02 May 2011

Woke up it was a Brooklyn morning and the first thing that I heard

Apologies to the great Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. I did wake up to a Brooklyn morning this morning and I've woken up to one since the end of last week. I have a couple more of these Brooklyn mornings to go before I trade them in for my usual St. Pete mornings.

I'm up here because the amazing Saxon Henry offered me the use of her sofa bed in exchange for sitting on a panel of experts in a panel discussion about using social media effectively at the annual conclave of the American Society of Journalists and Authors yesterday. I sat next to no less than Dominique Browning. Joining us were Michael Cannell and David Farley. We had an overflow crowd of enthusiastic writers who wanted to hear what we had to say. It was a peak experience. There were people in the audience I've been reading for years and being taken seriously by a room full of the smartest people on the planet is something I'll never forget. I am the most fortunate man on the planet, I swear.

After the ASJA was over yesterday, Saxon, Rich Holshuh and I went to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central to suck down bivalves and decompress.

I've known Rich through Twitter for the last few years but we'd never met in person before. A couple of years ago I wrote a profile of Rich on this blog. Apartment Therapy scraped my content and essentially re-ran my post. They kept the link back to me even if they removed all of my polysyllabic words. That act of content scraping made Rich a household name and I can't think of anyone more deserving. Anyhow, it was really great to have the chance to meet and get to know Rich these last few days.

With the ASJA out of the way and before I dedicate my next two days to more shameless self-promotion in front of the New York public relations and advertising industries, I took a day for me yesterday.

I shook myself out of the idyll of my Brooklyn morning and took the train back into Manhattan. My great friend Tom Miller and I had arranged to spend the afternoon meandering through Midtown and to take in the Pompeii Exhibit at the Discovery Expo Museum. Tom writes the incredible blog Daytonian in Manhattan and it is the last word in Manhattan historical architecture. No one knows the history of New York as well as Tom Miller does and to walk around that city with him is to experience the broad sweep of everything that's ever happened on that island crammed into what for most people is an afternoon walk.

I share Tom's love of church architecture and we walked through a good number of the notable churches in the middle of Midtown. He rattles off the names of gilded age architects the way I do mid-century industrial designers and we're a terrific counter balance to each other. If you have never read Tom's blog, stop here and click this link. Subscribe to that feed and you will never see New York the same way.

The Pompeii exhibit is worth seeing by the way. There were a couple of things I'd never seen before and there were more than a few things I learned today that I wouldn't have known had I not gone. Again, good call Tom.

I took the train back to Brooklyn to meet up with Saxon and Rich and the three of us met another one of my electronic pen pals for the first time, Demir Gjokaj.

Demir and I have the most unlikely of connections and knowing him proves to me yet again just how small the world is.

Three years ago, I stayed for a week in this villa in Sorrento.

Ten years ago, Demir was working to renovate it along with its owner Andrea Azzariti. Two years ago, Demir was back in the US and working to promote that amazing villa through a new website he'd produced and he wanted my help and advice. Hint: go to the website and watch Demir's video. Holy cow!

Demir and I struck up a friendship then that's continued until now and of all the odd, wonderful coincidences in the world, he and his girlfriend live a few blocks from Saxon in Brooklyn. It was really cool to sit in a Mexican restaurant on Lincoln Road and tell Mediterranean stories about a place half a world away.

That last morning I spent in Sorrento I stood at the railing of the villa's patio and stared across the Bay of Naples at Mount Vesuvius. I swore that I'd be back and that I'd stand on that same spot before my life was over.

Thanks to Demir and the power of the internet, it looks as if I'll be back there in the fall. As if that weren't enough, I'll be back there with Saxon and my beloved brother Steve. Again, I am the most fortunate man alive.

It's kind of a cliche to talk about New York as the crossroads of the world but if you spend any time here you know it's not a cliche. Everything that happens in the world has some connection to this great city.

