Monday, November 17, 2008

Thankful... (11/17/08)

* * *

Today I am thankful for...

... the clear... bright... golden awesomeness of the late-autumn-morning Sun, shining upon ME...

... two gloved hands (each smaller than my own) holding my gloved hands - as we walk toward the school bus and the morning cold catches our breath and carries it away...

... the rush of warmth upon the opening of the door of home...

... and hearing the love of my life singing in the shower.


Today I am thankful for...

... rainy Saturday trips to Manhattan...

... the click of Mr Conductor's hole punch meeting tickets...

... the two-tone chime of train doors closing...

... a near "empty" Grand Central Terminal...

... a single MetroCard shared by a half-dozen people...

... near "empty" subway cars...

... really long lines outside of museums...

... Museum Membership...

... getting to skip said "really long line"...

... waving a card to get in to see van Gogh...

... van Gogh...

... Vincent van Gogh...

... speaking to ME.

... "The Sower"...

... "The Potato Eaters"...

(and being able to find the faint "Vincent" signature... hidden on the back of the chair to the left)

... "The Poet"...

... "The Night Café"...

... "Gauguin's Chair"...

... "The Starry Night Over The Rhône"...

... "STARRY NIGHT"...

... all there... for me...

... all there for us...

... ours for a few hours.


Today I am thankful for...

... women in subway stations, talking to the air and enjoying the conversation...

... emerging from the Subway again... to find the Sun...

... another "Recession Special" at Gray's Papaya...

... wandering over to Dojo's West for lunch...

... the happiness of Chicken Yakimeshi... Hommus... and Guacamole...

... watching my children spin "The Cube" in the East Village...

... The MUD Truck...

... finding a new thumb ring on St Mark's...

... Jimmy Webb STILL walking around Trash & Vaudeville like he's on speed...

... (and STILL looking like C.C. DeVille - after all these years)...

... Pommes Frites being on Second Ave...

... "Love Saves The Day" still being the best store ever...

... the intense heat of wandering through 18 miles of books at The Strand...

... coffee in Greek paper cups...

... the return of the rain...

... dinner at Scotty's...

... guys who annoyingly drop names of famous poets as if they know them...

... the Chrysler building stretching toward the foggy night sky...

... getting to Grand Central just in time to catch the train home...

... my iPod playing Miles Davis as we pull away from Manhattan...

... the warmth of friendship...

... of wonderful days spent with wonderful people...

... of Lenny hugs...

... and Police State conversations...

... of silly Kristin faces when she realizes I've stolen her soul via my camera... again...

... and "British Pinkies" putting holes in Chuck Taylors...

... of the happiness of being with "family".


Today I am thankful for...

... silly things.

... for the Colts beating the Texans...
... the Steelers beating the Chargers...
... the Giants beating the Ravens...
... and the Cowboys beating the Redskins.

... for Jimmie Johnson making NASCAR history...

... for the NASCAR season being over (meaning that for the rest of the NFL season I don't have to do the "two TV" thing to watch both at the same time).


Today I am thankful for...

... Candlewood Camera Club...

... camaraderie...

... assignments...

... testing myself.


Today I am thankful for...

... FINALLY being able to let go...

... and say "goodbye"...

(six months after).


Today I am thankful for...

... Philip Glass' "Itaipu" carrying me off into dreamland...


Today I am thankful for...

... dreams...

... possibilities...

... and miles upon miles of road stretching before me.

* * *

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thankful... (11/03/08)

* * *

Today I am thankful for...

... the warmth of that first cup of coffee in the morning.

... the chill of the air when I throw back the covers.

... the creaks... squeaks... cracks... moans... and groans of that first real stretch of the day.

... the smile that the second cup of coffee brings.

... the chime of my Mac, when it starts up for the day.

... bowls of hot oatmeal with drizzles of pure maple syrup - on cold autumn mornings.

... the sounds of my Barred Owl calling in the night...

... and our murder of Crows... calling throughout the day.

... busy squirrels on my roof... making more noise than any of the neighbors ever could.

... strong gusts of wind pushing against the walls of the house... causing creaks and squeaks and moans and groans.

... gray days leading into dark afternoons.

... (the "quiet" of such moments).

... a small fridge full of apples and 35mm film.

... my cameras and tripod next to me... ready to go.

... 4GB compact flash cards being too small... (and thus the need for more of them).

... hundreds of photos waiting for processing in CDPP and Photoshop CS3.

... Colony Pizza on Myrtle Ave in Stamford.

... "Stinger" pizzas.

