Saturday, September 24, 2011

Snapshots from NYC

The view from the Williamsburg flea which I watched from 7am until well past dark. Note to self, skip this flea, get a chair, fishin pole and a cooler of frosty beverages and eats..

I could jog home faster than this train (when you score a parking spot for a 15 passenger van, you leave it…until you get the $45 parking ticket, f--kers. Can't let my people go and don't get to bed before 2, yet up for school 7…not my best look. By 10am I'm lugging projects in from the car.

Restoring Italian beaded screen, God I may have to keep this one, the color combination is fantastic (and I'll never finish the work). Note to self: match paint and pantone chips for future use, that turquoise, brown and gold yum

Pile of hotel keys to separate, fish net to cut up and make scarves out of to sell this weekend at the Brooklyn flea markets. Love the keys with the holes in the middle, put your own little charm, picture or hotel medallion in there. OMG!! tie keys on scarf ends! I'm so pleased with myself, dork.

Cabin fever, brave the commute to see Nikki de Saint Phalle collection at Norma Haine gallery, 5th and 57th St. Oh crap, one of those behind gold doors galleries in a fancy building and you gotta sign in. Tourist filthy with backpack, I get the look but Checkpoint Charlie clears me. Here's some pictures I snuck. This crazy stuff as good in a small room as it is in the fountain in Paris. Play the game I made up with Wyatt, "if you could only have one thing, what would it be?" Golden Swiss cheese lady or giant skull with rotating fern head?…Duh, the skull with motor and softball-sized pewter teeth, "epic".

Breakdown at 23rd and the Flatiron building, laptop monkey on my sweaty back. I love that they have cafe tables and chairs in the middle of Broadway. Always a good time to people watch or sit and write. Speaking of people, I almost have an accident gawking at the Satmar in Brooklyn (Hassidic population). Crazy for the beaver hats, belted coats, wow that's a commitment to a look (it's 85deg). Shameless voyeurism, this image haunts me, how to get one of those hats.

Two fleas, two days, never again, but it's over and here are the booths. One in the beautiful Fort Greene neighborhood the other on the water in Williamsburg. Trend predictions: architectural is gonna rebound cause they're building even on the street where I live and well, I see all these great buildings and I miss these details so I'm gonna get some (details that is..right).

In my head see new spin on industrial softened with theatre and romance, gothic and medieval, muddy brown, oxblood, grey and lavender, textures like silk and velvet. Worn wood will continue to be hot, that and handyman's stuff. Seductive mood with tools for those dark hours ahead…oh behave!

Farmer's market at Union Square. I can't resist. A Yo Go frozen yogurt gets the whole $1 worth of bleeding raspberries, a peach. Picnic on the window sill of an ancient stone bank to watch the people pass, like molecules in a solid, there's not much wiggle room. Now dragging bag of bread and treats, have sugar need coffee...It's a haul, but it's Bubby's coffee in TriBeca. Roasted on site and ground before they make it for you, over ice. It doesn't get better than that!

Head east towards home with stop in the East Village to see Joel, the philosopher-genius who has a strange affinity for cast iron pans. Signed privacy agreement, so you'll have to imagine an ancient apartment with walls, ceilings and floors covered in cast iron cookery. I'm speechless, no really, and want to make a movie, write storie. Skip permission, beg forgiveness, here's another dealer's place. Beautiful, open, full of stories, just like Val. We share an obsession for things in quantity, but I'll let her do the 500 crates and 1000 folding chairs (like I'm 20 years older than her) Love these antique dealers, a field of the wildest brightest wildflowers.

Detroit, disassembled as it were and...

here's the world's fair, 1964 structure in Queens....

One last side trip, it's destiny. The Detroit Disassembled photos are right, I mean a 20 block walk, by the apartment at the Queens Museum on the grounds of the old world's fair. The ruins of the fair the perfect intro to the beautiful photos of Detroit ruins. Yeah, yeah the ruin porn. Don't hate me, I'm a walking talking Detroit ambassadress and I could fill a bus here with all the people who want to see what's happening in Detroit. It's all good news. Design Festival in Detroit in full swing as I type, I'm into it with barely a nap to catch up from the drive….

Monday, September 12, 2011

Magic and Madness in Every Nook and Cranny!!

Madness and magic in every nook and cranny…no, I did not write that precious quote. I read it in Country Living whilst stuck in my van. No foul language, the dead giveaway and if you watched 6 inches of rain fall on your show, I'd like to know what you'd have to say about it. WTF!! comes to mind. It's now the infamous Brimfield of September 2011.

I felt like I was in a barrel under the Niagara Falls. The rain came and wouldn't leave. By thursday morning they'd closed May's show, the first time in history. The water was 6 inches deep around my van. I open the door, climb on top of the hood and jump to the embankment. By the time I reach my booth, I'm soaked and muddy anyway. Atleast the booth is on high ground and dry, but there's a pond a foot deep at the entrance to the field. This day's a wash. Of course I have to be there for this record-setting nightmare. I'm the embedded reporter, the Lakshmi Singh of Brimfield.

Thankfully team Tommy Hilfiger came by the day before and found magic in this madness. I'm paying close attention to what they're putting together, their advertising is free marketing for me and the time in to designing a booth pays off in sales here and at the new space in the antiques mall in Saugatuck,MI proves. This is how I justify that late night OCD episode the night before the show opened. Really, where to put that jar of sock cuttings is critical, maybe it wasn't such a great idea to start this undertaking after cocktails. Naturally, I'm jolted out of my sleeping bag at 4am by the sounds of arriving dualies and their diesels. It's the eager beavers who curl their hair rain or no, and want that pot pourri goo burning for an hour so that it's in the air, like napalm for everyone to enjoy. I slog through the mud for a timed 6-minute shower. Oh the fun of camping, the thrill of opening day!

Actually, I am remarkably upbeat and into the shopping. I must say, I scored some of the coolest shit. In this nook theater props, army gear, industrial furniture, oddities, science charts, letters, 60's and in that cranny, funerary…dying to know what this choice pick might be?…a large collection of Victorian era casket blankets and pillows in their own suitcases. Top quality rouched silk, crushed velvet and exquisite tassels, European to be sure.

I could lie to people and then secretly smirk to think of them placing it t in those happy homes completely oblivious… but, then I'd miss the look of joy on their faces when they read my tags. How I live for these blessed moments in my day, "They laid people out on these and did portraits in their own homes," I say all delighted with my magical, mad self.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Another rainy, not great beach weekend. This is completely irrelevant to 12 and 13 year-old boys. Wyatt and his cousin Trevor have built a fort with the weeds growing on the bluff at Lake Huron and the talk is serious about survival on "the island". Wyatt is making fishing spears and Trevor is collecting wood for the fire (Never mind that they'd sooner starve than eat fish and the wet conditions mean mom is the one getting the fire going).

Listening to the news, you can't train early enough for survival skills. Besides if Armageddon is coming (drought, hurricane, earthquake, scary leadership…) I say have fun with survival, be creative and stay ahead of the creepy "Lord of the Flies" types.

Survival mode is no time to play it safe. Salvage slave says experiment, try different ideas, maybe be a bit outlandish. A flame-retardant suit is a must when the heat is on. But then again, having desirable currency (for the time being) handed to you is a definite yes. Ok so the suit wasn't a money-maker, but that attention getter did bring in business (and left with 9 other items, which added up to real green stuff). You might need to make a quick getaway off the island, but that new sailboat in the driveway now makes two and there's another "fort" that needs work right now. Bartering works as currency in the new world order. Trade sailboat for kitchen remodel help (then maybe we can sell that not-so-small fort).

Who knows what survival will require in this ever-changing atmosphere? The salvage slave is looking to see what's at selling at antique shows now, and if it's lights made out bed springs and rusty wire baskets then why not ratty lampshades? We're stocking all this material-of-the-moment. These put-together lights do make ceilings so much more interesting.

I keep saying reclaimed lumber is in the design magazines, now my Midwestern clients are asking about it. Plenty of that around here. Someone wants to clad their wall. It looks great with industrial furniture as table tops to steel bases. I've started a pile of it. Scarves cut from vintage fishing nets? Can't we be fashionable while dodging spear attacks? Sold the first one I put out in New York, am gonna have a dress made out of it to inch the idea along.

