Posts Tagged ‘change’

Visiting Use-ta-ville

In aging, business, cities, culture, design, life, Style, travel, urban life on December 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

Use-ta-ville…The place you go back to that’s now gone.

“It used to be…”

We’ve all got them, the places where we once lived or attended school or loved visiting or eating in or shopping at. As life changes, sometimes at a dizzying pace, it can be comforting to re-visit these spots. Many are filled with memories — great dates, a proposal, a graduation, a terrific meal — and the physical place becomes a touchstone.

One of the most-loved indie bookstores in Manhattan, Posman Books, is closing its Grand Central location on New Year’s Eve — to make room for (what else?) some costly new building. So annoying!

It’s been such a lovely respite, while awaiting a train or a friend, to browse its well-edited selection of books and cards. I’ve made some great discoveries on its front tables over the years, and was thrilled when my own book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” briefly ended up in their front windows.

I grew up in Toronto, a sprawling city of 3 million people, and moved to New York a long time ago, but I still go back once or twice a year to see old friends and to enjoy places I’ve been visiting for decades.

Gone! One of my favorite antiques/vintage clothing shops in NYC

Gone! One of my favorite antiques/vintage clothing shops in NYC

Like Courage My Love, one of the city’s best vintage clothing shops and The Papery, a great little stationery store I once sold my home-made envelopes to when I was in high school, and — for many years — a beloved cafe called The Coffee Mill, which served strudel and espresso and schnitzel on its lovely outdoor terrace and cosy interior.

It closed in September 2014, after 50 years in business, back in the day when those kinds of foods were exotic to white-bread WASPy Toronto.

We also lost a favorite restaurant on Queen Street, Prague Deli, who had renovated it into an even more welcoming spot, a perfect refuge on a bitterly cold winter’s afternoon. Gone.

Toronto also recently lost the 65-year nightclub, the El Mocambo, where the Rolling Stones once played.

I often go back to my high school, Leaside High School, to talk to the students about what it’s like to make a living as a writer. It’s very odd, but also oddly comforting, to walk those terrazo-ed hallways once more. It looks exactly the same!

Every city, especially when there are millions or billions to be made flipping and developing commercial real estate, loses bits of its past, and we stand by helplessly mourning all those lost memories.

One of my favorite Manhattan cafes, Cafe Angelique on Grove Street in the West Village, disappeared overnight in the fall of 2014 when the landlord demanded $45,000/month in rent — for 1,000 square feet. My lasting memory of it now was a lunch I had there with a fellow journalist I’d long admired and listened to on American Public Media’s business show, Marketplace.

Now its gutted space is one more about-to-be-gentrified spot filled with a mega-brand.



One of the most poignant of these moments happened for me early in my courtship by Jose, my husband, who grew up in Sante Fe, New Mexico. His father was the pastor of a small Baptist church and they lived in church housing — all of which was torn down and replaced by the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.

So we stood admiring one of her legendary paintings as Jose said, wistfully, “This used to be my bedroom.”

All that’s left of his childhood home is a small courtyard with an apricot tree, whose fruit his mother used to make into jam.

Is there a place like this from your past you (still) miss?

Still there, since 1927, the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona

Still there, since 1927, the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona


In beauty, behavior, domestic life, life, Style on December 28, 2011 at 1:50 am
Approaching Thunderstorm on the Hudson River, ...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s about time!

In the past few weeks, I’ve ditched a whole pile ‘o stuff I’ve been hanging on to — for 20 years.

Books I never opened netted me $70 from a used book store. I’m planning to open up an Etsy site to sell antique and vintage items, many of which I’ve collected and want to get rid of.

I love the word that museums use — de-accessioning — for the necessary process of pruning and, if you’re able to, upgrading the quality of what you own. So much more elegant than “dumping stuff.”

I moved to New York 22 years ago, filled with ambition and hope and excitement about finally coming to the place my mother was born, the center of my industry — journalism and publishing — certain there was a place for me here. It’s been a sobering experience, and success proved much tougher to achieve than I could possibly have imagined. Three recessions didn’t help!

And, having been single, self-employed and penurious for six years after my divorce, (before meeting my now-husband, who moved in with me), I clung to the things I owned, not at all sure when, or if, I would ever be able to replace them. As Jose compassionately noted, I was in survival mode. Letting go of my things, no matter how old or worn out, I admit with embarrassment, isn’t easy.

But 20 years is a really long time to cling to a look or style or set of beliefs that worked for me (if they really did), in 1992, the year I got married to my first husband (who was out the door two years later.)

I’ve been blond for 20 years. Now I’m a redhead; new headshot soon to come.

In our one-bedroom apartment, we’ve ditched two deep, heavy armchairs, a folding screen, a corner unit holding media equipment. I’ve re-painted a low bookcase a pale yellow (from deep olive green) and bought a new tiny glass-base lamp from West Elm to add a bit of gleam.

I want more air and light in here. Ages ago, in a fit of DIY design, I had a piece of glass cut, beveled and frosted to use as a console table. I never put it together, but now it’s time.

It takes confidence in the future, and optimism about what will happen there, to let go of the old, making physical and psychic room for the new.

What changes are you planning to make in your home or life for 2012?

Seeing With Fresh Eyes

In behavior, design, domestic life, family, Health, life, love, Money, women on March 28, 2011 at 11:54 am
The 'Glasses Apostle' in the altarpiece of the...

Time for a new vision? Definitely! Image via Wikipedia

I returned home a few weeks ago after a three-week absence, the longest I had been away for a few years in one stretch.

I suddenly saw the bedroom, robin’s egg blue, with fresh eyes, and I wanted a change, a big one.

Now it’s soft, warm gray — the same color we’ve had in our small dining room for a few years. It’s the exact shade of cigarette ash, soothing yet clean and crisp without being cold. (It’s called Modern Gray from Sherwin-Williams and the owners of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie [one of my favorite stores] have the exact same color in their country home.)

One of the great challenges of everyday life is being able to see things with fresh eyes. It all starts to blur after a while into a haze of comforting, familiar, routine sameness.

Putting my mother into a nursing home jolted me — hard — out of this stupor.

I sat with her at dinner, a silent room filled with nodding gray heads, and came home desperately grateful for my sweetie’s laughter and loud music and even the noisy small baby downstairs.

We sorted through boxes of her belongings, lovely things she had acquired from all over the world, from hand-embroidered dresses from India to a folk art wooden animal she bought in London. I came home determined to toss everything without meaning or serious value to me, from my old wedding ring to the armoire that’s been in the garage for three years.

The cost of her care every month is as much as we, combined, earn. Now we’re looking into long-term care insurance.

What has sharpened your vision lately?


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