Use it up, wear it out, & live like royalty

I have a few friends from Russia and other former Soviet republics, and they are some of the loveliest people I know. Exceptionally generous, amazingly crafty, poetic and unbridled in their expressions of love, they also all seem to possess equal parts exquisite taste and an aptitude for ingenious frugality.

Case in point #1: Natalya, who almost single-handedly saved our wedding by whip-stitching my husband into his suit jacket when he had a bulky plaster cast covering his entire right forearm. (His plan for getting into his outfit involved about 50 safety pins, which would have brought a certain punk element to the proceedings, but in the end, I’m glad Natalya stepped in.) She also made my bouquet.

Dark haired woman with three calla lilies

Case in point #2: Elena, who shocked us all by trading her Manolos for Converse and car services for a Piaggio a few years back. She followed her dream to a farm in Arizona and a meditation retreat in India, but still made in time in between to take us on the trip of a lifetime to Russia. Now even her rock star mother and I are penpals.

Blonde woman in plateau among mountains

Case in point #3: Katerina, who I only met this year, but who I already know is a giant. She’s opening the first package-free store in the northeast U.S. next week in our very own borough of Brooklyn; I wrote about the venture for Bushwick Daily. A busy entrepreneur and mom to a young son, Katerina somehow always looks great, and her deeply felt concern for the future of our planet and its people is evident in her every classy move.

Woman standing in front of vegetable store

Not sure if it’s something in the water, something in the culture, or just my great good fortune to have continued to meet such fantastic humans from this part of the globe. In any case, we would all do well to follow their example: live generously, live carefully, and you will live beautifully.

A brush with vegan greatness

Last night, Arthur and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a day early—because even vegetarian restaurants are booked hella far ahead for V-Day in Brooklyn!

We settled on Modern Love in Williamsburg, purveyors of “swanky vegan comfort food.” Not only did this restaurant’s name scream Valentine’s Day, but our excellent realtor and friend Alison McQueen had given us a Modern Love gift card to say congrats after we closed on our house last year (thanks again, Alison!). The stars seemed to be aligning.

Vegan cheese plate with fruit, cocktail, and flower

Part 1: Into the (nut cheese) void*

We walked in to find the place abuzz with well-dressed veg-heads.

We opened our menus and found approximately two dozen mouthwatering choices.

And then, We Saw Her.

“Hey—by the host stand in the black overalls. Do you think that’s…?” Arthur asked me.

“Holy crikey! Maybe!” I replied, craning my neck.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the brains (and at least some of the brawn) behind such legendary acts of veganism as Post Punk KitchenVeganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World—as well as Modern Love, which also has an Omaha location (of course).

Woman with glasses holding a plate of food in a restaurant

Our lady in the flesh!

We were giddily discussing the possible implications of sharing a thousand-square-foot space with this mythical woman when the colorful fruit and cheese plate pictured above was set down on our table by none other than… the Notorious ICM herself!

While we blinked alternately at the plate and up at her, she explained each cheese and cracker variety to us (including their homemade Cheez-Its). When she was done, I ventured:

“Um, are we having a celebrity sighting right now?”

She looked at us, and with delicious deadpan, said:

“Yup, I’m Sarah Silverman.”

Then she walked back to the kitchen.

Isa, we love you even more now.

 

*Sorry, folks—that’s an inside joke with the Arthur-man. Happy Valentine’s, my sweet!

This weekend in Brooklyn: Sound summer camp for badass young ladies!

Teen girls with headphones and microphones

When I took the Bushwick Daily assignment to write about SoundGirls.org’s Live Sound Camps for Girls, I thought it would be cool. Music, Brooklyn, empowering teenage girls—what’s not to like?

Well, I was right! There was nothing not to like about writing this story.

The end!

SoundGirls.org logo

No, no—of course there is more. But it’s the good kind of more!

It turned out that in addition to getting acquainted with an awesome nonprofit that connects female sound engineers the world over, hearing wonderful stories about girls learning to rock intimidating audio gear, and bookmarking the knowledge of this traveling summer camp program for the next time I meet a cool teenage girl, I also got to spend half an hour talking with the woman who’s been Pearl Jam’s sound engineer for the last 25 years: SoundGirls.org’s executive director and co-founder, Karrie Keyes!

I will pause to mention that, while I do enjoy me some classic Pearl Jam, I was even more stoked and awed to learn that Karrie has also worked with Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young, and did a 10-year stint as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ monitor engineer.

Waynes World not worthy

ANYWAY, what Karrie’s doing with SoundGirls.org is just as cool as all that, of course. Check it out, and if you know an NYC-area teenage girl who’d appreciate the chance to get her audio on this weekend, do spread the word!

Teach a 20-something punk to write a good memo, and she’ll write good memos for life

For a couple of fun, lucky years in my 20s, I worked as assistant to the director at the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), a grantmaking nonprofit that awards cultural exchange fellowships to artists and scholars from the U.S. and Asia.

Looking for a tear-jerker with great music? Look no further!

As well as being fun, the ACC is an extremely classy place, so not only did I get to attend the super-cool performances and openings of loads of top-shelf international artists, I also honed a grip of executive-level writing skills (first forged at ACC’s sister foundation, the venerable Trust for Mutual Understanding) that I find myself coming back to quite often as a full-time freelance provider of editorial services to nonprofits. Skills like:

  • ghostwriting correspondence and statements for a VIP
  • culling meeting notes down from chaos to the essentials
  • drafting invitations to donors that made giving us loads of money sound like a treat
  • and more!

This past spring, I was extremely stoked to see an email from ACC’s current director in my inbox. She said they had some writing and editing needs on the horizon, and wondered if I might be available to help. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Almost six months later, I’m still having a blast popping in on my old workmates in the office, reacquainting myself with all the great things they work on, and helping them craft communications—like this—that speak to the gravity and longevity (and yes, the fun) of what they do. (If you peruse that newsletter, check out the story about Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. Definitely my favorite to write.)

You never know when an old skill—or old friends—will show up in your life again. But unless that skill is effectively squandering time or that friend is a psychotic clown, chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised!