Pandora’s Box and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in 2017

As I open the Pandora’s box of playbills, ticket stubs, and other memorabilia from 2017, I feel a strange anxiety. What emotions and memories will overtake me as I remember the year that was? Will I regret missed opportunities, or feel embarrassed at some of my shenanigans?

The dull olive-green box made of woven reeds is also reminiscent of Moses’s basket, bobbing in the river water as the babe escapes murder and meets his fate as the leader of a people. I think this will be my main regret of 2017. I wanted something truly momentous to happen–to be discovered, to have a clear sense of vision and direction, to begin a fantastic creative project that will bring me joy and satisfaction. The dreams of many who come to New York, I’m sure!

What actually happened was that I spent the year looking for a home. I also went out and did a lot of fun things with friends, as you will see below. And I spent more time and money than one would have thought possible seeking treatment for a neck injury.

This latter pursuit brought me to all corners of Manhattan as I tried one specialist after another, which involved taking different subway lines and meeting medical staff in various offices, from Chelsea to SoHo to Park Avenue, and many points in between. I tried hypnosis, acupuncture, acupressure, physical therapy (multiple practitioners), massage therapy (multiple practitioners), the Alexander Technique, osteopathy, chiropractic (multiple practitioners, including old-school, Quantum Spinal Mechanics, and fascial manipulation), cranial sacral therapy, and atlas orthoganal therapy! I spent close to $17,000 out of pocket, thus facing one of my worst fears about moving from Canada to the US, which is that I will be bankrupted by health costs.

Artwork Trump quote from Roger Waters concert

And of course, there was a national and global anxiety underlying my personal anxiety that I might never be well. People around the world and in the US were facing much more terrible problems and fears than me as I struggled with the unease that comes with having something wrong in the body–which many of you can relate to, sadly. So I had my personal challenges of health difficulties and fear of the unknown, but there was also a pervasive social anxiety about the fate of the country. What many view as the wildly inappropriate behavior of the current president shattered people’s views of a safe and just society of shared values of acceptance, tolerance, and concern for each other. Countless times over the year my friends expressed concern that the social safety net built up over the past decades will be torn apart irreparably. And also that environmental damage will be irreversible, so that the very planet we live on is doomed. So a pall of gloom and fear underlay the year of 2017 in New York City.

Artwork Trump quote from Roger Waters concert

Dozens of people asked me why I moved here, at this point in history. In fact, it was the first thing everyone asked me when I said I had just moved here from Canada. The second thing they said was, “Everyone wants to move in the other direction!” Even at my co-op board interview to buy the apartment that has become my delightful new home, this was the first question they asked me! My answer was unfailingly the same: because I am in love with New York.

I have followed this love blindly, unknowingly. I trust in the pull of my heart, and the feeling of rightness in my body, which I experience whenever I am out and about on the city streets, marveling that I actually live here, but my rational mind is still lagging behind. What am I doing here? I don’t know! And I suppose this is true in the bigger scheme as well–what am I doing here on this planet? Why do I exist? What am I meant to do in this lifetime? This question has been nagging at me throughout my adulthood. There is a grand panoply of life and color unfolding, and I am part of it. But that isn’t enough of an answer to satisfy me.

Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s clear that the move to New York and the neck injury set me back to earlier stages of the pyramid that had been nicely settled in Vancouver. I knew at the outset when I decided to move to New York that I would be disrupting the nice secure world I had built for myself, but it seemed like a waste of my life to just settle there on my sandhill and watch the world go by!

1 – Physiological Needs

The first layer of the pyramid is physiological needs, and the search for shelter is truly what preoccupied me this year. I made an offer on three other apartments before finding the Mark Twain building and succeeding at my offer here. I made offers on apartments on W. 9th Street (snatched out from under me), W. 10th Street (too expensive), and Horatio St. (turned down by the co-op board), before ending up in my dream apartment on W. 12th Street! I learned a lot of fascinating information about New York real estate, and feel I emerged from the battle victorious.

2 – Safety Needs

The second layer, safety needs, also dominated as I sought to recover my health. The quest for healing the neck injury, as outlined above, occupied much time and money. Luckily, I have almost regained homeostasis, and my most recent atlas orthogonal adjustment held until the next day. The pain is gone, and I have discovered so much about my body, and particularly the physiology of the neck and atlas, that I can see the gift in the challenges I faced. Now I have a great support network of health specialists I can call on, and I have learned to do self acupressure as well–the final piece of the puzzle for self-care. Recommendation: Acupressure’s Potent Points.

3 – Social Belonging

Social belonging is the third level of the hierarchy. I have probably spent a disproportionate amount of my time in social pursuits this past year, and perhaps the motivation has been the unconscious need to build bonds of friendship–more than a true desire to go out and see so many plays, movies, ballets, and musical performances. OK, maybe it was a two-fer!

I do recall the pivotal moment during the Race to Deliver in November, when I felt a simple sense of belonging as a member of the New York Road Runners. Not because I am special in any way or wearing a David Bowie costume, but simply because I’ve shown up and participated and run with these people over and over again. I also spent a lot of time writing emails to a wide network of friends and family, as you have probably noticed! It is definitely a conscious need that I check in with when I assess the state of the nation of Karen Rempel. Am I current with everyone? Have I caught up on all the emails? Did I forget someone’s birthday? Sorry to say, I did forget a few this past year, but I hope people will forgive me.

I was happy to spend time in BC with my mom and siblings in April and May (celebrating Kim’s 50th birthday in Tofino–wow!), and caught up with many friends in Vancouver at that time as well, right before the official move to New York on May 21. The Vancouver goodbye party launched me into my new life feeling so much love and support from you all. I know it will take time to build this kind of depth of connection in New York. I could feel the difference when I had my New York housewarming party, and half the guests who said they would come didn’t show up! But with those who came, and some who didn’t, I do feel bonds of love and caring, and I know that these friendships will continue to deepen over time.

