Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Randomness

It's almost 2009 and yet somehow I ran into some Civil War soldiers on Central Park West the other day. They were constructing a pyramid out of their guns, and passersby kept interrupting them to ask if they could have their picture taken with them. It's kind of crazy when you think about it--we know we've got it tough in our current society when we look back at the days of the bloodiest war in our nation's history with nostalgia and romanticism. I'm glad I live now.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Romance

He saw a girl wearing a summer dress and winter boots hurrying down 52nd Street, smiling secretively at the song her i-pod sang. Her earrings danced and sparkled against the dark cloud of her hair. To him she looked like a spring flower in a winter garden. She saw him too: a man, hands in pockets, standing like a sculpture beside his truck, with a look about him at once mysterious and wonderful. As they grew closer, their eyes met and shared a moment as electric and quick as a lightning strike. The December wind gusted, ruffling his hair and her skirts, and as she disappeared into the crowd something sparkled behind her like the tail of a comet. He realized her earring had fallen on the ground. But though he snatched it up and followed after her, it was too late. The winter sun slanted down 5th Avenue, blinding him, and the crowd was thicker than brambles. Clutching the earring to his heart, he vowed he would find her. Destiny could not be so cruel. Meanwhile, it was time to grab a slice of pepperoni and cheese pizza...

Ugh! Writing a romance novel would be harder than it seems, I think. Anyway, this is the scene I've been imagining in my head all day as I've tried to console myself over losing an earring today. It wasn't anything expensive--but just one of those charming things that attract me, and which I tend to wear day after day because it always feels right. It's true that I did share a glance with a very attractive man on the street-corner as I rushed to grab my lunch, but I have no idea where I lost the earring. I retraced my steps (and there weren't that many of them today, really) to no avail. Likely the thing was run over by a car, or fell down a subway grate, never to be seen again. However, I like to imagine that my handsome stranger is keeping it tucked away in his jacket's inner pocket as a memento of me, and that his dreams will be haunted by my memory as he curses himself for not saying hello.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome

I had another church in mind for today, but when I went to take a picture of it, I couldn't find it. Oh well. This one will do:This church is very large--I couldn't get the whole thing in one shot. What I like about it are the beautiful wrought iron hinges on the doors. Many of the large churches in Harlem have very beautiful wrought iron details such as this, because they were built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when such decoration was popular and there were very skilled craftsmen. Some parts of the lower Bronx have incredible iron-work on the buildings, many of which were built in the prosperity of the late Victorian period.
I also love the ramp on the steps of this church, reiterating the message of "Welcome" over the door. In my church, if someone gets up to speak at the podium and they happen to say "Good Morning," the entire congregation will say "Good Morning" back. Then, after the meeting, visitors are encouraged to stand and introduce themselves and all of us say "Welcome!" to them. It is a very friendly, happy group of people.

Today I taught Relief Society, which is basically the third part of church, after Sunday School. It is just the women, which were a small group today because so many are away visiting family for the holidays. The lesson was on prayer, based on a talk by Elder Bednar. It was an easy lesson to teach, because the talk was so excellent, and because the women of my ward are so faithful. They all have such wonderful faith and devotion to the gospel, which I think might stem from the hardships that many of them face in their lives. I felt humbled to be standing there talking about the benefits of prayer when I know that at least one woman there had recently lost a sister and a grandmother and has a very sick daughter. But even she raised her hand and spoke of the power of prayer in her life, saying that she is very tired but never stops praying to God for comfort, peace, and to thank him for all of her blessings.

I've been thinking a lot about the New Year and of the resolutions I made last year, which I failed to accomplish. This year I have a great desire to try harder, to be better, mostly to strengthen my faith by finally waking up and doing all the things I know I should be doing but which I do not do. I know I cannot become perfect overnight, or even in a year, but I am thankful for the opportunity to try, to get a bit closer to becoming the person that I want to be, and who the Lord wants me to be. Prayer will be an integral part of my strategy, so it was good for me to reflect on it the past couple of days as I prepared my lesson.

A few days ago a girl asked me why I keep a blog. It seemed strange to her that I would want to write about personal things in a way that other people could see. Some things ought to be kept personal and private, but I also think that when I write things on my blog knowing that they are then available for others to see and read, then I have a greater reason to stand by the things I write. My New Years goals are more important now because you have read them. While I know you will not be disgusted with me if I fail at them, nevertheless I have a greater impetus to succeed at my goals because I am not the only one who knows of their existence. Hopefully that makes sense.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas is over, and it's time to put all the decorations away. This is always the saddest part. However, I am cheered by my Christmas loot, which includes a cute new apron from Anthropologie (where I took these pictures). I could live in that store, because I like every single thing there. I often pass by just to look at the inventive and inspiring window displays. Yes, I've been doing a little bit of post-holiday shopping today, but none of the things I want are on sale. Oh well. I need to save my money anyway.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmas Song... Not!

"My Favorite Things" is a song from The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music has nothing to do with Christmas. "My Favorite Things" is not a Christmas song! So now you know my stance on that issue.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The big city was cold and rainy on Christmas Eve, but that was fine with me because I was stuck at work until 5:30. But it was a fun day. Nobody worked very hard--we just sat around exchanging gifts and sharing stories. My closest office-mates include women from Guyana, Romania, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica, and each shared a description of the special foods they were going to make to celebrate the holiday. My family always has clam chowder on Christmas Eve, so I was happy to find out that my dad made it, even though my family was not all together this year. After work I met up with some friends for Dominican food, which is prevalent in Washington Heights. It was amazing--there were seven of us and we ate chicken, pork, rice, beans, and plantains until we were stuffed and still had leftovers for $35 total. TOTAL!

Afterwards we headed over to Holly B's house, where we had a table full of desserts to eat, and a Christmas tree that she had just sort of stolen. What happened was: Holly went down the street to where the guy had been selling trees all season. It was rainy and cold, and nobody was there guarding the trees. So Holly picked one out, dawdled, looked around for someone to pay, and nobody appeared. She started shouting, "Hello? Anyone here? I want to buy a tree! I have money! I want to give someone money!" And she has a nice projectable voice, too. But nobody showed up, so she and the guy that was with her just decided to pick up the tree and take it home. The other problem was that she doesn't own a tree-stand, or decorations. So our Christmas Eve activity was propping the tree in the corner of the room and decorating it with homemade paper snowflakes and other random things. It's a huge tree, and it looks hysterical and more than a bit tragic, but it was fun.

Christmas morning, E and I headed back to Holly B's house for breakfast. After stuffing ourselves yet again, we came home and opened our presents. Yay! As soon as we were done opening everything, the doorbell rang, and it was the mailman with another package for us! I felt really sorry for the USPS guy who has to work on Christmas Day, but he got a kick out of me opening the door and shouting, "It's a Christmas miracle!" at him. Now maybe he will find the other box that my mom sent two weeks ago, but which has still not arrived... But I understand the postal confusion in Harlem. The 125th Street Post Office has been converted into a Winter Wonderland of ceramic figurines. Behind the tellers (or whatever they are called) is a huge shelf that I think is supposed to hold the packages that people are coming to pick up, but it is now covered with a village of ceramic houses, churches, town buildings, cotton snow, etc. There are literally hundreds of miniature ceramic buildings covering every inch of shelf-space. Quite magical, I admit, but perhaps a hindrance to the flow of holiday mail.

