Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Two Week Notice (bye bye)

Dear Friends, neighbors, and valuable customers (sic),

With this letter I officially present you my 2 week notice, starting last Tuesday. On Feb 12th (yes, next week), I will fly out of the country, thus resuming my previous status as a "NYC F***ing tourist." I will move out of the US, to the UK.
Some of you already know and can stop reading here. For the others still on a lunch break, here is my 2 cent semi-introspective goodbye note, so it looks like I've actually been doing some thinking, for a change...

It all began 6 something years ago, the day I set foot on the Land of the Free. That night, I took a carriage to the remote lands of Dutchess County and started sprinkling proper French grammar over the unwilling heads of under aged Vassar students. The following year, memories of Washington D.C. piled on top of my teaching experiment, above which layered flashes of Puerto Rico, Italy, France and Mexico. In 2003, 2 years after I had started exploring the beauties of American suburbia lifeforms, I left for the Big Apple.
Dec 10, 10.45 am: I stepped out of kick boxing class with a dismantled jaw and a phone number. Catherine Price, former Brooklynite and social hub emeritus, had just punched hard enough for me to draw 2 life changing lessons:

a. no matter how weak your hook and how bad your English, there were friends to be made out there.
b. when the instructor shouts "DUCK !" he doesn't necessarily mean you should take a pause to admire flocks of birds flying by the window.

From that day on, I started to befriend people in the most random locations/ situations. Be it on a subway platform at 5 am, at the wrong house warming party (I've splurged on an agenda and written down proper addresses since,) in a night club while reading a book, or while browsing online for a dentist (although that day I ended up meeting a nitrogen cook.) Then there were friends of friends, people it took 6 month to realize I had actually met when I was 15, and whose parents had met mine when they where 15. And whose mom randomly met my granpa' on a public bench last summer outside of Paris.
All these people, or rather all of you people, are the reason why it is now so hard to leave. But let's face it: lots of you have already fled the country and with my family growing on the other side of the Pond, time has come to move back closer to "home." (I hate to sound cheesy, but sometimes Blood calls louder than you think.) So for now I will settle in London, a city conveniently located near Paris (but not too close to Parisians,) Vienna (so I can watch my nephew grow) and near lots of little islands and tiny countries at I have yet to discover. It is also where my chéri lives, so I figured it couldn't be THAT bad...

As Laurent Voulzy sang the definition of Love in his oh so cheesy-romantic melodic charade, here is to six something years in Wonderland, and to the friends made while living there.

Mon 1er, c'est Désir
Mon 2eme, du Plaisir,
Mon 3eme, fait Souffrir.
Et mon tout fait des souvenirs...

I will drink away my sorrow -and my fear of flying- this Friday night with whoever is around/ in need of an excuse to binge.
Bye bye, and hope to see you all again soon !!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Le Chic, le Choc, le Chèque

Something that could be translated by "the Class, the Clash, the Cash." This was the title of a documentary about famous soccer player's wives I had seen on French public TV a while ago. ie: something that had probably been made in 1981, bought by the public channel in 87 from the "on sale/ useless" department of a private TV channel, and broadcast in 94 to avoid paying the raging 0.2% copyrights to the film's director. In short, a great up-to-date documentary about modern day society. I remember being stricken by the lush gardens and humongous properties in which these wives lived, their latest Chanel leather hats à la YMCA (aaaah the 80's), and their complete lack of interest for the world outside their husband's press clips and wallets. In those days, it seemed that happiness rhymed with the much sought-after "double C" insignia, according to your gender alternatively taking the shape of entwined gold letters on a sweater or announcing some promising full cup size underneath.

The unemployed women would meet up to shop on any given day of the week, batting their electric-blue lashes at the high-end department store's windows. They talked constantly, babbled, and sometimes even screeched at a fur coat on sale. Besides bearing similar half tamed S&M outfits, they also all yapped with a strong southern tint in their voice, bearing the very same accent I once sported, before moving to Paris and being regularly bullied by cruel junior-high morrons until it eventually disappeared.

But anyways, these women had everything they had always dreamed of: according to their standards they were classy, vicariously part of the media clash thanks to their husbands' glorious careers, and, well, full of the latter's cash as well. Bliss was their companion. Still, I remember feeling that somehow, something was off with this Stepford Wives picture. I really did not care that none of them had gotten an education, nor that they proudly declared "re-heated plain pasta" their best recipe by far. Rather, what made me uncomfortable was that they seemed to struggle to find a way to spend this huge amount of wealth they had done nothing to deserve. Past its capacity to grant almost every wish, the flow of cash had not sparked their imagination enough to open it to a world of newly accessible wonders -I mean really, how many leather Chanel hats can one own anyway? Basically, they had a thick check book and no idea what to do with it. The simple fact that it was there made them happy, and so passed the days of the famous busy husbands and their overwhelmingly rich simple wives.

Fast forward 20 something years later in present day New York City. Chanel leather hats are thankfully out of style, and soccer players now date strong independent women such as models and former teen pop singers (see Adriana Karembeu, Posh Spice or Elsa.) The almost endearing southern soccer player's wife and her overcooked pastas have been eradicated and replaced by a much more dangerous kind of symbiotic form: the Investment banker and the Mishkin Double D (ie "Gold Digger" in the hip Yiddish language used in NY these days. DD bra cup just marking the CC inflation since the 80's) One day, our kids will bump into a TV documentary about today's society that might look like this -granted of course that public TV still exists, which is actually quite doubtful:

Opening credits. Title. Addictive poppy music playing. A group of well groomed girls sip litchi cucumber martinis in a posh bar. They wear high heels, a t-shirt barely reaching the thighs and a Colgate smile. Scattered all over, a fauna of badly cut Brooks Brothers suits (sorry for the pleonasm and the Eurocentric comment here. I had too.) The girls look at the guys. The guys look at the pantless legs.

