March 31, 2012

Farewell, Winston, my wonder cat



Jacob and I put our cat Winston to sleep earlier this afternoon. He was only four and looked like a kitten his whole life. Jacob called him a wonder cat, cause he would let you hold his paws, he'd let you stand him on top of your head, wear him like a scarf and was completely trusting of humans in every way. He liked to eat heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers and butter. He purred like a motor -- all the time. Being near a human -- any human -- made him happy. I'd often wake up with him sitting on my chest holding my hand until I got out of bed. He'd sit on your lap while you watched tv. He always sat on my desk while I worked, with his paws tucked and tail wrapped around his body. His posture was always neat, tidy, and tucked in. He seemed to mock our other, more plump and uncouth cat, who has a tendency to splay herself inappropriately and lose her balance. He was dainty and graceful. He liked wearing scarves, and ascots. He loved people, and in big groups, always sought hugs and rubs and nuzzles. And people also loved him, without fail. He was gentle and sweet and adoring -- always ready to be your buddy.

Winston had kidney failure, which may or may not have been developing his whole life. 3.5 years ago, when he was just a kitten, he'd had acute kidney failure, and against all of the vets predictions, managed to survive. The problem seemed to dissolve, and we blamed it on accidentally eating a lily or plant, but never really knew the cause. Whether this is related, or not, we'll never know, but blood tests showed that his chances of recovery were painfully low, and even in the best case scenario, he'd have a drastically shortened life, and would require IV fluids for as long as he lived. We didn't want to put him through that, or put ourselves through that.

Winston, and our other cat Paloma, had been upstate with my parents the last 2 months while we were on tour so I didn't get to spend a lot of time with him towards the end. My parents grew to love both of them enormously.  After 8 happy weeks in their house, my mom called on Thursday night saying he'd stopped eating entirely and had rapidly lost weight, so I decided to bring him back to Brooklyn. I wanted to bring him to doctors who'd treated him before, and deep inside, I think I had a sinking feeling this could be the end, and I didn't want to say goodbye without Jacob there too. It had been his idea to get Winston in the first place, and he was our cat, together.

I headed upstate abruptly on Friday morning, gathered both cats and brought Winston straight to the vet. He spent one last quiet night with us in our apartment in Greenpoint. We found out only this morning about the severity of his condition. The doctor said he was as deeply uncomfortable now as he was going to ever be and recommended we act quickly so we brought him in during the early afternoon and said goodbye.

My face hurts so much. I've been crying all day. I will miss him so much. His ashes will be spread, very appropriately, in a field of flowers here in Brooklyn. Thanks to everyone who has already sent kind words. Hug your kitties extra tonight.

March 30, 2012

Movin' on in.


Jacob and I spent most of the day moving into our new studio in DUMBO, which we'll share with the crew from Tattly and some pals from down the hall at Studiomates. It'll be the new home base for Wild Combination, the official mixed media making outlet that reflects the evolving canvas of personal and professional work we create -- photography, film, web, installation, live events and beyond. Got a project in mind? Be in touch. In the neighborhood? Let's get lunch.

March 28, 2012

This is not your beautiful pancake.









I grew up in Upstate, New York, just north of the Hudson Valley, but have never spent much time there, aside from the occasional soccer tournament or apple picking adventure or hiking trip or visit to a gallery in Woodstock or Rhinebeck. My hometown is less farms-and-rustic-cabins-near-the-reservoir than it is small-ordinary-suburb-with-excellent-public-school-district, so I, like many New Yorkers, have discovered most of the riches of the Hudson Valley in my twenties with only a slight leg-up from those childhood excursions.

Last Saturday we headed up to the tiny town of Salt Point, about 20 miles due east of the river from where you hit Hyde Park. This is the home of Hahn Farm, where the Hummingbird Ranch sets up one of their annual pancake breakfasts, bringing bottles of fresh grade B maple syrup to the table alongside pancakes (from farm grown meat) and sausage (from farm raised pigs). They also appear to grow Christmas trees across the road and raise alpaca and sheer sheep for yarn. It's a humble occasion -- all styrofoam plates and plastic forks and picnic tables and paper napkins -- but the food is fresh, the syrup flows and the spirit is high.

The official Maple Weekends for the Hudson Valley are over for the season, but you can still head to many of the farms and get their maple products year round. My favorite syrup of the moment is Crown Maple Syrup, also made in the Dutchess Valley (and available some weekends at the Brooklyn Flea).

