Sunday, August 31, 2008

I don't think it's turning.

A watched pot never floods.

no sleep. dreams alternating between hurricane evacuation and nightmare office scenarios. feel like i got beat up. too restless to stay in bed.

parents are leaving town, finally, but as of 12pm had not yet gotten their act together. somehow are under the impression that the longer they wait, the lighter traffic will be. as in, if we leave at 1pm instead of 6am, there will be less people on the road. sometime i'd like to visit the planet they live on; it seems to be a really fascinating place. my big fear is that they'll get fed up with the traffic and go back home. that would be so classically them.

people have gotten to safety for the most part; my friends have cars, et cetera. thom and my cat are already safe in Columbus, Mississippi... at the same hotel we stayed at during Katrina. weber went with his fam to Florida; monica's family is doing something or other. i got one that's staying put, but if anyone's gonna do it he's probably best suited. he's on the second floor, uptown, plenty of supplies and so on. apparently they're letting people take pets, but only one, and he's got several, so no dice. uugghh.

i'm so tired. this is going to sound sick, but i'm glad it's hitting monday and not tuesday, which is what they were saying for a minute. another day might actually kill me. i need to know what this thing is going to do, and i really don't think i'm the only one.

Fuck.

"Forecasters warned it was too soon to say whether New Orleans would take another direct hit, but residents weren't taking any chances judging by the bumper-to-bumper traffic pouring from the city. Gas stations along interstate highways were running out of fuel, and phone circuits were jammed. All commercial flights out of the New Orleans airport were to halt at 6 p.m. CDT Sunday."


Saturday, August 30, 2008

How am I supposed to go to sleep?

Tuesday seems to be the day. The Day of Reckoning, maybe. On that day we'll know, for sure if we don't already, what this Gustav fellow has to say to our dear Louisiana. Whether it's really going toward ol' N.O., whether the levees will hold, et cetera.

Of course, I'll be spending the day hopping interviews, probably for about five hours of dancing like a good little monkey in an uncomfortable suit, on 42nd street. You don't think the impending doom of my city might be distracting, do you? Nah, I can't see why that would be a problem at all.

It's raining tonight, as if to remind me. To make sure that I can't forget even for one single second about the potential Atlantian fate. My parents say they aren't leaving. Say they have enough food for like three whole weeks, and plenty for the cats, and bla bla bla. Were they normal people, they'd just take the holiday weekend to visit their friend in Huntsville anyway. Storm comes? Already safely out of harm's way. Storm doesn't come? Spent a nice weekend with their friend in Alabama. Winners all around.

But noooo, they're the people who grow vaguely catatonic at the idea of going anywhere past their very small bubble of comfort, which basically includes places of work, the grocery store, and the bank. I swear, if I just had a family that could take care of themselves, I'd lead a much more relaxed life. At least I don't have to worry about my sister for this one, though when I spoke briefly with her tonight she mentioned something about a boyfriend - always something to investigate.

It is so bizarre to be on this side - the sitting and waiting to see what happens side, rather than the oh shit let's get the car packed did you make the reservations side. That side, while not particularly enviable, does at least keep a person busy. This one... is spookily like reliving the endless hours of watching television during evacuation limbo. It sucks. Really, I think the only good or even OK side is the "this isn't happening" side. Parallel universe, anyone?

I should try to get some sleep, but I really just don't see it happening.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today is hard.

I knew it would be, and honestly I don't know that it's any harder than the days leading up to it, or the week or so that's to come. This isn't an event that happened in a day. It was a slowly unfolding terror, in many ways so awful because it did go on for so long. At any rate, for me and many others, it's just a hard time of year.

So I have something for you. If you need something to do today, read this.


It will be gutwrenching, but sometimes that's good. I've read it several times over now. It makes me cry every time. As I told Josh when I wrote to him (super nice guy by the way), that's because it's "so overwhelmingly the way it was". It's so important that we have these accounts - not of how high the winds were or what the politicians did (or didn't do), but of what individual people were going through on the ground. And not only those who stayed; it was a gentler experience to be sure, but the people who evacuated were also suffering. It's not easy to sit and watch as your city and your life crumble into unknown depths of chaos for days on end, to try to figure out what to do when looking toward your past is like staring over the edge of a cliff.

Today is a day of memorial. This is a work that shows proper reverence for what happened to a city and to a group of people - an event whose ramifications are far from being resolved. Use it to remember, and if you are one of us that lost, know that we are not forgotten.

Third.

SCHEDULE OF COMMEMORATIVE EVENTS

Event 1: Traditional Jazz Funeral
Time: 8:00 a.m.
Location: Procession to begin at corner of
Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue

Event 2: Ceremonial Bell Ringing
Time: 9:38 a.m.
Location: Katrina Memorial Cemetery/
Charity Cemetery,
5056 Canal Street

Event 3: Candle Lighting Ceremony
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Jackson Square

Beginning at 8:00 a.m., the New Orleans Forensic Center Coroner's Office will sponsor a New Orleans traditional jazz funeral and symbolic burial memorializing the unidentified victims of the storms and flood. The site of the memorial ceremony and final resting place for the unidentified victims will be the newly constructed Hurricane Katrina Memorial housed at the Charity Hospital Cemetery, 5056 Canal Street. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Katrina Memorial was held on August 29, 2007.

The jazz funeral will travel a total of eight (8) blocks down Canal Street to the Hurricane Katrina Memorial. City dignitaries, citizens and visitors, lead by The Young Men Olympia Benevolent Society, Treme Brass Band and Storyville Stumpers Brass Band, will proceed to the Katrina Memorial for the burial.

The Katrina Memorial is a burial ground honoring the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding. The memorial design incorporates the actual shape of Hurricane Katrina taken from a satellite image.

Following the jazz funeral and memorial, Mayor Nagin and Mrs. Seletha Nagin will be joined by community members and elected officials as they ring ceremonial bells signifying the series of levee breaches that occurred throughout the city. Bells will ring for two minutes (9:38 a.m. - 9:40 a.m.). Simultaneously, members of the New Orleans City Council will lay wreaths on levees throughout the city in their respective districts.

Concluding the day at 7:30 p.m., the City will again host a candle light vigil in Jackson Square.

Found in the Boston Globe, of all places.

GLOBE EDITORIAL

Campaigning after Katrina

ON AUG. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border, and it soon became clear what happens when the federal government is impotent or indifferent in time of need. The third anniversary of that storm today - not to mention the advance of Tropical Storm Gustav across the Caribbean Sea this week - offers an apt occasion to consider how the response might have been different under Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain.

In the early days of the Katrina crisis, the Bush administration simply blew it. After Katrina's storm surge broke through the city's levees, most of New Orleans flooded with water - endangering those who couldn't or wouldn't evacuate and overwhelming the capacity of state and local agencies to provide help. It was well known that a major hurricane could cause cataclysmic damage, and yet the Bush administration had failed to mobilize federal emergency workers en masse until after Katrina hit.

The consequences, of course, were horrifying. As bedraggled storm victims trudged aimlessly along elevated expressways, as thousands stood outside the Louisiana Superdome in searing heat, as senior citizens died in their homes for lack of food, water, or medical attention, the White House moved quickly to pin the blame on frantic local Democratic officials - and moved slowly in every other way.

When thousands of evacuees found makeshift shelter at the New Orleans convention center, Michael Brown, the clueless Bush appointee who led the Federal Emergency Management Agency, gave a TV interview in which he appeared to know little, and care less, about their plight.

Chastened by this poor performance and the deluge of criticism it provoked, Bush promised to do whatever was necessary to help bring the disaster area back. But federal aid paled against the vast scale of the disaster - and a disproportionate share of it went to Republican-controlled Mississippi. And the administration was slow to recognize one of the key obstacles to wise redevelopment of flooded-out areas in greater New Orleans: the financial calamity facing tens of thousands of property owners who faced financial ruin because they held mortgages on worthless homes.