- Hi. (him)
- Hiiiii. Hihihihihi (her)
- What's up?
- Hihihihih

The story looks as old as Humanity itself. Until this. Our post post-modern era(tum):
- You come here often? (him. chances of getting laid 1/10)
- What job do you do? (her)
- I'm an investment banker. (chances of getting laid 7.8/10)
- What bank? (uncrossing her legs. Crossing again)
- Super Rich Bank (chances of getting laid 9.2/10)
- Where do you live? (pouting)
- Chinatown (chances of getting laid 3.1/10)
- …
- but this is only until the brand new condo I bought in Chelsea is finished (chances of getting laid 11/10)
- Hi, what's you name? hihihihiihihih

Ahhh… love.
But don't get me wrong, this is of course something only seen in a certain type of NYC bars. For other types, just replace the Him/Her conversation by a more straight forward questionnaire and a Him/Him interaction. Let the one who claims to have truly never witnessed this join me for a party with business school students where people literally walk away in the middle of your sentence the moment they realize you are of no apparent use to them. Even immediate lust for sex seems to have become a secondary concern after the color of your credit card. Call it racism of the 21st century.

Now, I made plenty of friends in this city, and obviously I do not recognize any of them in this stereotype. And there are million's of people I have not -yet- met who would rather go on a nightly hunt for dead animals in Chinatown to make beautiful sculptures than spend their Sunday calculating their bonus or let Dr. 90210 implant the "Xtra Volume" package. A lot of these guys even genuinely like trading credits, stocks, socks, or pistachios by the ton. The psycho artist (who really does exist) offers to sew found dead animals with a thread and a needle to make new ones while the M&A banker less offensively only merges companies. I know. But these belong to the estranged minority (thank god for the dead rat artist.) What I have been painfully witnessing is the complete disappearance of sheer spontaneity to the advantage of a practical fact-checking exercise turned into a high profile job interview. Being fair, let's not only blame the mishkin blond air-head for running after the Gold membership card. The banker gets a trophy DD to listen to his stories, including a recent speedboat trip and other heavy-set devices. Big Engines she will hopefully mount soon, they both think.

So, when I offered my friend to join me for a night out to celebrate her short stay in the Big Apple, I knew what I was getting into.

First, there was a formal upscale invitation under someone else's name that miraculously became mine on the guest list. An open bar with top shelf liquor, and that newly symbiotic combination abounding like mold on blue cheese. "Why am here then?" one might ask. Free champagne, friends, stunning venues, good music, and people too busy making sure they don't leave sweat stains on their silky outfit to overcrowd the dancefloor. I admittedly enjoy this display of the proper-crowd luxury because I am not part of it. I can freely be who I am, empty my mind without fear of staining my non-existing reputation. The ultimate freedom sometimes lies in strange places.

After the third glass of champagne -a record while still standing in my case-, what appears like a male mutters something about the fireplace, and some 1974 classical piece being butchered by the DJ. He could be in his early thirties, but I could also be drunk. Tall, blond, blue eyes, and claims he's a pilot who always flies his private jet to go to work. I take a pause and consider this vision. I then look down at my empty glass and politely excuse myself. Back at the bar I order a champagne of glass, with which the barman graciously suggests a plate of food as well. I return to my seat with a drink, cheese, grapes and a full steak filet before resuming the conversation. Because of where we are, and probably of who we are too, the topic quickly reaches the surrounding wealth and its implied rules.

Well, I was raised to become an independent woman, only spending what she earns herself and worked somewhat honestly for it. But in this City when you meet someone, where is the line between letting a gentleman treat you and being labelled a "free loader" (or alternatively a "hardcore feminist hippie who can't relax")? How often can we insist on splitting the bill before looking ungraceful, or agreeing to be taken out before looking ungrateful? What if one has a gold credit card and the other doesn't even qualify for the Ivory free Frequent Flyer Miles membership? How does one balances things out then?

This might sounds like details to some, but it became quite a hot topic among what I would subjectively call "properly raised" people. One could also decide to only date within his/her social circle, but that calls for another debate altogether. So let's face it, New York's young active male population we are likely to bump into is for the most part in finance -this is not a coincidence, this is the very reason why they chose to live here- and if you aren't part of this world you can quickly find yourself facing a dangerous lifestyle gap. Also, even after dating a couple of successful idiots, one has to admit there might be others in finance who inconveniently do not apply as "despicable beings," so we, semi-proud members of the not-for-profit non-sense, should be prepared to face the issue one day. The "Chic Choc Chèque" attitude can evaporate any dilemma and our self-esteem. Our self-consciousness can spoil a treat because of a favour we cannot return. After many pros and cons, theses and anti-thesis, we come to the conclusion that when it's right, things will fall into place. Eternal dating can be a pain anyway and when you are involved and you care, there are other ways of showing it than signing for expensive bills.

