Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Year In Cities, 2009

I'm going to round up 2009 the best way I know how: by travel. So taking a page from the playbooks of TheVole and Kottke, here (chronologically) is My Year In Cities, 2009.

  • Toledo, OH*
  • Chicago, IL*
  • New York, NY (also Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island)*
  • Jersey City, NJ*
  • Hoboken, NJ*
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Boston, MA*
  • Hong Kong, SAR*
  • Macau, SAR
  • Atlantic City, NJ*
  • Detroit, MI*
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Grand Rapids, OH
  • Saint Lucia, West Indies
  • Worcester, MA
* Denotes multiple trips throughout the year.
For 2010, I'm definitely scooping up London, Bruges, Edinburgh, Reykjavik, Las Vegas and possibly Dubai, Oslo, Stockholm.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Celebrating One Year Of Being Free From Office Work

...Technically over one year and three months, but who's counting? So when I'm not ignoring this, my personal blog, I'm posting up a storm over at three other sites and, before I start up here again, I'd like to give them their proper due. So bear with as I show off a few of my favorite stories from the last month or so.

Just do understand that when I blog--as Editor at Jaunted.com, and almost two years as Contributing Editor at HotelChatter.com as well as a contributor at Racked.com--I put research and time into it and usually my own photos and video. What I'm getting at here is that it's not personal stuff, like some sort of LiveJournal, but work and I've been frustrated lately with those who flat-out plagiarize my articles.

Keep in mind that I do tons of timely and newsy pieces everyday, but the following are the fun features that end up taking off. Now on with the show:

At Jaunted:
At Racked:

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Masstige Not For Me: Reflections On Jimmy Choo for H&M

Tomorrow, with the release of their Jimmy Choo collaboration, H&M can cut another notch into their masstige bedpost. Personally, I think this is the second-to-worst collab from H&M, with Madonna's tracksuits more than earning the bottom rung. For the first time in several seasons, you won't find me outside an H&M tomorrow as I think each and every piece is far too clubby/LA and far overpriced for being a hair above Zara.

But these beliefs didn't stop me from doing my job of checking out the products at the H&M 5th Ave as they sat, guarded, in the window. After some "ha"-ing to myself over what hype they've managed to generate from such not-that-great stuff, I walked up a block before turning around to head south to my subway stop. It was when I walked by the H&M this second time that a cute little scene played out in my path, and now sticks in my head.

Scene: (Fifth Avenue sidewalk, rush hour at dusk)
I am dressed in all black and walking south at a fair clip, navigating the tourists on Fifth Ave when I approach a clearing at the entrance of H&M. I hear a man calling out "Bunny! Bunny!" and the odd name causes me to glance to the source of the voice. It is an older, well-fed man in a tailored black suit, with whisps of grey hair that calls to mind Bernie Madoff. He is holding open the rear passenger door to a black towncar, parked at the curb directly outside of H&M's doors.

Standing on the sidewalk, frozen squarely between the towncar and H&M's doors is a an older woman with excellent posture, poised to take another step towards H&M. She has silver hair, pulled back into a tight and perfect ponytail, and she's dressed in a well-tailored black skirt suit, with a little swing to the skirt. It suits her excellently and she just oozes money. I look from her back to the man at the town car, and then back to the woman. In this second, her indecision is palpable; whether to ask the husband to wait a moment while she inquires about the Jimmy Choo in the window, or to retreat and go home.

The woman does exactly what I expected and hoped of her. She briskly turns on her heel and climbs into the towncar, essentially wiping away her curiosity of the Choo and H&M connection. That is all, and that is how I too feel about this--meh.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 [Was] Upon Us

...and it's travel-themed! I have to admit that my heart fluttered a bit at this fact; are they appealing directly to my sensibilities? Thank you IMG Fashion for this theme; my eyes will be drinking it in all week.

[Update: Fashion Week is over; the full list of my attendance is below. But won't you read alll the lovely stories and liveblogs over at Racked under Fashion Week Spring 2010.

