Reflections on my internship at Bon Appétit magazine.
My roommate rushed to my desk, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. Just a few moments ago, I had revealed to her – with forced enthusiasm – that I had been offered a photo internship at Men’s Fitness magazine.
I had got several different reactions to this bit of news. My friend Sarah called me as soon as she heard. “You get to take photos of naked, buff guys? You have to take it,” she gushed, “And if you don’t, send them my information.” My mother was skeptical, “Will you be working late nights? Are you teachers OK with this?” She couldn’t believe that my mentors would proudly send me off into the world of semi-pornographic photography.
After this, watching someone actually be excited for me was refreshing. As Kelundra marched toward my computer, I started feeling better about myself. Maybe this internship isn’t as bad as people are making it out to be, I thought.
But then Kelundra pulled up a website significantly lacking in muscled men. “This is where you should work,” she declared, “I’d rather my roommate work for a magazine my mother actually subscribes to.”
Over Thanksgiving break, I submitted applications to 18 magazines in New York City.
Two weeks later, I found myself at the 42nd street station, on my way to interview at Bon Appétit. I was excited. I could feel my pulse quicken to match that of the big city. The prospect of working in the Condé Nast building on Times Square took my breath away.
From then on, I only remember the day in flashes.
That first sighting of the building. Canopy. Engraved address plate. 4 Times Square.
Standing in the Condé Nast elevator, looking up at the little boxes with floor numbers and magazine names.
Walking through meandering corridors with pictures of pasta and chocolate cake on the walls.
The interview. More smiling. Another handshake.
Riding the elevator again, with a copy of the latest Bon Appétit issue clutched in my now-sweaty hands.
Walking out of the building. Deep breath.
Turning back to take a picture of the address plate.
Thinking, I have to get this internship.
Train back home.
A week later, I met up with my friend, Josh, for one of our regular refueling stops at Starbucks. We talked of internships and interviews. I told him that I really didn’t want to work at Men’s Fitness. He told me he really didn’t want to work at Maxim.
As if on cue, an email popped up on my smart phone. It was from Hannah Sullivan, and the subject read, “Web Editorial Internship at BA.” I couldn’t read it. I asked Josh to tell me what it said. I squeezed my eyes shut. For a long time, he didn’t say a word. I prepared myself for the worst. I looked over, wanting to spare him the misery of having to tell me that what I wanted so bad wasn’t going to happen.
“I didn’t get it, did I?” I said, resignedly.
“I don’t know, it’s still loading!” he said. Thank you, Starbucks.
And then, “We are thrilled to officially offer you the Spring Website Internship … you got it!”
Winter break was a blur. I put together some kind of professional wardrobe, filled out
paperwork, traveled to the city for two more interviews – with Time Out New York and Budget Travel – decorated a Christmas tree, designed and printed business cards, and cooked – a LOT.
I started my internship on January 19, a day that felt much like the first day of school. Hannah, the internship coordinator, met me at the door, and showed me to a room marked “Interns.” I was handed an orientation packet, and pointed to one of the Macs in the room.
After we had read through all the rules and regulations in the packet, my fellow interns and I were led on a tour of the office, where we were introduced to the Bon Appétit staff, all of whom were polite enough to make it seem like meeting us was the best part of their day. Our heads were crammed full of names, faces, and a mental map of the office, one that wasn’t fully fleshed out till at least three weeks later.
The highlight of the day was getting our ID badges from security. We could now swipe in and out of the building without having to stop at the scary security desk and whip out photo ID. We were insiders. It felt wonderful.
At the end of the day, I sent out an email to my friends and family from my new company email address. I signed off, “Aasimah Navlakhi, Bon Appétit Magazine.”
What surprised me most about Bon Appétit was the intimate relationship it maintains with its readers. To me, writing to a major national magazine was equivalent to sending out good thoughts into a black hole. But at BA, every query was answered, and every suggestion acknowledged.
