Saturday, 28 June 2008

The Last Gallery Tour Of The Season: Part I

I've been very lethargic this week; it's taken me ages to get stuff done. I think I've got used to my temporarily lighter workload and laziness has set in. Either that or the hateful humidity is slowing me down. Thankfully it's a short week due to 4th July weekend, and half my clients are taking advantage of the brevity of the work week to head off on their hols this week so there's very little pressure. Yay!!

My parents are also in town of course. Well, actually they're not, having skidaddled off to Fort Lauderdale for 4 days very very early on Monday morning - I believe it was 3.30am when I was woken by them readying themselves for a trip to the airport - which made my resolution to not argue with them for the duration of their visit that much easier to keep, at least for this week. They're back in town tomorrow morning, so I am racking my brains for things to keep them occupied. You'd think this would be easy, but as this is something like their 10th visit to New York, they've pretty much covered all the standard tourist activities, so if you have any novel ideas they'd be much appreciated.

Nothing much to report anyway. I'm having a lovely time being busy doing nothing, but it makes for very dull blog posts. I did manage to drag myself out of the air conditioned bliss of my apartment on Saturday 28th to join my neighbour, Betsy, for the last Chelsea gallery tour of the season. The majority of galleries in Chelsea close on weekends throughout July and August, so our tour guide, Rafael, is forced to suspend his monthly best exhibits tours for the summer. Last Saturday's tour was the last until September 13th.

I didn't love it to be honest, not as much as tours I've been on in the past at any rate, and I dithered whether to post about it at all, but since art is subjective I decided to let you make up your own mind.

First up was Walton Ford at the Paul Kasmin Gallery whose, admittedly beautiful, watercolours illustrated "the cultural history of our relationship with animals." From what I saw of this exhibit the relationship he tends to depict is a negative one, however I'm generalising about his work after a single viewing, so I could be wrong.

The watercolour below is titled "Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros" and references a tale of a Portugese ship which sank off the coast of Italy in 1515 as the crew were attempting to deliver an Indian rhinoceros to Pope Leo X, a gift from the King of Portugal, Manuel I and unfortunately the poor animal perished, along with most of the crew I imagine.

The watercolour above depicts a Hyrcanian tiger. Hyrcania was a region (country?) south of the Caspian sea where tigers were once apparently abundant, but have been extinct in the region since the 1970s.

When I saw the painting above I wondered why the tiger was playing with a glass ball. Apparently this was a tactic used by hunters to distract the tiger - which sees its own reflection in the ball and mistakes it for another tiger encroaching on its territory - so they could get close enough to kill it :-(

I don't know about you, but these images made me feel ashamed at the frivolous and irresponsible attitude man has consistently displayed towards the animal kingdom. Not that we often don't have a frivolous and irresponsible attitude to each other. I despair of the human race sometimes I really do.

Feelings about the exhibit aside should you be after bagging yourself a nice watercolour to hang above the fireplace I'm afraid you are out of luck if Mr Ford's work happens to tickle your fancy, his paintings were all sold, however if you happen to find a spare $450,000-$600,000 down the back of the sofa hold onto it, you might be lucky enough to pick up one of his pieces at a future exhibit.

The second stop on the tour was the Aperture Gallery to see the exhibit, Architecture of Authority, by the photographer Richard Ross. According to the information on the gallery website the photographs were "provoked by the artist’s fury at the state of the post–9/11 world––the abuse of power, erosion of individual liberty, illegitimate authority, and constant surveillance."

I thought his work was very interesting, if not something I'd chose to hang on my wall, and I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition between the spaces photographed.

As the artist points out about the above photographs “Architecture is not necessarily an innocent act of creativity. A confessional in a Catholic church and an interview room at the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters share the same intimate dimensions. They are both uncomfortably tight spaces constructed to force people together, to extract a confession in exchange for some form of redemption.”

Third stop was to see the exhibit Confessional Configuration by Chinese artist Zhao Nengzhi at ChinaSquare gallery. Below is a group of thumbnail images of the exhibit that I pulled from the gallery website!!

Imagine these images displayed a 100 times bigger than the size you see here. Eeek!!! They were quite disturbing to me - I'm a squeamish sort - looking like people who had been tortured, but perhaps that was the artist's intent. They certainly got an emotional reaction out of me. you know, I'm feeling quite tired, which is not surprising since I've been sat outside the White Horse Tavern half the afternoon - we get to finish work at 1pm the day before July 4th - drinking Coronas and gossiping with Debs. My arms feel about as strong as spaghetti. I think I'll stop here and continue the post later.

Happy 4th* if you're celebrating, I hope any sausages you may be grilling turn out perfectly!!

