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Locked Doors & Love

I don’t know much about love. Most of what I know stems from what I dream up from books and movies, and what I see around me – couples that mindlessly wander down Waverly Place, simultaneously lost in lust and yet profoundly aware of each other’s presence.

I wasn’t planning on writing about Valentine’s Day at all. What does a single guy in the city have to say about love? But it seems that my eyes – (and perhaps my heart, too) – were both a bit more open than usual. The occasion inspired me to think about the boldest four-lettered word of the bunch.

LOVE.

What a tricky thing to grasp. You would think Valentine’s Day, an occasion about extravagant displays of affection, would shed some light to help us understand more clearly what love is all about. Or perhaps the holiday just complicates our understanding even more.

Locked Doors & Love

In the endless sea of kisses and locked arms I witnessed around me on that day, I saw just as many, (if not more), single people. To us, we parties of one that went about our day solo, a bouquet of flowers wasn’t a gift to give or receive but just a pretty sight. Champagne and chocolates were just sweet indulgences rather than a dessert that follows a candlelit dinner. And February 14th was just another brisk Wednesday in the Village.

As I’ve had a few days to reflect on this truth, I find myself in a state of foolish bewilderment. You’d think that in such a big city, in such a vast world, everyone would have an easier time finding love and we’d all live happily (hopefully) ever after.

I’d like to imagine we’re all single until we aren’t – until you meet the person who turns on the lights in the glass butterfly conservatory of your soul and opens its doors. That special someone who commands the stars to align above you for the perfect sky, who makes you feel as though a stroll is a dance and a bouquet is a forest.

So, I must ask, why so many single people? Where are all of our plus one’s hiding?

Perhaps real life isn’t as simple as the storybooks and love isn’t a pop song. Maybe we’re picky in our pursuits of companionship, or our skin is thicker than Cupid’s arrow is sharp. Whatever the reason, we’re always assured that “the one” is out there waiting for us somewhere. We’re told that whenever one door closes, another door opens, and whatever is meant to be will happen on its own – in love and in life. So we’re told.

Whichever way we decide to interpret this narrative, I wonder, however, whether the line between hopeless and passive romantic has become blurred. I’m starting to think I disagree with what we’ve been told.

As a single man, I’ve always been more conscious of the presence of couples around me. Yet, this Valentine’s Day, for some reason my attention was drawn to the other team in the game.

For we singles, love may very well be waiting for us somewhere in the world. I’d like to think everyone’s knights in shining armor are on their way. There’s something refreshing about being a hopeless romantic and believing in love wholeheartedly. But maybe we can be brave, active romantics too – agents of our own exploration for romance. What’s the point of waiting around for love when we can set out to find it instead?

I’m not suggesting we divert from the paths of our daily lives or aimlessly travel around the world to find romance à la Eat, Pray, Love. Perhaps we could simply be more aware of our surroundings, ourselves, and each other. As I passed by bars and looked around me on the street, what I saw around me on Valentine’s Day made me wonder – maybe if we took our eyes off our screens constantly and our lips off our wine glasses, we’d feel more inclined to look around and speak to one another.

I wish I could make a profound statement about love or share a revelation I experienced on Valentine’s Day. But for now, I’ll leave you with a question:

What’s an open door good for if we don’t walk through it? How do we even know a closed door is locked unless we try to turn its knob? Perhaps a closed door is just as powerful as an open one if we take the initiative to go up to it and give it a push or simply knock. Who knows who might be standing on the other side.

Whether single or taken, Valentine’s Day can inspire us to put ourselves out there, to be more present and open hearted, every day of the year. Maybe the holiday itself isn’t just about celebrating love, but also about getting up and setting out to find it. It has to be out there.

I guess I’m a hopeless romantic after all.

XOXO,

Daniel

 

 

 

Travel

Sunsets, and 2018

December 31, 2017

Beach

There’s something liberating about stopping to watch a sunset. Something refreshing about planting your feet in the wet sand, and forgetting about the rest of the world that exists beyond the horizon line. Embracing feeling little and surrendering yourself to that grand painting of light in the sky, and watching it unravel the way it chooses to before your eyes. One might even call that brave.

I would.

As I witnessed one of the final sunsets of the year last week in Maui, I stood there in awe – my eyes wide and my heart full – curious to see how the sun would decide to make its exit that day. I was stunned by the beauty in front of me, but even more so, by how poignantly something as simple as a sunset bears the perfect opportunity for reflection, if you let it. Pink clouds turned to orange flames and what was once a canvas of blue became covered in gold brush strokes. I stared at the sun, and so many hints and traces of 2017 stared back at me.

