Sunday, July 30, 2006


When it's super hot and humid like it was yesterday, I usually want to sit in an air-conditioned bookstore or lie in an X-shape on my futon. Yesterday, however, I was suprisingly up for a New York adventure.

I started off in The East Village, for an early lunch at ROOMSERVICE. I had walked by this place a bunch of times before, somewhat intimidated by the all-white interior. Guess what? It turned out to be friendly, fun, healthy, and a bargain. For a mere $7, I chowed down on all this stuff: thai iced tea, an appetizer of spring rolls, and a main course of chicken and veggies sauteed with fresh ginger. The main dish comes with organic brown rice, something you often have to pay extra for at other restaurants.

While eating, I had a chance to chat with Jakkrit, who, with his sister Chanissara, helps his aunt run the place. Jack found the space for his aunt while she was looking for a site to open a restaurant. Under prior management, it was called United Noodle. I complimented Jack on the menu design, and he took credit for it. The food choices are listed on a series of brightly-colored laminated pieces of paper the size of a hotel's "Do Not Disturb" sign. The papers are held together by a metal O-ring, and from each O-ring hangs a real key. Everything ties back to the room service concept, including the fact that they make free deliveries.

By the way, the hip and relaxing music in the background was so great, I wanted it in CD form. Jack said that both he and a DJ friend put together the playlists.

NEXT, I wandered into a store called HIMALAYAN VISION on 127 Second Avenue and bought a sheer aquamarine blue piece of fabric embellished with gold bead designs to hang on the wall. Later, at home when I took the fabric out of the bag, I noticed that it smelled of incense.

I stopped in a few more places and then I was thirsty again. I found a cafe I loved right away called 17 BLEECKER (formerly The Coffee Chamber), located between Bowery and Lafayette. The decor is spare but welcoming and there's a feeling of happy calm. There are sunflowers in the window and a small collection of funny figurines on the countertop, including a Buddha perched on a tiny pillow. In the back, there's some shelves of books. The policy is that if you bring a book you're done with, you can exchange it for one on the shelf.

At 17 BLEECKER, I sipped the best iced orange ginger mint iced tea of my life and browsed through the premier issue of a culture magazine called Helio.

I like this part of the menu: Square Things $3 - Round Things $4

After leaving the cafe, I wove through streets in SoHo to get to The Apple Store. I retrieved my repaired ipod and took the opportunity to blast Outkast and Barry White at one of the demo tables. How fun would it to be a DJ, turning up music as loud as you want and watching all the peoples dance in their glittery outfits?

I hopped on the subway to head back home, where I promptly turned on the air conditioning and made a X-shape on the futon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


The day before the heatwave started, I told Mike about a memory I had of a blind Osmond brother who used to play the vibraphone on the Donny and Marie show, or at least on their holiday specials. Does anyone else remember this guy or am I imagining that he existed?

The next day, when the heat wave first started, I passed by a small porch sale in Park Slope. Something brightly-colored caught my eye. I stopped to take a look; it was a child-size, 8-note rainbow xylophone. Better than a xylophone, really, because it was metal instead of wood. So the sound was richer, more like that of a vibraphone. The Park Slope mom offered it to me for a mere dollar. I snatched it up in a hearbeat.

This is a small instrument that brings a big joy to our small apartment. I play it when I get up in the morning and at night before I go to bed. There's something about the light-heartedness of the sound that brings my attention right to the present. I always tell Mike that I have to come home for xylophone practice.

After we'd had the xylophone for about a week, Mike handed it to me to play while he put on a CD called Soul Sauce (say it five times, fast). He ordered me to play the rainbow xylophone to accompany the late great Cal Tjader on the vibraphone. The best number is the rough mix of Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro!), the song.

The text on the back of the CD reads: [...] as the years wore on and band personnel came and went, [the song Guachi Guaro!] got funkier and greasier - so that by the time it was recorded for Verve in 1964, producer Creed Taylor dubbed it Soul Sauce. The single was a bigger hit than it had ever been and the LP became an instant classic.

So I played along with Cal and danced around the livingroom. You can't help but grin when you're playing a rainbow xylophone.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


'Til lately, I never quite realized that I've loved stamps for my whole life. When I was little, I took used stamps off of family mail and put them in my scrapbook. Now, I get a big kick out of going to the post office and choosing stamps -- rainbow-candled menorahs, children's book characters, Jim Henson and the Muppets, whatever suits my fancy or the occasion at hand. Check out all the great stamps the US Postal Service has to offer online.

