Monday, March 27, 2006

Kitchen Magic





I'm back to report that I eagerly romped around with other eager house-hungry American Apparel/Anthropologie types through the open house held in that seemingly charming shingle home posted below. I thought I could love that place, no matter what, but today am coming to grips with this: the Guff is empty in Brooklyn real estate in what might quite nearly be almost my price-range (if I put out for money-wielding strangers who fancy moms wearing dirty American Apparel and Anthropologie sale items and eyewear from many a yesteryear.)
I won't post any heartwrenching photos, only give you this: where there were mantles, there are now only outlets. They are not even grounded outlets. The children couldn't even hang the Christmas stockings out over a semi-attractive space heater. No, we'd be looking at a toaster placed neatly on the plasticated 'Q' grade wood floors for the holidays to warm our newly Brooklynified Utah assies while I, being Ma and what not, would be in charge of pushing the lever down every three minutes.

So, I am now going to cheer us up with these before and after photos of my present co-op kitchen that is 6' x 12' (yes, people in the West, you read that right) and remind me that I worked that Ikea software to a nub to design the most efficient, workable kitchen pos. I turned it into an EIK, I did! (If you have to ask, consider yourself blessed and chosen.)

Now, on a surely metaphoresque note, an SUV fell into a pothole in Brooklyn today and ruined the 'R' train below. It's a very confusing scenario, but I feel it is meaningful on some levels not yet reachable to my lax, unlimber mind.

This I know: co-op life continues and Brooklyn continues. And it's alright.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

That Moving Feeling

So, measuring 900 square feet, our co-op has grown too small.
Yes, we are fortunate among the many New Yorkers who torment each other in even less space. But my acceptable-square-feet-for-raisin'-up-a-family scale is tainted by the grand suburbias of the west where I found perfect isolation for desperate pre-, mid-, and post-pubescent breakdowns. In my big bedroom I was left quite alone to quietly confront the freakshow that was my bosom. For one tearstained solid year in front of a suburban full-length door mirror, I watched my right breast grow to a gropeable size while my left breast (wisely) clung to the predictable plains of childhood. Oh, the beauty of fourteen.

Now, I watch Emmie, 9 1/2, from the corner of my eye. We all do, for how can we not? Where can she go? To dress, she has taken to standing with her back to everybody while one hand covers her no-news chest and another works a shirt over her head. Closed doors are meaningless, because she knows that the minute she shuts a door, Boone will hear it and come barging in. It is his room too.
She has hung sheets around her lower bunk, carefully tucking them under the upper mattress and pinning the openings shut. Such a tiny tent for the upcoming freakshow.

Naturally, then, we are occasionally looking at real estate, usually in a not as expensive area for the best run-down bigger house we can get for the buck. I am intrigued with this house, although the realtor tells us that there is nothing left inside. I think we're talking about a carcass, a carcass which we would need to share with renters to make the mortgage. But darn it. My daughter deserves her own little space in which to privately view her own upcoming freakshows, audience of one. (Or two, if I can get a ticket.)





(On the other hand, we could move to Tokyo and live in one of these modules for around the same price. Freaky.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Big Love

So, at pick-up time in the schoolyard one afternoon, a dad/journalist in possession of an advance copy HBO’s newest grope-opera, “Big Love” (premiering Sunday) passed me his reviewer’s package. He told me to keep it on the “DL.” I felt so instantly cool in that moment, almost like an insider, or at least somebody who gets to peek through the windows of or deliver a pizza to What’s Going On Manor. The DL. It's cool.
I must be on the UH (up-high) with you though and tell you that the probable impetus for letting me in on the review-copy of the series likely had very little to do with my special j’ne se quois. No, I believe the journalist said something about me being Mormon and wanting to know my perceptions and/or thinking, and that I might enjoy the series since it is based on Utah polygamists.
Now, I have thought I was done correcting people about me and the Mormons. In Utah, I am not considered Mormon anymore, in NYC I am That Weird Mormon lady from Utah. Well, then, the truth: somewhere in the middle is most accurate, somewhere near Ohio.

So what was I to do with this advance copy of something being majorly hyped all over the city? We’re talking about bus-billboards, a wedding cake with a groom and three brides in an “It” Lower East Side bakery (thank you Shelley), actual wedding announcements with the series’ husband and three wives’ names embossed and postmarked out of Utah….And that’s all I have inactively become aware of. Clearly, HBO’s really trying hard here.

As well they better.

On a couple of nights over the past week, I gathered with Mormon friends to screen the series. Here’s the premise from HBO:

The owner of a growing chain of home improvement stores, Bill (Bill Paxton) struggles to balance the financial and emotional needs of Barb, Nicki and Margene (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin), who live in separate, adjacent houses and take turns sharing their husband each night. While managing the household finances together and routinely sharing "family home nights," they try to keep simmering jealousies in check and their arrangement a secret.

