August 30, 2007

A Musing

A friend came over for a swim today. The water was perfect. It was my second time in today. Lila was in heaven. When we were drying off, I mentioned I have a hard time with other people often wanting a piece of the pie. Now that I have sold a few paintings and received a grant, I can pay off some debts, catch up and fix a few things around the house that have been waiting for the past year. It feels good. But even today, someone wrote me that, although we had agreed on a trade of services, now that I had sold some paintings, she would like money instead. It reminded me of the time I sold my loft in Manhattan and received a call from a casual friend asking me if she could borrow $4000 to pay a tax bill. She said: “There is no one I would rather borrow from than you.” Compliment?

My swimming buddy told me of an article she had read recently. It described how boys tend to pick on the weakest amongst them whereas girls pick on the most successful. She had experienced this in the grade school class she was teaching. The girls bullied another girl whose mother was successful, with the bully’s mother encourageing her daughter.

So somewhere in there is a balance. Balance between being successful, feeling good, and allowing other people to enjoy that in you/me.

Posted by leya at 08:24 PM | Comments (2)

August 28, 2007

Trees do grow in Brooklyn

On Saturday, my last day with Tamar and Damian (Dan has been working long days so, sadly, I hardly saw him when I was there), we went to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, then took a walk through Prospect Park, and had dinner with Dan at a restaurant in Park Slope (where Dan and Tamar first lived together). It was a lovely day and perfect ending to my summer visit with them.








Posted by leya at 11:31 AM | Comments (1)

August 25, 2007

Tai kuan do

Damian took his green belt test in Tai Kuan Do on Friday, the last day I was there. First the masters gave a demonstration. Then the tests. Some of the children seemed to be as young as four or five; all were very enthusiastic about their movements. The instructors had bones of steel and hearts of marshmallow. They seemed to love the children and loved helping them achieve confidence, strength and balance. If I didn’t know I am too old to start, I would enjoy learning it.


Damian and another student took their test together. Damian did great, of course. He really enjoys it.



Then the awarding of the belts.


Posted by leya at 07:35 PM | Comments (1)

August 24, 2007

Home and busy again

It's been raining all day so it is the first time I can sit down and catch up. It was non-stop all week since returning home Sunday. That afternoon I picked up Lila, came home, and then some friends came out for a swim, dinner and a look at my paintings. A great way to re-connect with my often solitary life. Then on Monday, Phil Secord came out to look at work as I am having a duo-exhibit there with Elin Neumann from Denmark, opening September 14. Then there was dog-class, piano lesson, painting again, giving a friend of a friend a tour of the Art College, photos taken of my paintings, etc. etc. etc.

Meanwhile I have some, to me, quintessential New York City pix from our walking tour of Soho:





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August 18, 2007

A short history of my life in Soho

Yesterday Tamar, Damian and I went on a Big Onion Tour of Soho and Nolita. An Onion Tour peels the layers off the city I knew intimately for twenty-five years. A city that was home from one end to the other. To see Soho, once my home, from the eyes and mind of a young sociology graduate student was interesting.

Halfway through the tour, Tamar asked me if I learned anything new. I did. I learned about the cast-iron buildings, how they made them to look like stone, how they used cast iron because it was inexpensive and easy to erect. I learned about the early commerce and the brothels connected with commerce. And the fancy department stores that lined Broadway many years ago. But Tamar and I filled him in on what it really was like to be an artist family living in what was once a warehouse district and is now the expensive chi-chi neighborhood that has expelled the very people who made it appealing for residence. Yet I wouldn’t be in Nova Scotia now if it hadn’t been for that gentrification.

I never thought I would leave Manhattan. I first moved to 28th and 7th Avenue in 1960, from being a student at Yale School of Fine Arts, to a loft then owned by Alex Katz. He was teaching at Yale and sublet his loft to a couple of students (a friend and me) for the summer while he and his family went to Maine. (He had painted “No Soap, Radio” on the cast iron bathtub with claw feet that graced the kitchen and that slogan has become a favorite of mine when I don’t know what else to say.) From there I moved to 11th and Avenue C, and then to Chambers and Greenwich, and then to Washington, D.C. (for a year) where Tamar was born.

