Monday, June 29, 2020

Good is the enemy of great

The recently-late Milton Glaser (June 26, 1929–June 26, 2020) notably said/wrote on his website, "The good is the enemy of the great." He was confident, great, and inspiring.

A tribute to Milton Glaser on the AIGA website includes an article from 1999, in which Milton Glaser is thoughtful, articulate and extraordinary. The article of twenty-one years ago, is still fresh—just like Milton Glaser's work done during his 91 years. 

• • •

Below is a confession, an admission that work (formerly) in office flat files, is not up to Milton Glaser's benchmarks of making the viewer do a little thinking.

In cleaning out my office space, I decided not to keep some samples from 1993 and 1995 (for obvious reasons; see below)—work done for Avon for their Women of Enterprise Awards (WoE that the work is functional, good-ish, workmanly and definitely not great). The best thing about the programs and attendant ephemera is the content.

In 1993, the guest speakers were Lucie Arnaz and Anna Quindlen; and among the 1993 awardees were Annemarie Colbin, 52, Founder and President of The Natural Gourmet Cookery School and The Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health (her back story is amazing) and Suzanne Small Trusler, 43, Owner, Morning Star Enterprises, Lame Deer Montana (a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe in Lame Deer, Montana, Suzanne Small Trusler was the first woman from her reservation to earn a four-year college degree; she went on to found a construction company that hired Native Americans in unprecedented numbers).
In 1995, the honorees were The Honorable Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Assistant to the President [Bill Clinton] for Economic Policy in The White House and The Honorable Pete V. Domenici, U. S. Senate, (R, NM). The quote on the cover of the four-page invitation for 1995 was Eleanor Roosevelt's, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

The initiative was strong; the overall look anything but.The programs are functional but safe and predictable (and therefore) so-so and the logo is worse than so-so; but the intent and import of the piece are important and the overall look is usable. I hope that makes these pieces "work" as opposed to "bad work." 

As I move out of the current space (physical and head!),  I'll move into a good or a risk-taking and, perhaps, a great space.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

2020. 001. Murals in the Court

I wrote this in early February, before Coronavirus changed Jury Duty with its potential jurors crowded in close quarters in one room. Now, in the days of social distancing, Jury Duty seems like a blast from the past—even though I haven't yet deposited my $40 paycheck.

* * *

Jury Duty is a combination of horrible and fascinating. It's certainly a different world from my usual of arts and letters, with its range of citizens and Jury Clerks who are almost like stand-up comics in their delivery of a lot of information that's delivered clearly and patiently, then amusingly, and then repeated impatiently but still in a way that's entertaining.

I'm wrong about the lack of arts and letters, though. The rotunda at 60 Centre Street, where I'm serving—or waiting to serve/not serve, is gorgeous. And the jury rooms have murals that show the history of New York City old (done from early historical prints) and new (artists's 1930s renditions of Manhattan and its harbor and the West Side Highway). The images done from prints are "pre-woke." That is, Indian settlements are labelled "primitive," even though the settlements look sophisticated to me. Unfortunately, photos aren't allowed. In fact, anyone caught taking photos will be slapped with a "contempt of court" charge and sentenced to serving two weeks (in the jury room, I imagine).

Monday, February 10, 2020

100. Reaching 100

This is the 100th post of my self-imposed "100 Days of Leaving my Comfort Zone." Perhaps, more accurately, it's "100 Daze of Discomfort." Did I push myself enough? No. What did I do that really got me out of my comfort zone? Probably, the most discomfort I felt was donating an article of clothing my late mother gave to me. I'm superstitious enough to feel uncomfortable about jettisoning or giving away items that were gifts; it seems like bad juju. But maybe that's the crux of my discomfort. Letting go. Eliminating old stuff, old ideas, old lacks of confidence. Maybe my next 100 will have something that not only I but others can learn from (and have sentences that don't end awkwardly!).

Here's to the new year, new decade.

Originally slated for October 19, 2019. Posted February 10, 2020

99. What's in a Big Name

This post is both a question, "What's in a big name?" and a tribute to the power of relationships.

First, the big name
My colleague Mark Kingsley once noted that nobody has ever gotten fired for hiring Pentagram. I believe he was referring to work that smaller firms don't win because clients love a big name. Possibly, he was referring to a specific project he didn't win (but I'm being cautious because Mark also told me that my memory is getting hazy—which makes this entire post that of an Unreliable Narrator/Unreliable Relater).

Whether I recall the reason for the comment or not, I recalled the gist of Mark's comment when a US-based client contacted me to refine, for the US market, a catalog that Pentagram UK devised as part of a huge brand refresh. My first question was, "Why don't you work with Pentagram?" When I pushed the question further and noted that there's a Pentagram office in New York, one of my contacts replied that they didn't have a relationship with Pentagram in the US. (I took that to mean that they didn't want to pay Pentagram budgets, whatever the number may be.)

I'm sure some of the aspects of the project involve:
—The mother ship of the UK vs the sales-sibling US
—A more subtle way of communicating with a UK sales force as opposed to more practical US salesmen
—The need for speed in rolling out a fresh new look

Even giving the situation and my client slack, I have to say that the London-based refresh of the catalog doesn't look fresh, was hard to read, was dense, and was slightly incoherent. I wouldn't be surprised if all of the thinking and presenting went into updating the colophon/logo/cartouche—which meant the catalog pages were less refined and successful and done without a nod toward a reader. There were other odd production glitches as well.

