The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

Books & Words

An Amazing Tattoo

Books & WordsAlexandra kingComment
tyler cook tattoo

 

My friend Tyler has the most amazing tattoo. On his forearm is a beautiful inking of a perfectly smooth and crater-dappled moon. Underneath? The evocative haiku by Mizuta Masahide, a 17th century Japanese poet and samurai, who, after a fire struck his farm, wrote the following:

Barn's burnt down --

Now

I can see the moon

In our daily lives, filled with all those pesky metaphorical barn burnings, it's a beautiful little thing to read, isn't it? Irreverent, straight forward, stead fast, a hint of cynical humour, an absolute commitment to wonder. Words that Tyler inked so beautifully onto his lovely arm, but which I also implore you to sew hard into your heart. 

Do you have a tattoo I should see? A haiku I need to commit to memory? I want to hear all about it.


Paris Je t'aime

Travel, Books & WordsAlexandra king1 Comment
Paris, TSWIL

Cher Paris,

I love you. I love your medieval squares and winding lanes. Your old stone steps to be jumped down, two at a time, because you're late for dinner, because everyone's late for dinner, but, merde! You might be the latest. I love your sidewalk cafes where a coffee only ever means an espresso, served piping hot, with a saucer. I love your markets filled with fat artichokes and furious red-aproned butchers and glistening tartes aux pommes. I love that my best friends were born in you and borne of you. I love that your waiters have never done anything but openly scorn my crappy French because this is a perfect and beautiful language, a noble language, to be spoken very well or not at all, non? Oh god do I ever I love your wine. I have literally loved your boys. I love your dress code of careful, expensive dishevelment. I love your pharmacies filled with stern-faced ladies in lab coats who care as much about early onset laughter lines as they do about a summer cold. I love your matriarchs (there's nothing like a French matriarch). I love that you are tough. I love that you are sensual. I love that Gene Kelly danced across you. That Flaubert walked, boots clacking on filthy cobblestones, all around you. That my parents, in the first flush of love, wandered through your streets under the apricot shade of a pink umbrella. That that's my favorite photo ever taken of my mother. I even love your infernal habit of being completely shut down on a Monday, because who cares about Mondays anyway. I love that you did not need me but I needed you. I truly love you, Paris, Pahree, la ville de la lumière.

In the old-time movie An American in Paris, the character Lise Bouvier says, "Maybe Paris has a way of making people forget." Her companion, Jerry Mulligan, replies, "Paris? No. Not this city. It's too real and too beautiful to ever let you forget anything."

Paris. To not forgetting. To being beautiful. To staying strong despite this unimaginable reality. I raise my glass, tip my hat and kiss you, oh so softly, twice- always starting left (where the heart is).

Mi amor, ma belle ville, je t'aime.

Alex

TGIF- 04/09/15

TGIF, Food and Drink, Fashion & Beauty, Books & Words, Love and Marriage, New York City, TravelAlexandra kingComment
Alexandra King-Lyles
alexandra king-lyles TSWIL

TGIF and happy September! Isn't it such a thrill to feel the seasons changing? Though it remains hot as Hades in NYC right now, there's no doubt that the tendrils of Autumn are sneaking their way through the air on the breeze- there's a clarity in those whispers of wind that promises change. Though I often nurture dreams of packing it all in and heading to California (usually in the depths of a New York January) I know that were I to ever leave my beloved NYC, I'd miss that. We all need markers don't we? And when life is too busy to journal or photograph or commemorate properly, when all the hectic days combine fast and close and linear, it's so nice to have the signpost of a season. Bring on the scarves, jackets and blankets of fallen leaves, say I. I'm ready.

My weekly best of the net below.


Summer may be almost officially over. But it's still hot here. And I'll be sunbathing in the park to this song just one last time this weekend


Taylor Swift vs Socrates
 

This chick gives zero shits. Applause. 


I love Mindy


Emerson Fry goodness making the coming colder weather seem oh so appetising


And this Autumn, I'm totally forcing Isaac to drive us upstate so we can admire some of that beautiful fall foliage


How to really help the world's new refugees 


YUM! 
 

