New York

Book Launch Event: Bébé Day by Day by Pamela Druckermann by Leslie Fandrich

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I was thrilled to photograph the New York book launch party for Pamela Druckermann's new book Bébé Day by Day. Go Mighty hosted the event with Penguin Press at Pasanella and Son in New York and the evening was a delight. Pamela is charming, smart and has lots of great tips about how to relax as a parent, raise thoughtful, respectful children and to let go of the guilt and over-scheduling and really enjoy the time that we have with them.

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Throughout the space were chalkboards highlighting some of the tips from the book, like "Tell Your Baby the Truth" and "Let Them Eat Cake" along with delicious food from Elizabeth Stark and Brian Campbell of Brooklyn Supper, art from Laura Trevey and Caravan Shoppe, and chocolate from Mast Brothers.

My favorite tips from the book are these:

  • Calm is Better for the Baby
  • Tell Your Baby the Truth
  • Let Kids Cook
  • Back Off at the Playground
  • Give Kids Lots of Chances to Practice Waiting
  • Give Kids Meaningful Chores
  • Show Kids You Have a Life Apart from Them
  • Say "Yes" as Often as You Can

Of course, with any parenting book, you have to choose what works for you and focus on that. Not everything in this book was for me. My feelings and choices about sleep in our family are still pretty in line with attachment parenting principles, but overall I found these keys to French parenting are focused on finding balance, calm and mutual respect with your children. All wonderful things to strive for in a family.

To see the rest of the pictures from the evening, visit the Go Mighty Flickr stream and to order Pamela's book, visit Amazon.

Inspired by Live Music: Jack White by Leslie

We're going to see Jack White in concert this weekend at Radio City Music Hall in NYC! It should be an amazing show. If you've got some time, watch the video below, directed by Gary Oldman, of the full live show that we will be seeing. If you don't have a lot of time, just watch the first ten minutes where Gary Oldman and Jack White wrestle, cool studio footage (I love the styling!) of the songs I Guess I Should Go To Sleep and Blunderbuss and an interview between Oldman and White. It's good stuff. If you watch through to the live show, please take note that in the first half of the show, White's band is all ladies. And wow, can they rock. The ladies recorded 11 out of the 13 songs on the new record, and according to this Slate article, Jack White might be one of rock's leading feminists. When he appeared on SNL, the first song was performed by the ladies and the second song by the guys. 

I will not be able to bring my camera to this one, so for additional shots of the live show, check out the live photos page of the website.

I'm loving all this music inspiration lately! I find myself to be far more inspired by a diverse range of topics instead of looking at creative work that I aspire too. Do you know what I mean? Constantly looking at work that is better than mine I can tend to feel jealous or inadequate, but looking at creative work that I admire but have no desire to do myself, is truly inspiring. It's why I read science and psychology journals, study architecture and enjoy live music so much.

It has a distancing effect that also allows you to be truly creative in your own work. I often worry about looking too much at other people's art or design, for fear of unintentionally creating work that is too similar. If you are inspired by work that is unrelated to what you do, it frees you up to explore things more fully and to create something that is more original.

What are you inspired by that is totally unrelated to what you do creatively?

AFP & GTO play NYC's Webster Hall by Leslie

Earlier this week I shared the photos of Amanda Palmer's epic crowd surfing moment and I'm back with the rest of the pictures from the NYC show at Webster Hall! You can check them all out on Flickr, but here are a few of my favorites.

The show was a perfect amalgamation of everything I've ever seen AFP do. It had some Cabaret flair and a similar entrance to the acoustic show we saw at Momenta Gallery for the Kickstarter art package. There were moments of both deafening, screaming sounds and quiet words spoken gently. The lighting was excellent and each song had it's own mood and color palette. Almost everything on stage was white. Costumes, props and sets were still slightly DIY, while feeling just a little richer and more produced. Screens onstage showed pictures that audience members had submitted or video close-ups of hands playing instruments. Amanda had four variations in her costumes and I loved how she was just basically striping off her clothes as the show went on to reveal different looks. The piece that she put on, rather than take off, was the custom made jacket by Kambriel for the Bottomfeeder crowd surf. It had an amazingly long train made out of three different colors of chiffon. Just look at how it's like a giant bubble skirt flowing behind her on the sea of people. Brilliant.

