Tuesday, September 29, 2009


On Saturday night I went out to Iguana with Dali and some of her other friends for her birthday. We had a delicious Mexican dinner and then went upstairs for salsa dancing. I had just intended to watch, because I really have no clue how to salsa dance! But these Latino guys kept pulling me onto the dance floor, ignoring my protests, and insisting that they would teach me. So I gave it a try and ended up having such a wonderful time that I'm thinking of taking classes. I stepped on a few toes, but those guys were such pros that they were basically able to move my body around in the way that it was supposed to go, spinning and twirling me until I felt like I really was a salsa dancer. And in between dancing, I had so much fun watching the real dancers, making it look so easy, and so beautiful. It's been on my mind ever since. There is just something so infectiously fun about Latin music and dancing! I've got to go back for more.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Viene Pronto

Viene pronto means "come quickly" in Spanish, which is kind of a nice message to put on a church, but if you look closely at the sign (click on the close-up to zoom in) you will see that the letters of the word Cristo have red droplets painted under them, as if they are bleeding. I guess I understand the imagery, but it's a little creepy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Drums

Maybe because it was Labor Day weekend and suddenly I was trying to recapture a summer that had slipped through my fingers, or maybe I saw the cover photo of the EP and was caught by the nostalgic primary colors. Either way, I discovered The Drums and have been living a vicariously endless summer ever since. Summertime!, the Drums' debut recording (just released in August), has been on repeat on my ipod for the past few weeks, so when I heard they were playing at the Mercury Lounge last Tuesday for their only night in the US between tours of the U.K. and Europe, I headed there to see the live performance, which, if Boy George is to be believed, is "joyous... kind of quite joyous." Unfortunately, it seemed like the word was out among the hipsters; I arrived to find a sold out show. I should have known, because based on the music I've heard, The Drums are really pretty great.

While it's true that The Drums sound like the love child of the Beach Boys and Frankie Vallee, adopted by Joy Division and raised in Brooklyn on a diet of Smiths records, I'm kind of getting tired of people explaining bands biologically, and describing them in terms of other bands. And yet how else do you describe a group with that grinding guitar beat that makes you want to grab your swimsuit and chase waves, lyrics that recall the 50s sung with the poetic angst of an 80s glam rocker, and tunes that stick in your head for days? Everyone is quoting how they set out to sound like The Wake, but there is definitely some Orange Juice, some Flock of Seagulls, and a pinch of The Ramones added to a sure foundation of the aforementioned musical influences.

The first track, Saddest Summer Ever, plunks you down into the frenzy of a teenage summer break filled with dancing, running around, and figuring things out as July fireworks explode overhead. Waves, whistling, and a tune that you can't stop singing along to is Let's Go Surfing, and Make You Mine would sound perfect playing on the jukebox in a crab shack by the boardwalk. Don't Be A Jerk, Jonny evokes a scene from a cheesy 80s teen movie, Submarine is just a fantastic song, and Down By the Water is the torch song of the sensitive surfer with a broken heart--gorgeous and sad. A little too sad to be the last song on the record, though. While I'm having a hard time finding any fault with Summertime! I have to admit I would have chosen a more upbeat song to close out with. Then again, you'll be playing it on repeat too, so it doesn't even matter. Here's to an endless summer!

The Drums are, in their own words: Jonathan Pierce - The Singin', Jacob Graham - The Stringin', Adam Kessler - The Twangin', Connor Hanwick - The Bangin.' Hopefully I can catch them next time they are in town.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Sometimes everything happens all at once, and in a place like New York, where there is always something happening, it can be difficult to decide which thing to see and what to pass up. Last night there were several excellent events: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were playing Radio City Music Hall, Elvis Costello was at the Apollo, U2 was at Giants Stadium, there was the opening night of Ken Burns documentary on state parks being shown free in Central Park with performances by Counting Crows and others, and Ryan Adams' was kicking off his artist-in-residency at the Morrison Hotel Gallery with an exhibit opening, just to name a few. To be truthful, I was almost swayed by the Crows, because I do love some of their old songs, and it was a nice night to be outside, but in the end Ryan Adams won. How could I turn my back on the chance to see and possibly meet the creator of Heartbreaker, the (personally) iconic 2000 album that helped redefine my musical tastes, and saw me through one end of my own heartbreak and out the other? I know Ryan Adams has put out other records since Heartbreaker, but for me that recording will always be his pinnacle moment.

