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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Odyssey

TAB and Miles in East Cambridge
Apart from canvas, I’ve not needed to make an art supply buy in awhile. Lucky me, eh? I’ve always shopped at the easy-ish to get to and park at Pearl or Utrecht in Cambridge. Smart babe that I am, I checked the web before we left the house to see if the shops were still there. Utrecht, yes. Pearl, no.

The Amazing Bob and I set off on our mission, just after ten—post morning rush or so we thought. Traffic crawled. With Cambridge-ness achieved, we took a spin around the old neighborhood. As ever, it's buried and besotted in development.

Finally, we arrived and actually found parking right across the street from the store. YEA!

I dashed over—figuring I’d be in and out in five minutes —only to find an empty building, a husk. 'the fuck?!

Between business' unupdated websites and Google Maps' interesting take on directions, I’m starting to rilly distrust info acquired online.

What to do? What to do? I need to buy stretcher bars live and in person so I can check for warpage before purchase. Can't order online.

We drove down Mass Ave through Central Square because I’d thought I’d seen a supply shop there. Yes, one exists but it looks more like a hobby/crafting-goods emporium versus pro artist supplies merchant. Apart from the hellish traffic, no parking could be found anyway. No surprise there.

I was losing hope but had one last idea. Utrecht had a store on corner of Mass Ave. and Huntington in Boston—right by Symphony Hall. It was more or less on the way back toward the highway home so we figured we'd give it a shot.

Given our luck to that point, I shouldn’t have been amazed to find mega construction EVERYWHERE, traffic so bottle necked that it could easily choke a pigeon and, of course, no parking. We attempted to go ‘round the block—surely there’d be a wee space for my tiny Bix! The first three turns were either blocked by construction vehicles or sported one way signs in, naturally, the wrong direction.

Finally, we came to a heavy equipment free street only to find that the spaces, if one had been free, were all resident only. We drove on, attempting to get back onto Huntington Ave.

No such luck.

Utterly derailed and now in Roxbury, we gave up. I knew how to get back to the Symphony Hall area  but not how to navigate/maneuver around the stratospheric congestion. Defeated in our quest, we motored home.

I think Jason had an easier time going after that damned Golden Fleece.


Ulysses had an easier time getting home from the Trojan Wars.

Christ, what an exhausting experience and worst of all, no prize, no new stretchers to show for all that stress and effort. All I wanted was a tidy little quartet of 24” stretcher bars and another of 36”. I need to start a couple of new paintings!

What will I do? Cannibalize a couple of old paintings—roll the old canvas off and stretch new. That and, next week when I'm in town for a doc appointment, I'll try a place supposedly near Fenway Park. The significantly more skilled and patient driver, Jen, will be at the wheel so there's a good shot we'll score the goods.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hello, I’d like to register a complaint

Complain?

Who?

You?

But Donna, you never EVA have even the most wispy of gripes. //snort//

So then, wut up?

It fucking snowed last night! It’s motherfucking April 16th and there’s SNOW on the ground! WTF!!!

OK, OK, it’s a very light dusting of the frozen white stuff. Not nearly as bad as the storm my friends and fam reportedly got in Western Pennsylvania.



Still, Rocco was not amused. Hiding out in the far depths of his shanty town, he needed to be coaxed out for dinner even though it was his fav—haddock leftovers from our supper. Our tough guy is especially partial to wild caught, baked with just a touch of mustard. Of course.

Plus, the wind yesterday was so intense that our noisy boy, Gaston, and our griftery man, Gus, didn’t stop by at all. Yes, I’m concerned. Recall, if you will, I’m in the pro worry league (Beads? We don't need no lousy beads!).

Meanwhile, our Coco was/is happily oblivious. Her main concerns at the moment are “will The Amazing Bob sit down any time soon? I need lap time for Bast’s sake!” and “Where, oh where, is that wretchedly lazy woman with my treats?!”

from Late Snow by F.J. Bergman:
When we went to bed last night;
the world was green, but now it’s white.
It should be spring this time of year,
but I guess winter wasn’t quite
as through with us as we would like.
from To The Snow by Debora Greger
Snow, let go. It’s late,

You are cornmush. You are cold.