Speaking of this week, I'm going to use this post to keep tabs on my show attendance. Won't you follow along? I'm covering Fashion Week for Racked.com, as I've done for the past several seasons as well, considering as how I've been writing for Racked for almost two years, a length of time surprising in the blogosphere. If you'd like to see the stories, liveblogs, and tweets that accompany these shows, you can find them there and @racked and @jetsetcd on Twitter.
Now the list of what I've attended and covered:
- Jenni Kayne (presentation)
- Target/Anna Sui Pop-Up (Party)
- Ports 1961 (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Yigal Azrouel (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Cynthia Rowley (Runway, Gallery)
- Nicole Miller (Runway, Gallery)
- Cynthia Rowley After-Party
- Charlotte Ronson After-Party
- Rag & Bone After-Party
- Christian Siriano (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Band of Outsiders (presentation)
- Y-3 (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Custo Barcelona (Runway, Gallery)
- Carlos Miele (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Jill Stuart (Runway, Gallery)
- Thakoon (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Badgley Mischka (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Willow (Runway, Gallery)
- Alexandre Hercovitch (Runway, Liveblog, Gallery)
- Anna Sui (Runway, Gallery)
- Norma Kamali (Runway, Gallery)
- threeASFOUR/Yoko Ono (Runway, Gallery)

And other shows I've been involved with covering:
- BCBGMaxAzria
- Charlotte Ronson
- Brian Reyes
- Max Azria
- Nanette Lepore
- 3.1 Phillip Lim

And the list of observations:
- You might be in the middle of Manhattan, but nowhere seems to have any good 3G or even cell reception. As a result, I have said "fuck" far too much and too loudly today.
- Apparently if you want an endless stream of catcalls, just wear heels.
- Model's thighs do touch; I watched it happen when the screens showed the Rosa Cha show
- Older men who get to enter the Fashion Week tent because they are sponsors or something, are most likely there to prey on the Asian trendspotters who speak little English. It's gross to watch.
- Free stuff is a burden. Actually I learned that last season.
- Fashion parties are not too different from regular private lounge parties, except that the guests are usually wearing a higher percentage of black clothing with more zippers and leather.
- The tents are often more full of aspiring stylists and hangers-on than they are with actual clients, press, and established fashion people.
- One of the reasons I always look forward to the Y-3 show is because it's a breath of fresh air. The characters of the tents aren't there, the venue always has plenty of space and organization, and they use a really wide selection of models, of all ethnicities.
- There are people that work in fashion who do not know how to pronounce designer names like "Max Azria," "Herve Leger," and "Anna Sui."
- I think I might be the only person (aside from the rest of Team Racked and already established fashion folk) are aren't trying to foist a portfolio or business card into the hands of people who look influential.
- I'm definitely one of the "I'd rather be heard and not seen"-type of bloggers. That does not mean I'm ugly. This could be a whole other post entirely.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Steak Dinners And 'Famous' Rooms: NYC Of The 1950s

Update: I did the series, and as promised had fun with it. I don't think the Jaunted half went near as well as the HotelChatter half, since I've continued on with HC posts on the topic even after the week of stories. You can check out the series here:

NYC IN THE 1950s -- Jaunted

Just a sneaky peek inside of this amazing NY Tourist brochure from 1953 which my uncle sent to me for my birthday just passed. (Click the picture to see in detail). It makes me thirst for Canada Dry ginger ale more than I normally do.

With this brochure, and its very chic little ads inside for everything from lobster and steak dinners to dancing in the Rainbow Room, I'm working on a series of stories on Retro NY tourism for Jaunted and HotelChatter. It'll be great, it'll be be visually interesting, and it'll hopefully be inspiring, Mad Men-fever and all. Stay tuned for a huge reveal of this booklet of vintage fun...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Canal Street Counterfeiters: The Bane of My NYC Life

Just over a year ago, I snapped the above picture of a policeman in the doorway of a Canal Street perfume shop being raided for selling counterfeit goods. My resulting story of watching the raid is here, and since even before then I have been resistant to walking through this area.

