Category Archives: stress

Goodbye Williamsburg, Hello Park Slope

There is going to be a slight delay in blogging as I move from my apartment in Williamsburg to a new place in Park Slope. I’m all packed and the movers are coming by tomorrow. In the meantime, I have a few photos from San Antonio on my flickr and I’ll be posting about that, as well as recent NYC adventures, as soon as I can!

Autumn in New York, with Lights from Dan Flavin

I feel like we’re in the beautiful autumn days that everyone idolizes in New York. Even the scraggly trees on the medians by the BQE are turning gorgeous shades of red and yellow. I just got back from playing some freestyle bocce ball in Prospect Park where the colors were stunning. So are those in McCarren Park as shown in the image above, although I don’t notice them as much while wheezing around the running track. My goal is to be able to run a mile by the end of the year. I think this is reasonable, even if my legs do not.

Last Wednesday I saw the fantastically entertaining John Hodgman, a writer/actor/famous minor television personality that you’ve probably heard or seen on This American Life, The Daily Show, or all those Mac commercials. I understand there was a rather important “bases-ball” game that night, although Hodgman kept us updated on the score and how many ravens had been slaughtered and how many tunnels dug. The Empire Stating Building has been lit in blue and white ever since that grand bases-ball game. Hodgman’s book reading at Barnes & Noble was focused around his More Information Than You Require book and I enjoyed seeing his self-serious humor in action and liberal use of nerd references, as well as his classy three-piece corduroy suit.

Thursday is always a big night for art in New York, no matter the week. This week Elizabeth and I went to an opening at the FIAF gallery for an exhibit of French monographs. After indulging in Ricard and wine, we went to the David Zwirner gallery and saw their current Dan Flavin exhibit. It is the best exhibit I’ve seen in New York so far and I was impressed with how massive the gallery space was and how well they had adapted it to Flavin’s art.

I’d never been able to get so close to Flavin’s minimalist fluorescent light installations before. Even though it’s been 13 years since his death, Flavin’s work still seems very fresh. I guess the light sculptures alter whatever space they are in, and the colors and dispersions of the light are really the art and keep it from getting static.

After the Dan Flavin exhibit, we walked on the Highline to 14th street. The Highline use to be a an elevated freight railroad, but now it is a park. On the way to the subway, we passed this whimsical window display at the Moschino store. I wish I had dreams like that.

Friday night I went to the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, where you get to drink among the brewing equipment. As much as Williamsburg sometimes irritates me by being like a haven for what John Hodgman would call jocks posing as nerds, I do love its bars and coffee shops.

On Saturday, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art before watching that horrendous OU football game. I was with a friend who had never been to the Met before, so we hit the usual highlights, and saw this gorgeous panoramic painting of Versailles that I had never seen. I guess I usually don’t make it very deep into the decorative arts section. The 165 foot circular painting was created in the early 1800s by John Vanderlyn, who apparently spent years traveling around with it and exhibiting it while trying to avoid destitution. Sadly, Vanderlyn faded into an obscurity that seemed pretty permanent at his death and through the years after, but the installation of this painting at the Met in 1956 helped him to get some art history recognition.

Tonight I’m stalking the internet for apartments. I thought that applying for jobs in New York was the most demoralizing and soul-sucking activity, but that was before I started to look for apartments. Doing both at the same time makes me feel like I’m climbing up a very high mountain without oxygen. And to steal a bit from Wayne Coyne’s recent interview in Spin, I don’t know if the mountain is going to turn out to be a volcano and I’ll fall in and be incinerated or if I get to plant a miniature flag at its peak. I’m hoping for the flag, or at least a little rest at a camp with some hot chocolate.

Lost Again

This is the building I live in. They love the trompe loeil in Valence.

This is the building I live in. They love the trompe l'oeil in Valence.

I’m progressing steadily, although today was a setback in terms of confidence. I was clearly told (although this is now denied) that I didn’t have to ask for the bus to stop in Pont de l’Isere, just La Roche de Glun. So I didn’t…and the bus didn’t stop and I ended up in another town. I asked for help at the high school in that town and someone came to pick me up, but it was really embarrassing and awful for my first day at Pont de l’Isere. This is the second time I’ve been really lost. The first was my very first morning in Valence, when I went for a walk and ended up in another town and was late for a rendez-vous with my “responsable.” She probably thinks I have some sort of mental disorder. Oh well. I don’t often make the same mistake twice. I just hate having to explain my mistake over and over again to everyone I’m working with.

Anyway, besides that, things are pretty good. The above building is La Manu, the foyer where I am living. I’ll take a picture of my room when I’m not drying my laundry everywhere. (The French dryers have low heat settings, alas. I guess I should rejoice in saving energy, though.) There are trompe l’oeils all over Valence, and this is the one on the windowless side of La Manu. Don’t worry, I have a window, and actually have the only railing like the one in front of the guitar player and snowboarder. I don’t really know what’s going on with the people dancing on the left, but they are evidentally in the walkway I photographed earlier.

I am getting along with most of the teachers, although there are a couple who are just accepting my presence and aren’t into the teaching of English. The first day of class is the hardest. Although I’m basically saying my name, age, where I come from, etc., I have to gauge how much English the class actually knows. The blank stares are usually a give away. My last round of first classes is tomorrow. And then I’m going to Geneva on Saturday!

A Penguin Pastry!

A Penguin Pastry!

Above is one of the more amazing things I’ve found. For only 1.80€, I bought this adorable and delicious pastry penguin. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but he had webbed feet, a beak, and eyes. I wanted to buy all ten of his friends, but the sugar contained in his rich chocolate filled head alone multiplied by 10 would have made me regret that. Usually, the animal pastries are disappointing, but this was an incredible exception. And it was a penguin! I think I have chosen my favorite patisserie in Valence. Plus, the woman there is always nice to me and smiles. A rarity sometimes in France. Not the niceness, the smiling. It’s not that they’re not happy, they just don’t show their teeth as much as us Americans.

Speaking of chocolate, I actually went to a chocolate factory yesterday: Valrhona. I was getting a ride from Connie, a woman from Connecticut who has lived in France for 18 years and teaches English here. On the way, she wanted to pick up some chocolate for her daughter’s wedding. The amazing thing about Valrhona is that in the chocolate store, you can sample as much as you want. And you can try everything! I ate too many truffles and then I tried some sort of liqueur filled chocolate and felt like I’d just taken a straight shot of alcohol. Which I covered up with another piece of chocolate. I felt so gluttonous, but it was free and delicious. I might be going back there. In the same town, Tain l’Hermitage, there is wine tasting. That would be a decadent day!