One of my first jobs at the magazine was to respond to recipe requests sent in by readers. Their requests ranged from the desperate to the absurd, and were relayed in messages spanning the entire spectrum from curt to epic. Where some readers knew exactly what they were looking for, right down to the issue and page number, other requests had us foraging in the vast BA library to find recipes of, for instance, “brownies that taste like wonder bars.”
Writing for the website was probably my favorite thing to do. I remember getting an email from Julia, an associate editor, asking me to write up a short blurb on Chocolate-Oatmeal Moon pies. I spent an hour thinking of what to say, and how to make it funny. The next hour was spent crafting, as I called it, “my moon pie masterpiece.” This is what finally appeared on the website:
“What’s better than a cookie? Two cookies! And boy, do they fit snugly around some fluffy marshmallow cream. Pop these moon pies in the oven and watch your willpower melt away with every waft of fresh-baked goodness.”
From there, I’d like to think they got better. After all, Julia asked me to write 13 more.
Being an intern, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone sent me out on a coffee run. And I was right. My time came about two weeks in. But I wasn’t getting coffee for an editor. I was grocery shopping for a shoot.
Interning at BA involved a lot of time spent outside the office, tracking down obscure brands of coffee, artisan Parisian macaroons, advance copies of cookbooks, and trial versions of incredibly expensive cookware.
One sunny February afternoon found me in the Upper East Side, at the Parisian macaroon store, Ladurée. Armed with a corporate credit card, and an unspecified budget, I bought $300 worth of macaroons. When I reached the register, the cashier walked out from behind the counter and handed me my bags with a little bow and a smile I’m certain she reserves for visiting Hollywood stars.
It felt pretty good.
One of my last assignments at BA was to assist on a photo-shoot for the “My Morning Routine” segment of the website. For this section, celebrities spoke to BA about their morning routine. What time they woke up, what they ate, what they read etc.
On the morning of the shoot, I sped across the city, buying copies of The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, ordering Mexican food, picking up green smoothies, and choosing the most photographable sushi box from a deli around the corner from Times Square.
Back at work, I spent the day cooking oatmeal, broiling salmon, and grilling steak in the BA test kitchen, amongst professional chefs who were grilling peaches, and browning whole turkeys for a massive Thanksgiving themed tasting session. In April, the test kitchen was already testing new recipes for the October issue.
The food I cooked was laid out, photographed, and trashed.
We shot five images. It took nine hours.
It was worth it.
I could not have asked for a better internship.
I met driven, intelligent, and hard-working people, and was fostered in an encouraging, open, and inspiring environment.
I was entrusted with responsibility, given opportunities to pitch ideas every week, and allowed to work in departments I was interested in learning about.
In the ruthless, unforgiving magazine world, I believe that Bon Appétit is beloved for a reason, and I am glad that I was able to be a part of it for this short period of time.
I hope to continue my relationship with BA and I will be only too happy to go back to work there, if and when they’ll have me.
What is it to you?
Sunsets, or ﬁre? Roses, or a slash of the wrist? Santa Claus, or Satan?
The play, set on the Bowery in New York city in the late 1950s, is a conversation, rocking back and forth with an imminent rhythm like brushstrokes on a canvas.
Rothko, a Russian-American painter, is part of the dying breed of abstract expressionists, believing that a painting must have “tragedy in every brushstroke” and dismissing Warholian soup cans as, “disposable, like Kleenex.” Stoic, orderly, desperate and misunderstood, Graves embodies Rothko in one ﬂuid motion at the opening of the play, with his line, “What do you see?” that encompasses all of the angst, hope, desperation and genius that is Mark Rothko.
When we meet him, he has just undertaken a commission to paint a collection of 40 murals for the newly constructed Four Season’s restaurant, for a fee of $35,000 – he makes it clear at the beginning of the play that “all artist’s should starve – except me.”
He hires an assistant, Ken (Amendt), to help him with stretching canvases, applying base coats, mixing paints, cleaning brushes and picking up food and cigarettes. As they work together in Rothko’s studio, they embark on a series of whimsical, intense, philosophical and, at times, maniacal conversations that give the audience a sneak peek into the workings of a brilliant, but troubled artistic mind.
