Posts Tagged ‘day job’

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


September 22, 2012

                                                              (from The New Yorker)

* * *

The company I work for occupies 3 floors, each one the size of a football field, more or less. So not exactly a tiny office. The joke going around my floor shared by, shall we say, the more industrious employees is:

“50% of the staff works hard — and the other 50% hardly works.”

Mary Mary Miss Contrary (aka, MMAC), has mastered the art of hardly working. She has worked there FOREVER, is never leaving so everyone has to deal with it.

MMAC — why? Because if you say “clouds,” she says, “sunshine.” You say “cold,” she says, “hot.” She initiates the conversation just so she can disagree with you.

This past Thursday, I made notes of her comings and goings during the workday.

The perverse pleasure I derived from this little exercise helped me get through another awful day…

What follows is a typical day at the office for MMAC (her supposed hours are 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM):

 – Arrival time: anywhere between (9:20 to 9:30 A.M., sometimes later than that — she blames the commute and see herself as its victim);

– Breakfast preparation commences at 9:45 A.M. This requires retrieving from a dedicated file drawer her breakfast bowl  – the size of which is comparable to the family style pasta bowl at the Macaroni Grill (which is to say: large). Next, a trip to the kitchen carrying an armful of fruit and muesli. Cuts up the fruit and co-mingles it with muesli and milk in bowl;

9:45 A.M. – 10:00 A.M. – gossips about everyone in the office with the kitchen staff; disseminates sage advice about everything to anyone who will listen;

10:15 A.M., returns to her desk and begins eating. Clink clinking spoon against bowl, chewing, talking with mouth full. Opens Outlook, checks her e-mail. Prints out letters from client and gives to boss. Many rises and descents out of and into her swivel chair, fostering the appearance of busyness; so much so that it takes her 45 minutes to eat her increasingly soggy bowl of mush. It’s gross.

* * *

* * *

11:00 A.M. – Shopping time! Browsing for shoes, handbags, patio furniture in Explorer while finishing bowl of mush. Abandons dirty bowl on her desk. Because her desk faces the entrance to our area, she can quickly quit out of Explorer if the boss happens to saunter in. Little does she know that everyone on the planet is on to this trick.

11:30 A.M. – Returns to kitchen to wash bowl, knife and spoon.

11:45 A.M. – Returns to desk. Enters a few items into the docket. Telephones her financial planner. Whispers into the receiver.

12:00 P.M. – Officially, it’s my lunch time. But I throw a wrench in her do-as-little-as-possible scam by not going out for lunch. This forces her to pretend to work for another half hour.

12:30 P.M. – She drops the guise. It’s crossword puzzle time!

1:00 P.M. – My lunch time is now over. I get back to work. She catches up on her reading.

1:30 P.M. – She leaves the premises to pick up lunch.

1:45 P.M. – Returns with take-out fish and announces: sorry if this smells, and eats it at her desk anyway. It stinks.

2:00 P.M. – Leaves the office to go shopping.

2:30 P.M. – Returns to the office. Processes a few files; shuffles some papers.

3:00 P.M. – Sneaks out for a therapeutic massage (bad back, she says, in a “poor me” tone of voice). 

3:30 P.M. – Returns to work. Snack time! Consumes purchase from the street vendor.

* * *

* * *

4:00 P.M. – Sudoku time!

4:30 P.M. – Leaves early.

Studio Envy

June 14, 2012

View from B.’s studio

My good friend, B., rents an amazing art studio in Greenpoint.

In addition to high ceilings, enormous windows and enough space to accommodate shelving, tables, a tabouret, temporary inner walls and lots of art, she needs only to turn on her heels “in the gloaming” (we both agreed we love that phrase) to catch this view .

A room of one’s own on a grand scale. Nothing like it. To get it as dirty as you want. Freedom to pull out all the stops.

I am burnt out and frustrated from a mind-numbing day, a good part of which was devoted to constructing a 6-column, multi-page chart in Microsoft Word that consisted of a list of patent applications serial numbers and filing dates, titles and inventors names, actions to be taken, due dates and entire abstracts of each application, which I had to download from the patent office website and then type into the chart in a very reduced 6-point font — oh, the minutiae, the boredom, the excruciating hours trapped in my chair.

How long, baby, how long, until I can get out of there — for good????

To lift up my spirits and free my mind — and remind myself of the person I really am and not the one I pretend to be from 9-5, M-F, I’ve made a wish list of exhibitions I would like to see before they close (perhaps, indulge in one or two items this Saturday  — we’ll be in Manhattan listening to my friend Jenny Lynn Stewart, an opera singer, sing at the library in Lincoln Center mid-afternoon.

Wish List of things I’d like to do:

1) See the Vuillard show at the Jewish Museum (I love the Nabi’s):

2) See th Klimt show at Gallerie Neue (in person, his paintings are incredible! the surface! the texture!):

3) Fontana show at Gagosian (a great inspiration to me):

4) Puryear show at McKee (he is flat out amazing):

Or pay a visit to the Buddhist temple in Chinatown and chill out for a spell (and choose a new fortune, a little rubber-banded paper containing a hexagram from the I Ching, from their bin for a mere dollar donation):

Just looking at this art has already made me feel a whole lot better!

My Lucky Day?

April 3, 2012

You Dirty Rat

  • Right before leaving for work this morning, a little voice inside my head told me: “Take your camera.” The last time that happened, I ignored it and missed a great shot on the way to work.

To my delight, there was a big inflatable rat in front of the Trump Tower at 8:45 a.m.

Check out the protestor on the right, the guy in the gray plaid jacket. He could be the rat’s brother.

*  *  *

  • Keeping in mind yesterday’s post about my crazy office, this is the text of an e-mail sent by Human Resources today:

Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2012 3:22 p.m.

To: NY Staff

Subject: Food From Meeting Rooms/Fruit Bowl

All employees have to wait until any food that is left over from a meeting room is  brought into the kitchen. All food left in the kitchen is available to staff for their enjoyment on a first come, first-served basis.

Please be courteous and take one piece of fruit per day so your co-workers can have a piece too!

Your cooperation is appreciated.

(I laughed out loud when I read this. It sounds like something written by my third grade teacher. I can just picture the stampede of gobblers scarfing up half-eaten leftovers from the conference room.)

*  *  *

  • At 5:00 p.m., I left work and walked to the subway station to catch the R, a local train. Because I had my book, New York Diaries, I would not mind the longer ride home. Besides, I didn’t feel like walking up blustery 57th Street to catch the F express.

Luckily, the R pulled into the station right way. And, I got a seat! I opened my book.

Right before we pulled into the Queens Plaza stop, I read this wacky journal entry dated May 3, 1847. It was written by Walt Whitman:

People are not half aware of  the benefits of regular bathing—a practice which should be “got into” by every man, woman, and child of the land. The cold bath is best (winter and summer), for healthy persons–with this proviso: not to bathe in it when the body is chilled, but when it has a healthy glow of warmth. This is an important item. At first, and for those to whom bathing is new, tepid water will be best–soon and gradually to be superseded by the water of the natural temperature. Nor is anything absolutely necessary to a bath, except a pitcher of water in one’s room, a sponge and a towel; by using these daily, one will feel better and live longer.

By every man, woman, and child of the land! Can you imagine how people must have reeked in 1847, if they need instructions on bathing?

Before I knew it, the R pulled into Queens Plaza. Across the platform, the E express train sat on the tracks, doors open, waiting for passengers. At the last minute, I ran out of the R and breezed through the doors of the E just as they were closing.

Which meant only more one stop to Jackson Heights — instead of the usual 5 or 6 more stops had I remained on the R.

When the door closed, the stink on the E train acquainted itself with my nostrils. I wanted to gag (or read aloud Walt Whitman’s advice to the offending passengers.) The muggy, close air stank of B.O., despite the A/C.

The guy standing next to me was snorting every few seconds like a horse. What is it with these snorting people? They are everywhere. Have they never heard of Kleenex?  (I had to be grateful. He could have been a spitter or projectile nose-blower).

The guy to the right of me was just plain dirty.

Noxious odors notwithstanding, it was indeed fortunate I followed my instinct and switched trains. Because when I arrived at my stop and climbed the stairs to the station, I saw a group of firefighters with emergency equipment milling around. Out on the street, I overheard an EMT worker utter the word “cardiac.”

Which meant right then, the conductor on the R train was most likely announcing “sick passenger” or “police action” into his microphone to a packed train of people at a standstill in the tunnel.

The last time that happened to me, our extremely crowded rush hour train was stranded in the tunnel for 45 minutes. Talk about misery!

The scene outside the station

Relatively speaking…this was sort of my lucky day.

Koans for Contemplation at the End of September

September 25, 2011

Photo: by J.C.

