Thursday, July 10, 2014

concerts in the parks

Yesterday, Ilene and I found an orchestral concert in Prospect Park - by chance, as one does. It was the New York Philharmonic playing Strauss and Tchaikovsky as the sunset turned to dusk turned to night. We found a spot on the grass to the side where we could stretch out - close enough to see the wrist twitches of the violins, which is important to me. I loved how quiet the crowd was, watching the sky, listening so carefully to the harp solo, the muted strings at one point, the woodwind swells at another. There were at least a thousand people, possibly a lot more.

It was the first of a short series of free park concerts happening now - the remaining schedule is as follows:

Pieces by Strauss, Smetana, and Tchaikovsky

Thursday July 10 (today), 8 PM, Cunningham Park, Queens
Friday July 11, 8 PM, Great Lawn, Central Park

Pieces by Nielsen, Bruch, Grieg, and Liszt

Monday July 14, 8 PM, Great Lawn, Central Park
Tuesday July 15, 8 PM, Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx

There is also an indoor concert (program TBA) scheduled for Sunday July 13 (3 PM) at the Center for the Arts at CUNY Staten Island.


Images of decorated staircases in Tehran and Morlaix (France) found here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ample hills

Whenever I ride my bike up Vanderbilt Avenue to the park - EVERY time - I think of the Ample Hills line from Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry. Oh, the ample (painful) hills of Brooklyn! Then I think of ice cream.

Do you live in Brooklyn, love Brooklyn? Do you love New York? Whatever the case, read the poem today. It was written for you.

And thank you, dear Lizzie, for making me read it awhile back! (also for the bike!) Basically, this post was ghost-written by you.

photograph by André Kertész, 1964

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Have you seen Martin Provost's Violette? No? GO! Right now, tonight, don't wait.

We saw it last night at Village East, though not in the main theater, which is beautiful. I go to VE on Tuesdays for the student discount ($7 and free popcorn!) and the nice foreign selection.

But Violette. I loved every bit though it was long, and I loved her (the character) though not everyone did (we could all agree Emmanuelle Devos was phenomenal, however) and though she was difficult. I loved Sandrine Kiberlain as Simone de Beauvoir, and all of the small, sublime details spread throughout: feet in a wash basin, sun slowly coloring a face or a ceiling, the clumsy, determined way she walked. And I thought the screenplay (and the translation) was good. All very good. All very worth our whiles.

Because I enjoy caricatures (of myself), I went home and re-read the introduction to The Second Sex. Wonderful. And then, to take it further, this morning on the train I read the beginning of A Room of One's Own. Which I had bought yesterday because it winked at me as I was passing the sidewalk booksellers on West 4th. That was before Violette, before I was consciously (intentionally, maybe) thinking about the condition of being a woman and a writer, both of those things together. Because I like to go to movies without knowing much about them, which doesn't always end well (sorry, Lizzie!) (The Immigrant) (don't go), and sometimes ends magically (We Are The Best) (fantastic) (go!).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

after some time away

Some inspiration for Sofy, from the journal (April 2014):

I challenged myself today, tonight rather, when I came home. As I stood in the elevator thinking about unfinished thoughts and the need to finish something (a thought), polish it, (or was it in the train I was thinking that, or possibly the platform, yes, the platform), I determined that when I opened my door, after being greeted by Nola (cat), I would not waste time the way I usually do, lingering, languishing, spreading myself around the apartment, on the sofa or bed, flicking through my phone, lazing on the internet, doing nothing of worth (any), not even nothing at all (which is worth something, a lot really). Instead, I would turn the kettle on, put my clothes away, the ones I had tossed around before I left, but also the ones I was wearing. Turn on the reading lamp, maybe the radio, clear the floor, close the drawers, wash my face (thoroughly, with the cloth), and here I am.

