Archives for posts with tag: new york city

I want to be the kind of person that a little sparrow on the sidewalk sees and thinks to itself “I’m gonna jump into her hand right now and nestle my little feathery head into her fingers. I want her to hold my whole little fragile body there and be so sweet to me.”  But I never get the vibe that this is what they are thinking. House sparrows are everywhere in New York. There are about 14 sparrows for every one human in New York. Does that mean I have to hunt for the 14 that want me to hold them ?

Once I was asked to do an outdoor performance for a street festival in New York. Outdoor performances require a lot of planning. You have to compete with the sky and the architecture and all the people who didn’t mean to be in the audience and actually don’t care that you are doing a performance. I don’t mind these constraints, but they are the kinds of constraints that I usually don’t work with.  I can’t just slap on a costume and rattle off a tried-and-true favorite that works on a normal stage or club or gallery. For this, I had to make something new, specifically conceptualized for the feel of being outside on the street in the east village of New York City on a Saturday afternoon in 2009.

This is what I came up with: I would buy a box of saltines and a jar of peanut butter. I would spread peanut butter all over me, head-to-toe, and stick the saltines to the peanut butter. I would have a tiled, crispy saltine skin.  I would climb the stairs to the stage, put the empty Saltines box at my feet, fill the last peanut butter spot on my body with the last cracker, and extend my arms. Cue the music. A karaoke track.  I would start to sing “Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag)” from Mary Poppins as stylistically close to Julie Andrews as I could. After a while, hopefully some pigeons would try to eat the saltines off of my body while I sang. Maybe by the end, I would be a human covered in Pigeons. Another part of me felt hopeful that some pigeons would NOT try to eat the saltines off of my body while I sang. I had never had wild animals eat anything off of my body and didn’t feel that confident or at-ease about it.  I also had some fear around pigeons not really noticing or caring.  Even though I knew this would potentially be the most hilarious and dangerous and glorious piece ever, a couple hours before the performance I called the festival and told them I was sick.

I know there are people who can charm birds. But they have worked at it. You can’t just “have a knack” because you want a knack. You have to develop a knack. No matter what people think a knack is.  I want to have a knack for everything. And then when I realize what kind of time and effort it takes to develop the knacks, I get mad.  Because I truly do want to put in the time and the effort, but NOT if there are only 24 hours in a day and if i’m not immortal.

When I got back from France a couple weeks ago, I became really determined to be a French speaker. Not really being in a position to spend money on tuition, I arranged a barter.  With a French school. I will clean their office every Sunday at 11 am and they will teach me French.

It is a toughie. Knowing that the most efficient way for me to be an elegant French speaker is to become a janitor.

I started the cleaning a couple weeks ago. My classes don’t start til mid-november so I’m not a janitor who speaks French yet –AKA a French Maid. I am simply a janitor.  There are several pieces of me who feel embarrassed about this.  But I think the embarrassment comes from the fact that I like it so much.  There are very clear goals. Wipe the toilets down. Wipe the marker boards down. Vacuum leaves. It is easy for me to understand how to achieve the goals and I achieve them. It takes me two hours. I don’t strategize before or evaluate after. It feels perfect. It  is not a job where I have to get people to want to hire me back and respect my work and believe that my ideas are credible in the world of art, that I’m young and hungry and pretty. That i have the kind of potential anybody could tap AND OIL WOULD FLOOD OUT OF ME AND WE’RE ALL GONNA BE MILLIONAIRES.  It is a job where I move my arm really fast to the Die Antwoord Pandora station.

But what if liking being a janitor means that being a janitor is my destiny? From the day of my birth, I’m pretty sure my parents made it a priority to get me into college so that I would never have this destiny. (But if they knew that letting birds eat peanut butter saltines off of you while you did your best Julie Andrews was a job they would have hoped for janitor. Or lawyer.)

I am being told by multiple people in my life right now that you don’t just decide you want something and get it immediately. Or that it’s wrong to believe that you are something when you haven’t really proved it.  The value of practice versus the value of imagination/entitlement. I lean towards valuing the imagination parts of me.  But now i guess it’s time to believe that there are more than 24 hours in a day and that I am immortal so that I can put in the time to develop the real knack for all of these things that I want to be and do.

