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Wandering around in Chelsea

I spent yesterday afternoon with Ivory Serra, son of my good friend Tony Serra ( I've known Ivory and his  twin brother Shelter since a few days after they were born). Ivory's a working photographer, worked with Annie Liebovitz for a while, and knows the NYC art scene. (It's quite wonderful that Ivory and Shelter, coming from this little town of 3000 people, have survived and thrived in NYC, and as artists.)

We went to some bookstores and a few galleries. I can't find my notes on which gallery this was , or the sculptor, but he's quite famous, and these are ultra expensive (prices not listed, but Ivory thinks maybe $150,000). It was a great afternoon, we started out at Grumpy's coffee house on West 20th, and then went to all these places I would not have known about otherwise.

3 photos last night NYC




Grand Central Station

According to Wikipedia, it's really Grand Central Terminal, but commonly called Grand Central Station. Built in the early 1900s, it really is grand. I'd forgotten. 

Giant berm protects single family home from flooding Mississippi River


"This levee protects a home surrounded by floodwater from the Yazoo River on May 18, 2011 near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The flooded Mississippi River is forcing the Yazoo River to top its banks where the two meet near Vicksburg -- causing towns and farms upstream on the Yazoo to flood."
                                                                                             -Scott Olson/Getty Images

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/05/mississippi-floodwaters-roll-south/100069/

Chicken coop built of recycled wood

Built by Efrain Zamora: Size: 6' X 8', Recycled redwood barn boards. Cedar shingles for the roof."

Check out his small structures at: https://picasaweb.google.com/ixtahua/GentleFootprintDesigns?authkey=Gv1sRgCIy6wcC-xaCyUA#

Korean dinner & the Baby Soda Jazz Band

I just had dinner at Han Bat, a 24-hour Korean restaurant a few doors down from the hotel. Meals served in stone bowls heated to near-incendiary temperatures, very exotic, many side dishes of pickled vegetables, almost all people eating there Korean. Like stepping into another country.

Upon the recommendation of Janice at the Spoonbill bookstore, I had dinner at Caracas Arepa, a Venezuelan restaurant a few blocks off Bedford last night. Hugely popular place, rightly so. Rum drinks. Their specialty is arepas, various fillings inside a wrapping made of white cornmeal, which is not fried, but grilled, then baked, making it crunchy. Wonderful food, wonderful place.

There were 4 girls having dinner at a nearby table. They had a pitcher of sangria and were having a great time. In the past week I've seen a bunch of girls-nights-outs at tables in various restaurants. So different without men. They're really connecting, sharing, tuning into each other, comfortable without the big T present. Harmony.
Then I went over to the Ragegast Hall (a serious beer bar) on N. 3rd Street to see The Baby Soda Jazz Band. The bass player is Peter Ford and he plays a box bass that he sort of invented. (A year ago I finally talked him into making me one -- I'd seen the band playing in Washington Square --  and I play it a little almost every day.) The band was in great form, doing '20s-'30s music like Baby Won't You Please Come Home and Struttin' With Some Barbecue. Peter's awesome on this one-string bass. A guest trombone player, who has played with Wynton Marsalis,  sat in. Great dancing, wonderful to see young people picking up on songs from this era. Diga Diga Doo…

Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers in Brooklyn

There are always going to be what are now called "print books." Those you hold in your hand and don't need electricity to read. There will always be independent bookstores, as I realized upon going into the Spoonbill & Sugartown bookstore on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn last night. It felt so right. My type of books, my type of bookstore, obviously run by book lovers. A place I can spend a lot of happy time browsing. I was turned on to it by Bill Getz, the Publishers Group West sales rep for the NYC area, who said he loved the place.



Sean and Janice knew who I was. Sean said be thought they had sold maybe 1000 copies of Shelter. He looked in his data base and said they'd sold 108 copies of Builders of the Pacific Coast and 70 copies of Home Work. Wow.

If we could only get more independent bookstores to display our books face-out like this. If people pick up our books, we're off and running.

