Since the mid 1880s, Easter in New York City brings out the most extravagant costumes and personalities, celebrating the Annual Easter Parade. Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th streets is closed to traffic, allowing participants and spectators to take the streets to strut their Easter best.
Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window – no, I don’t feel how small I am – but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.
― Ayn Rand
A bold orange sun breaks through the early morning cracks as the first planes since Hurricane Sandy begin to ease in and out of the city. The Queensboro hums again. I watch from my window as commuters walk, bike and ride (three to a vehicle for now) into Manhattan. The usual hubbub of people running to catch the subway or tram rushes past my building. I catch glimpses of small talk and kisses goodbye. All of these noises, nuances, that touch most of my days without so much as a passing glance, grab my attention. I lean back, listen to the familiar sounds and feel a sense of normalcy wash over me. It feels good.
My heart goes out to all of those who lost during this hurricane. Whether it was the loss of power, irreplaceable photos or cars and homes, I understand. Things will return to normal, although it may be a new kind of normal. Life will go on. Time will refuse to stand still. Those around you—family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers—will help. Let them. Events like this bring with them a renewed sense of community, and it’s priceless.
I’m no stranger to hurricanes or tragedy. I survived Hurricane Hugo in ’89 while living in Myrtle Beach—driving into the night because of a last minute emergency evacuation, dodging falling trees and debris. In Orlando, a succession of hurricanes with unassuming names like Charley and Frances devoured Florida. We had major leaks but no real damage, and I considered myself lucky. In Atlanta, a house fire destroyed everything. And finally a major robbery in North Carolina stole my spirit for a long time as I lost childhood memories, electronics, and everything in between. It’s hard to lose like that . . . It’s hard to lose.
But remember to pay attention to the things we gain. Just yesterday, our building provided a breakfast in the lobby for all the residents and the staff, a staff that worked tirelessly for 3 days without ever leaving the building. It was a welcomed bright way to start the day and a gesture that makes our place a home rather than just another apartment building. Our local shops, like Starbucks, Riverwalk Bar & Grill, Fuji, and Duane Reade opened early to make sure residents could stock up on supplies and grab a meal. We heard stories of staff figuring out creative ways to make it in to help. And we talked to neighbors who had lost power but not their sense of humor and gratitude.
Later in the evening, tiny trick-or-treaters sputtered down the hallways, laughing and celebrating. Outside neighbors leisurely walked their dogs while dots of vibrant yellow scattered the streets as cabs resumed their major role in New York City civilization.
Yes, this morning planes are back in the air, many of the subways back on track and businesses gently reopen their doors. The sun is shining, albeit through a few clouds. The city is noisy once again. And if we look close enough we all witness New York shaking off the hurricane residue, resilient as ever. And all at once you just know, things will be okay.
Standing along the East River, surrounded by a large group of twenty-somethings dressed in the latest lululemon athletic wear, I hold my head high. Decked out in my old Target jogging pants with the faded out crotch and an unraveling waistband—the same tired pants my husband and daughter christened the “uniform pants,” I try to ignore the startling contrast in age, fashion, and physique.
Five minutes in, the trainer introduces himself as G5, asks us to sign in, and then directs us to line up in rows. Before I have a chance to find a comfortable spot, G5 reaches for the whistle dangling from his toned neck in what seems like slow motion and, suddenly, a shrilling sound echoes in my ears. I sprint up the hill desperately trying to stay in front of someone, anyone, so that I will not be last. But last is where I finish each time.
Read the post in its entirety at New York Family Magazine.
Guest Blogger Amy Richmond
Ever since my parents took me on a plane to Disneyland when I was in the first grade–in the days when air travel was restricted primarily to businessmen in suits–I’ve been hooked. Our family took two big trips a year: one by air in the winter and a road trip in the summer. Once I got to high school (and French class), I couldn’t wait to see more.
I spent a month in Switzerland and France when I was 17. That’s when I discovered that I could branch out from the peanut butter sandwiches that were my meal staple–and that Mme. Sczarka hadn’t taught me as much as I thought she had. I couldn’t communicate past “Bonjour” and “Il fait beau.” If the sun wasn’t shining, I was in trouble. But that summer, I learned a lot about life–a good girl could get drunk and survive, an American in Brittany was a very popular entity, and communication isn’t always about words. In fact, it generally isn’t.
When I boarded the plane in Paris to go home, I had one goal. To go back.
Many, many times.
Then my international travel slowed with a career and then a gig as a stay at home mom. I packed the suitcase for my daughter and me to cross the border out of the States a few times, but it wasn’t enough. I missed my fix.
By the time my daughter was 7 or 8, my only New Year’s resolution was to leave the country at least once a year. And ever since then, I’ve fulfilled the goal quite well.
Last month work took me to Birmingham, England. We stayed at the famed Belfry and I was never more grateful for my job than when I walked the beautiful grounds. Contrary to my previous experiences in Britain, the food was delicious. What happened to turn the tide? The staff was solicitous and the people friendly. The work event was a success and then came some pure fun—A few days of girl time with a dear friend.
Kate and I hadn’t spent any concentrated time together since my daughter was 3. Her 4 children were young at the time so even though we were together for a week–and it was wonderful–I don’t know how much one on one time we actually got with 5 kids swarming about.
Kate has long lived in France–and I can take some credit for that. My broken leg from a skiing incident in the Swiss Alps maneuvered a meeting with her husband of almost 30 years. That first meeting–between 2 people whose communication was mostly nonverbal–took place on the night train from Geneva to Paris.
We were well familiar with train travel. Kate and I’d been traveling with Eurail pass in hand for almost 2 months. We hit somewhere between 10-15 countries, using the train as a frequent hotel. We made new friends, picked up additional vocabulary, and formed a life-long bond. Repeatedly sharing a miniscule sleeping compartment will do that to you.
Back on the train for a day trip in England brought back a flood of memories–and made some new. Once again we had an unlimited travel pass and we took advantage. Our first stop was Henley-in-Arden, a quaint town in Warwickshire. We had a lovely lunch in a cozy restaurant before venturing down the one main street to take it all in. We sped through the Heritage Centre after being told we’d want to be there for hours (it was tiny!), checked out the two main churches and tested out the goods at the famous ice cream shop.
And then we hopped back on the train to continue onto Stratford upon Avon. The countryside is lush and lovely. We saw cows, sheep, and lambs. My iPhone didn’t do the scenery justice, but the images are printed indelibly in my mind.
I’d been to Stratford before. We couldn’t see much this visit. By the time we arrived, most everything was shut down for the night, a surprise to this New Yorker, and even for Kate, because it wasn’t late–5 pm–but we took our cue and went back to Birmingham.
The next day we explored the city and as we navigated the streets by foot, we shared stories–current and past. We caught up on the details even though our friendship had never lagged behind. Our chance meeting with the American expat at the Town Hall nudged some talk about meeting husbands, and the long-time effects of that; the visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery led to a discussion about our current television viewing habits. A boat ride in the canals reminded us of our shared time in Italy. The topics wove in and out, just as our feet did the same on the cobbled streets. The one constant? A friendship we can trust. One that we appreciate.
It made me realize that these days, the best travel moments include connecting with loved friends. The location is just a bonus. But who doesn’t love a good bonus?