Some days however, I find myself having to confront Canal and the unrelenting black market bagmongers who crowd the corners and stealthily say to you "miss bags louieweetongucciprada louieweetonguccipradachannel?"

Since I'm typically the girl who charges down the sidewalk, face stonily set with a "don't fuck with me" directness, any obstacle in my path makes me extremely annoyed. I can forgive strollers and confused tourists, but not these bag men.

Today, for the first time, I talked back to one of them. As I attempted to make a right turn on the sidewalk, he blocked me to release his stream of "louiewuittonchannelpradagucci" and I loudly replied with a deep and pained "Nooooooo." A second after, leaving him in my dust, I realized how powerfully cathartic this exclamation had been.

Generally the rule in dealing with these counterfeit street salesmen is to be silent and continue walking, or reply with a simple "no." But today's heat, and the sidewalk crowding of Canal that always forces me to walk in the street, with traffic, kicked me to a new level of annoyance. Not to mention that I am also offended that the salesmen would look at me and think that I would be interested in their wares. Like I've said before, I've seen fakes in the slums of Shanghai and I've seen the same conditions behind the scenes in New York, and this whole business is deadly.

If all of a sudden my face appears on a milk carton or on a missing persons flyer, you should start by questioning any number of the gangs that operate the counterfeiting business in Chinatown. I plan to continue talking back.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Want v. Need: July Edition

Starting now, I am going to do a monthly round-up of five random items that I come across online, which deserve a small spotlight as life-improving things or events. Nonetheless, can't have everything, so I've got to make decisions...

  • Want: To see the "Kodachrome Culture: The American Tourist In Europe" exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in DC.
  • Want: Nice furniture inspired by graffiti, like this dripdrop sideboard that takes Krink's work and adapts it to somehow be both minimalist and contemporary--not to its expensive appearance.
  • Need: The patience and attention to detail that made it possible to turn an Italian beach into a sand castle ode to Dante's Inferno.
  • Need: A compact camera that is waterproof, drop-proof, temperature change-proof, and sand-proof, and yet takes HD video and 12.1 megapixel pics with face detection and shake reduction. Lord knows I take a load of pics everyday for the blogs, in all conditions (almost ruined my old cam with Saharan sand, even, but then it succumbed to the surf in St. Maarten) and I am the perfect person to put this Pentax to work.
  • Want: If I had a backyard (or any yard), a eco-pod would be an ideal home blogging office, not to mention a hammock oasis during inclement weather. But at £17,630 plus VAT, people might as well just buy a small second house in a bad neighborhood.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Me: Now Available In Print

Well, I'm now available in print, but only if you rode London's Tube system on the 23. June and picked up a copy of one of the city's free rags: thelondonpaper.

Thanks to some great connections through blogs, I was able to write up one of my favorite additions to the New York scene: The High Line. My article joins coverage of the newly-opened Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam and the Acropolis Museum in Athens to form the paper's weekly section on travel. Read it below! Ok, I'm kidding, you can read it here and see pictures, video and more coverage of my High Line adventures here.
P.S. - London seems to like me. Earlier this year I was chosen as the winner of a photography competition sponsored by Flickr and The Design Museum. The interview that resulted can be found here.
[Photos via edscoble and more ILoveQ8]

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Branding or: How I Would Drink This Milk Despite Lactose Intolerancy

What's the deal, Target brand Archer Farms? No new redesign love for soy milk? I see how it is.

Like any good girl living in a city during the age of Apple, Method and Design Within Reach, I've developed a soft spot for product design with a particular sensitivity to branding. Brand New, Lovely Package, and YourLogoMakesMeBarf are on my RSS and Muji accessories dot my desk, so I don't take it lightly to proclaim that Archer Farms' new packaging blows me away.

