Monday, May 16, 2011

Dora, The Explorer, Ain't Got Nothing On Me

Not Your Average Art Gallery
Newspaper Building Blocks
A Gift From Me to You
Keepsakes Activity

Hidden Treasure

One of my favorite things to do is walk around New York City.  Its nickname Concrete Jungle rings true as I stroll the pavement always exploring, searching, and discovering something new.  The discovery is even better when it's in a neighborhood I used to live in or frequent often because just as I thought I knew it all something goes and surprises me.  So as I walked to my favorite cupcake place Butter Lane on 7th St. between 1st Ave and Avenue A, my eyes and brain went into stimulus overload.  I had forgotten how wonderful that stretch of street really was with Bourgeois Pig (a wine bar) and numerous restaurants dotted all along the street.  I decided to walk towards Ave A even though I live off of 1st Ave. and so glad I did.  As I strolled down 7th St. with my cupcakes in one hand and my camera in another (OK, IPhone who am I kidding), I discovered a cupcake class being conducted next door to Butter Lane, a jewelry shop, a wine bar, and a restaurant to add to my list.

The Shape of Lies is a small boutique that carries dainty, one of a kind, hand crafted jewelry by 12 local artisans throughout the five boroughs.  As I inspected the jewelry cases, the sweet, chatty owner gave me the store's bio and Peggy Money-a monopoly inspired coupon for $2.00 off a future purchase.  A few steps down a chic wine bar called Mini Bar was blasting Jamaican music.  The decor was simple and elegant with dark wood cubby holes housing bottles and bottles of wine.  Last but not least, I walked by El Cobre-a restaurant that has been on my list and for good reason.  I nearly stopped in my tracks when I saw the space.  The windows and doors were all wide open making it easy to get a good look.  And what did I see?  A huge statue of Mary, as in Jesus's mother, standing tall in the center of the restaurant demanding your attention.  I was this close to sitting down and ordering a drink based on decor alone, but onward I had to go. 

Two blocks from home I walked past an empty storefront that I had noticed the night before on another walk of mine. The space was acting as a temporary art gallery, and I decided to go in to satisfy my curiosity.  An organization called No Longer Empty takes over empty buildings and installs public art exhibitions.  The current exhibit called About Face was made up of interactive and multi-media pieces such as building blocks made of newspaper, videos projected on various screens, and a drawer with an interesting activity sponsored by Drop Spots.  According to their website, "a dropspot is a kind of alternative mailbox. It’s a hiding place in a public space, where people can leave things for exchange. Anything. It’s a weird and wonderful way to add personal character to the streets that we live in. Stash something fun and see what you get back."  Each drawer had a different task in order to make a gift to go hide.  The two gifts I decided to make were keepsakes and kisses.  Keepsakes asked you to cut a piece of your hair, place it in a plastic bottle, and drop it off in an old school red telephone box on Orchard St.  Kisses asked you to take one of the sticks of red lipstick and draw an outline of lips on a piece of paper, a receipt, a ticket, etc. in your possession, place it in a baggie, and hide it in a window grill above Y Gallery on Orchard St.  

Later on that evening as we walked to a sushi birthday dinner, I placed my kiss in the designated spot.  I wasn't sure if I had the right spot as I didn't see any other hidden gifts and thought this drop spot thing was a fluke.  Further down the street was the next spot.  I slowly opened the red telephone box and got excited.  To my surprise, there were a dozen or so bags with keepsakes in it.  I had completed Drop Spot's mission placing my keepsake bag into the box and shutting the door.  I thought this was the perfect ending to a day of exploration.  Once again, I had been surprised in my own neighborhood steps away from my front door.  This Concrete Jungle never disappoints.

Places of Interest:
Butter Lane,123 E. 7th St. 212-677-2880

The Shape of Lies, 127 E. 7th St. 212-533-5920

Mini Bar, 131 E. 7th St. 212-358-7582

No Longer Empty, 215 E. Houston St.

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