Anyway, it is a good Christmas in New York City. They are playing the yule log on TV, and I'm cooking up a poor-man's feast of homemade beef stew, cornbread, fruit salad, and pie. Maybe later E and I will play another game of Scrabble, and watch a movie. I hope everyone else out there had a good day. Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sick

I just know I'm going to get sick now. EVERYONE at work is sick. My boss has strep throat but has come to work every single day, the lady down the hall has laryngitis, another girl had a stomach bug, Dali has a cold, and Isaacs has a fever. People have been coughing and sneezing and having headaches right and left, while all the while exchanging holiday gifts and homemade treats. It's like a minefield of germs! I have a container of Purell right next to my desk, so I'm constantly disinfecting everything, but I'm going to have to start wearing a face mask if I want to emerge unscathed. It may be too late. My head is starting to hurt right now, and I feel a little dizzy. It might just be my imagination, but... I'm taking a vitamin right now! And I'm going to drink a gallon of water today. I don't want to be sick at Christmastime!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Side Hobby

Just in case anyone loves broken umbrellas as much as I do, I've created a second blog, which is devoted to the subject. Some people collect golden pocketwatches, others vintage cookie jars. I collect pictures of the broken umbrellas of New York City.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Party Weekend

I've been a very diligent blogger until this weekend. All the parties started piling up and I ran out of time. On Thursday night (or was it Wednesday? It was Wednesday...) after work I went with Dali over to LQ (Latin Quarter), a really cool dance club with a Latin-American twist. It has recently been in the news because of that football player Plaxico, who shot himself in the foot there. But Dali has been going there for years, because she loves to salsa. LQ is large and contains several rooms at different levels. A large sunken dance floor dominates the space, surrounded by turreted alcoves with tables for eating and drinking. It was very old-school glamorous. They were having a free buffet, so I scored a delicious dinner and Dali and I watched the dancing for a while. I didn't stay for the free salsa class, but I may go back one day and do it. Dancing looks like such fun, but I've always felt too uncoordinated to give it a serious attempt.

On Friday night a bunch of us from work met up at a delightful restaurant called Meson Sevilla over on 46th Street, or "restaurant row." It was our company holiday party of sorts, although not everyone could make it. Since a few of us leave work earlier, we made ourselves comfortable at the bar: Dali and Princess had margaritas and I couldn't wait--I ordered a plate of pasta. It was blizzarding outside--the first day of the wintry weather we've been enjoying all weekend, so it felt so nice and cozy to be in a charming restaurant eating delicious hot food with friends. When the rest of my coworkers showed up we were given a nice big private table downstairs and while everyone enjoyed dinner, I had a slice of rich chocolate cake.

The rubber boots that E bought me last year have really been useful the past few days. The snow turns to slush almost immediately in the city, and in some places it piles up and gets very treacherous. In Harlem the snow is blocking all the gutter drains, so at each intersection there are huge icy puddles that blend in with the street. My boots render me impervious to all this, and I am able to walk through anything as if it were nothing at all. Kind of like driving the Suburban in Massachusetts during the winter. My dad used to have so much fun taking that thing to the store while other cars were lining the ditches. If he saw a huge snowdrift, he'd plow right through it. Also, I've been getting all kinds of awesome broken-umbrella shots. Friday was murder on umbrellas. Collecting these pictures is so fun, but I'm wondering what I'm going to do with all these pictures of dead umbrellas. Unless I start the Blog of Broken Brollies, the only other option is to self-publish a coffee-table book called something like Discarded: The Broken Umbrellas of New York City.

Anyway, on Saturday night I attended two parties. The first one was at Jeff's house in Harlaman Hall, which is the apartment building that houses so many Mormons that the residents have nicknamed it for Helaman Hall, the dorm at BYU. Jeff had been dying to have people over to watch Babes In Toyland, the remake with Keanu Reeves and Drew Barrymore. It was made in 1986, and it is one of Jeff's favorite movies, not because it is good, but because it is very bad. By bad, I mean, hilarious. I won't try to explain, but it was really fun watching it with Jeff and a bunch of other friends as we ate popcorn and laughed. I skipped out before the ending, but Jeff assured me that the good guys win. Phew! I would hate for Bartleby Barnacle to have thwarted the Asian Santa/Toymaster guy and married Mary Contrary and taken over the cookie factory with his jar of Evil Essence. Anyway...

Next I headed downtown to a Chanuka party hosted by my coworker Lil' Debbie. She had made the most delicious party snacks, including some amazing star-shaped cookies. I'll have to get that recipe from her! I had a fun time spinning the dreidel, defending Debbie's wall decor, and hanging out with fun friends. The night flew by and I headed home sometime around midnight, enjoying my walk to the subway through the falling snow, which makes the city seem even more magical than it already is. I think the snow also makes the city lighter at night. The lights reflect off the clouds and all the moisture in the air, and sometimes when I walk through the city on such nights, I feel like its the middle of the day because its so bright. The city that never sleeps, indeed.

Tonight another coworker is giving a party, and I will probably stop by, although I kind of just feel like curling up and taking a long nap. Party weekends are so fun, but I'm exhausted.

Church of the Week

This church actually looks somewhat deserted, what with the boarded windows of the building. However, maybe the building is under renovation. I'm intrigued by the X-in square markings on either side of the sign, which may be some kind of construction-work marks. Anyway, the green background on the cross is made of small iridescent tiles which sparkle in the sun. I've also noticed that a lot of small churches around here use glass blocks to form crosses in masonry walls--kind of a poor man's stained glass window effect. This church is on 126th Street somewhere on the East side. I first saw it from the window of a taxi on my way home from the airport after Thanksgiving break. Next week I will post a church with a similar look that I discovered while walking a few weeks ago.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Three Camels

On the one day I didn't have my camera, I was walking to work and saw three camels walking down 6th Avenue at 53rd Street! The funny thing was that the busy New Yorkers were so focused on getting to work on time that nobody was paying any attention to the camels at all. I think I was the only one who stopped and stared. Turns out they are performing at Radio City Music Hall, in the Christmas Spectacular, with the wise men and everything, and they were out for their morning exercise. The surreal picture of cold winter day, crazy traffic, skyscrapers, and camels serenely plodding down the sidewalk put a smile on my face that lasted the whole day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Day

On this day many years ago my life changed dramatically. My family moved from Oregon to Massachusetts. On December 17, 1994, I boarded a plane for the first time in my life and travelled from the comfortable life I had in Oregon to an unknown future in a cold, unfamiliar New England town. I was a senior in high-school and I did not want to move away from my friends, my boyfriend, my school. And Christmas was only a week away. Of course I didn't think how hard it must have been on my parents to move seven kids, a dog, and a cat across the entire country at Christmas-time. All I could think of was myself.

In Oregon it was cold and rainy, but in Massachusetts it was even colder, and snowy. We arrived in the middle of the night, and our new house was cold and strange. Our belongings were being transported across the country in a moving van, so the house was empty and we slept on the floor in sleeping bags.

Eventually I would become enthralled with the beauty of the Massachusetts woods in winter, but seeing them for the first time was shocking. Oregon woods are full of pine trees and never really lose their green, but the New England woods are stark bare, ice-encrusted, and silent in a snowy December. I explored them intensely, trying to figure out who I was.

