Monday, February 28, 2005


Now I am mad. There is no need to give the details here. It's not really that interesting, the reasons why. But still I am sitting here and hoping that it will pass.


Perhaps it is because I was born in the middle of a fierce blizzard that I feel most content when it snows.


Today I would have gone swimming. But when the hour that I had planned on going approached, I realized that I did not want to go. So I didn't go.


mabel has a bath, continued
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
When it snows, Mabel loves to go out and dig around and play. But when the snow has been around for a few days, she gets really dirty and has to have a bath. She does not like having a bath, but she behaves herself admirably.

Spacey Or Forgetful Or Careless

I used to neurotically check my voice-mail many times throughout the day. It seemed to be a matter of urgent importance to get messages as soon as possible after they were left.

But this morning I called to check and discovered that there was a message from B. from Saturday night, and I realized that I had not checked my voice mail all day yesterday. So unlike me. Or am I simply preoccupied with other things? Or am I growing increasingly spacey?

I'm sorry, B. I would have called you back earlier--


"The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material."

(Marcel Duchamp quoting T.S. Eliot)

Its true. Suffering is not going to make a piece. A clear head that understands its own suffering is more effective. Seems so obvious.

(my own) voice from the past

Last evening my brother came over to watch the Oscars. While we were having dinner he mentioned that he had come across a web site that was an assemblage of quotes, some from teachers at my school, and that there were a few from me. He could not remember the site, but after some resourceful googling we found it. It was a website of a former student of mine; and he had been collecting quotes for years. When I read this one, I laughed so hard I thought I would choke:
If I were one of those people who talked to themselves, then I wouldn't be here. I would be somewhere else. Talking to myself.
And amazingly, although I said this at least ten years ago, now I remember the situation that provoked it. I was teaching a music theory class. This particular class was quite chatty (and charming, as I recall). I would become exasperated (or mock-exasperated) and produce witticisms like this one. What I found particularly funny about this quote was the student's grasp of punctuation. Very precise.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Why is it that my days so often follow the same path as this one.? I wake up feeling expectant and calm. But as the day goes by I feel something wearing me down, gears revolving more slowly, as I find it increasingly difficult to maintain any kind of energy or focus. It is not that I feel physically tired. Rather, my mind gets tired; I become inert.

So the trick is to accomplish something in the morning. Today in early afternoon I tried to work on the proofs my editor sent me of my piano preludes, and I just could not make any progress at all. I will try again in the morning.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I call Mabel "Momo" which means peach in Japanese.

burning hearts

For a reason that I can't quite pinpoint, I can't stop listening to this song, "Burning Hearts." The band, My Favorite, is from Long Island. There is something about the sound that enchants me: the Smiths-style jangle of guitars and tambourine; the off-hand but sad/cheerful singing. And best of all it has a great melody, which I can't get out of my head. I have listened to their other songs, after hearing this one, but none is quite up to this one. And I saw a video of them playing "Burning Hearts"on an obscure tv program on channel 25 (which is an oddity for me since I almost never watch television, so what are the chances that on the rare occasion when I turn it on, I make this discovery) and the woman singer, who is named Andrea Vaughn, plays the hook on a melodica, which is a funny instrument that is essentially a harmonica played with a keyboard. You blow into the mouthpiece and play the keyboard with your right hand.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I am very pleased with my new machine. It is a far better performer than the one it has replaced. I am trying not to drink too much espresso, though; or at least making it 50/50 (caffeine/decaf) so that I don't bounce off the walls and crash.

Last night I was tormented; first, for some reason, I was obsessed with the awful memory of my mother's final weeks, when the brain tumor had completely paralyzed her body and her pain was unbearable so that even the morphine did not alleviate it. The cancer had spread to her bones so that they broke from even minor movements. This memory came back so vividly that I become almost paralyzed myself, and I retreated to my bedroom. In the other room Yoshi and Nani were hanging out and their laughter was almost torturous for me. I apologize, now, for withdrawing into myself, but sometimes it is the only place for me to go.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


I have a gift for self-destruction. Thinking back, that's what I was trying to do at least fifty percent of the time when I was in college. The details are not important. And even now, when I might have some happiness, I make it explode through my own acts. As if I am watching myself, I can see it all unfold, but yet I seem to have no power to stop myself.


I do not normally put much faith in regret. This does not mean that I do not exhaustively analyze the things I have said and done, and the events of the past. Like Thierry said, some people have trouble just being in the present, and are caught between a "regretted past or a fantasized future." So, now, I wish, in a way, that I could erase the day. But I do think that what we do, in any time, is a statement of that particular present, even if, in looking back at it, we wish that particular present had been different, or simply had not existed at all. I do not want to think that I have done some kind of damage today. I did not mean to. Forgive me.