I've been all over the place but there is no other city in the world that's so willing to make a stranger feel welcome or a visitor feel like a native. Everybody here is from somewhere else but the same thing's true in any world capital. New York has something else the others lack and I can't quite put my finger on what it is.

I come back here every couple of months to see if I can figure out what that something is and in the act of looking, I get my batteries recharged and my faith in the future renewed. Maybe that's what it is, everybody comes here to find that elusive something and since we're all looking for the same thing, maybe it's that shared quest that provides the welcoming bond.

Man I love this town. Where else can you start in Brooklyn, roll through St. Patrick's Cathedral a couple of hours later, wallow in the glories of Ancient Rome, jump back on a subway, eat Mexican food with friends, then plan an Amalfi get away, all in the same day? Everything is possible here.


  1. Nice work, Paul! I greatly enjoy your writing style, and I love how you connect the dots. Congrats on the successful panel, and enjoy the rest of your trip!

  2. Thanks! There are so many dots to connect. Isn't it great?

  3. "New York has something else the other lack and I can't quite put my finger on what it is." Yup, but trying to figure it out requires a massive amount of on-site research. There's a book in that!

    I'm back there in June for 140conf (that's my cover anyway) I think Saxon and Rich are going.. you going as well?

  4. It's that on-site research that drags me back here time and again Rufus. I'm trying to justify that 140 Conference, let's see how it pans out.

  5. I'll second all that, corroborate, confirm, and vouch for your alibi. Perfect way to finally meet and I'm looking forward to many more happy confluences, my friend! Saxon is a perfect host.

  6. I'm not sure why I just let out a long satisfied sigh, but I did.

    P.S. I think you have two degrees of separation from everyone else in the world instead of the usual six.

  7. Rich: You are a man among men, I'm fortunate to have you be part of things.

    Raina: My head spins when I think about that. I know more people many miles from home than I do at home. It's great to be back in a city where there's a critical mass of them.

  8. Thank you, Paul, for a terrific presentation at the ASJA. You were thorough, understandable and, yes, even inspiring. The Internet/social media side of our fast-changing biz seems less daunting now.
    I also loved the photos of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the following post. I visited Anna Maria Island last year and couldn't stop looking at that graceful, beautiful span.

  9. I always love traveling with you via your blog! You remind me of the magic of the places I've been including NYC and Sorrento as well as the possibilities of new places. BTW visit the Brooklyn Museum when you get the chance. It's not to be missed!

  10. I’ve never really traveled all that much, but you’re certainly making a good argument for it! My wife and I keep hoping that we will get to Europe one day, preferably as members of one of those junkets you always seem to be going on! They say that travel broadens one, and if one does a bit of homework, it really does. Certainly without your own innate curiosity, you never would have written the blog you posted a while ago on Top Knobs and their new Trevi Fountain series. When we went to Hawaii to celebrate our 25th anniversary, I came away with some history books on it. It’s a gorgeous place, but I would much rather go to Italy, I think. More history, more art, more creativity. Maybe even a chance to visit some of the many Italian companies I’ve blogged about. I once compared northern Italy to the Fertile Crescent. The original was the birthplace of civilization; whereas I firmly believe northern Italy is the birthplace of all that is innovative.

  11. Steveneson: Thanks so much for your comment. I'm thrilled to hear your feedback and I am so glad you got something from that seminar last Saturday. Feel free to e-mail me any time.

    Gloria: I was hanging out with Daniele and Francesco at Scavolini on Friday and I was thinking about you the whole time. I hope they gave you the red carpet treatment. Considering how high end the product is the sell there, they sure know how to make someone feel at home.

    Joeseph: Hit the road already! There are junkets galore, just make nice with the marketing people. In the meantime, don't wait, get thee to Italy. As amazing as northern Italy is, don't write off southern Italy. Northern Italy may set the tone for design but it's southern Italy that preserves Italian culture and were it not for that culture, there wouldn't be any innovation. Going to Rome and Naples will blow your mind. Western civ was born in those cities.


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