September 30, 2010

Today we went to the Whitney to see the Charles Burchfield exhibit, after which we kicked around Central park for several hours and then rode the bus home.

I’d never heard of Burchfield until I read about his retrospective in the New Yorker this summer. I was drawn to his work, in part because it seemed unexpected for the time and place, that being Ohio in the early 1900’s, but also because I like his execution, especially in his later years. The Whitney’s staging really delivered. It was arranged chronologically and included excerpts from his journal, a room dedicated almost soley to his doodles (which he saw as form of subconscious thinking), and displays of press coverage, some of commercial work and commissioned work. There was both depth and breadth. For me, he created his most moving work in his later years, reinterpreting and expanding on the work that made him famous around 1917. In these later pieces it was as though he was painting his experience of nature. It was as though he said I’m not just going to paint what I see, but I’m going to paint what it sounds like and how it feels and what it makes me think about and amazingly he was able to capture on canvas something transcendental.

It was also inspiring to get a sense of a life time of artistic practice and a glimpse of an artist challenging himself. He painted right up to the end of his life, which was when he was creating these big, mystical and ambitious pieces.

When were walking through the park afterwards, I saw all these tree limbs, dark huge, bent and twsting out over the walkway – like Charles Burchfield come to life.

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things i’ll write about later

September 29, 2010

I swear to god, TV just melts my brain. Seriously. Air waves evacuate my cerebrum of any interesting idea or creative urge and after an hour or so it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever have anything to say worth saying again. I once heard that Daniel Mendelsohn wrote sitting in bed with CNN on. Why can’t I be a genius like that?!

It kept raining today. The sky seemed to be hanging so low to the ground that the highrises got lost in it. Magical looking.

Where do all these people come from? That’s what my friend D said a couple times this weekend when we were on Canal street and the side walk was so thick with people we could barely move.

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the start of week two

September 28, 2010

RU and I are staying at a friends place, on the 5th floor of a 5 story walk up in the East Village. There’s 67 steep steps between the street and our front door. And we trek up them at least once a day. Every time I get to the 4th floor I think I should be there by now and then I huff my way up the last 15.

There are bike lanes every where now. 1st and 2nd Avenues in the Village are experiments in separating bike from car traffic via a parking lane for cars. There also appear to be some bike boulevard like streets, ala Portland style. In general, New York bike riders suck, though. Helmets and lights aren’t super common, nor is stopping for oncoming foot or car traffic. But riding in wrong direction on way bike lanes seems like all the rage. The bike riders I’ve seen are like cab drivers on two wheels. Watch out.

It rained on and off almost all of today, so RU and I headed to PS1 to check out the Greater New York show – a survey of the last 5 years of contemporary art in New York. There were more hits and misses and some of the hits were down right incredible, including Rasheed Newsome’s Shade Compostions, Sharon Hayes’ Revolutionary Love: I am Your Worst Fear, I am Your Best Fantasy and Kalup Linzy’s Melody Set Me Free.

A couple quick notes about food. It’s never as amazing here as I want it to be. So far nothing has knocked my socks off and I’ve had a few cases of sticker shock. I’ve only got a couple special shot outs worth passing along: an incredible donut that was vegan and gluten free (both of those facts being almost incidental), a very good cupcake, and some kick ass dim sum at Royal Seafood.


before i forget

September 26, 2010

I keep thinking I’ll get my thoughts in better order and post something more insightful and better organized about the experiences I’m having on this trip, but when I sit down at the computer I can’t seem to order my thinking. I don’t want to forget the things that are happening though, so I’m going to post random stuff for now.

The night before last, around midnight, loud honking came blaring through our window. Sounded like it was coming from the corner right below our apartment. Three or four long blasts in a row and then a guy started yelling “You fucking asshole. I hope you get fucked in the ass you asshole. Right in the fucking ass.” Last night was much less colorful with just a handful of hoarse sounding “god damn you’s” floating up from down the block, mixed in with short and intermittent trumpets of car horns and the occasional rumbling of the bus.

Friday this older dude walked by Rachel briskly and said “I love you” to her in the same tone of voice he might have said “you dropped your scarf back there.” It’s like he was passing data to her in the most efficient way he could and it was quite the contrast to the guy who told me he thought I was beautiful. We passed that guy on Thursday, walking by Roosevelt Park, and he slowed way down as he passed us, smiled and almost tipped his hat at me.