In many ways, Ken gives voice to a new age of artists, challenging expressionism and advocating Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol as reﬂecting “this moment right now, and a little bit of tomorrow,” and pointing out that Rothko and his kind were being made obsolete much in the way that they had killed Cubism.
Frequently during the play, Ken and Rothko explode in spurts of brilliance. Working seamlessly together, Ken is calm, assuring, and clear-headed during Rothko’s bouts of freneticism, and Rothko is provocative and encouraging, leading Ken away from mere youthful hot bloodedness into a realm of self-discovery and enlightenment.
For a large part of the play, I felt like I was on a psychiatrist’s couch, with questions like “What do you see?” and “What do you feel?” being asked, over and over again, pulsating on stage much like the paint on Rothko’s canvas. I felt challenged. And humbled. And awed.
The set, designed by William Bloodgood, was gritty, real and superbly executed, maneuvered dexterously by the actors (kudos to director, Penny Metropulos), whose performances were honest, sincere and well-delivered.
But, although predictable at times, and redundant at others, the script is what pulled the audience to their feet and drew in the thunderous applause.
In all, Metropulos has taken a daring and challenging script and presented it with conviction and integrity. And, if Rothko is right, and art requires the viewer in order to be complete, I urge you to go partake of this transaction, and rest assured, you won’t come away short-changed.
I wouldn’t do that if it were me.
To me, New York city always symbolized a beast that could not be tamed. A vigorous, kinetic, living organism with an unparalleled zest for life, harboring inspired individuals who pulsate through its streets like blood flowing through its veins.
Last week, an ominous 13 years after I beheld the island for the first time, I returned to the city with fifteen of my colleagues, to immerse myself into the culture and creativity of this wildebeest. And this time, I did it in style.
No more falafel carts, hackneyed touristy experiences and aimless meandering on Times Square. This time round, we lodged in style at the historic New Yorker hotel, a mammoth art deco structure occupying a million square feet in midtown Manhattan. We walked the High Line and explored the meat-packing district. We ate at gourmet restaurants serving up authentic foods and flavors from the far-reaching lands of France, China, Italy and the Middle East. We wined and dined with the cream of the crop; writers from New York magazine, editors and critics from the New York Times and best of all, Goldring alumni who are consistently rising up in their respective fields.
It was a great week for theater. I watched Allan Rickman tear down aspiring writers in Broadway’s Seminar, sat agape in the fifth row of the inimitable Wicked and stumbled onto my now favorite play at a sketchy warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
We were greeted by cheers at The New York Times (security was tickled that basketball’s number one team was paying them a visit) and recorded the laugh track at Jon Stewart’s Daily Show at a live taping of the series.
Our visit to the MET was instrumental (the music wing was particularly fascinating), we literally slid through the New Museum in a burst of cathartic euphoria and we experienced the prevalence of ritual at the Studio Museum Harlem.
We recreated the Apollo’s infamous amateur night on its historic and star-studded stage and indulged in fried chicken, corn bread and banana pudding to warm up on a cold, windy day.
I was a princess for five days. And I’ve emerged with experiences, opinions and inspiration that no class, and no degree would allow me to possess. I didn’t tame the beast. Far from it. But honestly, I rather enjoy its brutish tendencies. There’s something about an unharnessed spirit that is New York city that keeps me coming back. The trip was called the “immersion”. But I have a feeling I’ve only scraped the surface.
And all I can say is, “I’ll be back.”
Kitson doesn’t demand much of his audience. Simply that cellphones be switched off, freeloading press people found taking notes be punched in the face, and head licking be avoided at all costs. Rule number three was inspired by a couple getting racy in the first row during Kitson’s performance of “It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later” at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
A stand-up comedian since age 16, Kitson’s latest “story show” follows two strangers, Caroline Carpenter and William Rivington, illuminating seemingly insignificant moments in their ordinary yet surreal lives. And no, it’s not a love story. As Kitson clarifies from the get-go, this play is as much about love as the Bible is about woodworking.
