Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Things Remembered: Brooklyn

Under the guise of "Things Remembered," I will be curating various perspectives of different places, ideas, and concepts through people whom have lived and experienced them firsthand; be that person myself or someone else.

This first segment is a concise and to the point exposé of Brooklyn via social advocate and artist, Michael Stewart; he also happens to be my cousin.  Michael was born and raised in Washington, D.C. but lived, worked, and studied post-graduately New York City.

I interviewed Mike on just some general interest situations on what his urban experience has been like moving between the American Northeast, South, and Mid-Atlantic.  Here's what he had to say:


Me: What do you think of Brooklyn holistically?

Mike: It's a cool place to visit.


Me: You were raised in Washington, DC.  You attended university in Greensboro, NC.  You attended graduate school and worked a few years in and around the Brooklyn and New York City area.  How was your experience living there different from the other cities that you have also resided in?

Mike: Living in DC is natural for me.  Greensboro was hard for me to adjust to because it wasn't much I could identify with coming from a more aggressive urban culture.  Greensboro had a slower pace which gave me some peace and comfort.  I never thought about living in New York until I experienced the fast pace of the city [when I came for school].

Me: Even coming from DC, NY was a definite lifestyle adjustment for you.


Me: What was your favorite part of the Brooklyn?  Why?

Mike: I like Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hills.  I like the block layouts, restaurants, culture and entertainment, etc.  For me, each neighborhood has its own culture.  I like how Bed-Stuy has/had a strong African-American presence.  It reminds/reminded me of DC.


Me: Last question; would you move back to Brooklyn?

Mike: Only for the right job and salary.



Lunch in '67 Burger

Fort Greene street scene

Neighborhood essentials



Check out this short video shot and edited by yours truly while Mike was in town for a quick weekend:

Things Remembered pt 1 Brooklyn from Keilon L. on Vimeo.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Urban Exploration Day: Lower Manhattan to Staten

The day started with a trip to the National 9/11 Museum to see how the city and country has "respectfully" memorialized those who were lost during the tragic events on September 11, 2001. This was a free day sponsored by Conde Nast.  However, as in the spirit of all things free in New York City, it was first come, first served.  Upon arrival, Amanda and I were greeted to the news that the free tickets for admission were all spent and then that purchase tickets were sold out through Saturday; this was a Wednesday (typical in NYC for all things new and shiny).  After a few choice photo ops, we figured that  we'd try our luck at some other cultural explorations.



After a twisting and winding walk through the Financial District, we stopped to take in the site of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House.  Housed inside of this National Historic structure is also the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of the American Indian (why they're called Indians is still bewildering to me and will be apart of a later rant). I personally did not enjoy much about this museum nor its location.  This is not to take a jab at the Native American culture; however, to me, the museum felt to be in very poor taste from the exhibits, to the historical location, and to a number of architectural details of the building.  I personally did not enjoy the visit, but check out my high/low-lights:

Beautiful symmetry in the main hall

Amanda taking it all in

Peering around corners

I didn't care for...

The exhibition's language..."beasts that talk"

Architectural details


Asia is contemplative...America is alert...Europe is majestic...Africa is asleep.


Moving along though...to mid-afternoon...

Still in lower Manhattan, and finding that we still had an entire day of beautiful weather ahead of us, I decided that we should really be tourists and hop on the Staten Island Ferry.  The ferry service runs 24 hours and day and is completely free.  It's a hit with tourists for that reason and because it offers some truly unparalleled views of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jersey City and the New York Harbour in general.  The trip is about 15 to 20 minutes and is a perfect way to beat the heat--the breeze is nice and so are the libations that are available for the after work crowd or just the casual day drinkers parched from waiting every half hour to board.