*For those Americans among you that may be, I don't care a jot that the 4th July essentially celebrates the day you kicked us Brits out way back in 17something. I wasn't even born then. I wasn't even close to being born, in fact my ancestors were probably still in Ireland at that point, they weren't even British, however I always manage to attract the one numpty that will seriously ask me if I feel sad that it's July 4th. Are you kidding me...IT'S A DAY OFF WORK!! What's to be sad about? The only depressing thing is that the inquirer has an IQ low enough to even consider asking.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Calm before the storm?

It’s been an odd week at work. I’ve been getting in at 9am, leaving around 6pm and have actually managed to take a lunch hour every single day. My workload has been perfectly balanced, not too busy, not too slow, and I've been able to leave work with a sense of accomplishment instead of leaving at the point where I feel I've nothing more to give for the day, a lengthy list of things to do still hanging over my head, such that it ends up intruding on my dreams. Work is pretty much the only thing I dream about these days. Actually I tell a lie, because last night I dreamt I was in a 2 storey house, covered in deep snow with about a dozen other people, including the actor David Boreanaz - what can I say, I rather enjoy the TV show Bones which he stars in with Emily Deschanel, and let's face it, there are worse people to be stuck in a house with, he's not exactly hard on the eyes is he? The weirdest part of the dream was that there was a bull stood at the front door, patiently watching us all through the glass. What on Earth could it mean??? The only logical explanation I can come up with is that I’ve been doing a lot of financial research this week as I dither whether to make a small investment in a mutual fund and have thus been absorbing a lot of information about bull and bear markets. Perhaps my dream was a sign that the bull market is finally coming and I should not dilly dally, but invest now while stock prices are lower. Perhaps I have acquired the power to predict the stock market!!! Wouldn’t that be fab? Move over Warren Buffet, ye Oracle of Omaha and make way for the Mystic of Manhattan. Ahem!!

But back to the work thing…I can honestly say I haven’t had a week this quiet since 2001 and quite frankly it’s unsettling. I’m so used to running around like a blue arsed fly that having a reasonable workload is an alien concept. Sometimes I sit at my desk as I'm preparing to leave wondering if I've forgotten something. Earlier this week I was convinced my Blackberry must be broken given the lack of emails I’m receiving of an evening and I’ll admit I was concerned it might be a sign that the current US financial turmoil is starting to impact us. Marketing budgets are always the first to be cut in times of trouble, but I’m a worrier by nature and fingers crossed everything seems to be on track, and it’s not like I’m sat around twiddling my thumbs, however, while I'm not usually the pessimistic type, it just seems a little too good to be true!! Trouble must clearly be brewing!!

Pushing those anxieties aside though I have to say it’s been quite lovely. I've had the time to take leisurely walks home through Central Park and marvel at the insanity of the joggers persevering with their fitness regimes despite the unpleasant levels of humidity we’ve been enjoying in New York this week, the city smells divinely like a sewer. Ugh!! I cannot wait for autumn!!

I've also had time to finally finish my book, The Prince Of Tides by Pat Conroy as recommended to me by Catweazle** and which I picked up for a paltry $5 in a used bookstore at Raleigh/Durham airport. How cool an idea is that, a used bookstore after passport control? Every airport should have one.

Speaking of the calm before the storm, my parents arrive in town tomorrow for their annual summer visit. My apartment sparkles. I gave it a good clean last weekend and I’ve barely breathed in it this past week for fear of having to clean up again. The countdown is also on to the start of my annual summer game of ‘let’s see how long their visit lasts before we have an argument.’

I’m not sure what is it about spending a prolonged period of time with my parents that eventually sees us reverting back to the relationship we had when I was a teenager. Hopefully this time I’ll outdo previous records and not argue with them once during the two weeks – TWO WEEKS!!! It’s impossible – they’re staying with me.

Wish me luck ;-)

**A book recommendation which really surprised me since, being vaguely aware of the romantic movie starring Barbara Streisand and Nick Nolte, it struck me as something of an unusual recommendation from a bloke, but he poohed the film for being too focused on the relationship between the brother and the psychiatrist which is really only a small piece of the story. Still, now that I've read the book I'm curious to see the movie. Hey with 7 Oscar nominations, how bad can it be?

By the way if you're ever feeling in need of attention may I suggest reading the Prince of Tides on public transportation! You would not believe the number of people who interrupted my reading to tell me what a great book it was, or how the movie was among their favourites. By the time I was near the end of the book - I was so tired of people declaring their adoration that I was ready to preempt every person that tapped me on the shoulder with a 'yeah yeah yeah, don't tell me, you just frickin' LOVED the book, or the film, bugger off and stop bothering me so I can enjoy it in peace' but of course I'm too well brought up to do such a thing, so instead I smiled and indulged the people who frequently almost gave away the bloody ending!!! Aaaarrrggghhhh!! Who knew the writings of Pat Conroy would be such a conversation starter.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