Well, the horoscope was partially correct. I went to J&R to buy a new espresso machine, thanks to Yoshi's b-day gift. He prevailed upon me to pick it out, which is probably best since he rarely drinks espresso. So I bought a very cool machine, stainless steel, and much better results than my old one. I am a bit of a freak about espresso and if I could I would buy one of those amazing thousand-dollar Italian devices, but alas...

So now, hyper-caffeinated, I write and listen to Lucinda Williams and think. And I wonder if what I wrote to Bao this morning was too harsh, or too hysterical, or too melodramatic. Or maybe it is just me being totally honest. But I know this about myself: I never want to hurt my friends. I try not to hurt anyone; I believe in karma, and that good comes back to those who try to be good themselves. And I am not perfect. Far from it. But I have been thinking a lot lately about those two conversations I had on Thursday, and while the legacy of my childhood and my depression has been low self-esteem and the feeling that I am somehow a bad person, clearly others do not see me that way. And this is some relief, because it shows me that I am ok, that maybe I actually have done some good in the world. This has always been very important to me. I have always wanted to do good in the world, in some way. So Bao, please, if you read this, know that my care for you is very deep and will always be so. That, I promise.


Dear Jonathan,
Here is your horoscope
for Saturday, February 26:

You're thinking about shopping again -- and not just one little item, either. You've been looking around your place and considering some major changes. Oh, go ahead. You haven't done this in a long, long time.


I bought a new iPod. A silver iPod mini. I love the design, and it is a perfect size to accompany me on my travels. I don't usually listen to music much at home. But this morning I listen to Marisa Monte's angel-voice singing in Portuguese, and I listen to Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson's earthly heaven-voice sing Bach. And I write to Bao about friendship. And I hope he will not answer me with silence.

Friday, February 25, 2005


I must remember this feeling, the feeling of happiness that I am basking in right now. Next time I am feeling dark and low, please slap me and make me remember this...


and then...

And then I think (because low self-esteem is one of my most striking attributes) that my post this morning about kindness and arrogance is really one of the more arrogant things I have written.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I started this new painting a week ago. But all I can do is paint the same shade of red over and over again on the large square canvas.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
See Tuna's nose? Pomona scratched him, I think.


One can not love and be free. To truly love is to care for the heart of another. To care for the heart of another brings responsibility. I think that maybe the heart's "freedom" is actually selfishness. So I don't care to be free in my heart. My imagination is free. My thoughts are free. But my heart is not, and that is fine.


Today whirlingboy and I both wrote about kindness.


Last evening Thierry had me over for dinner. I drank scotch, he drank scotch, and we talked; or rather, I talked incessantly and he was good enough and patient enough to let me. I talked about the past, about love, and about the love that weighs most heavily on my shoulders. And through his kindness, because of it, I feel a lightness; we walked through the park in the heavy snow, and the gates looked especially beautiful (I don't care what the art critics say), and the walk and the snow and the group of happily playing dogs that we saw lifted my mood. This morning when I woke up I felt more free, somehow, than I have felt in a long time.

And then, doing my errands this morning, I remembered two brief encounters I had yesterday that seemed more significant today. They were fleeting and my mood was so bizarre yesterday that I did not really register their impact until now. First, on my way to teach, I ran into the retired founding head of the school where I teach. He is a brilliant man for whom I have utmost admiration and respect. And we were talking about how one has enemies (he is an outspoken blunt speaker and radical thinker, and thus has had more than a few) and I mentioned that I, undoubtedly, had a few myself. And he said to me, "I have never heard anything from anyone who knows you, either your students or fellow faculty, who does not have tremendous respect for you, for your art, for your teaching, for your humility. You have no arrogance, like so many artists." And I did not know what to say. I never do in these situations, other thank to thank him and become tongue-tied. And then I was almost late for class, so I had to run off.

Later in the day, I saw the head of the high school--I have worked with her for many years--with whom I had to discuss a student, a very talented student, with whom I had had a troubling conversation the previous day. And the head of the high school told me. with a touch of bewilderment and amusement, that "_________ is terrified of you." And ____________ had told me himself, when we spoke yesterday, that he was intimidated by me. And I was perplexed; and then I realized that, because he is so talented, I push him harder than some other students, and he is young, and maybe I am too intense. And I told this to him. But the head of the high school said she told him that "Jon is one of the kindest, gentlest teachers I have known."

