The Interpol show at Toad’s Place in New Haven was great for so many reasons, not the least of which is that the photos that I took got picked up by qromag.com and led to my being asked to cover St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, and Basia Bulat for them at Central Park Summerstage a week later. The show was on a Sunday, and I’m a fan of St. Vincent anyway–especially live. I’d photographed her once before, back in 2008 at the Middle East with none other than Basia Bulat. tUnE-yArDs was new to me, but came with my good friend Doug‘s endorsement, so the whole thing was really a no-brainer.
We’ve decided that it’s much nicer to approach New York by car from the North than it is to approach it from the South. From the North you pass through Scarsdale and that whole area, whereas from the South it’s all Jersey and tunnels. We arrived in time to pick up my pass, scope out the food and drink offerings, and generally get the lay of the land. We got a reasonable deal on parking in a garage practically across the street from Summerstage as well. There was a pretty cool booth set up–it may be there for all the shows–where you could buy custom silk-screened t-shirts. I realized once I got home that Merrill Garbus, the woman behind tUnE-yArDs, was purchasing a shirt when I was photographing the booth.
The fabulous Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) buying a custom-silkscreened t-shirt at Central Park Summerstage before her show with St. Vincent and Basia Bulat. Merrill, I promise that I took better pictures of you that day–see below!
There was a big photo pit, and quite a few other photographers were working the show. It was supposed to rain, but nary a drop fell all afternoon.
Basia Bulat exudes a genuine sweetness. She’s the kind of performer that you can describe as refreshing and not feel cheesy or cliched for saying it. I’m not positive, but it looked to me like she was playing with the same group she had assembled when we saw her back in 2008, including her brother on drums.
Basia Bulat at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise, www.qromag.com.
Highlights for me were “In the Night” and “Before I Knew,” both from the album Oh, My Darling. The rest was good, too, but I admit that my previous familiarity with those two songs made them stand out for me.
Basia Bulat. Photo by Terri Wise, www.qromag.com.
Next up was tUnE-yArDs. I think it would be fair to say that she pretty much stole the show. That’s saying something, because both Basia Bulat and St. Vincent played well.
tUnE-yArDs. Photo by Terri Wise, www.qromag.com.
People say she ratchets everything up a notch for her live performances, and now that I’ve heard her recorded material, I can vouch for that assessment. It’s not that the recordings aren’t enjoyable, but the live performance has significantly more kick, more fire. She drew in the crowd almost immediately and had everyone dancing, at one point jumping up and down, and cheering for more. When she sang “throw your money on the ground” in “Yes You,” I swear a few people were probably emptying their pockets.
tUnE-yArDs at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise, www.qromag.com.
Her set left me wondering what we can expect from her new record, which I believe she is finishing up as soon as she wraps up her current tour. If she captures half of what she showed live, the record’s going to be awfully good. Good friend Doug (mentioned above) pointed us to a live recording of a show she did at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn the next night. I HIGHLY recommend it.
It was a long afternoon, and though I was honestly starting to feel a little wiped out by the time St. Vincent got started, her set did not disappoint. What did disappoint a little bit was the sound. From where I was standing for most of her set–kind of off to the side–I couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong, but people were calling out for the sound guys to turn down the bass. It was a bit distracting, but I didn’t notice it after a while.
St. Vincent at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise, www.qromag.com.
Every time I see her perform I am struck both by her cuteness and by her seriousness as an artist. She assembled quite an impressive backing band–including, I realized toward the end of the show, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, a guy I knew briefly in school back in State College.
St. Vincent at Central Park Summerstage. Photo by Terri Wise, www.qromag.com.
I’d seen her on one of her first shows in support of her second album, Actor, and at that time the songs sounded perfectly fine to me–but just fine. As I would expect, the songs sound much better now that she’s been playing them live for a while. As before, the one older tune that she pulled out was “Your Lips Are Red,” which includes one of my favorite lines: “Your skin’s so fair, it’s not fair.” I know Actor was only released last year, and it’s a good album, but I find myself ready for new material from her.
The show wrapped up slightly early–just in time for us to get back to our car before the garage rate went up. On top of the show itself and the experience of photographing it (outdoors, in the daytime, which was good practice since I’m used to shooting in smaller, darker places at night), it was nice to just be in New York on a Sunday. I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing when the right opportunities present themselves.