If weird isn't the way, then you might be living under a rock. Stranger ideas than these have been advanced, some stuff works some doesn't. You gotta keep trying. I just had to run an errand at the dreaded mall. Looking around at the people and piles of stuff, I sure can see what won't be needed on this island. There's nothing you can make anything useful out of! There's nothing that inspires creativity, well unless you count Wyatt and Trevor running around like wild indians. Definite thumbs down. Now back to the studio, I hear drums beating….Brimfield, New York next week!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Same Script Different Day

The rain is falling gently outside the bedroom's old rickety windows in the quiet of an early morning. The view is panoramic, romantic, a painting in muted shades of white, grey and putty juxtaposed with the wildflowers and lush greenery of Michigan's summer splendor…"cut! what's that in the corner?! Stylist! That bright red and white-striped sail does not belong in this picture!" My sail, like a loud drunk crashing this perfectly serene impressionistic moment, it's the prescient warning, the tension builds.

It's English country charm throughout and what you'd expect of this 40's stone cottage. But, is this my story? I stayed the course, ten years, I did, until a pile of signal flags (that Ellsworth Kelly clearly co-opted) showed up at the 100 mile Garage Sale this weekend. The sign of signs, you can't make this stuff up. And now there's four of us reviewing flags, lively discussing the whole idea of a period change, for the living room. It's epic. I'm fairly crazy about the prophetic nautical warnings like, "this vessel in distress and not moving (for sure)" and "this vessel altering it's course to port (that's right..and wrong)."

Will she divest herself of all those carefully collected nudes? Period quilts, rugs and fishing lures? The graphic pow of these modern masterpieces fills the screen, she can resist anything but temptation…Addiction. Intervention...What a front, the whole shop gig, that's why they're called "dealers," duh! All that country cottage crap, so much gateway drug to the modern minimalism hard stuff. Again with the signs and now the innocent child obviously experiencing advanced stages of fetal collecting syndrome, "Mom! Can I have one for my loft (packed to the rafters with stuff)!" It's epidemic, the buddy George is eyeing one for his bedroom too (probably hanging in there now). Is it true? Hot, sunny and blue waters scream beach day, yet these two 12 year-old boys choose the 100 mile yard sale in a blink, no prompting...

It's nobodies first rodeo here, the boys get the bikes, baskets and backpacks and we're off. Idling on the highway is for amateurs. We cover the distance, while all those poor folks are still trying to park. We know exactly where we're going and it's no more than two miles, skip the buzz kill of endless miles of consumer garbage and bad homegrown craft. Garage saling on this level requires one be in the zone, hyper focused. It's A LOT to plow through this much stuff, and man are the discard piles high these days. I am mostly not a garage sale shopper, but these too were such a hoot, they made it fun. The young pros already have the scan down pat, they know what they're after and not easily distracted (girls aren't on the radar yet). Everybody got a good laugh when they politely, but shamelessly, bargained for prices, it's sick! Call the authorities!

And this jaded picker found the ever elusive, "I haven't seen it before," early, folding, tin lunch box with the owner's name scratched in it, boat benches to make tables out of in weathered teak, a crate of yellow marquis lights will make a great sign (enough already) a hand-painted soda pop sign (stop her), a life ring in great colors (a little past saving, it and mine) and all those vintage cotton flags, you know how I love multiples. I also saw some longtime colleagues and got the local dealer news. It's good stuff. All your friends are doing it. Don't judge, you closet junkies.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Virality, It's not just for kids anymore

I've just finished the July 17th newspaper. Hoarding red flag? I'll have you know some 14 year-old girls are quitting school to run blogging empires. 10-12 year olds in the know can't get enough make-up and fashion tips and everybody loves to make fun of the dumb girl in the embarrassing dance videos. She's building a brand, so who's dumb? Everybody! What a blast! Luckily nobody grows up, so even though my demographic trends a little older, I've got savvy style tips and near total lack of inhibition. It's a sure fire formula for attracting an audience. With my marketing moxie and just a little technical know how (not me silly, I'll get a 14 year-old for that ) I'll have them flocking to the blog, the store and the endorsements will be rolling in!

Look here, I just bought this terrific pair of 40's secretary pumps for $10 at the Royal Oak Flea Market (that earlybird shopping fee of $5 could be money in my pocket). These are sexy because they're not, get it? Pair them sockless with my sister Lia's hand-embroidered 70's denim skirt (on loan, guilt trip "the doctor" into buying first ad, get ball rolling). I can't decide between the crochet tank top (Garage Annex Antiques $10, ah crap they close in 3 weeks, make that Brooklyn Flea, hipster city) or the linen men's vest (Detroit estate sale $7, poor dear is probably dead…check probate records, those lawyers are always mugging for some ad, cha-ching).

