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December 1, 2011

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ROSENTHAL SLAMS HISTORIC CHURCH DEPT. OF FINANCE CELEBRATES 1 00 YEARS After hearing from many terrified and West-Park Presbyterian Church has seen its share of ups and downs over the past century, but this Monday, Dec. 5, the church will celebrate its current upswing and centennial birthday with a benefit event. The church has struggled to raise money for the massive repairs it needs to keep its doors open, getting especially creative after the Landmarks Preservation Commission stopped the congregation from selling a portion of its property to finance a renovation. Since the church was designated as a landmark, Pastor Robert Brashear has been working with the community to scrounge up funds for a new boiler, plumbing repairs and a new roof. Part of that effort has involved the creation of the Center at West-Park, an independent community group that focuses on social justice and the arts. The Center is described as “dedicated to the challenging and essential work of personal and social transformation through the pathways of culture and the arts, social activism, intergenerational education and the cultivation of wonder and the human spirit.”

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confused senior residents of her district suddenly unsure of how they’ll stay in their homes, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal has called out the city’s Department of Finance for mishandling its management of the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program. “While skyrocketing rents in New York City threaten us all, seniors living on a fixed income are hit particularly hard,” Rosenthal said in a statement. “It is appalling that Finance and 311 have exhibited gross incompetence in their handling of the SCRIE program.” The program, which caps rents for qualified seniors to protect them against yearly rent increases which many on fixed incomes cannot afford, used to be administered by the city’s Department for the Aging. It was transferred in 2009 to the Department of Finance, ostensibly to make the process easier for seniors. But, according to Rosenthal, that hasn’t happened. The Assembly Housing Committee held a hearing last week to figure out the problems with the program, and Rosenthal said that it revealed gross incompetence at the

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Hai zHang

Kirsten Hively has made it her personal artistic mission to photograph, map and catalog every neon sign in the city, several of which famously hang on the Upper West Side. Dublin House’s iconic neon harp sign has been shining down on the neighborhood since 1933—Hively has captured it and many others, from creative to seedy to strangely elegant signs advertising everything New York City has to offer. On Monday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m., Hively will discuss Project Neon and show her photos of the city’s glowing treasures, many of which are currently on display at the City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The discussion will take place at Macaulay Honors College, 35 W. 67th St. Admission is $15, $10 for Landmark West members. RSVP is required; to reserve your spot, email landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org or call 212-496-8110.

The event on Monday will feature an array of happenings that speak to the diversity of activities the church and Center are hoping to promote. Martin Bard, a director for the Times Square Playwrights, which is looking into a partnership with West-Park, will direct a selection of farcical scenes in the theater above the sanctuary. Several artists’ works will be displayed throughout the church along with blown-up floorplans showing the future of the church and spaces for people to write what they’d like to see in the community from the congregation and the members at the Center. A group advocating for a “sweatshopfree” Upper West Side will hold a meeting to discuss their work, and musicians and actors will perform throughout the space during the evening. The evening’s unofficial theme is activism through art, with an emphasis on collaborative and engaging works. There will be also champagne and cupcakes, which turn any event into a party. West-Park Presbyterian Church is at 165 W. 86th St. Tickets are available for a suggested, but not required, donation of $125 at thecentreatwestpark.wordpress.com. Festive attire is requested.

A PASSEL OF SANTAS

A little boy stops to find out what all the hullabaloo is about as the Sidewalk Santa Parade marches down the West Side. Budding Santas took part in the event Nov. 25 to raise money for the Volunteers of America’s Holiday Food Voucher Program. These vouchers allow families in need to shop for a holiday meal special to them, rather than relying on a food pantry. Department of Finance that has resulted in delays and inaccuracies. She is calling for the program to be returned to the hands of the DFTA and in the meantime encourages seniors in her district to contact her office with any SCRIE problems by calling 212-873-6368 or emailing rosenthall@ assembly.state.ny.us. SCRIE applies to seniors aged 65 years and older with an annual income of $29,000 or less by freezing their rent and providing landlords with a city-subsidized tax abatement.

CITY LAW COULD RESULT IN OUSTED TOUR GUIDES When City Council passed Local Law 15 in 2010, mandating that passengers wear headphones to hear the colorful commentary of tour guides on open-air sightseeing buses, they intended to protect the auditory comfort of the city’s residents. What they did not intend, as sponsor and Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer can attest, was to give tour bus companies an excuse to lay off human tour guides in favor of prerecorded audio to be piped in through those now-mandatory headphones. Members of Transport Workers Union Local 225, which represents tour guides employed by Gray Line Sightseeing, are concerned that the company has expressed a desire to cut staff when contracts come up for renewal this month.

Brewer said that this was never the intended result of the law. “I want to make it really clear that I am 100 percent supportive of live tour guides,” Brewer said. In a statement, she emphasized the need for human beings to conduct the live tours, and later said it would be absurd to have automated tours in New York City traffic, where timing any particular route can never be certain. “We want live tourism guides, especially on the ‘hop on hop off’ buses, because they are skilled, spontaneous and entertaining, make a good impression and are good for the image of our city,” the statement read. “We want live guides because the job they do is important to the city’s economy and to the families they support.”

Community

meeting Calendar Tuesday, Dec. 6 • Community Board 7 Full Board meeting, 6:30 p.m., Goddard-Riverside Community Center, 593 Columbus Ave. Wednesday, Dec.7 • Community Education Council District 3 Overcrowding & Charter Committee meeting, 5 p.m., Joan of Arc, Room 204, 154 W. 93rd St. • Community Education Council District 3 Business Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Joan of Arc, Room 204, 154 W. 93rd St.

