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

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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 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.

Karen Rempel races in New York Road Runners 9 + 1

5th Ave Mile FinishSept. 10, 2017 – As many of you will recall, I ran in the New York Marathon in the fall of 2016, and it was truly one of the most amazing days of my life. People loved the Bowie costume, and I loved running for 5 hours straight through all 5 boroughs!

This year I am running in the New York Road Runners 9 + 1. It is a program for residents, or at least for people who are able to attend 10 races in the city throughout the year. If I run in 9 races in 2017 and volunteer at one race, I will qualify automatically for admission into the 2018 marathon.

One of the races I ran in this year is the Fifth Avenue Mile. I was super excited to be running down the middle of Fifth Avenue for this one! Though I thought the race would start at the south end of Central Park and go south from there, past Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany’s, and all the other fabulous stores. But no, it started at 80th St and went to 60th. I was disappointed about this, so I decided to just keep running past the finish line, and I ran all the way to 10th St, where I live. I heard the name David Bowie mentioned several times as I ran down the avenue. I am glad to be keeping his memory alive.

A handsome German tourist took this picture of me (below) when I was finished. It was 3.5 miles in all. The timed mile of the race took 8:31–possibly my fastest mile since highschool! And then another 26 minutes to run 50 more blocks. What a great way to spend Sunday morning.

I arrived at the race about an hour early, so I had coffee and fruit salad at the counter at this delightful New York diner on W. 82 Street, called Nectar 82:

And then I spent 20 minutes looking at Egyptian mummies at the Metropolitan Museum before it was time to line up for my heat. Ah, New York!

Karen Rempel views magical eclipse

August 31, 2017 – My friend Mike Rosetta took me “down the shore” to watch the solar eclipse on August 21. We went to the beach in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a short beat from Bruce Springsteen’s hometown of Asbury Park. Much to my surprise, we had to pay $8 to go onto the beach. Another friend, songwriter Michael Graetzer, took this amazing eclipse photo in Central Park:

August 21 Solar EclipseThe eclipse was very eerie and beautiful. Clouds kept going by, so I lay on the sand with eclipse glasses on for about 2 hours, waiting for glimpses of the eclipse to emerge. I saw the whole path of the moon across the sun and it was magnificent and made me think cosmic thoughts!

Eclipse down the shorePlus I think I finally understand that whole thing from grade 9 science, with the orange and the grapefruit and the pingpong ball.

Karen Rempel hears joy in the house with Donny McCaslin

April 2, 2017 – And I think the spirit of David Bowie was there too. Saturday night’s (April 1, 2017) scintillating performance at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall demonstrated that Donny McCaslin has developed into a world-class, big league band leader, composer, and sax player. I saw McCaslin perform in early 2016 at the Village Vanguard, shortly after David Bowie’s death, and the events of the past year seem to have transformed McCaslin from an angry young(ish) man into a joyful, seasoned artist who is streaming his creative gifts into the world.

Last night McCaslin opened with a discordant, in your face composition from his earlier repertoire of published music, and then the quartet took a leap into two new (as yet un-named) numbers that McCaslin wrote specifically for the performance at Zankel Hall. The band members were beaming, and so was I, as I heard the driving rhythm section (bassist Jonathan Maron and drummer Zach Danziger) provide counter-point to an astonishing fusion of McCaslin’s sax and keyboard wizard Jason Lindner’s never-before-heard arrangement of electronic noise. The sounds were so unexpected and new, a feeling of wonder filled the hall and penetrated into the minds and bodies of the audience like a magic dust, floating down, pinging off the earbones, and ringing bells of awakening in every cell of the collective body. This music was exciting! A fresh invocation of joyful wonder, and the band was fully enjoying the revelation as well, with smiles on their faces throughout the performance. They felt the rapture, and made us feel it too.

As you may know, McCaslin and Lindner played on David Bowie’s final musical gift to the world, Black Star, released two days before his death in Jan. 2016. Clearly some audience members were Bowie fans, and McCaslin did not disappoint. The band played “Lazarus,” bringing tears of remembrance and sorrow as we heard the song, perhaps for the first time, without the vocal track of Bowie’s achingly familiar, distinctive, age- and wisdom-tinged voice.

The song begins with the (now silent) vocals, “Look up here, I’m in heaven…” and expresses humor, Bowie’s love of New York, and further musings on the afterlife… “By the time I got to New York I was living like a king. Then I used up all my money, I was looking for your ass. This way or no way, you know I’ll be free. Just like that bluebird, now ain’t that just like me. Oh I’ll be free…”

This missing element struck home the loss to the world of our dear David Bowie, and perhaps by making the loss so real, helped to bring a year of deep mourning to a close. I am moved beyond words at Bowie’s generosity to write this music as his continuing creative contribution to the world, and help us prepare and come to terms with his death, and perhaps our own.