The past year was full of rewarding triumphs and joyous celebrations, fresh faces and unexpected romance, growth, progress, failed attempts at long bred aspirations and new dreams discovered, endless laughter, and losses that took pieces of my heart along with them. As I looked up, I looked back – and somehow, I saw it all again in front of me.

Maybe I’m crazy for seeking clarity about life by gazing at the sky. Maybe I was just picturing things. Maybe I was just imagining New York’s skyline floating in the blue – my sweet escape for the past five years. Maybe the bottle of champagne my friends and I popped on the first night in my new apartment didn’t truly take shape in a Hawaiian cloud. Maybe I was mistaken when I saw my future soul mate’s eyes in the sun. Maybe my great grandmother’s face that I said goodbye to this past year didn’t actually emerge above the sea, and my mind – and my heart – played tricks on me.

Or, maybe life is more like a sunset than we might expect. Maybe we are too.

Sunset

The more I think about it, the more I realize how 2017 shattered me a bit. But if it weren’t for the breaks in the clouds during a sunset, the sun wouldn’t beam through on its way down. In the same way, perhaps the parts of our hearts that chip and break away over time don’t necessarily leave holes or gaps, but rather spaces, for new light and life to pass through. I’d like to hope they do.

I think the only thing more beautiful than what you see in a sunset, is what you don’t see – the parts of the sunset that are not yet visible in the sky, that we can only imagine. It seems there’s even a sense of mystery that comes about when watching a sunset – a pleasant, freeing feeling of not knowing what colors, textures, tones, and shapes are going to appear next. Perhaps life itself can be as beautiful as a sunset if we let it be, if we don’t control it and just watch with awe as it unfolds.

As the sun sets on 2017 one last time, my wish is that we enter the new year feeling as open, reflective, inspired, little, humble, mindful, mindless, and even brave as we do when we watch a sunset reveal itself. And as we step into 2018 and leave the last remnants of 2017 in the dusk, I hope each day is filled with as much wonder and excitement as the first time we stepped onto the beach, squeezed the sand between our toes, and felt the water brush over our feet – and with as much presence, value and appreciation that we’d feel as if today is our last walk along the shore.

Because life is full of sunsets – but no matter how the sun decides to leave us each night, no matter what emerges in the sky before us, and no matter how life proceeds, by the end of it, we’ll all be basking in moonlight.

Happy New Year,

Love,

Daniel

Maui

 

Lifestyle

The Circus: Halloween 2017

There’s something delightfully odd about Halloween; no one goes as themselves, and yet everyone seems to feel right at home in their own skin. It’s almost as if the personas we adopt have lived within us all along, and we just bring them to surface for the night.

Whether we dress up or dress down, snag a treat or play some tricks, Halloween gives us a reason to distance ourselves from our ordinary identities, and to celebrate that gap in between. And in that gap, in the space between our regular selves and the façades we take on, we become artists, craftsmen, and visionaries. Our skin becomes our canvas, and we have the ability to create whoever or whatever it is we imagine ourselves to be.

Clown

This past weekend, my friends and I did just that. We traded in our regular personalities for some more intricate masks. Fangs in, claws out, blood painted and whips in hand – the moon was our spotlight and we went to the circus. Well, Brooklyn, that is.

Just for a night, ten twenty-something-year-olds who call each other friends became ringleaders, mimes, clowns, tigers, acrobats, and harlequins. We ventured from the West Village over the bridge to Williamsburg and stepped into a world where freaky was the fashion and normal was a sin.

House music flooded the air, cages of fire breathers swung above us, strobe lights pierced through the dark, and we creatures of the night claimed the dance floor as our own. I walked through House of Yes and explored each of its rooms. Observing the rest of the people at the club, I was amazed at the transformations I saw around me. But it wasn’t until I looked into the distorted funhouse mirror there that I almost didn’t recognize myself. There I was: a clown in a black vest under a round top hat. A red teardrop streamed down my cheek and grey contact lenses pierced through my eyes. The tip of my nose adorned burgundy, and the rest of my face painted every other shade of white I didn’t know existed.

Strangely enough, not recognizing myself instantly in the mirror was as jarring as it was exciting. I felt as if I had come face to face with someone I had never met before, but who looked oddly familiar. My costume even disguised me from myself for a moment, and that mystery was liberating. Perhaps that’s what came over everyone so infectiously on the dance floor – not just the music, but the invisible cloak of anonymity that hung over us all. No one looked like themselves, and perhaps that’s what made us all feel so free. The House became a sanctuary, dance our religion, and disguise our equalizer.

It was refreshing existing in a space where we were all covered in paint and feathers and glitter – and skin color, ethnicity, and race all faded away, even for just a few hours.