... seeing my dad for the first time in over a year.

... spending a night with a couple dozen drag-queens.

... old Golden Retrievers next to two-and-a-half month old Golden Retrievers.

... "not drinking" (it has been eight months now).

... cravings for Guinness.

... the Colts beating the Patriots.

... "House" being on every night.

... the third cup of coffee of the day.

... the writings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

... clean bedrooms.

... messy bedrooms.

... very messy bedrooms.

... missing gloves.

... this past Halloween having been Holly's and my 12th anniversary together.

... (12 amazing years).

... The Cure's new album finally being released.

... Moleskine journals.

... knowing that Election Day is tomorrow.

... knowing that in less than two weeks I'll be in NYC visiting van Gogh and Míro at the MoMA.

... Thanksgiving being just a few weeks away.

... Christmas being next month.

... "2008" drawing to a close.

... thoughts of the future.

... ideas for photo projects.

... plans to go to art school in NY - 15 years late (Hey... better 'late' than 'never').

... plans to expand...

... to grow...

... to prosper...

... in everything.

... Love.

... My family.

... My friends.

... My Self.

* * *

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Owls and Mice and Shivers in the Driveway

* * *

There's a Barred Owl somewhere out there... keeping me awake at night... calling...

"Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you-all?"

... over and over and over again...
... night after night after night.

(Apparently I'm the only one in the house who hears it.)

And so I lay there...
night after night after night...
eyes open in the dark...
gazing at the window...
wondering what it means.

(Perhaps it's a message from Her...
... calling me back?

Perhaps it's a message from Him...
... calling me out?

Perhaps it's just an owl...
... being annoying...
... keeping me awake at night.)


So I close my eyes... and try to force sleep.

(And sleep eventually comes...
... rather hard...
... and only moments before waking.)


And in the morning I find half of a dead mouse in the driveway...
... and the confusion returns.

I close my eyes... and I hear it's call again...

"Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you-all?"

Again, I wonder... "What does it mean?"

So I stand there in the cold...
... surrounded by the morning frost...
... gazing at the mouse...
... shivering...
... listening...
... listening...
... listening...
... waiting for...
... hoping for...
... wanting...
... an answer.

But so far there's just the call...

"Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you-all?"

... over-and-over-and-over again.

Keeping me awake at night.
Keeping me from dreaming...
... too much.

* * *

Friday, September 26, 2008

Daydreams of then or now

* * *

Cold autumn winds blow rain against the diner window next to me where it forms magnifying trails of the world outside.

(Louis Armstrong sings from the greasy chrome table-side jukebox...

... "What a Wonderful World")


I unzip the rain-wet outer-layer black hoodie...

revealing a flannel which has seen far better days over the last 15 years...

and adjust myself as I toss it on the seat beside me.

Open "beat-up-WWII-army-bag-serving-as-messenger-bag-backpack"...

... pull out Moleskine and pen...

and get to work.

(Everything seems like a black-and-white photo to me.)

Waitress comes... bearing gift of coffee.

(Funny... same waitress for almost ten years now... and I STILL don't know her name!)

She smiles...

... I smile...

She asks "the usual?"...

I - not realizing that I'm that obvious... embarrassingly nod "yes"...

and blindly reach for the sugar jar...

the creamers...

and prep my coffee without even thinking.

Steam-smoke rises as I take the first sip.

Diner coffee.

Bad coffee.

Yet the most wonderful coffee in the world!

(Back to work)

Pen starts moving across page after page.

Furious writing... flowing from I don't know where.

Flowing...

Smudging here and there as hand brushes across still-wet ink...

Running...

... on-and-on...

without thought or reason...

just appearing.

(Like now... for I truly have no idea what I am writing)

She returns...

two eggs over-medium...

French Fries instead of home-fries...

toast drenched in butter...

side of very crisp bacon...

(THIS is my usual? No wonder my doctor wasn't happy!)

Ketchup flies across the plate in a condimentary pattern...

("condimentary"... that's not a word, is it? Yet I just used it... and it's the only word which could truly convey what I meant... so... I guess it IS)

... and I begin to eat... without thinking...

... as I continue to drink my coffee... without thinking...

... as I continue to write... without thinking...

... all while I continue to "exist"... without thinking.

Memories come and go during the in-betweens...

... countless dates and meetings held here...

... friendships formed...

... relationships ended...

... lessons learned...

... and shared.

The nameless waitress returns...

refills the cup...

... removes the plates...

... exchanges them with a piece of coconut custard pie...

(Apparently a continuation of my "usual". This is just getting "worse"!)

