Saturday, October 27, 2012

French Fry Art

Anyone who sees my drawings knows that I only paint or draw on used materials, like paper bags and whatnot. Lately, I like to draw on french fry containers. They have a great shape and cool stripes. Here's my most recent stuff.

This is Daniel. He goes everywhere with me. My mom and sister gave him to me as a high school graduation gift. He has been  my best traveling companion since.

I made this one with Rick Bierman in mind. Rick was the lovely man who Richeff and I stayed with in Alaska. He and his wife owned property on an island near Juneau. I was so happy to get to know Rick, especially when we seemed to share a love for Abbie Hoffman. Rick once write a beautiful poem that was a response to Allan Ginsberg's "Howl," and it referenced Abbie. It was so beautiful I cried. So Rick, next time I see you, this is yours!

This is Bob Dylan. I wanted to make it colorful and put a beautiful quote next to him. But I was in a bad mood. So all I could think of was "I used to care, but things have changed..." So I left it blank.

While I was reading Salmon Rushdie's autobiography and he was talking about meeting a man in Kerala who had "henna in his beard." This is what came to my mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I never knew what you could do with a didgeridoo

 I tend to sometimes be over-flowery with my writing. Excessive. Embellishing. But hey, I was trained as a journalist, so it's not my fault.

I only say this so when I describe the beautiful evening I had, you won't think I am overstating it.

I was sitting with my newfound expat friends, work friends, and my roommate a stones-throw away from the Australian Prime Minister. We were sitting in folding chairs on the grass between the 5,000-year-old fort and the ancient observatory. We watched a great, great performance by Gurrumul Yunupingu who sings in a language only 2,000 people still use off the coast of Australia. We listened to Ravi Shankar's daughter play the sitar and her band play instruments I had never heard of before. All the while, brilliant artists projected 3-D images onto the observatory to make their music come alive.

Gurrumul's performance really got me. When I was little –and still now– I was never fond of the dark. So my mom bought me a little light for my room. As the paper around the light slowly turned, light shone through cutouts and I could see fish swimming across my wall as I tried to sleep.

When Gurrumul started singing his song about the fish he would catch when he was a child, water and swimming fish were projected on the observatory. Now, of course I can't compare a thirty dollar nightlight with the highest-tech projectors in India, but the same feeling of wonder and comfort came over me, listening to Gurrumul sing and seeing the fish swimming by.

And then Anushka Shankar came on, with a sitar about as big as her. It would have been hard to take my eyes off her long brown hair and sparkling gown if it weren't for the beautiful floral designs crawling and spiraling across the observatory behind her.

Truly magical. The sights, the sitar, everything.

By the end of the night that observatory had been bathed in every color of light in the rainbow. What a lucky building it is, to get dressed up for the prime minister and have such great music bouncing off it's stone walls. And how lucky we were to be there to witness it.

Here's a video that gives you an idea of what we got see and hear.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Life, I want to recognize your helper verb

After days of arguing over music, Saadia and I found one song we could both dance to. 

See, we share a room. We became close friends after staying in the same apartment building, but now that we share a room – waking up together, going to bed together, eating together – we can sometimes drive each other a little crazy. Especially recently. All I want to listen to is old blues and bluegrass. Saadia wants to listen to anything BUT that. And we just bicker, bicker, bicker.

I don't know why I didn't think about this before. I have one Indian song that I used to listen to ALL the time! Why didn't we start dancing to this weeks ago?

How did I find this song? By compromise. We started with Nirvana's cover of "In the Pines" because Saadia loves Nirvana, for some reason. I then played Leadbelly's version as the compromise. Because his version is obviously the greatest. Well, where can you go from Leadbelly other than to Skip James? So I played "Cherry Ball Blues," which led to "Devil Got My Woman".

And "Devil Got My Woman" brought us into the soundtrack to the film Ghost World.

I've written about my love for this movie before, but it never proved more useful than last night. I was looking through my iTunes, knowing Saadia wouldn't let me keep playing old music, and I saw it, on the Ghost World soundtrack, right after Skip James:

"Jaan Pechan Ho" by Mohammed Rafi. 

