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Hijinks and Tomfoolery in the Big Apple

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Senior Fashion Design Students Take to the Streets of Manhattan

If you have ever taken a field trip during class to the art museum across the road, you’ve experienced that exquisite cross between embarrassment and pride. You duck your head as your classmates gather around the professor like the paying public around a docent. But you are special—you are Art Students, with prominently clutched sketchbooks and edgy haircuts, like an army or a tribe.

At least, you’re special within the comfy, familiar bounds of the Art Institute. But drop a group like that, specifically 28 members of the most “It” discipline, in the middle of the biggest city in the United States, and shenanigans are bound to occur.

On Monday, October 9, we gathered at Hotel Thirty Thirty in the heart of Manhattan, talking in high-pitched voices and bearing way too much luggage. We were senior year students and faculty from the Fashion Department, intoxicated with excitement for this annual trip, and we had Arrived.

Tuesday, Day 1

Nobody got much sleep last night. Too psyched. Met in hotel lobby at 8 a.m. Too early. Walked through districts with farcically shorted names (SoHo, NoHo, TriBeCa), full of bars, record shops, cafes, and boutiques. Saw a store actually named “Spandex House.”

Hell Yeah: Meeting Cynthia Rowley, successful fashion designer and SAIC alumna, and visiting the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s exhibition, “Love and War: the Weaponized Woman,” which included a piece by former SAIC faculty member Cat Chow.

Ho-Hum: Bleecker Street failed to live up to my high school, Simon-and-Garfunkel-romanticized expectations. All the trash bags on the street, perhaps. Nasty.

Bragging Rights: Bought a couple yards of fabric from Mood Fabrics, a fantastic store in the garment district made famous by BravoTV’s “Project Runway.”

Running Total: $20 train pass, $6 pizza, $10 sandwiches, $4 Corona 40 oz., $16 fabric = $56

Wednesday, Day 2

Everyone extraordinarily groggy today. Many people have been visiting friends who live in NYC in the afternoons and evenings, leading to late nights and crippling hangovers. Sleep deprivation is the greatest natural high. Later in the afternoon, an airplane crashes into a high rise on the East Side, killing Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle.

Hell Yeah: Saw the amazing Zaha Hadid exhibition that took up the entirety of the Guggenheim. She’s a brilliant Iraqi-born architect and artist, but all I could think of was Matthew Barney climbing up the museum in a kilt and pink marabou headpiece.

Aw, Crap: Teachers wrangled us free admission to the International Art and Design Fair in the Seventh Regiment Armory (for the industry only). An excellent idea inspiration-wise, but I’d have to sell several major internal organs on the black market to afford even the smallest painting.

Wha?! Hasidic Jews were on the streets of Manhattan in force for Succoth, a harvest ceremony that involves lots of difficult-to-pronounce Hebrew invocations and bouquets of foliage and fruit. I couldn’t say no.

Running Total: $15 sandwiches, $8 Corona 40 oz. = $23 + $56 = $79

Thursday, Day 3

A day of Lou Reed-esque escapades in Chelsea. Someday, I shall live there and hold court from my brownstone, like Louise Bourgeois, the famous Ab-Ex sculptor who holds one of the last old-fashioned Salons every Sunday afternoon in her apartment on West 20th.

Hell Yeah: We brunched with a personal idol of mine, two-time Tony Award-winning Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long. He made a spread of croissants and pastries for us in the parlor of his studio/home, which is filled with antique furniture and artwork.

Windy City Smacks Down the Big Apple: For all the hype around the Metropolitan Museum, I was disappointed. There were a lot of big old paintings, a lot of Egyptian artifacts, and some beautiful photos of Katrina wreckage by Robert Polidori, but great swathes of the museum were shut down for some hoity-toity party. I paid for my ticket! I deserve to see it all!
Especially with my sketchbook and edgy haircut!

“Stankypank Rawk”: Hooked up with an old friend to see the band Shawthang at 169 Bar. I told the band I’d be sure to tell my readers to “Check out Shawthang’s catchy blend of Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and straight-up funk at myspace.com/shawthang!”

Running Total: $10 sandwiches, $6 pizza, $12 Pabst, $8 admission, free peanuts at the bar = $26 + $79 = $115

Friday, Day 4

In the morning I wrangled myself an interview for a possible internship. Don’t want to jinx it because I haven’t heard back yet. Slept for most of the rest of the day, missing out on the history of hip-hop at “Black Style Now” at the Museum of the City of New York.

Hell Yeah: Our teacher Nick Cave (not the Bad Seeds, dummy) had an opening of his famous Soundsuits, which appeared at the Chicago Cultural Center and will be exhibited at the Art Institute soon, at the Jack Shainman Gallery. It was a swanky event indeed.

Meh: What’s that weird boarding high school in Michigan? Interlochen? Yeah. Went to a performance art thing on the Lower East Side by a bunch of those kids. Whooo-eee. Crawling around on the floor and eating peaches. Yup.

Running Total: $10 sandwiches, $15 beer, $10 admission = $35 + $115 = $150. At this point I’ve broken into my rent money and am spending it in hope that the landlady will deposit my check late as usual. This was not to be the case.

Saturday, Day 5

Everything they say about NYC cab drivers is true. For $24, the cabbie got me to the airport in 20 minutes, driving at speeds approaching Mach 3 and with maneuvers that would make Vin Diesel jealous. Took awhile to come off the New York high when I returned to Chicago.

Trip left me both totally psyched and strangely disillusioned. Fashion is an industry, more than any other “art” form, and takes extensive amounts of blood, sweat, and tears. Not everybody can be an instantaneous success, like Yves Saint Laurent heading the House of Dior at age 21. Donations for my ultimate move to Manhattan can be arranged through my MySpace page.

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