Let me cover you with this white sheet.

No one will know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What's Next

I'm just about to the end of Martin Millar's The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf and yeah, I haz a sad. I tried to read slow to make it last but, like a packet of dark chocolate mint M&Ms or a bottle of brill Chakana Malbec—once opened it was nearly impossible to put down.

While I wait for his next novel, I'll dive into his online serial, Simulation Bleed:
Due to certain peculiarities in the manner of their lives and deaths, Mixt and Nakishdan hunt through time for Geeda Lala, a mysterious interloper with a penchant for punk rock gigs in the 70s. Accompanying them is Rainith the Red, an unfriendly fairy with a sharp sword. Hindering them are some psychological problems, an assortment of hostile flying snakes, and 102 Woo.
AND I've plunged into the satchel of books by the bed. At the top of the pile were these three

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.
Is this:
The Golem’s life began in the hold of a steamship. The year was 1899; the ship was the Baltika, crossing from Danzig to New York. The Golem’s master, a man named Otto Rotfeld, had smuggled her aboard in a crate and hidden her among the luggage.
Somehow, I suspect this will be more heartfelt and lyrical than comedic and that’s grand. Just maybe not quite what I need right now.

****************************************************************
“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
—Rabbi Hillel
In the final days of World War II, a courageous band of Jewish partisans makes its way from Russia to Italy, moving toward the ultimate goal of Palestine. Based on a true story, If Not Now, When? chronicles their adventures as they wage a personal war of revenge against the Nazis: blowing up trains, rescuing the last victims of concentration camps, scoring victories in the face of unspeakable devastation.
When I picked this slender volume up, I was remembering the phenomenal impact that Levi’s book Survival in Auschwitz had on me. Yeah, it’ll be a hard story to read but the hell-for-leather determination to survive is, well, immensely inspiring to say the very least. Yeah, I know, this isn’t a witty burlesque. I can dig it.

****************************************************************
Then, near the top of the bag, I found The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, etc. by Jonathan Lethem.

I’ve been in love with Lethem ever since my pal Lydia turned me on to Motherless Brooklyn. I was fresh off a bit of the old brain surgery and spending a butt load of time in bed, staring at the ceiling, whining at The Amazing Bob and being generally headachy, peevy and annoying. The book lit me up, consumed and thrilled me. It transported me from that recovery bed into another world.

After Motherless Brooklyn, I was on to Gun, with Occasional Music, As She Climbed Across the Table, The Wall of the Sky and The Fortress of Solitude.

From a review of The Ecstasy of Influence on The Guardian’s site
This is a book that turns the reader into Mortimer Snerd, the ventriloquist's puppet who supposedly first uttered the immortal phrase "Who'd have thunk it?" Who'd have thunk that Jonathan Lethem – one of the most emotionally engaging and intellectually nimble of contemporary novelists – might prefer Barbara Pym to Thomas Pynchon? Who'd have thunk the first book he had autographed was by Anthony Burgess, or that he adored GK Chesterton, the essay on whom has the most appropriately ecstatic opening sentence: "How do you autopsy a somersault?"
Dazzling is what he is. I haven’t read any of Lethem’s stuff in the last year or three. I do believe I’m overdue.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Aggressively Bleak


Friday morning, when we landed in Pittsburgh, there was a light but steady drizzle. Of course there was. It rains every Friday in Western Pennsylvania. You can count on it.

Jen and I got in our rental car, a sweet little black Jetta, and drove east on Route 376 (pronounced ‘rowt’ in this part of the world). We’ve driven this road a zillion times now and it is always jarring and depressing. Why? It’s the seemingly endless rows of strip malls, big box stores, big box ‘christian’ churches, screamingly offensive billboards and adult video shops. All the buildings, it seems, are belligerently functional. There’s not a shred of lilting grace or beauty to be found.

heartland.org—a subsidiary of blindinglystupid.com
Home!
The shattering ugliness is broken up by the brief buzz through Pittsburgh proper and then, finally, by an all too brief stretch of rolling, pastoral farmland.