Mastery of the details

Both Obama and McCain have promised that, under their leadership, the federal government would have taken a much more active role in preparing for Katrina and dealing with its consequences.

In his homeland security plan, McCain promises to install an experienced disaster-management team; to bring better technology to FEMA (which, unlike companies such as Wal-Mart, couldn't even track of its own assets); and to make sure relief money goes to disaster victims. His plan notes, accurately, that "Congress responded to the tragedy of Katrina with billions of dollars in new spending that had, in many cases, nothing whatever to do with the victims of Katrina."

Significantly, McCain also recognizes that the nation's infrastructure needs to stand up to disasters. He commits to rebuilding the New Orleans levee system to withstand the strongest of hurricanes.

Obama does too. And while the Democratic candidate's position paper on Katrina recovery dwells less on the mechanics of improving federal disaster-relief efforts, it reveals a much more detailed understanding of the Gulf Coast's current needs.

A disaster doesn't end when television cameras leave. Beyond its physical damage, Katrina also disrupted the economic and social stability of the communities in its path. Crime has spiked in New Orleans, promised federal aid has only dribbled out to disaster-stricken areas, transportation systems still need repairing, and the hardest-hit areas are still struggling to bring old businesses back. To address these problems, Obama proposes a cornucopia of initiatives, from a new community-policing program to special tax incentives.

Ideological differences

Despite some overlap, the two candidates' plans reflect significant differences in philosophy and style. Obama's policy team shows a particular concern for low-income disaster victims and an impressive grasp of detail. Recognizing that, for many homeowners, endless tangling with insurers has become one of the bleak realities of post-Katrina life, Obama also proposes an intriguing reserve fund to shore up the market for disaster insurance coverage.

McCain's plan, meanwhile, plays to some Republican fetishes - by promising, for instance, liability protection for companies that take part in disaster-relief efforts. And while Obama dwells on Bush's "broken promises" after Katrina, McCain stresses better emergency-management and treats the Katrina disaster as a failure of basic competence on the part of government.

Bush, the first president with an MBA degree, made noises early on about improving the performance of federal agencies. But key positions, like the FEMA job, have gone to antigovernment hacks - people whose ideological convictions are validated every time the federal government bungles a job. Over the years, McCain has shown a more nuanced view, but he is toeing the line more closely of late, as he seeks to consolidate support on his right.

Ideology has no place here, for most Americans are vulnerable to one kind of disaster or another. And the nation's ability to respond may be tested again soon enough. For days, Gustav has been moving northwest toward the Gulf of Mexico - and is on a path toward the Louisiana coast.

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Thursday, August 28, 2008

no good terrible awful very bad

I'm not having a good day. Want the laundry list? Here goes.

1. unemployment, and looming performance demanded

2. Gustav, my father's hysteria due to it, my mother's melancholy and unhearing ears

3. the announcement of a friend that her relationship is more troubled than I'd feared

4. the death of another friend's close family member

5. my new 'health insurance', which true to form turns out will not even cover the prescriptions for which I thought it would be useful; I'd already known it wouldn't cover any of my doctors

6. the muscle spasm that forced me to cancel my E train trip today and relegated me instead to the inside of my apartment, where walking isn't so very necessary

7. the anniversary of Katrina, its third, which is tomorrow and seems to be acting as a magnetized black hole sucking all ill fortune and unpleasantness toward it with startling efficiency

Like I said, not a good day.

Despite it all, there's something of a silver lining. Or if not silver, maybe a nice stripe of 50% gray. Yesterday I spent three (3) hours at a second employment agency. They tested, and I exceeded all expectations. In one spurt I was actually typing 72 words per minute, and on a Word test I achieved a score of 54 out of 55 - indeed, I'm a good little monkey, look at that accordion go. Unlike the first agency, which made me jump through flaming hoops and then blew me off, this one (which ominously is located on a different floor of the same building) contacted me this morning. Because they have two interviews set up for me next Tuesday. Both at law firms, both on 42nd Street, both soulless but with excellent salaries.

So maybe I'll get a job soon. And maybe it'll be alright and maybe it won't. Either way it'll pay, and once I have a couple thousand dollars back in the bank I can quit again if I need to. I'm thinking I won't mention that plan during the interview process.

I guess the summary here is really that things are complicated, and there's too many of them, and I'm tired and I have a headache. I want something to resolve: the storm to choose a course, an employer to make an offer, my body to cease its revolt. Just something. Some peace. Some quiet.

Really, I'm exhausted.

On Gustav.

I've developed an unhealthy addiction to nola.com message boards.

Good people of New Orleans, this is simple. No, we don't know where this storm is going to hit, or at what strength. But there is a possibility that it will hit close to New Orleans, and with extreme power. So make plans. (Actually you should already have tentative plans that are easy to enact whenever this kind of situation arises.) Many people have a long weekend, so why not evacuate early and avoid getting stuck in a grueling traffic jam? If nothing happens, well then it's just one more 'better safe than sorry' experience. If something does happen, well, you got out early and easy and you and your loved ones are safe. What could be wrong with either outcome?

This, of course, assumes that you have the resources to leave and somewhere to go.

Somehow that tiny detail gets forgotten - at the time of Katrina, over 100,000 New Orleans residents didn't have cars. The trains and bus lines shut down. The people that stayed behind weren't sitting around 'doing nothing'. They were largely people with no cars, no savings, no credit cards, and no outside help - in other words, people with very few options. So they stayed in the hopes that the storm would turn or fizzle out like so many others have. It's real easy to talk about them being an 'embarrassment' when you've never tried to travel 300 miles or more without a car or a credit card. Yes, some people stayed that had the means to go, and I don't know what their deal was. Maybe they just couldn't face the idea that it really was finally 'the big one'. But they were a ridiculously small minority of the people who rode out the storm.

The point? If you can afford to leave and have somewhere to go, then do it. Not tonight, and not in some kind of crazed panic, but not at the very last minute either. There's nothing like making the drive from New Orleans to Dallas but having it take 22 hours instead of 8; I think enough of us have had similar experiences to truly grasp the value of leaving before the crush.

I just hope that this time around the local, state, AND federal governments will notice and do something about the large portions of the population who cannot evacuate themselves, whether because of money or age or health, and do something about it a day or two BEFORE rather than five days AFTER landfall. There are worse things than an evacuation that turns out to have been unnecessary - for example, a thousand or so people dying because it wasn't done.

See what I mean?

Oh, and in case you're wondering, this is the cause for all the hubbub:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just in case you don't know it.

It'll help you out with my previous entry...

Two days (less really) to three years. My stomach hurts.

Comment from gopconservative94 on the video below:
"The People in the Chocolate City are not people but jungle bunnies. Black people are a cancer on this society and the Hurricane helped with correcting that flaw."
My response to the above comment:
"Dear gopconservative94, either you think you're clever and witty and ironic (which you really, truly aren't) and should reassess what you dare put out into the public because rest assured, you're proving yourself to be an ass, or you deserve to die of exposure on your own rooftop. Either way, you're about the best example there ever was of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Look it up."




The internet is a fantastic tool with seemingly limitless potential. Unfortunately, it also allows people to display for the entire world just exactly how ignorant, moronic, and hateful they can truly be. It's entirely possible that "gopconservative94" thinks it's funny to write that and doesn't even believe it; thinks it's just the greatest excuse to write something outrageous and ridiculous and unacceptable. Doesn't even consider the fact that it hurts people. Of course there is also the very real and very frightening possibility that he/she means it. Don't kid yourself and think that racism is dead in the south or anywhere else for that matter.