4 – Esteem

The fourth level in the hierarchy of needs is esteem. This is an interesting one, encompassing both the need to be respected by others, and the need for self-respect. The need to be respected by others can manifest as the desire for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. Truth be known, this could be the “corn” or sore point for me. When I think back on painful events of the past year or more, this unmet need is often underlying the hurt. I remember the day I ran the marathon, in November 2016. I had a celebratory dinner afterwards at a restaurant on my block with a handful of my closest friends. One friend arrived 20 minutes late and then monopolized the attention of the group by talking about her day! I had just run for over 5 hours, and the dinner was supposed to be about me–a chance to share my experiences and bask in the limelight for a little while… I still feel hurt and puzzlement over that event. But of course, if what Maslow deemed the higher prong of esteem–which is self respect–was more firm, I am sure I wouldn’t have felt so hurt by my friend’s thoughtlessness.

To balance that out, I recall another friend acknowledging to me my accomplishment of buying my New York apartment. She said that few women she knows have managed this under their own steam, based on earning their own money through their careers. As we talked about this, I remembered the pivotal point in my life when my father died, and I realized I couldn’t wait any longer to have a man to pursue my dreams with. I decided to act on my own, and soon after purchased Monkey Valley by myself (with the help of loans from my family members), which is of course what eventually made it possible to buy my home in New York. My friend’s recognition of my accomplishment warmed me inside, and helped my self respect get a little clearer so that I can feel it tangibly. In the sea of anxiety that I have floated in this past year, I haven’t always been in touch with my personal ground of confidence. I need the help of my friends! To misquote the Beatles.

5 – Self-Actualization

Self-actualization is the fifth level of the hierarchy of needs, and this has definitely been a driver in my move to New York. I have a sense of destiny pulling me (together with my heart) and the feeling that I am meant to actualize my being in some particular way. Sometimes I feel it is simply to be, and interact with others. This has been one of the strongest delights for me this past year. Interacting with people as I go about my day, and feeling the joy of connection. There are the staff at Jerri’s–my laundry guys–and LifeThyme, where I get my groceries. My gym (Barre3) made me feel like family right from the beginning, and I feel a sense of belonging at the Joffrey Ballet Center as well. I have taken the Absolute Beginner’s ballet classes for adults 3 or 4 times now! People in the post office, in the subways, on the streets themselves. Bartenders and restaurant servers… Everywhere I go, the warmth of human connection is so satisfying, I wonder if this is my purpose, pure and simple.

However, Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. And here I feel I have so much further to go! I think that I focused mostly on physical and athletic accomplishment in the past year, which is great, but I haven’t been pursuing creative aims as I expected. That is definitely a goal for 2018.

However, I reached a new level of muscle tone, strength, and definition in the Barre3 classes, and learned to tolerate and stay with the burn when it seems impossible. I feel I have actualized a peak level of fitness, and this is an amazing accomplishment which has informed my running as well. I conquered a certain fear of reaching my limit, by exceeding it as a regular occurrence in these classes.

Another unexpected development has occurred with my dance skills. These are very rudimentary in any formal form of dance, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment in freeform dance–I feel the synthesis in my body of the many different disciplines I have studied, and immensely more freedom in the possibility of movement compared to earlier in my life. I haven’t set out to actualize myself in this direction, but have simply been doing what I love to do. It has been an unconscious impulse, and now perhaps I am making it more conscious by telling you about it.

I went to London and Barcelona for the Christmas holidays, and I held the question in my mind about what is my purpose, what am I meant to do? What is my gift, how should I contribute? I was disappointed to come home with no big “ah-ha” moments, no clear inspiration. But the most fun I had was going dancing one night with two young Londoners, and watching Flamenco dancing on my first evening in Barcelona. The word DANCE is looming in my mind. I think I wrote it on a piece of notepaper while away… What to do with that, I don’t know. I went dancing on New Year’s Eve, at a club called Cielo in the Meatpacking District. I’ve signed up for ballet classes three nights a week at the Joffrey, and I’ve also signed up for a beginner’s course in Flamenco.

I loved dancing on stage at the Orpheum at the David Bowie tribute in 2016, and I have noticed myself wishing to be in a dance troupe when I see groups performing. There, I’ve said it. I want to be a dance performer. I am definitely afraid to say this out loud. I don’t like to want anything that I can’t have. And I was such a miserable failure at beginner’s jazz dance class in the fall! My menopausal brain could not remember the sequences of moves in the choreography, and I was mortified at how bad I was… So there you have it.

6 – Self-Transcendence

Self-transcendence is the sixth and final level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He added this one later in life–it wasn’t part of the original pyramid. He came to believe that the self only finds its actualization in giving itself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality, which is essentially the desire to reach the infinite. As my own spiritual development has unfolded in its uneven and bumpy way, certain areas shine and dominate, then subside back into the morass of the ego again.

You may notice in this exploration of the year that passed a theme of the yearning for spiritual actualization in the world, mixed with the needs of the animal instincts and egoic confirmation. It’s all part of the stew, and I would say that all the levels are intertwined, while in this human form on this uncertain earth. Those moments of joyful interaction with others, and joyful expression through physical activity, feel like the most pure spiritual expression of my purpose on earth. The quiet moment I spend alone meditating before bed is a different type of spiritual expression–a personal connection with the divine or infinite. I have a sense that my soul can and does have that type of connection outside of human form, between physical incarnations. It supports me, just like food and air and water, to sustain me in this lifetime. A daily moment of self-transcendence. I don’t feel called to pursue this type of experience as my full-time occupation at this point in my life. However, looking back at the beginning of the post, and the word “anxiety,” I know that being in touch with the deeper reality of the divine, infinite true nature is actually the only cure. The trick of self-actualization is to sustain the connection with the infinite while engaging in expression in the finite world.

Highlights of 2017

Now for the Pandora’s box of 2017 highlights!

Here is a list of highlights that spring to mind when I think back over the year. Bear in mind that this list is incomplete, as it was a helluva year!

