New York

To Be Happy in New York

Joan Didion was famous for saying, Goodbye to All That.

Until she moved back there.

Happiness in New York is like the latest latte. The Cascara latte, just under the shell. Just under the surface, just around the corner. Happiness in New York is waiting for you at the dime store. At Coney Island, in Central Park. It’s waiting on the subway, and waiting at the ice cream truck. Happiness is a slice of pizza, it’s a bagel on a Saturday morning. It’s knowing you can pay your rent on the 1st, and can walk the streets one more day.

Unless you’re an Angeleno.

In which case you think, Well, aren’t there bagels in LA? And, aren’t the tacos much better? And isn’t everything cheaper – like by about, half?

The happiest people I met on the East Coast were from suburban Midwest, the rustbelt, or from the South. For them, New York is the chosen land! Opportunities, diversity. Beauty. Opulence!

But for an Angeleno, you always have that nagging feeling like true happiness is waiting not just around the corner, but on another coast. In another global city that is…your own. And doesn’t have blizzards. Or summer thunderstorms. You can enjoy beauty and opulence on your own time, in the sunshine.

Happiness, like time, is a relative thing. And to each his or her own. But for me, I’ll choose to have my cascara latte with a full-frontal view of the San Gabriel Mountains.


Punk Rock the Met

Anarchy in the U.K. in the USA

I loved this year´s Met Ball. While all art and fashion are, to a degree, punk rock – what else is the explosive urge to make something out of nothing? – this year´s “From Chaos to Couture” theme gave the event a raison d´etre that worked.

While some folks are sort of preternaturally more punk than others – Madonna has no problem donning a black bob and corset tights – it was fun to see other, more femme stars don their own version of alternative looks.

Sofia Vergara wouldn´t normally wear something this angular, and it´s interesting on her:

Sarah Jessica Parker killed it:  

Jennifer Lopez also killed it: 

Camila Belle did a fun Great Gatsby meets goth look:

And how fun are these ?

The theme gave the  Rashida Jones' dress choice a slightly punk air of “Oh, do these straps look  folksy or floppy? I must not care.” 

And ironically enough, R & B Beyonce´s body language of “I´m here” is somehow punk as it can get. Imagine her re-make of The Ramones song, ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ (now). 

On Sandy, and Other People

In the six years since I moved out to the East Coast from California, I had never experienced a storm like Sandy.

Well, experienced the build-up to a storm like Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy didn't hit Washington, DC as hard as it hit New York and other parts of the East Coast and the Caribbean, but it did do something extraordinary: it brought people together.  In personifying Hurricane Sandy, preparations were made to protect real people.

The DC Mayor's office issued a preemptive emergency warning which would provide the District with additional, federal assistance should it need it. The Mayor's Office also outlined which churches and community centers were serving as emergency shelters, and even specified which ones would accept your cat or dog! President Obama's federal response was also fantastic.

That sort of public administration - as Olivia would say, is "... the one that I want - ooh, ooh, ooh!"

Mos Doido

In this week's analogy series, American rapper Mos Def is to Brazilian rapper Criolo, or, in his full name, Criolo Doido/Dumb Creole.

Just as Mos Def used to set the standard for independent American hip hop, Criolo is now setting the standard for independent Brazilian hip hop.

Here's Mos Def:

And here's Criolo:

And here's their sounds.

Mos Def's classic song Umi Says:

And of one Criolo's trademark songs, Subirusdoistiozin:

There's a reason why Criolo has that uniquely Mos Def and NY "Lions of Hip Hop" aesthetic - urban, smart, and aggravated. Criolo was abjectly inspired by the OG rappers of yesteryear; in fact, in one of his songs, he fondly remembers dancing to Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." Much of Criolo's early work had that mid-90's hard-core rap sound, and it had the same concerns. Criolo grew up in the Sao Paolo equivalent of Brooklyn - more BedStuy than Brooklyn Heights -  and at the time found only American musicians willing to talk about ghetto life.

