Thank You.

I'm in Maine today, waiting for snow and feeling thankful for friends and family. New adventures. Changing seasons. Raw milk ice cream, rain, and oceans too cold to swim in. I'm grateful for you, too — I'm so lucky to have found a place in this lovely little online world — thank you so much for having me.

Reading for the weekend: on love versus likes, water, and the only moment there is.

Have a wonderful holiday. See you Monday. Photo by Nick Runkle.

We Never Met.

If it's possible to be in love with an Instagram account, then I'm head over heels for We Never Met, an account started by Ogilvy London's Alex Mendes and Hugo Catraio. The feed features photos of strangers on the street, captioned by an imagined backstory. In the pair's own words, it's "a series of conversations we never had. Short stories created for random strangers whose faces we never get to see." Amazing.

They have been in this in and out relationship for the past couple of years. He loves her more than anything, but the Lambretta can be truly selfish sometimes.

Whenever he's feeling blue, he'll enter a cheese shop and say "surprise me."

He has 521 friends on Google Plus. He doesn't know he has Google Plus.

Every now and then you'll find him dressed overly formal. That means he hasn't done laundry for a while.

He likes to say goodbye using words such as "ciao" and "au revoir," but is never prepared when people who speak other languages reply.

Found via Fast Co. Find We Never Met on Instagram, here.

Recommended Reading / 12.

Every Monday, words to start the week.

This week: a beautiful blog post by Sam Shorey on laying claim to the cities we live in (and the fear of loving a new place after experiencing the pain of leaving the last). I've always felt an urge to hang on to the cities I've called home, and though I live in Brooklyn currently, I find myself missing it every now and then, as if I've already left. In her post, Sam — who recently moved from Amherst to Seattle — wonders: how long can you live in a place before you say you're from there? Read more on Ashore — one of my longtime favorites — here

A handful more, just because:
-The first-ever weather forecast. 
-Awful Library Books, including Practical Muskrat Raising, Be Bold With Bananas, and Help, Lord — The Devil Wants Me Fat. (Thanks, Messy Nessy Chic.)
-Pinning Pablo Neruda like crazy: boom, boom, boom.

Also, a few posts I've done elsewhere:
-Beautiful NYC shop interiors.
-Off-beat gifts and unusual wrapping paper finds.
-Global comfort foods (and how to make them).
-The beginning of an ongoing destination-based book series.

More recommended reading, here. Happy Monday!

POV: Lines.

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.  

I ran into the younger brother of an old friend yesterday as I crossed the street in front of the Wythe Hotel. He was a seventh grader the year I graduated high school — a boy who came up to my shoulder, and wore fishnets on his forearms. He had a tiny voice and giant brown eyes. He'd hug me every time we passed in the halls. He was approaching with arms outstretched this time, too, only he'd grown a foot, and his voice had deepened, and he wore a pair of what can only be described as very beautiful glasses. "Shoko, I wish I could catch up, but I'm on my way to an interview," he said, holding up a printed resume. "I have to run."

We told each other we'd meet again soon. They grow up so fast, I thought, in a moment of total ridiculousness as I watched him go. Just look at him — so young, his whole life ahead of him.

Friends & Neighbors / Brooklyn Art Library.

In Friends & Neighbors, I'll introduce you to some of my favorite creative businesses in Williamsburg. With a new expensive store or chain restaurant opening seemingly every week, there's been much talk these days about how Williamsburg is "over." This series showcases shops, restaurants, and studios that make the neighborhood special, and prove that integrity, creativity, and an artistic spirit are still alive and well. They're places that make me proud to live here, and to call the faces behind their counters neighborsPhotographs by Jacquelyne Pierson.

Thirty-two thousand books line the walls at 103 North 3rd Street — to take it all in is to spend a lot of time squinting, staring, standing back in awe. "There's so much amazing work here," says co-founder Steven Peterman. "Just looking at the shelves really captures the beauty of the project as a whole. Each book is a story. Each book is a voice."