And so today, walking in the sun and the cold, I realized that maybe I am kind, and gentle. And for this I can be grateful. And I need to remind myself of these things more than I do, not to become arrogant, but to be comforted.

Thank You, GertrudeStein (sic)

February twenty-fifth. Twenty days as days.

thank you

flowers (detail)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
thank you, thierry. the gates were beautiful in the snow.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

self-portrait with one hand

one hand
Originally uploaded by madabandon.


Yesterday I had my hair cut. Short. As Mykel clipped away, I was shocked at how much grey hair fell into my lap. "Is this from the sides?" I asked him. I already knew that the sides had a lot of grey.

"No, it's from the top. The length was hiding it."
"Will it look more grey now?"
"Yeah." Mykel's hair is totally grey, a very interesting steely color.

I hate my hair now. I should not have cut it. But I don't hate it because of the grey hair. I like the grey hair and wish there were more of it. A head of white hair, that is what I want. A simple desire. Painless.

Y came in from work and the first thing he said was "your hair looks great!"

I just looked at him sideways.

24 Feb 05

February twenty-fourth, for a four, four leaf for or four, four leaf four leaf for four leaf or four leaf for for a leaf. Four leaf. For four leaf.

February twenty-fourth. As a wife has a cow entitled.

--Gertrude Stein, A BIRTHDAY BOOK

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


prospect park
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I want to sleep tonight and see this sky...


whirlingboy has the soul of an artist. I always knew it.


Originally uploaded by bofo.
Bao, you posted this photograph and then removed it. Forgive me; it is so beautiful that I have posted it in my blog.

dites-moi la vérité

My first psychiatrist told me once that before the days of antidepressant medication, doctors would force their depressed patients to stay awake for unnaturally long periods of time; this changes the brain chemistry and can lift the depression, at least temporarily. Perhaps this is why I was up all night. I could not sleep. Yesterday I plunged so severely that by evening I was very worried and all I could do was lie on the sofa, curled up in a ball, while Y. watched “American Idol.” Then I tried, hopelessly, to sleep. Now, in the morning, I have moved the car and now feel that awful muffled feeling of having been up all night; but my mood is lifted somewhat so now comes the analysis. What happened yesterday to plunge me so quickly into decline?

I realize that it started after I read Thierry’s blog, in which he expressed a yearning to go home to France, to see his parents and his friends. And I realize, although not for the first time, but maybe more significantly, that one of the biggest causes of my despair is that there is no home for me to go to; I want so badly to miss my parents and to be able to go home, and yet that place no longer exists. This sounds petty and jealous when I read it; and I also realize that this was always an issue in my relationships. For people who do have the security of a functional family and a “home,” even if only in intangible form, there is no need, no desperate need as there is in me. And this makes me wounded, saddles me with baggage, and causes me recurring despair verging on panic and self-destruction. And the anniversary of my mother’s death only brings this back to me more painfully.

So when I thought of Thierry and Bao walking through the gates, all I could think was that I wished to be there too, to have some feeling of security that comes from having a circle, something to protect me. And I think, "Bao, Thierry, all I want is to walk in the park for two hours too. All is want is to feel safe." Maybe this is wrong, to ask this; maybe it is even pathetic. So I continue to punish myself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


*poof* now this post is gone just as I said it would be...


oh how I hate to be this way and oh how I hate this and if I could just sleep and sleep and dream forever that is what I would choose


No matter what, no matter how I try to change my thinking, no matter how I look at things, no matter how hard I fight it, I feel myself pulled down yet again into a dark place. Now I know that any time free of this deep despair is a gift, because it does not last. And I find myself, as I find myself now, sinking. And at times like this I feel no one can help me. Friends are inevitably repelled; acquaintances would never suspect; loved ones are too scared. What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?

Heart: for Thierry

Perhaps our hearts, the things that keep us alive, exact their revenge..

music, books, memory

Yesterday, in the morning, after I had my coffee and read the NYTIMES online and checked the blogs of my "regulars" I worked on FIELD MUSIC: ASHES, which is a piece that I had hoped to finish by the fall. I have written about three minutes of music and am now trying to come up with a solution to the question: how is this piece going to go on? Frustration. I give up, and, with my head pounding, decide to sleep. I sleep for an hour and half, with my cat Tuna pressed against my side. His gentle purring lulls me to sleep. When I wake up my head still hurts. I take care of some things around the apartment and then go out to meet B. for dinner. I stop at Saint Marks Books to buy him THE BOOK OF SALT. I also bought Sontag's ILLNESS AS METAPHOR and AIDS AND ITS METAPHORS which I started to read in a cafe while I waited for B. When we sat down at the restaurant I gave him the book, but he already had bought it; I am glad he has it, because it is such a beautiful book. Thanks for dinner, B. I had a good time and the ice cream was awesome. On the subway going home I listened to "A Dream Goes On Forever," an old song by Todd Rundgren. It made me cry some, and as I was walking up Pierrepont Street in a slow rain, I sang along out loud while slow tears dripped from my eyes. Now, this morning, the sun is shining, which makes me happy.

