delightful, and promised to mention it to our model when I next saw her.

This past week, I received a square, white envelope bearing a wonderful collection of French stamps. Opening the envelope I found a sweet note from the playwright, and also a copy of the official playbill from her play. The playbill is in Swedish, a language I cannot read or write. The cover of the booklet features a dramatic color picture of the lead actress, with her beautiful long, grey wig.

In a week that was filled with local news that could frighten us all, it was a great pleasure and very reassuring to receive this message from France. We can connect in happy ways, though the news may often try to convince us otherwise.

Pleasant dreams to you all, in or out of your spring gardens.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

It often seems to those of us who have seen a few New York springs, that the hot weather abruptly arrives at the end of May, around the time of our Memorial Day holiday. That is what happened again this year. It's finally fine to wear sandals, and to shed a layer or two of jacket or sweater.

There has also been lots of rain, and the park is very heavily green. Rose bushes in sunny places are beginning to bloom, and some folks on my block have planted begonias, impatiens and pansies to bring a little color to the concrete and asphalt.

Although I have yet to see them, new neighbors have moved into the recently renovated apartment next door to mine. Last night when I returned home from work and was unlocking my front door, I heard a baby crying from behind the door next door. Previous neighbors in that apartment have had babies, and it is a testimony to the design of the building and the thickness of its walls, that once inside my home sweet home, I heard no crying.

I do hope to meet this new family soon.

After some blustery rain last evening, today is a lovely day, made more lovely because it is a day off. We will host a "special" event at the shop tomorrow, focused on our petite-sized range (theoretically for those 5'4" and under.) This event is not a very extravagant affair, featuring some light refreshments, and the opportunity for customers to meet with the company's petites specialist, and to have 10 per cent of the amount of their purchases be donated to a worthy philanthropy.

I am a bit worried that not too many folks may attend, despite our publicizing the event. Often our events give the customers a certain dollar amount off the price of an item, or give them a gift with each purchase. That will not be the case tomorrow. Customers making a purchase will received "double points" for their purchases, however. (We have a program that grants a customer a point for every dollar that is spent. When the accumulated points reach 2,000 ... no matter how long it may take, the customer receives a gift card worth $100.) It is my sense that a gift with each purchase would have been a stronger draw, but we will know more tomorrow.

After working so very hard, day after day during the retail month of May, it was very disappointing to my staff and myself that we did not meet our sales goal. Therefore, we won't get a bonus check for May. The checks that we each received for our April success were quite substantial and quite welcome in these inflationary/recessionary times. We think that what kept us from our May goal was powerful Mother Nature, who provided two very, very cold and rainy days, when few customers ventured out to shop.

Now it will be my task to motivate the staff to keep going strong during June.

My assistant manager and I will be out of the store for two days next week, attending out of town managers meetings. We do value our staff and their ability to flourish without us, but all the same, I really wish that both of us did not have to be away for so much of next week (the two meeting days, plus our regular two days off.)

It is now the season when staff will begin taking lots of holiday time off, so it is a bit of challenge to juggle the schedule, making sure that everyone does get the free time they request, but also making sure to keep the shop adequately staffed. I try to be fair to everyone.

Since the weather is so good today, I will now put my sandals on and go outdoor to check on those roses.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

Our springtime here continues to be on the chilly side, but that has helped to extend the flowering season in nearby Central Park. We have had lots of April and May showers and the still new leaves on the trees are very green and very heavy, really weighing down some of this year's fresh branches.

On a recent Park walk after recent rain, I took this photo which give you a little idea of the mood of that overcast day.

I regret that I have not had more time to take such walks in the Park due to having the usual busy times at the shop. Despite media reports of our being in a recession (or maybe just on the edge) our shop has had its busiest spring ever.

How wonderful that I was able to add another staff member, and that she is terrific. We all just work together, enjoying each others' company, and trying to keep our customer service skills high. Many evenings when 7 p.m. (the posted closing hour) arrives, we still have customers in the fitting rooms, trying on clothes, making their decisions. The two or three of us who are still there as the "closing shift" are by then so, so tired, but we do try to remain poised and gracious until that last customer has left the shop.

This results in great sales figures, but also in very tired folks, who have been working a physically and mentally challenging job for over eight hours. Still, we laugh and compliment and complement each other, and get up the next day to do it again!