The US version is in a larger US trim size (Of course! We're the big brassy Americans) and the short descriptions of each book are easy for salespeople to find. The overall look follows the UK format but with a few adjustments that render the pages more readable. Am I pleased that I was tapped to work on the US part of the project? Yes. However, I must admit to a dash of irritation at being a cleanup squad. Bad attitude? Yes.


If I followed the rules I made for myself, post 99 would have been done on October 18, 2019; posted on February 3, 2020.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

98. Elisabeth Sifton

 This post combines a number of things:
—honoring the passing of Elisabeth Sifton, brilliant and gifted editor and writer
—noting how confidence defines a person
—remarking insecurely

Elisabeth Sifton was a formidable presence when I worked as Design Director at Viking Penguin (now Penguin Random House). She was dazzlingly intellectual, a bit condescending, and absolutely confident. Her authors—as impressive as she—were no match for Elisabeth Sifton. I often wonder if her intelligence gave her the confidence she seemed to display in every aspect of her life. Was she confident because of her father, the theolgian Reinhold Niebuhr? Or was she confident, thanks to hard work, despite her father and equally-brilliant mother? Of course, all of this conjecture is ridiculous and can be solved by reading her memoir, which I'll do. As an older person aware of pluses and minuses, I can read it with admiration and lack of sorrow for my own lesser abilities.

Speaking of older, Elisabeth Sifton was only a decade older than I am. Brains and confidence seemed certainly to put her in a different age.

Originally slated for October 18, 2019; posted February 1, 2020

Monday, January 27, 2020

97. How worry doesn't work

It's amusingly predictable that when I can't sleep—because of many things to do in not enough time, ESPECIALLY planning for a class I've never taught—and want to get up and start in early, I end up starting even later than normal. Couldn't sleep. Then at 6:30am Pat got a call from work saying he was supposed to start his shift at 5am, which meant he jumped into his clothes so I could drive him to the station to get the next train to Manhattan. I walked to the station and got into Grand Central early enough but then missed my subway stop, thanks to a compelling article about the artist Ed Ruscha, whom I deeply admire. Now, checking email, I see many competing requests for quick turnarounds on projects my sister would call executional. What an irony that I'll be teaching a class that requires students to conceive of their own projects when I, the guide, am a drone. To fix!

Originally slated for October 17, 2019; posted January 27, 2020

Sunday, January 12, 2020

96. Passion. That old chestnut

Passion. Such an overused word. Yet, the most successful people in any field bring passion to their work. Or, if they don't have passion, they fake it pretty darned well.

After years of doing a similar thing, providing more of a service than a vision, my passion is more on the dispassionate side. The solution? For now, missing and filling my brain with ideas, images, other people's stories. At some point, I may need to say "no" to projects where I'm, well, an adjunct (see previous post) as opposed to an additive.

* * *

In her Master Class, Anna Wintour discusses leading with confidence and having a big idea. She also discusses . . . you guessed it . . . passion. The Master Class is very self-help book like, with the video as the driving force and the "Workbook" a well-designed PDF. It's elegant cheerleading, with a bit of backstory and three beautiful strands of shiny baubles around Anna Wintour's elegant neck. (Although she doesn't wear her sunglasses for the Master Class "lessons," she doesn't really look straight into the camera—and therefore into the eyes of the viewers, her pupils. Nonetheless, I'm mesmerized.)

Originally slated for October 16; posted January 12, 2020)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

95. Not yet Auld Lang Syne

The object of the game is to have 100 days of doing something that makes me uncomfortable and in a few cases, I have strayed beyond my comfort zone. As you can see, it's the end of the year and I'm at 95. However, there's no time limit. I have 5 more desultorily-chosen days and a new decade. Maybe I'll even surprise myself. Here's hoping.

(Orginally slated for October 15, 2019; posted December 31, 2019)

94. Adjutor. Adjutant. Adjunct.

Judge. Aide-de-camp. Extra.

My paternal grandfather's name was Adjutor E. Tondreau. Grandpa used to joke that the "E" stood for "Exavier," which everyone in my immediate family thought was hilarious. As for "Adjutor," I always thought the name was exotically rustic, old-school, interesting, and wonderful.

"Adjutor" derives from Latin and is "a male adjutant, a helper or assistant. *I wonder if my grandfather's name is my fate. That is—and I realize this is something I need to try to fix for myself—I find myself in situations where I'm executing more than directing; formatting more than designing; fixing the work of the British office of a fancy design firm as opposed to envisioning entire branding.

Of course, calling it Fate is an easy out. The very last day of the year—and of the decade—is a good time to call myself out and challenge myself to change the cours.

*Saint Adjutor is the patron saint of swimmers, boaters, and drowning victims. So, for a French Canadian who was born in Québec and lived not too far from the ocean, I guess the name makes sense.

(Originally slated for October 14, 2019; published December 31, 2019)

Monday, December 30, 2019

93. End of year wisdom from Shams, the Coffee Guy

Today, December 30, 2019, Shams, who's in his coffee cart come wind, rain, heat or snow—and who's the father of five accomplished children (a doctor, a pharmacist, a?, a?, and a high school student), got a call from Afghanistan that his uncle, his father's brother, died. Shams's uncle had been ill and in bed for two months. After Shams answered my question about his uncle's age—75—Shams noted that if it's your time, your age doesn't count.

As my cohort and I get older, becoming The Old Guard, I'm more than ever of the ravages of time. But Shams is right. Age is a number, but if you're number's up, it's up. So, at the end of this year as I find myself irritated at things that waste my time, I remind myself to just say no.