It is now late in the bar. I say thank you for the talk and proceed to reach the coat check and leave the party. On the way, a slightly inebriated night owl in a tight business suit looks my way and mumbles: "hey...could I get your number by any chance?  You look like a nice person in this ocean of strange behaviours. I would love to take you out to dinner sometimes." Gasp. Blood rushed to my temples. My mouth was ready to speak faster than my brain could control, but I wanted to enjoy the moment. I wanted to relish these 6 little words as they would pass my lips. Beyond many fears, there was this sentence I had been dying to pronounce, getting a sweet revenge on the City's daily toll. "Thanks, but I have a boyfriend."
Yes, he's in finance and he's certainly not of the "despicable" kind.

The barman snaps me out of my thoughts:
"- One last glass of champagne Miss M.?"
"- Sure, the same please. No reason to change what feels right, right?"
"- Of course. One glass of Henriot, coming right up."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Garbage Tour 2007

Who said NY had been fully overtaken by glamorous snots and overpaid underaged bankers? Com'on now, Who's in??

See the post I found below. 

THIS THURSDAY New York City Chinatown Garbage Tour
You're invited on a free tour of the New York City Chinatown Garbage.Did you know you could make art out of dead animals? Yes. I am going to show you how to collect dead animals from the garbage in Chinatownto make your own personal taxidermy. This is the first NYC ChinatownGarbage Taxidermy Tour. You will learn how to dig in the garbage fordead animals. You can make art out of these animals. It's reallycool. I've found everything from sharks to frogs to plain oldunidentifiable crap. Sometimes I find nothing interesting, but thatis what makes it fun. You never know. RSVP is appreciated but not required. Rain or shine.
My name is Nate Hill, a Brooklyn artist who makes new animals fromdead animal parts. I sew together random animal parts to make a newanimal that doesn't really exist. Many of the parts I have used over the years have come from Chinatown's garbage.

I suggest wearing clothes you don't mind getting dirty. Long-sleeveshirts are also good to keep your arms clean. Also fully enclosedshoes are recommended. The following items will be provided: latex gloves, first aid kit, wet wipes, and antibacterial gel. You may wantto bring a plastic bag if you want to take a souvenir with you. Youmay also want to bring a flashlight, though I've never used one. Isearch by feel. After the tour is finished, I invite you to drinks atthe bar Home Sweet Home (a taxidermy themed bar).

Southeast Corner of Canal and Lafayette Street, Manhattan9-10p; $free

Saturday, August 04, 2007

ooohhh, the self-promotion! (Artforum)

ARTFORUM 08.03.07
Animal Farm
Long Island

At last Saturday’s summer benefit for the Watermill Center—the annual Hamptons bash thrown by the institution’s founder, Robert Wilson—art and corporate sponsorship dovetailed with unusual ease, all the way down to the evening’s animal theme: “VOOM Zoo” (a not-so-subtle nod to the HD-TV provider).
(...) Reeds and torches lined the steps leading up to the Watermill’s main hall, through which guests had to pass in order to reach the party. (...) Of course, the evening’s theme wouldn’t be complete without a dress code, in this case “Wild Chic.” Getups ranged from arts patron Christophe de Menil’s understated snake brooch to AOL executive Tatiana Platt's stunning yellow-feathered concoction of a dress, whose saliency nearly outstripped the giant corporate logos that adorned the mural overlooking the center's plaza.

“This year’s sale will be through the roof,” promised Watermill arts and auction manager Maïa Morgensztern, as she monitored her staff’s last-minute preparations. “This time, we decided to go with hot, edgy art.” Her lush French accent at first made me think she’d said “hot, hedgy art,” which might have been equally apt, given the inclusion of crowd-pleasing pieces by the likes of Anselm Kiefer and Robert Mapplethorpe. Soon, though, the unflappable Morgensztern was called away by an urgent plea: Where’s the fish artist? Alfred Taubman’s asking about the fish.” The reference was to Wonjung Choi’s ichthyological mobiles, which hung in a corner of the tent near Robert Wilson’s video portrait of a panther.

Performances punctuated cocktail hour—here a Taiwanese drum troupe, there a woman sitting covered in red paint, as staged by artist William Pope.L. At last, everyone was called into the dining tent, where guests were greeted by a stunning tableau vivant: the burlesque star Dita von Teese, in pasties and garter belt, perched on a swing hung high from metal rafters. It was a re-creation of the scene in Wilson's video up for auction. As von Teese posed, one collector remarked, “It’s nice, but I wouldn’t put it in my house.”