What a cool idea. An app that adjusts the brightness of your computer screen to the time of day. Totally trying it out

A chic ceiling clothes rack


Excited to watch this

A sweet and interesting perspective on travel
 

A Meaningful Homemade Wedding Card

Love and Marriage, Books & WordsAlexandra kingComment
homemade wedding cards TSWIL

Wedding cards can be tough. They all seem to be the same, saccharine levels of sweet, lots of gold embossing and cheesy cursive, seemingly destined to sit, forlorn, on the "gift table" unopened and covered in cake crumbs. At a good friend's recent wedding I wanted to do something a little different. I knew she and her fiancee were getting married in a flower field upstate, so I figured I would gather some blooms and leaves from the meadow where they had their ceremony, and press them for the card. Individual, beautiful and meaningful! 

card 1.jpg

Making it was a piece of cake- at the wedding I simply picked a few flowers and leaves from the beautiful meadow where my friends were wed, stuck them in an envelope in my handbag, popped them between the pages of my book back at the hotel, and then took them on the train back to Brooklyn, where I pressed them into further submission under the ever-dependable nemesis that is The Oxford Book of English Verse.

homemade wedding cards TSWIL

6 weeks later, et voila! I used a good quality blank card stock (purchased from here) and a smidgen of glue stick. That's it. 

The only drawback is that waiting for those flowers to totally dry out means you can't send your card right away, but I think as long as you send a message in the days after, and finish off with this show stopper, all will be forgiven etiquette-wise.

wedding card tswil

There you have it! Do you have any unique home-made card ideas or tips? I'd love to hear. 

A Beautiful Article

Books & WordsAlexandra kingComment
baby swift

I'm a super speedy reader, and Isaac always makes fun of me for how fast I get through books. "You can't POSSIBLY have read it properly" he'll say, after I slap the cover down of a 300-pager, five hours in, and declare myself finished. Though I don't always agree, I have started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, he's right about trying to take things more easy, and so recently I've been trying to read slowly and mindfully (a good approach to apply to all things I know- ommmm shanti shanti). It's hard for me though. I'm just an unashamed word glutton, gulping them up, merrily, and with sometimes too careless abandon, like Augustus Gloop and the chocolate river. There are, though, as Nancy Mitford would say, sometimes "currants in the cake", pieces so good, so simple, so profound, that you want to cruise through them as slow as molasses, and then start right back at the beginning again. This piece, by Helen Macdonald in the New York Times magazine this weekend, was exactly that for me. An article that profiles a lady in England named Judith Wakelam who rescues baby swifts. Doesn't  initially sound like a sexy story, huh? You can tell the News Editor knew it, pinning the piece half-heartedly to a more topical hook on wildlife conservation (a la Cecil the Lion, may he rest in peace). But when writing is this beautiful, simple, lyrical, so charged with energy and mystery, so Zinsser-ian (not a word don't care) in its majesty, you forget that the news cycle is even still running.

Some choice sentences that I particularly loved:

"..the birds in front of me resemble a cross between subway mice and a pile of unexpectedly animate kindling. "

"The way that rehabbers talk about what they do evokes in me precisely the feelings I’ve had about rescue animals in my own life: an intoxicating process of coming to know something quite unlike you, to understand it well enough not only to keep it alive but also to put it back, like a puzzle piece, into the gap in the world it left behind."

"It looks like a weird, unearthly creature, a delicate construction of scalloped feathers and ungainly wings: hunched into itself, its miniature claws gripping her fingers, it has deep eyes that look like reflective astronaut visors. I wonder what it can see: lines of magnetic force, perhaps, rising air and flying insects and the suspicion of summer storms. The flat green beneath it has nothing to do with it at all." (This last sentence literally took my breath away)

Anyway, run and read the piece. It's short and fascinating and life affirming. I think you'll love it.




Ten Articles To Read Again And Again

Books & WordsAlexandra king2 Comments
marilyn monroe TSWIL

 

This post was inspired by the fact that it's fairly common to solicit book advice from friends and family and encounter book reviews (even the New York Post has one) but we don't do quite the same thing with articles, do we? Newspapers and magazines, each one a colossal miracle of copy, a full novel of words, produced by immense effort daily, are read and discarded and recycled.  At best, shared enthusiastically on social media with its accompanying five seconds of fame, or, in occasional cases, canonized quietly into literary permanence between the soft bindings of a published anthology. But there's not much in between. When I was younger, I used to cut out articles I liked and paste them in a scrap book (which I promptly lost somewhere between England and America). But now we have the internet, what a marvel, meaning I can discard my gluestick and reach for Google.