  • Completing the final stage of the A&W project, which entailed putting the standard operating procedures through French translation. I sometimes worked 70 hours a week to get this done, and pushed myself as hard as I ever have on a work project.
  • The day spent modelling on Cornelia Street. I truly felt like a high fashion model. I loved the beautiful clothes and the compliments and admiration of strangers. And Krystyna was so fun to spend time with. One of the best days of my life!
    Karen Rempel on Cornelia St
  • Dressing windows at Krystyna’s Place! A new form of creative expression involving fashion and design that I loved.
  • Doing phone inquiry on FaceTime with two friends from Vancouver and having them tell me to buy this apartment (based on the Streeteasy link I sent them)! Thank you, Maylynn and Shira!
  • Buying my New York apartment. The day I got board approval was a thrill, but it wasn’t a surprise as it seems it was a foregone conclusion. It felt so right, there was a sense of inevitability about the decision.
  • A thrilling date night with a British architect. (I know some of you have been most interested in my love-life, which is rather non-existent and obviously has not been a focus this year.) This date really stood out, though, beginning with the Rockette’s Christmas Special at Radio City Music Hall, followed by a drink at the Top of the Rock, and then another drink and late-night snack in a roof-top lounge on the trendy Highline, with glorious views of the Hudson and the city.
  • Meeting James Spader in the hallway at the Village Vanguard. We chatted for a minute. His hand was very warm and full of presence.
  • Publishing 3 articles in the WestView News. My first New York publications!
    Gorgeous decor of the fantastic Osteria 57, which I reviewed for the WestView News–fabulous people run this place, and I rang in the New Year with them–twice!
  • Having a private tour of David Hockney’s exhibit at the Met, with David Hockney, my dear friend Arthur, the artist Ricardo Nazario, and others.
  • Visiting Abbey Road, 221B Baker Street, and Paddington Station in London, and the aforementioned dancing outing with two beautiful young London women (Isabel and Hilami) who took me to a grime club on the tube.
  • Dinner at Jean-Georges with a dear friend. Definitely the most extravagant restaurant setting I’ve been in, with about 8 waiters attending our table, and exceptionally wonderful food and wine pairings.
  • Attending a black-tie gala awards dinner at the United Nations, honoring former vice-president Joe Biden (and buying my first ballgown for the event!).
  • Being photographed for Getty Images at a swank art gallery opening in Chelsea. I went to Bernie Taupin’s opening there later on another occasion, and spoke to the man himself, whom I thought was a jerk!
  • Playing the piano at Small’s jazz club (after it was closed) for my friend Ed.
  • Having the bartender in my Barcelona hotel pour me a drink without asking what I wanted! A brandy Alexander. So sweet! And watching teens in a dance competition on the TV in the lounge.
  • Doing the New York Road Runners 9+1. So satisfying! So hard to make myself get up early and take the subway to Central Park or Queens or the Bronx when I am a late afternoon runner by nature! The 10-mile race in the Bronx, with my Vancouver friend Angela, was definitely the toughest and most satisfying of all the races I did in 2017. But the most fun was winning best costume at the Retro 5-Mile Race!


    I won based on audience applause, perhaps because I danced to a Guns N’ Roses song played by a band after the race–and I was the only one who danced. 😉
  • Going “down the shore” to watch the eclipse with my friend Mike.
  • Having a gaggle of models over to my place and then modeling together in Washington Square Park for a pop-up runway show!
  • Getting my first local client, which was a New Jersey client a 3-hour commute away, and turned out to be a very short project (ugh). But it was a US client, and I got to bill and then deposit the money in my LLC’s (which I formed myself!) bank account (harder to get than forming the LLC!). An important foundational milestone for my life here in New York.

The Contents of Pandora’s Box

And now for the lists (including one or two early highlights from 2018):

Plays:

  • 2018 Hello Dolly – Bette Midler – with Heather
  • The Ferryman – at the Gielgud Theatre in London
  • Sweeney Todd – at Barrow Street Theatre – with Marlene
  • A Bronx Tale – with Angela
  • Spamilton – with Michael
  • Noel Coward’s Present Laughter – Kevin Kline – with Arthur
  • A Doll’s House, Part 2 – with Angela
  • The Color Purple – with Angela
  • Kinky Boots – with Angela
  • Sunset Boulevard – Glenn Close – with Angela and Marlene
  • The Liar – Classic Stage Company – with Deborah
  • The End of Longing – Matthew Perry
  • Oslo – Lincoln Center – Deborah and Marlene
  • Alpha 66 at T. Schreiber Studio – Steve Jones – with Margaret & Marlene
  • Schreiber Shorts – Steve Jones & Bill Barry – with Margaret & Ed
  • The Great Comet – with Deborah & Rosanna
  • Indecent – with Sally & Bill, Deborah, Marlene, Rosy

Movies:

  • 2018 Phantom Threads – Daniel Day Lewis (lives on the same block I lived on–W. 10th) – with Deborah
  • No Man’s Land (British National Theatre live performance of Pinter play)
  • 20th Century Women (Cinepolis Chelsea)
  • Song of Granite – with Dan & Deborah
  • Monterey Pop – saw 3 times, with Deborah, Marlene, and Guido
  • The Divine Order (at Film Forum) – with Deborah
  • Manifesto (at FF) – with Deborah
  • Dumb Girl (at FF) – with Deborah & Angela
  • Other Side of Hope (FF) – with Guy
  • Bird on a Wire (FF) – Mike & Deborah

Music:

