Thursday, March 3, 2011



I’m starting with the ugly. Once again the journey began in the dark. Once again I tried to silently slip into my clothes so as not to wake anyone, only this time as I twisted into my favorite vest the journey took its ominous turn. My favorite vest, a black and blue blend with a suit collar purchased from New Republic over fifteen years ago. As I awkwardly fumbled with the buttons and searched for the satin cinch straps along the back I felt a thread dangling from the side. The thread became a series of frayed strings revealing a long split down the left side of my beautiful vest. I didn’t know whether to blame the age of the vest or my own age induced expanding waistline now too big for the crumbling fabric of a well-worn vest. It was the first omen of a trip forever known as the ugliest plane ride I’ve ever had and I’ve had a lot. The guilty party – Airtran. I have been a strong supporter of Airtran. I’ve filled out surveys for them and used superlatives to describe their services, but this time the list they're on top of is a list beginning with "s" and ending in "t". It started out with another bus ride from Madison to General Mitchell Field in Milwaukee at 3:45 in the morning well before the sun had risen or the birds of winter had begun to chirp. The 3:45 was the closest I could get to arriving in Milwaukee before my scheduled 8:00am departure time. Badger Bus was right on time and true to their word I was standing in the lobby of General Mitchell at 5:15, the sun not quite ready to peek out above the horizon. I had pre-ticketed the night before so I went straight to the gate, backpack slung over my shoulder, computer bag in hand. Surprisingly the line through security was long for so early in the morning, twisting back and forth and then down the hall. Once again they needed to go through my bag. This time it was my toiletries that I had to pull out and display to the guard on hand. Once through the embarrassment of security my gate remained pretty wide open, all the travelers clogging the security checkpoint were on their way to more exotic locals: Puerto Rico, Cancun, Des Moines. The sign behind the check-in counter showed flight 506 to New York, La Guardia on time at 8:00am, only two hours away. Sometime around 7:30, right about the time they were to begin boarding, they announced that due to weather in the New York area we were going to be delayed approximately forty-five minutes. Not bad but not a good sign. Then about fifteen minutes later they announced the flight had been put back to our original departure time and they would immediately begin boarding the plane, the rush was on. We all squeezed and tousled each other to get to our seats and find enough room in the overheads to stow our oversized carry-ons. Just as they had gotten everyone settled in their seats the pilodt in that standardized captain southern drawl came on over the speaker system and announced, “We’ve been delayed once again due to the unpredictable weather conditions in New York. They’ve asked we have y’all depart the plane. You can leave your bags on board but please return to the gate and wait for our notice to reboard”. I ignored his advice and grabbed my bags anyway. Just as quickly as they got us off the plane the gate attendant told everyone they had canceled the flight and we would all be directed to a new gate where we would all be reticketed to the next available flight. Good news – I was one of a handful who took their luggage with them. Bad news – there were maybe six available seats open on the next flight. One very pissed customer yelled this was the third week in a row he had tried to get on the eight o’clock Monday flight and had it canceled only to find out a competing airline with the same schedule had gone ahead and flown their aircraft. Better news – I got one of the six seats.

New York City. It will always take my breath away.

Michael Kenna
East 40th Street, NY 2006
Represented by Robert Mann Gallery NYC

I’m using this in the hip-hop context where bad actually means better than good. Here are some highlights of a "way too short" trip to Gotham.
If you only have a day, here’s a shopping circuit I’d recommend from Chelsea down to the lower Eastside. You can start at either end and work your way through, remembering no shops in New York open at the crack of dawn. If you’re an early morning person prepare to do some window-shopping first.

 I’ll start at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street. Now I know this is a chain but Restoration Hardware has come miles from the little knob and bath towel store it was fifteen years ago. The inventiveness and singularity of its design aesthetic is graceful and spot on. They have created a style that has become a major trend with an entire village of copiers. I could spend hours here studying their maps of Paris and London and the uniqueness of their aviator chairs and industrial desks

From here walk on over to the new Limelight Marketplace before it evaporates into another barren suburban-like mall filled with empty storefronts and wagons selling the ubiquitous ipod covers. Right now it’s a warren of hallways leading to kitschy treasures, white on white spas and food shops selling chocolaty kahlua cookies and white chocolate brownies drizzled with edible gold leaf.

You’ll need a breather after this so take a minute to walk through Union Square. Sit on a bench or the steps at the south end and listen to a novice guitarist or get a  free hug handed out by a few free spirits with only happiness to give out. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays the square is filled with one of the best farmer’s markets this side of the Atlantic.

From here walk on down to East 7th Street just to the left of Third Avenue where Linda, Duane and Suzy have been making Mid-century based fashion for over thirty years. At their store, DL Cerney, they use vintage fabrics, lush wools and outrageously gorgeous prints on their fashions for both men and women. I have at least a half dozen pairs of Hollywood pants and more forties retro styled shirts than you can shake a stick at. Linda’s Southern Illinois brassiness and Duane’s smooth Tennessee calm are the perfect foils for an afternoon spent trying on everything in the store.

All this walking should build up a sizeable hunger. Right around the corner from DL Cerney is a place I’ve never been able to resist, the Pommes Frites Store on Second Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets. The Belgian fries are double fried, crisp on the outside and meaty in the center, served in a paper cone. They have a list of dipping sauces including my favorites: Parmesan peppercorn and the traditional European mayonnaise. The guy behind the counter had me try a new flavor black truffle mayo. It lived up to its expectations. 

You’ll need the walk downtown after the caloric intake you just inhaled. I usually opt for the smallest cone and I rarely make it down to the bottom before the richness of the fries wins out.

My last stop is a newly gentrified block on East 2nd Street between Avenues A and B. Right in the middle of the block, east of the S&M shop and the Tarot reader are two new stores. I know these guys from Andes and their reverse expansions back into the city only make New Yorkers and us visitors all the richer. First, The Old Village Hall, owned and run by Scott and Erica Hill. Sprouting from a seed of an idea and passion germinated in their initial shop in Andes, New York, this store has a clear vision based around these two creative talents. Silk-screened t-shirts both new and reclaimed, totes, scarves (I walked away with one), pillows and custom fabric subtly done with literary motifs either text or image based drip from the walls and clutter the floor. The layering of color and the intentional imperfects in printing make for some of the most gorgeous and unique fabric found anywhere here or abroad.

Smack dap next door is another Andes original in Kabinett & Kammer. Sean Sherer and his partner Rick Gilbert just opened the doors to their New York version of curios and antiquities that will either make you drool with desire or flee in fright. I was lucky enough to be in New York for their grand opening. If you could squeeze yourself in and look beyond the elbow-to-elbow crowd you’d discover taxidermied baby zebras, ten-point bucks and skunks staring at you with a mix of pity and rage. Human skeletons hanging in the windows and vintage botanicals and medical charts scrolling down the walls. It’s a combination of Dr. Caligari’s cabinet and some of the most unique objects a designer could desire. After this you might want to head to Bedlam, a bar designed by Sean, and recoup your nerve over a double martini. 

Times Square
By Ciaran Tully
Available for purchase at Pink Olive in NYC

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