It must be said that Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Fran Leibovitz etc all belong here, but I didn't include them because everyone knows them already, and if you don't, I implore your eyes to eat up their respective catalogues at once. I tried to make this list recent, with the exception of Gay Talese, because the Joe Di Maggio piece is just so masterful and, in my humble opinion, under read (and because I love that line about him keeping a painting of his ex wife, Marilyn Monroe, dead by the time the article was written, in his living room- "there is a soft sweet smile on her lips, an innocent curiosity about her that is the way he saw her and the way he wanted her to be seen" HOW MUCH MORE SIMPLE AND PERFECT FEELING COULD YOU PUT IN A LINE? Heart-a-flutter to the max).

Below are ten articles that I find myself coming back to, again and again, when I'm in need of feeling or inspiration. The list features, among others, sensational writers like Marina Hyde, Sophie Heawood and Simon Van Booy. AA Gill, like his initial, appears twice. I hope you enjoy them all, and please post any links to your favourite articles in the comments. I'd love to read them.

"Raising a Princess Singlehandedly" by Simon Van Booy

My favourite lines:

"That was the first of hundreds of nights we would simply have to fake normalcy and hope it felt the same. Madeleine fell asleep during the film. She missed the part where the Prince brings Sleeping Beauty back to life with a kiss, and everything returns to normal. I wondered whether she fell asleep on purpose."

"Every day there is an egg to catch. But my one great hope is that my daughter will always trust me enough to throw it — and that in her growing heart she will see the world as a place where more eggs are caught than broken."

"Why The Boston Terrorist Plot Is The Least Successful In Living Memory" by Marina Hyde

My favourite lines:

"Not everyone in the UK knows someone running in Sunday's marathon, but you could imagine everyone knowing someone who knows someone running in it. Have you got a someone? It's not too late to get a someone."

"I had spent what felt like a couple of decades – but was in fact only a couple of days – asking everyone from doctors to nurses to cleaners to random people in corridors whether my baby was going to die, and been only answered with what felt like an increasingly tentative "Look, he's in the best place …"

"A Writer And A Friend Of The Highest Class" by AA Gill

My favourite lines:

"Ours is not a cosy profession. We don’t share much. Not contacts or leads. Not quotes or stories. Amy did. She was a paragon, and perhaps a lesson. "

"Amy was found hanged. I have been worrying about how to say that. Normally, I’d have asked Amy. She’d have said, “Put hanged. That’s what happened. You need to say.”

"In Memoriam, My Courageous Brother Christopher" by Peter Hitchens

My favourite lines:

"Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it".

"He never went home and now never will. Never, there it is, that inflexible word that trails close behind that other non-negotiable syllable, death."

"Thanksgiving in Mongolia" by Ariel Levy

My favourite lines:

"I liked the idea of telling my kid, “When you were inside me, we went to see the edge of the earth.” 

"But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen. Sometimes, when I think about it, I still feel a dark hurt from some primal part of myself, and if I’m alone in my apartment when this happens I will hear myself making sounds that I never made before I went to Mongolia. I realize that I have turned back into a wounded witch, wailing in the forest, undone."

"The Silent Season of a Hero" by Gay Talese

My favourite lines:

"The banners had been held by hundreds of young boys whose dreams had been fulfilled so often by Mantle, but also seated in the grandstands were older men, paunchy and balding, in whose middle-aged minds DiMaggio was still vivid and invincible, and some of them remembered how one month before, during a pregame exhibition at Old-timers’ Day in Yankee Stadium, DiMaggio had hit a pitch into the left-field seats, and suddenly thousands of people had jumped wildly to their feet, joyously screaming—the great DiMaggio had returned, they were young again, it was yesterday"

"How To Get Thrown Out Of The Royal Enclosure" by Tanya Gold

My favourite lines:

"Ascot, as far as I can see with my middle-class eyes, is the British Class System in a grandstand. It is a world of barricades and badges and net veils and is thus the most terrifying place I have encountered since I last went to South Kensington by mistake. But that is for later. For now, the hats."

