Friday, August 26, 2005

Y or Y Not?

For an unreasonable amount of time I've been perched on the fence about swimming lessons for the kids at the YMCA down the street.
Every time they see the cover of that class catalogue, they nervously ask to please not have swimming lessons there.
I think I see why, but he is the father of Psychoanalysis.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Those Kids

So often these days I see teens wearing not so much punk rock clothing as New Wave clothing. How excellent except how devastating that I am a mom now and not still a Waver. When we pass, I can tell that these kids can't see me for who I am.
At sunset tonight, I saw three sixteenish boys flitting around the Slope in pegged girl-jeans, skinny ties, floppy hair, and acne flare-ups. I was ready to volunteer to drink Robotussin with them behind Fruita Monument High School but certainly I'd get hauled in by the same cops who saved the daughter I lost on the 'F' train.
But shout it from the rooftops people; New, New Wave is here!
Now, let me flashback to about 1983.
Thank you.
I've gone to the Salt Lake City temple with my Grand Junction Mormon youth group and the big city is working its magic on me. Yes, I am aware that we are there to participate in proxy baptisms for all the dead people who walked the blue-green Earth (walked while they were alive,) but how pedestrian is that when this city is chock-full of New Wavers and Mods! Not a farmboy as far as the eye can see. The Vespas, the skaters, the shaven-off eyebrows and black eyeliner used as lipstick. Oh, my. It's possible that during the qualifying group-interview to do baptisms for the dead that I may have not raised up my hand when questions like, "do you ever entertain the idea of ripping off the shirt from and licking the concave chest of the skinny, shy, but sadly, gay boy you hang around with behind Fruita Monument High School? Brethren? Sisters? No? Okay. A roomful of temple-worthy teens is such a joy, honestly, such a joy." (I know what you are thinking but this is what the question generally felt like to me, the, "flavor" if you will. The outcome was the same any way the question was posed: no horny teens copped to horniness in the group, thus many people from 1800's Europe involuntarily became Mormons posthumously via horny small-town American teenage liars that weekend.)
So I am in the van parked at Temple Square, an invisible but very tough mental veil dividing me from the hometown hicks in the youth group while they sing along to, I don't know, Journey. Out the tinted windows, I see the Godlike beauty of a Waver flicking, flicking, and again, flicking his inky bangs out of his eyes. All this will be mine, I think, someday.
And it was mine. And it is mine. Dan was a Waver in Salt Lake City at exactly that time. He hung out downtown by the Temple right where the Ford van with the tinted windows was parked and guess what! That was him with his bangs in his eyes. He remembers a beautiful girl looking out the window of a Ford van and not being able to not love her. Ok he doesn't, but in the movie he will and she will breathe on the window and in that mist draw a heart with her finger around his head and say, "I'll come back to find you Waver Boy and when I do, I will make you marry me and have two kids with me who we can mess up good and take to live in New York City, New York and it'll be rad."
And, Bretheren. It is rad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I see in my neighborhood:
-a store selling underwear with a padded bottom
-a dead rat become completely integrated with the asphalt in less than 24 hours
-Paul Auster and Siri Husvedt walking their dog, backlit and looking race-of-giantlike
-candles for sale that remove creative block or make someone shut up
-a useful and magical oil called, "I Can & You Can't"
-pigeons pecking at vomit
-a superhero supply store selling breathable water
-girl-on-girl porn in the trash bin atop of a heap of muffin wrappers inside Two Little Red Hens
-Hasidic fur disk/hats and woolen cloaks in murderous heat
-a guy who sets up his fancy telescope on the streetcorner for anyone who wants to see the moon, stars, mars....
-a big hillside of people on blankets singing along to "The Sound of Music" playing on a giant screen in the park
-a man whose wife won't let him inside all day so he sits on our building's wall and smokes cigars
-a brilliant cellist who can't stand up straight
-a jazz guitarist who plugs it all in and plays on his stoop at night
-Las Rubias del Norte playing across the street every Monday
-a building burning down for the third time in two years and everybody getting together to giddily watch
-people holding hands and dancing in the street for Purim
-13 NYPD officers feeding my seven-year-old vending machine doughnuts after she was lost, and found, on the subway
-Jonathon Safron-Foer giving a reading at our school
-my six-year-old waiting in the window well every morning to call out to our Puerto Rican supers down below
-a blizzard that shut down traffic and brought everyone, hipster to trader, out to marvel and sled in the streets
-a crazy, ancient woman from floor 5 sneaking in visits to the crazy, ancient, man-who-wears-underwear-only on 2.

This is why I have to stay.

Monday, August 22, 2005

So, Now What?

I've been in New York City long enough to have an identity crisis.

At hazard of defining myself as solely homemaker and lovemaker, I've toyed with tossing away the painting I.D. and a whole bunch of paints and solvents because, I'll be plain; this place intimidates my pants off. I haven't quit yet however because I don't exactly know how to dispose of toxic materials here and my friend Elizabeth Royte, a published environmentalist, sits tiny but constant on my shoulder so I can't really set my materials in somebody's can during the night and run off. Even my paintings would probably create leachate in the landfill so they're hanging around too. (By the way, if you would like Elizabeth on your shoulder, and you should, check "Garbage Land: On The Secret Trail Of Trash.")

I sneak around Chelsea, stepping in and out, in and out, of galleries. Later, I quietly hash out the art-trends with myself on the 'F' train on my way back to Brooklyn to pick up the brood at PS 107. Trend: rip of Darger, nod to porn. I've searched for my type of work on that map the same way I used to pore over the MTA Subway map as bedside reading, trying to figure out how I can get a handle on this place, where I am. I hope I have the wrong map because I'm not showing up anywhere. How did I get to this place?