Cause for contemplation in the coming week:

1) Should a person spend 8 hours a day in a workplace she has come to loathe?

2) Must this person endure the interminable ranting* of a desk neighbor who has a morbid need for attention just because this neighbor has a (alleged; purported; made-up, quite possibly) health issue**?

3) If this person complains to management about the neighbor’s ranting and management suggests that she try to show some “compassion” for this neighbor  — re the health issue, which this person suspects is nothing more than a foreshadowing of a lawsuit to be pursued by said neighbor if management threatens to dismiss said neighbor for totally inappropriate behavior in the office  — and this person simply cannot feign compassion she does not have, does that make this person a bad person?

4) If said desk neighbor runs a space heater under her desk during the height of summer (to further dramatize her self-proclaimed health issue), yet routinely reports to work bare-legged and wearing a tank top (in complete violation of the dress code), may this perspiring-despite-the-A/C-person assume this desk neighbor is a manipulative hypochondriac?

5) Is it possible for this person to type and hold one’s ears at the same time?

Just asking…

* Definition of ranting:

Each morning desk neighbor telephones countless people she knows: landlords, husband, workers in the office, food delivery service people, anyone suspect she may encounter in the corridor…and yells at them and threatens them with lawsuits for “doing her wrong” (i.e. from her skewed POV)…then stays on the phone anywhere from one to two hours (doing NO work, at all) and next backs up her threats by sending faxes on our legal letterhead — which is often followed by a self-pitying crying jag.

**Health Issue:

Prescription of blood-thinners for undisclosed heart ailment (sorry, no details have or will be shared by desk neighbor). However, this person has gleaned from one of desk neighbor’s countless angry phone calls to her new husband that she was instrumental in having her husband’s mother “dug up” because said mother’s death was “suspect.” Weighing in during the process of digging up the mother, desk neighbor queried her husband (another drama for another post) with intensity over the phone one morning (as I ate a muffin – gag) as to whether or not there was still evidence of “meat on the bone”).

Notes from Under the Radar

September 17, 2010

Angel of Provincetown

In early September, during our much-too-brief sojourn with dear friends in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I found myself caught in the thrall of this boy angel (as you can see, I wasn’t the only one) and snapped a picture.

I’d forgotten all about him until last evening when a monstrous thunderstorm raged through Jackson Heights. Just as I alighted from a city bus into the enervating warmth and humidity, lightning struck. In a radiant, booming flash, deafening and savage — and close enough to rattle my eardrums and nerves — a fierce, fiery torch touched down a mere block away. Frightened to the quick  — I’ve never been so near to a lightning strike — I ducked and scrambled in the pelting rain and fled into the lobby of my building.

It was not until this morning — after I’d called in sick to work, felled by a cold, sinus infection, ear problem — that I thought about the boy angel.

It was as if the constraints on my imagination had been loosed by the singular fact of making that phone call. I was free — free to be me — at least for a day.

Unencumbered by the tiresome admonitions of a particular self-important pair of creepy coworkers mired in pedantry that have the power to absolutely ruin your day from the get-go — I suddenly felt like me again.

What a feeling.

I continued to mull over the weather incident a bit more, suddenly having precious free time on my hands. It did cross my mind that the lightning strike was the reappearance of my guardian boy angel, as I’ve come to regard him, paying a visit to New York in a different guise. Behaving in a similar fashion to that of the Tower card in the Tarot: deploying the shock of the unexpected to rattle me.

It so happens that the novel I am — was, will get back to soon, oh, the remorse of not working, the sorrow of day jobs — writing, has quite a bit to do with lightning. The inference of this lightning strike as it relates to my novel also “struck” me this morning.

N.B.: to the menaces from my day job who might happen click into my blog — unlikely, since the Queen of Tedium who reigns over my section of the office, ominously coined “The Cave,” once uttered: Why would anyone write a blog? — bugger off!

This is the same wet horse blanket who proclaimed for all to hear: I hate art museums. They’re so boring. I can’t be in one for more than ten minutes.

Good — then, please keep away. More room for the rest of us.

That inane comment begs a quote from the brilliant critic Arthur Danto, who wrote, when blogging about the artist Marina Abramovic:  “A work of art and a mere shipping carton can look exactly alike. What explains the difference? What is the difference between sitting down with someone in a performance and merely sitting down with someone? The work of art has meaning; it is about something. And it embodies that meaning.”

(Shipping cartons of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your strapping tape.)

There’s always more than meets the eye.