A little reminder at the end of Summer

Summer 1649, Salomon van Ruysdael
Summer 1649, by Salomon van Ruysdael

…that New York was Nieuw Amsterdam. Observe: the fading light over the harbor on the last day of summer in Sunset Park—

Bush Terminal Park, Brooklyn
Bush Terminal Park, Brooklyn, 2016

Alright, it may be a bit of a stretch, but it was the Dutch [East India Company] who sent Mr Hudson in search of a new passage to Asia in 1609— a failed endeavor, but what he jolly well found would become the capital city of New Netherland by 1625.


Aside, but on the wistful-sad subject of summer’s end, here’s a do-dad from 2007(!) that I came across the other day and has been on my mind, as I didn’t make the ride to Coney even once this summer. (Though I may yet.)

August is nothing more than a wisp of memory now, it seems, the leisurely day of Labor having passed and September already teething, but in these recent times of Global Warming we do seem to enjoy what used to be called Indian Summer

Tara Lynne and I rode our trusty wheeled steeds again to the Isla del Coney on Tuesday. A different route- McDonald Avenue, of elevated train tracks, double parking, mechanized shadows and angles unexpected. A zigzagging whir of helmets and red metal fleck gleaming and disappearing into shadow alternately as trains passed over our heads and traffic kept us guessing. A hot, still day and us riding fast, as we’d lost time and got a late start– by the time we reached the boardwalk it was time to swim, and we didn’t even bother with finding a stair to the beach, just climbed through the fence and raced to the ocean.

Riding bikes in this kind of atmosphere, and for such a purpose as “emergency swimming” (as she put it), makes me feel very much like a kid again.

Afscheid en bedankt, Summer— ’til next year.

Sunset from Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Sunset, from atop Sunset Park, harbor in the distance

A table restoration project | Process

Before and After: a Queen Anne style reproduction, restored
Before and After: a Queen Anne style reproduction, restored

A few weeks ago, as I mentioned in this post, I found a discarded table around the corner from my apartment. It’s a modern reproduction, a simplified (straight legs not curved) variant on a Queen Anne style (yay, more QA!). It’s a gaming table to boot, as the top flips over and the obverse is felt-lined. A really pretty and well-constructed piece.

The post referenced above has a few ‘before’ images, including ones in which the Gaming Table aspects are shown, all of which have remained intact after this restoration of the exterior (top and legs only).

Bottom of the table, showing the beverage rest drawers and the inner section that holds game pieces
Bottom of the table, showing the beverage rest drawers and the inner storage section, as well as the hardware and joints where the legs connect
Wood stripping and refinishing supplies
Stripping and refinishing supplies*
Queen Anne style gaming table to be restored
Ready to dismantle and begin stripping the finish off

Drop cloth in place, the top surface is ready for stripping. Heavy duty gloves and disposable foam applicators, as this stuff is destructive (it will eat through latex gloves, don’t use ’em).

I used the fast-working type of stripper (with windows wide open and fan on on a very breezy day). Slather it on the wood— thick so it doesn’t dry too fast. You have to scrape the coating off while it’s still wet or it gets hardened.

Table top slathered in first coat of streipper
Table top slathered in first coat of stripper

06This part is immensely satisfying, all those layers of old finish coming off. I learned as I stripped the piece that several types of wood were used, which explains why it was finished in such a way that looked stained and polished like an antique, but was in fact an opaque, painted finish to hide the discrepancies. That also masks places in which wood filler was used.

Continue reading

Drawings from the moleskine


Bars are always good for studying human nature, at its best or worst (and all the in-betweens). Poor TL, Thursday evening. When I stopped in, she was dealing with a lot of douche-baggery— I hope they tipped her well to make up for that guy whose card wouldn’t go through, yet  insisted on putting up a fight (as if you can argue with the computers).

A dilemma, revisited

Funny little visualization in the sketchbook

After a week of percolating and indecision, an idea for this table hatched and I began the work (unironically) on labor day. I’ve stripped the top surface and all four legs, and have a plan to create a backgammon pattern on the top.

Having seen how beautiful the wood beneath the old finish is, I’ve elected to leave half of the diamond-sharp points natural, paint the other half metallic gold, and the remaining space will be completed with a dark stain— possibly dark walnut for contrast, or I may also try to match the existing finish still on the lower portion, where the legs connect.

Stripped and sanded; as you can see, two kinds of wood were underneath

My primary concern: How to mask for stain? Stain is penetrating by nature, unlike paint which sits on top of a surface, so tape isn’t going to result in clean lines. After a bit of research, I found an ingenious solution: mask for where I don’t want the stain and spray clear coat there. Those areas will then have a kind of permanent mask, preventing the stain from soaking in.

I plan to polyurethane the whole thing when all’s said and done to achieve a unified surface (as well as for protection), so the ‘mask’ areas will blend away and not look conspicuously shiny.

I’ll not be sawing off its shapely little legs for use as a coffee table—instead leave it as a moveable table / island nearby the windows in the kitchen.


A painting of autumn
(a painting of autumn I did in 2005)

Waning of summer month, end of beach weather month.
Back to work and back to school month.

Memory— no
A pattern, died in the wool.

Buckled-up books, backpacks, cardigans.
Skirts and stockings and
closed-up shoes that suddenly
feel too tight.

Early rising, hasty breakfasting—
Tie your shoes and
Don’t forget your lunch and
The bus is here!

Always I was running out the door, coat unzipped

Not ready (probably willfully so)
A stubborn child in the face of early mornings (i still am)

Autumn is pretty—
but it’s short-lived, and always
it carries blueprints of dark and winter.

I mourn the passing of beach days and long light
Sand in the pages of your book, and everywhere.
Sunstroke tiredness after days in the crashing waves.

Fleeting things,
like childhood itself.

Snufkin will break camp soon—
It’s cooled,
and the rain is coming.

(a design I did for a screen print from 2005)
(a design I did for a screen print from 2005)

What the starets said


You don’t even have to think about what you’re saying, the starets said. All you have to have in the beginning is quantity. Then, later on, it becomes quality all by itself.

Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger

This passage is from the first of several ‘acts’ of the short novel, when Franny is describing the thesis of the book she’s been carrying with her, about a Russian pilgrim. The book is referring to the pilgrim wanting to learn how to achieve uninterrupted prayer; to make it a habit, make it something that he doesn’t even have to think about because it will become ingrained in the fabric of his thoughts. He seeks for it to become a part of who he is.

It’s a serviceable encapsulation of any practice. At the start one needs only to show up, put in the time, even if it’s just going through the motions. Shoddy or fine, do it anyway. Quantity. Repetition. Therein lies the way to the practice (whatever it is) becoming an elemental aspect of oneself.

The more time you put in, the more refined the work you’re doing will become: it will lead to Quality. Certainly, there are other factors involved, but that’s the essential equation for mastery of a thing.