And another passage (March 2014) on returning:

A great comfort, to be oneself, to return there after some time away.

photograph of my mother, taken when she was younger than I am

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

take, for instance

Last Friday, I left my apartment for the first time in a week -- bedridden with the flu even though I had the shot! Be warned. I went to the Met and saw the Charles Marville exhibit, which Alex discussed beautifully, and the accompanying "Paris as Muse" curation. I'd been reading Invisible Cities, which I can't recommend more as a pairing for those photographs and the urbanist treatise they represent. Certainly easier to carry around than The Arcades Project, at least. I always forget that Paris is quite new when I'm there or when I'm thinking of it from here.

The Met is open until 9 on Fridays and Saturdays, and it's become a favorite place to take myself for a look and a drink. Here are some small thoughts from that day:

Luxury is actually a quite simple thing. Take, for instance, the seventeen dollar chardonnay right here (a glass!) next to my computer when you don't want to know what I have in the bank for the month. And what about the pear in my bag, a few dollars to spend on a soda outside on the steps, the weather mild enough to find a bench in the park, a sunny slope with a tree. And then the table at the restaurant (not the café, not the bar), the laptop out, the Calvino neatly to the side. Luxury defined, thrown into relief, by tea and toast this morning, the colorless cotton of a sweater, hair plainly arranged and just washed, the hygiene of everything.

The restaurant, with its wall of glass doors overlooking the lawn and the obelisk (now under restoration) in the distance, with its "Torso of Chained Action" here before my table, a womanly form next to this vista of blossomed trees and bare and budding ones, is a good place to watch the sunset. Here the sun dips into tangled branches and thick hanging clouds while the robins on the lawn peck around for seed.

image from

Friday, April 18, 2014

our undulating selves

Following a conversation with Rosa a year ago:

Tonight we talked about diaries, and she made a point about self-conscious writing which we of course have all experienced. But she said that as a young person, to keep a diary, a real record, is very brave because one is always aware of the possibility that it could be read and self-conscious and circumspect as a result.

We're never really ourselves when we cast our identity into permanence. I think partly at least, the inauthenticity of the permanent impression is a result of how fluid our personalities are, our undulating selves. We can never perfectly capture the confluence of selves that arrive at one moment because that moment is bleeding into another with its own set of selves and being bled into by yet another. Like how I always feel uglier in photographs, my face requiring animation to be explained.

Wallpaper by Gia Coppola (remember this?)

Monday, April 14, 2014

blood moon

Blood moon tonight, guys! I'd never heard of a blood moon, and then Tom told me just now that it's tonight, and now I know what it is and am incredibly excited. It's at 3 AM, that's the catch. But worth it, obviously, even if you're not already up at that time writing a paper like I will be.

Normally, when the moon is particularly beautiful or strange-looking, I'll call the first two or three people I think of and tell them to look at it. A habit I picked up from my mama and Ms. Zee, moon-gazing women. But tonight, I'm telling all of you this way so you can prepare.

For New Yorkers, the positioning of this special eclipse will begin at 12:53 and peak at 3:07. I really don't know what to expect, but I think the power of the moon, beyond its tide-pulling and wolf-baiting, is largely what you make of it. I use it when I need it and when I remember.

What will you do with the moon tonight? Have a moon bath? Or a reading of The Distance of the Moon from Calvino's Cosmicomics? It's beautiful, by the way. Also, while we're doing this: one of my favorite places to go for inspiration (moon-related and otherwise):

Happy blood moon to you all!

image credit?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

have you been there


 From the diary, last year:

A phone call with X and he is so lost, though perhaps reaching the end of it. He just needed to talk, and I felt afterward that I had been there before where you know what people are telling you and you wish they wouldn't because you know it already and if you want to be contrary then why can't they just let you after all you are suffering so much a little antidotal delusion should be allowed, encouraged even.

Sam Tata, Balloon Seller, Paris 1956

Friday, April 11, 2014

new and not new

My oh my, Spring came this morning, maybe to stay for awhile now, and I guess it was the way it always is, new and not new, funny how I forget what this feels like every year, every year awake like not really before.