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features

West Side’s Grannies Fuel Movement Local activists say media ignores Occupy’s seniors By Allen Houston

O

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Isaac Rosenthal

ccupy Wall Street protestors may have been evicted from Zuccotti Park, but for three Upper West Side seniors, the battle continues. To Batya Lewton, Kitty Williston and Nancy Brandon, the OWS movement is only the latest incarnation of a series of protests for equality that they’ve waged during their lives. The trio took part in the recent Occupy Lincoln Center protest and marched partway from 181 Street to Wall Street with State Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s march Nov. 7. “What I’ve learned is that you have to raise hell if you want change,” Williston, 69, said. She has also marched at Zuccotti Park with the protestors. Holding signs reading “Sober, TaxPaying Older Lady” and “Tax the Rich,” they met last week at Williston’s apartment to rail against corporate crooks and the undue influence big companies have over the legislative process. The self-described “Granny Brigade” also discussed past activism as well as the experience of being seniors protesting and what excites them about OWS. “What’s been wonderful about OWS is that all this outrage that everyone has been feeling is suddenly welling to the surface,” Lewton, 81, said. “It’s caused people to think about the rising income disparity and what’s happening to the poor and middle classes.” The wildfire nature of the protests remind them of the Civil Rights Movement and rallies against the Vietnam War, in which they took part. “When the kids were being sprayed with pepper spray at [UC] Davis it reminded me of the protesters in Selma being sprayed with water hoses,” Williston said. Each of the three women has deep activism roots that stretch back to the 1960s. Lewton’s first taste of activism came when she started the “Committee to Save the Schomburg Library” in the early 1960s. The library held a massive repository of old African-American newspapers that were moldering and were in danger of being lost forever. She made a flier for students to take home for their parents to get them involved in the initiative to save a part of black history. She next protested when a hospital was being built in central Harlem and no black construction workers were being used. Not longer after that, Lewton took part

Nancy Brandon, left, Kitty Williston and Batya Lewton. in the March on Washington, where she was up front for Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I have a dream” speech. She later took part in the sanitation workers strike in Memphis in 1968. “There were tons of cops with billyclubs waiting for something to happen, but it was a peaceful event,” she said. Lewton has been active locally in the Coalition for a Livable West Side as well as the West Side Federation of Neighborhood and Block Associations. She also helped organize a rent strike in her own building on the Upper West Side. Williston was attending North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C., in 1963, when she picketed so theatres there would become integrated. “They called me names and spit on me,” Williston said about the whites trying to stop the integration. She was later arrested with 500 other students for picketing the local Howard Johnson, the last major hotel chain to become integrated. “We spent all night crowded into a jail cell and the black community stood outside the windows and sang ‘We Shall Overcome.’ It was extremely moving,” she said. She later protested for higher wages for social workers and against the Vietnam War. Nancy Brandon’s first protest was when Rochdale Village in Queens was being built and no black construction workers were being used. “We marched and picketed. It was very

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effective,” the 81-year-old retired teacher said. Brandon has been involved in the community for the past 21 years and has been active in her block association as well as fighting for numerous community issues. The three protested the Iraq War and have been involved in numerous other protests over the years. With economic despair being felt around the country, the rise of the Tea Party, big bank bailouts and corporations wielding more and more power, it had been hard for them to keep their spirits up—until the OWS movement came to the forefront. “I feel like we’ve been going backwards,” Williston said. “Unions are being torn asunder. People feel like it’s permis-

sible to be racist. Poor people have less and less.” Brandon said that the sense of hope that was there in the past is now lacking. “During the 1960s, it seemed like change would actually come. There was a movement—now, I’m not so sure,” she said. All three said the media has underplayed the attention given to older protesters; cameras are quick to pan to the more wild looking fringes of the occupiers rather than focus on the fact that a sizeable number of them are seniors. “The media have distorted this because it fits the agenda of how they want to frame this,” Lewton said. She said seniors have a lot to offer to the younger kids organizing now. “There’s not the institutional knowledge that older protestors have, and a lot of people don’t seem to understand the loss of the rights that are at stake,” Lewton said. “More people have to become involved. You can’t rely on someone else to protest on your behalf.” She believes one way OWS could strengthen its hand would be to focus on one or two things they want to change rather than having a laundry list of demands. “I prefer specific reasons to protest rather than every other person holding a sign with a different cause on it,” she said. Everyone has to get involved though, they said and the best way is to start in your own neighborhood. “Change really has to start at the local level. People need to get involved in everything from local politics to the community boards. Unless we do that, we run the risk of becoming a plutocracy,” Brandon said.

Occupy Grannies Speak Out On Protesting “What I’ve learned is that you have to raise hell if you want change.”—Kitty Williston, 69 On the Rise of Occupy Wall Street “What’s been wonderful about OWS is that all this outrage that everyone has been feeling is suddenly welling to the surface.”—Batya Lewton, 81 On Seniors at the OWS Protests “The media have distorted this because it fits the agenda of how they want to frame this.”—Lewton

On the Current Political Climate “I feel like we’ve been going backwards. Unions are being torn asunder. People feel like it’s permissible to be racist. Poor people have less and less.”—Williston On Change “Change really has to start at the local level. People need to get involved in everything from local politics to the community boards. Unless we do that we run the risk of becoming a plutocracy,” —Nancy Brandon, 81

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Loyal Listeners, from Garbage Men to Celebrities A gay ‘View’ from the Upper West Side By Mark Peikert The Upper West Side has long been home to funny people—everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Elisabeth Hasselbeck— and comedian Dave Rubin is the latest in that long line. “I absolutely love the Upper West Side,” he said over coffee. “There is something funny going on up here. You have every ethnic mix, every religious mix— there’s something that feels decent. There are straight families, gay families, single people. There’s everything here. It’s just a kooky mix of characters. You’re bored? Go sit at the community table at Zabar’s and you will hear the funniest—and the most psychotic—stories.” A decade-long resident of the neighborhood, Rubin and his radio talk show The Six Pack—which he co-hosts with Ben Harvey—recently began a run on Sirius Radio every Saturday from 1–3 p.m. “We’ve been doing the show for over two years now. We originally started at HereTV, the other gay [TV] network,” Rubin said. “We just wanted something decent for gay people...It hit because it’s

good but also gay people need something, because it’s the 1 percent that are getting shows now. The show is, to me, The View meets Sports Center.” Sirius caught on to the sexy, hilarious tone of The Six Pack (www. sixpackage. com) early and offered Rubin and Harvey free use of their studio space before officially adding the show to their lineup Oct. 1. Divided into six segments—“Everyone has ADD now,” Rubin explained—The Six Pack finds Rubin and Harvey dishing about politics, entertain- Dave Rubin. ment and gay issues with guests ranging from Gawker’s Bryan Moylan to Jackass’ Steve-O. “When we first started, we had a couple of personal connections that got us a few guests,” Rubin explained. “[After that] it was relentless emailing [or] if I bumped into a celebrity on the street

I thought would be interesting. We got Sandra Bernhard on Twitter. We had a long, semi-stalking relationship with Joy Behar, and we’ve had her on the show twice and I’ve been on her show once.” An inveterate Tweeter (@RubinReport), Rubin said, “You put some of this stuff out and it’s like, Is anything actually happening because of this? But I tweeted at Rosie O’Donnell that I was at Blondie’s, and took a picture of me with a wing in my mouth and said, ‘Rosie, I’m having these wings for you.’ And I got this tweet back that said, ‘Dave, I’m on my way.’ “Before I could even reply, she was in the restaurant! Someone who had actually influenced me. We sat there and had some wings and some beer and she wanted to know about me. So there are real-world applications for this crazy little device.

