April 30, 2012

Dinner at Reynards

Construction's been afoot at the corner of North 11th + Wythe in Williamsburg for the last year or so, and when the big, metal H-O-T-E-L letters went up the brick front a few weeks back, there was a mix of cheers and groans at the idea of a new hotel coming to the neighborhood.

Jacob and I had a chance to visit the hotel when it was still in its most raw stages of debris and construction last January, and what impressed me, aside from the beautiful exposed brick and wood beams still intact in the former textile factory building, was the staff's intention to bring a lot of cultural programming to the hotels communal spaces, and to hopefully make it a place where the neighborhood gathers, not an invasion of suits from Wall Street. There's a big beautiful events space on the first floor, a restaurant and bar (with the same owners as Diner and Marlowe & Sons), and a screening room one floor down from ground level.

The Wythe Hotel officially opens tomorrow, and last week, we had a chance to preview the food and drink at Reynard's, the street-level restaurant. The dining room, which is elongated and fairly narrow, is lit through the big restored glass factory windows with street-lamp-like chandeliers dimly glowing above. The fonts used on the menu harken a woodsman, and foxes are abound in all kind of identity work. The menu leans towards "whole animal" and "woodfired,"; the arctic char and duck we tried were both stellar, if pretty straightforward. The menu will change monthly, though if you're there at some point soon, try the roasted squid, sausage and cauliflower appetizer. It's killer. The caramel and pine nut tart also makes the A+ dessert list purely for the crust alone. The wine list is better than the cocktail list; and of course -- it's all still a work in progress.

I look forward to seeing how the hotel uses their space -- as a gathering spot, home for food and drink, and so much more. This weekend (May 4th - 6th), they'll be hosting the first-ever Food Book Fair, a series of lectures, talks, signings and workshops with chefs, food writers/bloggers and activists, who spend their time thinking about what and how we eat. Sounds great.

p.s. Get nosey and check out the book selection in the lobby area. Jacob found this very old edition of Robinson Crusoe which once belonged to a Samuel Pruett (who wrote his name on almost every page of the book). Score!

April 27, 2012

Mexico City, Part II

On our second morning in Mexico City, we headed to the Bazar de Sabado, a big Saturday arts + crafts market in the San Angel neighborhood that spans a large central park and many neighboring blocks. The streets are full of men and women selling sweet and savory tamales, hot chocolate drinks, tacos, huaraches and fresh juice. We did as we do, and ate, and walked amongst the endless walls of flowers overflowing from the walls.

As we tour with Girl Walk, we've also be shooting the dancers in the new cities we get to explore; the reactions of passerby elsewhere are always notably different than in New York -- i.e. they stop and watch. This was especially true on our first day of shooting down in Mexico City, where we headed to a small barrio called "America," escorted by our new friends Clora + Eric and driver Horatio. After 15 or twenty minutes of dancing in the streets, shopkeepers had emerged from their stores, people from their homes, and children were lining the street. One man, with his wife and four young children in the car, insisted that John (in the mask, above), dance on the hood of his tri-color car (red, white and blue), which looked moments from falling apart. He got out of the car with one of his daughters, called to his friends to watch, and took utter glee in the idea that an American guy in a Dia de las Muertos mask was dancing on his car.

Moments like this are overwhelming proof that the streets are an endless source of unpredictability and serendipity. And, that whatever hesitation or discomfort one feels in causing a scene or being part of a scene (I feel nervous all the time) is also an enormous opportunity to create joy for others and a memorable afternoon for one's self. I experience this when Im taking photographs too, and communicating what you're up to and why you're making something something usually elicits a lot more positivity than one might initially think. And often gets you a good photo or video.

April 26, 2012

Mexico City, Part 1

Jacob and I made a last minute trip down to Mexico City last Friday to speak and screen Girl Walk at a conference called Telmex HUB, a weekend long series of talks and workshops about digital culture, at the largest university in Latin America, UNAM. Most of the activities took place in the "cultural" wing of the school/s enormous campus, where there's the country's newest modern art museum (MUAC), a dance center and theater are located -- and where they had a large, networked tent sent up for keynote speakers.

I was largely unaware at just how massive Mexico City is -- at 21 million residents in the metropolitan area -- it dwarfs New York. The city is sprawling and surrounded by mountains, and when you talk to residents there, it's common and expected that there are large swaths of the city they've never been to. Driving is unruly, urban expansion is constant, and everywhere you look, new freeways and highways are going up. This means that two neighborhoods that are "close" together might be a 45 minute or hour long drive, which is entirely different orientation to getting to know a city.

