Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Memories are Motionless

June 2, 2016

“Memories are motionless, and the more securely they are fixed in space, the sounder they are.” – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

tribeca $1900 300sqft

Earlier today, taking a break from painting, I googled studio prices in NYC to check out the going rate. The above studio is on the market in Tribeca. For 300 sq. ft. you will pay $1875.00/month!

Once upon a time, I rented a painting studio of my own. The space was larger than the the space above. For 400 sq. ft. I paid $400.00/month. Situated above a clock store in Williston Park on Long Island, a decidedly unhip but affordable and convenient location at the time,  northern light flooded my studio all day long. I was in heaven.

Excited to have a dedicated workspace I could get as dirty as I wanted, I laid down a roll of cheap linoleum, moved in my work table and supplies and got to work.

One morning as I arrived, the proprietor of the store below me was standing amidst a forest of chiming grandfather clocks, front door open. He introduced himself right away and asked me what I was up to, mentioning he always heard music playing. He then said he enjoyed (rather than objected to) the music and seemed a bit tickled to find out that someone was making art in the space above him instead of preparing tax returns or teaching traffic school.

I fondly recalled my studio days as I stepped back from the easel this afternoon to assess the progress of a new painting. My studio is the second bedroom of the two bedroom apartment we rent in Queens. I never did put down linoleum, but I guess I should have.

It’s fun to fantasize about the days when I painted full time as I spend my days off from a dreadful office job. I’m not complaining, per se, but occasionally on days like these I enjoy torturing myself by thumbing through an artist book I own called Studios by the Sea. 

To refer back to Bachelard in Poetics of Space, he writes: “…even when we no longer have a garret, when the attic room is lost and gone, there remains the fact that we once loved a garret, once lived in an attic. We return to them in our night dreams.”

This is so true. At heart, I’m a romantic. A big part of me loves to dream and yearn. Loves the yearning part more than the actual getting. The aroma of coffee beans in the grinder more delicious than drinking the brew. As I flipped through Studios by the Sea I wished and imagined. Sometimes walking around NYC, I will find myself gazing longingly at a 19th century townhouse on the Upper East Side — yearning to live there. And enjoying every minute of yearning.

During my recovery from a broken ankle last summer, I would pass a particular townhouse on East 63rd St. on the way to physical therapy. A painting hanging on the wall by artist Caio Fonseca was visible through the expansive front window. It held my eye each time I passed by. His work is a favorite of mine. As I stopped to gaze, I conjured an entire fantasy scenario based upon seeing his work hanging in that space. On the landing beneath the painting an elegant ebony grand piano, keyboard exposed, was poised to be played. Above hung a glittering crystal chandelier. Aware Fonseca played the piano, I was convinced it was a Steinway and that Fonseca lived in the townhouse.

But he didn’t live in the townhouse as I would come to find out. The scene – his painting, the piano, the splendor of the decor  – had been staged by a real estate agent, likely another “romantic” like myself. That agent, through his or her design, had gifted me many evenings of yearning and pleasurable wanderings.

Fantasy is better than the reality. I suppose people who invest in their “dream house” spend the rest of their lives “making it even better than they imagined” with continual remodeling because intrinsically they know that dreams are never realized. Otherwise, they would no longer be dreams.

…the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” – Bachelard

 

I Forgive Everything

July 12, 2015

images

Reading the essay titled “Amedeo Modigliani,” which was originally published July 17, 1975 in the NYRB and generously reprinted in their latest blog, I discovered, to my delight, the work of poet Anna Ahkmatova (also the author of the essay).

Akhmatova was a friend of Italian artist, Amedeo Modigliani. Her poignant remembrance of their time together is expressed beautifully in the essay (read it by clicking this link):

Anna Akhmatova on Amedeo Modigliani

I Forgive Everything,” which is the title of this blog post is taken from a stanza of her poem, Weak Is My Voice:

How the past loses power

Over the heart!

Liberation is at hand,

I forgive everything.

A couple of years long ago, I read a biography of Modigliani. The reading enhanced, rather than diminished, my appreciation of the artist (sometimes Too Much Information about an artist can turn out to be a negative).

But in this case, the artist’s unfailingly courteous demeanor and generous spirit despite an impoverished existence in Montparnasse (he was a bonafide starving artist who died at age 42) was edifying and moving. Not the first case of fame after death (and greater profits for art dealers).

