A Late Sunday in The Bywater 

There was this restaurant which hadn’t been on my radar as a destination, but the one we’d meant to go to told us on the phone Our last seating is at 8:45 on Sunday, and it was 8:35 already, so.

So we opted for this New American place also in the Bywater. Trendy. When we arrived it was Well, no reservation, give me a few minutes, trust me and after 15 minutes of being ignored by the bar and searching our phones for alternatives, he gave us a table that had been empty in plain sight since we walked in. It’s like they want to make you sweat and make the reservation-rule-abiders feel good and special.

Anyway we had a pretty smashing meal and a nice Alsatian blend and got friendly with our server, who turned out to be a recent-ish transplant, a singer, in love with the city, on that arc, that high note where you’re meeting people and making things happen. We talked with her at length after meal service had finished and she told us about a bar farther out that she liked, so we decided Fuck it let’s go.

Some blocks later we found the place. It had a vast high-ceilinged interior, like so many places in NOLA— always surprising as they look small from outside. It was a chill vibe, and good music playing. Some folks playing pool at the far end.

There were a couple of people in black hats and robes like witches with fairy lights on. Another with them was dressed like some kind of dinosaur or abstract unicorn, and some in regular clothes. A private party, they seemed, off at a table. We sat at the bar and ordered, were served.  I got consumed with the orb lights, gradually shifting colors and making decent compositions in the camera. I wrote in my book a little. 

The bartender, a beanpole sporting a hipster half shirt and suspenders was speaking more or less continuously to a chap sitting on the other side of Z. Z and I chatted here and there, but he seemed distracted. Maybe he was tired, or listening in on the conversation. I couldn’t hear anything but the rutabaga-rutabaga murmur of television scenes in rooms where music and conversation overlap. 

As we finished our drinks I asked if we ought to stay or move on. Z said Move on. When we were some blocks away Z relayed to me the disturbing conversation he’d overheard between beanpole and the guy, who’d been explaining that his coke dealer’d raped someone. The two of them then went on to discuss all the many ways said dealer had fucked numerous people over in the more usual ways; money, broken promises, &c. 

I dunno if the dealer had been arrested or if he’d now gone a shade too far to be tolerated by the guy at the bar; I didn’t hear any of it. Maybe he was doing that thing of fishing for a shared line or two by talking about such things in earshot of strangers who might by chance also partake. I told Z he should’ve said he wanted to leave sooner. It clearly made everything uncomfortable. Z’s experience had been nothing like my naive absorption in orb lamps shifting colors, and book and pen. 

It makes you wonder about all the many conversations in all the bars and restaurants that go on all over the world— all the conversations you don’t hear. It makes you aware how much general trust there is in polite exchanges, and how separate you are from what’s behind every door, every curtain.

It reminds you that everyone has a different measure or barometer of what’s normal, of what counts as day-to-day, and makes you thankful that your version is way less fucked up or hideous than some others.

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In Search of Lost Time | no regrets

А la recherche du temps perdu

When I saw how the new sun shone,
I opened all the morning to her.

When I felt the heat of midday,
I turned my face to feel her warmth.

When her exit cast a wake of diamonds on the sea,
I sailed in pursuit ’til they sank out of view.

When the moon ascended,
I traced a sympathetic arc across wide fields.

And when at length a velvet dark surrounded,
I sat alone,
and counted every star.



The calm monochrome that follows the feast days

an abandoned sidewalk xmas tree— set out to the street before xmas fully dressed (b&w photo)

These days following the winter feasts bring a quiet with them, not necessarily unwelcome. Often grey and a little lonely, or too-quiet for some, yet there is a gentleness to them that eases the emotional tumult forced by the calendar shift into a new year.

the giant pine in the yard upstate, blocking snowfall on the yard liek an umbrella (b&w photo)

When I was younger, I longed for the new year to turn at Springtide, or during the full heat of Summer. As I’ve got older, the shift has felt more accustomed and proper happening in the dead of winter— it allows a moment, at least, for reflection which those other times wouldn’t afford.

Several pine trees upstate in snowfall (b&w photo)

(I’ll own, this is clearly the result of living one’s entire life in the northern hemisphere, in the west. Nurture and nature have their sway.)

Upstate at the Farm over the winter holiday is something I’d not trade. Cold, and snowy, I can see the sun and shade of summer in every angle— but those white cloaked fields are equal in my mind to their mild counterparts. Some of my best memories are of being alone in a quiet icicled clearing in the woods; or frigid rides along field paths as snow-blanketed as the horse’s backs, and my eyelashes— in awe of the change a bit of weather can make.