It can be overwhelming, but fortunately, our invitation came with the promise of great hospitality, and we were not let down. We were greeted straight out of customs by Ignacio + Clora, young entrepreneurs down in Mexico City, who have started a small agency (Pase Usted) and also work with organizations big and small to bring digital campaigns, events (and more) to life. They're also experts on the great food scene in Mexico City, so our five days were largely spent eating and drinking like total kings (and queens). For our first lunch, we went to a Peruvian Mexican spot, Osaka, with a terrace surrounded by Jacaranda trees that pulsed with the lack of indoor/outdoor space barriers that I often feel in LA. We feasted on a dozen types of ceviche, grilled duck, sweet potato tempura, oysters and squid with tomatillo sauce, and innumerable other dishes from the sea.

For dinner on our first night, (after discovering an unbelievable view + sunset from our hotel room), we went to my favorite restaurant of the trip, a small and spare-but-homey bistrot called Maximo. It reminded me of Northern Spy in New York -- seasonal, farm-fresh dishes, free-flowing shared bottles of wine poured into low Italian-style tumblers. Fresh dorado and salmon, braised chicken, a beautiful steak, a pulled pork ragu, warm bread with roasted eggplant dip, fresh steamed mussels full of garlic and lemon. We shared all, family style -- my favorite -- and followed our dinner indulgences with a dessert of fresh figs with mint and blueberry compote, chocolate mousse walnut cake, meringue with berries, ginger creme brulee, berry panna cotta, and more.

We went to bed very full + very happy.

April 25, 2012

Catching up

I'm back in Brooklyn with tons of photos from the last few weeks. But, also, unpacking, still moving out of my old apartment, shooting 7 of the next 12 days and have some friends visiting from out of town. So, slow going with sporadic bursts of pictures coming atcha.

This is the moment from the weekend of moving and packing where we said: "This is not so bad. Let's take a break and get a beer." And we went to one of our favorite spots in Greenpoint, Diamond Bar, with the shuffleboard inside and the ivy-covered backyard, and had a few beers. And breathed in fresh air. And ate Australian vegetable hand pies.

We sat there, happy, full of beer and in total and utter denial.

Even the cat was content.

But then we got home and realized the apartment still looked like this! And then we did not sleep the rest of the night.


P.S. Did you see this list of 101 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories selected by Conor Friedersdorf? It's good reading for weeks. (via Kottke)

April 22, 2012

Greetings from Mexico City

Greetings from Mexico City. This place is dense, colorful, bustling, under perpetual construction, sprawling, diverse, hilly, at altitude, sunny-and-warm, full of parks and street tacos and fresh squeeze juice, highrises and lowrises and 60s style mega-mansions and churches of all ilks. We've got a screening + keynote + workshop as part of the digital conference Telmex Hub in the next 36 hours, but so much of our time is spent getting to eat truly glorious meals, and try mezcal after mezcal with our uber hostesses, Jemina, Clora, Eric and Ignacio. More soon, when I have a constant internet connection and get photos off the camera. 

April 19, 2012

Found While Moving

We're 90% moved; all that remains in our old apartment is three plants, a few pieces of furniture we're giving away to friends, my wedding dress hanging in the closet and 800 lbs of soil in a planter box outside on the balcony that we'll spend a day shoveling out with a 6 pack of beers. Also, a lot of dust and cat hair.

I'm sore as hell, my hands are dry with cardboard cuts all over them and I'm suffering from what I'm calling "schadenapartamento" -- some kind of deep longing to be back in the home we had. But, I'm coming around to the new place as the dust settles, and the moving out process is also cathartic in a thousand ways. It makes you think about the significance and weight of the objects you've accumulated, so many of them good ideas at some moment in time, but now lost in piles of papers or deep inside boxes that haven't been opened in years.  It feels good to shed, or in our case, donate -- bags upon bags of stuff to our neighbor's perpetual stoop sale or the sidewalk -- and see it disappear to someone else, who sees some possibility in the significance of an object to them at this new moment in time.

Because I stop to evaluate everything, it took me forever to pack (with Jacob constantly throwing a worried glance my way -- are you stopping to look at photos again?). I'd come across relics -- hundreds of rolls of 35mm and 120mm film, an old Polaroid of me DJ'ing on the LES in 2004, a large format Polaroid of Jacob the first week we were dating, our friend Scott's CD Moonbeams still in its case, a postcard of the Swiss Alps, and so on -- which, whether 2 or 4 or 7 or 12 years old, made me so acutely aware of the passing of time, and how so much of the significance of objects is created by the feeling of novelty and familiarity that comes with being reacquainted something you haven't seen for long enough that it feels new and discoverable again.

We continue to unpack, but also charge forward. Friday morning (30 hours from now!) we head to Mexico City for 5 days to do a Girl Walk screening at UNAM (the largest university in Latin America) this Sunday, 4/22 at 1 p.m. (free + open to the public) at the school's contemporary art museum (MUAC).  Aside from the 77 minutes that Girl Walk is playing, I have no idea what adventures we'll take, and make. Only thing for sure: I'll have a camera. More, soon.

