August 18, 2015

JAZZ AGE LAWN PARTY

"I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone's away. There's something very sensuous about it—overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands."

Jazz Age Lawn Party 2015
Jazz Age Lawn Party 2015
Jazz Age Lawn Party 2015
Jazz Age Lawn Party 2015
Jazz Age Lawn Party 2015

Last Saturday, we drifted to Governor's Island in the sweltering summer heat seeking to experience some of that Gatsby magic at the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Now on its 10th year, the Jazz Age Lawn Party brings those enamored with the 1920s to Governor's Island for a day of dancing, picnicking and partying in the style of a bygone era. We dressed up in our roaring 20s best—I attempted to channel Daisy Buchanan with a bejeweled Art Deco-style headpiece and black fringe dress while J put on a vintage vest and bowtie to play the role of the dashing old sport. As much as we wanted to party as if we were guests at Gatsby's mansion, however, the heat was oppressive. We scarcely left our picnic blanket where drinks and snacks could be had with the least amount of exertion. A few times, I mustered up the energy to listen to live music, break out into a little jig, peruse the stalls selling vintage wares, and walk amongst the 1920s-era cloaked crowd—it was good fun up until the point where the heat would overtake me. Come to think of it, even the pages of that great American novel are strewn with lethargy and lamentations brought on by New York summers. In the end, maybe we were more Gatsby-like than we realized after all ...

Jazz Age Lawn Party 2015

August 10, 2015

FAILE: SAVAGE/SACRED YOUNG MINDS

Faile New York Invasion poster
Faile blacklight and foosball art at Brooklyn Museum
Faile Savage Sacred Young Minds at Brooklyn Museum

Part arcade, part funhouse, part display of genius, the exhibition Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds at the Brooklyn Museum is a joy and an inspiration to experience. In one part of the exhibition, the Brooklyn-based duo, Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, put up a black room plastered floor to ceiling with neon renderings of their art, surrounding two day-glo foosball machines that were constantly occupied by players. Faile also brought in "The Faile Bäst Deluxx Fluxx Arcade 2010", which is just as much a hit here in New York as it was in its previous incarnations in London and at Miami Art Basel. In a room splashed with black and white Faile and Bäst screenprints, arcade games and pinball machines allow the audience to fully interact with the art.

Faile Blast Deluxx Fluxx Arcade 2010 at Brooklyn Museum
Faile Blast Deluxx Fluxx Arcade 2010 at Brooklyn Museum
Faile Blast Deluxx Fluxx Arcade 2010 pinball machines at Brooklyn Museum

With so much visual stimuli, it's easy to miss things, but because I spent some time engrossed in a pinball game, I got to appreciate the assemblage of details Faile slips into that piece: Art Deco flourishes, sly S&M references, and even an allusion to the 1986 Challenger launch and crash.

Faile Blast Deluxx Fluxx Arcade 2010 pinball machines at Brooklyn Museum
Faile Blast Deluxx Fluxx Arcade 2010 pinball machines at Brooklyn Museum

While the arcade is highly entertaining, the most striking piece of the exhibition is the Temple, created in 2010 for the Portugal Arte 10 Festival. Mimicking the ruins of an ancient house of worship, Temple amalgamates the religious past with the secular present to reimagine modern-day mythology. Traditional and modern are juxtaposed in ways that will make your head spin: for instance, a ceramic wall relief with a Madonna and Child-esque silhouette reveals itself to be, upon closer inspection, a Manga character consorting with rotund Chinese men as a Buddha laughs in the background. Mosaic reliefs feature unlikely Native American motifs while prayer wheels are carved with references to Brooklyn. 

Faile Scuba Horse in the Temple at Savage/Sacred Young Minds, Brooklyn Museum
Mosaic and prayer wheel in the Faile Temple at Savage/Sacred Young Minds, Brooklyn Museum
Faile Temple at Savage/Sacred Young Minds, Brooklyn Museum

My favorites were uncontroversial but visually arresting: the marble sculpture of skater girl dubbed Fantasy Island and a series of slashed canvas-style pieces. Can you imagine having these grace your home? Only in my dream of dreams ...

Faile at Savage/Sacred Young Minds, Brooklyn Museum
Faile at Savage/Sacred Young Minds, Brooklyn Museum

Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds is a great exhibit for families and groups of friends, as it is very accessible and highly entertaining. At the same art like this provokes curiosity and inquiry - hopefully among the next generation of young minds.

Faile: Savage/Sacred Young Minds is on view at the Brooklyn Museum until October 4, 2015.
For more information, click
here.