Anyone who has seen the opening scene to Ghost World has had this song stuck in their heads, no doubt, never knowing how to pronounce the words or what they meant.

Well, now I do! Saadia and I stepped outside to get some fresh air and enjoy a Kingfisher and ended up staying out for nearly an hour, dancing our way closer and closer to midnight while she taught me the lyrics to the song.

But after all the dancing and the beers, she began translating in a very interesting way, in a way perhaps only Christopher Hitchens could keep up with at that point. She was trying to explain the power of Urdu verb conjugations, or as she said " vern congenations." "He is trying to say that if they could only recognize each other –helper verb– life would be like a dream..."

So that was our Wednesday. Some chain-smoking Brooklynite teaching me – a tragically white Nebraskan – the ancient poetry of Urdu.

Eventually, I got the hang of it.

"Dil pe chrale wallet auk nah churau. Nam to patau…" Those who steal my heart, do not steal my gaze as well. Please, tell me your name at least…

So when we go to Kashmir this weekend, in the land of Urdu, I can tell my taxi driver, "Jaan pejan ho. Jeena a san ho." If we could really recognize each other, life would be a fantasy.

Perhaps I'll get a cheaper cab fare...

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Van Morrison conundrum

How can a man who looks like this

sing like this?

And how can a man who sings like that, actually talk like this?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've been drawing flowers lately

We put up my new flowers in the kitchen

Here is a closeup

I like this one a lot

This one too

This was my first attempt.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The broken hearts club

I am now living in an apartment where all three tenants are nursing serious damage to their hearts. And I always would hear what women say about these things, in these situations and all I could hear was bad dialogue to a B-grade chick flick.

But here I was tonight, sitting around a table with two beautiful women, inside and out, saying things I never thought I would hear myself say. And they listened intently and we all offered little insights to the other about what had happened. It is amazing how introspective and delusional we allow ourselves to be at the same time.

And tonight, instead of hearing dialogue that I wished Aaron Sorkin could rewrite, I found myself traveling the world and traveling through time in my head while we talked. I thought about all the other women in the world saying these things and sharing their hurt with new friends. How many languages this same conversation was taking place, over chais or espressos or margaritas or champagne. And I began to think of how many centuries women have been using the same words to describe where they are in the process of rebuilding and reshaping their hearts. 

And it just makes me feel that because of all this, we three are part of history. We are living the part of life that all women live and that this is part of life; this is supposed to be a part of life; this is what life is about. And that, somehow, makes it beautiful. Beautiful and painful at the same time. Like the sweet pain you hear Leonard Cohen talking about rather than the raw pain of Nick Cave. It's a pain that tonight I can sit with.

And while the three of us were at our lowest tonight, running out of cigarettes and grouchy that we went out on Ghandi's birthday which turned out to be a dry holiday, we were all talking about how these things change us. And this whole time I have been hoping that the next day I will wake up and be the person I was before. And now I know that I won't be. I will grow and change from this for better or worse.

But, my new housemate told me something the first night I met her, showing off a beautiful green ring with gold filled into it. She said that the Japanese make pots and pottery and when it cracks or when there is an imperfection, they fill it in with gold. So it is the imperfections that make it beautiful. I just hope that the same goes for humanity.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hold onto your hats, it's an aries full moon

Aries full moon over Jaipur

The resident astrologer at our new apartment tells us that this weekend was the Aries full moon. we saw it from the hilltop in Jaipur. Not only is it beautiful, but explains a lot… if I believed in this kind of stuff. She told us that this is a period for intense change so just try to survive it until things settle.

Well, here I am, trying to hold on. New country, new coworkers, new apartment, new cities, sights, sounds, smells, foods. I just lost my grandmother. My heart is still broken. I don't know what I will see in this next month, if I will do well at anything or fail.

But, as Nick Lowe would say, "So it goes…"

Maybe it's the aries in me, but I know this is my doing. I chose this life and this job, and I choose to travel on the weekends rather than sleep in. I choose to keep my mind busy and my eyes drinking in new things all the time.

According to the website, "Under the just-do-it Full Moon Aries, what action can you take that sends a signal that you're moving past fear? A small step, if it's the right one, has the power to alter how you feel about what's possible." So I will be looking this weekend to do something that I would otherwise be afraid of.