So, as you've heard me say already a hundred times: go SEE the show and GET the record. You can pay what you want for it, nothing if you are broke, or up to $20 if you want to support the effort. It's amazing, inspiring stuff. What Amanda Palmer is doing to the business of music is nothing short of revolutionary. She's changing the game, right in front of our eyes. It's upsetting to some and thrilling for others. This week she was at opposite ends of the spectrum, pissing off professional musicians and thier unions everywhere by asking for volunteers to play her shows and at the same time, crashing into the Billboard 200 music chart yesterday at NUMBER TEN. (Ukuleles rained down on the world when that happened and today Amanda and team have decided to pay all musicians on tour with them by pulling money from video budgets. I applaud her for this, it's the right thing to do.) I don't think there has ever been, in the history of music, a crowd funded, independent record in the top ten. It's really remarkable. She's a perfect example of doing it yourself, without corporate sponsorship, thinking on your feet and adapting to a changing landscape. You can stay in control of your music/art career, produce material on your own, and be successful doing it. It CAN be done. It's not easy of course, you have to build an audience authentically and organically and create something that people actually want, but it CAN be done. What's really exciting is that this model is true for pretty much any artist, be it musician, writer, painter, illustrator, inventor, etc. Creative people need to pay attention to what she is doing, what she is saying and what she believes in because it really can be the future of everything. WE ARE THE MEDIA. You and me.

Check out the rest of the photos on FLICKR!

Amanda Palmer's Epic "Bottomfeeder" Crowd Surf by Leslie

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During the New York City show at Webster Hall for Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, there was a moment that simply took my breath away. During the song Bottomfeeder, Amanda gracefully entered into the most beautiful crowd surf in the history of music. She was wearing an epic chiffon train, created by her long time costume designer Kambriel, that stretched out behind her and covered dozens of people, rippling over everyone like water. It was so poetic and the act of literally being supported by her fans was not lost on anyone.

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Quote from Kambriel:

"I’d venture to say her entrance into the crowdsurf was quite possibly the most elegant ever. Floating upon waves of outstretched hands. This amazing moment lasted the entirety of the song, and sent Amanda all the way from the stage to the very back of the venue, around, and up to the stage once more… It was magic."

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I was lucky enough to be up in the balcony and to capture this amazing moment from high above. It would have been incredible to be on the floor and under the train as well, but I'm so glad, from a photography point of view, to have witnessed this from where I did. What a sight.

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Here's a video of the moment as well, taken from the floor. And another one from DC the night after.

I've got a ton more photos from the show, but this moment deserved it's own post. Seriously, if you have a chance to see her show, you don't want to miss this one. It's full of beauty, power, emotion and inspiration.

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Were you there in New York? Have you seen her in another city? What did you think?

Also, if you are interested, check out my post about the Kickstarter show at Momenta Gallery in NYC.

Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra TONIGHT! by Leslie

Tonight I will be seeing the amazing Amanda Palmer and her crazy Grand Theft orchestra at New York City's Webster Hall. It will be a little bit like this:

Cool, Yes? Well, the really exciting thing is that you can join me! It's a Party on the INTERNET! Check THIS out:

That's right, tune in to You Tube at 10pm EST and you can watch AFP and the GTO perform thier epic new album THEATRE IS EVIL. You will be on the internet and I will be there in person. Listen for me screaming, will you?

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra at Momenta Gallery in NYC by Leslie

Amanda Palmer and her new band The Grand Theft Orchestra have an album coming out in September called Theatre is Evil. She made music history by raising 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter to fund the production, promotion and tour for the record. Chris and I bought the Kickstarter package that included a NYC gallery opening of the art work inspired by music from the record, as well as a special acoustic performance in the art gallery. It was an epic night.

I'm going to let the pictures mostly speak for themselves for the moment (I've got a post brewing about why I think Amanda Palmer is so relevant and important) but I will say just a few things.

  • Almost the first thing I noticed when we got to Momenta Gallery was Amanda. She was heading outside to take pictures and she swept by us in bare feet. For the rest of the evening she was completely present and available to everyone who wanted a minute with her, not hiding in the back room until it was time to go on stage. It was awesome.
  • The second thing I noticed was that the A/C in the gallery was broken. Sweat was literally rolling down my back but the oppressive heat was like another character in the performance. It made things sticky and uncomfortable and it added a rawness that might have otherwise been missing. That was kind of awesome too.
  • The third thing was that Amanda pours her heart and soul into her performances and I was left wondering how she can take in so much energy from her friends and fans and send it back out again. It's like she is an emotional conduit for everyone and that connection is one of the things that endears her to fans and makes her so special. Again, awesome.
  • The last thing was that her bandmates; Jherek Bischoff, Michael McQuilken and Chad Raines are incredibly talent musicians who are bright enough lights to stand next to Amanda and not get lost. It was amazing to witness their synchronicity with each other and I'm pretty sure they could make music with practically anything. Awesome, Awesome and Awesome.

Well done Grand Theft Orchestra and a huge Thank-you to Amanda for an amazing night I won't EVER forget. (Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a link to the entire set of pictures.)

Were you there at Momenta with us? Did you see this performance in another city? What were your thoughts or favorite moments? Personally, I loved the performance of Trout Heart Replica, with the beet cutting and also the performance and artwork for The Bed Song. The ritual of laying out the bed sheets was amazing and Kyle Cassidy's B&W photographs of people laying in bed were so touching, intimate and of course sad.