August 3, 2015

THE ROYAL PALMS SHUFFLEBOARD CLUB

Walking into the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Gowanus feels like accidentally wandering into a Wes Anderson film. It feels anachronistic—on one hand like going back in time to a 1930s shuffleboard club in Fort Lauderdale but on the other like glimpsing our future selves in retirement with fellow Brooklyn snowbirds. As with a Wes Anderson movie set, the decor is precious and carefully considered: vintage penants adorn one wall, cabanas are spruced up with elegant black and white striped curtains, exuberant pink flamingos line the ladies powder room, and door handles are shaped like palm trees. And much like a Wes Anderson flick, it is a delightful experience!

We came to the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club after brunch on a Sunday afternoon and found the lanes packed with teams for a league tournament. As avid shuffleboarders battled for glory, we drank $4 beers, played a few rounds of Connect 4, and attempted to divine the rules of the game. When a lane finally opened up, we took up our tangs and slung biscuits* for a full fun hour.


It was such a fun way to spend an afternoon—so fun in fact that I'm tempted to form a team and join the league! Have you ever played shuffleboard? Care to join me?

The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is located at 514 Union St, Brooklyn, NY 11215

* For those yet to become acquianted with this lovely pastime, read the rules of the game here.

July 31, 2015

DÎNER EN BLANC NEW YORK

"I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy."
- The Great Gatsby 

Last Tuesday, we joined 5,000 intrepid New Yorkers for the biggest Dîner en Blanc in the world to date. Dîner en Blanc started in Paris and is best described as a flash mob pop-up dinner with thousands of revelers dressed in white dining under the stars in picturesque city locations. Dîners en Blanc are held in some 55 cities spanning the globe in cities as varied as Shanghai, Honolulu, London, Johannesberg and Sydney. This was the fifth Dîner en Blanc to be held in New York City.

Dîner en Blanc New York 2015

Dîner en Blanc may be for you if you're someone who doesn't mind trading in a measure of inconvenience for an extraordinary experience. It takes work to attend Dîner en Blanc, that's for sure—but we found that a great deal of the fun was in the preparation. Partygoers are requested to dress entirely in white and many go out of their way to do so elaborately—we're talking forehead to waist-length feathered headresses, LED-lit hats and skirts, and Marie Antoinette-style wigs. We didn't go that far but we definitely had fun jazzing up our white outfits. J opted for a dapper vest and tie, while I went with this fun feathered fascinator. We confused quite a few people on the train (and on social media) who thought we had gotten hitched! Dîner en Blanc organizers, I may have a spin off idea for you: fancy a 5,000-person Mariage en Blanc?

Dîner en Blanc New York 2015

But I digress ... back to the particulars of Dîner en Blanc planning! To make a flash mob pop up dinner possible, revelers must bring their own tables, chairs, linens, china and stemware to the secret location, which is revealed just shortly before participants set up. Partygoers meet in groups of up to 200 in locations spread throughout the city before heading to and converging at Dîner en Blanc's chosen location. Given these conditions, you need to strike a balance between how pretty you want your table to look and how much stuff you're willing to lug from home to meeting point to secret location, recognizing that each location may be in drastically different parts of the city. Our meeting point was only two short subway stops away from the location but some people started out as far away as Lincoln Center and Cadman Plaza.

Hustling through the subway with all our paraphernalia was mildly stressful and losing our group leader along the way, even more so. But we followed the tsunami of white-clad revelers and easily arrived at this year's Dîner en Blanc location: Pier 26 at the Hudson River Park, with views of One World Trade Center to the south and a beautiful sunset over the Hudson River to the west. 