I just wish that people would show a little more respect for this event and those affected by it. Even seven years later, no one would DARE make a comment this blatantly horrible about 9/11. Not that I think they should, nothing of the sort. I just find the contrast a little baffling. We've done everything short of making September 11th a national holiday. I say "August 29th" and people are like, oh, is that this Friday? I guess Labor Day's coming up! Doesn't ring even the most vague of bells. We're approaching just the third anniversary of Katrina, and there are people in Louisiana and Mississippi who went to bed last night in FEMA trailers, but somehow the rest of the country has forgotten that the storm ever happened. Is the collective memory truly this short?

Everyone in New Orleans thinks about Katrina every day. It's impossible not to - drive much of anywhere in the city outside of uptown or the French Quarter and you're bound to pass houses that are still sitting gutted, or even just boarded up and marked with spray painted search group day-glow x's, water line clearly visible. There, on the news, they still show clips of the flooding. But those aren't the people who need to see them.

My mom wanted me to send her a copy of the zine. I told her no. And she was all, why? And I told her it would upset her. And she said, no it wouldn't. And then I reminded her that when I sent her a set of letterpress prints, some of which had words or phrases related to Katrina, she called me up crying. And that this is a 44 page zine of writing with visual aids about nothing but the storm. And she was like, oh, yeah, you're right I'm not ready.

She's never going to be ready.

um.

First this one.



Then this one. but for the love of all things good in the world, please stop watching at 8:50 - that's when it really unravels. Before that it's just a series of actually relevant news clips.



I really need to go to bed. This is not what I should be doing right now. I have an interview tomorrow - not a real one, just one at another employment agency. And not until 2pm. But still. Watching incendiary videos is probably not what's best for my wellbeing at 2:19am. I don't seem to care.

This is going to be a tough week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

George Bush doesn't care about black people.

Hey, don't look at me. I'm just quoting.



Why am I posting this? Do I agree with it? Mostly I just find it fascinating... and that's a catchy song.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Food Labyrinth -or- Anybody got a ball of twine?

For some vegans, life is simple. These are people who look at our food situation and see black vs. white, good vs. bad: animal product = do not eat, non-animal product = eat. Done and done, the end. But for those of us who care to look at the greater picture, food choices become significantly more complex. When veganism comes from a place of global consciousness, rather than from a place of morality or personal purity or simply a textbook definition, it becomes a different task entirely and requires a good deal more knowledge about how food is produced in the current age.

The food industry has become a clouded and convoluted lexicon that requires book learning to be even vaguely understood. The proof is in the non-hydrogenated low fat sugar free pudding: that it is so complicated and difficult to sort out is evidence that there is a problem to be addressed. We have become increasingly disconnected with where our food actually comes from, and even what it is made of, making the traceback more and more difficult.

When I get into my heavy research phases, I sometimes go a little overboard both in my study and in my thinking. I have been known to work myself into such a frenzy that I find fault with every food item I encounter: it's not vegan, or it's not organic, or it was shipped too far, or I don't like the company that produces it, or I don't like the store that's selling it - I can find some issue for everything, if I try. I become so bogged down with this knowledge-noise that I literally cannot eat.

At these times I have had to be reminded, gently and sometimes not so gently, that I live in the world that I live in. That until I manage to acquire some land upon which I can build my own cabin and do my own farming, I'm going to have to make some compromises. I am, essentially, going to have to suck it up.

But, some compromises only. That's key. It's not as if, since I can't eat only pure and perfect food, I should say to hell with it and just go buy some steaks produced by Cargill. Armed with good information, it's much easier to make choices that are not only vegan, but that also support vegan values instead of massive animal-product-driven companies, the ones we're supposedly boycotting.

Companies are owned by companies are owned by other companies. By this point most of us are aware that the vast majority of capital assets and money in the world are held by just a select few economic entities (Coke, Disney, Neslte, et cetera). But some connections are surprising. Here's a brief list to show you what I mean.

Silk soymilk: owned by Dean foods, largest milk producer in the world

Smart Deli / Smart Dogs: owned by Con Agra, owners of Slim Jim

Morningstar Farms: owned by Kellogg

Cascadian Farms: owned by General Mills

Odwalla : owned by Coca-Cola

See? If it's a big name in the vegetarian market, it's likely a big name for a reason. There are fortunately some major exceptions to this situation: Tofurkey, Whole Soy & Co, and Follow Your Heart, for example, are all privately owned and entirely vegetarian. There are also fuzzy middle-lier entities such as the Hain Celestial Group who own, among other brands, Soy Dream, Rice Dream, and Health Valley. They are publicly traded, and while some of their brands do contain meated products, for the most part they operate untainted. There are many levels.

But what have I really been talking about here? Processed foods, something that we in the United States eat far too much of. What about produce? A vegetable is a vegetable, right? Oh, I wish. Organic, “conventional”, local, hothouse grown... this too becomes labyrinthine. So, which is better? An organically grown bell pepper that was shipped to you all the way across the Atlantic from Holland, or one that was grown in your state "conventionally"?

That really becomes more of a personal choice. Which is a more important environmental issue for you, petroleum use or pesticide use (which, actually, is also petroleum use)? If you're worried about using up the world's fuel supplies, it's local for you all the way. If Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" changed your life, you'll be going the organic route. Of course optimally, you won't have to make this choice at all and will be able to purchase the fruits and vegetables that were grown organically just 90 miles from your house. Sadly, that doesn't happen all that often. But if your town has a farmer's market, go to it! It's by far your best bet. Even if they don't have everything you're looking for, worst case scenario is that you're supporting local farmers instead of massive industrial farming conglomerates.

* * *

Why is the food world so damn complicated these days? If you ask me (and trust me, I'm not the first to think of it), it's because food is sold as a commodity for profit. People need the same amount of food no matter what; X caloires = optimal adult intake. For example, let's take Jane. Based on her height and weight and age group and average activity level and body type, she needs 1937 calories a day. Each day. The end. Right? No.

Unfortunately that just doesn't work in an economic system based on perpetual growth. Population explosion isn't enough of an increase in annual sales for the food industry, so they end up needing to convince Jane to buy not only cheese but also cheesefood product, and why not throw in the lowfat milk shake with added iron and antioxidants? And look at these frozen meals - so convenient, and it says right here that they're a 'healthy choice'. And hey, you've had a long day - why not refresh yourself with our new Pomegranate Twist fruit beverage (contains no fruit juice)?

They convince Jane that she needs these newfangled items - that they are not only convenient and tasty but are actually healthy and nutritious. And then when she gains weight (because she's been taking in, say, 2300 calories a day instead of the 1937 that she actually needs), they convince her that the best answer is their new line of (rather pricey) diet foods and pills.

Brilliant marketing scheme, really. Too bad about the price... to our health, environment, societal fabric, et cetera.

In truth there are many answers to how and why this all happened. It certainly doesn't help that nutrition is considered "alternative medicine" instead of being placed in every pre-med's core curriculum. But regardless of how we got here the facts of the outcome remain. And the longer we stay ignorant of our whereabouts in this great big mess of a food environment, the messier things are going to get.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thank you and goodnight.

A great big thank you to everyone that came out to Think Coffee at 1 Bleecker Street for the release of "Anywhere I Lay My Head", which deals with experiences of Katrina. The event was a great success, and there are paintings and letterpress prints (which you may have seen before) as well as fourteen brand new photographs, never before seen or shown, that will be hanging in the space through September. If you're in the NYC area, it's definitely worth stopping by Think to check it out. 25% of proceeds generated from the artwork shown and from sales of "Anywhere" are being donated to the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, the zine is available now on etsy:

get it here!

To learn more about Common Ground or make a direct donation, go to www.commonground relief.org.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Instead of preparing for my event tonight, I'm watching videos.

