Monday, November 28, 2005

Make A Painting!

Today I thought I'd demonstrate the steps for creating a painting since every now and then I can't even open my Inbox, so tightly crammed it is with requests to do so. (Did all you people know that I paint? Remember that? Oh, some of you thought I was just one of those excessively bloggy moms. But not just! Read on.)
People are cheap these days. D.I.Y. will ruin the artworld, but sobeit. That's inevitable. So I will capitulate to the demands of the public and shall, over the next week or so, show you all how to make this painting, a painting for our times called, "Headin' For The Hills." However, I am omitting the steps of surface prep because, frankly, surface prep would bore you.
Also, I tend to pay extra these days for somebody else to prep.

Step one: Think about the article in The New Republic about impending doom where the author, Richard A. Posner, rightly says, "Americans simply do not accept the inevitability of disaster." Think about it a lot. Think about it on the subway and then pull out your sketch journal and sketch a mother dragging her puzzled kids into the forest as they literally run for the hills, disaster at their backs. Accept the inevitability of disaster. Close journal.

Step two: Redraw image, freehand, onto 24 x 24 in. gessoed surface. Use frantic and scribbly lines because frantic and scribbly is how you feel on the inside. Glaze with a gravy colored transparent layer of medium to seal the graphite.

Step three: Insert sky. I work from the distance forward. So will you, I guess.

Step four: Eat lunch, blog.

To be continued....(as is my inner panic.)

P.S. Speaking of disaster, Big Mike caught it all the way in Australia, but did anybody else notice the Killer Balloons at this years Macy's Thanksgiving Parade? See? Next year, only mylar Get Well balloons allowed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Man Handler

So tomorrow, with forecasters calling for rain and heavy winds, many untrained volunteers will help wrangle flopping towers of polyurethane through Midtown guided only by instruction sheets reminiscent of airline safety cards.
-The New York Times

When I heard a balloon handler interviewed on the radio this morning, I had to pause, head not quite poked out of shirt, as I thought I was hearing myself. I had missed the part about the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and the part about the nearly fatal Cat In The Hat balloon mishap of years past that left a New Yorker brain damaged. What I heard was somebody saying that when stirred, there's no knowing what could happen with this unwieldy, careening beast as it bullied its way down the streets of Manhattan. Essentially, the frustrated handler had gotten no training whatsoever for how to control something many thousand times larger than she and filled with something that unevenly buoys it up in the most unpredictable of circumstances. She had been given only a little card with scanty drawings and she was basically giving up on the spot, live.
She is almost me, but I never got any little instruction card and instead of the Cat in The Hat, I get Dan (who shares the body type but does not ever wear red and white together.)

My husband is a force. I don't know what makes him go exactly, but while some would try to medicate it, others would harness it if they could. Maybe the best and worst thing about Dan is that he gets ideas and then actually carries them out. Dan:
  • Quit high school to work.
  • Decided that he didn't like his boss at Lagoon and walked away from the Ferris wheel he was charged with, mid-ride.
  • Borrowed money to fix and flip decrepit houses, amassing many properties before he was 26.
  • Went completely planless to England and filled a shipping container with antiques he had culled during one week.
  • Auctioned off the antiques and broke even.
  • Bought more and better French antiques with every last inch of our credit.
  • Lost all of the antiques when the container was punctured mid-voyage.
  • Lost all of his properties.
  • Had our cars repo'ed by a high school friend-cum-repoman.
  • Lost our primary residence.
  • Started a crazy Internet business.
  • Almost lost his wife.
  • Watched his Internet business take off.
  • Got new cars.
  • Went completely planless to Transylvania and filled a shipping container with antiques he had culled during one week.
  • decidedly did not break even on the antiques.
  • Bought film equipment and went to Austria and soon, the Philippines, to make a documentary.
  • Bought a car off of eBay.
  • Moved to NYC with the insane wife and kids.
  • Is building a robot that will do something which the wife can't exactly wrap her mind around.
  • Walks Manhattan while conducting business all day on a cell and knows the City like it's his own.
  • Is doing something wacky with the Internet that promises World domination soon.
  • Bought up lots of land on a trip to Costa Rica and is building his hideaway (take that literally, or no.)

