this blog has always been a catalog of visual inspiration and a place for me to post about artists and designers i love, but with a big change coming soon, one that will really alter my visual landscape, i thought i would get some thoughts and memories written down here. with more people using instagram and pinterest lately, this blog actually feels quieter and more personal now. storytelling has never been a skill of mine (unlike jenna who writes about life so beautifully!) so these posts might be boring… but i want to get some details written down before i forget them.

we are moving to california next month! after 16 years in new york (and 18 for josh). we are taking the leap… leaving what we know and love to experience new things and be closer to my family. “life is short” we keep telling ourselves as we panic at the thought of leaving. i grew up in san francisco so this is a return home for me, but i moved here when i was 20 years old so i haven’t lived as an adult anywhere but NYC.

i impulsively left college the summer after my sophomore year and moved to manhattan. the university i attended in oregon was not the right fit for me, and even though i made some great friends i was mostly bored and sad there. my family had a small apartment in a high-rise in murray hill (midtown east, manhattan) used for business, and i pleaded my case to live there temporarily while i “took a semester off to figure out what i wanted to do”. i fell in love with new york immediately.

my first job here was working for a nanny temp agency, babysitting for wealthy families. then i was a salesperson and cashier at canal jeans– a huge, loud “urban” clothing store in soho. that stretch of broadway looked so different in ’97. canal jeans was eventually replaced by bloomingdales in ’03, then came topshop, uniqlo, muji, and H&M. but in the late 90s everyone talked about soho before, when it was all art galleries. josh and i were introduced earlier that summer by a mutual friend and he was living on macdougal and houston, and going to NYU.

in 1998 the internet was still fairly new (crazy) and people mostly found rental apartments in the village voice, the free weekly paper. the new copies came out wednesdays, but i noticed the classifieds posted online late tuesday evenings. i was able to snag our rent-stabilized apartment in the west village (pre-war with a working fireplace!) because i was first to call the broker. i wanted to live in the east village but the rent was so cheap. we loved that apartment and stayed there for 7 years.

we didn’t know it, but we had so much free time in those days. we ate at diners open 24 hours… at yaffa cafe on st. marks, caffe reggioveselkamamoun’s falafel, and john’s pizzeria. our friend nick worked at sacred chow, a vegan place, and he gave us lots of free tofu. there were so many music stores– mondo kim’s, bleecker street records, tower records, rocks in your head, other music, and rebel rebel. i would browse through racks of vintage clothes at starstruck, atomic passion, domsey’s, cheap jack’s, and the flea markets in chelsea. we’d see movies at angelika, or the NYU cantor film center, or a dirty theater in midtown that had showings of older releases for only $2. we saw bands play at arlene’s grocery, lakeside lounge, CBGB’s, tramps, brownies, and coney island high. most of those closed in the last decade as downtown NYC got fancier and wealthier and rents sky-rocketed.

with help from my dad, i got an interview for a “real job” in 1999, for an assistant positon at girbaud, a french denim line with a US office in the empire state building. i was hired, and when their graphic designer quit, i asked to stay late and take on extra work that was unfinished in his absence. they promoted me to junior graphic designer.

ok, i’m going to continue this in another post!

(top photo: josh on east 7th, bottom photo: outside our hudson street apartment)

 

26 thoughts on “

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been following your blog since 2006 (how has it been that long!) and am always inspired by your take on style and day to day life. Its really nice to hear your voice a bit more after so many years. I’ve just moved out to the west coast and am loving the change in perspective and landscape. I look forward to hearing from you as you make your big move!

    • I agree, I too have been a fan of your blog for a while and it’s really lovely to hear your voice and stories.

      Good luck in SF (from a former SF –> Brooklyn –> Pining to move back to SF-girl)!

  2. I love this post. It’s the same period I spent in New York doing all of the things you describe before I moved to the west coast. i’m looking forward to the rest. good luck with your move.

  3. This is so interesting, I can’t wait to hear the rest! Its funny, I grew up and live on the west coast, and would love to make a move to NYC. Maybe we can switch places in the universe!

  4. i love this. i moved to nyc in ’96 so i remember the new york you describe very well. i miss all the great venues for shows back then- tonic, the cooler, brownies – and the abundance of record stores and book stores. it seemed like anyone could open a business back then, and make a go of it, no matter how much of a niche it was. the east village and lower east side were so different then.

    i’ve really enjoyed reading your blog while living in the same city. all the best to you in your move home!

  5. Like Laura, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. I was just telling a friend the other day that you’re still one of my favorite bloggers/people to read as you’ve maintained such an interesting and authentic voice throughout the years. Thank you! I love hearing about your pre-blog years….