Unfortunately our moving van had a tragic accident, and we found out we weren't going to get our things until a few days after Christmas. However, it was a blessing in disguise. New Englanders have a reputation of being a bit standoffish and cold, but our new neighbors were none of those things. Before we even arrived, the neighbor who built our house stocked the kitchen with milk and bagels for our breakfast the next day. When they learned of our plight, neighbors and townspeople brought us not just food but a Christmas tree, games, chairs, and other comforts of home and the season. It was my first time being the recipient of such charity, and I was amazed and thankful for the generosity of strangers.

It turned out to be a great Christmas. Though it was a rough transition for me in many ways, now I look back at the experience with fondness. I learned so much about myself, my family, and the meaning of Christmas. I trusted my parents choice, and forged ahead into the forest of my future with bravery. The journey started out cold and wintry (my new high school was atrocious), but became a beautiful and delightful experience, which continues to amaze me. It's hard to explain these things, but I think we all have a day or a time in our young lives when everything changes, and for me it was December 17.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hello, This is the Future Speaking

Sometimes I have a blinking light on my phone at work. It's supposed to indicate that I have a voicemail message, but somehow my extension is always the one where the non-calls end up: the pocket phonecall of muffled nothingness, the hang-ups, the silence. However, every now and then I have a real message--my boss calling to tell me something too important for an email but not important enough to actually come speak to me. The thing that makes me laugh, and always catches me by surprise is that when I check my messages, the recorded voicemail voice always says something like: "You have one new message. First message, recorded today at 10:32 a.m...." and I look at the clock and it's only 9:45 a.m. Apparently, I have a phone that is giving me messages from the future! I'd better start paying closer attention to them. With such a phone, I may end up like that lady on "Medium" who can never get a decent night's sleep because she's always being awakened by horrible nightmares of the future that she has to then go and prevent from happening. So, I will let you know if I get any important information about the future from my phone. Meanwhile, the future just seems to involve a lot of muffled street noise and wrong numbers...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Window Watching


I've been keeping my window open lately because, for one thing, this steam-heated apartment of mine is like a sauna, and there is no way to control the temperature. Not only that, but I discovered that one of my bedroom walls is heated. There must be more steam pipes inside it because the wall gets really really warm. Also, today it was in the 60s! I almost forgot its December, with a week and half until Christmas.

Speaking of windows, last night I went into the kitchen without turning the light on. Through the kitchen window I saw the bright light of the apartment across the narrow alley. The curtains were up and there was a guy in a small living room putting together an Ikea-ish looking chair. I don't know why, but there was something so fascinating about the scene, and soon E and S joined me in the kitchen to spy. We sat on the countertops with all the lights off, laughing and talking for a good while. The poor guy had no idea he had an audience who found his every action comical. It reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Rear Window, in which James Stewart and Grace Kelly get involved in a murder mystery because of their window-watching. Well, I doubt that my roommates and I are going to see anything nefarious in the apartment across the way, but we did spy an intruder in the next apartment down, which also had its lights on: a mouse was walking around on the stove! Ewwwwww.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm Someone Too

Here's the Harlem church of the week, East Mt. Olive Baptist Church:

It is nice to be reminded that everybody is somebody. It's a really cute little Arts-and-Crafts-revival looking church, but I'm very upset that the gorgeous stained glass windows on either side of the door have been covered up with notices--I think they are announcing who the pastor is and what the sermon is going to be about. Also, this little church seems to have an equally cute brick building peeking out from behind it. It's probably an extension of the church, but it looks almost like the little church came along, said "Spread out!" and squeezed itself into its little nook, with no heed for the buildings around it.

Meanwhile, a couple of streets over, I had a delightful morning in my own church. I sang two songs with the ward choir, and they were lovely. Sara, our choir director and a fantastic soprano, sang O Holy Night, which I adore. Then the primary children sang a Christmas song, and they are always adorable. I sat on the stand with the choir, which is fun because I get to watch the congregation's reaction to all the songs and talks, and so I saw that during O Holy Night a woman far in the back lifted up both her hands in witness to the spirit she was feeling. Later, during some scripture readings out of Luke, a man in the back also lifted up his hand, shook it in the air, and I watched his head sway as he closed his eyes and silently recited the scriptures. Such pentecostal expressions of faith don't usually happen much in LDS church meetings, but this is Harlem. Over half of the people in my ward are new converts, who grew up going to other churches, expressing their beliefs in different ways. Many of them are very poor and have had very hard lives. But when they feel moved by the Spirit, they recognize it, embrace it wholeheartedly, and want to share it with those around them. It made me happy to see that people were being moved by the songs that were being sung and the words that were being shared, and that I was a part of it. I felt the Spirit too, and I share it with you now. Hosanna!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's Christmastime In the City

Last night I returned home to find Trini and his henchmen decorating the apartment building. An old Jamaican guy with a gold tooth and dreads is quite a sight in a Santa hat, let me tell you. The place looks best at night with all the lights, but my camera doesn't work in dimness, so here is a daylight shot:
This is the second gate into the building, and the first gate and the entire courtyard is decorated quite exuberantly. Also, I've noticed that many of the residents have decorated their apartment doors. The entire 3rd floor is decked out in tinsel, wreaths, and bells. It's a wonder to behold. If there's one thing New Yorkers love, it's Christmas, and the enthusiasm is contagious. So here's an early greeting, one of Trini's decorations:

And Another One

After yesterday's post, it was funny to find this discovery just a few blocks from my house this morning when I was out for a walk:Actually, the picture doesn't do it justice, and I couldn't get a better one because there were people walking by giving me strange looks. Hey, I'm not the one who abandoned the umbrella on the sidewalk, people!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rainy Day People

Rainy days in New York aren't just wet, they are really really wet. And windy. The day after a rainstorm, the streets are strewn with destroyed umbrellas, and pieces of destroyed umbrellas. I like to take pictures of them, because they are like sculpture. Sometimes I see dead umbrellas stuffed into garbage cans, half sticking out, or just tossed aside, and I like to imagine the scene that ensued. How some poor person running through the rain was suddenly overtaken by a huge gust of wind that caught at their umbrella like a sail, ripping the cheap fabric from the straining ribs, turning it inside out or shredding it, as they struggled to keep their head and their packages dry. Once I saw a woman running through the rain, vainly covering her head with a broken, wilted umbrella that had lost its handle, as if it were a huge leaf.

