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New York City

So…that’s it, then. This weekend we moved the last of the furniture, odds and ends, and forgotten cabinet contents out of the Washington Heights apartment that we’ve kept for the past two years. While Evan was making trips back and forth to the house in Newburgh and the new apartment in Brooklyn, I was patching, filling, sanding, painting, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning for two solid days and nights.

Despite the fact that no one else has ever paid me the same consideration, I believe in leaving rental apartments in nice condition and immaculately clean for the next resident. I don’t understand why it’s not standard for landlords to hire cleaning services to tend to apartments between tenants, but (at least in my experience in New York) that’s definitely not the norm. The things I’ve had to clean out of refrigerators when moving into new apartments…ugh. I just like to make it nice as possible for the next person, and I always leave the apartment in better working order than I found it in.

Painting over the black kitchen wall and converting the “office” back into a closet felt sad. We had hoped to assign our lease to a couple who actually wanted to keep the black paint, the fauxdenza, and all of our other modifications, but that didn’t work out as planned, so it all had to go. I don’t like the feeling of leaving an apartment and not knowing what’s going to happen to it. I know that might sound a little silly since people do that all the time, but I was really attached to this place. It’s a great apartment in a great building with GREAT neighbors. I hope someone nice moves in. I also hope nobody paints over all of the doorknobs and hardware that I spent so many hours stripping.

I started crying when we were ready to walk out the door for the last time. Good old 6F in Washington Heights is the complete opposite of the new place in Brooklyn. I’m comfortable in these old, concrete-walled apartments with paint-globbed moldings and cracked plaster and mismatched bathroom tiles. And I’m a little uncomfortable in gut-renovated white boxes with 90° corners and dishwashers and fancy amenities. I know how to live in old spaces, but I’m not sure how to live in new ones. It’s going to be a weird adjustment.

I’ll miss this place. Goodbye, Bennett Avenue.

It’s been eight years since I left Brooklyn, and I’ve never stopped missing it. I wrote a little bit about that feeling a couple of years ago, and if anything, my longing for the County of Kings has only intensified since then.

I love Brooklyn.

I’ve always been a South Brooklyn (not to be confused with “southern Brooklyn”) kind of girl. I started off in Cobble Hill right after college, then moved to the “Columbia Street Waterfront District” (quotation marks necessary), and then finally to Red Hook…which is about as South Brooklyn as you can get. It’s also about as massively inconvenient as you can get in terms of transportation and conveniences (this was before Fairway and IKEA opened, of course), and that move to Red Hook really wound up being the impetus for moving out of the city completely and buying our house in Newburgh. I mean, if you’re going to live someplace inconvenient, why not make it really inconvenient, right?

Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know what happened about five years later—we decided to also rent a little apartment in upper Manhattan. You know, for convenience.

The apartment has been wonderful. I love Washington Heights (really, it’s great), I love my neighbors, and I lovelovelove the apartment itself. Stuff has changed a little, though. We’re in the city a lot more than we’d anticipated, and Evan got a job in Brooklyn. Which is kind of inconvenient.

You see where this is going, right?

Yeah, we rented an apartment in Brooklyn. In DUMBO, specifically, which is decidedly not part of South Brooklyn. It’s not North Brooklyn either, though—it’s right in the middle. It’s right on the water. It’s right under the Manhattan Bridge. And it’s beautiful there. The apartment is TINY TINY TINY, and it’s a new renovation—totally different from anyplace I’ve ever lived before. It doesn’t have much character of its own, but I think it’s going to feel good with our stuff in it.

We’ll be gradually moving our things from the Washington Heights apartment to the Brooklyn apartment over the course of the next month. We live pretty simply when we’re in the city, so it’s not a ton of stuff, but you know how closets and kitchen cabinets are—they’re sneaky. Daniel has offered to help (and by “offered” I mean he agreed when I asked), and I’m thinking that having the Boy Wonder on hand is going to make everything go pretty fast. I’ll do my best to take photos along the way.

And yeah, that’s the view from the roof deck of our new building. Crazy.

Brooklyn!

p.s. We found awesome new tenants to move into our Washington Heights apartment, which makes me really happy. They’re even going to keep the fauxdenza!