Well, oddly, this polygamous family never joins up with any polygamous community. They are living “The Principle” on their own although I do believe from my own observation that they could easily fit into some of the more mainstream polygamous sects in Salt Lake without much trouble from the law. They could even pull the Plyg classic: Collect-Wellfare-as-a-Bunch-of-"Single-Mothers" This could alleviate some of the aforementioned financial stress. (I'm just trying to help.)
Honestly people. Utah looks the other way as Utah is naturally conflicted on the issue of polygamy. But I guess they need to be on the DL because the series needs, what’s it called? Oh yeah. Tension.
Although voyeuristic viewers may be initially snagged by the spectacle and logistics and promising tension of three hot ladies voluntarily sharing one dowdy husband, the novelty wears off by about episode three. Eventually, what the series becomes is slack, yes even flaccid, limping around in a lot of household wifey bickering with a husband saddled by issues with his teen-weddin’, money-lovin' father in-law,“The Prophet.” (Harry Dean Stanton, about whom my friend Shelley quipped, “they just keep raising him from the ashes don’t they?").
Seriously. That’s about it. Yes there are some funny aspects to a guy living every Joe’s dream and having to turn to Viagra to keep it all up, if you will. But the jokes aren’t good or frequent enough, the lifestyle isn’t dark enough (like "The Sopranos" or "Six Feet Under"), and the characters are just not likeable or hateable enough. What we are left with is a nearly mainstream dull suburban family that fights a lot over everyday things.

Perhaps I just don’t feel I need to watch TV to see that.

The Big Questions then:

Q: Are Mormons polygamists?
A: Not the mainstream LDS sect (the one I grew up in.) They renounced it to gain statehood in 1890 although it probably took one more generation of Mormons to really get it out of the system (my grandfather grew up in polygamy.) However, Mormons do believe that polygamy is essential to attain exaltation in the afterlife in the Celestial Kingdom, the highest degree of Heaven. When younger, I participated in many hand-wringing discussions with other Mormon girls who did not look forward to this principle in the afterlife. In the end, we usually guessed that we just needed faith and that it would all work out.

Q: Do the Fundamentalists really dress like that?
A: What, with the poof-top melting into French braid, a prairie dress, and some Reebok tennis shoes? Why yes. Yes they do. They also seem fond of acid wash denim vests. HBO researchers did their homework here.

Q: How was the acting in “Big Love” ?
A: Chloë Sevigny gets the look of a Fundamentalist down, what with her largish inbred looking noggin. She seems adequately catty and bossy as what would be considered a polygamy prima Dona.
Grace Zabriskie who aptly plays a fundamentalist gone mental older mother is a scene-stealer. I can’t imagine that she is not the pants-wearing, gun-totin’, P.O.’d, compound pariah that she plays.
Tina Majorino who plays Heather, a mainstream Mormon teen who is onto the Plygs is as real as it gets in the world of acting.
The others are pretty unremarkable and can I already just say that I did get sick of Bill Paxton’s heinie on screen, especially when clad in demi-transparent briefs? Mercy. Enough already.

Q: Do they get the Mormon details right?
A: Right enough for HBO’s purposes although you would think that they could have hired a Mormon for very little to coach them on how to pronounce things like, “Celestial Kingdom.” (We say, “Celest-CHOL” not, “Celes-TEE-ahl.”)

Maybe I just find this series pedestrian because it’s where I’ve walked for many years minus, personally, sister-wives. I do find it suprising thought that after a sexy NY columnist, the Mob, carnies, and undertakers, Utahns are the next big exotic.
Oddly, from what I hear, "Big Love" is being very weakly marketed in Utah, if at all.
It's on the DL.
Utah's not feeling the Big Love.

(For a much different appraisal of "Big Love," by one of the Mormons who watched with me, see Adriana's review.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Super Varmints



Growing up in suburban Colorado meant that cheese-resistant mice could be outfoxed with some peanut butter or a jar of bacon fat.
I recall a pleasant afternoon spent extracting a nearly drowned mouse from his plunge into the grease and observing his woozy, stumbly decline into death-by-bacon. He seemed so utterly satisfied.
Other business with vermin included blindly reaching a groping hand down into the long six inch-wide PVC tube in the lawn to fish out errant toads when the irrigation was acting funny.
Oh, and there were the bunnies and groundhogs to be dealt with. My dad did something to these, though I won't ask what and neither should you, really.

Pests. Really cute pests. Colorado has pests who can be sold to Buena Vista or Disney and quickly caricatured with darling, diminutive homes, furniture, vests and shoes, trials and temptations, families, and songs.

