January 25, 2009
Fashion past and present
Last week I went to see the International Center of Photography's exhibition of current fashion photography. The concept seemed good, though in execution it proved to be somewhat less so. The basement housed a complementary exhibit of Edward Steichen's fashion photography from the 1920's and 30's. Jumping from the present day to the past, I was amazed at how far fashion and fashion photography had come. A group of older patrons looked upon the present less favorably. Over lunch in the cafe, they groused about the present, wondering what had happened to the elegant past captured by Steichen's lens. A black and white film played in slow motion above them, capturing the process by which the images themselves were captured.
January 21, 2009
Can & Did
Last night Danzinger Projects held an opening for Can & Did, a new show featuring graphics, art, and photography from the Obama campaign. The room was packed. People shuffled between the works of art, squeezed by each other. A woman handed out wooden nickels from a paper bag. One side featured a portrait of our 44th president with the message "Yes We Did!" A flag adorned the other side, marking the year of the inaguration and Obama's place in line. "Take a few," she said. I did.
A woman passed by holding a flyer. Obama's campaign logo sat stolidly upon the white square. Jean asked her where she got it. "They're just inside the door," the woman said. "Before the coats." She pressed on towards the drinks line. Another woman pointed to the flyer and asked her where she found it. "They're just inside the door," she said. "Before the coats."
I took some photos of the art until I ran out of film. And then I remembered the camera on my phone. Three women passed wearing trucker hats. "I heart President Barack" was stitched along the crown. I took some pictures with my phone. I felt swept up in the good cheer and excitement.
I remembered the election four years agothe excitement I felt casting my ballot and the disappointment I felt with the results. I remembered the weekend after, spent in Death Valley surrounded by similarly disappointed friends. I remembered welcoming the desolate surroundings and the lack of headline news.
Today I am hopeful. I had tempered my feelings during the election; I had tempered my feelings after the results. But yesterday afternoon, watching the inaguration and hearing Obama's measured words, and yesterday evening, surrouned in a small Chelsea gallery by people excited for the future, I allowed my emotions some freedom. I don't expect change to come swiftly, but this morning I feel as Jean feels; that there has been a shift. And while it may not be evident today or tomorrow, I am hopeful for the change that is coming.
January 20, 2009
I am eruditer than you
At dinner, I described my cousin H as being more erudite than myself. J looked at me askance. I supplied the definition and then told her how I came to know the word. It was a Slumdog Millionare moment, only thousands of dollars didn't hang in the balance.
In sixth or seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Borden, gave me a note she wrote on a pad she kept on her desk. A cartoon turkey sat on the page above which were printed the words, "I am eruditer than you." I didn't get it. I told her I didn't get it.
Mrs. Border took out a pencil and corrected the sentence. To be grammitcally correct, she said the sentence should read "I am more erudite than you." "An English joke," she said. "'Erudite' means learned."
January 18, 2009
Brooklyn bands eat pizza
Last weekend I had dinner at Grimaldi's. I had just come with some friends from the aforementioned book party. The space had become hot and crowded and we were looking for respite. We walked across the street to the pizza place to find it mostly empty. A line usually follows the sidewalk, but the weather was inclement, and we attributed the sparse attendance to the slippery streets.
The pizza was good, but not as good as I had imagined. After years of hearing about the place's legendary status, I could not but feel a trifle disappointed. There are other pizza places I prefer: one in Queens, another deeper into Brooklyn, and one closer to my home in Manhattan.
Midway through our meal a group of hipsters sat beside us. The staff pushed a few tables together to accomodate them. We ate and chatted while they ordered and ate and chatted. The rest of the restaurant was practically empty.
We finished our food and lingered. There was no need to hurry back out into the cold. Our conversation wandered from this to that; I remember few details, the topics were related to work. Finally it was time to go. We paid our bill and donned our coats; we wrapped our scarves around our necks and walked one by one through the door.
We reassembled in the cold, trying to keep from slipping on the sidewalk. One of my friends asked me if I recognized the group beside us. I had spent the evening not recognizing anyone and didn't feel the need to start then. I said no. He told me they were Animal Collective. I like the band, but have no idea what the members look like. I shrugged.
The next day, my friend corrected himself. He said the group was Yeasayer, another Brooklyn band. It made little difference. I knew the music, but had no idea what the band members looked like. Oh, I said. I shrugged again.
January 17, 2009
Last weekend I met an actor. We were both attending at a book party hosted in a Brooklyn apartment. The book was written by one of my colleagues; the actor was attending as the friend of one of the guests. I asked him what he had been in and he named a few shows, one of which ranks among my favorite. I told him I hadn'trecognized him and he told me the role he played. Then it became obvious. I told him he was one of my favorite characters that season. He laughed and said he looked somewhat different now.
I asked what he was working on currently, and he told me he was about to start rehearsals for Three Sisters. I asked if the play was written by Checkov and he said it was. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I had seen a play by that name in Boston, but I didn't remember any male roles. I asked if there were another play by that name. He said he was unaware of any.
Later, I realized the play I saw in Boston was Three Tall Women by Edward Albee. The play, as suggested by the title, is written for three female characters. As I was leaving, I said goodbye to the actor. I told him I'd make sure to see his play. I admitted that during out conversation I had been confused about his current production. To myself, I admitted it was possible he could have been in a trans-gender staging of the Albee play, but I hadn't thought to ask. He laughed and said he'd been in something similar in the past. He wouldn't rule it out.
January 7, 2009
New year's yoga
Last night I took my first Iyengar yoga class. The room was small; the class was full. A pillar stood in the center of the studio.
The class began slowly. We sat and breathed. We chanted, three low oms before starting, and then began our first pose. My friend had warned me that it was difficult. She said the class wasn't fun, but that she felt it was something she should be doing. It wasn't a ringing endorsement, but I was curious.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed the class. On some poses, I lost my balance, regaining it just as the instructor moved to the next pose. I vowed to practice at home. At times I wished the class moved slower, that the transitions between poses were more fluid; I suppose that comes with time and greater experience.
As we settled into our last pose, necks extended, back extended, shoulder blades tucked under, the instructor dimmed the lights. A man began to snore. I looked up and out through the window. Outside, it was dark. The lights of a nearby office flickered but stayed on. The windows cut parallelograms out from the sky.
January 4, 2009
Simone called me to thank me for the gifts I had given her for Christmas. She said she was confused when she unwrapped the first. It appeared to be an empty Coke bottle. It was.
Simone loves Coke, and I've come to bring her bottles from the various places I travel. Increasingly, I find the logo unchanged, untranslated. You have to look to the shape of the bottle or the fine print to notice the regional differences.
When Simone looked closer she saw the Cyrillic script describing the bottling location and realized the gift for what it was. I had bought the bottle in Mongolia. I tend not to drink soda and asked the manager of the guesthouse if he was thirsty. He asked me if I didn't want it. I told him I had bought the Coke for the bottle. He offered a coffee cup and I poured.
January 2, 2009
Happy New Year
New Year's day I woke early and read in bed. I grabbed whatever books I could without emerging from under my blankets. I read e. e. cummings. I read Pablo Neruda. I read Calvin and Hobbes. I read Susan Sontag. The night before I had begun watching Man on Wire, a documentary about Philip Petit's successful attempt to span the Twin Towers upon a narrow cable. It was such a celebration of life and its possibilities. I got out of bed and sank into the couch in the living room. I turned on the television and finished the film. It was a glorious start to the new year.