Amy lives in NYC–the perfect city for someone who wants to feel like they’re on vacation when they’re at home. You can follow Amy’s travels and adventures on her blog Stop Whining About Your Life. Change It.
To be honest, I don’t remember where or how I discovered The Holstee Manifesto. What I do remember is the way it opened my eyes, awakening me from a mid-life slumber. A simple declaration scattered with life altering statements: Do what you love. Travel Often. Share your passion. Stop overanalyzing. Life is short.
Crafted on the steps of Union Square, brothers Mike and Dave Radparvar along with friend Fabian Pfortmüller wrote their definition of success. The three partners express it wasn’t a business plan, more so a life plan, but it’s metamorphosed into all of those things and more. Its organic success mirrors the principles that makeup Holstee’s environment and community. It’s obvious the moment you step through their doors. From employee bike credits to staff prepared healthy lunches, Holstee practices what it preaches—Lifestyle design with a conscience. I sat down with co-founder Mike Radparvar at the Holstee office in Dumbo, and we chatted about all things Holstee, the message, the growth, and the future.
Life of Riley: Shared more than 500,000 times, and viewed online 60 million times, and counting, The Holstee Manifesto resonates with so many. Why do you think people connect with it?
Mike Radparvar: We were really surprised to see how well it resonated. When we wrote the Manifesto it was for ourselves. We said let’s write down something that can be a definition of a successful life. Let’s write our own definition. There are so many different ways that everyone is telling you what you need to be successful or you’re not successful until you have this.
We thought, we’re starting a new company and a kind of lifestyle and a framework to play in. And so we needed our own definition of success. So we sat down in Union Square, and we all decided to write down different elements that were important to us. The things that came out of that mini brainstorm were reminders that we’re not financially driven: Be open to new ideas, travel, share what’s important, always being open about what your passionate about and pursuing that.
We recently had quit our jobs, and I think that because it came from a deep place inside of us, it was very human emotions we were thinking about. It was not specific to a certain organization or a demographic. This was just like in life, what things are important. And those things hold true no matter where you come from in life, no matter what language you speak, no matter what age you are.
Riley: Was The Manifesto’s success unexpected?
Radparvar: If anyone would have told us when we wrote it what would happen, we could never have guessed it. It’s taken on a life of its own. We’ve been totally blown away by that.
Riley: That was 2009. Do the founders still live by those original words?
Radparvar: That is something we’re trying to make a point of every day. It is the basis of how we are building our company. It’s the basis of what we’re doing, the products we’re designing, and it’s the common thread between our products and the lifestyle they encourage.
Riley: Explain more about that idea of products encouraging a lifestyle.
Radparvar: If you were to look at our shop, there are no specific product categories on our site. It looks like a mash up of a lot of different products—we have a water bottle, a bag, a belt, a tee shirt, a poster. After someone relates to those products a little more you begin to see the thread of not so much what those products are but the type of lifestyle they encourage.
Anytime you buy anything you’re voting with your dollar and you’re sending a signal to someone somewhere all the way up the supply chain saying do more. I totally approve of this, and this is how I’m showing it. That is a very powerful way to drive change—people understanding what is the impact of how they’re spending money.
Riley: Holstee has been experiencing amazing growth. As you bring new people on board, can you tell readers how you select the ideal employee?
Radparvar: Every new hire is a big deal to us. We take it very seriously. It’s like bringing someone into your family. We want to build something long term with our employees. Every single person on the team can change the dynamic. We look for someone who is not afraid to do anything. Open-minded. Interested in creating positive impact through good design.
Riley: Speaking of family. I noticed your mom’s comment on a recent blog post, which I thought was pretty cool. Has your family been supportive in this venture?
Radparvar: At first our parents were a little cautious of our quitting our jobs.
The recession was getting worse. The company I worked for was laying off people. My mom was really happy I didn’t get laid off and the next week I was telling her I was planning on going in and quitting. But I think we flew under the radar because my sister was getting married in a couple of weeks. So all the attention was on her.
There was a little bit of ‘are you sure this is a good idea?’ We just explained how this was important to us. We had been setting aside money. And we told her this is what we’re going to do now for the next few months. When you really think about it and say what’s the worst thing that can happen to me in the next 2 to 3 months, all of a sudden you’re free to take some risks. When you’re in a position to take a calculated risk like that, a smart risk, you almost have a responsibility to do so.
Now our parents are our biggest supporters. Anytime we post anything on Facebook our mom’s the first one to like it. Her Facebook profile has been the Manifesto for the past two years.
Riley: Your site is uniquely diverse. Do you keep that in mind when you create or promote products? Or does it organically happen?
Radparvar: It kind of organically happens, now that there are so many great companies with a kick ass purpose.
Riley: I know from our last interview that you’ve been working on the product story. What exactly does that mean? And how will it impact the end user?
Radparvar: Looking forward we want to do something that helps build the story of the products you buy. The yarn came from this place and the button came from this place . . . Building a platform.
A lot of the products we have probably traveled more than most people have traveled in their lives. And they come from more places and have been touched by more hands. There’s such an incredible story of how they got to where they are. If we really knew the story, from raw material to its current state we’d have more respect for that plastic bottle.
Riley: What can we expect in the near future for Holstee?
Radparvar: We’re looking into milling our own paper. We are letter pressing a lot of posters and cards. We’re cautious about the types of paper we’re using. We’ve built a very strong relationship with those we’re sourcing them from. If we do our own milling, then the options really open up—Paper made from tee shirt scraps, jeans. People could send in their jeans, or we could work with a large company that makes jeans and take their dead stock.
Riley: Okay, I’m just gonna ask: How does it feel to be so cool?
Radparvar: It’s kind of surreal. So many people know the Manifesto.
People come over to our place for dinner, and we have the manifesto in a frame when you first walk in. And they say, oh the Manifesto, you’ve got that too.
And we say actually wrote it. And they’re amazed. If we’d ever tried to create something with the intention of it going crazy it never would have. It’s because we wrote it for ourselves, and it came from a very real place—people connect with it. You have to just do it and do what feels right.
An authentic piece of Portugal shines right in the middle of Midtown Manhattan near the corner of East 52nd and 3rd Avenue. After spending a decade in the trendy West Village, Alfama, named for the oldest district of Lisbon, has relocated and settled comfortably into Midtown East, recreating a unique dining experience, which offers the best of both worlds—modern flair surrounding treasured tradition.
Accompanied by a passionate, dedicated staff, owners and partners Tarcísio Costa and Miguel Jerónimo provide hands-on management with attention to detail, every little detail. From weekend brunch, featuring freshly baked breads and pastries, to weekday express lunch that includes a delicious sandwich—tuna on house-made focaccia with roasted bell peppers, onions and parsley with a piquillo aioli, steak sandwich with Monterey jack caramelized onions and bell peppers, or the pulled pork sandwich—a soup of the day and a choice of green salad or homemade Portuguese potato chips (to die for chips that should come with an extremely addicting warning), Alfama strategically juggles a variety of culinary hats.
I discovered Alfama during the holidays and admit I’ve become quite a fan. Sampling much of the menu and visiting during different times of the day and night, including Wednesdays for Fado night, I’ve tried to capture the overall vibe of the place. And I am confident enough to share with you the sum of its allure . . . duality. Fine dining that feels comfortable. Menu options that juxtapose the exotic with the basic. A mixed crowd of East meets West, old friends meet new. A relaxed atmosphere dripping with verve. Recently I met with Costa, who gave me a tour of the restaurant as we discussed the key ingredients to Alfama’s success.