There's so much stuff on youtube from the storm, the original broadcasts that I watched while I was evacuated. It's spooky to relive, but then it's about the best tool there is for remembering just how bad it was... This one is an interview with Harry Connic, Jr. He always annoyed the crap out of me. He's the son of the former Kenner Police Chief, which is hilarious, and he's not that great a musician. But when he actually went in there and started praying over dead bodies (not shown here, but I remember it clearly) I gained a lot of respect for the man. Many other famous people got up on screen and talked about how much they supported the people of New Orleans; very few of them were willing to get into a boat or walk into the Convention Center where people were desperate and dying.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I remember when this aired.

We were in St. Joseph by then, and I was doing nothing but watching television, so of course I saw it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A day in the city.

Our story begins not in the hustle and bustle of Metropolis, but on the quiet tree-lined side streets of a town called Astoria. Nestled there, our heroine has been spending her morning avidly reading. The material? A web comic. One so close to her heart, to her life, that at moments it felt like reading her own biography. It does, after all, follow the story of one of her old friends during a catastrophe that they had both endured - though separately.

Upon reading all thirteen existing installments of the killing-me-softly-esque illustration, the girl's interest in its author is understandably piqued. And upon discovering that he lives in Brooklyn, BROOKLYN of all places, the girl - let's call her M - knows instantly that she must contact him.
"Dear Josh Neufeld,

Hi. You don't know me, but I'm having a very six degrees of separation kind of morning, and we know a lot of the same people...

I naturally proceeded to read the thirteen chapters without stopping, laughing out loud at times and crying a little. Because the way you write it is... overwhelmingly how it was..."
Rambling on for at least a page, the new fan explains that she's found the comic, A.D., through semi-acquaintance Rob Walker, who she has been corresponding with in consequence to his book Letters from New Orleans, which was published by Garrett County Press which is run by G.K. Darby whom M knew back in her Bookfair days in N.O...

As she has to Rob Walker, she reiterates to Josh that she is getting ready to release a zine, a zine about Katrina. Her Katrina experience, as it were. That she is donating proceeds to Common Ground, showing correlating art, et cetera.

Much like Rob Walker had the week before, Josh Neufeld actually responds to her email. Like a real human being. Like she is a real human being. Like what she's doing matters. Unlike Rob, who unfortunately no longer lives in NYC, he says he even might try to make it down for the event. (For these two responses M will be forever grateful.) Feeling that this outreach is about as good as her morning can possibly get, the young woman sets out to accomplish her day's goals.

* * *

The first stop in town is the post office, that bastion of bureaucratic disorganization on 14th and A. As is suspected and indeed hoped for, in her p.o. box our girl finds a pink slip, the one that means she will stand in the special line at the far side of the station for an undetermined amount of time hoping all the while that the postal employee of the day will be up to the task of locating her oversized package.

*Five customers ahead: a (young) college girl who has apparently never seen a package, a post office, a mail man, a box, a label, or tape ever before in her entire life.
*Four customers ahead: an attractive woman in her early 40s, whose rather large box mysteriously takes at least ten minutes to locate, and contains a Narnia action figure.
*Three customers ahead: A girl in her twenties on the receiving end of a bulky white envelope, also surprisingly hard to retrieve, contents unrevealed.
*Two customers ahead: an Asian man with a slightly cumbersome grasp of the English language, attempting to retrieve a package for an out-of-town wife. The agent of choice that day at Ominous Window Number Six, however, is a by the book kind of man and is not about to give a package to a different party than that to whom it was addressed, husband or no.
*One customer ahead: despite witnessing said previous exchange, this Mister wants to pick up a certified package addressed to his father with a card signed by his mother. Upon rejection, he states that these rules "must be something new" because he "always does it this way", and attempts to correct the postal worker's obvious misinterpretation of the situation. When he is again rebuffed, he declares "bullcrap" and storms for the doors.

And then, finally, it is time for our dear M. Impressively, both her name and box number have been written on the magical pink retrieval card. Without a question or a sideways glance, the package from her mother is delivered with all the efficiency and zeal normally displayed by a government employee.

* * *

Transportation is another issue entirely, and bus seems best. A short jaunt down to Second Avenue plants M prime to catch the M15, where she patiently waits. This arrangement is much to the chagrin of the yellow cab drivers, three of which spot the white girl carrying what seems to be a heavy box and go in for what should be an easy kill. She has to shoo them off like flies - as if she doesn't have something better to do with the ten bucks that she doesn't even have. Ironic, she thinks, that I should have such an opposite aggravation as my Puerto Rican friend Dyalma, who can't catch a cab to save her life when on the way to the club. Perhaps the PR girls should carry heavy looking boxes when out for a night on the town? Perhaps 'woman' would override culture if manual labor was involved? Hard to say.

Shortly enough she arrives at her destination - workplace, art space, comfort zone, hangout. Breaching the box is naturally the first order of business. Unsurprisingly but pleasingly, it contains the items she has requested from Mommy dearest for the upcoming event: coffee with chicory, and cookies from Brocato's.

* * *

On the W train headed uptown, M is witness to an odd encounter. At 14th street a cute girl in office attire and flip flops, sipping a bubble tea, pokes her head into the train doors, begins to ask which train? but doors abruptly close. Average White Man in jeans and boots, previously unnoticed by anyone, suddenly interjects - jumps to the rescue jamming his hands in the door from inside the train. Is playfully growling first through the three inch opening at the girl (who is mortified and saying no, no, don't do that). Then pulls a Jack Nicholson "Here's Johnny!" before finally admitting failure, having doors slam shut, being chided via intercom by annoyed conductor. Average White Man looks at his fellow car dwellers, smiles like he's just gotten very close to performing a really great trick, and says, "Oh well!" M supposes that perhaps he's a juggler.

* * *

M: "They're stapled?"

Copy Shop Girl: "Yeah, I didn't know they were gonna staple 'em."

M: "Yeah, I thought that was an extra charge..."

Copy Shop Girl: "It is."

M: "?" Severe eyebrow raise.

Copy Shop Girl: "Don't worry about it."

M: "It is what it is, as long as I'm not paying for something I didn't order..." Except that this isn't the whole document. The cover is sitting in my backpack right now. The cover that needed to be stapled on. "They're also inside out."

* * *

Upon arriving home, M realizes that the copy shop has neglected to charge her for 200 of her 2200 copies. Feeling slightly vindicated for their sloppy workmanship, she turns her focus to the box of 100 zines which now must have folds inverted and covers somehow attached.

Damn.

But first, Indian take-out.

* * *

So concludes this installation of the trials and tribulations of a day in the life of M. Tune in for the next riveting episode: Yarn Zine Binding and the Cat's Cradle of Doom!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apparently, sleeping just isn't something I do anymore.

I was getting close around three a.m. Then Jon somehow managed to knock a glass of water off of his night stand, which is piled so high with books and old receipts and change that there's barely enough surface area left for the standard juice glass.

Unsurprisingly, the impact of the glass with our bed frame aroused me from my (almost) sleeping state. Lights were turned on. Words were exchanged. That was forty minutes ago, and here I am, almost four a.m., wide wide wide.

We hung the show tonight, Sarah and I. It looks good I think, assuming that the viewer thinks that these are pieces that should be shown in public. It's a point that I'm wavering on, but of course that's based almost entirely on nerves. Honestly I think it looks good. Honestly I feel we did a good job. Honestly I wonder if, even in the case that any viewer finds the work exceptional, I'll ever hear about the opinion.

The idea that right now I have 19 paintings/photographs hanging in a public space is, frankly, terrifying. See, tonight when we were hanging, sure the shop was open, but it was really just three employees, an employee boyfriend, and like one or two passersby. Tomorrow, though, it's a whole new ballgame. Tomorrow it's an Art Show at the Coffee Shop, to be viewed not by the loving eyes of me and my cronies but by day crew members that I've probably never met, and by East Village/Bowery people who will (ok, might) pass judgment - Coffee shop tripe? Or actual Art?