I promised a picture of the little hat I knit over the weekend, so here it is!
And while I’m at it, here are a few others to catch you up on the last several months.
January in New York’s Union Square
A Doorway in Portsmouth, NH
And the obligatory picture of a cute baby, Lydia, who we finally met over the weekend.
Lydia and John
I investigated the contents of a stack of photo envelopes on my dresser and found that I’d never scanned a bunch of them. Here’s a little peek at a few from the first batch to meet with the scanner.
From a long-forgotten walk in a dream:
On a street corner, under a sky:
Memories of memories:
Me and my dad in the backyard in State College. I’m holding a camera that my grandfather picked up in Germany during WWII. My father gave it to me. Ezra took this picture.
It’s always a little strange to be vacationing somewhere on a holiday when everything is closed. But it’s sort of like the firecracker thing–it’s a unique experience. I suppose it’s a bit easier to do the natural thing when everything is closed and just wander and explore when it’s 60 or 70 degrees rather than 20 or 30. But I’m not complaining. And besides, it snowed a little!
The remains of the New Year’s revelry were everywhere–on every street and in every neighborhood.
You have to understand that Berlin’s streets–at least most of what we saw–are normally very clean and free of random litter. Usually the streets bear the stamp of human-imposed order. The shells of firecrackers and empty champagne bottles showed a different side of Berlin.
This was the day we planned to spend in Leipzig. We decided to wander around Sophienstrasse in Mitte a little before getting our train. Travel guides make a big deal about the Hackescher Hofe near there, which is supposed to be this cute little series of Jugendstil courtyards, but I found it to be a somewhat soul-less series of shops, with just a little of the promised charm. I really feel like I missed something. It must be totally different on a normal day when everything is open. Sophienstrasse was quite cute, though. It’s just a little street, but there were a few cute little bars and restaurants and some adorable toy shops. We decided to return on Wednesday, once we were back in Berlin.
New Year’s Day on Sophienstrasse in Mitte
Puppets on Sophienstrasse
Trains for Leipzig leave from the big central train station, the Hauptbahnhof. Like some of the other big stations in Berlin, it’s vast and shiny and new, with several open (and therefore chilly) levels of shops and cafes. We cut it a bit close and ended up missing the train we’d hoped to take, so we had to wait an hour for the next one. That gave us time to grab a sandwich (baguette mit kase was like my mantra) and look around a little.
The train to Leipzig was another example of German efficiency and smart engineering. Little LCD panels above each row of seats indicated seat number and the duration of the booked passenger’s trip (Berlin to Munich, for example). Since we didn’t have reserved seats for our journey as we’d missed the first train, those little signs helped to indicate to us which seats we could grab. For the start of our journey we watched the snow go by. Once we got just a little further South the snow thinned and disappeared. The ride only took about an hour.
Leipzig is considerably smaller than Berlin, and it feels a bit less vibrant. I’m sure some of our impression of the place was due to the fact that it was New Year’s Day and a lot of places weren’t open. Our hotel was just down the street from the train station. Because we were visiting off-season, we ended up in possibly the nicest hotel in town (and our reservation was upgraded to boot). It was odd, though. The hotel was right next to a big abandoned building that must have once been a pretty grand place, but which is now covered in graffiti. That has its own sort of charm, I guess, but it makes for a weird juxtaposition. I suppose it’s one of the best examples of what Leipzig is like–fallen, degraded grandeur next to restored and somewhat modernized grandeur.
Abandoned building (left) next to our hotel (right) [Photo borrowed from Ezra]
After settling into our room we wandered the streets, taking everything in. We landed at an old coffee house called Riquet. Had we had a little more preparation time for this trip, we might have realized in advance how cool this place was, but we ended up there regardless. It has a little bit of a Viennese flavor, with dark wood interior and rich little coffees and cakes. It was a bit smoky, too (and the cafes in Vienna were always smoky!). I loved the old clock behind the counter, which chimed like a clock you’d expect to find in some stately old manor.
Riquet in Leipzig
We had coffees and shared a delicious slice of raspberry chocolate cake. Then it was off for more wandering.