Finally, the clock struck four, the magic of our masks began to wear off, and our feet got tired of dancing. We made our way back into the city and bid farewell to the circus.

When I got back to my apartment and looked in the mirror, I could see much more clearly in the light this time – finally acquainted with the clown gazing back at me. I washed off my makeup, pulled out my contact lenses, took off my hat – and there I was, my regular self. As much as I enjoyed the alternate reality we discovered at House of Yes, I found comfort in being myself again as the sun began to rise.

Now that I look back, I think what made our night so magical was the fact that it was temporary, and that we knew we’d make it back into our own skin once the show ended and the curtains closed. Perhaps we escaped so freely into the circus because we knew we only had a few hours to be in it. After all, we couldn’t be lions, clowns, and ringleaders forever. But maybe that’s the true beauty of Halloween – that it forces us to find enough escape and liberation from the real world in just one night, to make us feel secure and comfortable enough in our skin again thereafter – until next year anyway, when the circus comes to town once again.

The Circus

Fashion & Style

Catwalks & Cages: NY Fashion Week

I take photos of everything: my day-to-day’s and special occasions, the mundane and the extraordinary, moments when I’m grounded and happy, and times when I want to fly away. All of it. Photography has always been a channel through which I’ve been able to escape the constraints of reality, to access a creative realm in which I can feel a bit freer.

This week in particular has made me feel trapped within my tasks and weighed down by my responsibilities. I’ve wanted nothing more than to break free from the invisible chain that ties me to my desk, dive back in time into summer, and swim away. So, in the spirit of escape and nostalgia, (and a manic case of the Mondays), I dug back into the archives to see what imagery I had locked away in my laptop to plunge into.

Monse

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

Sifting through my albums, I made my way through hundreds of photos: from snapshots of my morning latte art, to glimpses of my lunchtime strolls in Midtown, selfies with friends on a night out, to portraits of my feet planted by beds of roses in the West Village. And of course, my gallery from New York Fashion Week – a spectacle unlike anything I had experienced before. A mere few days that made me fall in love with New York City, spring, summer, and, well, clothing, all over again. (Who knew sequins and stilettos could characterize the seasons more perfectly than the cycle of nature itself?)

Monse, J. Mendell, Marchesa, Alice and Olivia, Oscar De La Renta, and my favorite, Philipp Plein. You could say I attended a diverse mix of shows – ranging from ultra-feminine pastel gowns to embroidered whips and chains transformed into high fashion manifestos. I guess the world of fashion has no bounds.

As I looked through my library, reliving my peeks backstage and my moments of awe beside the runway, I discovered a theme that I didn’t notice in person. The ideals of discord, cacophony, and inconsistency, a lack of fluidity, and the motif of “hard versus soft” seamlessly merged to tell an unexpected narrative – a beautiful love story that pieced together before my eyes, from a new perspective in the screen in front of me.

Monse

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

Monse

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

Monse staged its runway on a basketball court, sent out jersey-inspired dresses made out of sparkling sequins and crystals, and paired athletic gear with couture. The opposing forces of high-fashion and sportswear bounced off of one another and created a thread of innovative creations.

Marchesa

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

Marchesa

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

Marchesa brought a fairytale to life in the most un-fairytale-like setting. Opulent gowns, rich pastels, dancing chiffon, and lush florals bloomed beautifully in an entirely black, industrial warehouse that was converted into a runway. (Talk about opposites attracting, and so stunningly.)

Oscar De La Renta constructed paint splatter out of embroidered beads on blazers that kissed the ground. All the colors of the rainbow and all its shades between wove together into easy cocktail silhouettes, short shorts, fitted t-shirts, baggy button-downs, and dramatic gowns that could shimmer from a world away.

Oscar De La Renta

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

Bella Hadid

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

De La Renta’s palette was as chaotic as it was cohesive – but oddly enough, that lack of cohesion brought a fluidity to the collection. Most of its pieces had nothing to do with one another, and that’s what strung them all together. Their striking differences were a harmonizing force, translating such dissonance into a realm of towering high fashion. Lastly, before Bella Hadid and her army of mannequins came to life with the catwalk, they descended down a shining metallic escalator that led to the runway.

Who knew such a sterile, modern construct could serve as the perfect backdrop for such an organic, raw, vibrant, warm collection of clothes?