My mind wanders to an endless trail of "I wonder what ever happened to ______" and "I remember the time that _________"...

... and so on.

The rain slows...

the check appears...

and I sit...

alone...

and lost...

waiting for another refill.


* * *

Friday, September 19, 2008

(silence)

* * *

I haven't touched my camera since Sunday.

It's not that I haven't wanted to. (Believe me... I have!)

It's just that I "can't".

Or... at least... I've feel as if I can't.

Or shouldn't.

(I don't know)

Sometimes I put camera to eye... and feel so "sure" of the moment that I punch the shutter into life... and quickly make adjustments for the next shot - almost unconsciously.

There's a confidence and a comfort there. I know what I see... and I know what it will (or, at least - "can") become.

Yet sometimes I'm almost afraid to look through that viewfinder.

Afraid that I won't like what I see.

Afraid that there won't be anything to see.

Afraid that I won't have what it takes to release the shutter.

Afraid that it will be a blurry result...

... a missed moment...

... the opposite of what was desired.

Afraid that I "can't".

Afraid that it won't be comfortable.

And in those moments my camera becomes silent.


So I haven't touched my camera since Sunday...

after 300 shutter movements produced such "opposites"...

... and ended up in the trash.

After frustration set in...

... and discomfort arrived...

leaving me to stand in the silence...

... afraid of what my camera might show me.

* * *

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Craving Phở

* * *

I have a serious craving for Phở.

Actually... I've had this craving for several weeks now. Maybe even several months. It's possible that it's been even longer... perhaps several years.

I have a craving for Phở that simply cannot be quenched... fully.

What the heck is "Phở", you ask?

Good question!

Phở is a Vietnamese dish. Think of it as sort of a "Vietnamese Beef and Noodle Soup"... but in all honesty, that's a very simple description of it. Phở is so much more than that.

Phở (pronounced "fuh"... sort of like you're trying to say "foot" but you cut off half the vowel sounds and completely forget the "t" at the end - and pose the whole thing as a question) is sort of the "unofficial national dish of Vietnam". It is eaten for breakfast... for lunch... and for dinner. There are regional variances... though most stick to the basic foundation of white rice noodles... thinly sliced beef... and clear beef broth.

The broth isn't your basic 'American' (read "salty yet bland") beef broth! It's more of a true stock... made by simmering oxtails and bones with blackened onion and ginger - along with spices such as star anise, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and fennel seeds.

Phở is usually served with an assortment of garnishes that you can add in whatever combination and amount you wish. Onion... Basil leaves... Cilantro... Lemon and Lime... Hoisin Sauce... Bean Sprouts... Fish Sauce... etc.

In the end... Phở becomes a single-serving hot-pot (of sorts) full of Vietnamese flavors. It's more than a simple "noodle bowl"... it's flavors are more complex... yet at the same time, "simple". Whether you're having it for breakfast... or dinner - it's deeply satisfying.

Well... to me it is, anyway.

So - as I've already said - I have a serious craving for Phở.

I've had this craving for several weeks... perhaps several months... perhaps even several years.

Lately, this craving has been "thrown in my face" repeatedly...

I turn on the TV, and the show is Andrew Zimmern's "Bizarre Foods" on the Travel Channel. He's in Vietnam... eating Phở.

I sit down to read some Anthony Bourdain... and within a few pages he's talking about Phở.

A friend sends out an e-mail of humorous images... and one shows the sign for a Vietnamese restaurant called "Phở King" - which, of course - would be pronounced "Fuh King".

And if it isn't direct references to Phở - it's references to Vietnam.

Then I find myself on the phone with someone from the offices of a local marketing agency... who is asking me questions to determine whether or not I'll qualify for an upcoming job...

Most of the questions are basic... "Age"... "Marital status"... "Any kids?" - etc., etc..

Some pertain to the specific job in question...

Then there's the final question: "If you could go anywhere in the world right now... where would you go?"

I asked "Anywhere?"

"Yes... anywhere. Where would you go?"

I replied "Back to bed"

She laughs.... then says: "Seriously... if you could go anywhere in the world right now... where would you go?"

And, without really thinking - I responded "Vietnam".

"VIETNAM!?!" she responded... sounding rather surprised. "Why Vietnam?" she asked.

"I have a serious craving for Phở" I responded. "So I guess I'd go there to get the best Phở I could."

Believe it or not she instantly knew what Phở was... and then went on about how she had a different job available that focused on Asian food...

... but that's not the point here.

