Thursday, February 26, 2009

Public Displays of Emotion


Earlier today, I conducted a sociological experiment. I hadn't set out to do it, but I should have known when I sat down at a window table at Cosi, right on 15th and Locust, and then called my mother. What followed, regardless of the ups and downs of mother-daughter relations, struck me as one more reason I love city life.

I had been dreading this phone call for several days, after a tense couple of days visiting. I knew we needed to talk; she knew we needed to talk. I had put off the conversation earlier in the morning, when I sat for several hours at home, phone on the desk before me, talking to myself instead of to her, hoping to manage a (one-sided) conversation without a lump in my throat.

Sure enough, not only did I not manage to make the call, as soon as I started down the sidewalk I heard the phone in my pocket. I didn't answer, but at Cosi I decided I may as well close my eyes, press "call back," and wait for the fallout.

My mother and I spoke for about half an hour. During the entire call, I sat facing out, my back to my fellow patrons, but facing the window just by the PATCO entrance. It was a busy time; people came and went. For half an hour I cried, openly, the tears streaming down my cheeks, my nose running, as I talked. I wept. And as my tears fell, a part of my brain (writer? Yes!) noticed the responses from the people passing on the street. Nearly all glanced in the window. A few looked away quickly, perhaps embarrassed for me, perhaps wishing not to be rude. More kept walking, but met my gaze briefly, their eyes questioning, a little sympathetic. What, they must have wondered, was I talking about? To whom? But the most interesting response was that of two or three people who slowed and stared. Stared. Blank curiosity on their faces. It felt like an exchange that could only happen in the city: I was obviously okay, not hurt or in need of assistance, just sad. They recognized I didn't need them for anything, but found it interesting that I was there with salt streaks on my face, in effect performing my misery like a street show. I had become an emotional busker, sans tip jar. In a suburban development, I'd have been a leper (I think); in a friendlier small town, I would have been asked if I was okay, what was wrong, and so on. Urban life allows for something I value so much: observation, without interference.

I think we should all weep in public on occasion. I felt linked in to humanity. I wonder how my audience felt? At any rate, it's not something I think I'll do a lot of, not being that huge of an exhibitionist. Oh wait ... I'm blogging ... okay, a bit of an exhibitionist.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Well, I did vote for change ...

For my first post, a few thoughts:

1. Just got my PA license back, after years in a suburban hamlet in NJ. Yay, me!
2. Newly single, I find myself navigating the strange waters of self-sufficiency, and loving it. Everything is possible.
3. I am months away from a Ph.D. in English Literature. So what does one do in my position, with a new apartment I need to pay for, a childcare schedule that does not allow me to work 8-5, and no real income prospects until I finish the degree? One CLEANS!!! I've decided to clean people's homes for money. Promises to be a situation ripe with blog fodder, wouldn't you say? Wish me luck.
4. If you have a chance, go see Theatre Exile's Blackbird. I'm going for the second time tonight. It's gritty.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Apple In The Garden of Non-Profit Eden

Teacher Apple

Tonight I made it down to L’etage for the First Person Arts (FPA) February Story Slam based on the theme, “I think we’re alone now.” Storyslam is a guaranteed night of open laughter, goosebumps, cringe worthy moments, and old friends. I hadn’t been in a while for a reason, and that reason was abundantly obvious tonight. Even sitting at a table with the hysterical and highly entertaining previous Grandslam winner Juliet Wayne, Kevin Lee, Sam Malissa and the eventual winner Amy Malissa, I found that something profound had changed the mood of FPA storyslam.

I first discovered storyslams over the summer of 2006. The first slam I attended was downright magical. Here were all these hipster’s and creative’s revealing themselves on stage with intimate, personal and honest stories. I loved it. I even worked up the courage to get up on stage and tell a story of my own. I was shaking and my voice warbled. It was a fear inducing thrill ride.

In the early days, there was such a spirit of camaraderie. I felt encouraged by the staff and the audience and there was a sense of adventure as we all shared this incredible experience. But things have changed.

The audience remains loyal and open - but the staff seem less grateful and more expectant. No longer is each person coming up the stairs at L’etage greeted with a warm friendly smile. Patrons are assessed by staff for their apparent wealth or status and friendliness prioritized by the size of a potential donation. As a fundraising consultant for eight years plus, I can’t help but notice when an organization shifts its focus from mission to fundraising. And I can’t help but cringe.

Lacking, is the origingal spirit of the mission “ to transform the drama of real life into memoir and documentary art to foster appreciation for our unique and shared experience”. It seems to have been replaced by a new mission to make as much money for FPA as possible. And I’m not sure what this money will do to further the cause outlined before, because no one has taken the time to explain the connection.