McCaslin generously shared an anecdote about accepting a Grammy award for Blackstar on Bowie’s behalf (the album garnered five in total), together with Lindner, at the ceremony in February. McCaslin outfitted himself for the awards ceremony at Agnes B. in Soho, a designer who had often created clothes for Bowie, and even designed wardrobes for Bowie tours. McCaslin had selected a black Euro-fit suit with a reverse-logo Blackstar t-shirt—very hipster and ringing that note of musical triumph of Bowie’s final work. McCaslin confided with the audience that this was the very suit he was wearing for our performance, and shared that Gail Ann Dorsey, Bowie’s long-time bass player, also gets some of her fantastic clothes at Agnes B. Check out the hard-core punk meets Buddhism dark green dress she wore during Bowie’s Oct. 2, 1999 performance on Saturday Night Live! I noticed that Lindner was also paying subtle homage to Bowie vis-à-vis tiny astronauts floating on the dark background of his socks, and silver denim high-tops.

The group played another shrieking, body-armor penetrating track from McCaslin’s 3rd and most recent CD, Beyond Now (released in Oct. 2016). And then another homage to Bowie, “Warzsawa,” a song he’d written with Brian Eno on 1977’s  Low, Bowie’s first album in his Berlin trilogy.

McCaslin has a  growing body of original music to draw on in his live performances, but his new work takes us to another level entirely. McCaslin’s generosity of spirit shines through this new creative font of joy, and he demonstrates it doubly with making space in the evening’s program for two Bowie songs. There was enough time and space for it all, and by drawing Bowie’s early and final work into the melange of his own oeuvre, McCaslin showed how these two streams are intertwined and that Bowie’s gifted soul continues to impact the world in the next generation of musicians and audiences—if the young man head-banging in the row in front of me was any indication!

It was an all-ages crowd, with older audience members sharing memories of seeing Bowie at Madison Square Garden in the 1990s, and a young child talking in the balcony, penetrating the silent spaces between Maron’s acid bass notes in his introduction to a song of further keyboard magic. McCaslin riffed on the child’s play, repeating the words “Uh-Oh” that floated down from the balcony and generating a ripple of laughter and repetition through the crowd. Then Lindner struck, with waves upon waves of overlapping repeating sequences of electronica notes, joined by tinkling ivories reminiscent of Bob Geldof’s “I don’t like Mondays.”

They received a standing ovation, and played an encore of two more pieces of splendor. Joy was in the house.

As you may have noticed, I had a lot of fun dressing in homage to Bowie.

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Karen rempel ran the New York Marathon!

with-saoriHooray! With your support, I finished the New York Marathon yesterday, with a time of 5:06:19. This was definitely a race of a lifetime, and wonderful in so many ways. It was a glorious fall day, with bright sunny skies and the perfect temperature for running in the David Bowie powder blue suit from the Life on Mars video. Not too hot, not too cold. I was awe-struck and inspired, looking ahead at the thousands of runners on the road before me, displaying a rainbow of colours in their sports gear. What a glorious sight!

And then there were the crowds lining the road. I was in the fourth wave, which started at 11:00 a.m., though it was actually 11:19 by the time I crossed the start line, due to the thousands of runners ahead of me. So by this time in the day, the crowds may have thinned a little. But there were people all along the way, the entire 26.2 miles, and often crowded on both sides of the road, up to four people deep, cheering on the runners continuously with greetings, signs, and noisemakers. There were also musical bands of every genre all along the route, adding vibrancy and energizing the runners. And then there was the city of New York itself, all five beautiful boroughs. It was such a thrill to set foot on each one, with its own unique flavor and character, beginning with Staten Island and moving through Brooklyn, including historic Williamsburg where Hasidic Jews dressed in traditional garb went about their business, then into Queens, and Manhattan, up to the Bronx, and then back into Manhattan to finish at Central Park. I felt tremendous joy, excitement, and love for the city, with its satisfying, soul-pleasing mixture of old and new architecture. This is what inspired me to run the race in the beginning—a desire to see the city from this vantage point, roads cleared, running on an endorphin high. And now that I am planning to move to New York, it was especially symbolic to trod on every borough, and pledge myself to the city.