The point is my response to the question: "If I could go anywhere in the world right now... I'd go to Vietnam for some Phở".

We finished the phone interview... and I hung up somewhat transformed. The meaning of my statement... and thus, the meaning of my craving - had just hit me like Newton's apple.

And I had to ask myself - is it really the Phở? Or is it something much, much deeper?

I used to eat Phở quite often, actually. Maybe not "every day" - but at least once or twice a month.

There was a Vietnamese restaurant near the place where I worked. I'd get a to-go order of Phở... and sit at MY work bench... eating my lunch - perhaps in-between having framed an original Robert Mapplethorpe photo or Joan Miró painting for some wealthy Greenwich collector and matting some watercolors for Gene Wilder (yes... THAT Gene Wilder). While James Brown played over the six speakers that filled the room... and while my brother danced at his work bench... I'd sit and eat Phở - or whatever the hell I chose to have for lunch that day... paging through a magazine or newspaper... laughing as all of us who worked in that room told fish stories and such...

... and at the end of the day I'd walk out of that room... hop on a train... enjoy the almost two-hour journey back home... knowing that tomorrow would be the same... and that the Phở was there if I wanted it.

It has been almost 10 years now, since the last time I had Phở.

It has been almost 10 years now, since I left my job... a job I loved - and despite any actions on my part - was truly honored and blessed to have. The gallery is gone now... having closed down several years ago. It's only a memory now.

Ten years.

A decade.

And I have a serious craving for Phở.

* * *

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ralph Gibson for a mere $2.00?

* * *

Ralph Gibson is one of my favorite photographers. I honestly do not know much about him... and I cannot claim to have seen the majority of his work - I simply like what I have seen of his photos.

My favorite Gibson photo would have to be “Bastienne”, the photo which graces the cover of his 1995 book “Infanta” - a collection of his nudes, primarily focusing on abstract portions of the body. “Bastienne” shows only the right eye (looking down) and top of the cheek of the model - positioned in the upper right corner of the frame... leaving most of the image filled with the deep black background. It’s an extremely simple composition... and, to me - a very beautiful one indeed.

Most of Gibson’s work remains unfamiliar to me. I’ve seen bits here and there in books and on the internet. I’ve gazed at one or two in museums. Yet despite having seen so little of his work - I consider him to be one of my favorite photographers... simply based on the fact that what I have seen of his work has amazed me. Simple compositions... abstract... high contrast - sometimes showing lots of grain. Simple. Beautiful.

So imagine my amazement when - at an agricultural fair here in my own Connecticut - I wandered in to a used books tent, raising money for the agricultural society which hosts the fair - to find, sitting prominently atop a pile of books in a section marked “Coffee Table Books” at the tent’s entrance - a copy of Gibson’s “L’Histoire De France”! The price? A mere $2.00! (Yes... an out-of-print art book with a cover price of $49.95 - for a mere $2.00!)

Fearing that someone else might notice this treasure and make a run for it, I grabbed the book as quickly as I could... as my mouth hung open.

Of course... the possibility is high that I was the only person in the entire fair that gave a damn about that book! Most of the books being sold were romance novels... war histories... cookbooks... gardening books... and children’s books. Most of the customers were either fair attendees tossing books around with BBQ-sauce-sticky fingers - or were fair participants, with manure-coated shoes. It might sound as if I’m stereotyping a bit (perhaps I am) - but for some reason I just don’t think that the Gibson book would have been their cup of tea!

Still... I snatched the book and clung to it!

(And I’ve been devouring it ever since!)

This book is special because it was the first he published of color photographs (usually he focuses on black & white exclusively). There’s a certain ‘softness’ to his images... and his “reductivist” style continues to amaze me. Gibson shoots using Leica M cameras exclusively... and almost always using a fixed 50mm lens (a lens which many photographers today seem to have either ‘forgotten’ or have chosen to abandon).

On his web site, Gibson says that his images reveal “how it feels for me to be looking at something”... and continues to say “I may shoot something as humble as the corner of a box, but it’s really about photography, the process of seeing, and conveying my personal feelings. How you feel determines how you perceive reality - therefore the only thing that’s real is how you feel. That may sound solipsistic, but I succeed as an artist only when I communicate my individual consciousness.”

A philosophy I completely agree with...

No wonder I like his images so much!

* * *

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Falling into my Harvest

* * *

I'm scared shitless.

Strapped "securely" in my seat... third row from the end of the train. We start to move forward with a rather awkward jerk... and begin the slow climb up to the 220 foot high dropping point.

To our left... the Connecticut River...

