It is a group of small children, mostly girls looking at me through the glass door. A mini mob.
“What’s she making?”
“She must practice a lot”
“It looks like she’s almost done”
“Yeah she is definitely writing something”
guessing along with my hand
"Doo….” shrieks of laughter “doo doo!”
“Look she’s using pink!”
“19.99….she’s selling it?”
With a chuckle, I hold up the real doormat to show them. They are surprised to find out I can hear them, but it doesn’t phase them for a second. “Oh…….its an advertisement!”
My turn to be surprised that they know such a big word.
My dear friend Julie was also my roommate in college and my domestic partner on Facebook for years, something that always made me smile. I could write an entry about all our special times and laughs and cries together, but most of it wouldn't make sense to anyone other than us. We watched ghost shows, had a fish named Puppy, helped each other through some of the stupidest decisions of our young lives, and slept a mere foot apart. That bond is intense.
When we first moved into our Berks apartment near campus, Julie and I were trying to decide what art to hang on the wall. Referencing a quick painting I had done of a marigold, she decided that was what she wanted on our walls and that I should make more paintings to go along with it. While I never got around to it, I always remembered that moment especially when beginning to truly invest in and share my visual art. Julie is one of those rare gifts of a friend who never ceases to believe in me chasing my dreams and true purpose, whose well of pride never depletes, and whose belief in me being talented can always be counted on. As an artist it is something I never want to take for granted.
As a present this Christmas I created the paintings I meant to years ago. I painted these with acrylic and palette knife. Each type of flower represents a different aspect of Julie and her wonderful character. Thank you wonderful lady for the inspiration :)
Rocking thoughts is a serious of short observations made on the New York subway. An interesting cross section and environment that is truly and as much this city.
It is critical to know when women's movements have failed or could have done better, whether it be in reaching their audience, coping with infighting, or especially when they were not and needed to be more inclusive. I believe that only by learning from past mistakes and listening to the outcry of all groups of women today, can we truly form a movement that will attempt to work for all women regardless of sexuality, age, race, and/or class.
I have gathered a series of quotes that I found helpful and worth sharing. This is the first in a series that will feature books that are shaping me as an artist and activist right now.
There were important reminders for women of multiple generations.
"Today many disavow the term 'feminist,' but often what is being rejected is a narrow and distorted version of feminism that bears little resemblance to the rich and varied feminist philosophies of the past. Many who do not use and even reject the term 'feminism,' have nevertheless been feminists--that is, they have been part of the long struggle for women's rights." (page xvii)
"Anne Draper's (a garment worker organizer, 1971) call for a living wage still resonates in the twenty-first century, as does the larger reform agenda of her generation of social justice feminists. They believed in sex equality and would have applauded the progress women today have made toward that goal. At the same time, they remind us that the women's movement needs to be about more than sex equality. Economic disparities among women are extreme in the twenty-first century, and without decent jobs and sufficient income, dignity and real freedom for most women will remain elusive. They wanted to make it possible for women and men to have fuller, more satisfying lives at home and on the job. It's still not too much to ask." (page 64-65)
"The single most important feminist theoretical contribution to social theory was the concept of gender, i.e., the social structures and meanings attributed to sex difference. Distinguishing social from biological factors, 'gender' would ultimately give rise to many other challenges to practices once believed to be natural. Even discriminatory practices were often considered the inevitable consequences of being a woman....To speak of gender signaled that women's subordinate position was not natural but socially, economically, and culturally constructed. Understanding sexism as learned--taught, like racism, to children from their earliest years--meant that it could be unlearned. It followed that what had been constructed by humans could be deconstructed and replaced with greater freedom and equality." (Page 85)
There were many reminders that spoke directly to my involvement with feminism today and my need to do better.
"Despite their best intentions and despite their conscious opposition to racism, their priorities and assumptions sometimes blinded them to the situation of women of color and poorer women." (Page 92)
And sections that spoke to my everyday life these days, and our most recent experience at the polls (even though this book was published in 2014).
"Women are told they are empowered and that no obstacles remain in their path, yet each day they face covert and overt sexist attitudes--as well as epidemic rates of gendered violence--that confirm that this is still very much a man's world. Girls grow up believing that one day they can be president of the United States, but we have yet to elect a woman president (or vice president), women remain a disproportional minority in the U.S. Congress, and those who run for office often face virulent misogyny that sends the message that politics is still an old boy's club." (page 169)
And in a quote from Rory Dicker and Alison Piepmeier, "We need a feminism that is dedicated to a radical, transformative political vision, a feminism that does not shy away from hard work but recognizes that changing the world is a difficult and necessary task, a feminism that utilizes the new technologies of the Internet, the playful world of fashion, and the more clear-cut activism of protest marches, a feminism that can engage with issues as diverse as women's sweatshop labor in global factories and violence against women as expressed in popular music." (page 172)
The next book featured will be The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
I think of my Father every time it snows. He usually calls me, Boston to New York.
