Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Munched Apple

                                                             School Yard in Chelsea

  I forget how much I love New York City.  It's like a favorite uncle you think will live forever and forget to call.
  My connection with the city is long, if sporadic.  As a kid, I saw many Broadway musicals.
  When I was a teenager, I traveled alone to the city. At a movie theater near Bloomingdale's , I walked in to the fox hunt scene of "Tom Jones,"  and felt  giddy with independence.   
   In my later teens, I went to the diet doctor who gave me a monthly supply of speed.  After the weigh-in,  I repaired to Schraffts for a hot fudge, coffee ice cream sundae.
    Daring dates in Greenwich Village made me feel very sophisticated, though clearly I was not.
    When it came time to earn a pittance, I moved to NYC.   I worked as a dogs body at a publishing firm and shared a shotgun Brownstone apartment with two girls on East 52nd.  The rent was $450.  I was earning the princely sum of $110.  And the first week's check bounced. Seriously.
   When my husband shipped out to Vietnam mere weeks after the wedding.  I moved back to the city and lived in the maid's room of an empty Park Avenue duplex.  
   Later, We lived in Yonkers. I commuted to the city. He sold antifreeze in upstate New York, Vermont and Bedford-Stuyveson .  We enjoyed all the city offered, tentatively.  When we drove to our first concert in Central Park.  I insisted he leave his money and credit cards as I was sure we were to be robbed.  Instead, the car broke down on 8th Avenue.  He had pawn his watch to pay the repair.
   I remained with the publishing house even after my husband took a job in Syracuse, New York.  I flew down on Mondays and took the long train home Wednesdays.  A  friend of  my parents, Jane, let me stay with her on Park Avenue.  (Yes, I have been very lucky in my parents and their friends)  She was a lovely, helpless creature.  If a lightbulb burnt out it would stay out until I returned to replace it.  She cooked chicken in Campbell's mushroom soup and huge artichokes.  Mostly she ordered out.  When she drank she told me steamy stories about her  friends.  I begged her not to tell me anything about my parents.  
  I lived that double life for three years, going from the thrum of Manhattan to monotony of Central New York.  The commute was a slog, but I didn't want to leave civilization to become a housewife.
  Eventually, children intervened.  Trips to New York became child-centric.  Would that I could have afforded to take my daughter to Broadway shows.  But the museums and zoos were ample compensation.
    The lovely, helpless creature on Park Avenue died.  Walking to her memorial service during rush hour I felt my pace quicken to match the crowds.  I missed it.  We had bounced around the east coast, Connecticut, New Jersey and Boston but never considered living in New York City.  The crime was virulent, the rents catastrophic...it was hopeless.
   One of my paintings was to show in New York City starting September 15, 2001.  I planned to attend.  The horror and grief of 9/11 pre-empted everything.
   Years later, when I did a pastel series of public sculpture,  my husband and I trooped over a large swath of Central Park for photographic references.
   Living outside of Washington, DC satisfied most of my urban itches.   Recently, however, an artist friend, Susan Makara, and I decided to do a New York City trip to buy art materials.  We went on the cheap: a lovely bus ride $27 round trip and a hotel room in an ex-convent for $146 (for two) a night.  We stayed in Chelsea, a part of Manhattan unknown to me.  When I lived in New York decades before, I wouldn't have dreamed of spending time on West 10th Avenue.   I was amazed by the slow (relative to Midtown) pace of Chelsea.  The very livability of it.  I saw no homeless people nor any Starbucks.  We visited Susan's artist friends, went to the Neue Gallery, the Chelsea Market, Central Park, an art opening, many galleries, the 9/11 museum, the High Line, all in 48 hours.  It would have been a bargain trip had we not also visited Vasari Oil Colors and Sepp Metal Leaf.  We could not resist their wares.  Susan lugged her heavy Nikon everywhere.  At lunch she asked her friend Katrin Eismann, head of photography at School for the Visual Arts, for a recommendation.  Katrin looked at Susan's camera  and pronounced it a "cow killer".  She recommended the 20 megapixel compact Sony RX100 version 5. I have an upcoming Asian trip. I was dreading dragging my Nikon, so, naturally I leapt at the suggestion.  
    New York City has enriched me over the span of my life.  I am indebted.  But I ask you how does one repay such a debt?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Really Bad Habits

