Laissez-Faire | In Love & Free Trade


P.S. 1 for the pool

Leandro Erlich

The P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City is one of my favorite places. As a former school building, the architecture invokes childhood nostalgia at once dreamy and institutionally spooky – a prime backdrop for a museum or as a friend would, say, “projecting.”

Currently, “Jonathan Horowitz: And/Or”, a higher profile exhibition, features “subversive” pop cultural references mingled with politics, consumerism and celebrity. Including a quote from Jane Fonda about not being a “dime a dozen” blonde bombshell, but rather a citizen with a cause. Otherwise, she’d be “dead like Monroe.”

However, if you’re strapped for time, visit the swimming pool by Leandro Erlich, an extensive installation of a transparent pool and deck ceiling, where visitors can hang out below the transparency in a luminous bungalow “under” the water that makes one feel cradled in an unnaturally dry, non-buoyant – but morale boosting – environment.

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Suitcase cabinetry (for liquor, vanity and other vices)
February 24, 2009, 11:15 am
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VanityCase

Vintage suitcases serve a better purpose than harboring moldy clothing and Grandpa’s Yankee card collection. For starters, add light bulbs and an accordion mirror to make a vanity or straps and shelving for a liquor cabinet. Floating along the wall, the suitcase looks like something out of a Dali painting, but in the real world, is mounted using French cleats.

The suitcase cabinets are designed by VanityCase, recently founded by curator and carpenter, Jean Barberis. Barberis scavenges the boroughs (mostly Queens) for vintage suitcases. Each item is one-of-a-kind, can be custom made, and is an exquisite storage solution for stylish urbanites and eccentrics.



Animalania @ Fuse Gallery
February 24, 2009, 12:46 am
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Robin Schwartz

Photo: Robin Schwartz

Lovers of art and living creatures collaborated to deliver, Animalania, an exhibition of quirky vintage animal photographs curated by fashion photographer, Aliya Naumoff. Among the show’s contributing artists are Danielle Levitt, James Iha, Kristin Schaal, Spike Jonze, Karen O and Nick Zinner. All proceeds from the show will be donated to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Awhile ago I wrote a piece about another ASPCA-related event.

Animalania is on display at Fuse Gallery through March 14. The works can also be viewed online here.



Culinary Meanderings in Queens Not So Jolly
February 24, 2009, 12:10 am
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Thailand Center Point

Photo: Taiyo O.

Since it’s highly anticipated opening on Valentine’s Day, Jollibee has been the mecca of Filipino “soul food” in Woodside, Queens. The chain was previously exclusive to California and Nevada, but the new branch in Woodside marks Jollibee’s East Coast debut. Days after its opening, the line of customers still led outside and around the corner. I spoke with the Dining Manager, who said they didn’t close until 3 a.m. on the day of the opening. Some of the people in line, who had been waiting for at least a couple of hours, had commuted about half an hour from Connecticut and Long Island – some for the second time since they weren’t able to get in on a previous day after waiting just as long.

Wandering around Woodside this afternoon, I didn’t see a line outside Jollibee and thought I’d finally be able to try the Chickenjoy customers in line had raved about the previous day. However, as I made my way to the front of the ropes I came to a halt. The line was inside stretching back to the entrance. Disappointingly, I’d have to wait another day.

I ended up dining at Thailand’s Center Point, a deli and take-out restaurant nearby at 63-19 39th Ave. The menu boasts home-style Thai cuisine in a quaint and quirky atmosphere. The owner is a lovely Thai woman who opened the deli about ten years ago and just recently added a restaurant. However, the deli/restaurant’s business has been overshadowed by the well-publicized and established SriPraPhai Thai Restaurant down the street at 64-13 39th Avenue.

In a city of crowds, sometimes the precious commodity is serenity. For an underdog like Thailand’s Center Point, the peace is a perfect break from the hustle n’ bustle of popular restaurants, while dining on great Thai and nixing the curry paste from the grocery list.



Character in the Form of Shopping Carts and Sabotage


Photos: Tod Seelie (Courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan)

Bribery is a perversely classic form of persuasion. Whether you’re a politician in the midst of silencing a scandal or a gangster looking to get even with a foe, bribery is nothing, if not, absolutely necessary. Luckily, such “life lessons” also apply to shopping cart races like the sixth annual Idiotarod, where awards go out, not for First Place, but Best in Show, and, of course, Bribery. It’s a 6-mile battle of wits and personality between costumed teams of various themes. I ran for the first time with a group called the Tallahassee Tourists (“Go Gators!”) led by tour guide and blogger, Matt Levy. We had personas ranging from a bona fide CityGuide employee, a belle named Lola who left her newborn in Florida to explore the big city and a couple in track suits who adopted yours truly, an Asian girl named Joy (as in “Joy Luck Club”). We arrived armed to win with a crate of Florida oranges, a green inflatable gator and, above all, our sparkling Southern charm.

Before the race, the website listed Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, Queens as the starting point. Hardly ever the case as official locations and checkpoints are usually text messaged to teams. Locations change up and until the day of the race in an attempt to throw off the cops because the event is, of course, technically, illegal. Idiotarod is organized by Cobra (Carts of Brooklyn Race Association) and derives its name from Iditarod, an Alaskan dog sled race. Here, instead of dogs, sleds and Alaska, there are people, shopping carts and New York City.

On the way to the starting line, we encountered a team covered in trash bags who accidentally ran into a blind man and had to go back and explain to the man what had just happened. Although the man was not hurt, it perhaps wasn’t the most ideal way to build karma for the race. That is, if you believe in that sort of thing. Chances are, if you play dirty, you may not.