But here Adams' art was the focus: large unframed paintings on canvas, hung haphazardly in a room filled with multicolored balloons. Capitalizing on his multiple talents, the gallery was also selling copies of his albums, books, and posters--all proceeds going to charity. Ryan himself was stationed behind the merch table, stoically greeting his fans, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. Throughout the colorful gallery strolled young hipsters, the bright young things of the lower east side, as well as C-list personalities from MTV and the like.

The art was nothing special. Using primary colors straight from the tube and employing a gestural abstract style, Adams unfortunately tries too hard. And yet, with his paintings' generic messages and shallow layers, Ryan doesn't try hard enough. At best his paintings are a Warholian commentary on mass-media pop culture told by scary de Kooning-worthy figures with a bit of collage mixed in to bring it a retro sentimentality. It was cute how Adams wrote the titles (definitely tongue in cheek), media and price of each piece directly on the walls, with little doodles thrown in for fun. Across the doorway of the gallery he had created a giant cardboard mouth and eyes, and another painting was basically a three dimensional faux stage, literally bringing the art out into the viewer's face. I was less attracted to such garish pieces and drawn instead to the smaller, darker, more psychologically intense portraits, more drawings than paintings, that seemed to have come from a deeper place in Adams' creativity. It was almost art, but no Heartbreaker.

I looked around at all the paintings, at the people in line for booze and the people in line for autographs. I left, went down the street and ate a slice of pizza and then went back. Then I bought two Heartbreaker LPs and got in line to meet Ryan Adams. He shook my hand and signed his name on my records with a silver marker. I'm going to frame it because, really, that's the only Ryan Adams art I want.

Rubber Bands

Someone ought to invent an alternative to the rubber band. They absolutely ruin silver, FYI, so never store anything silver with anything rubber. Also, rubber bands dry up over time and become brittle and break and then all the things you were trying to keep secure with them come apart and chaos returns. You would do better to use string or wire. Just a thought.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thoughts on Ruskin

I keep thinking about some lines from John Ruskin's "On Art and Life."

"No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art."

"No great man ever stops working till he has reached his point of failure."

"Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent. The foxglove blossom,--a third part bud, a third part past, a third part in full bloom, --is a type of the life of this world. And in all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty. No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry. All admit irregularities as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgement, Mercy."

If I wasn't on drugs (cold medicines) or sick (and groggy from a 3-hour post-church nap), I'd write in length about these quotes, but I think they speak for themselves. However, I think they pertain not just to art, but to our human lives. I've been pondering them all week and I'm really comforted by the thought that although we are commanded in scripture to be perfect, we are never cursed for not being perfect. On the contrary, we are endlessly forgiven of our sins, continuously welcomed back into the fold, and forever loved by our Father in Heaven. All that is required is, as Ruskin says, Effort, which is rewarded by Mercy. In other words, Works and Grace.

Holy Ghost Pentecostal Faith Church

I'm interested in the caduceus--the twined serpent forms--on each side of the front of this church. A symbol usually associated with the medical practice perhaps here connotes spiritual healing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good and Evil

My friend is in town, staying with me, and she told me that when she came home the other night and rode in the elevator up to my apartment, there was a young boy and an old man in the elevator too. The young boy got out on another floor, and when the elevator doors closed the old man turned to my friend and conspiratorially said, "That boy is a twin. I can't tell the two of them apart. All I know is that one of them is good and the other one is bad."

