Monday, October 31, 2005

Hallowe'ened



There's a down town fairy singing out "Proud Mary"
As she cruises Christopher Street
And some southern queen is acting loud and mean
Where the docks and the badlands meet


Ok. It's just Park Slope and this Halloween Parade isn't the exact one Lou was talking about when he talked about how much he missed you, but still, it is a NYC Halloween. Last year, it blew my tiny Utah mind. The 7th Avenue Halloween Parade took the breath out of me. We were swept up, hands held tightly, in a frightening and exhilarating wave of costumed crazees. Hippie to Hipster, MacClaren-pusher to dope-pusher, everyone was represented and marched along with a variety of impromptu bands and kids on sugar.
The children trick or treat right after school until the parade starts and then the entire community congregates to get lost in the massiveness of each other.
It's fantastic.

New York was built for Halloween or Halloween was built for New York. Either way, my friend, Julie was right when she said that the Halloween gods always smile on NYC.
The weather corrected for Halloween, oh yes it did.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Fall


In an kindly effort not to bring anybody down (man), I've chosen a neutral topic today.
Today, I will address The Weather.

Is it really fair for Winter to sink its fangs into this city before Fall has really had a chance to hit the town? Has the NYC Fall had time to haul out that ageless red/gold combo that the fashion industry defers to year after year? Has Fall had time to visit the old ladies and the babies, get comfortable with friends? Has Fall even had enough time to luxuriously disrobe, leaf by leaf, before being led away to sleep? Why, no. Not this year. Not for New York City. Winter came and rushed things, forcing Fall to drop its leaves all at once in a heap like sullied laundry. It's a case of bad manners for Winter to be slinking around already, jabbing, pinching, and slapping. Bad form.

Summer was equally rude this year, lowering itself on us like some visiting lardy distant cousin, plopping its soggy tush, unawares, on a squirming, suffering city as if we were its own ratty sofa. Summer remained wedged upon us, unmoving for months while we slogged around in its gelatinous flesh. It simply didn't feel us or care about us. It didn't really even remember who we were. We were just a place to park it.
Then suddenly, weeks past school's start, its welcome completely ragged and worn out, Summer disappeared. Over night Summer was driven away and by morning a nasty rain had moved into the vacancy left behind.
Into the canyons of Manhattan, against the filthy shores of Coney Island, and somehow even into the underground tunnels we all crawl through, the rain drilled away at us. Eight days of a piercing rain that made the paint fall in sheets off of pillars in the subway tunnels so we could count back, layer by layer, years of MTA maintanance (the pillars started off as a leadish blue, were pink at some optimistic time, and brown during some pessimistic period. Aged mustard has been the most popular and repeated paint color throughout MTA history. We are in fact in an aged mustard phase at this time.)
If Summer was indifferent and slovenly, this rain was blindly vengeful, actively attacking New Yorkers like a sibling with a chemical imbalance who moves past the fun of tickling, past the annoyance of tickling, past panicky tickling, right into the pain and torture of unending, pants-peeing tickling. "Uncle! Mother f****** Uncle!" the city cried. The rain couldn't care less. The rain was off its meds.
Was that Fall? That couldn't be Fall. That rain was shameless, shameful imposter. No Fall I've ever been acquainted with behaves that way and then leaves without apologizing. The days of recognizable Fal-as-I-know-Fall could be numbered on my tiny shivering hand this year. So then where is Fall? I suspect Fall has been gagged and bound and is in some windowless basement somewhere in Jersey being forced to listen to poetry about Summer.

It's so cold already. I haven't taken enough walks yet and everyone's hunkering down in parkas already. I've heard the farmers upstate had to throw many pumpkins onto the garbage heap because everybody gave up on Fall this year. How about that weather, you know?

Oops.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This Planet



Why would we ever need to visit space and its assorted rocks? Why dive into the sea to see what there is to see? Why stink of pachouli and backpack all over Europe?
Within my own country, I am still a foreigner with much to see, much to mock and not understand.
Remember that rather embarrassing song where Sting sang, "I don't drink coffee, I take tea my dear. I (something, something more genteel with my toast than you Americans, and then something, something classier than you Americans, tra, la, la)....I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York!"? Of course that's a blushingly silly song, one Sting certainly hopes nobody recalls, and yet, and yet. I'm ashamed to say it, but I feel you, Sting.