To our right... acres upon acres of people waiting in lines... drinking ICEEs... applying sunblock... spinning around in circles... screaming on rides.

Almost a minute after leaving the station we reach the top of the hill... and this is when I realize that sitting in the back of that second-to-last car was a bad idea...

a really, REALLY bad idea.

We make our way over - and I can't see the track at all! Unlike the people in the first few cars... I have no idea what lies ahead until we're already well into it. A 71-degree drop... at over 75mph...

and just like that I'm having one of those "OH SHIT!" moments!

Yes... this is my very first time on any sort of a "mega-coaster". Up until now the biggest coaster I've ever been on is "Space Mountain" in Disney World. My fear of heights has kept me off all others I've been presented with over the years.

But today is about conquering fears... right?

It isn't the highest roller-coaster in the world... nor is it the fastest. (At 456-feet high with a top speed of 128mph, both of those records are held by "Kingda Ka" at Great Adventure in New Jersey) Yet "Superman: Ride of Steel" at Six Flags New England has been consistently rated one of the "Top Five Steel Coasters in the World" since it opened in 2000. It has been rated No. 1 in the world most of those years... including 2007 (the 2008 results aren't out yet). Why? Mainly due to the "air time"... those moments of negative-Gs that send your stomach up towards your throat - which coaster fanatics crave. It might not be the highest... fastest... or longest coaster in the world - but "Superman: Ride of Steel" is generally viewed as being "the most exciting".

(NOTE: There are other parks with "Superman" roller-coasters... in fact almost every Six Flags has one - but most of them are "Superman: Ultimate Flight" or "Superman: Krypton Coaster" - and those are entirely different from "Superman: Ride of Steel" - which can ONLY be found at Six Flags New England).

No... I didn't scream.

No... I didn't close my eyes.

No... I didn't let go of the lap bar.

Yes - I swore that I was going to fly out of the car and land, very hard - upon the ground... each and every time we crested a hill and hit one of those air-time moments...

and YES - I smiled the ENTIRE time!


A year ago I wouldn't have even been able to look at that ride without getting a vertigo moment of nausea... forcing me to turn around.

Yet here I was... enjoying every last second of the over 2-minute-long ride!

What changed?

Everything!

Every last thing!

And in that moment... I knew - that the Seed I had planted back in Spring had grown to a ripe and very sweet fruit indeed!

Change had arrived. Perhaps it had done so gradually... and unnoticed - yet now - at 77mph... with the long hair of the girl sitting in front of me whipping my face every now and then - I realized once and for all that change had, indeed - arrived.

My Harvest is a truly bountiful one indeed!

(And now one more thing gets crossed off of my Bucket List!)

* * *

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sometimes...

* * *

Sometimes you just have to write...

but you don't know what to say.

It's not that you don't have anything to say...

it's just that your mind gets a bit fuzzy...

and the words get lost...

and tangents come and go...

and come again...

and before you know it you're just sitting there...

staring at a blank piece of paper...

or a glowing screen...

completely lost...

knowing that you "should"...

but feeling as if you "can't"...

or... at least... that you just don't know "how".

(It can be a very scary place to be!)

So you look for things to help bring the words out to the surface.

For some it's wine.

For some it's cocaine.

For some it's sex.

For some it's locking themselves in a room with nothing but their memories.

For some it's a plate of apple pie and vanilla ice cream at a diner at 3am.

For some it's a white plaster bust of Shakespeare.

For some it's the explosion of color in a Kandinsky... or a Pollock... or a Basquiat... or... of course... a van Gogh.

Or... the black-meets-white-meets-gray beauty of a Mapplethorpe photograph.

For some it's Hemingway's words... (O Me! O Life!)

For some it's walking the streets of the city.

For some it's the sound of Miles Davis' muted trumpet in "Recollections"...

or the power of Dawn Upshaw performing Górecki's Symphony No. 3.

(And for some it's a combination of "all"... or "none" - of the above)

And sometimes it works... beautifully.

They come alive...

and in a fury of creation - the words flow like notes from Coltrane's sax...

quickly and beautifully...

falling.

Yet sometimes it doesn't work...

and they're left staring at the blank page...

the glowing screen...

even more lost than before...

until they give up... and walk away...

frightened...

and mourning for what could have been.


Sometimes you just have to write...

but you don't know what to say...

so you grab yourself a cup of coffee...

sit down... here...

and before you know it... you've said something...

and are about to click "Preview & Post" on another blog entry.

(And having released that... you suddenly feel "free"... to breathe)

* * *