Ground Zero

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Ground Zero was more emotional than I expected. It was like a special place reserved, no, carefully and seemingly deliberately set aside, for collecting all the tears, and all the anger and feelings of injustice in the world, and engulfing them in a giant effort to muster the courage needed to breath again. Or, to breath differently. 

Those empty, reflective pools, and the contemplative nature of the skyline were just majestic. And yet, somehow ominously poignant. It was as if the {absent/present} space was paying tribute to the nature of {memory/forgetting}, but also courageously signaling building beyond such dichotomies.

You could feel, in a really positive, productive, meaningful way, the vision of Daniel Libeskind. After all, he describes architecture as provoking a dialogue. "It’s part of, you know, science but it’s also part of astronomy, its part of poetry, literature, philosophy, history."

 

We miss you, Madeline

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A few years ago, moments after we we heard the shocking news that Arakawa had passed away, Madeline called to assuage our anxiety. “We must keep going,” she said. "We must be strong. Arakawa is our reversible destiny hero." Now that Madeline is gone, we keep waiting for the phone to ring. We miss her intoxicating, death-defying courage. The universe just isn't the same. Yet, we can still hear the strength and resolve in her voice and in her words: just because it's always been this way, doesn't mean that it will always be this way. We miss you, Madeline. You gave the world the confidence to believe in itself.

The Way One Does

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My Lunches with Orson has the feel of a spectacularly candid series of ongoing conversations. Really, you just don't want them to end. They're the type of heart-to-heart discussions that you imagine yourself having with Welles, then going home to try to explain to your family and friends. Of course, it can be very difficult to remember everything just as it was.  

Documented over the course of the last two years of his life, you feel as if you're slowly moving behind the scenes. You're finally getting a glimpse at the real Orson Welles. Not only are his secrets revealed, you really want to order another nicoise salad, just to hear one more story. Anything to extend the conversation. 

Then, as you reach the end of the book, you realize that a single question has haunted you from the start. "Were these conversations staged?" Did Orson Welles, the director of F is for Fake, merely take us on a wild-goose chase? Can we truly believe what he, or anyone else, says? What is the status of these insights that we have just gleaned? Does it really matter? Can we take him at his word?

When he confesses - "I've realized that I've misquoted O'Hara all my life. He didn't say, 'This [Citizen Kane] is the best picture ever made. And the best picture that will ever be made.' He didn't say anything as good as that. I made it better…the way one does." - what's at work in these admissions?

As you turn to the epilogue, you immediately recognize that the same question accompanied his interlocutor(s). As Jaglom recalls, recounting their last lunch together, "For some reason I didn't have my little tape recorder on in my bag. I remember thinking as a I drove over that I'd done almost every lunch for a few years and I didn't feel I had to anymore. I remember wondering if he'd notice that it wasn't there, and what he would think it meant if he did."

You're left with the impression that Orson Welles really was a larger than life character. Or, at least that's what he wanted you to believe. It makes you wonder, the way one does. 

Why I Loved Paris

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It's a curious thing, when you revisit a city for the second or third time. You somehow imagine that it'll be just the same. That nothing will have changed. It'll have the same shortcuts and smells, the same cafes and (to be sure) the flowers will be in bloom. Yet, somehow, everything is always different. Even the people. 

We've just returned from a few days in Paris. It'd been at least half a decade since we last strolled the streets. On the surface of things, and as our memory serves, everything seemed just like it was before. As we looked closer, however, everything felt just a little bit mismatched. Maybe it was us, trying to escape from our busy lives, half-way committed to a hurried vacation, running around to see this or that. Or, maybe it was something else, perhaps a muted or displaced recollection. At least the Eiffel tower was just where we'd always known it to be.

