Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blog posts that trigger memories

Over at Perfume Shrine, there's two posts that brought up memories for me. One is about the closing of the Japanese department store Takashimaya. I've never never been to their glistening new store in New York, but when I was a young girl, my mother and I would make yearly pilgrimages to their seemingly secret one, which, in my memories (that may be wildly inaccurate), was easy to miss, even though it was right on 5th Avenu. We'd go to the virtually empty store and wander around in awe at the beautiful, impossibly expensive and elegant merchandise. The salespeople were cool but friendly, and it seemed no one spoke English. But, we loved it, and we considered it our store, and our big secret. Did we ever purchase anything? Perhaps, but my memories are dim. We may have bought chopsticks, or had tea. I do not recall much except my awe, and the knowledge that being poor and loving such elegance was a frustrating combination, even as a child. My mother loved window shopping at high-end stores, but she preferred actually shopping at bargain basements where she could rummage through the merchandise. She preferred acrylic to wool, thought linen was useless because one had to iron it, and didn't give a hoot that a pair of cheap shoes might last all of two wearings. I was a little snob. From an early age, I wanted handmade shoes that would last a lifetime.

Another post at Perfume Shrine shows us some truly fun antique perfume dispensing machines. Check it out! They are fun just to look at.

I'm sure I've encountered one in my early childhood. The minute I saw the first red one (check the site!), memories of my grandmother flashed through my mind. It's plausible that I did use one, or at least saw one, when having lunch with my grandmother and mom in the City. Or maybe it just reminds me of the years when these things were still lurking in the bathrooms of places now long gone. I'm sure it wasn't in the automat, yet the automat, too, flitted through my mind's eye when I saw the picture. I'd be duplicating old posts by writing more here. Go here to read about the automat and other bits of a lost New York, and here for memories of my grandmother.

Looking over these old posts is illuminating. I was pining for New York way back in 2008. I was also a much more interesting blogger back then. At some point, I ran and out of inspiration but kept on writing. I hope that the rest of 2010 sees a return to more interesting posts!

Photo note: I believe that when I was a kid, this was the only indication that there was a store inside the building. No wonder it was nearly empty.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I had forgotten about depression

I spent about an hour trying to untangle some balls of yarn earlier today. What a waste of time. I wound up throwing the lot in the garbage. Surrounded by bags of trash, empty bags, bags of unfinished projects, bags of scrap fabric, bags within bags, bags of receipts, bags of things for projects never started, bags, bags, and more bags, while sitting upon a rug that hasn't been vacuumed in who knows how long, I wondered how it had come to this. I've never been a slob, yet I was sitting in piles of evidence that I've been one. Huh?

I forgot I'd been depressed. Seems ridiculous, to be sure, since depression, unhappiness, or whatever one wants to call it, has been the ball and chain that's dragged me down for years. How can one forget that so easily? Perhaps this is another reason I'm finding this packing business so difficult. I'm sitting in my own shit, every day, seeing what a mess I had made of my life, and sifting through the tangible wreckage is exhausting.

I've got piles of books I'll never have use for, and it's not because I love books (though I do). It's because I have books about medical transcription, massage, medical billing and coding (what was I thinking?). . .piles of books that evidence my flailing about trying to find a new path in life.

It's not that I feel remorse for any of it. I don't. I think of past flailing, past errors, past anything, as fodder, and I'm lucky for it. Living with regrets is a killer, and it's a soul killer that seems to haunt so many people I know.

I've had rough times, but I am grateful I don't spend much time with the "what ifs?" What a horrendous waste of time and energy they are. We can what if ourselves into true misery. For everything we do, there is always an alternative, and though It's sometimes a useful exercise to wonder about where another path might have taken us, looking back and thinking we've done the wrong thing is mostly an exercise in self-loathing.

Recently someone said to me "You should never have moved to Maine." Absurd! First off, telling anyone that they've made a mistake with nearly twenty years of their life is just plain impolite, if nothing else. Leaving that aside, I just don't believe that even the worst mistakes should be seen as "wrong." Within every thing we do there's an opportunity to learn and to grow, and for that simple reason alone, so-called mistakes can be seen as wonderful things.

I used to feel "less-than" compared to people who had one thing they'd done with their lives and done it well. Amongst my relatives, leading a linear life was held up as the ideal, and those who did otherwise were seen as fooling around. Now, I'm grateful that i've not lead a linear life and that I've tried many things.

As for Maine, in these 19 years, I've done so much. I've raised sheep, woven linen and tartans on huge 19th century looms, communed with moose and ermine and had bats, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, turkeys, goats and lambs right in my own home, grown my own food, owned a tattoo shop, learned to live without running water, electricity, indoor plumbing (and all the things of modern life), met people who had jobs I'd never dreamed of (worm diggers, for instance). . .the list of riches here is long. So, now, I've not got a big 401K plan, or a paid-off mortgage, or any of the things that a linear life would have given me, but, my goodness, I'm glad for all of it.