  • Voices of Ascension Mozart & Haydn – church next door!
  • Meredith Monk’s Dancing Voices at Lincoln Center – with Deborah
  • Bellini’s Norma – Sondra Radvanovsky – with Deborah
  • Eric Reed Quartet at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club – with Michelle & Daniel, and also at Village Vanguard
  • Ravi Coltrane Quartet at Village Vanguard – with Lew
  • Bunuel’s/Ade’s Exterminating Angel at the Metropolitan Opera – with Deborah, Marlene, Tom, and others
  • Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – Debussy & Ravel – with Deborah & Marlene
  • Mezzrow’s jazz club – Marlene & Jos
  • Winter jazz festival – multiple clubs and performances including Ravi Coltrane – with Ed
  • Jazz club in Sleepy Hollow – with Ed
  • Guns N’ Roses at Madison Square Garden – with Dan nearby
  • BC Recorder Society Spring Showcase (in Vancouver) – featuring Taksu with Patricia Nichols
  • Donny McCaslin (played on Bowie’s final CD) at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall – followed by Small’s jazz club – with Ed
  • Paul McCartney at Barclays Center (night of first co-op board interview–Horatio St) – with Lew
  • Pete Townshend’s Quadrophenia at the Met Opera House – with Mary M
  • Joe’s Pub Canada Day Celebration – various artists singing songs by Canadian artists – with Ed
  • Roger Waters at Barclays Center
  • Duruflé Requiem – Manhattan School of Music – Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine – with Deborah
  • Voices of Ascension St. John Passion – with Arthur
  • Buika – BB King Blues Club – with Deborah
  • Leonidas Kavakos at Lincoln Center – Mahler’s 4th Symphony and Auerbach – with Deborah
  • Elias String Quartet at 92|Y – with Deborah and Ed
  • Terrell Stafford Quartet at Village Vanguard
  • Ravi Coltrane at Birdland – with Ed
  • Kenny Barron Quintet at Jazz Standard
  • Robert Leslie – Lantern Hall, Brooklyn – with Marlene

Dance performances:

  • Gran Gala Flamenco – at Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica Orfeo
  • Grossman, Phillips, and Paul Taylor – Ariel Rivka Dance – with Deborah
  • Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance (3 more outings, multiple performances) – with Deborah and Margaret
  • Joffrey Ballet – Romeo and Juliet – friends from dance class (Jacqueline & others)
  • Fall for Dance – Program 4 & 5 – Jacqueline; Sally & Bill
  • American Ballet Theatre (mixed program, several performances) – with Deborah
  • ABT Onegin at Met Opera House – with Deborah
  • ABT The Golden Cockeral at the Met – with Deborah
  • Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes – with Deborah
  • Swan Lake – New York City Ballet – and later attended a dance class taught by two of the principal dancers!
  • Queensboro Dance Festival – my teacher Annastasia Mercedes performed – with Rosanna
  • Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg – mixed program with music by Tchaikovsky – with Deborah
  • Cielo – after midnight (early 2018) with a bunch of New Yorkers all dancing together!

Museums:

  • La Pedrera – Barcelona – Gaudi apartment building and museum
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art – with Arthur and David H. and friends
  • MOMA – with Michael
  • Rubin Museum of Art – with Marlene
  • Whitney Museum – with Lew and Cynthia
  • Rolling Stones Exhibitionism

A special thank you to Deborah for curating so many incredible cultural events! You’ve opened up many aspects of New York life to me, in many other ways too. Mille grazie, Bestie D! I’m so glad we rang in the New Year together–a fantastic cap to the year and stirring of the waters to bring in 2018.

Other:

  • Jerry Seinfeld!! Twice!
  • One World Observatory – $68 cocktail including elevator ride to 102 floor
  • Authors for Literacy event at United Nations – with Pat
  • Wine and Design event on UES – Virginia from Gala
  • “Trunk” jewelry show on UES – Lucine from Gala
  • Donna Karan’s secret warehouse sale – got thousands of dollars worth of fantastic clothes for $500!
    Donna Karan sample dress with her name hand written on the tag!
  • Skating at Rockefeller Center followed by a drink at the Trump Bar. It was a couple days before inauguration, and there was a permanent NBC camera focused on Trump Tower. I met a friend at the bar and we went to another bar to watch Obama’s farewell speech.
  • Visits to Margaret and Ed’s place in Sleepy Hollow, and fantastic runs along the Croton Aqueduct trail.
  • Thanksgiving at Bob’s!

Plus an incredible wealth of fantastic restaurants!

Losses in 2017

And in closing I want to remember the sad passing of a New York writer named John, a man I met through a friend and had one memorable date with at the Village Vanguard. We had a late-night breakfast afterwards at the Waverly Restaurant, and he died the following week while doing Savasana pose in yoga class. May your spirit be at peace, John. I’m glad I knew you, though briefly.

I also feel great sadness about the passing of my uncle, Sebastian Fichtl, a professional zither player and world traveler. May your spirit be at peace, Vastl.

Uncle Sebastian with his six children

And we also lost my neighbor, Thomas Meehan, in 2017–a great Broadway book writer, who wrote Annie, Hairspray, the Producers, and many others. May your spirit be at peace, Tom.

Carolyn Capstick Meehan and Thomas Meehan

So that’s the year that was. I haven’t mentioned all the shenanigans I alluded to. There was one involving a toilet delivery… but you’ll have to wait for my memoirs to hear the story! As I think about everything that happened, and the many wonderful visits, emails, and phone calls with friends and family that aren’t even mentioned here, I feel very blessed. How lucky I am! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my year, and I hope you have a fantastic 2018.

My New York Apartment

Dear friends and family,

As you know, I’ve been searching for my dream New York apartment ever since I sold my East Village home in Vancouver in April. I have finally found my New York home, in the West Village of lower Manhattan. It took a few false starts and I learned a lot about New York real estate along the way. You would not believe!

But the search has paid off, and I hope you will bear with me as I show you all the details of this fantastic space that I love. Lots of photos follow, and I thought it would be easiest if you can just scroll down through them, rather than using slide shows. So here goes:

Preparing the space: hanging art, assembling furniture! Come up to the 6th floor in the elevator. Turn left, no, I said left!

The entry way–an actual foyer!

Down the hallway–an actual hallway! (My former romantic attic studio in a brownstone did not have these features, hence my excitement.)

The kitchen, with black cabinets and counter-top and mirrored back-splash:

This last one is from the kitchen looking back down the hallway, and you can see my little Christmas tree.