So what if it resembles the Bahamas logo? I want to lick the cereal boxes below something fierce. These changes, a turn to the simplistic, hearken back to the days of being a kid and playing "kitchen" with mini wood rolling pins and dented kid-sized muffin tins with a few heartwarming rusty spots.

It's like your mom's old cookbooks from the 1960s and 70s, filled with recipes for lemon squares and swedish meatballs and sporting some primary colors atop slowly yellowing pages. Not to mention the pastoral hints; one can imagine these items plopped onto a circular wood kitchen table in some picture-perfect country house during breakfast. They evoke visions of wheat fields and Scandinavian sunrises.

Since I live NYC, and wheat fields (let alone sunrises) are hard to come by, I kind of want to spend all my money on these packages just to have them lining my countertop and cheering me up with their visual appeal. Especially the turtle macaroni & cheese; that turtle is so mine.
Images and more at: Lovely Package

How To Fly For Less Than The Cost Of A Flight

I've been a naughty blogger. I went to Berlin. I had a great time, stayed slightly within my means, and left this blog hanging while I funneled the content into Jaunted.

If you'd like to see what went exactly went down overseas, some of it is here, but now I'd like to tie up the loose ends of my last post by dissecting exactly how I managed to go to Berlin without bankrupting myself. It became a three-step process, one that I highly recommend
for those who can do it. Shall we begin?
  1. Flexibility. Since my employment is somewhat fluid, I was able to utilize that magical travel booking engine feature of searching +/- 3 days. After posting my last, emotional entry on trouble with such sites, the heavens opened and I stumbled across my dream $381 roundtrip direct (including taxes and fees) on Delta from JFK to TXL.
    I booked the shit out of that, even though they barely had a seat for me on the plane and it was, in the simplest way I can put it, a shit flight.
  2. Humility. Look, in the immortal words of Sheryl Crow: "This ain't no disco; this ain't no country club either." This is a last-minute trip on less than a shoestring budget. I booked this baby 4 days prior to departure, and whipped out a Priceline voucher code for $50 off a name-your-own-price hotel stay, a deal I magically got on Twitter.

    Since I was due to meet up with my guy-friend for the last 3 nights of my stay, I opted to name my own price for a 5-star hotel in the Tiergarten district, which returned with the Marriott Berlin. That added another
    $150 onto my trip total. The humility enters the picture for the first two nights, when I bit the bullet and shacked up at Jetpak Hostel, which boasted of Free WiFi and rented me a bike for a whole day for 5 Euro.

    It was on this bike and at Jetpak that I was able to quickly get a feel for the city, while befriending the amazing Miriam, one of the hostel staff who has now also taken up travel blogging on an Italian site. The hostel was about another
    $35, but factor in a few more dollars for all the 1 Euro cappuccinos I consumed while happily working the mornings away in their cafe.
  3. Localizing: Sure I wanted to shop, and have a nice meal at a fancy al fresco restaurant, and take a side trip, but that's because those are the urges one has when exploring a new destination. You wouldn't be doing those things if you actually lived in Berlin, and so I thought--what would I be doing tonight if I lived here?

    Eating 3 Euro currywurst from a corner Imbiß and chasing it with 75 Eurocent beers in bed while watching
    Bernd, das Brot. Or taking a free stroll through the Tiergarten to the Siegessäule. Or recycling--an action made so much cooler when a barcode-reading, bottle-eating machine is involved.

    At the end of the trip, I realized that I had only shopped for one thing: a
    3 Euro magazine on modern European Architecture from Pro QM.
All in, I'm looking back at a 5-night/6-day trip to Berlin that cost about $600 total. Damn, I'm cheap (and good). Considering that flights for the same route--when searching around the web--were averaging $800, I think this trip was a flippin success. Not to mention how cozy it was that my tax refund arrived prior to this. I won't be getting one of those next year, so I better travel the heck out of this year; am I right?