At some point the wet person decides that the broken umbrella is more of a hindrance than a help and casts it aside like so much litter, and runs as fast as they can to the nearest subway entrance, store, or empty doorway. I've never seen anyone in the very act of tossing aside a broken umbrella, but I'm sure I will someday, because the discarded brollies can be seen everywhere. My favorite one was a Batman umbrella, torn up and left for dead on the flooded staircase of the 125th Street subway station. I still regret not having my camera that day. Okay, so I'm crazy, but I think there is something very melancholily beautiful (how do you make an adverb out of an adjective that already ends in ly?) and poetic about dead umbrellas. They illustrate a moment of drama and frustration; they embody the struggle of life in this big city. The lucky, strong ones survive and live to see another rainy day. The unlucky, weak ones are defeated and are left like dead birds by the wayside. The very unlucky, very weak are picked apart by the elements of the storm until nothing remains but their bones, like insect legs on the sidewalk:
Luckily my umbrella survived today's rain and wind, valiantly defying the fierce wind, although only keeping me dry from about the shoulders up. Sometimes the rain here falls parallel to the ground. I left work with a paper bag that had completely disintegrated by the time I got to the subway station, and I was thankful that even though I forgot to bring my lunch to work, I remembered to put on my tall rubber boots. Someday I'll be the girl who's umbrella flips inside out while she's crossing the street, and I'll have to decide whether to struggle with the contraption or toss it into the nearest gutter.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I like to brag about how my Viking heritage makes me immune from the effects of the cold weather, and it's mostly true that I can stay pretty warm when other people are shivering, but today was a different story. Yesterday it was snowing in Harlem and, though it didn't accumulate, it has ushered in a winter chill. There are people selling Christmas trees on the street corners, but that's about the only life I saw out of doors today as I walked around town running various errands. I needed some cassette tapes for a project, so I ran out of the house with just a sweater, a scarf and a coat, no gloves or hat, and I soon regretted it! On the upper west side I found a guy selling books and videos on the sidewalk, and he had a box of old cassettes. $2 each, he said, which seemed outrageous for an obsolete technological artifact of the 80s, but when he saw me roll my eyes he said, "Consider yourself helping out some homeless guy like me." Sure, maybe that's the spiel he uses to push his merch, and I could probably have bargained him down (if I'd had a smaller bill than a $20), but how could I resist a statement like that on such a cold day? My fingers had already lost all feeling after being out of my pockets for just a few minutes. I bought five tapes, and felt good about it, especially when I went to Goodwill and saw that tapes were "$2 and Up" there. Who even listens to tapes anymore? I can understand the appeal of vinyl records, but cassettes? Anyway, I'm going to pull the tape out of them and crochet it into something. (Ha! Maybe a hat for the homeless guy... I could line it with felt.)

So by the time I got home I was chilled for real. My fingers could hardly work, so, although I had planned on painting today, I decided to go see a movie instead. This time I wore a hat and gloves--even thought about bringing a blanket--but the theater was still really cold. When the movie was over and I came back outside into the frigid winter night, this guy walked by wearing shorts, with bare legs. An old man right behind him said to himself, "Look at that one in short pants--he must be crazy!" I heard him and burst out laughing, and we shared a glance, shaking our heads in disbelief. It must be in the 20s out there. Now I'm home, practically cuddling the radiator, and making some hot chocolate. I don't want to go back out, but I have one more errand I have to run tonight.

Where's MY Marriage?

Here is a short film that my friends Ryan and Collin made for the Lingos:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Somewhere In Harlem

I don't know what the name of this church is, and I was going to go find it today to get the name, but it's SO cold outside that I think I'm just going to stay where I am: curled up in a blanket drinking hot chocolate. It was snowing earlier, and I hope it resumes, because if it's going to be this cold, it might as well be snowy. Anyway, this church is somewhere in Harlem. I just love the red door.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

blah blah blog

I really feel like blogging, but I don't really have anything very important to talk about right now. So here are a few random things:

1. The Lingos. The Manhattan stake singles have a wonderful traditional film festival every year, named after that classic Mormon movie, Johnny Lingo. Anyone who wishes to may submit a 3-5 minute movie, about anything at all. Then, one winter's night (the determination of which is still a mystery to me--they never really announce stake activities here--they just come along through hearsay and the grapevine) in a typical combination of chaos and brilliance, the films are shown, judged, and given awards. Last night was my second Lingos, and I must say I enjoyed it thoroughly. With LDS amateur short films you never really know what you're going to get, but there were fortunately no super-awkward, sacreligious, or distasteful movies this year. There was one short about baptism which was really minimal, and I have to admit that I was on the edge of my seat, anticipating something in poor taste and just hoping it wouldn't be too bad, but the movie turned out to be so innocent and even joyful, that I ended up feeling bad for thinking that it would be bad. The rest of the movies were a very good combination of TV show spoofs, a western, a crazy Santa, a haunted school, and some very funny commentary on current social and economic issues. This is Manhattan, and there are some really talented amateur filmmakers among us. But the biggest surprise? The activity started only 20 minutes late!

2. Happy St. Nicholas Day! I'm just glad we don't celebrate this holiday like they used to do in some countries. The legend of St. Nicholas is that he was a kind man who anonymously donated three bags of gold to a man so his daughters could have dowries and thus marry. So in parts of Eastern Europe, the little children would leave their shoes out the night before St. Nicholas' Day and he would supposedly come along and fill them with treats. But if they were bad, St. Nich's henchmen would come beat the children. I'm not making this up--you can go look at Wikipedia if you don't believe me. I'm suddenly wondering if the reason I'm not married yet is because I have no dowry. Maybe I should have left my shoe out last night?

3. At the Lingos last night I ran into a kid who I babysat one time when I was 17. He's all grown up now and friends with my friends, which is kind of wierd! But all I can think about is how when I was 17 his dad had so many speeding tickets that he hired me to drive him to work in the morning (this counts among one of the more unusual jobs I've had during my long career) and I totaled his car. Each day, depending on how late he was running, we would drive to a different train station so that he could commute into Boston. This particular morning (foggy, 5:30 a.m.) we were headed to a station I'd never been to before, and when I turned left to enter the station parking lot, I drove right into the path of an oncoming SUV. The accident happened right in front of the local police station, and you know how Massachusetts cops are. Nobody died, so we were lucky, but I had never been in a wreck before and was crying in the arms of the policeman, telling him "It was all my fault!" as my late-for-work employer ran away to catch his train. This was before cell phones, so my dad was very surprised to see me arrive home a little while later in a busted car (it could still move, thank goodness!) with flat tires and bumper dragging. I collapsed on the couch and didn't drive again for at least a week.

4. Actually, I think I've run out of things to talk about now.

P.S. Last night on the way to the Lingos I saw 4 skinny guys in Santa suits skateboarding down Central Park West. It's that time of year!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cookie Night Done Right

My roommates and I have been wanting to have a party since we moved into our new place in July, but somehow we just never got around to doing it. However, the stars magically aligned this week and we were able to celebrate National Cookie Day. My roommate (who I will refer to by her elf name, Lemondrop, to protect her identity) is the collector of all little-known holidays, so when we saw that National Cookie Day was coming up, it seemed perfect. I, for one, love to bake cookies, and have been making them all week, much to the amusement of our across-the-alley neighbors, who have no doubt been entertained by our baking escapades--I have a hunch they have been keeping their blinds open in order to watch the spectacle. E made cookies too, and so did Lemondrop. (No, she didn't make lemon-drops!) By the time Thursday came along, the freezer was bulging with cookies, and our kitchen was a flour-dusted wreck. We decorated the apartment with lots of fun snowflake decorations, lights, and paper lanterns. Then lots of friends came over, and we ate the fruits (well, fruit and cookies both have sugar so, close enough) of our labors, played contortionist games, ate more cookies, then ate even more. Now its the next day and I'm suffering through what can only be described as a Mormon hangover, a result of too much sugar, lots of laughing, silly games, and too little sleep. I think I'll have another cookie...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Can't Help It


All right, I admit it--all my favorite songs are depressing. I've had my music playing on shuffle while E and I decorate, clean, and make cookies for our Christmas party tomorrow, and she was commenting about how all my music is sad. "I know," I said, "but I love it." Eventually, however, when I had my arms elbow deep in dough the song "Love Hurts" by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris came on, and I called for E to skip it, please!, because that song is just too sad for even me. But the next song in the shuffle was The Byrds' "Life in Prison," and the next was something from Ryan Adams' "Heartbreaker" album, and after that some Smiths single, probably "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" followed by equally melancholy songs by Loretta Lynn, Patty Griffin, and Nina Simone. I guess it's time to get out the Christmas music! However, I just got the Modern Skirts album "Catalogue of Generous Men," which is excellent and upbeat--I'm enjoying it tremendously. The new Rosebuds album, meh, not so much--it's just not as inventive as their previous work, although quietly beautiful, I suppose. The last song is quite good. My other new favorite band is Okkervil River. Try their album "The Stand Ins," or, if you like depressing music, "Black Sheep Boy."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Multitasking

I'm simultaneously making cookies, eating pasta, decorating my apartment for the holidays, blogging, and editing photos all at the same time. I feel very productive. And I'll have you know I have been blogging--I just haven't published my last couple of posts. I wrote one about some psychic predictions I was having, but then I realized it might be upsetting to the people who's lives I was having premonitions about... not that they know me, or even read this blog, but you never know.