“Your cars have been shipped to Mexico, to be auctioned off for charity,” joked Wilson, joined onstage by Abramovic. Wilson then spoke about the trick to filming a panther: “The most important thing is you listen, listen like an animal. When we shot this video portrait of the panther in the studio, no one moved. We animals listen.” He ended his speech by imitating the cries of an indeterminate species: “Woa woa woahahah.” His yelps made Lisa Dennison’s opening remarks positively sober in comparison, as she pondered, “Could [the Watermill] become one of the most significant artist colonies of all time?” The stage was then turned over to Bartenev and his cast, who performed an “animal competition” replete with people wearing foam chicken suits and wings.
Left: Actress Julia Stiles with artist Jonathan Cramer. Right: Dita von Teese. (Photos: Tyler Coburn)
While the performers cavorted, auctioneer Simon de Pury kicked off the evening’s sale with VIP tickets to Rufus Wainwright’s Judy Garland show at the Hollywood Bowl. Next up was a Nan Goldin photograph of model James King. Acknowledging the cognitive dissonance intrinsic to all art auctions, de Pury proclaimed, “The piece is invaluable . . . and we start it at two thousand dollars.” Throughout the evening, de Pury continued his mix of praise, strong-arming, and enthusiasm, saying to one participant, “I love the underbidder, especially when as beautiful as you.”
As the auction continued, I caught up with Dennis Oppenheim and White Box's Martin Liu, sitting near Dennison and Ilya Kabakov. Several seats away was none other than the kindly Bill Paxton (most recently starring as the polygamist patriarch in HBO’s Big Love), who talked a bit about his father’s art collection. Then, as I stared agog at the foam chickens’ antics in the auction ring, Paxton remarked, Zen-like: “Just enjoy it. You don’t have to define it.”
Those impatient for a dance party rushed center stage as soon as de Pury wrapped up, and several of us took a break outside, including Wilson administrator (and rumored Wainwright beau) Jörn Weisbrodt and writer/model (and Ryan Adams beau) Jessica Joffe. Collectors keen on acquiring more art made their way to the silent-auction tent, where a Sol LeWitt aquatint and a photo by Hunter S. Thompson made me dream of buying. In the meantime, Wilson’s crew turned their attention toward the after-party at the “Big House,” though many attendees debated moving on to a nearby Russell Simmons soiree.
So while twenty stalwart guests held down the dance floor, others began trickling off into the night. Artist Cory Arcangel, whose Warhol video game was on display, plotted to clear the dance floor, once and for all, by playing Journey’s power ballad “Don’t Stop Believing.” And had he actually been given permission to DJ? “I’ve reached the point in my career where I get to do anything I want,” he said. “Though it’ll probably only last for a month.”
Dawn Chan

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

July 24, 2007

July 24, 2007

- Does it hurt?
- What?
- Does leaving your heart unattended on the table hurts?
- I don't know. Not yet.

Flashes, flashes, flashes, stop. Run. Trip. Catch. Flashes, flashes, flashes. 23 is the new black.

Lately, it seems that everyone is hunting for a share of Youth to hold the glimpse of a careless haven. Parties, drinks, tinting, brushing hands, smell, touch. Mid-life crisis midway through mid-life. Whether he comes from South Africa, an Internet café in Italy or a capoeira class in Rio, 23 year old boys are the latest gotta-haves. They come in every size and walk of life, horny Red Bull(s) sans the bad after taste. An electronic gadget everyone craves. They are hot, fast, playful toys and delivered with the shelf life of one: after a month it is bound to get old. We try, we dare and we bounce all our rebounds from entertainment to uncertainties. Truth is, we stopped believing in the possibility of a meaningful connection that would stick longer than a dial up session.

Now, when Reality bridges over for all to see -but us; when he leaves himself out there simply for us to take, can we really let go of the fears and stop?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Max and Shina's wedding: 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea

7 liters of water = almost 2 gallons. This is, according to a poll taken among the semi-conscious survivors who attended Max and Shina's wedding in Canada this past week-end, the amount of chlorine water individually swallowed during the 3 day-0 night event (for fermented beverages equivalent, please multiply results by 1.7 per child, by 7.8 per French/US/ Korean citizen, by 14.03 per Canadian and by 49.2 if you lost your shoes, a reading glasses lens, stole someone else's underwear and returned to New York wearing nothing but a heavily scratched forehead and a white towel –also stolen. Same for those who swam in the Jacuzzi in their birthday suit. If you happen to be the person who did both, you're my hero.)  

Staring at the official report I also finally grasped the deeper meaning behind dressing butt-white bridesmaid in green dresses: so that they –we- would nicely match the stunning chlorophyll patches on the backdrop mountains during photo shoots, and fully blend in when sitting at the bottom of a pool. Or Jacuzzi. Shower? Heck, as long as you drank your requested 7 liters, you could try to swim in the kitchen sink if you wanted.  

The ceremony itself was nothing less than unforgettable. We had the most beautiful bride and groom, drunk people galore and a plethora and good Samaritans willing to befriend just about anyone –hereby acknowledging that the last two might strongly be related. We danced, we hugged, we cried, we changed clothe and got pushed in the Jacuzzi again, from where we gazed at a rising sun. I also vaguely remember attempting to give a speech during diner, but by that time I was too scared, too intoxicated, and too incapable of articulating for anyone to understand. Writing part of the speech in Korean didn't seem to help. This pathetic public appearance was met by the rather open-minded public the way it deserved to be: its creator thrown into the pool, green dress and all. 2.5 liters down, 4.5 liters to go.

Besides deciding to Google and copy/paste "wedding speeches" next time I am asked to speak my mind - if ever-, I have also learned that sometimes, it is best to communicate in English with a Québécois... thus avoiding to laugh hysterically at their accent when one cries out for help, drowning.
As I told both families before leaving the party: "Best Barmitsva ever!!!"

Watery eyes on the horizon, we drove back from Mont-Tremblant last night, the air filled with nostalgia and the acrid smell coming from my highly hangover neighbor.
3 miles to the US-Canadian border, a car filled with what resembled a team of Ultimate Super Mario Bros. contestants pulled next to our lane, getting ready to wait an extra 2 hours to return to their cherished land. Alcohol, exhaustion and embedded stupidity probably helping, I scrambled a "What's your number?" at the back of the wedding invitation and handed it over to Laurent, my very drunk but very serviceable passenger. He flashed it through the window and quickly proceeded to return to hibernation. The dashing appearance apparently gave them enough time to decipher, process, and kick the brave out of the car so he could walk over to ours, in the middle of a clogged highway. As we exchanged digits I sank while adding a name to the number: Justin. With a J.  

Note to whoever is setting my life up and getting a kick out of it: could we go down the alphabet just for a change, or am I being punished because I figured out I was running on fiscal year (hence the 2006 –April 2007 "J" recurrence, for those who followed) and haven't actually paid my taxes yet?  