So last night a weighty package arrived at our door and within was something I was completely ill-prepared for; a cook book that Dan had ordered. For himself.
Does that sound nice? Yes, I too was suspicious. The last time this person cooked (as in combining ingredients, not the heating up of prepared comestibles) was when we were living together, pre-married, in creaking poverty. We were earning a combined 400.00 per month by waiting tables and working in a print shop, so there we were in thrift store clothes, not completely for the grunge of it. We were two kids, alone in a slum, cooking potatoes on a found hibachi. Dan got hold of some variety of things one special evening and combined them to create what I think of now as Edible Bruise or perhaps, Hopeful Destitution. That was his cooking, and in the cabbage and ketchup, we found love swirling around like oil. It wasn't that bad.

Do you believe he will cook now? The world-dominating documentarian entrepreneurial spaz. Cooking. Well here's the part in the equation that makes sense: this cook book is from elBulli, a restaurant in Spain that some consider THE best restaurant in the world with its array of twinkling Michelin stars. The hulking book comes with software, which becomes understandable when you read descriptions by foodies frothing on about, "an impossibly light, dusty popcorn piece served on a spoon, which disintegrated and then disappeared on the tongue; sheer glass panes of sweet nori seaweed; tiny puffed quinoa grains in a cornet; and a parmesan and lemon crunchy asteroid ball." Well, we'll see.

I'm also to believe that the chef has included recipes including cough drops and other common things found in one's purse or desk. This is the part that grabbed Dan. If he's going to cook, he better be doing some serious alchemy. He's been an alchemist for so long now, creating gold from balls of dung. I asked him if there would be rubber-band tortes for Thanksgiving then, maybe roasted band-aid fricasee? He says there just may be some complicated but tasty foams.

At 250.00 for the book, well those foams better be transforming.

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21, 2005

How It's Going

I find myself thick in a thicket that I blithely wandered into when I was kind of cute, fun, and young. An inviting marquee at the entrance of the thicket said, "Come, See If You Can Get Pregnant, Have Your Own Kid!" There was probably some good music playing and I may have sung along, saying to Dan something like, "It's the beginning of a great adventure!" and he must have said, "If you say so."
It was fun going in for sure, and the Baby Bjorn was a blast. Small people added a whole new category to thrift-shopping and refreshed that flickering flame for me. Haircuts that we would never try for ourselves could so easily be tested upon tiny crowns for fun.
I'm quite certain that I did not enter into the thicket fully comprehending that part of the great adventure would involve the shaping human minds. The thicket at this juncture grows thorny as mind-molding is not really my bag. So here I am now and you can be quite sure that I'm winging it in a sweat, trying out self-devised techniques like bad haircuts on these unfortunate young people, and flying by the seat of my pants. Things are getting harder as the human minds set and for many things I have no reference points to guide me. For instance, I can't remember discussing sex with anybody over four and a half feet tall when I was Em's age. As I got taller, the parental conversations didn't really happen either. Church told me not to. Period. (Speaking of period, that was a total mystery too.) But I've gleaned from the media that this shouldn't be so, that dialogue is absolutely necessary if you don't want to end up housing your very own infected whore. Or worse. I don't and so therefore, whenever it strikes me, often when I am crossing a street or on the subway with Em, I'll fire off, "How's your vagina? Do you have any questions? Don't feel ashamed of it. But don't show it to anyone, ok?"
She tells me that it's fine. Fine! She gets surly about it, so I'm pretty sure I'm doing the sex-ed wrong. (Nobody asks me about my vagina and I think that it'd be nice once in awhile if someone did, but that's another blog entirely.)
Sex-ed needs work.