Also to say, last night Jess called me out to Skinny Dennis, where I saw Margo Valiante, and maybe she was the one who summoned all of this with her guitar and strong arms, the Spring, the waking, the sudden green shocks along the sidewalk. She'll be at Skinny Dennis again on May 1st and possibly every Thursday next month? She has the best growl, go listen for it!

photograph by Thomas Cadrin

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

red, rock, sand, bone

I miss my desert holiday, so let's go back for a minute. From my diary, last month:

Today we visited a vortex in Sedona. It's important when identifying vortexes, proclaiming them, to have a bald patch of earth or rock, a space where nothing is immediately elevated above the body. This is what I learned today. A vortex is an opening, preferably someplace high and empty, energy in spareness.

In this country, lost in its rock formations, mountains of disorienting proportion, I find limitations in language. Shades of earth, heights and expanses, the scale of light and dark, this is all too exquisite and refined for my own expression. In the same way the Eskimos have a hundred words for snow, the desert must have a hundred words each for red, rock, sand, bone.

Throbbing Pulse by Louise Bourgeois

Saturday, April 5, 2014

taken home

From the diary again, years ago:

Today while being taken home around Arc de Triomphe where there was a patriotic march and flag draping and gathering of citizens, I wanted to cry all at once in a surge of affection for this country, a place that has given me so much to feel about. Later I sat on a bench on the hill beneath Sacre Coeur and felt not much but not nothing.

Anyone know who took this picture?

Friday, April 4, 2014

in from out

Oh it's been awhile! So here's an old diary entry (from November) I just came across:

Tosca at the Met tonight and I felt a part of some scripted scene, in a thrilling way because it was familiar to me. As though I had seen someone else play that part, the part I was playing, and it had moved me. This came to mind when I stood on the balcony in the atrium before the chandeliers, eating my sandwich, looking down through it all at the fur coats and pudgy waistcoats below with their champagne flutes and dinner reservations. You know that film, the one where they meet at the train station and it seems film noir but not quite and sad but not quite. They are at the station restaurant, there is an old fashioned clock, they have so little time. Now I'm reminded of that. But really, I was as in a movie, there on the balcony with my sandwich, looking in from out and yet still being looked at from somewhere else.

Sargent, study for The Spanish Dance

Sunday, March 16, 2014

today, the brightness

The sun and sky in Santa Fe are bold things, taking precedence over house, road, shrub. The light yesterday evening before the movie theater (we saw Child's Pose) demanded attention. Today, the brightness has overtaken the adobe homes, the blossoming branches, the pepper garlands hanging in the courtyards.

I'm in New Mexico with Ilene! Tomorrow, hot springs and one-lane mountain roads on our way to Arizona.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

in concert

I ended up at the funniest little concert Tuesday night, a klezmer/bluegrass trio in the basement of the synagogue at 53 Charles Street in the West Village. Andy Statman played clarinet and mandolin, accompanied by a drummer and a bassist. There were fewer than ten of us in the audience, though I've heard there's usually a crowd. We were ushered through a dark corridor and into a long room lined with books, old photographs, boxes of napkins and plastic cutlery, board games and menorahs, and a mess of paintings propped up wherever they would fit. Upon arrival, Herman, the synagogue president, immediately opened the liquor cabinet, shuffling through dusty bottles of scotch and rum (so strong!) and passing them around.

Andy will be back in the basement tonight (Thursday), probably around 9 PM. Don't worry if you arrive on time and the place looks empty - on Tuesday, at five past nine, the doors were locked, and we had resigned ourselves to just having a wine picnic on the synagogue steps when Herman pulled up in his minivan, rolled down the window and yelled out that he'd let us in as soon as he found a parking spot.

Andy Statman Trio
53 Charles Street
Thursday March 13
9 PM or thereabouts
Recommended donation is $15 if you can. Go!

And thank you, Danny, for this strange and wonderful discovery.