The physical aspect of the race was much different than I expected, though. In my training, I used the mantra “effortless and injury free,” from the book Chirunning by Danny Dreyer. And I did return to this refrain over and over again during the race. But I guess injury free and pain free are two different things! Due to a snafu in the transportation, thousands of us were delayed in the hall at the Staten Island Ferry terminal on the way to the race, crammed together like sardines, hardly able to move for over an hour. I was carrying a very heavy wool coat—my throw-away coat to wear while waiting outdoors in the cold—and my checked bag with warm clothing to put on at the finish. It turned out I didn’t need either of these things, as there was very little time once I got to the start, and I had to actually dash for half a mile or so to get my bag to the bag check before it closed. Yikes! There was no time to warm up or stretch. So this meant that by the time the race started, I was already in pain, feeling a weird strain in my quads and a familiar old pain in my right knee.

But I just figured, “What the hell, this is the price for doing something extraordinary.” I decided to focus on all the positive aspects of the race, and do the best I could to relieve the pain with the Chirunning focuses, some Motrin I had taped to my bib (a great tip from Danny!), and later, a Tylenol from one of the medical tents along the way. Starting out in pain that way, I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it, but it was the thought of my 47 donors, and my pledge to Harlem United, that made me try. So I really have you to thank!

I also reminded myself of my wish to run in tribute to David Bowie, and contemplated my admiration of his work and my sadness at his death during the few quiet times for reflection that occurred during the run. These quiet times were a nice change of pace from the crowd-lined streets, and occurred while running over the bridges. I have heard people moaning about those bridges, but they were a piece of cake to me after training in the mountains of North Vancouver. Easy peasy! A time to sail along, passing hundreds of runners on both the uphill and downhill stretches. I often put my music on for a few minutes during these sections, and thought about why I was running the race. (Of course one thought that popped up from time to time during the five hours of the race was that it was a very stupid thing to be doing!!)

Six friends had planned ahead of time to cheer me on, and had told me which section of the race they planned to be on. This was a tremendous support, and really helped me to feel a part of the city and a community of great people. Julie in Brooklyn had a sign that said Karen, but I don’t know if she saw me because she didn’t know I was running as David! But I saw her, and the sign. Once I crossed the Queensboro bridge from Queens into Manhattan, Sally and Bill were standing by the road on First Avenue, and I was so happy to see them. A block or two further on was my friend Mike. I put on my best Jersey accent to say “See you laytah for dinna!” And then another few dozen blocks up the avenue, I got a hug from DB. This was such a wide, graceful boulevard, with beautiful old brick buildings and masonry; I got a hit again of the wonder “I am really in New York! This is New York!” Once I’d gone through the Bronx and headed back down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, my fantastic hairdresser Saori (who gave me the Bowie haircut to begin with, and is standing with me in the photo above) was there with her husband, and gave me another wonderful hug. It was very special to me to have these friends turn up to cheer me on.

The interaction with the crowds was the most unexpected aspect of the race, and truly magical. Dozens of times I heard people calling out “It’s David Bowie,” cheering to see the Ziggy Stardust reincarnation on the streets of New York. These were clearly Bowie fans who were happy to remember Bowie and his music. At one music station, I heard “Dancing in the Street,” a Mick Jagger and David Bowie collaboration, so I really played it up, dancing as I went past the crowd. They loved it, and I noticed I wasn’t in pain when I was dancing. So from then on, I danced almost every time I passed a band, whether it was country, rock, marching band, reggae, or heavy metal! I do have a fondness for the metal years of the late eighties, and really got into the headbanging, though it made me feel dizzy, probably due to low blood sugar, and also winded me more than any other form of dancing. Those times of dancing and celebrating the joy of the day and the race really stand out as highlights of the day for me. Meeting people’s eyes, sharing the excitement, connecting through high five trains, where a dozen people would be lined up ready to slap hands as I went past—and all the signs they made, expressing encouragement, humor, and empowerment. “If Trump can run, so can you!”

Politics was definitely in the air… Another surprise was that the people who didn’t recognize the Bowie reference thought I was running dressed as Hillary Clinton! Lots of people shouted out “The Pant Suit!!” due to a recent YouTube video of Hillary supporters dressed in pant suits and singing in Union Square. So they thought I was showing support for Hillary. An unexpected boon of being the only runner in my wave wearing a suit!

The race was so much fun, with lots of short conversations with other runners from all over the world. And whenever I was feeling low energy or too much pain, the crowd was there to help me along. So I must say, “New Yorkers are awesome!!” And after the first 10 miles or so, I started shouting this out to the crowd. “You guys are awesome! Queens is awesome! The Bronx is awesome!” (With their super-friendly police officers and fire fighters all along the way as well, welcoming us to each new borough.) “You guys are awesome! Thanks for coming out! Woohoo!” It got to be a habit, and I shouted almost continuously for the last two hours of the race. I can hardly speak today, and I can’t speak in the high register (the Woohoo register) at all.