As part of my ongoing effort to make the city apartment feel more home-like, I decided to hang a couple of framed printed in the kitchen. I’ve been holding on to these prints with the intention of framing/hanging them for about 15 years (!!) now, and it feels great to see them out of a storage tube and onto the wall.

Both prints were silkscreened by Robin Hendrickson, who I met while we were in the Art+Design program at Purchase College. Robin was immensely talented, and I do wonder what he’s up to now. (Hey Robin, if you Googled yourself and wound up here, get in touch!) The Lost Highway poster (black ink on yellow plasticized paper) was done for a special screening of the movie in the campus theater, and the “Hockey Fight” print was a personal project he did to document a multi-face type family that he’d hand-drawn. We have an alternate version of this poster in what is now the guest bedroom at our house (yikes, old photo!).

There’s a tendency to think small when it comes to hanging framed stuff on kitchen and bathroom walls, but I love putting big posters in smaller spaces. The room immediate feels cozier, happier, and all-around more comfortable. I don’t worry about heat or moisture, either. I probably wouldn’t put anything valuable right next to the stove or the shower, but I’ve never had a problem with anything getting damaged.

Oh, and speaking of the apartment kitchen, remember that giant hole in the ceiling? Well, it’s finally fixed. What a huge relief. Not being able to cook (and you know, having a giant hole overhead constantly shedding dirt and concrete) was pretty stressful.

Let this post also stand as a reminded to order your 2012 Stendig calendar! It’s already November, and it’ll be a new year before you know it. And remember, the pages make great wrapping paper when the month is over.

Things are still very much all work, all the time around here, but I managed to sneak in a few snaps of Instagram brightness here and there.

Speaking of Instagram, you may have noticed that there is a big update to version 2.0 available right now. My personal advice is to skip the update for the time being. If you’re wondering why, take a look at this very thorough review. I was extremely unhappy with the update, and wound up jumping through a bunch of hoops in order to downgrade to the old version.

And yes, I still love Instagram for all of the reasons I wrote four months ago, by the way—maybe a little too much.

p.s. What happened to September?!


September 12, 2001 // Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

It’s late at night on September 10th, 2011 as I start writing, but in truth I’ve composing this in my head for years.

My story isn’t special. It’s the same as that of thousands and thousands of other people. Everyone in the world has an answer to the perpetual question: Where where you? And everyone who was in New York City on September 11, 2001 has their own variation, too.

I was living alone in Cobble Hill at the time, just south of Brooklyn Heights—a few blocks from the waterfront that looks out across East River toward the skyline of lower Manhattan. I lived alone at the time, and I was running late for work after voting in the primary election at the school down the block. As with every other morning (then and now), I had on the New York Public Radio station, WNYC, whose broadcast center was in lower Manhattan. As the clock inched toward 9AM, the news was starting to get very weird. They had received a call from a listener who had seen what looked like a huge wheel in the street, and was it possible that it had fallen off of a plane overhead? And, in my memory, a simultaneous call that another listener had just seen a plane fly into the World Trade Center.

I don’t remember turning on the television, and I don’t remember at what point WNYC’s transmitter—located on top of the World Trade Center—went out. I just remember picturing something like a scene from King Kong and grabbing my bag to hurry off to work.

I heard the second plane hit the South Tower while I was walking to the subway. I didn’t know what it was at the time, of course, and my route to the train took me out of the line of sight of the events transpiring across the river. I continued to the subway, paid my fare, and road the train in with a car full of people who seemed to not really be concerned about much of anything. As far as I can recall, it was an ordinary commute.

By the time I got to my office in Rockefeller Center, a third plane had hit the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and there was no question in anyone’s mind that the United States was under attack. This was not an accident; there was no King Kong. Over the course of the 45 minutes that I was underground en route to work in Manhattan, everything had changed.

I just had to stop writing for a few minutes and let myself cry. The clock just turned to midnight, and it is officially ten years later.