Split Decision by Kayla Varley

Monday, March 10, 2014

american songster

Last week, I went to see this guy (up there), Dom Flemons, and his banjo at Greenwich House, a music school and community center in the West Village. He was playing with Eli "Paperboy" Reed as part of the Café au Go Go Revisited festival, which is featuring different musicians every Thursday until April 24.

I'd been wanting to see him for awhile, having discovered his old group, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, while procrastinating on a work assignment at my internship last summer. He was more than what I imagined him being, a blues man, a soul singer, a string-picker, a bone-shaker.

He'll be back in New York at the Brooklyn Folk Festival April 18, and of course I'm going. He's touring now - see him if you can.

And here's the video that brought me to him:

P.S. The Chocolate Drops will be playing at BAM April 10!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux

The Morgan Library and Museum has up a Little Prince exhibit until the end of April. A nice collection of Antoine de St. Exupery's sketches and illustrations are on view along with a handful of photographs, letters, and biographical anecdotes of the funny man who dreamed up one of French literature's most iconic bonhommes. Very exciting to see all of those drawings in the flesh - the lonely Rose, the Fox who wanted to be tamed, my favorite Baobab trees, and of course the boa constrictor who ate the elephant.

I went last week on a very cold day with my friend Ilene (whose Tumblr I'll fawn over another time) and my Bangladeshi countryman, Sham. It was a special visit for Sham, who doesn't read this blog, so I can tell you a few things about him. He owns the Belgian beer bar Vol de Nuit in the Village, named after another of St. Exupery's books. He also once traveled from Dhaka to Strasbourg by bicycle, a three-year journey with weeks-long stopovers in friendly lands and near-death experiences in the Afghan desert. He washed dishes and cleaned houses as he went along, and he was jailed in India for 15 days because he didn't have a visa. India alone took him nine months to cross, a vast country.

He'd hate my reducing those years to an internet-byte, but I thought you had to know.

General admission to the Morgan's exhibits (there's also one on woodcuts) is $12, a bit steep I think but worth it if you're a deep appreciator of the book, and a lot of people are.

And a tribute to the Prince's lovely Rose: 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anaïs and Henry

"His passion runs through a chill, intellectual world like lava. It's his passion which seems important to the world today. It raises his book to the level of a natural phenomenon, like a cyclone, an earthquake. Today the world is chilled by mind and by analysis. His passion may save it, his appetite for life, his lust."

Anaïs Nin makes me want to read Henry Miller. I've only been reading women lately - Anaïs (we're on a first name basis, don't you know?), Lydia Davis, Alice Munro - and I should expand. Volume One of her diary is alive with Henry - he's living in it, and I feel I know him. I know that he didn't care to know other writers ("What would they see in me?"), that he watched acrobats dance naked in their slippers, that he slept in train stations and brothels, that he strained his eyes proofreading at a newspaper. Anaïs gave him her typewriter and bought him shoes, though her brother Joaquin, a concert pianist, didn't approve.

I'm looking forward to taking Tropic of Cancer on holiday with me next month.

photograph of Cascade Resort

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

there must be someone

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.”

- Frida Kahlo

Also, I'm reading the diary of Anaïs Nin, and I'm pretty sure they would have been friends if geography had allowed.

 Rei Kawakubo

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

silence and noise

First off, a siren:

In college, I was a student liaison for the Yale World Fellows program. We welcomed, each academic year, some of the most talented and forward-thinking policy leaders from around the world to meet and dialogue in an effort to address pressing global issues related to political freedom, human rights, economic development, and the environment. Today, I learned that one of our Fellows, Carlos Vecchio of Venezuela, is in trouble. Carlos is currently the de facto leader of the Venezuelan opposition party, Voluntad Popular (VP), since the party leader, Leopoldo López, was taken into custody on February 18. There is an official warrant out for his arrest.