Here is a picture of my mother. I have posted it before, a while back, but it is my favorite picture of her and it brings me happy memories; it was from my early childhood, before things turned.


Monday, February 21, 2005

barrow street, heading east

Barrow Street, January 2005

This street is lined with sycamores.
Their branches reach, each tree trying
to find the other side; some
rise up. Others list, older--

the trunk is a lucid map,
chart of islands, white sand or
group of lakes in a wide
prairie of pale dry grass.

I am walking east, away
from the water. Stopping, I see,
on each rising pillar, a story
which reminds me of a persistant tale:

A year has four seasons:
a silver winter morning; a grey wet afternoon
in late March. Warm July night.
Sunday morning in November.

A photograph, something to keep,
would bring the story to a close.
Now, stories, lucid birds, leave;
leave and let me rest.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Today is the eighteenth-year anniversary of my mother's death. I remember the day so vividly. It was a brilliant blue-sky winter morning, and she died a little after daybreak. Today I will only remember the good things: how my mother loved music and art and books, how she loved her children and how she would be happy to come visit me in NYC if she could. And maybe she does.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Death of James Lee Byars

The Death of James Lee Byars
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
He made this huge room, open on one side, completely lined and covered with gold leaf. It is called "The Death of James Lee Byars." He was, apparently, fixated on his own death. This is currently at the Whitney, and it mesmerized me. I don't know how long I stood before it. And after seeing it I left the museum.

feb 20 05

feb 20 05
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Today is one of those days when I despise myself.

20 February

February twentieth. Excuse me.

--Gertrude Stein


Yesterday Y. and I decided not to go see the gates--it was too cold, it would be too crowded, we would go tomorrow--and instead we went in search of a new coffee machine, because mine is leaking water all over the place and I have already had it repaired once. Its time has come. So we walked to the A train since we were going to go the sculpture store on spring street and inquire about buying stone to carve. (The sculpture store, if you have not been there, is amazing. All kinds of bizarre and fascinating sculptor's tools and things to use them on). But even before we got to High Street station entrance, people were coming back up the steps shaking their heads. "No trains," a grey-haired man said. "No trains at all? Yoshi asked him. The man shook his head. So we walked back to the Clark Street station. We would go to Canal Street.

Coming out of Canal Street station, we decided to skip the sculpture store--the stone would be too heavy to carry anyway--and went to Broadway Panhandler. It looked like there was some sort of party going on inside, so many people. But they were just shoppers. I took a cursory glance at all the incredibly expensive coffee machines and shook my head. I can't afford them. So I found Y. wandering slightly dazed among the pots and pans and we left and walked east. We were going to go to get dumplings on Eldridge Street. We stopped in a crowded shoe store and I tried on a pair of boots but they looked funny and I could not fit my orthotics in them so we left there and it was better that I didn't buy the boots anyway. Walking up Grand Street, we decided to skip the dumplings and went instead to this tiny restaurant in Chinatown, one of the first places we ever ate together. There are about six tables; you order you food and they go to the kitchen of the shop next door and bring it to you.

We finished our food and went back toward Soho, but turned down Lafayette and over to Canal Street. One of my New York City rules is to never walk down Canal street on a Saturday, but I had never told Y., and I was following him. We went to Pearl Paint; I had been there the day before but I wanted a large canvas and Friday, when I had also gone to Pearl Paint, was too windy and besides I was meeting Thierry and didn't want to carry a huge one with me on such a windy day. So I bought a large square canvas and then we took the R train back to Brooklyn. We decided we would go out at night. So I sent an email to Bao seeing if he wanted to join us and Y. called Hiroshi to invite him--I thought Hiroshi and Bao would get along well--and I prefer to go to a bar with a few friends, since I am not crazy about bars, rather dislike them generally, but if I am with a group I enjoy the conversation in that setting, that is if the music is not too loud. Bao had to work and Hiroshi had to go to an opening but said he would join us later.

