Tuesday, May 31, 2005


sculpture (1)

I am not usually inclined to analyze my own work. I spend enough time analyzing myself that I have no desire to do so with my creative work. And while in school, particularly in graduate school, I spent countless hours analyzing the music of others, and learned after all that that artists are best not going there with their own work.

But after photographing this sculpture today, it occurred to me that it is full of danger. The sharp edges, so many of them, point in all directions, waiting for a victim. It is angry, maybe, but also enticing and mysterious to the eye. Or does this piece represent the danger that I struggle with, the fear of sinking? The spikes and protruding spears are a warning to me: don't fall, keep your balance!

Whatever the answer, whatever the analysis, I find it beautiful in the end, which is all that really matters to me.


I make sculptures from toothpicks. Or have I written about them already?

sculpture (3)

who is it?

I was doing laundry in the basement this morning and realized that someone was staring at me. I turned and there he was. He was sitting on the table in the corner. I took him upstairs. I don't know his name and he isn't talking.



Maybe this summer, when I don't have teaching to structure my days, and therefore run the risk of sinking into a morass, especially if my work is not going well, or not going at all (like last summer) I will just swim all day. Why do I think this? I just went swimming. The roof was open so the sun was pouring in, and the water was cool but not cold, and it was so relaxing and enjoyable and my mind was blank. Awesome.


I think that I understand the Buddhist idea that one should abandon want and desire to achieve peace. But isn't ridding yourself of desire only possible if you desire to rid yourself of desire? So it is a paradox and a vicious circle. Or maybe I am not understanding correctly. Hmmm.


I tried
I try
I am trying
I will try


brick tunnel

Monday, May 30, 2005


Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I read my last post and I think "what a self-pitying whiner." It's true (on both counts).


I wish that I could just feel content. It is not that I am discontent with any one thing in particular; it is not that I want things I don't have, that I am unhappy in my work, that I am overly lonely, that I lack for friends, that I have poor health. It is just this damned depression and the cloud that hangs over my head ninety percent of the time. I wish that right now I could just go into the other room, sit on the sofa, read the TIMES, and just feel fine. I am tired of feeling this sense of dread and hopelessness that only passes for a moment from time to time. I don't want to sound like a person who complains endlessly. I am just asking for one thing.


Unfortunately I still feel sick. I am dizzy and nauseated. I don't think that I should try to do too much today. The last two days I have been fairly busy and this is no doubt why I still feel lousy today. I wish that it were raining or cloudy out, rather than blindingly sunny. The sun just makes me feel worse. I will read my Basquiat book.

Sunday, May 29, 2005



I went with Yoshi to the Brooklyn Museum. The Basquiat exhibit closes in one week and we wanted to see it before it goes. It was unbelievably crowded. They have "two for one" admission on Sundays if you present a metrocard. The exhibit was great as far as the paintings go; some of his work from 1982-1983 is stunning and so expressive I could not take my eyes away. However, my enthusiasm was dampened by two significant things: the crowd, which made it very hard to really take time to look and raised the temperature of the galleries to uncomfortable levels; my queasiness, which was not helped at all by the atmospheric conditions. I don't like crowds at museums. I want to be able to take my time and really see, and with too many people that is not possible. So I bought the catalog and I will look at it in the quiet of my own home. And maybe I will go back on Friday, when it can't possibly be as crowded as it was today.

Afterward, we went to Fort Greene where we finally succeeded in assembling the bed, no small task as it had been dismantled haphazardly and there were no instructions on how to put it together again. Then I put on Nani's wig and made faces.




Saturday, May 28, 2005

monster feet

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
When Mabel's hair gets long, her paws look funny with tufts sticking out between her toes. I tell her she has monster feet.


Just to avoid anyone's confusion, although I am writing my usual rants as if I felt fine, I still feel wretched; my stomach is killing me, I am dizzy and tired, and today, going to Fort Greene to help Y. assemble the new bed almost killed me (forgive the hyperbole). By the time I got to his place I thought I would pass out, and I was covered in a cold sweat and my face had a green tinge. Figures, when I have a long weekend and should be out enjoying myself--


I had taken a nap and then, awake, decided to take a shower. I had bought new soap, a different brand, and while in the shower the smell of that soap triggered a vivid, almost physical memory, of being back in college my first year, living among strangers in a strange place, with a roommate who spent hours talking on the phone in French and chain-smoking and who only listened to the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen, taking classes that felt over my head (even the music classes), trying to negotiate a social maze dominated by slick and sophisticated private-school kids while I, from a barely-above-white-trash small town in Pennsylvania, felt utterly alien to their whole scene...it was a time when I felt truly, utterly, and completely alone and lost and wanted so badly to run away. And when friends from home would call and ask "how's it going" I would tell them that it was going great and that I loved it and that it was the best place...All from a bar of blue soap...




It seems that no matter how good it is when I feel good, the looming cloud of depression follows me, so that today, for example, I really truly feel like I want to be struck by lightning or something...

