Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fishing in New York

We took some time to have a glass of wine on the outside patio of the Whitney. The city was warm for November and lovely. We drank and I wanted to know where to next. 

"You said you like fish and seafood?"


"Alright, I know where we are going?"

We walked down the streets, the city was starting to bubble and bustle. New York exists is almost a permanent art space, it's the feeling I have sometimes. Maybe that is just the feeling I get from having watched the show space float back and forth. Either way the city seemed vibrant and full of art and everything else. 

The destination was a bar restaurant called Fish. It was a tiny crowded little place, that had a sort of hole in the wall feel. There was a bit of a line to get in, but we asked to sit at the bar and it was fine. We sat next to the chefs behind the counter who were shucking oysters.

I checked over the menu and noted that there was a special that was a glass of wine with a half dozen oysters. That seemed like the most perfect thing so that was what I did. The New Yorker and I sat and drank, shared food and laughed in the pleasant warmth of the bar. People around us cracked open shellfish and enjoying lobster and seafood. The place felt lively and fresh and new. For the first time in a long time I was starting to feel at ease with the city that I was living in.

New York makes me feel like an expat sometimes and maybe this, more than anything else is why I am starting to like it so much.

Everything and More by Rachel Rose

 One of the key things to do on my birthday was to see the Rachel Rose video exhibit. The New Yorker was very set on going to see this and I was keen to check it out. At first, I didn't realize it was a video exhibit, however video exhibits can be fun. Although, of course, Clown Torture was probably one of the best, worse, and most weird video exhibits I've ever seen. I didn't expect this to be anything like that.

This was really something lovely and truly wonderful to just sort of space out and enjoy. The room was dark when we entered, warm, the entire night of November was really very warm. It was also already full of some people, and as with many video exhibits, people would move in and out occasionally, we found a place to sit down in the corner, the New Yorker grabbed a bench and I spread out a bit more on the floor to enjoy the show as that seemed like the best thing to do. There were several people on the floor as well, a few it looks like who had been laying there for hours to enjoy the never ending looping cycle that was the pretty Everything and More. We started in space and then floated from space into the real world.

And what a lovely show.

The entire piece was like watching a moving Van Gogh. There were swirls and stars, and motion and movement floating back and forth and burning away across the screen. It enveloped the watcher so that you floated through the space and then into the training that would allow you to prepare for space, prepare for floating in nothingness that is somethingness. The waves ebbed and sounds would lift and expand, taking you down to fall into it again. It was a wonderful, well paced, with changing intervals that moved easily from space, to earth, the lab underwater, to a concert full of people to space again. Floating through the images were words and music, the beating heart and the gurgling bubbles of liquid. A wonderful cacophony, harmony, beautiful thing.

 A cycle, a beautiful cycle that really was everything and more.

I like the stimulation of it, being able to sit and drown in that cycle over and over again to just let it slip into the dark spaces and fill it with something else. It was a beautiful exhibit and one I might go to enjoy again before the show ends in February.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Another Name to Remember on this Day

I woke up this morning at around 3:40 a.m. and tried desperately to get back to sleep but could not. Eventually I gave in to being awake and started to read the news to wake up further.

And the news was that David Bowie was dead.

I didn’t have words.

But it’s that day.

The day is what struck me the most. This day, why this day.

When I was ten years old I remember getting up at 3 a.m. one more to help my father pack up the catering truck he drove. Sometimes I would just get up in the early hours of the morning, in the summer when there was no school, to ride along with my father. Often I would sleep in the front seat of the cab on the long days drive. The morning began with the almost two hour drive to get to where the actual catering route went.

Even though I was young I remember some of those crazy long drives, getting out of the truck at various stops and going in to meet my father’s customers, the people that he considered his co-workers, his clients. It was always an odd thing to meet the people that my father sold food to. I have odd memories from those drives.

