We had big plans: see a tree lighting – with choral accompaniment, thank you – in Carl Schurz Park at 5 p.m., then hop on over to Park Avenue and 91st Street by 6:30 p.m. to see the ceremony that takes place on the steps of Brick Church at which all the lights on the center islands of Park Avenue are lit.
Huge crowds amass. We celebrate our courage and merriment in the darkness.
It’s all pretty cool. The Brick Church ceremony began in 1945, following the end of World War II. The trees and their lights commemorate those who have sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace, and celebrates peace itself.
Of course, sundown was at 4:28 p.m. and snow was predicted to begin shortly thereafter. Which it did. And it turned super cold.
You can see this coming, right? If it were just me, or if it were just DH and me, we would have meandered over to one, then the other, lighting. But when kids with homework and a senior fighting a cough are a part of the equation, we eschewed the outdoor festivities in favor of the comforts of home. And then, in what is one of the quintessential New York experiences, I went to move the car.
The snow was lovely, and hence my short film, above.
How did you celebrate the day?
Temptation lurks in the downstairs floor of Kinokuniya, a Japanese book, art supply, paper supply, and household accessory store across from Bryant Park. Bryant Park is home to the majestic New York Public Library, and temporary home to Fashion Week, but I digress.
In the top row of my collage, above, are two iPad covers featuring Basquiat-derived designs. These make me wildly happy even though (a) I do not own an iPad, and (b) who knows what Basquiat himself would have thought of such a creation. Maybe he would have liked his images on iPad covers (I’d like to think so), considering that he painted white sweatshirts in 1977. Now, of course, these sweaters retail, at auction, for just under the price of two new Nissan Altimas together.
On the bottom left of my collage is a selection of Kinokuniya washi tape. Maps, labels, cancelled vintage stamps, cherry blossoms – they’re all represented.
On the bottom right is a magazine that comes with its own false eyelashes! What could be more delightful?
I don’t need to own these items – this is not a possession thing. It’s enough to know that they exist in the world.
Happy, happy, happy.
The good people of NaBloPoMo provide daily prompts that bloggers are free to embrace – or ignore. Here is today’s:
It’s only eight days into the challenge; how much can we have learned? Established a new habit? No. Push through to new understandings? Maybe. Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, endures almost 103 minutes of trials and tribulations before the Tin Man asks her the now iconic sum-up-your-experience question: What have you learned, Dorothy? Dorothy’s journey seems longer than the actual eight days that have transpired since the beginning of the BlogHer challenge to blog every day in November, although, arguably, her adventure lasted only one day. Her takeaway, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with,” is open for interpretation.
Here’s my takeaway, so far:
1. Daily blogging changes the brain, much like any activity practiced with intensity.
Have you seen Shawn Achor’s TED talk on The Happiness Advantage? He talks about how we can take an active role in training – or retraining – our brains for happiness, based on various scientific research. In his book, he describes an experiment in which college students were paid to play Tetris for many hours at a time. That was all it took for the experimental subjects’ brains to change and begin to scan for certain patterns. Some students reported that subsequently, when they went to the supermarket and saw empty spaces on cereal shelves, they had a strong desire to move other cereal boxes from higher shelves to fill the gaps, emulating an analogous goal of the game. Achor says that the lens through which you view the world shapes your reality.
Hence, blogging – or even knowing that you are going to blog – everyday for a month acts as both a filter and a focus. If nothing seems to have magically presented itself as blogging fodder appropriate to my art/life subject matter, I may ‘trol through my brain, my experiences, my ‘hood, filtering out what is unnecessary for the task, seeing only that which is blog-worthy (casting an admittedly wide net). If I am in the midst of some experience and the daily pressure is “on” to blog, I may select an element, a focus, about which to write and photograph.
The lens through which you view the world shapes your reality.
As Shawn says (I can call him “Shawn,” can’t I?), “Suddenly, what wasn’t even thought of as a possibility became a reality.” (If you click on the link, this is said around minute 6:20.)
2. I give myself sub-rules about blogging where no such restrictions may be necessary.
For example, in BlogHer’s “14 Tips to Help You Survive (and Thrive!) During NaBloPoMo,” Tip #4 is to “take shortcuts.” Shortcuts, in this case, means posting a picture or video and nothing more.