I first discovered Modigliani’s work at around age 14 thumbing through an art book at the library. Ever since, I have been passionate about his work. Poring over his images transports me to both a realm of childhood innocence and adult freedom of expression, to an intimate world smelling of oil paint and turpentine, a world I have inhabited from adolescence to the present time (that is, when not slaving away at my dreaded day job).

Anna Akhmatova1

Modigliani portrait of Akhmatova (which is mentioned in the linked article)

Reading and re-reading Akhmatova’s essay and intimate personal details of their friendship launched me on a google search for: more information on Modigliani; copies of Akhmatova’s poetry; and images of portraits painted of her by the artist.

The line on page 2 of the essay: During my great losses..,” also piqued my curiosity. What kind of losses? Which led me to search a little more. I learned Akhmatova was living in Russia during the 1917 revolution, refused to flee the country she loved in spite of its dangers. That she lost many friends and loved ones to the war. That her ex-husband was accused as an anti-Bolshevick and shot dead. That her son was also killed. During my great losses…

Reading the essay aroused my desire to delve more deeply, which could be likened to the opening and emptying out of Matryoshka dolls.

If you have played with these charming Russian icons, you are aware that a smaller doll is awaiting inside each respective larger doll. Knowing this neither interferes with nor hinders your enjoyment or desire to repeat the exercise again and again.

Perhaps the continual opening and closing satisfies a yearning to nest; while fulfilling, at the same time, the impulse to be free.

Each emerging doll promises infinite newness. Although you are aware of what is hiding inside, there is a frisson of discovery upon releasing each doll that never disappoints. Thusly, you open and close, open and close, open and close.

matryoshka

Liberation is at hand. You begin again.

You forgive everything.

You are reborn.

How To Break Your Ankle

April 13, 2015

FrozenPathCPGo for an early morning walk in Central Park on the first warmish morning of almost-Spring weather (low 40’s on February 21st).

Gingerly walking along a dirty frozen path (with just a hint of melt) will imbue you with the false sense of invincibility.

Life is beautiful (or soon will be).

GeesePoliceWave to the Geese Police in his van. He will wave back and hide his face (with shame). Not a good omen, crossing his path,  especially with respect to the warning on the back fender: Get the Flock Out.

LastSnow3.21.15

Rejoice on March 21st over what will be the final snowfall of winter in Jackson Heights. Extoll the wondrous snow covered trees, their enchanting beauty. Believe with cautious optimism you will not likely witness this snow globe for at least another 6 or 7 months (and that the use of a shovel in order to move your car will be banished for same).

Celebrate by taking a drive to the east end of Long Island with your S.O. Specifically, to Watermill.

View the work of east end artists at the Parish Museum, as in the work of the wonderful Fairfield Porter, an artist with a deep understanding of color.

Ooh and aah. Love life.

FPorterParish

GreenApplesPorter

PorterTablejpg

Prolong the feeling of unfettered bliss that viewing art invokes. Enjoy the escape into nature so far from the city. Traverse the snow-covered grounds of the museum (where sirens;  honking horns and thumping car stereos are long out of earshot).

Regard a tree standing upright before  a deep blue sky of puffy clouds. Take a photo.

SoloTree

Notice the quartet of misshapen trees.

CrookedTrees(Take note of the red arrow on the left, above)

Heed the scrawny Charlie Brown tree beckoning to you (“culprit”).  Scale a low guard rail with your right foot to photograph sad little tree. Lose your footing. Skid down backwards into a ditch at a 45-degree angle. Try to brake the fall with your heel. Wrench your foot severely. Sharply descend toward the inverted point of a triangular trough, deceptively masked by snow cover.

Twist your ankle unnaturally. Succumb to immobilizing pain.

Break your ankle in not 1, but 2, places. Proceed to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead (ominously, where S.O. and I were transported by ambulance after a car accident in September 2012).

Welcome with gratitude the splint administered to foot and leg by caring staff; accept a gift of crutches and excellent pain killers. Elevate bad foot on the dashboard of car on the ride home.

Stop at Starbucks for chai latte and much needed sugar fix. Request to your S.O. for no sudden stops is duly noted.

Visit orthopedist in Manhattan on March 23. No plaster cast for you! Instead, foot is installed in heavy black foam and plastic boot (lint magnet), misnomered as “walking cast.” (Due to sharp pain when boot touches ground; legs now at unequal lengths due to heavy, thick unstable rocker sole rendering boot impossible to “walk” in).

