Friday, August 31, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

photo courtesy Derek Jensen since I'm too self-conscious to take out a camera on Canal St. and look like a tourist

My big outting on this stay-at-home vacation was to Canal Street yesterday to buy supplies at Pearl Paint.

Canal Street, Wikipedia tells me, is named for an actual canal dug in the 1800s to drain a toxic, disease-ridden pond into the Hudson River. I have to say it still smells. Of rotting fruit and car exhaust. Mmm.

Canal Street generally gives me the willies. Every third person seems shifty and this time every street vendor (incense and buddha sellers, baseball caps, etc.) mumbled at me in the manner of the Washington Square Park weed purveyors. I couldn't tell what they were saying but it sounded sinister in the bright sunlight.

Pearl Paint was a welcome respite but also a chore. Up the stairs for paper, down the stairs for brushes, up the stairs (2 flights) for acrylic paint, down for oil paint crayons. First floor for Elmer's Glue, back up for fancy paper. I intend to create something for J., for her birthday, and also for my sad walls. I've been sketching all week and have some cool and completely impossible ideas...

On the walk home, I encountered a domestic kerfuffle. On the corner of W. Broadway and Spring St. a couple was screaming and fighting and then were in their car, still smacking each other around, while passersby knocked on the window to ask if the woman was ok. It was at once disturbing and heartening.

Discovered Vico C at Ideya.

Read: Indecision by Benjamin Kinkel (mildly funny); On the Couch, by Lorraine Bracco (sister-loaned, this book will alter your already ambivalent opinion of Harvey Keitel); and Ann Patchett's wonderful The Magician's Assistant from ten years ago (oops).

Went to Barnes & Noble on lower Sixth Avenue and AGAIN bought a book I'd already read. Ack.

Scary Things

I'm afraid of spiders and Texas. A ginormo spider web IN Texas would pretty much complete my worst nightmare. Details...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Maine Trip

A trip to Maine from NYC that starts with a disembodied JetBlue voice stating "Well folks, we're all set to go. We just need to find a captain" does not bode well. "We've made some phone calls, sent up some smoke signals and hopefully we'll find one in the Tri-State area, if not at this airport." Great. They did finally find someone, after a good 45 minutes on the tarmac and then we were off. More photos here

This trip was good, one of the better -- as we had stipulated "No plans. No fancy dinners or guests or organized anything. Just relaxation." It wasn't easy for my parents to pull that off, but they did. The house and grounds were amazing, lush and full of flowers and late-August life. Highlights included meeting the new dog, Sasha (a Keeshond, Dutch barge dog). There were also some interesting scary bugs around. Swimming in the pond was glorious: deep, cool, cognac-colored water (it's man-made, clay-bottomed and spring-fed.) I wish I had more pictures, particularly of J. and P. and the dory. Dang.
praying mantis?

We also visited Boothbay Harbor, bustling with large tourists, and after the obligatory lobster lunch overlooking the harbor, took a quick run in P.'s very cool handmade dory.

Now that I'm back, in between scratching the horrid mosquito bites on both ankles, I'm planning a week (off) of culture, food, wine, entertainment and art. I'm off to Pearl Paint now to buy supplies for the painting that J. has requested for her birthday. Not sure yet what medium I'll use... hopefully I'll be inspired at the store.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Enormous Changes: Goodbye, Grace

Author, poet and activist Grace Paley died. I'm very sorry to know that, even if I haven't read her work or, really, thought about her lately, she definitely affected me when I did. Maybe the coincidental quasi-parallels to my life (life in New England -- Maine for me, early on, then Manhattan and Manhattan for her, early on, and then Vermont. We both attended NYU, where I studied filmmaking. I graduated; she didn't -- but she did marry a cameraman) made me feel more connected to her than I might have -- but her short stories and politics definitely cemented her in my mind as a great person and artist.

Here's a nice interview and overview from an article by A.M. Homes from (1998), subtitled: "Grace Paley talks about the moral obligations of writers, the success of the women's movement and the importance of not giving a shit."

My sister has a signed copy of one of her books, possibly Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, and I'm very jealous.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

And now for some lighter fare...