Sometimes, though, I find I've gotten lucky. Sometimes, I find I must have done right, somehow. My kids are basically good and surprise me by having better hearts and less hangups than I at their age (or now for that matter.)
To wit:

Racial Differences
While I grew up with nary a black person to talk to in my western Colorado childhood, Em and Boone often find themselves in a pasty minority on the playground and at school. I say they find themselves, but that is inaccurate as they simply do not realize their minorityhood. Only I do, fresh off the boat from Utah. Since we've been here, I've been waiting for them to ask, what's up with all the brown skin and curly hair here? But it's been a year and a half with no questions. Looks like we got here early enough for them to not notice. I feel good about that. I feel like I have given them a flat ground to stand on instead of an artificially elevated one. Also, they will never have to deal with the inner shame of thinking to themselves as adults, "I'm talking to a black person. Act natural. Act normal. Act like this isn't the first time in your life that this has happened." It is with regret that I share this about myself, but with complete pride and happiness that I share this about Em: in school, she had big rivalry with a snappily-dressed black girl who was quite dominating. Her hair was just so, her lip gloss was just so, and her coordinated tights were, you guessed it, just so. She didn't like Em's vegetarian, animal-rights, anti-fashion attitude. Em didn't like this little girls attitude. One day, Em came home triumphant and upon questioning, revealed that she had finally come up with something to say back to Crystal (who is expert in the dis.) What was Em's excellent retort? "At least I'll never be a slave!"
My heart sank. I had held off explaining that skin-color variations didn't mean anything because the very explanation of such meant otherwise. "Effed-up again," I told myself.
"Em? What do you mean by that?" I asked.
"At least I'll never be a slave to fashion! Ha! Never!"
Yayyy! Tabula rasa prevails and the slate is not tainted by racism or fear of racism. Only the despising of fashionistas and beauty queens. That's ok. (By the way, in Emmie's protracted rivalry with Crystal, neither girl has mentioned the other's race. Only the other's style. I consider this a tiny victory.)

Cultural Differences
When we first moved here, Boone thought the Hasidic Jewish boys with their ringlets and yarmulkes were wearing uniforms for their school. During the still, wet heat of summer and wearing little more than an underwear brief, Boone watched these boys from the sprinklers on the playground. He took notice of their long sleeves, black woolen vests, long wooly pants, tassels, and sensible black shoes. The hats, the ringlets, the Yiddish. I explained that this tortuously hot clothing was more than a school uniform, that it was part of a complete and complex lifestyle. My knowledge, naturally, was lacking though. I stared at these kids right along with my son. I tried to talk to their mothers. Their mothers moved themselves away from me.
One day, while breaking up the summer days by visiting Coney Island and that famous Deno's Wonderwheel, Boone and I spent a miserable 30 minutes in line for a chance to get above it all and turn upside down in a cage a couple of times. We were directly behind a group of Hasidic kids. Finally, the Jewish boys were crammed and locked into their cage and ours was descending for us. Boone, in his rather friendly but taunty way yelled out, "Heeeeyyyy Jews! Heeeeyyy, Jews! You better watch out, Jews!" I was frozen in the summer heat. It sounded for all the world like a threat. With all of Coney Island listening with dropped jaw, I demanded, "Boone! What are you talking about?!" Wounded and confused, he answered, "It's a scary ride! Those boys might get scared!"
We got into our cage and I thought of Boone with no knowledge of the holocaust, no notion of all the jokes made about Jews, no notions of how New York City is divided up. His only relevant notions at the moment had to do with how scary a ride can be at Coney Island and his obligation to warn some fellow boys. Boys who, just like Boone, must really love the Wonderwheel.

Differences in Sexuality
When we lived in Salt Lake City, I was contacted by the press because I was a straight mom who let her kid hang with the kid of a lesbian mom. Big news in Utah as I wasn't outwardly perverse, kept my house clean, and scaled the food pyramid properly.
Now, here, I'm no news. Well, yes, I am news, but I'm news because I am Mormon, or grew up Mormon (confusion: in Utah, I am unmistakably NOT Mormon. In NYC, I cannot convince people that I'm not Mormon because I was born, blessed, and baptized. The rest is of no consequence, but that is another blog altogether.)
So, our good friends here, Brett and Roland are integrated into our kids' lives like uncles, really nice uncles with a big dog and a willingness to rough house. They are there in a pinch and irreplaceable. They bring cookies. They want to be married. They want a kid.
The other night, it occurred to me to ask Em what she thought about Brett and Roland together.
"What do you mean?" She asked, a little tremor in her voice as if I were about to break it to her that they were splitting up or something.
"I mean, two guys together. Is that weird to you or anything?" I was gauging how much the outside world had gotten to her.
"No, why would it be?" she asked.
"It's not. Never mind."
More triumph. This could never have been me at her age. She is better.