Last night a guy in a van yelled out his window at me. RU, D and I had gone to dinner and everyone got decked out. Me in a tie and RU and D in hot black dresses. Afterwards we were walking to Bluestockings bookstore and the guy in the van yelled, “That’s no fair, you got two hot ladies. Not just one, but a lady on each arm.”

RU and I have seen a handful of famous people since we’ve been in NYC, most of them at the memorial for Peter Orlovsky, which included an amazing collaboration between Phillip Glass playing the piano and Patti Smith chanting Allen Ginsburg’s poem On the Cremation of Chögyam Trungpa, Vidyadhara. The event was held at St. Mark’s church, an East Village counter-cultural landmark and kind of the ground zero for poetry performance in the lower east side. The main room was packed with a pretty broad range of people, fans, friends, ex-lovers, as well as some St Marks regulars looking for a couple hours respite. RU and I ended up sitting in front of a guy who was a writer friend of Ginsburg’s, and I couldn’t help overhearing his conversation with who ever was sitting next to him. They talked about Ginsberg’s memorial, which the writer friend had spoken at, the sad state of writer biographies, the choices they’d have made about collecting art had they known their friend’s would have become so famous, and which is how I found out Robert Frank was also in attendance at the memorial, who I’d noticed when he walked in because Frank’s hair was standing up like my Dad’s did, and the bumblebee t-shirt and old dickies Frank was wearing reminded me of something my dad would have worn.

RU and I also saw Uma Thurman the other day in the lobby of my friend’s building. RU and I tried to act casual, like we stand right next to people like Uma every day.

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topographically speaking

September 25, 2010

I was in Indiana before coming to New York. RU and I spent 5 days racing around Hoosier land visiting friends, family, certain country roads and various old haunts that seem forever lodged in my brain because they always show up in my dreams, or at least that’s what I realized driving down 10th street in Bloomington. Even when place is not central to my dreams, some block in Indianapolis or some corner in Bloomington figures into the scene.

While in we were Indianapolis RU and I drove by my great aunt’s old apartment building, which is across from Crown Hill Cemetery, where my dad and a number of his cousins are buried, which we also visited. I don’t have a lot of sentimental attachments to graveside visits. We didn’t do a lot of it growing up, as most of our close relatives weren’t buried in Indiana, so this was more of a matter of fact checking that my dad’s grave marker looked like the one we ordered. And it did.

We visited the sites of some of Dad’s cousins too and we drove up to the James Whitcomb Riley tomb, which at 842 feet was assumed to be the highest point in Indianapolis. And although it does seem you are perched above the miles and miles of flat terrain that make up Indy, the highest point is actually southwest of there on bluff called Mann Hill, which rises to almost 900 feet.

RU has remarked a number of times how the Indy seemed kind of vacant, which is strange considering its the 14th most populated city in the country. I don’t think its just that she’s not used to the big parking lots or the empty fields in the suburbs. Everything seems stretched out and everyone’s in a car. The first ring of suburbs on the near north side is becoming a ghost town, and while the neighborhoods close in are getting revitalized, there’s still lots of empty lots between the big old houses that line College and Central Avenues. Even driving I-70 from the airport to downtown was strange as it was almost empty and it was 6:30pm a weeknight.

I never see all the people I want to see in Indianapolis or spend as much time with them as I wish I could. And that always leaves me feeling a little sad. I wish it wasn’t such a trek to fly home or that I could at least fly directly to Indy, instead of spending an extra couple hours flying through Denver or Minneapolis or Chicago.

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sleepless in nyc

September 24, 2010

It’s almost 3am. I woke up an hour ago and couldn’t fall back asleep. Now I’m laying on this love seat in the living room portion of the studio where RU and I are staying in NYC. I was thinking about the movie Risky Business earlier, but I don’t know if that was when I was falling asleep or waking up,and either way I  don’t know why. I keep trying to draw some loose association between the movie and thinking about he midwest, where I just visited before coming out here, but it seems more random than that. More like a case of the flotsum and jetsum of pop culture surfacing in the semi conscious state of my brain, the way thoughts of food sticks do or the memory of an Up with People  song. Sleep has been elusive this vacation, but never this bad.