Sure, we get more irritable in the cabin-fever months. But also we get closer, cozier, if allowed. Weather does change things. It’s one of the things my cold-climate friends and I always joked about— nothing akin to Russian novels ever comes out of easy climates!

the house at the Farm, blanketed in easy snow (b&w photo)

We complain, yet we can’t rightly imagine life without seasons. Or we try, and give it up for folly. Relegate easy to vacation times, to the fleeting (and also irritating but in different ways) Summer. It all balances out in ways we’ve grown accustomed to; in ways that make sense to us.

telephone pole and wires in snow (b&w photo)

Anyway, I rather enjoy and look forward to the quiet spell after the hectic holiday time —before it turns into the doldrums— at which point I’ll want winter to go. There’s a period during which it’s welcome and agreeable; and productive, honestly.

Eventually, of course, the grey just becomes too much, and all we want is the return of green trees and sunshine. That’ll be hitting us around mid-February, I suspect, when the whole city has lost its luster; after the fairy-lights’ve been long taken down, and all the world just feels like it’s given up.

But, just as we reach our wit’s end, some modest glorious crocus will raise her chilly new petals from the snow, and give a beacon of spring, a bit of hope to see us through.

And just like that: Autumn

Brooklyn Bridger seen from DUMBO in the rainIt arrived with that kind of grey rain that settles in for a few days, so you just have to settle with it.

I was out all day Sunday and into the night; eight miles of walking in the rain, and when I got home the apartment was clammy like when it rains at a beach house during vacation and steals away some of the fun. 

I had to put on pajamas for sleeping. The beginnings of Fall.
A little park in the ruins in DUMBO
A little park in the ruins in DUMBO
A street lined with an arched tunnel of Locust trees in Greenpoint

india ink blotsI remember when I was younger there was a sort of general consensus around the idea that New Yorkers* were among the most self-obsessed, narcissistic assholes on the planet, especially artist and academic types†. And, I don’t know, maybe that was true.

Things have changed though. Through the power of technology (smart phones, social media, &c) now nearly everyone is a self-obsessed narcissistic asshole— it‘s a goddamned epidemic!

Have you ever run into someone, and you’re like ‘Hey what’s new?’ and they start telling you about some ongoing saga in the middle, because they assume you‘re up-to-date via their posts on Facebook or whatever?

Now that is some self-absorbed narcissistic shit! And it‘s pretty common! Here‘s some homework you can do, in case you‘re feeling a little guilty.

Repetition in ink of "I'm self-absorbed as fuck"

*LA must have been a close second.

†My schoolmates and I (yes, art school) found this notion hilarious and kinda‘ leaned into it for awhile; it seemed a very Fluxus thing to do.

Having to wear shoes all day in summer feels like foot binding

gull on the wing at Brighton BeachMy feet are shredded; torn up and abused by the shoes of summer. It’s not that the shoes are uncomfortable per se, but most (cute) summer shoes are too flat to wear often, and the others I counterbalance with: too constraining.

Opposites, each feels a relief after the other, yet compounding irritations alternately. It being a hot summer, sweat and humidity conspire— abrasions result, and blisters. Picture a ballerina’s bruised little hooves; that’s how mine feel.

The truth is, I’m not accustomed to wearing shoes for so many hours at a time. All the years working from home, I rarely wore shoes. Only to leave the house.

And despite my need for walks —2-3 hour stretches a few times a week to go thinking, when I was my own boss— my erstwhile feet were still more lithe and nimble; never sore or stiff. So I put it down to too much time constrained, even (perhaps especially), when idle.

Having shoes on all day puts me in mind of foot binding. What an effective approach to make people* stay where they were put— first the pain, then the twisted-up appendages, unable to do what they were made for.

I took trains with the shortest walks home tonight, which I never do, and pain was why. What utterly avoidable nonsense.

 

*women

Summer hid a whetstone in the slender paths between cornstalks

Seneca, the paint quarterhorse
My brother and Seneca in the ring while I was up at the Farm in July.


Summer
! It’s been too hot. It’s rained a lot. It’s been busy with work, and (half Fridays notwithstanding) I’ve still not gone on a date with the Atlantic Ocean. Haven’t cycled as much as I’d like.

But it’s been good, after its own fashion; taking its own shape. Clarity and focus with my work has (mostly) made up for my extreme lack of drawing and writing. Solid, meaningful visits to and from family and friends have shored up scattered edges.

What it all has in common: that fleeting quality that I will ever associate with Summer. Happily, the meaning lasts, even if the sunshine doesn’t.

And life without meaning is little more than a series of actions or motions.

drawing of a wall needing art, w measurements
My mathy diagram of K’s wall, before we hung all the art!

