The Paris Review, Winter 1975
Do you have a daily routine?
Yes. I don’t get up very early. I linger over breakfast reading the papers, telling myself hypocritically that I’ve got to keep with what’s going on, but really staving off the dreadful time when I have to go to the typewriter. That’s probably about ten-thirty, still in pajamas and dressing gown. And the agreement I have with myself is that I can stop whenever I like and go and shave and so on. In practice, it’s not till about one or one-fifteen that I do that—I usually try and time it with some music on the radio. Then I emerge, and nicotine and alcohol are produced. I work on until about two or two-fifteen, have lunch, then if there’s urgency about, I have to write in the afternoon, which I really hate doing—I really dislike afternoons, whatever’s happening. But then the agreement is that it doesn’t matter how little gets done in the afternoon. And later on, with luck, a cup of tea turns up, and then it’s only a question of drinking more cups of tea until the bar opens at six o’clock and one can get into second gear. I go on until about eight-thirty and I always hate stopping. It’s not a question of being carried away by one’s creative afflatus, but saying, “Oh dear, next time I do this I shall be feeling tense again.”
fantastic, fascinating website via my good friend, emma, who keeps her own fantastic, fascinating site
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
We have an old family friend that we used to giggle about, and with, because she would cry at the drop of a hat. We'd all be sitting around the kitchen table and could be talking about the most innocuous thing when tears would start to fill up in her eyes. Oh, she'd laugh while big drops were streaming down her cheeks.
I can remember when my oldest sister started in with the same uncontrollable tear ducts. "Ohmy," we'd be laughing, "you're just like Polly!" Not many years later, my other sister would have tear-filled-eyes in an instant. And, finally, me. I cry at commercials or when I hear beautiful music. I cry when I think about how much I love RK. Or when I'm with my whole family and we're all laughing so hard together, it quickly turns to tears of joy. Some of my most common cries these days can start when one of the kids at school says something really, beautifully adorable. A real water-works show for me was at an after-school performance this year: As the kids began to sing a familiar song, I started to quietly weep and my first graders were in shock. They stared at me in wonder.
"Miss Molly, Miss Molly, what's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I don't know", I whispered to them, "I guess this song just always makes me cry."
Q., who was sitting on my lap at the time, turned around to look behind me, "Well, it can't be that the song is sad," he said to me, "I just looked back at my mom and SHE'S not crying!"
Polly's daughters, D. and K. are the same exact way. There have been times when we've all been together, my mom, both my sisters, our two friends and Polly, and if you walked in the room while we were deep in topic, you might think someone had just died. But, no. We were probably just talking about a good old memory...that made us cry like babies.
When I watched this video for the first time on Paige's site, I bawled. And at the end of this good cry, I laughed to myself, thinking, "ohmy, i'm still just like Polly!"
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
the pet hospital,
the recycling center, with truck the local clothing store,
homes, in the 'hood
trees and other foliage around the homes,
and then, of course, the shop names
it's really coming together! Soon, all of it will be glued down, and electric poles and street lights will be the next step...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Every kid in the class can finally read. They are over the moon about it and so are we! Now, it's down to the kids taking turns reading to the class during story time. On Friday, B. read I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss. I have such an amazingly clear memory of reading this book at our old hometown library, it felt strange to be an adult now sitting and listening to it. We all giggled lots at each animal appendage mishap and are already looking forward to the next read, Go Dog Go.
Monday, May 18, 2009
It recently occurred to me that I create these extra jobs for myself to make my pieces feel "right" from the inside. There's quite a few things I'll do in a piece that one may never see. I don't mind. It just makes it more authentic. It's not that I need everyone to relate to, or understand, the work (i learned that little bit of wisdom at my 1st open studios event), though you can't stop me talking about it to someone who is seriously, sincerely, curious about the pieces.