It’s sort of an equalizer. You can actually build a fan base without compromising at every turn. I haven’t compromised yet. I look forward to compromising!” As for the future of The Six Pack, Rubin said, “I think there are so many things we could do with this. Part of the reason we haven’t done as much video as we’d like has been that the quality of the audio has been so good we don’t want to just put a webcam up. And the nice thing about radio is you don’t have to get hung up on watching. “We have this gay garbage man in Brooklyn who emails us who listens to us every week. And we get tons of emails from closeted listeners. We’re fighting the tide of straight media, trying to break through as a mainstream show, but a huge chunk of our fan base is closeted, so it can’t even help us.” For anyone out there listening and laughing, pay The Six Pack back by taking it viral. Who knows? Tweeting may even get you a beer and a few in-person jokes from Rubin himself. Preferably on the Upper West Side, of course.

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By Megan Finnegan Bungeroth On a dreary weekday morning, a group of about two dozen inquisitive parents sat on stools in a science room and listened ardently as Eva Moskowitz laid down the law for them. “If you were late to your wedding, you probably don’t want to go to this school,” Moskowitz said, holding nothing back in her description of Upper West Success Academy and its rigorous adherence to the 7:45 a.m. start time. If kids arrive five minutes late, she explained, they miss one-third of 15-minute math, which is how all of the students in kindergarten and 1st grade begin their days at the brand-new school. Moskowitz is the CEO of Success Charter Network, which runs nine charter schools throughout the city, three of which are in the Upper West Side’s School District 3. A former city council member with strong opinions about the failures of traditional public schools, Moskowitz runs each of her schools the same way and doesn’t apologize if people don’t like it. Parents wanted to know how the school handles homework, and Moskowitz assured them, “We are big

Class at Upper West Success Academy. believers in homework.” Students, whom Success Academy schools always refer to as “scholars,” start with about 30 minutes of homework in kindergarten, but that workload increases as they move up through the grades. “China and India believe in homework, and they’re not complaining,” Moskowitz said to somewhat nervous laughter from a few parents. “I don’t think that Americans have totally digested the global competition that we’re facing.” That level of seriousness—planning not just the minutiae of the school day

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but for the educational futures of the students—is reflected everywhere at Upper West Success. Each classroom is named for its teacher’s alma mater. The kindergartners, padding through the hallways in single-file lines of orangeand-brown uniforms, are the Class of 2028—the year they will graduate from college. Upper West Success demands a lot from its students and parents—long school days, frequent assessment, ability to follow a very regimented environment. Success Charter Network students consistently perform extremely well on state tests, and parents are clamoring to get their kids into this newest outpost; there were 700 in-district lottery applications, for 190 kindergarten and 1st-grade spots for the 2011-2012 school year. The school came to life this year amid a flurry of controversy that has not completely died down. Elected officials, Community Board 7 and groups of local

parents opposed the charter, mostly based on concerns over its co-location in the Brandeis High School complex. At a meeting last week, several parents of Upper West Success students attended specifically to call out City Council Member Gale Brewer. Brewer asserted that her issue with the school remains the same. “I’m still worried about the overcrowding on the high schools,” she said. “[Upper West Success] may be a good school, but that’s not the issue.” But while the school is still finding its footing, many parents see it as a viable option for their kids, attending the weekly tours brimming with questions, willing to take the chance on a different educational approach. One parent wanted to know how they will find more space as the school grows. “I don’t want to say there’s a guarantee we can get space,” said Jenny Sedlis, a co-founder of the school. “It could depend on Albany, they could cut our funding,” she said, explaining that strong support for charter schools could also go out the window with the next mayoral administration.

Open House at Rutgers Presbyterian Church Community Programs Bring your children to our free Open House on Saturday, December 3 from 10am until 12pm! Our programs offer enrichment, friendship, and fun where children 1-9 years old learn through creative play: •Soccer •Playgroups •Musical Theatre •Art •Mandarin •Dance •Preschool •Movement Alternative •Small class sizes for a child-centered, nurturing environment •Spacious facility includes an art studio, gym, an auditorium with a

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arts

Making Art Out of the Dark By Penny Gray Upper East Side poet Anna Rabinowitz has much to smile about these days. Most poets are grateful to have a collection of poetry published; few can boast that their words have been set in an opera, and even fewer can say that the opera has been successful enough to warrant a CD release. But Rabinowitz can. From a book-length poem to a multimedia experimental opera featuring the music of composer Stefan Weisman to its current incarnation as an audio recording, Darkling is a haunting portrayal of the emotions, terrors and incalculable losses incurred by Eastern European Jewish people during the period from between the two world wars to the Holocaust. Rabinowitz’s journey to becoming a poet was a somewhat circuitous one. She had a full life as a wife, mother and interior designer before deciding to pursue life as a poet, something she had dreamed about as a child. “I just decided that I didn’t want to wake up one day and realize I hadn’t done what I wanted to do, so I found my way back to poetry,” she said. She started taking classes at The New