Somehow, I haven’t been able to do that – yet. The blogs that I love, that I turn to almost daily, provide a cavalcade of words and pictures. Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, words give pictures a context. And pictures that incorporate words have a special place in my heart.
3. Despite the nascent brain-training of blogging every day, a mere eight days is not enough to establish a habit – yet.
4. There is much I have yet to discover about the technical side of blogging and sharing one’s blog. The learning curve is steep…
5. I’ve learned that constructing a blog post takes longer for me than I expected it would.
6. Dorothy’s tale was a classic Journey Story. In her journey, she set out to achieve Goal A, was thwarted, but learned something new and achieved Goal B, and then returned to her starting point. (Same plot structure as that of Apollo 13.) If my Goal A is both to see if I can complete a demanding challenge and to be part of the November blog challenge community, what will I learn along the way – before I return home?
The main plaza at Lincoln Center is iconic and forms a kind of outdoor room in its own right. The plaza is formed by three cultural houses: Avery Fisher Hall (it used to be called Philharmonic Hall), The New York State Theater (now, officially “David A. Koch Theater”), and The Metropolitan Opera House.
Even if you’re not from New York, you know the place. You might remember Cher running into her movie dad (played by Vincent Gardenia) and his mistress (played by Anita Gillette) at the Metropolitan Opera House. If you’ve seen the original film version of The Producers, how can you forget Gene Wilder skipping around the central fountain as he declares his dedication to a shady production scheme? I’ve seen The Nutcracker, The Big Apple Circus, B.B. King, Young People’s Concerts, craft fairs, Midsummer Night Swing, and so much more here.
The Lincoln Center Plaza itself is home to artist Aaron Curry’s sculpture exhibit, “Melt to Earth.”
These are wonderful, playful painted aluminum pieces. Come visit them!
And you can still skip around the fountain, if you like.
As per item #6 on my Autumn Manifesto of yesterday, I herewith share my recipe. It’s super-easy.
There are two main ingredients:
Häagen Das Chocolate Ice Cream, and Milk.
(You should know, the pumpkin in the photos is just along for the ride. No actual pumpkins were harmed in the making of this hot chocolate.)
The measurements are simple. For one person with tons of self-discipline, smash chocolate ice cream into half of a cup from which you will be drinking. Your cup could be a mug, it could be a demitasse, it could be something in between – the choice is yours. Dump the ice cream into a saucepot. Now, measure milk up to the “high water mark” left by the ice cream in the cup from the previous step. In other words, equal parts of ice cream and milk, by volume. Dump the milk into the same saucepot. Heat the mixture until it begins to rise in the pot, reaching out to you with it’s wicked, tempting ways. Switch off the heat entirely or lower the flame and let the liquid reduce a bit, making it thicker. Remove the pot from the heat – do not let it overflow to detract from your hedonistic imbibing experience by your having to clean a spill.
Pour your steaming thick, aromatic hot chocolate into the cup of your choice. And here’s the breathtaking finish: place one spoon of cold chocolate ice cream on top where distracting and work-inducing whipped cream might have been.
I’ve had great success with Häagen Das and not so much with many other brands. The HD thickens nicely, with no concerns (as of this writing) as to how a chemical additive might change when heated. Do you have another ice cream brand or recipe (although “recipe” implies making something that requires careful thought and extended effort, which this venture is not about) that works for you? Let me know!
- Use half chocolate and half coffee Häagen Das ice cream to heat up.
- Use half chocolate and half vanilla Häagen Das ice cream to heat up.
- Top with coffee ice cream.
- Top with vanilla ice cream.
- For adults only: add a splash of Kahlua or any other coffee liqueur.
Experiment as you wish – and let me know what worked for you.
Once you taste this luxurious, thick corner of heaven, you won’t be able to go back to the powdered stuff.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My Autumn Manifesto 2013 is different from My Summer Manifesto 2013.
