Monday, May 30, 2005


Eureka. After yesterday's four-hour bike ride I felt good. Really good. Good in a way that, I now recall, used to feel normal. As the evening progressed the notion dawned upon me--I've been DEPRESSED. For, like, a YEAR. Symptoms of low-level, chronic depression have been:

*sleeping too much, even for my slothlike bioprogramming, ten or eleven hours a night;

*overeating, particularly things like bagels and pasta;

*drinking too much tea, a large, very stout pot per day, to the point where I get ghastly caffeine withdrawal headaches when I try to do a Mastercleanse fast;

*reading too much, while overeating and drinking too much tea, because the spot by my kitchen window is perfectly set up for it, what with the bookstand and the plants and the sunlight and the comfortable chair and the teapot;

*sluggishness, lack of motivation, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness and despair;

*hampered creativity;

*renting too many videos and not leaving the apartment often enough.

What astonishes me is that I managed to conceal this depression from everybody, including myself. People tell me I look good, like a weight has been lifted, that I seem fine. I thought I *was* fine, kind of. A little chubby, but basically fine.

In addition to this, despite the depression, sluggishness, apathy, and despair, I have still managed to produce enough kick-ass new works to fill a one-person show in Manhattan, as well as spares for BWAC, apply for ten or twelve grant/residency/exhibition opportunities, run a healing practice and come up with a new business plan. Just think what I will be doing now that I've realized that biking to Coney Island=serotonin boost=increased energy, wakefulness and creativity. I hope I get ANOTHER show really soon; to this end I have further abused my credit card and ordered another roll of linen from Jerry's, plus three more stretcher bars. If, by some insane chance, Mary Boone stumbles into T. Moser over the summer and calls me up, wanting to make a studio visit, I Will Be Ready.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Coney Island, ho!

Just biked out to Coney Island and back, finally. I've been meaning to do this since getting the bike. The whole trip took five hours, with one hour for beach-sitting; if I'm going to do this regularly, I need to start getting up at 5 AM--well, let's be realistic, maybe 7 AM, or even 8:30.

On the way out to Coney Island there were, first, huge warehouses on the Brooklyn waterfront, between about 30th and 60th streets, which I wound among and examined with a predatory eye. There was one gabled brick building with no roof, and the date "1832" or maybe "1892" over the door. That one would take, oh, wild guess, four million dollars to convert into, say, a covered market with performance spaces, studios, bookstores, maybe an indoor garden. I thought of taking a huge building, bashing out the center of it and putting a garden in the middle, with maybe a retractable, transparent cover over the top for winter. Then the upper stories could have windows and terraces looking onto the garden, and the ground floor could have stores and restaurants and cafes with tables around it, or even inside it. That way it would not matter how industrial and bleak and wintry and Brooklyn the streets were around it; inside it would be restorative and joyful.

Then, thank goodness, around 68th street there is a bike path, sandwiched in between the Belt Parkway and the water, which gives you peace from being potentially mangled by traffic, and a view of boats and bridge and water, and allows you to breathe deeply of mingled fresh sea breezes and car exhaust. I tried to calculate the percentage of car exhaust to pure Atlantic air, given the wind velocity (strong) and the traffic (heavy, in fact I wanted to stick out my tongue at the SUVs on the Belt Parkway and say 'nyah, nyah, I'm going faster than YOU.') But such calculations are inscrutable until I come down with black lung disease and get biopsied.

After the Verrazano bridge (where, on return, there was a cheerful, welcome delay, as the fire and police department had cordoned off the path because of a stranded boat, and were slowly and inefficiently ferrying the people off of it, little kids first. There must have been a good reason why they weren't simply towing it to a harbor and having a look at the engine, but I didn't find out what it was) there is a hairy stretch where the bike path abruptly terminates in a Toys R Us parking lot. I decided that my guiding principle would be "follow the Latino boys on low-slung bicycles," because they must know where the fun is, and this proved to be a sound decision. We took a sidewalk past a strange little children's amusement park, threaded between the freeway and some deserted athletic fields, and fetched up in a Home Depot parking lot. I had a moment of discouragement; I had my heart set on the beach, and I was stranded instead in a series of suburban strip malls.

