Category: Books

Let’s Get Comfortable launch

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007 | All Things, Books

Another beautiful almost-Spring day. Union Square was filled with New Yorkers, and the musicians were out in full force, entertaining the crowds and making new fans in the park.

Passing through the dog run, I spied AC and M sitting on a bench, keeping watch over AC’s frolicking dogs, and exuding cozy contentment. What a sweet scene! I called out to her, and said a brief hello, before continuing on my way up Broadway.

Union Square Musicians

Tonight, a launch party for Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams’ first book, Let’s Get Comfortable: How to Furnish and Decorate a Welcoming Home.

Gold and Williams founded the Taylorsville, North Carolina-based home furnishings design company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams in 1989. The $100-million-a-year company supplies chains like the troubled Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma Home and Restoration Hardware, and has 13 and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Signature stores (with 5 more to come, including a New York City location at Andre Balazs’ undulating glass-and-brick Kenmare Square.)

The book, written with Mindy Drucker and published by Meredith Books, promotes the MG+BW “relaxed design” aesthetic, based on mixing, not matching – with comfort and livability as chief considerations. The design philosophy is reflected in the authors’ homes; photos of their residences are included in the 216-page book.

The duo was in New York City to kick off their book tour with an appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” that morning.

Gold and Williams

Inc. magazine named the team among their list of 26 most fascinating entrepreneurs. The openly gay business partners are well known for their active philanthropic efforts, on behalf of such organizations as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Empire State Pride Agenda, The National Black Justice Coalition, the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS (DIFFA), and Gold-founded Faith In America, which fights religion-based bigotry. Other causes include the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Related: Tips on charitable giving from the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

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Valentines and Vindaloo

Monday, March 5th, 2007 | All Things, Books, Eats, Friends

The Atlantic Theater Company was founded in 1985 by playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy. Tonight, the theater was staging a reading of excerpts from Olaf Olafsson’s new collection of stories, Valentines.

New Yorker Olafsson is the acclaimed Icelandic émigré author of Absolution  (which was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize in 1991), Walking Into the Night, and The Journey Home  (soon to be filmed starring husband and wife team Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, under the direction of Liv Ullmann). Olafsson is a true renaissance man; he began his training as a physicist, but abandoned a Ph.D. program to eventually found and head the Sony digital entertainment division that was responsible for introducing the PlayStation. A vice-chairmanship at Time Warner Digital Media followed, where he currently serves as an executive vice president… all while the man continues to churn out critically-acclaimed novels and serve as chairman of award-winning Off-Broadway theater companies. Very impressive… though that last explains in part why the Atlantic chose this particular work to spotlight.

Valentines is a perversely titled collection — the name suggests hearts and cupids and happily ever after, but based on the excerpts read this night, it’s doubtful that any of the characters will know such Hallmark endings. The readings offered a grim look at three of the dozen thematically-linked stories — one for each month — casting an unwavering eye on the heartbreak and disappointment lovers and family often dispense. These couples destroy their relationships with a breathtaking minimum of fuss, mired in infidelity, infertility, alcoholism and simmering resentments — and that’s just in the selections featured tonight. The pieces were read brilliantly by Larry Bryggman (Tony-nominated for Proof ), Jonathan Cake (Bridget Moynahan’s weaselly British ex-fiance Roy on Six Degrees ) and Haviland Morris (from Sixteen Candles!)  Emily Mortimer was scheduled to appear originally, but had to drop out at the last minute due to conflicts with her film shooting schedule.

Valentines readers

Listening to these stories, I found Olafsson’s writing reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s in its spareness and understatement. The stories chilled my heart with despair; the biting winds on the streets outside froze everything else. Luckily, I did not have far to walk for dinner.

Bombay Talkie

I’d read about Chelsea’s Bombay Talkie in the Times  a couple of years ago; Bruni’s review began rather memorably with: “I have tasted the bitterness of unrequited love…”

No such bitterness tonight — I had the mango lassi. I arrived at the restaurant just as CS did, and within a few minutes, the rest of our party had found their way.

