I’ll Fly Away

Hello dear friends.  I believe I alluded to some family strife in a previous blog post. I wish I could report that the situation has improved. Sadly, it hasn’t. The last couple of days have been difficult. Of course you all understand that it’s not appropriate for me to go into detail here, as it is family stuff and I don’t want to speak negatively on my blog about people I love and care deeply about, no matter how incredibly frustrated I am. Just pray for us, if you’re so inclined.

For now, I’d like to share a video that I discovered through Fred Hatt’s blog Drawing Life. Fred posted about his photography experiments with the GoPro camera, which captures very cool visual perspectives. Here, a GoPro was strapped to an eagle as it soared through the French Alps. It is absolutely breathtaking; a real “bird’s eye view” that makes we wish I was riding on the eagle’s back, flying away from turmoil, taking in the extraordinary splendor of the earth, without a care in the world. See you all very soon.

Light Years

I was going to open my birthday blog post with some “wise” and insightful quote about how aging is really a liberating, beautiful experience full of maturity and honesty or whatever, but come on . . . those quotes are all horseshit. And if anyone tells me that as a woman at 46 I am “ripening” they’re getting a knee to the groin. Ripening? What am I, a banana?

It goes without saying that I am grateful to be alive, healthy, and celebrating a birthday as opposed to, you know, NOT celebrating one. On the other hand, I can’t exactly bring myself to jump for joy either. It doesn’t help that I overheard a conversation between two guys on a crowded subway a few weeks ago. One of them was telling the other about a woman at his gym who flirts with him regularly. While he conceded that she was very nice and looked good, attractive and fit, he said he’ll never ask her out because, and I quote, “She’s old. She’s like 40!”. His friend shared in the horror by replying “Ew! That sucks.” The “ew” was a nice touch, don’t you think? There I was standing right next to these guys, trapped with no way to escape until my stop came up. The conductor’s announcement of 14th Street never sounded so good. I was outta there. What a relief.

Just a couple of New York jerks, right? Not worth getting upset over? Perhaps. But that attitude is much more prevalent than you think. Much much more. Especially in this city, which has ruthless tendencies. Yes, that attitude is hurtful, even cruel at times. Take my word for it. I have extensive firsthand experience. So today, on my 46th birthday, I feel like I have to apologize for not being Kate Upton.

My mother gave birth to me in 1968 and there’s nothing I can do to change that. Nor can I change, apparently, my habit of taking selfies on Photo Booth after knocking back a couple of Mike’s Hard Lemonades. Heck it’s my birthday. If I want to make an ass out of myself I will ;-)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.47 PM (compiled)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.48 PM (compiled)

4-up on 7-21-14 at 7.48 PM #13 (compiled)

Summer in Full Swing

Helloooooo friends! It seems that I left this blog in the hands of Gaston and Isabel for the past week. And what have I been doing in the meantime? Nothing particularly interesting. A little summer reading, a little gardening, a little bike riding.

As the hot temperatures have set upon us and a hurricane pounds up the east coast this Fourth of July weekend, I’d like to offer my yearly Auntie’s brag about my niece Olivia. She just completed the 6th grade with stellar marks and, to top it off, won the end of year award for “sportsmanship in softball”. Yeah Olivia! At the age of 11 she’s already a better athlete than I’ve ever been. My brother took this picture of Olivia at the last game of the season. As you can see, she’s contemplating her strategy for her next at bat. Love this girl :-)

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Olivia is now enrolled in summer day camp and having a blast. My brother is immersed in music composing jobs, my sister-in-law is doing some renovations at the country house in the Catskills, and Mom is working on paintings for her solo art show in the fall (more on that to come). As for me? Just taking life one day at a time, anticipating a summer of afternoon sunbathing in the park, some writing, volunteering, plenty of reading, visiting friends, going to church, and, lo and behold, some art modeling! Yes I actually have gigs booked in July. I had to hustle and harass for them, but I got them all the same.

I wish everyone a fabulous weekend whether you will have rain or shine, mild breezes or stuffy humidity. Happy Fourth of July! Be safe, be joyful, be grateful. I’ll see you all very soon. Peace, friends.