But I am waiting for this full moon to pass so things will settle. But instead of waiting not he moon to get smaller and smaller, maybe I should be the one who chooses to settle down.

Any advice on how to do that? I'm at a loss.

Abby-snails inherited Bertha

An old family friend got a new home this week. You see Bertha, my grandmother's best friend since she was little found herself in a bit of a predicament. After my grandmother passed away last week, she didn't know if she was going to move in with my mother, my aunt, my cousins or my sister.

Well, it's only fitting that Bertha makes her new home in New Orleans, and I'll tell you why.

Bertha is used to living in place cluttered with knick naks. She would feel practically agoraphobic if the walls weren't covered with tiny shelves holding tiny objects; she needs to be in a place with peacock feathers and trinkets, and that weird sign with a headless woman that used to terrify me and Grandma and Grandpa's old apartment. 

Bertha is at home in Abby's house.

Bertha needs to be well-costumed. My grandmother would always dress Bertha for a birthday party or for Saint Patrick's Day. Sometimes her birthday would last a few years before Grandma would remember to change her outfit. Well, not anymore. Who better than Abby Mullen, the queen of costumes, to make sure that Bertha has a new outfit for every holiday. And, there are more holidays in New Orleans than any other city I know! …Just don't dress her up for Zulu, please.

Bertha needs to be with someone who understands her. Keep in mind, Bertha is now in her 80s–although she doesn't look a day over 2 – so she isn't used to change. She needs to be around someone who uses common phrases like, "I'm going to smack you across the mouth," or "Just wait until I'm dead and then we'll see if you feel bad…" and these kinds of things are not authentic unless coming from Abby, who somehow had Grandma's dialogue passed down directly, like a phrasebook in the genes (see below). I can see Abby someday with a crop of white, wavy hair, telling doctors and nurses that she is going to stick needles into her own eyes if they don't leave her alone.

I don't know how Grandma Clare was the youngest child because her and Abby both had an older-sister complex. Grandma would never share her strawberry rhubarb pie or her chocolate cake, and Abby would never share her home-cultured, free-range, mother-induced frozen yogurt. When either of them decided something was theirs, it was theirs. And no one would dare challenge them on that.

And so I am not challenging you on who gets Bertha. She would have been yours anyway. So Abby-snails gets Bertha. But Mogliosi get Manky. Ain't no way I'm ever giving her back.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jaipur and the trip from hell

Let me just say this - Saadia and I had some great moments in Jaipur. We drank champagne at hilltop ruins watching the sun set over the pink city. We tried on jewelry and sarees that we could never actually afford. We photographed and drank gin and tonics by a swimming pool that I swear was out of "High Society."

Yes, we had good moments.

But our 36 hours in Jaipur were messed up.

Just a snippet for the curious reader. 11:30 p.m. Saturday night. Our tuk tuk driver brings us back to our hotel. He demands twice the price we agreed on, saying his price was quoted for only one person. Saadia says something that, I assume if I spoke Hindi, would be appalling. But it works. She hands him 500 rupees and we walk away. Saadia saves the day again. 

Back in our hotel room we are about to crash for the night, ready for a day of sightseeing and a bus journey back to Delhi tomorrow. Knock, knock, knock. The man from the front desk is demeaning I give him a copy of my Indian visa for his files. I don't have it, because I left my passport in Delhi. I gave him a copy of my passport but not of my visa. He proceeds to tell us that we can't stay here tonight if I don't produce my visa. Saadia interjects. (Translating from my unerstaning of her Hinglish) "What do you want us to do? Draw it for you? We don't have it. We have already checked in and payed for the room. It is late, we will deal with this in the morning." To which he replied, "Mam, we don't care."

So this is how I ended up texting the good Jesuit at my office at midnight from Jaipur, and this is when I get awarded the "worst employee of the year" medal.

Anyway they finally let us sleep that night, which was wonderful. Because between the tuk tuk driver taking us on a tour of shops we didn't want to see and asking for Saadia's phone number and our four-hour-turn-eight-hour bus ride, we didn't sleep a wink. 

But, at least I got a blog post out of it… 

Here is my video: 36 hours in Jaipur in 36 seconds.