I made a very long list for my Summer Manifesto this year, knowing that it would be impossible to achieve everything on it. My Summer Manifesto was an ode to happiness and potential. It was more about collecting ideas than achieving every one of them. It was also a push to do more, embrace more life, to see the world through the filter of wonderful potential experience. A filter like that is like having your own benevolent spirit guide leading you into happiness.
I taped the Summer list on the side of a bookcase right outside my remarkably small kitchen. The stuff that I did, I checked off . I feel great about what I did and not at all bad about what was left to do. Well, except for one thing. I really wanted to host/participate-in-making-happen an outdoor movie. Incredibly impractical. Have I mentioned that I live in a city? I wanted to hang up that sheet or find that blank outdoor wall, have technology magically cooperate, and show something fun. I was thinking Swing Time, and some among us wanted Toy Story 2. A double feature in the backyard of my cousin-in-law was in the air.
It didn’t happen. And that brings up perfectionism. Sometimes, list stuff happens, but not exactly as we envisioned. For example, that outdoor movie actually did happen. The City Park’s Department showed Finding Nemo outdoors in Carl Schurz Park on a beautiful starry night at the end of July.
I should have checked “Outdoor Movie” off of my list, but I have not. There are reasons why (I didn’t see the whole movie that night chief among them), but I am rethinking perfectionism. Hit the ball squarely where you want it to land – which may not be as common as one would like, or find the joy in the happenstance?
Enter my Autumn Manifesto 2013.
My Autumn Manifesto is much shorter. It contains not every possibility, just the essence of the celebration that is autumn.
What’s on your list?
Or: The Clock Struck One… and Then, The Clock Struck One Again!
In the olden days, I would have been out and missed a recording opportunity. But not these days…! Hence, my film, above, from the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The NYC Marathon officials have the wheelchair entrants begin before the thundering herds of runners spring forth. By the time the first wheel chair contestant races up First Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, he or she (but usually “he”) is already well past the halfway point. Halfway is in Long Island City, a part of Queens, one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City.
Early on, and, I suspect, the farther you are from the race’s start, there can be long lag times between cheering on the first contestant and waiting for the next.
But it’s worth the wait. In the red circle, above, are the two female front runners, Buzunesh Deba and Priscah Jeptoo. You could see that clearly from on high, right?
There is a great band playing between 80th and 81st Streets, and this is a sonic backdrop to the rise and falls of cheers as each runner passes.
Eventually, great masses of people – folks who run for the love of it, or for personal challenge, or in honor of someone, but no longer for prize money or their names in the headlines – thunder by.
In a marathon, there is always the clash of hope and despair, training and surprise, stumbling and triumph. Our last two marathons – New York’s in 2012 (cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy) and Boston’s in 2013 (the bombing) – were enmeshed in tragedy. Whether we participate by running or by watching, we can’t help look over our collective shoulder to what went before…. There are metaphors to give us strength and lessons to be learned. The City said that they beefed up security – not that this is intrusively apparent. Well done, City.
After most of the runners are long gone, kids and parents play ball in the traffic-empty streets. For a while. Until just after dark.
It is a beautiful day of anticipation and celebration.
The romance that is New York, I love it.
Last night, for no apparent reason, fireworks appeared in the west.
OK, the fireworks could have had something to do with the upcoming Marathon, or they could just be magic meant for me.
And then, today, the color magic continued, thanks to the New York Botanical Gardens, voilà:
Ah, November 1st.
Holiday decorations are already stacked on store shelves, Thanksgiving plans are being finalized. After a stretch of gentle days, it’s time, in New York City, to bring out our winter coats and find our winter gloves and hats. All of that has begun to take up some real estate in my brain, but November 1st has its delights/challenges for two more reasons.
The first is Dia del los Muertos.
Dia del los Muertos wasn’t as much of A Thing in New York a few years ago, but we, the people of The City of New York, are up for a celebration – and a complex one at that. Dia del los Muertos is about setting aside mourning for loved ones we have lost and, instead, celebrating their lives and continuing contributions. I’m in.
The second is that November 1st begets NaNoBloMo – National November Blog Month – a dare to blog every day in November. Last year, I wrote about the extra courage and planning that many of us feel in taking on a new project in November of all months! After blogging, then not blogging, and now blogging again, my inner radio is playing the nursery rhyme “Finnegan Begin Again.” Did you learn this one when you were a child? There are many verses and many versions, but the one I’m hearing is:
There was an old man named Michael Finnegan,
He kicked up an awful din-again,
‘Cause they said he must not sing again,
Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again!