We (I was married at the time) moved (in 1962) when Tamar was six months old to Church and Franklin (now an area called Tribeca—these little names picked by realtors, we were told by our guide, to make the areas seem more seductive). It was a neighborhood unfamiliar with strollers and many times we had to avoid the freight trucks crowding the streets. It was scary. It was lonely. There were probably about one building per block occupied with artists, some well-known, some not so, but mostly all working in their living spaces. At that time we paid a $900 fixture fee (for the fixtures that the previous tenant had put in to make it living-studio quarters and our rent was $80 a month. We had to hide the bed by day in case inspectors came but I couldn’t hide the crib. It was in the middle of my studio. The poet Diane Waldman and the sculptor Robert Morris lived below us. That loft was a third-floor walkup, close to China Town and we often had sticky buns for meals. Wild rabbit was also easily available and inexpensive. Not considered a delicacy then. I made rabbit stew often.

From there we moved to the seventh floor of an elevator building on 11th between University and Broadway. When we moved in, there was nothing. Just some broken toilet fixtures. We plastered and painted and divided the room into kitchen area, living area, bedroom for Tamar, and studio for me. We left there when Tamar was around three. I longed for a place where there was a grocery store nearby and someone took out the garbage (in lofts in those days there was no garbage pickup—we had to covertly take the bags out at night and hope not to be caught dumping trash into public baskets) and brought the mail to our door. So we went to a large apartment on the Upper West Side, an area where many other artists lived and worked.

When I left my marriage, I moved with my two children, two cats, two fish tanks, and many art supplies to a sublet on 13th between First and A (a loft which had been the studio space of Claus Oldenburg and some of the sewing supplies were still there). We lived below the artist, Larry Rivers. There was no insulation between the floors, just bare wood planks that were both ceiling to us and floor to him. He’d come in at 4 am with friends. It sounded like a herd of cowboys walking on top of us. So I would get back at him by playing children’s records in the morning.

After a year there, we moved to a newly coop building at Spring and Mercer. Another sublet (from the owner), but I had to put in all the fixtures. Once again, it was a bare loft with just a toilet and sink. First I had built a kitchen and two bedrooms for the children. Eventually another one for me. Although I didn’t have great studio space there (it was only 1800 square feet, the size of my current house, but not well laid out for living and working) and it was dark, we enjoyed living there. Some of my favorite friends still live in that building. When the owner decided to sell, I took my fixture fee and moved with three cats, a dog, two children, no fish tanks and lots of art supplies to Broome and Greene.

That loft was already fixed up somewhat. I put in a couple more bedrooms and a better kitchen. It was 3000 square feet, top floor with skylights and divided into two studio spaces. I rented out one of them. It had a little elevator that serviced only our loft, the top floor. It was operated by pulleys (we pulled; it moved) and held no more than three people and a dog at one time. When the building became coop after a couple of years, we had to have the little elevator upgraded to be according to code. In the process there was an electrical fire. Because the building had originally been factories, there was a sprinkler system and so it was discharged and the building was saved. I stood on the other side of Broome Street with my dog Miranda and watched the firemen put out the fire. It was a very strange feeling.

Back in the early seventies, when lofts were first becoming popular residences, it was possible to buy a coop space, probably around 2500 square feet, for about $6000. They now sell in the millions. I was able to buy my loft for very little which is how I eventually was able to leave the City and move to Nova Scotia. I was always enchanted by the lines in the movie My Dinner with Andre when his friend Wally says (more or less): “Have you ever met a New Yorker who didn’t say they want to leave but don’t? New York is a concentration camp of the mind. It’s impossible to leave.”

But I did. Not a move that was planned for long. It just happened. And That is Another Story for Another Time.

Posted by leya at 08:52 AM

August 17, 2007

On magic

Tamar, Damian and I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix yesterday afternoon. I had read the first book and seen the first movie. I also read the first and last chapters of the last and final book. I also read, this week, a review by Stephen King of the Harry Potter series. I also heard a discussion on the radio recently by two women authors of children’s books. The two women were deploring the poor craftsmanship of J.K.Rowling’s writing. “Too many adjectives on one page,” they said. Sloppy and lazy writing was their general consensus. On the other hand, Stephen King thinks Rowling is an excellent writer, improving with each book. Most readers agree it’s not high art. Most say the stories are good. Maybe because I have missed out on reading (or seeing) the whole series, I don’t appreciate it properly. But overall, the sentiment is strong: everyone (and especially me) loves magic. No matter how it is told. Or seen.