Life of Riley: The restaurant décor is as unique and wonderful as the food. Can you give us a little background on all of it?
Tarcísio Costa: Our design and décor, although modern, are totally Portuguese. The glass mural with a world map in the main dining room is not just a decorative map but a map of the Treaty of Tordesilhas dating from 1494, when Portugal split the world in half with Spain. The oil paintings are by Isabel Pavão, a contemporary Portuguese artist who’s based in New York, but has her work hanging in prestigious galleries in Oporto, Lisbon and Paris, France.
LOR: Do you find it challenging being one of the few Portuguese restaurants in the city?
Costa: It is a blessing and a curse to be us! I say that because there aren’t that many Portuguese restaurants in the city, so people who are not familiar with Portuguese cuisine don’t really have a point of reference as to what our cuisine is all about. This presents an opportunity to win them over and to hopefully have them fall in love with Portuguese food and wine.
The challenge is if they come in with pre-conceived notions of what the food should be instead of accepting what it is. The best example is when we explain salt cod to people. Many times they assume it will be salty, because the word salt is in the name. Or they assume it is like fresh fish. Well, it is not! Salt cod is a hearty, meaty fish that can sometimes smell quite strong—it may have a pungent smell, but that is just the nature of the fish. It is a cured fish and there is nothing wrong with it. Traditionally, the Portuguese enjoy their salt cod with a medium to full-bodied red wine.
LOR: Explain the Flavor of Portugal.
Costa: Alfama offers a unique insight into the world of Portuguese flavors, starting with the olive oil – Esporão, from the Alentejo in Southern Portugal. Not only is it the olive oil the chefs use in the kitchen, but we also serve it at the table to accompany the bread we serve, which is baked on premise. We have our own bakery and once again, some of the breads we serve are traditional Portuguese breads such as Broa, a dense corn/wheat peasant bread, pão de bico, which is the equivalent of a baguette, and our own focaccia with shallots and mushrooms.
As for the food, salt cod, being a staple of the Portuguese table, is always present on our menu, as well as grilled octopus, and our Mariscada Alfama, a rich seafood stew made of lobster, mussels, clams, shrimp, monkfish and baby potatoes in a lobster wine broth. Also, when they are in season (May through October) we have our sardines flown in from Lisbon twice a week. They are grilled, served whole over roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions and olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt. Another typical dish we serve is our Frango no Churrasco, a Portuguese-style barbecued Piri-Piri half chicken served with our homemade potato chips and salad. Piri-Piri is an African-based chili that provides a lovely amount of heat, but it is not too spicy, so it does not “kill” one’s palate. Speaking of spice, one misconception I’d like to clear is that a lot of people assume Portuguese food to be spicy. Well, it is not! Typical condiments used in Portuguese cooking are garlic, onions, cilantro (very commonly used in salads and in fish stews, especially in the Alentejo region), coarse salt, bay leaf, thyme and, of course, the delicious olive oil.
LOR: Any other unique ways that Alfama stands out?
Costa: Our wine list, comprised of about 99% of Portuguese wines, sets us apart. There are only three non-Portuguese white wines on the list.
LOR: Speaking of wine lists, New Yorkers love their Happy Hour. What can we expect at the Alfama bar?
Costa: Happy Hour is a thing of familiarity. Besides good drink and food, it’s about feeling the vibe of a place, feeling comfortable there, recognizing familiar faces . . . it’s like ‘Linus’ blanket’ for after work. At Alfama we offer Sagres, Portuguese beer on draft and wines at half-price (beer for $3 and wines for $5), plus complimentary in-house cured olives and our crunchy potato chips sprinkled with fresh garlic and parsley. The chef also sends out a few amuse-bouche for guests to try from time to time.
LOR: Normally I prefer wine to cocktails, but I love your Portuguese Margarita. What’s the inspiration for creating these signature cocktails?
Costa: My signature cocktails, most inspired by Portuguese history or current events, are infused as much as possible with Portuguese liqueurs, wines and spirits. Also, the names of the cocktails are for the most part in Portuguese or related to Portugal. For example, Bairro Alto is the name of a bohemian neighborhood in Lisbon; and based on that I created a “Portuguese Margarita.” Oh well, we all know there is no such a thing, as the Margarita is a tequila-based cocktail and it’s typically Mexican. But being that Bairro Alto is an area where one goes out with friends to go barhopping and there are clubs and cafés where people gather until the wee hours of the night, I thought it’d be an appropriate name. What makes our margarita Portuguese is the use of a blackberry liqueur from the islands of the Azores. I recently created a cocktail with Ruby Port, which is something VERY Portuguese, as Port can only be considered Port if it comes from Portugal, from the Douro Valley, the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. I decided to call it “Port of Call,” a play on words, but the ingredients highlight two very Portuguese flavors: Amarguinha, a traditional Almond liqueur from the Algarve, the Portuguese Riviera, where there are lots of marinas with private yachts and sail boats, Ruby Port, fresh lemon, vanilla-flavored vodka and an orange peel. It’s a refreshing cocktail, which I hope will provide the palate a seaside escape.
LOR: You definitely see the behind-the-scene collaboration at Alfama. Tell us about the team.
Costa: We are like a small family at Alfama and as such we each have our responsibilities and hold each other accountable. We all want success for one another. During daily staff meetings, we talk about specials, new cocktails and/or wines, menu changes, service – what’s good, what’s not, what needs to be improved and how we are going to go about it.
Denise Costa is the manager and in charge of these meetings. Miguel Jerónimo, my partner, is the overall operations manager. I am in charge of the wines, spirits, our cocktail program, and I try to be on Twitter and Facebook as much as I can to promote Alfama.
Francisco Rosa, our executive chef, and Carlos Arriaga, our chef de cuisine, are both Portuguese and as such, they “drive the culinary bus” in terms of controlling the food costs, menu development, seasonality of ingredients and training their kitchen on traditional Portuguese cooking.
–The Grilled octopus with smashed potatoes, garlic, onions, sautéed broccoli rabe and olive oil. It’s always tender, savory,and grilled to perfection.
–Portuguese style barbecued Piri-Piri half chicken served with Portuguese potato chips and salad. The best barbecued chicken I’ve ever had–a huge portion that’s juicy and sweet complemented nicely by the fresh, crispy salad and those amazing chips.
–A traditional sweet cream mousse layered with a crumble of “Maria” cookies served with lemon curd and Madeira-poached prunes. The combination of such interesting flavors of sweet and tart from the prunes and curd literally make your mouth water. A beautiful dessert.
Families at Little Sisters of the Assumption (LSA) in East Harlem received a special act of kindness this past Friday when Baby Buggy, KIND, and actress and mom Tiffani Thiessen delivered diapers and other essentials. A Baby Buggy partner since 2004, LSA has been providing family health services for more than fifty years.
