The Culture Diaries
February 5, 2013 | by Carlene Baeur
Tonight I went to my first Spanish class at Idlewild on Nineteenth Street. 7:30 to 9 P.M.. When I signed up for this class in November, shortly after I came back from spending a few weeks in Barcelona, I was flush with the joy of recent travel, and intent on injecting some novelty, intellectual and otherwise, into my life. I had an idea that I might try to make it back to Spain at the end of this year, and if that happened, I'd like to be able to do more than buy a few peaches without tripping over my tongue, or wanting to revert to French, the only other foreign language I know. And if that never happened, I would at least be doing something to forestall dementia. But as the intervening weeks, growing colder and darker, put more and more distance between me and that trip—I dreamed that, didn’t I?—I started to wonder why I’d done such a thing. It seemed as unnecessary and out of character as signing up for ten colonics through Groupon. But when, after the fifteen of us had gathered in a circle in the back of the store, and the teacher welcomed us in Spanish, something in me quickened in response to hearing the language. Maybe it was just sound as souvenir, but some sleeping dog in me perked up. Something similar had happened back in Barcelona, while standing in the La Central bookstore, looking at all the books I wanted to read but could not, feeling a strange urgency to get the key that would unlock what lay between those covers, a strange feeling that this was a language I needed to know deeper. Read More »
February 9, 2012 | by Matthew Thurber
6:30 A.M. Woke up. Bought coffee at deli.
Read amNewYork on the subway to Queens. Page six: Khloe Kardashian and her giant basketball-player husband wear their pajamas to open Xmas presents.
8:30 A.M. At Queens College illustration class, one of my students turned in a drawing of anthropomorphic poop.
January 12, 2012 | by Jeremiah Moss
3:55 P.M. From the East Village I take a roundabout way, across Houston Street, where the two artists known as Faile (Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller) are putting the finishing touches on their giant mural, a comic-booky collage that brings to mind the organic degradation of street advertising and art, layer upon layer, ripped and peeled. The city is like this in places, one stratum revealed beneath the next, except in the places that have been excavated down to bedrock to make the past disappear. I end up talking to one of the Patricks while the other Patrick is pasting a Chairman Mao to the wall. Patrick tells me how the images and text have all been pulled from comics, movie posters, and other ephemera. He says, “We consider ourselves scavengers” of pop culture. And then Chairman Mao needs direction. “Tear it a little more,” Patrick tells Patrick. “A little more. That’s right.”
4:05 P.M. Houston takes me to Eldridge then to Stanton, where I think to detour into the Fusion Arts Museum, one of those places I’ve been meaning to visit but never have, only it’s not Fusion Arts anymore. It’s a new gallery, something called Lambert Fine Arts. The once colorful gate of bicycle parts, propellers, and bombs has been painted solid gray. I go inside anyway and check out Terrenceo’s paintings on pizza boxes, portraits of people taking their own photos in mirrors with cell phones, our tepid new expression of despair. Downstairs, Allison Berkoy’s spooky dolls are muttering to each other with their talking video faces, none of them listening to what the others have to say. Read More »
November 14, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
4:00 A.M. I can’t sleep. Because I just moved from Brooklyn into Manhattan, my books aren’t unpacked, and so my reading options are limited. The only books I have handy are on decorating—although it’s usually a pretty theoretical study in my case. The pattern of the boards on the floor of this new apartment reminds me of floors I saw in Kraków when I visited there with my father, and I’ve decided rather grandly to do a sort of prewar Eastern European motif. (Again, this is probably theoretical. ) Wonder vaguely where one would find a tiled stove in New York.
I read a few chapters of the inimitable Dorothy Draper’s Decorating Is Fun!, which is filled with gems like “It is just as disastrous to have the wrong accessories in your room as it is to wear sport shoes with an evening dress,” as well as the somewhat less helpful “I don’t believe anything can do as much for a room as a glowing fire in an attractive fireplace. Men and dogs love an open fire—they show good sense. It is the heart of any room and should be kindled on the slightest provocation.” (That said, I’m guessing Alexa Chung or someone is wearing sports shoes with an evening dress as we speak, and probably causing a sensation. Imagine a world with rules and dicta. The mind boggles.)
5:30 A.M. Finally manage to drift off for a few hours, until a handyman unexpectedly knocks at the door at 7:45 to wash the windows. It occurs to me that this is just the sort of dubious ruse a murderer or thief might use to gain entrance to someone’s apartment; let him in anyway.
3:53 P.M. I get some sad family news. Internet is in and out here, but in a good moment, I find my favorite Barbara Pym quote: “The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things ... the trivial pleasure like cooking, one’s home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.”
4:45 P.M. My old boyfriend e-mails me about a recent fight he got into at a dinner party, over collective nouns. “I was quite put out, let me tell you,” he says. Read More »
June 16, 2011 | by Joe Ollmann
Recently, I went to Bar Pam Pam, a mysterious old-man bar in my neighborhood that I have often passed but never had the courage to enter. My friend Murray and I asked what was on tap, and the owner said, “Vieux Montreal” and stopped there. I liked that—it was like an old-time saloon. What kind of beer do you have? Just beer, stranger. This bar was wonderful, genuine, unmanufactured focus-group atmosphere, no loud music and a welcome refuge from hipsters and young people. The old-man bar, like many old men, is an institution that is dying out. It made me think of all of the other old-man bars that I know and love in Montreal. Come with me, I’ll show you …
Bar Pam Pam
I’ve already told you the appeal of this little gem, mere footsteps from my home! But a few notes from my visit there are worth the telling. A tipsy woman took out her guitar, randomly sang “Me and Bobby McGee” in heavily accented English, put the guitar back in its case, and continued drinking. No one else clapped or even seemed to notice this performance. Later, a heavy, bearded dude came in, and the bartender immediately brought a pitcher and glass to his table.
“Why you bring this? You never see me before,” said the bearded man.
“My friend, every night you come, this I know,” said the bartender, with a smile that was met by one from the bearded man. This was obviously their ritual.
June 15, 2011 | by Joe Ollmann
This is the second installment of Ollmann’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
Of late, everything in my life seems to be done in fifteen-minute increments, as if I am in my personal life digging up the powdered-wigged corpse of Andy Warhol’s too-oft-quoted chestnut, minus the fame.
I’ve become fat, so I run for fifteen minutes every day (pathetic, I know, but I will return to this). My only reading time is during my fifteen-minute commute each morning. I meet with my wife after a night of work, and we watch part of a movie, sometimes as little as fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes: EVERYWHERE!