When I talk about the work, I can't help but describe it as something someone else has made. I usually start out with, "oh, this piece? well, this is from (any given name I've made up or found) and s/he was a russian immigrant/90 year old woman who'd lost her family/little boy with impeccable manners...." and go on to describe how this piece hung in their living room/bedroom/kitchen and I just happened across it when I met one of their relatives. Of course, it's all made up. But, to me, it feels real. Often, when I'm making something, as I'm laying out this or that part of a piece, it's like someone else's hands are doing it. I can picture the person saying to themselves, "i want to put this right here, because it meant so much to me."
My greatest compliment would be, if I overheard someone say, "What's that piece? Where did you find that? Was that your grandmothers?" I like to make pieces that seem vaguely familiar, that feel like family, an heirloom. It appeals to me to tear back wallpaper and see the layers and layers of age beneath them. Or buying an old piece of furniture, like a dresser, the drawers lined in newspaper from the early 1920's. People worked with what they had. I love that. You didn't need much back in the day (thing is, i still believe that and my 21st self struggles with it!).
The piece that was the final "treasure" in this weekend's treasure hunt had these little things... right before I closed the frame, I snuck a tiny little photo of a boy behind the primer card...you could just see his face. And, on the back, I layered old invoice paper with book binding tape and typed on another old math-problem card as if it was a fortune cookie, "you should be proud of yourself," it read, "you'll go far in life, I can tell."
When I saw Everything is Illuminated, I felt like I'd found my own treasure. Besides the scene where he is standing in front of a wall filled with collections (oh dream of dreams...), when they finally find what they didn't really realize they were looking for, they arrive at an old woman's house. An entire wall in her house is stacked high with boxes of other people's lives.I bawled my eyes out. Here is my life's project. Here's the next show. Here it is. Other people's lives, that may have gone unnoticed or ignored in the shoeboxes at garage sales or flea markets, I can so easily invent, create, re-tell. I collect and collect and collect for this very purpose.
A good friend of mine who got me into this whole art bizness in the first place finally dubbed my work as historical fiction, giving me the leeway to invent the stories, treat them as real and be okay with the idea that someone may or may not get what I'm going for.images from Hare & The Hounds show...
1. piece hanging at bi rite market, behind cashier
2. show in full swing
3. my map, purchased by this adorable couple i never got to personally meet
4. other juicy maps
5. still from film
6. 'treasure' found and returned to gallery, nestled amongst other beautiful maps
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Where others have come before....so go these "people":
Lingley Furr : Lingley was a skinny little kid who grew up to be a seamstress. But she never quite got the sewing part down. She climbs trees on weekends and owns three goldfish.
Toepel Hazell: Toepel is a collector. In particular, she collects dishes with faces on them. Mugs with eyeballs, plates with smiles, creamers with ears. She also collects those mustache mugs, not because she knows anyone with a mustache (Ms. Hazell is happily single, thank you), but because she likes putting her upper lip in there when she drinks milk.
Paulita Boldosser: Gads! Paulita is bossy! She's not a fan of anyone else's opinion. She had a really hard time when she was head of the garden walk last year.
Eiser Oswalt: Eiser spends his days tinkering with Model A's. He'll do Model T's too, but you've got to get on his good side from the beginning. Not hard to do, actually. Eiser is a sucker for caramel candies. Mary Jane's are his favorite.
Oaks Mengwasser: Oaks won "The Worlds Greatest Grandmother" award in 1960. She was super proud of it, but you'd never know it. She kept the plaque in her closet with her numerous checkerboard games.
mayo bracy (one of the best!)
wander orji (another super goodie!)
and, then, if you received an email from any one of these people (if they were even ON email! 'cuz, let's face it, most of these people are probably too busy to be caught up on email), it would probably read something like this:
Sometimes a cyprus mulch hibernates, but another demon always caricatures a cashier! If the tuba player over a hydrogen atom borrows money from another roller coaster toward an inferiority complex, then the cab driver over another girl scout takes a coffee break. When an accidentally orbiting hydrogen atom is usually hypnotic, a slow parking lot negotiates a prenuptial agreement with an accurately magnificent blood clot. A power drill inside the spider leaves, because a vacuum cleaner about a burglar pours freezing cold water on a phony fundraiser. Indeed, a crank case buys an expensive gift for the grizzly bear for a tuba player. An insurance agent...
oh spam, you never cease to amuse me!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I used to love treasure hunts when I was younger. Apparently, there's a group here in SF that does them for random, perhaps partner-seeking, adults, as well. But, they never sounded like my thing.