   It has been said that I overindulge.  Too true.  Especially with respect to art supplies.  (I won't dwell on the thousand plus of pastel sticks in the basement. Susan Makara won't let me sell them or give them away as she is sure I will, one day, go back to them. )  
   My husband wants to have a professional painter do our upstairs.  Those that didn't faint away at the sight of my jammed home studio, clung to the belief that we would empty the room.  From the breakdown of price quotes, it was clear we couldn't afford to have them do it.
   In my defense, I worked part-time in an art store for fourteen years. Where I had a discount.  You can understand the urge to accrete.  Also, I have a professional studio elsewhere.  Both studios needed to be stocked.
   I started the transfer today.  I wouldn't let my husband help as I don't  think the marriage could survive the knowledge of my curse.  Best if he  thinks I might be addicted without beating him over the head with it.
    How can anyone own too many art books?  Apparently, I do.  The top image is of my upstairs stash.  There are two more bookcases downstairs, groaning with the weight of images.  Some I inherited from my mother.  I hope to guilt my daughter into keeping the collection when I'm gone.
    The second image shows some of my brushes.  Most are in my other studio.
    I haven't started with the oil paints, mediums, canvases, frames, printers, files of paintings done and research for those to be.    It's too much.  It really is.
   I need an Advil.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Friends: Up to No Good

   Fay Weldon once wrote "friends are as much duty as pleasure."  I find this to be true.  
Years ago, I had two friends that became all duty.  There was little cheer to offset the hard work.  I would describe both of these people as relentless.  I am not proud of it,  but I cut them loose.  (Even the disentanglement was arduous.)

   These days when politics so divide us, it is hard to keep emotions from careening off the rails.  Maybe the animosity will pass.  I hope so.

   I want to gather my friends and say, 'Fay Weldon also wrote, "You end up as you deserve.  In old age you must put up with the face, the friends, the health, and the children you have earned."' Amen.  And thanks for being here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Total Ankle Replacement (Mostly Splat-Free)

 I once was a very fast walker.  And proud of it.

This was my right ankle in November 2016.  The pronounced bulge caused much pain, but only if I walked. Or stood.  The beach was the worst.  I could walk in one direction, with the bad ankle down slope, closest to the water,  The return trip, with the ankle on higher ground was misery.  Cortisone shots temporarily eased the pain for years, but relief time was shorter with each shot.

So I opted for a Total Ankle Replacement.  Unlike knee and hip replacements, ankle replacement is relatively rare.  Google TAR and you get manufacturer and hospital promos.  There was little information from the patient's point of view.  I didn't know what to expect.

The pain after the surgery was not bad, until the nerve block wore off.  This happened literally as Medical Transport was wheeling me out of my hospital room.  The nurse ran to get me an oxycodone.   I was in agony.  The transporters used a Rube Goldberg type contraption, to get me up the spiral staircase to my bed.  I promptly threw up.  The pain, which the doctor said would be about a '7' for three days, was unbearable.  I could not imagine enduring three days of it.  Soon I was dehydrated, writhing and frightened by the pain.  My husband called the night nurse.  Her suggestion was to go to the emergency room.  After all the effort to get me home and up the stairs, returning to the hospital was not an option.  My husband went out and bought 3 big bottles of Pedialyte.  I honestly don't know how I got through that night.

By the next day the pain was bearable.  And within two days I was off everything but Tylenol. The next six weeks were uneventful and painfree. (Though sleeping with a knee high boot with 5 velcro straps was not optimal.)  I read 14 books, watched Netflix and ate all meals in bed (My husband has been a delight.  Our only fight was when I tried to direct him while he changed the bed sheets).  There was no Thanksgiving, no Christmas and no New Years celebrations. I only braved the spiral stairs for doctor's appointments.