That’s what I get for skipping the gym

Well....would you believe that I've twisted my ankle? It takes me back to the time, a good decade ago now, when I was still living in London and I accidentally stepped on the edge of a riser during the warm-up in step class and caused myself an injury. Stupidly I continued with class (mental!!) only to hobble over to my friend Sarah place afterwards where I was supposed to be helping her prepare Sunday lunch for 8, a lunch that was delayed an hour, because instead of having me to help her chop vegetables and what not she had the added inconvenience of fussing over me and spent a good half hour fashioning ice packs out of tea towels and packages of frozen vegetables which she strapped to my ankle to reduce the swelling. What a sweetie!! I remember I was healing fine until a few weeks later when we were out celebrating Sarah's birthday. A group of us had gone to see Saturday Night Fever the Musical, and then onto one of those clubs with a seventies night where everyone got dressed up seventies style. I think it might have been called Carwash. Ah, those were the days. Those clubs were all the rage at the time and I remember they banned afro wigs because they were a fire hazard!! Anyway there I was dancing away, dressed up in flares and a lurid polyester shirt with big pointy collars with a feather boa around my neck - I may have even been attempting to entice boys with my boa a la Eartha Kitt - when Sarah shimmied over to me in her 4inch platform heels, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch with her naturally curly hair teased out afro style and wearing a long leather coat and purple star shaped sunglasses. She put her arm around my shoulder and we started dancing and the next thing I knew I was laying flat on my back, Sarah's arm still around my shoulder, looking up at all these hands reaching down to help the two of us back to our feet. It turned out that Sarah had fallen off her platforms and taken me down with her, twisting her own ankle and not doing a lot of good for my own ankle injury. Alcohol was of course involved.

Alcohol was involved on this occasion too, although nowhere near as much as last time I twisted my ankle and I honestly don’t believe it made a significant contribution to my mishap, since I’d only consumed two glasses of wine and was more than capable of walking. No, on this occasion I lay the blame for my injury on the unevenness of New York’s pavements. Oh don't give me that look, it's true, I swear to you I wasn't trollied!!

I’d skived off my usual cardio kick-box class in favour of going for drinks after work with Emma, Debs. Post drinks we were heading over to Tenzan for sushi and had briefly stopped by Emma’s apartment to check that her boyfriend hadn’t left a candle burning - he’d called her worried that he might not have blown one out before heading out with the boys for a Friday night out – and Emma was going to run upstairs quickly and check the place wasn’t on fire. However not being one to miss out on an opportunity to have a good ol’ nosey at someone else apartment I asked if she minded if we came up too. I’m a cheeky one at times – well I am with two glasses of wine under my belt, but I love to see what people do with the tiny spaces most New Yorkers call home and Emma didn’t seem to mind a bit, so upstairs we all went.

They have a lovely place as I expected they would, very tastefully decorated – most renters don’t bother - and cosy railroad style studio apartment. It was nice, if a little small for two, but the price of apartments in New York – they pay $2,000 per month – often means that couples end up sharing apartments a hamster would reject as too cramped. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that she and her boy have been fighting more frequently than usual since she moved into his place a few months ago. Personally I think if your relationship can survive sharing a studio apartment it will probably survive anything, it's been the kiss of death for many a New York relationship I've known, since not only do you have to get used to living with each other, but there’s nowhere to go when there are the inevitable disagreements, or simply for those times when you just need your own space. I think if you can afford it, it’s wise to find a place which at least has one bedroom; that way there’s somewhere to retreat behind a closed door should you ever need to seethe quietly in a corner.

Curiosity satisfied we descended back to the street to walk over to Tenzan and…well, one minute I was upright and the next I was sat on the floor feeling significant pain in my ankle having toppled off my wedges. I think a combination of factors led to what happened next: sling back 3inch patent wedges – very cute if impractical - whose heel straps never stay in place and an unexpectedly sloping New York City pavement. I’m assuming I took a step, expecting my foot to hit a flat surface, but instead I must have stepped on a slope, my foot slipped out of my right shoe and I went down like a ton of bricks. Eeek!!

I was mortified that I’d wiped out and I am sure the New Yorkers who stepped around me, while Emma and Debs hovered in concern, assumed I was just some typical Friday night drunk. I got to my feet as soon as possible despite Debs – an old hand at ankle injuries, having sprained hers badly last year playing football/soccer. She was in a supportive boot for weeks – advising me to stay where I was and recover. Once stood, I dithered whether it was best to go home and ice it or hobble across the street to the restaurant. Icing it would probably have been the most sensible option, but I was famished and I can never think straight when I'm hungry, so instead of heading home I limped across Second Avenue to sate my rumbling stomach. Fortunately I was carrying my trainers since I’d originally planned to hit the 6pm cardio kick-box class, so I was at least able to change into more supportive footwear.