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ouvrez ouvrez la cage aux oiseauuuux

Suitcase, check. Passport, check. Foreign currency, check. Plane tickets. Plane tickets?

I find them scattered in my left drawer. I look at the dates again, as if to make sure nothing has changed since I last looked 20 minutes ago. Flight AF019, from JFK to CDG. I have, had, 1 hour left.
In a moment I will go up to my unfinished rooftop above my Brooklyn apartment, take a deep breath and gaze at my empty Air France seat fly away in the horizon. Tonight, I will watch the plane take other passengers to the City of Lights. Then I will climb down the precarious emergency ladder and search in the fridge for an answer.

The answer is quite simple though: I booked a trip home to Paris, my boss booked a trip home to NY. At the "War" game, the King beat my Queen and I lost my plane ticket in the battle; I will stay here to attend to his Highness.
As most of you might not know since I only brag about my Ô so entertaining social life, I do spend quite a few hours a day dealing with matters only remotely related to sexual intercourse: I too have a job. (I will briefly admit here that I am the vile servant of an acclaimed artist who likes his loft clean and his subjects silent. Needless to say that even Yenta has plotted better matches.)

As a preemptive gesture, I put the plane tickets back in the drawer and accepted an invitation for tonight's wild party in Harlem. The fiesta promises to be one of these bday bash that should keep me hangover -and therefore quiet- for at least the duration of my boss' stay. In the meantime, I will call Sam to spread the "good news" and cry myself to sleep using that new long distance phone plan of mine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Aphone Sex

My close friend Van' was leaving on a business trip to sunny Panama, and jokingly suggested the World Wide Web as a substitute for my ever growing need of motherly love. Within 5 hours after her departure, I was online on the website she had suggested and offered my A.D.D need for attention and care to the first stranger who had taken interest in my almost empty/photo-free profile. Two weeks later, my phone bill was on its way to vie with the French social security debt thanks to one click of the mouse.

My new phonepal -yes, I gave my cell number to a total stranger. Sue me- lives far away from Brooklyn -in France- because getting along so well would mean too much if we could actually stop playing tea and go out for real coffee. Oblivious of that "detail," we would voice everything and nothing for hours in the evening, until it would get so late that I could gradually feel dawn light up another day through his windows. Our long wired encounters also provided us with the forced decision to alternatively miss the wake-up call to work. I had not only pulverized my phone bill; I also became very good at imagining lame stories for showing up to the office 2 hours past the inexcusable. As for him, I later found out that he never worked before 6pm... -but since he was the one staying on the phone until 4 or 5am, I guess that evened things out a bit.

Sam, since this is his non-pseudo name, is a nice guy and, according to his picture, a 6'2 feet sun-tanned blue eyed tennis teacher who would make any story start like a bad Club Med prank. But I didn't care: with him I was temporarily escaping the "J" debacle, listening to his own promiscuous misfortunes while waiting on the couch for my friend to return. Life on the phone had no real drama to offer and everyone was pleased to see me quiet for a change.

But Van' eventually came back, and the phone kept ringing. 3 weeks in the process and hanging up from a 2.30 hour conversation, I felt I had somehow included the recurrent talks in my daily routine: get up, shower, eat, work, eat, work, go home, eat, talk to Sam, go to bed.

Wednesday before last, it probably hit him that the likelihood of us spending chat time towards some balance for sex time was as close to zero as this improbable freezing weather, and his msn avatar remained in the red. For an interminable 4 days, I stayed put and started to blame myself for talking to strangers, giving too much to fast –intellectually, that is. I was experiencing the Post-coitum blues of a phone sex that had never taken place. Aphone sex in the city (or so I concluded, and started yet another self pitying entry. )

Then I got sick. Hallucinating things sick. And the higher my fever got, the less likely I was to get my phone fix if I couldn't even go online to signify my presence. Then he called, without any warning. And from then on he would check-in up to 3 times a day to see if I was still feeling ill, if I had gone to a doctor, and how cute exactly were the imaginary people in my living room. With that last joke we also officially became long distance buddys who had never met, just like these far-away penpals in elementary school: one had been designated among millions to become your friend, and with the help of a blurry picture and respective broken languages it was our duty to learn how to make it happen.

Today saw our first month anniversary. I changed my phone plan to one more suitable to my new usage and hang up after a record of 2h48 min on the phone. He still sleeps around more often than they are available nights, (swearing that he will keep doing so until he finds again someone who will make him want to stop.) And on my table lays the remains of a home-sick driven fever: a plane ticket to Paris (via Barcelona) for the end of the month. Mom, dad, Sam, here I come.

Friday, March 30, 2007


In my opinion, there are 2 words American society will always be able to rightfully claim its own: "Hugs" and "Free." Seating in Union Square on this sunny spring afternoon -and on my first day out since my week long high-fever spree spent hallucinating gigantic alphabet letters in my living room- I took my so-called organic lunch box and sat across a couple of college kids in the park.

The bunch was gathered in the middle of the way, bearing high big cardboard signs. I wondered what the claim was. Money for their basketball team? An educational school trip to Cancun in April? To protest the percentage of squirrel in the park or the price of Diesel jeans? After spending a good 30 seconds trying to guess, I turned around to find out which of my assumptions was right. "Free Hugs" it said.
What!? "Free Hugs?"