Next up: another hallway into the bathroom and bedroom! Doors closed, and then open.

Another look around the kitchen with close-ups of details:

And now into the bedroom!

   Leaving the bedroom, turn right to go down the hallway to the bathroom. No, I said right!

I couldn’t resist getting a little arty there.

Now for the dining area, by the big double-window:

And the pièce de résistance, the living room!

Dear David Bowie!

Now converting my desk area for work:

And a few views out the windows:

My apartment is on the top floor, overlooking a courtyard area between W. 11th Street and W. 12th Street. It’s nice to see some green out the window.

Interior artwork on David Bowie’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Spooky!

Thanks for coming on this tour with me! I hope you come visit me in New York soon.

Race to Deliver

Race to DeliverThe race Sunday morning (November 19) for God’s Love We Deliver was fantastic! I felt so moved by the spirit of New Yorkers. Joan Rivers was involved with this charity for over 25 years, and personally delivered meals to people at Christmas time. They currently deliver 1.7 million meals a year to 6,800 New Yorkers who are too ill to prepare meals. Mostly people with HIV/Aids (until 2001 that was the exclusive population served). Joan Rivers won $500,000 for this charity on Celebrity Apprentice in 2009.
Race to Deliver
This was the New York Road Runner’s 24th annual Race to Deliver, to raise money for the charity. Kinky Boots was one of the race sponsors, and a Broadway star sang the national anthem at the beginning of the race.
Race to Deliver

Before the race I had time to look at the statues on the Literary Walk of the Mall in Central Park, and learn more about the history of New York.

It was my 8th race this year, and I got to run on the same 4-mile loop as the people who ran the 60K ultra marathon the day before. I volunteered for the 60K, and watched the amazing runners do the 4-mile loop over and over. Some kept running as though 60K is nothing, and others were visibly limping as the miles went on, but they all had that little bit of crazy that I love about New York!

Race to DeliverI feel so lucky to be here and part of this incredible city. It was wonderful to look back today on the year and to take some time to contemplate how magical it has been–how much I’ve experienced, how much I’ve grown and changed. I feel like I belong to this city and these people.

Seinfeld’s passion for a laugh


I saw Jerry Seinfeld on October 6, at a school auditorium on the Upper West Side. David Remnick interviewed him there as part of the annual New Yorker Festival. The two of them were very entertaining together, and Jerry shared anecdotes about his personal journey to becoming Forbes’ highest paid comedian around today (and in my opinion funniest of all time), with income of $69 million between June 2016 and June 2017.

I was amazed to see Jerry Seinfeld live, after loving the show Seinfeld and growing up in Burnaby, BC (a middle-class suburb of Vancouver), where nothing ever happened. I never would have dreamed that one day I would actually be in the same room with Seinfeld, close enough to hit him with a spitball.

Imagine the leap, from watching a star on a TV screen in my dismal college apartment (my neighbors in the apartment about six feet across from my window used to regularly vomit and urinate out the window onto the concrete below) to attending The New Yorker Festival on the Upper West Side of New York City. This is a leap all the way across the continent, to a location very close to Tom’s Restaurant, where parts of the show were filmed (and where I’ve actually eaten), to seeing Jerry Seinfeld and David Remnick in person. I truly had no idea this would happen one day.

I remember being at writing school in the early 90s and coming to class the day after a new episode of Seinfeld. We all watched the show and marveled at the clever writing and just how funny it was. I have never laughed as hard in my life as I did during the episode where George told his date he was a marine biologist and Kramer shot the golf ball into the whale’s blowhole (Season 5, episode 14). This must be one of the funniest things that’s ever not really happened. Interestingly, this was the episode Jerry mentioned as an example of how the writers on the show came up with situations that suited the characters. It started with the idea of Kramer driving balls into the ocean (something that no one else would ever do), and took off from there.


Jerry spoke a lot about his love of comedy and how it motivated him to pursue that goal, regardless of financial success, which of course he also enjoys at this point in his career, aged 63 (and looking fantastic). His success is phenomenal and impressive, but it’s hearing how he has worked hard at itdue to his love of it and not wanting to do anything else
that is inspiring to me. He listened to comedy records in his room as a kid, and later worked at his routines in small venues with a handful of people in the audience. He just wanted to be an opening act for a band. But his whole world was comedy, and comedians, and getting jokes to work.

He said the audience tells him what works. “The laughter has so much information in it. They sometimes go ‘Yeah, but, it’s not funny…’ Every laugh is totally unique. You could play me a laugh and I could tell you the joke.” It’s a weird dichotomy, because he’s trying to get the audience to understand his unique view on something, but at the same time, he is acutely conscious of the audience’s response and crafting his wording and delivery to communicate the idea to us, so it’s a highly interactive process.

I was struck by how he puts his whole being into this life of a comedian. He shared a story of working on a particular bit for 10 years. He thought it was funny, but no one else did, and he kept playing around with it until he could get other people to see what he saw.

I am inspired to see someone who loves something whole-heartedly and expresses it in the world at the peak of what is possible. Living in New York, I have the opportunity to see the best ballet, modern dance, and theater in the world, and hear the best musical performances. Obviously, Jerry does this with comedy. What’s clear is the single-minded interest and intention it takes to get that good at something.

No one knows this about me, but when I was a kid, about 6 or 8 years old, I used to dream of being a comedian. I got a book of jokes from the library, and used to practice the jokes in the cold concrete-floored basement of our suburban house. But I didn’t think I was funny, and of course at that age I didn’t have the depth of experience to communicate the nuance of the idea in the joke in a funny way. And those jokes probably weren’t that funny to begin with, come to think of it!

After a painfully shy adolescence, I overcame my fear of public speaking during a program called the Advancement of Excellence, in the late 80s, and since then I’ve taken singing and guitar lessons, some acting classes. I’m now studying dance at the Joffrey Ballet Center, and I’ve taken a lot of different dance classes over the years. As some of you will recall, I was given the opportunity to dance onstage (and conduct the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra) at the Orpheum Theater! I’ve taught yoga and led vision quests in the desert. I’ve given presentations as a professional writer, and spoken publicly in large crowds. I like the limelight now, and love the feeling of saying something that makes a group of people laugh.

