The Garden, 1986

Have you ever sat third row/center at a concert? I did, once. When you’re accustomed to seeing your favorite bands from the nosebleed seats a football field-length away from the action, the third row is an experience like nothing else. Exactly how my friend Faby and I managed to snag such prime seats for the Prince concert at Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1986, I honestly can’t recall. But I can tell you it wasn’t through the box office 😉

How can I describe that night seeing Prince perform live? Mesmerizing. Groovy sounds and glittering lights. A rush of adrenaline and shocks of electricity. Shiny instruments, colored smoke, thumping rhythms and sumptuous vocals. Prince’s female bandmates riffing, soloing, being utter badasses. Satin and lace. Funk and psychedelic. A legendary arena packed to the brim with the most diverse crowd of concert-goers I’ve ever seen; 15 year olds and 40 year olds, a Brooklyn Italian guy over here, a Bronx Puerto Rican woman over there. A Manhattan East Side professional, and a gaggle of girls from Long Island. Good kids and troublemakers. City and suburban. Screaming, perspiring, standing on seats and singing along with the lyrics. Prince was, in a word, spellbinding.  A 5’2″ dynamo of talent, charisma, and originality. 

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But allow me to share the single most unforgettable detail of that night, one that I can easily replay in my mind like five frames of a film reel because, when you’re 18 years old, this kind of thing burns an indelible imprint in your memory, along with the thrills and chills that accompany it. Prince was dancing at edge of the stage. Faby and I, like I mentioned before, were in the third row. Prince was right there … so damn close it felt like if I had stood on the back of my chair I could launch right into him with one full throttle leap. The fabric of his jacket, the scarves, boots … right there .. right in front us. And then, on the downbeat of the music, he froze for two seconds .. and made eye-contact with me .. and smiled … and … WINKED!!!!! Yes!!! YES HE DID!! Faby turned to me, her mouth wide open, and the teenage girl-screams came forth in crazy shrieks. “Prince winked at you!!! Did you see that??!! Oh my God!!!!!!!”. Thirty years later I can still see it, vividly – Prince’s big brown eye looking directly into mine. Annnnndd … W I N K !!!!! It’s my giddy, cherished memory, and no one can take it away from me.

Lest you think that Prince was an indiscriminate winker, I was wearing a purple halter top with my boobs half hanging out, and huge dangly earrings, and 25 bracelets going up my forearm, and waving my hands in the air and blowing him overt kisses all night long. So I’m fairly comfortable saying that I :ahem: got his attention. Mission: accomplished 😉

PrinceWendy

When the news broke of Prince’s death, my Mom sent me a text: “Awful news about Prince. I know you loved him from the very beginning”. Mom is right, because “very beginning” for fans like me means pre-Purple Rain. When his fame blew up and hit the mainstream, we weren’t the least bit surprised. We had recognized his talents.

In the midst of all the “grief porn” flooding the Internet, and the pretentious “thinkpieces” being penned by “cultural critics” (or whatever we’re supposed to call these people) let’s have a different take and consider the impressive state of Prince’s life when he left us at the age of 57. He died having the staunch respect and admiration of his musical peers and colleagues. He died having the loyalty of his faithful, devoted fans. He died having found spiritual enlightenment and religious awakening. And, after the epic legal battle he waged against his record company Warner Bros, he died owning his own masters – no small feat in the notoriously rapacious music business. Although fiercely private, Prince revealed himself in the way all true artists do – through his art. Over the course of his long career, we witnessed him evolve from a raunchy, seductive lothario to a teetotaling Jehovah’s Witness, metamorphosing through the personal stages of his life with the same mastery and imagination with which he navigated all styles of music. And he remained, always, a consummate musician, prolific producer, arranger, performer and songwriter. Influential. Inventive. Enigmatic. Often mystifying. We know we won’t see the likes of Prince anytime soon, if ever.

Special condolences should be expressed, by all Prince fans, to the people in and around the Minneapolis area. They lost a fellow Minnesotan, a native son, a neighbor, a supporter of the community and its music scene. When celebrities reach Prince’s level of fame and success, many of them move to a mansion in Beverly Hills, a beach house in Malibu, or a penthouse in New York. But Prince stayed right where he came from.