“How is it?”
“Good. I got a snow day!”
“Nice. You go for a walk?”
At some point during the day I bundle up and hold the door for my superintendent who shovels on and off throughout the day. In and out, in and out.
He says, “Thank you.” I reply, “No, thank YOU,” with a gesture toward his shovel as we exchange a smile.
I never found the words to describe the feeling I experience when first starting out into a snow filled world. I find I’m still just like a child experiencing it for the first time. That pure joy, unlike any other, has never left me.
I plow through the many sections of yet to be shoveled sidewalks, with just a few solitary individuals and service vehicles braving the white sprinkled evening. I’ve never heard 145th so quiet. This version. A different side to the neighborhood and city.
And I think, in this place with so many different experiences that this weather so special to me, is a terrifying inconvenience to others without home, heat, and/or assistance.
Looking down at my mens’ work boots that are a size too big, I am brought back again to thoughts of my Dad. I got this pair of boots back in the 8th grade to emulate the man who owned what was probably 10 pairs of construction boots, but feels like 30 in my memory.
Working “with the tools,” he always claimed to need a variety: some broken in, and some new, others light, or warm for cold weather, and breathable for the summer months, some for the job and still more for work around both homes he built for us.
What I come from and where I walk now, is somehow wrapped intimately in the memory of those boots.
A young woman calls out, “It’s easier to walk in the street!”
“Thanks, I bet,” but I know I won’t move over. I relish the opportune challenge of the sidewalk piled high, and the footprints of neighbors that came before. People come and go to the faithful bodega, always open no matter the weather. I see the plows cruising by, imagining the frustration in one pass, but no matter how many times it takes the roads will be cleared by morning, ready for our busy commutes.
“Can I eat New York snow?” I think.
I was the child constantly eating the snow, obsessed with the sensation. The debate inside is loud: heart yes, head no. Dad's tip? "Don't eat yellow snow," not so helpful in the current situation.
A particularly high drift reminds me of a storm on Gordon Road, where our first house was.
On a curving back street through small suburban houses loaded with white fluff, little me must walk in the street to keep up with my Father’s long strides. It is still snowing on this dark night, when the sky flashes a muted green. My Dad, ever the one explaining my surroundings, tells me it is lighting. I accept the knowledge openly, even without hearing a thunder clap. If there is a weather love stronger than snow within me, it is of windy thunder storms (but that’s a story dedicated to my Mother). This childhood evening has become the perfect combination of magic forecast.
My Dad and I approach an electrical truck getting ready to raise its bucket and of course we stop to check it out. He likes to be always in the know, best informed.
He stops sharp and throws out his arm in front of me,
With a point down he exclaims, “See the wire?”
There are thick black electrical snakes curling into the soft snow, fallen from their posts above.
“Well that’s live electricity…”
There is a ring of light around the spot where each wire disappears, the color of yellow-green glow stick, it compliments the lightning still flashing above.
He sums it up for me, “Pretty cool, huh?”
Back in my own apartment, I spread my clothes and boots along the heater, just as I once did on the boiler in the basement of our family home. Drying out for another adventure maybe tomorrow.
I chose three settings from different cities that are close to my heart and imagination, Cork City, Boston, and of course New York. The backgrounds are done with watercolors while objects in the foreground are in pastel for the texture.
AND, one of my chalkboard creations for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum was recently used by Ilya Marritz for WNYC Radio as a banner for a short interview with the Head of Education. It was a pleasant surprise to find.
It is 11pm. A family gets on the D train, all dressed up and heading to wherever home is.
They are quiet, the two children indulging in sleepiness.
The young boy sits by his dad near the window and before the father is even done adjusting to sit, the boy leans into him. They wiggle and maneuver until the child, legs curled on seat, head resting on dad’s stomach is comfortable. They are a pair in matching dress pants and leather shoes.
The even younger girl, sits with her mother and tries to imitate her sibling, but with no train wall to brace her feet against, it isn’t quite as graceful. She keeps having to switch position as the tulle skirt of her dress slips along the smooth orange seat. She is so tired that she sleeps through all her own movement.
This little family makes me so happy in their dress clothes and warm winter coats. I don’t know what kind of evening they are coming from, but it reminds me of the New York City version of when my family would get all dressed up to go see a holiday musical. The magic of a special night together. Feeling all grown up, staying up late, and beautiful in fancy clothes.