Maybe the year 2020 will bring me closer to 2020 vision.

Carpe Diem.

(Originally slated for October 13, 2019; posted December 30, 2019).

Saturday, December 7, 2019

92. Nana's china

My maternal grandmother's china is definitely not "me." The design of pastel-y flowers is very busy and very, well, grandmotherly. The china that Pat and I chose almost 27 years ago is simple, with an outer blue band. We received only two place settings—from my late friend Elissa Ichiyasu and her now-widower-now-remarried-and-still-a-friend-along-with-his-wife and from my older sister and brother-in-law—because my mother told everyone that I was slated to get half of her mother's china. I was pissed and chagrined that the main chance to have beautiful dishes that we wouldn't have to pay for was squashed.

The china is still not "me" or not "us." But now, with my grandmother and my mother gone, using the china for a family Thanksgiving works for me. It's not about the dishes. It's about Nana, and Mom, family, and being together.

All's well that ends well: When we have fancy dinners, we use lovely Noritaki china from two very complete and lovely sets that we bought, along with beloved friends, from a hospital thrift store.

(Originally slated for October 11, 2019; posted December 7)

Monday, November 25, 2019

91. Letting go

I don't eliminate anything lightly—especially gifts from family and loved ones. Almost superstitious about not keeping presents, however non-me they may be, I hang onto things for years until I can justify passing them along.

So, I kept a sweater from my late mother and still0-with-us brother that is not my style and was never my style. Why? Not only was it a gift, but also my mother and brother were so proud of themselves, delightedly noting that the sweater was "Vintage" (it says so on the label). The sweater did not become vintage—that is, it isn't like a number of mother's beautiful cashmere sweaters from 50 years ago—rather, it was designed as vintage, with fake spots and stains as part of the design. Warm, cozy, and comfy, the sweater felt good. BUT, its pattern was made from repeated sailboats and lighthouses. It was a state of Maine version of a Christmas sweater.

Still, I couldn't bring myself to jettison it.

In 2011, when my mother book her hip, I brought the sweater from New York to Portland, Maine so she'd have something warm and cozy around her shoulders. It served an important purpose. After that, I wore the sweater around the house a few times, but even indoors with only my husband to see me, it wasn't me.

Finally, yesterday, while trying to eliminate unneeded items and organizing donations for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, I decided to donate the perfectly-warm sweater, which is in perfect shape, and which has nothing wrong with it (not even real stains or rips)—except for the fact that I don't wear it. So, into the donation box it went.

Of course, I still have many true vintage items from my mother, including a few of her exquisite sweaters and, it seems, her wedding night lingerie. Now, the latter will be hard to donate.

(Originally slated for October 10, 2019; posted November 25)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

90. Constructive Criticism

Criticism is hard. Rather, criticism is hard for me to do.

Years ago, when I was sort of an elder-statesperson in the AIGA Mentoring Program, I remember sending a cheerleading email in response to a brilliant colleague's information. The colleague, Emma, had lifelong experience in outreach, community, organizing, thinking—and was in many ways superior to most peers and people. In reaction to my rah-rah response, she in turn replied that constructive criticism was welcome. In other words, where was the substance? What did I really think?

Setting aside the question of the quality of my thoughts, I'm simply going to parrot/amalgamate/repeat what strike me as great thoughts noted by Craig Taylor in a review of Daniel Mendelsohn's Ecstasy and Terror. From the Greeks to "Game of Thrones."

Taylor writes about Mendelsohn's reviewing techniques:
Most reviews should be a mix of positive and negative assessment; they should not "devolve into flaccid cheerleading." They should keep a sense of humor. Honor the subject. Edify readers.

Ah. Flaccid cheerleading. A great phrase and my personal bete-noir.

Taylor notes a recurring theme of Mendelsohn's book is
"that critical decisions must come through an appetite for learning. "'To think is to make judgements based on knowledge; period.' . . . 'A good critic, he [Mendelsohn] writes, "hungers to make sense of that new thing, to analyze it, interpret it, make it mean something.' A good critic also ensures his omnivorousness extends to the reader."
Being a critic, it seems to me, isn't that different from being a teacher. More importantly to me at the moment—as I struggle to communicate, tell a good story whether in English or in Italian class—is how to edify, engage a listener, make an opinion or a criticism mean something and engage a reader or listener.

(Slated for October 9, 2019; posted November 21)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

89. Mister Rogers as Life Design Consultant

Often, I the fact I'm a strong follower as opposed to a strong leader, and that competent as I am, what I can say are great attributes are that I'm honest and I try to be fair. Dreading that I may be more of an executor than a creative force, I know I have to just get out and DO IT.

In the meantime, The New York Times article by Jeanne Marie Laskas, has so many brilliant observations of how Fred Rogers and his decency are important (especially now!), that in this case I'm a willing strong follower. Here's one great nugget:
L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” That was Fred’s favorite quote. He had it framed and hanging on a wall in his office. “What is essential is invisible to the eyes,” from Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.” “It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls,” he once said, expounding on the idea in a speech. “It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff. … What is essential about you that is invisible to the eyes?”