So a few hours later we are on the 3 train heading to 14th Street where we will catch the L to the East Village. But when we get to 14th Street a tall guy comes from the L tunnel and says there are no L trains running. "No trains at all?" Y. asks and the guy shakes his head no. So we walk and I am grumpy because I am freezing and it is long walk. Y. is acting silly and in spite of my grumpiness I laugh. We are both very hungry and we decide to walk along 13th Street in search of some food. We get all the way to 1st Avenue and find a Dunkin Donuts and I ate a chocolate-glazed donut which was perfect. The guy behind the counter was a small skinny long-haired asian guy with a unbelievably deep resonant voice which sounded disconnected from him somehow, and I was fasinated by hearing him talk. But it was not busy at Dunkin Donuts, during the maybe ten minutes that we were there.

We finished our donuts and went to Phoenix around the corner or maybe it was a block away and the bartender ignored me for a long time when I tried to buy two Rolling Rocks. Finally he took my order and I felt a little annoyed because it was not crowded and it was clear I was waiting to buy drinks. This is one thing I dislike about bars. So we hung out at Phoenix but it was strange, not crowded enough to be interesting really and bad music. We walked to Starlight. That was a little better. Gary's boyfriend is the DJ there on Saturday nights. I thought maybe I would run into Gary or Nicholas, and people were more interesting to watch in Starlight, and it is a more mixed crowd, which I like. For some reason bars with nothing but men in them have never appealed to me. I like things mixed up. We sat and drank a bit, and then at 11:00 Hiroshi called and said he was too tired to go out. So we finished our beers and then walked back to get more donuts. Then, because it had been such a frustrating subway day, we splurged and took a taxi home. I woke up this morning with a headache, but miraculously I was able to fall back asleep after waking to take care of the animals, and I slept until 9 a.m., which is the equivalent, for most people, of sleeping until noon.

Today I will go see the gates with Y.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


I made this piece in 1996 using a piano. It was February, nine years ago...

February 19th

February nineteenth. I agree you agree you agree I agree I agree you agree lily agree lily or three.

(Gertrude Stein)


At lunch yesterday I was telling Thierry how I wake up each day by six a.m., and while this leaves me sleepy in mid-day, it is the best time of day for me. And while reading THE BUDDHA MIND this morning I realize why: it is the time of day when I am most present in the moment, when the exigencies and worries of mundane matters don't affect me, when my mind is clearest and most blank.


Ono Yoko Ono

Oh no! Tickets for Yoko Ono are sold out...

Friday, February 18, 2005


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
It's fairly ugly, but yet there is something about it that I like. I just cannot figure out what that something is.

green horns

The garlic, which had been hiding on my countertop behind the olive oil, has been busy growing horns.



Getting together with someone unusual or whom you don't get to see very much will be informative. Someone from your past may pop back into your life. Mix and match in order to come up with something different. Your creative talent will be recognized.
My horoscope for tomorrow, Saturday. Does this mean that if I go see Yoko Ono at Tonic, we will chat and she will decide to become my patron and I can quit teaching and compose and paint full-time? If only...

les objets

les objets
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
"One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things doesn't belong."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Five Angels for the Millenium

Bao reminded me about the Bill Viola piece "Five Angels for the Millenium," a video installation at the Whitney that I saw today. You could forget about time going by as your eyes move from one screen to another; the water and the colors...when I walked into the dark room it was impossible to see any other people, although there were a number of people there, and I felt like I was alone, with the pulsing images all around me. It is terrifying and amazing at the same time, apocalyptic and and mesmerizing.



I like to cook. But today I am lazy, and I feel like I am fighting off a cold. I didn't swim, and I slept in the afternoon. So I won't cook tonight.


Buddha Mind

I bought a book today at the Whitney Museum. It is called BUDDHA MIND IN CONTEMPORARY ART, published by University of California Press. A group of artists and art professionals (critics and professors) carried out a project over several years in which they investigated the influence of Buddhism on American art, and numerous exhibitions were held in conjunction with it. There are interviews with a number of artists including some of my favorites: Marina Abramovic, Bill Viola and the conceptual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, who did some work a few years back in which he cooked dinner for a bunch of guests and that was the "piece." I am eager to read it, for this has been a subject of some fascination for me ever since I read John Cage's IN SILENCE back in college.


I went to the Whitney to see the Cy Twombly show, works on paper. I was eager to see his work in chronological order, and there were some beautiful drawings and paintings. Some of it was baffling to me, but much of it is beautiful, with subtle calligraphy and proportion. But I can see how many viewers would find this work incomprehensibly flippant and "unfinished" looking.

But the real surprise, for me, was the Tim Hawkinson show. Amazing; I had not heard much about this artist and what I had seen and read did not lead me to expect what I saw. The show was installed by the artist. Incredible biomorphic hand-made machines; music-machines, and neurotic, obsessive working of images. And the James Lee Byars room of gold-leaf, "The Death of James Lee Byars," made for his own funeral, had me stunned. It is hard to describe the feeling that came over me as I looked at it, in silence.

