Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Colors

Last weekend - camping by the Entiat River with Jenine, Josh, and Arlo, Scott, and Mike Huey. I'm not sure why Mike is the only one who warrants a last name, but that's the way it is.

Arlo and Jenine

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Yorker Festival - 5

It was actually the 11th annual New Yorker Festival, but it was my fifth year in a row attending. Peter skipped this year but I had my lovely friend Jenine for a traveling companion, and we had a great time. Unfortunately, that great time started at 4am on Friday. Our flight was at 6, hence the early start. We landed at JFK around 2:30 and headed for the subway; about 40 minutes later: Times Square. 44th Street isn't my ideal New York City address, but it was Jenine's first trip to NY, so it was kind of fun to be right in the middle of the known universe.

View from our room on the 46th floor.
We hung out in our hotel room for a little while and then headed out to our first festival event: an interview with Alec Baldwin. Alec is a funny guy, and a bit of a flirt. He told Ariel Levy who was interviewing him that he liked her dress (I thought it was ok). It was a fun interview, lots of movie clips (including one from "Working Girl" from 1988 - 22 years younger and 30 pounds lighter), and political chit-chat (campaign finance reform is his pet political cause). He also talked quite a bit about changing the divorce laws in New York state. I've heard that it's easier to kill your spouse and do the time than to get a reasonable divorce in New York; apparently he's using his influence and his experience with the process to affect legislation on this front as well. In talking about comedy and his success with "30 Rock," he gave all the credit to Tina Fey.

AND (and this is the best part), Calvin Trillin was sitting next to me during the interview! I was sort of distracted by this fact the whole time, and I just couldn't quite let it go, so when the interview was over I turned to him and said, "excuse me, Mr. Trillin?" he looked a bit startled and said "yes?" I stuck out my hand, which he shook (what else could he do?) and said "my name is Manomi, I came out from Seattle for the festival, I just wanted to say, I've enjoyed your work for a long time." He gave the smallest hint of a smile and said "thank you," I said, "you're welcome" and then left him alone.

Jenine and I were then supposed to meet my friend Elizabeth who was making the trek out from Brooklyn to meet us for dinner. Unfortunately, Jenine was jet-lagged (having just returned from China and Vietnam a few days before leaving for New York) and not feeling well, and decided to get back to the hotel for some much needed sleep while I went off to meet Elizabeth. We had a nice dinner at Harrison (pricey, noisy, good, not spectacular with the exception of our side order of fries, which were spectacular; I've eaten fries at a lot of places, these must have been fried in duck fat or something equally decadant - they were sublime) and I ended up back in the room about 12:30 - Jenine didn't even twitch when I came in.

Saturday we got up and immediately headed out for bagels, which we got at a little deli near the venue (we were back at the same place we saw Alec). The Saturday morning talk we attended was by Atul Gawande who was speaking on "How to Live When You're Dying" which was the title of his article on end-of-life matters/hospice care earlier this year. I often skim the heavy articles but this one was so interesting that I read every word. Atul is a practicing surgeon in Cambridge, he talked about how some patients choose not to treat their terminal illnesses, but to go home, manage their pain, and live out their days by actually living those days, instead of fighting death with painful and draining treatments. Atul needs to learn to modulate his voice (he's a very monotone speaker), but his talk was interesting, and by the end, several people in the audience were sobbing.

After Atul, we had just enough time to trot down a few blocks to the Chelsea Market and browse the goodies there. We bought some treats, including chocolate covered Corn Flakes (you have no idea...) from Jacque Torres and some savory crepes for a snack, and then headed back to the same theater for the "Fashion Forward" talk. I have to admit, this was the talk we had tickets to that I was least interested in, but that turned out to be the MOST interesting. Four designers, four runway models, and Judith Thurman moderating a very interesting discussion on fashion, the fashion industry, femininity, Michelle Obama vs. Carla Bruni, inspiration, fabric, draping, layering, wool, PETA, and the best part: the Rag and Bone collection (my favorite) featured mittens. No gloves, mittens. The models were all leggy, beautiful, and appeared to completely lobotomized. Jenine, an apparel designer by training, more of an industrial designer by trade, was hugely inspired by the event, and I found it incredibly interesting and entertaining, and it made me think that in my life, which is often totally void of personal artistic endeavors, fashion can be art and expression, and every day can be an opportunity to create a personal artistic statement, even if it's with other peoples' products.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening downtown in Soho: Dean & Deluca, Muji, CB2, Prada, Uniqlo, Pearl River, AND... Jenine is pretty sure she saw Donatella Versace in the Dolce & Gabbana store when we walked by. I insisted she go into the Prada store to not only look at the clothes, but more to check out the Rem Koolhaas architecture and design elements, which are fantastic. It's also fun to check out the sleek salespeople in their sleek clothes, although Jenine did comment about one of the sleekest salesgirls, "I feel bad that she doesn't have a rib-cage." Dinner was at Papatzul - fresh, spicy, Mexican fare which I'd had and enjoyed a few times before. I like going back to the same old places.

Sunday morning was with Steve Carell. Again, lots of clips, and lots of chat about "The Office." He answered my burning question during the interview -- it turns out that the show was in fact very deliberately re-tooled after Season 2 (the change was obvious, and hugely disappointing); the result was more viewers and numerous awards - but the changes rendered the show practically unwatchable as far as I'm concerned. It lost all its charm and all its subtlety while becoming a major hit with the masses. I have to believe all those smart actors and writers are disappointed now too, and that the turn is a contributing factor in Steve leaving after this season, but introducing myself to Calvin Trillin was as much as I could do in terms of confronting celebrities, so I didn't ask Steve to elaborate on the change after Season 2 during the question and answer period.

Our last festival event was right after Steve -- Malcolm Gladwell talking about "The Magical Year of 1975." It turns out that what Malcolm found so magical about 1975 was the fact that that's when Marvin Miller, who was the head of Major League Baseball's players' union, won the players the right to free agency, changing the economics of the game (and possibly the nation - his talk was a little hard to follow) forever.
View from the roof of the Gansevoort Hotel.
And that was the end of the festival for us. We spent Sunday afternoon walking down the High Line Park, stopped for a cocktail ($15) at the bar on the roof of the Gansevoort Hotel, made our way back to Times Square, and on a tip from our doorman, ate dinner at John's Pizza ("best pizza in the City!")
Monday morning we got up and went to Zabar's for bagels, chatted with some Israeli guy in the cafe, walked from there to Central Park through light rain, and took a stroll through what eventually became a torrential downpour. I thought we were heading south through the park back toward midtown, but at some point I realized we were actually heading north, so given the time and the fact that our bags were at the hotel (south) and we were taking the subway back to JFK, we hightailed it out of the park and to the subway on Lexington Avenue and made our way (running late) to the airport. We were so late that we got to jump the security line (escorted by a Delta agent) and made it to our gate only to find that our flight was delayed. We finally boarded and sat on the plane for two hours while a new flight path was cleared as ATC had just closed the runway we were waiting for. It was a long trip home after a super-great weekend. Can't wait for next year - I hope Jenine will go again and Peter will be back on board.