When we drove we always listened to the radio, the music my father grew up on, the music I had grown up on. Form a young age I was exposed to the Doors, the Beatles, the Stones, Bowie, the Who. One thing my father had was a rather large collection of records, most likely a joint collection from two parents who were both very passionate about music. Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger were my first musical loves. I knew of Bowie, I recognized the music when I heard him, but unlike the Doors or the Stones I would not always be able to immediately place who it was I was listening to.

One morning on the odd ride with my father, we went into meet some of his clients at a shop. It was around six in the morning, I had just got up from a three hour nap in the cab and wanted to stretch my feet. Part shy, part curious, part unstoppable, I walked into the garage we were stopped at as my father talked to people looking around at the cars, the grease stains all over, the weird sundry that make up a garage where people come in to fix cars at six a.m. The radio was playing and I remember the announcer saying it as time for that 1969 classic Space Oddity, of which the now easily identifiable strains of Major Tom began to follow.

Regardless of how many times I may have heard that song before, that was the first time I really heard that song and I was absolutely transfixed by the song. When my father went to gather me out of the garage, as I was standing in front of radio staring up at the radio which happened to be perched under a pornographic Playboy calendar which I think may have registered and upset my father, though I didn’t really think that much of it at the time. I noticed, but cared about the music and thought the poster was just funny in that 'tittery' kind of way that nudity is funny to young children. I was raised by parents from the 60’s and as a curious and voracious reader I’d discovered more than a little pornography in the house by the time I was 10 so that I was less startled by the nudity than the music.

In the van, as we drove around more, I tried to get my father to name the song. He wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for and it took a while for me to describe what it was I had heard. This seemed so unique to me, so different from anything I had remembered here before. My father was convinced it must be David Bowie, but I wasn’t sure. I wanted to hear more David Bowie.

When we got home I went down to the basement where there was a record player, two shelves around eight feet long stacked with records. I went through album after album looking for the song I had heard. I never did find it in the collection, though I stumbled across and became briefly enchanted with a Pink Floyed Album, I eventually managed to get to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders for Mars. I most likely spent the rest of the afternoon in the basement listening to Ziggy Stardust. I distinctly recall listening to Ziggy Stardust over and over again, until life and the distractions of my unfortunate childhood sucked me back in. Later, when I was a teenager I would discover that Pink Floyd album again (the Wall) and I cared more then, but at 10 it was Ziggy Stardust that captured my attention. I talked with my father about David Bowie, and found the rest of the Bowie albums in the collection, fascinated by how this singer changed, the way he was more like a characters. I was also fascinated that he was still alive, as so many of the artist I seemed to love had died before I really had a chance to know them (Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix had all made a real impression on me as a child).

Bowie was fascinating. His music, when I would listen to it, was something that always made me think of that morning riding around in the cab of a truck with my father. It made me feel closer to my father. Bowie’s new album, Blackstar, had come out only two days ago and I remember listening to Lazarus and having a passing thought that my father would have appreciated this. As I do around this time of year, thinking about my father.

My father died on January 10th, 2000.  My grandmother on the same day some 13 years later. Perhaps this is why this pain hurts so much. I don’t know who I am crying for anymore in January.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Art in the Jazz Age

 The plan for my birthday was to go to the Whitney museum with the New Yorker. Since I have a pass to the Art Institute in Chicago I get reciprocal privileges to the Whitney, which means I and a friend can go together for free. This is a nice perk when most of the museums these days politely ask for a twenty dollar donation that is totally optional, but not really. The last time I was in Chicago I got my card updated as well and the new AIC card has a lovely Warhol rendition of Elizibeth Taylor that I'm rather fond of.

"So what are we in for seeing at the Whitney?"

"Well, I really want to see this Rachel Rose video exhibit and there are some other things going on. What are you up for?"

"Whatever I get to see. This is my first time here."

It turns out what I would get to see that particular night was a great Archibald Motley exhibit of paintings done during the 1920's, of mostly very strong and beautifully constructed multicultural scenes of jazz, dancing and dining. The colors were so rich and vibrant and the scenes were so expressive and so lush that it was hard to walk through the show quickly. Fortunately we were there before the building went open to the public so we had plenty of time to look without feeling rushed, which made me happy.