Here is a shortlist of warning signs that FPA is in trouble:

  • The emcee begins each show with a blanket plea to everyone in the audience, asking for money without ever explaining where it will go, how it relates to the people in the audience, or how it will further the mission of the organization. What a wasted opportunity to tell a story or have someone who has profited from the mission of the organization tell a story.
  • The cost of the event was raised from $5 to $8. Did anyone explain why? Certainly the venue isn’t charging more and attendance hasn’t decreased. This is about money and yet I don’t have a ticket stub explaining where my money is going.
  • Format changes were made without any explanation to loyal slamn goer. For example, no longer does everyone stick their name in the bucket and leave the storyteller selection to chance. New and old story tellers are separated, and preference is given to new storytellers. My table full of veteran storytellers was only encouraged to participate when the buckets were empty – once a few new storytellers were recruited our names were taken out of the running. Part of breeding audience loyalty is making them part of the process and communicating. Why the change? What’s the goal of the new format? And how does that tie into the mission?
  • Staff spoke loudly and disparagingly about what they called “competition”, other groups popping up around the city that are determined to encourage the tradition of story telling. Rather than embrace a shared mission and celebrate the influence of FPA, staff seemed interested in sabotaging the other groups. Why not approach these groups with care and understanding and bring them under your umbrella. Why not arrange meet-ups and help these groups become established? Why not combine efforts with groups outside of Philly like The Moth, that share your interest and audiences? Is it because they will dip into your funding?
  • New events have been added around the city and there are rumblings about professionalizing a storytelling troupe for parties and special events. Why not utilize some of the “competition” and their funding for these efforts?

I left the event feeling a shift from person to prospect. FPA is not alone. In fact, here-in lays the sad side of the non-profit world. Many a worthwhile organization or group has fallen prey to the seduction of fundraising and allowed mission and programs to be dictated by funding. As a fundraiser, I see it all the time. Trouble is, long term loyal donors are too smart for these shifts. A mission that dictates programming will always be more successful in the eyes of a donor

The good part of this story is that it’s not too late! First Person Arts has a mission I can get behind, anyone who attends a storyslam can be sold on the mission of FPA. So tell me your mission! Sell me you mission! Involve your audience in your mission!! A shift in staff attitudes, a return of mission in the company’s message, and open, honest, and passionate communication with the audience and donors will renew faith in FPA’s commitment to their mission.

I like the organization, I like the staff and I want for the success of both. Why don’t you join me at the next slam and tell me what you think?

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's Almost Here... Barneys CO-OP

Greetings, all! I'm Elizabeth of Peacock Feathers and I am very excited to be making my debut as a regular contributor to One Fine Philly! For my first post, I want to focus on one of my very favorite topics... shopping.

As some of you may have heard, Barneys CO-OP is finally coming to Philadelphia. It's been in the works for what seems like ages, but the signs are up at 10 Rittenhouse Square (the building next to Barnes & Noble on Walnut Street) and they are hiring their sales staff. If all goes well, it should be open by summer.

Why am I so psyched? Because, while Philly is home to some truly great boutiques (Petulia's Folly, Joan Shepp, Third Street Habit, Boyd's) carrying the most fashion-forward lines, we desperately need a real premiere shopping destination. An all-in-one store that features the hottest lines plus the more avant-garde collections that we may not have all heard of yet. With Barneys CO-OP, we'll be seeing stalwarts such as Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Sigerson Morrison and A.P.C. mixed with young guns like 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone and Vena Cava. How aweasome is that?!

If you're anything like me, you are jonesing for milder weather, and so with that in mind, I created a couple ensembles from the new season lines at CO-OP. I know most of us are on tighter budgets these days, but it's certainly fun to look and gain a bit of inspiration. And so, I hope this all leaves you excited for spring and, of course, for doing some shopping/browsing/dreaming!

(Top collage, from left: Brygid dress, Diane von Furstenberg; jeweled bracelet, Fallon; cut-out bag, Erva; Kori sandal, Jean-Michel Cazabat. Bottom collage, from left: Bogart trench and Porta dress, Diane von Furstenberg; exotic metal flower pin, 3.1 Phillip Lim; leather nut-and-bolt bangle, Giles and Brother; braided chain wedge, Sigerson Morrison; Samira leather and lace clutch, Mayle)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Boot


For the last week there has been a single black workman’s boot laying on the sidewalk along Spruce Street and I can't stop thinking about it. How did this lonely boot came to arrive in this space? And where is the other lonely boot? Will they ever see each other again? Is there a man in Philly right now, walking around with one bare foot?