Blogging through November? Shorter and still sweet may be the answer. Finnegan, begin again!
Are you taking on NaNoBloMo? I’m eager to hear.
Behold, the Jersey shore.
It’s too soon for voyagers to travel through the worst-affected areas, but here are some images from other locations along the shore. Signs may be down, trees may have crashed into porches, planks and blades of windmills (an ice cream shop) may have been torn away, but those folks that remain are thankful and in a rebuilding spirit.
The photos were put together in the “Photo Frame” app. I’m sure there’s a way to do something similar using just WordPress, but I’m not there, yet.
Sometimes, an artist makes you “think different.”
Artist and classmate in Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s online class (live, last year), 30 Days in Your Journal, Catherine Scanlon, is one such artist. (For the record, it’s not as if we know one another; I’m just an admirer of her work.) For one assignment, she simply printed the negative of a photograph and used it as the basis for a journal page upon which she painted and wrote:
This is a technique I am longing to try for (at least) two reasons. First, I find the negative image aesthetically pleasing. Second, I am interested in looking at a familiar “scene,” differently – both visually and metaphorically. Why not look at the same ol’ setting, with the same ol’ elements, but in a new light? In looking at the “negative,” I’ve been able to narrow in on elements that, previously, I had taken for granted. Those bare branches? How beautiful they are with the focus of new light. And, hidden in the negative, there are surprising bursts of color. What else is exciting and “new,” and right before our eyes – if only we view our familiar situation differently?
Fast forward to today.
We were driving on the Palisades Parkway today after the snowstorm after the hurricane. For those who are not familiar with this highway, it runs north-south above the cliffs that form the eastern edge of the land of New Jersey (the actual state border extends half-way into the Hudson River). Every time I look over to those cliffs from the New York side of the river, I think about the melting glaciers, ages ago, cutting through rock to create spectacular topography. Ahhh….
I prefer the westerly route, driving on top of the cliffs rather than heading north on the New York side of the Hudson. The Palisades Parkway is a pretty road in any season.
The recent storms are the top story for all news outlets here, as well as among friends and neighbors. Therefore, it is with a mix of dread and – dare I say? – awe that I viewed the passing landscape. Of course, I was on the visual hunt for huge trees uprooted, and for other evidence of our two horrific storms. On the other hand, I am a city kid. We don’t usually get much snow. Snow is a big deal on a good day – on a “Hey, we have a snow day to play,” day! Until it turns mushy and brown, the white ground and branches in New York City are novel and especially beautiful because of their rarity. I was also looking for the beauty.
Here’s a short video as we headed north on the Palisades Parkway. On the radio, you can hear WCBS-radio reporting on relief efforts to help those affected by the storms. Our stomachs are in our throats thinking about, seeing, the losses to family and friends. We are grateful that our own experience was not worse. And, at the same time, I am struck with seeing a newly white scene – with so much color. I thought of Scanlon, of being startled by familiar images, being struck by color where it hadn’t apparently been, of seeing a potentially threatening scene’s loveliness. What do you think?
Some events are several days in the making. Today is such a day.
The forecast was snow. This was the word we had heard as early as Sunday, November 4th. The official advisory was for a “Nor’easter,” but, after having heard hurricane warnings, which many did not heed, and then having been hit with Hurricane Sandy, when I heard the “s” possibility, I was planning for snow.
1. Getting the kids snow boots on Monday (November 5th).
3. Stocking up on provisions and cooking.
4. Clearing the decks on Tuesday, November 6th, for voting.
And here are the Wednesday results:
We are so lucky. To help those who have lost so much, if not everything, in Hurricane Sandy, and now face this snowstorm, try these resources.
Do you ever create a journaling background on which you do not/cannot journal?
I’ve been back and forth about what type of surface is good for journaling. Theoretically, one might journal on anything. Ooh – what about a car?!
(As reported in The Guardian)
But I digress.