The Brooklyn Art Library, as the space is called, is home to The Sketchbook Project, an eight-year-long undertaking that has resulted in the collection and cataloguing of tens of thousands of artists' sketchbooks from around the globe. Anyone — regardless of artistic background — can submit, so long as he or she meets the annual deadline and a small fee. Once turned in, each 32-page volume is made searchable by subject, place of origin, key words, and other various categories — then, it's added to the library so that anyone who visits can find it and flip through its pages.

Stationed in their current location since 2010, the Art Library serves as both storefront and community space, inviting locals and tourists alike to browse. Teachers bring students on class visits; shoppers stop in to peruse an assortment of paper goods and art materials. Each time, they're greeted by a friendly staff (a small one, with less than ten members total), who are at the ready to help navigate the shelves.  

As a neighbor of the shop since it opened, I've come in many times, often just to look around, but also to share it with visiting friends — it's a perfect, only-in-New-York gem, and though it's built on an idea that seems larger than life, the library itself manages to somehow make the city — and the world — seem smaller. "I love the idea of connecting the community," Steven says, "and of finding people who have the same thoughts and ideas as you, all over the world, who haven't been dead for 100 years."

"There's no way we could have predicted that we'd get here," he continues, "that we'd end up in Williamsburg, with this many books. It's been a little like we're on a ship moving through the fog." When asked whether he's seen everything in the space, he smiles. "Definitely not. When the deadlines come, we get bags of mail at once. So we're always finding things we've never seen. There's always a treasure to be found."

Brooklyn Art Library, 103A North 3rd Street, (718) 388-7941
Mon-Sun 11am - 7pm 

Five Minutes with Steven Peterman:

Where did The Sketchbook Project originate? We started in 2006 in Atlanta. We opened up a gallery where you'd pay us a monthly fee for wall space, but it wasn't really what we wanted to do. We wanted to work more with the community, so we started a series of projects — the first was called A Million Little Pictures. We sent out disposable cameras with a simple idea in mind: that many different people would come together to create something. The Sketchbook Project was just one of many things we were doing at the time, but it was one people kept relating to. And it continued to grow — between 2009 and 2010, we grew from 3,000 people doing the project to 28,000. In the art world, often you have to know someone or pay to have your work seen, but we wanted to create something fun and non-intimidating. Eventually, we moved to New York in 2009. And here we are.

What's been the most exciting part of the journey thus far?  It's allowed us to travel and meet people all over the world. We met a woman in Australia in her 60s who did the project and then decided to go to art school. I love that there are great illustrators and artists participating, but there are also people who are just looking for a way to tell a story.

Do you keep a sketchbook yourself? I have three books in the collection. Everyone who works with us has made one over the past few years. Every late winter, we get together as a staff and share them. It's really changed my perspective on the project — it's so much work to make a 32-page book.

Visit the Brooklyn Art Library website, here, and The Sketchbook Project, here.

If On a Winter's Night.

Nick Turpin's photographs of London bus passengers on winter nights are gorgeous and ghostly, full of mystery. They remind me of those fleeting moments on trains when you catch the eye of someone in a passing car — you wonder, what are they thinking about? or where are they going? or did they see me, too? Those moments — connecting with strangers, however briefly, and dreaming up their stories — is one of my favorite parts of living in a city.

See more at Nick Turpin's website, here. Thanks, Ignant.

Recommended Reading / 11.

Every Monday, words to start the week.

This week, from Omid Safi's The Disease of Being Busy: Reflections from a Duke University professor on the downfalls of constant busy-ness. Says Safi: "What happened to a world in which we can sit with people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?" 

 He continues: "I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports. I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life." Read the piece in its entirety, here

Three more links, just because:
-Slumber Party Games: A Taxonomy.
-Thanksgiving-themed ramen, burgers, and a turkey wrapped in proscuitto.
-Hawkeye Hurley, the four-year-old son of a National Geographic photographer, has an Instagram account for his own shots, which he takes on a Fujifilm Instax.

More recommended reading, here. Photos by Max Wanger. Have a lovely Monday!

Non-Career Advice: Deb Filler.

Non-Career Advice is a series that asks people - young, old, and in a range of occupations - for words of wisdom unrelated to work, career-building, dollars, or getting ahead.

