Sunday, April 28, 2019

An Abundant Life - A Slice Of Life

In the days when I lived in SoHo, I walked everywhere the same way that I do now. I lived in a seventh floor walkup, and I'd drop down on the sidewalk and go about my day, not wanting to go back up those seven flights unless I really had to until it was time to go home for the night. SoHo was still a neighborhood then, and you'd see people you knew on the streets walking around doing ordinary things - I used to joke with friends that when I did my laundry on the corner I could imagine the announcers on the double decker tour buses that drove by pointing out the local woman with her laundry basket in the way that a tour guide in the rain forest would point out the flora and fauna. In those days when I walked around, my travels could take me down to TriBeca to my favorite pub or to the TriBeca Grand for a more upscale event, over to Chinatown for fruit and vegetable and fish shopping and up to the Farmer's Market in Union Square all in the same day. I might go up to Bleecker Street to Ottomanelli's for steak or chicken, to the old Murray's Cheese shop and then the new one when it became more upscale, to Rocco's Pastries, or perhaps across Spring Street to visit with my friend Kurt who owned the old Bell Caffe, or over to another favorite pub nearby.

My travels always took me on journeys that I loved to wander on, and on occasion I'd see this very cool and hip looking young man who I thought must be a designer or a photographer or some kind of artist. He always looked very happy whenever I saw him, and he had a crown of curly hair that shone like the sun even on dark and rainy days. Then one day as I was wandering on my daily adventure, I saw this young man in several different places all over the place wherever I went. The third time I saw him it was near my apartment, and I stopped him to say that I'd seen him before and now three times that day and I just felt like I had to say hello. He was as friendly as he was joyful, and he gave me his card, and when I got home and sat down to email him, I saw that he was a photographer and his name was Tommy Flynn. I had told him that I worked with different types of Artists and so I sent him more information about myself, and one day he invited me over to his studio to talk about having me help him with some PR work for an upcoming gallery show and some other projects he was working on. He lived just a few blocks away from me in Tribeca in a building right next to where a friend, a Director from Circle Repertory Company, lived, and it turns out they knew each other, so we ended up running into each other at that friend's parties on occasion too. He ended up helping me in a very big way one day when I met the Belgian photographer Jean Claude Wouters in Paris who created a silver gelatin print portrait of me on archival paper that he sent to me rolled up in a tube. I had no idea how to handle it, never mind who to show it to, and so I sent an email to Tommy and explained what was going on, and he recommended I visit with a friend of his at Duggal who turned out to be one of the top Executives in the business and who in turn helped me mount the photograph and recommended me to the Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery. That recommendation led to Jean Claude's first New York show, and paved his way as a Fine Art Photographer in America, and it was all because of a generous recommendation made by Tommy Flynn.

Because of his goodness and generosity, making a recommendation like that was a simple thing for Tommy, but the reality is that his word is worth gold because of his long history of hard work, craftsmanship and integrity. Originally from Dorchester, Massachusetts, he is a graduate of the Art Institute of Boston in Photography and Sculpture, and he received scholarships for his work in Photography for two consecutive years. His work has been exhibited extensively in New York City and around the world, and it is stunning, with every photograph an intricate work of art that can stand alone or be put together in pairs or small groups or a larger gallery wall. His attention to detail and eye for the immaculately perfect image made him a success in the advertising world and a successful entrepreneur, and led to his being a member of the team of trusted builders and painters of Sol LeWitt's pieces over many years. His kind heart opens his studio to help street artists photograph and document their work for affordable fees, and his connections with businesses and galleries like gallery onetwentyeight on Manhattan's lower East Side are long term friendships that have been developed over time and sustained because of the excellence and beauty of his work.

There was another project we worked on together, one with a much more serious tone. Because of where he lives, Tommy had a direct bird's eye view of the former World Trade Center and he would go up to his roof and photograph it in all kinds of weather. The photographs he created were all masterpieces, and he had put them together into a poster. It was a popular poster because of the beauty of the photographs, and after the towers came down on September 11, 2001, he began receiving even more orders for it. Not wanting to make a profit from it because of what had happened, he decided to give proceeds of the sales to the 9/11 fund for firefighters and other first responders in New York City. I helped him write the press release and announcements for that gift he was giving, and he gave me a copy of the poster that is one of most meaningful of treasures I have.

The last time I saw Tommy, he had been working on a new project, "Sliced Open". A home gourmet chef with an always inquisitive sense of the visually intriguing, he was seeking out exotic varieties of fruits and vegetables and using Takamura Chef's knives to cut them in half, then photographing them in ways that brought to life the intricate designs within. It had been a while since I'd seen him, and then one day a few years ago I was walking down Prince Street and I saw some prints that looked very familiar, and there was Tommy Flynn himself at the table. In addition to the fruit and vegetable prints he had some lovely pieces that used different types of shells and starfish and seaweed photographed in a variety of ways, and one print that I had a postcard of from years ago called "Hand In Vortex" of a hand underwater seemingly reaching for and meeting what looked like a tornado within the water. I took some photographs of him and posted a short blog post, and then just recently I was reminded of his photograph "Hand In Vortex" because of an Instagram post I saw from a filmmaker friend showing a video of a hand playing in colorfully lit water. I happened to be in SoHo right after that reminder, and so I decided to take a walk down Prince Street to see if Tommy was around. There he was at his table, and we set up a time to meet at his studio, and so one day shortly after that I found myself walking through SoHo on West Broadway on a beautiful spring day, and continuing down into Tribeca to visit my old friend.