They have used as well as new books, and in the back room were original copies of Steve Baer's Dome Cookbook ($165) and our Domebook One ($120). Extremely rare books. 218 Bedford Ave in Williamsburg (Brooklyn); take the L train from 14th street, get off at the 1st stop in Brooklyn and check out this hip neighborhood. It's got a buzz.

Trip to Brooklyn yesterday

Several people told me that Brooklyn is the new Village, i.e. rents are so high in Manhattan that people have moved out. Several things led me out there last night: I'd heard that the Spoonbill & Sugartown bookstore was selling a ton of our books, Bedford Avenue sounded hip, and I wanted to hear The Baby Soda Jazz Band, playing that night at a brewpub in the hood.

For many years in my visits here I'd avoid subways, walking many miles and taking cabs. Intimidated by being underground, never sure which train to take. Several years ago I realized this was stupid, and got back into subway travel by going out to Coney Island (in the winter). That got me back into it.

The subway trip out to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn is short and simple. I came up and walked to Bedford Ave. and felt immediately at home. It's quiet. That is, compared to the laser intensity of Manhattan. Relaxed. A skateboarder whipped down the street. I saw a bunch of great stuff in what you might call an antique store, called Ugly Luggage. There was an old Underwood typewriter and boy was it fun to hit mechanical keys for a change. (I bet my writing would be better if I used a mechanical type writer -- yeah, duh!) I liked just about everything in the store and ended up buying this little 1934 Boy Scout Diary, partly filled out way back when. (I was born in 1935.) It belonged to Victor Teinour of Slatedale, Pennsylvania There are pages of drawings of storm cloud formations, trees, plants, fish, music for bugle calls, etc. It's about 2" X 6." Good vibes.

Michael Moore at Book Expo America

Michael Moore showed up yesterday in cargo shorts and signed copies of his new book, Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life. He clearly enjoys people and posed for a photo with each person.

Our tiny book of tiny homes

The day before I left, Lew made up this tiny little book, about 1½" x 2" and it's been a huge (sic) hit with everyone I've shown it to. When I showed it to publisher/media guy Richard Nash a few hours ago, he was delighted and said, "Dude, that's publishing!

We're going to print up a passel of them when we publish the book.


Photos NYC #2





Running, squid-ink pasta, and NYC pix last night

 I headed out for dinner around 8 last night. For once I wasn't lugging my backpack, just the fanny pack. Wearing my Asics trail running shoes, I felt light, again reflecting on the skills of running being useful in navigating city streets. Also thinking that being mobile is one of the greatest abilities to possess, being able to walk as one gets, um, older.


Running friends: pay attention to the cartilage in your knees. I quit running before I was down to bone-on-bone and I was thanking my lucky stars as I moved along at a pretty fast pace last night. I want to be able to walk as long as I'm breathing. It was a warm night and as I went up 5th Ave, there was a rosy sunset glow over the Hudson, looking west down the numbered streets.

It's now early morning and Howlin Wolf is singing, "I'm built for comfort, ain't built for speed…" via Sirius radio on my iPad. Last night I had Linguine Nero, pasta made with squid ink, ay Cafe Pescatore, a great Italian restaurant on 2nd and 50th and 2 glasses of Nero Davila red wine. Ummm!
















Here are some shots from last night:






Skateboarding, the Whole Earth Catalog at MOMA, bread and sushi in Manhattan

Photo by Walt Denson

A blast from the west coast: today I'm sitting on the bus after a long (and productive) day at Book Expo America, and I check my email on the iPad, and there's a message from my friend Hans with a link to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, showing me skateboarding in a weekly column called "Healthy Obsession." http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/24/DDM31JHPOO.DTL

Yesterday I went to see an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art Library on the Whole Earth Catalog and other books from the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s, including our Domebook 2. It's a nice exhibit, with maybe 50-60 books, and it's a blast to look back at those days and see the newsprint books we were producing about what was going on. 1st photo below is an early WEC; 2nd photo is Domebook 2 at top and Steve Baer's Dome Cookbook (which actually preceded the WEC) at lower right.


(See Wikipedia on the WEC.)

One thing about all my years' running is, I can navigate city streets pretty well. I've always told my kids, "Watch the cars, not the lights. New Yorkers cross against red lights en masse when there's a break in traffic. I saw a mother with a kid in a stroller crossing on a red light. (Kind of reminds of a time years ago when I heard a mother in a park playground here tell her kid, "If you don't get over heah I'm gonna break yer ahm!")

