Hi from Los Angeles

My visits to New York have become increasingly spread out. Twice a year? The Upper East Side and the whole city seem so different every time I visit. Same goes even for my parents’ building where the happy yellow lobby was recently repainted to a cold gray. Apparently the decorating committee posted three swatches you could choose from, one gray, and two shades of yellow, and the yellow vote was split! More soon!


NYC–>LA Transplant Tip: Two Driving Hazards They Don’t Teach You About in Driver’s Ed


When I got my driver’s license at 31 and started driving alone for the first time, I began encountering two types of potentially dangerous situations about which no friend, instructor, driver’s manual or internet forum had warned me.

Having spent my first thirty years (minus the few before I could walk) as a pedestrian in New York City, I learned to tune out the constant wailing of ambulances and fire trucks. Unless an emergency vehicle was about to cut through my walking path perpendicularly, the siren sound’s only relevance was to make me sometimes wonder what catastrophe had befallen someone who wasn’t me. In highschool, we actually had an assembly where a troupe of performers encouraged us to hear that common car alarm tune that goes from oscillating cries to robot-like beeps to a sort of slide whistle, as a song and they taught us dance moves to go along with each part. Such was the drive to reinterpret sounds of alarm into something benign. In a city as dense as New York, if you don’t learn to at least ignore those noises, you’ll be on edge all the time. Continue reading “NYC–>LA Transplant Tip: Two Driving Hazards They Don’t Teach You About in Driver’s Ed”

NYC->LA Transplant Tip: The Right Watering Can

We never had plants at my parents’ apartment in New York City. In fact, my mom is offended by the presumption of guests who bring fragranced flowers as a gift. I’ve been in Los Angeles for three years, and since we moved to Highland Park in October, I’ve acquired a porch-full of potted succulents through estate sales, Craigslist, and local grocery stores. I’ve learned to water them when they start to look ill. I even talk to them. But, I don’t have it in me to regularly clean the watering can.

Last week I noticed that a mess of leaves and yard debris had accumulated inside the can. I turned it upside down and shook, but nothing came out. I reached my hand in to grab the stuff but recoiled at the feel of something sticky like cotton-candy.

It was time to give the can a good wash. In the kitchen, I ran a lot of precious LA tap-water through it, but the bits of dried leaves and petals stayed suspended in the middle, vibrating slightly. Then, out of the tip of the spout, a big brown spider sidled out, glaring at me with its presence (do spiders have eyes?) for several seconds before hustling back inside.

In a panic, I filled the can with dish washing liquid, ran another minute’s worth of tap water through, shook it violently, and reached in with a paper towel, but everything was still stuck in a sticky, silky, messy web – even the spider. And, I didn’t have the room or the co-ordination to maneuver the paper towel effectively while being grossed out. So, I put the can in the backyard, ceding the territory to the spider, and decided to buy a new watering can.

Actually, I was determined to buy a used watering can to avoid contributing to the proliferation of cheap stuff in the world. I was tempted by many elegant and whimsical designs on eBay, but they were all potential spider houses and I couldn’t pull the trigger. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by this whole ordeal. One of the first songs I learned as a child was “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” but I never understood its real-world implications. Also, the song is not accurate. Water does not wash a spider out.

Then, while shopping for toilet paper at Target, I found the perfect watering can. Its wide open top probably uses less plastic (pat on the back) than most, and its rare anti-spider function will make it a family heirloom. I’d have to neglect it for months before a spider would dare take up residence inside. This less than six dollar can is so exclusive it’s not even listed on Target’s website but you can find it elsewhere by searching for “Arrow Stackable Watering Can.” By the way, this stackable can was made in the U.S.A. of Polypropylene (Plastic #5).

Spider House and Waterinc Can

P.S. The new watering can is very difficult to pour without water gushing out everywhere. Still worth it.

For Jeremy’s Place Kids

Jeremy Sage in an old Calvin Klein commercial with Brooke Shields.
Thank you Davie Kaufmann for showing me this a few years ago.

For those of you not familiar with Jeremy’s Place, it was the premiere children’s birthday party venue on the Upper East Side when I was little. Jeremy’s Place was run and hosted by Jeremy Sage who played Jesus in Godspell in 1977, and Thomas Garbutt who, during the party, acted as Jeremy’s sidekick, Chief.  Located in a brownstone on East 81st Street (which is now a consignment store) you entered through a gift shop where the birthday kid’s parents picked out the contents of the party favor bags.  My favorite was the glow-in-the-dark spiderweb with suction cups.

Me on stage with Jeremy.

Upon entering the main room, the first thing you saw was a large vitrine holding a complex train set which was running and making noises.  From my childhood memory- Continue reading “For Jeremy’s Place Kids”

Saturday Night Sober (a true short story)

An account of a night in 2009.

An account of a night in 2009.

It’s 3am. I just got home. On the way in through the kitchen, out of habit I loped toward the cabinet above the sink to take my nightly cup of water to my room when I remembered I was completely sober and I could stand up straight and calmly reach for the cup of my choice.

