Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Here's a bit of music to set the mood. Don't take it too literally. If I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, it's one spent on white sand. So this year I met my dad on Tortola and hopped aboard the vessel Bella Rose for a cruisy Christmas on the Caribbean.
Flying into Never Never Land:
Santa takes the helm.
Confirming, via radar, that indeed it is raining. We were stuck under a bit of a squall that day.
But mostly we had blue skies, wind in our sails.
Our trusty vessel, posing in the sunset.
A traditional West Indian style sloop.
Barracuda, just hanging by the boat. We also saw sea turtles, dolphins and a pretty little nurse shark swishing her tail.
Reminds me of a joke I once heard.
This is what heaven must be like.
So, this is where we left it, refueled for 2009...
Friday, December 12, 2008
Erin has been away from New York for the last few Christmases. Coincidentally, her first year back in the city, Irving Berlin's White Christmas is back on Broadway. The 1954 movie version is a longtime favorite of Erin's.
Maybe it's because watching Vera Ellen twirl in a yellow dress or Dean Martin swig a martini by the fire makes her want to do both. Indeed, in today's entry on the Style Dossier she mentions a hankering for a highball.
Or maybe it reminds her of her own family Christmases in snowy Idaho, where traditions have always included a heaping spoonful of 1950s kitsch.
This was not digitally remastered White Christmas, but the real thing. Erin's grandmother Anita has reserves of white flocking she kept over the decades (in case the nuclear winter did not include artificial snow) for decorating their tree. Erin's mother, Claudia Haspedis Dixon, required that the gifts piled under said tree be nothing short of handmade.
"I can tell you how it all began," said Claudia. "Back in the 70's when I was a young adult and just-married, I decided to embody the gift of giving by making Christmas gifts. This became a tradition with the belief, insane as it might seem, that making gifts taught my children the true nature of giving--giving of yourself."
Those fortunate enough to benefit from Claudia's generosity may receive a lambswool and angora hat--not just hand-knit, but hand-knit from hand-dyed, hand-spun wool from her own sheep and rabbits. Last year her son Colin sent out jars of preserved "summer peaches" and in the video above Erin tells about the wish vessels that she's working on for this year.
In younger days their crafts were a bit cruder. "There is telltale evidence of 'the puffy paint Christmas' in every closet at the lake," said Claudia. "And it all comes out when a summer night turns unseasonably cold."
The more complex projects can be dangerous. Colin was working under pressure one year on mobiles made of wine bottles when a drill went awry. Erin's aunt brought the DIY (do-it-yourself) trend to new heights, sewing on part of his thumb back on at the kitchen table.
"That was fun for everyone," said Erin, who becomes faint at the sight of blood.
As the Haspedis Dixons' homemade Christmas yurt above suggests, Christmas crafts don't have to be perfect and pristine to bring a bit of cheer to the people you love, hazardous and messy as they may be.
"From Thanksgiving until the 24th of December, on the drive over to Idaho, children and parents were insanely active baking and making to celebrate the gift of giving," said Claudia.
"Instead of sanity we have lots of stories to remember and tell."
Monday, November 24, 2008
Begin by pressing play.
Below is a picture of a list of things to be happy about. I started keeping it when I was sad, a long time ago now, in Santa Barbara. I remember thinking that people would see it taped on my kitchen cupboard and think, "a list of things to be happy about is the work of a depressed person." But no one seemed to think so.
In fact, nearly everyone who came to my apartment regularly checked to see what I had added, or add something themselves once in a while. The list includes items like:
#9 winter sun
#74 airmail envelopes
The list has been tucked away for a few years now, but I still add to it mentally every now and then. A couple weeks ago (the same night I recorded the farmers and chocolate-makers playing the music recorded in my last entry), my friend Stephen Brooks sang a song wishing that everyone everywhere could be as fortunate as he was in that moment. I feel that all the time.
Just a few of the things I am profoundly thankful for this year include:
Erin back in New York, and just down the street.