Treasure hunts are like the game Simon Says, but with stuff. I actually really dig both those things. And hate 'em at the same time. Inevitably, somebody loses. And I like winning.
Luckily, for others who feel the same way, at Hare and The Hounds show this weekend everybody who plays, wins. I speak from experience, fabu, good -time, show. One of the best. Firstly, it's at 18 Reasons, which has evolved into this cool little spot in the 'hood that is a really great hang no matter what's going on there. Secondly, it' s being curated by Mike McConnell, who's a truly fantastic artist. It's a multiple-hour treasure hunt that has a banging b-b-q on the sidewalk, serious neighborhood style, right up my alley.
It's described as an art-based scavenger hunt. We make one piece of art for one wall and then make a map for the other wall. Anyone that likes your work can buy that piece on the wall. And anyone who is craving your map (and maps range from videotapes to bottles of rum with cryptic messages on the bottom), can purchase it, follow it, and have it lead them to the final "treasure": a piece of your work. My favorite part is making the map ...well, the actual day of fun is pretty hard to beat. This year, I made it short and sweet.
First, I had to plot it out a bit...
but I knew I wanted to use these old math problem cards
The funny old questions on the front of the card influenced what I ended up typing on the back side for the hunter to do...
I end up sending them up and down the same street, which I just love the thought of...because they'll be paying attention to things they might not otherwise have...or maybe they'll shake hands with someone in the park (per one of my directions) and start a conversation...You don't know until they show up at the gallery again an hour or more later. I love the idea of them having this little journey I've outlined...but surely not planned.
Well, chalk one up for treasure hunts, total randomness can happen.
I can't wait for this one.
Friday, May 8, 2009
So, in the first grade, we're building our neighborhood. We're using milk cartons and mixed paints and a bunch of recycled goods that they used as the interior of homes. But first, it was the people. The most important part of a neighborhood. We made a list of neighborhood people and got to work:
there's so many more of them, and soon, they will be running the neighborhood of milk cartons. We're all on pins and needles!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Some parties are put together so seamlessly that it feels like you're in a bit of a dream... Sometimes, family and friends come together, put on a 'happening' of sorts, and you can just feel how much went into it all.
They're outdoors, under a tree, with tons of warm sun,
They party continues on in a local feed barn with strung lights and guests sitting on hay,
There's a do-it-yourself photo booth,
They have an art show curated by all the guests, giving life & love advice via their creative side,
and, at the end of the night, while the adults are dancing the night away, little kids fall asleep in cozy blankets on top of a stack of hay.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Isn't it interesting that we spend so much of our childhood in each other's laps, or holding hands, or walking in partners, but spend so much of our adult life avoiding contact?
Little kids have no personal space.
Nope, none whatsoever.
The kids I work with, so comfortably take one another's hands when crossing the street, or partnering up in games. They never seem to mind the crowding 'round when it's reading time, they take it to heart. Most of them give out hugs freely.
I don't know at what age that changes. And do we change it about ourselves, or does an adult plant that seed in our head? 'Cuz, at some point in life, we decide that there is such a thing as personal space. We have a pretty clear idea how close we let certain people get.
And then we either live with that, or spend time breaking that space down in tiny, little ways...
Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
All of nature is SO much cooler than me. Really, cooler than anyone I know. It made itself abundantly obvious to me today, low grey clouds filling the sky and giving off great light to these little nooks and crannies. I actually got down on my hands and knees to pay honor to them all.