I'll model the options and post them for your vote, tell everybody so my "virality" is assured. Be sure to call me as I don't reliably check either email account and won't know I'm "infecting" people positively. You mention my blog and website (Yuen Advertising-work tiger tag team bit, play down my asian light) and when everybody realizes there's no online shopping, they'll run to the store. The "exclusivity" of being open only two days a week will "create the sense of urgency." They'll be throwing money at me when they finally get in! (To think of all that hand-wringing about Ebay opportunities passed. Ebay will be paying me and I still won't be selling anything there, love it).

I was wearing my ripped-up jeans from Neiman Marcus (J-Brand $217, ok. it was the outlet and I paid $33, they'll never know!) with the aforementioned tank top and strapless bra (TJ Maxx $15, Target owns this, bonus!) when I attended the uber outsider performance of "Manifest Destiny" in Detroit the other night. I mention this intimate apparel item because crisis or no ladies, unless you pre-purchased enhancements before the credit crunch, mid-life is no time to go rogue (hmmm Eurasian Palin, publicity stunts? I like. I like a lot). When you are the oldest person in the room, perky matters! (don't forget plastic surgeons-top of the list!).

This carefully calibrated clothing choice contributed to a cool factor I felt on the hot set of this production. The hosts/new building owners/20-something cuties from another state, recognized me (ooh, joint video in that stunning, newly gutted former Jam Handy film studio on East Grand Madonna's people, we grew up together, practically bff!). Doll, look it's not that I think I'm all that, really, it's the jeans! Turns out those darling young men were my guests at the Steampunk Exhibition (get mailing list, that dungeons and dragons groupie fest isn't free) and that pivotal wardrobe item worn with saucy top hat ($40 Royal Oak Flea Market-is this privately held?) and faux velvet stretch bustier (Lori Karbal, Birmingham-she'll be top tier) left a lasting impression!

The play was hilarious and bawdy and Detroit is the mecca for clever young upstarts from more viable places (so who's bankrolling these moves? check Hamptons et al for parent support groups, shake the trees). The play was an old timey Westward Ho theme suggesting that Detroit is the new frontier. The whole thing totally fired me up to buy my own behemoth, heck I'm gonna need it. Deconstruct it and they will come! I hashed the whole plan out on the pick-up tailgate (Chevy Silverado...can you see it? My dad, the GM reitree and me, the grandson, total home town heart-warmer, could be the new Eminem/Chrysler thing) while sucking on Parks BBQ ribs post show (hmmm colorful neighborhood, might have to bus 'em down on a food tour). Man that's good pig, and did I eat like one. Had to lean over cowboy style, if you get my drift. This isn't some come on, the jeans are money, and haven't we learned some investments are more important than others?

And lastly, when the heat index was at 110, that $12 tent dress I bought new at HM (am I the only mature shopper in this joint?) was the only choice for the Swedish jugglers' performance at TANK 425 (W. 9 Mile Rd., Hazel Park, isn't it in the contract that your husband has to endorse you? Kind of a drag it's the same kitty though). Wow is that a Cirque du Soleil try out? Totally mesmerizing and poetic, we were all stunned and it wasn't just heat exhaustion. As the dew turned to full-on perspiration, I said with complete sincerity, "this is pure joy," and hogged the fan to myself. I said the same thing moments later inhaling the berry vodka infusion in air-conditioned bliss (Valentine Vodka, Ferndale) Old broads love a stiff one... Joy is also being of the age where having fun in comfort matters more than the sure knowledge that a "tent" is the most unflattering thing you could wear. It's also not giving a shit, now that's sexy…soon to be viral, catch it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coasting into Shore, Great Lakes Style

I say the drive home from New York doesn't bother me, though it's long and boring. Pennsylvania thinks it's Texas and won't get off of it until after a 450 mile-long argument. But, the weather's easy and Wyatt's keeping me company with compelling facts like, "Did you know you can dilute lime juice with water and clean a teapot? And, more mangoes are eaten than any other fruit in the world?"

We get in at midnight, not horrible. You know you are crossing into Southwest Detroit when you see the steam rising and the twinkling of lights low on the horizon. It's the Marathon Oil refinery which spans both sides of I-75. I think of all those christmas lights turned on and lying on the floor, waiting to be put up and high into the tree. It makes me smile everytime I come home this way. OK so the steam is also the smoke of noxious off-gassing and daytime here lacks some romance. I am trying not to think about lights high up, that would remind me of a magnificent canyon of architecture. I am trying to come home and not feel a hard uphill climb ahead of me.