The World Fellows office is concerned for Carlos' safety. They say that he is in hiding in Venezuela with limited access to communication. They are worried that he is in danger because unlike Lòpez, he is not an internationally recognizable figure. They have asked us (citizens of the internet) to spread the word about Carlos' situation. Here are links to Amnesty's call for action and the Yale World Fellows' memo. Send them around. You can never know who you will reach.

What is the internet for, if not for this?

And secondly, a meditation I wanted to share with you. It's called "The Healing Power of Silence" (mind silence, distinguishable from political silence), and it's led by Sister Jayanti, a member of the Brahma Kumaris spiritual group. It's something I come back to when I have a prolonged period of anxiety (sometimes) or a sudden bout of devotion to self-care (less often).

Normally I don't like guided meditation (or meditation, for that matter), as the ambient sounds and gentle voices often have a paradoxically irritating effect on me. I'm also hopelessly restless, and as soon as I'm supposed to clear my mind, I want to think about which shoes would go best with my harem pants and whether I should bring my Criminal Procedure book home or leave it at school because it's heavy and I never actually read it at breakfast.

But Sister Jayanti's voice is wonderful (at least I react wonderfully to it), and when she leads me to that proverbial tranquil place, I find that I can follow her quite easily.

My mother joined the Brahma Kumaris a few years ago when she was living in Oxford. They have outposts around the world, and if you're in search of a supportive (and not at all dogmatic) spiritual community, you may want to look them up.

photograph/collage by Carlota Bird

Monday, February 24, 2014

consider the hummingbird

"The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon."

-from Joyas Volardores, an essay by Bryan Doyle that you should read today 
(Thanks, Noah, for sharing!)

Godafoss Falls, Iceland from morte-vita

Friday, February 21, 2014

what are you watching?

I can't wait to see this - it's out March 7!

And on an entirely different note, what is happening in Ukraine and Venezuela?? 
All of this while the world watches the Olympics and I watch my movies. 
What are you watching, and what can be done?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Alynda Lee Segarra's band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, is one of my favorite New Orleans music groups. I found them hanging out at the Circle Bar one night when I was in high school. There were maybe eight people in the room, a small room, if you don't know the Circle Bar. Dark and so old with red velvet somewhere, fraying with the beer smells. I don't remember who she was playing with, but when Alynda sang Daniella, I would have followed her anywhere.

I learned later that she was from the Bronx, had run away as a kid and spent some time living on freight trains, that sort of life. She made it to New Orleans eventually and played washboard in The Dead Man's Street Orchestra before starting her own band with her banjo. After the Circle Bar, I heard her all over New Orleans and she became a living icon to me. When I was in college, I wore ripped colored stockings and men's collared shirts and thought of her.

Now her band travels the country in a van, and look, they occasionally appear on NPR! Make your day better and listen to this liveset along with whatever you're doing:

images by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee, Last FM, and Hurray for the Riff Raff

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Danse Russe

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees -
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades, -

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

-William Carlos Williams

Breeze by Xi Pan

Monday, February 17, 2014

the flower girls

I love florists in a way that I think about being one sometimes. Constantly touching petals and stems, hands damp, tying, cutting, carrying. It seems wonderfully tactile, and you get to go home smelling like flowers and earth and lingering sweat, which I think is so sexy.

It's a tough job, though, very physical and time-consuming. Of course I know all about that. I don't really know anything about it, but I like to watch people who do. Hence, my flower girls, and their blogs which I look at all the time.

The first one I found was Tigers to Lilies by Lili Cuzor, a florist/plant-stylist in LA. She makes me want to go to Southern California for the desert and white stucco houses and all the colors they reflect. Her blog is a collection of her own photographs, pictures of her work, and fantastic images from artists she finds and loves. Her installations pop up all over LA it seems, and I always wish I could go and see them.