Wishful thinking is dangerous. As dangerous as fear. It projects us from being present, from being real. Magical thinking separates us from reality. But for Harry Potter and his friends, hope and fear are made tangible and useable. I’ve never enjoyed seeing violence on film or in life. But in the life of Harry Potter, violence seems rarely to have fruition other than to create more possibilities of fear and violence and use for magic. And magic IS fun.

The magic itself is the best part of the film. I lost my sense of boredom (which pervaded the first half of the movie for me—possibly because I haven’t seen or read much of the other books and movies so I don’t have a strong relationship with the characters and the story-lines) when Harry and his friends started hurling chants and sparkling lights around, with fire demons doing their thing, swirling magical smoke. Smoke screens. Fireworks in the sky.

In this movie, hope and fear are what Harry, ultimately, learns to harness. To accept himself as a good person, loved and loving. Doesn’t good always win out!?! So maybe I can go back and read the whole book and maybe the other books and movies. But I doubt it. Too many other really good books to read. And reading itself is an act of magic. One I dearly love.

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August 15, 2007

A day in the city

Monday Tamar, Damian and I went into Manhattan.


From the subway we went to the Museum of Modern Art. Seeing some of the paintings that have been so much a part of my life in the City, I really felt like I was home again.


Damian's favorite painting was by Elizabeth Murry, a large colorful painting with many twists and turns. Murry had been Tamar's art teacher when she was in pre-school. Interesting.

Then we went into the sculpture garden and Damian and I wandered through the Richard Serra pieces.


and the city scenery:



After MoMa we went to FAO Swartz.



Then we met my cousin Jonathan and nephew Rob for dinner at an open-air restaurant, 70th and the River.


Even the kitchen was outside. And it was the best hamburger I’ve had in a long time. We stayed there until dark, talking, reminiscing about Marcella, catching up on our lives and generally feeling good. A perfect day in Manhattan.

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August 13, 2007

The Marcella Tree


We buried Marcella’s ashes under a beautiful tree in my cousins’ back yard in Westchester, N.Y. A large gathering of family, from ages nine to ninety, and a strong presence of the Grande Dame herself were there. The stories and memories were amusing and touching. She was, without a doubt, a wonderful and rewarding person to have had in our lives. Intelligent, witty, warm, demanding, compassionate, generous, elegant and always and foremost, putting family first.

After the ceremony, after saying Kaddish, after planting the tree over Marcella’s ashes, my cousin Jonathan fittingly gave her a final glass of wine to carry her on her journey.


Later, about twenty of us went to a wonderful Chinese restaurant. There I learned some cool handshakes from my fifteen year old cousin (twice removed) and ate, in true Marcella style, some of the most amazing morsels, the choices of dishes overseen by Jackson, the restaurant owner.


A meal with good company and dragons:


and good fortune:


Once again, Marcella brought our large family together.

Posted by leya at 12:26 PM

August 10, 2007

Traveling again

I'm off to NYC today to visit with Tamar, Dan and Damian. Tomorrow is the Memorial Service to celebrate the life of my aunt Marcella (who died recently at the sterlling age of 102 years). It will be a big family gathering. So far I know of thirty-five people who will be there.

Tamar has sent me a list of the many many interesting things we can do during my one-week visit. So, first I take Lila to her doggie resort, and then I'm off for another adventure!

Posted by leya at 07:53 AM

August 09, 2007

On camera

Just in time to go visit Tamar and family, my digital camera is repaired! I picked it up a couple of days ago and then went to Point Pleasant Park with Lila.


The park is full of bushes and berries. The lack of trees, although still sad, has allowed a new undergrowth to flourish.




Yesterday when Lila and I were walking with our friend Sherry, we met a young girl with her yellow lab and parents. The dogs started playing together and the young lady told me the story of her dogs. They had two for a couple of years and were about to get another, a black lab and maybe a rescue dog, because the older one, also a black lab, had died recently. When they picked out this dog, the one they have now, from the litter the first puppy they saw was too active, jumping on people, tearing at the toys and barking a lot. That wouldn't do, she said. Then there was another girl pup (they wanted a female) who just sat in the corner and didn’t move. So they picked one who was more playful but not too playful. She said this was important because she was an only child and needed to have a dog who would play with her.

When we parted company, I asked her what was her name. She said it was Sophie and she was almost-ten. I told her I hope to see her again. Her mom said, with a big smile, then she will tell you the rest of her life story!

I told Sophie my grandson is nine and I will see him very soon. Tomorrow!

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