Oscar De La Renta

And of course, our master of ceremonies: Philipp Plein dreamed up a world where chains, whips, chokers, skulls, rips, bare skin, distressed denim, and quilted leather are graceful and romantic – a collection as electrifying and shocking as it was passionate and full of life. But the most powerful moment of all were his cages. In classic Plein fashion, our dare devil mastermind sent a handful of models down the runway with rigid black cages fitted around their bodies – all placed over soft flowing gowns from their necks to their knees. By audaciously placing such a harsh object over smooth, liquid-like dresses, Plein married two opposing elements, and with such harmony. He wrote a love story that his models brought to life as they infused romantic fluidity into a symbol of unwavering rigidity. They made those cages move and I was in awe.

Philipp Plein

Image courtesy of Vogue.com

Ironically enough, these images spoke to the reason I decided to explore my photos in the first place – to escape those moments that make me feel like I am being caged – whether that cage is a challenging Monday, day-to-day tasks at work, or responsibilities that come with being an adult that can make us all feel confined and limited. But more importantly, they made me see my limitations through a refreshed lens and approach the discord in my day from a different headspace.

Just as Adriana Lima assertively and unapologetically strutted down that Plein runway in a flowing gown, moving the cage strapped around her body, we too can find some flexibility in the cages of our daily lives and seek strength and beauty through their holes. I always thought we must overcome life’s limitations, but as it seems, maybe the smarter move is to reshape them.

Philipp Plein

Image courtesy of Vogue.com

Of course, this discussion is figurative, but it stems from a place of authentic truth; if we apply Plein’s show to the contexts of our lives, we discover that the struggles we face don’t have to restrain or define us. Life doesn’t have to be so linear. Our daily cages – the moments of dreary responsibility and discomfort we experience – can serve as opportunities for innovation, inspiration, liberation, and self-discovery. Perhaps we can even reinterpret those things that make us feel restricted and allow them to empower us – to be even more passionate and confident in our actions and our perspectives.

As it seems, therefore, New York Fashion Week was more than just a parade of elegant clothing, glamorous shows, mile-long runways, and supermodels. In retrospect, the week was a call to action to embrace the dissonance in the palettes of our lives, to seek cohesiveness within the chaos, to unveil the harmony that lies within contrast, to make bold choices, and to tap into that fiery, confident place within us to bend the cages around us.

Whether we’re walking in a fashion show, watching one by the runway, or reliving one behind our desks at work, we all can find some flexibility in life’s restrictions. Perhaps when we embrace those limitations and seek a potential for growth and beauty within them, that is when we see the most clearly, thrive the most triumphantly, and allow the bent traces of our cages to become our greatest accessory.

Oscar De La Renta

Photographed by Daniel Gabbay

Lifestyle

Liquor & Love

This past weekend, we New Yorkers got our first taste of summer. As temperatures rose, so did we – perched on a rooftop as we soaked in the sunlight. As I’d look around, couples surrounded me in every direction, as if the warm weather brought the city’s lovers out of hiding – making toasts, clinking glasses, and sharing sips. On every sleeve hung a heart, and in each hand a cocktail.

I think what we drink says a lot about who we are. Straight up, stirred, shaken, dirty, neat, with a twist… It’s almost as if these cocktail traits describe the people drinking them – their tastes and their personalities alike. The more I think about this correlation, our poisons of choice say a lot about our hearts too. Perhaps how we drink speaks to how we feel – and maybe liquor and love have more in common than we thought.

When we drink and when we love, we can feel the same things: we can feel buzzed and excited. Adventurous and more fearless than we might normally, as if our inhibitions have melted away like the ice cubes in our cocktails on a warm summer’s night. Whether a glass of wine or a kiss on the lips, a shot of Patron or a quick glance that’s met from across the room, both drinking and being in love can make us feel like we’re losing our minds and going weak in the knees – like the room is spinning and we need to sit down to let our hearts and minds catch up to one another.

But too much of either liquor or love can leave us lightheaded, weak, and nauseous too – so miserable that we want to abandon our sun-kissed rooftops and stay in bed all day, questioning why we ever opened the bottle – or our hearts – in the first place. Whether we’re left in a high or a low or somewhere in between, both acts can lead us to reveal desires, thoughts, questions, truths, and confessions within us that we may not have expected to surface. Both drinking and exposing our hearts might force us to loosen our grasp on things, and both can leave us vulnerable. Whether that vulnerability results in reward or regret, discovery or disappointment, celebration or sorrow, who’s to predict what awaits us on the other side of that kiss or cocktail.

Liquor & Love

So I wonder – are the drinks and the memories that come with them worth the hangover that might follow? Is the experience of love worth the potential heartbreak that could come later?

From a literal perspective, alcohol and affection don’t have any direct correlation to each other at all. But sometimes, when I try to understand something as complicated as love, it helps to compare a topic so intricate and abstract to something tangible. Perhaps we’ll never be able to comprehend the full depth and capacity of love. Perhaps this conversation itself isn’t about alcohol or affection in the grand scheme of things at all, but rather knowing that life comes with risks – whether it be a hangover or a heartbreak.