“What we love about LSA is their focus on the holistic health of the family,” says Baby Buggy Executive Director, Katherine Snider. Working diligently with a network of community-based organizations, Baby Buggy distributes new and gently used essentials, providing for families throughout the United States. Founded in 2001 by Jessica Seinfeld, the nonprofit has donated more than 5.4 million items to families in need. Partnering with KIND became an important way to incorporate the Baby Buggy motto: Love. Recycled. This initiative was a simple reminder to do a kind thing and give back.
As part of the KINDMovement, thousands of New Yorkers accepted Tiffani’s challenge to do the KIND thing in support of Baby Buggy. “The website response, people wanting to do kind things, was overwhelming,” says Thiessen. “It’s nice to know that maybe the world is moving in a better direction and people really are wanting to be a little kinder in our communities.”
Each month KIND challenges and encourages people to do random acts of kindness. If enough people participate, KIND offers its own act with a little help from friends, partners like Baby Buggy.
“They have this initiative once a month, and we thought for Baby Buggy the most perfect fit was doing a KIND thing for a parent in need, because that was the genesis of Baby Buggy,” says Snider. As a nonprofit, Baby Buggy is extremely careful about choosing organizations to partner with, and they immediately saw KIND’s messaging as spot on. And when they needed a spokesperson, or more precisely, a spokesmom, Tiffani, mom to two-year-old Harper and longtime friend of Baby Buggy, proved to be the perfect fit. “I know how hard it is to raise a kid and how expensive it is to raise a kid,” Thiessen says. “When you’re a mom, your perspective definitely changes. I’ve known about Baby Buggy for quite some time. So it was exciting to know when I was a mom that I could actually bring something to the table, and it’s been really nice to work with them. “
stirs the Spring,
joy grows like a plant,
abysses close up,
song is born.
Oh, thou, jug of wine, in the desert
with the delightful woman I love,
said the old poet.
Let the pitcher of wine
add its kiss to the kiss of love.
—Ode To Wine, Pablo Neruda
Wine, a word associated with love, travel, passion, and celebration is, as Neruda laments, “the earthly splendor of life,” and I couldn’t agree more. Not to suggest that I’m an aficionada or anything so glamorous, but my husband and I enjoy trying unique wines from all over the world, providing us both with a metaphorical journey to beautiful places like Turkey, Italy, Africa, and Hungary. So it made sense to go behind the scenes and learn more about Blue Streak Wines & Spirits, the company delivering, for free, beautiful wines to my front door the past year.
Blue Streak’s inception proves just as romantic as the wine itself. Before the store was even a gleam in his eye, owner Stephen Spiller and his wife traveled to Majorca while vacationing in Spain. The trip turned life changing, after the couple sampled extraordinary wines. “We tasted these Catalonian family wines, and my wife turned to me and said why can’t we drink these wines in New York?” Stephen remembers. “She said, you’re not working; why don’t you open a wine store?”
It was true. Two years after relocating from LA to New York City in the name of love, but then that’s a story for another day, Stephen had been unable to find a job as an attorney. He thought, why not? Upon their return to New York, all the pieces fell into place. Spending hours walking up and down the streets in developing Long Island City, Stephen contemplated opening a store next to the subway, easy access for commuters on their way home, or in the areas where people actually lived.
“When I came down to the river, which I thought was fabulous, and saw this high-rise and this store area, which was an empty shell, I thought maybe the idea of having a store near where people lived would be a better idea. “ Stephen says. “I contacted the owners and they had no plans for the store at the time so I made my pitch.”
Although the builders used the space for storing tools and equipment, Stephen envisioned his ideal wine store. “I wanted it to be a comfortable atmosphere not intimidating.” In the end, he produced an award-winning design with that exact aesthetic that customers notice and appreciate.
“It’s very typical of certain places in Long Island City that really go the extra mile,” says Michael Brennan, a faithful Blue Streak customer. “We always come to this wine store because they care about which bottles they sell here.” And Michael’s wife, Marina, looks forward to the special offerings, like weekly wine tastings and the wine club.
Stephen credits the Blue Streak team as the anchor for cementing the store’s place as a Long Island City staple—the Cheers of wine stores. “I’m learning from them actually, and it’s fantastic.” Stephen says. “We’re lucky, blessed.” Just as all of the other parts of Blue Streak came together rather seamlessly, so did the staff element. “Those two guys are phenomenal,” says Stephen. “I can’t be without them now. Don’t let them know,” he admits with a hearty laugh.
Those two guys are James Lee and Rob Bralow. The first Blue Streak employee, James has been the “backbone” of deliveries and stocking. With a Sociology degree, James continues his education with a recent certification in Wine & Spirits Education. Blue Streak’s serious wine geek, Viticulture and Vinification Certified, Rob, worked in Public Relations and education before joining the team. “It’s not just about selling; it’s about teaching and introducing new things to people, expanding the knowledge level of the average person.” Rob says. “It’s those education moments that make my day.”
Blue Streak Wines & Spirits makes a point to give back to its beloved community by participating in special events like Taste of LIC, hosted by The Chocolate Factory as well as unique charity events at the store. “It’s a great way for us to really be in the community, “Rob says,” and find different ways to help out and be a part of where we are.”
From a young age, Jerry Castaldo fell in and out of bad behavior, trying relentlessly to break away from the violence and bad influences in his life. In Brooklyn NY: A Grim Retrospective, Castaldo proves that our situations do not define us. Raw and honest, Castaldo’s story doesn’t hold back. Scattered with celebrity and influential New Yorker encounters, readers applaud Castaldo’s gutsy and relentless journey to entertainer success and to a healthier lifestyle. I caught up with Jerry recently, asking questions about the book, his troubled past, and his thoughts on success, giving back, and of course New York.
Riley: Do you feel as if you’ve lived a hundred lives?
Jerry Castaldo: First off, thanks for having me talk about my book. Actually, I feel that I’ve lived three distinct lives, with the third one being where I am right now. I was a good kid, and then went the wrong way due to intense, violent peer pressure while growing up in NYC, and now I’m back to who I was at the beginning.
Riley: How does the New York you grew up in differ with today’s New York?
Castaldo: I really don’t think New York has changed much, except of course for the difference in a variety of ethnic groups living in what used to be neighborhoods with only one or two specific ethnic groups. For instance, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn was predominately Italian during the ‘70s and now there’s been an influx of Russian, Chinese and other different nationalities populating that particular neighborhood.
Riley: One of the best things you say in Brooklyn NY:A Grim Retrospective is in the opening: “I so desperately want people to see how a good person is basically good, regardless of where he or she may falter and go astray; and sometimes–but not always–that person can get back to the beginning. You feel like you’re back at the beginning in your life today. Explain that idea a little more.
Castaldo: Thank you for saying that. Again, to reference what I said earlier, yes, I am back to whom I was before I changed into that other person. Back then, it was not by choice, but to protect myself. I morphed into your standard Brooklyn “tough guy,” although it was all an act. I started to commit terrible crimes and became heavily involved in drinking and hard drugs. When I wanted to stop and go back to the old me, I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to and I wallowed in misery and horror for about fifteen years. I’ve been called a “cat with 9 or more lives” in many of the (Five-Star) reviews of my book on Amazon, because of the many near death experiences that I suffered. The “Death by Subway” chapter is probably the most disturbing chapter in the book, or so people tell me.
Riley: How has recognizing addiction changed your life?