When I came to New York, the first writing course I took was a comedy writing class at Gotham Writers. The instructor, Nelsie Spencer, was hilarious. Everyone in my class was hilarious. Sadly, I learned that I was not. Though I did have the class laughing at one or two of my dating (read: sex) misadventures.

In a way it is a curse being pretty good at–or at least enjoying–a lot of things. Ive never had a really strong sense that there is ONE THING that I am meant to do and am passionate about. Though maybe writing is the thing that comes closest. I wrote my first story in grade 6, and now I’m a couple decades into a writing career. I believed this was my passion and my destiny at one time, but now I’m not sure! I’ve taken a few other courses at Gotham, and as you can see, I’ve been writing this blog pretty consistently since 2008. I just don’t know. Is this really it?

Seeing Jerry has had an impact–seeing someone like a Mozart, who has one passion and follows it right to the very end, the very peak. I have the feeling that isn’t my destiny in this lifetime. But I am looking forward to contemplating this question for a while. Where does my passion take me? Where does yours take you?

Eric Reed – Git’cha Shout On Nov. 10-12 at Smoke Jazz Club, NYC

I was fortunate to worship with the converted at Eric Reed’s altar at the Village Vanguard on Sunday, April 9. He was leading the congregation from his piano (actually, the VV’s venerable piano—what souls have imprinted that keyboard!), with his confessed alter-ego Tim Green providing counter-point on alto and tenor saxophone. Reed was on fire with spirit, innovation, and purpose. Green’s long lines were strong and clear, with a cleanness that complemented Reed’s soulful presence.

The band started with a tribute to Thelonious Monk, weaving the Monk’s magic into a medley of classic jazz, then shifted into gospel groove with “Git’cha Shout On” from soon-to be released A Light in Darkness, and crowd-fave “Prayer” from Reed’s Reflections of a Grateful Heart (2013). The audience was swept up in a collective contemplation of the fullness of love the human heart is capable of during these two songs, and it took off from there, building to a culmination of optimistic joy by the end of the set. One of the reasons I love going to the Vanguard on the final Sunday show of a band’s stay is that they have reached a cohesive groove and relaxation at this point in the run, and a comparison of the recorded version of Prayer with the live version on Sunday illuminates what I mean—there was an immediacy and excitement to the live performance that elevated the song to a new level of ministry and revelation.

Perhaps expected in the world of jazz, Reed speaks a political message with his soul-stirring melodies. “The older I get, the more I start to see my musical, spiritual, and personal influences as all one stream of consciousness,” Reed says. In today’s strange time, a very real, pressing question is how can the arts help us deal with the political situation. Reed is the first jazz artist I’ve heard address this directly. He enjoined the audience to pray for our leaders in these difficult times, saying they need our loving energy which will help guide their actions, whether they know they need our prayers or not! I was uplifted by this message with the music, which acknowledged what is going on in the world, and provided his listeners with the positivity and hope of right action and loving responsiveness, rather than despair and the futile hatred of ugly memes and clickable sensationalist links that seems to make up so much of people’s response to the times in social media. Responding to chaos and aggression with love might seem naïve to some, but I believe it is the response of a more mature humanity.

Reed is the son of a Pentecostal preacher, and was playing piano in his father’s church by age 5. He is steeped in the tradition of Christian love, and this heritage has matured into taking right action in the world through his role as inspirational entertainer. His early days in the Pentecostal church reverberated on the stage at the Village Vanguard, with the organic call-and-response that was part of those earlier Sunday nights. It was a time to share in a community of people who understand, and say “Yeah, we know.”

In between numbers, Reed also reminisced about the Vanguard owners giving him a chance 20 years ago when he was in his twenties, and he talked about the up-and-coming generation in the audience on Sunday night. Some of these up-and-comers were on stage with him as well. Young pups Michael Gurrola on bass and McClenty Hunter Jr. on drums laid down a strong gospellation of groove and amens.

It’s fascinating to watch a piano master at work, whatever the music genre. I remember watching the Buena Vista Social Club pianist Rubén González and his incredibly long fingers seemed illuminated with Wim Wenders’ divine light. Another Cuban-born pianist, David Virelle’s amazing spider fingers dance on the keys with a distinctive pouncing movement. Reed’s soulful jazz piano hands are mesmerizing in a different way, with resiliency and spiritual presence actually curving the ends of his fingertips up away from the keys, so that the pads connect with a caress each time they touch down. Then the blur of movement picks up tempo to faster than the speed of light, and the sounds of 10 notes at once fills the ear space with joyful jazz improvisation.

Philadelphia-born Reed has a 27-year career as a recording band leader, from 1990’s Soldier’s Hymn to the 2014 release Groovewise, and also recorded on numerous Wynton Marsalis albums in the 90s, including Live at the Village Vanguard (1999). More recently he played on Christian McBride’s Kind of Brown (2009). At the time of the April Vanguard show, Reed was in rehearsal for his upcoming release, A Light in Darkness.

This release will be Reed’s thoughtful, deliberate response to current events “Yeah, I see what’s happening out there–I’m not living under a rock or sticking my head in the sand. My faith is undaunted by the ugliness of racism, greed, and blatant ignorance of, seemingly, a world gone even madder than one can imagine. It’s easy to get away: prayer, the soft, mild chords on my piano in my solitude.

“These are all the things I think about as I prepare for a new recording… I can tell you, it will be highly emotional, more so than any of my other works. It will be a creation, a compilation, a collaboration and it will illuminate love, love, love!”

Reed toured with Ravi Coltrane to the Jazz on the Odra Festival in Poland this spring, followed by various dates in California and DC. He’ll be playing with his Eric Reed Quartet in New York, NY for his CD Release Party at Smoke Jazz Club on November 10-12, 2017, featuring music from A Light in Darkness.