Deb Filler / Writer + performer + comedian
Also: Singer / teacher / world-class cook
Age: 60

Celebrate all that you have — including your complaints. “My mantra is, I’m so lucky. Feeling lucky — celebrating that — is something that was handed down to me, because my father was an Auschwitz survivor.  Day to day, it’s easy to complain. I could list 20 things right now: My computer is too slow. My feet are cold. The window needs repairing. I didn’t want the tobiko on my sushi today. Listen to that: it’s all so incredibly unimportant. There are people in the world who live on 20 cents a day, who live in fear or in garbage, or are dead by the time they’re 30. What the hell have I got to complain about? We have freedom. We have choices. We can be artists. It makes me think, I’m so fortunate to have these problems. It’s about perspective, and remembering that we have a responsibility to give back on whatever level we can. Be generous. Volunteer.

Also: be a good listener. Connect with people emotionally and intellectually and physically and spiritually by putting your entire body into listening to them. Be completely awake.”

Thank you so much, Deb! More from the Non-Career Advice series, here.

The Giant Birdsnest.

Think of the Giant Birdsnest, designed by OGE Creative Group, as the ultimate conversation pit. I'd bet it'd also be the most relaxing place to read, or nap, or to stare out the window — or, as its makers encourage, to create ideas. ("The Giant Birdsnest…is a fusion of furniture and playground," they say.) My favorite part of the whole thing? The fact that the nest comes in four sizes (the biggest can seat 16), and that the color of your cotton-lycra eggs can be customized. Sign me up. 

Learn more about OGE's Giant Birdsnest, here

Recommended Reading / 10.

Every Monday, words to start the week.

Keeping it short this week, from Ricky Gervais: a tiny tidbit of really, really good advice. 

Three more links, just because:
-Movie theater etiquette of way-back-when.
-Pico Iyer writes about Leonard Cohen's decision to spend five years in seclusion under the tutelage of Zen teacher Kyozan Joshu Sasaki: "Sitting still with his aged Japanese friend, sipping Courvoisier, and listening to the crickets deep into the night, was the closest he'd come to finding lasting happiness, the kind that doesn't change even when life throws up one of its regular challenges and disruptions. 'Nothing touches it,' Cohen said, as the light came into the cabin, of sitting still…Going nowhere, as Cohen described it, was the grand adventure that makes sense of everywhere else."

Have a happy Monday! More recommended reading, here.

Non-Career Advice: Liza Lubell.

Non-Career Advice is a series that asks people - young, old, and in a range of occupations - for words of wisdom unrelated to work, career-building, dollars, or getting ahead.

Liza Lubell / Floral Designer
Also: Crafter / world traveler  / apple pie & whiskey aficionado 
Age: 32

Focus on what has staying power. (Hint: it's not money.) "When I first began my flower career, I didn’t really have much in mind in the way of goals. I knew I loved flowers and thought supporting myself vis a vis “playing with flowers” all day sounded like a good idea. As I dove deeper into my work, though, I put my professional hat on a little tighter and started to create some goals: wouldn’t it be nice to have my work in a magazine, or to travel to another country for a job, or have people write articles about me, and so on.

At first, checking some of those items off my list was exhilarating. But while I'm certainly proud of my work, I've realized something over the course of the past few years: the more we rely on external forms of praise to validate ourselves, the less it works — and the exhilaration I get from those sorts of successes doesn't have much staying power. The things that do are much simpler (and, it turns out, right under my nose all along): family, friends, a sense of home. The happiness I get from cultivating and nurturing personal relationships is much longer-lasting than any I could derive elsewhere. It makes me feel rich in a way that's much more special than money."

Thank you so much, Liza! More from the Non-Career Advice series, here.

Photo by Matthew Williams.

Friends & Neighbors / Spoonbill & Sugartown.

In Friends & Neighbors, I'll introduce you to some of my favorite creative businesses in Williamsburg. With a new expensive store or chain restaurant opening seemingly every week, there's been much talk these days about how Williamsburg is "over." This series showcases shops, restaurants, and studios that make the neighborhood special, and prove that integrity, creativity, and an artistic spirit are still alive and well. They're places that make me proud to live here, and to call the faces behind their counters neighborsPhotographs by Jacquelyne Pierson.