At the end of September, I went to Zagreb, Croatia for a week.  I was dancing naked in a show. And then I went to Paris for a week. I walked around for hours every day, ordered a lot of “veh” and muttered “Je suis desolee. Je ne parle pas Francais. Parlez vous Anglais?” to people who chose to talk to me. I did it so they would like me for my American modesty. OR. If they weren’t sold on that look, then maybe the classic “a girl who is sorry.”  I felt embarrassed to love France so much and to be so dumb in the mouth.

I’ve been home for a week and a half.

The hardest thing and the only thing I am obligated to do right now is work on my own musical web series project. Which is why I’ve been trying to find lots of other things to do. Like, I enrolled in a French class.

Also, I was scrolling through my facebook newsfeed and found an article somebody had posted: “How Capitalism Can Save Art” by Camille Paglia.  One of Paglia’s claims is that young artists don’t have any vocational skills. They don’t actually know how to do anything with their hands that doesn’t involve a computer. And that this creates a really sterile liberal-upper-middle-class-studio-art BFA/MFA alienation from the rest of the world. Paglia’s very “THE SIXTIES MEANT SOMETHING REAL.” And I felt very YEAH about it.  I immediately google searched “trade school NYC.” I wanted to find something along the lines of fixing a car or making a tiny stool out of wood—a class I forfeited in middle school to take keyboarding. So the first thing that came up in my google search, of course, was a conceptual trade school, a school that operates on a barter system, being run out of a gallery at the New School.

Forgot about the stool. I took a two day course called “Digital Cinemantics: Movie Making in the 21st Century” taught by a guy who renamed himself Noemi Charlotte Thieves after moving out of his Mom’s house. He had a Muslim name, and  as a thirteen year old in post-911 Florida, he got detained at the airport for hours every time he tried to fly anywhere since.  His old name included parts of four of the suicide bomber’s names. His first name is now the same as my Grandma’s. She died when I was really little so it felt pretty special to be at the table with another Naomi as a big girl. In exchange for his grandmotherly 21st century digital filmmaking knowledge, I brought potato chips with ridges to his first class, and for the 2nd day of the course, I will be making him dinner.

I also took an i-ching class. I brought Polish cookies and  learned how to read people’s fortunes with nickels using the oldest spiritual book people still care about.  I’ve been reading some of my fortunes too.

Yesterday, I held my nickels between my palms and asked the i-ching, “What can I expect if I choose to produce the musical webseries, The Dardy Family Home Movies, myself?” I tossed them six times. And this is what she told me.

Hexagram 7: The Army 

or Organized Discipline.

If you hold or aspire to a position of leadership, remember that the true leader captures the hearts of the people, and articulates a clear, simple vision that binds them together….  Only when the state is economically prosperous can the army be strong… Only when the army is disciplined can the state be protected from disruptive outside forces.

Modesty and generosity at the center can be a magnetic force that keeps the relationships intact.

Solidarity among all elements is essential for success at this time.

Steven is letting me borrow his snare drum.

Tomorrow I am taking a software coding class and a cyanotype photograms glass.

Then I am obligated to rally the troops. Rat a tat tat.

It was cold all night. I left my window open because my radiator is a temperature dominatrix and I like to let a window be a safe word.

I want to try a different coffee shop today in an effort to try a different life.  Maybe not even get a soy latte.  I heard there was a place that sold chicory coffee near me.

When I was moving away from Michigan, I had no specific plans or goals.  I gave myself two options.  New York City or New Orleans. Michigan doesn’t have the word “New” in it, so I knew i had to go somewhere that did.  I had visited New York City once before to perform a show at the Guggenheim. Sounds fancy, but we stayed at a YMCA in bunk beds and I got so drunk at an Irish Pub I woke up and found more than one tampon inside of me.  I guess that was the clincher.  I chose New York.

There’s a picture of Judy Garland in my bedroom and a calendar I made so I could give myself stickers for everyday i do a p90x work-out.

I made my bed this morning. I do that now in New York.

When I was little,  my Aunt Pat gave me a a teddy bear dressed in a nurse’s uniform.  I looked at it and saw some kind of future.  I don’t mean that I explicitly thought I would become a teddy bear nurse or even a nurse, but that for some reason, i felt like a stuffed animal in an employer uniform was a weird hint. Aunt Pat was the only woman in my family who had a job.  My mom, Aunt Chris, and Aunt Ruth were all homemakers.  Aunt Jo was a nun, and that just felt like she was a different gender than the rest of the world, and that that was a job, and that  job meant having short grey hair, singing way louder than other people at church, and joyously playing Kings In The Corner with me and Granddad on Thanksgiving.