Let me just say this straight up: I love my coworkers. Some of them have moved on over the 13 years I’ve been there and some new friends have joined the team, but the core group of people has remained same—and I love them. All of us were there in the office that morning, trying to find out whatever news we could online (not as instantaneous then as it is now) and wondering where we should go or what we should do. One coworker’s girlfriend was at work in the World Trade center. He couldn’t get a hold of her by phone, so he just ran. She got out.

Word trickled in that one of the buildings had collapsed. How was that possible? What was happening? We were in the middle of Manhattan in a landmarked building in a tourist area. Were we a target? We didn’t know—we didn’t know anything. We were scared, the phone lines were down, and we could already see military vehicles on the street outside.

So we left. We took our things and we left. We walked about 20 blocks south to my coworker’s husband’s office—they had a TV there, and at least it wasn’t in a building that felt like a target. By the time we arrived, another plane had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. I watched the North Tower collapse on television.

To this day, I cannot reconcile the fact that what I saw on the screen was actually happening a couple of miles away from me. None of it seemed possible. I don’t know if it was a defense mechanism or just a lack of understanding of the situation, but I don’t remember crying—I was just shocked and scared. Terrified. It’s hard for me to admit that now that I know I was never in immediate danger, but at the time it didn’t feel that way. At the time, it quite literally felt as though the whole of New York City—if not the entire country—was under invasive attack.

I remember my boss checking to make sure we all had cash on us. I had to tell him, shamefully, that because my account balance was under $20, I was unable to make a withdrawal from the ATM. So he gave me $20. (Why I remember that, I don’t know.)

At some point, those of us who lived in Brooklyn decided to try to get home. After some debate about which bridge was most likely to be bombed or struck by a plane (probably the Brooklyn Bridge, since it was the most recognizable), we decided to walk to the Manhattan Bridge. It took a long time to get there. The streets were filled with people making an exodus from Manhattan in whatever direction they could—many of them covered with ash, and some with torn clothes and blood on their faces. The closer we got to lower Manhattan, the scarier it got. By the time we crossed Canal Street, we were constantly looking up at the sky. Just to make sure.

Much has been made of the camaraderie of New Yorkers in the time following the attack, but what I remember from that day was silence. Granted, it was a silence filled with sirens and bullhorns and military planes, but for the most part people all seemed to be keeping to themselves. Everyone was just moving forward.

We moved forward, too. We crossed the bridge with a great deal of trepidation. On the Brooklyn side, we were greeted by members of the Hasidic community who had loaded up vans with bottled water. That was the first time I cried.


September 12, 2001 // Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

Touching ground in Brooklyn felt like reaching safety. By the time I walked all the way to my apartment it was late afternoon. I was finally able to get through on the phone to my parents and confirm that everyone in my family was safe.

Then the TV went on. And it did not go off for days and days and days. I spent all of my time alternating between watching news reports—the same things, those same horrible shots, over and over—and walking to the waterfront to watch the billowing smoke that continued to rise for weeks. I don’t think I’d ever felt so lonely before in my life. And by the time I gathered myself up enough to get out and donate blood, they didn’t want it anymore—there was no one to give it to. I am sure I was not alone in feeling utterly helpless.

The words I’ve written here so far mean nothing other than that I am very lucky.

Nearly 3,000 people died as a direct result of the attacks in New York, Arlington, and Pennsylvania. They died for no reason other than that they went to work or got on a plane. 411 emergency workers died while rushing directly into unfathomable danger to rescue others. The 33 passengers and 7 crew members on Flight 93 managed to prevent their plane from hitting the Capitol before they, too, died. Countless first responders’ lives will be cut short due to the yet-unknown effects of inhaling dust at Ground Zero.

Thousands have gone to fight in the wars that have followed, and thousands will never return. Thousands of families have lost their loved ones forever, and the number keeps increasing.

It’s now 1:26AM on September 11, 2011. Ten years have passed, and I still cannot reconcile that the Twin Towers are gone, and that something so horrible happened here, in my city. Not a day passes that I don’t think about it at some point, whether it’s fear for my safety or grief over the lives that were lost.

And I am lucky to not have a special story.