I know, I know, I know. I make art because I can't help it, because these things are in my head and I need to get them out; I make them for me as much as anything else and probably a good deal more. And this particular series and subject matter deals with a huge life-changing event with national and global significance. No opinion can touch that. Seriously. And the fact that my stuff is hanging on the corner of Bleecker and Bowery right now in a highly visible space, across the street from where CBGBs used to be - that's kind of a big deal, regardless of how I got it in there.

None of this, though, stops me from wanting other people to like it. Like, yeah, my mom thinks I'm talented. My fiance is extremely supportive. A handful of my friends will usually show up and smile when I do something in public. But I have this suspicion that they all might be just the tiniest bit biased. I'm curious to see how New York reacts - if they react at all. Of course, knowing me if I do get a reaction of any consequence I'll find a way to blame it on everything but me and my work. "Oh, it's just because it deals with Katrina." "I only got to do this because I work here." "They're just taking pity on me because I lost my house." I'm really talented at this - you should hear me explain how my college degree doesn't count.

Like as if other people who've made something for themselves didn't have some kind of leg up, some kind of edge. Isn't it one of those largely griped about gripes that ya gotta know somebody? That you can be talented as the day is long, but unless...? (At this point, I'm just defending myself against myself. So far, and really to my knowledge ever, I am my one and only naysayer.)

I'd like to go to sleep. At this point it's well after four. I haven't had a bout of sleeplessness like this since high school - at least these days no one's forcing me to show up at prison every morning for 7:25 a.m. But still. I don't think this is the best for my stress levels or my productivity.

Damnit. Now I'm starving. Bodies are so damn demanding. Sometimes, when I watch Futurama, I start to think that head-in-a-glass-jar setup wouldn't be so bad after all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Patient: the thing that I'm not.

Ok. So we're hanging the show tonight at the shop. I'm supposed to meet the ever wonderful Sarah there at 9:15. P.M. At night. As in, not for another SEVEN HOURS. Right now, my inner self is running around the rooms inside my brain, smashing things, yelling, "I WANNA GO NOOOOWWWWWW!!!!!" See, when something makes me nervous, I feel best to just dive right in and get it done. NOW.

But alas. Right now, the shop is full of people that might be rather irritated with us shoving them out of the way to hang pictures above their heads. It might not be the best for business. And actually we're just kind of hoping that business will be slow over there later tonight. You never know.

Now, there are other things I could be doing. For instance, I still haven't printed the zine. But I don't know how long that's going to take, and I'm afraid that I'll end up rushing or late, something else that I can't abide. The weather has also chosen today to go ahead and get ungodly hot, never a situation I deal well with. So I don't particularly want to run around the concrete heat sink of a city, and the studio may as well be a greenhouse on days like this.

I know. I'm doing that impossible thing again. I can't help it.

It's not like I haven't done anything. I have. I've made a price list, and little tags to go beneath all of the paintings and photographs and letterpress prints. They need to be put on backing, though, and that of course is at the studio. Here I don't even have black construction paper. That, of course, is due to nothing but my own shortsightedness.

Alright, I'm going to shut up and go make something happen now, because I'm driving myself crazy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Distinctly Designed to Divert Disaster: the D Train

Yes ladies and gents, it's four trains down now. And the D train was something decidedly different, a deviation from my disorganized doldrums. The divergence laid mainly in my approach to the expedition: this trip lacked a certain, I don't know, hysteria? that had characterized the first three. It encompassed many firsts for this project: I went alone. I took my time. I shot fewer but more pointed photographs, which were then infinitely easier to organize. (At this moment, as I embark upon my post writing this Sunday morning, they're sitting in a nice neat folder in the order in which I want to use them. Can you believe it? I know, right?) The train was tri-borough, stretching from the Bronx through Manhattan and into Brooklyn. These are all good things. Let's see how it turns out, shall we?

So it was that last Monday morning I headed out on my mission, once again by way of the M60. That bus is a brilliant little parlor trick for Astorians, and it's really too bad I discovered it the day after I finished moving from Harlem to Astoria. Ah, such is life. I needed to avoid rush hour not only because it's hell (hell of course being other people), but because the D train does some deceptive dashing during the rush, skipping huge swaths of stations and so forth. I can't be havin' that. Slow lots-of-stops trains for me, mister.

After arriving at 125th though, it's no mere hop to 205th street in the Bronx. It's a trek. That's alright though; there was entertainment. Between 163rd and 174th my car was treated to the self-proclaimed next winner of American Idol belting his rendition of "I shot the Sheriff". (Yes. Seriously. That's what he sang.) He asked us for 'constructive criticism'. Should I have mentioned to him that he's tone deaf? Immediately following him there was a guy selling candy. (On my way back south I saw the same kid again, at which time he identified himself as "the candy man".) I bought some candy hoping that if I did he'd say yes when I asked to take his picture. He said no. Because selling things on the train is illegal, probably.

Upon arrival at 205th, I seemed to be under intense scrutiny. While it's still legal to take pictures in the subway (despite best bureaucratic efforts), The MTA doesn't like it much. So when I climbed off the train and started snapping pics of the control booth, the emergency exit signs, the train, the switchboxes, and everything else in the station, I did not automatically become the most popular girl at the prom. The stares were so intent, in fact, that I gave up fairly quickly and went upstairs to see if there was a bathroom.

There was. Using it felt a little taking-my-life-in-my-hands-ish, but that turned out to be a complete misconception. It's actually quite a nice neighborhood up there in Norwood. Lots of houses, churches, and little playgrounds. Neighbors out and about, walking, talking, playing with their kids. Mailman addressing people by name. That kind of thing. I quite liked it. I would have spent more time exploring had there not been eminent threat of enormous thunderstorm...
There was this little old dude on the corner, and I just loved him. I want him to be my grandpa, or he reminded me of my grandpa (obvious impossibilities notwithstanding). It's probly the hat. I hope he has grandkids. I hope they love him.



My first stop art installation wise was Tremont Avenue. The piece is called "Uptown New York", and I had pictured some sort of amalgamation of trite overplayed 20's puttin'-on-the-ritz stuff. I couldn't have been more wrong - the mosaic is amazing. Really, really cool, both in the way the artist used the textures of different kinds of glass and in the overall design. The image shows only the righthand side third, the dimensions of the station making it rater difficult to get a (good) full width shot. I definitely suggest stopping by next time you're in the Bronx - it's at the south entrance. Oddly, while this station seems to have a mezzanine level running the full length of the station, it's entirely closed off. From the two entrance ends there's no visible sign of construction or anything; the only way to know the mezzanine connection is there is that on each platform downstairs, in the middle, there's a stairwell leading to nowhere. There are lights on. I don't get it. Google tells me nothing, nothing!


Next stop: 161st Street, Yankee Stadium. Apparently they're tearing the old stadium down soon, so that they can build another one; I hear rumors that they're using some public funds to do it, too. Always a good way to make friends, tearing down well loved landmarks. At any rate, the art there is... something. It's structural and functional. It certainly makes the station interesting. It's sort of destruction-esque though, at least on the mezzanine; like, here's what the stations will all look like, after THE HUGE EARTHQUAKE. Odd. If you've ever been through you know what I mean. But anyway, at least it gives people something to sit on.

Truth be told, I did not make a lot of stops on this journey. I've already basically traveled this line once (on the B train), and being without assistance I was afraid I would run out of time or something. But as we all know, you don't have to get out of the train to have amazing subway experiences.