Life has been very eventful lately. Of course I was home for Thanksgiving, and that was great. As it turns out my family did accept and love me despite my choice of vote, and there were only a few political conversations I had to flee from--nothing major. I saw lots of old friends, and had some good times. Some of the highlights of my weekend in Chapel HIll: finding a bat in the garage, seeing a man in full clown makeup although dressed like a regular person going through a dumpster at the local mall, playing tons of games with my sisters who went to church dressed like twins although they are not, and finding this book in my mother's closet (see photo.)

Waking up at 4 a.m. to leave for the airport, flying to New York, and then going immediately to work for a 8 hour day on Monday was not fun, but the good news is that it has made the rest of my week seem like a joy in comparison. I've been very happy lately, which is great. Maybe it is the holidays, or the self-actualization I experienced while home, or the Christmas trees they are selling down the street (in the middle of a huge concrete city!), or just the fact that I'm healthy and alive--whatever it is, life is good right now.

However, as much as I'd like to say I can do it all, I must end my blog post and go attend to my cookies now. The night is slipping away, and I don't know how to twitch my nose or snap my finger and make stuff magically happen. Tonight I saw a lady embroidering on the subway. Talk about multitasking. First of all, there are people who still embroider? Second, how does she do it on a jerking jostling subway car? Well, if she can do that, I can get everything done that I need to do tonight and still have time for a cup of hot cocoa and a chapter of my book.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Church Time

The Harlem church of the week: Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. This is a no-frills, no fuss kind of church, it looks like. My favorite part is the "Walk with Jesus" sign on the front door, which you can see better if you click the photo to enlarge. This is one of the plainer churches in my neighborhood, and next week maybe I'll contrast it with one of the fanciest, to show the dichotomy of life in Harlem as well as the importance that different sects put on external church ornamentation.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

I had to post this picture because I thought it was so funny that they gave me a Delta biscuit as my snack on the flight home. With the way the airlines have been lately, I was just happy to get food at all. The Delta biscuit was a delicious breakfast on my early morning flight. And I don't know what is wrong with me--I finally signed up for a frequent flyer membership or whatever its called with Delta, and I wish I would have done it earlier because I think 90 percent of my flights this year have been with them. Oh well.

Anyway, Thanksgiving Day was great. I spent the morning in the kitchen with my mom and sisters making food. We made some pies, fudge, jello salad, ambrosia salad, deviled eggs, lots of vegetables, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, stuffing, and some other stuff I can't even remember. And everything turned out so good! When we all sat down to eat, my dad told us about the Mayflower and the pilgrims and we talked about things we are thankful for. I'm thankful for a wonderful family. My fears about coming home were pointless, because even though we may not all agree with each other, my brothers, sisters and parents are all so loving and happy that everything is forgiven and forgotten the moment after the argument. I'm also thankful for my health, for my freedoms, and for all the amazing educational experiences I've had this year. It's been amazing.

I pulled a Garrett Hill and photographed my Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is in there somewhere, buried under everything else. I was so stuffed that I didn't really get hungry again until this afternoon! I'm not used to eating so much food in one sitting. We had girls sitting on one side of the table and boys on the other and none my sisters could finish all their food but my brothers were licking their plates clean and begging for seconds and thirds, and they had taken twice as much food to begin with.

After dinner we all laid around and played some board games and decorated the Christmas tree. We probably won't have a family Christmas this year, so because most of the family is together now, we decided to sort of lump the two holidays together. I'm normally opposed to getting a tree so soon, but it seemed right this year. We spent at least an hour putting the old fashioned tinsel on (25 cents for a pack at the thrift store!) and there are bits of it stuck to everything now. Good times. It's been warm in NC, but we've kept a fire going in the fireplace for coziness. I love it. It's so nice to be home, cozy, and well-fed!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tagged

I got tagged by Jennylu. The game is to pick the 4th photo from my Pictures album and write four things about it. Well, this is it, but it's not super exciting...

1. This is a print I made in college, one of the only intaglios I made that actually turned out well. It was made with 4 copper plates, each etched to print a different color. So I had red, blue, yellow, and black. The technique requires inking each plate, soaking a piece of cotton paper in water, then printing it with each plate, one by one, so the colors align and the image turns out all nice and colorful. It was hard! But I had a really good teacher.

2. The image is a hill in Oregon, in a little "town" called Airlie, where I grew up. The hill was surrounded by fields--probably grass, which is a popular crop in that area, but sometimes the fields had trees along their borders, and this particular little road and hill had a striking group of pine trees that I liked the look of, so I took a picture of it with my first camera, which my parents got as the free gift when they bought a new washing machine. I was probably around 12 or so.

3. The image reminds me of Airlie, which reminds me of my childhood, which reminds me of home, which is appropriate for today, because I've come home to my family, although not to Oregon. Sometimes people ask me where I'm from, but I've lived in so many places for significant amounts of time that I find it hard to answer that question. Am I from Oregon because I "grew up" there from age 5 to 17? Or am I from North Carolina because thats where most of my family lives? Or am I from New York City because I get my mail there? I like all those places--how can I choose? They say home is where the heart is, but I've given pieces of my heart out in so many different places along the way. I guess I have a lot of homes, then.

4. I don't know what fourth thing I can say, except that I hope to be able to do printmaking again sometime. My press is in storage, and I don't have a place for it in New York yet. But I'm not selling it--I'm still an artist, even if I'm mostly dormant right now.

So anyway, I'm supposed to tag four other people now, but I know my friends and I know they don't want to be tagged. However, if they want to play the game, it's kind of a fun exercise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All My Bags Are Packed

I'm almost ready to go... It will be an early morning flight tomorrow. E and I are waking up at 4 a.m. to make sure we catch our 6:30 am flight. Ugh. But it will be nice to be home in time for breakfast. And the first flight of the day shouldn't be delayed, right? Then again, this is LaGuardia we're talking about.

Exactly one year ago I was going home for Thanksgiving with a broken heart. My ex-boyfriend had found a new love after only two months without me, and I was completely crushed. It made me question everything--should I have come to New York? Could things have been better if I'd stayed in North Carolina? But every time I asked the question, I felt that I had made the right choice. If I had more time right now I'd write the whole poignant story of going back that first time, facing all my fears, fragile as an autumn leaf. But I've got to finish packing and go to bed early, and besides, nobody wants to hear a sad story right now.

