04 December 2016

4: All I Want For Christmas

...is you.

Maybe you first encountered All I Want For Christmas when Mariah Carey released it in 1994. Maybe you know it from Love Actually. Or maybe you caught it when Mariah Carey reprised it on Jimmy Fallon with the Roots "on classroom instruments". I succumbed to it when my sister gave me the Puppini Sisters Christmas CD in 2010.

03 December 2016

3: Silent Night

I've given you Patti Smith. I've given you Sharon Jones. You've probably figured out that my taste in Christmas music is a little idiosyncratic. Here is one of my all time favorites: Silent Night on the musical saw.

It is haunting and lovely, and just what you want to listen to after everyone's gone to bed on Christmas Eve and you're left downstairs with a little whiskey and a few more pistachios, candles guttering and the lights down low.

02 December 2016

2: White Christmas

Every year, I try to add a few tracks to my expansive holiday playlist. (Yes, "holiday" - it's not all Christmas.) The best of the lot from last year is, hands down, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings doing "White Christmas".

Alas, she died a couple of weeks ago, so there'll be no more rollicking covers of the standards or deliciously subversive additions to the canon (like Big Bulbs).

Do yourself two favors:

1) Cue up It's a Holiday Soul Party, and
2) Check out the sad and lovely slideshow of photos of Sharon Jones's last year.

01 December 2016

1: O Holy Night

Although I grew up in the kind of atheist household in which Christmas was celebrated with abandon, we never had an advent calendar. I think my mother thought they were too religious for the likes of us, although it seems like not much more than a countdown to the 25th, one tiny door at a time.

So as an adult, I've never had an advent calendar - at least, not a physical one. A sweet friend of ours sends the online Jacquie Lawson one every year, and that's kind of delightful. But it got me thinking: I will (try to) post a song a day from now until Christmas.

Up first? Patti Smith singing O Holy Night at the Vatican. Enjoy!

29 November 2016

#GivingTuesday - Now More Than Ever

Still reeling from the election? Wondering how to make the world a better place? Give generously.

Need help? A curated list* of charities is below. Does your mother-in-law really need another tchotcke for Christmas? Give a gift in her name to the ACLU. Surely your father doesn't need another tie. Give a gift to the Human Rights Campaign. Your great-aunt? Hell, skip Christmas cards, and donate what you would have spent on printing and postage to the Committee to Protect Journalists.










ARTS (because all children need a chance to dance)

* Thanks to Christine Koh at Boston Mamas and Joanna Rothkopf at Jezebel for excellent lists that I riffed on.

** The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence accepts donations of cell phones (as well as cash). Clean out your drawers!

18 November 2016

People Watching, N.Y.C. - Fall Edition

I was changing trains at Times Square. There was an older guy, kinda down-and-out looking, who was clearly uncomfortable walking. He was pretty much shuffling, not picking up his feet. We got to the stairs down to the 1-2-3 and I thought, he's gonna take a half an hour to get down to the platform. With that, he gracefully perched on the hand rail and slid on down. I was impressed.

* * * * * * * * *

Heading home, I walked past the modest brownstone church I walk past every night. There was a guy lying on the sidewalk, perpendicular to the church, butt up against the building, feet resting on the wall, playing the trumpet. Playing the trumpet.

* * * * * * * * *

This morning, as I waited to refill my Metrocard (behind some foreigners who were paying with a credit card and were flummoxed by the instruction to key in your zip code), I heard music in the distance. A solo trombonist, playing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I detoured past him and gave him all of the change in my wallet.

* * * * * * * * *

And on the sardine-can-packed subway, I wished for discretion and fearlessness, but opted not to take the picture of the young Asian man in the black & white plaid shirt coiffing his hair just so, using the window as a mirror, standing next to (but not with) a young Asian woman intently reading her phone, wearing a fuzzy black & white plaid coat. Bill Cunningham or Neil Kramer would have found a way to take the picture. I couldn't do it. I could barely get my phone out of my pocket.

* * * * * * * * *

This morning's missive from the Union Square wall, with style points for using the N and Q subway line logos: Never Quit.

17 November 2016

Throwback Thursday, and Hope

Sometime after September 11th, an unofficial memorial sprung up in the Union Square subway station.

Union Square Messages

It's unassumingly constructed out of clear, matte finish mailing labels, and is nothing but the names, all of the names, each name to a subway tile. Over the years - fifteen! - the labels have become worn, dirty, ragged. But they're still there.

Union Square Messages

Sometime after the election, a forest of post-it messages appeared in the same station. I walk through there every day, and every day there are more.

Union Square Messages

They are heartfelt. They are erudite.

Union Square Messages

They are direct. They are angry.

Union Square Messages

They are pointed. A set of six post-its says A Woman Won The Popular Vote, in blue felt tip pen. Another hand has added Yes with a black ball point pen.

Union Square Messages

And somehow, although I may be grasping at straws, I have to find them hopeful.

Union Square Messages