Check out a few shots from aboard the John F. Kennedy ferry:

New York vs. New Jersey (so close but yet so far)

Amanda enjoying the breeze

Lower Manhattan

The obligatory tourist shot (first time seeing the front of the Statue of Liberty)


Upon arriving on Staten Island, we were faced with the question of, "what do we do now?"  In our typical urban exploration we hit the pavement to take in the sights, sounds, and diverse terrains of the borough.  Visually Staten Island looks like a conglomeration of working class neighborhoods with differing levels of diversity and affluence.  It does not have that central downtown area that you find in Brooklyn and Manhattan or even Flushing, Queens to a certain extent.  The terrain is harsh and unforgiving, with very steep hills not fit for biking up (I learned that the hard way later) and hills not safe for riding down without adequate braking mechanisms dotting the interior of the landscape.  Despite the density as is the case in all boroughs of New York City, Staten Island offers a much more "suburbanized" lifestyle, especially on the far side of the island than any other borough.

After a stop in a Stapleton neighborhood public park we decided to venture to the other side of the island via the (mostly) free Staten Island Railroad, a subway styled partially elevated heavy rail line that cuts clear across the island from one waterfront to the other at Totenville station.


Less crowded streets in Staten

Catching a breather in the park
 
Skies over Stapleton

Pause to change trains...

Upon arrival at our final destination...

Totenville Station

We met the sunset over New Jersey

Had to do it for the 'gram

Something like picture perfect


Sailing seashells by the seashore...



As the sun made it's departure, so did we...a day well done.  Until next time...Adieu!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Perks of Shopping in NYC

It's a well known fact that New York City is pretty much known as the retail capital of the world.  Most any and every popular to semi-popular brand that is into brick and mortar retail has one or even a handful of shops in this city.  The New York market supports everything from multi-national retailers to smaller and still-developing fledgling brands.  In the more narrow scope of fashion retailing, New York is the place to find your niche shopper and in turn supports many niche design brands due to the sheer density of people and their own individualities and tastes.  In the world of fashion for the most part, every brand wants to bring their goods to market here.  Other cities that maybe can't support the unique fashion tastes of niche designers are welcomed in New York.  But that's not the main perk of shopping in NYC...

The greatest perk of being a shopper in New York City is the availability of Sample Sales! A designer sample sale or overstock sale is when brands take over warehouses, art galleries, and random abandoned looking locations to sell merchandise from previous seasons for discounts typically up to the range of 80% off.  They typically last a couple of days only though and for popular brands lines tend to form hours before opening and can wrap around city blocks.



Waiting on line to enter The Invisible Dog gallery for the A.P.C. overstock sale

I'm usually anti-hype and definitely anti-standing on line to spend money, however...when I checked my e-mail a few days prior and saw that A.P.C. was having an overstock sale and 80% off the upcoming weekend, I started planning an outfit for an early morning Brooklyn chill that may last about an hour of waiting.

Light but layered to last the morning chill

From Fall to Spring a scarf is always a key essential

Amanda and I arrived close to 9:30am in preparation for the 10am first day opening time and were greeted by a modest line.  I, personally, underestimated the popularity of the brand, or maybe the popularity of the idea of their overstock sale. 

Chaotic at times, the scene on the sales floor

After about 25 minutes or so of grabbing everything that I thought was around my size before somebody else could and then regrouping with Amanda in a semi-quiet corner it was time to find the price list and start choosing favorites. After several fit sessions and a quick conversation about raw denim and how both the men's and women's shoes were constructed with some of the most comfortable leather ever we settled on handful of key pieces.

I settled on a sturdy pair of black raw denim to continue in the essence of my raw denim art project. Additionally I picked up a pair of white leather sneakers with subtle suede accents and a Parisianesque nautical striped shirt.

Items in detail:


Amanda managed to get her hands on Spring's most desirable fabric, linen, in the form of a lightweight blue military inspired dress. She also, jumped on the raw denim project with me by picking up a staple pair Japanese selvage indigo denim. The shoes were a no brainer once she felt the soft leather insoles.