My evening started at 6pm at a gallery in the West Village where I watched an artist demonstrate unusual ways to conduct electricity in order to light a lamp. He successfully turned a hot dog into a battery. I wasn’t that impressed because as a child I had had a potato clock from the Klutz catalog. But he was humble in his presentation and earnest in his dedication. He said he had researched many different brands of hot dog and found Nathan’s to be the best. Continue reading “Saturday Night Sober (a true short story)”

Pen Pall: Alienated by a famous pen company’s anti-Semitic namesake

Visiting Barcelona, I walk into Vinçon, a cutting edge design shop. I peruse glass cases of gadgets, gifts and housewares. “Well, this is awkward,” I think to myself as I come upon a display of art supplies featuring a box of Caran D’Ache color pencils. “Here I am, a Jewish customer, and they want to sell me a product whose brand is named in honor of- whose logo is, in fact, an adaptation of the actual signature of one of the most vilely anti-Semitic illustrators in recent history.

It’s a lot of drama for a nice set of pencils and no one else in the store seems aware.

I first learned that the name Caran D’Ache was related to something other than art supplies in 2006 when I visited the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris. They were showing “Alfred Dreyfus: The Fight for Justice,” an exhibition telling the story of the “The Dreyfus Affair,” 19th Century France’s biggest scandal, through artifacts, correspondence and the press.

A very brief summary of The Dreyfus Affair:

Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish captain in the French army, and in 1894 he was accused of sending French military secrets to the Germans and subsequently convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. Soon after his conviction, evidence emerged that the real traitor was a French army officer, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. Esterhazy was tried and acquitted. Dreyfus was tried twice more and convicted twice more. Forgeries and suppression of evidence were involved in Dreyfus’s convictions. Eventually, all claims of Dreyfus’s guilt were disproved and in 1906 Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated into the military.


Continue reading “Pen Pall: Alienated by a famous pen company’s anti-Semitic namesake”

My New Obsession with Novelty Costume Jewelry

I’ve recently gone down an ebay rabbit hole, fascinated by three costume jewelry brands: Jonette Jewelry, American Jewelry & Chain and Danecraft. I started collecting a few JJ (Jonette Jewelry) pieces and am impressed with the quality of these mass produced castings. I am also baffled by the variety of whimsical and literal subject matter. An outsider studying 20th century American culture through costume jewelry would be convinced that we were obsessed with cats chasing mice and fish. I guess current internet culture does demonstrate our obsession with cats. I now work as a designer and model maker for a big jewelry company in California and I also wonder at the number of models and molds each of these companies created just dedicated to one particular theme.

The following pins depicting a cat and  fishbowl were ALL MADE BY ONE COMPANY, Jonette Jewelry. I imagine every few years they felt they had to revamp this popular theme or give the consumer options within this theme.  Each of these pins was available in different finishes and you can see the last one even has added color, definitely elevating the production cost. (I’m not even going to get started on the variety of cat and mouse jewelry because it’s too vast!)


Next we have designs from two companies, Danecraft and Jonette Jewelry. I like to imagine a JJ design meeting: “Those jerks at Danecraft have a cool cat couple in a car?? We’ll show them!”

It’s not just cats. Cows are thoroughly represented, as are nurses, real estate brokers, wizards, pretty much every aspect of human, animal and fantasy life. There are Continue reading “My New Obsession with Novelty Costume Jewelry”

8 Heads, Count ’em! (Never before seen photos of back side of UES sculpture)

Today, after 30 years on the Upper East Side, I settled into my new home in Los Angeles. I will continue to write from here but for my farewell to the UES I am going to reveal some never before seen faces…

The building I grew up in, 4 East 88th Street, has been referred to as NYC’s “finest example of Neo-Federalist architecture” by the  Carnegie Hill Neighbors Architectural Guide.  Designed by Electus D. Litchfield and erected in 1922, the building features a “broken pediment” whose void, just atop the awning, is filled by a carved stone “potpourri” of heads.

No one seems to know for sure who these heads represent. It has been suggested that they are American patriots or that one is Electus Litchfield, the architect himself. I have only read or heard the head count at four to five, and only four are easily visible from the street. But, lucky for me, the sculpture sits in one our windows, and during some recent construction I was able to lean out safely over some scaffolding (setting off an alarm in the process) and photograph the heads as best I could.

There are 8 heads. They go all the way around as if the sculpture was meant to sit on a table or in a garden with all sides visible – not up against a wall.  Unfortunately, their condition has deteriorated over the years and you can see some repairs are also deteriorating. I have looked through all of the Litchfield papers at Columbia University’s Avery Library to find out where he acquired the sculpture, but unfortunately the records for this building are not part of the collection. Perhaps this is a task for Christopher Gray.

Anyway, without further ado, I present to you all eight heads.

1. The Topper…
Continue reading “8 Heads, Count ’em! (Never before seen photos of back side of UES sculpture)”