The music of wood



This is just beautiful. (via The Kid Should See This)

March 27, 2012

TENUGUI









My brother just returned from a few weeks in Japan with his architecture studio and met us Sunday morning with a few gifts in hand. For Jacob and myself he'd brought these TENUGUI cloths, hand-printed, multi-purpose fabrics whose name literally translates to "a piece of dyed cloth." (The shop they are from is named KAMAWANU, which means "We may not give you a special service, but you're welcome any time.)

Each cloth comes with a small printed packet, titled, "A Rambling Talk about Tenugui," offering details for its usage. There are bits about the history of Tenugui (used as a precious accessory for Shinto rituals) and information and illustrations about the Chusen dyeing technique, where shades of color are gauged based on the day's weather, temperature and humidity. It's expected that over time, as the cloth is used, the colors fade, but the feel of the fabric also softens.

My favorite section of the small book is "How to Use Tenugui." An excerpt:
There are no rules in the way of using TENUGUI. TENUGUI can be used in a variety of ways as described below. 
As A Wiping Tool: TENUGUI can be used as a wiping tool for a variety of things. On a rainy day it will wipe raindrops from your clothing. In summer it will wipe sweat from your face. It can also be used for wiping your eye-glasses and of course after you wash your hands.
Hospitality: When you have an important guest, you can offer a TENUGUI in place of a napkin or a hand towel. If TENUGUI has a beautiful seasonal pattern, it might help you carry on a lively conversation.
And so on. I'd love to visit Japan and see the TENUGUI printing in process. Beautiful, and just the kind of everyday object that helps makes a home a more special home.

P.S. It is very fitting that for me my brother selected a cloth featuring rabbits, and a girl riding a bear carrying an axe. And for Jacob: a ninja in 20 various formations, including scaling walls, with a sickel, and throwing death stars. Just saying.

March 26, 2012

Ruth Proctor / Agnes Martin

Very much enjoying these works-on-found-music-manuscripts by the young British artist Ruth Proctor, whose work is otherwise largely installation-and-performance based, and plays with dimension, perception and color. 



They remind me a lot of the Agnes Martin works I saw at Dia: Beacon over the weekend. (I did not see these exact two, but related bodies of works).

(Aspiration, 1960 by Agnes Martin, Private Collection, New York)

(Untitled, 1963 by Agnes Martin, Private Collection, New York)


March 23, 2012

Home, for now


I've been back home in Brooklyn since last Saturday, and am both in recovery mode while also preparing for some major changes ahead. Life on the road meant that we ate somewhere in the area of 100 consecutive meals out, which is some combination of very wonderful and the stark realization that most of America is not designed to sell you a fresh arugula salad at 3 a.m. So, coming back to our own apartment has invited many new and simple pleasures like being able to brew our own coffee, eating off real plates, and sleeping in the same bed for more than 2 consecutive nights. (File under: things you didn't realize you'd miss).

But, the sad fact is that we have to move in a few weeks because and I'm in a heady state of denial. We've lived here in Greenpoint for 3.5 years and this apartment is one of those finds where beautiful timing aligned with the market crash aligned with construction permits being completed in the nick of time. When we first moved here, it was under some weighty auspices -- I'd been mugged and beat up outside our last apartment, a few weeks later the magazine I was working for folded and I lost my job, our kitten Winston got super sick and the vet bills ate up all our savings, and so on and so forth. When we found this place -- with its 20 foot ceilings and entire wall of lights and two balconies and a space both suited for lots of cooking and lots of hosting, it was a serious godsend.

We were living here when we got married. We've hosted countless dinner parties, balcony brunches and movie screenings on the high and beautiful walls. We've got neighbor friends, our view is an incredible bird-filled wall of ivy, and we rarely turn the lights on before 7 p.m. We have our favorite grocery and restaurants. We know the rhythms of the neighborhood.

Moving depresses the hell out of me, not because I can't get excited about a new apartment, but because it means that it'll take months or years to earn the history this place has. It means my balcony garden is no more -- that spring planting just doesn't happen because we'll be gone by the time anything sprouts. For now, we'll relocate to temporary quarters for a few months and then we're not sure where we're headed aside from staying in Brooklyn. If any of you have miraculous apartment leads for light-filled spots with outdoor space that are pet-friendly and have decent square footage, let me know. We are looking.

March 21, 2012

Roaming the Freeport Harbor








I imagine that living near clean, green/blue water is good for the psyche. Water you can swim in. Water whose borders aren't the island of Manhattan. Water where the wooden boats live year-round; the fiberglass bottoms get pulled out and shrink-wrapped like seasonal mummies. Here we are on a windy day up on the Freeport Harbor with Suzanne and Jay and Chelsea and Noah. The planks of the dock are littered with oyster and mussel shells, dropped by the gorging seagulls from above. The real shade of "sea green" water is nothing like the paint color or the crayon. It's deeper and more complex. It hints and immeasurable depth. It's different from the ocean, which churns and grabs. It's calm, but lapping and persistent.