Cut to the end. Full circle. My heart still hurts a bit, and its still a little nerve-wracking to go back, but I feel better now. I'm so grateful for this year, for all the experiences I've been part of in New York, and I trust my instincts. I'm not sure what the future holds, but if there is one thing I've learned this year, it is that its okay to step into the unknown sometimes. More than likely, its the best thing you can do.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Too Much


I have too many feelings, and not enough words today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Church of the Week: Victory Tabernacle


I went to church this morning at the Hammerstein Ballroom, which was amazing. Elder Holland is in town, and he wanted to speak to all the church-members in New York City, and there are too many to fit into any LDS building, so they rented a theater. (Holland made some funny jokes about prayers being the nearest thing to performing on Broadway as he'll ever get.) My sister, roommate, and I sat on one of the upper side balconies, which was fun because we had a great view of the stage as well as a view of everyone in the audience. Besides Elder Holland's talk, which was amazing, the highlight was the children's choir. Two times during the meeting all the Primary children went up to the stage and sang, and it was like the sound of angels. The acoustics were phenomenal.

It's a beautiful sunny day today (cold, though!) so when we got home I wandered around Harlem looking for churches to take pictures of. I found a lot, but Sundays aren't good for taking pictures of churches, because there are cars parked in front of them, and people going in and out. Also, with these narrow streets with tall buildings, you have to plan your photos because of the sun and shadow issues. I saw a lot of great churches that were just impossible to photograph. And I need to figure out how to keep the sky blue. My picture of the Victory Tabernacle turned out great except the sky should be a vivid, deep, cornflower blue behind it. Any ideas?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nothing to Sneeze At

"The longest sneezing bout lasted 978 days. Twelve-year-old Donna Griffiths of the UK started sneezing about once a minute on January 13, 1981, and did not achieve her first sneeze-free day until September 16, 1983."

I'm worried. I just recovered from a cold, and everything has been great, but yesterday I started to sneeze. I thought it was just an isolated incident because they were rearranging boxes in the back at work, kicking up dust. But ever since yesterday afternoon I have been either sneezing, or feeling constantly as if I'm about to sneeze. It's driving me crazy! I took some cold medicine, but it didn't stop the sneezing--it just made me feel like a zombie. Some friends were having a movie night last night, but I didn't go because they have a cat, and I didn't want to add real allergies to the mix. Instead, I went to the laundromat (I don't think I've done laundry since September), and sneezed in front of a really cute guy. Ugh.

Now I'm at work, trying to get stuff done, but I keep sneezing. It's embarrassing, and annoying. But worse, in a few days I'm going home for Thanksgiving, and I don't want to be sick during my vacation! Also, tomorrow we're having church at the Hammerstein Ballroom because Elder Holland is coming to town, and I really hope I'm not sneezing the whole time. What is wrong with me?

Anyway, sorry about the lack of pictures lately. A picture of me sneezing would have been gross.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top Ten List

When I'm in NC next week for Thanksgiving, I'm going to eat:
-a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich and fries
-a Loop milkshake
-a Carrburritos sweet potato burrito
-a Sunrise Biscuit Company biscuit
-a slice of my dad's pumpkin pie
-banana pudding from Crook's
-green beans from the garden (frozen since summer)
-more pie, which I will make
-turkey, of course
-a slice of chocolate cake at Tyler's (for purely sentimental reasons)

The Curious Story of the Rockefeller Center Tree


The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is famous. Every year a huge tree is chosen, erected, decked out in splendrous lights, and honored with a huge party the first weekend in December. Christmas in New York has featured a tree in Rockefeller Center ever since 1931, when workers building the center decided to put up a tree to celebrate the season. That very same year, newlyweds Joseph Varanyak, a recent Hungarian immigrant, and his wife Mary Kemper (pictured), received a 7-foot tall Norway spruce as a gift--their first Christmas tree. When Christmas was over they planted it outside and it continued to grow. It grew so large that Mary Varanyak would often tell her sons that one day her tree would grace Rockefeller Center. However, when she died eight years ago, her dream had still not come true. Then, this fall, as Rockefeller Center tree-scouts were scouring the countryside for this year's perfect tree, they spotted an amazing 72-foot tall Norway spruce. When they approached the owners, they discovered the story of the Varanyak family's Christmas tree. The twin brothers Bill and Bob Varanyak were overjoyed that their mother's wish was finally being fulfilled, and donated the tree in her memory. They feel she has watched over the tree until this moment.

Isn't that a great story? The official tree-lighting ceremony is next Sunday, but I'll have to catch it on TV, because I'll be home for Thanksgiving. But I work near Rockefeller Center, and have enjoyed seeing all the stores put on their holiday finery as the season approaches, and I will go visit the tree soon. In the past few days the tree has been put into place and a humongous star set on top of it, made of Swarovski crystals and weighing something like 550 pounds. Let's hope that thing is securely in place!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blog Neglection

I don't know when I made the decision to do it, but at some point over the weekend I joined Facebook. You'll notice I've neglected my blog since Saturday, which is a long time for me. I feel terrible! But Facebook is an addiction that I was unprepared to deal with. Ever since I signed up, I feel compelled to log on, and add friends, and check on peoples' statuses (stati?), and fill out that big box at the top of the page that says "What are you doing right now?" Partly out of politeness (I don't ignore questions) and partly out of vanity (you want to know what I'm doing right now, really?) I continuously fill out the box and before I know it I am recording every little thing in my life, from opening my eyes in the morning to turning the page of the book I'm reading. Or, that is how I imagine its going to be soon if I don't watch out. I vow not to become one of those people like I read about in The Post the other day who are divorcing because the husband cheated on the wife in Second Life because they are both always playing Second Life and never spend any time off line together. I know nothing about Second Life, but my sister is already teasing me about Facebook and offering to be a guest writer on my blog so I can devote more time to my new obsession. So I promise, I won't go overboard. I promise not to stalk people from elementary or middle school (or any school for that matter, even though I admit I have tried to find the printmaking T.A. I had a crush on in college...), and I promise not to keep Facebook open all day at work, even though it is so tempting. Also, I promise not to join any silly groups or send people weird Facebook "gifts" that make them have to download annoying applications. And, most importantly, I promise not to neglect my blog. Now I've got to go check and see if anyone else has RSVP'd to the Facebook invite I received for a party this Friday...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Heart Saturdays

Yesterday was a wonderful New York day. Free Saturdays will forever be treasured by me, after spending six years at a job where I had to work every single Saturday. Now I work every other Saturday, so the free ones are extra nice. And for some reason a free Saturday is so much more satisfying than a free weekday.

I already wrote about visiting the Studio Museum of Harlem on Saturday morning. It had rained, but was nice and warm, and I was walking around in just a t-shirt and jeans, which was great. I figured it was the perfect day to do some exploring, and headed down to Murray Hill (around 33rd Street on the east side) to a place I'd heard about. Now I don't want you men to roll your eyes when I start talking about girl stuff, so just go ahead and skip to the next paragraph if you want to. I went to place called Thread to have my eyebrows threaded. My Italian heritage has provided me with very thick eyebrows, which I try in vain to tame. Because they have been lately driving me crazy, I decided that they needed some immediate attention, and I'd heard about the threading process, in which the aesthetician goes over the eyebrows very quickly with twisted thread that plucks the maverick eyebrow hairs out very quickly. I was very impressed by the speed and lack of pain and redness. Not to mention that it only cost $8 to have eyebrows that Alisa called revolutionary when she saw them. Needless to say, I'm quite pleased, and have been shamelessly staring at my new eyebrows in subway windows and anywhere else I can find a reflective surface. I should have done a before and after photo--then you would understand!