This past Sunday was Mother's Day here in the States, and I was able to let all but one of the mothers on my staff have the day off. The four of us who were to work on Sunday wondered just how busy we would be. The answer was ... very. As a gesture on that day we had purchased lots of deep red and pale coral roses, so that we could present one long stem to each lady who visited us that day. It was a simple thing to do, but seemed to be quite popular.

Yesterday was super rainy and windy, and not an ideal day for a celebration, or maybe it was. Scheduled months ago, it was the day of my employer's annual service awards luncheon, which honors folks reaching milestone anniversaries with the company ... five, ten, fifteen years and more. I attended to support two members of my staff who were being so honored. We traveled via a chartered shuttle bus from the company's Garment District showroom to a beautiful site overlooking the Hudson River. The building was once the home of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.

As always, the luncheon was beautifully catered, and it was great fun to get re-acquainted with old friends, and to meet new ones. The event is usually somewhat emotional as well, because we all really do believe that our company is just a bit different in that we do care about each other.

Afterwards, the shuttle bus took us back to the City. Of course, many folks attending the event drove their own cars or used other transportation. We do have many locations in the metropolitan suburbs and anyone living in those areas cannot rely, as I do, on public transportation.

I also wanted to thank all the folks who have been posting words and comments about their beautiful gardens, and the exercise and delight that those gardens ensure. I have mentioned before that my apartment is not at all plant friendly, and thought that I would share with you a little photo that proves my words true.

These two scraggly survivors are too stubborn to totally give up. This view is from my living room and, as you can see, has a vista facing across an air space to other apartments. Thank goodness that the view from my bedroom is much more open and lets me see sky, trees, interesting architecture.
Perhaps you now know more of why I do have country dreams.

Friday, April 25, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Spring is really coming to New York. The flowering trees are flowering, the daffodils in the Park and in some streetside garden plots are just about spent. We still can enjoy the colorful parade of tulips.

Park Avenue on the East Side, like our own Westside Broadway, is a wide north/south avenue, with space between the two directions for a bit of ground with trees, and seasonal plantings.
Some eastsiders only admit that spring has arrived when the tulips in the middle of Park Avenue have bloomed. Well, they have done so. And ... we westsiders can report that tulips in many beautiful colors have also performed over on our side of town.

On my own little block we have see the magnificent tulip magnolia tree that gets the sun near the Broadway corner has fully bloomed, and now is in its first green leafing. (Last year's strange weather led this tree to actually produce three generations of blooms. We had never seen the like of it, and despite deploring global warming aspects, really did like the show.)

We also have had the white flowering pear trees' spring announcement, and currently have several beautiful pink cherry trees in abundant bloom. All this really does soften our urban concrete and press and stress.

Note the segue. That cough that struck my throat back in February has not left. I am so tired of the hacking that can overtake me at certain times of day. My staff at the shop keeps begging ... go see the doctor, Again.

The shop has been amazingly busy. The financial news indicates a recession has our country in its grip. The recession does not yet have our customers in its grip. In fact, we have a beautiful spring collection, that really does appeal to real women (as opposed to some females who may appear in the adverts in the glossie fashion mags.) My staff and I can barely keep up with the demands of each day.

Our company prides itself on our wonderful customer service, and that is what we do endeavor to deliver, even when we are so totally exhausted, stressed, etc. It is up to me, as manager, to try to keep up the esprit de corps, and so far I think that has been accomplished. We just keep on exceeding our monthly sales goals, which means that we get some very good bonus checks. Tomorrow is the final day to our April retail month, and we should go way, way over that month's goal.

I remember back when I began as manager of this shop about two years' ago, and the atmosphere was so very different. I hope that you all will allow me to say that the two years really have marked a change. We have a happy staff now, who take care of each other, and the customers love our shop. Since we are located very close to the offices of the company's design team, we have benefitted from having access to that contact. Hoping that the future will continue this positive expansion, and that we do not get caught in recession's web.

Ah, but let me get back to that cough of mine. I will have next week off, and will be attending to various overdue medical appointments (dentist, eye doc) but today I tried to connect with the specialist whom I saw last month about this persistent cough. He is on vacation until May 5. Undaunted, I called my gp and got to see him this afternoon.

He assures me that the cough will go away. That he sees nothing serious. But he has gotten me an official request for a chest x-ray. I will do that next week. When I told him about all the renovation work being done in this apartment building over the past months, my doctor said that could also be a factor.