I’ve journaled in wire-bound books, in moleskines ™, in grunge journals made of scrap corrugated cardboard, in books composed of handmade paper, and, more often, on individual large sheets of watercolor paper. In 2011, I worked over numerous watercolor backgrounds (spiral bound), sometimes with gesso (white and black), many times without. This year, I’ve covered many a watercolor paper surface with acrylic paint (in addition to artists’ paint tubes, I have fun with the sample jars of house paint)–
– scraped with an old plastic card. Many a teacher advises making several backgrounds ahead of time so that they may be at the ready for the arrival of one’s Muse.
Here are some:
A sage-olive green background.
A Fauvist palette.
Fourth of July-ish.
Can you see a parrot in this?
If I love the background, I don’t want to cover it up with collage, or mar the painted image with lots of writing. Yes, I’m a lots-of-writing girl, not an inspirational word, phrase, or one-sentence-per-spread girl. Maybe the “background” is really a painting. Should I honor a background as a painting? Maybe creating a background too far in advance is not productive. Maybe the answer is to create so very many backgrounds that there will always be something that will be appealing.
For a recent page that I began on indecision, I ignored my stash and scraped acrylics anew – dark blues, some black mixed in (not obvious in the final work), white rubbed in, and a touch of sage. It’s dark enough that only white ink or metallic markers show up when I write. When it’s further along, I’ll upload.
Do you create lots of backgrounds in advance? If you are working in a journal (rather than loose pages) and creating backgrounds in advance, do you journal chronologically – taking whatever background appears that day? Or do you choose a background based on your theme/message you are creating? Do you ever create a background upon which you cannot bear to journal? What do you do?
If you work backwards from November 30th, it looks something, in the United States, anyway, like this:
1. Shopping and getting ready for The Holidays (Chanukah begins on December 8th, Christmas, of course on December 25th, and there’s Christmas Eve, First Day of Winter, etc.)
2. Thanksgiving – where to go, what to eat.
3. Planning for Thanksgiving, especially if you are putting on the Feast.
4. Various birthdays.
5. Veteran’s Day.
6. Election Day.
7. The end of Daylight Savings Time.
8. All Souls’ Day.
9. All Saints’ Day.
10. The commencement of NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo.
OK, cover up The List. No need to feel overwhelmed. Yet. Without The List, the month still feels new. Let’s just look at #10, pertinent to writers.
NaNoWriMo, more formally called National Novel Writing Month, asks participants to sign up and spend the 30 days of November writing a 50,000-word (or more) novel. There are prizes and recognition and opportunities to meet and network with other writers – items that are in short supply for most writers, not to mention the fact that you end up with (the first draft of) your very own novel.
So, let’s do the math. If we divide 50,000 total words by 30 days, we must write 1,667 words per day. At 250 words per page, that is a mere 6 2/3 pages per day. I have friends who have done this – written every day, more or less hitting the proper number of words per day, resulting in a 50,000+ word novel.
A friend of mine from the Other Coast, Pat, and I have been brainstorming novels (and screenplays for that matter) together since at least 1997. Sometimes, it works like this: one of us might have seen a news item, say, that there are continent-sized waste-plastic masses in the ocean that fish ingest, and the other one is off and running. “What if, by 2020, all the fish in the Pacific had swallowed waste-microchips from old computers, and someone could send signals to them. Eventually, vegans would be the only sentient beings able to make up their own mind….” Then we think of who could play the lead vegan, and –
Since 1997, we have not completed any of these projects. Pat has, however, completed NaNoWriMo. She’s participating again this year, and invited me along.
It’s almost the end of the year and, in a future post, I will talk about some of the creative projects that I have begun – some only written, some purely visual, some a mix of both – and that are – er – in progress.
Now, let’s do the real math of NaNoWriMo, the multi-role-writer math. Go back to The List. Subtract 10 days from 30. Now, I know some of you might grumble that All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day do not demand much time away from a computer (including iPads and smart phones), word processor, pen and paper, or (gasp) typewriter, but birthdays and Thanksgiving prep alone (for those of us who must, or who choose to cook and present the feast) make up for that – and more. That leaves 20 days for 50,000 words. Thanksgiving weekend is also shot for those of us who visit the relatives that we didn’t get a chance to see on Turkey Day. Hence, 20-3=17. Let’s be optimistic and leave it at that. That means 50,000 divided by 17. Two thousand, nine hundred, forty-two words per working day, or about 11 ¾ pages.