The disappointment of Guns N’ Roses

I was thrilled to see Guns N’ Roses last Sunday at Madison Square Garden. At least, until I was actually in the stadium watching the show. Then it was a bit of a snooze, I am disappointed to say.

I had previously seen early GNR shows in 1989 at the LA Coliseum (where they backed the Stones) and in 1991 when they headlined at the Tacoma Dome. I can clearly recall the thrill in LA of seeing Axl twirling with the microphone stand, and performing his signature sideways sashay. Somehow, as the old blues song says, the thrill is gone.

“Welcome to the Jungle” was song #4 in their setlist, and I thought, finally, this show is getting going:

But it never sustained this level of energy… By the time they did “Coma,” 9 songs later, I was pretty much in one.

Surprisingly, the covers they performed had more energy. I especially enjoyed the freshness and emotion of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” But honestly, I just saw Paul McCartney do “Live and Let Die” last month at Barclays Center, and his version was better! I could feel the heat from the flashpots in the nosebleed section.  I also saw Roger Waters do his own “Wish You Were Here” last month (see my video on YouTube), and again–his was of course WAY better than GNRs, though the crowd loved the song and sang along over GNRs instrumental version. It was a fun moment, don’t get me wrong. Just not the GREAT moment I was expecting.

What surprised me was that the audience was on its feet much of the time. A lot of reviewers loved the show, and here’s one by Loudwire. GNR are the 41st best-selling artists of all time, with Appetite for Destruction being the best-selling debut album of all time in the US, 11th best-selling album period. The “Not in this Lifetime” tour was the highest-earning per-city global concert tour of 2016, and the fifth-highest grossing concert tour of all time. People love this shit. And I did too. But maybe I’m not the fan I thought I was.

By comparison, I was blown away by Mötley Crüe in their final tour, which I saw at Madison Square Garden in 2014, on my first trip to New York. And AC/DC rocked the house in Vancouver last October–one of the best shows I have ever seen, with one favorite song after another, and the aging rockers kicking ass like you wouldn’t believe. I thought GNR would be equally exciting, but their show just wasn’t as good as these others. I guess it’s hard to live up to a memory. Nuff said.

Oh, except for one more fun fact:

Am I right?

New York fashion model shoot on Cornelia St.

Karen Rempel on Cornelia StSept. 20, 2017 – Earlier I told you about my fantastic summer gig at Krystyna’s Place. An unexpected outcome is that Krystyna is an amazing artist and photographer, and she offered to do a photo shoot of me for a model’s portfolio. We spent the afternoon on a glorious sunny day in early September shooting photos up and down Cornelia St. This is a preliminary pic to give you an idea.

Krystyna dressed me in fantastic couture, mostly vintage. The dress pictured above is more recent, from Venice, and is absolutely stunning haute couture. It’s exquisitely rich satin, with asymmetrical details and the pattern is coral roses with grey touches on a white background. Stay posted for more pix when Krystyna finishes processing the shoot. I hope I can give you a full-length shot of the dress later.

I felt like a real fashion model, and had so much fun wearing the gorgeous clothes and striking poses. Passers-by joined in the fun as well, sometimes holding the reflector for Krystyna or commenting on the amazing outfits that Krystyna put together. The green crinoline might look familiar to you from the window dressing that I created as my final masterpiece at the store.

Karen Rempel photographed at Taglialatella Galleries art opening in Chelsea Sept. 14

Embed from Getty Images

Sept. 17, 2017 – My friend Angela James and I attended an opening at Taglialatella Galleries on Thursday night, Sept. 14. We saw an exhibition of iconic original and limited edition works by influential graffiti and pop artist Cristophe Schwarz, aka Zevs. The collection is called Zevs: Liquid Assets.

Here’s a pic of the artist at the opening (black t-shirt):


It was a real scene. Evidently the night began with tequila shooters, and the champagne flowed freely from there. I was honored to be photographed with Ange in front of a great piece of art that my outfit matched. The slideshow at the top shows some images taken by celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan. This one is by Ange:


Many thanks to my friend Pat Duffy, writer and instructor at the United Nations, for the invite. Ange and I had a blast, and met some amazing people, including artist and professional partier David Padworny; actor, photographer, and former model Mark Reay, who made the autobiographical documentary Homme Less; writer/actor/producer Gregor Collins; and artist and musician M Fisher, aka Viking Swan.

Here’s David with a Louboutin-flashing babe. There’s a button on her shoe with a message for President Trump!
And here’s M (from another event):

He’s working on an upcoming photo exhibit that will take place in Spain.

Karen Rempel’s summer gig at Krystyna’s Place at 12 Cornelia St.

Krystyna's Place Etsy Logo
Etsy Logo

Sept. 14, 2017 – I worked a part-time job at Krystyna’s Place on Cornelia St. in New York this summer. I wanted to have the experience of doing a regular job, interacting with people, showing up for scheduled shifts. I walked into Krystyna’s Place one Friday night on my way to a wine bar with my friend Heather. I was dressed in an Iris Apfel t-shirt that my friend Dianne got me in Shanghai. This set off a conversation, and by the time I left the store, I’d bought a fantastic beaded belt and agreed to work at the store 2 days a week for 7 weeks while Krystyna was in Europe.

Karen Rempel in fantastic green beaded belt, with Bowie haircut and lightning bolt boots
Fantastic green beaded belt, with Bowie haircut and lightning bolt boots

I have to say this was the most fun job I’ve ever had. I opened and closed, served customers, dressed the windows (and myself!), and created an online store for Krystyna’s Place on Etsy. This entailed creating all the visual and design elements for the store, including a logo and header. I photographed 30 pieces that Krystyna had selected, measured them, wrote descriptions, and fell in love with the clothes!