(Originally slated for October 8, 2019; posted November 19)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

88. Opthamologist Extraordinaire

I like and admire Dr. Wayne Whitmore, my ophthalmologist—and am not surprised that he's highly-rated as one of the New York Times best physicians. He's personable, smart, has a great technician named Theresa, and he's on top of things. Not only is he perceptive about my vision, he seems helpful about my health in general. As a routine question, he and his staff ask about health in general, which is no doubt a way to learn if any other issues affect vision. When I replied that I'm well and that the only recent health problem seemed to be a nasty bite that was uncomfortable and more disgusting than I want to describe, Dr. Whitmore wondered if the bite was from a tick or even . . . chiggers. CHIGGERS! It sounds like a joke insect. However, the good doctor said he gets chigger bits all the time; they're in tall grass; the bites are horrible and can produce sores and more; and that one just has to tough it out. Whatever bite I had that bacterialized, the dermatologist didn't find the root cause. His cleansing solution and antibiotic cream mitigated the problem, but the good doctor dermatologist didn't hypothesize. It was fun and amusing to get a good annual eye exam and a possible cause for weird skin wounds.

(Originally "slated" for October 7; posted November 14, 2019)

Monday, November 11, 2019

87. Stormy weather; futile difficulties complaining to Norwegian

Ever since missing a flight years ago when I was an underpaid budding designer working in London who had to take inexpensive charter flights (if you miss it, you're in trouble), I've been beyond OCD about making flights. I make sure to arrive hours in advance—beyond the recommended three hours for an international flight.

Recently, that M. O. didn't have a chance.

The last leg of our trip last month on lovely and affordable Norwegian Air became a lot less affordable because what Pat and I thought was a connecting flight from Catania to Gatwick to NYC was, in fact, a separate ticket and therefore an additional separate flight. So, instead of simply checking our bags and changing airplanes at Gatwick for our flight back to New York, we learned—upon checking in at the airport in Catania—that at Gatwick we had to retrieve our bags, recheck them, and go through Security again.

Boy, did it go wrong.

The flight from Catania was lovely, leaving from a sunny airport. Arrival at Gatwick was wet and rainy, but that's London. Things got stormy for us when we asked a Norwegian representative if he could alert the check-in desk that we were on our way. He told us we had plenty of time. Then, we couldn't find our bags on the belt at the baggage claim. An airport employee found our bags elsewhere. By the time we rushed to check in, the flight was closed and we ended up paying twice as much for our return trip home—the next day—as we'd paid for the first flight. I'm still mystified about why the Norwegian guy said we had plenty of time.

* * *
While in the hotel at Gatwick, making sure we didn't miss the next day's flight, I started a complaint—which I don't love doing—in the room we had no choice but to book. Nearly a month later, Norwegian replied, pointing out that the Terms and Conditions are very clear and passengers must be responsible for knowing the rules.*
Fair enough. I had read the Terms and Conditions, but certainly didn't think of reading about separate tickets. The joke was on me (or us, although I'm the one who tends to deal with the details). So, I got practice complaining (nicely) and practice in humility—and learning to not only read the Terms and Conditions and cross all the "t"s and dot all the "i"s but also to look for other things that may be "t"s or "i"s.

(I wish my doing things outside my comfort zone involved skydiving, or starting a new career instead of learning to speak up for myself . . . to no avail).

*Norwegian sent two replies: one reply terse and cold; the second was clear and slightly apologetic that the airline had to adhere to its own rules.

(Originally slated for October 6, 2019; posted November 11)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

86. Following through on a dream. A business that gives joy (from Joy)

It's a cliché to tell students—or anyone—to follow their passions. To someone who's comfortable being second, or taking the back seat, or deferring to stronger forces (mother, upbringing, beliefs no longer held), defining that passion is more of a challenge than pursuing the passion. (Of course, one could argue that passion presents itself).

My friend Joy—a poet, singer, former band member of Crass back in the day, writer, cook, ARTIST, all-around lovely person, was self-effacing despite her incredible skill and talent. She worked in a bookstore for years while working as an artist, occasionally exhibiting. She talked about starting a card business—something she knew a little about because the bookstore where she worked sold cards. One year, she did it (helped, possibly, by a small inheritance from an aunt whom she helped)—propelled by her long-time goal and many skills.

The business is a few years old. The cards, very English, are so charming. The best (to me), are the ones by Joy. The best-sellers, according to Joy (who notes this with pride but not a huge ego), are the ones she's drawn or painted. The cards, printed on high-quality stock, are sold only in England, so every time we travel to London and visit with Joy and her partner, Pip, I buy a bunch (but never enough). Hurray for knowing and following through on passion. Hurray for Una Joy (her nom d'arte).

(Ideally, originally, for October 5, 2019; posted on November 10)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

85. The Colorful Life Mustapha Matura 1939–2019

Mustapha—the partner and eventual husband of Ingrid Selberg, my decades-long friend from working in London—had a colorful life and a way of telling stories. At some point, I'll add a reminiscence or two. But really, the best story is the one Mustapha wrote himself, the bio on his website.

Although dramatic, the worst story is that Mustapha had a heart attack and died shortly after takeoff from JFK en route to London. The plane was diverted to St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

Ingrid's group email from St. John's to American friends was a masterpiece of writing, too: succinct news, sweet remembrance, realization of future loss, acknowledgment that son Cayal's traveling from Brooklyn to St. John's to help her sort paperwork was a comfort, a request that we not call due to it all being overwhelming, and the note that she'd love to hear from us in writing.

Ingrid Selberg, Cayal Matura, Mustapha Matura in London in the very early 1980s.

(I should have posted something out of my comfort zone October 4, 2019; instead, this is posted on November 6)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

84. Election Day

This post is more about planning than about design.

In "doing my homework"—i.e. reading the Voter Guide, Your Nonpartisan guide to City Elections Since 1989, I read all of the material printed in English.