I love writing. I can even see the possibility that, under the right circumstances, 11 ¾ pages per day might not be prohibitive, particularly if you have a strong outline from which to work before you start (totally permitted under NaNoWriMo rules). But not this year.
I have two other written projects, nonfiction, that I MUST write before undertaking something more speculative, more frivolous.
But what of the camaraderie? The prizes? The sense of accomplishment? The forming of a new, good habit?
In this, I am inspired by friend and fellow writer, MaryBeth Coudal, who has committed to NaBloPoMo, National Blog Post Month. Prizes and kudos go to those who blog at least once a day – and a post need not contain words! A photo or image or video will suffice! The theme is blogging for blogging’s sake, but even this prompt can be ignored by participants. NaBloPoMo seems a low-barrier way to connect to a (predominantly) writers’ and artists’ community, perhaps score some recognition and prizes, work on developing a good, daily habit, and be part of an effort larger than oneself.
“Cloud City” is more than just a sculpture. For visitors lucky enough to score a special ticket, a viewer can become a participant by entering the sculpture, climbing internal stairs, and viewing the world (and the inside of the sculpture) from the interior of a “cloud.” You can actually climb up and occupy the – what – bubble (?) cell (?) on the upper left in the photo. Alas, tickets were already allotted, so we had to “participate” in the more traditional way of viewing a “cloud” from the outside, underneath.
We needed to go to the roof garden. We needed to return to a place we associate with summer, with the exhilaration of sunset on a summer’s evening amidst happy, healthy crowds, with our multi-generational visits of prior years – one last time before this aspect of the year, our year is closed. We needed to see what Central Park looked like after the hurricane. We needed to fill our eyes with the optimism of a large-scale art installation on a roof garden in a park in a major city. Although we didn’t say this to each other before we were within twenty feet of “Cloud City,” we needed to see that the sculpture was intact. It is. If we can’t get to our family and friends in places hit hard by Sandy, if we can’t stand at some house near the water that is miraculously still there and give thanks, or stand where something once was, bear witness, and try to help, then, at least, we can visit our old friend, “Cloud City,” and be grateful.
It is a solidly constructed sculpture. Even so, I doubt that it was fabricated to withstand a hurricane.
It was quite cold on the roof.
The fall foliage was intact. People have returned to the park. The cables (you can see one on the right of the photo), put in place pursuant to some possibly now outdated building code, are doing their job of keeping everything in place.
Did I mention how cold – er – refreshing it is on the roof? Time to go back inside and explore.
Our water and elevator service came back late on Halloween – after I had descended eighteen flights with the kids, trick-or-treated up twenty flights, then descended back down two flights before I called it quits.
There are people who urgently need help, and the rest of us who cannot directly help them because we cannot get to them. Roads are washed out, trains and ferries have not resumed. It is heartbreaking to see the devastation – I cannot bear to detail it here. You can Google what happened to people on Staten Island, in Queens, in Battery Park City, on the Jersey shore….
I live in Manhattan, an island that is a little over thirteen miles long and two miles wide. We don’t often feel vulnerable. With roads and tunnels under water, grocery and gasoline deliveries yet to be made, we’ve never felt so isolated.
That is where friends come in. A few wonderful classmates from last year’s (2011) art journaling class taught by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer at The Ink Pad in New York City have signed up together (with me) to create a journal through The Sketchbook Project. The Sketchbook Project invites participants to fill-in all 32 pages of a 5″X7″ blank book, which is then catalogued and included in a collection eventually housed by The Brooklyn Art Library. Before returning to Brooklyn, the journals get to travel across country (and sometimes, beyond) to form a mobile art library.
Here’s a look at the project:
<a href="” title=”From The Sketchbook Project Folks” target=”_blank”>
I also signed up for one for myself. The journal is due back by January 15, 2012. Holidays? Hurricane distractions? Nothing can keep us from Art!
News as it occurs.