Posts Tagged ‘the office’

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


The Accidental Diet

July 12, 2013

GOOD NEWS — the Hummingbird gave notice. I can hardly believe it. On Monday, she announced to our cube hood that was her last day was a week away. After which, she quickly fled the cubicle. She returned but 15 minutes later — teary-eyed — saying her last day was NOW 2 weeks later. Administration said she had to give 2 weeks notice. Why oh why?

She’s been known to lie or change her mind or simply forget what she said. Just the week before last, she also announced that she had given notice — and that her last day was 2 weeks from today.

My sanity needed a break from that place. I’ve also been on my own all week. Mr. NinthHouse is away on business in Cupertino.

So I’ve been hanging out at night watching favorite movies I haven’t seen in a while (Cross Creek (about writer Marjorie Rawlings); The Year of Living Dangerously (one of my all time favorites – a fantastic Peter Weir film with a very young Mel Gibson — way before he flipped out); New York Stories (3 short-ish films on 1 DVD – by Scorsese [his film is the best depiction of the artist at work I’ve seen and the best of the 3 films], Coppola [Francis Ford] and Woody Allen [Woody’s is pretty funny] ); Witness (another Peter Weir film — Weir is one of my favorite directors); Five Easy Pieces; and Tender Mercies!

Today I had an incredible day of painting. 6 1/2 hours at the easel — and listening to so much music; in particular, the entire Vivaldi opera called Bajazet, which is absolutely beautiful.

As a result of this alone time, my morning routine has changed. I no longer eat breakfast. Which means I get to sleep in an extra half hour and avoid the drama queens on CBS morning news.

I’ve found doing without breakfast comes naturally to me. I’ve also stopped drinking coffee at work. I make a cup of English Breakfast tea with a tiny bit of milk in the morning and I’m satisfied until lunch.

Which got me to wondering…where did the saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” come from? I’ll bet it originated from a TV ad for a cereal or dairy company in the 1960s, because it’s the advice about breakfast my mother dished out when I was a kid.

For lunch I’ll generally pick up something light at Fresh & Co. or Pret a Manger. When I was in Pret the other day, I happened to read what was printed on their lunch bag, what they’ve chosen to call a “Passion Fact.” The PF for this day was:


Ludwig Van Beethoven, the composer, insisted exactly sixty beans were counted into every cup of coffee he had.  

(They claim they use this as the barometer of measuring their ethically sourced coffee in each and every Pret de Manger cup).

That utter B.S. makes me proud to give up coffee, out of respect for Beethoven.

Anyway, I do recommend giving up breakfast if you’d like to lose a couple of pounds and who wouldn’t. Give up honey in your tea and bread for lunch. Don’t overdo it for dinner — and you can still have a cookie or two for dessert.

And lose weight 🙂

“It is advisable to dynamite one’s life at least once in a decade, just to find out what one can do without.”  

                    – Poet Ted Hughes

NOW That I Have Your Attention…

November 27, 2012

My Section of the Office

Picture credit: Kids Draw the News

I’ve been listening to a lot of Eckhart Tolle lately. Each morning, it helps me prepare for the intensity and psycho-dramas of my day job. Tolle talks about staying “present” and being in “The Now” as a means of reducing extraneous mental activity and, thus, the amount of emotional pain you experience in daily life.

Often, no matter how “present” I am, I still feel miserable at the office. The saving grace — maybe “grace” isn’t the right word — is my workload. There’s so much to do. In order for me to cut a swath through the mountain of files on my desk, I need to remain acutely focused.

The “grace” part is that my heightened focus erects an invisible wall between me and the insanity — a cacophony of swearing, whining, gossip-y whispers, out and out fighting, and dramatic histrionics that characterize most days  — inside my cubicular prison.

It’s an insanity of the magnitude of the Jackass transformation in Disney’s Pinocchio. I won’t be lured down the evil path my coworkers have chosen. I won’t turn into a Jackass.

If we’re being honest here, there are several people at work I could just strangle.

Hee Haw! Hee Haw!

Yet, I continue to dream the impossible dream:

Which is to say, being in “The Now” and being completely and wholeheartedly myself — at work.


Dreaming, though, is counterproductive to being in The Now. Dreaming is imagining The Future.

Not that that’s a bad thing…especially when you need The Paycheck.

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.

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”).

Dreaming Of Art…

November 20, 2010

A Pistoletto Happening at the Tate Modern, 2009

I love the Arte Povera movement. The work of Michelangelo Pistoletto, a longtime favorite of mine, is now on view now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition closes on January 16th. A visit to the museum and an overnight stay in Philly is the only item on my Christmas list. Hint hint…

On October 30, to inaugurate the opening of the show, a recreation of his 1967 “Walking Sculpture” was staged in Philadelphia (similar to the one at the Tate, in the above video). You can view Philly’s video by clicking this link:

It’s fun watching Philadelphia’s video and especially so to hear what Pistoletto says at the end. He thanks the appreciative crowd by saying: “I am almost moved.” Watching it, we burst out laughing. Maybe, due to a language barrier, he’d meant to say “most moved,” but I prefer to believe he meant exactly what he said.

Alas, this morning, as in many mornings (though, usually this occurs from Monday through Friday), I awoke feeling just like this Pistoletto sculpture:

Burdened by a weighty cranium.

So much pressure — overworked and under-appreciated at a job I loathe (no one ever says, “thank you”); being completely misunderstood by my co-workers (“Why are you so quiet?” “Why don’t you talk more?”). Hello…? I’m working.

Basically, I’m an introvert who enjoys my solitude, but not anti-social, by any means. But I’m neither conversant in, nor care about, the private lives of celebrities — where they live, who they’re dating, why we should rip them apart (“That’s what they’re there for,” as a celebrity-site addicted co-worker once announced).

Yesterday, the (chronically burping, gas-passing, potatochip-munching explosive “psychopath”) co-worker, who sits next to me, offered this completely unsolicited comment.

When I was first hired, he said,  he thought I was “mean,” because of how quiet I was (i.e., not complimenting him every two seconds on his extraordinary personality).

I generally don’t joke in an unfunny and forced way about every living person or thing. They do. And these jokes produce completely forced guffaws and ear-splitting, witch-like cackles on a daily basis.

All I want to do is to be myself and do my job, which is demanding and requires concentration. Is that so much to ask? But most days I feel as if I’m back in Junior High School.

Lately, I find myself needing all day Saturday to decompress from the work week, only to be confronted by Sunday — just one day away from Monday. The dread of Monday’s arrival has begun creeping into my consciousness earlier and earlier on Sunday, to the point where I sometimes wake up with the dread.

Art — in whatever form it takes — is my only salvation. When you’re an artist and you’re in the closet (my co-workers routinely make known their narrow views on art — as well as their narrow views on practically everything else — blatantly clear), when you’re hiding your light under a bushel, life can be hellish.

As part of a text Pistoletto wrote in 1967 called “Famous Last Words”:

When a person realizes he has two lives – an abstract one for his mind and a concrete one, also for his mind – he ends up either as a madman, who, out of fear, hides one of his lives and plays the other as a role, or as an artist, who has no fear and who is willing to risk both lives.

As an artist working as a legal secretary, the roundest peg in the squarest hole — I have become “a madman.”

Number One on my list of New Year’s Resolutions:  QUIT.

Although, if any one of my co-workers finds out about this blog, they will spread the word and I could be fired. And you know what that means…unemployment checks 🙂

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.