Somewhere around 125th street my train was joined by a perfectly respectable looking man. Mind you, now, that this is one of the west side trains that makes what I've come to think of as "the big jump" - from 125th to 59th, straight. Our new friend began addressing the train. His concerns were trifold: first, the minimum wage. It's too low. Alright man, I'm with you. You can't possibly live on minimum wage, and anyone who's ever tried knows it. Second, nuclear power. (Um, what?) Third, gas prices. (Ok kids, we just may have a crackpot on our hands.) By this point he's kind of babbling. See, apparently ConEd has a Nuclear Plant smack in the middle of Manhattan. And it's degrading. And you know what happens when it degrades? We all gonna die! But nevermind that we're all gonna die for just a minute. Somehow despite the fact that we're dead, by 202o, our kids are gonna be homeless. And we're gonna be homeless. This, of course, is going to be because of that minimum wage issue - and gas prices. He started asking for signatures, and I was sorely tempted, but I think I'm on enough governmental lists as it is.

I didn't get out again until Broadway/Lafayette St, way down in the Bowery. It's an interesting station, surprisingly large, and it has an art installation. The art is comprised of two distinct phases; one is simple periwinkle tiling in a sort of Pan-American-Indian kind of design. This part isn't interesting. The other, though, is these metal cones with translucent bits around the I beams in the mezzanine. They're rather ugly, or at least not all that attractive - until that one magical moment when you happen to catch them lighting up. Then they become really cool, and stay really cool even thought they're almost never lit up. I can't figure out the flashing schedule at all. It's just one of those things.

I emerged from the station to get some lunch; it's a neighborhood I know well. Houston has always been my least favorite street in Manhattan, partly because it's really hard to cross on foot and largely because some part of it, and a large part at
that, has been under construction for as long as I can remember. Granted, my real experiences with New York only stretch for about six years now, but still. If a street sucks every time you pass it for six years, then a street sucks. (For you out-of-towners, this street isn't pronounced like the city in Texas. It's pronounced as if the u was a w. Some dude's name, apparently. Incidentally, SoHo = South of Houston.) On D train day, I found this concrete box, and I think this is as picturesque as Houston ever gets.

When I went back to the station I found this guy, working for a living. Hey, what's the difference between a flutist and a flautist? About fifty bucks an hour! (OK, that one works a lot better when you're saying it out loud...). That goofy old hippie dude was playing his heart out, and being completely ignored. I think busking on the subway could toughen up any performer. They should incorporate it into the curriculum at the performing arts schools here. Ooh, or better yet, at schools in other cities. "And for your last semester, you'll be stationed in New York City, doing interpretive dance at Columbus Circle... Don't worry, we here at the University of Chicago will cover the fines... no, we can't bail you out of jail..." They'd never be scared of an audition again.

I basically didn't get out in Brooklyn. I've been to Atlantic-Pacific, and I seem to have a deep rooted hatred of that place. It's probably unfounded. (It's time for Name That Quote! "The Atlantic is greater! "No, the Pacific is greater!" "No...") The D skips the 1st and then the 3rd through 6th stops into the borough during the day. Shortly after jetting past these, we were outside. I love that. We did go over the Manhattan bridge, but learning from my last bridge experience I didn't try too hard to get good pics. Maybe one of these days I'll get lucky and my train will have to stop on the bridge for a minute or two in a spot that offers some nice views... until then I'll have lots of great blurry pictures of support beams.

From 18th Avenue you can see a huge suspension bridge, which I'm making an educated guess to be the Verrazano-Narrows bridge from Bay Ridge to Staten Island. It looks like the pictures on the internet, so I'm thinking it's a safe bet. There are actually much better views than the one I've captured here; I couldn't get the pic fast enough before the train doors closed.

The day began rainy, and then became quite beautiful and sunny. The rainy day feel stuck, though, and many people on the long train ride were sleepy by the time we neared Coney Island.


Ahhh, Coney. I love that place. How can you not? I've waxed on enough on my blogs about its magic, and about the tragedy impending down there; if you don't know please visit the Coney Island USA for details and lend whatever support you can. Because damnit, this country would not be the same with condos in the middle of what should be Astroland.

Despite the positive turn in weather, I didn't really venture into the happyland. I was exhausted, and it was late. But I did manage to get some photos. And because it's so visual down there, and I'm such a visual person, this will now become a photo blog...

This little guy was the first thing I saw upon exiting the train. Maybe they know that people will be tired from their long day on the beach? Or... that people drink on the beach? Hmm. Hard to say.


There are many interesting and, yes, beautiful silkscreened images on the glass brick walls of the Coney Island station. They show the freakshow days of yore, the wonder wheel, et cetera. And then there's this guy, and he makes absolutely no sense, and he's by far my favorite.ISN'T HE FREAKING AWESOME?

There's a police outpost built right into the train station, and that's probably a good idea for a whole lot of reasons. It's quite cute actually, with the little posts with glowing globes outside and all. Aww, look at the cute little police station. I'm sure that's exactly what they had in mind when they built it.


I love this view.





As a vegan, I think I'm officially required to loathe Nathan's. It may be written into law. And in fact the annual hot dog eating contest never fails to turn my stomach. But... look at it! I'm sorry, but that place is freaking awesome! Of course I want their menu to be (vastly) different, but it's an institution. It can't be denied.

Upon re-entering the the D train for my journey home, I discovered a possibly homeless and definitely crazy man in the last car. He was yelling for someone to go away, and accused that entity of being from Idaho. It is of course possible that he was yelling at me. He could have been yelling at someone (or something) not visible to me. Or he could have been yelling at this here seagull. If so, the seagull wasn't perturbed in the least; in fact he was thrilled with the bounty obtained when crazyman missed his target at throwing his Chinese leftovers into the garbage can on the platform.

And then of course, home again home again. I could have cheated and got on the N train, a straight shot shot back to my place. But it always feels more valid to take my designated train at least back into the city, so I did. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten to see a couple of teenagers playing tonsil hockey from Coney all the way to Atlantic/Pacific. I've often thought of what a boon the subway would have been in the High School years, when getting some time to yourselves is damn near impossible. So for proving my point, thanks kids. And thanks, D train.

Wrong to (al)right.

Saturday salvaged from possible wreckage. With a bit of determination and the help of my ever steadfast Jonathan, I was able to make something of the day after all. See, I have great planning skills, and that's lovely and a lot of people don't have it at all. But unless it's paired with the ability to be flexible when things don't go how I planned them, it's damn near useless. Plans never work the way you plan them. There's no end to the mediocre trite quotes that I could plug in here, but given those descriptives isn't it best that I refrain?

Anyway, I didn't accomplish most of what I meant to today. But I did other stuff. I printed the photos that I'd taken in July of 2006, so that they can be perused by the 6 people that happen upon my event on Saturday. (Previously I'd only had the 2005 pics in physical form; by 2006 I'd moved onto digital.) I didn't get to flyer across the lower east side, but I did spread some in the West Village, a whole hip-as-hell neighborhood chock full of writers that I'd somehow forgotten about when I was writing down spots for my canvassing. So that's something, isn't it? I vote yes.

Tomorrow is another day. There are many items on the planned list. Let us hope that when I wake up tomorrow and I've overslept, the train I need isn't running, and they flyers I meant to hang have been left at home (a fact only to be realized two boroughs away), I will have the wherewithal to remember today.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Um.

The 'new plan' is not getting off to the best start. I didn't wake up until noon. I also feel like crap. Let the self sabotage begin...

Friday, August 15, 2008

My mind is chaos.

There's no better way to put it. Today I've run the gamut - from calm to sad to ecstatic to hopeless to confident to crushed and back again sixteen times. I don't have much to explain these wild swings, other than this: This is the first whole week I've spent not working or having a job since March. That week didn't go so good either.

Of course I'm choosing this. I've been choosing it from the start. I decided to leave the job in the first place, I could be picking up more shifts at the coffee shop, I could (and probably should) be hounding my employment agency agent and applying for other jobs on top of it. But I don't want to. The lack of structure and income are making me go out of my goddamn mind, but the thought of "working" or "having a job" makes me a lil bit sick to my stomach. Basically I'm impossible.