Well, not exactly lite light. More... French light. C. and I spent a few perfect minutes at Cercle Rouge restaurant this afternoon, nibbling at eggs Florentine and enjoying the cool (ah) cloudy (yes!) weather and challenging each other to see who could buy movie tickets for this evening first via mobile device (I won).

We indulged in our usual fake star sightings ("Hey, behind you. It's Rusell and Kimora!" "Nah. They've split. You lose."). I idly announced that that woman over there was designer Vera Wang, leaving the restaurant.

"No! I'm mass market now! Not luxury!" Wow, it really was her. She looked great... normal. Younger than on TV. We finished our meal, star-struck (well, me at least) and left arguing about how I'd bought the wrong tickets. I had meant for us to see "Delirious." We may or may not now be watching "Superbad." Oh well.

Fire and Light

A detached sense of dismay turned to a sickenly familiar feeling of sadness when I learned that the two firefighters who died in a fire yesterday at the toxic Deutsche Bank building were from Engine 24 and Ladder 5 of Battalion 2 -- the fire station just up the street half a block from my apartment building. This morning there were no fewer than six news trucks with their antennaes rising to two stories and my brief glimpse at a gathering of people outside revealed the hunched shoulders and lowered heads of the grieving.

I'll never forget, of course, walking by there after 9/11: the ever-regenerating piles of flowers, the firehouse's purple bunting, and later the plaque and glowing acrylic tribute poster commemorating the 11 (!) men who died that day at Ground Zero. The sadness and shock were palpable then. And now two more.

I work kitty-corner from the shrouded, doomed Deutsche Bank building and have been watching it from my cubicle over the months. It shrinks imperceptably day by day and has now dipped below my vantage point when sitting. Good. Let it be gone as soon as possible.

* * *

A week from now I'll be surrounded by the green of southern coastal Maine, my family, and that slow, lazy, poignant feeling of late August. The only thing missing, I assume, will be the fireflies that lit up the night lawn last month. On one moonless night, we noticed that the usual flickerings of little light sources had suddenly bloomed into thousands, blinking in the grass, the air, festooning the stone wall, and up into the trees. It was a firefly convention! Magical.

Speaking of dark nights, there's a remarkable article by far-flung correspondent David Owen called "The Dark Side" in last week's New Yorker magazine decrying the lamentable phenomenon of light pollution. You can't access it online, unfortunately, but you can view some animated New Yorker cartoons. How very cool is that. I particularly love the one with the cat. The cat with the gun.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Way Back

I do love the Way Back Machine. I found some old pages of my old site and kind of miss its homespun charm (lack of html skills notwithstanding). Why there's a bathing otter in this one, I don't recall. Some of the drawings (and I have no business drawing, have no drafting skills, sketch like a 10-year old) aren't really all that bad... I'm inspired to pick up the pen again*.

My blog entries were somehow more entertaining back then too. Hmm. Here's an excerpt, which unfortunately, while amusing, does demonstrate my ineffable self-centeredness.

Things That Happened On My Birth Day

  • NASA realized the first test of "Abort-Test-1" the automatic rescue system of "Apollo" spacecraft
  • Elston Howard of the New York Yankees became the first black player to win the American League's MVP Award
  • "Lucy Goes Duck Hunting" Lucy Show episode airs -- first episode in color
  • Fireball observed, shock wave felt, over San Francisco Bay area. Unidentified signal picked up by local radio station.
  • Australian singer Little Pattie released her first single, "He's My Blonde Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy," which by January 1964 had reached No.2 on the Top 40 charts, held back from No.1 by The Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

*Off to Pearl Paint for some supplies.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

MOMA and Mom

Last weekend my mother, visiting from Maine, and I went to MOMA and took in the Joann Verburg photography exhibit, which was really quite something. Her luminous large format dyp- and tryptychs are incredibly lush and detailed, inviting and calm -- and an interesting juxtaposition to both Serra's rather cold gigantic curved sculptures and the Soviet Modernist offerings nearby. There's a nice interview with the curator here.

While in the cafe, I had moment of gustatory epiphany, having ordered the delicate cheese board with figs and the Italian semi-soft cow's milk sottocenere al tartuffo. Wow. I am in big trouble. Luckily, Murray's Cheese Shop carries it because I can't go on without it. It's really that good.

