Sunday, May 13, 2018

George Washington, a sight you can't unsee by Grant Wood at the Whitney

In case you didn't know, Grant Wood was the one-hit wonder who painted American Gothic:
American Gothic by Grant Wood.

Grant Wood's other works are obscure. Perhaps for a reason. At the solo exhibit at the Whitney, this painting caught my attention:

Grant Wood painting of George Washington

I stared at the central theme - a young George Washington brandishing an ax after cutting down his pop's cherry tree. "I cannot tell a lie," he blabbers. Not sure what all the fuss was about. This tell-all gambit seems like a totally straightforward best move, given that young George has just been caught brandishing an ax in the middle of the yard. 

Let's zoom in on the action:

Zooming in on young George

And tighter:

Aha. Now I see what is so peculiar.

If little George is so smart, why is he out cutting down cherry trees in satin ballet shoes? Not only are these a genuinely bad idea for ax-work, but they're also a crappy get-away choice.

I eyeballed this rendering of our founding father with a giant WTF dangling over my head. And a song came roaring out of my subconscious. It became the soundtrack for the whole damn day. As a result, I am not happy with Brad Neely. Or Grant Wood.

Civilized Air Travel does not include smearing up the back of your seat

Speaking of things not to do if there's someone sitting behind you...

Some lady on the plane back from Cuba
Let me turn your attention to air travel, specifically civilized air travel. One rule of etiquette might be:

Do not rub your fingers all over the screen on the back of your seat.

I don't understand the contortions necessary for this sort of rear overhead relaxation. I envision the armpit in the stewardess's face though. "And ma'am, what would you like to drink..." cough cough cough.

I showed the above photo to someone and they said I should have leaned forward and licked her thumb. I would have considered this course of action had it not sounded so truly unhygienic.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Our Broadway weekend.

Never man-bun at the theater. Never woman-bun either, especially a topknot of any kind. Hair should be low slung and, if possible, damp so as to avoid frizz. Someone is sitting behind you for chrissake. They might have a short torso.

Also, do not move around your head like you're listening to polka music. You are not listening to polka music. Everyone with a view including your head now also appears to be listening to polka music, just in the opposite direction. It's a chain reaction. It would be a terrific play-by-play commentary:

"The gentleman in G105 with the long spiky haircut-- he's at again with the agitated bobble-head moves. The woman in H105 reacts to left. And it's I105 to the right... 
But now for the flourish! G105s girlfriend, there she is with the head tilt aaand... SHE PUTS HER ARM AROUND G105. The crowd goes wild. 
It's a cascade folks, a veritable waterfall. Everyone in the 103 and 105 seats madly attempts to catch a glimpse the culmination of Act 1 on stage. And fails miserably. It's midnight for Cinderella for the low 100 seats. Maybe Act II will be their time to see the show."

On Thursday and Friday nights, we saw Angels in America. On Saturday afternoon, we saw The Play That Goes Wrong with Derek and Wanda. Very different, these two shows.

But there was an incident during Angels in America that was eerily similar to The Play. I took it as foreshadowing.

During the third act, a hospital bed on wheels hadn't been locked in place. And the bed began to slowly roll across the stage, headed in the direction of the front row. Andrew Garfield tried to stop it, but there was an angel in the room, and Andrew got bodily moved elsewhere. The bed continued to roll...

photo credit:

Boom. Five guys in black with headsets come flying out stage left and clamp that sucker down. They are gone as fast as they showed up.

On Saturday, during the Play that Goes Wrong, the whole stage fell apart. Nobody did anything about it though. That was the point.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Adding and Subtracting and Toting Up the Meaning

Usually, I sit down to write these blog posts and a theme comes to me. It's not usually an effort. I just think about the goings-on and notice a peculiar pattern. Or an odd outlier. I try to find some meaning in life, which might seem unbelievably quaint but usually I give it a solid college try.

So far, 2018 has been a neurotic cat totally unwilling to get herded. Maybe Mercury is in retrograde or something. When I try to recall yesterday or last week or last month, it's all choppy and poorly lit.

Probably normal people don't attempt to summarize their calendars. But when I don't or can't, it makes me harshly aware of the nature of earthly things --  mainly that anything I can touch with my fingers, hear or see is as mesmerizing as it is vacuous. Everything tangible I'm preoccupied with at this exact moment, I know I won't remember in a month. And time disappears without even a poof.

Despite all my faults, which are numerous and occasionally spectacular, I think I figured at least one thing out. What matters to me is what the time spent adds up to. And if it actually adds up to anything, it is possible to write down the sum of it on a piece of paper.