Amanda's Picks:

This was a successful shopping experience for me because I was able to pick up some key essential pieces for some non-essential prices.  Whenever you're looking to do a wardrobe refresh or just acquire some new pieces, definitely check out sample sale schedules each season.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Raw Denim Art Project

 So...in my never-ending pursuit to turn my life from one big sociology case study (long story...see the last 5 years of my life living in Chicago) into an everlasting exploratory art project, I am incorporating fashion and more specifically personal taste and style into an art project.  The feature--raw denim from the A.P.C. brand.

A.P.C.'s Petit New Standard Jeans


There are plenty of brands that make very high quality denim incorporating the world renowned Japanese loom process (see High Snobiety's piece on Japanese Denim), but I chose A.P.C. because they give you the opportunity to give your denim story a second life. Through their "Butler" program, customers are able to purchase and wear-in pairs of raw denim fit jeans in order to create exciting new wash and wear styles that could never be created through the pre-consumer wash and wear processes that machines do create the worn looks that popularize today's fashion trends.  After thoroughly breaking in and personalizing your pair of A.P.C. jeans you are then invited I return your unique creation to a store where, if eligible, you can resell for 50% off your next pair.  That's a pretty sweet deal.

I may not be a complete denim aficionado but I can definitely appreciate a good art project.  Also, the idea that my legacy can live on through someone else's experience is a rewarding notion to me.

The jeans are practically new in these shots:


I look forward to creating a very uniquely styled garment once I begin my particular washing recipe after I give them at least 6-8 months of wear.  I only hope that I'll still be interested in parting with them once the time comes. There will be follow-up posts on the development of this project and I hope that you all with enjoy this project with me.


More about A.P.C.:

Atelier de Production et de Création, better known by it's acronym A.P.C., is a French clothing brand founded by Jean Touitou in the beautiful year of 1987 (pardon my bias for my birth year).  The clothing takes a very minimalist approach. You won't find numerous logos and overly intricate designs.  With their pieces. Lately the company has been doing numerous collaborations with other brands and celebrity designers that have garnered it much notoriety as of late.

I initially discovered the brand back in college when looking for French style influences and again while looking for some better denim options. At the time, I chose to go with Nudies because of their more intricate and now famous back pocket detailing.  I think I was more interested in the world noticing what I was wearing as opposed to satisfying myself.

My personal style is constantly evolving with my maturity.
- Esoteric


Monday, April 7, 2014

Unfiltered Sunshine

"Love is life and life is living" - Debra Laws

I personally believe that living doesn't constitute having every handed to you on a platter, nor does it even constitute having access to an abundance of material things or resources.  I believe that living is about taking in the environment of the moments that we experience each day. There's art and beauty in straying off of the normal beaten path.

With the advent and popularity of Google maps where you can walk down in any street in any major city and everybody having a blog focusing on every subject (this one included), there appears to be the idea that everything is right at your fingertips. This may be true but the experience takes a bit more work.

A break from the normal routine

Hurry up and wait.

After a long day at work, I decided to take the long way home and with that take in some views of the city that I never get to see.  Also, a bit of street art is always appreciated.  One beautiful thing about New York is that art is almost always a block away, or in this case, every step of the way.  This trek took Lizton and I across the Williamsburg Bridge.  This bridge connects the popular Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan to Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood which is probably one of the most talked about neighborhoods in the city as of late.  These two hoods are known for the concentrations of creative young people, artists, and hipsters alike.  The bridge displays the character of the people which it connects.

The city is always watching


Thank you city of New York providing daily inspiration.  Live!
- Esoteric





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Quickest Trip Ever...

"Home is the place we love best and grumble the most." - B. Sunday

Recently I took a little trip back to my home land... Chicago! The trip wasn't long, but it's the longest trip I've taken since I left the nest. It was nice being back, there's nothing like the catching the smell of charred meat while gazing at beautiful architecture, am I right? 