School, where she was singled out by teachers and encouraged to take her new vocation seriously. She enrolled in the Columbia MFA program as a mature student. “It was the best thing I ever did,” she said. Since then, Rabinowitz has gone on to an illustrious career as a poet. A National Endowment for the Arts fellow, she has published four volumes of poetry, including Darkling. Darkling started as a shoebox full of photographs and letters in her parents’ closet. When Rabinowitz’s parents died, she was left with a collection of memory fragments she didn’t know or understand. “It was terrible to grow up in this world alone, marginalized and without family, having parents who must have felt terrible that they were the only ones to survive,” she recalled. “And all the while I felt angry with them because they wouldn’t talk about these things.” Rabinowitz sent the fragments off to be translated from Yiddish into English. When they returned, the real work of Darkling began. “This project was a way of honoring the lives of friends and relatives, not forgetting them, letting them

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have their moment. I guess it’s a way of being a sort of missionary and relieving myself of guilt at the same time.” For Rabinowitz, the process was both haunting and frustrating. “I didn’t want to invent anything. I knew I was distant from the events of the Holocaust. I find it problematic when people write about this period. It’s like they’re writing a consolation, which trivializes it.” The book of poetry was the opera has toured widely in released by Tupelo Press in Europe and the United States. 2001 and caught the attention Now, Darkling is available in of American Opera Projects, a realm beyond the written page a nonprofit organization dediand live performance. The new cated to developing and genrecording, released by Albany Anna Rabinowitz. erating new American operas Records and produced by Judith while expanding the form. Post-classical Sherman, brings Darkling full circle for composer Stefan Weisman created a score Rabinowitz. “Time inevitably imposes a that is rich in minimalist riffs, recalling distance on all events of history. How do Schoenberg, Bartok and Shostakovich and we keep memories alive? Should we keep hinting at Jewish folk idioms. memories alive?” she said. “But in this The operatic incarnation of Darkling case, it’s important that we keep navigatopened at Classic Stage Company in ing the distance. Darkling has a life of its 2006 to such success that it returned to own and needs to continue.” New York the following year as part of Darkling is available at www.amaNew York City Opera’s VOX. Since then, zon.com.

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now playing

Armond White’s Film Capsules

50/50—The buddy comedy genre faces cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is helped through crisis by Seth Rogen. Decent emotions get cheated of depth by blithe, nonspiritual approach. Dir. Jonathan Levine. The Descendants—George Clooney shakes off the snark, but filmmaker Alexander Payne puts it back on in this Hawaii-set story of how Americans squander their paradise and advantages. Adultery, greed, family dysfunction and death go unenlightened by the film’s stupefying visual banality. Dir. Alexander Payne. Drive—Fake toughness, fake sentimentality, fake style infected by Michael Mann. Brooding existential stuntman and petty criminal Ryan Gosling is so laconic and cool he’s inadvertently comic. This second-rate actor occasionally drops his Steve McQueen impersonation and lets slip Mickey Rourke’s old smile. Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life— An inventive political, cultural, ethnic defense of France’s ’60s pop icon and rebel Serge Gainsbourg shows a caricaturist’s whimsy—especially in the Jewish

self-consciousness subtext, psychopolitical anime effects and Eric Elmosnino’s lead performance. Laetitia Casta does a worthy, knockout Brigitte Bardot impersonation. Dir. Joann Sfar. Jack and Jill—Adam Sandler, the least abashed comic actor outside the Borscht Belt, tackles Jewish self-deprecation in this sibling rivalry laff fest. Playing both male and female twins, Sandler show tribal affection by turning bad vibes into good. Al Pacino’s cameo as Jill’s suitor is both crazily romantic and a brilliant professional salute. Dir. Dennis Dugan. J. Edgar—Using the career of longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to promote a gay sympathy ought to be subversive (that’s the intention of screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who wrote Milk). But despite Leo DiCaprio’s eager-beaver empathetic performance, this grim, humorless exercise, featuring lousy old-age makeup, turns out

ghoulish and self-congratulatory—just like Milk. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Melancholia—Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg play Eurotrash sisters waiting for the end of world—literally: A planet named Melancholia, symbolizing their depression, comes crashing toward Earth. Another Lars von Trier prank, this is apocalypse for nihilists. Dir. Lars von Trier. Puss in Boots—More Shrek dreck, this time losing what little appeal the Puss in Boots character (voiced by Antonio Bandera) brought to previous episodes of the franchise. At least there are fewer human facile grotesques, but all the fairy tale/pop culture satire (from Humpty Dumpty to Jack and Jill) and feline cuteness becomes a jumbled-up overload. Dir. Chris Miller. Real Steel—Hugh Jackman’s Lost Father and his Estranged Son (Dakota Goyo) come together in the near future of robot boxing—a metaphor for mankind’s displaced emotions in the digital age. This surprisingly touching footnote to producer Steven Spielberg’s A.I. is a fairytale of archetypes. Dir. Shawn Levy.

The Rum Diary—Another tryand-miss attempt at putting Hunter Thompson’s fevered journalism on screen. Although Johnny Depp’s too old to play the young Gonzo writer, the dissolute story ignores optimism and innocence. It is dully cynical. Dir. Bruce Robinson. The Skin I Live In—A fairy tale using sexual anxiety as identity crisis. Mad scientist Antonio Banderas falls in love with his human guinea pig (Elena Anaya) in a narrative as convoluted as it is engrossing. Twisted yet ultimately humane, it gloriously refutes Lady Gaga. Dir. Pedro Almodóvar. Take Shelter—Midwestern laborer (Michael Shannon) becomes unstable, sensing apocalypse in the changed wind (as Bob Dylan would put it). Political paranoia takes elemental, eschatological form, driving wife (Jessica Chastain) and blue-collar buddy (Shea Whigham) to the edge. Tipping into horror movie cliché, the political tension gets unbearably overwrought. Dir. Jeff Nichols. Tower Heist—Eddie Murphy’s sharp, profane delivery can’t save this witless high-concept heist movie about a team of luxury apartment workers (led by Ben Stiller) seeking revenge on their MadoffTrump boss. Dir. Brett Ratner.

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See American history through the eyes of children. Discover the DiMenna Children’s History Museum – a one-of-a-kind, hands-on museum experience only at the New-York Historical Society.