What is so great about stamps? They are small but mighty, with the power to carry an important message anywhere in the world for mere cents. Stamps are tiny pieces of art. Like children's picture books, they must capture the essence of a story or an idea in a small amount of space.

If you say "stamp collector," this is what I picture: a man in a rust-colored jumpsuit sitting in a dark room. He is hunched over a rickety card table under the light of a brown, scratched goose-neck lamp. With magnifying glass in hand, he peers peevishly down at stamps in a dusty, 20-pound album that he's had for 20 years. He's surrounded by lots of cats and house spiders and he never shares anything with anyone.

Halt. Wait a sec. Something is askew in the land of stamp appreciation. I love stamps and this description does not fit me! What's up with that? Could I be the only one with an outdated image of stamp-collectors and collecting? According the United Nations, the average age of stamp collectors is increasing. So my guess is, whole generations of folks aren't being exposed enough to the joys of stamps.

I guess there is no quick fix for the lackofstampappreciation epidemic. Wait, yes there is. If you want to get pumped up about stamps, get thee to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. I went there during my folks' recent visit from California. I know you're supposed to be contemplating world peace when you land at the UN, but all I could think about is how badly I wanted to visit their post office.

Before I could reach the UN post office, I saw something interesting out of the corner of my eye. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the UN's version of a photo booth. Let them take a picture of you or you with your friend and they will incorporate the photo into a sheet of stamps featuring different images of the United Nations. If you use these stamps, you must send the mail right there from the UN Headquarters. The best thing to do is to keep the sheet as a souvenir. I may make a postcard out of my sheet.

Once I got my personalized stamp sheet, I proceeded onto the UN post office. Holy smokes, talk about a collection of stamps to choose from! They've been producing their own stamps since 1951, so you can imagine the selection. There’s more than 1,000. I decided to get the Vienna Souvenir Collection because it included a stamp by Peter Max. I also got a set of 12 with a flying postman whose red mail satchel is overflowing with hearts as he holds an olive branch in one hand.

Here are a few fun facts about the UN Postal Administration taken from their website:

* The idea of the UN issuing its own stamps was first proposed in Argentina in 1947.
* An agreement with the US postal authorities was reached in 1951 and stipulated that the stamps be used only at UN Headquarters.
* The first UN stamps issued in US dollar denominations on UN Day - October 24 - in 1951. The stamps, an immediate success, were sold out within days.
* Other artists whose work is featured on the UN stamps include.....

Marc Chagall, France
Vincent Van Gogh, Netherlands
Paul Klee, Germany
Peter Max, North America

Email is great; snail mail is better, especially personal letters. What makes the intimate exchange of lofty thoughts and tender sentiments possible? Stamps do! Let's face it: stamps go around the world AND they make the world go 'round! So appreciate and enjoy the magic of stamps.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Just before Valentine’s Day, my mom would cover the kitchen table with a bunch of supplies – sequins, beads, glitter, glue, doilies, markers, crayons, and colored construction paper. She never gave instructions; instead, she’d let me and my brother dive into the pile of goods. To this day, I remember the pleasure of the process, the satisfaction of handling all the different textures. I even remember the great feeling of putting little patches of Elmer’s glue on my hands so that I could peel it off after it had dried.

Looking back at my days as a young person, I realize that the most meaningful and gratifying experiences were those of the “hands-on” sort, the ones where I got to be physically connected to a task. Now, as an adult who lives in an age where speed, efficiency, and convenience rule, I find it challenging but important to stay involved in the world through activities that require use of my physical self, namely the use of my hands.

When I use my hands in a project, I slow down. I connect in a deeper way to the experience, to my other senses, and, if I am working collaboratively, to the people or person I am with. When I prepare a meal with my boyfriend, Mike, I often feel the same way I did when I was making Valentine cards at my childhood kitchen table – totally immersed in the project, relishing the experience of using my hands to implement choices, taking pride in the results of those choices.