This week, my mother visited me from the Colorado orchard town where I grew up, bearing along with her a shimmering attitude and some family videos from the '80s. In days of yore, the days of antetechnologia, the gods lovingly allowed Man the gift of forgetting his past and replacing it with some generous reconstructions and revisions. I was quite enjoying this nice gift myself before my mother's visit. Eyes shut and peering down a hole which with a little effort widens upon my fuzzy teen years in Colorado, I have seen the vignettes I've created, the self-portraits and dioramas of a heartbreaking teen loner with madly dyed hair and artfully altered mall-clothing skulking and kicking along crow-ridden vacant lots at a bruised dusk. She is shunning the ever-so-ordinary citizenry of the orchard town who would have loved to have known this special teen if she could only have risen through her soul-pain to let them in. But why bother? She was too deep for them. She had to leave.
But alas, the hard evidence of my youth is now before me, crammed into a pretty little disk. I see now that I wasn't a loner in any cool, photographable way. I was actually a loner in a walking wound, smell the tortured trying and recent crying sort of way. The me I am now would cross the street to get away from the disaster of the me I was then. I was clumsy and never got around to fixing the back of my hair as I don't think I realized that I could be viewed at 360 degrees. My facial features were rounded, puffy, and ill-defined, still deciding which way to go and sprouting shadowy fuzz in suprising places. I wore what my mom gave me for Christmas because I didn't know better and it was ruffled and patchworked. One developing breast outpaced the other. I was cruel to my mother on Christmas, sneering at her video camera nastily while my sisters and brother were cute, sassy, and joyful (yet pretty ugly as well at that point.) The gist of the past is really what matters I guess. We dress it up however we need to. I was alone then, just like Sting (though he wasn't quite alone at that time but rather surrounded by the Police. He would speak to his alienation in four years hence, the years when I really got a grip on New Wave in Utah.)

So, where am I now? I'm not decorating the present too much when I call myself a loner with no sense of home planet. I do not belong in the orchard town of my messy adolescence. I never did. I no longer belong in Utah with its unrecognizable but predictable strip-malls sprouting up where the landmarks I've known have, sadly, vanished. ( I find this very painful.) And here? Here in New York City? I still step outside my building every morning as I drag the kids through the streets of Brooklyn to PS 108308 and wonder how I got here. I feel like I am participating in a fictional accounting of Me. And yet, and yet.

I stopped an ancient Chinese woman in the park this morning to ask her what she was collecting off of the ground. Hurricane season has whipped up a little weather in the city and the gingko trees have much windfall at their bases today. The woman wore a garbage bag over her clothes in the driving rain and gathered the gingko fruit with surgical gloves into a burgeoning grocery bag. It smelled like vomit. "Ugh. Why? What do you do with them?" I asked. She made a motion with her hands up to her open mouth in a pantomime of happy eating. I wanted to know more because I couldn't see any good reason to ingest these foul fruits. She just shook her head, waved me on, and got back to collecting. We don't have language in common and so I can't get her recipes for, oh, essence of regurgitance soup. We are both alien visitors. We both walk this city in the way that we need to for totally different reasons, Gingko Lady and me. And Sting.

Perhaps this is how I belong then. Perhaps this is what makes New Yorkers.
Aliens.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wash It Away


Perhaps the saddest thing I've glimpsed through a window in a long time is that big bottle of Clorox sitting front and center on the lino inside the abruptly shut down beauty salon on 11th Street.
A deli owner, a hairdresser, some passion, some rejection, and of course, a murder-suicide.
When the tragedy was fresh, there were daisies and mums carpeting the sidewalk in front of the locked up Delores' Salon so that you had to tiptoe through the flora when you walked by. This spontaneous eden seemed fairly lovely to the kids who believed the intensity of those color-injected blooms may be natural after cartoon saturated mornings sweetened by sugar flavored breakfasts. Others such as I were dismayed at those flowers, dyed out of their tiny God-given heads. But perhaps screaming mums really are what the situation called for and even when the mashed blooms were bagged and carted away, their angry fuscia and aqua petals had left a properly nauseating field of color on the sidewalk. Ah, but the stains are gone now. The sky opened up five days ago with such an embarrassment of emotion that we all turned away in hope that it would finish up soon with this cleansing jag. It hasn't yet.
But how do you use a bottle of bleach to really clean away the mark of a beautician and her jilted lover on a neighborhood, much less a couple of families?
Do you wonder if a bottle of bleach will someday be purchased especially for you? Will the place you work right this minute instantly sprout a sad kooky garden in your honor? Will the sky open up in a ridiculous fit for you?
Will someone be kind enough at the very least to delete your blog?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Weekinceptiphobia Plus!


Transpariphobia: Fear that one is invisible (usually flares up on line while others order their lunches.)

Comprehensissueillustrataphobia: Fear that one's friends and family will understand the veiled slights in one's paintings.