In Which I Save the Day

For several months, my boss and his wife have been planning a trip overseas to attend a fabulous event in a certain pastel pink country on the Mediterranean. The rest of us at work have been anticipating the relaxed atmosphere that will come from their trip. And I've just been trying to be perfect at my job as Assistant to the Boss, so when I got the confirmation email for his flight times, I printed it out for the Mr. and forwarded the email to the Mrs. Soon after, there was a flurry of confusion and it became clear that, even though she had booked their flights, both my boss and his wife had been under the mistaken impression that they were leaving on Saturday, not Friday! In the weeks since booking their flights, they had both forgotten, and if I hadn't received and forwarded that email, they would have completely missed their flight. So for the next 24 hours, life at work was a big scramble as my boss and I tried to get every single loose end tied up before he had to catch his plane the next afternoon. Appointments had to be rescheduled, and everything we had intended to do in two days was packed into one. Add to the mix an unexpected but obligatory funeral to attend, and my boss and his wife had a hectic last day in town.

But despite all the craziness, my day went pretty well. It began with a gift from a watch dealer, a bag of chocolate dipped meringues from Sant Ambroeus. Probably the most divine treats I've ever tasted. Then I found the watch box I've been searching for for the last 3 months and was able to get it shipped to the patient client. I ran errands, making sure everything was arranged for my boss' trip: calling his phone company to make sure his phone would work, reserving a rental car for him, arranging travel to the airport. I fielded phone calls, cleared the decks, and tried my best to get everything taken care of that might be an issue otherwise. The bad news is that I didn't really get a lunch break, because even when my boss left for the airport, he kept calling every 10 minutes before his flight departed to give me a few more things to do, as he thought of them while waiting. And, making my day seem all the more worthwhile, in one phone call he thanked me sincerely for being so helpful, which is really the best thing any boss can do to ensure that their employees continue to work hard. We just want a little appreciation!

Finally, as the sun set and the Jewish new year began, an airplane at JFK prepared to take off, the phones quieted down, and there were a few moments of peace and quiet at work, enabling me to finish up a few last things and write a lengthy to-do list for Monday. When it was finally time to go, I headed out into the dusky city, serene in the satisfaction that comes from knowing I worked hard, did a good job, and accomplished much. Then I forgot about work altogether as I entered the MoMA and lost myself for the next two hours in the contemplation of Art.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's (Not) Going On

I need to blog more! But I have excuses.

Excuse #1: I feel sick. I can't tell if I have allergies or a cold. All I know is that my throat is all scratchy and I feel achy and cranky and the only thing that makes me feel better is salt-and-vinegar potato chips.

Excuse #2: Work is driving me crazy. So crazy that I don't even want to talk about it. But if I can just get through the next couple of days, everything should be smooth sailing next week.

Excuse #3: Mad Men has taken over my life. Ever since someone (Peter? Jessica?) hooked me on the current season, I've had to watch the past 2 seasons to catch up on all the madness. This is such an interesting show! So well done, and so addictive. It's always leaving me wanting more. So I've been Netflixing the past 2 seasons and watching them with Peter and Josh. Maybe tonight we will watch some!

Excuse #4: There is just no time for anything anymore. By the time I get home and go running and get something to eat and then go do a chore like my laundry which I have to pack into a cart and wheel a block up the street and wait for someone to empty out the only available washer and then wait some more for the dryer to finish and then give up and just stuff my damp clothes back into the cart and wheel them home and spread them out all over my room before crashing on my bed with the boredom of it all, it's time for bed. But I still want to read, crochet, facebook, email, and talk on the phone! And blog.

Hmm... Well, I guess those are all the excuses I can think of right now. Not that there is really anything interesting to blog about. I'm just laying around all the time because I feel sick. On Sunday I almost saw a street gang fight. But that's about it. Nothing to write home about.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dios en Bethel

I don't know what I like most about this church: the "Jesus Save" sign that seems almost like a second thought, or the fact that the pastor's name is Dagoberto.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scenes from 125th Street

I know it's old news, but Harlem is still fascinated with Michael Jackson's passing. I heard at least three Michael Jackson songs playing this afternoon as I walked down 125th Street. Outside the Apollo Theater, the memorial continues, and every day new messages are added, or candles lit. Today the rain meant the crowds were small, and I finally had a chance to snap some pictures.