I had the amazing feeling that day of having the thought, "It's good to be home," and though I love where I live now and don't want to go back to my tiny seventh floor walkup, I loved having the feeling of being in a place where I could still know my way around like I belonged there. It's one of the beauties of having lived in Manhattan for so long that whenever and wherever I go there, as much as some things have changed, there are so many memories of people and places and things that I used to do and go and see that when it's a beautiful day it feels good to be there. As I walked up the steps to Tommy Flynn's studio, so many memories came rushing back, and as we visited that afternoon, so many new ideas started flowing. We shared some freshly brewed fresh ginger tea he made while we talked, and after visiting and spending some time with his sometime muse and cat Tono who will be 17 on May 2, he took me to see the studio below his that belongs to the Artist James Bishop who has lived there for even longer than Tommy has. Now 95, his former neighbor of many years now lives in Europe, but he keeps his studio there "just in case" he ever decides to move back. Being in Tommy's studio and visiting his neighbor's gave me that comfortable sense of being back where I belonged. It's a good feeling to find yourself where your soul feels like it's home, and if home is where the heart is, when you're with someone as full of goodness and joy and creativity as Tommy Flynn is, you'll feel just how good life can be.

Tommy Flynn In Tribeca
New York City

With His Cat Tono
Who Will Be 17 On May 2

A Wall Drawing He Created
For The Sol LeWitt Retrospective
At The Whitney
For A Show
From December 2000 - February 2001

A Perfectly Brewed Cup
Of Fresh Ginger Tea

A Shift In Light And Perspective
Over The Course Of An Afternoon 

Selected Photographs From The Project "Sliced Open"
Photographs Courtesy Of Tommy Flynn

Two Prints In My Own Collection
On The Right, "Hand In Vortex"

At Work With A Sol LeWitt Sculpture
Photographs Courtesy Of Tommy Flynn

Choosing Vegetables At The Market
For The Project "Sliced Open"
Photographs Courtesy Of Tommy Flynn

On The Streets Of SoHo
Photographs Courtesy Of Tommy Flynn

With The Artists Who Show Their Work On Prince Street
Photograph Courtesy Of Tommy Flynn

Screen Shot From Instagram Of The Prince Street Artists
From Prince Street Kings
Photo Credit MaryLynn

With The Takamura Brothers
Photograph Courtesy Of Tommy Flynn

Tono At One Year Old
Photograph Courtesy Of Tommy Flynn


Jannie Susan

Sunday, April 21, 2019

An Abundant Life - There's No Place Like Home

I've written before in these pages about the beautiful experiences I've had in different areas of Hoboken and Jersey City, and about the amazingly varied and excellent restaurants and hot spots, galleries and artists, and places to shop, have a cocktail or eat a delicious meal. And just when I think I've explored everything there is to explore, I find out about another wonderful and unique place. There really is something for everyone in the culinary adventure of the city called Hoboken, and sometimes that something is so extra special that its fame spreads by word of mouth because of something that is a specialty. La Casa is one of those places, and when I first heard about it through some friends who know their good food and who know their own way around in the kitchen enough to be very particular about the places where they eat out, I knew that they were telling me about a place that was truly special. And they didn't just mention it once in passing - every time I saw them they asked if I'd eaten at La Casa yet, and when I said I hadn't they would say you have to go! And finally one night when we were all out together, they took me to La Casa so I could see for myself.

They were one hundred and fifty percent right on with their estimation - La Casa is a very special place, with more than one specialty of the house to keep people going back for more. Everything they make is made by hand on site, and they have such a wide variety of flavors in their Cuban and Latin American influenced dishes that make each meal not only unique but the best of its kind. From Empanadas to Churrasco, and Camarones Al Ajillo to Pernil, each dish on the menu is a combination of comfort food and something that is so truly delicious that it reminds you of wonderful places you've been and places you'd like to go to, and meals that you'd have when you go there. And the staff is all so friendly and welcoming that you feel like you're right at home, with the Manager and Co-Owner Alan Fox greeting everyone personally at the door, and table service throughout the day and into the later part of the evening that makes you feel as if you're being taken care of by very good friends or perhaps even some family members you never knew you had who want to treat you to the best and most comfortable culinary experience possible. Co-Owners Russel Basile and Alan Fox have a history of food and hospitality industry experience that has given them insight into how to create a memorable experience, combining the beautiful floral arrangements of Edwin Otero Floral Design with great musical selections, excellent staff, and a menu to please every palate. The prices are very reasonable, and there is a bring your own wine policy that adds to the restaurant's charm and affordability. The decor was designed by the Partners involved in the creation of the space, with each one adding their own touches and motifs to the wall sconces, artwork, tiling, and kitchen design.

La Casa is a place where you can go for a quick bite or sit for a while with a group of friends over savory treats for the senses, and they also have a wonderful catering menu. They work round the clock to insure that each dish is fresh to order, giving whatever is left at the end of the evening to the members of the community who are in need, and starting fresh every day with a new day's selections. Because of the personal care they take with every person and every order, no matter what you choose or when you go there, you'll find yourself feeling right at home.

La Casa Restaurante
54 Newark Street
Hoboken, New Jersey


Jannie Susan