Karen Rempel in mash-up of vintage necklace, studded cowboy belt from the Calgary stampede, Helmut Lang t-shirt, and black sparkly goth boots from Vaudeville and Trash
Mash-up of vintage necklace, studded cowboy belt from the Calgary stampede, Helmut Lang t-shirt, and black sparkly goth boots from Vaudeville and Trash

When the gig was over I spent half my final paycheck on clothes, shoes, and purses I’d fallen in love with in the store, and then came back again and bought half a dozen of the Etsy items!

Pink and green tea dress from Krystyna's Place Etsy store
Pink and green tea dress from KP Etsy store – ignited street commentary the moment I walked out the door wearing it to a dinner party at Arthur’s a few days later!

The store ambience is fantastic, with old black-and-white movies playing, along with contemporary jazz by a fantastic Polish jazz trio, and of course all the gorgeous vintage clothes. Krystyna is an amazing artist and designer. She paints ceramic animals, like the pig  below, and she painted much of the wall art, furnishings, and rugs in the store. She is truly an inspired genius, with an irrepressible creative flow. Everyone who walked in was amazed and said they loved the store. If you live in New York, check it out at 12 Cornelia St.

Green flying pig adorned with vintage jewellery
Green flying pig adorned with vintage jewellery

During the time I worked there I met many interesting folks from the neighborhood, as well as visitors who wandered into the store on their way to restaurants on the block, including Pearl Oyster Bar, Palma, and Cornelia St. Cafe. One day the LA stylist Sophie Lopez came in and picked up two gorgeous crocheted sweaters (one pink, one yellow) and matching plaid pants. I didn’t know who she was, but found out afterwards. On my last day, one of the store’s neighbors, himself a designer, walked by and admired my window display. He told me he regularly sends pictures of the displays to his friend who is the aforementioned LA stylist!

Final window display at Krystyna's Place
My final window dressing. Model is wearing a print scarf under metallic belt for a cummerbund effect. Beret is adorned with vintage brooch. Both animals are adorned with vintage jewellery, and a green crinoline forms a froth ocean at model’s feet.

One day a rather sketchy woman came in, with bleached hair with 24″ roots, who sniffed constantly. She spent a lot of time looking around the store, trying things on, and chatting. I even asked for her advice about one of the Etsy photos. But when she left, her bag looked a little lumpy, and there was a blank space on the shelf where these white shoes used to be. Dang! A shoplifter. Another time I lost a sale because the payment processing vendor stopped the account in order to force us to call them. They wanted to sell us a payment processing machine. The nerve! So this is New York—unbelievable splendor, and the petty dark side as well. And a lesson for me about keeping an eagle eye on sketchy customers.

These white shoes were stolen by a sketchy, sniffing store patron
These white shoes were stolen by a sketchy, sniffing store patron

Karen Rempel feels Waters raining down in Brooklyn

Roger Waters at Barclay Center September 11, 2017Sept. 12, 2017 – Last night I saw Roger Waters at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. So amazing! Sheer pleasure to hear the songs from my youth, especially from Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall. I bought The Wall as a double-cassette when I bought my Volkswagon Rabbit in 1981. I listened to it continuously in my car from age 16 to 18, until the tapes broke from wear and tear and a constant cloud of cigarette smoke!

I had no idea this concert would be so powerful on so many levels. The body-penetrating, mind-blowing volume of sound, the haunting music, the beauty of the guitar, and Roger Waters’ loveliness too. Most surprising was the political message. I was too young when I first heard Pink Floyd to fully understand the politicalness of the music. But last night it was very clear. This roadshow is all about empowering people to resist political leaders with the wrong agenda and to stand up for and care for each other, both locally and in the global community.

During The Wall, about 20 school girls from Brooklyn were on the stage, singing the chorus “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” At first they were in orange jumpsuit school/prison “uniforms,” which they unzipped at the end to reveal black Resist t-shirts. I was pierced with the beauty of these innocent children suddenly onstage performing, enacting the words that I listened to when I was a teenager.

Waters also acknowledged the day, which happened to be September 11. He expressed sorrow for the families of the innocents who died in 9/11, and for all the responders who worked on the site and later died of illnesses from exposure to the toxic waste. And most of all, for the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have since been killed as a result of the political response to 9/11. I was moved, heartened, and encouraged by this acknowledgement of the huge world-changing fall-out of those few hours in New York City on September 11, sixteen years ago. On the way home to my apartment in Greenwich Village I saw a giant beam of light piercing the sky, coming from the One World Tower. The Empire State Building was lit in Red, White, and Blue.

Most of all, I was moved by the fact that Roger Waters has been a political activist, raising awareness through his music, for five decades. His message about fighting authority (the teen anthem of all ages) has not changed, and it is even more relevant today. But let’s not forget the music for its own sake. Some of the most amazing, beautiful, moving, intelligent music in rock history.

The concert start was delayed due to protestors outside who were angry about Waters’ recent New York Times editorial. All backpacks were quarantined (checked) in the concourse outside the concert arena, which caused huge delays in entry, and a muddled chaotic mass of concert-goers unable to get into the hall until after the posted start time. This made me curious about the editorial, and about the issue of anti-BDS legislation, which led me to read about it, and to read some of the commentary, including an opinion written by David Schraub on the Jewish Telegraph Agency website. There are several remarkable aspects to this scenario. One is that Waters wrote the piece and it was published in The New York Times. Another is that people take it seriously enough to protest his concert. And a third is that it has raised awareness of a political issue, leading to thoughtfulness and debate. I spoke to several people out front of Barclays Center about the debate and whether anti-BDS legislation is a violation of free speech. Instead of being angry about the delays—and the claustrophobia of being told by security guards to push and clump together to get to the front (!)—people were engaged in thoughtful political discussion!

Money Clip

Waters ended with Comfortably Numb. I would have to say that while the temptation is to tune out what is happening in the world, Waters is doing the opposite. His message is Resist! Resist “authoritarianism and proto-fascism,” as he says in the editorial.

Wish You Were Here

Home Again

Us and Them

P.S. I am back-filling entries for the months that I was too busy moving to New York to write in this blog. So the date at the beginning of the entry is the date written. The date at the bottom is used to sort the entries.