Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Opulence in an NYC Home

The simple wood entry understates the opulence within.  It's almost like a magical door that hides a treasure  trove.  At One East 70th Street, the Frick House is a portal back in time.  Everything remains as if Henry Clay Frick still walks through the halls on his way out to a steel-tycoon meeting.  

The Garden Court has a frosted glass ceiling that filters natural sunlight into a ethereal glow, roman pillars surround the space, and stone benches sit around a long fountain with frogs streaming water from their mouths.  And this is just one room.  The music room, dining room, oval room, and west and east galleries are adorned with priceless works of art--objects that Frick and his wife collected with (you know) their spare millions.  Inside, there are works by Goya and Degas and three (3!) Vermeers.

My favorites:

The Fragonard Room has regal wall paintings, framed in gold.   Sculptures, bronze works, and gilded pieces decorate the fireplace, totaling $5 million at the time of purchase.  This is a showcase room, a place where Frick had to have smirked, thinking: it's good to be the king...

The Boucher Room is feminine and lavish.  Everything preserved as it was meant to be: a lady's drawing room where Mrs. Frick could spend her evenings among chairs, desks, and paintings all crafted in France during the 1700's.  Maybe it was good to be queen too...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sometimes Students make the Best Teachers

Photo Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Four years ago, one of my most timid students stood up in front of his class, cued the slideshow and said:  "Aung San Suu Kyi: Freedom Fighter!"

After three long days of presentations, I'd that glazed look of passive observation stapled to my face.  When this presentation began, I snapped out of my haze and sat at the edge of my seat.  Minutes passed like seconds as I listened to my soft-voiced student unravel the tale of Aung San Suu Kyi's life.

Her father was a Burmese politician who helped free Burma from British control by leading the National League for Democracy.  His dedication to Myanmar made him a national hero.

In 1988, after years of studying abroad, Aung San Suu Kyi returned home to help her ailing mother when violent demonstrations broke out against the 25 year reign of the military junta.  Raised on her father's beliefs, Aung San Suu Kyi would not turn away and vaulted into a position of leadership, becoming the voice of democracy and hope.  She stood up for freedom of speech and privacy.  For her efforts, the government has had her imprisoned or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Released today, Aung San Suu Kyi walks in the sun once more.  But many are skeptical about what her future holds.  Perhaps imprisonment again.

When I listened to my student's presentation, I heard Aung San Suu Kyi's strength come through in his voice.   Having captivated the entire class, he spoke out about a woman he'd never met and shared her struggles in a militant world he'd never visited.  As he spoke, he became something bigger and better than a middle school suburban kid.

The only shame was that I couldn't give him more than an A+.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tour Guide to NYC-written, submitted, done!

The best part about researching the Bar Tour of the Upper Westside was realizing how helpful people can be.  On my first day, I met a very-seasoned travel writer named Dave who's publishing his 3rd book on the Caribbean.  He looked happy, healthy, and sane enough for me to realize maybe this could work.  Maybe everything I've done has led me to this moment when I can work for myself, travel, and write articles that are fun!  Dave gave me some good advice: know what the industry is about--the long hours, the research, the publishing.  So far, it's been great especially with Neil's editing and creative ideas.

So my top pick...B. Cafe.  A Belgian Brasserie. I know, it's not technically a bar.  Semantics.

Food is so amazing (mussels--be still my heart!) and the manager is extremely informed about traditional brewing regulations.  For example, Abbey Ales are commercially available beers that are brewed according to traditional methods in Belgium.  However, since they are not brewed by non-profit (requisite 1) monks (requisite 2), they are not allowed the coveted title: Trappist Beer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Travel Writing

A few weeks ago, I went to a writing workshop that I had no intention of attending.  But Manhattanville holds such affordable workshops that--come on--I can't pass it over.  Plus Neil was really interested in going.  And I'm glad we went.

The focus was about Practical Writing: blogging, freelancing, advertising, and a super morning workshop on genre writing.

So a month later, I'm in a whole new world of writing:  nonfiction.  Something I never even saw myself doing but was immediately drawn to once I started researching all different job listings.  I've done some petty articles--so insignificant and low pay that my name didn't even get printed on the by-line.  

After a week, I realized that I wouldn't even consider a job unless it had something to do with travel.  Then,  things began to evolve.  Now, I'm working on travel guides with a new company in Vegas that works with Iphone.  Very high tech, very travel oriented.  The two together make a perfect match with all the bells and a by-line and--yes--a payrate! 

I'm looking at NYC in a whole new light.  Not as a monolith of cement but as a source for the beginning of something very exciting!!