I really like the stencil graffiti, and I think it's really interesting that the artist of the sidewalk painting chose to represent Michael with his ultra-white skin. The black people of Harlem consider Michael one of their own, accepting him the way he chose to look. And maybe I'm reading way too much into it, but I think the heart around "We are the World" kind of looks like the shape of Africa.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ten Fun Things About Being Home for Labor Day Weekend

1. Seeing the particular type of round hay bales that populate the lovely countryside fields this time of year, when summer is fully ripe and just about to turn the corner into fall.

2. Going for early morning, mid-afternoon, and late night swims in the pool, watching hummingbirds war endlessly over the bright red feeder. Woodland insects make the loveliest strangest noises, and when a huge praying mantis flies overhead its like something from a science fiction story. It was a nice change from the city.

3. Having a beautiful Sunday dinner with the family. I made a spinach and feta quiche and we got out the old pretty Fiesta ware dishes and the funny tin tumblers that you have to drink out of slowly or else your milk spills. Beau and I reminisced about the barrel of bunnies an old man once gave us as a gift when we were little kids in Oregon, and we laughed a lot.

4. Talking about bassoon bocals, with my dad, who buys and sells bassoons for fun. A Heckel here, a Fox there...

5. Having sushi night with Howard and the girls, and meeting up with Trish for Mexican food. As always, a wonderful time. I'm blessed to have such amazing friends. Thanks for the foot massage, Chris! I've been walking on air.

6. Fireworks on Labor Day. Yet another indication that my family is secretly a bunch of rednecks: they have a closet full of fireworks all year round. (A couple of other signs: my dad brought some guns and helped teach a bunch of girls how to shoot at a church activity on Saturday morning, and on Monday my brother took his Jeep off-roading.)

7. Playing with the dog. I don't get to play with pets very often in NYC, so it's fun to pet cats and run around with dogs when I'm home in the country. Despite her 12 years, Kiana still runs some mad laps around the pool, true to her Iditarod heritage.

8. On Sunday I mentioned that it would be nice to have some chocolate chip cookies, and maybe I should make some. To which my mom replied that she had some in the freezer. She went to see and came back with a huge tub of oatmeal raisin cookies and a huge tub of chocolate chip cookies. All homemade. Just one of a billion reasons why I love my mom: she stockpiles cookies.

9. Exploring the garden, I discovered some gorgeous dahlias, zinnias galore, and tomatoes ripening on the vine and all hot and fragrant from the sun. I love the smell of tomato plants. Chickens clucking. One last watermelon being fattened up, and beans still climbing a pole. Cucumbers forming. Weeds warring with vegetables in a riot of wild summer beauty.

10. Driving! As always, like a maniac.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New Ebenezer

I've only been away for a day and a half, but I already miss Harlem. I remember walking by this church and hearing their gospel music and sermon being broadcast through the open doors and windows as well as through loudspeakers onto the sidewalk in the hopes of spreading the message to random passersby.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Stranded at the airport... I don't really know why I even decided to go home for Labor Day weekend. It's only a couple of days, and then I have to come right back. It was a complete whim--airfare is still low, and I just did it. But now its Saturday morning and I'm at the airport early for my flight, which has been delayed for 3 hours for no apparent reason. I overheard some people saying that the crew was late, but seriously--three hours late?! A lady just sat down behind me and said, "Unbelievable! How dey not have a crew available when dey know dey gotta go somewhere da next day?" Luckily, I have a lot of things to keep myself busy:

Music. I've got the new album by Deer Tick on my ipod, "Born on Flag Day." It's terrific! Deer Tick is a group fronted by John McCauley, a skinny skanky moustachioed guy with a voice like gravel who sings songs that sound like a mixture of the Doors, Creedence, Dylan, and Guns'n'Roses, in a good way. Doesn't sound appealing? Oh, it's amazing. It sounds like what would happen if a hobo became a rock'n'roll singer, went on tour, partied all the time, broke up with his girlfriend, then sang about it how much he still loves her. A couple of other new additions to the Ipod: "Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear, a band that seems to get better every time they do something new, and "All Tomorrow's Parties," a Velvet Underground song covered by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. As much as I want to love Nick Cave, most of his music still seems unaccessible to me, but this song is easy to like. Also, I'm still pretty obsessed with Elvis Perkins in Dearland.