Located amid the chaos of Williamsburg's Bedford Avenue is Spoonbill & Sugartown, an independent bookstore stocking new and used titles in a wide range of genres: cooking, art, design, architecture, music, literature, and everything in between. (It's also home to one of my favorite magazine racks in the neighborhood, and an always-dependable selection of books on sale for just a few dollars each, on display on shelves and tables outside.)

Opened fifteen years ago by Miles Bellamy and Jonas Kyle, the shop has been around long enough to witness an almost complete transformation of the neighborhood. Lining what were once much emptier streets are now a Madewell, a J. Crew, an Urban Outfitters, a Dunkin' Donuts. Whole Foods is set to open steps away in 2015. Still, Spoonbill remains standing. (Five years ago,  The New York Times reported, the store celebrated a decade of business with women in white singing, "May the books flow 10 more years.")

Funnily enough, my first memory of Brooklyn is of this very store. I was visiting the city in 2002 as a high school senior, and my older brother brought me to Williamsburg, telling me it was an area he'd heard was popular among "the cool kids." I remember feeling confused as we emerged from the subway station — it was quiet, and seemingly empty. Nothing like the New York City I imagined (or the Williamsburg that exists today). Why would anyone want to live here? I wondered. Then we walked through Spoonbill & Sugartown, and I felt suddenly, surprisingly at home. It was, unbeknownst to me then, just the beginning of a long, much-cherished love affair.

Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers, 218 Bedford Avenue, (718) 387-7322
Mon-Sun 10am - 10pm

Five Minutes with Jonas Kyle:

Tell me about opening Spoonbill fifteen years ago. What inspired you to start a store? It was 1999. Williamsburg wasn't anything like it is now. It was grimier. It didn't have a worldwide reputation. The warehouses and factories were still functioning as warehouses and factories, and it was still a relatively unnoticed part of the city. I'd known Miles, who was working with his father in the art business at the time, since we were in high school. He'd always wanted to open a bookstore and asked if I wanted to do it with him. We got wind that this building — an old sweater factory —was being converted into apartments and stores. There was an art community based here, and we decided to open our store to serve that community.

What's surprised you most about the ways in which the neighborhood has changed since then? The speed and scale of the changes have been remarkable. What's funny to me is that a lot of people think we're a tourist spot. In many ways, we have become that. Many of our customers are visitors to the city.

Lastly, do you have any reading recommendations to share? The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink was very good. I'm reading In the Dust of This Planet now — it was featured on Radiolab; after that, people started asking about it. I'm also reading Adventures in the Anthropocene, by Gaia Vince, a science writer who basically gave up her job to wander the earth exploring the effects of climate change. It's very smart.

Thanks so much, Jonas. Visit the Spoonbill & Sugartown website for more information, here.

Recommended Reading / 09.

Every Monday, words to start the week.

This week, via Kottke: On Kindness, a piece by writer Cord Jefferson about lessons learned from his mother, a woman who has kept her kind spirit even in the face of cruelty, and callousness, and cancer. It's easily the best thing I've read in weeks — I told myself I'd spend five minutes of my busy morning reading it; instead, I spent the better part of an hour and couldn't be happier that I did. 

Cord writes: I am hopeful that my mother will be around to share many more years with us. But I’m now attempting to find some comfort in the idea that I can keep her close to me for as long as I live by struggling to remain decent, the pursuit that I’ve seen conjure up incredible power during the course of her life. This world takes so much from us. It takes our friends and first loves. It takes our parents. It takes our faith. It takes our dignity. It takes our passion. It takes our health. It takes our honesty, and it takes our credulity. To lose so much and still hold onto yourself is perhaps the most complicated task human beings are asked to perform, which is why seeing it done with aplomb is as thrilling as looking at dinosaur bones or seeing a herd of elephants. It’s an honor to exist on Earth with these things.

Find On Kindness in its entirety, here

Three more links, just because:
-The Literary US: a book for every state.
-Take a peek into your subconscious via the act of coloring.
-On the regional accents and idiosyncrasies of sign language speakers: "New Yorkers are notorious fast-talkers, while Ohioans are calm and relaxed. New Yorkers also curse more."

More recommended reading, here. Photo by Liza Lubell.

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