Cynthia, travel dork: 2* Economic downturn and lack of sustainable income: 0
(2 because I traveled to Hong Kong in February using these 3 steps)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Straight Trippin: To Berlin Or Not To Berlin

Since last post, I have hopped down to Atlantic City, steeped for a week in the Midwest, and bolted to Baltimore--all the while cycling memories of Hong Kong in my head like Viewmaster slides. Not to mention the fact that I have taken on more responsa-blog-bility. 

And again I am off...or so I hope, if I win my battle with booking websites. There is simply nothing more frustrating than to watch airfares drop, form a cozy budget in your head, find fares that match or undercut it, and then have those fares disappear or return with "sold out" just before confirmation. Am I perhaps getting what I deserve for snagging that bargain-basement Cathay direct to HKG earlier this year?

My tendency to follow fares, like a broker eagerly watching a stock ticker, both causes and solves many problems. Currently, the mercurial nature of travel sites flaunting Memorial Day pricing is driving me to drink (Red Bull for the first time in many years, even though I was handed it on the street). 

To the point: Am I or am I not flying to Berlin in exactly a week? Having already covered nearly 80% of southern Germany, it's about time I pay attention to what lurks north of Frankfurt; I hear they even have German food up there! (ha)

On one hand, if I go, I drop down into that pit of "perhaps I can pawn this," from which I have just recovered after HK. This is the only downside, for the rewards of risking quality of life for time abroad are too many to count, but here are a few: soaking in the city, its architecture, street art, design, food, new German phrases, the style of the locals and how they go about mundane activities like ordering a cut of meat from the butcher. 

These are the details I absorb, to the end that I can easily chameleon into them and make of Berlin another home port--another stepping stone in my global garden, if you will. 

Is it not extremely fulfilling to learn how to use and navigate another city's public transportation? How could one not relish pronouncing a new word, and not just saying it, but saying it correctly and knowing its meaning and usage, and knowing that you'll now always remember it. That even 40 years from now, you'll be sitting down to a bowl of minestrone in your kitchen and suddenly a word like "Überraschung" comes to your lips, and you smirk with the dusty memory it elicits, of buying Kinder eggs at FRA and wondering what's inside and then never finding out becase you will give them all away back in the States. And you're old, and eating unremarkable soup in your average kitchen, but no--for a moment you are back in the airport and remembering the sweet anxiety that comes with powerwalking to your gate for a transatlantic. 

I digress. 

As for Berlin, it is now a matter of cost versus culture, and as always I'm choosing culture. And beer.
[Photo via Flickr]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Gotham: A Hearty Helping of Brunch 2.0

Take 8 young NYC creatives of different ethnicities, sexualities and um...absurdities, and dump them into a circular white pleather booth for Sunday brunch at Perry St. Stir. Simmer for a few hours and serve while snarky. 

This is what I have taken to calling "the brunch club;" banal as the name may be, our weekly gatherings continue to grow in size as well as Michelin star rating of the destination. I may be a starving member of the "emerging media," but I will never deny an invitation to nosh on fancy-pants pancakes

Aside from the excuse to drink 4-5 cups of coffee in a row, these meals serve as a good sounding rod for opinions on current hot topics and exchange of inside jokes. You'd do well to eavesdrop on us, marketing peoples, with recent topics such as these:
  • What's the first song that alphabetically appears on your iTunes? Consensus says: Aaliyah "Are You That Somebody?"
  • What've you got lingering in your Netflix queue? Me: La Vie en Rose
  • If you had to pitch an infomercial product to everyone at the table right now, what could you sell the pants off of? Me: the Yuletide Fireplace DVD
  • Did anyone get around to making New Years resolutions? Answer: no. But what about New York resolutions? Answer: yes. (get out to Flushing this year, avoid the NRQW, etc)
Ah, the lazy conversations of the creative class. One day I shall look back and scoff at that term and these topics. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Straight Trippin': Atlantic City and Endorphins

I am in Atlantic City. In March. On a Tuesday. Deduce what you will from that, but one thing's for certain about my brief jaunt here: I'm thinking up a storm. 