Magazines. Succumbed to boredom and purchased Glamour because it has Gwen Stefani on the cover and because I have no willpower. Flipped through over half of it in less than 15 minutes and remembered why I never buy magazines anymore. Then I found a New York magazine and a Vanity Fair on a chair. Now I can read about the "12 Secret Signs He's Into You," find out "Who Will Save Christian Lacroix?," say farewell to "two tragic icons" Michael Jackson & Farrah Fawcett one more time, and then discover "Who is Italy's Most Rebellious Designer?" Ooh--and a Mad Men fall preview! That should be good. I recently discovered Mad Men (late, I know, but I don't have a TV so what do you expect?) and I love it!

Books. In my bag is "Sentimental Education" by Gustave Flaubert. The back cover says, "He loved her without reservation, without hope, unconditionally." Sounds good to me. It also says that the book is based on Flaubert's "own youthful passion for an older woman," and "blends love story, historical authenticity and satire to create one of the greatest French novels of the nineteenth century." Hmmm. We'll see about that. So far, have not opened it.

Food. For some reason I always feel like eating chicken nuggets when I'm sitting in LaGuardia airport, and one time I almost missed my flight because I was waiting in line to buy some. But it's still "breakfast" over at McDonalds, and they won't give me any nuggets. So I got some really watery hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts and I'm contemplating the candy in the gift shop. There is a kiosk with fruit and sandwiches, but its all so expensive. It really ought to be a crime to charge $2 for an apple when you can get one in a grocery store for 25 cents.

Television. The TV screen above my head in this airport terminal is showing news interspersed with interviews with Elmo. Now, if I were a traveler to the U.S. from Japan or Russia and I was sitting in an American airport and looked up at the tv and saw a woman in a business suit interviewing a little red furry monster puppet, I would seriously wonder about the country I was visiting. Ugh. Why did I take my headphones off? If she starts asking Elmo about the President's speech to school children, I'm going to scream.

Computer. I've got a couple of hours of internet. Whoo hoo! Quick--get on facebook! Blog! Shop! Actually, nobody is on facebook this early in the morning on a Saturday, and I have no money to shop, and I think I'm officially addicted to the internet because as soon as I found out my flight was delayed, I pushed the magazines, books, and ipod aside and logged on. It reminds me of that Elliot Smith song "The Outdoor Life," where he sings about how he can't go camping because something might come on TV that will never be shown again and he doesn't want to miss it. Its interesting to think about whether something fleeting and ephemeral is therefore more precious or more of a waste of time?

Other: I had actually planned to write a letter to my brother while I was waiting. There is also people watching, exercise from being shuffled from one gate to another as the airport powers that be try and make up their mind where this flight is going to take place, browsing through the NYC knick-knacks for sale in the gift shops, and looking impotently out the window at the beautiful sunny clear day and wondering why I'm wasting it sitting in an airport. I had planned to be sitting by the pool by now.

So you see, there is really a lot to do. I'd better stop blogging and get busy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm....

Did you hear the one about Moammar Gaddafi and how he wanted to camp out in Central Park? Ya, it's a true story. He's coming to town later this month to attend some kind of U.N. summit and wanted to pitch his Bedouin tent in Central Park. Can you imagine? Then again, the New Yorkers would probably just shrug and think it was another Christo sculpture, or another fashion week event. Anyway, Bloomberg wouldn't let him, so the erstwhile terrorist dictator decided to go crash in a posh pad he owns over in Jersey (and doesn't pay taxes on, what?), but the Jersey folks scared him off with protests all weekend, and he changed his mind. Last I heard he's got reservations at some Manhattan hotel. Probably Gramercy Park, or someplace where keffiyeh-wearing hipsters will make him feel right at home. It's a strange world we live in, but if the people of New Jersey are all it takes to scare a terrorist dictator away, I hope the army is full of people from New Jersey.