"Free" I understood: provided that you can pay for the plane ticket to get here and a $1000/ month for the boiler room - I mean, the "vintage" looking bedroom- everything else in this city can be found for free: food samples at every corner, totally usable furniture on recycle night, "medical" stress check up on the 42nd street subway stop, books, classes, car and good karma on craigslist, and free potential STD in every club.

"Hugs" seemed pretty clear by now as well: as you might know, when meeting a fellow friend French nationals kiss on the cheek - 2, 3, or even 4 times depending on the region we're from. Yes, it can take forever to say high to everyone, so you start choosing your friends more carefully. Live and learn (alternatively the handshake is used when introduced to a professional contact, an older person, or a tax representative.) The first person who ever hugged me in this country was Anne Hathaway -I can't believe she's so famous now... She had showed up at my house on the second day of school begging for some ice, when she realized I did not have any, nor did I have a fridge, a kitchen table, chair, or anything else for that matter. Fresh off the boat and relocated in a build-it-yourself-recyclable-paper-house to be a French T.A. as Vassar College for a year, I surely wasn't expected to be greeted with such a close body contact without at least some sort of fair warning. But there it was, my very first hug, and with it my understanding of countless law suits for sexual harassment. I later learned to reciprocate while being less personal and give the sometimes well deserved icy tap tap on the back. Moving to the big Apple I also learned you could hug people you had just met, people whose name you'll never know or have never been able to pronounce.

But back to my college kids' banner. While I understood both the "Free" and the "Hug" concepts separately, it felt off when put together, just like mayo with hot chocolate sauce: it's sounded a bit much. So I sat there and watched.
Here a fellow student, there a mom. A kid, a dog, a grandpa. Everyone crossing their path and responding to the "freeeeeeeeeeeee Hug! Spread the love!" chant would be welcomed with opened arms. No political or religious message behind, just the pleasure of giving with nothing in return. I even saw a busy banker-type mouthing a "why????" while on a conference call, and who ended up dropping the blackberry for a brief second to get his due when simply answered "because." It was almost moving to see. It also gave me hope that socially awkward nerds don't only rally up to chat in Klingon at night; they also use their time for the smaller greater good -the one within the planet, not the galaxy.

Recharged and filled with silly joy I took a picture of these "Happy days" providers, quickly but firmly told the girl who was approaching me arms wide open to stay away as I was recovering from a bad case of strep throat, and went back to work. I [heart] you too, New York.

Monday, February 26, 2007


The pillow fight this past Saturday welcomingly unleashed the surplus of energy I had stocked while dreaming about smashing my new boss with a heavy duty frying pan. Dreaming is one thing but it doesn’t quite require the amount of energy fulfilling the dream would. So off I went with my roommate’s pillow (hitting strangers with a pillow is fun, sleeping on a concoction of 600 people’s drool unwillingly left while being attacked in the mouth is probably less fun, I thought.)

Union Square, 1.40pm. Who are these people? Don’t you guys have a life? The amount of strangers getting ready to beat each other up doubled from last year, and we hadn’t been given the start off signal yet. 1400 military time. I hear a faint whistle, immediately followed by a ringing in my ear: the first noise indicated the fight had started; the 2nd that someone had followed the order and celebrated with me. Note to organizers for next year: participant need to please use DOWN pillows. “As Seen on TV” memory foam pillows that remember the shape of your body while sleeping suddenly feels like a 2-volume encyclopedia when thrown form a distance before your head finally rests on it.

Well into the fight, I spotted what from afar seemed to be a horde of female Eastern-European swimmers, and to what from up close turned out to only be a bunch of frat boys with women’s underwear. Convinced that this was screaming for action, I decided to team up with Vanessa, Nalielli and Yasmina and clean the plaza from the Alpha-Epsilon vision. You might think it was stupid for 3 women to challenge 20 something guys with more powdered hormones in their body than a shelf of Creatine, but I was confident: like the Ninja Turtles we were fighters with a strategy, and just like them, we were sissies with specialty moves.

First there was Nalielli, the one with the memory foam pillow (see above.) Then there was Yasmina, a real Ninja per se in the sense that although her weapon was the size of a big Kleenex she still managed to confuse people by the speed at which she would attack them with it. Then we had Vanessa, the Splinter of the group: the wise Master who barely moved or attacked, but saved your life every time with her right-on-time comments. And then there was me, distracting the opponent with tricks and juggling bits that would keep them entertained until Nalielli would sneak behind and demolish them one by one. We were rocking the place, people in circle around us to cheer whatever side they saw fit. I kept fighting, boosted by the fact that my friends were busy somewhere close doing the same. For a second I stopped to catch my breath and overheard someone yelling in a cell “you should see that. This one girl is fighting 3 guys at once, she’s nuts!” I barely had the time to realize she was pitting me when I looked up and saw a pack of three muscular pinkish shirts with bras on top run for me at once, no allies in sight.

After a full hour of brave fighting, I collapsed to the ground, happy. Had I been a smoker, I would have burnt one down of fulfillment.
I picked up the pillow and left for the Containers, a Video Art show spread throughout Chelsea streets. 8pm, pillow back on the roommate’s bed, shower, an hour to rest, and I was ready to head back into the city. It’s was Saturday night after all.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

NYC Pillow Fight, 2007 edition

Because some of you found out about it too late, because most of you laughed at me thinking they were above these childish considerations, and because all of you were secretly jealous you did not get to kick a stranger for no reasons, let alone a New Yorker.


As hard as it is to believe one year has passed, and judging by my memories of it there is NO WAY I am going to miss this...