I have a proxy for determining if there's any sort of meaning to be found in how I'm choosing to fritter away my hours. It's my ability to write a blog post or a really short journal entry. Nice when it's that simple.

Quite possibly this whole introspective phase might have started right after my second, and final, grandmother died in January. It's been a tough transition. Anyone who has experienced the death or disablement or departure of beloved family or a friend has experienced the same, I'm confident.

What a melancholy moment it is to find yourself in the possession of a topic --  a topic that, in the past, you would have tucked carefully away in brain tissue. While you waited, with great anticipation, for the chance to talk to the one other person who would also relish the topic.

And then together you'd inspect the topic and poke at it, savor it. You'd laugh over it using language no one else would understand because the words are really about the thing that happened twenty years ago and you both smile as you remember it.

But now, instead, you spot the topic. Maybe you turn it over in your hands once or twice. And then you drop it on the sidewalk because. What's the point.

That's an endgame right there. To be around and appreciate people who see time spent together as an opportunity to build something together. A structure where all these shared topics hang on the walls in frames and the chairs are comfortable. This mysigt-filled place might have a name in Swedish. Probably the Buddhists also have it figured out.

Even though I can't think of a good name for it, let me state for the record that without this joint construction project, the relationship or friendship isn't much more in hindsight than laundry lists of dates on the calendar.

I don't know.

I guess it's fun while it lasts.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Speaking of the Mayor of the Met-Breuer Art Museum....

Oh and BTW, I’m now the mayor of the Met-Breuer on Four Square. Not sure who this says more about - me, the Met Breuer or the four square app. Nonetheless, I’m not one to walk away from fifteen minutes of fame, so hell to the yes.

Here's the only screenshot I got of my inauguration, it's not that great. There was this apoplectic frenzy of a screen that came before this one with cash register noises and trumpets. I had to shut that shit down and fast. All the racket was not going over well in the middle of a gallery on the 2nd floor of the Met Breuer. I was getting a lot of stink eye. Not a good way to begin my term in office.

There's a new Mayor in town!
I visit a lot of museums. I love museums. I especially love my membership to the Met where I get to flitter into the members-only Balcony Lounge for tea and a snack. I show my member card to the very disinterested volunteers guarding the entrance and disappear into a sanctuary of quiet and mid-century modern seating arrangements. It sort of looks like the United Airport lounge but with fewer jet-lagged sweaty people in comfortable shoes desperately seeking an electrical outlet.

Here’s my top art museum picks from Q1 2018:

At the Met, Public Parks, Private Gardens, Paris to Provence. It was a members only preview and there still were too many people in the exhibit including some dude and his, not one but two, tiny little not-trained service dogs. They were barkers. Luckily it was an exhibition of parks, otherwise I would have been really annoyed about the whole tripping over loud, misbehaved animals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The only artwork that has stayed with me from then until now is this photograph:

Ok also this little Matisse called Pansies. Such a cutie:

Pansies by Matisse.

We were at the Elena Goor Museum in Tel Aviv by Jaffa in February. I really loved this museum tucked into an old soap factory in Tel Aviv. And when I say "old" I simply mean "no longer in business."

Keep in mind “old” in Tel Aviv has a different context than “old” over here. Things don’t qualify as old in Israel unless they were around at approximately the same time as Jesus; and even that timeframe is a little suspect, i.e. the “new” testament and all. 

King Herod by Elena Boukingolts
This King Herod built the big synagog in Jerusalem that eventually got torn down when the Muslims paid a visit. Or maybe it was the Romans. Ripping down "wonders of the world" sorts of architecture was a global pastime, it’s hard to keep track of all the participants. 

Herod also built the castles on top of Masada. When he wasn't building things, Herod took some fast trips to Squirrel City. You can see his crazy eyes in this sculpture.

 Munch, Jan 21 at the Met-Breuer:

Anselm Kiefer, Jan 21 at the Met-Breuer:


Leon Golub at the Met-Brewer in March:

Top left of something much bigger.

Jimmie Durham, Jan 7 and one more time with Wanda and Derek at the Whitney.
Saw this show twice I loved his whack little musings and doodles mostly:

Bird Prints by Mathew Day Jackson at the Met, Feb 3

Of course I saw the big David Hockney show at the Met while I was there:

Michaelangelo at the Met, Feb 3. New goal: sign my name in a flourish:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Never fear, I'm like the Houdini of bathrooms in Israel.