One of the candidates for Publicate Advocate, Joseph Borell, stated his top three issues as "Stopping the deBlasio agenda" x 3. Ok. I can see that. DeBlasio has underperformed (understatement?). But Borell also included a troubling statement:

"Imagine how much money was wasted in sending this booklet to every registered voter in a city of 8.5 million people . . .
It's but one example of how little those in City Hall actually value the taxpayers like you who are left footing the bill.
Who speaks for your family?

I disagree. Communication is key. The booklet was helpful, listed a lot of crucial information—especially about the 5 Ballot Proposals. The Ballot Proposals at a Glance contained a heckkuvvalottof information, but the summaries and explanations are helpful. It's a lot to read and understand.

It did occur to me that for non-readers, the booklet may be too dense. So, the question to me is how to make all that information more digestible for those who aren't so OCD as to read everything?

Maybe it IS a design problem after all.

(Should have posted October 3, 2019; posted on November 5)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

84. Marie Thurman. 1955–2019

Preparing for a trip to Europe, I vaguely thought about my friend, the artist  Marie Thurman, whom I hadn't heard from or seen for years. Just as vaguely, I thought to myself that I must get in touch. Then, embroiled in general inefficiency and procrastination, work, and prep for the class I teach as an adjunct lecturer, I went about my life.

•   •   •

When I met Marie Thurman in the early 1980s, she was the wife (or girlfriend) of an architect who worked in the same firm as my boyfriend at the time. Just as my boyfriend Jeff hit it off with Bruce Thurman, I hit it off with Marie. Bruce and Marie lived on Elizabeth Street in Soho in Manhattan, when the apartments on Elizabeth Street were anything but fancy and Soho was still dirty and affordable for artists.

At some point, Marie and Bruce moved back to Paris, where Jeff and I visited. When Jeff and I broke up, I visited with my sister Claire. A stay with Marie and Bruce in their Paris loft was a taste of la vie bohème, full of art and trips on their motorcycles and at least one fleamarket. On one visit, Marie and Bruce had a cake party—which involved a lot of sweets (uh, cake!) and a lot of philosophical conversation which I wouldn't have followed even if the conversation were in English.

Marie painted and, in addition to her canvases, made beautiful jewelry. Like her abstract paintings, her jewelry were wearable pieces of abstract art which showed Marie's love of color.  At one point, in the mid-1980s,  I was her "agent" in New York, selling her jewelry to boutiques and to acquaintances. A friend who worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art helped me introduce/sell the work to a lot of museum colleagues.

At one point, I hosted a party for Marie and her work, which Marie thought would include art agents. It was an okay party, but my connections weren't super strong or helpful. I felt I'd failed Marie.

When pregnant with Justine, Marie stayed with me in my fifth-floor walkup for a day or two until, not too comfy, she went to the West Village to stay with her friends Alberta and Robert. I felt I'd let her down by not having too comfy a home.

But we kept in touch—or, mostly, Marie did. One point when Alberta visited Marie in Paris, Marie sent Alberta home with a large, warm wool shawl for me. At another point, I heard from Marie's husband Nicolas, who wanted to have a drink and say hello at Marie's urging. (I figured out that Bruce was no longer Marie's husband; Nicolas was lovely.)

Marie and Nicolas visited New York a few times. Marie put Justine in touch with me. Marie and Justine came to Tarrytown to visit one Sunday (I was amused that Marie brought fancy tea, which seemed more London than Paris, but I was tickled that Marie and Justine visited).

Continued to paint, made jewelry, painted fabric, painted ceramics—sold at Bergdorf Goodman. Bon Marché, and stores in Japan and enjoyed lots of press—and sped through life creating so many different kinds of beautiful work.

The last time, I think, that I saw Marie was when she was in town and treated Kathy, a Francophile friend from dance who goes to Paris a lot and who'd become friendly with Marie, to a drink. She refused to let us treat her.

•   •   •

A few days after Pat and I returned from our trip, we went to our dance class, where Kathy (our dance friend) said she receives many email announcements about cultural events in Paris but a recent one troubled her because the email was about an exhibit of work by Marie Thurman, who "nous a quittés," which is bad news in French. I had heard nothing. My dance friend said the email came from William Thurman, who, I realized, had to be Marie's son. I emailed William, whom I'd never met (although I'd met Justine a few times), introduced myself and asked if the information on the email was indeed what it seemed. William replied right away, saying that his mother got very sick last February, learned she had liver cancer, and despite chemo and her fight, passed away peacefully in May, 2019. The exhibit, William wrote that "we are doing our best to pay our homage to her life and work with this exhibition."

Bad at pursuing many things, I kick myself for losing touch, for not sending at least a holiday card consistently every year. Although I normally don't post about people on Facebook or Instagram (shyness extending to social media?), I posted a photo and shots of Marie's earrings on Instagram. I thought the post would also, in a small way, pay tribute to a small part of Marie's work and personality. A number of thoughtful condolence comments make me fear the post was more selfish than homage. It is about my loss, but it isn't. And I feel funny implying that the post is about my loss, although it is.

More importantly, though, is the fact that a vibrant, magnetic, warm, talented woman whom I met when I was in my very early thirties and defined talent and energy and art is no longer physically on this earth. Marie's work is still viewable on her website.

Thank you, Marie. If there's a place to which you're traveling, Godspeed. In the meantime, you live on in your work and energy and vibrance.