Just over a week ago there was an unprecedented electrical storm —very local to my apartment. To the extent that my building was hit and I lost a few small appliances; modem, router, speaker, and the aquarium pump. What a nuisance. Amazon: order replacements. Brazenly, decadently easy to deal with such a blow in these times. Nearly everything was back to rights by the weekend.

The electrical storm seems to’ve been a metaphor for things at large. I wasn’t even upset at having to drop over $200 at the damage that ensued; indeed, it felt like a doorway. An entrance stone had opened, to quote Murakami. I took it as a sign. Old things, old equipment, can be let go of easily with the help of a catalyst. Particularly when it suits the story.

Just last year, my printer died, apropos of nothing. I was irritated, irate at first, but at length it dawned on me that the thing was 11 years old. Then I felt grateful it had endured so long. (Few have such a resumé these days.) I practically well-wished it as I left it on the doorstep of the electronics recycling center a month later. A solemn good-bye, with a wink: So long and thanks for all the fish!

I digress.

drawing of electrical wires
A drawing of the occasional above-ground wires of New York City

This summer has been the most disruptive I’ve had in a long time, and probably—definitely— overdue. I’m good with it, have found a way to be settled with it, despite not having had my sand and salt respites at the edge of the world; despite not having spent (yet*) enough time with friends in our erstwhile carefree summer ways. It’s a new chapter, demanding of change.

At Springtide I sensed it, (sortof) accepted it— was fine to wait for Summer. But it’s different now, and it’s on account of so many factors I cannot list or name them all.

I’m still absorbing, but for the first time in a long time I’m not afraid of Autumn. I’ve even taken to listening to the Shipping Forecast as a soothing interlude, a doorway to focus, or just to sleep— a horoscope of rain and barometrics, always rising more slowly.

Photo of the pagoda in Patterson Park, Baltimore
The pagoda at Patterson Park in Baltimore, when I visited K

*ever the optimist!

How life makes failures of us all with sunshine, and the gentle rapid passing of time*

wires on BaltimoreAnd, at long last, here, I write something again.

Don’t think I haven’t longed for it; time without writing makes a ruin of me. A mere responder rather than a decided adventurer. Time— without time to think, to write— renders me a to-do list, at best. Ugh.

And I’ve been feeling a right failure of Summer, honestly, Having had not a single true beach day at the ocean; nor any long rides on my bike to farther-afield neighborhoods. It’s made me have some misgivings about this new job, despite that I rather love it.

It’s down to habit and expectations, I suppose. I spent a lotta’ years being a sole proprietor (my own damn boss), and as a result, have certain expectations of Summer, you know. Lots, in fact.

garden in Butcher's Hill, Baltimore

But what I’ve come to realize (again) is that everything’s a trade-off. I enjoyed many years of beaching mid-week; of cycling all round town whenever I chose. And now the focus has shifted. It’s good, and just what I needed, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

It was a choice, and one I don’t regret. And now, after a long weekend in B’more with one of my dearest friends, my brother and his family are going to be in Brooklyn this weekend. So you see, Summer happens after all 🙂 And it’s wonderful.

Closing note: I have so much more I intended to write about, but it’ll keep. Summer pushes certain things to the wayside.

(Autumn has other promises, where rain is appropriate and welcome.)

 

*We haven’t failed! It only feels like that sometimes, when pressures lead us to think in term of expectations. Personally, I’ve decided to say fuckall to prior patterns, and allow new ones to form. That’s adaptation 🙂

Montmartre— in light and dark

Montmartre— dans la lumière et l’obscurité

Sacre Coeur blackand white photo angle from belowThese are photos from our first afternoon in Paris. It stayed light til 8:30.

Now, you know, I’ve been dreaming of the trip— now that it’s over. As I did before it was born. Friday was two weeks since we left for farther shores. It went by fast and slow, as time does.

Felt like four days; felt like four weeks. Away –and three cities away– will have that effect.

streets of Montmartre, photos in black and white
streets of Montmartre, photos in black and whitestreets of Montmartre, photos in black and white

Life is different —and the same— when you return. That is to say, life is the same but you’re a little different.

streets of Montmartre, photos in black and whitestreets of Montmartre, photos in black and white

Continue reading “Montmartre— in light and dark”

We cracked ourselves up with comics of a dark-hearted emoji

Cartoon of a nonplussed emoji watering a creepy garden

A sample of one of the little instagram comics that Z and I crafted last year under the handle @whileyouwerehappy. We kept at it for awhile, but it was time-consuming and after maybe 4-5 months our attentions inevitably turned elsewhere. It was fun, though, and we really did make ourselves laugh like mad people over them.