A few nights ago, I heard two men arguing on the street. Now there aren't many screaming fights on Spruce and 19th, so I wasn't surprised when I saw a police car roll up. At one point, one man picked up the lonely boot and threw it at the other man. That is how it came to land in front of Marathon grill. And I wonder, is it closer or further away now from its match?

And so each day, I pass the boot and see if it has been moved or moved anyone to pick it up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Five Fun Things To Do For FREE in Philly this Weekend

In case you haven’t heard, we are in the midst of a recession. So that means there is a premium on cheap activities. Being broke doesn’t mean you have to stay home, take a look at my weekend itinerary below:

Learn the flamenco at 9:00 PM on Friday night at Plays and Players on 17th and Delancey. It’s best I come with a grudge, as it is less work to create that angry face.

2. On Saturday at 2:00 PM, take a
cooking class at Fosters with Mitch Prensky from divine eatery Supper.

3. Take a walk through the
Reading Terminal Market, smell the flowers, bump up against unsuspecting strangers, buy cheap produce, wait in line for the city’s best chicken cutlets and enjoy the free samples of applesauce, hot chocolate and Amish cheese.

4. At 11:00 AM on Sunday, attend a panel on “Perspectives of Community Service: How to engage in your community” at
The Ethical Society in Rittenhouse Square.

5. Attend a screening of
The Film Theodore this Sunday at 5:00PM at The Arts Garage.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

LiLash Spider Lashes

One of my favorite parts of travelling is walking into boutiques and discovering new designers, or coming upon a new product. And that is exactly what happened yesterday in my stroll through Japan Town, San Francisco. While Debbie waxed my brows and tried to talk me into warming them up with a little gloss, I couldn’t help but notice her long spider leg like eyelashes.

“You have the most beautiful long eyelashes.” I told her, trying not to sound like I was picking her up. And then another woman walked out from behind a curtain with the same long, we are talking 1.5 inch long, thick lashes.

“Are you two related? I’ve never seen such long lashes in my life.”

They giggled and told me they both had been using LiLash, an eyelash stimulator, for the last four months. LiLash was developed out of glaucoma eyedrops that had a side effect of stimulating eyelash growth. Scientists were able to isolate the chemicals causing hair growth and bottle it up in a little liquid eye liner length bottle. You brush it on the lid of your eye and after a few months you have these spider leg lashes that actually require trimming! Trimming!! Can you imagine??

The only catch is that a bottle of the eyelash miracle work costs $140. Why so much? I’m guessing when the patent wears off, cheaper knock-offs will emerge and every cosmetic company will be adding the ingredients to their lengthening mascaras.

So here is the Econ breakdown. Supply for eyelash stimulator is currently low and the demand high. An elastic demand means they can charge whatever they want! But when the price goes down and cheap knock-offs flood the market, everyone can buy it and everyone can have long eyelashes and suddenly it will be more special to have them natural. So perhaps I should stay ahead of the curve and keep my $140.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chifa Friends and Family Night!

I've been starving myself all day in preparation for tonight's "friends and family" preview of the new Jose Garces restaurant Chifa. Chifa will fuse Peruvian and Cantonese to bring a new flavor to the Philly restaurant scene. Think tuna tartar topped with juicy jalapenos.

If it’s even close to the quality of Jose’s other restaurants Amada, Tinto and Distrito, I may have a new favorite Philly hang out. Across the street from Jones, and sandwiched between Morimoto and the soon to open Union Trust Steak House, Chifa will help define this burgeoning restaurant area by taking up residence in the old 707 building on Chestnut and 7th. Peacock Feathers and I will both be in attendance, twittering our culinary experience for all our “friends and family”.

Tweet, tweet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Snow Day!


Most of Philly woke up to a snow day today. What a wonderful excuse to light a fire in the fireplace, snuggle up under a recently marked down Anthro throw, read the latest Domino magazine that has been decorating my table for the last two weeks, and obsess about my apartment's inadequacies.

It's inevitable that too much time spent alone in my apartment results in a major purchase or project. Behold, The Great Textile Adventure.

The internal conversation went something like this.

“Look at that wall, it looks horrid.”
“It looks fine.”
“The color doesn’t blend. You must fix it.”
“It’s fine.”
“The entire apartment looks unfinished and overly youthful. I need, I need, I want… My whole life will be complete if I can just fix this one wall.”
“I’ll let you spend $15.00”

Here is the before:


A trip to Spool for fabric, a few bucks to the lady behind the counter to do the sewing, and I practically have a new living room.

Here is the after:


$15 goes a long way in Philly!
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