Secure boot to leg with 5 strips of velcro threaded through their respective rectangular hardware.

You must sleep in this boot. It weighs a ton. You must elevate your leg all day. You must remove boot for intermittent icing of the ankle and foot. You must continue this regimen at daily intervals until next doctor visit.

You must continue navigating the apartment on crutches.

Das Boot

BigBoot

Revisit orthopedist on April 6. Continue with daily regimen. Plan on 6-8 weeks to heal.

To stave off cabin fever:

You will read cover-to-cover January, February and March back issues of The New Yorker  (N.B., in March 9th issue – powerful story by Toni Morrison).

You will read Skeletons of the Zahara a tome by Dean King (unputdownable, true story of survival that ends well for the main character).

You will continue with obsessively readable essay collection called Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio.

You will begin reading We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (set in your current environs of Woodside and Jackson Heights).

You will finish reading back issues of Poets & Writers magazine.

You will watch art films lasting over 3 hours (mostly Russian, Turkish and Scandinavian). You will watch Trip to Italy twice.

You will re-watch Swan Lake ballet DVD for the umpteenth time.

You will plan a to visit orthopedist on April 27 for a new x-ray.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday Fragments

March 2, 2014

TorsoAndLimbsWaiting for Dept. of Sanitation truck – 82nd St., Jackson Heights

Every Sunday in the Metropolitan section of The New York Times, a column appears called “Sunday Routine.”

In the column, the day-of-rest activities of a well-heeled artist or celebrity de jour – which are unfailingly steeped in joie de vivre, presented hipper than thou, and sounding suspiciously fabricated – appear as succinctly texted selfies (sort of type-set, look-at-me-I’m-special paragraphs) positioned beneath subheads and choreographed to the brand the subject wishes to convey.

I don’t know why I read these columns week after week. Wishful thinking? Morbid curiosity? Combing for clues on how I can convert my Sundays into days of leisure?

Probably all of the above.

So to have some fun, I borrowed the subheads and one-liners from today’s “Sunday Routine” column (bolded below); and added on responses of my own.

*

BTW, the “Subject” of this week’s column is a TV actor.

  •  Hello Sunshine

“Sunday is the most domestic day of the week. Sunday is the day when I feel the least pressure to get anything done.”

Hello Clouds. Sunday is the day when I feel the most pressure to get everything done. On Sunday, the last thing I want to think about is housework.

  • Square Meal

“I make kind of a heavy, farmer’s protein breakfast…lately she’s making these green smoothies.”

At 6:30 am., significant other makes a quick trip into the frigid outdoors to buy the paper. He returns with two sugary cinnamon rolls from Starbuck’s.

  • Reading and Writing

“Then we take care of the paperwork, or I should say the electronic work….I’ll get my laptop out and try to get a handle on the week to come.”

S.O. leaves for work. I read parts of the newspaper — or I should say The New York Times — then I’ll get out the tarot cards and try to get a handle on my future.

  • Shift Gears

“Around noon, we’re still in our jammies, and that seems wrong somehow.”

Around noon, I’m wearing my “psinting clothes,” snd standing before the easel, and that seems totally RIGHT somehow.

  • Man About Town

“I dress more formally than the other boys do. I will generally wear a tie and a vest. Not necessarily a jacket.”

Around 5:00 P.M., I’m a Woman About Town, walking down the avenue, picking up stuff for dinner. I dress, shall we say, more warmly than the other girls do. I will generally avoid eye contact — which is not necessarily unfriendly. Just street smart.

  • Fans Approach

“I get recognized. It happens regularly.”

If I see someone I recognize, I dodge into a doorway. This happens regularly. Time is of the essence when hardly any of your time is free.

  • Possible Detour

“My default mode is to wander. I went recently to see a show of Czechoslovakian pop-up books.”

My default mode is to get the hell out of Foodtown as fast as possible and return home. However, I went recently to the Polish deli to see their selection of perogies.

  • Who’s on TV

“We’ll watch some TV event. It could be a show that either [my wife] or I have a role in that everyone hasn’t already seen.”

Now that we have binged out on every single episode of House of Cards,  we have come late to the party for Six Feet Under (and loving it).  Also, possibly my favorite show ever, Portlandia, is back for a new season.