When it comes down to it, there are potential dangers and consequences in everything we do. But if we went through life responsibly enough to never encounter a broken heart – or glass – every now and again, we’d live too scared and closed off to feel that perfect buzz or romance.

Of course, this conversation isn’t a call to action to throw all caution to a summer night’s wind, but to find enough balance and confidence to go with the breeze, and trust it’ll take us somewhere worth going. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being grounded – but maybe we have to kick up our heels and catch some air every now and again to open ourselves up to life’s risks – and even welcome them, just as I’m sure New York’s resident rooftop lovers did at one point or another.

As I reflect on my weekend observations, I don’t know what life has in store for us. I hope we all end up in love, toasting to the chances we took in pursuit of affection. Our hearts may burn in the same way our throats do when we throw back a shot or two – but perhaps we must endure those temporary moments of discomfort to find those things that make us happy later on – the ones that make us smile and dance and grow and feel, more intensely than we knew we could.

Indeed, a drink can lead to a hangover, and being vulnerable can result in heartbreak. But life is too short to live with fear. So let’s toast bravely and love fiercely. Endure the risks we take – and embrace them – and maybe we’ll end up drunk in love on a rooftop somewhere.

Lifestyle

Up In The Air – A Birthday Reflection

A couple of months ago, I planned a trip home to LA for my birthday. Before hitting “Purchase” on the red-eye flight I selected, I checked my itinerary and saw that my flight takes off on April 12th and lands in LA a day later on April 13th – my birthday. At that moment, the JetBlue confirmation page on my laptop made me realize that I’d be in flight, up in the air, as midnight rolls around and I turn a year older.

I didn’t think much of my flight’s timing when I booked it. “Just like any other trip,” I thought. But now, as I sit on this plane and look out my window to the once big city that’s now a sea of glistening specks, I reflect on this past year and realize the magical irony around my red-eye:

A year ago, about to turn another year older – (and hopefully wiser), I was unsure of the direction in which my life was headed. I was about to graduate college, look for a job, and continue on this so-called adventure that is adulthood. I didn’t have the strongest grasp on life; I had my doubts and truly felt like everything was up in the air.

Up In The Air

Well, exactly a year later, as I fly deeper into my twenties, it seems I’ve ended up in the same place I was a year ago – up in the air, and quite literally. But this time, as I glide through clouds and weave through stars, buckled up in my window seat, I have a stronger sense of understanding, clarity, and self. It turns out that my initial feelings of uncertainty, curiosity, and even anxiety as to where life would take me post graduation, have evolved into emotions of pride, accomplishment, and even disbelief that I found my wings mid air.

In the last year, I graduated college and landed my first real job. I moved into a new apartment (and learned that you never have enough boxes or tape.) I found the humility to admit when I’m wrong, and the courage to affirm when I’m right. I cooked more (and burned more food than ever before). I met amazing new people that turned from strangers into friends, and I discovered some qualities about myself that were waiting to emerge.

Ironically enough, if I hadn’t experienced those moments of hesitation and ambiguity, when everything was up in the air, my feet would have never reached the ground to land where I am now. With that, I wonder: maybe being “up in the air” isn’t such a bad thing – maybe this stigma that lies around the phrase is misleading, (and maybe my most profound epiphanies come to me at 36,000 feet above ground).

They say life is a journey – but I have to disagree. As I fly home to LA and look forward to a new year, I realize that life is more like a series of flights – full of arrivals, departures, delays, and even turbulence. But if we embrace the bumps and enjoy the trip, perhaps we can see things from a new, refreshed perspective as we look down below. And when we feel like we’re helplessly floating up in the air with no solid ground below, it’s likely we’re really just on our way to our next destination.

Thank you all for partaking in my series of flights, and for being the best part of my itinerary, wherever life’s travels may lead me.

Yours, Always,

Daniel

 

 

 

Lifestyle

Dear Future Tenant

Dear Future Tenant

Dear Future Tenant,

After two amazing years, my time living in 5B is up. The time has finally come for me to leave Horatio Street, say goodbye to this version of a house that became a home, and move on to what’s next. I’ve boxed my belongings and packed up my memories along with me, to leave you with a fresh space – a space as empty of clutter as it is full with promise. As I give you the key to make this place your own, for however long you decide to stay, I have just a few thoughts to share as I close the door behind me, one last time:

Apartment 5B is a special place – a few hundred square feet of charm, comfort, delight, frustration, celebration, hassle, surprise, and discovery, all wrapped up together. As confusing as that description sounds, I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean soon enough.