"The Queen looks, as ever, like an angry sweet sitting on her rage. She waddles to her box to watch the show. There's not much left to do but sit down, eat the cheese roll and wait for it all to die."

"Raves Made Me And They'll Make My Baby Too" by Sophie Heawood

My favourite lines:

"My one-year-old was with me in her pushchair, chewing on her own hand. Joining the queue, I found myself asking God – much like when I peed on a stick two years ago, actually – if this was really happening to me."

"And so I wish her the joy of being anyone, for a few hours, lost in the darkness, answerable only to the molecules. If anything, I want her to know that she is nobody, and nothing. I want her to feel like air."

"The Seismic Changes Of Having A Baby" by Eva Wiseman

My favourite lines:

"But I see now that it wasn’t only that, that exhaustion that you can almost chew on; it was something new, and it was horrible because it was love. The thing I feel for her is physically painful. It’s an awful love. A terrible love. It continues to wind me. It’s a one-inch punch. It’s not the comforting bath of love I’m used to. It’s a bruise being pressed, continually, by a strong thumb."

"...those tiny birds. Falling like snow. I realise now that the reason I’m still thinking about them is that I identified with both the flying geese and the falling babies."

"Rote 66" by AA Gill

My favourite lines:

'Having treated you at the door like social scurvy with contagious halitosis, the staff subtly changes demeanor once you’re inside. They treat you like deaf cretins with learning difficulties. “Have you eaten here before?” they ask. “Do you understand how this works?” “What—I order, you serve, I pay, you give me my coat back?”

"When was it that blank emptiness and mild discomfort became a synonym for deep thought? When models started doing yoga, I suppose."

 

 

Three Game Changer Words At Work (And In Life, Generally)

Careers and Working, Books & Words, Love and MarriageAlexandra king1 Comment
Bridget Jones TSWIL

Three little words. Not "I love you" obviously. Something else. Something less easy to think and feel. Something you should definitely say more.

I'm blessed to have a wise fairy godmother of a mentor, who happens to also be an award winning film maker and journalist. I met her because five years ago, she took a chance on a fresh out of school foreigner with too-long hair (me) and gave said haircut-avoider her first proper job. Since then, working alongside and for her, I've basked in the glow of watching her power house her way through life, in the most graceful way imaginable. Though she's at a professional level where Devil Meets Prada type behaviour is entirely possible, perhaps even expected, hers is a presence that is both commanding and gentle. She nurtures others and doesn't take no for an answer. You want her on your side and you want to be on her team. You want to earn her admiration and respect. As Sophia Amoruso would say, she's an ultimate Girl Boss.

There are many Girl Bosses out there, and I urge you to seek out yours and study her, David Attenborough style, as intensely as you would a window display at Celine, or a super hot shirtless Idris Elba look-a-like running through Prospect Park or a truly excellent piece of winged eyeliner mastery from your tricksy bestie (these are my examples, yours may differ). Anyway, I digress. I noticed that one of the things my own Girl Boss had mastered so well was negotiation and listening. Even when presented with ideas in turn misguided or ridiculous, or even in the face of outright hostility, she always kept her cool. In fact, she had a magic ability to make people feel heard, while firmly letting them know what was up. That was when I first heard her say those magic words.

"Help me understand"

Help me understand why you think that's the best option. Help me understand why you're feeling frustrated. Help me understand how to make this situation better. Help me understand.

Wowzas. Such a subtle, magical phrase, firmly placing you smack bang wallop in the centre of a perfect venn diagram of strength and humility. A little breath for you as you work out your options, a little moment of compassion and patience for a colleague or friend or stranger. I'm telling you, even if the person you find yourself with is being a downright A-grade a-hole, this magic phrase always manoeuvres you into a position of strength. I've placed it firmly in my repertoire and have watched it work magic on everyone from curmudgeonly car rental dudes to conversations with Time Warner Cable call centre staff (surely a pit of hell Dante missed) to (ahem) beloved husbands. Help me understand. Learn it. Use it. And, on a side note, don't forget to let your Girl Boss know how much you appreciate them. Which is what I am going to do, right this second, by pressing 'publish'. I'm curious, do you have an inspiring Girl Boss in your life? What has she taught you? I'd love to hear.