I believe that I have to look at things a new way. The question is, how?

Friday, May 27, 2005



This has been a fairly hideous day, mostly because I feel like shit. I have not been able to eat. I have a fever. I can't sleep because my stomach hurts. So I have spent the day in a kind of limbo. My plan was to go swimming, to take a walk, to take Mabel to the park. But I could do none of it. Oh well. The people in the house next door, sitting on their deck, kept up incessant chatter that made me want to scream. That's the problem with good weather. People lucky enough to have decks (not me!) actually use them. Strangely, for years the beautiful brownstone next door has sat, its top-floor apartment's elegant wooden deck devoid of human life. But this year new people moved in, and they apparently are doing what the previous tenants avoided: sitting outside. Sometimes they even eat there. The previous tenants even had the whole thing done, with elaborate plantings. Then they never used it! It's the same thing with all the houses along the Promenade with their arge decks, beautiful porches with expensive outdoor furniture, and never a human in sight.


head pounding
eyes burning
stabbing pains in stomach
muscles ache
brain feels numb
what do I do?
I try to sleep.
I will try again.


I just puked. A lot. To the point where I thought I was going to die. Now I feel more exhausted than even before. I wonder if this is a physiological illness, or the culmination of stress manifesting itself physically.


light and dark
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
physical, mental, cosmic...I am exhausted completely. I feel like I have been beaten for hours. My head pounds, my stomach is in knots, and my eyes sting. I will sleep, I hope...

Thursday, May 26, 2005




upside down


I used to worry excessively, obsessively even, about myself. I was crippled by hypochondria, by worries about what would happen in the near and distant future, worries about poverty, about looming but invisible tragedies. Now I no longer worry about such things. Once I was treated for my bipolar illness, the obsessive worrying slowly diminished and freed a part of me and I was desperately grateful for that. But now I still worry, only my worries are external ones. I worry about my friends and family. I worry that someone dear to me is in pain, is lonely, is jolted awake in the middle of the night by fear, is crying in secret from some terrible sadness. I guess it is natural to want to protect others from pain or sorrow, even if it is impossible. Maybe I should have been a woman, because isn't what I am describing really a maternal instinct? Or is it a genderless instinct?


standing trees

Each of these trees stands alone. Imagine living your whole life, growing taller, reaching toward the sun, unable to move, but becoming strong, massive even, so that you could withstand howling wind, outrageous storms, winter's cold, the glaring heat of summer. And standing alone, you would not need the others. But these are trees, not people. Remember.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

(trying to see only what is before me)

single leaf

Maybe happiness is best achieved by never looking back and never looking ahead. Just looking.


Tear me open and you will
Reveal a pulsing heart. I am not
Unusual, nor would I ever
Suggest that I am unique.
This heart is all I can offer.


Though it can be hard to say, I
Rely on it faithfully, to
Understand what has passed;
To try and know what lies ahead: what I
Hope will be peace and beauty.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

my words fail...a picture is better--

red flower


hommage a monet

the other side?

brick tunnel

the underminer

My dream last night was so complex and filled with such an odd assortment of people--a mixture of people from my past who have never met each other--and places, but the worst thing is that now, even though I've only been awake for an hour, I can remember only impressions of it. But I felt calm when I woke up, not agitated, so it must have been an ok dream.

I just thought of another book I need to get in addition to the Kramer book. THE UNDERMINER, by Mike Albo and Virginia Heffernan, sounds hilarious. A piece of it was excerpted in the NEW YORKER. The underminer is a character who, while not being in your life often, manages to cut you down every time you converse, making you feel like a loser. A week or so ago I had sent ____________ some pictures that I had taken with my new camera. A few days later, I spoke with _____________ and said "aren't those pictures cool? My new camera is great." _____________ replied "all my friends have cameras like that." Subtle hints of the underminer there.

This morning my eyes are actually feeling much better and although my vision is still not right it is less blurry than it has been. I can see the computer screen without putting my face six inches away. Probably the screen emits some sort of electromagnetic field and I will end up with some nasty tumor growing out of my forehead.


Monday, May 23, 2005


Dr. Peter Kramer, perhaps the leading authority on depression, has written a new book, AGAINST DEPRESSION. He describes depression this way:
It is fragility, brittleness, lack of resilience, a failure to heal. It is sadness, hopelessness, chronic exhaustion allied with corrosive anxiety, a loss of any emotion but guilt, of any desire but to stop, please stop, and to stay stopped, forever.
I was coming back from swimming, riding the A train, when I started reading the review of Kramer's latest book in the book review of the TIMES. I have felt ok the last few days, and when I feel ok I can view myself with a clarity I otherwise lack. So reading this description, I found myself saying "yes, yes, yes, yes and yes."

I have to get that book. Maybe tomorrow.