After some time on the dock comes the part where I tell Jacob that we should probably move up to Maine. He agrees. (But instead we're just moving in Brooklyn).

March 20, 2012

A lazy Sunday in Maine










Waking up at Chelsea + Noah's place in Freeport the morning after our big show at SPACE Gallery. A lazy morning with fat cat Goldberg and high octane Scribbler. A newspaper. Eggs and leeks and bacon. Fresh OJ. Sugar doughnuts from Edna & Lucy's country store. Talking, talking, talking. A visit to the harbor. Meeting up with Suzanne + Jay. A celebratory dinner with More & Co. The sun setting on our lethargy.

March 19, 2012

The Quiet Side of SXSW






At SxSW, you must look far and wide to find moments of quiet. Every space in town is saturated. There's a line (or two or three) for every bathroom, concert, film, food truck and panel. Every third person is handing you a flyer, or a t-shirt, or a sticker. Signage takes over every telephone pole, wall, and parking meter in town. 

Things will never go how you plan, so it's crucial to find one's own form of solace, especially if large, persistent crowds can overwhelm -- like they do to me. Patience is mandatory. And my week was packed: Jacob and I spoke on a panel about creative collaboration, our film screened 5 times all over town, we showed clips of the film at a party full of NYC startups called Made in NY, and we attended a dozen other movies and shows during the week. 

In between, we found time to take longer walks, food excursions, and meander without a real destination. These were the most important moments of the festival, as they were the only moments to be alone with your thoughts. 

March 15, 2012

Getting to LA





I'm still down in Austin for the last few days of SXSW. We've had three stellar screenings, and have two more (including a bonus screening just added yesterday due to popular demand). I've also eaten guacamole, tacos and salsa and chips for 70% of my meals. That is a fact.

If you're interested in seeing Girl Walk down at SXSW and don't have a badge, email me at hi@youngnapark.com and I can get you a ticket.
  1. Tonight, 3/15 at Alamo Village, 9:30 p.m.
  2. Tomorrow, 3/16 at the Vimeo Theater 9:30 p.m. (in the Austin Convention Center)
I've had the chance to catch a few films and see a handful of bands (with more of that coming today and tomorrow!). Check out:

Film:
Trash Dance -- choreographer Allison Orr teaches the sanitation workers of Austin, TX to make their machines dance. (I cried for 2/3 of this movie).
Gayby -- gay man has baby with straight best friend. Funny, and by Brooklynite Jonathan Lisecki.
Uprising: Hip Hop + the LA Riots -- a look back at the Rodney King beating and how the LA riots coincided with the changing world of hip hop born out of South Central LA.

Music: 
Youth Lagoon -- 22 year old Trevor Powers does it awesome.
Father John Misty (i.e. former Fleet Foxes member J. Tillman) -- liked his recordings but live performance attitude was pretty sarcastic and disappointing.
Razika -- fun, high energy, all - female Norwegian ska-punk band.

I've been fairly camera-less in Austin, but have a huge backlog of West Coast and Northeast pictures; these are from our drive down Highway 1 from SF to LA.

March 10, 2012

Doing SXSW our way



SXSW: So many panels. So many lectures. So many tweets. So many free things: shirts, drinks, flyers, stickers, badges.  It can be overwhelming. So, this is how we're rocking the festival -- by igniting sparkler dance parties.

March 8, 2012

Lunch at Big Sur Bakery









The last few months of incredible hustle have also been full of brief moments of pause and absolute beauty. One of those moments was a few weeks ago, when we stopped for lunch at Big Sur Bakery on Highway 1 between San Francisco and LA. We opted to take the long-but-scenic route that day, despite knowing it'd add 4+ hours to our trip, and payoff was completely worth it. The views were breathtaking, the air warm and toasted, and we stopped along the road for fresh fruit before getting onto the windy passe that makes Highway 1 so famous. Halfway down to LA, we stopped off in Big Sur for lunch. Big Sur Bakery is mostly known for it's baked goods (I've made the scones many times) and it's wood-fired pizzas at dinner, but you can get simple sandwiches on their housemade bread and big salads during lunch. We ordered our lunches and sat for a half hour in this garden, with the sun beating down, birds chirping and flowers blooming. Sometimes just stepping into a new setting can be the most rejuvenating thing of all.