The loungey, low-lit space was clean and modern, with just a hint of Bollywood kitsch. These murals just beg for a backstory, no?

Bombay Talkie Mural

Bombay Talkie Mural

The menu is a take on Indian street food, divided into three sections: “Street bites” (appetizers); “From the roadside” (entrees); and “Curbside” (sides). We made our selections, and soon enough, our long communal table was covered with small dishes of chicken, lamb, pork, wraps, naan and rice — all prettily presented, and fragrantly (if not aggressively) spiced. What better way to get to know our new friends than over shared plates of tasty food? In the background, a large flatscreen television broadcast an endless procession of real Bombay Talkies as Indian music piped cheerily over the restaurant sound system. It may have been the food, or perhaps it was the company, but over talk of faraway places, I felt the beginnings of a thaw set in.

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Forgotten New York

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | All Things, Books, Eats, Events, NYC History

After my days driving through the American Southwest, it was nice to be reminded of why I love this city. Tonight, the Gotham Gazette Book Club was meeting to discuss Kevin Walsh’s recently published Forgotten New York: Views of a Lost Metropolis — a written tour of the city’s “landmarks, quiet places, and oddities.” The author was present to give a brief presentation, joined by Roberta Gratz, author of Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown, and a commissioner on the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Walsh was contracted to write the book, based on the popularity of his website “Forgotten NY,” a compendium of “forgotten, overlooked, ancient sights in New York City” that he writes and designs himself. Walsh first began researching and taking photographs for his site in 1998, launching it in 1999 after he had compiled enough information for the first few dozen pages. Since then, he has kept up a fairly regular updating schedule — a new page of research, accompanied by period and contemporary photographs and maps about every other week — with the new material coming either from tours or his own research, gathered over meandering walks through the far corners of the city. Forgotten NY is by no means Manhattan-centric; Walsh was born in Brooklyn, raised in Bay Ridge, and currently resides in Flushing. He is a stocky, unassuming figure, and is quick to admit that he has no formal training in archival research or history. His site, and the book, rose organically from his own passion. From its humble beginnings — the design was and remains purely utilitarian — the site has amassed a devoted following; Walsh and Forgotten NY have been featured in Salon and on Gothamist.

Walsh seems to promote a different kind of New York City tourism: one that values the city not for its well-known and looming landmarks, but for everything else… the ephemeral trivia and detritus of urban living.

The event was being held, appropriately enough, at the Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library – a site steeped in city history. The ornate Victorian Gothic building and clocktower were designed by architects Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux (who assisted Frederick Law Olmsted in the design of Central Park) and has been a fixture of the West Village since the 1870s, serving at times, as the site of a marketplace, a fire tower and a courthouse. (The adjacent jail was replaced by the New York Women’s House of Detention, which was demolished in 1974 to make way for a serene community garden. The Jefferson Market Greening was one of my favorite spots in the neighborhood when I was living on West 12th Street, predating the nuptials of Miranda and Steve on Sex and the City.)

The building where we sat that night was the center of national attention in 1906, when Harry K. Thaw was tried in the courthouse for murdering prominent architect and socialite Stanford White on the roof of Madison Square Garden – tagged by the newspapers as the “Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” trial. The notorious case was the loose basis of (Bronx Science alum) E. L. Doctorow’s novel, Ragtime, which was later adapted into a stage musical and a film.

Jefferson Market

Jefferson Market

The Jefferson Market clocktower is a regular site on the annual openhousenewyork tour, where the public is invited to climb the 149 steps to the top for 360-degree views of Greenwich Village.

Afterwards, I met SYB a few blocks away at Peanut Butter and Co. on this, the last day to cash in our coupons for jars of peanut butter, which we’d collected at the Time Out “Back to School” festival in Union Square in September. Finally!

I got The Elvis, without the bacon, just like it’s served down in Graceland. I picked up my jar of “The Heat is On”: PB & Co’s “all natural peanut butter blended with fiery spices,” and was even comped my glass bottle of Diet Coke by the friendly cashier. It’s good to be back.

Peanut Butter and Co

The Elvis

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