And no there’s nothing wrong with your tablet or your computer …. this blog post is written in purple font. Your eyes don’t deceive you! Now you probably think it isn’t possible to “out-cool” Lenny Kravitz, but here’s Prince doing just that. (Sorry Lenny). Watch him shred at 5:24. This is Music Monday. Rest in Peace, purple one … and thanks for the wink 😉

The Healing Hawk

The big blizzard of 2016 has finally melted away into the pavements and parks of New York City. Yesterday’s rains made efficient work of washing away the last remnants. The January storm really was a doozy. One for the record books. I had two modeling jobs cancelled and, instead, got more upper body workout from one afternoon of snow shoveling than I get all year 😛

But friends, I haven’t been feeling well lately, and I just wanted to let you know. I haven’t been blogging as frequently, or as joyfully, as I normally do. I apologize. You find yourself sliding helplessly into a hole, trying to process various forms of disillusionment, isolation, and frustration with both family and friends, and then the prospect of pulling yourself out of the hole feels like scaling a 500 foot wall … without a rope. At least I’ve managed to pull myself out of bed and get to my modeling jobs, where I’m trying my best to pose with some modicum of enthusiasm and vigor.

The “Snowpocalypse” did provide a magical moment of awe that is still bringing me a sense of peace and comfort when I recall the sight. The day after the storm (which is always a beautiful day, have you noticed?) I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood. It was bright, all brightness: bright white blanket of thick snow, bright clear blue sky, bright light reflecting everywhere. When a storm system passes away after doing its damage, it’s like everything opens up, stretches its limbs, and affirms its existence in the aftermath – we’re still here, we’re alive, we survived! – the trees, the houses, and of course the people, the people who can finally emerge after hunkering down indoors for  36 hours. Now it’s people shoveling snow, neighbors chatting and commiserating next to their buried cars, teenage boys zipping down the streets on snow buggies, groups of bundled up children toting sleds to the park. It was near that very park around the corner from my house that some wild movement at the top of a pine tree caught my eye. I looked up and it was a red-tailed hawk, knocking batches of snow off the branches as it landed down to perch. The sight of that handsome hawk made me so happy, and I stopped in my tracks to observe and enjoy him. He hung out for a minute or two surveying the area and then took off, spreading his impressive wings, revealing his markings, and flied away slowly, confidently, gliding over our park in northeastern Queens, like he was king of the kingdom.

It probably sounds corny and cliched, but experiences with nature, however brief, can truly do wonders for one’s state of mind. It has quite the restorative effect. Why do you think that is? Maybe because they are creatures completely removed from the worries and anxieties we humans deal with? I feel like that’s part of it. I envy animals and wildlife because they don’t give a damn about any of the shit we stress over. They function in harmony with nature’s patterns and rhythms and their innate God-given purposes. Their lives are all about survival and simplicity and existing in their “space”. No traces of discontent, no traces of inadequacy or complications, no personal standards that can’t be met or impossible quests for “fulfillment”. Two weeks later, I can still see, in the vividness of my memory, the form and physique of that hawk against the bright blue sky of that Sunday afternoon. I can still see those batches of fresh powdery snow tumbling down to the ground from that high pine tree branch when the hawk landed. And I can still see that same branch bounce up and down, like a diving board, the moment the hawk pushed off to take flight …

Goshawk Hunting by Bruno Liljefors:

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Wildlife sightings are always welcome here on Museworthy. If you’ve experienced any cool critters or special nature moments this winter season, please share in the comments 🙂

Homestead

Did I lock the deadbolt? I think I did. I’m pretty sure I did. It’s 1:00 AM but I should get out of bed and check it just to be sure. And while I’m up I might as well check all the windows one more time, even though I checked them before I went to bed. I pushed the levers as far as I could push them but I should push them again with all my strength. Better safe than sorry, right? And I might as well look out the window and check the street one more time and make sure there are no suspicious cars in the neighborhood. All rightfully belong: Stacy’s Passat, Mary’s Honda CRV, Mike’s truck, Tony’s jeep. OK. Back to bed. But wait … what about that ill-fitting basement window that doesn’t always close completely? Better check it. Out of bed again, down the stairs, into the corner next to to the water heater. Checked. Secure. Back upstairs to bed. Go to sleep. I have modeling in the morning. But what is that tapping sound? thump … thump … thump … those are the heat pipes, and I know that full well because I’ve lived with those noises for 15 years. It’s the steam, not a prowler. NOT A PROWLER. Chill, girl, chill. It’s the pipes and you know it. Don’t freak out.

This is my house. MY HOUSE goddammit. Not the burglar’s house. Not the police’s house. MY house. My home. I have to stop this compulsive behavior. It would be so nice to have a big strong man here with me, but I don’t 😦

So this sucks, living this way in the wake of the burglary. My alarm system better arrive soon because I’m a ball of knots. I actually did a Google search for shotguns <–that’s how paranoid I’ve become. I’m an inch away from becoming a crazy lady in a bathrobe running out her front door yelling, “get off my property, punk, or you’ll be in a world of pain!”. And that’s so NOT who I am, good grief. But I will continue the mantra in my head: this is MY HOUSE. My sanctuary. My place of peace and privacy. I beg you, Queens burglars, leave me alone. You hit me once. No need to hit me again.

