Information, Answers & Reviews

Trying to Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel

Can’t say when the last time I read a book written by a seventeen-year old, but this memoir by a high school student was touching and well-written despite Nicolaia Rips' youth. Growing up in New York’s famed Chelsea Hotel gives one a head start, at least when it comes to knowing interesting characters.

The Chelsea’s fame reached its ascendency in the 60s and 70s with noteworthy residents:  Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Patsy Smith, who wrote her own memoir about it, Just Kids.

First Nicolaia describes how she came into being. Her mom was a globe-trotting artist, and her dad had zero interest in raising a child, but somehow the artist got pregnant, and the couple began a new way of life. Though not immediately.

While pregnant, her Mom traveled through Europe and along the Silk Road in Asia. Her dad, a non-practicing lawyer and writer, stayed in New York and added a psychiatrist’s office to his daily rounds of coffee shops. He also denied that he was the father, accusing a gay friend for parenting the child. However, once Nicolaia was born, he came around and warmly embraced being a dad, but still the family remained footloose, decamping for several years in Italy, and then roaming North Africa and India, before returning to NYC and the Chelsea Hotel.

Five of my Favorites and So Long

 

Keith Carter in Clown MakeupThis Sight and Sound blog post was perhaps the hardest for me to write of all of my posts.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is because I will retire from the library shortly after this post goes up.  I have had almost forty years at the Monroe County Public Library as either a staff member or volunteer and it is time to move on to another adventure.   I still believe this library is one of the best, if not the best library in the state. But of course, I am biased.  I hope that you and the library will forgive my choice of pictures to head up this post. (I didn’t ask for permission) I’ve always believed that libraries are places of wonder and learning; imagination, and research, but above all, they are places full of fun and life and joy that one can experience almost nowhere else.  There is something special about the books, movies, services and special programs that take place in a library that help make any community stronger and better for all. Young and old, rich and poor; people from every walk of life can find something in common at a good library and there are always interesting people to meet at a library. Some of you may remember me from many different places in the library; when I started I worked at the Community Access Channel, then I moved to the Movies and Music Department, then to Adult Services and have recently begun working at our Ellettsville branch.  I even worked for a while as a night janitor. One of my greatest joys, however, is playing the clown (and the music) for the Children’s Story Hour Extravaganzas and especially the October event for which this picture displays my standard outfit and perhaps the real me.  It is the joyous laughter and smiles of a child who is discovering for the first time the world of the library that I will remember the most after I leave.

So this is good-bye, which is hard.  Harder still, at least intellectually, is the second reason this post was so difficult. Because this will be my last post I am forcing myself to make a choice out of all the movies I have watched over the years to just five of my favorites.

Pushing Daisies

Voices are unique, especially in the world of audiobooks.  For years I worked in the Movies and Music area of the library and paid very little attention to the world of books beyond those in my own areas of interest.  One day I began hearing about a series of books that was taking not only the country but the world by storm; books about a young lad named Harry Potter.  I decided to check them out.  Not having much time to read at the time I decided to listen to the first book in the car on my way to work.  The Harry Potter series was read in the United States audio editions by Jim Dale.  His manner of reading entranced me and brought me into the world of Harry Potter.  I could have listened to him read the phone book and been happy.  I know this is a trite overused comparison, but it is accurate.  So imagine my joy when I watched the first episode of the series Pushing Daisies and heard his wonderful and unique voice starting out “At this very moment in the town of Couer d’Couers young Ned was nine years, twenty-seven weeks, six Days and three minutes old.”  I was hooked just by this voice alone, then as the story progressed I was hooked by the whole show

Pushing Daisies started life as rejected script idea for an episode of the show Dead Like Me, in which the character of “George” Lass finds that she cannot collect any souls because someone was resurrecting the dead by touching them.

Ninotchka

I have a confession to make. For years, I had a secret crush on a much older woman.  She passed away in 1990 at the age of 84. I was 34 at the time. I only knew her through her films, and one, in particular, stirred me. The woman was Greta Garbo and the film that burrowed a special place in my heart was Ninotchka. The script  was written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder and directed by Ernst Lubitsch and tells the story of a down to business, emotionally cold Russian official sent to Paris to check on the status of Russia’s sale of the nation’s former crown jewels which were being sold to help support Russia’s recovery after the revolution. Upon arriving in Paris she finds herself involved in a legal battle with Russia’s exiled Grand Duchess for possession of the jewels and finds that the Russian representatives sent originally to sell the jewels seem to have given in to the temptations and pleasures of the rich Paris life.  Her mission is complicated by the attentions of Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas) who after meeting her on the street is determined to win her heart. Unknown to her is that he is also the lawyer representing the Grand Duchess in court.  Unknown to him at the time is her relationship to his case.  Can the heart win over political philosophy and the law?

All at Sea

This beautiful memoir had me weeping several times. The opening chapter describes in vivid detail the death of the author’s partner by drowning on a winter vacation to Jamaica. He died in the usual tranquil bay outside their cottage after he entered the wild surf to rescue their small son, Jake.

Decca, a Guardian journalist and author, noticed both her partner Tony and son flailing in the water. She ran to the beach, dove in and swam out to them, whereupon her partner passed their son to her and she swam back pulling her son by the chin. She assumed all was well, and that the morning would just provide an embarrassing story that they would later share about this vacation.

But when she turned to look over the bay, she noticed that Tony was much further out then he had been, and he was fighting both the waves and the current. She almost swam out to him, but a friend stopped her and pointed to three men who were already assisting Tony.

Decca felt reassured, but Tony kept flailing. The men pulled him in, and on the beach, white foam poured from his mouth. A local doctor bent over him, and felt his pulse, but Tony had died. It seemed unbelievable to Decca because most of the time he had not been underwater. This made her recall a conversation that they had shared at a party about how you could drown in a teaspoon full of water.

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