Finally, if you want to see it all, including MORE NAKEDNESS, check out the complete set of photos on Flickr.

Photo Walk Fridays: Meatpacking District, NYC by Leslie

This week's Photo Walk Friday is super special! Months ago, I asked if anyone wanted to join me for a photo walk in the city. Sandra from Raincoast Cottage, in Vancouver, emailed to tell me she was planning a trip to New York and would love to meet up. Over the next few weeks we emailed back and forth trying to figure out when and where we would go. We finally settled on the Meatpacking District of NYC, just south of Chelsea.

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Photo Walk Fridays: Sugar Loaf, NY by Leslie

Sugar Loaf is a sweet little art and craft village just 10 minutes from where we live. It's been around for 250 years and became a thriving craft center in the 1970s. It's filled with adorable shops that are always open on the weekend, and sometimes during the week. It really makes me happy to come here, there are so many things to discover and I love to see people living thier passions. Many of the business owners not only live and work in the shops, but often make most of what they are selling. When I visit here I dream of a life of simply making and selling my art. If you are in the area, it is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

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Photo Walk Fridays: Walkway Over the Hudson by Leslie


Walkway Over the Hudson, Highland ⇒ Poughkeepsie, New York

A few weeks ago we drove up to Highland, New York with some friends to check out the Walkway Over the Hudson. It's an incredible old train bridge that has been converted to a trail for hikers, walkers, bikers and pets. It's 212 feet high above the Hudson River, with expansive views and it is 1.24 miles one way. We had a great time going across, but coming back my kids ran out of steam and it became a struggle. I'd recommend bringing a wagon or stroller so when the kids get tired they can take a break and you can still keep moving. There are parking lots, picnic tables and food stands on both sides, but make sure to bring cash, they don't take credit cards.

The directions are listed on the Walkway website and are easy to follow, we entered on the Highland Side, parked a little way down from the main parking lot, ate lunch (we bought sandwiches at the gas station/deli at the corner where you turn onto Haviland Road), walked all the way across, had an ice cream and water break at the picnic table on the other side and then walked all the way back. I think we were there for 3 or 4 hours, we also spent time just hanging out on the bridge, watching trains and boats go by down below. It was great watching all kinds of interesting people walk by. You can't tell from these photos but it was a very busy day with lots of people walking the bridge. Dogs and bikes are allowed, so you do need to have some caution if you have little kids like mine who like to run all over the place. We brought snacks and you'll need sunglasses and sunscreen. There is no shade. It's also cooler and windier in the middle of the bridge, so a light sweater came in handy.

What are your plans for this weekend? Doing anything fun?

Photo Walk Fridays: Chinatown, NYC by Leslie

Chinatown, New York City

I haven't been to Chinatown in New York in a long time. I used to go frequently when I lived in the city, and have taken visitors there even after I moved out of Manhattan, but hadn't been there for at least six years. I was craving some traditional Vietnamese Phở soup, which I can't get anywhere upstate. Chris and I wandered around and I found myself in all my favorite spots. If you visit Chinatown, be sure to venture off of the touristy Canal Street and search for the smaller side streets (like Doyers Street) to the south where you can find some authentic and original shops. I've listed all the places we visited at the end of the post.

Places We Visited:

Columbus Park: This park is a haven in a busy and densely populated area, with lots of older Asian men and women playing Mah Jong and cards. There was a band playing traditional music and it was all very charming. 

Pell and Doyers Street: These are my favorite streets in Chinatown and many of the pictures above were shot there. Doyers is a pedestrian only street and the easiest place in Chinatown to pretend to go back in time. 

Tings: On the corner of Pell and Doyers, this teeny tiny gift shop has it all packed in. I bought the paper animal mobile that hung above Milo and Quinn's cribs in this shop.

CoCo Fashion: I loved this adorable shop on Doyers street and bought 2 cute tops in great colors.

Phở Bang: Delicious and affordable food at this Mott Street Vietnamese restaurant. Phở, spring rolls, Vietnamese coffee and pork chops. Yum. Decor is standard and plain, but the service is fast and friendly.

Thanks for joining me on my photo walk of Chinatown! It's such a vibrant part of the city, filled with amazing sights and experiences that you won't soon forget. Have you been there? What are your favorite places to visit? Can you recommend a good restaurant?

I highly recommend getting out and seeing what kind of sights you can capture on your own photo walk. It works anywhere! Country road, big city or anything in between. If you are in the area and you would like to join me for a local walk, or if you have a visted a good spot that I should check out, please let me know. Until next time!

Photo Walk Fridays: Nolita, NYC by Leslie

Nolita, New York City

To the east of Soho, where it's less crowded, is one of my favorite spots in New York City. Nolita (North of Little Italy) is contained within Houston Street on the north, Broome Street on the south, Lafayette Street on the west and the Bowery on the east. Compared to Soho there are smaller, independent shops and a quainter, neighborhood vibe.