* * *

Oh -- and I'd be remiss to not mention the time spent with my mother, a spry 70-something tennis player, reader, minister, and all-around good egg. She arrived with this huge packback, bearing books and unbounded enthusiasm for her 2-day stay that never flagged. Beyond the great food and art we consumed, my favorite moments were when she was taking a nap and I settled in to read her 20-page essay about her mother who died earlier this year. It was by turns devastating and hilarious and offered countless insights into a woman I barely knew and a life (my mother's) that I knew only tangentially. From ski outtings with ski poles made of broom sticks and boots afixed to skis with canning jar rubbers, kittens who drowned in a crock of fermenting beer ("Oh well, we'll drink it anyway!") to my grandmother's weaving business in Arkansas, the essay details an incredible life (lives) of poverty and loss but also rampant creativity and pluck. While immensely entertaining, it was also unbearably sad to read: "Her death broke my heart, cracked it open in its hard places, in my private, unprotected places -- and unexplored geography I'd never really visited." This essay did the same to me, on a microcosmic level, and left me sad, grateful, and wishing to tell my own stories, of my own mother, my own life -- her own amazing life -- and do it before it's too late. I guess I've started, here. Let's hope I have the energy and guts to continue.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tomorrow People

At 9-ish this morning, Friday, after the crazy and now historic Tornado-Hits-Brooklyn excitability of yesterday, I was wandering around my company's insanely spacious (but oddly devoid of things you crave to eat) cafeteria. Recently, the staff has ambushed the sound system -- in an inmates-running-the-asylum way, no disrespect -- regaling us tired corporate drones with a truly bizarre repetoire of unknown origin (radio? someone's cd or 8-track collection?) of tunes. While waiting for my usual crazy-healthy vegetable drink, I heard on the speakers (over the noise of the juicer and the sound of a couple businessmen babbling into their ridiculous Bluetooth ear-pieces) the faint reggae rhythms of a long-forgotten song.
Juggling my (possibly fake) Starbucks coffee and my noxious green drink and half a bagel with low-fat vegetable cream cheese (um, hello, what happened to the scallion?) I was mesmerized by the faint, honeyed Jamaican intonations of a song with familiar beat and words that, though intelligible, harkened piercingly back to my somewhat distant past.

It came to me on the down-escalator: Ziggy Marley's "Tomorrow People" -- a song I recall really enjoying (in a dance-around-the-room manner) way, way back when. From 1988, the year I graduated from college.

And I heard it just after I was contacted -- or, in today's online parlance pinged or... poked -- by dear friend P., from Paris (via, go figure... I mean really). With whom I graduated the same year but sadly lost touch. With whom I had lived in that same year in a great flat in the East Village, struggling together through the end of film school, drinking cappucinos at Cafe Orlin and having deep conversation at some long-gone joint just south of Cooper Union.

Small synchronicities, that's what it's all about. Coincidence? Of course. I don't believe in 99% of perceived connections but believe they are what life is really all about-- the frisson of imagining that they do mean something. The ephemeral stuff of literature and film and dreams.

No moral to this non-story. I come from a certifiably Ludditic (is that a word?) family and can now, again, smile at my own choice to embrace technology in the dream that it has at least a modicum of power to connect people with their past. And a present they might not have known.

You know I am a Very Busy Woman and it's not in my nature to wax nostalgic but this kind of thing is happening more often and it just makes me so damn happy.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Tommy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Tommy Makem died a couple of days ago and I'm inordinately sad. I grew up with my parents' Clancy Brothers LPs; we're tangentially connected via our Scottish, and partly Irish (I'm sure) heritage but it's more than that. It's about the folk movement (again, tangential for me, via Joan and Bob and Pete and, of course, Tommy Makem and his merry band) and the gratitude I feel for hearing music (from German folk songs to Scarlatti) when young, and being influenced by the sheer eclectism of my parents' catholic tastes. I raise my glass to them... and to Tommy.

All you freeborn men of the traveling people
Every tinker, rolling stone, or gypsy rover
Winds of change are blowing, old ways are going...
Your traveling days will soon be over.

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