Juvenfocusiphobia: Fear that the world centers itself upon not only the next generation, but also the generation thereafter. Certainly, not one's own generation.

Subterraeneaconversaphobia: Fear that someone may try to talk with one on the subway.

Filthilucrecontactanourishmentaphobia: Fear that the money-handler is also the food-preparer.

Progeniadiscoveriapecadillomeophobia: Fear that one's children will discover some of one's shennanigans.

Progeniacomittapecadillomeophobia: Fear that one's children will commit some of one's shennanigans.

Malpronunciaphobia: Fear that in the desire to appear classy, one will mispronounce words one has just read in the New Yorker but one has never actually heard amongst one's real friends.

Closetiproximiadiviniaphobia: Fear that one's friends, simply by standing close to one's closet, will somehow know the contents therein.

Presenciapreviasubterraeneaphobia: Fear of sitting on an already warm seat on the subway.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mind Tricks


Dan took me aside and told me I needed a vacation. He asked where I would like to go. How would you take that? I suspect he was asking this because I have been exhibiting crazier and crazier behavior such as keeping up on the laundry, staying right on top of the daily sheaves of notices sent home from PS 107 requiring weird dates, phone numbers of emergency contacts, and signatures in hidden places. I've been making fantastic lunches for the Vegetarian so she doesn't have to confront blended and breaded fowl/beasty school-lunches. I've gotten progressively more efficient at keeping things truckin'. I am painting when I can sneak away. But here's the catch: I'm not feeling a thing! This might seem good, indeed sometimes I think maternal anesthesia is nature's way of keeping moms from filling up the bathtub and....Well.

So Dan could see the spirals that had replaced the brown part of my eyeballs and asked where I needed to go. I recognize that since he is out of town much, much of the time, I am in survival mode. I'm not so good a mother alone. I want to paint, I want to read. I get exhausted in my mind. Boone's public displays of unevolved rage-handling (conflagration) have nearly undone me so that I don't really have what it takes to listen to Em's analysis of the class bully. Sad. And I can now separate myself from all this and send my body out on the tasks of home-maintenance while my mind hangs out in Honolulu.

I first discovered mind-body separation magic when I worked under the mustached tyrant named Mike at Wendy's fast food restaurant in high school. What? I just prepped the salad bar? When?
I perfected the magic trick under the demanding iron rule of Spiro and Maria Nicolopolopolis, the owners of the photo lab I retouched for later in dewy young adulthood. Maria would pass by my work table, pause, slap me in the back of the head, cull laughter from the other workers, and move on. Hello Maui! These, and a parade of other bosses, stole my youth. They snacked on my carefree heart and beauty like it was baklava.

So who is my tyrannical boss now?

I guess people reach adulthood when they have become their very own self-housed tyrannical boss.
My boss now not only wants me to keep this place tidy and the kids off the TV, but she also wants me to have at least twenty-six paintings ready to show the people from the Whitney Museum on Monday.

Here is my vacation, then: Dan took the children away to Boston and I am alone here. My clothes are all over and fruit flies are camping out on the dishes in the sink, drunk off the rotting fruit in the bowl on the table. There's not really any thing to eat unless you can tell me how to cook up pantry moths. The blinds are drawn. My family has been gone now for five days and I paint to a clock with two times on it: Light and Dark. Absent are all those niggling hours divided up into little minutes, dripping down all over the place, disappeared.
These days alone have not been the binge of movie-watching, fine dining-out, chick-lit reading, or even nothing-staring like I thought they might be. My vacation has consisted of painting without interruption. This has to be the best vacation ever. My mind is once again residing in my head which is happily still attached to the rest of my body.
That's not to say that I don't feel bruisingly guilty about all this. Don't worry.
Furthermore, I miss those raucous Utahns like crazy. Ha.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Round of Apologies For All My Friends!


Happy Jewish New Year, reader!

Let me get this year started with a big soggy apology to everybody I know for my general self, but mostly:

S: Sorry I didn't go to your show during the Howl! Festival. I just couldn't get onto the train to see all the paintings that got into the show that I was rejected by. Wah. Really. I am sorry and pathetic.

Mom (and some others): Sorry that I have a laff sometimes at the expense of the Mormon Church. I do that not out of spite, but more out of endearment and nostalgia. Your Mormonhood is great and I would never want you to change it. Except for Mormon chapel architecture circa 1955-present. Change that.

Hasidic Jews: Sorry that I sit there on the subway and stare at your clothing. It's awesome.

Errorista: Sorry for setting you up for a bad haircut circa 1976. I think you know the Bubble Yum was mine.

Fat Cyclist: Sorry that my blog is far too not exciting enough to EVER post a comment on ONCE during your cult-like fame. Someday you will regret that. Right?