Eventually, though, after more determined meandering through increasingly interesting real estate (think 'second-floor terrace.' think 'barbeque.' think 'ocean view,' or at least 'ocean breeze,' then think 'probably, still, really cheap.' Hmmmmm) I found the Beach. Oh, glorious beach. I saved the garish amusement park rides, and Nathan's, for another day. By then I was in that state of blood sugar where only a steak burrito and a Coke, to go, in the backpack, to be eaten on beach, was acceptable. This I found, after detouring through a wonderful place where everybody was speaking Russian, and the signs were in Russian, and the sunlight shone through the grating of the elevated train tracks overhead, onto the variety of brightly-colored stuff for sale, clothing and diamonds and flowers, and a strangely bent old man admonished me to wear sunglasses when biking. I told him, "that's a great idea, thank you. Yes, I'm wearing sunscreen," and gave him the thumbs-up.

I realized then that this was the Coney Island, and Russian-mafia Brighton Beach, that my ex-boyfriend had in his mind, that he wanted to show me on that dark and deserted night when we drove out and around there and back again. The magic was largely missing on that occasion, though I gave him points for concept.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Neneng-girl is speaking to me again. She decided to "let bygones be bygones" just in time for her birthday party. I had deeply ambivalent feelings about going--on the one hand, Neneng-girl's birthday parties are legendary, and I have never had a lousy time at one, no matter what sort of psychotic episodes have been enacted in the weeks leading up to them. On the other hand, it's wildly annoying when somebody 'forgives' you for the heinous fault you committed when you maintained a necessary boundary under intense duress, and, furthermore, fails to apologize for subjecting you to said duress, or the following two-month ostracism. But whatever. I dragged my heels about getting ready, and then got hugely lost, and when I got there nobody answered the doorbell or the cell phone. I left a message saying "I came to your party but nobody is letting me in, so I'm going home; happy birthday." Ten minutes later my cell phone rang; "Please come back!"

So I had another wonderful time. Neneng-girl's friends are all great people, and if they're not really My People, that's okay. I can accept the fact that although New Yorkers get too busy to return your phone calls or respond to your emails for, like, eight months, they're generally glad to see you when you're standing in front of them, nicely dressed and with no agenda. R. kept looking earnestly into my eyes and declaring that she's been "super busy," and I kept looking earnestly back and saying "I know." What does she expect me to say? "You bitch, I hate you for not calling me back, ever?" "That's okay, it's fine that you don't call me back, ever?" No, the best recipe for harmony is No Expectations Whatsoever.

At the end of the evening there occurred one of those momentous 'there but for the grace of God' episodes, which remind me that there are worse things than getting dumped and having my heart stomped to smithereens. I got dragged into it when J., who is twenty-four, petite, and has a newborn baby with M., who is forty, 6'3", and angry, grabbed me distraughtly and exclaimed, "M. just hit me and twisted my arm, and I hit him in the eye, and he says he can't see out of the eye and now I can't find him, and I need to get a car service so that I can pay the babysitter and he has the cell phone and the money."

"He WHAT?!!!" I said, surprised into being momentarily reflexive. Then I got a grip, drove her home, and stood in the hallway listening to them scream at each other. I wouldn't have interfered except that it started sounding like he might hit her again; I walked into the living room. M. ordered me out of his house. I stood there. They screamed. The neighbor screamed. I realized that if I left and violence happened, the neighbor would summon the police; this was a reassuring thought. M. stormed out of the living room; I hugged J. and told her she could bring the baby and stay with me, or stay there, but that I should go. She said she'd be okay; I made her look me in the eye and repeat this. She said she'd be okay. I hugged both her and M., said I loved them both, and left.

J. called the next day, and talked without drawing breath for twenty minutes. M. has anger problems, childhood, violence, therapy, baggage, issues, etc., etc. She's a smart girl and I'm not too worried. Her parents saw this coming last year and set up a Leaving M. Trust Fund. I mainly listened and refrained from offering any Interfering Female Friend Advice, such as "leave the bastard THIS INSTANT" or "Men are like that, stand by him for the Baby's Sake." I doubt I will hear from either of them for several months, and then nothing will surprise me--not that she's gone to Canada with the baby and is never coming back, nor that they're in couples counselling and couldn't be happier.