My husband and I met my friend Amber on Sunday after our Camp Mighty Reunion, for brunch at Café Gitane and then we walked around Nolita taking pictures. I took pictures of the urban landscape and Amber took pictures of me. I LOVE her shots of me and I put the three pictures that I was taking below in the same order as her shots.

First though, shots from Café Gitane. Baked eggs are one of my favorite things lately, you might remember I also had them during my Valentine's Day photo walk (that was pre-photo walk Fridays.) We also had yummy avocado on toast and the mint tea was amazing and came in a little glass instead of a tea cup.  Check out all the places that we visited in Nolita at the bottom of the post.

The next three images are the shots that I captured while Amber took pictures of me, in the same order as her shots:

I love shooting the street! I find so many great juxtapositions and contrasts, between colors, textures and the things that people leave behind. I love graffiti, street art and when paper and posters are peeled, ripped and overlapping. The layers upon layers are just so beautiful. It's similar to the beauty I see in an abandoned building. Also, have a look at the two bicycle pictures above and below. It's the SAME bike. I saw it in two different places within 30 minutes of each other. I'd love to know the story behind that bike. (Check out the third picture on this page, is that the same bike?)

Places We Visited:

Café Gitane: A trendy, small, French cafe on Mott Street at Prince. There have been a number of movies filmed there and there is a new location on the west side in the Jane Hotel. I loved the baked eggs, avacado toast and mint tea.

Germania Bank Building: Most of the graffiti that I photographed was on the old Germania Bank building. I was sure that this building was abandoned, but it is in fact owned and lived in by the photographer Jay Maisel. The whole building is his house. Talk about epic! I was not all that familiar with his work, though his name did sound familiar. He hosts workshops at his home/building and for $5000 you can live with him there for 5 days and immerse yourself in his world. Incredible.

Armor Lux: This tiny, beautiful shop on Mulberry is where that adorable dog hangs out. His name is Chainsaw. Chainsaw! Isn't that an awesome name? The shop owner, Rachael, was the sweetest person ever. Her shop is the first one in the US outside of France. We bought a Wool and the Gang Foxy Roxy scarf knitting kit as a gift for Chris's Mom's birthday. She loved it. I will be sure to go back and visit the next time I am in Nolita.

McNally Jackson Bookstore: We love book stores and McNally Jackson is one of the best. I spent a good amount of time browsing the magazines and listening to two hipsters discuss art. It was funny and painful at the same time. They have a cafe, a great kids section and they specialize in everything good.

Have you been to Nolita? What are your favorite places to visit? Thanks for joining me again for a Photo Walk! See you next Friday.

Photo Walk Fridays: Woodstock, NY by Leslie


I'm so excited to announce a new regular feature! Photo Walk Fridays will be published every Friday and will feature 10-20 photographs from a photo walk I have been on. I will also be sharing relevant links to the area that I photographed and featuring some cool spots to check out in New York City and the Hudson Valley.

The photo walk in the rain with Tracey Clark that I did at ALT Summit really taught me something important about myself. One of my favorite ways to take pictures is to just walk around and see what I can find. It's the process of discovery and slowing down to really look at things with my camera that I love and while it's something I have done many times before, it never occurred to me to frame it as a photo walk. I always thought of photo walks as something you did as a group, but I realised that this was something I could do alone as well. It's kind of a revelation for me and I'm excited to see what this project will bring to my photography and my life. Eventually, I would love to develop this into a group event in my local area as well. If you are interested, please let me know. With all of that introductory stuff out of the way, let's get to our first location.

Woodstock, New York

You have probably heard of the 1969 music festival that was named after this town, but did you know that the festival was not actually held in Woodstock, NY? The concert was held 60 miles away in White Lake, NY, however this town has embraced the still burning ember of hippie love that peaked that summer and it's not hard to find tie dye and bearded hippies still wandering around. I've always wanted to visit Woodstock and finally one Saturday my family drove up in search of a good book store. What we found was a charming art town, with a great energy and the original 60's hippie spirit alive and well. We also found two excellent book stores, which sadly, I did not photograph. We spent our time on Tinker Street and just wandered around into shops and galleries. You can find links to the all the places that we visited and photographed at the end of the post.

Places We Visited:

Reader's Quarry Bookshop: A wonderfully curated selection of used and rare books. Do not miss this place!

The Golden Notebook: An independent book store with a fantastic selection of new books, with lots of great art and design books, comic books and a section for the kids.

Woodstock Artists Association & Museum: There was an excellent show here, called "Shakespeare & Other Subjects" featuring prints and drawings by Milton Glazer. The show is probably down now, but I'm sure there are always amazing things to see there.

Oriole 9: Continental-themed cafe serving local and organic foods from the Hudson Valley. So delicious and the kids loved it too.

Tinker Toys: We loved this toy store! You must go visit, it was amazing. There are so many wonderful things for both the young and the old to discover.

Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild: When we visited they had their 5x7 fundraiser up, or what was left of it, in which local artists donate a piece of artwork on a 5x7 canvas. There were some incredibly imaginative solutions to that challenge and the unicorn piece pictured above was one of my favorite items.

Legends: For everything tie dye and hippie, with the Blue Brothers lounging on the deck.

Next Time:

The Center for Photography at Woodstock

More Information:

Town of Woodstock Tourism

Camp Mighty Reunion in NYC by Leslie

A bunch of my Camp Mighty compatriots and I got together in Brooklyn over the weekend for a little reunion. We were strangely color coordinated, and Amber and I ended up accidentally wearing the identical dress. Identical! What the what? Of all the dresses in the world, we choose the same one. It was perfect. The rest of the beautiful people had on shades of blue and grey and both Margit's husband and mine were wearing handsome tweed-ish jackets. There were 2 Robs, 2 Chris', 2 Marks and it was just all so weirdly MATCHY. I like that kind of thing. It's so lovely when things line up and seem to follow some mysterious logic. It's as if the universe all makes sense for a moment.

Jen and Chris were wonderful to host the get together and had a whole spread of food and drinks to keep us content. They have a wonderful apartment in Brooklyn with a giant balcony that is almost unheard of in NYC. Erica had flown in from Canada with her boyfriend Rob to work on an item on her life list: to see every NHL team play, which they did the next day when they saw the Bruins and Rangers play at Madison Square Garden. It was also their first trip to NYC! We gifted Amber with a new book and a promise to read it with her and chat about it over the internet, to fulfill her life list item of being in a book club. Which fulfills an item on MY life list, which is to help 5 people with an item on their life list. I love how these thing pile up into a big heap of awesome. Rebecca and Robbie had also flown in, from Milwaukee, to come to the party and visit the city. It was quite a gathering of fantastic people.

Surprising Amber with a book club:

Life List progress report for our little group since last November:

Amber: Commissioned a piece of art, made a Baked Alaska with Jen and joined (was forced into?) a book club.

Anna: Training for a triathlon in March, taking swim lessons so she can learn how to swim laps and planning a super fabulous stress free wedding.

Chris: Gave his mother-in-law a big sack of Xmas presents and booked tickets for a trip to Japan.

Erica: Completed NaBloPoMo in November and saw the Bruins and the Rangers play hockey at Madison Square Garden bringing the total number of NHL teams she has seen live to 8 out of 30.

Jen: Got bangs and started working with a fabulous artist/illustrator to redesign her blog.

Jill: Taught herself to knit, started decorating her bedroom with a professional interior designer, began working with a design studio on a blog redesign and has submitted articles for print publication.

Leslie (that's me!): Had family portraits taken, volunteered 20 hours at her son's elementary school, attended ALT Summit, wrote a Photo 101 article and got feedback, started folding origami creatures and booked tickets for a spa day with her sister Jill.

Margit: Travelled to Asia, rode an elephant in Thailand and bought a comfortable couch.

Rebecca: Built bookshelves with her Dad and photographed the Yucca brevifolia of Joshua Tree National Park.

Robbie: Solved Rubik's cube, ran a 5K and planted a tree.

We've been so busy! It's amazing what you can do if you set intentions and goals, write them down, share them and ask for help. These simple principles of Camp Mighty are so empowering.

Below is an outtake from the group picture, which is way more accurate of how the night was going versus the perfectly posed picture at the top of the post. We had so much fun! Check out a few more pictures from Rebecca

I have a bunch of other posts about Camp Mighty, so be sure to check those out too if you want to get in on the action and play along. Just click on the "Camp Mighty" tag at the bottom of the post. Have you written your life list yet (here's mine) and started achieving your (big and small) dreams? It's never too late.

New York at Night by Leslie

I love New York. It's even better at night. The lights, the energy, the romanticism. These shots were taken in September when we went to see War Horse at the Lincoln Center for my birthday. It was a beautiful night. The show is an incredible production with amazing puppetry that bring two beautiful horses to life. In one dramatic scene, where Joey transforms from a foal to a grown horse, I was sobbing uncontrollably. It's intense, but it's the best kind of theater that moves you, educates you and amazes you.

We ate at Shun Lee, where Chris had flowers delivered to the table. Shun Lee is an up-scale Chinese restaurant, mouth-wateringly delicious and we had a special celebrity sighting at the bar in which I was almost face-to-face with Sophia Coppola. We also met an adorable older couple, long-time friends who were visiting each other after both being widowed. I hope they get married, they were so cute together.

New York makes me wonder and think and inspires me endlessly. I feel so lucky to live near such an amazing place that is so full of life. All these people, so close to each other and yet total strangers. I wanted to set up my camera, shoot all the beautiful and unique faces walking by and hear each person's story. They've all got one to tell. Besides that, where else would you see green grass scultped into a nature-defing swoop? Only in New York.