Lately I’ve been trying to make the city apartment feel a little more like a home than just a place to crash. When we first rented it last year, my goal was to keep it as spare and minimal as possible—but who am kidding? I like stuff. I like furniture and lamps and art and books and pillows and candles. The entire apartment is only about 450 square feet (including the kitchen, bathroom, and entry area), so it’s really not too hard to make it feel “cozy”—homey is another story, though. I think when you don’t have your favorite stuff with you, the place you’re living in can start to feel a little like it actually belongs to someone else, or that it’s temporary. Either way, it’s unsettling.

Okay, so this is minor, but look! We FINALLY screwed the top down on the fauxdenza. It only took us five months! (Well, it took about five months to think about it, and then 30 seconds to actually do it.)

Speaking of FAUXDENZAS, I have to point out that the official Google “fauxdenza count” is up to a whopping 13,700 hits. To recap, “fauxdenza” made its debut in November 2010. By the following March, we were up to 323 mentions. Less than a year after its inception, “fauxdenza” has become part of everyday language in households across America. Are you listening, Oxford English Dictionary?!

Okay, I promise to dial down the nerd now. But first, here’s an updated FAUXDENZA Google screencap.

See? I’ve been hanging stuff on the walls! For a long time the fabulous bear print by Sarah Edmonds of Banquet was the only thing up there, but I’ve since added three more pieces. The mountain poster is by Elisabeth Dunker (I wish I had a better picture of it in situ, but the glare from the window was fighting me!), the Pee-wee print is by Dan Zettwoch, and I’ve already written about the Superpowers poster from Pop Chart Lab.

A couple of other new things came to live with us, too—both of them from the 2009 IKEA PS collection. The cute little KARLJOHAN side table was designed by Christian Halleröd, and the crazy SVARVA lamp is the from the super-awesome Swedish design collective FRONT. This is probably the only scenario in which I’ll actually be able to afford anything designed by FRONT. I love when designers I love (hello, Hella Jongurius!) do pieces for IKEA.

Ever the bargain-hunter, though, I waited to buy these two pieces until the price dropped to almost 50% of the original cost. It looks like IKEA is phasing out much of the 2009 PS collection now, so if there’s something you’ve been wanting, get on it now.

Here’s a closer view of Dan Zettwoch’s amazing Pee-wee bike print. You’d need to see this thing in person to appreciate the fantastic attention to detail! Dan has some really cool photos of the process of creating it on his blog—check it out. It’s silkscreened in really rich inks (plus silver!) on thick, creamy paper, and it looks SO good on the wall. Dan screened an edition of 30 of these prints, and I think he still has some left, so definitely get in touch with him if you love Pee-wee as much as I do!

(Thanks so much to Matt Roeser for tipping me off to Dan Zettwoch’s work back when I put up this post about my love for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure!)

Today as been quiet. We’re settled down with our supplies at the apartment and waiting for hurricane Irene—she’s just rain and wind right now, and hopefully that’s how she’ll stay. We slept in a bit (or at least I tried to—one foot out of the bed and I lost my spot!), visited with Mamma Biscuit and her dads, and indulged in some amazing vegan treats from our favorite bakery, Sweet Semosh.

Tonight is for getting caught up on Project Runway, watching old episodes of Cheers, eating leftover Chinese, and staying dry inside. I’m trying to fit in a little freelance work now, too, just in case we lose power tonight. And if we do, well—I’ll be making a lot of friendship bracelets tomorrow!

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first: My nails look adorable. After eying those Sally Hansen Nail Effects strips at Duane Reade at least once a week for the past few months, I finally went ahead and coughed up nine bucks and bought a box. I’d read a ton of reviews, so I knew they probably wouldn’t suck, but I didn’t expect them to be quite so awesome.

For my first attempt, I went with “Misbehaving”, a champagne-gold with a fishnet overlay. I’d read that the glittery styles are harder to apply, so even though “Glitz Blitz” was calling my name LOUD + SPARKLY, I opted for something easier the first time around.

The strips are kind of like really thin stickers, but they’re actually made of nail polish. They don’t add dimension to your nails or anything like that. They apply kind of like model airplane decals (sans water) in terms of fragility and placement techniques, but they go on really nicely. The amazing thing is that there’s no drying time, so if you’re like me and tend to decide to do your nails at midnight, you can hop right into bed after and not worry about dreaded sheet-prints screwing up your manicure.