Give a massage
Knit a scarf
Bake bread
Chop vegetables
String beads
Sew a costume
Make a pot
Plant seeds
Weed a garden
Play the tambourine
Cut paper dolls
Hand-write a thank you note
Illustrate a card
Crochet a baby blanket
Paint someone’s face
Plaster a wall
Hammer nails
Saw or whittle wood
Hand-wash clothes
Scrub a floor
Arrange flowers
Place photos in an album
Build a fire
Flip pancakes
Braid someone’s hair
Pet a dog
Sandpaper a rough surface
Fry matzoh
Dye eggs
Build a fort or a sand castle
Knead bread dough

Monday, July 17, 2006


1. Lick the ice sculptures at Tavern on the Green.
2. Ride the carousel for free.
3. Throw acorns into expensive handbags.
4. Take the Zambone for a spin on Wollman Ice Rink
when no one is looking.
5. Waterski in the Bethesda Fountain.
6. Sip leftover soda at the Loeb Boathouse.
7. Ride on the back of a turtle by Belvedere Castle.
8. Heckle the actors in Shakespeare in the Park.
9. Jump into a miniature model boat at Conservatory Lake.
10. Scuba dive in the Harlem Meer and take fish off of people's hooks.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


The other day, I wanted portable, light-weight reading material for my subway commute. I tossed The Writer's Life: Insights from The Right to Write into my bag. The book is yellow, postcard-sized, and chock-full of pearly wisdom from Julia Cameron. You may know her from her time-honored classic, The Artist's Way.

Each page features a thought about writing, and as I read each thought, I think "Whoa, that's deep!" I am pulled to earmark almost every page. Here's what Julia sez on p.3:

Most of us try to write too carefully. We try to do it "right." We try to sound smart. We try, period. Writing goes much better when we don't work at it so much. When we give ourselves permission to just hang out on the page. For me, writing is like a good pair of pajamas - comfortable. In our culture, writing is more often costumed up in a military outfit. We want our sentences to march in neat little rows, like well-behaved boarding school children. Burn down the school. Save the books, perhaps, but get the teacher to tell you the real secrets: What does she write and read as a guilty pleasure? Guilty pleasure is what writing is all about. It is about attractions, words you can't resist using to describe things too interesting to pass up.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


One thing I love about my life is all the interesting, smart, fun, creative people I meet on a daily basis. One thing that surprises me in these encounters is the number of folks who walk without business cards.Yes, we live in sophisticated times: we can get almost anyone's contact information from the internet. Still, there is something worthwhile in the old-fashioned exchange of cards. It's like giving someone an official reminder of the connection you've made, a little piece of you that they can take back to home or office. It's satisfying to empty out my wallet, find so-and-so's card, and think "Gee, what good fortune that our paths crossed." I then find a home for them in my Rolodex and can easily contact them down the road. So much better than copying information from a crumpled piece of paper which has floated down to the bottom of my bag.

And here's a little bit you may not know about Rolodexes: you can buy the slotted index cards with plastic covers. So all you have to do is slide the biz card right inside.

Now, about getting the cards themselves: expense is no longer a barrier. You can go to websites like Vistaprints and get a batch for free. If you need to make a stronger, more professional image, you may wish to hire a graphic designer.

A business card can be a ticket to a fabulous work-related connection, whether your work is finding romance, making friends with other parents, running a corporation or building a home-based business.

Business cards: don't leave home without them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Here's three facts about my late Grandma, Matilda Jane Daugherty Linn (1904-1999):

1. She was a flapper in the 1920s, which meant that she wore her hair bobbed, frequented speakeasies, and smoked cigarettes. I still have the beaded tassels which hung from the bottom of her dress.

2. David Letterman bagged her groceries when he was a teenager.

3. She adored See's Candy. At holiday time, she ordered so many boxes as gifts that See's delivered it all for free.

Here's a great story about my gram and See's Candy: For a number of years, my gramma had a tough combo of being mentally sharp but dealing with a number of physical ailments. During that stretch of time, my mom flew out to Indiana to visit Matilda. She found that my gramma was depressed and feeling that life wasn't worth living. She told my mom that she would stop eating and drinking. "Well," said my mom, "that's going to put a damper on our visit."

That night, as my mom and gramma were chatting, my mom brought out a box of See's Candy. My gramma saw it and decided to break her "no eating, no drinking" rule. She started to eat pieces of candy and then moved on to regular food. She decided that life was worth living after all.

After that visit, my mom wrote to See's Candy and thanked them for saving Matilda. See's wrote the story up in their corporate newsletter and gifted my gramma a box of treats for every month that she lived. Matilda passed away a few years later.

Between you and me, I think it was my mom's company that perked my gramma up. Still, God Bless her, I hope my gramma is up in Heaven right now, doing the Charleston and enjoying a big box of See's.