At any rate I am not in a relationship like that, nor like H.'s, whose wedding we attended a year and a half ago. I ran into her at BWAC. "That was a wonderful wedding," I told her. "It was the high point," she said. "I'm giving him till June and then I'm leaving." He sits in front of the TV and gets stoned seven nights a week, while she goes to her studio and makes angst-ridden art. He's opposed both to babies and counselling, and has no idea that she's this close to leaving.

These are all my ex's friends. Birds of a feather, etc. I see that probably why he dumped me is that I didn't play according to the script; when he got abusive, I didn't hit back, I didn't scream, I just stood there and looked at him, wondering when he'd come to his senses. Now, of course, I wish that I'd reacted in some way--told him to get out of the car, told him I was leaving and meant it. But at least I was healthy enough to get him to dump me. People hate it when you don't follow their scripts.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I can't dance anymore

or at least I can, and did, but today I'm paying the price. What I have is chronic tendonitis in the tendon attached to my left malleolus. If I don't walk too much, and ice it three times a day, and see the chiropractor, and sleep on my back with a pillow under my knees, and wear my orthotics, and use a Theraband for five minutes before standing up in the mornings, and rub arnica on it periodically, it's almost functional. BUT if I don't do these things, and then I go dancing for, like, hours, in what used to be the engine room of a large metal boat, on an unsprung steel floor, the next morning I'M FUCKING CRIPPLED. FUCK. This is very annoying and I want it to go away. I have been attending only the gentlest of gentle yoga classes and it still gets worse. This week I had my first acupuncture treatment ever and it didn't help at all. Fuck. I'm too young for this.

Things are almost ready for my show. My bank account is correspondingly empty. My open studio was mildly encouraging; some old white guy came while I was out, and asked for prices, and hung around until I got back, and didn't blink when I told him what the prices were. All my friends were like, "did you hear from that guy? Did he buy the painting?"

Well, no, of course not, that's not how it happens. People who buy my work always have to think about it, sometimes for years, until they come to a boil at the most unexpected moment and blurt out, "I want to BUY THAT PAINTING." The fact that a total stranger walked in and started to simmer, now that my prices are between $2-$3K, is very, very encouraging. Then the BWAC mafia came in and curated me into the summer Earth show, right off the bat. BWAC is supposed to be an egalitarian community organization, totally un-curated, but the mafia has decided that you hit a critical ceiling that way. They're right, and I'm glad to be on the good side of a mafia, for once. Everyone from BWAC who visited said, "you painted that thistle painting? I LOVE that painting. I'm so honored to meet you." This made me happy, because the thistle painting was the one I dropped off at BWAC last summer, came to visit it, someone had put a HOLE through the center of it, I pitched a fit, took it home, fixed it, returned it, and picked it up again six weeks later. I felt the whole process was futile. But People Noticed It. Energy Builds. It Will Be Okay.

Then, I've been performing. Last night I performed in O's event at the boat, which was downright surreal, and a hell of a lot of fun. O. is phenomenal and I'm so glad to be working with her. She organized a performance event that included art installations, videos, comedy, music, literature, improvisation and clowns, with lighting cues and tech cues and programs and printed material, and it all happened on time and nobody got bored and people jumped up right on cue and rocked all night long. But I feel OLD. I only had two beers, but today I slept as much as if I'd had four margaritas and wrecked my reputation.

Some guy seemed to be watching me dance, and he must have approved, because he kept going over to his friends and talking to them and pointing at me. I wasn't imagining this because after the band finally stopped he came over and tried to initiate a conversation. Unfortunately he was drunk and dumb as rocks, and probably from New Jersey. He had that Jersey haircut and the nose that sort of joins the forehead without a noticeable indentation. I realize that the reason I've never been good at the bar/club scene is that I demand too much from even the most random attempted pickup--mesomorphic AND darkly attractive AND wittily intelligent AND a decent person. In other words, I never, ever get picked up. At least now that I'm older I feel sorry for the guys, having to try so hard to get shot down over and over, and now that I'm over 35 and mildly crippled I even feel sort of grateful that they try. Which is why I'm bothering to blog about it.

Over the weekend I did another performance, this one completely spontaneous, which surprised even me. I went to the opening of the Brooklyn Artist's Gym. I thought it was a great idea, but I didn't know anybody and the art was highly amateurish, so after scarfing up a free meal and a couple of glasses of wine, as though I were still a starving art student, which I actually am, I decided to leave. Only it was thunderstorming and I'd ridden my bike. While I was waiting it out, they started to auction off the amateur art.