Once I got home I removed my shoe cautiously and was not happy to find my right foot had a distinctly balloon-like appearance. I couldn’t put my foot flat to the floor and I sat curled up on the sofa feeling sorry for myself and clutching a bag of frozen peas to my ankle. How convenient that I needed to defrost a bag for the pea and mint soup I planned to make on Saturday. By the way I'm getting good at this soup business if I do say so myself, my pea and mint soup was delicious, all thanks to B and his 'thank-you for letting me stay' gift of a blender/smothie maker.

I woke on Saturday morning with a very stiff right ankle, a lovely dark grey bruise across my toes and a sore left hand from where I’d broken my fall. Checking my email I saw a note from Debs informing me of the ankle injury treating acronym of RICE:

R…um…I’ve forgotten what the R is for

Rest!!! That’s what the R stands for!! Actually I didn’t follow that advice too closely this weekend as I needed to give my apartment a good scrubbing before my parents arrive next Saturday, but I strapped my foot up in a support bandage and wore my trainers and it didn’t feel too bad. It actually felt better once my circulation got going and I was able to put my weight on it at least, so while I’m not planning cardio class any time soon I did make it to Pilates mat class today. Yeah, I know, maybe I should have stayed at home to fully recuperate, but how bad can Pilates be for an ankle injury, it's essentially laying around on the floor.

Next time I’ll think twice before skipping the gym.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Hassled & Harried

This past weekend marked 8years since I moved to New York. Two more years and I believe I can officially call myself a New Yorker. If I make it another two years that is. My anniversary always sets me off wondering how much longer I can afford to live in a city where apartments the size broom cupboards routinely seem to sell for half a million dollars and upwards. I think it’s more likely than not that I’ll still be here to celebrate my 10th anniversary, although I did have a few brief misgivings about my decision to live here on my first day back in the city after my recent jaunt to the genteel south. The sheer aggressiveness of New Yorkers came as a bit of a culture shock after 4days away among a more polite people. Everyone just seemed to be so damned rude and I spent much of my first day back in town feeling huffy and irritated, however once I’d been back for 24hours I was back to aggressively elbowing grannies out of the way with the best of them* and life returned to normal. Nevertheless the negative sentiment towards New York, however fleeting, took me by surprise as I usually find returning to the city to be one of the best things about leaving it in the first place and what was once unthinkable has begun to occur to me; that maybe in a few years time I might be tempted to give up the hustle and bustle of the city in favour of a more mellow way of life. Maybe!!

Much as I love my fellow New Yorkers, I have to say that I found the southerners I encountered in Charleston to be quite a delightful contrast, very warm and welcoming with lovely manners to boot. The famed southern hospitality does not appear to be a myth and when they inquire into your wellbeing – which they frequently do - they actually wait for a response. This is bizarre to me after so long in New York where the words “hi, how are you?” are more often than not used as a sort of drive by greeting, something people say as they pass you in the hallway, without really being interested in hearing the answer. I can’t tell you how many times during my first few months here I found myself left standing in the hallway responding “I’m fine thanks, how are you?” to the back of a co-worker’s head as they continued walking down the corridor. Down south however they actually seen to mean it, they're good actors if they don't given there’s none of that obviously fake “have a nice day” bollocks that you get in New York, and which tonally comes across as if they’re actually saying “I hope you rot in hell with your fricking grande skim latte.” Yes, employees at my local Starbucks, I'm talking about you!!!

The other weird thing about the south is that the men have a tendency towards politeness and downright gentlemanly behaviour; holding doors open for you and stuff. What's all that about? It’s very strange after all these years spent in big cities – well over a decade between London and New York - where it’s every man/woman for their self. On my second date with Catweazle, when he was visiting New York, I recall he stood aside so that I could get on the subway ahead of him - unlike native New Yorker Alan who practically used to trample over me to get on the train first. The first time it happened I looked at him suspiciously and asked him what he was doing. I was a bit taken aback when he said he was waiting for me to get on first and regrettably I think I impatiently told him to move his arse and get on the train or the subway doors would shut before he could get on and we’d be separated. That’s the thing about big cities, sometimes there’s just no time for niceties when faced with the practicalities of day to day living.