Nature is Soooo cool.
Hoooow cooool IS it?!
Nature is so cool that, even though we city folk try to cram a little bit of it into our version of where nature should exist, it breaks on through. Yeah, you may plant me over there but then I'm just gonna tell some of my friends to pop up over here! That's right. We don't have to be confined.
Watering the weeds that grow between the sidewalk cracks.
Some would call her insane.
But she is witness to the life that bends,
Twists and grows determinedly
green in a gray, unwelcoming place.
She waters weeds between sidewalk cracks,
aiding, honoring, paying tribute to
the life of hope.
--from the book: Common Threads
And I like when trees decide to just go all hulk on us around here.Oh really? You think we're not stronger than your silly cement? Your attempts to keep all dirt underground and put nature in a box?...silly fools, I'm a tree, dammit! and I've got big roots! and if you want me to grow big and strong and beautiful, you ain't gonna try to friggin contain me, too!
In my head, nature's voice can get pretty cantankerous, but in a really proud, awesome way. Heck, we take some serious amounts of nature for granted on this earth, I'd be cantankerous too.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
As I lay in bed this morning, I wondered what life might be like if you were always positive in your thoughts. Every response, to every action, would be a 'silver-lining' one. For example, when waking up and seeing the grey skies (while hoping for sunny skies, of course, on this particular day), instead of saying "oh crap, what a drag", you would say, "Oh, isn't it pretty outside? I love the rain." Or, something to that positive effect. Rather than moaning about how you can't stand your co-worker, you'd muse aloud, "She's probably had a tough life and the least I can do is just go with the flow." Maybe when you hear the garbage truck doing a pickup at 7am on a Saturday, don't blurt out, "JEEZE-louise! Arrgh! I just want to sleep!" Think instead, "I'm glad the city is still picking up the garbage around here."
I wonder what that would do, how that would affect your life...
I don't know. Hell, I'm not saying I can do it. I was just thinking that it could be an interesting experiment. Would it totally change your life? I can't imagine that it wouldn't. And I consider myself a pretty positive thinker.
A little later this morning, I had the urge to call my old friend, V.
She's one of the first people I ever called by just an initial. For the first few years, I called her Venus. But that's not her real name either. Her name is Inez, pronounced like Enis, rhymes with penis. Or, at least that's what I first told her.
It made us instant friends.
V. lived across the hall from me when I moved into my first, and only, New York City apartment. I moved in on a Saturday in the summer. It was sweltering and she came out to the landing in her bra, wondering what all the racket was. Of all the years I spent in new york, I spent some of the most quality, memorable times with V. She was born and raised one block over from Carmine Street and when she married her husband, they moved to this apartment building. She raised two daughters in this little box we shared. She lost her husband, her daughters grew up and grew away and there we were, years on in her life having a drink in her packed little apartment, at a table filled high with mail, laughing and crying and complaining and celebrating. She saw my life as just beginning and gave me advice at every turn. I looked at her as the historian of the incredible city I was so dang lucky to be living in. I spent my Sunday evenings regaling her with tales of my life and she would squeal with delight before she'd inevitably say, "oh, just keep having fun, my little molly, she's just having a good time..."
When I called her today she told me she was 80 years old.
I'd had no idea. We'd never talked about her age.
And she did two things I'd remembered so clearly about her: she referred to me in the third person while she was speaking to me, "my little molly, she's a teacher now, yeah, she's teaching and she's good and her hubby is good. Oh, my little molly..."
she kept coming back to the positive, the kind of positive I know I can do. V. has this great attitude toward life. She can bitch and scream and holler and complain about something, but she always comes back to, "but what're ya gonna do, molly? you're gonna do what you're doing and you're gonna keep going on. that's what you gotta do." She's a real, if-it-happens-it-happens-if-it-don't-it-don't type.
She told me it made her day that I called her.
But the way I've been looking at life all day today, through positively rose-colored glasses, I shoulda told her it's the other way around, too.