Tuesday, May 30, 2006


  1. Marilyn Monroe, actress
  2. Dana Carvey, actor and comedian
  3. Josephine Baker, dancer and actress
  4. Bruce Dern, actor
  5. Bill Moyers, TV journalist
  6. Diego Velazquez, artist
  7. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, singer and songwriter
  8. Frank Lloyd Wright, architect
  9. Johnny Depp, actor
  10. Judy Garland, actress and singer
  11. Jacques Yves Cousteau, oceanographer
  12. Anne Frank, diarist
  13. William Butler Yeats, poet
  14. Margaret Bourke-White, photographer
  15. Helen Hunt, actress
  16. Tupak Shakur, rapper
  17. Venus Williams, tennis champ
  18. Isabella Rossellini, actress
  19. Paula Abdul, singer and dancer
  20. Lionel Richie, singer, songwriter, musician
  21. Juliette Lewis, actress
  22. Cyndi Lauper, songwriter, singer, actress
  23. Wilma Rudolph, Olympic runner
  24. Fred Hoyle, astrophysic and astronomer
  25. Carly Simon, singer and songwriter
  26. Pearl S. Buck, writer
  27. Hellen Keller, radical educator and writer
  28. John Cusack, actor
  29. Claude Montana, fashion designer
  30. Lena Horne, actress and singer

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Fourteen summers ago, I was browsing in the art section of a bookstore. A book fell off the shelf, begging me to read it. It was called A Creative Companion: How to Free Your Creative Spirit, written by a woman named SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy). I read it that night and promptly wrote a letter to SARK asking if we could meet up in person. I wanted to talk to her about my creative goals and dreams. She called me a few days later and said "I'm driving to Santa Barbara to do a book signing for my second book, Inspiration Sandwich. Want to meet for lunch?"

So I did. Shortly after that, SARK asked me if I would be her assistant at her first-ever workshop, to be held in New York City. Not long after, I assisted her with her second workshop. SARK and I kept in touch and she became a world-famous writer and speaker about the topic of creativity. One cool thing is that she'd often thank me in the back of her books.

SARK likes to say "Make friends with freedom and uncertainty." Glad I did just that.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


I was waiting for my boyfriend, Mike, outside of the Housing Works Bookstore in SoHo. I saw some guys walk up the street carrying human-size orange letters. They slipped into a warehouse space next door. I got up the nerve to go over and if I could photograph one of them with a letter so that I could put the photo in a book I was was making for my nephew. "It's a book about New York City," I explained, "because my nephew lives out west."

One of the guys said "How about if we pose with all of the letters? We could make them spell out RAT!"

I countered with the idea that they could also spell out ART.

While I was taking the first picture, a taxi driver who was watching from the curb yelled "Hey! There's not enough [skin] color in that picture!" And the other three guys shouted "Okay, then get over here!"

A little later on, Mike and I were walking by an antique store a few blocks from the bookstore and I did a double take. There, in the window, were the same letters, only smaller and yellow, spelling out the word ART. I couldn't believe it! So I went in the shop and asked the owners if they knew anything about the larger orange letters. Turns out they had just sold the orange ones to a guy who wanted them mounted to spell out ART on his livingroom wall.

Monday, May 22, 2006


How cool is this? Leyla Safai (http://www.heartschallenger.com/) drives a pink truck around Los Angeles, selling ice cream, candy, and toys from all around the world. Very cool, indeed.

I called Leyla after reading about her in Paper Magazine and got the scoop on her life story. Here's what I learned: Leyla was born in LA. As a young person, she thought that ice cream trucks looked like jail cells. Their tiny windows with big metal bars did not cut the mustard. One day, Leyla saw a mint green ice cream truck drive by and thought it was beautiful. Why, she wondered, did she never see that truck again? What happened to the old man who was driving it?

As a teenager, Leyla was at a rave in the desert. Again, she wondered why there couldn't be a beautiful ice cream truck filled with all kinds of treats. Wanting to create something that would give hope to both herself and to other people, Leyla started to more actively entertain the idea that she could make her dream a reality.

As luck would have it, Leyla met Ben, a calm man who loved to make music. He would become her partner in the creation of the pink ice cream truck and the recorded music which would be part of their appearances about town.

Leyla drives her truck on a regular route around the city so people know where and when they can stop by for a treat. She also makes appearances at parties and concerts. Her treats come from countries such as Mexico, Jamaica, Iran, China, and Italy. She even carries a Kosher version of Bazooka Joe.

Some other interesting bits about Leyla: As a teenager, she dropped out of school. It was hard for her to sit still for long periods of time. So she spent her hours in used book stores and thrift stores. "My education came from The Salvation Army," shares Leyla. "I read a lot of books and was always figuring out how different objects from the store were made." She also took the bus to different parts of Los Angeles, making friends of all different nationalities.