But what people do not understand, many of them, when they plan a fundraising art auction, is that you can't sell art by standing in front of it and saying, "who wants to bid on this piece?" Which is what they did. Ouch. Ooooh. Painful. Silence. Ouch. Oooh. Things were headed nowhere fast, and there was a lot of art to dispose of. I didn't have any vested interest in this enterprise. I didn't especially care if the whole thing descended into a humiliating debacle for all concerned. But I'd had quite a bit of wine, and I was bored and stuck.

Suddenly I found myself standing in front of the bad art, bullshitting like a pro. "Note the vivid use of color, contrasting with the delicate superimposed line work, juxtaposed with small elements of collage," I declared. "Who wants to start the bidding at $25? Do I hear thirty? Do I hear thirty-five?"

"You're a genius," whispered the deposed former auctioneer. I sold the entire show. I had a blast. Everybody had a blast, even the people who actually bid on the art. I really didn't think they would; I just thought to provide some comic entertainment by describing it in pseudo-ArtForum language. But evidently this language DOES sell stuff. After the auction was over I thought I'd just disappear, nursing my sore vocal chords and hoping my bicycle seat wasn't too uncomfortably soaked.

But everybody wanted to talk to me. A girl stuck a tape recorder in my face and said, "I'm from the Brooklyn Rail. Who are you and what do you think?" I've been trying to get the Brooklyn Rail to acknowledge my existence for three years. I plugged my show, I plugged S1Te Osm0sis, I got her email address. The next day, I had an email from the deposed auctioneer. "You're an angel," he wrote. "I've been telling everybody."

Wow. Angel. Me. On Sunday my SHOULDER actually felt better, from all the freed-up kundalini energy flowing through my back. My bullshit-art-auctioneer personality self is one that I have been sitting violently on top of for, oh, about ten years now, ever since my Saturn return, when I realized that witty wry attention-getting personalities can get you BEATEN UP. For ten years I have been demure and polite and sweet, and for the most part have avoided microphones, and dancing really sexily in clubs, and saying things at parties that get quoted for the rest of the week. It's not good to be like this all of the time; other people need their moment to shine.

But there are those moments when lack of charisma is fatal, and you just have to pull it out of the hat. And oh, those moments are sweet.

Monday, May 09, 2005

for Caroline, gazing on infinity

Just did a painting in two hours. Pisses me off. The last one took four weeks. I think this one is better. But perhaps I had to get to this one THROUGH the four weeks of troweling and scraping and reconfiguring and color-considering, and turning it upside-down and glowering in despair, and rolling around on the floor to "The Sea and the Bells," hoping that the surging rocking sea energy would transfer to the canvas by osmosis.

And maybe I will hate this new one in the morning. I hope not, because it is my 'sample work' for the Park Slope Studio Tour opening, which has to be delivered on Tuesday. I painted it at the last minute because I didn't have any recent paintings under 2'x 3' that I was willing to show, particularly as a representative sample. You'd think that with three months to prepare for my show, I'd be readier, you'd think, but you'd be wrong.

It's been a rocky month. My little cat almost died, and that is not melodrama. He had an undiagnosed illness which could have been, and probably was, distemper. He came down from the ceiling one morning drooling, and vomiting copious amounts of green slime. I rushed him to the emergency room, where they charged me a lot of money to do nothing in particular. His regular vet charged me even more money for blood tests, and after he had been drooling and vomiting nonstop for three days, the vet called me in a panic, saying that his white blood cell count was dangerously low, a red flag for distemper. "That's not the kitty flu, that's the kitty PLAGUE," she said. I prepared emotionally to bid my kitty good-bye.

But I took him to the vet one last time, and told them we didn't want any more tests, but to give him subcutaneous fluids for dehydration, and vitamins, since he couldn't ingest a drop of water without vomiting. (I tried to feed him with an eyedropper and was sorry.) I had a solemn talk with him, telling him that I was grateful for the time we'd spent together, and it was his decision whether he wanted to stay or go. I gave him Reiki for an hour at a time, and got a fluid bag and a handful of needles to inject him myself.