When we reached the more populated area between Blairsville and Indiana, the aggressive repulsiveness started up again with Sheetz gas and quickie food marts, Walmarts, industrialized ‘churches’ (AKA republican indoctrination centers), followed by houses, mobile homes and trailers, all in advanced stages of dilapidation.

Paint weather worn down to bare, defeated wood. Aluminum siding peeling off the sides like so many shed snake skins. Screen doors hanging at drunken, not rakish, angles. So many boarded over windows.

Christ almighty it’s sad.

Indiana, the town where my father lives, is less grim. Yes, there’s a big fat glut of strip malls and so many once glorious homes—now reduced to funereal ramshackle-dom from too many years as student housing. Big chain stores and restaurants abound. Still, there are pockets of charm—parks, a sprinkling of independently owned shops (even an art gallery!) and dwellings not used and abandoned like condoms on a Saturday night.

There IS beauty in this area. My friend Michal lives in a profoundly rural spot—a glen surrounded by gorgeous, tall trees, farms and rolling hills. It is exquisite and peaceful.

My feelings for the area are greatly influenced by the painful, bullied, bleak high school years that I endured there. I know that. Still, even without those very hard years, I’d have moved here, to New England. This is my DNA encoded home.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Send In the Clowns


Woke up from a dream where Anthony Newly and David Bowie were dueting on Send In the Clowns.

‘the fuck?

Naturally, I unleashed my breathtakingly prodigious google fu to find out if I was dreaming a memory or putting two and two together and getting seven in that cracked brain ‘o’ mine.

While I didn't find a vid of the two of them together, I did find this:

From a post on the site Psychobabble, Heroes : 9 Artists Who Helped Shape David Bowie
Newley’s slightly vaudevillian show tunes were the key influence of David Bowie, but they also impacted Bowie’s more significant later works from Hunky Dory to Diamond Dogs. His zeal for the actor/singer/songwriter is also significant in Bowie’s view of himself as an “actor” who’d play innumerable roles on the rock stage, in the theater, and the cinema.
The other eight helpers?
The Who
Davy Jones—YES, of Monkees fame. No, the article doesn’t claim Davy Jones was a musical influence, it’s the name thing. Monkee boy was out first so Bowie’s publicist said, essentially, “Oh no, no, no. You’ve GOT to change your name NOW! God forbid anyone confuse you with that teenybopped midget!”
Bob Dylan ????? oh rilly?
Stanley Kubrick
Marc Bolin
Mick Jagger
Velvet Underground
Brian Eno
You can read the Psychobabble author’s theories and such on the particular influence each had.

I find this sort of bloviating on how this or that great artist came into being, just so tedious. It’s the conversation, the gee-aren’t-I-wickedly-wise-and-perceptive preening of freshman year college dorm rooms.

This article, at the Independent, also credits Newley.
Decca's in-house producer, Mike Vernon, was given the job of taking Bowie's strange songs and turning them into something the young, record-buying public might be interested in.
"I had never heard of him," Vernon says. "My first reaction was: he's a young Anthony Newley. There was a dramatic, show-tune influence in the songs and a storytelling approach that was unique at the time."
Additionally, it notes that Bowie was a fan of Pink Floyd.

Now, I totes can see how Pink Floyd may’ve had an affect on Mister Bowie. Hello — Major Tom anyone?

In any case, these two over the top performers were emoting the ever livin’ fuck outta the already bathetically sentimental tune Send In the Clowns, in my last dream of the night.

Nightmare? Overdose of Fabulosity?  Fevered dream memory of an old Mike Douglas Show

Who knows. I’m quite certain I need a double dose of extra strength Ibuprofen and another cuppa coffee right now though.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I'm a Travelin' Man


OK, I'm a travelin' woman.