Workwise things are just as stupidly busy as they were the last time I moaned about my job and I’m having a bit of a love/hate thing going on with one of my clients at the moment. I like him for being such a huge advocate of the work we do and keeping me in a salary, but by God does he crack the whip at times. I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly this week prepping for a big meeting we had with his boss this afternoon. He’d also asked me to coordinate bodies on the agency side for another meeting immediately after the one with his manager and get together everyone from the client team, and the agency, however yesterday he asked me what the agency’s agenda was for the second meeting. This being a meeting that HE called!! Honestly!! Fortunately both meetings went well, although I would have felt a lot better had I not thrown salad dressing all over myself about half an hour before we left the office. It’s my own fault for boasting to Debs about how chuffed to bits I was with my culinary challenged self for making a fab salad, replete with homemade dressing (2tbsps of balsamic, 1/2 heaped tsp dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 4tbsp canola oil vigorously shake it all together and hey presto delicious balsamic dressing). Yeah yeah okay, basically I washed and chopped vegetables and shook together ingredients for dressing, no big deal, but I've come a long way, I was raised on M&S ready meals. It was delish and I enjoyed every mouthful, that is until I looked down and….uh-oh…what’s that? Specks of balsamic dressing on my cardigan!!! BROWN specks of balsamic dressing on my PALE GREEN cardigan. Right on the boobs too. I had to go and dab at it in the ladies room, and while it did come off, I was left with attractive circular wet patches on my cardigan and…well…we don’t have hand dryers in our bathrooms, only paper towels, so I had to walk around with wet boobs until they air dried. It looked like I’d been lactating!! Perfect timing, a mere 20minutes from leaving for a client meeting. I won’t be so smug about my homemade salad dressing in future, although news travels fast about my culinary expertise and I hear on the grapevine that I’ve put the fear of God up Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson who are both seriously worried about their culinary crowns after hearing about my kitchen exploits ;-)

In other news my mother and sister have been driving me crazy on IM these last few days due to my sister and family – husband and son – having decided at short notice to move back to England from Australia on Monday after just over 6months in Melbourne – there goes my relatively cheap trip to Australia for Christmas this year, thank God I didn’t book anything. They arrive back on Tuesday 24th June and are hoping to stay at my parents place until they can get themselves sorted. Our mother is not best pleased for a couple of reasons firstly because she thinks they’re taking her hospitality for granted - I think they assumed rather than asked if they could stay. Who knows!! I'm trying to stay out of it. Secondly she thinks they’ve given up too easily on Australia yet again – this is the second time they’ve moved to Australia only to return after 6months. “Don’t you agree?” she’ll say to me when we have our weekly chat on Sunday, then my sister gets on the phone or IM all huffy with our mum, complaining to me that Mum just doesn’t appreciate how hard it is to move to another country. “You know what it’s like” she’ll say, “tell her it’s not so easy” and muggins here is piggy in the middle of both of them. It’s an argument I really don’t want to get involved in, but I know for sure that I’m going to get an earful when my parents come to visit in a few weeks.

Families eh!! Between them and work stress it’s no wonder I drink!!

*So before you start thinking about reporting me to the granny bashing police these are not mild mannered, scone making, sock knitting, country grannies I'm referring to here, but big city grannies, a ferocious strain of the species who spend their evenings sharpening their elbows so as to more effectively barge onto the subway as soon as the doors have opened. These particular grannies are like heat seeking missiles when it comes to nabbing the last available seat on the subway during rush hour. Approach with caution!!

Friday, 13 June 2008

It's magic

...Or physics or chemistry or something, but did you know that if you happen to open a bottle of sparkling wine and don't manage to finish it - I know, I say the craziest things - a teaspoon placed in the neck of the bottle - handle side in obviously. You'd have a devil of a time getting the head of the spoon in first - maintains the sparkle of the wine!!

Amazing huh??

Debs has been informing of this fact for months, and I've been sceptical I'll admit, but this week - tried it for the first time and, I'll be blowed, it actually works, a bottle of wine opened on Tuesday is still fizzy on Friday, 3days later. Marvellous!!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Charleston Part 3

Why oh why oh why will Blogger not correctly format my paragraph breaks at the end this post??? Aaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhh!!! It drives me crazy!! Behave or I'm going to Wordpress, I'm warning you!!!!

Calm calm calm and deep breaths

So, Catweazle and I spent our Saturday afternoon in Charleston just wandering around and taking in the sights. We didn't do anything too exciting to report back on, but I really enjoyed myself. Charleston is a lovely city where you can just hang out and take in the sights. Just make sure you take sunscreen if you go in summer, especially if you're fair skinned like me, I spent a good portion of my time seeking the shade.

The first stop was Market Street where we browsed the stalls of the covered market and I ended up buying a pretty handmade bangle of silver green beads, I think they might be Swarovski crystals, from a lovely woman, Raquel Cuadrado. Unfortunately her card doesn't list a website, but her jewelry/jewellery (ooh it looks weird to me with the English spelling now) collection is called 'New Yesterday Jewelry Art', so be on the lookout if you're ever at Charleston market, she had really nice pieces.

Photo of the market hall courtesy of QThunderboys on Flickr.

Afterwards we took a leisurely walk through Waterfront Park, enjoying the breeze coming from the water before circling up to Broad St and stopping at a pub, the Blind Tiger, for a refreshing beverage. I was hoping for a mint julep - when in the south and all that - but when Catweazle asked the bartender whether they made a good mint julep, his response of "what's in that?" told us all we needed to know, so we ordered glasses of wine instead ;-)

Here's a photo Catweazle took of the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, which connects Charleston city centre to Mount Pleasant. It's designed to withstand an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale don't you know and is the longest cable stayed bridge on the east coast of the US. Catweazle is rather partial to this bridge - which I admit is very nice - and was rather peeved that the cruise ship and the barge were in the way of his shot.