Castaldo: Back then, I’d always recognized addiction as a negative thing in my life as well as other people’s lives, but that never propelled me into action, to get clean or anything. I just lived that life until I couldn’t’ take it anymore. Then I started to investigate what groups were out there that could help me kick. I never imagined that all these years later, my tormented existence would translate into a Top Rated book. It just blows my mind to see it number one on Amazon in five or more different categories, including Self-Help. This is just amazing to me, to see it number one in self-help. I never would have imagined this.
Riley: You sought out help and found a better way of living. Have you been able to pay it forward?
Castaldo: After years of trying to get sober and out of that lifestyle, always trying to do it on my own (which never worked), I reluctantly entered rehab multiple times. I then finally followed up the last time with intense group therapy, every single day, sometimes twice a day, for over a year. I now find myself often writing letters to people in jail at the urging of their relatives who have read my book. I take the time and make the effort because I do want to help others.
Riley: Without a doubt, you are a survivor. What advice can you give to others who struggle, whether with current economic times, job loss, etc.?
Castaldo: I’ve been sober now for twenty-one years, and have made a decent living as an entertainer, but I have seen a decrease in the amount of available cash that organizations have to spend on entertainment during the last 3 years of our economic downturn. As disappointing as this is to me and to all of us, I just need to stop and remember that I’m not addicted to drugs and alcohol anymore, my health is good and I have the ability to work and earn money in the future. So how could I feel sorry for myself? I do know, understand and sympathize with others who may be going through an even worse time economically, and I try in any way I can to help. A national Women’s organization wanted to book my show, even though they had more limited funds than last year, and I decided to take a pay cut because I didn’t want to turn them down. I’ve been doing this more and more over the last two years, but again, I want to help and I live and love to work.
Riley: What do you love most about entertaining?
Castaldo: I guess it’s just built into me. From a very early age I always loved creating something from an idea and then executing it in front of an audience. The reward was, and is, that I feel like I’m actually doing something to bring people out of their own world and into mine for a few minutes. And as much as a cliché as this may be, I want them to forget about their own life and problems for a while.
Riley: What projects are you busy working on now?
Castaldo: Ha, ha. I’m laughing because I just don’t stop moving. I continue to log hundreds of one hour shows per year, mostly in the northeast and some in Florida, but I’ve also been putting together acting scenes and monologues for a new acting reel that a New York City agent has asked me to compile. He read my book and wants to represent me now. I’ve just posted an acting scene from the classic Broadway stage play/film, “The Owl and the Pussycat” on You Tube and also on my Facebook page. Back in the ‘80s I’d done some acting and had garnered some decent reviews, so I’m happy to be doing it again.
Riley: I think your story could be a wakeup call for teens. Have you considered reading your book at events for troubled teens?
Castaldo: Yes, I’ve been asked to speak for many teen groups, and if I am not working and I can do it, I’m always there. When I was younger, my mom and aunt tried to have me committed to a rehab/psych ward in New York City and I resisted. Just last year, that same rehab center did a mass buy of my book, 50 copies, and made it required reading for their patients, right there alongside AA’s The Big Book. I’m told by workers that they’ll walk down the hallway of a wing and see patients sitting on the floor reading my book. That’s very rewarding to me.
Riley: All New Yorkers have their own version of their “New York.” What’s Jerry Castaldo’s New York?
Castaldo: My New York? I don’t hate New York or my old neighborhood in Brooklyn because of the terrible time that I experienced there. Everything that happened to me was brought on by my own bad choices and later by my physical and emotional addictions to drugs and alcohol. I never put Brooklyn down in my book. I do point out the negative influence I experienced in that particular “mob-run” neighborhood back then. If I had a choice, yes, I would have preferred to grow up out in the country someplace, but that doesn’t guarantee a perfect existence either. New York is a great place. Although I now live in the hills of western New Jersey and go into Manhattan only for auditions, meetings and entertainment. It’s a shame that back in the ‘70s they had a saying, “New York is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Uh oh, wait a minute, didn’t I just say that myself? Oops.
Jerry Castaldo has been performing for audiences ever since he started a band at age 12 while growing up in New York City. While playing guitar and singing in different groups, Jerry learned to incorporate bits of comedy into his act during his late teens. This helped him secure numerous assignments as a Master of Ceremonies in and around Manhattan.
From there, and through his 20’s, Jerry went on to successfully host and perform at countless affairs for social, civic and fraternal organizations, as well as hosting The International Beauty Show at The Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC. He was also the Master of Ceremonies and main performer for a national promotional tour for Revlon Inc.
During the weekends, especially spring and summer, Roosevelt Island’s Fire Fighters Field, Octagon Field and Pony Field come to life courtesy of the Zoggers. Like a rare breed of exotic bird descending the fields in their colorful sneakers and occasional old-school knee-high socks, Zoggers congregate, strategize and ultimately play ball—be it kickball, dodgeball, football, or baseball. Styling team colored tee shirts with cool names like Catchers in the Rye and Purple Reign, the Zoggers, whether on the field or in the local Bar & Grill afterwards, make their presence known. They’re loud, really loud—laughing, talking, and cheering . . . nonstop. And it makes you feel good just being around it, little snippets of laughter sneaking in through open windows or tapping you on the shoulder while walking by on a sunny day. You begin to look for your favorite player or the most engaging team, high-fivers, and talk about the games later, as if you were a part of it all. I had to know more about this phenomenon. I asked around, did a little research, and discovered a wonderful back story as motivational as the Zoggers themselves.
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, ZogSports remains true to its original mission. “When I conceived ZogSports post 9/11 everyone was asking what they could do to give back,” says founder and CEO Robert Herzog. “I predicted that the whole kumbaya feeling wouldn’t last so I decided to integrate charity and social good into something people wanted to do anyway – play team sports, hang with their friends and meet new people. It worked. Getting teams to think about what charity they will play for and raising awareness is much more important than the $1.4MM we’ve donated. We strive to encourage social good and feel great about what we’ve accomplished so far.” Here’s a copy of Herzog’s letter to the ZogSports family on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th which tells his moving story.
ZogSports offers an impressive sports sampling with 4 different competition levels, creating an appealing and diverse community for everyone from the ex-college athlete to the New York artist. “Zoggers are fun, social New Yorkers,” explains Ali Chanin, Director of Marketing at ZogSports. “Most people that play in our leagues are young professionals in their 20s and 30s.”
And Zog takes care of everything. They find appropriate fields and provide the refs and the equipment, allowing teams to concentrate on the game at hand. Each team selects a charity of choice to play for and ZogSports donates a percentage of league profits to the winning teams’ charities each season. The final piece to the ZogSports puzzle is the social element. “We get the party started,” Ali declares. All of the leagues have organized happy hours after every game. Participants are able to not only hang out with their own team but have the opportunity to mingle with the other team as well—Zog’s version of the end of game handshake.
“Everyone loves Zog,” says Sophie Gorson.” I love the energy, the people, and playing a team sport. Sophie missed playing team sports and heard about Zog from a friend already in a league. Her experience allowed her the opportunity to get in a much-needed workout while becoming a part of a fun community. Favorite Zog sport? “I am particularly fond of dodgeball . . . great way to get some stress out after a long day at the office.”
