Dog-Loving Southern Charm Personified

Posted August 13th, 2010 in Deepak Chopra, Friendship, happiness, Happy People, New York by Glenn Plaskin

Have you ever noticed that some people you know, or work with, are so buoyantly upbeat, blessed with a sunny disposition, that they bring everyone UP around them?

It’s a pleasure just to be in their company. Laughter comes easily. They don’t take themselves too seriously. Nor do they “sweat the small stuff,” as the great writer Richard Carlson used to say.

No matter what happens, their outlooks are consistently optimistic, contented, and appreciative. I wrote a Family Circle article about this subject a few years ago titled: “What Makes Happy People Happy?” And when I interviewed Deepak Chopra, here’s what he had to say:

“Happy people are very comfortable with themselves. They usually look on the bright side, they see opportunity in adversity, their sense of well-being doesn’t depend on performance, and they don’t hold onto grievances and resentments.

“Just being in their company,” said Chopra, “makes you feel better. It’s not what they do or what they think, but who they are.

In the course of working on the launch of my upcoming book, KATIE, I’ve been fortunate to have met just such

Beautiful Shanon--inside and out

a person–the radiantly-congenial Shanon Stowe. She’s the newly appointed publicity director at Hachette Book Group’s Nashville-based FaithWords and Center Street imprints, overseeing the media campaign for Katie Up and Down the Hall. As if a full-time job wasn’t enough, she’s also got a houseful of kids (Dylan, Aiden, and Jack) and dogs!(Barkley and Punkin)

But her professional accomplishments and responsibilities are one thing, while her personality and ebullient nature are another.

Blonde, beautiful, and filled with high spirits, Shanon has a lilting southern accent and an infectious laugh, one that I first experienced in person when she guided me through the introduction of KATIE at Book Expo America last May.

Arriving at New York's Jacob Javits Center at Book Expo America

She met me right at the curb, guided me to the Hachette booth, and during a 2-hour autograph session, made it seem all so easy as people came by. She also bonded with my new puppy Lucy, who konked out after an hour and crawled contentedly into Shanon’s arms.

Flash forward to today, when out of the blue, Shanon sent me an E mail simply titled: “Look!!!”


In the E mail, attached was a single photo of Shanon holding up the very first finished copy of KATIE, fresh from the printing press.

After nearly two years–that included writing the book proposal, then writing the book, then a year of post-production (creating a book trailer, a PR and advertising campaign, and planning two launch events)–the waiting was finally over, the news delivered with Shanon’s happy photo.

So here’s a question: Do you have a Shanon in your life?–someone incredibly cheering, even-tempered, and fun to be with? I hope you do.

As for me and Lucy, we count ourselves lucky to know her. (I’ll soon introduce you to another Hachette dynamo, KATIE’S greatest champion, the man who encouraged me to write the book, HARRY HELM, the company’s brilliant associate publisher, editorial and marketing director, and a fellow dog lover to boot.)

Puppy Lucy snoozing, unimpressed by Book Expo America

In the meantime, for any of you who want to meet bubbly Shanon in person, you just might get the chance to do so if you come by the Katie Up and Down the Hall bookreading, being hosted by Liz Smith at Barnes & Noble on September 16th.

Considering that Katie, Lucy, Shanon (and the forever young Liz Smith) are all blondes–I’m wondering if blondes really do have more fun–making everyone around them happier too.

Fellow Blonde

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Posted August 7th, 2010 in Dining in Tribeca, Glenn Interview, Neighborhood Dining, New York by Glenn Plaskin

The TCQ&A: “It’s Like Living on a Houseboat”

Longtime Battery Park City resident Glenn Plaskin is a writer and celebrity interviewer, although his latest book, Katie Up and Down the Hall, is about a much more local star—his cocker spaniel, Katie, who “types, uses a remote, models, has a great wardrobe, makes friends with horses, and changes the lives of everyone around her” (in the words of the book’s promotional materials). Plaskin, who has also written a biography of Vladimir Horowitz, will be at Barnes & Noble Tribeca on Sept. 16. Maybe he’ll bring his new cocker, Lucy (above), although at only five months old she’s a bit rambunctious. In the meantime, you can preorder Katie at your favorite online bookseller.