For starters, 5B looks new and young with its freshly painted walls, marble counter tops, and wooden finishes, but it was built decades ago. Its spirit and soul are rooted in the past, infusing the space with nostalgic charm and timeworn comfort, if you look through its cracks. And its cracks are just the beginning:

5B

There’s a small scrape on the wall next to the bedroom and a little hole in the wall in the kitchen. In the top right corner of the rug lives a slight stain, and the towel hook in the bathroom loosens if you give it a generous tug. If your landlord were to read this letter, I’d be probably be in big trouble, and I apologize for the “damages” – but the reason I’m sharing these flaws with you is to try and express all that 5B was for me:

I made that scrape on the wall by my bedroom when I ripped off a “Happy Birthday!” banner, peeling off some white paint right along with it. A few friends and I threw our best friend Alex a surprise party for her 24th birthday and decorated the apartment with streamers, confetti, and party hats scattered everywhere. She was so surprised that I’d say the scrape was worth it.

The hole in the wall came from the chalkboard that my dad and I nailed and hammered in during my first week in 5B. I was so excited about the chalkboard at the time that I didn’t even consider the exposed space it would leave when I’d have to remove it one day. But now that I think about it, the hole in the wall where my chalkboard once hung kind of filled a void that I used to feel within myself. I moved into this apartment alone, but the chalkboard provided all who visited a surface on which they could scribble and draw and laugh and express themselves, to write funny messages, and make me feel a little less alone as a result.

The stain on the rug is from a red wine spill that I tried to clean and scrub out – unsuccessfully, as though it seems. (Just put a little plant over it and you won’t even notice it’s there). I got my first job out of college that day and had my close group of friends over to celebrate. We ordered pizza from Rubirosa and popped open some Cabernet. A glass led to a bottle, and soon enough, we were singing and dancing around the apartment and, well, had a little accident.

The loose towel hook hanging out from the wall in the bathroom is just old. Maybe I hung too many towels on it at once and misjudged its sturdiness. Who knows.

I’m sorry for leaving 5B with some wear and tear, but the reckless optimist in me would like to think that I left the apartment more worn in than worn out for you – with each scratch and scrape making the space more personable, and even human.

I hope the marks I’ve made here inspire you to leave your own.

Horatio Street

Flaws aside – 5B is an extraordinary place to stay, but beyond that, to live, in every essence of the word. The apartment gave me a space to call my own, to reflect, rejoice, question, flourish, exhale, dream, take chances, and comprehend all that was going on at the time.

When I moved in, my life was in limbo. I was going through some pretty big changes, and I didn’t know what to expect out of my new home. But with every walk up and down those five flights of stairs that led to my apartment – (yes, five flights, get ready) – I felt as though I was making strides towards some sort of progress and further understanding about the person I am and the life I’ve chosen to live. 5B helped me do that; let it do the same for you. Cherish the safe haven that it is, and allow yourself to be whoever it is you want to be in there and beyond its doorstep.

I hope you take the moments to kick your feet up on the stools in front of the couch, graze the exposed brick wall with your fingers, open the window and gaze out to the Freedom Tower beaming proudly in the distance, pull out the glass vase in the cupboard above the stove and fill it with flowers, and look into the mirror mounted on the wall, and see yourself every so often. Sometimes it’s easy to lose ourselves in this city.

One thing I will say though, is that you’ll seldom feel lost on Horatio Street. Whenever I’d enter or leave the building, the cobblestone street and the trees would remind me that I have a place to call my own and a place where I belong – in this crazy city, and in this crazy life.

West 12th Street

Now that I’m writing this letter to you, I realize how much I love that place, and how much I’m going to miss it. It’s difficult for me to let go of somewhere that represents such a big chapter of my life – but that chapter has ended, and it’s time for me to turn the page anew.

So, dear future tenant, take care of 5B for me. Enjoy it, embrace it, give it life again, make your own marks, and thank it – for the space and the home it will provide you with, to write your next chapter.

With that, I wish you all the best.

Welcome home…

 

Sincerely,

Daniel

 

 

 

Lifestyle

Brick Hearts

Whenever I spend time wandering the city during Valentine’s Day, I always see groups and groups of people taking pictures together and meeting at one specific spot in Nolita – in front of a small black brick wall painted with small red hearts all over its surface. For friends, families, and lovers all alike, the wall sparks a sense of excitement and romantic charm on this day of the year – serving as a reflective backdrop of the love they’re celebrating.

Yet, with all the attention we give the wall on this day, it almost seems as though the wall is less significant during the rest of the year, when we aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day. So, while my favorite little wall in the city always makes me smile, it also makes me wonder:

Why is it that we only dedicate this one holiday to celebrate love, when Hallmark and Godiva tell us to? What about the rest of the year?

