moma mia

stopped into moma to check out the francis alys exhibit recommended to me by a friend. there were no photos allowed, however i jotted down this sentence penned by alys when describing his film that depicts 500 people walking up and over and shoveling bits of a sand dune to move it a few inches (to signify that sometimes the reality — especially for social change in complicated political contexts — can be summed up this way: “maximum effort for minimum results”):

“Any undertaking requires to a certain extent a postponement of both desire and reward.”

the rest of my time during this open-late saturday at moma was spent with my friend duchamp and other duchampian explorations wherein chance leads the way.

Repurposing

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i love the ‘girl on a sink’ postcard — it’s one i picked up somewhere over ten years ago and after holding onto it and enjoying it every time i accidentally came upon it, i just popped in the mail to a new little friend who i met earlier this summer. this friend, it should be noted, is a sassy six-year-old named g___ who seems to embody sassiness with just the right amount of adorable indignation. to say that i enjoy her and my interactions with her thoroughly and immensely is an understatement. she is the daughter of a friend of my mother’s, but perhaps more significantly she reminds me of myself: impatient with everyone around her and in a hurry to grow up, not necessarily to be a grown up but rather to be in a position to take charge of her own life. or at least actualize the potential that has building up in the form of imagination, ideas, possibilities — the proverbial kinetic energy awaits ignition.

so i sent her a little package that included a filled out postcard and a journal very similar to one that my friend gave me once. i was unable to attend dinner at her house this evening — her house where my mom is staying while she visits the east coast — because i was attending a friend’s wedding reception (where, incidentally, i had to keep my trap shut when someone at my table declared with the kind of conviction only people who are completely wrong about something seem to possess, that it is “war and peace” that begins with the iconic line, “all happy families are alike. every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” i was engaged in conversation with another guest and could not find a polite way to correct this grave error; to scream, actually, that the lines comes from anna karenina! there is no need for one to know this, but if you are going to make claims about famous first lines, at least know of which you speak or make no claims at all. especially when talking about my beloved anna). in my note i invited g___ to write back to me. i often look back fondly on all of my correspondence, and i am intrigued to see whether this invitation will yield a response, and if so what format that response will take. i shall report back.

for now, simply, this is my garnish for the day.

seine-like advice

im making a list, checking it twice, even thrice, to ensure that i dont fall into the trap of letting the year go by without actually taking the proverbial break or breaking out of my routine(s) — those who know me know this is foreign concept for me: (daily) routine. but even my lack of routine has its own rhythm, and it is that which i will strive to break toward the goal of re-imagining, refinement, and re-discovery.

following on my friend and colleague’s advice to sneak in some actual vacation time, i am taking note of the wise words on these sabbatical musings from strangers:

A Year on Sabbatical: May 20, 2011: Paris – Chartres Small and Big, Cars Rouges, Seine Dinner. — what doesn’t sound magical about this?

setting up a really satisfying 1 year sabbatical — ideas?. — some reasoned, seasoned advice including this nugget: “I learned that the rest of the world thinks “sabbatical” means “year-long vacation.”  Just embrace that — their minds can’t be changed.” <sigh> ok.

Beyond the Pale: Sunset Sitting Sated on the Seine. — a post from someone else’s sabbatical blog where she posts this absolutely delightful poem:

I never knew the charm of spring
I never met it face to face
I never knew my heart could sing
I never missed a warm embrace
Till April in Paris
Whom can I run to
What have you done to my heart

-“April in Paris” by Vernon Duke and E.Y. Harburg

merci, mes amis! je vais bien écouter.

and in that vein, i offer this photograph that i took earlier today using my crappy blackberry camera, but that i still love not only because of the geometric wonderousness of it, but also because the act of taking the photo was an exercise in looking up(ward) when so often i/we spend my/our days looking straight ahead, perhaps even left and right, and mostly certainly down(ward).

look up!

perhaps not entirely coincidentally, today would have been my grandmother’s 88th birthday. she often took walks, looking here and there and everywhere. and although i surpassed her under-five-foot height at the age of 10, i always looked up to my namesake. happy birthday, lk!