That comes the next day and sweet Jesus do I need a vacation before I do another single thing. I feel the intense strain of a very long paddle out and the pulling of my whole self up, trying to get any part of that big East Coast wave. My own bed is like a resort that I never want to leave… oh, actually I can't. I make it to the front seat of the car for the first nap, crabby as could be. We are heading to the lake, pulling a sailboat, am I relaxing yet? The wind is coming out of the Northeast, steady, gentle wave maker, it's a sure cure if I can get there. Ahh the first dive into Lake Huron, man it's so good. I'm just gonna enjoy the sun for a spell....

Salvaging? Right, I forgot why you came. Of course I hit two flea markets in between naps and a sunburn. You didn't think I'd emancipate? Brimfield is four weeks away (breath), and maybe the Brooklyn Flea Market this time (please weather and fortune gods). I gotta represent (as my friend Mark likes to say.) You know that! Seriously, I did score in the most unlikely of places and no I am not telling you where! I got good stuff and making more of it with just this and that together all in my mind (so as to push out those scary banking thoughts) Good finds all along the way. The huge bus I'm driving is unloaded and the boxes are everywhere. I'll be yanking it out and not arranging it, a mess again, naturally. Dig in (that's Fridays and Saturdays for sure! With Mark that is, I'll pop in but I'm not done with that lake yet).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Manhattan Maneuvers

Why am I standing on this late night, Forest Hills street corner smoking a cigarette after that 2-day marathon in the garage flea sauna? It's a necessary and disgusting habit, like schlepping antiques all over hell for two weeks that's why. I'm working out the remaining adrenalin while awaiting further instructions from my superiors. I shouldn't be telling you this, in fact your life is endanger knowing this much…I'm special forces. I know, I know, mild- (never mind) mannered midwestern mom-type with the requisite antiques hobby as cover (taxonomically speaking "job" might be over-reaching acceptable measure for this classification). But that's really why I was in that filthy Manhattan garage in 3-digit temps for the last two days of the East Coast tour. All I am at liberty to say is that strategic goals were mostly achieved, as best we can tell from command's grumbling, and I am on furlough so to speak, until Friday 0500 hours (when I reboard for new york, collect my progeny from camp and that full truck to make the fun drive home).

You can sleep nights knowing enemy combatants have been subdued (put down those fine ionic capitals dude, the password is NOT "are you gonna let me walk over $10?) and we've infiltrated by way of underground networks (they'd NEVER think to look for live people in this breathless box of death…by the way did we burn that stinking uniform?…oops, left it in the truck, note to self, pack hazmat bags and military strength orange-all spray). Hah! it only looks like a gross men's bathroom but actually it's a top secret command station where I quick-changed after 11 hours of duty (touching nary a surface mind you) and "showered" in the sink (remember this is the woman who gave you roadside cornfield latrine maneuver…I say suck it up, this is no time for prissy prudery and frankly we are beyond the term "shvits") and pulled that kinda short little black dress disguise on (really at her age…) Leave it to the female officers to convoy through manhattan and reconnoiter with the rest of our unit at headquarters (Bel Aire Diner, one billion other places to eat in New York, but there's the all night factor, free parking of large vehicles and complimentary mini muffins to consider).

The beauty of this assignment, which I will be repeating in September, is that there is no thinking. We know what they want (sorta kinda), we're well-prepared for the arm-wrestling, and they traffic in a currency we can trade in. Now if we can only keep Colonel Kurtz from losing it. That sleep deprivation and iced coffee defribillation makes the lips a little jiggy and voice a little loudish and with the "shoppers" wearing all manner of disguises beyond reasonable codes of decency (see-through lingerie, people on leashes, etc.), it's tough to concentrate on the the real operatives. Above all, we are there to keep our targets in the sight and to make the all-important trade. Ahh the smell of automotive grease and hot humans, the last minute deal-making by scavengers. I think I hear the flight of the valkyries playing and helicopters in the distance (so harmonic with new york accents and sirens). Re-entering familiar airspace in 14 hours and focused on destination my own mattress. Will face the tribunal and the missing documents later, the saloon calls for a cold one and then it's over and out for this soldier. Will report for duty at 0800, just enough time to have our story straight for the budget oversight committee on alleged abuses of funds.