I've set myself up a neat little conundrum in which it is impossible for me to be happy. Way to go me! Hey, you gotta do what you're good at, that's what I always say. And lord knows shooting myself in the foot and being my own worst enemy are some of my top skills.

Of course I could also choose to apply some structure to my unemployed life. There's no reason that I can't set a schedule for myself, make "appointments" at my studio or for other things and keep them as if I'm as important to myself as other people are. But I've been down this road. Many, many times, actually. And yes, I could make the schedule. But I probably wouldn't keep it.

Sometimes I just want to strangle myself for being so f*cking difficult. It seemed like I was doing so well there for a minute too; for like three or four days I really thought I was pulling myself together. Now I'm sliding back into a state much like the one I was in before I went to New Orleans. No good, no good at all. Really I'm going to need to get the hell over it. I have things to do.

I'll work on it this weekend. I'll plot out the week, what still needs to get done for the event. I'll prioritize. I'll remember to get up from my desk so that I don't get the shooting pains in my hands and arms and legs. I'll leave the house before 7pm. I'll eat - actual food. Damnit. I don't know why I'm finding daily life so hard right now. It's times like this that I wish I could forget about everything that I want to create. It seems like it would be so much easier to be content with a more straightforward life. But I can't forget it, and it's useless to try. So instead I'll try to get up before noon tomorrow, and that will be a start.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

ArtSlant is fancy.

See?

Notes from the Frontlines of Daily Mastication.

-It's not easy to eat without a schedule. Being mostly unemployed again, I keep having to remind myself that 'eating' has to make it onto the list of 'things to do today'. And not just once. Several times.

-My coffee shop has started making 'grilled cheeses'. At first I was like, there goes all the vegan food. But nay. We have vegan cheddar, and vegan canadian bacon. And apple slices. Dangerous. This fact is actually helping out rather nicely with point number one. When I'm in the city at least.

-I can't seem to figure out coffee lately. Two mornings ago I brewed it but never picked it up; twelve hours later I wandered into my kitchen and found the cup sitting there full of the tepid brown stuff, layer of oil congealed on top, heating coil in the little one-cup maker still all ablaze. (Fortunately I hadn't broken it or burned the house down.) This morning Jonathan was running late so I got up to make his coffee for him, except I didn't put any coffee in the brew basket. So I really just made him a cup of hot water. Oh bastion of caffeine, why do you thwart me?

-At the event that I'm having on the 23rd, I get to expose the New York world to coffee with chicory and cookies from Angelo Brocato's. Well, as long as my mother comes through I do, so keep your fingers crossed. I wonder how New York will like that piece of New Orleans?

-Not very long ago I found out that Silk Soymilk is owned by Dean Foods, the largest milk producer in the country (and maybe in the world - I'll have to check on that). This is really bugging me. I don't buy much Silk because I prefer almond milk, but we do use their coffee creamer. Now I don't want to buy it at all, but no one else is making a creamer and putting other 'milk' in there pretty much tastes like crap. (I'm telling you, coffee problems.) It's sort of like how I don't buy lightlife stuff because they're owned by ConAgra, but this is actually way more direct. I swear, corporate buyouts make eating really hard. One day when I can afford to live in Manhattan, I'll have to get an apartment next to one of the greenmarkets so that I just don't have to buy any labeled products anymore.

-I've been consuming these Croatian wafer cookies at a severely unhealthy rate. Like, a box a day for instance. Considering that my body doesn't cope with sugar well, and that a box contains about 2600 calories, this is a recipe for disaster I think. So why am I doing it? Um... food addiction? Yeah, that's my best guess. I need to stopit, and stopitnow. Before I gain 20 pounds and make my pancreas shut down. This is actually significantly worse than my pints-of-icecream problem.

That is all.
Over and out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A lot of things can happen to you when you're alone.

I don't mean bad things, like you're more vulnerable to attack or something, though I suppose that's true. What I'm talking about is that when you spend a whole day by yourself but working, working on important things, a lot of stuff happens. And there's no one there to tell. So by the end of the day you're overflowing with the day's events: the things that you've accomplished, what you've failed at, miracles you've discovered.

At the ends of these days I am overflowing. Bursting at seams. Searching for an outlet. This is at least part of why I blog, but writing (or typing) something down is not the same as sharing it with another human being. You, or at least I, want to get a reaction, to have a conversation, to receive feedback.

All too often this does not happen. Maybe there isn't someone in your life to absorb this energy from you at the end of the day. Or maybe you do have that person, as I do, but by the time you see him he's too tired out from his own eventful hours to become your sounding board. He cannot be blamed for this. Nevertheless, it is disappointing.

Such it is that last night at 1 am I was bursting, and when my man came home I began to unload. After about twenty minutes (not all of me talking, mind you - of those I probly spent about seven talking about my day) he said "ok, I'm gonna go away now". And he did. And there was little me, still bursting, but deflated.

There is a common misconception that just because a person spent the day at home, he or she probably didn't do much that day. Well I can tell you that, at least for me, it could not be less true. When I'm at home I work pretty much constantly; I try to rest and I just can't. Granted, I project jump. But drafting my C train blog and tweaking photos to be printed so that I can paint from them and putting together flyers for my zine event the weekend after next are all work in my book. So when I get frustrated or exhausted with one I switch to whatever is pulling my attention. I've always worked best this way.

It's actually quite difficult for me to be unemployed. Each day I have to figure out how to best spend my time, which is insanely hard because each of my endeavors calls out to me begging to be put at the top of the list. However, now that I have an event scheduled some obvious things fall into place. For instance, the event is a zine release. Therefore, making the zine exist in physical reality is, say, top five. Also up there are creating and distributing flyers, and printing and framing the photographs that I'm supposed to be showing. Having a deadline really helps. Because normally it's just up to me, and that gets sticky.

But enough of this contemplation. I need to get out there and attack this day. Yesterday I didn't leave the house, but today I really need to go out there and interact with the world... as little as I may want to. Lord give me strength. Or something.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Complete exhaustion, but with purpose.

Hello Rob Walker. I was in New Orleans last week, and I picked up your book. You know the one. I'm maybe halfway through, and it's really excellent. My family is from New Orleans but I didn't move there until I was 18, so I can relate to the idea of discovering the city from an outside perspective. I live in New York now; my house got swallowed by Lake Pontchartrain just about three years ago now. On August 23rd I'm doing a zine release for "Anywhere I Lay My Head", the zine that I'm finally finished with about my Katrina experience. I'm wondering if you might be interested in stopping by. It's at Think Coffee at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery from 7 to 9pm, and 25% of any proceeds I generate I'm donating to the Common Ground Collective. Even if you can't come I'd love to speak with you (and your wife); it's always fascinating to talk to other people who have a sincere love of both New Orleans and New York. Your column is fairly interesting too - I have some... strong ideas about consumerism. Anyway, thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you.

P.S. - If you're sort of curious but wondering who the hell I am, here's a little window to my lexicon:
http://melissabastian.blogspot.com
Thus was the little note I sent to Rob Walker, New York Times columnist and author of "Letters From New Orleans" which oddly enough was published by this guy G.K. who was an acquaintance of mine for the last couple of years I was in the city... Am I rambling? Sorry. I essentially haven't left the house today, apart from the one jaunt out for some food, because I'd been eating nothing but cookies for eight hours. Today has been a zine day. And when I really start putting together a zine, the time-space continuum falls by the wayside. It's noon. And then I look up and it's 4:30. And I look up again and it's 6:30. And I look up again and it's 9. I have no idea how so much time has passed, but I sure have gotten a lot of work done... it goes like that.