So. Right now I am not coughing. Before the hour is out, I am sure that I will have another big spasm of coughing, ejecting stuff that I will not trouble your dreams by a description. Awkward sentence that one, but still you won't get a description.

Tomorrow, it is back to work for that one last day before the week off. I have left my assistant a long, long list of things to do, think of doing, wonder about doing. I so hope that next week lasts longer than a week.

I want to see friends, do some artwork, have that x-ray, see my dentist and eye doc, and get out to the park, and just relax.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Spring is officially here, so sayeth the calendar. We New Yorkers, however, are still wearing our winter coats and keeping our scarves, hats and gloves nearby.

In Central Park are some areas that are sheltered, and get continuous sun. In those areas the daffodils are fully bloomed out. But in most parts, the daffs are just now coming into bloom, alongside their fellow prophets of spring, the crocuses and forsythia. Tulip leaves are well above ground but the stems with the buds are waiting for more warmth.

I actually prefer this sort of cooler spring, because it extends the blooming season.

My long-lasting cough is still lingering just a little bit, but I have been to yet another doctor, a specialist, who has assured me that the annoying tickle in the throat that causes the cough will be vanishing soon.

At the shop, there are few signs that our clients are experiencing a recession. Our sales consider to be quite astonishing. We now have our April collection on display, and I have chosen a few styles to wear in the shop. (It may be spring, but my choices are still mostly black!) I have a great pair of black Irish linen cropped trousers which will go with everything, and be very cool in the hot weather to come. I also chose an interesting new jacket design in a heavy silk georgette crepe. It is about hip length, and based on a kimono shape, complete with wonderful "lantern" sleeves. I should take a photo of this jacket to show you how swell it is.

The jacket has no front closure, but I fold one side over the other, and then secure it, obi style, by wrapping around a long ecru Fortuny-style-pleated silk scarf, and tying the ends. The ends of the scarf are trimmed with beads, and the weight of the beads keeps the scarf tied round my ... 25 inch waist. I wear the jacket over a knee length black silk dress over long black palazzo trousers. It is fun to be in a "costume."

Now, even if the weather outside is cool, I am warmed up enough to respond to dear UPL's request for seven secrets, or sort of secrets.

1. I am another left-handed person.

2. I am the oldest of three children, having two younger brothers.

3. As a child I loved to help my mother with certain household tasks, such as polishing silver.

4. Being angry will make me cry. I rarely now cry from unhappiness, perhaps because I am rarely feeling really unhappy.

5. I have an old-fashioned rotary phone, and no air conditioning.

6. When I cannot sleep, instead of counting sheep, I remember the Tube ride into central London from Heathrow and try to remember the stops, and the rooftops I would see from the window.

7. I only east tomatoes in the summertime, when I can buy them at local greenmarkets from the farmers who raised them.

This afternoon, I visited my expert hair stylist who has got my bob back into perfect shape. She is a marvel!

Earlier this evening I finished the forms to file the New York state and city taxes. And ... great news is that I do believe I am due for a refund!

On that very upbeat note, I will wish all of you pleasant dreams.

Monday, March 17, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Happy St. Patrick's Day from New York.

We had a beautiful March 17, with vivid blue sky, temperature enough above freezing to protect the legs of marching drum majorettes and kilted pipers. The steady breeze did present some challenges.

I watched the Parade from the west side of Fifth Avenue along the edge of Central Park. It seemed to me that the crowds were much smaller than in past years. This will be apparent from some the photos that will follow. Very few folks were watching the Parade from the other side of Fifth, but you all will be able to see some fancy Fifth Avenue apartment buildings.

I tried to capture a variety of hats, marchers and viewers, so that you all would be able to share this lovely afternoon with us.
Pleasant dreams.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good Evening from New York.

I can remember when I would write a blog almost every day. Then, there were the times when I would write at least once a week.

And then, as can be the case with any sort of diary, the frequency dropped off. My last post was around the time that I actually thought that I would be soon stopping the coughing spells whose freqency was a bit alarming.

Well, the coughing went on. And on. I kept going to work, and on every available day off, used any free time to sleep, thinking that would bring on the cure. It did not.

Friends and work colleagues pestered me to see a doctor. Demands at the shop kept piling up, and my time off became less and less. Some of you may have already detected my over-developed sense of responsibility. It has been on display. It is not a way to stop a cough.

Finally, yesterday, I did arrange an appointment with my doctor. I was delighted to know that he still had kept my file, because I had not seen him in about four years. Really, I just don't get sick. I do see my various other docs, the eye man, the gynocologist, the skin cancer man, the dentist lady, but the general practitioner, or internist as they are called over here, if I have no need I will not make an appointment.

