there is still life outside of politics

I have to take a break from the political-which-is-also-personal to blog about the personal-which-is-only-personal.

I want to write about some highlights from our recent trip before they are completely buried in the political crush. This blog also functions as a personal journal, so if this bores you, skip this post. But for those of you who enjoy the personal side of this blog - and there are always more of you than I think - I'd like to share a little of our recent Thanksgiving joy.

We had a great trip, as always. Our US Thanksgiving trips are always the same, but they're always great. We arrive Monday night, and my mother has a late dinner waiting. We hang out with her until none of us can stay awake. Right after Thanksgiving weekend, she leaves for Florida, and I next see her in April. So this trip is important in that respect, too.

Tuesday we visit more with my mother and sometimes some other family, depending on who's available.

Wednesday we go into the city - The City - and usually have breakfast with one of my oldest and dearest friends, NN. At some point Allan takes off on his own and NN and I spend as much time together as her schedule permits.

She and I often talk about taking in some museum or other cultural attraction, but rarely do. But this time we visited the new Museum of Art & Design, in the redesigned 2 Columbus Circle. Formerly my pick for ugliest building in New York City, "the Lollipop Building" has been home to several ventures that never took off. The redesign is excellent, and it now houses a lovely small museum.

NN and I focused on an exhibit called "Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary", which was great fun, and occasionally moving and revelatory.

The work that moved us most was a representation of a woman working at a factory sewing machine. Imagine her looking down at her work, moving the fabric through the machine. She may be Thai, or Filipina. Imagine an enlarged black-and-white photograph of this woman. From the edges of the photo, you can see she works in a room with row upon row of women like her.

An artist - whose name, unfortunately, I don't know - recreated the photo using designer labels from clothing. Thousands of labels, sewn together to create a pointillism effect. Up close, you see the labels. Only from a distance, do you see the woman behind those labels. It was brilliant and powerful.

I can't seem to find an image or description of it, but if you look at this home page, the image on the far right is a detail from this work.

More about the show.
Highlights from the show include American artist Tara Donovan's Bluffs, a group stalagmite shaped structures made of clear plastic buttons delicately placed one on top of the other. Do Ho Suh, a Korean artist creates a jacket made of military dog tags, portraying the way a solider is part of a larger troop.

Paul Villinski, an American, creates beautiful butterflies out of his old record collection, producing a "soundtrack" of his life. English artist Susie MacMurray used yellow rubber washing gloves, turned them inside out and stitched onto a calico form to create an imposing out-sized dress.

Other featured works are made from buttons, spools of thread, artificial hair, used high-heeled shoes, plastic spoons and forks, shopping bags, and 25-cent coins to mention only a few.

The exhibition surveys the rich artistic landscape of much contemporary art, in which hierarchies among art, craft, and design are disregarded. In addition, the exhibition examines the ways in which artists transform our world, respond to contemporary cultural paradigms, and comment on global consumerism.

If you are interested in design and applied arts, the Museum of Art and Design is lovely, and the perfect size. You can take in the whole museum in one visit.

After more coffee and gabbing with NN, I met Allan in a bookstore to rest a bit and buy some less expensive books.

Wednesday night, we always have dinner with friends in the city. This time we met some old-new friends. In another lifetime, I was a nanny for a boy named Matt, a second mom to him for 5.5 years. Matt is now 28 years old (!), and we have always stayed in touch. Allan and I attended his wedding over the summer (which I didn't blog about because of work concerns), and this was the first time we've hung out with him and his wife.

We had a great time, but what I really want to tell you about is the restaurant we chose.

The Spain is an old, old New York gem, little known, but beloved by those who know it. I used to go there with my family when I was a little girl, then re-discovered it with Allan in the late 1980's.

I don't think they've changed a single thing since it opened, and the prices are as outdated as the decor. There's a bar area in the front, always crowded and lively, then a cramped, narrow hallway opens up into a large dining room. It's shabby and funky, but in a good way. Outside, there's a review from 1969.

The moment you sit down, food appears on your table. As you pick at the free tapas, more appears. You can't stop it. Waiters just keep bringing you free food. By the time we ordered, our table was full of: lamb ribs, cold mussels with diced onions, sizzling hot shrimp in garlic and oil, and delicious chorizo - all brought to us without ordering, at no charge. There is also the ubiquitous strange little salad, a bowl of wilted iceberg lettuce with some kind of brown dressing. Don't let it put you off.