There's been losses, huge losses, and there's been pain, and life has been tough. But, even as I write that I think "so what?" Life has been rich and life could have been richer. It's been what it was. I'm not disowning any of it. I feel badly that people do disown vast stretches of their lives. What a terrible thing to do to oneself.

Painting note: I was going to post a Resurrection painting, but then i found this. I am more than fond of Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen's portraits, but I don't recall ever seeing this intrguing painting, "Saul and the Witch of Endor"(1565). As a kid, I used to spend many a weekend at the Museum of Metropolitan Art, spending inordinate amounts of time in the portrait galleries. Click the link to see some of my favorite work. It fascinated me then how I could feel as if I was communicating with people whose lives were inconceivable to me, and it still does. For me, a great portrait conveys a life; one can see it in the eyes. The dead do not die through this work. The afterlife? Literally, I do not believe in it, but i don't feel the need. Music and art fill that void (if indeed there is a void to fill).

Not a procrastination post. . .(okay, it is)

I've just stopped dead (from packing, that is).

Tomorrow is Saturday, but I need a day of rest. I feel I ought to write about packing, but what is there to say? Packing is an awful business. Some people dislike it because it's a chore. Some dislike it because it brings up memories. I've figured out what it is I don't like about it: I shows me that I'm a slob. You may not think so if you visited, but my closets, and rooms that are not used (and therefore are just large closets) are evidence that I need to seriously think about my organizational habits. I make sure that what others can see is tidy. Otherwise, the hidden space in my life operates on this rule: "open door and throw stuff in." That's fine if one lives in one house for the rest of one's life, but when moving, it's hell. Not only do I need to go through all this clutter, I'm confronted by a dysfunctional behavior in myself that I don't like.

In my new apartment, there is only one small closet. So, I'm going to have to mend my ways, and I'm pleased that that will be forced upon me.

So, I got the moving part of this post out of the way.

On to other things. I've been blog surfing this morning and here's what I note: Popular blogs, unless they're written by famous people, give lots of stuff away, have lots of links to other personal blogs. and basically operate like Facebook with prizes. Long entries are not common (unless they're written by well-known authors). Lots of magazine style graphics are the norm. Comments are are way longer than posts. Lots of advertising.

Okay. I have none of that. I vowed I'd not use Adsense. I do have links to commercial sites but they're hard to find. My posts are often quite long. I'm not famous. I could be, but I don't use the has-been stuff to promote myself. Every time I think of doing so, I bristle. I am nearly appalled by old acquiantances who use what they've done oh-so-long-ago to keep their names alive in the public eye. How can anyone stand to be known for one thing they've done when they were kids? There's something creepy about it to me. Am I engaging in this just by bringing it up?

I have problems with the fame thing. I hated when I brushed up against it. I suppose some of what I didn't like had nothing to do with fame itself, but with being admired for something I was neither proud of or felt authentic. I also disliked what I've come to think of as the "Kurt Cobain syndrome" - knowing that many people who admired you would have rather beat you up than be seen with you once, and now claimed friendship. Poor Kurt, he never lived past that.

Nowadays, stuff like that makes me laugh. When I was 20, it made me angry and sad.

When I was looking for an apartment, I saw a few people i hadn't seen in over twenty years at a reunion gig of an old roadie's band. Truth is, it was truly sweet seeing these old friends. I don't remember knowing them well, and have a feeling I did not, but I wasn't much of a talker back when I was young. In fact, I was a total jerk who basically glared at anyone who deigned to speak to me. My default mode was being angry (or at least looking that way).

There was a menacing looking fellow named Von Lmo whom my old band did some gigs with, and I discovered that he was frightened of me! This, and other information I gleaned along the years, made me realize that I had developed a most threatening demeanor, which screamed "stay away from me!" I wore that like a skin for years, half consciously.

Being in the City without that cloak of menace is wonderful. One lovely evening last week I watched a man play the cello in Washington Square Park. He was wonderful, took my request (Bach's Cello Suite #4). Silly me, I would have preferred Suite #1, but I figured it was too common for his taste. I stood there smiling, rapturous, and he gave me a CD, on which was my beloved Suite #1, played with some improvisation. Delightful! If I still played the cello, I'd riff on that piece, too.

Yeah, this entry was another Seinfeldian piece about nothing much at all. I am not focused. I need to have my space set up and be back at spinning and making things! Soon enough. . .soon enough. . .