How long have you lived in the area? I feel like Thomas Jefferson telling you I’ve been here 25 years! Back in 1985, the prices for apartments in Battery Park were unbeatable—and so were the views. It was undiscovered then, and nobody wanted to live here, figuring it was too inconvenient. For me, it was scenic, peaceful, and super-friendly. And I considered myself lucky to escape a windowless dark tenement on the Upper East Side to this—a sun-filled apartment overlooking the Hudson and Statue of Liberty. It’s like living on a houseboat. I would never move.

Landmarc’s caramels

Which restaurants do you frequent most often? My all-time favorites have been Bouley Bakery (mushroom salad, truffle-infused pasta, pistachio raspberry tart), Ivy’s Bistro (which has the best turkey burger in NY), Landmarc (the chopped salad with beets, risotto with asparagus—plus complimentary homemade caramels delivered to the table at the end), Gigino (the Esotica salad and any pasta, plus the best view of the Statue of L.), and the World Financial Center’s Donald Sacks (Mediterranean tuna and great homemade soups.)

Which restaurants do you tend to go to for special occasions? For birthdays, if you want a complete circus with tableside cooking, try Acappella. Last time, with his flambé stunt, one of the waiters almost set me on fire! It’s like being in an opera. I’ve also gone to Bouley—where the food and service is impeccable, but a bit formal. I feel the waiters should be sitting down. One of the most enjoyable birthdays was at Bubby’s—you can’t beat their watermelon lemonade, catfish, and the homemade sour cherry pie. I’ve also never gone wrong with City Hall, Capsouto Frères, Nobu, or Odeon (try the doughnuts!).

Where do you order in (or get take-out) from? Are there dishes you always order? When I’m at home with my dog and don’t feel like going out, I usually call Samantha’s, an Italian takeout, where I get excellent lemon chicken. The eggplant hero is really good. For Chinese, I like the China Chalet, especially the chicken and corn soup and garlic chicken. And for thin-crust pesto pizza with olives, I like the Garden Diner.

Which shops do you find it hard to resist popping into when you pass by? I love frozen yogurt (Café Express) and the gelato at Ciao Bella in the World Financial Center is incredible. And on the way home from there, for a sugar high, I sometimes can’t resist the chocolate covered strawberries at Godiva. By now, you must be thinking I’m morbidly obese! (When in fact I’m 5’9” and weigh 150 pounds. I credit this to biking.)

What was the last non-essential item you bought in Tribeca or BPC? New toys for my dog at Le Pet Spa—as she already has enough for an entire troop of dogs, but the chewing never stops. I also love the incredible selection of breakfast cereals at Whole Foods—and I buy all different kinds, putting eight different flavors in the bowl each morning. I’d rather have cereal than dinner.

Are there any services (salon, fitness, etc.) that you’re particularly glad are in the neighborhood? I love having a dog grooming store just a few blocks away. To get a discount, I bought my dog a block of 10 haircuts—and she loves going there and returns transformed. I also love visiting with the the local manicurist Lee at our nail shop, Blooming Nails. My dog, Lucy, gets carted around and cooed over by all the women in the shop and she likes stealing treats from the candy jar there. Also, having a gym in the building, Battery Park Swim & Fitness, is ideal. I’d never go every day if it wasn’t right there—and it’s a great place to make friends.

Where do you always take out-of-towners? Lunch at Southwest—not really for the food, but because the view of the marina from there is incredible. The Grill Room overlooking the Marina is also super-quiet and enjoyable. But better than food, my guests like going out on the Shearwater, a wooden sailboat built in the 1920s offering a two-hour sunset cruise for $50.

What’s the area’s best-kept secret? The restaurant Gigino. Most people in the city would never find it, as it’s tucked on the Hudson behind the Ritz-Carlton—but the views and food are superlative. Try the strawberries covered in chocolate.