I took leave of a SoHo gallery last spring because I didn't connect with the rest of the work there (heavy on paperweights, light on heavyweights) and thus felt restrained in spite of, or perhaps because of, constant sales of my work. I don't want to be the most challenging thing going I guess. I also pretty much dismissed my other two Utah galleries for much of the same reason. I admit that I set myself up.

Now I have no commitments. No shows. Nobody knows who I am except my kids' friends who, it must be said, love my work. I can paint whatever I want. What do I want to paint then? Do I want to paint? (Yes.) I have ideas, but seeing contemporary work has made me second-guess my execution and subjects. I've spent a long season painting and coming to no real conclusions, just moving a brush over and over the hesitant tracks that it has already made. I have around 17 paintings started and close to being finished, but I just can't see what I need to do. I wonder at night right before I sleep if the best thing would be to become part of the as-of-yet nameless yet identifiable movement of painting (I wonder what it will end up being referred to as.) It is narrative and that fits. But it's so derivative. No, I can't. This last week, I decided to forge ahead as if I'd never seen what is going on out there. And so I continue where I am but with no audience over the age of eight (that's alright) and with a curious merging of Utah landscape with Brooklyn landscape and a whole bunch of people running around feeling lonely.

Somebody would like that, right?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hide The Nice, Part II

Never drive, carry, or wear nice things as they will be crushed or removed from you.
I read "The Blotter" every week in the "Park Slope Courier." iPod snatching has run amok.

(Fortunately, I am already comfortable with this rule as virtually the same kicked in around the time I joined the ranks of Parents Everywhere. )

So the thinking when Dan bought me a surprise new bike was, "get something not worth stealing."
But I am smitten. I love this new bike. It's gorgeous. It came from a shop on the polluted banks of the Gowanus Canal and outweighs me. It's painted with house paint. Sigh.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hide The Nice

My first year in Brooklyn I spent grinning around the neighborhood wondering what had gone so wrong with the (surely) good people of New York. A boroughwide, yea, even citywide, cloud of crappiness hung overhead in all kinds of weather and it tended to really hurt my tender feelings. See, I've never been somebody who puts it all out there, but I ask for things with a smile or at the very least I ask for things, period. My consideration and charm was appreciated with exaggerated smirks, items shoved my way, and an eye on the next, surely better, more Brooklynesque, person on line. People didn't like me. Often I was met with something like suspicion. Was I too nice?

Back in Utah, I prided myself for being a negative person, finding the rotten in about every situation. I never partook in, "hon" or, "thanks a million," or, "I pree-chate that/cha." I bucked at all that sweet posturing, was above that insincerity. So how, then did it crawl or soak in? I am sweet. Sweet, sweet, sweet as a frothy Mormon dessert of no nutritional value . In Brooklyn, I am that which has for many years grossed me out at home.

So I began a regimen of consciously sloughing off the nicey-nice with the pumice of anger, indignation, and disgust. I tried demanding. I jockeyed for position. Did I smile? Only when the transaction was over and to my exact satisfaction and then only very briefly. "I'll take a lemon-rosemary tofu wrap and I'm in a hurry and could you wear a rubber glove so your likely toxic hand-tattoo juice doesn't get on my food?", or, "No, I don't need help with this motherlode of a suitcase up these endless barf-ridden subway stairs. Get the eff away, tourist!", or, "Hey, overheated upper middle-class white dad. That kid was NOT at fault for your doughy toddler's fast-forward descent down the slide. Your kid fell! Fell on his clumsy own!"

That's the new me and guess what? People love me now. Lick my flip-flops, good people of Brooklyn. Lick around my toes. But really, is this me? I think it just may be. It's the me that was wrapped up in swaddling, um, nice stuff that made it hard to connect or feel people. I think the people here suspected that I was in sales or was some sort of missionary which makes sense since I came from the Salesman Capital and Missionary Making Emporium of The Entire Blue and Green Planet. Now I think people know that I'm a lady who needs a wrap.

Here's a secret, though. I'm still so nice that I want to hug the guy making my wrap and dab Neosporin on his reddening piercings, but that's entre nous. (Or entre moi, as nobody reads this.)

Now if I can only figure out why everybody I've gotten to know wants to kiss when we meet up.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Talking To Myself In The City That Never Sweeps

Ok. The city does sweep, but it just seems to sweep stuff from over here to over there.

Here I am in New York City. Nobody really knows why I left behind a fully furnished house with a double garage and Land Rover in the driveway. I'm not certain myself but somehow all that space and stuff seemed indulgent and already won. In the years from bankruptcy to middle-classiness, I built up a good and workable art-career in Salt Lake City, Utah culminating in the classic earmark of fame: being recognized in the grocery store by a blushing fan (which made me blush too, but, so?). The county had purchased a piece for their collection, my local gallery had a waiting list for my work, and I was guaranteed at least one solo exhibit annually if I wanted it. Sales were steady.

So, I talked it over with Dan, packed a big box of our favorite pillows and books, disenrolled the kids from what was turning out to be an increasingly conservative private school that would re-comb Boone's rocker-do, found a sublet on Craigslist, got tickets and got out.

I think it was mediocrity and the Easy Life I was uneasy with. With harmless people who say, "Thanks a million!" and ample thoroughfares for the auto, I knew the ease and convenience of Salt Lake City would tenderize me slowly if I stayed. I needed raw living to reach the nerve where my best painting resides. I needed a place that was sincerely tough and brutally sincere.

So Brooklyn it was.