Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday Greetings

This week I was forced to make, with my own two gnarled hands, the Husband's Christmas Gift.
You may have heard the subway was switched off? I guess I didn't really want to ride with strangers by hitchhiking into the city (suddenly encouraged) or walk across the freezing Brooklyn Bridge (although the Media attention and free cocoa did tempt me). Ah, Manhattan, where the men are ok about boutiques and flowery gentleman-scents and even a wedge heel. You were so far away!
And with UPS drawing its blinds and locking its door in my neighborhood, was not a true option anymore. So with humility, no small amount of desperation, and little more on hand than lint, saliva, and a few eyelashes, I contacted the Mormon Homemaker who lives inside of me, rent free, for assistance. As is her bent, she was happy to help.
My gift for Dan turned out beautifully, thanks to Mormon Homemaker. But something nags at me.
Dan was prickly with curiosity. He thought he had his gift figured out after I spent three days locked in the studio with my project and the kids spread out all over the floor. With his burning ear flat against the door, Dan tried to decode Em and Boo's muffled but obviously blown-away exclamations (which have never been dispensed with such profusion about my paintings) over their mother and her craftliness.
For an afternoon, Dan was convinced that I had gotten hold of his ($250.00 U.S.) El Bulli cook book and a hot plate and cooked him up a Christmas foam.


No. It's not that.

But now I'm wishing I had given Inner Mormon Girl her walking papers and turned to that Crazed Spanish Chef and his foams instead.

I wish I had made him one of two foams which may or may not be included in the 24 x 18x 4 inch, 6 pound cookbook:

1. A multigallon-sized foam with prescription strength sedative effect. Dan could take this long-lasting foam on the plane for our trip to Utah. The sizeable foam, stashed in a lined duffel, could occupy the man as he spoons at it during the long flight. With a cute ring of foam 'round his razor stubbled mouth, Dan could find peace and maybe unconsciousness, his mind distracted from that disatrous combination of tight travel factors that tends to lead to an unamusing claustrophobia very specific to Dan. A few years ago, when the world was a little different, in a plane at the tail end of a line of waiting aircraft on a tarmac, a sweaty Dan leapt around the coach-class cabin forcing the flight attendants to open the doors to let him run around outside. They did, and then let him back in when he ran his demons off.
During these times, that business gets a husband shot.


2. A foam sleeve with nutritious properties. Dan could nibble on this neoprene-like, gravy-flavored forearm foam to stave off the trembly low-blood-sugar-meanies that take over him every day at about 11:00, miles from a cafe or hotdog man. For whatever reason, Power Bars and the like get lost, or the kids snack them down and other portable foods get forgotten all around the city. A foam sleeve, then. Gravy flavored.

Oh, for a foamy Holiday. I wish I had indeed lovingly made a froth. But no. As cosmopolitan and contemporary as this city is, and as I absorb new thinking everyday, when it comes down to it, I craft.
So Merry Christmas to all of you, and especially to my husband.
And even to the Mormon Homemaker inside of me who earned her rent this month.

And a foamy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


The city grinds to a halt today as the transit union strikes and I pause to consider that crazy carnival ride, the subway. I realize this morning that the rattletrap has become so usual to us that we now miss our stops not because we don't know what we are doing, but because we fall asleep on the lurching train.

When my family walked that tightrope from Salt Lake City to New York City one and a half years ago, I truly felt that I had run us all away and joined the circus, forcing my nice Utah family to become carneys. I am responsible for this raucous life of rattling trains, shouting people, and a tiny, shaking co-op in a former tenement built over the 'F' train line. On spinning plates, I have balanced these guilts and responsibilities: two kids who had gone only to an essentially Mormon private school thus far and a husband who had no reason to live in New York other than a glancing regard for the skyscraper. My own reasons are unwieldy and flighty.
We just came to New York for the summer and never went home.

So our building wakes up today and I smell the neighbors cooking bacon, hear greetings in the hallway, hear the Puerto Rican supers fighting in spanish in the courtyard as they sort the garbage. It's not so unlike a circus train with the cars stacked vertically here. I find that the close, rattly living that I deeply questioned in the murky wee hours of our New York existence has become something like home. The clomp, clomp, clomp upstairs? Home. The jazz guitar I feel from below in my feet and up my legs as I stand at the easel? Home. The ten month-old who screeches for my kids every time he passes by our door on the way to his? Home.

At 3:00 a.m. this morning, Dan and I both awoke with nothing in particular on our minds, just a disconcerting wakefulness. Turning on the TV, we found that at 3:00 a.m., the transit strike had been called. Our building is still now like I've never felt it, its bricks not needing to realign themselves every 7-10 minutes. The measured, regular vibration of the 'F' train was something that, when we first heard it in our skeletons, seemed like a deal-breaker when we moved our timid Utah troupe into our apartment. "How will we sleep with that?" we wondered and pulled out the legal papers to reassess our commitment.