Which neighborhood building do you wish you lived in and/or owned? I wished I lived in the Millennium Tower Residences—mainly because I hear you can get maid service every single day! You gotta love a building that offers fresh ducted air that has been adjusted for desired year-round humidity levels and has been filtered to remove 85 percent of all outside particulates, soot and airborne toxins! And that’s not to mention the option of daily maid service!

What’s your favorite part of the area (street, park, whatever)? Without doubt, it’s the tree-lined Esplanade that I often describe in my upcoming book about my life in Battery Park City. All the buildings and outdoor spaces are set along this walkway and I love it. In the fall, the English oaks, river birches, and weeping willows sway in the wind. In the evening, purple lanterns set close to the water glow while you eat at candlelit tables. Have I persuaded anyone to move here?!

Your most memorable celebrity sighting? I didn’t know we had any! Well, I did see Katie Couric eating ice-cream down here—and she looked so young in person. And one July 4, Donald Trump was strolling along the river.

If you could change one thing about the neighborhood, what would it be? I’d change the number of new buildings under construction. It’s ridiculous to use up every inch of spare space. Also, sadly, the ongoing construction of the WTC site is a continuing burden for all—too much confusion, dust, transportation disruption, and, of course, the  harrowing memories of those who were lost. In Katie, there are three chapters with a first-hand account of what happened that day.

What’s changed around here that you like? That you don’t? After 9/11, the neighborhood, which was always friendly, became incredibly unified. In most buildings in NYC, you can’t borrow an egg! Here it’s like a suburban resort. Walk around enough and you know everybody. The neighborhood is filled with kids, and hundreds of dogs, and students, and seniors, a wonderful dinner party.

Why Tribeca or Battery Park City? The atmosphere is relaxed, there’s no crime, we have our own troop of Conservancy gardeners, unobstructed views of the Hudson, and a parade of boats up and down the river.

Any questions you wish you’d been asked? Just one: Do you ever leave the neighborhood?! (As little as possible.)

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Who’s The Grandparent (or Wise Mentor) Of Your Dreams?

My lovely grandmother, perfectly composed as always, with Katie

Throughout my life, from one decade to the next, I’ve always been so fortunate to have by my side either a grandparent or someone much older than me- a mentor, guide, confidante, and friend offering the perspective and wisdom that only comes with age.

There’s something so healing about being in the company of an elder–someone who has seen life and understands all its challenges and rewards, a subject I wrote about a few days ago in a Blog about my remarkable friend Bud.

Nana Adored My Dog

And the one person who started it all for me is my maternal grandmother, Essie, known in our family as Nana.

There was nothing old-fashioned about this energetic dynamo–who was physically robust, articulate, and up to date on everything, including movies, music, and fashion. Charismatic and fun to be with, she tended to me and my two sisters with incredible devotion–taking care of us together with my Mom, picking us up at school, helping us with our homework, cooking and baking (her signature crumb cake with yellow raisens being one of my favorites), carting me to piano lessons, sunday school, you name it.

My Favorite Picture of Us At My First Book Launch

Her arrival at our house was always cause for great excitement. As I write in my upcoming book:

I became jubilant whenever I saw her car pulling up into our driveway, her yellow tortoise-shell purse catching the light.

Sometimes we’d sit at the kitchen table, laughing for hours as Nana quizzed me on American history, afterwards treating me to her fantastic crumb cake or signature Cream of Wheat.

She also played the piano—usually “The Skating Song,” a popular tune in the silent movie days. But mostly, she’d sit on the bench next to me, encouraging my efforts at the keyboard, (and years later, attending all my piano recitals.)

When I was hospitalized in my 20’s for a stomach ailment, there she was, nursing me back to health; a few years later, when my first book was published, she was next to me at Barnes & Noble, smartly dressed, as I signed copies.