Photo note: The engaging cellist, Peter Lewy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Trying to cure life

Last night I re-read my sidebar. I wrote that I'm a person who's struggled with depression. I came close to deleting the whole thing, but I was tired. I started writing this entry, but I put it in the drafts folder where things always languish and die. For the first time, I'm interested enough to go back and finish what I started; that's a big thing for me!

What is this thing called depression, anyway? It's been called a disease, and the drug companies sure would like us all to believe that, for diseases can be cured with medication. Anti-depressants have never worked for me, so what have the doctors said? "You have medication resistant depression." Intractable. Oh, a very bad case indeed!

When I was in high school, I read R.D.Laing's "Sanity, Madness, and the Family." This book saved my sanity. The quick and dirty explanation of what Laing wrote is that the "crazy people" were having reasonable responses to insane circumstances. I was a miserable kid with a host of problems who started going to shrinks at a young age. But what good was that (especially back then), when they couldn't get my family to change their crazy-making behavior? If only there was behavioral therapy back then, the shrinks may have been helpful. I would have learned better coping skills. I'm grateful I'm not a teenager now, for I'd have been drugged to the eyeteeth. My own self-medicating, I'm sure, was a whole lot less harmful in the long run.

So, this brings me to what I was thinking about earlier. Can we drug people out of feeling unhappy? As far as I can tell, most depressed people are depressed because of something. I used to balk at that idea when I was feeling at my worst, for it challenged me to examine my life and make changes. Oh no, there's nothing wrong! I just have the "disease of depression."

Is it even ethical to drug people who are unsatisfied with their lives, their jobs, their marriages, their finances, and even their health? I'm beginning to think not. Why don't we just hand out heroin to the entire populace? That would solve everyone's ills, and quite inexpensively, too. But that won't do, for big pharma wouldn't make the big bucks.

We don't hear much of the word "unhappy" these days. We hear people use the word "happiness" quite a lot, but it's flip side has fallen into disuse. What if therapists stopped using the word "depression" and used the word "unhappy" instead?

For one thing, there'd be an awful lot of angry patients. Imagine if you will a woman who's married to an unemployed drunk, is saddled with a posse of kids, does all the housework and cooking and has a low-paying 40-hour a week job, whose home is falling down around her, has a car that needs works but can't afford it, and is being harrassed by social services because those kids are doing poorly in school and they think she needs to spend more quality time with them. That sounds like a lot of people around here.

So, this imaginary woman is stressed out and unhappy. She's been unhappy so long that she has a pessimistic mindset and, yes, is depressed. All the joys in life, which are there on occasion, give her little pleasure. For one thing, she's too tired to feel much pleasure. She hurts all over because she's sleep deprived and eats a terrible diet of over-processed food straight from the microwave.

When this woman finally makes it to a psychiatrist's office, as she might, she's diagnosed with major depression. Oh, the notes might say there's mitigating circumstances, but doesn't everyone have them? What does she get? Prescriptions. Something to make her feel more upbeat, even if there's nothing to be upbeat about. Maybe she'll get some painkillers, too. Five years down the road she'll be in rehab and on Seboxyn.

What if, instead, her living problems were addressed? Well, no, one can't do that. But, if one stops for a moment and thinks about the price of meds and doctors and shrinks and social service workers, giving this woman a monthly stipend so she can work less outside the home, or hire a bi-weekly housecleaner, or whatever might ease some of her burden, well, it'd be a bargain. But no, that is just too simple And, on top of that, tea-party types would say we're handing out checks to folks who've made their own dirty beds and deserve to lay in them.

Well, to those who think the above, everyone is paying a lot for a huge bulk of our society's unhappy overburdened people already. What do you think is best? Enforced sterilization for the poor or soon-to-be-poor?

So, we've got a society in which we have many chronically unhappy people. It's not limited to the poor, of course, but poverty is the great equalizer in terms of creating misery. Sure, one can live in poverty and be happy, but it's not normative, especially in this society where families and communities are fractured, total self-reliance is the norm, and having money and lots of stuff is the barometer of success. This last bit alone is a major cause of unhappiness in itself. Any day of the week, one can read an inspiring story on the Web or watch one on TV about vibrant happy people who live in dire circumstances, but they are regarded as freakish exceptions. The reasons why these folks are doing so well are not examined closely enough. We study disease and dis-ease, not happiness.

And then, the drug companies do not want us to know about how to improve our resiliency and health. Where would they be if we all woke up to the simple physical and mental health-affirming realities of good support systems, life-in-community, and finding true meaning and purpose in these lives of ours?

What if the doctors simply diagnosed "unhappiness"?

I think it would cause a revolution. We all know intuitively that pills can't cure the pain of unhappiness. Numb a person out enough, and they will feel better (or at least they'll feel less), but a nation of zombies we will become. I fear, sadly, that this is what we're becoming.