•   •  •

As I write this, on the radio is playing, "What'll I do when you are far away and I am blue, what'll I do?" I imagine all friendship is a romance, some of which luckily deepens as years go by. Our romance was that of young people having great chemistry and mutual appreciation, the intense romance that women have and admit to having, a falling in love of sorts. (Of course I loved her for mistakenly thinking I looked like Ava Gardner). I'm so sorry—selfishly—that I didn't get to bid Marie farewell.

•   •  •

Photos are from the early 1980s, mid 1980s, and 2003.

(Should have posted October 2, 2019; posted on November 2)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

83. Comfortable

The idea of this auto-challenge is to make me leave my introverted, comfy world and do something different, but here I'm posting something that makes me—and makes Pat—very comfortable indeed: a visit to our friends Pip and Joy in the Southeast of London. They're both so warm, welcoming, talented, effortlessly kind even when busy with work before going away in a few days. Some shots show our guest room; someshow one of my favorite rooms in the world, their bathroom. It's like a spa, gallery, and of course a functional bathroom; and some still lives of our quintessentially English breakfast (although neither Pat nor I had any Marmite).

(Ideally for September 30 / October 1, 2019; posted October 27)

82. Literature shown literally. Illustrating instead of implying the title.

Such a cliche, but true. Being out of the routine means noticing things that you might normally ignore. In London, for instance, the WH Smith in Paddington Station has a book rack selling classic American novels at a discount. After finally listening to To Kill a Mockingbird this past summer, I finally began to understand the title (yes, I'm slow). My strength as a designer is less conceptual and more organizational (I'm sad and embarrassed to admit), and the mockingbird metaphor is crucial to the book, but I was surprised to see a literal interpretation of the title on the English cover.

(For September 29 / 30, 2019; posted October 27)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

81. London. Home-ish

It's funny how something so cold and wet and nasty can also be cozy and like home. Even though it was decades—DECADES!—ago that I lived in London, going to London is a bit like going home. Also, now that my mother is gone and her house is sold, London and England really feel like a sort of second home.

(for September 29, 2019, posted October 23)

80. Suspension and Anticipation (or leaving Long Island)

Flying anywhere, but especially overseas means that for a number of delicious hours, you're relieved of most tasks (especially if you're a recovery workaholic). Insert the cliché about taking flight from mundanities and flying into possibilities. From a plane, Long Island looks more like a sparkling necklace than a mess or crowded highways.

(for September 28, 2019; posted October 23).

Sunday, October 20, 2019

79. Talk

I talk about how important teaching students at City Tech in Brooklyn is to me, and went on a vacation (planned prior to my appointment to teach the class) for two weeks. The colleague who substituted is young, smart, shot from guns, and the perfect professor for the students. I sent materials; we talked; he's well-briefed. Many educators miss classes (normally they're rock star designers speaking to conferences and inspiring thousands), so I'll try to allay my guilty fears of lazy abandonment.

(For September 27, 2019; posted October 20, 2019)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

78. La vie quotidien

To complete projects/ads/brochures that seem small to me—except for their importance to my clients—and to prepare for the class I teach on Fridays, I missed dancing class. While some designers are justifiably veted for being visionaries, I'm at the assistant level, finishing details. But I always say "Work is noble," so I'll simply listen to myself.

(For September 26, 2019)posted October 20, 2019)

Friday, October 4, 2019

77. Mame as model

Years ago, while working on an anniversary book for the New York Pops, I met a woman who's confident, organized, delightful, sociable, a music-lover (jazz as well as light Classical), and not afraid to wear big jewelry and a bigger smile. I believe she worked in the airplane parts business (fact check needed), where she met her late husband who also had an airplane parts business (fact check needed). When her husband died of a heart attack at the age of 59 (fact check needed), she told herself she'd run the business for two years—which turned into ten years. She must have done a fine job, because she lives well enough, has been on the Board of the NY Pops since it started, and has willed the proceeds from the sale of her apartment when she dies to the organization.

She looks a bit like Auntie Mame, has a fan club of Patrick Dennis equivalents, and is unstoppable and smart. We have lunch every year or so—and I'm delighted to be in the company of a woman of 83 or so who needs a cane (she calls it her pogo stick), but is nonetheless unstoppable. While I'll never have her stature (literally; she's tall . . . or was), I'll aim to have her spunk and sparkle.

(For September 25, 2019; posted October 4, 2019)

76. Gurlllz and Nailz

Getting nails done is unusual, if not exactly out of my comfort zone. A manny-peddy (mani-pedi?) doesn't really make the world a better place, but a few hours, gifted to a good friend by a good husband, of being girlie and pampered and then having lunch is a rare occasion (the occasion was a bit old birthday).

(For September 24, 2019; posted October 4, 2019)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

75. Baking as Remembrance

My friend of many MANY decades, like us, was poised to mark a big birthday. His wife, my friend of many MANY decades planned a surprise party. Among other comestible contributions, I baked a chocolate cake. It wasn't just any chocolate cake. I made it from the recipe of Debbie, a mutual friend (met through the birthday boy), who fought and eventually was overcome by cancer.

A woman who ate and cooked healthfully, Debbie baked this cake with beets and other healthy ingredients. I followed the recipe (the beets took forever to cook . . . FOR EV ER . . . but eschewed the bundt pan and beet frosting. Instead, I made a rich chocolate naughty icing with squares of semi-sweet frosting. I also spread blueberry preserves on each layer before frosting. It was fabulous—a tribute to a lovely, strong, talented woman and a celebration of a man with a gift for friendship.