Jazz Musician Downstairs: Sorry that my raucous young Utahns are messing up your rent-controled jazz vibe. For $350.00 a month, you deserve better. Oh, and also, sorry that I still haven't listened to the self-published CD that you gave me the last time you came up to complain about the noise. What you don't know is that I've already lived that CD over and over through the vibrations rising up through my floor and into my feet as I paint. Unpleasant? Why, yes.

Young Utahns: Sorry that I always ask you to stomp more quietly.

Pete Ashdown for U.S. Senate: Sorry that I registered to vote in NY. I really hope you do beat that Orrin Hatch. Fool can't sing.

Dad: Sorry that your granddaughter is a vegetarian who considers fishing barbaric. I still haven't told her about the elk.

Cashier At The Korean Deli: Sorry I always refer to you as, "Nice Cashier," when you are so quietly sweet to my young Utahns. I honestly don't know if you are a man or a lady, or even a girl or a boy. You are a beautiful mystery.

Elderly Next Door Neighbors In Utah: Sorry I moved to NYC without really saying goodbye. I know you invested a lot of heart and birthday cards into our family. Goodbye.

Sis: Sorry that I didn't end up giving your son a kidney. I really wanted to and still might if you want it.

Running Buddy: Sorry that I didn't believe you today that I would sink down into that elephant-sized pile of mulch instead of miraculously being able to scale it. I heard someone once walked on the water so I thought mulch would be easy for me because I'm a pretty good person. Maybe not.

Galleries I Left This Year: Sorry.

Afghanistantastic: Sorry that you are in the Air Force serving in Afhanistan, baby sister. I know you are not sorry, but I wish you had taken an interest in something safer like....anything else.

That's enough of that, wouldn't you say?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Weekinceptiphobia


A run-down of a mere few of the heretofore un-named phobias that crawl all over me, day in, day out.

1. Exasperabarristaphobia: fear of screwing up one's coffee order/forgetting what one wanted in the first place at a coffee counter where a long line has formed behind one's back.

2. Historiaelectronicaphobia: Fear that someone knows and cares about every place one visits on the Internet.

3. Veritamormoniphobia: Fear that one's childhood religion may actually be right.

4. Bloggidiscoveriapaterniphobia: Fear that one's parents are reading ones' blog.

5. Intelligenciabsentiaphobia: Fear that one is in fact not smart.

6. Modignoranciaphobia: Fear of not knowing what to wear anymore.

7. Modambivilenciaphobia: Fear of not caring what to wear anymore.

8. Utobviophobia: Fear that it is plain to everyone that one is from Utah.

9. iPounciphobia: Fear that one will get iPounced for one's iPod.

10. Subterraneaportadentataphobia: Fear of not standing clear of the closing doors.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Letterboxing


Yesterday's weather was what keeps New Yorkers being New Yorkers. Just when everyone was ready to call it quits here, someone pulled a lever and the hot summer went down the hatch. It was finally perfect outside and so I agreed to follow Elizabeth on one of her kooky adventures, one that didn't involve a landfill, a toxic canal, or a canoe. I brought Em and Boo along.
Elizabeth and I dragged the kids up to the highest earthen point in Brooklyn (not high at all) to meet her husband and young daughter. Apparently last summer in Massachusetts or Upstate or someplace unlittered, she and six year-old Lucy had come across a half-hidden box in their outdoor travels that upon inspection was found to contain rubber stamps and a pad with instructions to sign in, stamp your own pad (like a passport), and re-hide the box. A web address was included in the box. Intrigued, they followed the link and now had made their own letterbox which Peter and Lucy had just hidden. The base of a lamp post, a log, and a bunch of leaves were employed after we decided the raw wires dangling inside the lamp post where it somehow had a nice hole bored into it made it an unsuitable hiding spot for the box. The clues for their letterbox will be posted (in verse, I’m told) on the website so other letterboxing enthusiasts will track it down, indulging a contagious want for seeking and discovery. The why of what we were doing was never completely answered to nine year-old Em's satisfaction, but I do believe we will end up on the answering end of this question soon even though I don't believe we will ever come up with any solid answer.
I checked the website and found verse-y clues for other Kings County letterboxes such as:

Did the Butler go to Sterling Arms?
Oh my, I’m afraid he did.
In Prospect Heights, Brooklyn this box he hid.

A nearby hydrant standing guard
Makes your search not very hard.
A deuce and alpha mark the yard.

(etc.)

For some reason, this makes me want to drop my brushes and seek boxes. Why?
Evidently, a whole subculture exists devoted to this British game. Look in your hometown.
I think you will be surprised.