Monday, February 21, 2011

Back from New York

Central Park
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
This is one of those posts that I dread, in a way. I want to put it all down, but there was so much! It's hard, in a rewarding way, though with so much to remember, I know detail will be lacking. I've been thinking about my post for the last couple of days, but have been busy getting back into the swing of suburban life, pruning roses and walking the dogs and doing many loads of laundry to actually dig in and write. But here goes:

The conference came off very well, if I do say so myself. This was the first time that my boss wasn't there at all--she had pressing business elsewhere, so it was left to the two other managers and me to make it happen. There were a few heart-stopping moments (for instance, there was a hiccup in the main server on the first day that brought our registration system down, but only for a short time very early in the day), but there was also a lot of fun. I dug deep and summoned every fiber of hostess I had and spoke to more people than I had in a long time. I bowled with total strangers at our opening party and had a fabulous time. I met and spoke with both Margaret Atwood and Ben Huh and heard several very inspiring presentations about the future of publishing.

Even one negative thing turned out fine: I was given a renovated room in the hotel, which normally would have been great, but the overwhelming glue/fiber smell was hard for me to take. I had difficulty sleeping that first night and feel headache-y and puffy the next day. Luckily, one of my coworkers was very disappointed that his room was not one of the renovated ones, so we swapped. I could see why the hotel was upgrading all of the rooms, the old ones were quite worn, but I felt so much better!

On my first day before the conference started, I arrived in New York in time to drop my things at the hotel and walk up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had seen an advertisement for a new photography exhibit, Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand and since the museum was open late on Saturdays, it seemed the perfect thing to do. I really wanted to be out in the city that night, to feel it, absorb it again. And feel it I did. It was quite chilly, and I was grateful for my overcoat and accessories. Before taking in the exhibit, I went up to the balcony bar to have a glass of wine and bite to eat. Classical musicians were playing and it was very crowded, but lovely young artist sketching at a table agreed to share with me and it was pleasant being alone yet also not alone.

I didn't have any other time during the conference to make non-work excursions and thought I would be pretty burnt out. And there were very long days, but I had more energy than usual. Maybe I'm more of an extrovert than I thought. The night the conference ended, I had dinner with my friend Cathleen. She chose an absolutely spectacular place, Robert, which is at the top of the new Museum of Art and Design at Columbus Circle. Groovy and delicious! Three hours of catching up with a friend is a great way to unwind.

The next day I made my way up to the Cooper-Hewitt to see the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit, but to my dismay I misremembered the date and it was only open to journalists! Great gnashing of teeth as I realized I'd wasted most of a precious morning. I consoled myself with a few moments in Central Park…

…and halal food from a street cart back in midtown and a quilt show at the American Folk Art Museum. That visit was one of the few times I had ever joined a tour, and it was exceedingly pleasant. There were just five of us plus the guide, so lots of opportunities to ask questions and stop to really look at the quilts. Incredible stitching techniques and very fanciful designs. I particularly loved the crazy quilts, painting and embroidery layering the different fabrics.

After the quilt show, I settled into my new hotel. Quite a change from the conference hotel. It was actually quite pleasant despite the minuscule size and lack of closet. And what it lacked in view, it made up for in quiet.

Except for that first night, the weather had warmed considerably, which was very strange but also welcome. I left my hotel and stopped into Eataly for pistachio gelato, something I probably wouldn't have done if it had been chilly out. I wandered down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square and my old NYU haunts. I spent far too much time in the university bookstore trying on just about every jacket they had. I then spent too much money on one that wasn't quite right, but there it is. I had just enough time to drop it off at the hotel before squeezing onto the 6 train and heading up to Sara and Chandran's for a very lovely dinner with the family.

Friday was the most active day I've had in quite a while! I met up with Cathleen again for breakfast the next morning at Les Halles, one of Anthony Bourdain's restaurants in a lovely, ornate old building very close to my hotel. Nothing like a bowl of coffee and talking with a good friend to gird one's loins for rooms filled with incredibly sparkly and impossibly expensive jewelry at the Cooper-Hewit. Princess Grace's tiara and engagement suite, a maharani's diamond and emerald collar, broaches from Liz Taylor, Doris Duke, Maria Callas…I felt bling overload after the second room but soldiered on to see it all. All of it was encased in bubbles of clear glass, but we were still told not to lean in. They were loaning iPads with lots more information about the exhibit--I didn't want to lug it around, but it seemed like a good idea.

I left the museum mansion and made my way down to join my Martha Stewart Living friends for a pizza lunch and tiki party (plastic leis and bubbles) out on the roof deck--still the oddly warm weather persisted. We had to speak in hushed tones inside--the offices are in a barely renovated warehouse and the acoustics are very harsh. We managed to have a lovely time.

I had 15 minutes to lie down at the hotel after that visit before subwaying it back uptown to meet my friend Vanessa for dinner. We hadn't had much contact in over a decade and our lives have definitely changed a lot since we worked together in New York, but it was easy to reconnect with her.

I was especially moved by her recent experience--she had been in a terrible accident last fall and her recovery was tenuous. She's healed in many ways, but it's given her a new perspective and renewed faith. It reminded me how much I have to be grateful for.

But wait, there was more to my evening! I met cousins Kamala and Eliza on the East Side for a play, The Body Politic, starring a friend of mine from college days and directed by his wife whom I had been friends with while living in New York. I chatted with both after the show, and while it was good to see them both, those connections didn't feel as strong. Though it was good to hear that she was still carrying on the tradition of the valentine making parties I'd started in New York so long ago…

My final morning I met up with the whole cousinly clan for a South Indian breakfast. Good coffee and dosa and family was a wonderful end to my visit.


I started some poetry when I was in New York last fall and worked on it again while I was riding the subway last week. It's not finished, but here's a draft:

We wait together for the breath of the train
Thud of the wheels like a heartbeat
Go go go

Woman on the subway waits with
Her high hair and head in her hands
Her high heels grateful for a seat
People wait together and also apart
by newspapers fatigue destinations

It's humid here
Here there is snow
But the girls wade through it
in high heels and high boots, model chins
Rising above sirens and whistles

Subway cars of people pass
Windows revealing tears, secret smiles
Lovers squeezing close in a crowd
Reminding the world that love
Is the stage, the platform
The foundation of human
The drama of how quickly the train
Pulls away from the station
And hurtles into darkness

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Weekend in Pictures

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Nearly Done in Santa Clara

The first conference of the year ends tomorrow. I haven't left the hotel since I arrive Monday morning, except to visit the car a couple of times. Such is the event biz--it's been busy, which is a good thing. I'll be glad to be home tomorrow night to see man and dogs.