And five years after that, we marketed Nana’s shortbread meringue cookies, dubbed “Essie’s Crumby Dessert Squares…The CrumbiestYou Ever Had.” Katharine Hepburn, Peter Jennings, Nancy Reagan, Calvin Klein, and Paul Newman all raved about them, giving her endorsements. They were sold at Bloomingdale’s and led to such newspaper headlines as: “Top Stars Clamoring for More Of Buffalo Grandma’s Cookies.” And: “Cookies Turning A Grandmother Into Rising Star.” There was Nana being interviewed on television and signing autographs! (Just click on the picture that says “Cookie Maker To The Stars” to see my grandmother’s famous fans!)

In short, Nana was remarkable in every way—and with me, every step of the way. Like any great grandparent–she was a protective guide, loving us unconditionally and

teaching us about what was right and what was wrong–how to behave, and what to be careful about.

I’m sure you’ve had a grandparent who you were especially close to, who influenced your life profoundly, and whom you miss.

Years after I’d left home and moved to New York, when my grandmother was in her final years and ailing, she was still no less interested or central in my life. And she would always send her fond regards to another great matriarch I’d met, my down-the-hall neighbor, Pearl, who became, in a sense, my co-grandmother. Pearl is the one of the key stars of my book, an octogenarian who we all nicknamed Granny.

In fact, when Family Circle magazine wrote about Pearl’s influence on all the main characters in the book–they titled it “Granny Down The Hall.”  And  like Nana, Pearl was always a source of practical advice, laughter, loving support and fun.

At The Piano, Having One of my grandmother's famous cookies!

Family Fun: My Mom, Katie, my sister Debby, and Nana

As I’m writing this, I can feel the tears beginning. Why? Because I would give anything–anything at all–to have both my grandmother and Pearl at my side in September at the Katie Up And Down The Hall launch party and booksigning. After all, it’s thanks to them that I have a story to tell, coloring it with all their heart and lessons learned.

I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since Nana died,  and six since I lost Pearl, because it seems like just yesterday we were all laughing on the phone, playing with Katie, having dinner together, our little family circle complete.

In short, Nana and Pearl were  the grandmothers of my dreams….and I miss them both more than I can say.

And so, on this day when I’m thinking about these two great women (and about my fantastic Uncle Jack who, at age 94, sadly passed away today, another incredibly wise and loving friend)–tell me about the grandmother, grandfather, or older mentor of your dreams. How did they enrich your life and what are your favorite memories? .

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Puppy Arrested For Horsing Around!

Posted August 1st, 2010 in Friendship by Glenn Plaskin

Lucy and Stanley Out For A Walk In Battery Park City

My five-month-old puppy, Lucy, adores her down-the-hall boyfriend Stanley, though she isn’t content just to play with dogs, large or small. She’s branching out!

She’s especially fond of a magnificent Belgian Quarter horse named Lee, one of Battery Park City’s police mounts who patrols the Esplanade along the Hudson. Lee’s boss is Sean, the mounted policeman who appears in my upcoming book.

Katie adored Sean and his horse–and would stop in her tracks whenever she heard him coming, as I explain in the book:

Once out on the Esplanade, she walked briskly along the water’s edge, sniffing under every bench, scouting for food, and on hot summer days, searching for the perfect shady spot under an oak tree for a long nap.

At other times, Katie’s ears pricked up when she heard the sound of hoofs hitting the pavement. That was the signal that our neighborhood’s mounted policeman, Sean, was out on patrol, sitting high up on his magnificent Belgian Quarter horse, Walter.

Walter, Sean told me, had been raised on a farm with dogs, so anytime we passed, the horse would stop and scoop down his head and affectionately rub noses with Katie, his wide nostrils quivering with pleasure.

Katie, in turn, would lick his face. Sometimes, I’d hoist Katie up to him–and she’d playfully swat him in the wide space between his eyes. The picture of this huge horse nuzzling a pint-sized spaniel was endearing beyond belief, heartwarming to all who saw it. Then Walter trotted away in one direction, Katie in the other.

So it’s only fitting that Lucy has inherited Sean’s new mount Lee as her own. A (motion) picture is truly worth a thousand words! Take a look:

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