And now I suppose we listen for the train without knowing it, even in our sleep.
I guess we now may almost be New Yorkers.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The snow in the air mixes dangerously with electricity as the city waits on the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Transport Workers Union Local 100 to loosen the arms so tightly folded across their chests and shake hands by midnight. The mayor has encouraged us to use our bicycles tomorrow if, in the next hour, the Union calls a strike. Impossible! Has he not seen?

It's so impossibly cold and slick outside. But there is such an air of suspense all over. What will our lives be like without that rattletrap subway? The city huddles together around this issue in a way that makes a strike seem strangely unifying and appealing. We'll be forced to stay in our neighborhoods and shop more locally than ever. Yay! School starts two hours later if there is a strike. Yay! Dan and I encountered no competition at FAO Schwartz tonight because nobody is going out. Yay! We took one of the last 'F' trains before midnight and now we can't sleep. Yay!

Ah, but the economy of the city if the strike lasts more than a couple of days. And oh, people will die if the streets are so crowded with cars that the ambulettes can't pass.

Will they strike?

Can they really, "stop the clock?"

60 minutes more.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

New, New Amsterdam

Last night I saw a sight that took my breath away and confused me right through 'til morning when Boone whispered quietly between bites of oatmeal, "Mama. I saw a lady with a gun last night in the city."
"Oooh, Booney," I confided, "I saw her too. Wasn't she something?" She had taken our breath away.

Playing the part of good New Yorkers, Dan and I had dragged our bedraggled youngsters straight from school to 34th Street to see if Santa Land at Macy's was as miraculous as memory rendered. I can't help but momentarily set aside my crass life-observations when I see my Believer child, Boone, (Em is now an Unbeliever) nervously approach that bearded temp in thin red fur, plastic belt, and phony specs and hand deliver his childish hopes and dreams. This moment of perfect faith and innocence is a needed shot in the arm during this very Cold Season.
But then I'm back at the ol' crass observations with Dan: This Santa Land is a helluva ringer for Olde Amsterdam's own twinkling Red Light District. Cheaply costumed and heavily rouged, young women and men ditch all pride in favor of the bux, calling out to passersby, "Heeeyyyyy! Don't you wanna see Santa?" "Yo! Come on, don't be shy! Come sit on his lap!" And so we are escorted by a compact Tinkle to a private hut. With lively talk and movement Tinkle is careful to not let us notice that there are many huts and many, many other customers. We are made to feel as if He is our one and only and we, His. Many promises are made then. Whispers, clumsy pats on the head, awkward silence and then the whole episode, so anxiously awaited, ends before we feel entirely satisfied. On our way out of the hut, I glance back and see another family, all flushed, enter the hut. We are then nicely booted out to the shopping throngs. Ah, New Amsterdam.
But I digress. Often.
So, post-Santa Land, and at the grand portal to Macy's on 34th Street, we exited, task accompli, through a heavy revolving door. Boone did his requisite joke where he acts as if he can't get out of that crazy contraption and, shouting junior expletives, takes it around two or three more times while shoppers get pissed, missing the humor altogether as Boone finally stumbles, dizzy, out to the sidewalk and plops on his rear on the cement.

And then there she was, outside the revolving door at Macy's, a staggering symbol for our times. She was taller than Dan, so she stood over six feet tall and stood dark in the shadows. She had her scarf wrapped up to her eyes, her helmet pulled low, and stood with her feet a shoulder's width apart holding her AK-47 (I think) at the ready, across her uniformed chest, pointing at the freezing sky, ready to blow away the bloated moon if need be. Standing in her own self-generated fog, this woman is a new Statue of Liberty, chilly and inaccessible. She is somehow a symbol of our freedom, our democracy, our security.
Yet twenty-four hours later I'm still not exactly sure how.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Home Sweet Home

This is my neighborhood in Brooklyn. The people who live in the brownstones here are cerebral, famous, and cool. Many of them are foodies.

This could be my home. As you can guess, I don't know what to make for dinner.

*What I'm listening to: A month's worth of podcasted NPR book reviews.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tears Of Nice

A gallery owner in Williamsburg looked at my work and told me that, while he'd love to purchase a piece for himself, my work is not, "edgy" enough to hang in the gallery. (Drip, drip.)

I told him I'd huff my solvents then since I don't know where to begin with heroin and try to locate my inner porn.

At that point he invited me to hang something in the gallery.

And that's what's all over. Porn, porn, porn. I'm getting sick of seeing weird couplings that are meant to shock me. (Drip, sniff.)

Dear Williamsburg, I am not shocked.

Later, I met up with and foolishly asked one of the parents at PS 107 if he thought I was prim. This was obviously the invitation he'd been waiting for (sniff, drip) because as we walked toward the school, he gathered more energy than I've ever seen on him and lit into me.
"You're the %^&*(% happiest person I know. You'll never shake that guilty, nicey Girl From Utah thing no matter how cool you dress. Go ahead and keep dressing weird but you'll always be that poor little girl who feels guilty for not having 17 kids.
"And you just can't let yourself hang out with a straight married man, blabbity, blabbity, always so nice to everyone, blab, eff that crossing guard, you don't have to do what she says! See?!!!! Blab."