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A Mother of Two Has News for You

Mom-preneur Golnar Khosrowshahi expands GoGoNews, her popular children’s news website, with big ideas for little learners By Joe Wack

F

ive years ago, Golnar Khosrowshahi’s twin daughters came to her with questions about a newspaper photo they had stumbled across. “My kids had seen a photograph of a little girl. She was disheveled and bruised and battered and beaten. She was an earthquake survivor. They started asking questions: ‘What happened to her? Why did this happen?’” Khosrowshahi recalled. But this “Type A” mom knew that turning on television news coverage or looking the story up on Google News was not the best way to get her children’s questions answered. “Mainstream news is not a safe place with your child,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re going to see, from an image standpoint. There are things on CNN that are fine for you and me, but it’s not necessarily what you want your 8- or 9-year-old to see.” So Khosrowshahi took the matter into her own hands. “I started leaving [my daughters] a newsletter that they could have with their breakfast,” she said. “I started adding the weather and things like that, just topical news. It was really all inspired by that one photograph and the questions that came about because of it. And then it just grew.” Khosrowshahi began sharing the newsletter with friends and family. “People liked the idea,” she reflected. “[Eventually]…I moved it onto a couple of different web-based products and now we are where we are today.”

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Where it is today is among the leading sites for children-focused news content. Thousands of readers flock to GoGoNews.com every day. And there are good reasons why they keep coming back. GoGoNews, aimed at kids aged 5 to 13, is updated daily and features current news stories that are geared toward young minds. The site is organized into categories of interest, including Planet,

Golnar Khosrowshahi. which focuses on articles with an ecological angle; Picks, which includes recommendations for new products, toys and books; and Cool, a page of games, riddles and other bits of fun. Unlike some kids’ news sites, which resemble a hyper-caffeinated Times Square, Khosrowshahi notes that GoGoNews was designed with simplicity in mind. “We wanted it to have some gravitas and still be appealing to kids and be simple,” she said. “We don’t really have anything happening ‘below the fold.’ That’s because kids don’t really know that they need to scroll down to find more content. So, while it looks simplistic, a lot of that was done deliberately.” Another thing that sets GoGoNews apart is its daily updates—even during the summer, when other sites take a break. Khosrowshahi researched her site’s summer traffic and was surprised

d ecem ber 1, 2011

to find that the number of hits increased significantly. “There were so many kids commenting on the stories. The numbers don’t lie.” GoGoNews also doesn’t shy away from difficult stories. For instance, this year, the site covered the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Khosrowshahi believes a wellwritten piece can serve as an effective launching pad for families to discuss these types of world events. “We covered it from the angle of ‘On this day, this happened ten years ago.’ Very, very factual,” she said. “We don’t get into a lot of cause and effect in these articles, because we need to leave room for our readers—and the families of the readers—to create their own judgment when they’re communicating with their children.” Khosrowshahi doesn’t decide how to approach these stories all on her own, though. “I work with a psychiatrist in the city, Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, who is a consultant to GoGoNews. We also work with an educational consultant to give us the ‘what’s happening at school’ perspective.” But that’s not to imply that the site is all hard news, all the time. “We feature a lot of science stories, new planets or new fossils and that kind of thing, and stories about pets or animals. We’ll cover a lot of art-related stories, like new exhibitions. The thread here is that they are all current stories,” Khosrowshahi commented. One recent article featured New Zealand’s release of a set of Star Wars coins. “It’s a great story, because kids love Star Wars, so it’s got mass appeal on that front, but so many people emailed us asking, ‘Where can I get these coins?’ I had no choice but to direct them to the New Zealand government’s site,” Khosrowshahi said. “A kid reads that

and walks away asking, ‘Where is New Zealand?’ It’s that additional piece of information that that child has learned because of his or her love of Star Wars.” Looking ahead, Khosrowshahi and her team are currently expanding the site to include GoGoTeach, which will allow teachers to utilize worksheets in which stories from the site can be used to practice reading comprehension, punctuation and other literacy skills. Perhaps the reason Khosrowshahi has been so effective at creating a functional site for kids and their families is that she’s a consumer of the site as well as its creator. Her daughters have grown up with the news stories that she has helped them follow. “They remember things from three years ago, which I find amazing,” she said. “I see that retention and I see that they have some resource to draw on when they’re forming their opinions. One of their resources is this exposure that they’ve had.” Thanks to Khosrowshahi’s kid-focused take on current affairs, GoGoNews has become the go-to site for parents who wish to expose their kids to events and reports from all over the world. And it all started with a single photograph and a conversation. For more information, visit gogonews.com. N ew s YO U Li V e B Y


WestsideSpirit.com

December 1, 2011

WEST SIDE SPIRIT

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Dining

The Ins and Outs of Decanting a Wine I always tell people that Brad and I were friends long before he was rich and successful. However, that certainly doesn’t stop me from taking advantage of his generosity as far as fine wine and food are concerned. This time of year, he tends to pull out several incredibly expensive bottles of wine from his small stash. And he always makes a huge spectacle of bringing them out, presenting them to the crowd and then handing them over to me. “If you would be so kind, garçon, to decant this fine wine.” Truth be told—and no offense to Brad—I don’t think he’s completely clear on why I’m decanting the wines for him. Sometimes, he’ll hand me a wine that he thinks needs to be decanted and I’ll tell him it isn’t necessary. “Uh, I paid $400 for that. I think you should decant it.” Which I do. And sometimes it doesn’t help the wine. Sometimes, it actually hurts

it. So for all of you Brads out there, and even those of us regular schmoes who might just have a special bottle stashed away for our upcoming holiday parties, I’m going to talk a little bit about how, why and when a bottle of wine should be decanted. There are two main reasons a bottle of wine should be decanted, and those two reasons speak to the two very different types of wine you might decant. First, there are the older, expensive wines that may have been By Josh Perilo sitting in a cellar for years. The object of aging a wine (correctly) is generally to let the wine, which may be harsh and tannic while young, become mellower and more refined. After several years in the bottle, however, the wine will begin to give up some precipitate. That is to say, there will be some crap at the bottom of the bottle. Don’t worry! The wine isn’t bad. This is natural, but it isn’t a lot of fun to drink. That is why decanting an older wine is