But here I am in the most expensive real estate market on the entire planet and what vermin does my buck buy me here? Bedbugs? Roaches? Lice? No. Not just. Add, "super" to the front of each of these. You would think the people would have demanded better here.

Ok then. Here's the (partial) roster.

Bedbugs
I read (in bed naturally) in the New Yorker not very long ago that even rich, pretty people are being confronted with these cheeky blood suckers.
"It's becoming an epidemic," said Jeffrey Eisenberg, the owner of Pest Away Exterminating, an Upper West Side business that receives about 125 bedbug calls a week, compared with just a handful five years ago. "People are being tortured, and so am I. I spend half my day talking to hysterical people about bedbugs."
(That would be me if I had bedbugs.)
Well, Gothamists. Looks like we better just leave that heaving, soggy-but-free mattress on the sidewalk from now on. My friend Elizabeth is a notorious trash picker. Bedbugs could ruin her home-decor M.O. Hopefully they don't cling to wood and lampshades.

Roaches
Right on. No prob. I am clean. Clean enough (thought I). Yet, naked and vulnerable, I found a roach one day that was about two inches long enjoying my clean-enough bathroom wall (yes, I was naked and vulnerable, but upon re-reading this sentence, I have decided not to edit it in the interest of fairness to vermin. I attest that the roach was naked, and I assume, felt vulnerable. See, I try to be fair.)
I picked the roach up with toilet paper, its antennae waving around in a wild WTF manner, applied a pinching pressure, and with the other hand, called Elizabeth for reassurance. (What was I thinking calling Elizbeth for reassurance?)
(You may now be getting the impression that Elizabeth is gross. She's not exactly. She is just on a first-name basis with gross.)
In an even voice, Elizabeth told me that roaches can live and even perform romantic duties (screw) for like 48 hours after their heads are cut off. I took no chances then and with the bang-trimming scissors in the medicine cabinet, cut the roach up into 6-10 pieces and flushed him/them away. I resisted the urge to call Elizabeth to ask if individual pieces of roaches can crawl up the sewer system and reassemble to enter your bottom. I am fairly certain they can.

Lice
Oh lice. I know we shall meet someday.
On Friday, Boone came home with the latest note in a neverending series of such notes saying that these meanies have made yet another appearance in the classroom. Lice and Fifth's Disease. It's a wonder the New York City schools manage to even make it to lunchtime everyday. This time the lice were camping out on a little girl who tends to be dressed to the nines. My children are regularly far, far, far less well-groomed than she. I felt a chill in the spine, a tingle on the scalp. After once again reading the descriptions of these bugs and their tricks, I took down my bun and clawed at my head while trying to examine my own scalp in the mirror.
I then called the children in and picked at dandruff pieces and pencil shavings on their scalps. I asked them if their heads itched, phrasing the question differently over and over until they finally said, "I guess so." The lice are phantom-lice for now, but surely this status is temporary. And how about you, dear reader? Surely your scalp is itchy?
Are you sure?
How about now?
I can help you, I think.
One of the moms from school emailed everyone with the name and number of the Hasidic Jewish nit-picker (ah-hah! The origin of that word.) She said it was truly the only way to go for delousing. I googled the nit-picker's name, Abigail Rosenfeld, and found a media darling. I suppose she's the only game in the borough. According to the NY Sun:
The mother of 13, Ms. Rosenfeld honed her skills as a teenager as she helped her mother remove nits from her brothers and sisters. She has gained such fame that earlier this year a pediatrician from Boston flew into the city with her children to Ms. Rosenfeld because nobody had been able to rid her children of nits. (Note to self: do not sit on airplane seats previously occupied by Boston pediatricians or their offspring.)

Since Hasidic girls don't have much in the way of careers to look forward to, Abigail's thriving business must be somewhat enviable if not controversial in her community.
In Manhattan, however, there is another Jewish (Orthodox maybe, though not Hasidic....I think) team for the lice. Their effort is a bit more assertive as they reportedly dispatch white-coated examiners to the schools who then send crabby evidence home on a piece of tape to horrified parents.
The upshot apparently is this: over-the-counter remedies aren't hacking it anymore. We're looking perhaps at resistant strains of lice.

Super.

Oh, for the days of bunnies.

Even superbunnies.

(But keep your supermice. We've got 'em.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Margaritaville



Thank you to all of you-all who chipped in with comentary about the yarn-art, or, as I will call it henceforth, Yart. It still hangs in Manhattan. I have chosen to ignore it.

Last week, we proved to ourselves that other places do exist. You might have heard this from others. Not only do other cities exist, but other countries. Not only other countries, but countries where the garbage is not frozen to the sidewalk, but flies freely in the warm breeze of the passing automobile.

But really. We went to Costa Rica and found not so much garbage and a village of people who have learned how to speak restaurant English for the fat Gringos. It almost rips your heart out. And we found so much beauty there that our eyes rolled around in their sockets not knowing which way to point. Ah, Costa Rica.