The first time I got locked in the bathroom in Israel, we were at the Isrobel Hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea. We weren't staying there, we just had day-passes so I had to change and put all my stuff in a locker in the locker room in the basement.

This was the women's locker room; Tom was therefore not around. Nor was anyone else. The entire time I'd been in the locker room attempting to figure out how to get the locker combination lock to work, determining it was broken, walking out to the front desk to get a new locker, getting a new locker, getting that one to work.... the entire time this whole preparing to take a dip in the Dead Sea had been going on... No.One.Had.Come.Into.The.Locker.Room. 

So I'm in there all by myself. 

I figure that very few other ladies, maybe nobody, had done the day-pass thing. Everyone else was an overnight guest and therefore had no need for the public locker room. It's nice to have an entire locker room to yourself. Until you get locked in a toilet stall.

After I managed to jam everything I had with me into the locker, I meandered over to toilet area.

I picked a stall. I locked the door behind me. 

By the way, this was not an American style stall with a high-hanging door that, worst come to worst, you could crawl under. These stalls were solid. Stone walls and a full-on wooden door.

When I went to open the door to leave, the latch turned but the door didn't open. I turned the latch again. No dice. The deadbolt wasn't moving. I turned the latch again. Nothing. I turned the latch three more times but remain stuck in the stone cell which some people might call a toilet stall.

Immediately, I had a full-on panic attack. How long will it take Tom to realize that I didn't wander off for a snack or walk over to the Dead Sea beach without him? And then how long will it take him to find someone who speaks English to come into the locker room and locate me? Will I have perished by then?

I sat down on the toilet seat and took deep breaths. I gave myself a little pep talk-- calm under pressure and all that. Then, with steely resolve, I slammed that latch back and forth like a blacksmith with unusually strong forearms hellbent to knock a piece of steel into submission. I must have opened and closed that latch 50 times in 20 seconds.

And the deadbolt opened. The whole episode was harrowing, but rather brief.

The second time I got locked in a bathroom in Israel was in Jerusalem at the Mamilla Hotel. Our tour guide arranger guy loved this hotel, so I didn't have the heart to tell him that we're Chelsea people and this place is so Upper East Side it made me want to wear a beanie, drink my coffee out of a mason jar and talk about experimental house music and my stance against french manicures and matching luggage. The whole place gave me an identity crisis.

The bathroom in our room was super cray:

Glass enclosed bathroom in our room at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

You see what I mean? Who could have imagined a more deluxe gimmick? Anyway, I had to get up to pee in the middle of the night and I realized if I turned the light on in the bathroom, it would be like turning on a bathroom-sized incandescent lamp. This would wake up Tom and then we'd have Grouchy Tom on our hands. So I walked into the bathroom and closed the door in pretty much the pitch dark because the Israelis are very good at black-out curtains.

When I went to go back to bed, I couldn't find the doorknob. I couldn't actually even remember where the door was. Also the Plan B light switch was somewhere that was not obvious to someone feeling up the walls like a blind person with a fetish for walls. Granted, I could have just yelled and woken up Tom and I'm sure he would have saved me but that would just be a little too much like giving up.

Eventually, like Houdini, I escaped.

I mean, like Houdini all the times before that last time.

(The cleaning ladies the next day: "Look at all these fingerprints all over every single surface in this entire bathroom WTF with these Americans?!")

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Meanwhile, in Norway. Also entitled, Jo: Home for the Holidays.

It's almost midnight, the Saturday before St. Patty’s day. At an Irish Bar packed with actual Irish people. Accompanied by a swarm of Scandinavians. I know, this sounds like a truly bad idea, but fear not, I have lots of experience with these kinds of dangerous scenarios.

Jo, one of my favorite Norwegians, breaks into this story about his trip home for the holidays. I felt like I was in an episode of Drunk History

Jo says that he was up with his family at their “hytte,” the cabin in the forest that every single solitary Scandinavian has and talks about all the time.

So these neighbors of Jo’s family drop in and invite Jo back to their family's hytte for a drink. Jo went to school with the kids. Jo’s mother is like, “go, go over to their hytte.” Jo is hesitant because he knows that one of the main reasons they are inviting him is because Jo has a posh Norwegian accent and they think he is a….

Three people start imitating posh Norwegian accents and I yell out pantywaist! Only Tom laughs but everyone toasts each other because we’re at an Irish bar at midnight the Saturday before St. Patricks day and Scandinavians love toasts.

After about ten minutes someone realizes we're in the middle of a story here.