Moonlight Interior by Edward Hopper:

Hopper-moonlight-interior

I’m sorry, readers. I’m so sorry. I’m just unhappy and scared and lonely. I need a vacation … or just a day or two to feel carefree, or pampered, or, at this point, just a solid good night’s sleep.

I’ll be back in the next post in better spirits … I promise 🙂

Thou Shalt Not . . .

To the person who broke into my house on Tuesday night while I was out at work . . . I hope the Oxycontin was worth it. Or the meth, or the heroin, or whatever ruinous substance to which you are enslaved. To you  . . . who took a crowbar to my window and busted the lock . . . who ransacked my bedroom, emptied all my drawers, and stuffed into your goody bag my laptop, my Nikon digital SLR camera, my diamond engagement ring and wedding band from my 1998 marriage, and the silver bracelet which was a cherished gift from my last boyfriend . . . To you . . . who shoved off all the perfume bottles on my vanity as a framed photo of my dead father surveilled your crimes . . . To you . . . who in your manic hunt for cash and jewelry, rifled through love letters and cards and personal mementos . . . To you . . . who, in a panic, collided with my kitchen garbage can and knocked it over in the final seconds before you fled my home, and exited right out the front door . . . To you . . . who has put fear and unease into me that I will never be rid of . . . who has victimized and violated a person who did nothing to you . . . who has instilled in me a level of distress and anxiety that has so far prevented me from sleeping one wink during the evening hours since this incident, in my own home, on my quiet residential street. To you  . . . who has forced me to consider paying thousands of dollars – that I don’t have – for an alarm system, without which I will never feel safe again. To you . . . you lost, broken soul . . . I offer my sincere prayers . . . that you might find yourself someday living a life where you have better things to do on a weeknight than steal from strangers . . . that you may earn money, as I was doing on 13th Street while you were invading my house . . . To you . . . whose footprints were shown to me by the police and their flashlights in my backyard . . . the tracks you left in the snow . . . I truly hope and pray that you find the strength to get better . . . and leave your “footprints” in this life of a different sort.

Happy 5th Birthday Museworthy!!

It’s been five years friends. Five years of Museworthy. I’m actually at a loss for words, which as most of you know is quite rare for me! I could repeat what I’ve said every year on these birthday posts; that I never expected this blog to have such longevity, or that it would accumulate over 150 subscribers, and receive 1,000 visitors a day from all around the globe. Or that I’d have enough topics to discuss, artwork and anecdotes to share, and spirited, illuminating discussions in the comments. All these things amaze me still, after five splendid years.

I was thinking about last year’s post and the concerns I raised about continuing to model on a full time basis. But after a fantastic, very busy year of work – and by some miracle NOT having fallen apart physically which was my fear – I look back and wonder, what the hell was I thinking? Of course I will continue art modeling! And blogging. You guys can’t get rid of me just yet 😉

So Fred Hatt and I collaborated again in his studio and have decided on an image to share for Museworthy’s fifth. A rose-tinted photograph to match my rose-colored glasses perhaps? No. Rose-colored glasses imply unrealistic optimism. I think my optimism level is perfectly real and true and delusion-free. I am a thankful, fortunate gal.

Our music this year comes courtesy of the Beatles. Not one of their more famous songs, but a good one, recorded on the very brink of their breakup. Listen with me to “I’ve Got a Feeling”. John Lennon comes in at 2:05 and sounds adorable. Peace, love, and infinite gratitude to all of you in the Museworthy world . Thanks for reading, supporting, and sustaining this artistic little corner of the Internet.

Your muse,
Claudia  xxoo

California Trumpets, Brooklyn Violins

My father is going to be a subject on this blog for the second post in a row. But this time he will be alive in a family memory, not in my distressed drawings of his grave. This story relates somewhat to a superb video I have chosen for Music Monday about the great craftsmen who make musical instruments. But first, the Hajian misadventures.