Yesterday afternoon I did promise to make another appointment for a long overdue "regular checkup." The kind and diplomatice doctor said ... my lungs are clear. He thought I might have had some sort of viral infection and gave me a prescription, which I have filled and will use for two more days, before seeing what the results might be. I will call the doctor and report the results. If all is well ... hooray. If not, I may need to have a chest x-ray. Wait ... on Monday, I had my annual mammogram. Is that not enough x-raying for the month of March?

I make a bit light of this, but it is a relief to have seen the doctor, and to have him think that there is not much wrong with me.

Today was a day off that began with ... an 8 am managers meeting. After that get together was adjourned I had the day to myself, and this afternoon actually did a little doodling around with my watercolors, inspired by the very early signs of spring that I have seen in the Park. I will return to the watercolor, which is very abstract, and mostly green and yellow. I have no idea what it may turn out to be. The main thing was that I actually got the paints out for the first time in months. I have to retrain myself!

If all goes well, I will have added to this post a picture of a painting I did many years ago, another of my china tea cups. The photo is bad, but it does give an idea of the painting.
Here in New York, we are still all abuzz about the revelations regarding Mr. Spitzer, who today resigned as Governor of our state. The blocks around the apartment building where he has his private residence (not the governor's mansion which is upstate in Albany) have been totally taken over by television sound trucks. Helicoptors bearing cameras hover above.

Meanwhile this evening brings a little news about the 22 year old young lady who had the encounter with the former governor that seems to have been the encounter (but far from the only such encounter) that doomed his career. It is entirely likely that this young lady had no idea that he was the governor. Her own story is not such a happy one.

In the midst of all of this, the coughing is abating, and spring is slowly headed our way.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

I am someone who tells myself and others, I never get sick. Until I do.

It is so annoying to admit that over two weeks ago some germ or other got into my system, and since then I really haven't been running at full speed.

Cold, flu? Who knows, but the main problem has been the cough that will not leave. Many of us at the shop have had the same symptoms, and our customers tell us that they have also been felled by this wicked business.

The germs really did pick a very inconvenient time to come calling. On February 7, I'd planned an experiemental special evening at the shop, inviting long time loyal customers to come in from 6-8 pm, wearing or bearing their favorite vintage garments from our company. We had a lovely buffet of light refreshments and fizzy water and white wine, but best of all, had representatives of the company's design team on hand to meet the customers. In our invitations to the customers we described it as a backstage pass to meet the designers and ask/tell them anything on that they would like.

I felt absolutely rotten that day (could not even wear my absolutely required eye makeup) but the evening was a wonderful success. The customers loved meeting each other, and the designers had a grand opportunity to meet their public, so to speak. I took lots of photos and have written the first of a series of reports on the evening. I think that the company will be replicating this event at other shops in future.

Meanwhile, every time that I have had a day off, I have just slept as much as possible, rallying thereafter to get down to the shop again. Every time that I thought I had banished the bug, it just came back at me again.

But a lovely surprise came last weekend, and would not have happened if I had not been at work.

We are now featuring our spring preview styles, and New York weather is not at all springlike just now. So, along with the incipient economic recession that is sweeping over our land, business is not so good. Many customers now either concentrate on the sale area, or utter those "I am just looking..." words. On the weekends, we have many visitors from abroad and from other parts of the States. We can usually figure out who is not "local."

So. A couple had browsed through the shop, and were on their way out, and as is my habit, I went up to them to say bye, bye, and to offer the lady our most current brochure. As I gave the booklet to her, she turned to me, and said, "I know you. Aren't you Frances ...?"

Well, I am. Thank goodness, she quickly took away the mystery of her own identity and I realized that I was seeing a teenage, college-aged good friend, whom I had not seen in 40 years.
What a marvelous random gift of fate!

We had a grand, if too brief, chat, and exchanged e-mail addresses. I am just stunned that she recognized me! It is really marvelous to now already have been playing catch-up with the e-mail technology, and to re-c0nnect with someone whom I felt I had lost. If I had given in to the flu/cold or whatever has been giving me such grief, I would have missed this lovely reunion.

My lesson learned is that even when you might be feeling sorry for yourself, and doing a bit of moaning, life just might toss you an unexpected bouquet.

Pleasant dreams to all.