Anyway, I caught up with friends, family and random strangers; but there's nothing like the loving question of "Are you eating enough, you look thin?". 

All that aside, having experienced major cities on both coasts, there's nothing like the major city in the middle... a few photos to follow, enjoy!


The Chicago Water Tower on Michigan Ave. (1869, the second oldest water tower in the United States)

the Wrigley Building (1921-24)

Sunset on the River Walk (first day of spring)

Crossing DuSable Bridge with views of the Chicago River 
(double leaf bascule bridge, for the bridge lovers out there)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Free Weekend Things To Do in NYC courtesy of Complex Magazine

Every week (I believe) Complex Magazine (do they still do the actual print magazine?? *shrugs*) online releases a guide to "The Coolest Free Things to Do in NYC This Weekend"

Albeit one day after payday and rent was due this past week as suggested by the preface of the Complex list, I paid rent two weeks early so funds for leisure are disposable at this time (pardon me while I pat myself on the back). I peeped this list Saturday morning around 10:30am so with Friday lost I challenged Amanda to help me fill up our weekend schedule and tackle remainder the list of things to do that were available for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday @ 2pm: Union Square Walking Tour

First things first with any tour in a big city, it's important to stay together.  To facilitate that, we thought it'd be easy to stay together if we rocked matching t-shirts (don't judge us!)

The shirts were especially designed by Amanda herself.  I'm a fan of her work.

The tour itself was surprising. I thought with a scheduled 90 minute tour we'd be scouring the surrounding neighborhood, but it was literally a tour around the park grounds themselves, but it was very informative and entertaining thanks in part to our guide, Gregory.


Check out my list of most interesting facts learned:

- Although America won the American Revolutionary War, the battle of New York City was actually lost to the British in 1783 and the city was not freed until awhile later.
- Evacuation Day (look it up)
- The first ever statue of Lincoln was placed in Union Square Park
- "Ladie's Mile"[double entendre] (look it up) is an interesting study in gentrification, socioeconomics, and urban studies; if you're interested in that kind of thing. 
- Finally learned why the Frenchman, Lafayette's name is plastered all across America. (Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette)

Selected images from the tour:



Approximately 4pm: The Museum at F.I.T.

After a short subway ride up Broadway and a stop in the only stateside Maison Kitsuné boutique (which I had no idea was on 28th street), which is my latest obsession in all many things French, we made our way to our next destination on the New York campus of the Fashion Institute to check out one of their museum's latest exhibits entitled "Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket?

Photography was not allowed in the exhibit, of course I didn't care and it rows it anyway but I couldn't cleverly hit the shutter button my phone before the security personnel noticed my not so stealthy mannerisms.

Sorry, best I could do...


Sunday @ 10:15ish am: A Brooklyn Area Subway Station

After a night of partying into the morning, it's always nice to wake up early and take a one hour train ride that I thought would be closer to 35 minutes uptown to 59th Street and Columbus Circle. Nevertheless we made the journey arriving fashionably late.


11:15ish am: Cooking with Spring Produce at Williams-Sonoma

Long story short, we got some valuable recipes and I actually have a new found slight admiration for green peas, but only when they're fresh and blanched (I learned how to Blanche vegetable...quite bourgeois). I also learned how to properly butcher a chicken...no more buying boneless breasts at the grocery store for me...whole birds only!

they even provided a nice dessert option

After this session of standing and then browsing for cookware that we honestly didn't need, but would be fun to have, we decided to break away from our Complex schedule and pick up a nice Belgium brunch at BXL East.

Bottomless mimosas on a Sunday, don't mind if I do....



Despite missing a few things on the list that we really did plan to do, star-gazing in Central Park (celestial stars, not people with their heads in the clouds due to celebrity) and the Pratt Institute's feature exhibition, "Black Dress..." Highlighting underrepresented African-American fashion designers.  

At the end of the day, it was a fun weekend and you really can't beat free. Complex's weekend guides will definitely keep me checking my emails on time.