Yup, Lynard Skynard's playing on the internal turntable this morning. Warum?

Jen and I have just made another our our whiz bang, wham bam thank you ma'am visits to Daddy in the always oddly intriguing Western Pennsylvanian small town where he lives.

SUCH a great visit. He looked and seemed better than ever. More energetic, healthy and engaged and I'm totes bloody exhausted now. Chat with him is a non-stop, speeding locomotive of Magritte-esque, Ornette Coleman-esque conversational riffs. We are two speed talking, free associating beasts and woe betide any poor souls who dare leap into the middle of our maelstrom of talk. There, be dragons.

So, now Jen will pour me onto the plane home. Home to The Amazing Bob, Coco, Rocco, Gaston, Gus, Red Sox action and the sea. Home.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nice Things


Grown Up Green Miles, Bethanie and Olivia
Have you heard about Doin (pronounced doe-ween) Richards yet?

TAB and Tiny Green Miles
He's a tremendous husband, father and writer. Read his I Have A Dream That People Will View a Picture Like This and Not Think It's a Big Deal piece on HuffPo's Parents page.

Then go check out his webpage. Explore the rants, the recipes (!), his advice to new dads and more.

Yeah, I think I'm a little in love. Reminds me of a certain Amazing Bob.

My wickedly talented cousin Della told me this tale of her husband's good deeds while she was baking their first bairn:
Martin was always LOVELY. Telling me I looked nice when I resembled a manatee. Especially late in my pregnancy with Maya – I’d gained so much weight and was very round. 
Do you know how some women have a pretty little bump? Mine started at my shoulders. 
Toward the end of that pregnancy we were having a warm spell (Maya was born 6 July) and I had swollen ankles and couldn’t get out of a chair, the whole bit, and Martin was taking me out to dinner. I had nothing nice to wear (or rather, I didn’t look nice in anything I owned) so he went to this posh maternity boutique in the Princesstraat (we were living in Den Haag) to buy me something. The problem was that he had NO IDEA what my normal size was and came back with a very cute, black crushed velvet dress that might have approached sexy (if I wasn’t a whale) and if it also wasn’t three sizes too big! :(  It lifted my spirits in spite of the fact that he obviously thought I was THAT big and I wore it happily. It almost fit.

PJ and Patrick
 Jen’s sister Erin (Yes, this would be Saint Erin of the Neck) told me this story:
PJ, (husband and happy new daddy) just made me feel so loved and took such good care of me. His goofiness always put a smile on my face. When I was in the hospital, he did everything he could to make me smile, including bringing in Mike Wazowski, the mascot from one of our favorite movies, Monsters, Inc. to lift me up. PJ hung him in various spots in the hospital room, including hanging him from the hooks in hospital ceiling that I'm sure were meant for more important things, or over the nurses station, or over the television so that he could watch the very important football game. The doctors and nurses loved him (well, most of them did anyway), despite walking into him by accident numerous times. (that made me smile too! :)
And a tiny snippet from my latest fav book that's not by Martin Millar or Sherman Alexiehealth, happiness, LOVE, longevity, peace, prosperity, safety by Kevin Tudish:
You love your child like you love nothing else, and those first years are a joy you never imagined. This little creature who depends on you for everything, who’s yours to love and protect and nurture. Who sometimes is your own face staring back at you, who feels like she’s always been there, who materialized out of you the way your forty-year-old self materialized out of the twenty-year-old you just were. You hold her because you can’t believe she’s actually there, and she holds you back, presses against you and stretches those little arms across your chest. Wraps a hand around your finger. Falls asleep in your arms, sleeps on top of you while you sneak a nap.

It’s easy until she’s walking and grabbing things, seeing where her hands fit and what everything tastes like. There’s no sense of reason you can appeal to, but you have to keep her safe, keep her alive. No, no, Honey. No, no. But she’s determined, and you know nothing good can come of a wet finger in an electrical socket. NO. You can’t appeal to reason but you can instill fear. She freezes and starts crying because she’s never heard that voice from you. Honey, you offer softly, and move toward her, but the screams are even louder. She’s alive, and unlikely to go near an outlet again, but you’re different to her now.

