Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Last winter I had a Netflix addiction to Twin Peaks. I had seen parts of it as a kid and it scared the shit out of me but with older eyes I could certainly handle it. I upgraded my package to 2 at a time and found myself craving coffee with cherry pie from watching Coop consume the combo so often. I've been meaning for some time to post a quote from the show and after reflecting here's a quirky favorite:

Dale Cooper: Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Disappearing Storefronts

Barbers, bodegas, appetizer shops, locksmiths, and fabric suppliers all represent the entrepreneurial spirit of New York. The stores that have been passed down to ancestor after ancestor provide us more specifically with a visual history, a timeless piece of life. Some of their signs are now missing letters or the neon has burned out, but they are too beloved to ever go changing. When Russ & Daughters (Lower East Side appetizer shop) had their neon sign repaired, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing as a flurry of customer’s feared they had gone out of business.
“Mom & Pop” stores become family. I know I have certainly grown up with a few. I’ve had one place cater a going away party, another press a key for my first car, and another knows my absolute dependence on half and half for my coffee. Corporations tend to large masses of customers. You can go in one and be ignored and some people like that. I don’t. If I go into my corner bodega someone will always say hello to me and want to talk some more.
James and Karla Murray graced a recent Tenement Talk I worked on explaining their mission to visually preserve the Mom & Pop while producing “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York.” Using film exclusively, the Murray’s prints are gorgeous; the film full of grain and naturally highlighting the worn patina of old metal signs and rusty hardware. Some of the stores featured have closed and their signs removed and sold as scrap. While it may be exciting to get a much-needed café there are those who will ache for the absence of a lost candy store. These photos at the very least preserve the memory of a closed storefront’s existence.
If you missed our Tenement Talk, below you will find a link to a website with information about James and Karla Murray’s exhibition of the Brooklyn photographs titled “Counter/Culture: The Disappearing Face of Brooklyn’s Storefronts” running through March 29.

For images and information on visiting the exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society, please visit the following website: http://www.jamesandkarlamurray.com/JamesandKarlaMurrayCounterCulture.html

Thursday, March 19, 2009

quoteworthy...on writing

"Way back in college I had a marine biology teacher who learned I was just floundering on this big, amorphous topic, and I told him I was struggling, that I didn’t know what I was doing. And he said, “When you’re doing a big essay, it’s like you’re walking on the beach and you come upon a dead sea walrus and you’re curious about how he died. You can do one of two things. You can pick up that piece of driftwood over there and start bashing the flank. And all you are going to do is make blubber and hash of him. Or you can pick up that driftwood, go sit down on a boulder, pick up a rock and start sharpening the driftwood. It will take all afternoon, but by the end you’ll have a blade. Then you can do the autopsy, and in five minutes you’ll know what happened.” So when you’re dealing with a huge, amorphous subject, it’s best not to ask huge, amorphous questions. Better to spend ninety percent of your time honing the questions, and after awhile the subject will open up."

This is a great quote came from my Fiction of Non-Fiction Professor Lawrence Weschler. I feel it does not excuse procrastination per se but certainly frees up the writer to not force work.

He is the most enthusiastic professor I have ever had. He can barely keep still he loves each story and opening of class/closing of class poem so much. I feel like I am in a coven of cinematic inspiration only it's very real. Every day it doesn't just feel like my head is swollen with smarts and fire after class, it actually is.

Perhaps my favorite lesson came after the tipping point of a discussion on Susan Sheehan's "Missing Plane." Aside from two people in the class, the rest of us were rather bored and uncertain as to what to take from the piece. Sheehan writes about an anthropologist identifying bones found from a plane crash. That sounds interesting sure but there were pages upon pages of "this bone connects to this bone" sort of thing. Anyway, he told us we weren't paying attention. The anthropologist was Japanese and he is identifying the bones of bodies flying out to kill his people around Pearl Harbor. This was never said in full detail within the story but there is enough there to guarantee it absolutely true. That then brought us into a gut wrenching sigh as we realized how eery it was, her choice, to have him never bemoan what he was doing but to just do it. Also, there was a chart with the names of the victims, their measurements, and their birth date. From this chart, we were able to get character as we realized the pilot was the tallest, the co-pilot the most overweight, and that one man died on his birthday. Essentially, it was a reminder to slow the hell down when reading.

I just turned in my first sprawling piece of Non-Fiction on lightning victims. It is actually pretty interesting and at its center I have Roy C. Sullivan, a US Park Ranger who was struck by lightning seven times and survived but later took his own life, reportedly rejected in love. I'm not sure if the non-fiction form is my forte so this all may snuggle into a forthcoming story.