Poem: After Stella

Seen along the East River pathway near Carl Schurz Park, after Winter Storm Stella.

walking the winding

east river path 

just after snowfall

a few people

scattered here and there

weak, distant lights

straining to be seen


right where the path turns

i see a ballerina

dancing alone,

seizing solitude,

her arms fighting

the pull of the wind


though she has no audience

empty benches 

line up to watch her

and the river reflects 

her every move


as i approach her stage

she catches my eye 

stopping, for a moment 

than completing her pirouette 


twirl, bend, twirl, bend, twirl

moving gracefully into the night 


no music

just the silence of the city

and the crunch of the snow

beneath her feet 

Waldorf A-story-a?

That’s right, the place where “stories begin” is apparently The Waldorf.

The phrase I mentioned in my previous post is the tagline of the hotel’s current global advertising campaign, “The Stories Begin Here.” The campaign involves a creative collaboration between British author Simon Van Booy, fashion photographer Bruno Dayanand, and actress Olga Kyrlyenko.

The Waldorf commissioned Van Booy to compose a short story that would inspire a photo shoot. In the story Krylyenko plays a character named Alexandra, a well-traveled couturier who experiences the various amenities Waldorf hotels have to offer (while engaging with attractive and distinguished men along the way, of course). The tale is told through photography, written vignettes, videos and soundbites.

H. Stuart Foster, vice president of marketing at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, said the multimedia campaign “brings to life” the unforgettable experiences” guests can have at any of the 24 worldwide locations.

“We have brought together a writer, an actor and a photographer – three creative minds – to develop an integrated multi-platform campaign that embodies the Waldorf Astoria guest experience,” he said when the campaign launched in November.

When I initially saw the phrase “The Stories Begin Here” on a building in Midtown East, I thought I was looking at a nice bookshop, the side of a museum cafe or possibly the lobby of a publishing company. But The Waldorf?

Doesn’t quite fit.

I love photography and fiction, but this marketing campaign seems stretched. Yes, many stories happen within the rooms and restaurants of a high-end hotel. But stories happen wherever there are people. And are Waldorf guests really looking to create stories, necessarily, or just looking for the luxurious experience that a five-star hotel offers?

Writer Larry Post details his issues with the campaign in a MediaPost column:

I suspect that few luxe-hotel regulars, excepting the ones who turn over their imaginations to the more extreme options on the hotel pay-per-view menu, have daydreamed about an experience of this sort, and that such experiences don’t rank especially high on their hospitality bucket lists. As a result, “The Stories Begin Here” plays out as self-idealizing farce, an attempt to sell a fantasy so magnificently specific as to verge on the ludicrous.

Post is right; they are most definitely selling a fantasy. A link on the website even prompts guests to “BOOK A STORY” instead of “BOOK A ROOM.”

Seems to me a little pretentious. But then again, I’m not booking rooms at The Waldorf.

–Read all the stories here.


Small finds: Pickwick Book Shop

Searching through the stacks at Pickwick Book Shop.

I took a short ride with my family to Nyack, New York yesterday and was pleased to find there a used bookstore called “Pickwick Book Shop.” This place was literally OVERFLOWING with books– stacks upon stacks upon stacks, some so high they were out of reach. And lots of nooks and crannies everywhere, the way I imagine a book shop should be.

Nyack-Piermont Patch calls Pickwick Book Shop “one of the last great used bookstores.” According to Patch, the owner, Jack Dunnigan, used to shop at the store as a child, and bought the place in 1975. It has been open since the 50s.

I really loved looking through the book shop, especially trying to pick out the older books from the piles. I ended up buying a 1963 edition of “Prefaces to Shakespeare: Antony & Cleopatra and Coriolanus,” as well as a few vintage-looking cards with images of New York City. The place actually reminded me a lot of the famous Shakespeare and Company in Paris, except I have the sense Pickwick is much less organized. I wonder how (and, frankly, if) the owner keeps track of all this inventory!

If you’re ever in the area, or on the hunt for first editions, I’d suggest you check this place out. Just make sure to leave yourself an hour or two!

From London to Toledo

Credit: Toledo Lucas County Public Library

Above: Madison Avenue, Toledo, OH, circa 1918.

I’m spending the summer working for the Toledo Blade in Toledo, Ohio as a reporting intern. Friends and family keep asking me, “From London to Toledo–why?” and I can honestly say that although Toledo’s no London, no New York, I like it here. I get to write every day and work with amazing people. I’m getting solid reporting experience, and am finding out a lot about the city while doing it.

It was Memorial Day Weekend when my parents helped me move in to my new apartment (which is HUGE, by  the way). When we drove up to the parking lot in our Target-stuffed Suburban, dusk just starting to fall, I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. The building didn’t look all that nice from the outside. And there was absolutely nothing going on, absolutely no one on the streets, which was kind of eerie. The city is somewhat of a ghost town– when business people leave at 6 p.m., the downtown empties out. After work hours, it becomes nearly impossible to find a place to eat, except for a handful of scattered restaurants and bars. Sundays are just a lost cause.

There’s not much socially going on in Toledo, but there is always news.

Toledo is a depressed city. Once bustling and prosperous, the decline of the automotive industry and the white flight epidemic left it deflated. But everywhere, still, you see remnants of the past– beautiful Victorian houses from the 1900s, a grand theater, even hot dog joints that were opened in the 20s and haven’t changed much since. It’s interesting seeing the juxtaposition of majestic architecture and spreading urban decay, and I’m intrigued by this idea of what Toledo used to be.

I’ve been scrolling through the Toledo Library‘s archives of old photos just to get a sense of it. Pictured above is a street right in the downtown, Madison Avenue. It’s hard to imagine so many people once crowded these streets, because today they’re almost always empty.

I’ll be posting more “then and now” pictures later.

This is the same street pictured above, Madison Avenue, today.