Walking away from Edun a year ago was tough, but I managed to find another place that keeps me equally sleep-deprived, inspired and surrounded by impossibly eccentric personalities. Perfect.
Which brings me to how happy I am to still have all those silly beautiful Edun people in my life.
Even though they locked my computer, purse and scarf inside the office Friday night while I was lost in the Steven Alan sample sale. (Being locked outside Edun in the freezing dark was not as scary as briefly believing on Wednesday night that I was locked inside CUNY after editing video for thirteen hours.)
So...I'm thankful that right now, I am not locked in, or out, of anything at all.
It's easy to be so free when you've got a big safety net, which is...
This year started with my sister and her babes taking care of me in New Zealand. If that music player up top is playing the song "Home" right now, that's what they gave me.
Skipping rocks will be on her list of things to be happy about one day. For now, it's just "throwing rocks," which was one of our preferred excuses for sitting together on the shore of the lake.
This photo refers back to #9 on the original list: winter sun, which is wonderful all over New York, but I highly recommend 2nd avenue. It also refers back to an entry from May when Polaroids were added to the list. I'm thankful that Tom Slaughter never lets golden light like this on the fire escape go unappreciated. I appreciate that. He snapped this on Friday.
I've been assigned cookies for Thanksgiving, probably because my cousin Judy knows there's nothing I'd rather make. So...thanks.
Click the little pencil below to leave a comment if you want, and let me know what's on your list.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Jill Santopietro wrote and blogged about it for The New York Times. It's been the high point of my kitchen cupboard since August, when I visited Fazenda Monte Alegre, Diego Badaró's cacao farm in Bahia, Brazil.
So I bundled up Sunday evening to catch the end of the show, ripe for cacao-buzzed inspiration.
Instead I found chocolate records inscribed with holiday messages, mannequins wearing chocolate dresses and a "Divalicious!" chocolate fountain for marshmallow-dipping. I don't mean to sound like a scrooge, but it seems silly to go to such great lengths to create a novelty out of what is such a magical material to begin with. But, alas...
Diego, he of Cacao Badaró in Brazil, an alchemist in the truest sense, came to New York for the occasion. Tuesday night he shared his wares with a few friends: some special chocolate-makers, farmers and importers of exotic fruits. In an apartment in the West Village, a red wine and dark chocolate-fueled jam session brought us all back to Bahia, the origin of Cacao Badaró chocolate. Magic is restored.
Below is a little taste I recorded that night:
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
What I've found here over the last couple of months is sort of like an American Atlantis...a mythical land where middle-class people of all colors and religions run small businesses in relative harmony.
The candidates kept talking about Main Street. Maybe this is what it looks like.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Good with coffee.
I had cinnamon and nutmeg in mine, which was totally delicious.
(That's a comment on the season, not race, by the way.
Don't dig too deep here on jaybird. If there's subtext, you'll probably know.)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tom Slaughter took that photo. He tends to get his lines crossed as well. Click here to see his Obama poster and vote for it, if it's your favorite. You're voting for a poster, rather than a candidate at this stage. I told you it was confusing. This was a great article in the Times Magazine about artists and Obama, from a while back. Click here for that.
Tom knows that I looovvvve Beatriz Milhazes' work. Last week I brought my mom to her opening at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea. Go, go, go to this show. Color-therapy, that's what her work is. A visceral simultaneous embrace of and escape from all this stimulus, food, art, politics and what not.
Mom was impressed. Sort of. (Moms are tough, you know?)
I'll tell you who she's really impressed with.
His gallery in Williamsburg, Artbreak, is also having an Art for Obama event in October. Click here for more information on that.
Paradoxical, I know. It all goes back to that pack of Sweetmint.
Tonight momma will move from her neighborhood to mine for the next couple of nights.
That's where I took this last photo, on Grand Street in my neighborhood...the same Grand Street where the pet storekeeper's gallery is.