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all the way gone

September 15, 2010

The other night I watched Man On Wire, the documentary about Phillipe Petit, the Frenchman who strung a high wire between the twin towers and then danced across the sky, as they say. It wasn’t as great a film as I’d heard it was, but it was magical. And while I hadn’t planned to commemorate 9/11, it seemed as fitting a way to do so as any. As you can imagine there was lots and lots of footage of the towers. Quite a bit of it was of the towers being constructed, which looking back seems like such an optimistic act. And a joyful one too, which I hadn’t expected. But those buildings seemed to have captured some of exuberance of America in the early 70’s. I suppose that’s obvious, but I’d never thought of it before. I think I liked best the lack of irony in the towers. They were massive structures and straight forward about the statement they made. No nonsense in their macho stance. I was surprised to find myself smiling at the scenes of the construction workers and cranes putting all that steel and glass into place up to a quarter mile above ground. There was also a fair amount of interior footage. Shots of the revolving doors at the entrance to the lobby of the towers, the lobby itself and the bank of escalators that rose up from there – all full of people going to work. Busy. Crowded. Alive. All things we will never see or experience in those buildings ever again. Never. Ever. Which feels a little silly to say because that fact has been obvious since 9/11. I don’t know why but something hit me in watching that footage that made me mournful in a way I’ve not been mournful before about 9/11. It was like a wake up call to remember something else about tower’s besides their destruction, the images of which seemed to have wiped out any other pictures of the towers I’d previously stored in my mind. Seeing the footage of the towers being built and full of people and knowing what’s happened since that footage was shot reminded me of all the stuff we lost on 9/11 and how we can’t get back so much of it. The permanence of absence is an awful and amazing thing. When things get all the way gone, their nonexistence is intractable. I don’t think I’d understood on a deeper level just how much does not exist anymore.

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September 11, 2010

It’s been about 2 months since I gave notice at Rejuvenation, which is hard to believe because it seems like that happened just yesterday and at the same time as it seems like that was eons ago. It’s been a quiet and restrained kind of whirlwind since then – a whirlwind inside – and in lots of respects I closed the shutters for a little while, made myself as unexposed as I could so I could manage the stress of change.Leaving Rejuvenation was bitter sweet, for a lot of reasons that I don’t want to go into because this is not the best venue for that sort of thing, and I knew that when I left the job I was going to go through a period of regret and missing certain things terribly. It took a couple weeks for those feelings to kick in, but they did, of course. And knowing I was going to feel that way helped me a little, as far as not taking the feelings quite so seriously, but it didn’t make me feel any less crappy. And riding out the crappy feelings kinda sucked. Thank goodness for RU. And thank goodness that crappy feelings don’t last forever, at least the garden variety kinda crappy feelings don’t.As of today, I’ve just buttoned up a month’s worth of work at my new job and I’m starting to feel that the dizzying experience of change is unwinding. Whew. I noticed last night that I was feeling a little less hunkered down. And today at work, the learning curve felt a little less steep. Sitting here tonight I feel a little more like I am me again. Changed a bit, of course, but it’s nice to be out from under the cover of my protective shell and a little more open to the experience of newness.

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sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

September 8, 2010

Bitter melon really is bitter. I don’t why this comes as a surprise to me, but it does. I saw this recipe and the photo looked so good, I thought to myself how bitter can a melon be? Plus, I wondered if the name was a bit of a misnomer, like head cheese or sweetbread or Welsh rabbit. So I made it. Tonight. And man oh man, I couldn’t not get past the first bite. It felt like my whole face puckered up into a long “eww, that’s bitter.” Luckily, RU loved it. Love with a capitol “L.” She loved it so much she’s already lamenting the fact that I’ll probably never make it again.

I was going to try to tie in this bitter melon discovery to what it’s been like for me to start my new job. For a moment there seemed to be some obvious connection between how sometimes things are exactly what they say they are and how sometimes a new job is just a new job, but the analogy I came up with sounded a lot better before I started writing it down. Maybe it’s enough to say that “new job” like the term “bitter melon,”  is not a misnomer. It’s a job, meaning there’s work to do, and it’s new, meaning there’s a whole lot of stuff to learn. I’m still feeling a little stunned that I made such a big change, and at the same time I’m pretty heads down in the world of object oriented php, working at command line and figuring out the ins and outs of a using on a Mac. Like I said sometimes a new job is  just that.

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