Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Mad Men dress-up.

I'm drooling over the latest Mad Men and, as usual, the costumes. Unfortunately I'm like a scruffy little child compared to those ladies but a girl can dream. I'm loving this shop's treasure trove of garms that wouldn't be out of place at Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce. Great quality vintage and not bad prices, either.

This coat would be bang on trend this winter, with its furry collar. And I could just see Joan in this. (Although the grey might be a little too dowdy for her tastes.)

One for Betty. This dress is too pretty to rightfully exist, in my opinion.

This dress is a bit more Peggy Goes to Church. I don't think Joan could fit her rack in there. But this would look awesome with kitten heels, a camel coat slung over the top and a messy beehive. Totally wearable and only $68!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Notting Hill Carnival.

hands in the air

Yes, it's August bank holiday weekend and that means CARNIVAL! I'm a serial carnival goer, I missed it last year for the first time in years because I went on holiday. But I'm up for it again this year, despite the fact it gets more crowded every year and as I get older the crowd gets inevitably younger. But no matter. I love the fact that the streets get packed with people revelling through the long weekend; music pumps out of almost every house and shop and little stalls of homecooked food pop up everywhere. (Ackee and saltfish, I am really looking forward to getting my chops around you.)

You have to approach it tactically as it gets so rammed. The loo situation doesn't even warrant mentioning. But we have a tradition now which is quite laid back: meet at Warwick Avenue tube station EARLY to avoid the crowds, wander along the canal towards the corner of West and Southern row, where Norman Jay's Good Times sound system is, hang around there listening to the more chilled out early sounds then quickly depart when the heaving crowds of straw hat wearing party kids arrive. Lurk around a couple more sound systems then depart back along the canal, perhaps stopping at another food stall on the way.

I hope it's not raining. But then again, it's sometimes quite nice if it is. I have really good memories of this playing one year as the heavens opened and dancing through it. Ooh, wave of excitement, I must remember to take my whistle.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

LA KJAZZ radio.

I happened upon LA KJAZZ by chance, driving through Los Angeles and flipping through the radio stations for something to listen to. You can listen online. It's all snoozy hepcat DJs with gravelly voices playing atmospheric jazz and taking the stress out of choosing what to listen to, a big problem for indecisive people such as myself. I like to imagine folks driving around LA at night listening to the same thing as me.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

At Least.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

I read Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Loveon my Red Hook day. I love his moody, intense style; all littered with booze, super stark and suggestive. Then yesterday I opened the 20x200 newsletter (I never usually do) and his poem At Least was sitting in there. It was so relaxing to read. I thought I'd share. (Anyone else take pictures from behind their book? I've realised I have a few!)

At Least
I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every color under the sun
that cut the water as they pass.
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what's going to happen. 

Monday, 23 August 2010

We'll go to Coney...


This will be the last of my America posts. I've been a bit lazy by just posting up my holiday pics, sorry! I have been super busy, nothing blogworthy, but imma pull my socks up around here. It feels as though summer is over so back to school. These cloudy Coney Island pictures match the gloomy end-of-summer weather outside, today.


We decided to go to Coney one evening as we thought The Cyclones, Coney Island's baseball team, were going to be playing. Apparently their baseball ground is really quaint and old-fashioned. Well, it looked nice from the outside but as soon as we approached we realised we'd messed up. The floodlights were off and they were playing away that night.


So we strolled down the boardwalk instead. I was very, VERY tempted to get a Nathan's hotdog but I'm sticking to no-meat.


I wished this rollerskating rink was open. It was so old-timey and crumbly looking.



The Cyclone looked well shonky. It's a Coney institution, where every young Brooklyn couple has been for a date since 1927. It looked well sinister to me, though.

The Cyclone

And Astroland, the theme park. Looking moody.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

Albert Ayler Festival.

As soon as I got to New York I did the obligatory scan of Time Out to see what was on. Top of the listings was a free festival to celebrate the life of saxophonist Albert Ayler, taking place on Roosevelt Island on the East River, the very river in which Ayler's body was found thirty years ago.

Roosevelt Island

Ayler was a really raw free jazzer. I don't routinely listen to his stuff – it is pretty far out – but I saw a film about him a couple of years ago, My Name Is Albert Ayler, which really brought his music and story to life for me. He was seriously talented but struggled to make a living from his music. It included some footage of him playing a tribute at John Coltrane's funeral, possibly one of the more intense bits of footage I've ever seen. So I was really keen to go to the festival and pay my respects to him.

Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island provided a backdrop to the music that some might say was bleak but I thought was really pretty. It was a really muggy day, quite cloudy, but every so often those clouds would break for a spell of intense sunshine. People laid out on the grass and just got lost in the music. It was really uplifting.

Albert Ayler Festival

The lineup included several artists from ESP, the record label that Ayler recorded for and who released avant garde music, placing absolutely no musical constraints upon their artists. Andrew Lamb was a stand-out. He paid tribute to Ayler before playing, saying, 'He pushed the instrument to another level', then poured out some of his 'libation' – Poland Spring – for Ayler. Which was awesome! His playing was really powerful. Here he is.

Andrew Lamb, Albert Ayler Festival

This is Giuseppe Logan on saxophone. He is an original ESP recording artist and quite frail.

