Saturday, October 25, 2014

NAPLES, FLORIDA

THE LUXURY SPOT
We were a half hour late boarding the plan in Milwaukee for Ft. Meyers. Wheelchairs and dementia ran rampant at the gate. The bottleneck of tennis ball toed walkers and rail-thin blue hairs waving tickets in the air wanting early access tried the patience of our gate attendant as she tried desperately to line us over sixties into our numerically assigned boarding positions. It was a flight full of retirees headed down to their winter nests at the beginning of golf cart season.
We were on our way to help one of our neither geriatric nor addled clients to open up her house for the season.
Their house is a project Rick has worked on for a number of years starting by working with the architect and then helping out each season as a fresh coat is laid out over the existing dust of the past warmer months of its dormancy. The house is now like a hibernating animal in a seasonal reversal, yawning off the summer and coming out of its den to a winter energized and ready for the new season.
Located at the end of the intercostal where dolphins are known to stop and play in the waters off the backyard, the house sits in an area known for mansions and quiet wealth.
Homes of distinction line both sides of a narrow street in the historic area known as Port Royal.
The area speaks of a time lost to newer generations. The pace of the waterside community and its purpose are to slow things down, not speed them up. Travel is more typical by golf cart than by car.
On our first night out we dined on a perfect light menu only to return to the beaconing water's edge the following midday for a lunch on the beach.
The white sand beaches of Naples stretch around the shore line littering the sand with an unimaginable number of tiny white shells
and microscopic aquatic life providing the perfect lunch for the birds that appear to own the surf.
For the uninitiated there are discrete little walkways providing access to the white sand shores that anyone can travel.
The shores aren't owned by the mansions that backup against the dunes separating their manicured lawns from the multiple shades of blue water and sky. Anyone can sink their toes into the wet white sand and stroll for miles along the water's edge.
Like a Medieval state steeped in tradition the homes of Naples grow grander and grander as they approach the water.
As a kid I loved the Dr. Seuss book, "Bartholomew Cubbins and the 500 Hats".
For you six-year-olds not into fashion it is the story of a young Bartholomew who is unable to take his hat off when the king passes by.
Every time he doffs his hat or has it chopped off by one of the King's henchmen another appears more grander than the one that preceded it.
The homes of Naples seem no different with each house looking to out do the next as they each approach the gulf.
Along with the grandeur I was astounded by the amount of new construction and the, in several cases, demise of some of the older Naples' bungalows as they were torn down to make room for the larger estates, bigger isn't always better.
Some of the sweetest homes we saw were a bit more modest and some were renovations saving the history of the local architectural heritage.
The shopping areas along Fifth Avenue and in Old Naples seemed more vibrant at night than during the day.
It might have something to do with the weather, the heat of the day tends to keep people inside or at the beach.
At night the outdoor restaurants pull their chairs from on top of the tables
and millions of tiny white lights wrap themselves around coconut palms and hang like miniature planets from the limbs of banyan trees.
The shopping is as eclectic as the people walking the jeweled streets of Old Town Naples.
Exotic drinks are served inside a bar guarded by a crocodile.
High-end children's clothing waits inside an open door
while leopard print schmattas are for sale inside Kay's on the Beach.
Art spans the gamut from exclusive to souvenir
and many of the couture designers have set up shop from Michael Kors and Kate Spade to Tommy Bahama.
Even bits of Wisconsin can show up on the avenues of Naples where Oh My Gauze announces shops in Florida and Lake Geneva
and Aaron Rodgers motto is plastered on the sides of historic Old Town.
Luxury is the staple of Naples where even the koi seem to wear golden silk kimonos and everyone who comes wants a piece of it. We were so fortunate to have been treated to a dream.