When she was in school, Leyla was known as The Candy Lady. Her mom took her to warehouses to buy sweets in bulk. She's take the candy to school and make $40 to $50 a day in quarters from selling the goodies to her friends.

Leyla went on to become an in-house designer at The Standard Hotel. Fortunately for the folks in LA, she left that job to launch her mobile mecca of magic, Heartschallenger. She and Ben are currently working full-time on their music group, Heartsrevolution, which is part of that magic. They spend much of their time in the studio recording a full-lenth album of dance tracks and, in Leyla's own words, "neverending storyish-type songs."

Glad you followed your heart, Leyla!

Saturday, May 20, 2006


As a young person, writing and receiving letters via snail mail was how I stayed connected to friends and family who lived far away. When I heard the mailman drop letters into the slot, I'd leap down the basement stairs to see what paper treasures had come my way. I owe special thanks to mentors, grandmas, and favorite camp counselors and bunkmates for keeping in touch.

Since my nephew, Niko (person on the right), and I have always lived far apart, I've written books and letters to stay in touch and to communicate what life is like here in New York. The first book I made for him was called Niko, You Are Loved. In it, I used text and photographs to document the love and delight that friends and family felt when we first got to hold Niko in our arms.

The second book I make for Niko was about life in New York City. First, I asked Niko to send me a list of questions about NYC. Based on those questions, I went around Manhattan taking photographs of everything from fountains to taxicabs. Next, I photocopied and enlarged the pictures, added text, laminated the front and back covers, spiral bound everything, and mailed the final result to him.

Lately, I've focused more on writing letters to my nephew. Here's a recent one:

April 21, 2006

Dear Niko,

I am having breakfast in my favorite café in my neighborhood. They are playing a Jack Johnson CD, which makes me think of you because I remember listening to Jack J. for the first time when I was riding in a car with you in San Diego.

What I like about this café is the homemade cooking, the cozy atmosphere and the friendly waiters. They call their customers things like “Honey” and “Sugar.”

Here is what I see around me:

1. People talking happily while they eat their breakfast together
2. A Heinz Ketchup bottle
3. Four different cakes protected by clear glass cake covers
4. Three chalkboards with the menu written in white, blue, pink, and green chalk
5. Two bumpy glass salt and pepper shakers with metal lids
6. A brown empty chair with a piece of wood chipped off of the leg
7. A skinny fridge filled with soda, water, and a cake
8. Red milk cartons that say “Marcus Half and Half”
(That’s the first time I saw the brand “Marcus”)

What do you see in front of you right now? When you feel like it, jot a few things down or draw what you see and send it back to me in the envelope I sent to you.

You are good.
You are smart.
You are powerful.

I love you!

Aunt Eleanor

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Last summer, I decided to do some exploratory work around money. In short, I always felt like I didn't have enough of it and that I needed to cling dearly to every penny. While it's true that I've never had a big salary, I knew that there was something more to the chronic "glass is half empty" feeling that seemed to pervade many areas of my life.

So I did a couple of things. I took a seminar called The Fiscally Fit Female led by Galia Gichon, founder of Down to Earth Finance (http://www.downtoearthfinance.comng/). With Galia's help, I was able to re-evaluate and modify external habits around money. The best part was walking away with a monthly spending and savings plan.

I knew I also had to go deeper to look at the internal habit of perceiving and thus perpetuating scarcity. I turned to Paula Langguth Ryan's book Giving Thanks: The Art of Tithing (http://theartoftithing.com/). Here's some great stuff I picked up from Paula's book:

1. Tithe means "tenth." The act of tithing a tenth of one's income "at the point or points where one is being inspired [...] predates the Bible by centuries and has been practiced in various forms by all cultures." In fact, tithing stems from Jewish law!

2. Tithing is about giving a percentage of everything that comes your way to the people and places which inspire you. It's not limited to giving to a religious institution. Ideally, it's given out of a sense of thanksgiving, not charity.

3. "Practicing the art of tithing allows you to give up the emotional struggle that surrounds financial issues. Tithing teaches you how to release your attachments to the abundance in your life. When you release your attachment to the prosperity that flows in and out of your life, you allow that abundance to glow more freely."

4. "Stagnation is death. Circulation is life."

This last point really hit home with me: Stagnation is death. Circulation is life. As a professional organizer, I had been teaching people to let go of belongings - papers, books, clothing - to make room for new people, opportunities, sources of joy and pleasure. I never thought about how the same principle could apply to letting go of money.

Excited by the book, I decided to start tithing in the form of flowers. Using a flower delivery service, I sent bouquets of flowers to people who had been inspirational or supportive. Some of these folks included Cheryl Henson, children's book authors Maira Kalman and Faith Ringgold, my great aunt Rene, my friend Cecilia.