This family speaks Spanish to each other as they head uptown. The woman makes eye contact with me and we smile across the aisle. She knows I have been watching her little ones doze off.
Is this a family that will be in danger in the coming months? I am not sure. I don’t know this particular family’s story, but there are so many like them that may need protecting. My heart is prepared to stand up, support, and help in whatever way it can, but have I taken the responsibility of gathering the tools I will need to make this desire into a reality. What exactly is at stake? What resources will be needed to make sure these children grow up in love and safety?
The mom eventually picks up the daughter and cradles her child on her lap between two arms. Dad supports her stretched out feet with one hand. For many stops they hold this position, without letting go of the magical night they have created together.
Rocking thoughts is a serious of short observations made on the New York subway. An interesting cross section and environment that is truly and as much this city.
I have not spoken out, during primaries or general debates, on my own personal thoughts and feelings. I have posted articles and shown my approval for the posts of friends and family when I agreed. I have played the opposite side, when I felt it needed support, especially as a theater artist and dramaturg in charge of a political show. I was happy to do it, even when it seemed impossible. But I want to voice my most powerful feelings and show my support for a woman I both admire greatly and question often.
The following is one moment that sums up my personal feelings toward this election. Debate 4.
She walked out on that stage in a blinding white suite, straight line of buttons. My heart swelled. To see her, a her, on that stage. I think she deserves to be president. You could say I trust her too much. But I do, I trust her, in spite of the mistakes she has made and some things that I will not over look and do not agree with, I trust her. After all the research, viewing, and discussion it still comes back to my gut feeling. She might break my heart, but she wouldn’t be the first politician and she won’t be the last. I want her to have her chance and I personally believe that she deserves that chance. She has proven to me standing on numerous stages, sitting in countless interviews, as the knowledgeable, controlled person the likes of which I have rarely seen before, that she does.
I will not deny that when I see her it is the woman inside me that swells, it is an emotional reaction. Until watching her on that stage, I never realized the great weight upon me. The awareness that there has never been a woman president of this country. For someone who studies, challenges, and cherishes history as much and as often as I do, isn’t it strange how for so long I must have noticed this fact without questioning. A part of me must have not wanted to acknowledge it, and yet another part must have been screaming that it is wrong. Wrong that half the population of this country has never had representation as head of state. I didn’t know it was screaming until the tears of pain and fear welled up, seeing it so close, so achievable, and equally still so far. I didn’t know how oppressed I felt in this regard, until I saw her female form on that stage, with such strength, and womanhood. It sounds silly and still unbelievable….there might, just might, be a woman as our next president. And not just any woman. A woman who is truly qualified, as qualified as any woman or man, and more than most of either in my opinion.
When I see and hear Trump I feel like less. I’m not debating this. I am telling you how I feel. He brings back some of the men I have met along the way, in college, working in restaurants, on the subway. The man who treats me as an object, because he sees me as one. To be compared with all the other objects. Just another man of those who have caused the sexual trauma I am forced to deal with every day. I don’t want to feel this, but it is a reality that I have worked hard to overcome.
I try instead to dream of and fight for a world where people feel safe. Where all people feel safe. Right now I am most concerned with people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, women, and immigrants. These are people I love, whether I know them or not, but it does help that I am close to so many of them and that they have taught and challenged me to be better, truer, more outspoken, helpful, and honest.
As I watch the debate I oscillate between longing that this election will break through that ceiling we always talk about, and fear of the disappointment of being sent back to the normality of objectification. To be prodded, slammed, wrapped, and shoved as a woman in this country. With people I love even more threatened than I.
Some may call it one issue voting, but I would not vote for any woman, after all I know the gamut of female leaders in my history brain, and I certainly know they can screw it up and be just as corrupt as any man. Just female is not enough. But yes, it does draw me to Clinton. I would still vote for her if she was a man, and Trump were a woman, or if either of them looked or identified in any infinite number of ways. I have taken their words and while neither is perfect, I refuse to support the language of hate and violence. I don’t see this as a vote for the lesser of two evils, I see this as a choice for a woman I have watched try, fail, try again, learn, lie, admit mistakes, deny, grow, promote causes I believe in, and speak with an awkward kind of love for a world I too believe is possible and desperately want to see realized.
Thank you for reading. Happy Election Day! Stay safe.
Things to consider as a NYC voter: http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-be-better-nyc-voter/
On my flight I think of the 49 people that were gunned down at a night club in Orlando. I am only just reading the reports that I will continue to pour over. It will be a constant reminder throughout my experience in Pittsburgh. While I won’t be sharing my private thoughts, musings, and angry statements about this tragedy, they were there, interspersed with my sense of the city, clouding my eyes literally and figuratively.