Here is a link to the exhibitions currently at the Whitney.




(brice marden)

I am spinning in eccentric circles...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

2 16 05

2 16 05
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
this is how I feel today. like a ghost...

wisdom (maturity) and the obvious


So I had this revelation as I was walking from the post office, slightly hungover (a martini and glass of wine at dinner, for one who rarely drinks...) and enjoying the strangely warm weather. I realized that there is nothing I can do to change my past, that my childhood was what it was, that the only way to be free is to look at each day as it happens and to look toward the future and not dwell on the past. This does not mean that I should not try to understand the past; I have searched through it endlessly, and feel that for now, there is no point in doing so further. (Thanks, Bao. Your way of seeing has shown me a lot). While this may all seem obvious, I need to realize things for myself...


what happened to the gates?

february 16

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
February sixteenth. So much so.

--Gertrude Stein

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Depending on the visual context, the gates appear very large, or small, like here by these rocks.

depending on where you looked, the various pathways converge and separate, constantly moving.
gates 3

the gates amid the winter trees
gates 1

standing gates

The Gates

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I just returned from walking through Central Park. I entered at 72nd and Central Park West, by the Dakota. I walked a meandering path to the other side of the park and downtown to 59th Street. It was beautiful. So peaceful. I was skeptical until I saw it in person. And the light and wind make the panels billow and move so gracefully.

the sun is shining today


A Birthday Book

February fifteenth. Have you had it have you had it have you had it as you had it have you had it have you had it as you had it have you had it.

--Gertrude Stein: A BIRTHDAY BOOK


Today is my birthday. I was born at 1 a.m. but at 1 a.m. today I was fast asleep. I did wake up at 1:45 but only for a moment.

Today I will go to see "The Gates." I want to walk through and be the only person in the park. Maybe if I tell someone that my birthday wish is to walk through "The Gates" in solitude they will clear all the people out.


Monday, February 14, 2005

grey day

Yesterday I drove in my old red volvo to New Jersey, where Y and I went to a huge supermarket to buy groceries. It was crowded and confusing. Everyone was white. Well, almost everyone. There was the occasional Asian family, and I saw one trio, two parents and a boy, speaking Spanish. I also saw one family that looked Indian or Pakistani or maybe Bengali. The aisles were huge and wide, so unlike in NYC grocery stores, there were no collisions of shopping carts. When I am in a place like this I get very nervous and irritable and just want to get out as quickly as possible. After we had bought our bags and bags of stuff (lots of pet supplies, including the largest tub of cat litter I have ever seen, for ten dollars!) I could not figure out how to escape the parking lot and find the road, and people were angrily gesturing at me from the windows of the bloated SUVs as I drove around, befuddled and hesitant, trying to get out. Also I noticed that, unlike mine, the cars were shiny and clean, and I thought that washing the car in winter is a waste of water and energy, and we could all do our little part to help the environment if we just let the car stay dirty while the weather is bad. This is an example of what my brother calls my "righteous" mindset, but I don't think that it is a bad thing.

lady head

Sunday, February 13, 2005

ten plagues

When I was a boy we always had an elaborate Passover seder at our house, usually with some out-of-town relatives joining us. There is a particular part of the ritual when you recite each of the ten plagues. With each name--boils, locusts, hail, smiting of the first-born--you dip a finger in your glass of wine and put a drop on the plate. The wine looked like blood, red drops against my mother's stark white plates, each drop accompanied by her grim, tremulous intonation of the Hebrew words, each plague marked by a new drop the size of a fingertip. This memory came so vividly to me this morning while I stood, half-awake, making my coffee.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

nobody knows

I went late this afternoon to see NOBODY KNOWS. At the Landmark Sunshine Theater-- or whatever ridiculous name it is that is some variation on those words--we were lined up underground and it was odd because right behind me was a guy I knew years ago who wanted to date me and with whom I spent a couple of tense afternoons; he was an investment banker with an interest in music and art but was materialistic and uptight, too much so for me anyway. But I am not sure he recognized me and I just chatted with Yoshi and pretended he was not there and he was making himself very busy with his cell phone. (Which was, I noted, a very expensive shiny one. And then I remembered: once we had dinner and were taking a taxi downtown to go to a bar and he was rude to the cab driver and that settled it for me because I can't be around people who are rude to cab drivers; a cab driver's job is tough enough without the scorn of some passenger. So after a short time at the bar I went home, and I never saw Vincent--now I remember his name-- again. Til now).