You trade a little trust for her safety. You love her so much you’ll make that sacrifice. You can reason with yourself. But that bartering hurts.
Doyin (It’s a West African name pronounced “doe-ween”) - See more at: http://daddydoinwork.com/ddwdetails/#sthash.fKmZAO44.dpuf
Doyin (It’s a West African name pronounced “doe-ween”) - See more at: http://daddydoinwork.com/ddwdetails/#sthash.fKmZAO44.dpuf

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Colleges Don't Make It Easy

Guest post by the fabola Hillel Bromberg
***********
I am a FUEL Education staff member living through the same exciting time as our program parents.

My older son is a college sophomore and my younger son is awaiting college acceptances and the financial aid letters that go with them. As the acceptances have rolled in (he’s eight for nine – I’m so proud of him!), I found that I needed a grid to help us understand the costs and other factors that will go into the final decision. These kinds of grids are readily available online, like this one and this one for example, but mine is a homemade job that allows us to compare the schools’ costs and offerings side by side.

To help us understand the real cost of attending the various schools, I broke down Cost into Cost/Year – Financial Aid Offer = Net Cost.Now here’s the thing. Getting the cost/year figure from each institution where my son has been accepted was surprisingly difficult. Only a couple of schools put all of the information in one place. For most institutions, I had to go to one website for tuition and fees, another for housing, and yet another for meal plans. One school adds $5,775 for indirect costs like books and supplies, travel, and personal costs, while another lists $2,938 for the same things.

  Confused yet? We sure are.

Wait, there’s more. Every college is required by law to post a net price calculator on their websites, but these are only rough estimates of the cost of attending that school, and they are confusing too. One suggests that we have our 2013 income tax returns, earnings statements, and bank statements at the ready. Another wants those items plus investment account statements, and student academic information. Still another wants seemingly unrelated information like age, class rank, and citizenship status.

What’s a responsible college applicant to do?

We are very fortunate that my son has been offered several merit scholarships, but even these need to be reviewed carefully. The letter from one school says, “For most students, the total scholarship award will cover at least full tuition and fees.” Hmmm, I wonder what at least means. And later in the same letter, it says, “After your admission is complete, the financial aid office will inform you of the amount of your additional Honors merit scholarship.” So in other words, tell us you’re going to our school, THEN we’ll tell you how much it’s going to cost. That’s kind of like driving out of a dealership, then finding out how much you’re paying for your new car.

The bottom line is that colleges are not trying to make this easy for us as consumers. They want us to be dazzled by their reputation and their programs, their lovely dorms and their range of extracurricular activities. Yes, these things are part of the equation, but if we can’t afford to send our children or if they graduate with a mountain of debt, does it really matter how many different housing options the school offers?

A college education is one of the largest and most important purchases that most people will make. The principle of caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – applies here as it does with any other acquisition. Know what you are buying and how much it costs; ask lots of questions and don’t be satisfied with partial answers. The colleges are responsible for educating our children. Let’s urge them to be just as responsible for being above-board about how much it costs.
(crossposted on the FUEL blog)
FUEL Education is a Boston-based nonprofit that coaches low-income parents in Lynn, Chelsea, and Boston so they have the knowledge, skills, and network to propel their children into higher education. FUEL’s outcomes are remarkable: almost 100% of FUEL high school graduates go immediately to college and 90% of those are persisting toward their degrees (the national average is about 60% and even lower for this at-risk population).

 Hillel Bromberg currently shills for FUEL Education as a grant writer. Previously, he's been a lamprey herder, written extensively on the significance of the geopolitics of Lithuanian slug communes and sharpened pencils while riding his trusty yak, Alice. He’s also in the midst of raising three remarkable kiddles, keeping up with his New Yorker mags (more or less) and preparing his butt calluses for another season on the bike.