Jonathan Sosis needed a workout that didn’t include the same old boring gym routine. “I absolutely hate the gym so it made me feel better about having the diet of a nine-year-old.” His sports include football and kickball. The sense of community also drew Jonathan to Zog as he wanted to expand his circle of friends. “Everyone just relies on one another to show up and play each game,” explains Jonathan, “and then win or lose, we go off to the bars to just hang out and have fun.”
Because ZogSports is co-ed, the organization has seen its share of romances too. Zog believes that co-ed teams make the leagues more social. “While everyone likes to win, having co-ed leagues takes some of the emphasis off winning vs. losing and promotes people to play for the fun of the game,” says Ali, acknowledging that it also increases happy hour attendance. “I’ve overheard quite a few guys and girls encouraging their teams/opponents to go to happy hour because they wanted to meet someone they found attractive on the other team.” You might say that they’re the Love Connection of New York sports. Over 50 married couples have found love while playing on a ZogSports team.
With locations in New Jersey, DC, Hartford, Atlanta, and soon Minneapolis, ZogSports is spreading the love. If you’re pumped and ready to join a team or sitting on the sidelines but interested in learning more about this inspiring organization, you can visit their website at www.ZogSports.com. Be sure to connect with them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for updates, cool photos, videos, and all things Zog.
The year was 1979, and the album, Gold Rush 79, a 2 LP set courtesy of the beloved compilation king K-tel, featuring an eclectic smorgasbord of hits from Peaches and Herb to Dr. Hook. Shaking my groove thing while knocking on wood, I became one with those albums, literally treating them like gold, perfecting record player needle moves, careful not to leave a single scratch. One song in particular stood out among others, and I played it nonstop like teens tend to do when music speaks to them—”Heart of Glass” by Blondie.
Lead singer Debbie Harry provided an edgy punk rock style I’d never witnessed before, and I couldn’t get enough . . . I owned all of her records, watched appearances on Bandstand, and simulated dance moves in homage to those hits—my generation’s anthems. With a mixed attitude of strength and indifference, Harry inspired girls everywhere to own it. She was the 80s teen’s version of Lady Gaga. And as I experimented with parachute pants, punk hair, eyeliner, cropped tops, baggy jeans, and leg warmers, Blondie did the same, creating music with forceful lyrics, romantic tensions, and funky pops of hip hop and rap, including a Brooklyn shout-out to Fab 5 Freddy, introducing us all to a whole new world of music.
Today Debbie Harry remains relevant. Featured in French Vogue, Interviewed by Lady Gaga in Harper’s Bazaar, and working on the Occupy This Album collaboration with other celebrated artists, Harry doesn’t miss a beat capturing the spotlight. A sixty-something female icon, who looks every bit of 45, Harry still pushes fashion to the limit, inspiring new generations of women, as well as reminding her original groupies, like me, to embrace age and womanhood with confidence, determination, and a little bit of kick-ass attitude.
She continues performing and creating new music with Blondie’s latest album, Panic of Girls, released in September 2011. ”Wipe off My Sweat” and “Love Doesn’t Frighten Me” speak to me and have become new favorites. As I listen to Panic I can’t help but notice how Harry reinvents herself, a musical chameleon—mastered by a select few artists—holding true to her original voice, not shying away from experimenting with new sounds, but avoiding that all too familiar plea from retro artists to gain new followers or speak to a new generation . . . Harry is simply making great music with longtime friends and keeping it real, Blondie style. And I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Harry joins another longtime friend and artist, Roy Nathanson, and his students, The Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) High School Band, on stage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square on Thursday, February 2nd. Led by a teacher who is a celebrated saxophonist, a founding member of the Jazz Passengers, an actor, and poet, ICE strives each year to maintain their incredible and one of a kind music program. Thursday night’s event benefits ICE and its extracurricular programs. Your ticket purchase is a tax-deductible contribution. For ticket information, visit the ICE PTA blog. You can connect with Debbie Harry and Blondie on Facebook and Twitter.
Designer John Lyle looks right at home in his 3500 square foot Design Studio, a chic Long Island City loft overlooking the iconic Manhattan skyline. This is the home of John Lyle Design, his expansive furniture collection, and of INOX New York, his exciting new line created in stainless steel. During an inspiring career spanning more than 25 years, Lyle has created furniture, accessories and unique interior designs. Featured often in such top design magazines as Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Veranda, New York Spaces, and Traditional Home, Lyle continues to influence the pulse of what’s trending. Recently showcased in the Donghia NYC flagship showroom, INOX New York dares to be the city’s next big thing.
Transplanting from Jackson, Mississippi to Manhattan in 1980 he’s as much New York as Central Park and brunch. At one with the city with his remarkable duality, he’s a true Southern New Yorker. His work aesthetic reflects this multi-dimensional flavor and sophistication. His design is rooted in the balance and form of Classicism with a creative, unique, and simply undeniably fresh twist. For our late morning interview, he arrives on his Vespa, dressed in a t-shirt, dark jeans, and all sports toe shoes—he’s just left the gym, and one instantly notices his youthful vitality. We ride up the elevator, making small talk, and I can tell he’s a little nervous, a surprising yet charming thought considering his vast knowledge and expertise. But I understand, because we are friends. And it is one of the things I love most about him. This humble designer rarely ventures to steal the spotlight away from his work, his passion. During those rare moments, over brunch or dinner, or walking the streets of Manhattan, we chat about his chance encounters with writers Truman Capote and Eudora Welty or his endearing Lady Bird Johnson story, Lyle’s southern drawl taking center stage, and for a brief instant, I see the young man who “naively” created his very own “New York, New York.”
I roam around the loft, taking a few pictures of the stunning Console Tables, Andirons, and Floor Lamps made in materials such as shagreen, ebony, bronze and parchment. After he sets the stage—always the quintessential host—with champagne served in crystal flutes and Chet Baker humming in the background, we settle down at the Dagmar Desk, sculpted from bronze and white French limestone, one of my favorite pieces, and begin talking about his colorful journey into design.
Riley: How did you make your way from Mississippi to New York?
John Lyle: I never grew up thinking ooh I’m gonna live there someday—I only knew the city from books, movies and television shows. One day in the late 70’s to Mississippi came the International Ballet Competition, of all things they hold it in Jackson. The thing to do for those few days was go to the ballet so of course I went, and I was introduced to a couple of the featured dancers who were my age, and I said, “I’ll take you around town and take you to dinner so you won’t be bored.”
Kimberly Graves, William Starrett, and I went to a few dinners together. Some time passed, then one day Kimberly called from New York and said, “I’m going on tour this summer. Do you want to take care of my cats and my apartment?” With no hesitation, I answered, “Yes!” Once I was here for a couple of weeks, I thought, I better find another apartment or sublet, because I’m not finished with this place yet. I am still here.
Riley: Did you fall in love with New York immediately?
Lyle: I did. I think the thing I found most alluring was I couldn’t take it all in at one time. It kept me occupied visually and intellectually. I remember someone just said something to me like “you belong in New York.” And I as naïvely, thought, I do? I do! . . .
Riley: One of the interesting things about you is the fact that you’re still very southern in many ways, holding onto that romantic identity. And yet you are very New York. How do you do it? How do you hold onto and embrace a little of both extreme cultures?
Lyle: Well, my family and my roots—I love being in the South, maybe not the heat. And I love my family. They will always draw me back. I love the food, the music, the writers, and the mannerly culture of the south. The Blues was born 20 miles from my house. I love the blues and jazz.