So that's where I am in the thicket. That's how it's going. The sex-ed thing still needs work, but I am letting Em and Boo read the New Yorker. The cartoons within have the benefit of teaching them about sex and what's funny about sex. Just the other day, Em asked, "what's a condom?" as she surveyed one cartoon where one of the King's men was saying, "At least he was wearing a condom," while all other King's men hoisted a cracked but condom-encased Humpty up off the ground. Well, it's not that funny, but at least it gave me a chance to ask Em, "How's your vagina?"

I'm taking suggestions.

P.S. If anyone wants to analyze the violent drawing above, feel free.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I owe you an entry, people. I know, I know.

In fairness I should disclose today that I am a blogger looking for something really easy to blog because, let's face it, I'm sick of doing the deep-dive for these entries. Fine, medium-dive, but same sick-itude. I know of seven people who I entertain with these slavishly pecked out words and one is myself and three are my family members. So no more suicide/murder musings for an empty house and for sure, no more complaining about the weather. Today, I just describe a thirty-second (possibly less) exchange I had with a mid-twenties boy who I'm pretty sure was wearing foundation makeup. Then I knock off.

The setup: My friend Shelley and I had dragged her nap-deprived two-year-old into a gallery in SoHo featuring huge psychedelic geodesic structures and a room jammed wall to wall, floor to rafter with rotating multicolor spirals. The sensation of the show was alternately impressive and nauseating and Shelley's son had had enough just after crossing the threshold and was letting us know. Plus he was hungry. The gallery attendant, the boy with the powder perfect skin, was eating his lunch at the reception (har) desk (behind the black and yellow ball above) and completely ignoring us while catching up with friends. We probably seemed like we weren't going to understand or buy the roomful of spirals. Well there's a lost commision, Nancy boy, but I digress.

The exchange:
Me: Um, excuse me?
(The friends part and stare at me as I approach the desk. Palpable judging is palpitated. By me.)

Him (surely irritated, sort of mean, but cute anyway): Yes?

Me: Do you mind telling me where you got that?

Him (looking at his blouse): This?

Me: Oh, no. But that's great. I mean, where did you get that dumpling?

Him (gesturing with a wooden chopstick): This?

Me: Yeah.

Him: Broome Street (shows me the take-out bag.) Here's the address (we read it together.)

(He picks up part of the dumpling with his chopsticks and we regard it together.)

Me: That looks really good.

Him (quiet and flattered): Thanks.

In the end, Shelley, her baby, and I did not go get dumplings. We got noodles somewhere else entirely.

But I may go back for the roomful of spirals.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Turn To The Left, Turn To The Right. (Fashion.)

I was at the Herald Square H&M this morning and the Stella McCartney gorge frenzy was in full swing.
Stella, a Beatle's daughter, has deigned to do a momentary couture-for-the-masses stint for the Swedish-based clothing store where I buy 83% of the family's apparel.
Planets aligned so that I happened upon a clot of about 200 women tearfully tearing every last piece of designer goods from the racks. The Stella McCartney fashions distinguished themselves from the ordinary H&M cheapies-but-goodies sewn by precious and tiny third-world hands by their special mauve and goldtone plastic hangers. Otherwise they were cheap fabric and weak stitching as usual. This reality did not impede the hordes of women who clutched their piles of hope to their pounding hearts unaware that, even worn all at once, there wasn't enough Stella McCartney in the universe to stem that ugly desperation on their faces causing them to claw at one another and sneakily pick items off one another's piles. No Stella McCartney garment would ever be enhancing enough for the girl with the tattered soul who promised anything, I mean anything, to the passive dreadlocked dressing room attendant if he'd just pull out some special Stella McCartney pants in her size from the back room.
"Lady, I want to make everyone happy but that ain't gonna happen today."
By the looks of it, nobody seemed very happy. Then again, Stella McCartney wasn't around.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Weekinceptiphobia, Plus, Plus!