Plus, I ended up dating a guy I met right after crushing his face with some heavy duty pillow (while in retrospective that might not have been the smartest move I’ve made, you might get luckier and meet a normal person. I will not be offended.)

Unlike the city train schedule, fights always start on time. Meet me at 1.40pm at Union Square on the Plaza, south side. Let me know if you can make it… I am of looking forward to kicking your butt. (Bring a pillow)

See you Saturday!


Bring a pillow to Union Square and wait for the signal. Pillow fight!

Pillow Fight NYC
Saturday, February 24th, 2007
Union Square @ 2:00 PM

Bring a pillow :) Rain or shine.

The Rules
Soft pillows only! Swing lightly, many people will be swinging at once. Do not swing at people without pillows or with cameras. Remove glasses beforehand! The event is FREE and appropriate for ALL AGES. Wait until the signal to begin. This event is more fun with feathers!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

shameless self-praise, PADDLE PUSHERS



Paddle Pushers
The choice of an auctioneer can determine the success of a benefit and how much money it raises. So how do you choose?
Sharon Stone served as auctioneer for Amfar's Cinema Against AIDS fund-raiser in Rome.

As event professionals well know, one of the key aspects of producing a successful live auction occurs months out, as staffers, board members, and friends of the organization secure (read: often beg for) items so unique, so desirable, that attendees (with the added bonus of helping a good cause) will open up their wallets to get them. Let’s say you’ve scored walk-on roles on Grey’s Anatomy and The Office, a private performance by Hannah Montana, and the guitar on which Bruce Springsteen wrote “Born to Run.” Your work is done: This stuff sells itself, right?

Unfortunately, no. On the night of an event, the duty of moving live auction items, ideally for impressive sums, falls to the person taking—and, hopefully, nudging up—the bids. So what makes an effective auctioneer, and how much can your choice affect the success of an auction—and ultimately, the bottom line?

“Some of the universal characteristics are that they should have personality, charisma, confidence, and a booming voice,” says Louis Webre, director of marketing and media for auction house Doyle New York. “And they have to be able to spontaneously launch into commentary. It’s a little like being a talk-show host. Once you read an item’s description, you enter into nonscripted territory.”

Other major factors that influence an auction’s success (as measured in both the fun for guests and the funds for the organization) are an auctioneer’s chemistry with the audience and ability to finesse money out of potential bidders, either by cajoling them gracefully or knowing how high to push bid amounts.

As Patti Glover, director of special events and travel at the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, has learned the hard way, the two are often intertwined. “You can tell immediately if an auctioneer is clicking with an audience or if they’re very flat,” she says. “If they’re flat, you don’t have much hope that they can draw money out of the crowd.” She describes witnessing a less-than- effective auctioneer at one of her events as “not pleasant at all. It’s very painful for me to stand on the side and see them almost pleading with the audience. I’m hoping it’s over soon and I’ll never have to relive it.”

“The choice of an auctioneer absolutely impacts the success of an auction,” says Laurie Fabiano, senior vice president of events, marketing, and communications for the Robin Hood Foundation, the nonprofit that stages arguably the biggest fund-raising auction in New York. (Last year’s benefit raised $71.2 million to fight poverty in the city.) “I’ve seen auctions fall flat because the auctioneer started too high, didn’t move quickly enough, or didn’t understand what would motivate the audience.”

One of the natural places to look for a skilled auctioneer is an auction house. Not surprisingly, auctioneers from industry stalwarts Sotheby’s and Christie’s preside over some of the highest-profile benefits. “The key to a successful auction is to move through the lots as quickly as possible, and to know when to close them out, and that takes a seasoned auctioneer,” says Ellen Delsener, president of New York-based benefit specialist Event Associates, who claims that the experience these professionals bring is essential.

Merle Kailis, executive director of the New York-based Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (its 2006 benefit brought in $4 million), swears by Sotheby’s executive vice president and senior auctioneer Hugh Hildesley’s ability to produce enthusiasm in a crowd. “He drives it; he really drives it. His very presence commands attention. He’s an amazing force,” she says. “He makes people very excited, and the items attractive, [in] combination [with] reminding people why they’re there, and it’s all seamlessly interwoven.”

Another pro who garners equally effusive reviews is Simon de Pury of New York’s Phillips de Pury & Company. “He raises the excitement level. He’s a great talker—he tells stories and anec dotes about the items and creates a feeling of goodwill,” says Angela Nevarez, special events director at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. “He makes people want to be a part of it.”

De Pury conducts the live auction at the Byrd Hoffman Watermill Foundation’s annual benefit, and Maia Morgensztern, the organization’s art and auction manager, says de Pury’s artistry goes beyond pure charisma. “He really understands what piece should go when, who would be interested in buying what and why, and he understands signs when it’s someone he doesn’t know,” she says, adding that de Pury will often influence the order in which items are presented to achieve the best rhythm (and financial results). “He’ll do something major, followed by something quick. It’s basically like DJing: You build up the tension and withdraw, and then you’re coming back,” she says.

But a seasoned auctioneer is far from the only effective option. “Often a very charismatic and well-known person involved with the organization can actually be more successful than an outside auctioneer with no affiliation,” Webre says. But the key to these laypeople’s success is training—he has seen items go for far less than they should have due to an auctioneer’s inexperience. “It’s important to know what natural [bidding] increments are; if bidding stalls, how to get it started; and how to make eye contact,” Webre says.