The yummy tapas and a few pitchers of their homemade sangria would be a dinner in itself, but I dream of The Spain's green sauce. You can order shrimp or clams or marisacada (mixed seafood) with this green sauce, and spoon it over their saffron rice (more orange than yellow), and be very close to heaven.

We also ordered a paella, full of clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster, chorizo and chicken. Each dish is served in a large pot. For four people, you can order two dishes and take half home.

When your bill comes, you will think there's been some mistake. There is no way you could eat that much delicious food in New York City at that price. Honestly, I would have paid that bill for two, and thought it a bargain, but we were a table of four.

No one can understand how this place is still in business, and why more people don't know about it. If you like authentic Spanish food and you want an authentic New York experience, put Spain on your list.

After we left, Allan and I were in no rush to get back to my mother's, so we wandered around, found a quiet lounge and had a few martinis. Funny, we never do this in Toronto, but we almost always do in New York!

Thursday, which is Thanksgiving, we spend more time with my mother, then we all go to a gathering hosted by my sister and her husband, mostly my brother-in-law's extended family. This is a large, boisterous gathering at a restaurant, with a lot of food and wine, children of many ages, and many people we enjoy strictly in this type of setting. It's loud and fun and decidedly non-serious.

On Friday, we pack up everything at my mom's and head down to my brother and sister-in-law's. They host Thanksgiving (Thursday) for a different group, mostly my sister-in-law's extended family. Then on Friday they have a day-after-Thanksgiving brunch. We spend the whole day there, especially to see all our nieces and nephews (although my sister's "kids" were missing this year) and their partners. We have dinner from leftovers and stay up late into the night, drinking wine and talking.

We always look forward to this gathering, but this year was extra special, as one of our nephews and his partner announced their engagement. We love them both a lot, so this was truly excellent news. Next September, we're all going to Santa Fe for their wedding! Allan and I had been vaguely planning a trip to Santa Fe while E&D still live there, so now it's a done deal!

The final tradition is getting very little sleep on Friday night and waking up at dawn on Saturday to drive home. We were so tired, we had to switch drivers six or seven times just to stay focused.

Unfortunately, coming home was not quite traditional. Our house was in disarray, our dogs were stressed, and our dogwalker quit with no notice! Thankyousomuch. If you know anyone who wants a weekend dogwalking gig, we're in the market again. Don't worry, the dogwalker didn't quit because our dogs are difficult. It's actually an easy and good gig for someone who lives nearby, has a car, loves dogs and is available on weekends.

Last time a dogwalker disappeared, James and Lori saved our butts for a weekend, buying us time until we could find someone new. This time, M@ and S are doing the same. Thank goddess for friends.


richard said...

The woman behind [the] labels

What a great idea!

Unknown said...

Personally, I prefer the personal posts over the political ones; politics, for the most part, are no my thing. ;)

The Spain sounds delicious, but it sounds like a hard place for a vegetarian to find anything suitable; it sounds like the kind of place I would have absolutely loved, though, before I became a vegetarian.

Congratulations to your nephew and his partner! :)

Sarah Haendler said...

So... where is Spain? Not that I have a free night ever, but someday this tech will be over and the show will open.

laura k said...

Thanks, John. Many wmtc readers really like personal posts, but I can't imagine reading this blog if you aren't interested in political issues. Not political maneuvering and races - not my thing - but social issues.

Spain: 113 W 13 St btn 6th & 7th. Definitely not suitable for vegetarians, but great for seafood eaters. And lovers of garlic. :)

Amy said...

It sounds like a very full and satisfying visit, just like your meal at Spain (also probably not the place for me given my dietary restrictions, but I will tell my daughter and son-in-law).

Congrats to your nephew, and a trip to Santa Fe sounds great (it's on my list of places to visit some day).

I am glad you had such a good time.

JakeNCC said...

I also like the personal stuff. It's like reading someone's diary. I sound old.

Unknown said...

Well, that's probably why I don't comment here all that often. It's also why I use RSS with this blog; that way, I can just scan the titles for something that looks interesting.

The thing is, you post a lot to this blog. Even someone who isn't particularly interested in politics like me can find interesting postings here; that's why I like it. :)

I've been commenting more than usual lately, though, since you've been talking about a few issues that I do have an interest in. Again, those kinds of things are the reason I'm here. :)

laura k said...

I also like the personal stuff. It's like reading someone's diary.

That's definitely part of the appeal. :)

laura k said...

Thanks Amy!