  • Sunday Night Blues

“I still get the old, childhood Sunday night feeling. The end of playtime and the beginning of responsibility comes over you. The Sunday night blues. I’ll take a Benadryl maybe. A Benadryl and a dull book.”

Okay, I completely agree with him on the Sunday Blues — except for the Benadryl and dull book part. If I need something dull to help me fall asleep this Sunday night, I’ll turn on the Oscars. Guaranteed instant snooze.

Who Moved My Jeeves?

November 22, 2013

9:00 AM, 57th Street

SeenOn57th

*

5:00 PM, 57th Street

5PM_57th

*

The Medium is the Message

THINKBIG

Our Excellent Vacation – Day 3

November 16, 2013

MONDAY: BREAKFAST AT BROOKTON’S

BrooktonsOutsideBrookton’s Market

Monday morning meant breakfast at Brookton’s Market. No need to drive. The Rosebarb’s alerted us to a shortcut running through the woods not far from the farm. A steep downward trek on a one-lane incline (so steep, it’s closed in winter) brought us just yards away from Brookton’s.

As soon as we walked inside we fell in love with Brookton’s. We ordered two scrambled eggs sandwiches with Pepperjack cheese on onion bagels.  We sat at a small table up front. Willie Nelson’s voice, relaxing and heartfelt, singing acoustic covers of Kris Kristofferson songs, streamed out of a “boom box” on the counter.

BrooktonsCounterA view of the counter and coffee bar from our table

The nostalgia-inducing songs provided an easy segue into conversation with a woman stocking shelves. She seemed not old enough to know Kristofferson’s songs. But she said loved them and hummed along to the classic “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

Paintings by local artists hung on the walls. If I’d had an extra $250, I would have purchased the painting in the black frame, a glowing river snaking through a surreal forest.

LocalArt

We watched local people come and go. An electrician setting out on the road for work left with coffee and an egg sandwich; a lady farmer, plaited silvery hair hanging down her back, dressed in baggy jeans, fisherman knit sweater and handmade Tyrolean-style hat that rose to a point on top of her head. Helping herself to donut from a tray by the coffee carafes, she was tickled to discover the donut was free (fresh baked, yesterday).

When Mr. NinthHouse asked for a photo of the two women working behind the counter, the cook said, “Sure, so long as you don’t use a flash. I don’t like those bright lights.” Her younger assistant added, “Watch, this’ll probably wind up on a blog!”

2 Women Market_cropCorrecto-mundo.

Directly across the road from Brookton’s was this picturesque stream. We crossed the road to take in the view.

CreekOppositeBrooktonsThe name might be 6-Mile Creek (if I’m remembering it right)

An elderly resident who spotted us taking photos walked over. Six miles down that way, she told us, pointing, we would find the source of the creek. She suggested we hike to it. When we told her where we were from, she said she didn’t think she would ever visit NYC. She had no reason to and, anyway, it might be just too much for her.

(Ditto the hike, for us, without the proper shoes. Later on, we’d get in the car and drive to the mouth of the river).

And when we did, this is what we would see tacked to a shed:

AustiticMasonGot to admire this mason’s individual angle on self-promotion

Leaving the creek behind, we took a leisurely stroll back to Rosebarb Farm. Our last full day, we decided, would be all about the farm. Looking down at our feet, we saw dozens of fuzzy black and copper colored caterpillars inching their way all over the empty road.

woolybearWooly Bear Caterpillar

Ultimately, the Wooly Bear metamorphoses  into a Tiger Moth:

tigermothIsn’t nature wonderful…

Man-made can be wonderful, too. For instance, I’ve read that a boater can depart from Ithaca and cruise the Erie Canal system all the way to New York City and as far as the Atlantic Ocean. Going west, the canal leads boaters into the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and as far as the Gulf of Mexico.

erie_canal_mapThanks to the other DeWitt for this miracle of engineering — DeWitt Clinton.

As we neared the farm, the horses were out grazing near the barn. We trekked up the hill through the high grass to greet them.

The biggest, most massive horse (a Quarter horse) I have ever seen, just a sweetheart of an animal:

MICKMeet MICK

And Mick’s pals, Grace and Brinny:

GRACEandBRINNYGRACE (white) and BRINNY (brown)

I knew enough to pet them on the soft part right above their nostrils because I recently learned that watching a movie!