Jo straps on his cross country skis, because. Norway. He follows his old neighbors over to their hytte. It’s a couple of kilometers.

The neighbors have brewed up a batch of moonshine using their secret family recipe. In Norway, the moonshine is 96% alcohol. BTW, that’s not 96 proof. Jo asks for whisky and they reach up in the spice cupboard for their little bottle of “Whiskey Extract.” They also have “Scotch Extract” and “Vodka Extract.” They sell these little bottles of extract in every Norwegian grocery store, right next to the Vanilla Extract. Two drops of Whiskey Extract and shazam. They hand Jo a shot glass of “whiskey.” Helan går, as they say.

Jo proves he is not a pantywaist. Finally, it’s time to go home. He walks out into the cold, dark Norwegian night all by himself. Did I mention dark? It’s really really dark in Norway in the winter. Pitch. Black.

Jo pushes off in his skis. Swish, swish. But the snow is deep. And it’s fucking dark. He break a pole.

Oh no!!! The crowd goes wild. We all clutch our heads. 

Jo skis a little further, and realizes right then that the alcohol hasn’t kicked in yet. The clock is ticking. He must make it home before he gets as truly drunk as he deserves to be. He skis with one ski pole, recalling that in the old days, like the 13th century, they used to ski with only one pole. We all imitate his re-enactment. We probably look like we’re trying to pilot a gondola. None of the Irish even notice.

But then, the worst! THE OTHER POLE BREAKS.

OMG! And it’s dark and Jo is in a valley and he has to make it up the hill and home to the family hytte before he can’t feel his arms and he has no ski poles and the snow is deep and he’s a little lost and it’s pitch black and it's the middle of the night!

The next morning, Jo’s mother asks if he would like to go out for a little julekake and to shop for a pink marzipan pig. Maybe sing a verse or two of the Mouse Song.

Jo said, no. He’d rather just stay home and do a little reading. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Jerusalem for the clueless

Overlooking Jeruselem
During its history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times and captured and recaptured 44 times. And it shows, for example, in the bullet holes from 1948 by Zions Gate built in 1540. But mainly it doesn’t show, which might be my main point. 

What there is to see in Jerusalem is often what you don’t see— the long-gone ancient temples, palaces, marketplaces. In a timeline that will boggle the brain, most of what was built here was ripped to shreds by invaders. You walk around suddenly very aware of the empty space. Blank sky or rearranged stones that once were feats of engineering and centuries of history. 

By the way, the rearranged stones I’m talking about are Jerusalem stone. All white. So it’s very easy for your minds eye to see the blood on them.

Here’s the difference between a visit to Jerusalem and one to Paris or Istanbul or one of the old norse temples nestled between trees. In Jerusalem, I did not experience that moment… the one where suddenly you’re overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty that humans can create. Where faith and ingenuity of our ancestors shines through the centuries.

In Jerusalem, one aspect of human nature overshadowed the rest: testosterone-fueled aggression justified in the name of something that sounds noble. As a general statement, I’d say the place is chock full of all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire. 

I walked around feeling dismayed, disappointed, horrified… so much nasty zealotry, so little time. Wait, scratch that. So much time. You can't chalk it up to an anomaly.

Shrine enclosing the grave of Jesus.
Various priests and clergymen from various denominations
bicker over who gets to go in with the incense. 

Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the Dome of the Rock.
You have to be able to recite the 1st chapter of the Quran to get in.

Western Wall, encasing the Rock under the Dome of the Rock
 and now deemed to be just as sacred as the rock that cannot be visited.

This is the Rock where Abraham almost offed his son and the same rock, the exact same rock,
that Muhammad leapt into the sky to have lunch with the prophets.

BTW- women aren't allowed in the most sacred place inside this wall.
I fail to understand the appeal for any woman to believe this place is holy and then agree to the ban.

I don’t mean it wasn’t unforgettable and staggering to take in. You can read a page of the Bible and see where, exactly where, the scene described took place--- It was right over there that King Solamon did this or David did that or Helen built the church. It was right here that the Romans or the Byzantines or the Canaanites built their homes or the aqueducts a millennium ago. Or five millennia ago. That kind of old is unfathomable. Our guide was a veritable encyclopedia on two feet. 

Insanely ancient place... It's possible that King David
(ie David from David and Goliath, that David) lived around here.

This might be the residence of Helen
who built the Church of the Holy Seprechur

Our trip was like Israel 101- the crash course. I feel like I should get a certificate. Or another one of those Jerusalem bagels.

Jerusalem bagels were pretty awesome.