It is beautiful flying amidst two layers of white clouds with a solid powder-blue slit balancing in the middle. We are flying between two sheets of paper. I can’t see earth at the moment. A powerful experience being separated from the surface that allows me to live, move, and wonder every day. The landing a blessing. Water like mirrors the sky gazes into. The rich, golden land illuminated by the sun that can’t be seen, but shows all. I land grateful that I spent the hesitant money on a flight.
Waiting for my sister to arrive, in an airport void of departures for the rest of the night. If an airport could be a ghost town, this is it. Yet I have the company of the night workers, emptying trash, sweeping up bits and crumbs of food, taking supplies back and forth; each set to his or her own task. So focused.
Day 1-Good morning Pittsburgh!
I already love all your yellow bridges. Simply put, they make me smile. Eating my just-right biscuits and gravy, an ice coffee by my side, as I sit on a stone wall in a patch of sun overlooking the river. I see stadium, hotels, roads, and parking garages past water and bridge.
I downloaded a free walking tour from the Robert Morris University website, in preparation for this trip. It teaches me about the competition between Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. A strike. The attempted assassination of a man who was anti-labor, but also a major philanthropist in Pittsburgh and other cities, providing art and building.
The voice of Mark Houser focuses in on the architecture of downtown, telling me to walk into the gorgeous Union Trust Building, with circles up to the the ceiling. It becomes my favorite, inside and out, brought to us once again by that Frick guy. Appreciating lobbies is not something I would have thought to do, but this tour is full of useful information.
Standing in the middle of PPG Plaza surrounded by plate glass, turreted towers inspired by Westminster, and in all the dazzle I almost miss the oldest building in Pittsburgh. A squat stone mansion, small, but proud as on its first day of being.
Enjoying a dark chocolate iced latte from Nicholas Coffee Company, housed in yet another ancient stone building.
I hand the cashier two fives,
she hands me back one of them,
“I thought it was $6.48?” Turns out that was the previous order still on the register screen.
She laughs. Who would pay that?
Explaining in New York that wouldn’t surprise me.
She finds this amusing, and so do I.
I sip and watch Market Square swirl around me. I walked through this same square without knowing in the early morning and it was practically empty, but with the work day underway and lunch breaks going on this is a place full of human energy.
This guide even makes me laugh as he talks about eyeball statues, the Pittsburgh accent and intriguing stories. His love of this city is palpable and I am grateful that such an opportunity is free to anyone that has a smart phone and access to the internet.
A picture says it all on this lovely ride up Mount Washington, in a creaky old tram.
The Phipps Botanical Garden.
So much color and variety, explanation and creative design. I’ve never seen so many interactive elements at a place dedicated to plants, and it is more accessible than any conservatory garden I have experienced.
A fountain with buttons to push so that you can control the different water effects yourself.
A market of fake fruit and vegetables to learn with.
A butterfly room, a wishing well.
A fish tank, hut, and masks in a room dedicated to the environment of the Congo.
Machines turn out to be an art to boil water or move a train in the most complicated, intricate fashion.
An outdoor garden with sprinkler, watering cans, signs saying “water me!,” a mini play house, a fort building area, which would be incomplete without the array of wet, dirty, tired kids who were all tricked into a day of learning that was the most fun.
I gape in the orchid room at those delicate creatures. A friendly worker so intoxicated by his work among the gardens, that he has little concept that most people don’t care about the drama of having to move a sprinkler. The two older ladies walk away from him, but I enjoy the simple insider tid bit, into his side of this magical world.
To return to my sister in time, I ask the two people at the ticket desk if I need exact change for the bus and how much….they don’t know, they’ve never been asked that question and have never taken the bus. Luckily their manager knows…..yes exact change. $2.50. On the bus back it is mostly students heading into the downtown area or people who get on in the neighborhoods I passed through on my walk. This morning it was an hour walk, now it is a 10 minute drive.
Sitting in Point State Park to finish my time. Bikers, people walking or running, in the still early morning. The large, circular fountain crashes continuously. Freight trains roll by along one side of one river, with the homes and apartments of Mt. Washington looking on down the incline still running along. The other river hosts the Carnegie Science Center and Heinz field all in red lettering. It is difficult to tell in which direction the rivers run. Amidst periodic sun and dark clouds there is distant thunder. This is a spot that tells so much, hugged from all sides by those signature yellow bridges.
"There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. No two alike. This creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative ventures." -Julia Cameron