When you’re a kid, people want to know what you want to be when you grow up.  Given my options, I obviously wanted to be a nun.

(I think it’s important to note that a subletter in my apartment who does a lot of coke is doing what sounds like filing his nails really really fast in the room next door to mine.)

I’m not a nun. And I’m grown up.  I’m an artist who accidentally took the vow of poverty.

The difference between taking the vow of poverty as a clergy member and accidentally taking the vow of poverty as an artist, is that, as a clergy member, you get to make up a meager budget that covers all of your basic needs.  Rome pays for it.  Nothing extravagant.  Shelter. Medical. Food. Utilities. Car. Gas. Stuff like that.  You work related to what you specialized in, medical, administrative, etc. in the context of your spiritual practice.

Rome doesn’t pay for my art.

But here I am dressed as an elderly teddy bear. Reading a monologue at an art party. a few years ago.

June 3rd

June 3rd

Let me tell you how it is to be twenty-nine (minus seven).

It’s like having the stomach flu for five days straight and eating nothing but crackers and diet sprite, still hating David Foster Wallace, making phone calls from the gathered wrinkled sheet nest, not bothering to re-charge electronics, a productive day is re-polishing nails.

I am still an expert procrastinator, which is always what you read on the internet because this is where people go to procrastinate.

I owe stories all over the place, and can not bring myself to finish chapters by writers named in triplicate.

Also, twenty-nine means still forgetting to pay my rent on time.

Means still seeing my face in newly published photographs and trying to remember exactly where that was taken and exactly who was being blown.

Now that I’m twenty-nine, I’m still no good at asking for help with things like obtaining diet sprite for my ill belly, and I still want very badly to see the butterfly exhibit.

I’m thrilled to screaming by concrete slides ridden down on torn hunks of corrugated box.

I still, even now, want my mother to notice.

I want cake with buttercream and shoes with buckles.

I want your face in my hands.

I want three-flavor ice cream.

I want to learn how to do this.

If you ask me whether taking the Q to the J train on a Thursday in mid-afternoon in March shows you just exactly what New York wants from you I’ll tell you yes.

And if you ask me whether a monthly blood test leaves small bruises I will answer yes to that also.

I will tell you that the condition of having badly to piss in an airport or a nightclub or a highway diner or a school administrative building and not pissing from fear of harassment fills me with worry.

I will tell you that synthetic hormones still make my hate list even while I appreciate their uses.

I will tell you that I am comforted by both Josephine Bear and Hello Kitty and will continue, despite your belief that they harbor disease.

I will tell you : never again will I attempt to forge a relationship in a bar.

Things I have already given up include: black lipstick, the fear of eating, every color but blonde, the love of poverty, powdered milk, the fear of dancing in front of you.

Even if I do it badly.

Even if, at twenty-nine the only dance of which I’m confident is lap.

Things I will give up include: not calling, ill-fitting shoes, not bothering to look.

I will give up trying to keep the polish off my cuticles.

I will give up not telling my mother about my life when what I really want is to TALK to her.

I will give up being disappointed when she is quiet on the other end of the line with the television or her cooking sounds or the sound of nothing in the background.

I’ll send the pictures when I say I’m going to send the pictures.

What I won’t give up is: diet soda, reading in bad light, high heels, trying.

What I’ve learned is: how to be slow, lemon relish, the color of your eyes, I’m sorry, costuming, how to make a pirate sandwich.

What I want now, this year: an end to nausea, lettuce that isn’t cellophaned, your hands on me, things made waterproof – both mascara and  boots, a bright path home.

goodbye soupy sales

goodbye soupy sales

dull razor


empty spray tan bottle


not enough hot water

cook for me please

hormonal birth control

dry skin

what happened to daylight

limited text interpretation

finger and toe nail polish does not match

where are all the good shoes

the whiskey we bought when you were here has all been drunk

also my ring keeps snagging on my tights

also these shoes suck

also I need a bookshelf

I do not  think it’s fun to be scared

please cook me something

please come here

squishy grapes

reprinted interviews

upstate new york, northern california, why are you all so far away?