Dîner en Blanc New York 2015

With one Dîner en Blanc under my belt, I thought I would share the lessons we learned from our experience—not because I think I'm some kind of authority on the topic but because as newbies, our own experience was made that much bettter thanks to tips shared by those who came before us. So here's my 10 cents to add to the mix on how to have a great Dîner en Blanc experience in New York:
  • Go big or go home. What makes Dîner en Blanc magical is how invested participants are in the experience. It is a highly sought-after event with a waitlist of 35,000, so it seems a waste to show up then half a*s it. Flaunting the rules and sitting there eating out of a takeout plastic container really does detract from the overall experience, so I implore you: if you're going to participate, please do it right!
  • Turn that white outfit up. While you don't need to spend an arm and a leg, you'll be happy that you added a little something special to your white outfit once you're amidst a throng of spectacularly dressed Dîner en Blanc attendees. You can make your own headdress if you're crafty or scour Etsy for beautiful headbands, fascinators and headdresses. For those on a budget, try Amazon, where I found my feathered flower fascinator.
  • Bring out the good china. Tablescaping turns into a something of a sport at Dîner en Blanc and I reckon you do not want to come in at last place. Some people go through great lengths to have a spectacular table, going as far as bringing in trellis canopies with hanging lanterns. You need not break your back; it makes a world of a difference to have elegant china, proper stemware, fresh flowers and flameless candles (these silver art deco ones are perfect). You can go cheap on items like the tablecloth and napkins (I got mine for a song through Amazon here and here). But because table real estate is scarce, every other piece you bring should enhance the overall aesthetic of your setting.
  • Oh ye culinarily challenged/lazy, let Todd English cater to you. While it is not the absolute best food one will ever eat, Ca Va Brasserie provided a well-thought-out and generous selection of appetizers, salads, entree and dessert. What you are paying for is really the luxury of not having to shop for, cook and carry an extra few pounds of food on top of all the other things you are BYO-ing. Should you opt for this option, I would advise you to send one of your party to pick up the food immediately. Upon arrival, J made a beeline for the picnic and wine pick-up while I set up our table. He did not need to line up at all but by the time we were sipping our first glass of the bubbly, the pick-up line had extended halfway across the pier!
  • Watch your weight. Given the commuting-with-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink part of this exercise, you would do well to pick the lightest table and chairs you can find. Ikea's $7.99 white Gunde chair fits the bill perfectly at just 4 pounds apiece. We used the Ikea Tärnö table but wished we had gone with this Coleman table, which weighs just 5 pounds, rolls up into a convenient carrying case, and has a larger surface. While the Tärnö table is the cheapest option, it's a touch too small and its slatted surface resulted in champagne spills every time glasses were set down slightly on the edge. The light, portable and sturdy Coleman table is worth the extra $10 and will probably be much more useful outside of Dîner en Blanc.
  • Practice makes party-perfect. A week prior to the party, I did a dry run of my tablescape at home and realized how very little can actually fit on the surface of a folding table. Doing so was a reality check that stamped out my urge to continue shopping for beach-themed tchotchkes. This also ensures that you don't carry one thing more than necessary.  
  • To cart or not to cart? That remains a question. J thought we would have been better off with a luggage trolley or no cart at all since he found it cumbersome to carry our loaded shopping cart up and down the subway stairs. He did concede however that walking on the streeets was a breeze because we could just pile everything into the shopping cart. On hindsight, I think the luggage trolley might have been the more convenient purchase because it's easier to store and we could've used it for other events like the Jazz Age Lawn Party. I can concede this much: while insist the cart was a godsend, it may well be that it was the man carried the cart up and down subway stairs who deserves that credit!
To get on the waitlist for next year's Dîner en Blanc New York or
to find out whether there's a Dîner en Blanc in your city, click here

July 27, 2015

URBAN FARMING

New York never fails to surprise me. Last Saturday, we tagged along with my cousins to the Brooklyn Navy Yards to check out an event at the Brooklyn Grange. I was floored to discover a flourishing urban farm on a Brooklyn rooftop with the New York skyline as its backdrop.

Urban rooftop farming at the Brooklyn Grange with New York skyline views
Sunflowers on the Brooklyn Grange rooftop with a view of the New York skyline

The Brooklyn Grange bills itself as the biggest commercial rooftop farm in the world, with two farms located in the Brooklyn Navy Yards and in Long Island City. They sell their produce at the LIC farm on Saturdays and at Greenpoint's Down to Earth Markets on Sundays, as well as select online and local retailers. Brooklyn Grange shares the joys of urban farming with a wide range of audiences, including urban youth, refugees and immigrants. Apart from all its admirable do-gooing, the Brooklyn Grange's urban farm is a sight to behold. Its lush rows of dinosaur kale, tomato vines heavy with plump fruit, and cheery sunflowers look utterly surreal set against stunning views of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center.

The event we attended last Saturday launched a partnership between Everlane and Edible Schoolyard NYC. Their goal is to raise $50,000 to bring better food and knowledge about where food comes from to the city's school children. Everlane teamed up with five chefs to design a range of market totes, which are currently available for purchase at Everlane. Profits will benefit Edible Schoolyard NYC, which partners with public schools to build gardens and kitchen classrooms so that school children can have a stronger connection with food, health and the environment.

Everlane and Edible Schoolyard tote
Lavender cocktails on the Brooklyn Grange Navy Yards rooftop
Urban rooftop farming at the Brooklyn Grange with New York skyline views

We had a really lovely time sampling lavender-spiked cocktails, touring the farm facilities and getting to know a bit more about these amazing New York initiatives. There's probably nothing more Brooklyn than sipping lavender cocktails on an urban rooftop farm—but at the same time, it's finding out all the amazing things Brooklynites and New Yorkers are up to that makes it so great to be a part of this community.
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