Emerging from the salon with my gorgeous eyebrows, I headed over to the branch library on 32nd Street and found a couple of books. I'm reading again! And it feels so good. When I left the library with my books in hand, the weather had turned brilliantly sunny but incredibly windy, and little yellow leaves were flying everywhere. Walking to the subway, I noticed a store I'd heard of, but never been to: Cheap Jack's, a vintage clothing "superstore." It was full of amazing items in a very spacious store, so I had fun looking around. But the name was misleading, because I didn't see anything under $25, and most of the stuff was over $75, even though it was stuff you could get in Chapel Hill at Time After Time for $12. And there was a shocking lack of jewelry, though a nice bowtie and belt buckle collection.

Later, I decided that since I had amazing eyebrows already, and plans for a fun dinner with some out of town friends, I would go to Barney's and have a makeover. The first makeup lady to snag me worked for a brand called T. LeClerc, which I had never heard of, but she was incredibly nice, and did a great job giving me ultra-dramatic smoky eyes and glowing porcelain skin. She tricked me into buying a few things, which I probably should not have splurged on... but I will get good use out of them.

Since I still had time to kill before dinner, I went to visit E at her job, and Katie Holmes was there! I did a very good job not staring or stalking, but I did get a good look at Mrs. Cruise. She's gorgeous!! As soon as E saw me, she noticed my eyebrows, and she said they looked fake, but that's just because the makeup lady had darkened them a bit. I told her she should go get her eyebrows threaded at Thread, because it was so amazingly fast, easy, and cheap. Anyway, right before I saw E, Alisa called me with the address for the restaurant in Chelsea where we would meet for dinner, so because I have a horrible memory, I needed to write it down, and I approached the checkout counter at E's store and asked for a scrap piece of paper (it is an art supply store, after all) but one of her boss guys was there and brusquely said, "Absolutely not! We don't want to be any part of anything." I think my jaw dropped, but I quickly realized that he must have thought I was asking for a piece of paper so I could go ask Katie H for her autograph, so I said, "Um, I just need to write down an address--please, can I have a scrap?" He mumbled something and walked away, and E gave me a scrap of paper. It was very awkward, and besides, how did he know I wasn't some richer or more famous celebrity? So I made a point to write down my address and leave the store immediately, without even a backward glance at Katie, who came up to pay for her items at the counter where I had just been standing.

Dinner was delightful. It was great to see Alisa, make new friends (Rebecca and Mark), and reconnect with an old friend (Israel) who has lived in the Bronx since July and this is the first time we've gotten together. We ate at Grand Sichuan, which, according to a passerby, "is always packed." Well I know why, because the food was amazing. We had Rebecca just order us a whole bunch of stuff, and all shared, and talked about everything from Alisa's purchases at Fishs Eddy to Facebook to politics and protests.

It would have been the perfect New York day had I remembered my friend Debbie's birthday shindig down in the Village, which would have just been getting started while I was heading uptown to home. But for some reason (my advancing years) I have been so forgetful lately, and it totally escaped me. (I'm sorry Debbie! Will you ever forgive me? I even made you a birthday present!) What a pity, because my makeup looked so good, and would have been perfect for a night out, even just a quick but glamorous cameo appearance. The uptown trains weren't running because during dinner there had been torrential rain, so that should have been a sign that I was supposed to go downtown. Instead, I walked with Israel and Mark to the 2, walked across 125th Street, got home and changed into my pajamas, checked my email, and suddenly remembered. Ugh! Time to get a day-planner or a Blackberry or something.

P.S. I joined Facebook! I'm probably the last person on the planet to do so, but am loving the part where my friends list grows from 0 to 40 in three days. I probably want to be your friend too, so if you can find me, friend me. And I promise I won't forget your party if you invite me to one ever again.

The Greater Refuge Temple

I discovered this colorful church on my way to the Studeo Museum of Harlem yesterday. It reminds me of jello salad, or the colors of the tiles of the floor in my elementary school, or Necco wafers.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Two Exhibitions

Thanks to Abby for calling me up and reminding me that I live in New York and that there are tons of things happening here that I need to see. For example, she told me about an exhibit of African textiles at the Met. I went and saw it last night, and loved it. It's a small exhibition, situated in the middle of the Met's African section, but it has an amazing group of woven, tie-dyed, hand-painted, and other types of African textiles, both old and new. The show also features contemporary artworks that play on the themes of African textiles, such as a work made from foil wine labels, and a sculpture of a woman whose elaborately patterned dress has become the metal web that is the structure of the sculpture. I was happy to see some Dutch Wax fabric, incorporated into an installation of small square paintings which featured the wax prints both plain and embellished by the artist with layers of painted pattern. Also, I was drawn to this photograph:
The car (an old Puegeot) is amazing, for one thing, but I am also fascinated by the patterns of the women's fabric clothing and the shape created by their combined forms. This is exactly the type of thing that I always try to create in my own woodblock prints. There is just something so appealing to me about a group of figures that become one shape, embellished by vibrant color and pattern. (Man, I miss my printing press!) And it's the same thing that artist Barkley Hendricks tries to capture in his paintings, especially his work from the 1970s. I saw a retrospective of his work in July at the Nasher Museum at Duke, and was utterly blown away. So when I found out that the exhibit is now on view at the Studio Museum in Harlem, just down the street from me, I went to see it as soon as I could. Henkricks' paintings capture the free-spirited fashion of he and his friends and family during the disco era. He creates a pure shape with his forms, situating them on a flat plane of color with no shadows to anchor them in space. The floating figures become icons, larger than life.
There are paintings of both men and women with brightly patterned clothing too, all amazing. Hendricks was inspired by African textiles, but indirectly as they were interpreted in fashion by the people around him. He was also inspired by Dutch, Flemish, and German old master paintings and their emphasis on the human form with exquisitely rendered facial features, against a flat backdrop. Think Hals or Holbein. When you realize that Hendricks is a classically trained artist, who studied at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy, his man in a bell-bottomed track suit takes on a greater significance, albeit with a humorous touch. I'm completely inspired now. Where are my paints?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Speaking of Dresses

New project alert. On etsy I found some great dresses to crochet:
Love the ruffles!

These patterns are from the 70s, and the crochet booklet was printed in Switzerland. Now I just have to figure out what colors to use, and which dress to make first.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In Support of Dresses

I don't know if any of the readers of my blog remember the days when wearing dresses was the norm for women. My mother was not allowed to go to school in pants until her high school years, and then the wide-bell legs of the 1970s pants were almost like skirts. It's wonderful to wear jeans, and I'm so grateful for the suffragists and the women's rights activists throughout history that have made it possible for me to dress how I like. And yet, I have an enduring fondness for dresses. Even though I don't have to, I wear dresses and heels to work all the time. I have to remember to dress down sometimes, and force myself to shop for T-shirts when I'd rather be looking at sun-dresses. Invariably, someone asks me why I'm so dressed up, or if I've got a hot date after work. The boring truth is that I just like to dress up and and wear feminine things and put together interesting outfits. Its sort of a fun hobby--something I don't have to do, but choose to, and find pleasure in. So it was nice today to be complimented on my dress and told by an elderly lady that more women ought to wear dresses these days. I didn't tell her it was just a thrift-store find, because the advantage is that when no-one else is wearing a dress, yours will always look terrific.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank You

"To Make Men Free" by Norman Rockwell

Monday, November 10, 2008

This is how I feel today. (I'm the fish that's not red.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Healing From Heaven