We also said, “Hey,” to the turkeys. Turkeys are so social and friendly. Too dumb to come out of the rain is what I’ve always heard about turkeys. Alert and  jovial, they don’t seem to fit that description at all.

THE_TURKEYS

Heading for the chicken coop, I spotted this bird flying by:

White-Breated Nuthatch, Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Near Fort Rock, OregonI didn’t know it’s name. However, a short time after, while walking with Rita toward the cottage, I would see a painted image of that very same bird on the Rosebarb’s mailbox. I would say, “I just saw that bird. Do you know its name?” And Rita would answer, “It’s a Nuthatch!” excited for me that I saw a live one fly by.

At 3:00 p.m.  the farrier arrived to trim the horses hooves. We were invited to watch!

Farrier 1Basically, it’s a horse pedicure. A hoof, as it was explained to us by Don Barber (Mr. Rosebarb Farm), is essentially a very large toenail. To groom the hoof, the farrier grabs the horse’s leg, gets into a semi-squat and holds the hoof securely between his shins. It is arduous work. With the utmost care, he gouges out the area beneath the hoof. Once that is done, he uses a trimmer (a large set of pliers, but sharp) and cuts away the edge of the hoof. Much like cutting the nails of a pet dog, if you’ve ever done that, it must be done right. If you cut too deep, it causes bleeding and hurts the animal.

It was fascinating to observe. Much like stepping back in time, when you realize trimming hooves been done this way for ages. Horse “shoes” are needed, I learned, only if the horse will be spending time on man-made surfaces, like concrete and asphalt, which can prove injurious to their hooves.

In keeping with the barter system much in evidence in this farm country, the farrier was paid for his work in bales of hay (his family has a horse farm), which was grown and harvested on Rosebarb Farm.

Our last evening was spent with one more run to Brookton’s Market to bring back something for dinner. With regret, we would be leaving for home the next morning — to return to jobs awaiting us and our so-called “real life.” We will miss Rosebarb Farm.

I’d like give to a nod to N.Y. Governor Andy Cuomo, whose TV ads extolling the beauty of upstate New York provided the initial spark for us to make a trip north.

We also delighted in what we are convinced was Governor Cuomo’s brainstorm, to “re-brand,” if you will, the “rest stops” on the New York State thruways by updating the signs:

TextStop

And another nod must go to the exceedingly accomplished and ever so modest, Don Barber (Mr. Rosebarb Farm). I do hope the best man HAS won this election…

VoteForDon

…and that he will continue his successful, untiring efforts to prevent FRACKING by keeping gas and oil companies vultures out of Tompkins County. The unspoiled beauty and tranquility of upstate New York must be preserved.

If it is not, we have too much to lose. As city dwellers, we know very well where our drinking water comes from. Upstate New York is our wellspring.

Our Excellent Vacation – Day One

November 2, 2013

SATURDAY:

KozmicKitchenSign

Part road trip, part chill out on a farm, at long last we were on vacation.

After a relatively painless exit from NYC (including the initial escape over the Triboro Bridge and traverse through the South Bronx), we reached Suffern in good time, segued to Route 17 and exited at Bethel, NY.

Bethel…? I said to myself. Bethel….why is the name so familiar? Hunger (and curiosity) lured us into the parking lot of Janet Planet’s Kozmic Kitchen. Then, I remembered. The Woodstock festival was actually held in Bethel, NY.  Not in Woodstock. Rendering it, to my mind, tourist-free and pure.

JanetsPlanetChatting with the Kozmic’s owner, Janet Planet, I discovered she grew up in Massapequa, Long Island. I grew up in Hicksville, practically next door.

“Did you hang out at the mall?” she said, dipping her question in irony.

“Of course.”

KoZmicStaffJanet Planet is on the left of this very friendly trio

Eating veggie burgers to the tunes of Janis Joplin, Canned Heat and Santana, brought us back. It was fun.  Janet, who is also the chef, suggested we take Route 97 to Route 17B, instead of Route 17, on our way up to outskirts of Ithaca, for an off-the-beaten-track, unspoiled adventure. Happily, we took her advice.

Before saying goodbye, Mr. Ninth House took the photo of Janet & Co., above. Outside, we paused to check out the lawn sculpture in back of the restaurant.