Lights in Leipzig
Pretty much the only places open were cafes, bars, and restaurants. What little prep I did for this part of our journey led us to seek out the Madlerpassage, for the Faust-themed Mephisto Bar and Auerbach’s Keller. The story goes that Goethe refers to Auerbach’s Keller, an old (we’re talking 1500s here) underground beer hall/restaurant, in Faust. Mephisto is Auerbach’s Keller’s campy companion bar. Now, I know these places are touristy and Mephisto is certainly a little goofy, but it does its thing awfully well. Everything is in deep tones–red leather, dark wood. The walls are lined with books and devilish little items. We sat near a little statue of a female demon who was, er, displaying her posterior in our direction (very cheeky). At random intervals, a loud cackling erupts and a demonic face appears in the mirror on the wall. A thunderous noise and a puff of smoke seep out from the ceiling and a framed picture on the wall begins to sway. (Ezra theorized that the bartender controlled it all via some button behind the bar.)
We had our dinner at Auerbach’s Keller, where I was pleased to be able to eat more or less authentic German food that was also vegetarian (I had noodles with a tomato gratin, served with a nice big helping of spinach). It was really very good.
After dinner we did a bit of walking. I can’t remember where I read it, but apparently Leipzig is the site for a big gothic fest. I can totally see why. Besides all the Faustian goodies, it’s wonderfully dark and old. There are winding streets and craggy old buildings. It’s very shadowy and the streetlamps at night are not particularly bright. You half expect some ghoul to pop out at you from behind a building–but it’s not really at all scary.
We passed a few antiquarian booksellers with some really impressive things in their windows. Maybe someday we’ll go back when those shops are open.
We finished off our day with a drink in the hotel wine bar. The walls of the wine bar were lined with what appeared to be panels from champagne crates, signed by famous guests including the members of REM, Pink, Van Morrison, and (Ezra requires me to mention this) Roger Whitaker. It was another reminder of the sweet digs in which we found ourselves.
OK, so my updates are going to have to stretch back into time here. I’ll get up to the present eventually!
This year felt even more busy at Christmas than usual. Between the Bazaar Bizarre, our party, getting ready to go to Berlin and Nice after Christmas, and the usual Christmas festivities, we were in a bit of a tizzy. I’m not complaining, mind you, though I do hope we can spread things out a little more next year somehow.
Our party was super fun. We had SO MUCH food. Our friends really are the best chefs ever, and this year we were even treated to fabulous homemade bread courtesy of John and Sonya, who made it down for their first (hopefully the first of many) Terri and Ezra holiday party. We were also pleased that the Breens could join us, as we hadn’t seen them for a while.
The Breens: Christie, Elizabeth, Jeffrey, and Patricia
We spent Christmas in State College with my parents and Kim, Glenn, and Hope. The Saturday before Christmas we got a sitter for Hope and went to the State Theatre to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. Ez and I have seen it several times at The Brattle here in Cambridge, but Mom, Dad, Kim, and Glenn had never seen it on the big screen before. I think the screen at The State is actually bigger than the one at the Brattle. Anyway, it was great. Afterwards Ez and I caught up with our friend John Kenyon for a couple of drinks.
During the day on Saturday Kim and I did a big antiquing extravaganza at Big Valley Antiques and Dairyland. For those of you who don’t know, those are big antique co-ops practically across the highway from each other near Lewistown, PA (I think they’re technically in Milroy??). I love our trips over there. We always make delightful discoveries, and I almost always find some additions for my collection of vintage Christmas postcards. Between Big Valley, Dairyland, and Apple Hill Antiques in State College, I ended up with some new goodies again this time. I’ve promised Kim that I’ll do a post about my collection, so stay tuned.
Sunday we went over to Lewistown to see the aunts and uncles and cousins. Hope wore an adorable dress Kim and Glenn bought her on their trip to Italy and was just generally entertaining and cute as always.
Hope with Nana at Aunt Kay’s house
My Aunt Kay and Uncle Larry had been taking care of a sweet kitty and her five baby kittens, and we got to see them. They were SO ADORABLE. How I wished I could have taken one or two of them, but with Suki and Edie it just didn’t seem like the best idea. I seriously considered it, though! They were the sweetest!