(For September 23, 1019; posted October 3)

74. Bushwick to Bushwick

 My former "mentee" Arielle, her mother, her boyfriend, her grandmother, and her grandfather (sort of) are like family at this point. Althought Arielle graduated from high school in 2010, and RISD in 2014, we're still in touch. So, it made sense that she'd ask if I could help move stuff from one apartment in Bushwick to another. Our small car was out of the question, and I chickened out on driving a rented cargo van, especially because I have experience with only tiny cars and also have questionable depth perception.

So, I took the subway to their apartment, rode with Arielle, her boyfriend and her mother/my friend Deborah to the new apartment, and helped clean. Even with MS, Deborah was efficient. One of the most striking parts of the day was how kindly and calmly Arielle, Dan, and Deborah organized the move and the home for the three of them and Arielle's grandparents. Their attitudes were masterpieces of sane problem-solving. They were exhausted by their labors throughout the packed week (full of packing).

Although the apartment is a few stops farther away from Manhattan and their jobs, they're happy to be near the Bushwick Aberdeen station. Note those condensed letterforms made out of tiles, used on the subway columns!

(For September 22, 2019; posted October 3)

73. The Town Shop

I'm a bad and impatient shopper. So, after acknowledging that fiver-year-old bras are shaky foundations, I went to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to The Town Shop, where someone actively looks for something that fits. All the frustrating work is done by the person who is paid to look as opposed to the person (the shopper, me) who is reluctant to spend time doing something I have to pay for. An additional perk is that I heard the salesperson use the word "perky" for breasts. I also learned there are F and G cups.

The sign made the trip worth it, not to mention the fact that I now have foundation garments for the next five years.

(For September 21, 2019; posted October 3, 2019)

Friday, September 20, 2019

72. Jane Goodall

This seems to be my summer of being inspired by octogenarians such as Gloria Steinem, Joan Didion, and Jane Goodall. Although Jane Goodall is known for her work with chimps and her activism, a snippet of a conversation she had with David Gelles of The New York Times was an extraoridinary remembrance of her mother.

In the war [World War II], you learned to take nothing fo granted. Even continuation of life. My father's brother, Rex, joined the air force and he was killed. That was a big blow to Mom, because they really liked each other a lot. I sometimes think shed rather have married him than my father. One day we were in Bournemouth and suddenly she screamed, "Rex!" and started sobbing hysterically. And it was the very moment he was shot down over Egypt.

(For September 20, 2019)

71. More on The Scar

Going beyond my comfort level isn't always visual. In fact, most of the time it isn't visual. So, the action for September 19 consisted of writing my reactions to the book, The Scar, by Mary Cregan, to her friend from grad school and my friend from and moderator of the book group. It's a melancholic and admiring review. The realistic yet hopeful ending of the book quotes Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

(For September 19, 2019; posted September 20)

70. Booking.comedy

The spouse and I are both pretty hopeless at planning vacations and booking spots. We procrastinate. We're not brilliant at finding good deals, although we are pretty thrifty. Ultimately, I tend to be the organizer although—bless him—in this case, because I've been busy-ish at work and we had just a little more than a week, Pat found and sent me numerous links to affordable hotels for us to stay in for a few days because we don't want to rudely and with short notice descend upon our beloved friends.

Most of the hotels seemed to be fairly corporate, as if an algorithm finds big hotels with extra rooms and not too charming, but at this late date, beggars can't be choosers. We both noticed a hotel named Henry VIII, which has decent rates, so I booked it. Located at 23 Leinster Gardens, it's not too far from Paddington Station, from which we'll leave for The Cotswolds. It IS in an area farther Wwest and South than I'm used to (we're used to staying with dear friends in the Southeast, in Forest Hill and I used to live in Chalk Farm, in the Northwest).

As much as I'm bad about vacation planning, and as little as I could afford to lose a few hours to preparation for a Friday class (I'm slow and quasi-methodical), I vastly enjoyed tooling around on Google Maps, virtually visiting London, and then even more satisfyingly taking a Google Maps satellite trip to the house where I lived in a (cold!) bedsit over 40 years ago.

The experience wasn't as tragic as I feared. In fact, it was fun.

(For September 18, 2019; posted September 20)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

69. Founding Mother

Cokie Roberts*
December 27, 1943–September 17, 2019

She was smart, a deep researcher and an engaging writer, and seemed to have a twinkle in her voice (it's a stupid phrase, but yes, I meant to write that). I loved her Ladies of Liberty. One of Mom's favorite gifts from my favorite sister Claire was her book Founding Mothers. Although Cokie Roberts was incisive about many issues, not only those pertaining to women, she certainly proved that her-story is as important to our country as history.

May she rest in peace, with her work continuing to hold high her legacy.

Née Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs

68. Resilience. The Scar

Prompted by dinner and great conversation about my late mother, my friend and moderator of our book group sent me a copy of a book by a dear friend of hers. The story of depression, suicide, and resilience., the The Scar is rich in musings and scientific detail—and book discusses the author's reaction to the death of her first child, endogenous depression—as opposed to depression only borne of an event—history of treatment, her childhood, and the lack of fulfillment in her early job as a book designer (the irony that I've spent most of my life designing books, telling other people's stories and trying to find my own voice even without, I think, crippling depression, is no lost on me). The book does indeed explain a lot of my mother's resilience in the dark face of postpartum depression and depression at the time of menopause. Both my mother and the author have spunk—which is too shallow a word to describe their work.