Naked bulbs hang from the roof of the stage, dropping down to different levels, each one representing a moment in Caroline and/or William’s life. Kitson is the storyteller. The opening chapter finds William, 79, on his deathbed, and Caroline eight minutes away from being born. The rest of the tale is told at a rapid fire pace -quotidian snippets about nothing in particular and everything at once. Moments that are reflected in the lives of every member of the audience.
The script is bursting at the seams. Crisp, endearing and sparkling with delightful vocabulary, it reaches out and grabs the audience, loosening its grasp only several minutes after Kitson has left the stage. In his impeccable Yorkshire accent, he tosses out antiquities such as “toboggan” and “garden center” and clarifies that when he says ladybird, he in fact means ladybug.
He describes a couples’ first shower together as an “aquatic atrocity” and spends several seconds analyzing the etymology of “eggy bread”. The comfort level between a married couple is symbolized by the “culinary reallocation” that is the trading of mushrooms and tomatoes at a weekly breakfast, and, in all sincerity, reduces teenagers to “unmitigated dickbags”. Then somewhere down the line, without the least bit of warning, the mood changes. The laughs are still as large, but they are wetter. There is an energy running through the audience. An undercurrent of triumph, rebellion and exhilaration, washed down by uninhibited sobs.
And it’s all Kitson. As an artist, there are few that match his endearing charm. His performance is a dialogue, and his narrative a conversation. He resorts to no gimmicks and attempts nothing outlandish. He simply tells a story. And in those 90 minutes, audiences gravitate towards him, teetering at the edge of their seats, hanging on to every word knowing full well that all too soon, right now will become later.
The train ride to Brooklyn was worth it. The bitter cold wind became inconsequential. Nothing mattered except the fact that I had finally stumbled upon my favorite play, in a quiet corner of Brooklyn.
The year was 2004. The place was Bangalore. The moment? Well, that was surreal.
I remember snuggling up with my mother to watch the Tony awards. I didn’t know what they were. I was there because the television was on. I was there because, as a 16 year old, I had nowhere to be on a Friday night. But mostly - and this is what I want to believe with all my heart - I was there because of fate. I was meant to be there. I was destined to witness a moment that would be a part of me for the rest of my life.
As a theater actor with a small independent theater group in the not-so-theater-savvy city of Bangalore, India, the fact that the cast of Wicked could pull off a performance with a complete set, full make-up, dazzling costumes, unmatched acoustics and magic tricks, for a simple 90 second excerpt at an award show, was mind-boggling.
When Idina Menzel rose into the air, with not so much as a muscle twitch, I could feel my heart booming about two feet away from my chest. The fact that she was singing, emoting, and performing simultaneously only sunk in later.
When I discovered youtube, the video of her performing the piece was the first to make it to my favorites list. I watched it every day for the next four months. I showed it to everyone who had the faintest interest in Broadway musicals. Then the categories became wider. You love Idina Menzel? Oh, you live in Manhattan? How do you feel about the color green?
Today, I sat in the orchestra section at the Gershwin theater - center aisle - to watch the magic happen in person. My heart was racing. I couldn’t stop smiling. I had already picked out the merchandise I wanted to buy. The house was packed.
When the orchestra hit the first chord, I blacked out for a second. I didn’t for a moment expect anything less than to be bedazzled. Amazed. Awed. Stunned.
And I was. My mouth hung open the entire time.
The set changed quicker than I could say OMG. And that’s just three letters.
After a performance at the Apollo, and a walk through what is New York’s most artistic town - Harlem - I was already pumped up on adrenalin. Watching Broadway work its magic only solidified my belief that no matter how bad things are, no matter how many wars are being fought, no matter where in the world you might be and how bad reality seems at the moment - art will always, always, always make life worth living.
Love this moment captured by my friend, Abhishek Dasgupta.
Truly a carefree moment. Oh, to be young again. :)
i don’t know the heaven or the shooting stars, i need my today, gokarna 2010