Monday, April 22, 2013

FROM THE TRAIN...then and now

Over the years I've carried notebooks in my pocketbook whenever I traveled on trains, which all began when I first went to Pratt Institute as a freshman in the art school.

I commuted to Pratt rather than living in the dorm. I later thought it would have been better if I had moved in there, I might have been a better student. But in fact the time spent on the train was a kind of neutral space I could inhabit, between the challenges of school and the world at home, where I lived with my parents and grandmother (and my sister, when she was home from college.) And it happened I had the unique experience of being neither fish nor fowl for that 1 to 1/12 hours twice a day, hanging somewhere in between, in which time I was completely myself, fit to dream of art thoughts, poetry urges, and maybe some romantic fancies (fantasies?) The train time became almost like a very nice black hole in which to drop in and away from possibly difficult school problems and likewise, to separate myself from the role I played in my family and be utterly myself, alone.

During those four years (that seems such a long time to be traveling every day to and from your "life", your raison d'etre), I wrote in a black and white composition notebook the following (and keep in mind that I had become very much in love with color, paint, and trying to find in myself the capability of being an artist)...

Winter Landscape (night)

Zinc, chaulk,
cream, wet
plaster rains
in the night
sky, lights
filling the ice
with channels
of crystal

plum color
foams in
bushes along
the edge
of train tracks

the sky is
a poured canopy
of frozen vapor -
color locked
in the ice

the distant
landscape is
carved of
slate: light
from a fireball
drops, cooling,
into the labyrinth
of blue rock -
freezes in
a moment of
burning sparks -
lighting the night

light thrown
from windows
of cities -
yellow shadows
out onto the sea
of cold

inside the houses
from window squares
of light -
color dances
on 4 walls -
like furnace
flames leaping

While traveling back and forth to Pratt, I was writing things of a subjective nature that were not part of the curriculum (perhaps not a good idea!) but instead were more or less reflections of the inner surface of my mind, the nature of which I was keeping carefully unto myself, lest it be fouled by too early hatching into light-of-day exposure. This bit of writing (above) bridged the realms of poetry and painting and gave me the feeling that I could in fact paint what I described. (I want here to mention a wonderful teacher in that first year at Pratt: painter Richard Lindner, who taught a course called Creative Expression. It involved field trips to places like the Gowanus Canal, and the market on Delancey Street, where he asked us to respond to the experience both in word and in image. He would have us bring back the results and the class would evaluate which "expression" was the most ideal. Hence my pleasure in both modes!)

Following Pratt were four years commuting from Merrick to New York to my first job, followed by several more years once married and living in White Plains when I commuted again to New York City to a job. The next ten years were almost absent of train trips except for occasional trips down to New York from Hudson, New York. Then came many years in Roosevelt Island with my two daughters, where we began making trips out to Merrick to visit my family. And then very little of trains until 2005 when I moved here to Branford and began working at my old job every two weeks, starting a sequence of regular trips, notebook in pocket, with attempts at drawing on the train, inscribing on the back of each drawing: "from the train" and the date. Now that I have a phone with camera, taking pictures from the train (enjoying the sometimes strange resultant imagery.)

Following are a couple of pages from a notebook; photos taken on the move; and an ink drawing. With the drawings, nothing stays still and things must be quilted together: a house from this moment, and a tree from that...

#1  A notebook entry:

#2  Photos taken as landscapes swirl by:

#3   And an ink drawing: "From the train, 2/6/2013"

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Two related stories recently appearing in the New York Times are akin to Animal Mysteries, but more like "Animal Marvels", and very clever people who made them operative!

#1... The link just below will take you to this fascinating article by Andy Newman which appeared in the Times on March 19, 2013. The picture below of Vivian Libby and her goat, Pretzels, caught my eye, and the article is full of interesting stuff, making one wish it were still 1934.

A 1930s Beauty Contest With Shapely Horns and Fine Beards

Pretzels the goat and his mistress, Vivian Libby, basked in victory  s glow in Central Park in 1934 after Pretzels won a brewery-sponsored beauty contest.
Times Wide World Photo

And #2...This article by Scott Sayare appeared in the NY Times on April 4, 2013. Here just below is the link to the article and below that, a darling photo of one of the sheep.

Paris Employs a Few Black Sheep to Tend, and Eat, a City Field

(Above: a still shot from video by Mariana Keller)

A version of this article appeared in print on April 4, 2013, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Paris Employs a Few Black Sheep To Tend, and Eat, a City Field.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Shoe, Part 2