Remembering My Week of September 11th, 2001 by Leslie

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I took the above photo from the Staten Island Ferry on September 3rd, 2001. A week later, the Twin Towers would be gone. My parents were in New York for the first time, visiting me, and we were doing all the tourist attractions. I took the photos below from the South Tower on the 107th floor observation deck. It's incredible to think that I was one of the last people to see these views and to walk in that space that last week when the towers were still standing.

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The towers were an indelible part of the city. They were characters in movies. They were epic. I miss them every time I look at the downtown skyline of New York.

Everyone has their own story about 9/11, where they were when they heard the news, what they saw if they were in the city, how they helped. I was on a subway train that was heading south to the World Trade Center. The intercom announced the train wouldn't be stopping at the WTC and people began to murmur and talk about why. Someone heard a plane had hit it. Was it an accident? Was it a small plane? To have a subway car full of strangers chatting was so unusual. 

I got off the train at my stop, the Times Square station, and walked into work, turning on the TV immediately. What I saw was what we all saw. The north tower was on fire. As I watched, the second plane hit the south tower. Everything changed. This was no accident. My boss was on a plane that morning to Chicago and my stomach felt sick as the news just got more and more horrible.

The phone lines were so busy I couldn't get a call out to my family in Canada, but I finally was able to get in touch with them on Instant Messenger. I spent the day watching TV, calling people, tracking down my friends. I sent this email:

on 9/11/01 11:58 AM, Leslie Fandrich wrote:
In case you are wondering. I'm fine. I'm at the office and reachable by email and the office number listed below today. I'm glued to the tv for reports of what to do, but right now I am just going to stay at the office until I know more. My office is still quite far from the World Trade Center, at least 60 or so blocks. So I think I will be OK. So far I have accounted for friends that might have been in the area or on a plane and everyone else I know in the city is OK too. Thanks for your thoughts. xoxoxox

 I stayed at the office until the subways began running again late that afternoon. I was on the train heading north to meet up with my only friend in Manhattan (the rest of my friends all lived in Brooklyn and had walked across the bridge to get home) and a creepy man, using the massive crowds on the train as an excuse to get close to women, groped me. It was one of the least offensive things that happened that day.

I met my friend at a local bar a few blocks from my apartment and got embarrassingly drunk. It seemed like the only thing to do in the face of such unfathomable loss. The TV was on in the bar and we watched, along with the rest of the world, as it became clearer and clearer how many people had died. It was unfathomable. The whole day.

I woke up in the morning on my couch with the TV still on. I had such a hangover. I stayed on the couch all day watching the news, in shock. I didn't know what else to do. On Thursday, I decided to leave the apartment and head down to my office to check email and use the landline.

I lived on the Upper East Side, a long way from downtown, but I could smell the acrid smoke when I went outside. I walked passed my local firehouse on 85th street and was brought to tears at the sight of candles and flowers covering the sidewalk in front of the building. My local firehouse confirmed that they lost one firefighter, Martin McWilliams. Eight more were missing. Thomas Casoria was one of the missing. Thomas Hetzel was another. Those are just three sad stories from that day, there are thousands more. 

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When I got to work I had never seen so many emails in my Inbox before. I heard from literally everyone I knew, including my then 15 year old cousin who told me what had happened was "pritty savage." Those emails were my life line. I felt so connected. All day Thursday I just emailed with people. I couldn't work. Thursday and Friday were such weird days in the city. The subways were running erratically, my building was evacuated due a bomb threat at the New York TImes building next door, Penn station was shut down for hours and a simple walk to B&H Photo gave me a panic attack. I had to sit down on a stoop and phone a friend to talk me through it.

My 26th birthday party was planned for Friday and I considered canceling it. It wasn't right to have a party at that time, but everyone said they thought it would be good to get together so I called it a "gathering" instead. It was my best birthday to date. I made Sangria and we played New Order's album Get Ready over and over again. It was awesome to hug everyone and tell our stories from the last four days. So much love and healing happened that night.

Feeling more grounded on Saturday than I had since it happened, I decided to go downtown to see what I could see. Officially, people were not allowed past 14th Street, but I took a subway down to City Hall and I was able to get about five blocks away from ground zero. There were TV crews and military all over the place, normal life down there was at a stand still, everything was closed. The people who were around were cleaning up or moving out. It was such a strange feeling and you didn't have to look far to see evidence of the destruction, even blocks away. I saw a mangled police truck on a side street and pieces of the towers on long truck beds heading north out of the city. 

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I talked to as many people as I could. I took pictures. I said thank you. I cheered when a truck or workers would go by heading down to help clear rubble. I was lucky enough to fall into step with a fireman who was returning to his fire station after rescue efforts. He was dusty and tired but didn't mind talking to me. I showed him pictures of the fire station near my house and he was grateful to see them. Since his station was in the closed area, no one was there to say thanks and bring flowers. I said thank you to him and told him how much everyone appreciated his hard work. I wanted to give him a hug but I just patted him on the back. Dust rose into the air. Dust that used to be the World Trade Center and everything in it. 