At about 11:30 teams descended upon the edge of the Upper East Side at 60th St. and York Ave. Temperatures were brisk and underneath the “I Heart NY” tees, fanny packs and Statue of Liberty sea foam hats were endless layers. Traversing three boroughs and two bridges, not to mention a garden variety of garbagio, fruit and eggs, some of us couldn’t help but cheerily ask the other teams how to get to Times Square (Well, how do you?) – and you have to get close with your MTA map (which is mighty big) and raise your voice because, you know, sometimes people can’t hear.

At a checkpoint in Long Island City, teams were running relays across the bar, which the Tallahasseeans were able to bypass all thanks to the sheer power of a few well-made screwdrivers – yes, sir. The next stop in Greenpoint involved a 2-on-2 dance-off with boys in skimpy swimsuits. My boyfriend squeezed juice from an orange into his mouth, while I broke out some 80s dance moves and chugged my bent leg back like bread. I heard screams and claps, and we were told by a judge to “Go go go”.

Sprinting out the bar to meet our folks, we all dashed to finish at McGolrick Park. About eight other teams had already beaten us to the finish line, which was all fine and dandy because Team Tallahassee took home Honorable Mention for (what else?) Best Job Keeping in Character. What better way to play dirty than to play nice?



Tragedy in Transit and for the People

A Tragedy in Three Stations
Photo: Tod Seelie

To New Yorkers, the subway system is intuitive to the everyday commute, like a Benny to his Joon of the city’s urban identity, and now, a theatrical stage that transcends both creative and bureaucratic thresholds.

Drama underground, literally, translates to I.R.T. (Interborough Rapid Transit): A Tragedy in Three Stations on Jan. 29-31 and Feb. 5-7. It is a love story set throughout the subway’s history with eccentric costumes and sets in the vein of Victorian petticoats and gas lanterns.

The play is written and directed by Jeff Stark, writer of New York’s Nonsense List, a weekly newsletter of underground cultural events. Stark was inspired by the idea of public art space – like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Brazil – where everyone can, participate in art, independent of exclusive grants and black box stages.

“I think it’s important for art to meet the people,” Stark said. “I wanted to work in the commons of the subway, and I liked the challenge of creating something linear, that would unfold over time.”

IRT is about August Belmont, Jr. (E. James Ford), a handlebar mustached tycoon who funded the subway in the early 1900s. His daughter, Clara Belmont (Catherine Yeager), falls in love with Thomas Fowler (Tyler Caffall), a carpenter and Union Organizer against the capitalist endeavors surrounding the subway’s construction.

“There’s plenty of guerrilla theatre that I’ve seen but nothing where it’s a full-length play. It’s pretty exciting,” said Yeager, whose character is based on the anarchist, Emma Goldman. “Every single night is going to have a different set of challenges, depending on what the trains do and on how the crowd reacts.”

Passersby took pictures and wore expressions of amazement on their faces, while the audience parted the aisle for commuters and MTA workers on the platforms; a woman from the audience signaled to other members, saying, “Let’s be good citizens”. Despite the premise of the play’s storyline and the DYI nature of the production, Stark maintains that the performance is within the MTA’s guidelines. Robin Lehto (also known as “Robin the ticket girl”) says that the MTA gladly provided “Music Under NY” passes in case the production encountered anyone who mistook the play’s presence.

According to Robbin Gust, an MTA customer service representative, individuals do not need permission to perform in the subway and are protected under the First Amendment, but are subject to certain guidelines by the MTA, none of which prohibit performances.

Crowds for each show were limited to 30. The 180 tickets allotted for all performance dates, which available for $10 via subwaytheater.com, sold out within 45 minutes.

With elaborate mobile sets and a film aboard the subway cars, timing was everything for the production to run smoothly. The audience hopped on and off trains as an efficient unit led by an outspoken, neo-punk (and real-life) NYC tour guide from Mississippi, named Julie Weiner, who was armed with as much unabashed spunk as encyclopedic knowledge of New York and its epic transit system. Weiner says the production first rehearsed at studios and venues like Rubulad, then moved to the subways for about a month, usually at night to avoid commuters. Without costume, some spectators were puzzled by the performances, for example, during a fight scene on a subway car.

“These two Jamaican guys went up to them and were like, Oh shit, man, you guys are fucking good,” Weiner said. “Are you really fighting for real?”

Weiner is a tour manager for the New York City Water Taxi whose part, unlike the cast’s, was unscripted. She adds that working with Stark was an inspiration because of his sincerity and commitment to his vision of art as a democratic form of culture that belongs to everyone, not just professional artists.

According to audience member, Harry Hunkele, a producer for the public access TV show, “Secrets of New York”, the caliber of the play’s complexity surpassed what he has witnessed in his experience.

“Quite an event isn’t it?” Hunkele said. “The timing, the coordination is amazing. I produce in TV. I know what goes on behind and this is over the top, really amazing what they did – just to get everyone off the train on time.”



Recap: In case anyone missed our 44th President

Barack Obama in High School

Courtesy of Newsday

Obama’s Inaugural Address: Transcript & Video (NY Times)

Thoughts of The Speech on the way to Texas (NY Times)

Bush Twins’ advice for Sasha and Malia Obama (WSJ)

The Dress (NY Times)And the absurdity of its politics (NY Mag)

Never fear, Obama wore a bullet-proof suit (NY Mag)

Guess which celebrity was early to the Inauguration? (idontlikeyouinthatway.com)

A transparent administration (NY Times)

“Michelle Obama Thinks Sasha and Malia Dolls Are Inappropriate” (Huffington Post)