Since we celebrated with the families on Sunday, we spent all of Christmas Day at home in State College. I stretched my toes by the fire and had lots of time to gaze at my new Garbo book, eat holiday M&Ms, and play with the point and shoot camera Ez gave me. Hope made out like a bandit, of course. She spent a little time enjoying her new maracas before becoming enraptured by her new Play-Doh set. Ez and I had lots of fun with her and the Play-Doh.
We had to scurry back to Massachusetts the day after Christmas, which felt a bit weird and rushed, but we made the most of it. Then it was two days at home with the cats and packing before cabbing it to the airport for Eurotrip 2007-2008!
Ez did some work in New York on Tuesday en route to Pennsylvania, and I got a chance to see a bit of the holiday decorations down there as well as the preparations for the big Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
The decorations at Lord & Taylor were so beautiful that they lured me inside. It was like a glistening wonderland in there! The Macy’s decorations were less impressive (though still very nice), but their windows were quite fabulous. On one side of the building all of the windows depicted scenes from the film Miracle on 34th Street.
So… Most of my quick jaunt down to NY was spent working. The hotel room was pretty small, and when you’re in another city you can’t spend all day in the hotel room, so I worked from coffee shops, cafeterias, and assorted office building atriums.
On Thursday I decided to seek out a Barnes and Noble coffee shop. Yeah, there are Barnes and Nobles everywhere, but I couldn’t spend TOO much time trying to find my workspace. The walk to the B&N would have to serve as my NY adventure. Mission accomplished, as I found a really cool Japanese bookstore right around Rockefeller Plaza. It’s a big shop and probably not exactly a “find” for people who live in NY, but the shop has way more goodies than I can find even at the Japanese mall here in Cambridge (at least, it seemed like it). They have rows of Japanese magazines, children’s and adult books in Japanese, Japanese titles in translation, a bit of clothing and toys, stationery, dictionaries, art books, maps, etc. etc. etc.! I’ve been collecting international fashion magazines, which I pluck through and post clippings from on my wall in the studio for inspiration. I snagged two magazines, Spur and High Fashion, and set off.
I couldn’t find the first B&N on my list, so I headed for the second, which I think is on 54th street. It was in an office building (near a Tealuxe! I didn’t know they had Tealuxe in NY). When I stepped into the building, security scanned my bag. By the time I got into the B&N cafe, it was absolutely packed to the rafters. I wasn’t sure what to do. On my way out of the B&N, security asked to scan my bag again. I asked the security guy to point me to the loo, and on my way there I saw that there was a big atrium downstairs with cafes and a few shops. There were loads of tables and seats there, so I got myself a drink, sat down, and got to work.
Ez and I had read about a free Camera Obscura show in Brooklyn, so that night we hopped the train over. Much as I’d suspected, the back room was jammed and steaming by the time we got there. We opted to just listen from the front of the store. It was nice to spend a little time in Williamsburg. I’ve been to Brooklyn a couple of times before, but that was a long time ago. This part of Brooklyn felt a little like Somerville, actually. I guess there are fewer trees there. We had dinner at a little Italian place with a grape arbor.
On Friday I decided that I’d work pretty much wherever. New York is well saturated with Starbucks, so I settled in at the first one I found (near the Helmsley building) and worked for a few hours.
Then I wanted to go back to the Japanese bookstore. I’m not sure what I thought I’d find that I hadn’t found the previous day, but I had to go! As I approached Rockefeller Plaza, I noticed that there were a lot of police officers and firefighters in dress attire milling around. A few blocks around Saint Patrick’s were closed off, and when I saw a large flower arrangement with the letters FDNY, I knew it was a funeral.
My bag was quite heavy and I decided that I wouldn’t be able to actually get anything at the Japanese bookstore if I didn’t buy another bag (I guess this is not the most economical way to think, but there you have it!). I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I opted to duck into the H&M, where I got an inexpensive but spiffy red shoulder bag.
By this time the crowds around Saint Patrick’s were massive, and there were speakers on the street pumping out the sounds of singing from inside. I later found out that it was a service for these men.
Back at the Japanese bookstore I picked up two t-shirts, a book called I Am A Cat, a compact album for storing my Christmas postcards (my first album is full!), a set of piggie stickers (on which the piggies say “Happy!”, “Happy?”, and “Simple Is Best”) , and a little pencil case for my purse (which I probably should have bought about, oh, 25 years ago!).