When I said I was reading the book, my friend/moderator Margaret asked, "Do you love it?" Loving a book of hard truths and hard-core info isn't the first thing that springs to mind. I do find it enlightening, important, and hopeful. I also hope that the author continue her impressive resilience and even-more-impressive life and career, with the support of her family, work, therapist, med, and her own spirit. In the light of the recent apparent suicide of Gregory Eells, the executive director of Counseling and Psychological Services at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, I'm pulling for everyone struggling with demons.

Signing off to read guidelines for reporting (and therefore discussing?) suicide.

(For September 16, 2019; posted September 17)

Monday, September 16, 2019

67. Commitment and Community

We enjoyed a wedding on Saturday. I'd say we "attended" a wedding, but that verb seems way too passive for the tradition of having family and friends at a marriage ceremony to support them in their commitment to have and hold each other till death do them part. I loved that the officiating minister and rabbi both exhorted the congregation (if  "congregation" is the apt word for an outdoor ceremony in a gorgeous botanical garden) to strongly say, "Amen" (which works in both English and Hebrew) to cement the feeling of community.

The wedding was a great event, with an equally-great band (one of three flavors of live music throughout the evening). Everybody danced. At one point, when we were all free-form dancing, Pat and I did a Swing, trying to avoid rudely dancing too big in a small space. I mentioned to Pat that the dance was about everyone celebrating together as opposed to dancing well (I realize he wasn't showing off; he was simply enjoying the opportunity to dance to a good band). So, when I read an article about the Public Theater's production of Heracles, with a quote from the director, Lear deBessonet (is that a good name or what?), I felt my observation had . . . well . . . legs.

"Togetherness with other people . . . is more valuable than any kind of extraordinariness or perfection."
—Lear deBessonet, Director

Passion Flower (Passiflora Incarnata), Wave Hill, Riverdale, New York.

(For September 15, 2019; posted September 16)

66. Practicing the Art of Conversation

Pursuing the art of conversation after the ceremony at the gorgeous wedding of friends, I complimented a woman on her fabulous raspberry-colored (?—or at least a glorious and bright color) dress. The mid-length dress had a boat neck (I think) and a capelet and was quite dramatic, especially with the woman's bright white hair.

Possibly because the woman is a certain age (older than I, which makes the age very certain indeed) and possibly because she's married to a retired publisher who still edits books, she went beyond "thank you" and added that the dress has a story. She bought the dress for her son's wedding. Then, I believe, she wore it for her other son's wedding. But, the petite and beautiful woman with a smile as bright as her hair added, she didn't wear the dress for her son's second wedding.

She also wore the dress to the opening of the musical Ragtime, where the majorly-celebrated production, scenic and costume designer Santo Loquasto told her she was wearing a great dress. She sure did have a story.

(For September 14, 2019; posted September 16)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

65. The Art of Conversation

One the the most interesting challenges to me is learning about people. In short, a challenge is learning the art of conversation. How do you find that one nugget that enable you to talk for hours, learning deeply, touch and be touched? How do you go beyond those nuggets? A lovely "Welcome Drinks" for friends's daughter's wedding tested those talents in the nicest way. One good moment was when an accomplished Emergency Room Physician (and best friend of my friend, the mother-of-the-bride) stated that teaching in Tanzania is one of the most satisfying things she does because what she does is important and appreciated (even though she's an older, obviously-not-local woman).

* * *

(For September 13, 2019; posted September 14)

Friday, September 13, 2019

64. Aftermath (9.12)

So many people have made eloquent posts and speeches and written eloquent elegies that my recollections of the day and the tragedy of 9.11 add little. A closet former Catholic, I do recall exhorting Mia and Lorie and Erica to hold hands with me that day topray to Whatever Force they believed in. Goopy and cloying, I know—but when we're clearly not in control (we're never in control, but most of the time we delude ourselves), a higher being helps.

I think of that sharply-sunny day as full of noise, mental noise. Three good things were that: Pat hadn't yet gone into work at the World Financial Center (perilously close to Ground Zero; my friend Jaques stopped by, unable to get to a meeting in Brooklyn; and a colleague who worked with a friend assured me that my friend whose office was across the street from the impact was also safe.

On 9.11.01, after Mia, Lorie and Erica left the office to somehow get home and before I started walking uptown, I went to pick up photos at Spectrum, a photo service on LaGuardia Place. It seemed odd—and still seems odd—that I ran a quotidian errand on a day while people streamed uptown, smoke rose into the sky not that far south. Now, Spectrum is closed (who needs photo prints in a world of cell phone photos) and the Freedom Tower has replaced the columns of smoke, but some friends's health is affected forever.

* * *

A coda: one report from 9.11 memorials came from Pennsylvania, when my brother talked about one victim's son responding to Omar's comments about "some people." My shallow research on CNN showed that Tthe son's comment was very sharp and yet respectful (although I don't understand why he indited all of The Squad). Omar's office's comments re 9.11 were equally-respectful. Here's hoping the discussion remains civil and open and that there's a way to understand different cultures, religions, and ways of communicating without being as vituperative as "some people" who happen to live a big white house. Words do matter. People jump on them.  This is a question from someone who's a good person who too often means well but does nothing—and is trying to use words to sort things out.

(For September 12, 2019; posted September 13)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

63. 9.11

Eighteen years ago. Surreal. But real. The four of us in the office of BTDnyc  on 9.11.01 were lucky. We were close to the turmoil and far enough away to be safe.

To the many who were not and to the first-responders who rushed in, may they rest in peace and may we learn something, at some point, from the tragedy.

(For September 11, 2019; posted September 12)