  6. such a nice post. coincidentally, i just read “the long goodbye” in the times about goodbye letters to new york… i also read joan didion’s “goodbye to all that” when we left the city. it’s amazing how moving out of nyc feels so similar for so many of us. good luck! what an exciting change.

  7. You ARE a good storyteller. This is your voice! I’m hooked. Write more!

    And what lucky kids to have had you as their babysitter!

    xo
    Liz

  8. So many of my first impressions of Brooklyn have to do with you. This blog and you have been a constant source of inspiration and I am curious to see the ways CA brings new energy. I am happy for you and a little sad also. I hope that we get to meet before you move!

  9. Lena, this is such a lovely post! Now that I’ve made the move west, it’s so fun to remember all these places. You have a wonderful way of storytelling! Like everything else you do, there’s a thoughtful and genuine perspective. Looking forward to reading more New York stories and even more excited about your move!! And I dig Josh’s skating pic! :)

  10. Lena,
    I was so glad to meet you again at the Brooklyn Flea. This was a beautiful post- photos & text.. I’ve also been following your blog for years now and it has been so enriching to be inspired by your photos and ideas – it feels like an old (albeit virtual) friend is moving away- so it’s a little bittersweet. But I agree with your sentiment- life is short- and it races by, so why not just go for the next adventure? California is such a beautiful, special place, and a great place to go home to. I loved reading a little more of your early-nyc story tonight – thanks so much for sharing it!

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  12. Lena, wherever you go and whatever you do, you will bring joy to people by continuing to share your creativity and unique vision. In NYC, you led the life that others have only dreamt about… Please continue to share as you experience new things and build a new life on the west coast.

    Xo,
    Susan

  13. I’ve followed your blog for years but don’t think I’ve ever left a comment here. Just wanted you to know how much I enjoy looking at your photos, following your links, and finding out more about you. I lived in NYC for 13 years (I arrived there right about the time that you did) and ended up in Portland, Oregon several years ago when my husband and I realized that life is too shor. I’m interested to hear (see) about your move and loved recalling my old stomping grounds in New York thanks to your recent posts. Best of luck to you and your family as you make this change.

  14. What I love most about your blog is your storytelling voice, whether in images or words. Best to you and your family as you move!

  15. Hi Lena

    This is so great and brings back memories of going to NY for the first time in 1997. I remember my friend and I had heard that cool stuff was happening in Brooklyn, so we got in a cab, went over there and couldn’t see a visible sign of anything – came back empty handed!

    But I remember all the little shops in lower manhattan – and walking for miles to find Daryl K’s shop. That pre-glossy NY will always be the one I remember and you describe it so well.

    I love how you’re sharing this! Good luck with your move!

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  18. Could it be, you are really moving to Cali???!
    I’ve been following your blog for over 5 years now, silently being inspired by your photos, your work. I love this story of yours, how the magic ( I know, it’s even too hippie for me to say!) of your career started with another small business.
    I’m on my way to following my dream just as you did.
    All the best in CA. Hoping to maybe visit your shop and meet you someday!
    PS. I’m so glad you came out with a book, buying it!!!

  19. Lena, I’ve really enjoyed seeing New York through your eyes these many years, and I look forward to seeing the Bay Area in the times to come. It must be bittersweet to leave the place where you became an adult. We moved from NY to the Bay Area some years ago, and though I miss being in such an exciting place, I’ve also been so happy to raise my kids here and be closer to family. Best wishes for your new adventures!

  20. I love this post! I met my now husband in 1996 when I spent a semester in NYC and he was going to NYU. I remember soho in those days. I worked for a summer at Pearl Paint and would stop at canal jeans on my way to meet my boyfriend in Washington Square Park. We used to go to Coney Island high all the time! Good times!

  21. hi Lena. I worked at Canal Jeans in 1998 upstairs in the Calvin Klein department .I have so many memories .downstairs was where the vintage department was. And every weekend there was a dj spinning all types of music.It was like a club.People would hang out in front of the store sit in front of the windows.The summers were so cool -chilled out.I would help out the cashiers sometimes at Christmas time .There were so many galleries in soho in those times.Thanks for writing this blog finally I can connect with The Canal jean peoples.

    • wow, we were probably working there at the same time. was the CK dept on the mezzanine? when i start thinking about those days i can really get transported back. i started out working in the leather coat dept– weird. and then moved to vintage, and then cashier. but i was terrible at being a cashier. the christmas music drove me crazy… played the same songs on a loop. did you know Nesto or Frank?