Last week the big boot brace came off and I started putting weight on the right foot.  Pain has returned, but I am optimistic.  My one mishap happened when I got uppity, thinking I could wheel myself to the car for my first physical therapy appointment.  In my defense, the walkway was narrow and wet.  A wheel slipped off the edge and I tumbled into the flower bed.  I kept my bad angle up, but the rest of me was caked in mud.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Who Knows Where the Fat Goes?

I lost 40 pounds this year.  "Lost" is a misnomer.   Fat doesn't just disappear.  Some theorize it is follows the Buddhist allegory of the soul as being tea in a teacup.  The teacup may break apart, but the tea still exists. Some think your loss is another's gain.  It sure as hell doesn't go away on a radio flyer red wagon, as Oprah learned the hard way.

I believe that fat exists in two states, solid and gaseous.  You may remove the blubber physically, but it is never far away.  Its vapors lurk, waiting to pounce.  The scientific news about maintaining weight loss is not good.   To stay at your new weight, you have to consume 500 calories less a day, and exercise an hour more than a person who is normally that weight.  Face it, your metabolism has doomed you.

Fat is confident.  Anxiety, Depression or Boredom are its tickets back.  I am facing a confinement that features all three.  Tomorrow I go into the hospital to have a total ankle replacement.  Six to eight weeks of bedrest.  And bonbons.....

Monday, October 31, 2016

Were There But Meds Enough...

  Like most of America, I'm having a rough go of it lately. 

  My husband discovered a suspicious growth on my back last night.  I can't think about that now  because in three weeks my ankle will be replaced.  Unlike my three knee replacements, this is an uncommon surgery.  Oddly, there's not much written by successful patients online.
   It's the aftermath that worries me.  My right foot cannot touch the ground for 6 weeks.  Sadly, I have no balance on my left foot as spinal surgery in the 90's left it atrophied and the bottom of the foot numb. 
  The first hurdle is to reach the second floor as we have no shower or bathtub on the first floor. And though my husband has graciously offered to hose me down on the porch this December and January, I'd rather not.
   His next idea was to drape me around his neck while he scaled the stairs.  Sort of like one of those moving men who strap a refrigerator to their back.  We tried it for one stair and both realized the folly.  
   Did I mention that it is a circular staircase?  My husband looked into temporary stair lifts.  Those for a curved wall start at $7000.  Short of hiring someone in front of Home Depot to carry me upstairs (and don't think we haven't thought about it), I will have to butt-hop my way up.  I have been practicing.  The only problem is once I get to the top stair I will have to pivot and hop with the aforementioned atrophied leg.  We are now looking into freight dollies.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Damned Wasps


September 18, 2016

Why do wasps ruin all the fun?  Not Muffy and Biff, but those dreaded hornets and yellow jackets that spend September slowly circling me like I'm a slice of juicy melon. They land on me, crawl up my arms, sneak under my shirt sleeves.   My teeth all but chatter as I try to stay still.  ( I may have wasps confused with bears.)  My husband likes to bat at them.  An act of provocation that will end with me stung  six ways from Sunday.
    I should pity the wasps.  They are essentially looking for their coffins.  Over the winter, all but the queen will die.  But I have no empathy as their mortuary is smack in the middle my favorite spot to sit in all the world  And wasps mean summer is over.
    My 50th high school reunion was last weekend.  I didn't go as I was two ferry rides and fifty years away. But the lead-up to the reunion brought lots of memories posted online.  I couldn't get over how many of my classmates were dead, especially the athletic ones.
   I ran into a girl from my freshman college dorm in the Edgartown Stop and Shop.  I wouldn't have recognized her without the Facebook connection.  Unbeknownst to me, she had once dated my husband.  Stranger and stranger, this whorl of memories.
  Later that week I met up with a girl from my Chappy days of horseback riding.  We had a long, lovely afternoon speaking of the past
   All these memories swarmed.
   But the wasps were louder.