My next stop was a little cafeteria/lunch place called Digby’s. They had cute little fake grass at eye-level all around the edge of the eating area.
After that I found another atrium in an office building on 52nd Street, where I worked for a few hours. Then I met Ez at Macchiato Espresso, downstairs from his office. After we chatted briefly he had to go, but I stayed for a while and did more work. After he left I couldn’t help listening in on an interview that was going on at the table next to me–something about selling fake Rolex’s online. I don’t have the details straight and probably should avoid scooping the reporter (if she was a reporter). That’s the kind of thing I really enjoyed about my time out in New York. I just found myself in so many situations, overhearing and seeing such a variety of characters.
Coming out of the post office this morning, I held the door for the man coming out behind me. He said something and I missed it, so I said something like, “What’s that?” He said, “Aren’t you beautiful?” It was odd—surprising, but not weird enough to be creepy. It was nice, and I said thank you. I don’t know if he meant that I was nice for opening the door or that he thought I was pretty, but either way it was good.
Walking down the street, I saw a cute little girl wearing orange corduroy bellbottoms. (It occurs to me that as a kid I might have hated those pants, but the orange was a nice color.)
I found my Charlie Card.
A bell was ringing as I walked through Harvard yard.
I saw a girl getting a ride from another girl on a sort of trolley/dolly.
Lots of Asian tourists were photographing the statue of John Harvard.
A kid at the 1369 kept blowing something through a straw at his mom and her friend.
Now the leaves on the tree outside my window are dancing in the sun. Happy Monday, everybody!
So I’ve been away for a bit. The lack of posts tells you something about my holidays–they’ve been busy. This is not a complaint.
Before I launch into a short recap, let me say that the long-promised site upgrade is almost done. Hooray! Ezra, my upgrade co-pilot, has been giggling to himself in the shower for the last three minutes. I don’t want to know…
We spent Thanksgiving at Ezra’s family farm near Pittsburgh. It was my first trip there with my digital camera, so I entertained myself a bit, wandering outside, pulling off my gloves long enough to compose a shot and release the shutter, and then bundling up again and moving to another location. As usual, the shots I like the best are posted on flickr. Here are a few:
One day we drove into Pittsburgh. We went a few different places, but ended up on the South Side–as we often do–at The Beehive.
Though I had fun taking pictures, I feel like I was kind of cranky and tired at Thanksgiving. I was in a better frame of mind when we returned to visit for a few days just before Christmas.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a blur of holiday preparations. I did tons of shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. for our holiday party on the 10th (we had loads of tasty leftovers–I think the spice cake is a keeper). We also made our own cards this year. Please forgive us if you didn’t get one–we got really behind with the cards and just didn’t finish them all. We’ll do better next year! It was our first attempt at making Christmas cards with the press. I’m pretty pleased with how they came out for a first try.
Christmas was a lovely break. Though it always seems to go by too fast, I also realize when I return home from our holiday trip how it always relaxes me a bit and somehow gets me ready for something new–a new year! Yes, though there’s always a mad rush of holiday things going on, it’s a different and welcome rush compared to the usual work routine.
This year Hope joined us for her first Christmas, and everyone was a-flutter to see her, hold her, and generally coo and grin and giggle when she smiled back at them. She seemed to really enjoy all the attention. Ezra and Hope met for the first time, and after checking each other out
they decided they like each other very much.
Mom (Nana) was pretty excited to have her grandbaby around, and of course I enjoyed some aunt time myself.
On the downside, Dad may have a herniated disk and was hobbling around with a cane for much of our visit. It was a family affair, as my own back problems flared up on Friday morning. I heard a few other groans about back pain from other family members, too. May 2006 be the year of happy backs!
Ezra gave me lots of cool photographic stuff for Christmas, including a Holga, which is a medium format toy camera that will allow me to inexpensively experiment with lots of cool effects. It’s just got fun written all over it. Santa also brought me the Garbo DVD set (hooray!) and lots of other goodies (new pajamas! a space-age oven mitt–ain’t nothin’ gettin’ through that baby! new watercolors!).
Well, Ez and I are well overdue to get out of the house and get going on our New Year’s Eve activities. Happy New Year to you! (In jail! No, wait a minute…)