And here's a pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park.

They're very big on pineapples down south, they're everywhere, carved into stone, wood, made into fridge magnets. Apparently pineapples are traditional sign of hospitality. Here's what I found out about the origins on WikiAnswers.

"In colonial America, hostesses would set a fresh pineapple in the center of their dining table when visitors joined their families in their homes. Visiting was the primary means of entertainment and cultural exchange, so the concept of hospitality was a central element in colonial life. The pineapple, then, symbolized the warmest welcome a hostess could extend to her guests, and then often it also served as the dessert for the meal. If the visitors spent the night, they would be given a bedroom with a bed in which pineapples had been carved on either the bedposts or the headboard -- even if that was the master bedroom."

See, my blog is educational ;-)

On the way back to the hotel for 'a rest' (nudge nudge wink wink eyebrow raise) we bought humungously delicious double scoop ice creams from Kilwins on Market St. A scoop of cake batter and a scoop of New Orleans Praline Pecan for me in a dark chocolate dipped waffle cone, cookies & Cream and New Orleans Praline Pecan for Catweazle. My eyes were bigger than my belly and I unfortunately couldn't finish, but I can vouch for its deliciousness if you are down Charleston way and craving a tasty frozen treat.

We drove out to Mount Pleasant on Saturday evening for dinner at the Old Village Post House - another fabulous recommendation from the NY Times. That article I read didn't steer us wrong, the food was delicious. Catweazle was particularly contented after a typically southern dinner of shrimp and grits and a blackberry dessert. Afterwards we drove back to downtown Charleston with the intention of completing our evening with a drink at the Pavilion Bar on the roof of the Market Pavilion Hotel. Unfortunately, it being Saturday night, the place was jammed and not as sedate as I was hoping, in fact it was a little more 'sceney' that I anticipated, a lot like a summer Saturday night at 230 Fifth in NYC. The Pavilion bar appears to be the place to be in Charleston of a Saturday night. It wasn't for us, I'm deeply unfashionable when it comes to the 'in-places', so after checking out the view we walked back to our B&B to have a glass of the Sterling Pinot Blanc I'd brought back from Napa for us to share and instead had a pleasant evening out on the porch. Well, pleasant that is until a massive water bug - seriously folks it was ENORMOUS - ran up the side of the wall and freaked me out and I had to hide inside. I'm not good with insects, especially ones that big that also fly!! Yikes, no thank you. That's the one thing I don't like about the south, the humidity means you come across even more bloody big bugs than you do in New York - and when I say 'more' I mean I saw four!! Yeah okay, maybe I am over-reacting, but I hate them!! Subway rats...barely a flinch, but big bugs....shudder!!!
Sunday was our last day in Charleston - we could only get the hotel for 2nights so we decided we'd drive to Columbia, capitol of South Carolina and where Catweazle grew up and stay there for one night instead. I'm all for checking out more of the real US, New York isn't exactly representative ;-)
We checked out of the hotel just before 10am on Sunday and went for breakfast at the East Bay Coffee House. Afterwards we took one last saunter around the Battery Park area of the city and admired the beautiful houses. There's not much to talk about here, it's much better said in pictures, so I'll love you and leave you here with a few more of Catweazle's lovely photos of Charleston.

I've felt better

Oooh I'm feeling a bit worse for wear today readers. It was my birthday yesterday and 5 of the girls came over to help me celebrate/commiserate my 37years on Earth with bottles of Domaine Carneros Sparkling rose, Thai food and gossip!!

It was a great night, my pals are the best, but we overdid it a bit. Never. Drinking. Again!!! (Yeah, right). To say I had a bit of a head when I woke up this morning would be an understatement. Nevertheless - tempting though it certainly was - I resisted the urge to skive off work and lay around in bed recovering with large doses of The View and Oprah. I made it in on time (I'm sooooo professional!!), but I've definitely had more productive days.

If you could keep the noise to a minimum today it would be much appreciated!! Cheers ;-)

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Charleston Part 2

Phew!!! It’s horribly hot, humid and stinky in New York, it's in the upper 90s for the 4th day on the trot. Not my favourite weather. I pretty much stayed home in air conditioned bliss over the weekend and cleaned my apartment in preparation for my parents’ visit in a few weeks since even the briefest trip to the deli on the corner left me feeling overheated and on the verge of disgruntlement. I’m not a fan of the heat. Catweazle keeps reminding me how much hotter it can get down south, but as far as I can tell Southerners don’t actually have to spend that much time enduring the heat, they leave their central air conditioned homes, walk a few feet to their air conditioned cars and drive to their air conditioned offices, but in New York you have to bloody walk everywhere and by the time you get there you feel like a bedraggled mess!! Anyway fingers crossed the temperature drops tomorrow per the forecast.