Next, I began to support places and organizations which inspired me - the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and The Project for Public Spaces.

Don't get me wrong - I still have my struggles around money, as most folks do. I still worry and pinch and number crunch. Still, it must be said: tithing in the form of both funds and flowers has resulted in a heightened sense of joy, pleasure, abundance, generosity, and appreciation for all the sources of inspiration which surround me. It's a practice I plan to keep in place for life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


The other day, I got off the 2/3 train at 96th and Broadway and saw my old doorman, Mike, walking up the street. He said, "Hey, I haven't gotten your newsletter in a long time." (This blog originated as an email newsletter.) I felt kinda sheepish. It's been 7 months since I last wrote for Creative Times. Other folks have commented, too: "I thought maybe I got dropped from your list." Not so.

I've been on a 7-month sabbatical from writing Creative Times. I was climbing Mount Everest and decided to swing off onto a side path that allowed a little more time to explore and smell the flowers. Here's some of the stuff I've done:

1. Read a ton of great books about writing and the creative process. Gems included:

  • What A Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher
  • The Sound of Paper: Starting From Scratch by Julia Cameron
  • Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith
  • Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • This Time I Dance: Trusting the Journey of Creating the Work You Love by Tama J.Kieves
  • Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg
  • Creating a Life Worth Living: A practical course in career design for artists, innovators, and others aspiring to a creative life byCarol Lloyd
  • The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: a portable mentor by Gail McMeekin
Admittedly, I also bought and read a second hand copy of Florascope: discover your flower sign written by Helen Brown Gentry and photographed by Sally Tagg. Evidently, as a Scorpio, I fall into the category of Cactus Flower. This means that I am "eager to delve into life's hidden corridors." So true!

2. Taught public school parents how to make reading and writing more integral to their families' lives. Thanks, Ralph Fletcher, for the idea of having parents write stories about their first names. Incredibly revealing exercise!

3. Wrote journal entries about my immediate surroundings (e.g. a description of my favorite neighborhood cafe) and mailed them to my eight-year-old nephew, Niko, who lives in Hawaii.

4. Rented, for dirt-cheap, a subsidized loft studio space from arts center Spoke the Hub to listen to music and dance. A highlight was bringing my 11-year-old friend Lizzy into the space to co-choreograph a dance to a Mariah Carey song.

5. Co-choreographed a dance to a 70s song with colleagues at my office and performed it at our holiday party.

5. Started a Dream Binder. It's a place where I stick 3 by 5 cards or pictures which reflect the stuff I want to bring into my life.

6. Found pennies most days on the street or the subway. Taped individual pennies to sheets of paper with a note asking the finder of the paper to make a wish, take a step toward making the wish come true, then email the wish to me. I never heard back from anyone, but still enjoyed planting the notes around my neighborhood.

7. Explored many branches of the New York Public Library and took the office staff to tour Donnell, the best branch of them all, which resides across the street from MOMA.

8. Joined MOMA mostly to have access to their awesome loft-like cafe and visit Picasso's She-Goat in the sculpture garden.

9. Got inspired by the music of British MC (rapper) Lady Sovereign. Check out her website: www.ladysovereign.com/

10. Interviewed a woman who drives a pink ice cream truck in Los Angeles. Stay tuned for a report back from the interview in an upcoming entry.

So, you can see, I haven't been totally idle. But it has been hard to not write. There's a huge backlog of things I want to put to paper.

Here's what brought me back to writing for Creative Times: I found Louise Crawford's blog, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn -http://onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.typepad.com/ and through it found out about the upcoming First Annual Brooklyn Blog Festival in June. I emailed Louise and we ended up having a great phone conversation about blogging. In connecting with Louise, I realized that I am not a lone star floating around the atmosphere; I'm part of this great collection of folks who, like me, collect odd bits of information and life experience and string all of it together through words.

I'm excited about attending the Blog Festival and meeting up with kindred spirits.

Funny thing: after chatting with Louise, I opened Carol Lloyd's Creating a Life Worth Living to the chapter called "Building a Bridge You Can Jump On: Support Structures." Carol sez:

Like a bridge that needs to be anchored to the ocean floor and connected by great iron cables to the shore, creative people need multiple support structures so they don't float away to some distant professional reef [...] Your will alone cannot keep you in place. You need support structures to help you.
Creativity springs from a ferment of connections and ideas. So, in addition to your private vision, your vigorous creative habits, and your practical day job, don't forget that you need fellowship connecting you to the world.

I think this was the missing piece for me, the fellowship piece. I thank Carol and Louise for pointing out that truth, thus helping me return to the drawing board.

It feels good to be back.