PeacSignScultpurePeace and Love — the dream is still alive in Bethel

We headed for scenic route 17B.  Before we had landed on on Janet’s Planet, we passed through many little towns. One example is Bloomingburg, a seemingly peaceable village, landscaped with Victorian homes and green lawns. But there were some weird roadside protestors, all middle-aged females, waving signs as we drove through. “Hi y’all Kiryas Denzll” or No sh’tetls in the ‘Burg,” read the signs. Not far from Bloomingburg is Kiryas Joel, a hamlet I had read about in the newspaper, which is exclusively inhabited by Hasidic jews.

C’mon, Bloomingburg. That’s not very nice.

In Monticello, another town we detoured through — which is a few souls minus a ghost town — a shopping mall, circa 1969, named for the eponymous space mission, stood rusted, derelict and abandoned. We ascertained its namesake from two spindly “rockets” — listing warily from their plumb line, aiming tentatively skyward and shedding paint like dandruff. We found them planted side by side in an empty and forgotten section of the lot.

Down on Main St., businesses and shops in Monticello were either: 1) closed because it was Saturday (Heimish Bakery and Glatt Air Technologies, to name two that were not boarded up) ; or 2) boarded up.  With the exception of a single bagel store with a shiny-ish new sign, which was both neither boarded up nor closed nor crowded. ApolloMallApollo, we have a problem…

We didn’t stick around there long. It was creepy. We headed back to Route 97 toward Route 17B.  “Uh oh,” was our reaction when a John Deere combine (I’m guessing that’s what this vehicle is) pulled onto the road ahead of us.

JohnDeereAhead

It was the first real “Farm” moment of our vacation retreat. We chilled out and slowed our pace. After all, we could have been back in the city trailing behind an MTA bus or, worse, standing face to face with a coughing passenger on a packed F train. But, we weren’t. We were upstate New York!

The sky overcast and autumn leaves ablaze, we continued on through the towns of Hancock and Callicoon, which overlooked Kenosha Lake.

At this stop sign, we turned left. StopSign

Shortly after we reached Route 67, we arrived in a place called Long Eddy. Route 67 is a snaky, unpaved, narrow road that twists and turns alongside the Delaware River, cutting through woods and grassy fields. This lovely, out of the way road brought us directly to Kellams Bridge. A bridge the width of one car. We climbed out of the car, stood on the bridge and gazed out over the river.

It was so quiet.

KellamsBridge

We drove over Kellams Bridge and exited onto Bridge Rd. 40, made a U-turn and drove back over the bridge again. In the village of Long Eddy, we encountered this quaint little cemetery.

RiversideCemetery

It began to rain. Great cemetery weather! But it was nearly 5:00 PM. We couldn’t linger. We had promised our hosts, Rita and Don (the Rosenberg and Barber of Rosebarb Farm), we would arrive by 5:30 PM to pick up the keys to our rental cottage. They had tickets to a hockey game at Cornell University and had to leave at 5:30 PM.

We motored on. But then we had to stop again because an authentic “Muffler Man” was peeking/peaking over the bushes alongside of the road:

MufflerManUpstateDo you know the Muffler Man, the Muffler Man, the Muffler Man….

We love Muffler Men.

Picking up our speed once again, we soon reached Landon Road, which would lead us to Rosebarb Farm. But then the Wat Lao Samakhitham Inc. Buddhist Temple (2040 Rt. 11) came into view. Curiosity was killing us. Mr. Ninth House wanted to stop. We squelched the urge and moved on. By this time, it was pouring rain. We needed to get to the farm. Besides, I’m leery of any religious temple with INC. in it’s name.

At 5:20 PM, we arrived at the beautiful, peaceful, scenic refuge that is Rosebarb Farm in Caroline, New York. Our retreat had officially begun.

Stay tuned for Day 2:  SUNDAY at Rosebarb Farm…

You Are Always On My Mind

August 4, 2013

UP

Mr. NinthHouse has recently begun wearing an Up Bracelet around his wrist that keeps tabs of the duration and quality of his sleep (it monitors and calibrates the integrity of his winks and nods by sorting them into specific groups: amount of time it took him to fall asleep; amount and duration of deep sleep; light sleep; no sleep; how many times he woke up; and so on).

Although it took him only 6 minutes to fall asleep, out of a total of 8 hours of intended sleep, Mr. NH only enjoyed an actual 2 point something hours of deep sleep.