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I left downtown and went to midtown, where I visited St Patrick's Cathedral and stood outside for the mass they held for everyone who died that day. There were people lining the streets for three blocks in every direction. They broadcast the service on loud speakers and cheers and applause erupted every time they mentioned firemen, fire department, police or EMT. At one point a fire truck drove past heading south and the crowd enthusiastically cheered their support.

After dark I found myself in Union Square Park on 14th Street. It was the furthest south you could go unless you lived in the evacuation area. It was beautiful there, like a giant, open-air cathedral. The sidewalks were covered in candles and on the fences, sheets were hung with messages of love and support. There were thousands of people just hanging out playing guitar, singing, leaving notes, talking, lighting candles. Everyone in the city seemed drawn to each other. I had never felt more like a New Yorker.

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Monday brought a return to work for me and much of the city. At ground zero though, the work would continue for 9 months. The pile of debris wouldn't be completely removed until May of 2002.

For weeks the city was covered in American flags. Each day that passed brought more calm and assurance that the threat was over. I had written a number of emails to my family and friends describing in detail what I was going through and one friend, who was a teacher, read them to her class. I got a note from an eight year old boy asking how I was doing. It was so sweet and this is what I told him:

I have been very lucky. I talk to people all the time who had experiences that were more frightening than mine, but everyone that I meet is very strong and they are doing everything they can to continue living their lives and to not be scared and sad anymore. A tragedy like this reminds us about the important things in life, like family and friends and enjoying the beautiful fall weather.

I guess it's that simple. I met my husband just weeks later. After this, my life felt sharper and I had to live a little more fearlessly. I didn't want to waste any time. I let the love in while mourning for everything that was lost that day. 9/11 took away so much from so many, but it also gave us something too. It gave us a reminder to cherish every single moment.

My thoughts and best wishes are with all the individuals and families who lived through this event in a more traumatic way or lost a loved one. I've listened to stories from so many people who were in the towers, who saw the worst of it, who lost a loved one. It's so painful, but I feel a little bit of healing each time I listen to someone's story about that day or tell my own. If you have a story to share, please do in the comments.

(edited September 11, 2013)

 

Quinn Turns Three! by Leslie

We start our birthday mornings around here with cupcakes for breakfast. The kids wake up to balloons tied to their chair, and cupcakes and presents covering the table. This year we sang happy birthday to Quinn while we were all still in bed. He's such an expressive kid, almost every gift he opened was with the expression below. It was all thrilling and fun.

The finger-lights above were a big hit. I got them for Milo to give to Quinn and it was nice there were four in the package, so Quinn happily shared with his brother. His favorite gift though was Robot Godzilla.

After a proper breakfast, we headed into NYC for a day at the American Museum of Natural History to see the big blue whale and the dinosaurs. In the photo below the boys are looking super cool in their "band" shot! I feel like I aught to list clothing sources or something. Ah, why not. T-shirts from Mini Boden, jeans from Request and sneakers from Vans. They are at the perfect ages and sizes where I can buy them similar outfits like this. I never thought I would love dressing them to match, but not only does it look cute, it makes getting dressed so much easier! I wonder how long I will be able to get away with it.

The Museum was fun for the most part, despite some stressful moments when Quinn was acting more like he was turning two instead of three. He was tired by mid-afternoon and a bit overwhelmed by the crowds of people, but he certainly loved the big blue whale. That is what he is gasping about in the photo above. To be honest, he seemed most happy sitting in the cafeteria eating an apple. Hanging around with a three year old is still touch-and-go about whether or not they will have fun doing something like visiting a museum. We met Chris's sister and her son and Milo had a blast with his cousin Jake while Quinn was at his worst.

At the World's Largest Dinosaur exhibit Milo and Jake busily chipped away at a mock dinosaur bone dig and tried out all the hands-on displays. My favorite part was the IMAX movie Tornado Alley, which Quinn unbelievably slept through. It was an incredible movie, thrilling and inspiring. We also visited the Hall of Human Origins, which opened four years ago. The AMNH has had a hall dedicated to human origins since 1921 and back then it was the only major exhibition in the United States to present an in-depth investigation of human evolution. Some of the original cavemen figures from the 1921 exhibit are still there, but displayed in much more modern setting. I kind of miss the original glass display cases and their old-school charm, but it was nice to see so much more information and opportunities for learning. 

After the museum we headed over to Chris's parents place for dinner, cake and more presents. Quinn is one lucky kid, that's for sure. Chris's family is so generous. I think he had a really great day and loved all the attention. 