In the early 1970s our family took a vacation to California. While we were out there my dad, a professional trumpet player, wanted to visit the shop of Domenick Calicchio, an Italian immigrant and well-respected maker of fine handcrafted trumpets and other horns. Perfectly understandable. If my brother and I (nine and five respectively) were getting Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo, and my mother was getting museum visits and scenic drives up the Pacific coast, my father was surely entitled to meet a trumpet craftsman as his must-see California vacation priority. So we made our way to a less-than-spectacular section of North Hollywood. It was hot as hell that day I remember. My dad went into Calicchio’s place ready to meet the man and place an order for a horn. My mom, my brother Chris and I waited in the rental car, mistakenly assuming my dad would take no longer than 20 or 30 minutes, 40 minutes tops. But we waited. And waited. And waited. Bored out of our minds, hot and uncomfortable, stranded in a part of Hollywood in which there was absolutely nothing to do. No place to walk, no sights to see, nothing to eat! We got restless fast, especially my mother for whom patience is not a virtue. The three of us started to go nuts. How long is this taking??? It’s been over two hours!!! Mom, can we leave yet??! Where’s Daddy???!!  In Mom’s defense, the woman was in hell. Trapped with two young children in the days when you couldn’t just stick a video game or portable DVD player in a kid’s hands to keep them occupied. The whole situation sucked. My brother went in to see what was going on. It turns out that Dad was having a marvelous time, talking trumpets with old man Calicchio and chatting with other trumpet players who were hanging out, comparing notes about brass, mouthpieces, etc. Musician stuff. Good stuff. Dad stuff.

My father was not a fast-paced guy. He didn’t like to rush or be rushed. He enjoyed conversing and bonding with people who interested him and could spend hours doing so. And he always made the most of unique opportunities. He knew he’d probably never be in Los Angeles again, so why not savor his time in Domenick Calicchio’s shop? That’s how his mind worked.

But friends, let me tell you. I loved my Dad deeply, as you know, but he made us wait so long it was literally HOURS! In hot LA weather. With nothing to do! We were going batshit crazy. It was freaking torture! What we should have done, in retrospect, was tell Dad we’d just leave him there while we took the car and drove around to better parts of LA. We’d pick him up later. But you know when you’re waiting for something and you’re afraid to leave because you think it will only be “another 20 minutes”, so you might as well just stay and wait it out? That kind of reasoning? I think that’s the trap we fell into. Also, we didn’t want to do any sightseeing without him. We had to wait for Dad. He was our guy.

My favorite part of that episode was how completely pissed my Mom was. She’s still pissed to this day. Bring up the Calicchio thing and she’ll say, “Oh god, please! We wasted an entire day of our vacation at that place!! Your father took forever!!”

Keep in mind that my father was just placing orders for horns. When he finally came out he didn’t have any instruments with him. Only receipts for purchases. The custom made trumpets – four I think – were shipped weeks later to our house in New York City. Dad said they were fantastic and well worth the time and visit. Oh sure, to him they were worth it! What about us? The innocent family he left stranded in a rental car in Hollywood??!! 😆 By the way, the Calicchio company is still in existence. They moved years ago from SoCal to Tulsa, Oklahoma. See a photo of old man Domenick, now deceased, on their website.

Last point before we move on. My Dad made it up to us days later when we drove up to San Francisco. He took us all on a thrilling drive on the steep, hairpin turns of Lombard Street. Chris and I were laughing and screaming like lunatics, and my father had so much fun amusing his children with crazy driving. It was awesome. We loved it, he loved it. All was forgiven for the Calicchio chapter.

Ok. On to our video. Filmmaker Dustin Cohen profiles Brooklyn-based violin maker Sam Zygmuntowicz. His commitment to craft, music, and his valued clients is evident in this excellent profile. It’s also comforting to know that the great tradition of skilled instrument-making is alive and well in this day and age. Domenick Calicchio may be gone, but the artistry of his specialized field lives. We transition from brass to strings. Enjoy this clip!

Sketching for Dad

Hey gang. I apologize for not posting all week. Yesterday, March 8th, would have been my father’s 80th birthday had he lived. He died in 2004, at the age of 72. My Mom, my brother, and I went to visit his grave to bring him love and birthday wishes. It was a tough experience, sunny gorgeous 68 degree weather notwithstanding. Today I woke up in a really crummy mood and it’s showing no signs of improving.

I took a picture of Dad’s headstone with the flowers we placed there – yellow tulips and blue hyacinths. This afternoon I tried to sketch it, perhaps as a way of working through my lingering grief. I don’t know if artists avoid working when they’re emotionally miserable, but I know I can do better than this if I’m in a more positive state. Or maybe my somber mood is precisely the reason I felt the urge to sketch this scene in the first place?

You see, we never got to say goodbye to my father because he died suddenly, out of the blue. That reality has always tormented me. With feelings of sadness and frustration, I threw down some watercolor here, just to capture the general shapes and colors. There’s a large bush next to Dad’s grave on the right side, just so you know why there’s a mess of green wash there! In real life it creates a beautiful cool shade, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to try to represent it here.

Then I tried a charcoal and pastel drawing. This time I began with some semblance of a plan but I lost my focus, started crying, and gave up. The ground at the base of the headstone is uneven, so at least I managed that detail. The upper left should have indicated other headstones in the the distance, but I made a smudgy mess and didn’t bother to fix it.

I hope you’re all doing better than I am moodwise. I’ll be back real soon, in much cheerier spirits I promise!