You know that silly song, “New York, New York?” I remember I was singing it on the plane on the way here—“If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere, It’s up to you, bla, blab la..”—all excited, 21 years old; and somehow I am still here. At first I just made it along, job to job, fleeing or being fired from every last one of them. I made it clear to myself what I should not be doing as a job.
Riley: What kind of jobs? You didn’t fall right into design when you first arrived?
Lyle: Nooo. I was in a bar and a guy asked if I wanted to work there as a bar back. I asked, “What’s that?” I worked there for a short time. Place closed at 4 and you’re still cleaning up at 5am. And I said this just isn’t for me. I quit that one.
So I got a job next at a place called Lady Continental Shoes on 69th and Madison at the bottom of the old Westbury Hotel. The highlight there was meeting Lady Bird Johnson. One day, I wasn’t supposed to answer the telephone, but I did. I answered, “Lady Continental Shoes.” A purring French accent responded. “Hellooooo, this is Pauline Trigere, I have Mrs. Johnson here and I’m wondering if you have any size 7 AAA.” There could only be one Mrs. Johnson. Without looking, I said, “Yes of course we do. Well send her over; she can ask for me, John Lyle.” I went rummaging downstairs in all those shoes and found 3 pairs that were 7 AAA, and they were all 5 inch heels, metallic snake skin cha-cha shoes. She came in with the secret service, sat down, and I put the shoe on her foot. She stood up and looked at herself in the mirror. She said, “These are really attractive but I know my smile would fall in half an hour if I had to wear them. You’ve been very kind though.”
From there I did Telephone sales to lawyers, while working at a publishing company. Then I worked at Phil Porter and Cindy Hughes’s startup fashion design company. After the business started struggling, I heard that Tracy Mills was looking for someone in sales. Got the job. Not into it. They fired me. Then I went through the telephone Yellow Pages under Interior Designer and started calling interior designers. By the time I got to G, for Bob Gans, I landed an interview and then the job as an assistant. That lasted until I left a client’s door unlocked, and then I was let go. Cried a little that time. I was getting close to something that really interested me.
I went to the D&D Building and was told Barrett Hill was hiring. They hired me for a secretarial job. It was like hiring Lucy. I couldn’t even type. One day the manager/owner Michael Kennedy came in and I said, “Good morning.” And he said, “Not for you, you’re getting fired today.” This time I laughed. And then he said, “One day you’re going to thank me for this. You’re meant for bigger things and need to move on.”
I worked as a Fashion Photographer’s rep—did well at that for quite a few years. Then I said those fateful words to one of the photographers, “my heart’s just not in this anymore”. And suddenly I wasn’t a photographer’s rep anymore. I started painting, very abstract. I had a couple of little gallery shows; I didn’t sell much.
I met Mark Umbach at the gym and we struck up a conversation about Art and Classicism, a shared interest. We became friends and discussed how we’d like to make furniture that would be appropriate to use with antiques and antiquity. We made it happen and cast a pair of bronze lamps, based on an ancient oil-burning lamp, and sold them at a friend’s antique shop. Then we thought, now what? Shortly after, I walked into the New York showroom, Luten Clarey Stern, with a lamp in my hand—very earnest, twenty-six years old. The owner’s wife, Ellen Hanson said, “Sure we’ll take you on.” That would never happen again. All of a sudden I was in LCS, the best showroom in the country. Our products were really well made and sold really well. I still have dear friends whom I met there over 25 years ago.
The collection grew from one to many table lamps, floor lamps, and torchiere. First working in bronze then steel I expanded to tables, chairs, benches, fireplace items, etc.… I love working with talented artisans. One is my old friend Michael Stromar who transformed sisal rugs into hand painted masterpieces. Our first big commission was the giant red hand painted “Aubusson”, featured in Architectural Digest, for Francine Coffey. We also made a huge one for Ralph Lauren and they were collected and sold well for about ten years. Michael can’t crawl around like that anymore and I never met anyone else who could work his magic.
LCS went out of business and I sought other representation.
In’ 88, ’89, I Linked up in Chicago with Holly Hunt. As she opened new showrooms across the country I grew with her. Same as David Sutherland—he was in Dallas then he opened in Los Angeles. It kept growing like that. I started doing interior design too.
A friend asked me to redesign his apartment, combining 3 big apartments in The Century Building, Central Park West. I agreed with one caveat: he didn’t get to tell me what to do—he had to allow me creative freedom. The finished apartment was published 4 times. That felt very good for a first project. That was Marlon Young, and he was great to support my creativity like that.
Riley: Intimidated by those big projects?
Lyle: I was excited by it.
Every time I come into a design job, when I first get it, it’s almost like having a term paper assignment. What am I going to write about? What’s it going to be like? And there’s that moment of stress until you find a direction. And then everything springs off that direction. Whether it is a color, a fabric, a shape or an art collection. Comfort. Comfort always drives my design; add wit, and a sense of humor. Things that are too static and too serious lose their spontaneity, and the rigidity is reflected in the way people live in the space. Because your whole life can be affected by what’s around you, obviously. That’s why I think interior design is relevant.
We become enriched by our surroundings wherever they are. If I can bring people’s sensibilities up or to a comfortable place or inspire them with a certain feeling when they walk into their home, then I feel like I’ve done a good job.
Riley: Are your showrooms across the world?
Lyle: Only in the U.S. so far. I’m looking forward to being international.
Right now I’m in the following showrooms:
Holly Hunt: New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and DC
David Sutherland: Dallas, Houston, LA, and Miami
Johanna Spilman: San Francisco
Jennifer West: Seattle
Furn & Co: Boston
Riley: I had the pleasure of attending Donghia’s NYC flagship showroom event with you this past September. Let’s talk about how INOX New York came to be a part of it all.
Lyle: I do love to create and saw an opportunity to start a new line made from one material, stainless Steel. I remember thinking, Donghia doesn’t have any stainless steel furniture, yet it would be a perfect addition. They’re very modern and luxurious. I started a conversation with a sales person and asked how to get in. She sent me to the Manager, who sent me to the Creative Director—and it took off from there.
Donghia has one of the most beautiful showrooms in the country. They’ve really raised the bar as to what a showroom should be.
Riley: Best design advice?
Lyle: Many years ago I asked Holly Hunt, the impresario of design, “What shall I do; what direction shall I take?” And she said “Do what you do best. Bronze. Keep designing your fireplace equipment.” I went from having 4 styles of andirons to having 50, as well as fire screens, fire grates and fire tools; I listened and followed Holly’s suggestion, and it is a big success.
Riley: What’s your designing vibe?
Lyle: I don’t have to have anything special around me or any music in particular to design, it just happens. I am a compulsive sketcher. I could be designing every waking hour but I can’t make everything I think of; I have to be really disciplined.
Riley: Do you have a certain person in mind when you design?
Lyle: No, I really don’t. I design with materials in mind and the possibilities of the materials. I love finding new materials.
Riley: Family is very important to you. Have you found a sense of family in New York?
Lyle: Absolutely. I’m a very loyal friend and it takes me a little while to be friends and warm up but once I do, I’m steadfast.
Riley: What is your Favorite piece in this showroom?