Evidently he has decided to stay. He's not completely up to speed, but after a couple of weeks he stopped drooling and took a mild interest in nourishment. Oddly, he has become more affectionate than he's ever been; he used to sleep at the foot of my bed, and disdain being petted, but now I wake to find him snuggled under the covers, his head pillowed on my hip. He follows me around all day and tries to climb into my lap, seeming to prefer affection to food or water. Last night I told him, sternly, 'you can't LIVE on Reiki.' It's like having an anorexic teen-ager. I am terribly grateful that he's still here, even with the nine hundred dollars in vet bills; life without him would have been bleak. He's still one of the only reasons I get up in the morning.

Getting ready for my show is, of course, bringing up Issues. The self-promotion Issue, the financial Issue, the laziness Issue, the am-I-just-kidding-myself Issue. I alternate between periods of working so much that the whole apartment smells stiflingly of asphyxiating solvents, and periods of severe procrastination, depression, denial, and percolation. It doesn't help that the 'gallery' isn't helping me promote AT ALL, to the point where they could not manage to email me a JPEG of their logo after a week and a half of phone calls and emails requesting it. Finally I faked the logo and sent it to the printers, already too late to have the cards ready for the BWAC opening. This entire episode was worth two and a half days of Issue-processing instead of working. Am I pathetic or what? Do all other artists have these problems?

O., however, is a magically wondrous new friend, having essentially replaced Neneng-girl in a surprise switcharoo. Last week during the non-promotion crisis, I was carping to the Powers that Be as I did my grocery shopping, daring them to provide me with some, I don't know, nurturing or something. Upon returning home there was a message from O.; "I have an early class in your neighborhood tomorrow morning, and wondered if I could come by afterward and give you a massage." Glory glory hallelujah. This week it was her turn; she came over after work and I gave HER a massage, plus a nutritious dinner, and she brought me some Dead Sea bath salts and healing chile compress for my tendonitis. I have a deep-seated need to mother people, but it's awfully nice when they reciprocate.

I finally broke down and went to the doctor about my ankle. He grabbed it, flexed it, said 'it's jammed,' and I screamed and burst into tears. It wasn't so much that it hurt horribly, it was more a reaction to the cumulative stress of trudging around for months and months and months with the pain getting slightly worse every day. He taped it up and sent me off for an X-ray, which established that there are no stress fractures, it's just chronic tendonitis. I'm supposed to 'stay off of it,' which is making me cranky. I put an ice pack on it three times a day, massage it with arnica before bed, sleep with a pillow under my knees to maintain proper alignment, and spend ten minutes with the Theraband before I attempt to stand upright in the mornings. It has improved to the extent that I can walk with most of the sole of my foot on the floor. I have high hopes of being able to return to yoga in a week or so.

And then our fiscal sponsorship application was turned down. Damn and blast. I biked around the park a couple of times, went for a pot of tea and a ginger plum scone at the Tea Lounge, and thought dark thoughts. Then I called them. "We'd like some feedback on what mistakes we made, so that we can correct them," I said. Tactful, huh?

So we will do it again. I am deeply grateful to have an indomitable team of philosophical non-quitters in my corner; nobody even considered giving up. Nobody threw any tantrums or called the cultural council nasty names, either, not even me. We shall prevail, oh yes we shall.

Three times in the last two days, I've been the recipient of surprise hugs. I ran into a 'friend' of my ex's at an art opening, and instead of failing entirely to recognize me, as I almost thought she would, she said "we miss you" and buried her face in my shoulder. Then I dropped by the Young Designer's Market to visit O.; as I spotted her from a distance she looked all busy and aloof and not-wanting-to-be-bothered, but when I wandered over to shop at her table she gasped with joy and launched herself at my cheekbone. This morning at the co-op I spied a grouchy-looking Marion wearing a purple hat with a pom-pom. I said "I'm going to pull your pom-pom, Marion" and she hugged me, too. How about that? I don't know why I think people will get sick of me if I continue to exist.

Caroline is gone, gone, gone. I was in denial until twenty-four hours after her plane took off, then I dissolved into miserable tears. Caroline has been my rock in NYC for the last three years, my link with the past, my spiritual sister. She's not a city person and I didn't expect her to stay half so long, so I am grateful. But it's lonely here without her. Ergo the title of today's painting, "for Caroline, gazing on infinity." It's the first serious abstract painting I've ever created, and the abstraction was an accident. It frightens me, as though I'm cutting my tether.