The final stretch was through Central Park, and then along Central Park South and up into the park again for the final .2 miles. Central Park South was packed with spectators, and the last little bit leading up to it was downhill, so I really put on the speed at this point, running the last mile as my fastest of the race. I was definitely in an altered state of looniness, and I waved and shouted to the crowd, and they cheered me on as if I was a real celebrity. It was one of the most surreal and wonderful moments of my life. Who was that pant suited woman/Ziggy Stardust man? As I passed the finish line the announcer said “And it appears we have David Bowie with us today.” This makes me cry as I remember it. If only it were true.

In the corralled area after the finish, I met another woman who had run in tribute to David Bowie and to her brother who died this year as well. We mourned together as we limped along, clinging to our medals. I went home on a subway packed like sardines (again) with runners, had a quick shower, and then met some friends for a celebration dinner at a hidden Italian restaurant on my block. The perfect end to a perfect day.

This morning I had the task of packing up for the return to Vancouver, and schlepping three very heavy suitcases down four flights of stairs. I could barely walk when I got out of bed, and I simply could not support my weight on the steps using my right leg, so I had to do an elderly shuffle, left foot step, right foot on same step, left foot step, right foot on same step, etc., all the way down. Four trips! But it all worked out, and I have a new respect for people who get around and deal with arthritis or other types of pain when they walk.
The final glory of the race was seeing a bunch of people at La Guardia airport proudly wearing their medals. I followed suit, taking mine out of my carry-on bag and displaying the mark of completion to the world. What a trip! I still can’t quite believe it really happened. I did it! We did it!

Thank you all for your tremendous support. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the race—I’ve certainly enjoyed reliving it as I shared some of the details with you. As a final note, people running for charities in the New York Marathon raised over 19 MILLION DOLLARS! That really deserves a big Woohoo, but you’re going to have to do it for me. Let me hear you, now. All together. Woohoo!

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Karen Rempel is running in New York Marathon to raise funds for Harlem United

2008 HalfThis is so exciting! I will be running in the New York Marathon on November 6, 2016 to raise money for Harlem United. My goal is to raise $3,000 for this fantastic organization that helps Harlem community members by providing access to health care, resources, and education about AIDS and HIV. They provide quality HIV prevention, housing, and care services in a safe and nurturing environment to unite Harlem’s diverse communities and address the needs of all people living with and threatened by HIV/AIDS.

I’m asking all my friends, family, and colleagues to help support the amazing work that Harlem United does, and cheer me on in my dream of running the New York Marathon.

If you can help, please visit my donor page. You can sponsor me by:

  • Mile ($26 for the 26.2 miles of the marathon)
  • Kilometre ($42 for the 42 kilometres of the race)
  • Meal ($100 to buy a group lunch for LGBT youth at risk for contracting HIV)
  • Or pick your own amount!

Here is an inspirational video on YouTube about the impact Harlem United has made in helping people who had no hope.

Visit my donor page often for photos and updates on my race training progress.

I’ve been wanting to run in the New York Marathon for 20 years, since I first began running in 1996. It’s the largest marathon in the world (yikes!) and goes through all five boroughs of New York City. This will be my first full marathon, though I’ve run ten half marathons. I’m thrilled to finally run this race and to raise money for Harlem United. This is a celebration of my new life in New York and I am putting down roots by contributing to the well-being of my community there.

Karen Rempel publishes photo series Copper Light

Copper light 1

When I come back to Vancouver after time in New York I go into comparison mode for a while, looking to see whether the things I love in New York are here too. And I am always delighted when I find out this is true. There are just as many blue-haired people on the streets of Vancouver, only they walk slower!

This series has a sculptural example I found in Vancouver that reminds me of fantastical structures I’ve seen in New York.

Copper Light

Location: East Village, Vancouver – Tacofino Commissary

Some of the best tacos in town!

Karen Rempel is in love–it’s springtime in New York

Financial Distric Ferry TerminalYesterday was the first day of spring, and it snowed in New York. I went for a run as glorious flakes skirled and floated through the air, stage-lit by the lights along the Hudson River walk. It’s a nice hour-long run from my place in the village along the Hudson to the Financial District Ferry Terminal and back.

Tennis players on the Hudson River courtsI passed tennis players on my way to the ferry terminal, enjoying the gentle snowfall, and caught a glimpse of One World, nestled between the legs of two other high rises.

One World TowerNew Yorkers still call this the World Trade Center.

ESBOn the way back, I could see the Empire State Building in the distance, over 70 blocks away (the lit tower in the center of the photo). I love seeing these two landmarks as I go about the city. They are orientation touchstones, helping people find their way, much like a striking tree or cliff formation would have guided our ancestors.