I love this chain of restaurants here called Le Pain Quotidien. A great bakery, and breakfast and lunch. A lot of the food is organic, everything is freshly baked, and tables are broad-planked pine with one 35-foot long community table, and motif of a French farmhouse kitchen.

Had fabulous sushi last night across from the Beacon Theater at Fusha. Four sushi chefs dressed in all black were putting sushi together with lightning hand speed. I said to the guy next to me at the counter, "They could make a movie of these guys," and he said, "It's better live."

California surfers live on NYC building

Kind of hard to see what's going on here, but this is the facade of a large building (on 6th or 7th?), about 70 feet across, showing surfers in Huntington Beach, California. (Surf was up!)

NYC tonight

I went to a sold-out Elvis Costello and the Imposters concert at the Beacon Theater tonight, a lovely old gilded playhouse, and it was dynamite.
On the way home from the concert on entrance to 50th Street subway station: Lady of the hour.
Great article on Gaga in Sunday New York Times by Jon Pareles. He understands her and is a good writer. By contrast, a snarky and semi-snide review of her new album, Born This Way in USA Today this morning, Monday May 23rd, by Elysa Gardner. Get over it, Elysa!



See ya tomorrow.

Photos NYC #1






Monday morning New York City

Got in on Jet Blue red eye at sunrise. I never can sleep on planes, so got to my hotel at 35th and 6th Ave groggy and yes, a room was available at 7AM. Bliss! It's the Hilton Garden Inn and I got a rate of $209 due to publishing friends' corporate discount, it's a place I would never have chosen, and it turns out to be perfect. Halfway between the Village and the park, nice room on 21st floor (window looks out at Empire State bldg.), cool staff (let me carry my own bags), Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast a few blocks away…

After showering and resting a bit yesterday, I headed uptown on 6th Ave. Got to Bryant Park, and the noise of birds in the trees was surprising. Hey, am I out in the woods or something? At the same time, cabs were hurtling down 6th, busses roaring.

San Francisco is my city and I love it for its beauty and variety and clear ocean air, but this here is the big daddy, the big sister, the Big Kahuna. Nothing like it. Something else fer shure. Each time I get here it grabs me.

I have with me in NYC, a K2 scooter, which I took out yesterday afternoon. (don't understand why more people don't get around this way.) I rode up to the park on 6th, then down to the Village on Broadway, using the green bike lanes in the street, or riding on the sidewalks. I can cover 2-3 times the ground I would walking, and it's fun! Because of the handle, I'm a lot more secure than on a skateboard, plus it's got a brake (press down on rear wheel fender). I fold it up to go into a store or restaurant.

Washington Square is really torn up right now; most of it is under construction and fenced off, but in a small section was an old guy on guitar, young harmonica player, sounding good. "Your mama can't dance, and your daddy can't rock and roll." (Oh my!)

The city's an energy infusion. Just walk out into the street, turn in any direction, and vwooom! The sights, sounds, smells, people, store fronts, the endless images -- brain goes into overdrive. There's a level of, what to call it? -- maturity -- here not found on west coast. Window displays, quality and variety of the shops, faces in the street, newspapers (Village Voice compared to SFWeekly), the CBS TV city newsroom anchors, the culture in general -- it's just the Big Time. There's depth.

DIY Natural swimming pool

Seems almost too good to be true. From Treehugger.com via Permaculture Forum:

2 photos in the Mission District in SF yesterday afternoon

More pics from Maker Faire

This curvilinear structure is framed with particle board.









Ultralight wind-powered vehicle. Inventors claim it goes 3 times as fast as whatever strength wind is turning the prop.

Thanks to comment from tallcedars for this link to it in operation. (It sails against the wind!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CcgmpBGSCI

Maker Faire, San Mateo, Calif., 2011

The event was jammed with people. It seems to get bigger each year. Amazing that so many people are interested in making things. Here are a few random photos from Saturday:

This is glued-together strips of cardboard, done with a software program.

A build-it-yrslf car