As the movie ended most of the audience sat in total silence for the longest time, no one moving to leave the way people usually do at a movie's close. I sat in that kind of posture for most of the movie; it made me so tense and so deeply sad but the beauty of it was stunning at the same time. I will be haunted by it; I can't really say much about it any more now. It is something I won't understand right away. So many things: mud, flowers, a toy piano, noodles, heat, water, a bicycle. The utter realism of it, the dirt smudged on the wall. That little girl's face, her open eyes. Kyoko's red fingernails. Akira, when his sister asks him "What is wrong with your voice? Are you catching a cold?" And his eyes, which are unforgettable.


I was interviewed last month by an NPR reporter from San Francisco. She was doing an article about musicians who use inderal, a beta blocker. Well, the piece aired today and she sent me the link. So I heard myself on the radio waves. If you want to listen, click here. It's under the heading "stage fright serum."


I don't like to talk on the phone. But I hadn't spoken to my brother in over a week. So on Thursday I called him at his office.

Brother: "Hey Jon. What's up?"
Me: "I just wanted to see if you were still alive."
Brother: "Yeah. I've been crazed with work."
Me: "Ok. That's all."
Brother: "You are really weird."

I said I had to go and hung up the phone.

twombly: untitled

view from above, MOMA

view from above, MOMA
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
All my life I have had a few phobias, the most extreme of which is my fear of heights. But I have also repeatedly, and perhaps perversely, challenged this fear, almost at every opportunity. So, while on the fifth floor of MOMA, I had to walk along this hallway that is bordered on one side with a glass wall about four feet high. It is a straight drop down to the ground floor. I decided I would take a picture. As I approached the glass I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and my adrenalin begin to rush; my arms tingled as they used to do before I had a big performance. The "fight or flee response," I think it is called. This is appropriate in my case, because when I am in a high place, I have this feeling that I am going to be pulled over the edge.


Yesterday, when I arrived at MOMA, I found Yoshi waiting in the midst of a huge throng. He was leaning against a column. We took the escalator up to the next floor to see the Barnett Newman obelisk.

"I wish I knew what blood type you were," he said.
"I think you are type B."
"Why is that?"
"Type B is the most unusual."

Next time I see my doctor I will ask.

morning 2-12-05



Dear Jonathan,
Here is your horoscope
for Saturday, February 12:

At the moment, you just can't be trusted when it comes to conversations. You can't hold back what you really think, and you probably wouldn't, even if you could. Better hire a publicist.


This morning I woke so early as I always do, but since it is Saturday the streets were so quiet and calm while I was walking Mabel. Now, in my silent apartment, I look at my book of drawings and paintings by Agnes Martin and wonder if she too spent time, as I do, looking at paintings by Malevich.


Friday, February 11, 2005


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I was happy when I got on the subway to go to MOMA. MOMA was crowded, so I did not stay long. But I saw this little Klee painting, and I smiled. And I was wearing my crazy-striped pants, which also made me smile.

for Nghiem

Originally uploaded by madabandon.


It makes me happy to think of Thierry and Bao walking together through the gates in central park. From this strangely coincidental blog circle...I imagine one day having dinner for Thierry and Bao and Nghiem and talking and laughing and JRae and I would make gyoza. Or maybe we would sit in some awkward silence, unsure of what to say to one another.


I have a bad habit, a way of thinking, that does not help me: I tend, often, to think of things for what they are not rather than for what they are.

I must look at things for what they are, rather than for what they are not.


I make sculptures from toothpicks. As a boy I used to make huge ones, several feet high. Then I would take them out to the yard behind our house and light them on fire. I wish that I had photographed them burning: the tracery of their shapes, in flames.


hommage à T.H.

Thank you, Thierry.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

field music (winter)

field music (winter) 2
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
My most recent painting.


I have had a headache for the past six days. While at first I thought it might be from the lamictal, I subsequently decided it was from my efforts to reduce my caffeine intake. Now, that having been accomplished, and the headache still with me, I think it is from some sort of sinus condition. So this morning I tried lying on my back on the floor and emptying my mind. It felt great, but once I got up from the floor the headache was back. When I was a child I would get such severe migraines that I would hit my head against the wall, which somehow jarred the migraine pain enough that it would temporarily disappear.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
There are so many layers in a person. How do I know where one layer begins and another ends?