Charles Gayle, Albert Ayler Festival

Reading up about him later I found out he spent 20 years in New York homeless and, from what I can work out, he squats now. These stories of musicians who are so incredibly talented but get little recognition or payment make me so sad. His playing was quite subdued but listening to his recorded work is a revelation.  This album of his seems to be essential: Touchin' on Trane. He is an amazing pianist as well; I've been listening to this album of him playing jazz standards and it's lovely. If you're in the market for some extremely lovely easy on the ear jazz piano please buy it.

This dude, Gunter Hampel, played vibes and sax or a clarinet AT THE SAME TIME. Far out.

Albert Ayler Festival, Gunter Hampel

And it finished up with Marshall Allen, playing his space sax with an ensemble of the day's players.

Marshall Allen, Albert Ayler Festival

Then it was back home across the bridge.

Roosevelt Island

The man himself. Read more about Albert Ayler and ESP here.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Red Hook day.


After nearly a week in NYC, I was gagging for a bike day. Luckily Jenny had a bike I could borrow so I set off from where I was staying in Park Slope to an area called Red Hook, which I'd visited before and really liked. It's only a couple of miles away but it's always a bit hair-raising cycling in a different country. And you have to cross a really busy expressway and go through an industrial area to get there.



I liked how it looked, though. I had to cross the Gowanus Canal, which is apparently completely fetid; it's where mafia dudes used to dump bodies, but is now inevitably slowly becoming gentrified. Although it really is disgusting; they've just been granted Superfund status to clean it up.


The F train, which connects Brooklyn and Manhattan, runs on this really shonky looking elevated railway which had some kind of fabric stapled to it. And there was a playground underneath. Made me glad to have grown up playing in the rolling fields of Yorkshire.


Red Hook feels as though it's a million miles away from Manhattan. It's cooler as the breeze rolls in from the river and the streets are wide and airy. It's fairly industrial with lots of artists studios and little independent shops plus a huge supermarket called The Fairway. (Spent quite a lot of time browsing around in there, I love American supermarkets!)

Red Hook Pool

Red Hook

After a week of late nights and no sleep because it was SO HOT, I happily spent most of the afternoon reading in this deserted park which overlooks the Statue of Liberty. 'Til it started raining.

Red Hook

I quickly stopped to take a few more pics.

Red Hook

Red Hook

Then stopped off in Baked, purveyor of fine cakes and whoopie pies, until the rain passed.

Passing the The Red Hook Lobster Pound, I was overcome with excitement. I had already ordered a lobster roll (the only thing on the menu) when I noticed the big vats the lobsters lived in. Felt extremely guilty and remembered David Foster Wallace's genius essay Consider the Lobster which, after reading, had made me vow not to eat lobster again. Felt more guilty. But decided hearty enjoyment of the roll was the only solution. It was delicious. Sorry lobster.

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Red Hook Lobster Pound

It was getting quite late at this point and I was thinking about the cycle back past the industrial estate and over the big road. But this bar Botanica looked so cute, I just stopped for one.

Red Hook

My view from the bar. So chillaxed. I felt as though I was in an Edward Hopper painting.

Red Hook

And then back home. It all looked even prettier at dusk.

Red Hook


[Photo of baked by vvvanessa]

Thursday, 12 August 2010

An afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My trip to NYC afforded me the opportunity to get to know Claire, the wife of a university friend of mine who I rather pathetically only met for the first time at their wedding last year. After an evening of plotting on the rooftop of an awesome club called Mr Saturday Night – which is held in someone's apartment, in true New York disco heritage style – and working out how the hell we'd never met when we appeared to know all the same people, we made plans to hang out in the week, for further girl chat and plotting. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was deemed the most suitable venue.

The New American Wing: The Charles Engelhard Court

Tea and cake came first, naturally, in the museum's new American Wing. Claire told me she'd gone to a party there that Sarah Jessica Parker had also attended. I'm sad to say that I got quite excited about that. Apparently she does that cutesy brushing aside of her hair with her fingers gesture a lot in real life. We gossiped our way through Arms and Armor and Musical Instruments, checking out the world's first ever saxophone and Ringo Starr's golden drum...

Ringo's golden drum!

...then made our way up to the American Woman exhibition, which traces what the American woman wore between 1890 and 1940. We did some serious oohing and ahhing. Particularly at these Liberty of London evening coats.

And beautiful 1920s and 1930s evening dresses from Lanvin, Chanel and Edward Molyneux amongst others. Imagine settling onto a banquette at The Algonquin in one of these little numbers.

American Woman

American Woman

Then we made our way up to the roof, to take in the view and commune with Mike and Doug Starn's huge bamboo installation, Big Bambú: You Can't, You Don't, and You Won't Stop. 

Big Bambú: You Can't, You Don't, and You Won't Stop,

Call me stupid, but it was the first time I'd really got a sense of the whole different city that exists high up in the sky above New York. Both Claire and I instinctively jumped up on to the bench next to these luxuriantly bouncy bushes which line the rooftop garden to sort of floof around on them and get a better look at the view, only to be instantly told by the snooty guards to get down. It's always nice to find another new partner in mad.

 Metropolitan Museum

The American Woman exhibition is ending on Sunday, so if you’ve been meaning to go, make sure you do!

(Image of the New American wing courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)