Category: Books

Kim & Sheu and Amy Sedaris

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006 | All Things, Books, Events, Music

At lunchtime, the Kim & Sheu Duo: Jennifer Kim (Violin) and Connie Sheu (Guitar). The Juilliard musicians this afternoon seemed somewhat less prepared for public performance than last week’s Kang & Soto: playing quietly at times, seemingly to themselves, with repeated fits and starts. It felt more like we were witnessing an open, staged practice session rather than an actual concert, which probably suited the lunchtime crowd gathered at 180 Maiden well enough. SYB brought my favorite sandwich again. And I noticed for the first time today that there is a gallery located in the lobby of the building, which will only be open through the end of September 2006. I’ll have to remember to peek inside next week.

Kim and Sheu

After the evening vegetable pick-up — more peppers, eggplant and tomatoes! — I did a quick dropoff at the apartment and then zipped back down to the W New York – Times Square for a book launch in honor of comic performer, actress, playwright, author and baker Amy Sedaris, whose upcoming book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, is being released in October by Warner Books. In it, she offers practical entertaining tips, like deal with the inebriated. (“Better to cut them off rather than pretend it’s not happening and then allow them to stay over and wet your bed.”)

In a kooky touch, quite likely cooked up by the guest of honor, everyone at the party was required to wear a name tag, not with his or her name, but with their occupation/industry and a red or green sticker, announcing their relationship status: single or taken. In rotation, I spied (mostly red-stickered) writers, singers, real estate developers… and a rocket scientist!

Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris

There was a crowd gathered around the bar — cosmos only — and among the guests, men circulated with trays of Sedaris’ famous cupcakes. Sedaris herself was seated at a table in the center, petite and elegant in her black silk dress and fishnets, chatting up fans (of which there were many in attendance) and signing CDs with audio highlights from her book. On mine, she wrote:

Vanessa,
Pee on me.
– Amy Sedaris

Oh! Um, thank you. I don’t know if that inscription is better or worse than B’s, which simply pronounced: “Fag!

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Starbucks Salon times two

Sunday, September 17th, 2006 | All Things, Books, Events, Music

Brooklyn writer Jonathan Lethem — not to be confused with the other Brooklyn writer Jonathans: Ames and Safran Foer — was billed on the Starbucks Salon program under “Storytelling.” I had signed on early for this appearance by the author of Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude.

The latter, by the way, is not about Superman at all, though superpowers do come into play. It reminds me that I still haven’t read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon’s comic book inspired (and Pulitzer Prize winning) novel. I picked up Chabon’s debut novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh after my own wondrous, mysterious Pittsburgh summer, and was immediately struck by the touching elegance of his writing. I still recall vividly how the story captured the poignant thrill, confusion and melancholy of the last summer of youth. At least how I imagined it would all be, during that final year of high school when I was reading it. It’s one of the few books I’ve read and held on to over the years. Perhaps because I liked it so much, I’m ambivalent about its currently being made into a film, starring Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller and Mena Suvari. Though I will say that the movie adaptation of Chabon’s second novel, Wonder Boys, was one of the underappreciated films of 2000. The book itself is very good, also… though I do find the film tie-in edition with Michael Douglas’ big ol’ mug on the cover a little disconcerting.

Back at the Salon (in daylight)…

Starbucks Salon

Although Lethem is a regular on the literary circuit around town, I’d never actually seen him in person, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This afternoon, instead of pulling pages from an excerpt or essay, he was joined on stage by Isaac Butler, local theater director (and occasional writer and actor). Together, they performed a dramatized reading of Lethem’s short story “Their Back Pages,” about a group of cartoon castaways/castoffs who find themselves on a deserted island a la Lost.

The story was a little slow getting started — the audience at first seemed… perplexed — but as it built some momentum, and the men threw themselves into character, it was quite funny. A brief question and answer period followed, during which there was the predictable fawning over Lethem, who is apparently rather well-versed in pop-culture.

Lethem Storytelling

Downstairs at the Starbucks Gallery, with its off kilter walls:

Staircase

Gallery

After the Salon, we walked around SoHo for a bit and then made our way downtown to Eldridge for an early dinner. This time, instead of Super Taste, we decided to try its across-the-street rival for hand-pulled noodle supremacy: Sheng Wang. The subterranean space is about on par with Super Taste in terms of ambience, but their signature bowl is distinct from Super Taste’s in flavor: the noodles swim in a lighter broth, chock full of beef, spinach and pickled radishes, and are topped with a single fat, fluffy, white fishball stuffed with minced pork. The superior bowl, I think, may just be a matter of preference.

Over to Little Italy, where the 79th Annual Feast of San Gennaro was taking place. If we hadn’t been so full of noodles, we would have picked up some zeppoles. Oh, I’m a sucker for zeppoles — all sugared, hot, fried dough treats, actually.