The wittiest quips and true clarity of thought usually come to me during brisk walks around urban environments, and although I was encased in a glass dome today, hitting the hotel fitness center on full power caused a vortex of vision. I had several treadmill revelations: my average walking speed is classified as "valley jog," I enjoy random judo-chopping, and running in striped pajamas is just as good as in spandex. I experienced stationary bicycle inner peace: damn, I'm good at this. And lap pool nirvana: why are they taunting me by playing only the music of "Rock the Casbah?" Whatever, I'm down.

Ever since my own personal recession set in the second I set foot in NYC, I banished my old Crunch membership and their 3-story atrium tube slides and Vitra furniture from my memory. Then I said a temporary goodbye to my big bike, which had for several years been carried up and down 3 stories of stairs by me on a daily basis, and which has successfully pedaled me through two marathons and given me the endurance to complete the "Hustle Up the Hancock." Now, with the exercise endorphins racing, I resolve to return. Chicago, I will see you in July for L.A.T.E. Ride.  
[Image via Flickr/bluedonkey]

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Fashion Aesthetic, In Summary

So it all began in Hong Kong. While my friend J and I perused the eccentric and awesome wares at Joyce, I came across a pair of Rick Owens S/S 2009 Foldover boots and was immediately struck dumb. They. were. everything. I've. ever. dreamed. of. and. more. If it weren't for the price (about $1,250), I'd be clodding all over town right now in these babies. 

This kind of shopping experience, where I fall so hard for a single item, happens so rarely that it required some reflection. J and I tried to peg our individual styles down to a few designers, and I had some definite favorites named right off the bat. So for my pleasure just as much as yours (not like you really care), behold my five favorite designers whose designs I would actually wear:

Yohji Yamamoto and Y-3: I already own quite a few Y-3 pieces, but I hunger for YY
Rick Owens: Damn. Just damn. I covet it all.
Diane von Furstenberg: Already own some, but have to admit the "Foreign Affairs" Collection to be most me.
Donna Karan: Gorgeous, fantastic, sexy, chic...blah blah blah
Comme des Garcons/Rei Kawakubo: This is for when I let my freak flag fly. 

[Rick Owens boots image via Browns Fashion; All other images via Style.com]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remembering A Most/Least Glamorous Fashion Week

Ah, Fashion Week. Now that you are over, I feel that my thoughts have settled enough to write a little in remembrance of you. As it was, I practically stepped off of my flight back from Hong Kong and straight into the Bryant Park Tents, so the last 3 weeks were as hectic as they were intriguing. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. So let us skip the collection reviews and various other stories, which I've already covered to death over at Racked, and instead get a little more personal with My Top 10 Most/Least Glamorous Fashion Week Moments.

10: Grabbing a town car to take me from the Tents to the Rag & Bone show / Grabbing a spicy cod roe kimbap roll at Kinokuniya, only to have it stink up the inside of my bag.
9: Hitting the McQueen for Target Preview Party / Being hit on at the McQueen for Target Preview Party
8: Knowing that the dresses I'm seeing will be on magazine covers yet months from now / Knowing that my boobs will never fit into said dresses
7: During small talk, saying "Oh yes, I just got back from Hong Kong" / Being back from Hong Kong
6: Actually being recognized as a blogger and getting assigned seats this Fashion Week / Sitting in the 9th or 10th row while magazines like Cookie and CN Traveler get on the runway.
5: Spending entire days in my rare pieces of designer clothing / Spending entire days hiking up my underwear as my leggings had unnatural control over them
4: Walking down the steps in front of the Tent in my Costume Nationals and hearing a bystander call out: "Now those are some heels!" / Going around the corner and ashamedly switching to flats
3: Sharing an elevator up to Leifsdottir with [VP of Bergdorf Goodman] Linda Fargo / Sharing a long wait at a Chelsea Starbucks with Linda Fargo
2: Sitting front row at Carlos Campos / Sitting front row at Carlos Campos
1: Chatting with Jason Wu at Band of Outsiders / Being accidentally caught in the background of a Sartorialist snap
Thank you, Thank you. At least I avoided any porta-pottie mishaps, unlike some other unfortunate fashionistas. Until September, I'm signing off on #NYFW.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Live From HK: "I Could Do This Everyday"