Today has gone just like that. The zine is not assembled, but it's finished. Well, except for one page it's finished. Assembly shouldn't take all that long; it's mostly just annoying. Then there's getting it printed, which will be both time consuming and expensive. And then there's the very funnest part: putting together the copies. I still haven't decided how I'm gonna do that. But rest assured kiddies, it'll get done. Right now the pages are spread out on the living room floor. When Jonathan gets home he's gonna kill me. Or rather, he's going to want to kill me, but he'll probably just grumble or maybe not even that. Thus is the nature of his support.



The event, it seems, will also be my first public art showing. I'll be hanging paintings, letterpress prints, and possibly photographs in the space on Monday the 18th so that they will hopefully attract some interest for the event that Saturday. I don't think we're leaving them up after Saturday, but maybe. We'll see.

So much work to do, and barely ten days to do it in. It's always amazing to me how much I work when I'm not working.

C for effort - the C train.

And now, the news you've been waiting for! (Incidentally, on my "combined" blog this is my 100th post. Woo!)Ok. I admit it fully. I suck. And furthermore I have no idea why I did this to myself. It's fairly excruciating to try to put together a post about a train ride three weeks after the fact. Add in the truths that I took 250 photos on this journey and that it's 2 in the morning, and you get one hell of an interesting combo. But really, it's high time that this blog got blogged. I'm using my photos as a guide, so color along with me as I rebuild the journey that happened oh so long ago now... Ok, so it was just on July 27th. But still.

I was once again joined by my fearless fiance. We decided it would be best to hop on the M60 bus to get into town, which conveniently drags us all the way across 125th Street. From there it's really barely a jump up to 168th: the true start of our C train journey.

Once we reached 168th of course we explored a little. Of all the things we saw, and we did see many things, this may have been my favorite - a cotton candy man floating up Broadway. Jonathan used to live in this neighborhood, so we took a jaunt up to the old apartment. It's an odd mix of real New York edges and Columbia newness. Despite any shows of wealth, though, there was a very visible homeless population.

In fact, the first thing we saw upon getting off of the train at 168th was two (probably) homeless men sleeping on benches. I hope they can get some undisturbed rest. The other disconcerting thing we noticed was that these were by far the shabbiest trains we've ever ridden. They're the same style as some that run on the W and other lines sometimes, but the condition - the speakers don't work, the wheels make ungodly loud noises, the paint is chipping off of the seats like nobody's business, and so on. The C train gets no love. Why is that?




At 110th Street Cathedral Parkway, there's a huge tile mosaic like we see so often. It's interesting, and I'm sure it's meaningful, and I'm sure that one or several artists and artisans poured their hearts and souls into the thing. But the fact is, it's ugly. This is the part I like. Believe me when I tell you it's a small part.

The Installation at 81st Street - the Natural History Museum, don't you know - is called "For Want of a Nail...". I don't get this at all. Now, I know the reference. It's a little anecdote that goes something like this: For want of a nail they lost the shoe; for want of the shoe they lost the horse; for want of the horse they lost the message; for want of the message they lost the battle; for want of the battle they lost the war - all for the want of a horse shoe nail. It's, like, a really complicated way of saying that details matter. How that applies to this installation is what I don't get; it seems to be more of a tribute to evolution and the divergence of animal species, or the beauty and diversity of nature, or something. Whatever though; it's pretty.

Fishes! See, you don't need to go SCUBA diving in the Caribbean; you just need to come to New York City and hang out in subway stations.

I want one of these in my bathroom.

There were two (count them two) buskers in the 81st Street station. One was a fiddler doing Irish jigs - him I found entertaining because I'd just finished reading The Good Fairies of New York, and if you've read that then you know what I'm talking about. He was also engaging the crowd. Somehow I didn't think to pull out my tape recorder at that time. Dumb. And there was this guy, playing that Chinese instrument that they use in all the movies what's name I can't figure out! If you know, please tell me. Anyway, both of them were probably benefiting from the people people that didn't figure out that the B doesn't run on weekends. The C came, the C went, they were all still standing there...

Archaeopteryx! Right up there with Confucius ornis, I tell you. (Have I ever mentioned that I'm a giant fossil dork? Don't even get me started on Canadaspis perfecta...)

The 50th Street Station is interesting. It has this giant full wall etched granite mural by Matt Mullican; quite interesting stuff. Untitled. It seems to trace the development of the human species and then of society, moving from right to left. What's odd about the station is that though it is absolutely cavernous and only serves two trains, its transfers are quite lacking. Basically, if you're on the E and want to transfer to the C going Uptown, well, you can't. You have to go outside, cross 8th avenue, and re-enter (with another metrocard swipe). For a while I wondered if I was just an idiot and couldn't figure it out, but the dry-erase board in the token booth confirmed my suspicions. Seriously, the station is enormous. There's nowhere that there could have been some kind of crossover? Stop by; you'll see what I mean.

Sorry for the wholly inadequate photos of the install; it's hard to photograph. And I was hungry.

As I may have mentioned, Penn Station pains me. Mainly because this is what it used to look like, before they decided to tear it down. I believe 1963 was the year of the evil deed. I am of course not the only person upset by this; apparently when it happened it caused an "international outrage" and actually prompted the city to pay a lot more attention to preserving architectural landmarks. Below is what it looks like now.

Oh, yeah, that's the same. It's definitely not a grotesque piece of crap now or anything. They definitely didn't destroy an architectural marvel only to replace it with the most god awful mall in creation. No, that didn't happen at all. (OK, deep breath. Aaaannnnd focus. And we're back.) That said, there are some amazing installation pieces in the new Penn, mostly created by Andrew Leicester - a man who seems to share my (and the popular) view of what has happened in this space but unlike most had the chance to make a rather visible dent in the problem.



Thanks Mr. Leicester. Of course, with that place there's only so much you can do.

Granted, the new Penn does have this. It's not every day that you get to see a bear in a pink dress, now is it.

Which way to the nearest bank? Cuz this chick in the yellow, she's kinda freaking me out... Oh and in case you're wondering, no I'm not done posting pictures of 14th street. Not at all.


Somewhere around West 4th Street we encountered these hipster buskers. They weren't bad, but boy did they pick the wrong train. I think they were looking for the L.

We've got an eye on you! Or more like a hundred of them, all different. At Chambers, Big Brother (or maybe Big Mosaic) is watching.

He's got the whole world, in his... subway station. Also at chambers street, along with all the eyes watching you, is this enormous globe mosaic - it's kind of awesome, and I wish they'd keep it cleaner. There is, of course, an eye in the center.

An interesting tidbit about the Utica Avenue station. Its mezzanine is rather cavernous, and in the 90's it was refurbished with those pretty mosaics designed by children and the twirly tile designs and all. But the reason it's so big up there is this: it was supposed to be two train stations, not one. The MTA had a project called the Second System that really died before it started because of the Great Depression. But a few of the stations did get a start, mainly the ones that overlapped with existing stations. This to my understanding is one of them; if we could lift away that wall directly ahead, the one with the pretty twirlyness, we would be looking at an abandoned platform - one that never had its tracks built. Does that make anyone else feel like trespassing? Or am I just some kind of hooligan?

We made it! Of course, we'd been there before.

Ahh, the proud opening of a station that these men will doubtless never enter again.

Waiting on the train... Euclid is known for its lavender tiling.

At least one sign believed that the Euclid station is in Queens... It isn't. But maybe it was once.

The neighborhood isn't what I'd call charming, but it has some interesting details. It reminds me of New Orleans a little - would so more if it had more trees.

At the local bodega in City Line? East New York? Cypress Hills? You decide - we met a sweet kitten who was more than willing to receive our attentions. At the same bodega, I lingered too long lamenting the lack of choices of diet beverages while anxious proprietors looked on wondering what the hell we were doing there, and a semi-crazy but fairly young black lady called me baby and asked me how much a particular 40oz cost. All in all, it was a good finish to the day.