Central Park, New York City, July 4th, watercolor, Maurice Prendergast, circa 1903:

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Heaven and Hard Times

So it looks like this summer is going to be worse than last summer, and I didn’t think that was possible. Last summer sucked majorly for a couple of reasons; painful breakup with the boyfriend which still hurts over a year later, slow art modeling, and no vacation. This summer adds a new element of tension and troubles in the form of intra-family strife that only seems to get worse by the day. Isn’t that fantastic? The hits just keep on comin’. Ugh.

Coping mechanisms? Same as always. Hunker down among the good. Jettison the bad. Cling for dear life to that which gratifies and gladdens and edifies. Oh yeah, and blogging. Keep blogging :-) Art and music are two of the best pathways to salvation, I think we can all agree on that. And I’ve got one of each to offer today. A striking linocut print of yours truly by the wonderful Christian Johnson, followed by music for Music Monday. Gospel is a dependable source of solace for me as most of you know. The track is “I’m So Glad (Trouble Don’t Last Always)” by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.

A belated Happy Father’s Day to my dad readers. Hope you had a great day! I’ll see you all very soon, friends. And Christian … thank you :-)

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In Case of Failure

On December 7th, 1941 the Japanese bombed the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Five weeks later on January 17th, 1942, a 33 year old man in New York City – an Armenian immigrant to America – enlisted in the U.S. Army. On Ancestry.com his civil occupation is listed as “skilled motion picture projectionist”. He was “single, without dependents”, 5’6″ tall, completed four years of high school, and was a private in the Infantry. He was my great uncle Leon Krikorian, and I remember him well :-)

Leo was among the 73, 000 American troops (156,000 Allied troops altogether) who landed on the beaches of Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, a mission known as “Operation Neptune”. Today the free world commemorates the 70th anniversary of that historic mission. My uncle was wounded on those beaches and was awarded a Purple Heart, something he always dismissed in conversation and never wanted to talk about. He’d talk about the war, yes, but not his medal. And he admitted with candor and honesty that he and his fellow infantrymen felt “fear” that morning under stormy ominous cloud cover, and endured hours of seasickness during the rough crossing of the English Channel.

In a letter written the day before the invasion (mistakenly dated July 5 instead of June 5) General Eisenhower penned a worst case scenario note in the event that the mission failed. It is known as the “In case of failure” letter, although that phrase does not appear in the text. Scrawled on a 4 x7 inch sheet of beige notepaper and written on a portable desk, the note is brittle and worn. Eisenhower had folded it and tucked it in his wallet. In it he wrote, “The troops, the air, and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.” That’s a five star General right there.

Uncle Leo achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant. He died in 1992 and is buried at Long Island National Cemetery. RIP.

Photos of D-Day, which speak for themselves:

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Lilacs Everlasting

In the 1988 movie Rain Man, Tom Cruise’s character learns that his recently deceased wealthy father bequeathed him, in a stingingly worded last will and testament, his prized rosebushes. Not the $3 million inheritance Cruise was hoping for, but rosebushes. And a classic 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible. Needless to say, Tom Cruise was none too pleased with the arrangement and interpreted the act as a stern father’s final slap in the face from his grave. While he may not be the most subtle actor in the world, it’s amusing to see Cruise exclaim with great frustration, “I got the rose bushes! I definitely got the rose bushes!”. If you’ve seen the movie you know that as the plot line unravels, the family drama and its secrets are revealed which provide answers. The father, of course, had his reasons for doing what he did.

I’m bringing this up because part of me has always related to people who value prized garden plants, who place their worth above money and inanimate possessions. I read a story once about an elderly woman who had moved several times throughout her long life and each time dug up her cherished peony to bring it with her and transplant it at the new home. Peonies, with proper loving care, can live up to 75 years. That’s not a mere “garden plant” anymore, that is a resilient, tried and true friend – as familiar and comforting a friend as many human beings we’ll encounter in life. I totally understand why that woman brought her peony with her. There’s nothing remotely strange or eccentric about it to me at all.