This church has a very unusual structure, which I unfortunately could not capture with my camera from the sidewalk (sorry about the bad photo!). It looks like a cross between an exotic far eastern church, a southwestern mission, and an upside down boat. But my favorite part is the sign, which reminds us that here is "where the power of God falls like rain." (Click on it to enlarge.) However, that power is unavailable to tourists:
This is the sign taped to the Healing From Heaven Temple door. Click on it to enlarge. I'm not really sure what the scripture reference has to do with sightseeing...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Strange Lunchtimes

At work we have a security guard and he's really nice, but... yesterday as I was going outside to eat my lunch he stopped me and said he'd buy me lunch if I'd go get him two slices of cheese pizza. An offer like that I cannot refuse, so I brought him back his cheese pizza and I saw him settle down in the back to eat it. Then, this morning, I was talking to S-Lo, the cleaning lady about how sometimes she finds forgotten 2-day old cups of coffee on her rounds, and she told me that the security guard used to be terrible about stashing food and forgetting about it. "Look," she said, going over to a filing cabinet in the far back corner of my basement office, "this is where I used to find old donuts and..." we both gasped as she opened the drawer and revealed a slice of day-old cheese pizza and the remnants of another on a paper plate stuffed into the cabinet drawer.

S-Lo went and scolded the guard about the pizza, but she couldn't convince him to throw it away. Instead, I watched when he came downstairs at lunchtime, retrieved the pizza, sprinkled it with water, then microwaved and ate it. I was trying to eat my own lunch in the back, and read my mystery novel, but the guard came over and sat down with me and started talking. I really just wanted to read in silence, but he didn't pick up on my body language (staring and my book and not answering his questions with actual words) and kept talking to me about random things like the merits of one frozen food brand over the other, and how to properly cook corn on the cob. Ugh. Why can't it be summer anymore, so I can go outside and eat my lunch in peace with the regular New York crazies?

Or, I have another idea. Maybe I should bring a change of clothes to work and go for a run on my lunch break? A short run then would be better than not running at all, which is what I've been doing because I cannot seem to find the energy in the morning, and at night when I have energy, it's dark and scary on the streets of Harlem. A lunchtime run would solve my exercise need and my desire to not talk to people while I'm on my lunch break. Hmmm. It just might work.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Don't It Make the Red States Blue

If there were nothing else interesting at all about this election, it would still go down in history as having inspired the best campaign art EVER.




And this is just a small sample. Art has power.

P.S. You should have seen Harlem last night! The plaza in front of the state offices was thronged with crowds of cheering people, peppered with police and photographers and general merry-makers. There were fast-food vendors doing brisk business and reporters gauging feelings as everyone watched speeches and poll results on a huge outdoor screen. E and I ran up onto our roof and watched the helicopters, marchers, horn honkers, cheering crowds, fireworks, and other jubilant expressions that lit up the night until the wee hours. This was quite an election!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did You Vote?


I voted! I went by the polls early in the morning, but the line was down the street, so I went back after work and there was no line at all. My theory is that everyone in Harlem was so eager to vote that they all did it as soon as they could. In New York we have the huge old-fashioned machine with the big red lever and all the switches. I know some people think its confusing, but I love it. Now we just have to wait patiently, as for Santa's visit, the results!

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Search

After work today I wandered over to Borders, because I'm craving a book to read. I haven't read a real book in ages, and I'm dying to! But I haven't had a chance to go to the library, and I have a hard time spending $15 on a book that I may or may not like. So I wandered around the store aimlessly, searching for a good cheap book, but coming up short. Maybe I can go to a library on my lunch break tomorrow. But it would have been nice to have something to read in the long lines at the polling station tomorrow morning... And guess what? I actually feel like reading fiction. It's been a while.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Response

I don’t want my blog to be a place for political or religious controversy, but I recently heard an interview on The Story (American Public Media, “Faith Versus Duty,” air date October 30) that made me want to speak out on the behalf of Mormons. Dick Gordon interviewed Andrew Callahan, a Californian who has been very vocal in his stand against Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage in that state. Callahan is being ex-communicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The interview started out with Callahan saying that the Mormon support of Proposition 8 (which is very strong) is a continuation of bigotry that has always existed in the church, and that Mormons are hypocrites because this proves that they don’t practice Jesus’ command to love one another. “It seems mean-spirited,” says Callahan, who seems shocked that a church which has always maintained political neutrality would suddenly urge its members to donate money to such a cause. While I actually agree with Callahan that the church should not urge members over the pulpit to donate money to pass Proposition 8, I disagree with his comments about the bigotry of the church. When Callahan says that the church is taking an “us against them” stance, I feel he is misguided. If church leaders are telling church members to support Proposition 8, then they are doing it with the intent to support the traditional family; they are not saying hate gay people. Whether or not same-sex marriage is legal in California, LDS people should still show all people love and kindness and let them be judged by God for their private behavior.

Ultimately, I was not disappointed in Andrew Callahan for his stance against Proposition 8, but for his lack of a real reason for his stance. On the surface it seems that Callahan is being excommunicated from the church for his opposition to Prop 8, but from listening to the interview, I learned that Callahan’s reasons for supporting gay marriage are unknown even to him. “All people should be treated the same” is his best excuse, but then he goes on to say that he doesn’t “feel the Mormon understanding of God is the correct one” and that “I feel I’m right” and “the prophet is wrong.” His only argument for gay marriage is that homosexuality is banned by the Mosaic law, and if the Mosaic law isn’t practiced anymore, there should be no ban on homosexuality. His statements show a lack of understanding of LDS doctrine, a lack of willingness to learn it, and a lack of humility. Surely Callahan shouldn’t be surprised or upset that he is being excommunicated from a church that he admits to not believing in.

I guess what seemed most ridiculous to me was when Callahan said that opposition of gay marriage is just an example of church leaders acting in their own self-interest. But he doesn’t explain this, either. Surely if the leaders of the LDS church were acting in self-interest, they would want to support all lifestyles so as to gain the most converts possible. What selfish interest could President Monson have for wanting to ban gay marriage in a society that, it would seem, mostly supports it? That’s as preposterous as the time someone told me that the reason my church wants converts is so the leaders can get rich off the members’ tithing money! No, the church leaders are acting in the interest of righteousness, standing for what the scriptures say: that we must love one another but not condone sinful behavior. A true prophet does not stand by silently and watch as a society falls into iniquity. Despite our modern desire for a separation of church and state, it has always been a prophet’s job to warn secular societies against the dangers of sin, and this time is no different. Wouldn’t it be more hypocritical for the church to take no stand against practices that go against its doctrines?

Yes, Mr. Callahan, the church leaders are just human, but so are you.

126th Street Church

This is a typical Harlem church: very humble and unassuming yet full of personality.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween! A day late, but oh well. I was busy yesterday. I didn't really dress up, but if I had, I would have wanted to be this woman from an Erte painting. I did wear a wig to work, which was pretty fun. I think I look good with white hair with silver sparkles. It would have looked good with a little space suit dress like on the Jetsons, but my closet is lacking. Disappointingly, no trick-or-treaters came to my door, even though there are lots of kids that live in my building. I guess I don't blame them for not wanting to knock on strangers doors in Harlem, but I've had an unfulfilled dream since childhood to be the one who hands out tons of candy to trick-or-treating children on Halloween. I've just never lived anywhere where the kids go on Halloween. Someday. E and our roommate S and our friend J all went to the dance at the stake center, and their costumes looked pretty great:

From left: "Self-Absorbed," a girl toy soldier, and Pam from The Office.