After Lili came Amy Merrick, a writer/florist who used to work at Saipua in New York but now works on her own. She has a studio in Greenpoint but is often at her family's farmhouse, Elmwood, where she gathers wildflowers, charges her creativity, and takes care of old-house-things. She works all over the East Coast, and you can see her arrangements (luscious, sensual, luminous) and read what she's up to here.

Then, flowing from my Amy-gazing, I found Sarah Rhyanen of Saipua fame. She and her partner (and her parents!) make soaps and flower arrangements in Red Hook, and I just want to join their family. More realistically, I follow her blog, World's End, named for a flower/goat farm that she's growing. She's a funny and honest writer (farming is hard, man), and her photographs (of the farm, the goats, her peonies) are beautiful.

And to take our heads out of the flowers, this piece by Ta-Nehesi Coates, got me good this morning. I also wish I had something more to say about the killing of Jordan Davis. I don't think you can say enough.

images by Lily Cuzor, Amy Merrick, Sarah Rhyanen, and Riley Messina (who I just discovered this morning)

Friday, February 14, 2014

in the news

It's the end of New York Fashion Week, the city is beautiful in its icicles, and many people will be thinking happily or unhappily about love today.

In Venezuela this week, three people were killed while protesting the violent and destructive oil-fed regime of Nicolàs Maduro. My understanding (from Gabi, my incredible Venezuelan neighbor-sister) is that they were very young. Gabi told me the story of a young man she knows who was recently arrested and tortured for protesting. He was forced to sign a letter inculpating the opposition party for the violence on the streets. When he was released to a hospital for his injuries, his family was too afraid to pick him up. They didn't want to be associated and recognized. They were looking to pay someone to go get him. He'll survive, that's what we know.

double exposure photograph by Dan Mountford from The Modernist, published by Gestalten

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Anaïs and June

"When we walked the streets, bodies close together, arm in arm, hands locked, I was in such ecstasy I could not talk. The city disappeared, and so did the people. The acute joy of our walking together through the grey streets of Paris I shall never forget, and I shall never be able to describe it. We were walking above the world, above reality, into pure, pure ecstasy."

-The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One 1931-1934

drawing by Hope Gangloff

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

on keeping a diary

Do you keep a diary? I started mine two years ago as an anti-anxiety exercise. Actually, I've started several diaries, but this one has been the most sustained. It's a document on my computer called "The Journal to Make Things Work", and it's now about 100 pages long - single spaced! Two years ago, as a New Year's resolution, I began to write in it every day.

I love my Journal for so many reasons. A tip for the anxious: it helps! Just the act ("le geste" in French, which I love) of sitting down and doing something entirely for yourself every day is important. For me, writing every night before bed, even if only for five minutes, had this wonderful psychosomatic effect where I just felt sort of untied - released from the anxieties that would crowd up my mind during the day, almost incapacitating me. Within a week, my anxious body (the brain is part of the body, correct?) knew that it would have its own time every evening, so it began to let me go.

Some nights I write a line, not even two. Most nights, a paragraph or three. What's important is simply to give myself that symbolic time and space and to do it habitually.

I began to read the diary of Anaïs Nin yesterday, and wow. So elegant! And honest at the same time. Also true, there are a lot of truths there. One of the wonderful things about keeping a record of your thoughts is that sometimes you wonder, who else has thought this thing, thought this way? And then you encounter that thought from someone else in conversation or in reading or in looking at a photograph, and you can go back to your own record and see the connection in your own words.

To close, below is a quote from my own Journal, one I think is sweet because it thinks about God.

"In Before Sunrise, Céline said God was the space between us. In What is the What, Achak finally concludes that the What is the space between us. I can feel these spaces, too, so palpable the threads and distance. The spaces between us are infinite in the galaxies they hold. So of course, if every other possibility is there, God must be there as well."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ms. 45

The movie I saw last night was something else. Ms. 45 by Abel Ferrara. Extraordinary in the hyper-literal sense, but also simply extraordinary. BAM is putting on a series, Vengeance is Hers, for the month of February, and this one got me in all the right places.