Bao advises me to forgive so that I can be free. His words touch my heart and I am grateful. And though I have thought a lot about this idea in the past, he has inspired me to consider it all again. Forgiving is a wonderful and generous act. And I am a generous person. But what exactly is it to forgive? I think forgiving means giving something intangible; it means to give over a part of yourself, to turn pain into something sweet and then hand it over to the one who caused the pain. And I wonder: can I do it? Maybe forgiveness is not the answer, for every time I try to forgive I am filled with pain as if it is the first time. Maybe the answer is to empty my mind, and in doing so, to forget.

This time of year is hard for me; my birthday arrives soon, and it always has depressed me. And this is the anniversary of my mother's death, which follows my birthday by a few days. So the psychic pain of the past returns, and I can't sleep, and I am overwhelmed by sadness, and I turn inside myself, like a turtle withdrawing into its shell, and all I want is for someone to hold me, take me away, bring me to a place where the past has vanished, pain is forgotten--not even a dim memory--and I can truly be free.

Bao, you are right. I was mad; I did try to abandon the past by fleeing, from place to place, Poughkeepsie to Chicago to Paris to New York, always thinking that some new place would save me, that in a new place I would be happy, that the clouds would blow away. Now I know that that can never happen. So I return to where I started. Can I forgive? Will it make scars disappear?

Bao, maybe this is the answer: my forgiveness is my music, my paintings, my attempts to bring beauty into the world. I do not care about fame or money or reknown and I never have.

Once, in a deep depression, I remember crying for hours, unable to move from my bed, and through my head ran this litany:

I was not meant for this world.
I was not meant for this world.
I was not meant for this world.

After all, it has been said to me many times,"what planet are you from?" And not in jest.


In the Asian zodiac, I was born in the year of the Water Tiger.

The Tiger is the restless, adventurous, and always courageous risk-taker of the Chinese zodiac. With a sense of "empowered entitlement," nobility and humanitarian causes appeal to the generous Tiger. These souls are tenderhearted, and affectionate with their friends and family, yet self-reliant and fiercely independent. This is the most unpredictable of the 12 signs, blessed with charm, nerve and grand ideas. Tigers flash brilliantly through life sometimes without caution for their own security. Fearless, enthusiastic, and optimistic, the passionate Tiger is an unconventional, yet most humanitarian soul. The noble Tiger needs a sexy, exciting partner who forever remains a challenge, and gather their legendary strength during the pre-dawn hours they rule, between 3:00am - 5:00am.

The nature of the Water element is that of feelings and emotions. Reflection, sensitivity, and powers of persuasiveness characterize those born under the Water element. Water descends, seeks out, and fills low places; especially the hearts of the brokenhearted and needy. Those souls born under the element of Water are dominated by their feelings and need to communicate. The Water element endows one with a quick mind and lucidity. Water is chaotic at times and does not have its own form, but takes on the shape and character of the vessel. Water element persons advance their own ideas by influencing the vote of others. Those born under the influence of the Water element are empathetic with others, possessing a calm and sedate nature. The Water element has a gift for seeing things objectively and those influenced by it, are much sought after for their council. The Water element relates to the way others feel, Using intuition to keep a finger on the pulse of the world. Water element souls have a well developed ability for communicating with people and thrive in public relations or social work. Water's physical organs are the kidneys and bladder; it's flavor is salty. Water's color is blue and corresponds to the season of Winter and cold.

The western zodiac describes me this way:

Aquarius, the progressive, innovative and inventive. You have an eccentric temperament and show great determination and stubbornness. You like to operate as an equal among equals. You often have friends of both sexes and your pursuits are usually more intellectual than physical. You take your work very seriously and although you appear to be calm, you are nervous and apprehensive. You do your best work with others; however you are not dependent on your environment for security. You do like material possessions but are seldom greedy. Your emotions are refined by intelligence and discrimination. You tend to have an odd domestic life and often break away from family ties. You follow your heart in emotional matters. You are cool and detached, and show deliberate eccentricity--such as avoiding being touched by anyone to whom you are not closely attached. You are much more self-destructive than hurtful.

They are both true for the most part.


One particularly troubling aspect of depression that is hardest for me is the feeling that it drives people away. While I don't confess my state to too many people, very few in fact, I fear that for the few who know I am a drag to deal with; I do know that my brother, for example, never wants to know if I am feeling depressed, and the few times I do tell him (when he asks me how I am doing, and I am doing particularly badly, I either have few words, or I tell him I am depressed) he becomes exasperated and gets away as quickly as he can. This makes me feel worse. And those friends who do know...I fear they get tired of hearing me. And the therapist; how dull it must be to hear the same litany of depressive symptoms, though no therapist would ever admit it, I hope. So, I do what might be the worst thing for me, which is keep it to myself. And my art is a channel, but the problem is that when I am depressed I can't work. A vicious cycle.