Felice Jones, assistant vice president of special events at the Washington, D.C.-based sports marketing company NFL Players, agrees that using someone other than a trained auctioneer can cause trouble. “If the people aren’t accustomed to doing that type of thing, it could really backfire,” she says. “They have to be able to get the job done. Otherwise you end up missing your opportunity [to raise the most money for the organization].”

Still another strategy: Book a celebrity. “Our last auctioneer was Sharon Stone [for a Lupus L.A. event]. She could sell ice cream to Eskimos,” says Pam Sharp, owner of Los Angeles company Sharp & Associates. “People want to watch celebrities move. When you’re at a charity event in Los Angeles, it’s about having fun and making a real show. That’s the challenge.” She cites a benefit she attended as an example: “The crowd was very young, and the auctioneer was from a professional auction house but had no sense of humor. The room didn’t jibe.” (Sharp concedes, however, that a pretty face alone won’t move items, saying humor, wit, and speed are also crucial to an auctioneer’s success—although too: “You can’t just have them up there telling jokes.”) But as Nevarez points out, it’s key to match an auctioneer’s style with that of the crowd: “A dry sense of humor that’s perfect for one group falls flat with the next,” she says.

Sometimes you can split the difference, using a well-known, public personality who also has ties to your organization. At the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Will Awards benefit last March, local D.C. news anchor Kathleen Matthews, also a benefit co-chair, took to the stage to oversee the bidding. “She’s very used to being in a position of speaking in public, so it seemed like a natural choice,” says Joanne Coutts, the company’s associate director of special events. “I think it was more like a peer thing for the audience. She knew the people attending and could connect with them more than someone who didn’t know the audience.” Matthews’s familiarity with the crowd also enabled her to tailor ad-libs to specific bidders.

A tag-team approach can allow a professional auctioneer to command the logistical proceedings while enlisting a celebrity to provide extra entertainment. At the November 2 Make-a-Wish of Greater Los Angeles Wish Night gala, the organization’s director of special events, Tessa Bowser, had Ed Beardsley, general manager of the Los Angeles auction house Bonhams & Butterfields, conduct the night’s auction as TV star Brad Garrett playfully goaded the audience.

Regardless of your choice, one thing virtually all the event professionals we spoke to stressed was the need to prep an auctioneer beforehand. “They should know about the charity and why everyone is there,” says Jones, who sent talking points to her auctioneer before the event and reiterated them that night. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the key traits planners described is the ability to deftly, but persistently, remind bidders why they’re there.

Making sure your auctioneer knows the lots—and what’s most attractive about them—is also important. “You need to have a coaching portion as to what the key points are and what you want them to address,” says Jen Poyer, special events supervisor for the Catalina Island Conservancy in California. When her organization offered a weekend stay at the island’s luxe Inn on Mt. Ada, with helicopter transportation to and from the destination, the auctioneer hyped the helicopter aspect, not the exclusive property. (The item ended up going for more than its value, but not as much as organizers had expected.)

Delsener, too, has watched some mistakes: “I’ve seen some auctioneers who’ve had a few too many cocktails and are not focused. I’ve seen some who, if the sound isn’t good, get belligerent.”

As Kailis attests, the difference between a compelling auctioneer and someone who leaves the crowd uninspired can very well appear on your bottom line. “[Your auctioneer] makes an important difference,” she says, recalling a live auction she attended that was conducted by a prominent news personality, where a walk-on role on an Emmy-winning, top-rated show was up for grabs. “It went for $2,500,” she says, sounding somewhat appalled. “If that same item was at my event, it would go for $30,000 to $40,000 at the very least. Having someone like [Hildesley] really affects your ability to make money.”

Or how about hearing a patron say this, as Glover, from the L.A. Zoo Association, once did: “You know, I had $50,000 I was going to spend. I would have bid higher.” Now that’s gotta hurt.

—Mimi O'Connor

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

So this is me?

So this is me? Fresh off a flying boat from the distant shores of Cheeseland. I planted baguette trees, raised a couple of pooddles and cows that only make Camembert, living the happy life of the expats' in my ersatz of community, now re-baptised New-Paris. But who knows for how long? So heck, I take advantage of the poor natives by offering them whisky in exchange of pretty pearls and spicy nights... One day maybe, the flying boat will have to go back home. So I keep a journal while I am here, a testimony of my journey abroad to recount how peculiar the trip has been. Something that will be published as a local history book with a soon yellowing tag. Once in a blue moon some ethnology students will flip through it to try to envision how life must have been on that side on the Ocean, back in the day when France had kings. Or was that later on ? (Ethnology students always got bad grades in History.)
And maybe this is a One way ticket. Either because I will miss the boat or because I will chose to mingle and disappear among the weak and innocent natives. Who knows ? Then I just write to remember, for myself, and share with my friends how hard I tried to fit while preserving what is left of my identity. Nothing ever serious about what I write, I guess what I really have to say is barely hidden between each line.

Monday, January 29, 2007

January night (Birthday resolutions)

Just how many jests does one need to justify to turn jejune jabber January nights into jubilant juggernaut of joy?  
Exiting last year's chimeras - and while I might still josh around...dare I say sometimes literally too?- as part of the traditional January gestures I hereby officially renounce gents and jerks with jaunty attitudes, checkered shirts jinxes and anyone jumbling frantic juggling with shabby cheating. (I'm not even sure that meant anything at all)

As my biological clock still seem to be running under 2006 (or maybe I just have fiscal year cycles?) I will then pray for consistent chummy jousts, one J at the time. And maybe one day, and just for grandpa, I will even come back from shul with a jovial jew-ish journalist?  
Happy Bday to me.