It was still winter when I moved into my house 15 years ago. While my then-husband and I spent the cold weather months buying furniture and installing shelving, I was thinking about the coming spring, and what flowering plants I would put in the only spot on the property that receives full sun: the front right corner of the house. It was a plot of dirt when Jeff and I arrived, but it wouldn’t be for long. Roses were definitely in the running but by the time March arrived, I had decided on lilacs. And I personally picked out the two young lilac bushes at my local garden center. They bloom at the exact same time every spring, as if on a precise calendar encoded in their DNA. That time is now. Here are my beauties yesterday:

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I came home from work the other night, tired, still sore in my left hip from doing a standing pose. The second I opened my car door in the driveway the aroma – that extra potent nighttime wafting of late May blooms – transported me to paradise. After a day of trains and buses and city crowds and drafty studios full of easels and turpenoid containers and charcoal dust, and elbow pokes on the E train and stench-filled corridors of Penn Station, the lilacs delivered me to peace. Before I went inside I strolled over to the lilacs, in the dark with my house keys in my hand, to inhale them at close range. My beauties. My babies for 15 years. At that moment my communion with the lilacs was interrupted by the sound of my neighbor across the street dragging his garbage can to curb. He saw me and waved. The next morning I took a few cuttings for the house.

Jose the landscaper cuts grass and trims bushes for most of us on this block. I happened to be home one day when he and his crew were working precariously close to my lilacs with pruning shears. I bolted out of the house and, in my best broken Spanish, instructed them to not do anything to those bushes. I wasn’t a bitch, I swear! I just made it clear that those bushes are not to be touched. At all. Ever. I am protective of them like a mother toward her children. It’s slightly embarrassing ;-)

I probably shouldn’t worry myself about such things, but the thought that someday, maybe decades from now, this house will fall into the hands of strangers who may very well bulldoze this property and dispose of the lilacs makes me sick. Honestly, it throws me into a nervous panic. I may have to draw up a will and bequeath them to a loved one! Or someone who understands, like Amy Lowell. Check out her poem “Lilacs”. New Englanders especially should read it.

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I invite readers to share pics of their prized garden growings, or stories, or memories. Tell me what’s abloom in your garden, or on your fire escape or balcony, or thriving wild where you are.

Spero Meliora

Discontent is a peculiar thing. You think you can pinpoint its source but you can never really identify it with absolute certainty, no matter how much you turn yourself into knots. Where is it coming from? you ask yourself. My nonexistent romantic life is the problem. That must be it. That’s not it? Then it’s my dwindling bank account. That must be it. You seek to expose the pesky germ that is rousing your troubles. Because if you can just identify it then you can crush it, and everything will return to normal. Or so you believe.

Two nudes in studio, Jan Sluyters:

Sluyters-two-nudes-in-studio

I could, for example, point the finger squarely at the business aspect of art modeling and some of the untrustworthy and/or two-faced people who, through their egos and passive aggressive behaviors, make this field far more complicated than it need be. This isn’t brain surgery after all. I could also wonder if I should accept that a callow 20-something millennial has been placed in charge of bookings at a school upon which I depend for my income. And I could further wonder if it’s appropriate for said millennial to say to me, a 40-something model with years of hard work and experience at that school under my belt, that the reason she neglected to call me for work was because, in her exact words – “I don’t who you are, sorry”. Is that rude and hurtful? You bet it is. And I wonder how my journey through art modeling, to which I have devoted body, heart, and soul, has devolved into one insensitive, disrespectful and dismissive remark from the mouth of an art school-coddled child.

Model Sitting, Edward Hopper:

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On the other hand I could point the finger squarely at myself and wonder – in a wrenching exercise of humility – if I have, to some degree, worn out my welcome. In some circles that is, not all. Certainly not at Spring Studio, which is an exception in so many ways. Or I could wonder if I’ve lost the ability to let personal slights simply roll off my back, a skill I used to think I was pretty good at. Are my own insecurities and need for validation distorting my perceptions? Maybe. I don’t know. I wonder if I, as a 45 year old woman in New York City, am due once again for a “bob and weave” in life. Changing and adapting is the crucial key to survival as we all know. If you can’t bob and weave, you better learn.

The Model, Ilya Repin:

Repin-the-model-1895

While my love of art and art modeling is intact, my disillusionment with the art community and some of its players has grown exponentially over the past year. But that’s my problem, nobody else’s. Nor can I say for sure that the frustrations of the art modeling business are to blame for the way I’m feeling now. The seeds of discontent are nebulous. They refuse to show their faces and announce themselves. We are dodging an unseen adversary. Well, maybe not an adversary. Maybe – just maybe – the rumblings of discontent are not adversarial at all, but a signaling force agitating with good intention. Maybe it is the spirit of growth trying to tell you something.