I, for one, am glad I woke up. I was unhappy. I may be unhappy again. That's life.

Image note: Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne "Allegory of Poverty" c.1630

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Once upon a time, I was really good about not collecting stuff. I had a rule that if I had something that I hadn't used for 6 months, I would get rid of it. As the years passed, time started flying by, and I no longer lived in cramped quarters, so that wonderful rule faded away. Though truth is, nowadays I would up it to one year. Six months? That doesn't even cover all the seasons!

I'm going through my stuff right now, and there's stuff I still haven't unpacked from when I moved into where I'm moving out of now. It's ridiculous!

Luckily for me, most of this stuff is easy to get rid of. There's no emotional baggage attached to piles and piles of magazines I've saved for doing collage. Some people would not agree, I know. Those are really good magazines for collage!

But no, out it goes. I'd like to give it someone who would like it, but if not, it's garbage. Oh well. Do you want it?

The real reason I'm blogging right now is because I don't want to face all that stuff. It's overwhelming. That's part of the horror of having too much stuff.

I like the word (as if you couldn't tell). From the moment I started writing this, I've thought about Carlin's routine, which I certainly can't top with my words!

". . .that's all your house is. . . a pile of stuff with a cover on it. . ."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Almost raw!

Today, if you offered me a choice between some barbecued ribs and a big bowl of fresh greens with avocado, I'd pick the greens. Okay, maybe I'd have a wee bite of the ribs, but that'd be it.

I feel so good after eating my huge dinner salad that I'd be hard pressed to give that up, even if someone waved a magic wand over my head and made my health problems go away. Hold on - that just made no sense. If I already felt great, and eating certain foods wouldn't affect me adversely, would I go on eating such a (supposedly) limited diet?

No doubt about it - YES!

Everything tastes so much better! My dinner salad takes me almost an hour to eat because I'm chewing so slowly. Tonight I had some fresh mung bean sprouts and the sweetest lightly cooked asparagus. Why would I want to wolf them down and miss the delights of how they taste?

One reason fast food is fast is because if one spent time savoring it, one would notice quickly that it doesn't taste all that good. The more raw food I eat, the more I can taste the chemicals, or notice the lack of taste, in processed food.

This past week I've been eating a lot of carrot sticks. That's what I really meant to blog about. I used to balk, scoff, even occasionally snarl, at the very idea of eating carrot sticks as a snack. C'mon! Telling dieters to eat carrot sticks instead of, say, a milk shake, is absurd. No one really wants a carrot stick, right? It's a farce. Carrot sticks' only purpose is to provide a colorful but cheap choice on a buffet table and a stupid, useless, and totally uncreative snacking solution for dieters.

But wait a minute - they taste good. How did I not notice that before? I've always loved carrot juice, and fresh carrots pulled right from the earth (especially the round ones, whatever their name is), but the carrot stick, well. . .phfft.

Come to think of it, I've always loved anything carrot-y. I used to make a light beef stew in which I'd place a pound of uncut carrots. i think carrot cake is the best cake there is. I adore carrot muffin. I used to also make a three color pate which had a layer made of carrots (an entire day's work for that baby). When I was a kid, I loved my grandmother's plain cooked carrots. I don't know what the deal was with her carrots, but one could always poke out the centers with one's tongue. For a child, this is simply too much fun!

Now I'm munching on carrot sticks without any resentment. That's the key. It's not that I'm craving something else and that carrot stick is a poor substitute - i want a carrot! What not to love? They're a beautiful shade of orange and they're crunchy.

I added Choosing Raw to my blog links before i wrote this post. There's many raw foods blogs out there, but I like this one a lot. Besides the friendly writing and good recipes, Gena has a great photo of an avocado right there in her banner. And for me, finding her blog was particularly great, for she's right in New York City, and I'm sure i'll be availing myself of her restaurant tips and such. Go check it out. If you like wheatgrass juice (I don't), she's got a wheatgrass juicer to give away to one lucky person.

Now, I'm gonna finish up drinking my soy not-so-smoothie. I'm looking forward to making my own fresh soy milk when i get settled in in my new digs.

Photo note: Neither round nor orange, these are Purple Haze carrots. For a ridiculously large selection of carrot seeds, go to Johnny's. Sigh. Now i want go grow carrots. It figures that I'm moving to the city now. But, it' s New York City, and I'm sure I'll be able to buy purple carrots if I want to, or maybe next year I'll join a community garden. Now, that sounds delightful!

Monday, March 1, 2010

I am having altogether too much fun

Spent part of an evening making these. What are they? I don't know yet. That's the really fun part.

When all is said and done, I'm quite easy to entertain, aren't I?