Hong Kong is outside my window, beneath my feet, and in my head. I am in freaking love with this metropolis (can't call it a city because it's so much more than that). Everything from the elevated network of sidewalks--you could go about your normal daily business for a while without having to touch the ground--to the supremely clean and efficient public transportation is delightful. 

I freely admit to being a "city person," and yet I am often disillusioned with many aspects of Chicago, New York, etc. In Hong Kong this past week, however, I have only been uncomfortable with one thing: how slowly everyone walks. I know I know...trivial crap. BUT I've been all around these islands and seen all sorts of areas and even the cow hearts freely being touched by shoppers in the meat markets, and for some reason I cannot reconcile this bustling capital with its slow-moving population. OK, enough with the negative. 

I want to move here. Like faster than now. Only another trivial thing stops me from putting the cogs into motion: the horrible heat and typhoon season of summer. The only other time I've been to HK, which was for 8 hours during a layover and I actually did manage to go outside, the humidity was stifling and it was only April. Nonetheless, upon my return to NYC in a few days, I know that I will not be able to shake the feeling that I belong in HK, and so if there are any employers looking for a fall-winter HK employee or an expat guy who wouldn't mind having an extremely independent and seasonal girlfriend...you know where to find me.
The only slight bit of "engrish" I've found

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Straight Trippin': BRB, I'm Heading to HKG

It's hard to believe that it's almost been one year since my last trek overseas to Asia. That time, I spent over two weeks getting acquainted with the cities of Seoul and Shanghai, whose awesome urban heartbeats have kept me daydreaming since. So - I've all of sudden randomly decided to hop back. The difference is that this time I'm heading to Hong Kong and Macau for slightly more than a week and attempting to envelop myself in the culture. 

If anyone lives in HK or has friends in HK who are down from some dim sum or water crab congee with a stranger, then absolutely hit me up. Until I return for Fashion Week (if only I didn't have to return), you can always catch my updates from the Orient here and here

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What New York Needs Is a Freelancer Salon

This city does not have the infrastructure to support the recent glut of mobile freelancers. There are simply too few coffeeshops with free wifi, too few solo tabletops, and way too few outlets around New York City. At 2pm on a Wednesday, I found myself having to skip from cafe to cafe, desperately searching for a nook where I could file some posts. 

I understand that, like myself, much of the city's creative underclass has turned to freelance and left their heat off in their apartments this winter, but there is no reason that one should have to spend precious time trekking to five or more coffeeshops before giving in to a wifi McDonald's. We need a place; a place that is not Starbucks or Think. Somewhere that is calm, comfortable and inspirational; we need a salon.
It would take the focused atmosphere of an Ivy League library and combine it with the furnishings of a Hungarian confectionary and the refreshments of a Mediterranean passenger ferry. Oh yes, we're talking liquor license and arancini; I am so sick of yogurt parfaits. 

Settling into the clean banquettes could be New York's young and expansive minds. Far too often, they are the ones living in hovels in Bed-Stuy, spending their days editing and twittering from the last available chair (the one right next to the bathroom) at a mega-Starbucks. The salon would hold select events, but very few and none musical; it's not the local college coffee roaster's amateur hour.

Inevitably, the salon would be something of a secret in order to keep the tourist families (the ones who drag tables together at coffeeshops as they rest from their Century 21 spree) and bums out. It should have a password (emailed monthly to members) entry and outlets galore. Patrons can fill out a simple application online and pay a monthly fee (like $20 to cover costs) and never feel harassed for staying and working six consecutive hours.