No Title Required Museum dining artfully done at Untitled

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ing genuinely edible food, have the quickstop, your-tour-bus-is-waiting feeling of museum cafés everywhere. Now there is Untitled at the Whitney, which successfully blends the two approaches to provide a dining experience that could easily succeed on its own merits set squarely inside a museum. To achieve this, Meyer called Gramercy Tavern executive sous chef Chris Bradley up to the big leagues and tasked him with creating two separate menus: casual classics for the museum crowd and interesting New American for weekend dinners. Daytime gives us a take on New York diner culture, all-day breakfast and lunch featuring pancakes and eggs, sandwiches and salads. Every dish is carefully considered, and nothing is offered out of obligation—unlike your corner coffee shop, of whose sprawling menu maybe one-third is worth ordering. With a smaller kitchen, the restaurant outsources many of its baking duties to partners like Balthazar Bakery and Four and Twenty Blackbirds to great effect. But there’s plenty that is unexpectedly housemade—like the sausage and pastrami—all of which is spot-on. At night, the three-course, prix fixe menu is short and sweet, changing

d ecem ber 1, 2011

weekly to keep things seasonal, fresh and playful. Each course has just two or three options, and common side dishes are brought out with the entrées. These assimilate to varying degrees with the rest of the meal, depending on how you’ve chosen (a three-grain pilaf was an unnecessary starch boost for gnocchi but the perfect complement to a seafood stew), but are a pleasantly familial touch. Wines are much better than tolerable; a concise list of American whites and reds by the glass or bottle. With such a short list, there is no room for error—surprisingly, though, there is plenty of room for eye-catching rarities, like the “Giuliano,” from Cameron Winery in Oregon, a remarkably food-friendly blend imported especially for the restaurant. The space is comfortable, chic but sparse. Blond wood tables and low-slung black chairs fill the center of the room, ringed by padded banquettes. The bar is the same blond wood crowned with a chalkboard that displays the menu. The true accomplishment is the atmosphere at night, when the residual glare from the lobby above is parlayed, with candles and strategically placed pin-lights, into a cozy den where you can still read the menu. Adjacent to the restaurant, in the space that used to be the downstairs gift shop extension, is a sleek waiting area to hold the inevitable crowd at peak brunching hours. One wall is devoted to a moreinteresting-than-necessary Lawrence

more agitation the wine gets, the more air is introduced and the more elegant that monster red is going to taste. My friend, Sean Kenneavey, manager at Bolsa Restaurant in Houston, has a tendency to even double decant his vino if it’s extra tannic. By all means…if it works, do it! While it isn’t that often, there are the rare occasions when decanting is unnecessary and even harmful. In the event that you have a very, very old bottle of fine wine (i.e. a 1945 La Tache, a 1959 Lafite, a 1921 Chateau d’Yquem), you want to avoid this. These wines are so delicate that pouring the bottle’s entire contents, even slowly, into another vessel would destroy what is left of their structure. Think of it like taking a well-preserved garment from the 1880s and throwing it into a modern washing machine; you’d end up with a pile of threads. My holiday wish for all of you is that you have the opportunity to experience a wine worthy of decanting for any reason! Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshperilo.

Nicole FraNzeN

By Regan Hofmann Hit the gift shop, skip the restaurant. Unless you’re part of a tour group, hypoglycemic or having a day out with your nana, this has always been the accepted wisdom for museum visits. If you happen to be an unlucky member of one of these groups, you can look forward to a selection of dry sandwiches, a steam-table entrée and a sweaty, pre-cut cheese plate. The best to be hoped for is a tolerable wine to drown your sorrows and some art to remind you of the reason you’re there. In recent years, Danny Meyer, the prolific and preternaturally successful restaurateur (so uniquely prodigious, in fact, that Eater.com now hands out a “Danny Meyer Empire Builder of the Year” award) has been fighting the good fight against this institutional ignominy. He first tackled MoMA, opening The Modern, a mannered, genteel restaurant accessible from the museum via a corridor or by its own street-facing entrance. You might stop in there for lunch after getting your fill of de Kooning’s women, but you’d check to make sure you were well-dressed first. Nearer to the galleries are two additional cafés that, while offer-

necessary. Let the bottle stand upright for a full day before serving to let the sediment fall completely to the bottom. Then, grab a decanter and a flashlight (or candle if you’re feeling particularly arcane), and set the light up behind the neck of the bottle. Pour the wine slowly into the decanter. Stop just as the sediment creeps into the neck of the wine. Congrats! You’ve decanted a crazy expensive bottle of wine! That’s only half the story, though. There are thousands of bottles of wine out there that should be decanted every year that aren’t. These tend to be your newer vintage, full-bodied reds, the ones that come out of the bottle so tannic and bold they rip your mouth apart on the first sip. By decanting these wines, you are exposing the entire bottle to oxygen, speeding up the aging process and immediately softening and maturing the wine. With this style of decantation, you need much less finesse. Simply open that bottle of vino and throw the whole thing in, the more violently the better. The

Weiner installation, a play on the theme “Here There & Everywhere” to ponder while you wait for your table. It’s the only physical reminder that you are inside a museum full of iconic work, but there’s little chance you’ll forget where you are as you eat—the meal itself is an act of cultural appreciation. Take your nana, your tour group, or your hypoglycemic buddy here to show them what museum dining has the potential to be. Maybe they’ll think twice about those dry sandwiches next time. N ew s YO U Li V e B Y


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WestsideSpirit.com

December 1, 2011

WEST SIDE SPIRIT

17


camps

Ready or Not? Helping your child feel comfortable about going away to camp By Jess Michaels

S

ending your child to camp for the first time is a major milestone for a child, one that is often marked by excitement, anticipation and perhaps even some anxiety. For many kids, sleepaway camp is often the first real separation from parents they have experienced, and some have difficulty transitioning from the comforts of home to learning more independence. Homesickness, of course, is quite common, though in varying degrees. There are many things parents can do to prepare their prospective campers for the emotional transition and to support them once they are away.

l Involve your child in the camp process. The more involved your child is in camp decisions, from choosing the camp to packing, the more comfortable your child will feel about being at camp.

l Practice separation throughout the year. Have your child sleep over at friends’ and relatives’ houses. l

Discuss with your child what camp will be like. Honest discussions before your child leaves will help prepare your child for the camp experience.