April 12, 2012

What I saw: 2004

While packing the other day I found three rolls of film stashed in a desk drawer that I'd never gotten developed. For a photographer, this is the ultimate Easter egg: what did I see X number of years ago that I found photo worthy? What memories are locked in this roll?

Oddly enough, each roll was from a different time period. The images here, from the first roll, are from ~2004. I think most of these photos were taken walking around the East Village. At the time, probably for the better, I remember being a lot more bold in asking strangers if I could take their portraits. If anyone recognizes the guy in the second photo down I'd love to know who he is. I think it's inside either an antique or thrift store downtown. In the 4th photo, you can just barely see that the guy I'd photographed is showing me a photo on his camera that he took of me.

Coming across old film always gives me a kick in the butt to put down the 5D and pick up the Nikon or the Yashica or the Contax. Resolutions, resolutions...

Nota Bene:
+ Jon Schaefer of Soundcheck talks to David Byrne and James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) about the evolving role of the digital artist.
+ Incredible photos of the Nenets of Siberia, whose livelihood depends on the reindeer. They use the photos for clothes, food, transportation and much more, as they migrate across the tundra each year. Photos by Joanna Eede.
+ Heartwarming story of a 9 year old's "cardboard arcade" and the short film a young filmmaker made about him.
+ And last but not least: the world's best cat video: Henri, the cat with ennui

Shari's Seder

I grew up not-quite-celebrating-Easter and Jacob grew up not-quite-celebrating-Passover so between the two of us, we join in on holiday tables where we're invited, mostly excited to participate in someone else's new tradition each year. This year we went to Shari's loft for seder; she's lived there for 25+ years, so has collections of art and object that span decades. Her friends, too, span decades, and most of the guests were new faces, ranging in age from 3 to 75.

I'm always surprised by the variability of a holiday celebration -- and have been to seders that were 3 hours, and those, like this one, that was more like 45. In the end, so much of it is about food, sharing the table, meeting new friends. And here, again (after Jacob led the room in song, reaching back to his a capella roots), we all poured wine, and talked late into the night.

April 11, 2012

Shape Shop

Forgive the horrible iPhone (3GS) photos , but I popped by the opening party Shape Shop at Creatures of Comfort last night and it's worth stopping in for all the great textures they've created within the store. They incorporate plants, mirrors and raw materials (MDF, plywood, brick, etc) into their displays so that every area feels like an investigation of a magical new corner of that enviable friend's home.

205 Mulberry Street, New York, NY and the Shape Shop is open through May 6th.

April 10, 2012

Closet cleaning sale!

I'm cleaning out my closet and donating lots of clothes to the Salvation Army, but thought there were a few good-condition items someone out there might want. If you're interested in any of the items below, email me at hi@youngnapark.com ASAP! Shipping to the US only and no returns. All payment through paypal and shipping will be calculated in addition to the prices listed below based on location. Thanks in advance! 

Etienne Aigner Vintage Riding Boots -- size 6.5/7 -- $60 (or best offer): Bought these, but they were a little tight on me -- I'm really a size 7. They're fairly slim in the foot so beware if you have wide feet. They've been sitting in my closet for a year, hence the dust, but are in great condition. 

Green Hunter Rain Boots, Size 7 (these ones), $70 OBO: I'm just too short to wear these, but they're in near perfect condition (think I wore them 3 times total?). Will ship without the original box.

Vintage Etienne Aigner heels, Size 7, $20 OBO: lovely reddish leather pumps with a 1" heel. What can I say -- I don't really wear heels.

Steven Alan linen spring dress (Size Petite Small -- fits like a size 2ish), $45 OBO: Very cute pale yellow striped linen/cotton blend dress. Never worn! (As it turns out yellow is not really my color). 

Rachel Comey Silk floral dress, Size Small: $150 OBO: I love this dress but it doesn't fit me quite right. Great ruffly shoulder and asymmetric collar. And it has POCKETS. (Dresses with pockets = A+!) 

 Marc Jacobs Bathing Suit with Baubles, Size Small, $30: Super cute for someone who goes to the beach more than me (i.e. everyone!). I find the bauble/beats a little oversized so you could always cut them off and tie little knots at the end. but, great little suit + never worn.

Vintage Silk Top, Size "8" but feels like a Small, $18 OBO: Love this top, but also not my color. There  are a few tiny stains on the front side but are not very visible.

Classic Abel Reversible Rain Jacket, Women's Small/Medium, $40 OBO: This is a bit big on me but in great condition. The lining has little whales. I'm pretty sure I had the same version of this jacket when I was 5, so I'm glad I've been able to keep rocking it until age 29.

Thanks again for looking. Email me at hi@youngnapark.com if you're interested in anything!