I would give anything to be able to fall asleep in 6 minutes. That very same night, it took me more than 2 point something hours to forget I was awake (in my mentally charged universe, that translates to falling asleep).

My job stresses me out so badly, I need one day (Saturday) out of my 2-day weekend just to de-compress from the aggravation.

When Sunday morning rolls around, the feeling of relaxation is short-lived. By Sunday afternoon, the realization that Monday morning is just around the bend looms large, filling me with dread.

To defuse the dread, I post a blog. About my job. How pathetic is that.

MY DAY JOB is always on my mind. The repetitiveness of the work itself I have come to terms with as one of life’s inevitabilities. Bills need to be paid, and the rest of it.

The real problem is one particular coworker of mine. If you’re familiar with my blog, you may recall the DODO BIRD.

DODO

What I cannot come to terms with — no matter how many mantras I chant, creative visualizations I entertain, or Mozart piano concertos I plug into my ears to drown out this mean spirited, bitter, passive aggressive, manipulative provocateur of the DODO BIRD — nothing will stop her from trying to ruin my day, and everyone else’s day.

The Powers That Be — collectively embodied in the GRACKLE — after months of clandestine bill clappering , have bestowed upon the DODO BIRD a new title.

grackleSquawk!

The DODO BIRD has been made a supervisor, in recognition of: arriving late to work every day and leaving early; honing her skills at online Sudoku; daily sprees of e-shopping; reading the entire life story of Dom DeLuise (seriously, and at her desk, of course); and perfecting the art of the 3-hour lunch break.

The DODO’s new title is sufficiently vague and incomprehensible so that no one — not even the DODO — knows exactly where her new responsibilities (if any) lie.

We birds of a different feather learned of the DODO BIRD’s dubious promotion not from any formal announcement. Rather, from the updated telephone extension list.

LazyWorkers

It so happens, I came across this clip today in the NYT’s magazine:

The Company You Keep

“When it comes to work, less may be more.  A study found that low performing employees were more likely to say that their company was “a great organization to work for” and reported being more engaged than middle- and high-performers did. Those who did their jobs best often felt “stressed and undervalued,” says Mark Murphy, the C.E.O. of Leadership IQ, which conducted the study, because “it starts to undermine the high performers’ confidence that the organization is a meritocracy.”

meritocracy:  1: a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement;  2: leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria.

For about two seconds, the above quote made me feel, I don’t know, recognized? Less alone? But, really, it’s all sort of meaningless, isn’t it?

The meaninglessness of clinging to a belief in meritocracy was confirmed through a bit of googling when I came across a journal article called “The Meritocracy Myth,” written by two sociologists out of the University of No. Carolina:  Stephen J. McNamee and Robert K. Miller, Jr.

An excerpt:

“According to the ideology of the American Dream, America is the land of limitless opportunity in which individuals can go as far as their own merit takes them. According to this ideology, you get out of the system what you put into it. Getting ahead is ostensibly based on individual merit, which is generally viewed as a combination of factors including innate abilities, working hard, having the right attitude, and having high moral character and integrity. Americans not only tend to think that is how the system should work, but most Americans also think that is how the system does work (Huber and Form 1973, Kluegel and Smith 1986, Ladd 1994).

“In our book  The Meritocracy Myth (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), <http://www.rowmanlittlefield.com/isbn/0742510565&gt;, we challenge the validity of these commonly held assertions, by arguing that there is a gap between how people think the system works and how the system actually does work. We refer to this gap as “the meritocracy myth,” or the myth that the system distributes resources—especially wealth and income—according to the merit of individuals. We challenge this assertion in two ways. First, we suggest that while merit does indeed affect who ends up with what, the impact of merit on economic outcomes is vastly overestimated by the ideology of the American Dream. Second, we identify a variety of nonmerit factors that suppress, neutralize, or even negate the effects of merit and create barriers to individual mobility…” 

Reading these two paragraphs reminds me of a line by songwriter Slaid Cleaves:

“No one remembers your name for working hard.”

Maybe it’s time to take a page out the Hummingbird’s book.

Feed the Sponge

July 21, 2013

IN MY NIGHTMARES, THIS IS FOLLOWING ME:

Close-up-Sponge-crab-Juvenile sponge crabs use their claws to cut pieces of sponge to size, and then carry them around on their backs for camouflage-A desperate sponge crab without a suitable sponge to cut, once carried around an old flip-flop.Juvenile Sponge Crab

Does a more hideous creature exist?