San Gennaro

San Gennaro

Back to the Starbucks Salon for the final show of the ten-day event. Eclectic Method is a trio of DVJs who mix audio and video by blending together music videos and film footage to a mash-up soundtrack, using mixers, DVD turntables, laptop computers and video projectors. For tonight’s performance, they culled material from Madonna, the Jackson Five, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Wu Tang Clan, The Bangles, Jimi Hendrix, The Triplets of Belleville, the Oompa Loompa song, Outkast, The Beatles…

The crowd sat transfixed for almost the entire ninety-plus-minute set. Several of the Salon employees broke out into enthusiastic dance, eventually joined by a couple of hipsters. Those not getting their groove on, served up all the coffee and pastries (cheesecake, apple pie, espresso brownies) left in the glass cases in a grand finale-clearing gesture.

Electric Method

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Real Life Entertaining

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006 | All Things, Books, Classes, Events, Friends

SN and I met up after work so we could attend together NYU’s Open House/information session being held at the nearby Woolworth Building. The lobby is one of the most beautiful interior spaces in New York City. Sadly, like so many other public spaces, it too was closed off for security reasons after September 11. We were required to come into the building through the Barclay Street entrance, completely bypassing the grand, high arches I remember from those pre-2001 days.

SYB was already there, considering the offerings at the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. After a quick tour among the tables, I spied IG, the superstar of our Russian I class, by the refreshments table. After some quick catching up, I left her with SN to discuss course registration strategy. I hope to see them both again in two weeks, when Russian II starts up for the Fall. NYU requires a minimum enrollment of six people to hold the class; after tonight, we’re already halfway there. Fingers crossed…

SYB was leaving the event also, so I invited him to tag along to the book party for Jennifer Rubell’s Real Life Entertaining. (SYB is all about the real life entertaining, after all.) We took the subway uptown to The Conran Shop, in Bridgemarket, tucked in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge. This design-conscious home furnishings store opened in 1999, but I’d never had an occasion to make the special trip out there until now.

Conran Shop

According to last week’s New York Times profile about The Conran Shop, the foot-traffic unfriendly location results in the cavernous, bi-level glass and steel space remaining empty most of the time. Technically, the store may have been open for shopping, but almost everyone there tonight seemed to be there for the party.

Jennifer Rubell is the niece of nightlife kingpin Steve Rubell, who co-founded the legendary Studio 54. Professional entertaining is her legacy: her family runs three Miami-area hotels (The Beach House, The Greenview and The Albion) and The Rubell Family Collection, a museum housing the world’s largest private family collection of contemporary art.

By the time we made our way past the clipboarded name-checkers, the cooking demonstration had already started downstairs. Rubell seemed to be about five minutes into the preparation of her quick and easy “Summer Tuna Spectacular,” featuring seared tuna with diced olives, tomatoes and capers. She talked the audience through the demonstration, offering creative ideas and helpful tips. (“Always cut meat against the grain for maximum tenderness!”) Though she probably caters to a similar demographic, I found Rubell far, far less grating than Rachael Ray.

Fair warning: any comments which include the terms “E.V.O.O.” and/or “Yum-o” will be deleted — no exceptions. Violators will be scorned.

Jennifer Rubell

One of the party sponsors was Rose’s Cocktail Infusions: purveyors of multi-colored fruit-flavored drink mixers. After Rubell’s segment, a bartender came up front to demonstrate the recipes a couple of prettily-hued specialty drinks featuring Rose’s mixer, both of which were also being served up at the bar stations around the floor.

Watermelon, Cranberry, Mango, Apple, and Blue Raspberry. I’m sure I do not understand the reasoning behind this quiz, but you can take it anyway to find out which Rose’s Cocktail Infusion suits your personal style. I’m a “Watermelon Trendsetter!”

Roses Infusions

After the two demos, there was plenty of time to wander among the cool Conran stock as the trays of hors d’oeuvres circulated. I actually found quite a few items I liked… if I had at least thrice the space and ten times the money I do now.

Conran Lighting

Dinner at English pub Baker Street, and then we crossed town to meet CS at our long-neglected local watering hole. Things there got pretty interesting, despite the absence of our friend, Bartender Paul (who is only on duty Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays.)

At one point in the evening I approached the bar to request a glass of water, and two men (both named Rob) sitting nearby began to strike up a conversation with me. One seemed vaguely familiar-looking, and as he and I continued to chat, a few details began to emerge from the haze of my memory. Yes, Riverside Drive, Morgan Stanley, Canadian…. Finally, after a pause, Rob commented, “You know… uh, we’ve met before.”

“Oh? Hmm, I thought so…”

“Yes. The last time, you were here with your lesbian friend.”

Ah. I should note here that “the last time” was well over a year and a half ago, and that although this was the first occasion she has been referred to me as such, I immediately recognized that the woman Rob was talking about was M. Dear M – from here on, known as my lesbian friend, haha! M(LF) and I were at Peter’s that late night so long ago, no doubt post-morteming our respective love life disasters.

Needless to say, she must have made quite the impression.

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