Up close, you can definitely tell that I messed up the placement on a couple of stickers—mostly from fear of getting too close to the cuticle. From a normal distance, though, they look perfect. Oh! And they supposedly last for at least ten days with no chipping. I’m only on day three, so we’ll see how it goes. So far, so good, which is more than I can say for regular manicures. Kind of spendy, yeah, but if you have short nails like me, you can get two full manicures out of a box. Not too bad.

Now onto the other stuff: Hurricane Irene. Yeah. Well, we really don’t know what to expect. We’re staying in the city this weekend because the traffic heading out is bound to be brutal, so things could get exciting. Luckily, our neighborhood (Washington Heights) isn’t in an evacuation zone, so hopefully we’ll be okay. Unsurprisingly, tomorrow’s planned festivities have been postponed (Spike actually wanted to go ahead with it, but once the governor announced that ALL mass transit will cease operation at noon tomorrow, cancellation was kind of a done deal), so we’ll be holed up in the apartment—hopefully with electricity, cell and internet service!

There’s still a giant hole on our kitchen ceiling (grumble, grumble), but the roof seems to have been repaired, so hopefully we won’t get any water coming in—touch wood. I truly hope Irene takes it easy on us all! Everyone please be safe out there.

So, we haven’t been at the city apartment for a while, but we headed down late last night—dogs in tow, of course—and were greeted with this sight upon our arrival:

Yes, that’s right, the kitchen ceiling has been relocated to the kitchen floor. And on its way down, it decided to extinguish both pilot lights on the stove…so the entire apartment was filled with gas. Scary stuff. (This photo was taken after we’d opened the window.)

We opened the window and turned off the gas, but we can’t stay there until the gas clears and the ceiling is repaired. Even just being in there for a few minutes made me feel sick. I think the gas must have been pouring out for days, since this was clearly the result of rain damage to the ceiling coming in through the roof (our apartment is on the top floor), but everything was bone-dry.

After making numerous calls to the management company and our superintendent, we all got in the car and drove all the way back up to the house. We’re extremely lucky to have that as an option—I don’t know what we’d have done if this was our sole residence!

Let’s see how long it takes for the ceiling to get fixed, shall we? Things like this are exactly the reason why I prefer to be a homeowner. The lack of control you have as a renter can be frustrating—especially since I know they won’t actually fix the source of the leak…they’ll just patch the hole and move on. We could tell it had been “fixed” before we moved in, so this isn’t even a new problem. Argh!

UPDATE: The ceiling is FIXED! And the roof, too. Whaddya know?

Mark your calendars! For the third year running, SPIKE LEE will hold his annual BROOKLYN LOVES MICHAEL JACKSON birthday party celebration in Prospect Park, Brooklyn on Saturday, August 27th.

The first year Spike did this, 20,000 MJ fans turned out. Last year, there were a whopping FIFTY THOUSAND (!!!) people in attendance, which is really just kind of insane and also completely awesome and amazing. Let me tell you, I’ve been to a lot of gatherings, concerts, parties and open park events in my life, but nothing compares to the BK♡MJ bash! It’s FREE, it’s FUN, it’s HUGE, and it’s all about L.O.V.E. + MUSIC and remembering how much of both of those things Michael delivered in spades. There’s something very special about being in a group that huge and feeling nothing but happiness and camaraderie for six hours straight!

Here are some of my photos from last year’s event. I’ll be there again this this year for sure! As far as I’m concerned, this is the FUN event of the year in New York City. (New Years Eve what? Saint Patrick’s Day Parade who?) My calendar has been booked since the moment Spike announced the date, and I’m already itching with excitement and ready to claim my spot up in the front row. DJ Spinna is as good it gets when it comes to spinning MJ, and I can’t wait to find out what special guests will be joining in on the party.

MA MA SE MA MA SA MA MA COO SA! Hope to see you there. ♡

For more information, visit the Prospect Park and 40 Acres websites.

Designer Fuse Green created the event artwork again this year. Thanks to 40 Acres for letting me share these behind-the-scenes photos of the mural installation at their headquarters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn!


Spike Lee on WhoSay