But how will it make money? By not trying to. Sadly, the world has no more Peggy Guggenheims, but a philanthropist's support would be essential for the space. A successful salon would function almost on its own; refreshments need not be expensive because so many would sell anyways, and a grateful member base could generate beneficial projects and hopefully remember the salon after achieving their goals. 

The Think Coffee on Mercer by Washington Square Park comes closest to this ideal, except that it plays really loud music and the place is always packed with NYU journalism majors who could just as easily be in the NYU library. If only Mercury Dime wasn't so diminutive. 

Starbucks' concept of being a "third place," something between work and home, doesn't work for freelancers. New York needs to foment the idea of a "free place," somewhere between home and play, where people can develop their unconventional careers and connect in person with others whom they already follow on social networks. I know I need this, and I'm pretty sure the legions of furious typists I see cowering in coffeeshop corners do too. Create the space and the creatives will come.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What I Have Against Louis Vuitton

(Screengrab via NOTCOT)
After this last week full of  stalking mentions of LV's new Stephen Sprouse collection, I was left wondering why I felt so detached from and unattracted to the line despite my neon and street art leanings. While what seemed like everyone else and their moms were screeching their desire for the bags covered in faux graffiti, how was it that I didn't give a flying fuck beyond the curiosity I have for collaborations? You see, I've never bought into the Louis Vuitton brand because I've bought into it, ya dig?

I was born lacking the gene that makes one crave "It" bags, but one day in October of 2006, I fell for a wallet. It couldn't be just any wallet, of course; it had to be the $275 coin purse from Louis Vuitton's limited "Groom" collection, hearkening back to the days of the Grand Tour and commemorating LV's old bellboy ad and of the 1920s. The artwork was TinTin-ish, which attracted me, but it was the challenge of the motto which clinched my obsession: "Montre-moi tes bagages, je te dirai qui tu es," which translates to "Show me your luggage and I'll tell you who you are."

Successfully seduced by the vintage, first-class appeal of the piece, I headed straight into Louis Vuitton on Michigan Ave in Chicago and plonked down $275 + 9.25% tax for something which didn't even fit paper money (I tried, it always got stuck in the zipper).

I stared at the disk of my undoing for 13 days, and on the 14th day I took advantage of LV's 2-week return policy and returned that shit. Not quite. I exchanged it for the $200 yellow credit-card holder of the same collection, even though the orange of the coin purse held more appeal. At least, however, I could use this one.

So I proceeded to use it as normal, like a wallet. It only took a few jealous and inquisitive cashiers and some refilling of my transit card to make me extremely conscious of the attention this wallet warranted. I had meant it as a purchase for myself, a kind of secret indulgence, but then a friend bought the same one and mine continued to attract unwanted attention. 

A hate for the blatant LV logo, which had previously to the wallet purchase been only apathy, really took hold when I went to Shanghai and visited those dens of iniquity, the underground fake shops. More than a year and a half after the Groom collection had sold out of stores, there they were. Naively, I had thought the Groom collection's small range and extremely limited release time would keep it under wraps. The embarrassment and shame of my first coin purse purchase returned with avengeance, and spoiled me forever from liking logo-covered products. (Thank God) I reserve the ability to respect some luxury brands who yield to the popularity of be-logoed items, but LVMH will always be outside of it. 

Now, you ask, how do you get through Fashion Week and other events without a big, honking leather bag in your grasp? I still buy the occasional luxury item, but they are completely under the radar. A purse from 10 Corso Como, for example. Its provenance and cost will always remain my little secret, and it doesn't set me up as a target for mugging. 

There is a major advantage in investing in classic bags such as this: they resist being dated to a certain season. Walking down the street, I know how long ago people bought their Fendi Spy or the perforated LV Speedy. It's not fun for me and I assume it's no fun for them, trying to maintain their rich appearance with a Murakami multicolore which was marketed at 16 year olds with high school graduation money in 2003. I'll stop now before I hurt someone's feelings.