It was hot, but much less stinky in Charleston last weekend; well it was less stinky once we’d left the vicinity of our B&B and the neighbouring horses in the carriage house. We were up reasonably early on Saturday morning so while Catweazle was in the shower – he spends longer in the bathroom than me that one ;-) - I consulted the
New York Times article for a breakfast recommendation…

“Tropical Toast at Diana's (155 Meeting Street, 843-534-0043; looks fairly plain on the outside, but inside, you'll find a cozy place decorated like a Jimmy Buffett song with a thatch hut bar and palm tree motifs. The breakfasts include currant French toast stuffed with apples or peaches ($7.50 single, $9.79 double), and Eggs Meeting Street ($11.99) — a stack of poached eggs, fried green tomatoes, crab cakes and rĂ©moulade.”

An hour later Catweazle had to roll me out of the place. Talk about who ate all the pies. It’s a mystery to me how some southern women manage to stay so slender what with all the fried food, biscuits, gravy and such that people seem to eat.

In the foreground is a half portion of the Eggs Meeting Street, this also came with 'grits' - for the uninitiated grits is/are a lot like polenta. In fact it might be the same thing, I'm not entirely sure. Catweazle ordered grits topped with cheddar as a side to his French toast stuffed with apple - and a 'biscuit' (American biscuits are like the delicious offspring of a savoury scone and a bread roll). I wasn't even through half of it before I felt fit to explode and had to leave it. Phew!!

Afterwards we attempted to burn off our breakfast calories - fat chance - by taking the Gateway Walk which the NY Times described as a walk through “a series of interconnected and semi-hidden gardens…lined with moss-laden oaks and takes you past the city's most historically significant churches.” It was very pretty with all the Spanish moss hanging from the trees....

Afterwards we browsed around the shops on King St and I spent far too much money in a lovely store on King St called Plum Elements. I was smitten with a mustard coloured Chinese medicine chest, but couldn't afford the $1800 price tag. I settled on a couple of cute red laquered oxen - except they looked like pigs to me - for my apartment instead.

My mobile phone doesn't take the best snapshots, but do these look like oxen to you? Yes those are my socks hanging in the background ;-)

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Charleston Part 1

So it's scorchio in New York today. I just popped out to drop off a parcel at the UPS office down the street and could not wait to scurry back to the air conditioned heaven of my apartment. It's a hot, sticky, sweat inducing 94F, what's that in new money...34C!!! Too hot for me!! Not my favourite weather, but it's better than rain, which is what we are forecast to get tomorrow, which will not be much fun for all the people participating in and watching the Puerto Rico Day Parade. I was thinking about popping over to Governor’s Island to check out the 1920s Jazz Picnic happening this weekend, 'a free Great-Gatsby-inspired afternoon of picnicking, dancing, and sizzling hot jazz, performed by in vintage style by one of the East Coast's most beloved 1920s bands', people really go to town and dress up for the occasion. Not me, although I think that would be fun, but I don't have a little 1920s number hanging in my wardrobe, but I thought it would be great for people watching and hanging out, however I shall likely be staying home if it buckets down :-(

It's hard to believe that this time last week I was enjoying a lovely, relaxing weekend at the Palmer's Pinckney Inn in lovely Charleston with the charming and lovely Catweazle. Ah it was bliss. I flew down to Raleigh/Durham airport on Thursday night after work and Catweazle picked me up around midnight when my delayed flight (Grrrr - domestic flights never seem to be on time in the US) finally arrived, we stayed at his place on Thursday night and then left around 11am on Friday morning to drive the 300 or so miles down to Charleston, arriving at the B&B around 4pm.

Catweazle picked the B&B and did a great job. It didn't look like much when we initially pulled up as it was next door to a working carriage house and there were horses trotting in and out, so it was slightly whiffy during the heat of the day, but it's not like we were hanging out in front and you couldn't smell a thing once you were in the room. The horses weren't stabled there overnight as far as I could tell, so it didn't pong once the day's carriage rides were done with, and I liked the place a lot, that's our room on the top floor facing the street. It was very nicely decorated without being too floral - like some of the places we'd looked at online - and was a stone's throw from the open air market. Our room was called the Bombay Room and was painted in a dark grey/blue with white accents with a king sized canopy bed, which I wasn't sure I would enjoy sleeping in at first as it was high off the floor and I imagined myself tumbling out in the middle of the night, but it was DIVINE, the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in!! I really should have asked them where they bought the mattress, so I could get my own. It reminded me of something my friend Kimberly often says, "there are two things in life you don't skimp on, your shoes and your mattress." Good advice I think - plus it also gives me a good excuse to buy expensive shoes!! Oh and did I mention the jacuzzi tub and our own porch with rocking chairs ;-)