"What do you see, when you look at these?" The New Yorker looks and moves on watching me standing for a long time in front of paintings.

"There are a couple of things I look for when I see a piece for the first time. I like to get close to it, I look for fingerprints and pieces of the brush left behind in the oils. It makes me feel close to the artist, to think of how they touched the canvas in a way that didn't mar the finished piece, but lets you see where they needed to handle the work themselves. I look at the brush strokes and the composition and the color. The colors in the end tell a lot of a story and I like to spend time with these most of all."

"What do you mean?"

"This is Prussian blue. It's my favorite blue. Balancing between red and purple, a very virbrant blue to choose to use, and one that works so well with the greens and purples and even the cardinal red."

"You know the names of the colors?"

"I paint. It's been awhile but I paint."

And I think it has been awhile, but I do paint and I will paint again. I love looking at the pieces in the exhibit, Motley's pallet is so full of wonderful colors making the characters dance off the page to music that you can imagine hearing in old New Orleans, while men and women dance at parties drinking free flowing booze while playing well worn instruments to make music that is completely and totally free.

It's refreshing and beautiful and, while only really a handful of pieces, it is a powerful collection that takes us almost an hour to get through.  Afterwards we step outside onto the balcony. It's November but on this night it is warm enough that a light jacket provides plenty of coverage. I look at the lights that flash across the city, watching people move in buildings, seeing the colors come through the windows vibrant reds with hints of purple and think to myself that some things do no change.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

The Drummer

It was my birthday and a new friend had asked to do all the planning for my birthday party. The New Yorker, who had grown up in New York, spent several years in Korea, and who crossed my path via work related connections, really wanted to take me out. And I was happy to have someone who knew the city plan that for me. I had no idea what we were going to do exactly, but I always like an adventure. I was instructed to take the train and meet on the west side around 14th street, and so the evening would begin. I worked from home that day, which was lovely, and then got dressed to hit the town. Being me of course I had the following conversation. 

Me: Tonight, I need to get dressed. 

New Yorker: Uh-huh. 

Me: Slutty or Classy?

New Yorker: Classy. 

I hit the train, now that I feel really quite comfortable with the train system this doesn’t take a much time as you would think. The 3 train can be a really unusual place sometimes, but this was where I ended up.  My normal train is the 6, but I don’t mind the other trains in the city after a while it becomes fairly easy to do, though there are times where I still would rather just jump in a cab when it seems reasonable. 

The train on this particular night was not to crowded and I was able to get a seat fairly easily on a Friday night, which was lovely. I sat down and wondered about my upcoming birthday, curious to know what would happen, how it would happen and why it would happen. While I thought about my birthday fun, the train stopped and a gentleman got on and sat down in front of the door he had just entered. 
It’s not uncommon to see the odd busker on the train, though technically it is illegal to do so. Interestingly, unlike Chicago, buskers in NYC don’t need to have a license so I am a little picky about who I give my money to when it comes to busking here. I generally look for talent. 

The man who got on the train sat down and started to play his drum. At first it was just drumming, but as he drummed he also began a very talented, and beautifully composed story of the history of the drum he was playing: the djembe, and African drum. He talked about how the drums communicated stories, the history of the construction and all why skillfully playing and building towards a wonderful crescendo that lasted only 30 seconds before he moved with his hat out, collecting donations just before the train hit the next stop. 
This was a performance that was so talented and so timed that I couldn’t help but to want to contribute to the continuation of his art, and I put in five dollars to contribute to his continued traveling educational road show. And I was not the only one who paid, several passengers placed money in his hat, which he quickly thanked us for before stepping off the train, to catch another train, and provide another performance. 

It was a lovely magical beginning to an evening.  

Friday, January 01, 2016

100 Photos of the Stories to come

So many things I want to write about, but I will start here as a way to figure out what needs to be written. I think the easiest way to sum that up is with these pictures that currently don't have, but need, stories. Probably not all told 100 stories, but it will be more than one.