l Don’t bribe. Linking a successful camp stay to a material object when your child returns home sends the wrong message. l Send your child off with a personal item from home. Pack a favorite item, such as a stuffed animal. l Reach a prior agreement about phone calls from camp. Some camps may allow calls; others may not. Your child should know what the policy is beforehand, with an explanation for why the camp has that policy, and know that they have a lot of experience in dealing with homesickness in

kind and nurturing ways.

l Send a note or package ahead of time to arrive in the first few days of camp. Send a letter from home or a care pack- Campers at Bank Street Summer Camp enjoy some down time. age, acknowledging in a positive way toward independence and it plays an that you will miss your child. important part in their growth and development. l Don’t plan an exit strategy. Before your child leaves for camp, don’t l Talk candidly with the camp discuss plans to pick up your child director about his or her perspective early from camp if he/she doesn’t like on your child’s adjustment to camp. it. Remember, camp staffs are trained to ease homesickness, have dealt with l Don’t feel guilty about encour- homesick children before and will go aging your child to stay at camp, even out of their way to help make a child if your child wants to come home. For who’s feeling homesick feel more inmany children, camp is the first step volved in camp.

“An Intimate Place to Learn in the Heart of a Great City” Dear Parents: You are cordially invited to attend one of our OPEN HOUSE at York Preparatory School.

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December 1, 2011

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• w e s t s i d e spirit

By Alan S. Chartock What do Andrew Cuomo and eliot spitzer have in common? they were both attorney general and both rode that office into the governorship. What does eric schneiderman have in common with Cuomo and spitzer? He, too, would like to succeed from his position as attorney general to higher political office. if you were Cuomo, would you wish to contain schneiderman’s ambition? does a bear walk in the woods? While i can’t gain entrance to either man’s brain, i daresay Cuomo knows he has an ambitious and politically effective rival. thus, with the cunning of a modern-day Machievelli, it’s unlikely he will do much to help schneiderman succeed. As a progressive who doesn’t seem to have much use for hydrofracking or right-wing democratic party politics, schneiderman presents a potential risk to Cuomo, who has been alienating the center left of his party with policies that look a lot like those espoused by rupert Murdoch. surely, sooner or later, Cuomo’s magnificent poll numbers will begin to drop and schneiderman could prove to be very popular, perhaps in an eventual democratic primary. Jimmy Vielkind, a very good reporter in Albany, remembered that during the campaign for attorney general, schneiderman said he would take on public corruption, big time. When asked what had become of that promise, schneiderman’s staffers said they had approached Cuomo’s people to ask for a

Sorry for the “Inconvenience”

To the Editor: regarding an “Open Letter to OWs” (Nov. 24), i guess Mrs. Merkl has forgotten that real change is not easy, that it’s messy and that sometimes people are unintentionally hurt, yes, and even inconvenienced along the way. these people are struggling to find a way that is as inclusive as possible to make real and serious change. they will make mistakes. As with any movement, there will always be wackos and people who will try to exploit it. However, it is the majority of people in a movement who define it, not those on the fringes. this movement is made up of the

d ecem ber 1, 2011

gubernatorial executive order that would give the attorney general first crack at corruption cases. According to the schneiderman side, the Cuomo people said no. predictably, the Cuomo people responded that they were never asked. Cuomo now says that he wouldn’t mind, but that his powers are limited in this area and the law would have to be changed to make that happen. pretty funny. presumably, the very people in the Legislature who would be targeted would have to agree to give schneiderman the power to prosecute them. Foxy Cuomo certainly understands that isn’t in the cards. this is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house. to make the matter more complicated, schneiderman has made a new alliance with the nicest man in state government, state Comptroller thomas diNapoli. they have announced a partnership to root out public corruption. diNapoli will not say a single bad word about Cuomo, but he surely remembers how Cuomo steadfastly refused to endorse his fellow democrat during his recent campaign for office. One democratic legislator told me that the Cuomos have a history of avoiding other italians on their statewide tickets. there is no way Cuomo will give schneiderman the expanded power he is seeking, and cute answers will not cut it with the people. this is a dangerous strategy for Cuomo. people don’t like the Legislature and they don’t like politicians. When i ask my students what their parents think of the

political class, they almost always tell me that their parents think they’re a bunch of crooks. that isn’t true, of course, but once they understand this power play, voters may ask, “What’s Cuomo afraid of?” schneiderman may be Cuomo’s equal when it comes to ambition. No one has ever accused him of being too nice. Clearly, this is a case of internal politics— but the people don’t care about these

As a progressive who doesn’t seem to have much use for hydrofracking or right-wing Democratic Party politics, Schneiderman presents a potential risk to Cuomo, who has been alienating the center left of his party with policies that look a lot like those espoused by Rupert Murdoch. rivalries. they want to see more corrupt officials removed from office. right now, Cuomo has the cards to do whatever he wants, but things can change and the Cuomos have always been able to look six steps ahead. schneiderman should be looking over his shoulder. Cuomo doesn’t look kindly on political rivals or critics. Alan s. Chartock is president and CeO of WAMC/Northeast public radio and an executive publisher at the Legislative Gazette.

LET T ER S

employed, the unemployed, the underemployed, those seriously underpaid and the retired. What we all have in common is that if we’re not homeless now, we’re merely a catastrophe or two from losing our homes. i have relatives who have saved their whole lives and are now being nickled and dimed into poverty. is Goldman sachs offering them a hand up? so i’m sorry a group of 7th graders missed a field trip; perhaps they should have visited Zuccotti park. the teacher missed a huge teaching moment. One can only hope that their teacher and parents talk about the issues that the Occupy protesters are trying to discuss: not having enough to eat, being thrown out of a fair-paying job to work for minimum wage, parents having to work several jobs to make ends meet, joining the military because it’s the only job you can get,

choosing between paying for prescriptions or for food and rent—and this is only a partial list. Maybe they should learn about their fellow students, who graduated college owing tens of thousands of dollars and are unable to find a job to pay that money back. Your summary of “Get a job!” sounds a lot like our parents, who told us to “take a bath” and “cut our hair” in the ’60s and ’70s. Hopefully, you will be able to avoid catastrophes in your personal life so you won’t have to feel first-hand the need to go to Zuccotti park and participate yourself, thereby “inconveniencing” others. Mike Glick Manhattan Letters have been edited for clarity, style and brevity. N ew s YO U Li V e B Y