Even doing laundry in Costa Rica was slow and beautiful.

And warm.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Conceptual, Continued


And so to console myself, I went to the movies.
I chose that new M. Winterbottom, "Tristam Shandy" about the handling and mishandling of a what has been called an, "unfilmable" memoir. Had I seen this film and been on my toes before the incident at the gallery, I could have read it as some sort of forshadowing device in the story which is the Mishanging of My Diptych.
Instead, I guess my choice of that movie was possibly my subconscious saying, "look, the comical bungling of the filming of an unfilmable eighteenth century memoir. How apropos!"
Or something. The bungling part anyway. (And I suppose I relate in some cosmic and symbolic way to the accidental circumcision of young Tristam by a slamming window although utter castration would be more apt in my scenario. Symbolically, of course.)

Before the movie began, my phone began to vibrate. Checking to see if the babysitter was calling with inevitable bad news, I fled to the theater lobby. Instead, an unfamiliar voice identified herself as the director of the gallery where my diptych hangs, all bound up.

"Lori Nelson?"
"Yes?"
"Oh, hello. This is the gallery director. I called the other number you gave us, but it must be wrong. A child answered."
"Heh. Oh."
"Anyway, the committee met about your request."
"Right. I need you to remove the binding from my diptych. It's not supposed to be part of the piece. I wrapped it up that way so that the jury would know that it is a diptych and so it wouldn't fall to the ground."
"Hmmm."

She then went on to tell me about the pains the jury, headed by a grand Chelsea gallery curatorial guy, had taken to not move one single criss-crossing fiber on the piece and that they had thought the binding very smart in light of the title ("Interchangeable Diptych".) She also complemented my seemingly strategic placement of every strand of yarn, assuring me that nothing had been disrupted during the piece's hanging.
This all made me wonder exactly who the genius is taking up residence, rent free, inside of me. It certainly isn't me or any part of me that I can take credit for.

"Right," I said, "but can you take it off soon? Can I just snip it with my nail-clippers tomorrow?"
"Uh, no."
"No? It's not meant to be all bound up like that. It's an interchangeable diptych."
"All diptychs should have been submitted fastened together. Joined."
"But that would defeat my intentions. It's an interchangeable diptych."
"So it said in the title. That's what makes the binding interesting."
"No."
"Well. We can't rewrite history, can we. Mr. Chelsea chose the piece the way it was presented."
"But that was binding. Packaging"
"The curator chose it that way."

So there it is. The Genius inside of me who, in 30 quick seconds created interesting work out of what took me a solid two weeks to paint and the Curator know best.

Who am I anyway but an accidentally circumcised little git trying to relay an unpaintable memoir? This memoir is up for grabs.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Conceptual

I'm having a hard time letting this go. I submitted a piece to a juried exhibition to be held at a gallery on Washington Square in the Village with no expectation of being accepted. The piece, "Switch," is an interchangeable diptych that in one position shows a woman threatening a man with a, you know, switch. He's accusational. She's got someone in the offing. They're both quite cranky and not a lot of fun to be around, I bet.
In the next position, if you, ahem, switch the pieces, he's now the one threatening her with another woman in the offing who is holding out a branch to him. The roles are switched. She is the one who is accusational now.
Right? Ok then.
So I bundled it all up in yarn and paper and submitted it and, well cool!, I got in.

On the 4th, the show opened and I dragged Emmie down a Brooklyn subway tunnel, onto the 'F', and up the W 4th tunnel, through Washington Square where a squirrel who knew no fear and had no tail lunged at us, tired of garbage and hungry for human blood. We screeched and slogged our way through the rain holding hands and umbrellas. At the opening, we were confronted with a packed gallery. It was fairly impossible to see the entire show, but when we finally did spot my piece, nicely placed and on a good wall, we both had to laugh and then worry and then laugh some more. Now, I am aware of and thankful for my good fortune in having this nine year-old as my constant support and advisor. When we saw my diptych hung there with the packaging still around it, my good daughter forced me to go up and ask the desk-people for the string to be removed.
A form needed to be filled out. The committee would discuss it. I was not allowed to touch.
As of yesterday, the diptych is still bound up in string. This all raises many questions for me. This makes me rethink my work. Am I a conceptual artist? I don't really like conceptual art usually. What does this piece mean now? Do I like the meaning?
How is it that the jurors accepted my work this way? Will they ever remove the binding? Will they like it the way I intended it?
Why can't I just snip it off with my nail clippers?
Who's in charge here?

Do you ever say one thing and the person you are conversing with hears wrong and laughs because the thing they think you said is really clever? Then you let it slide and claim the witticism as your own because it's better than the original?

Maybe that's what this is.