On Valentine’s Day, we become so used to associating the holiday with dark chocolate, chilled champagne, strawberries, red roses, perfectly shaped hearts we find in greeting cards – and the list goes on. But if we take a step forward and look at the wall more closely, perhaps our sugary perceptions of the holiday become merely surface-level.

Street Art & Love

The red hearts on the wall are of different sizes, face multiple directions – some upright and some upside down, and have cracks in them from the bricks on which they’re painted. To me, these hearts are what honestly represent the meaning behind Valentine’s Day – much more so than the bouquets and confections we become so attached to on this one day each year.

As the wall vividly conveys, love can make us feel big, love can make us feel small, love can seem twisted and turned and make us feel as if our worlds have been turned upside down, love can make us float on air, and sometimes, love can even cause our own hearts to crack a bit – just like the hearts painted on these bricks.

Sometimes, we seem to forget these truths as we focus on the sweet stuff, but perhaps these are the true qualities we should embrace on Valentine’s Day – the traits and textures of love that make us feel and think and reflect, the ones that make us grow and bring us closer together and make us stronger, that make us human and make us love harder and more honestly than we ever knew we could.

As we reflect upon the brick wall on Mott Street and the truths about love it represents, let’s celebrate the authentic beauty of Valentine’s Day. Let’s embrace all its beautiful cracks and imperfections, and break down our own walls – to soak in the love that surrounds us in its most raw and honest form, today and always.

Love,

Daniel

 

 

Current Events

Human

The World Is Proud Of U 4 Being Here

“Stronger Together”

“Unite Against Hate”

“We Shall Overcome”

“Fight Like A Girl”

“Never Give Up”

“The World is Proud of U 4 Being Here”

These were just a few of the slogans I saw within the vibrant sea of posters and flags at the Women’s March in New York this past weekend.

Initially, as excited and inspired as I was to join the march, I questioned the impact of my presence there and wondered how one individual could affect such a huge, global movement. But a little voice inside my head compelled me to attend – so I did. Just as my friends and I passed the barricades and joined the march down Fifth Avenue, my self-doubt evaporated into the crowd and was instantly replaced with a contagious sense of faith, passion, strength, courage, hope, power, and most of all, pride – in my voice, in my rights, and the capacity of our global community to spark change.

Pride Flag

Although the event was dedicated to the women of our country and our world, I looked around and saw women, men, and children of different ages. I saw a little girl on her father’s shoulders singing and clapping, and a women inching forward, with her cane in one hand, and her handmade sign in the other. I saw people of different colors and ethnicities embracing one another. I saw people of different genders and sexual orientations holding hands. I saw people of different sizes and shapes mixed in with the rest. And I saw people holding up banners and waving around flags that brightly stood for different causes that affect not just women, but the rest of humanity, deeply.

Even though we were all defending our rights and fighting against a voice that thrives off of divisiveness and oppressiveness, what was titled a Women’s March felt more like a parade for all – a joyful celebration of our will to live vibrantly and march boldly in pursuit of progress, even though we’ve been commanded to stay seated.

In those brief historic moments that I was privileged enough to share in, our differences became irrelevant. Regardless of where we come from, what we do for a living, where we live, or who we love, everyone came together as individuals and formed a beautifully eclectic mosaic, together:

Women's March

If you looked closely, each member of the march differed from one another, representing their own unique essence and identity. But if you took a step back and viewed the march from afar, you’d see that we all created a grander image together – a vibrant mixture of colors, textures, and shapes crafted together to vividly illustrate ideals of equality, respect, open-mindedness, and growth. Interestingly enough, our differences served as the equalizing force that united us all – as one movement, one voice, one force, and one race.

Finally, we exited the crowd and left the group as we reached 55th Street – the street that marked the end of the march, and the border that lied between the sea of demonstrators and Trump Tower – our president’s skyscraper that stood before us, right across the way. But as I walked away and took my piece of our colorful mosaic with me, I knew that the impact of our march continued well past 55th Street: its power spanned around the globe, shook minds, touched hearts, and soared high above the roof of that glaring grey building, shattering the sky that our president has merely scraped.

Human Together

As the thrill of that historic event becomes a vivid memory, I will always feel grateful for this experience, over the next four years and always – for the opportunity we had to speak up, to stand for my rights and for those of my friends, to absorb the dynamic spirit of this resilient city, to make history, and to say no when we were told to stay down.

The day after the march, I passed by a construction sight in the West Village and saw a poster that read, “Together, let’s be more human,” – and suddenly, the march took on a whole new significance.