Happy 3rd Birthday to My Wonderful Quinn,

You make us laugh every day with your goofy antics and funny style. We love you so much and you love us so much too. Yesterday you put your arms around Milo and I and you pulled us towards you, hugged us hard and said, "I wuv you guys!" It was so awesome. You are like that with the dogs also, you adore them. Although sometimes you hug us all a little too hard. You are fierce Quinn, and passionate, just like your Dad. The passion also bubbles over into temper tantrums too. The other day you were so upset, about something that Milo could do and you couldn't, that you cried and hollered for 20 minutes. Finally, through all your tears, you said, "It's hard to be the little guy Mommy." You want so badly to be just like Milo, we often have to buy you guys the same things so that you won't fight. I hope your third year is a little easier for you, and for me too! You can demand a lot from me sometimes and I must try to remember that this won't last forever and nothing is more important than taking care of you. You are starting preschool this year and you will learn and grow so much. School is going to challenge your independent and strong will. I hope you will find your place in the classroom and that you will make friends. I hope you don't do what you did today to Milo, stealing his train tracks by sticking them in your pants! You are clever my dear, I will give you that! Of course, you remind me and your Grandma of what I was like as a child. A rebel and so certain of your own way. It will serve you well someday! For all of this though, you are a beautiful boy who loves so much. You are smart and strong and fearless. You are brave and bold and you will be a force in whatever you choose to pursue. You can sing on key and remember songs. You love dinosaurs and monsters like Godzilla and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but you also love kittens and almost every kind of animal. I look forward to seeing what kind of person you will grow up to be, and I know that whatever it is, it will be amazing.

All My Love & Hugs, Mom.

Walking the High Line in New York City by Leslie

Ever since I heard about the IDEA of the High Line over 12 years ago, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It took a few years for the city to support the effort and a few more years to design and build it but section one of the High Line was officially open in June 2009 and section two opened in June of this year. I've been waiting for the day when I got to check it out for myself and check this item off my Life List. Read about the history of the High Line.

Jill at Terra Savvy made a trip there with her family in the early summer and it reminded me that I really needed to go there too. I was finally able to go a few weeks ago when one of our best friends was in town with her daughter. It was awesome. I do wish I had been able to relax a little more though, with the kids and the strollers it was a bit busy, but we did get to sit and just enjoy watching the people walk by the end of the afternoon.

If I lived in the city I would make regular excuses to head over to that part of town so I could walk north or south on the high line. It's really more than a walkway though, it's a destination in itself, a place to go and stay if you like. We spent most of our time in section one because Quinn fell asleep in Chris's arms and refused to go in the stroller, so we had to sit down and missed section two. There is a third section, around the West Side Rail Yards, and it's still up in the air whether or not it will be developed as a park and be continuous with sections one and two.

The design of the High Line is incredible, they have done an amazing job blending nature with the city. Nature is beautiful all by itself, but somehow the contrast of the cement and nature together just heightens the experience of both. I love the cement pieces that fit together loosely around the edges to blend with nature, the remnants of train tracks, the vendors, the water feature, the deck chairs and benches and the private spaces. The amphitheater with the street below as a stage is amazing and the artwork hanging on the walls of buildings for ideal viewing from the path are genius.

If you are in New York, you MUST check it out. I hope to return one or two more times before the cold weather comes. I'm so thankful to our friends L and H for suggesting that we go there and it was wonderful to spend the day with them. We love them so much, aren't they pretty? And I absolutely LOVE how adorable Milo is with H.

Late Night Out at a Brooklyn Party by Leslie

Last Saturday we dropped the kids off with Chris's sister, setting aside worries we had about their two huge husky dogs, and headed into Brooklyn for a rare night out. I think the last time we went out for a late evening was in Boston to see Amanda Palmer in Cabaret.

It's hard for us to leave our kids. We miss them, we worry about them, and up until just a short while ago it was still hard for our youngest, Quinn, to be away from us at night. While we were in Boston, he had a pretty rough night with my Mom. This time though, he was pretty content with his aunt and uncle and there wasn't any crying during the night. Ya Hoo! I believe we may be able to finally make a habit of this. 

We were in Brooklyn for the 11th Anniversary of our French friends Fred and Zoe. They certainly know how to throw a party! Fred and Zoe are that couple that is sexy, in love and full of energy. It's so fun to celebrate their marriage with them. There was great food and dancing and we stayed late and reveled in our night out on the town. 

We were excited to see old friends and we met a bunch of new friends, some experienced city parents, who were interested in our country living, especially the part about the bears right outside our front door! It was an interesting contrast, this city-country thing. As much as I miss the city and dream about living there, I do love my life out here where things are a bit simpler. It's quieter and I think my life is less stressful. The kids love it and I think being surrounded by nature is important when you are young. So while all those city parents are grateful to be in the city where there are no bears, I'm grateful to be where I am too. Although we agreed a little house swapping might not be a bad idea.

So it was a grand night out on the town, a great success and I hope we can do it again. I am thrilled that the kids are old enough to happily be away from us for a night. Could this mean that we could plan a weekend away? That would be bliss.