garnishes

i was going to write a post of pleas to my fellow human beings so that we might live more harmoniously together. and then i received this sandwich delivered to me at my absolute favorite so. philly cafe by one of the 2 co-owners. it’s a simple combo: egg and tomato on toasted multigrain. but check out the artfully placed tufts of basil on top.

the sandwich arrived with a light aroma that is characteristic of basil, the magic herb — shredded, julienned, ground up, or incorporated whole: always a slightly different effect. and as a garnish these basil leaves tell me two things: a) the owners of this cafe have instilled an ethos of dignity in all aspects of their spot, from friendly but not intrusive banter when you place an order to the marrying of order with patron, such an important but all too often moment of exchange — where one’s commitment to a cafe is really nurtured and grown. that is, am i just an onerous interruption to your texting or inter-cafe conversations? or am i to you, like you are to me, a potential source of human connection — that which we seek regularly, but that we eschew in our hurried ways; and b) that a cafe is truly ripe with stories and inspiration and possibilities and i need to get cracking on my ‘overheard at the cafe’ series — still not sure of the medium, but it needs to have dialogue, characters, and settings — the perfect sabbatical ‘side’ project.

so i am left with this question: how can i garnish someone else’s life today, in the way that the tufts of basil enhanced mine?

(and not to worry, peeves and annoyances post to surface soon)

purging and cleansing

my sister — yes, the recently married one — said to me the other day, as we were doing some window shopping in the big apple, in response to my exclamation that i was in the midst of a closet purge: “you’re always purging! when are you *not* getting rid of stuff?” her question gave me pause. was i always getting rid of stuff? and if so, why on earth was there still so much always around? im not a hoarder — of things of any kind — with one tiny, possible, seemingly unavoidable exception: paper.

PAPER!!!! (exclaimed as a silent scream — with the same energy as elaine’s pill-induced ‘streetcar’ moment — as i sit in this philadelphia cafe, and pump both my fists to the sky, or in this case, exposed beam ceiling.)

is it just a hazard of the job? i try to go paperless, even downloading the occasional ebook and hardly ever printing out an article to read, but the main culprit remains: revisions. REVISIONS!!!! i can get so far in the writing process with just fingers on keyboard and with the use of the very handy reviewing features on the various word-processing platforms i work my way through. but at some point — and there is always a point — i just have to print out the damn thing and scribble, doodle, and generally make a mess all over it using a panoply of colored pens. there are arrows, and stars to remind me where the changes should be inserted; underlines, strikethroughs, circles and more arrows.

this would be all fine and good if, when i went to clean and organize my apartment in preparation for the aforementioned subletter to move in for the year, i did not find not one, not 2, but more a few boxes worth of papers that were just multiple versions of various articles, published well over a few years ago, and replete with scribbles, circles, arrows, galore! but as i started reading through the jottings, non-sensical to anyone but me, i could recall things that i had read that brought me to a new idea; a conversation that inspired new questions or brought me to new texts. i let myself have the afternoon to sit with these writing memories, and i kept a few choice reflective artifacts. and the rest went out with the paper recycling.

but it wasn’t just my apartment i have been purging and cleansing. my email accounts, too, have become a sort of wasteland for all manner of annoying, frustrating, at times toxic messages. and while email remains a source of great joy — in the form of missives, news, and photos from family and dear friends — i have been making good use of email filters and the delete and unsubscribe buttons. it’s slow going, but i feel better, lighter already. my next big decision is whether or not to cut my hair, which is what i usually do at the end of a school year or after a key moment in life. i’d say this counts as such a moment, and yet i’ve gotten attached to the waves on my head. i may have to find other forms of lightness — a superficial antidote. of sorts, to the heaviness that calvino describes here:

“Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification.”
– Italo Calvino (1993, p. 7)

for the past twenty-plus years, chopping off my hair has provided this Perseus-like flight “into a different space.” in other news, i had a fantastic ice cream sundae last week. who knew fluffernutter could be made into a fantastical yogurt flavor?! it was, and it was damn good. i would have a picture of it to show you, but i inhaled it too quickly. not to worry because it’s summer, and there will be more pix (and ice cream!) to come.