MOORe tHOuGHtS

Losing Papa, But Keeping New York My father dies, but not before giving me the gift of home By Christopher Moore I looked out at the Hudson River from his room at New York-Presbyterian/ Columbia, his body lying next to me. The gray weather. The awful, post-stroke writhing finally over after a few horrible days. I thought so many things, including that he had managed to die in a town he loved. Oh, and what a great view. My father died two months ago on Oct. 1. He was not my “dad.” We never used that word. We called him Papa, but that feels wrong in print. Here we will favor the term father, a good old decent word for a good old decent man. He was sharp, cynical and usually right about what was wrong with America. He traded Ohio for the East. He was a fine high school teacher, an even better parent and someone who shared my interests in everything from politics to theater. He was conservative in his personal behavior, believing in traditional virtues like classical literature

and getting your chores done. He was liberal politically, saying he stopped voting Republican after really learning to read. He was one of three or four people who actually listened to how my day had gone. On bad days since Oct. 1, losing that has felt like losing way too much. He was 81, but I got tired fast of answering the age question—I know those who ask are just adding up how many years they have left. Yes, that sounds cranky. My other pet peeves: “died” is better than “passed away” and I never want to see another sympathy card again. Along with my mother, my father gave me the great gift of New York City. I was raised in New Jersey, where there’s a weird divide. Some people traipse regularly into this wacky town; others would never think of leaving Summit, N.J., for an afternoon in Midtown. My father traipsed, even during the city’s

more difficult days. On his way out the door to catch a train, he would cheerfully announce to my mother: “I need some money for the mugger.” He rode the subways. He championed them. He told suburbanites, both his students and anyone who would listen, that the city was a citadel of culture. In some of the most beautiful places in the country, surrounded by a beach or a gorgeous landscape, someone might mention the dream of living in such a spot. “It’s awfully far from Lincoln Center,” he would say, underscoring yet again his own personal quality-of-life test. He said this for decades. He lived it, too. After years of working and building lives in New Jersey, he and my mother returned to this city, where they had met. They chose a Riverdale co-op. There was an express bus from them to Lincoln Center. One week after he died, on Oct. 8, I spread his ashes around New York City. Maybe I tossed a few bits of Papa close to the Metropolitan Opera or perhaps

I worried instead about the legality of such a move. You decide. Either way, we think of him when my partner and I walk about the plaza, touring our adopted hometown or heading to last month’s opening night of “La Bohème.” Years ago, on the night of another Lincoln Center performance, my father and I were eating dinner at a now-defunct Greek restaurant. I mentioned a building where I wanted to live, the Masters Apartments, where I’m sitting and writing this now. He said he had lived once in the same structure. Was he just having a senior moment? No, he was right. When he died, I found a piece of his stationery from his one-year stay at 310 Riverside Dr. During his time there—here, really—he studied at a Columbia University program, wrote letters for academic journals and The New York Times and enjoyed music and theater. He thrived. He first fell for New York from what later become my perch. Across the decades, we found the same home. Christopher Moore is a writer who lives in Manhattan. He can be reached by email at ccmnj@aol.com and is on Twitter (@cmoorenyc).

citiquette

The Overachieving Overnighter Is there such a thing as being too great a guest? By Jeanne Martinet Recently, friends from Montreal, a married couple, came to stay with me for one night on their way to see relatives in Virginia. When they called to let me know they were running late due to a delayed flight, I said to them, as firmly as I know how, “Now, listen guys, I have gin in the freezer. Your martini glasses are chilled and waiting, so don’t stop for anything. Don’t buy me anything. Just come directly here.” I said this because they visit me often, and I know their houseguesting M.O. all too well. Was I surprised when they arrived bearing not only a bottle of expensive gin, but flowers and other gifts as well? Not really. Nor was I surprised when they insisted on taking me to dinner. In the morning, they snuck out before I woke up and brought back coffee, bagels and lox, fresh strawberries and a newspaper—even though by that time I had a pot of coffee brewing and was more than We st Si d e S p i r it . c o m

prepared to whip up mushroom and feta omelets. Now, these are old and wonderful friends, and of course I felt pampered and loved and grateful to them. But I have to confess I also felt a little bad. I felt dehostified. The couple took care of me the whole time, rather than the other way around. And while guest largess may seem like an absurd thing to complain about, considering all of the stories we hear about horrible houseguests (people who arrive without warning, stay too long and never send a thank you)— these guests were so overly generous that it made me feel like a horrible hostess. It is often a delicate balance, this dance between host and guest. Hosting and guesting, like almost all forms of human interaction, is a yin-yang thing. You can’t really be a good guest unless you allow the host to be a good host; you can’t be a

good host if you don’t let your guest contribute in some way. Whenever I have a visit from my Montreal friends, I definitely feel that the balance is out of whack. On the one hand, it’s nice that I don’t have to entertain or take care of them when they come. On the other hand, I am frustrated I can’t do more for them—not only because it is my house but because it simply feels good to make others happy. People can forget that it is generous to let others give to you as well as for you to give to others. Sometimes, when a host says to her guest, “I do wish you would allow me to take care of that,” she really means it. But do I really mean it? Do I really want my beneficent overnighters to take it down a notch? Maybe my friends are actually responding to signals I am unaware I am sending. Like most New Yorkers, I tend to suffer from TMHS (Too

Many Houseguests Syndrome) which can make me a more jaded, less eagerto-please host than I might otherwise be. Manhattan hotels are so expensive that many people who come to stay with New Yorkers are coming primarily because they need a place to stay; seeing the host is frequently a secondary thing. I suspect that years of these “favorbased” sleepovers have made me a more careless host. And it’s a carelessness I am not proud of. For one thing, I should be the one getting up early and bringing home the bagels, not my guests. I know a D.C. woman who will drive 30 miles to the fish market in the middle of a heat wave to buy a bushel of crabs, just because one of her guests mentioned she had a hankering for them. Perhaps, after all, it is I who needs to become an overachieving host. The next time these friends come to town, I swear I am going to pick them up at the airport in a limo and hand them their chilled martinis as soon as they step inside the car. They won’t know what hit them. Jeanne Martinet, aka Miss Mingle, is the author of seven books on social interaction. Read her blog at MissMingle.com.

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