Once again, I've made a visit in to New York's Upper West Side to go to Harry's Shoes and exchange a pair of shoes and have a visit with Lauren, the very "nice saleswoman" mentioned in the earlier blog post. (Lauren helped me last year find the very sneaker that huddles next to the glamour shoe in one of the photos on the first post, The Shoe.) And with her help I have now found a both comfy and pretty Scandinavian clog that is sheer pleasure to wear and have obtained it in two colors, so here below is one color on each foot!)
And this reminds me of a very nice story from long ago:
When I was a freshman in high school, my grandmother had recently come to live with us in Merrick, Long Island, since my grandfather had died and she would have been alone in their house. And it is true that while I came to love her very much the older I got, she and I were not great buddies when I was young. She seemed often to disapprove of me (though only subtly a tired sounding sigh after I would say something.) There was no way to confront this, and I certainly would not have have been rude enough to say, what does that mean, Nana?   Nana was what my sister and I called her...and now my granddaughter calls me Nya Nya (hence the title of my blog here.) So anyway, my high school involved both a longish walk and a bus from Merrick to Bellmore, and as I was getting dressed one morning, I tried on a couple of shoes...and it so happened that one was black suede and one was brown leather, and something must have distracted me because I ended up walking about a quarter mile to the bus stop still wearing the two different shoes. I was patiently waiting with the other kids for the bus and a girl tapped me on the shoulder and said: do you know you have two different shoes on?  I blushed with shame and wondered what to do, and thought gratefully of my gym locker where my sneakers were waiting. We had gym at my high school every day, sports were very important in that school, and actually that was probably very good for us all, though sometimes annoying, but certainly this was a saving grace. I rushed there and put the offending pair in the locker to take home later and spent the day in the sneakers (and I should mention to any who might not know this, that no-one wore sneakers during the day at school in those years.) So I got through the day and went home and my grandmother was there (my parents both still at work), and I told her of my embarrassment and the solution to the problem, and she loved it. I think it started to bring about a bit of a change between us. I still bridled at some things but gradually came to see her differently (and she me.) When I was a little girl, I loved dolls a lot, and during the WWII era, there weren't all the American Girl Doll clothing and accoutrements such as now, and one Christmas Nana crocheted some clothes for a small doll that I had. Whenever anyone had a baby, Nana crocheted little booties for the baby, blue or pink accordingly. When I got married, Nana was in her mid 80s. When married for several years but still no baby coming, Nana decided to crochet me a pair of booties. And she made one in pink yarn and one in blue. They were in a little Lord &Taylor pink metallic box, with tissue surrounding them, with a card that said: "I tried to cater to your unusual love of variety - particularly in footwear!" Nana died in 1970, and only after that came baby Liana, in 1972, and then baby Dari (Daria) in 1974. Nana would have loved knowing them. So here below are photos of  1. the booties, pink and blue,  2. Nana's note, and 3. the mismatched clogs.

Harry's is on Broadway, on the corner of 83rd Street, their website is:

Monday, April 1, 2013



Two mourning doves, the abovementioned Pinky and Binky, were the only two who came to my bird feeder after August of 2011 when we had a huge hurricane here in the Northeast (Irene). An earlier bunch of mourning doves I had been observing, and often photographed them as they sat at twilight on the big oak tree outside my living room. They were exactly eleven in number over several years...never more and never less. Post-hurricane, only two: Pinky and Binky. (Now I again see more of them, maybe they came back from elsewhere.)


Surprisingly a group of doves collected themselves into a nice arrangement again on the oak tree branches, and when I counted them (and photographed those that I could), there were and are again, eleven.

Finally, a small item from the New York Post
awhile back:

“A seven-mile-long mega pod of dolphins has been spotted swimming off the coast of San Diego. The huge swarm of sea mammals is estimated to be over 100,000-strong. Dolphin pods are usually only about 15 to 200 animals large, and no one has any idea why this one has gotten so large.”


I’ve recently been to a favorite shoe store in New York City in pursuit of two things, two (perhaps) mutually exclusive things:

#1 Healthy shoes


#2 Shoes with joie de vivre

I met some of each of these on a recent visit to Harry’s Shoes on Broadway in New York City, first trying on many #1 type shoes, some similar to what used to be called “Space Shoes” in the 1960s. Some could only be called charming if one couldn’t see them, and only feel them, comfortably surrounding the feet like a sleeping bag.  But then I saw something else, placed before me by the nice Harry’s saleswoman who’d helped me a year or so ago. In her proffering this shoe I found her both compassionate (she somehow knew my fantasy shoe wish) but also subversive as she helped me place my usually horizontal foot into a vertical mode supported by a lovely concoction of wood, leather and a sweetly placed black chiffon bow at the ankle. And this, placed upon my foot, made to disappear every other shoe in the joint.

The problem was (and is), I could not stand up in this shoe, and of course, the financial aspect was also considerable, but that aside, I knew it would be absurd and wrong to buy them. Most likely I would not be able to walk in them, might even have to be helped from room to room while wearing them! Still I loved the idea of them as a talisman, as a charm.

I somehow clamored for them, hearing some kind of call from a distant shore (my youth?) Having the phone in my pocketbook with camera, I asked if my fairy godmother could perhaps take a photo of me wearing the shoe. Several pictures were taken of me sitting on the little couch laughing, with a sneaker on one foot and its majestic mate on the other.

I am trying to remember other artifacts in my life that held a similar lure and equivocal magic that I was destined to respond to with “no regrets even if there is a little remorse” * , and is there any way I can use these other artifacts to justify this purchase?.

* paraphrased from Catherine Deneuve

But it happened that no such purchase took place, and hence: no remorse and no regret. (It is nice to have a picture of the shoe, nonetheless.)