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Nevertheless, this time, something felt different about Paris. It wasn't just nostalgia. Which is to say, it's not that Paris isn't a constant source of inspiration, but rather that it felt like it had lost just a bit of it's glowing enthusiasm. And then we read, only today, that when Orson Welles was prompted to write an article for Vogue on his love for the city, he couldn't think of anything particular to say. The article, he quipped, should be entitled, "Why I Loved Paris". Welles goes on to explain:

"When I could walk on the sidewalk in Paris, I loved it, but now I have to climb over automobiles. Soon there won't be any real Paris left, you know. Or real London or real Rome. Because a few  untouchable monuments are not gonna keep a city…I think all the cities of the world are in decline. Because the idea of supporting cities has ceased to be part of world culture. We're all moving into shopping malls…Maybe I'm just reactionary", confides Welles. "If I am, it doesn't bother me much, though. I'm perfectly content to be reactionary - to belong to my own time." 

This question of the real. It haunts us still. You see, Paris is such an enchanted city. It's full of so many dreams and memories. You can't help but feel a sense of purpose and pride, a sense of excitement and despair. You're not quite sure if you're living a moment, or reliving a memory. In many respects, it feels as if you are a part of something that's just about to happen, or something that happened centuries ago. It can be very disorienting.

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As we strolled down the St. Germain-des-Pres, squinting just so, we could almost see Hemingway sitting at the Brassier Lipp, enjoying a strong dry martini. Like any "good tourist", we picked up the latest edition of the Moveable Feast at Shakespeare and Co - which is, in one way or another, not quite the same since George Whitman passed away. Needless to say, the same observation was probably made when Sylvia Beach moved to the rue de l'Odeon.

We read in the introduction to the new edition of the Moveable Feast, in a lovely piece written by his grandson:

"In November 1956, the management of the Ritz Hotel in Paris convinced Ernest Hemingway to repossess two small steamer trunks that he had stored there in March 1928. The trunks contained forgotten remnants from his first years in Paris: pages of typed fiction, notebooks of material relating to The Sun Also Rises, books, newspaper clippings, and old clothes. To bring this precious cargo home […] Ernest and his wife Mary purchased a large Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. I recall as a child seeing that trunk in my godmother Mary’s apartment in New York, and I can still remember its smart leather trim with brass fittings, pervasive Louis Vuitton logo and the gold embossed initials, “EH.” The trunk itself was easily big enough for me to fit into, and it filled me with wonder at the grand, adventurous life my grandfather led."

It's such a strange thing, revisiting a city, reliving a memory. To imagine, and to truly believe that nothing will change, that the city you knew and loved so well, will somehow stay transfixed, that your heroes will still be walking around. Well, in a way, they are....

Stephanie Cesaire

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We had the most incredible experience. We'd just exited the famous Faubourg Saint-Honoré district, the heartbeat of design and fashion in Paris - we were headed down the rue Saint Florentin, back to our hotel, and a coffee and a coke - when we stumbled upon the studio of Stephanie Cesaire.

We'd spent the day literally traipsing through the famous monolithic design houses, like Longchamp, Saint Laurent, and the coveted Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Elysees. We even passed Conan O'Brien, as he walked down a side street, with his beautiful family in tow. We were looking for design inspiration (and, of course, June was looking for a handbag or two). 

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As we opened the door to Cesaire's undersized retail space, escaping the treacherous afternoon heat, we were casually greeted by Cesaire's partner, and her newly stamped assistant. Both were as personable as they were gracious, an attitude that's so often remiss in such design experiences.

Instantly, we identified with their sensibilities of intrigue, hospitality, and cleanliness. These were attributes that we started to discern in Cesaire's sumptuous, minimalistic, modern designs. Not only could we feel the overt craftsmanship in the work, as we traced our fingers along the delicate, sturdy stitching, we could also readily sense the obvious care that went into each and every original shape, motif and construction.

It became clear to us that Stephanie Cesaire is emerging as a true-artisan - in the sense of an apprentice who has worked diligently to become a master. Interestingly enough, she learned her craft as a fashion designer while studying under the astute tutelage and expertise of Karl Lagerfeld and Sonia Rykiel. We're so happy that she decided to shed her inhibitions and start her own line. We hope she's widely successfully.

You should take a moment to view her work: www.stephaniecesaire.com