So when I got home I just cried into the brownie batter that I was preparing for a bunch of kids who are over watching the Lice Episode of Arthur.
Not to get all Isabelle Allende, but those nice brownies just might break some Brooklyn hearts.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What The Kids Want

I came upon a moving scene in the park one day while on my morning run. A young boy who evidently did not have the use of his legs tearfully pulled himself along the turf, slowly maneuvering himself by clutching the grass at the root and sliding on his chest. Pulling, clutching, pulling, courageously inching along. I recall that he may have been appealing to somebody to, "Wait up. Wait for me!"
So sad. So inspiring!

The thing that ruined this nearly perfect vignette for me was the film crew hovering above this brave child and his wasted limbs. Unfortunately, he was really a child-actor who doesn't have to go to school and who can easily pop up and climb into his trailer for a snort and a foot rub. A security guard told my nosy running partner (while I just gawked at the child-actor) that this would become something like an After-School Special or a Nicolodeon Snack. Perhaps an Oxygen Kids'-Fixie. It was the nutrient-free foam of children's fantasies, made only sweeter because, you see, not only was the child gimped, but it was his parents' fault. They were getting a divorce, naturally, and his cripplehood was momentarily keeping them together. Apparently, psychosomatic crippling can be a very effective tool for getting what you want. I am grateful at least that the mother wasn't dead which is often the case.
The security guy said it was going to be a really, really nice movie. You know I can't wait.

So, that's what kids really want. They don't fantasize about animals who talk or mer-communities. They want personal drama and manipulation tactics. To wit: things hum along smoothly in our apartment with the usual dropped dishes, walking on tables, and periodic homework glancing, but when the commercial for Nanny 911 surfaces on the TV (which is talking to itself in the other room), everything stops and the kids (and I) rush to the television, mouths agape, six inches from the screen to watch quick edits of mouthy children, loser New Jersey parents, and a Brit nanny who hands their cheeky bums to all of them all in about thirty seconds.

Kinderschandenfreude? Almost. Something like that.

*What I'm listening to: Wilco-Yankee, Hotel, Foxtrot

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Make A Painting! Part IIII

Today's Lesson

Today's lesson is that to make this painting we must paint it over and over and over. Oh, and over.
I think you may have thought that once everything was filled in, the thing would be done.

P.S. Hey! Have you heard about face transplants?

What I'm listening to:
Sigur Ros' Takk--I don't know what these Icelandic kids are saying but I'm fairly certain it's something about the wind in the park in Brooklyn when it blows a branch-full of snow into a blue sky lit by a frozen sun. They are singing in Icelandic with extended vowels and stretched vocal cords about how the fragmented snow hangs in the air, sparkling and stopping the heart, because these things, spoken of in English with an American accent, sound ridiculous and embarrassing.

Avenue 'Q', the Soundtrack-- For reasons that may be obvious to some. These are muppets on Broadway with real life problems.

Smashing Pumpkins' Meloncolie and the Infinite Sadness--I return to this one even though Billy Corgin is not easy to love.

Sometimes I tire of sharing my space with a hamster.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Make A Painting! Part III

Ok. Who's ready to paint?
Well you have to whether or not you're feeling it because you have to retrieve the young Brooklyners. Then not so much paint thereafter.

Today's Lesson:

Step 1:

Add some lights to the back, start messing around in the front. Realize that the silly atmospheric perspective tricks you like to sarcastically employ are going to require you to repaint the background altogether at some point. Ignore this and sing along with Meatloaf and warmly realize that your music is surely turning the jazz guitarist downstairs into a bubbly puddle of hatred.

No More Steps.

*What I'm listening to: Meatloaf, obviously. Bat Out of Hell

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Make A Painting! Part II

Today, I would like to add a feature called: What I Am Listening To to my blog, as my friend last night was going on over dinner about another painter's blog who does this. This painter is better than I, so I should rip off his ideas whenever possible.
Also, I've been unexpectedly nudged by guilt over a lie that I told in the previous entry. To set the record straight, I admit here that my Inbox has never been crammed tightly with requests for step-by-steps for painting. But I wish it were.

Today's Lesson

Step 1: Make a shadowy blue haze over background and on skin. This will be used later as shadows that seem to surface through the paint rather on top of the paint.

Step 2: Fill in details of the background taking care to leave some pencil line showing. (This penchant for pencil-lines is no doubt due in part to the reported, "drawing craze" taking place in NYC. That's a good craze.)

Step 3: Step back, turn off music, go to class-parent meeting.

*What I am listening to: The Pogues: If I Should Fall From Grace With God and Pogues Mahone