THE GALLERY
Wave of the Future, 1948
Toni Frissell, photographer
Available through the National Archives


Thursday, October 16, 2014

LINCOLN CENTER CRAFTS FAIR AND THE MUD PEOPLE OF UNION SQUARE

AUTUMN CRAFT FESTIVAL AT LINCOLN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
For two stunning weekends in October, the area around the Paul Milstein Pool just south of Illumination lawn and dotting a circle around a little park named for the corporate donor, Barclays Capital Grove,
craftspeople from around the globe set up their tents and display their art and crafts. For some of us attendees there's a fine line between art and craft. For others there's so much distance between the two you can push a trailer loaded with Jeff Koons creations right down the road that separates them.
This fair is and has always been called a crafts fair. There's been no pretension to call it anything else. On the weekend we went there were photographers and a splattering of painters and printmakers but the emphasis was on the wearable and home accessory categories.
When you entered the plaza and rounded the central fountain strains of Johann Sebastian Bach spun off the violin being played at the entrance to the fair. I guess if you're hosting a fair on the grounds of Lincoln Center adding a little free classical music is apropos.
Textiles were a major player at the fair. If I wore women's clothes I would have been on some of these jackets like a duck on a June Bug. I loved the multiple textures and hand-painting on this one-of-a-kind piece by Iona Loyola. It's as if it surfaced from under the Caribbean waters lapping the shores of St. Barts dripping with tendrils from the sea.
A bit more wearable was this vision in indigo. Layers of dyed cotton and linen drape and swag creating real New York sophistication. Pair this with a simple pair of black leggings and your Louboutins and you can be on your way to anywhere.
Men were not left out of the wearable mix. These scarves by Margo Petitti made from wools and cashmeres were luxurious to the touch and a little left of traditional in their patchwork construction.
Another vendor we've followed for years, C. Joseph Clothiers, had hangers laden with her fashion for both men and women. Her wools, cashmeres and tweeds woven into jackets, sport coats, scarves and shirts always seem to make it onto our Christmas must-have lists year after year. There's a definite vintage vibe to her designs that set them apart from the rest of what's out there.
Hats were another big seller at the fair and felt and felted details were showing at a very high profile, but my favorite was on the tiny side.
Traveling all the way from Key West, HATS by Judi was a visual hit with me. Everything from her graphics to her displays played with my funny bone and drew me right into her booth.
Judi Bradford's engaging personality was what kept me there.
She had stories about every hat she had placed on a mannequin or hung mobile style from the metal structure of her tent. In Key West there's a niche market for people where custom is indistinguishable from street wear. There's also the Brits willing to strap on a fascinator for any dress-up occasion.
I'm not sure how well she faired with New York based customers willing to don one of her hats but these pieces were just beautiful to look at whether you wanted to wear it or just display it.
A smattering of glass blowers took to the fair
along with a couple of painting devotees of photo realism.
On a warm day in early October before the New York leaves have had a chance to transform into autumnal brilliance the fair was a great Saturday afternoon divergence.

THE BAG PEOPLE OF UNION SQUARE
After the fair I took off for a solo trip into lower Manhattan. I popped out of the subway at 17th Street and Broadway in the midst of the Saturday Farmers Market. I was going to head down from there and into Soho but my direction was diverted as I was swept away by a sea of cellphone photographers following
a troupe of blind-folded mud people each one gripping a fist full of brown paper shopping bags. They were doing a Zombie walk threading themselves through the crowd and around cafe tables of unsuspecting diners trying to grab a light bite or the opportunity of sitting down for a moments rest from a day of site seeing.
The mud people seemed destined to continue up Broadway on their way to the shopping mecca of Herald Square. I'm not sure if they were a protest group trying to point out the evils of consumerism (I saw no painted protest signs) or a performance piece being taped by an incognito collection of photographers.
Once I had pried my mind off the shear magnetism of the situation and was able to disconnect myself from the throngs of entranced observers each with their cellphones held as barriers between reality and the capturing of a pixel moment, I stopped and let the mud people do their slow mechanical march around me, then I left.
One of the benefits of having moved to Madison but sharing our time with New York City is that a part of me is now a tourist in the city. Unlike many a native I can't spend down time sitting around in our apartment. There's a constant itch to capture every moment in the city. I walk around for hours and because I do I get the gift of stumbling on jewels of the city like the Mud People of Union Square.

THE GALLERY
Cheetah Who Shops, 1939
B. C. Parade, photographer
Available at www.photographersgallery.com