Lyle: I love the Klismos Chair. It’s one of the earliest things I did, but I keep reincarnating it in new materials. The Klismos is an ancient shape and I tweaked it to be modern.
Riley: If someone works with John Lyle, what can they expect?
Lyle: To be Surprised and delighted.
“Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”~ Excerpt from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A year ago today I left my mom’s house in South Carolina after a sleepover and a quick nostalgic breakfast of homemade Oatmeal and started on the long drive to New York with my faithful sidekicks, a teenager and her 5 lb. Chihuahua. The SUV was packed with all of the things that didn’t fit in the moving van from blankets to flat screen TVs. A spontaneous move for the most part, one I didn’t have time to truly prepare for in the end. And maybe that was for the best—maybe it was the only way.
People ask if I miss Florida. I do. I miss the palm trees and the sandhill cranes. I miss friends. I miss wide open spaces. A big house. A backyard. Driving. The beach. Okay, and the Chick-fil-A drive-thru.
New York is a different world. In many ways you allow it to push you along like a current, working hard to stay above water, but understanding and respecting the immensity of it all. I order groceries online. I walk the dog and see the Chrysler Building. I have new friends. I eat brunch. I hail cabs. I ride a tram. I see celebrities. And act like I don’t. (Okay, except that one time.) I walk fast, really fast. I tolerate tourists. I wear scarves. I own more than one sweater. I subscribe to New York Magazine. I watch the city from my roof.
That first night we arrived, it started to snow. I hadn’t seen snow in years, and it stunned me. As I stared out of my bedroom window, I watched the fluffy white flakes dance in the light of the Queensboro Bridge and cried. This was my New York, the beauty and mystery that Fitzgerald wrote about in Gatsby, and I had no idea how or where I would fit in.
Little by little I understood; that’s what New York does. It puts you in your place the moment you step onto the sidewalk, slaps you with a dose of reality. It dictates life in many ways, pushing you, prodding you. Until one day you just get it. Some days you push back and some you go with the flow. And then you start to realize you’re becoming a New Yorker with every step. And it’s a proud moment.
I still stare out of my window at the mighty Queensboro every day—I smile, I gaze, I contemplate, I wish for a little snow. But I don’t cry.
The new Batman movie: The Dark Knight Rises filming on the Queensboro Bridge this weekend. The upper level of the bridge closed Saturday, and it didn’t take long before the hovering black helicopter with the huge camera mounted on front captured the attention of Roosevelt Islanders.
In my building, we had a small gathering on the rooftop terrace for several hours as we watched scenes unfold, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Batmobile. Although the Batmobile never made an appearance, we watched a Caped Crusader (assuming stunt double here) climb to the very top of the bridge. And for more than thirty minutes we didn’t move, mesmerized by the dark cape flapping in the cool November wind.
7am this morning they were back at it. I hear that they’re wrapping it up around 8pm tonight. So as the sun starts to set and a yellow glow turns into the backdrop of the bridge, we’ll head up to the roof once again. Maybe we’ll see Ann Hathaway, Bale or even the Batmobile. I assure you if I do, I’ll update this post with a cool pic that captures the moment. If not, well, it was fun to be so close to the action and witness a little movie magic right here at home.
In my ongoing quest to find places around the city that feel like home, here’s a shoutout to the cool folks at The Carriage House, a great little Irish Pub, only a hop, skip, and jump away from the tram.
A place where everybody knows your name.
It’s what you want in a bar. What you deserve.
Look for the Irish flag flapping in the Midtown breeze, a neon green shamrock, and you’ve made it to The Carriage House, an unassuming neighborhood pub since 1992, complete with Shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and oh yeah, plenty of ice cold stout.
Drop in once or twice more and the third time’s guaranteed a charm—a slight kiss on the cheek from the Irish bartender, a healthy handshake with the bouncer, and your favorite beverage Norm style.
Now you’re ready to settle in for the night. Whether you grab a spot at the bar or congregate at a table by the window, you’ll feel right at home.
And because this is your place, there’s no need to share, kick off your shoes (metaphorically, of course) and curl up in front of one of the eight flat screen TVs. Then name your poison—Rangers, Yankees, Jets. Need a little more action, challenge your mates in a friendly game of darts or pool, winner buys a round of Jameson shots.
Don’t forget late night Happy Hour Monday to Wednesday, nobody’s kickin’ you out until 4am. Why? Because you’re like family here. And they’re always glad you came.
My friends at New York Family Magazine will be hosting a New Parents Expo this Saturday and Sunday at Pier 92. Let’s just say this expo has it all, and so much so it even makes me reconsider having another child . . . well, almost. I’m dealing with the teenage years now—there’s no going back for me. But that’s a story for another day.
Introducing innovative new products and services, this exciting event caters to New York City expectant and new parents. A line up of celebrated speakers includes America’s #1 pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, creator of The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block DVDs and books, Liz Lange, Designer of Liz Lange for Target and Co-founder of Shopafrolic.com, Dr. Bob Sears, Co-Author of The Baby Book and The Portable Pediatrician: Everything You Need to Know About Your Child’s Health!, Rosie Pope, Founder of Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep classes, and Star of Bravo TV’s Pregnant in Heels and many others. You can view the speaker list in its entirety here.
From Stonyfield to Brooklyn Baby World, the list of exhibitors is endless. Shop for the latest baby fashions or maternity couture. Test drive a brand new stroller. Or bring your old stroller in for a tune up. Enjoy everything under the big top including face painters and balloon makers at the Big Apple Circus. Then kick off your shoes and relax awhile at the lounge.
Dads won’t feel left out here either—this expo caters to the entire family. And thanks to the guys at the NYC Dads Group, there’s also a special dads lounge where new and expectant dads can find support and information specific to their needs. Father will know best after spending a few hours hanging with this special community.
The team at New York Family Magazine works with an amazing group of organizations located throughout the city. With sponsors like Totsy and Baby Buggy, this family affair will most certainly be a weekend to remember.
The New Parents Expo will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16, from 10 AM to 6 PM, at Pier 92 in New York City. Tickets are $25 per person, or $40 per couple. There are a limited number of VIP tickets for $50 per person; $80 per couple.
The Roosevelt Island Blog asked me to write a post about September 11th, including interviews with residents. Here’s an excerpt. To read the post in its entirety, visit Roosevelt Islander.
As the anniversary of 9/11 crept over the world this week, New Yorkers prepared themselves, contemplating how they’d honor the memory of that day and its victims, prompting instant reminders of where they stood a decade ago—at that hour, that moment. I remember—12 hours away in a dusty conference room filled with colleagues, watching in silence.
Over the past few months, as my family and I have settled into life here on the island, I’ve listened to pieces of personal stories from those who witnessed it all first hand and those left behind. A scene I’ve never been able to erase from my own memory, dazed New Yorkers walking along the bridges, trying to find their way back home, now seems to have been a premonition. These were people I would one day see again, people I would laugh with, families I would bond with over St. Patrick’s Day parties, roof top surprise birthday celebrations, and nights outside our local grill—my neighbors, my friends.
New Yorkers’ notorious reputation for being tough holds true, but what fails to be mentioned more often than not is the compassion and loyalty woven into those steely exteriors. Who knew that ten years ago as I watched in silence from miles away that today I’d stand side by side with them, listening to their stories, and together remembering a bitter September morning.