Often seen on moonless nights (or in darkened bedrooms ready to insinuate itself into a sleeper’s dream, quickly turning the dream into a nightmare), the Sponge Crab — also known as the Decorator Crab (if the person whose dream it is invading happens to be an artist) — wears a living piece of sponge as a disguise.

Although the Sponge Crab keeps hidden during daylight hours, it secretly monitors the actions of gossipers, and absorbs each and every whisper and innuendo into its sponge.

The Sponge Crab, it has been observed, seeks out the sterile, yet dust ridden, surrounds of metropolitan business offices. The dark area beneath the desk of a rumor monger (amid the predictable clutter of used high heel shoes, Handiwipes canisters and extra umbrellas) presents an uncanny attraction for this terrible creature. It knows on which side its sponge is whetted.

Psychological studies have shown that “artificial daylight” — i.e. the piercing harsh florescence illuminating most work places (except maybe day spas) — does indeed qualify as “actual daylight” according to the DSM V (thereby conjuring images of rolling green hills, puffy clouds and the Von Trapp singers, all of them reportedly effective remedies for sufferers of SAD).

A typical office worker, therefore, has little reason to be depressed or exhausted (or SAD) even if she does loathe her job and its attendant clique of gossipers as mean spirited as a jar full of bees.

Because —  it’s always bright in there!

So it makes sense that the existential isolation, absence of windows and fresh air, and dearth of joie de vivre of the typical business office is a perfect feeding ground for the sponge.

Sometimes, at the end of the day — do not be alarmed — the Sponge Crab will follow you home. It knows where you sleep.

After a mind numbing day at the office, the Sponge Crab is weighted down, too. It needs to unload some of the misery on you.

Notice the expanse of its sponge:

Possible ways of ridding your life of the Sponge Crab (listed below in order of feasibility):

Self-Employment. Unemployment. Bank Robbery. Hedge Fund Management.

“A rumor goes in one ear and out many mouths” says the old Chinese proverb.

Art for Lunch

June 14, 2013

The Sick Heart_1939“The Sick Heart” (Paul Klee) 1939

I slipped out of my cubicle and fled my office building at 12:45 p.m. today and headed north up Fifth Ave., strolling between the cobblestone shoulders on the sidewalk adjacent to Central Park.

Heavily overcast with foreboding gray clouds, the sky threatened rain. But — it wasn’t raining yet. I was determined to enjoy the outdoors, no matter what.

FifthAnd60th

This is my favorite kind of New York City weather. There was even a slight chill in the air.

A massive meltdown by my cubicle neighbor occurred on Thursday (involving a vituperative tirade, with supersonic droppings of the F-bomb at the very top of her voice — as in: that f–king bitch!!!)  It all took place inside her boss’s office, door open, and within earshot of just about everyone on our floor.

Curiously, this individual still has her job (she has melted down before — she’s known for it). Yet, she showed up this morning blithe and devil may care, as if she hadn’t cursed the living *** out of her victim du jour just yesterday. She sat at her desk, humming atonally, cruising the web, laughing to herself and not doing not a stitch of work the entire day. Except for when she disappeared to go shopping.

She must be giving her boss lap dances. There’s no other explanation for why she still has her job. Her boss is 72 years old. And, he didn’t show up to work today.

Yesterday’s drama must have been too much for his heart. I know it was too much for mine.

As I strolled up Fifth, the sun broke through the clouds. I suddenly remembered a review I’d read in Sunday’s paper of a Paul Klee show on 64th St. The photo in the review is the one pictured at the top of this post called “The Sick Heart.” The show was at the Moeller Gallery, between Madison and Park. I crossed over Fifth and headed east.

Plan einer Garten-architektur

“Plan for a Garden Architecture” (1920)

The theme of the show was early and late work of Klee. It was in the final year of his life that Klee painted “The Sick Heart.” He was ill with scleroderma and dying.

The paintings I’ve posted here are my favorites in the show; most are from the latter period of his life.

17_Buelen_Birne_19343“Bulgy Pear”  (1934)

Those blues. That green.

18_Blumen_auf_dem_Balkon_1935_banner0This one is called “Flowers at the Garden Wall”

I left the gallery with a head full of colors.