Although the reason behind the event was fueled by the outcome of the election and the direction in which our president has pursued thus far, the march seemed to send a message that translates to any situation and context of life, on a grander level:

In many ways, we are all strikingly different. But at our cores, underneath it all and above everything else,

we are all,

quite simply,

stunningly,

and equally

human.

Art & Culture

Recycled Maps and Bold Brush Strokes – A New Year’s Resolution

Chelsea-Market-exterior 2

Every day, no matter where I am, I strive to embody the essence of New York and emulate the traits that represent the city’s culture – qualities such as confidence, fearlessness, vivacity, distinctiveness, drive, open-mindedness, and growth.

During one of my recent wanderings around the Meatpacking District, I stumbled into Chelsea Market – a charming bazaar of gadgets and gismos galore, brimming with food, art, jewelry, clothing, candles, and every other charm or trinket you can imagine. I made my way towards the back corner of the room and came across a stand that displayed dozens of colorful paintings of New York City’s scenery, architecture, and people. I walked up to the booth for a closer look. Grazing my fingers over the different works of art, I noticed creases and folds running throughout each piece of paper-canvas, as if they all had been previously folded. “How odd,” I thought.

Recycling Maps of New York

The salesman noticed the perplexed look on my face and pointed above him to a banner that read, “Recycling Maps of New York.” He continued to explain that the vivid images hanging around him were handmade silkscreen posters that artist Kevin Marcell created by painting over recycled New York subway maps. I looked even closer; faded grids and maps of the city peaked through the artist’s bold brush strokes and prints. Ironically enough, the city’s timeworn subway maps – a visual representation of New York that has remained fixed and stagnant in time – served as the backdrop for Marcell’s fluid, refreshed interpretation of the beautiful, Big Apple.

In all their imaginative, vibrant charm, Marcel’s pieces reminded me of how much I love New York – a rhythmic island beaming with urban life, daring wonder, and star-lit romance that blooms on cobblestone.

Yet, his subway maps also brought to light the reality that New York runs on a firm geographical grid – both on street level and underground. Take away the shimmering skyscrapers and look past the quaint brownstones; at its bare core, the city is fixed in its paths and rigid in structure – a quality about New York I don’t wish to embody at all.

As we reflect on 2016 and look forward to the new year, perhaps we should take note from Marcel’s recycled masterpieces to assess our own intentions for the coming year:

Recycling Maps of New York

Regardless of who or where we are, we all have hopes, aspirations, and visions of what we think our futures should look like. Short-term ambitions and long-term dreams alike, it seems we often rely on fixed routes and directions in our minds that we think we must follow to succeed. There has always been some sort of “map” printed in my head that I’ve thought I must abide by to progress in life. I’ve become so comfortable within its framework that I’ve never really thought about what might lie beyond its boundaries. What would happen if I stray? Marcell’s unique reinterpretation has fed that curiosity – inspiring me to wander and explore the possibilities that exist beyond the map in my mind, to discover what else life has to offer.

From 2017 and on, let’s strive to paint a new, evolving map – one with curved lines that bend and change and shift directions, that we can freely paint over again and again based on life’s circumstances, with bright colors that mix together to make new ones, and shapes that can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways.

In this new year, rather than relying on the rigid paths ingrained in our minds that we feel compelled to follow for guidance, let’s trust our heart’s compass to lead the way – wherever it may take us. In doing so – in living life freely in the coming year, one brush stroke at a time – I’m curious to see how our futures take shape as we paint on the canvas that is 2017, over the lines and creases of our pasts.

Nevertheless, as Marcel’s art portrays, the truth is that life never grants us a completely fresh start or a wholly clean surface to paint on. Life’s canvases inevitably bear the marks and traces of the maps we previously drew – and that’s a beautiful thing. If we embrace this reality, we can repurpose our past experiences and draw inspiration from their lines, to invigorate our points of view moving forward.

Thus, as it seems, life presents us with many maps. But whether they represent our city’s geography or our hearts’ ambitions, these maps don’t have to dictate the paths we must take to progress; perhaps these maps just show us where to begin.

So, let’s raise a paintbrush to this new year, and create our most adventurous, unrestricted, colorful works of art yet. And in moments of doubt when we don’t know exactly where we’re headed, may we find the courage to keep painting. As the lines of our past mix with the brushstrokes of our present, maybe we’ll discover uncharted paths and possibilities within ourselves that we’ve grown brave enough to explore. Perhaps we’ll discover how boldly imaginative we truly are, and realize that we’ve had the potential to be the artists and visionaries of our own lives all along.

Happy New Year.

Yours, Always,

Daniel

 

 

 

Chelsea Market – 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011