Now, those who know me may be shocked to hear that I didn't do a whole lot of research for the trip beyond printing out an article, '36 Hours in Charleston, SC', from the NY Times, reading a few bits on, buying tickets to see 'Monkey Journey to the West' on Friday night as part of the Spoleto Festival - music composed by Damon Albarn, visual gubbins and costumes by his Gorillaz collaborator Jamie Hewlett. Love the Gorillaz - and making reservations at a restaurant I saw recommended in the two articles I read about the city, but Catweazle had been there a few times before and sort of knew his way around. Sort of ;-)

We got settled in to our room and then got ready to go out for dinner before going to see the show. Our housekeeper at the B&B, Cindy, had recommended Cru, a restaurant across the street, but when we popped over at 5:45pm to see if they had a table the place was packed and they couldn't fit us in until 6.30pm which was a bit surprising to me for a Friday night. Maybe all the other people were seeing Spoleto events too, unless people like to eat really early in the south. Anyway we were worried that 6.30pm would be cutting it fine for getting to the theatre for the show as we weren't 100% sure how far away we were, so we stopped in at a place around the corner on Market St called Aromas which served Asian and American food. We shared an appetizer called Crab Rangoon made from crab and cream cheese and then deep fried into those parcel thingies...what are those called....wontons!! They were quite bizarre as you might imagine, but not simply because of the cream cheese/crab combo, but because of how sweet they tasted. It was more like a deep fried combination of crab with cream cheese frosting. I wasn't so keen. Our entrees of deep fried grouper sandwiches were better. As you can tell I was really into eating healthily in Charleston, but hey when in Rome/The South. At least I got my grouper sandwich with salad, which obviously cancels out the calories from the deep fryer ;-) I'm now on a diet after all the fried food I scoffed, I used the old 'I'm on my hols' excuse to stuff my face, but now I'm less than impressed with my expanded waistline. We were done eating by 6.30pm, too early for the show, so we stopped in at the lovely O'Hara & Flynn Wine Bar for a cheeky one on the way, a very cute little spot about twice the size of my living room, which had great live music when we were there, I highly recommend it if you're ever in Charleston.

We got to the theater around 7.30pm, picked up our tickets from the Will Call window, popped down to the conveniences for a safety visit - no interval in the show - and settled in our seats and read the program while we waited for it to get started.

So there I am, reading all about Monkey and how he was hatched from a stone egg, became king of the monkeys on Fruit and Flower mountain, his quest for immortality, how he became trapped under the Buddha's palm for 500 years, is released by Guan Yin on the condition that he agrees to accompany Tripitaka as his protector on his mission to India to bring back the Buddhist sutras and along the way are joined by Pigsy, a lustful Taoist sage, and Sandy, a heavenly General demoted to eating river travellers. Monkey, Pigsy, Sandy....hang on a cotton pickin' minute....I excitedly nudged Catweazle in the ribs...

Me: I don't believe it, it's Monkey, that show that used to be on when I was a kid
CW: I don't think we had that show
Me: No? Monkey used to fly around on a cloud, then there was Pigsy, who looked like a pig and Sandy who wore a necklace made out of skulls
CW: Skulls? On a kids show?
Me: Yep, it was a show for older kids obviously. I think I was in my early teens when I watched it.
CW: Darlin' this is America, we'd never have a kids TV show with a character who wore a necklace made of skulls
Me: Well it was great, you missed a treat. I'll see if I can find it on YouTube later

And find it I did. Catweazle was impressed I could tell. So here it is folks, Americans you have my sympathy for missing out on this show as kids, it was FANTASTIC and now Damon Albarn's collaborated on a stage version. Very cool, I was humming the 'monkey magic' theme music for the rest of the weekend.

The stage version is a lot of fun, although somewhat different to the TV show. Eeeek is that the time. I am meeting Betsy to see the movie, Roman de Gare, in an hour and I'm still wearing a t-shirt and tracky bottoms. Time to neaten myself up. This post was getting long anyway, so I'll finish posting on Charleston later. Toodleloo :-)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Back to reality

Well I'm back in New York and reorientating myself to work after a lovely weekend in South Carolina with Catweazle. My return journey was very eventful, plagued by long airport delays, a shaky touch down at Newark - between you and me I think the trainee was at the wheel - and finally, the cherry on the cake, the cab I caught to take me from Penn station to home sweet home was hit by a bus. A bus!!! Yikes!!! Fortunately there were no serious injuries. We were stationary, behind a limo that was blocking the street and waiting to turn onto west 32nd street when...crunch...a bus pulled in, clearly didn't notice the cab and took out the left headlight. I suppose it could have been worse, but my driver was understandably not too happy.

Anyway I shall post on my weekend when Catweazle gets around to sending me copies of the photos, but in the meantime, here's a little Vampire Weekend for your enjoyment. Their self titled CD frequently provided the soundtrack to our romantic mini break. They are playing a free gig in Central Park a week on Saturday, the kick off to the Summerstage season.