Aquastripteasipublicaphobia--fear that the urge to publicly peel off one's clothing and jump into a beautiful urban fountain will eventually step on one's superego's throat.

Giganteeniphobia--nervous twitching panic upon seeing a group of now standard six-foot-plus teens approaching one on the sidewalk.

Humoramutaphobia--fear that one's friends did not quite hear one's clever joke (may lead to Humorarepetitia).

Humorafatiguiphobia--fear that one's friends do indeed hear one's jokes, but that said jokes are just not clever.

Technobserviphobia--fear that somebody or some agency can see one through one's monitor.

Intimiperceptiphobia--fear that one's friends or family believe that one would like to make out with him/her/them.

Illgottenadmissioniphobia--fear that the ticket-ripper at the movie theater does not believe that one actually did pay for one's movie ticket. Also arrises as a fear that one will be perceived as a "crasher" at an event to which one is legitimately invited, yea, perhaps of which one is even the guest of honor.

Maternimpossibiliphobia--fear that the NYPD security guards at one's childrens' public school will judge one by her paint-slopped clothing and bad breath to not possibly be mother material and hence will not allow one to retrieve one's honestly attained children.

malexploitiphobia--fear that one will someday appear in one's many writer-friends' novels, articles, or blogs as the shameless idiot with a barely altered name.

nonexploitiphobia--fear that one will never appear in one's many writer-friends' novels, articles, or blogs in any form at all, ever.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Daughter

Oh. I'm not sure who she is, this nine-year-old. She listens with a very familiar half-lidded gaze, focussing on a distant planet. Sometimes I snap at her, thinking she hasn't heard, but she has. She absorbs me. This feels dangerous as I don't know how fitting a substance I am to be taken in. I never meant to make my campaign to be anti-fashion, anti-pop culture, anti-advertising. I just always thought it was all dum and couldn't find the time, though I sometimes mean to bone-up, but don't ever. Somehow, though, I heard myself in her answer to her aunt's question, who do you think the most beautiful celebrity is? Well, you may well know that her auntie is a shameless swiller of Pop, and she may well have had People magazine in her clutch. Em wearily answered, "Oh, Jodes. You know I don't care about celebrities. I think my mom is the most beautiful. You are second." Let me die now because this is the most perfect moment in my mothering career.

And she understands my art. She knows it's partially sad but mainly hillarious for me. For us. She came into my studio last night when Dan and Boo fell asleep on the couch, the television talking to itself once again. She closed the door and sat down to observe, telling me she loves to watch me work. Shyly, she said she would like the kind of sketch book I use someday, the big square kind. I put my pencil down, reached up to my cluttered supply shelf, dug out a book I bought at Pearl for myself last time I was in the city, and handed it to her. Really? she asked, those beaver-teeth prominent in her open-mouthed glee. Really, I said. She helped herself to my pencil tin and started sketching right away. This book, she said, will show me what really goes on inside her head. I believe her quantities of previous sketchbooks have been bound up in the propriety assumed by the books' presentors of a nine-year-old girl's imaginings. Squirrels and bunnies with flowers and nuts ensued. Houses with chimneys. Girls with their hands folded in front. This new sketchbook then holds the promise of being special because she knows it was mine and that I marinate in a barely disguised impropriety with my work. We laughed together at the new panel I am working on which depicts a nude office scene. Water cooler, fern, secretary with baggy breasts at the computer, boss with a baggy bum on phone. And how about my smoking forest bears? Delicious for us. Just for us.

Straight away, she set to work on a sketch of forest bunnies who have just happened upon a piercing-gun. Can you imagine? Oh, yes. The bunnies are enjoying cigars, naturally. This is our world. Emmie knows that to expose this book to the air where commonplace expectations of kids hang languidly about the shoulders would be to invite scrutiny and trouble. But if she brings that book into the studio and closes the door, we can inhabit a place where I believed once I was the sole human kicking around.

There's a new kid in town.