Rap was Criolo's, and Mos Def's, entree into their art. But it's not their end point. They're both the baddest - the most doidao - in their fields, and mostly because they're unafraid of their own evolution as artists. Mos Def has swam in more lyrical directions with newer songs like No Hay Nada Mas, and Criolo is now really embracing his voice as a singer, and not just a rapper. He sings beautifully, in fact. Here's a project he did with National Geographic; like Mos Def's newer stuff, his poetry is front and center: 


So, who's more doido - Mos Def or Criolo? Well, that's up to the listener. It's not a question of talent, just question of which language you're listening in.

Regina and Francisca

This is the second post in my series comparing two different musicians of the HispAnglo (Hispanic/Anglo) world. Complete the analogy: Linda Rondstant is to Gal Costa what Regina Spektor is to __________.

(Francisca Valenzuela).

They don't look as alike as Linda and Gal do, but New York-based signer does have the same look and general aesthetic of Chilean hipster crooner Francisca Valenzuela:

Regina Spektor

Francisca Valenzuela

These two reigning queens of North American and South American indie pop even have similar sounds.

Here is Francisca Valenzuela's song "Esta Soy Yo" (This Is Me): [youtube]

which has some of the quirky but epic camp elements of Regina Spektor's song "Us":


And Francisca Valenzuela's song "Peces" (Fishes): 



has some of the same sentimental overtones as Regina Spektor's "Fidelity":


Next week's analogy:

If Regina Spektor is to Francisca Valenzuela, then Janis Joplin is to...???

Friends With Kids. And Problems.

Everybody has friends with kids. Everybody knows that having kids is complicated. But not everybody is brave enough to make a movie about it.

Writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt is. In her film Friends with Kids, she explores the increasingly common predicament of the late-thirties, unmarried, and aspirational woman who wants to have a child, but doesn't have a partner. (Hence the big Atlantic article All the Single Ladies.) Given that millenials are the most unmarried generation in all of American history, someone needs to address the scary but important topic of how people are going to about the business of family-making, unpartnered.

Friends with Kids does, but with a tense, scared approach. Although it is witty and engaging, Friends with Kids is unsettling. The plot preface is that the utter dysfunction of four out of the six main character's is due to "their kids," but it isn't due to their kids at all - it's due to who they are. They're spoiled and emotionally underdeveloped, and while the protagonist is high-minded, her constant anxiety affects her speech and even her facial expressions, making you feel sorry for her instead of rooting for her tough decision to raise a child by herself.

This unfortunately makes what was potentially a bold movie about alternative choices a story paralyzed by the terrors of yuppie-dom. The degree of neurosis at the heart of Friends with Kids makes Woody Allen look like Cary Grant, and Sarah Jessica Parker look like...Marilyn Monroe? There are, and will be, plenty of new American families with plenty of new, modern problems. ABC has an Emmy-winning show about just that subject. But on that show, and in real life, friends with kids don't look this uncomfortable - in fact, they look pretty happy, in spite of their problems.

The All-American Schlep

Why did I schlep around in the rain the other day? For America.

Not really.

But kind of.

I went car-less for environmental reasons. In my hometown of Los Angeles, I would spend two hours a day in traffic, and in 2006, I decided to move to the East Coast in order to live in a walkable city and get around the old-fashioned way: on foot.

Standing drenched in the rain the other day, though, clinging to a pathetic bounty of three CVS bags, I suddenly thought of my Irish forefathers in Bedstuy, Brooklyn and wondered, “(Why) am I… living like them? They left the East Coast for California so they wouldn’t have to do errands on foot… is this history repeating or just my dumb ass being stubborn?”

I imagined them looking at me, shaking their heads. Thinking, poor girl…100 years and a Masters degree later, and she's still living like this.

For the record, I would have taxied my errands, but npf (non profit salary). And I would have skipped church and the two mile walk there, but it’s Lent, and I do my Jessica's Affirmation's Catholic-style.

In the words of David Brooks, groups are smarter than individuals. Last year, a bunch of young people here in DC did a Tweed Ride, in support of “19th century transportation solutions.” They dressed up vintage and spent their Sunday afternoon on bicycles.

They did the All-American Schlep the smart way = in style, and in the sunshine. 

Their event was an enormous success; because the end of the day, the All-American Schlep is a pretty good thing.

Just not when it’s raining.

[vimeo w=400&h=225]
DC Tweed Ride from ReadysetDC on Vimeo.