River Café

We sat at the bar. The view is great. I got a little drunk. It was fun. Our guests enjoyed the view very much.



what is left
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Drinks at River Cafe (two manhattans. I never drink manhattans, but we were playing a game; no one could order the same drink as anyone else, and a manhattan was all I could think of). Then pizza at Grimaldi's. Our Japanese guests were quite pleased with the pizza. They said it was much better than any pizza one would find in Japan. No surprise there, though (with all respect to Japan).
grey flame

I am so tired this morning. I need another day to sleep.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

for Thierry

light and dark


clouds and sky

For the past two days the weather has been quite volatile. Brilliant sun suddenly overtaken by ominous clouds...There was an intense thunderstorm last evening; the sky turned bilious green-grey, and the thunder ripped past. I was so tired that it scarcely registered, although I do love thunderstorms.

This morning I gave Mabel a bath. She is not crazy about the bath, but she is quite proud of herself when we are through. She looks very blonde now.


I am so tired this morning. I had dreams of a huge apartment on a top floor of a brownstone. I had two floors, with panoramic views through huge windows. Everything was white and spare. It was awesome. But my apartment is fine.

Mabel is exhausted this morning. Soon I will give her a bath.

I have had blurry vision for weeks now and it is starting to alarm me. Good thing my camera has auto-focus.


Saturday, May 21, 2005


When I took off Mabel's leash she began running at full speed around in huge circles, the way she likes to do.

leaves in shadow

where fun people meet...

funhouse 5


Today was a busy day. I drove Yoshi and his father and his father's friends to Pennsylvania. His father and his two friends are visiting from Japan. Yoshi's father has never been to the US before. We all drove in my red car with Mabel. It was crowded. It was fun, although the traffic was horrific some of the time, and getting out of New York was not easy. My car was very dirty, which I felt bad about; it seems like it might be an insult to a Japanese person, so I apologized profusely but I don't know if Yoshi conveyed my regrets. None of the guests speak English, more than hello and thank you. It was good for me to listen to Japanese all day. I actually understand some of it.

Bethlehem is the town where my mother was born and grew up, went to high school, ran around, met my father (when he was a student at Lehigh); where they lived shortly after they got married, after my mother dropped out of Barnard and went to finish in Bethlehem while my father worked as a reporter for the local newspaper. Bethlehem is true Pennsylvania. People are very simple and very friendly. I was wandering around taking pictures and this lady invited me into this strange old music hall that she was very proud of. She was sweet and she liked Mabel too.


Friday, May 20, 2005

just ask

il a disparu?

The ephemeral nature of the communication over the internet has always fascinated and troubled me. How could I have met some people so important in my life without it? And for someone like me, hermetic, shy, introverted perhaps, it helps facilitate a kind of open exchange that does not come so easily. Maybe the internet makes it too easy. Certainly in this blog I write of things that I would speak of only with the closest friends, or not at all.

So when one internet persona vanishes, it leaves a void for me like the absence of some friend. But I write for no one. Only for the words themselves. I am happy if someone reads my words and thinks something interesting as a result, or is entertained, or is affected in any way. And if not, well, what then? I won't know anyway.

Back in the days before e-mail was common, I was a ferocious letter-writer. When I lived in Chicago, I corresponded regularly with numerous friends in various locations. I have never liked to talk on the telephone, and letters were so much more important then. That has ended. No one writes them anymore. Sometimes I still do, but they go unanswered.

self portrait with shaking hands

5 20 05


tree with multicolored flowers

Thierry has ended his blog. I wonder if I would end mine? Maybe, sometime. Not now. I have a lot to say. But today, I feel silent. So I will write nothing more, for now. Thierry, your pictures from France are beautiful.

for contrast

red door

grey day

shade and light

thank you

Theo posted this picture on Flickr. I stole it and posted it here. His pictures of flowers made my morning, at least so far. Thank you. And I hope that you find more.

petals (merci, Theo)

Thursday, May 19, 2005



I got some eye drops that are supposed to correct the irritation that is causing my blurred vision. Apparently it is from the high pollen count. I have never had such problems before. The eyedrops, which I have been using for two days, don't make any difference. I still can't really see. It is embarassing, because I don't recognize my friends and acquaintances on the street, so they must think that either I am in outer space or that I am simply unfriendly.

which one?



I write a long, heartfelt e-mail. I hit "send." Two days later I happen to read it, and I am embarassed.


Lately I have been having a lot of intense memories from long ago, and I have been thinking about the role of memory in shaping my present consciousness. I realize that most of my memories from childhood are either sad or frightening or depressing; they are rarely happy. My happy memories center more on my friends, especially when I was in high school, after my family had fallen apart and I was more or less independent to do as I pleased. And my happy memories from childhood, when my family was still intact, focus on my friends as well. I don't really have any happy memories of my parents together, or of our family doing fun family things. We rarely did. We only took one "real" vacation ever, when I was eight and we went to Maine and New England and Canada. We never took another trip after that.

looking down

tulips and dandelions
paving stones

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

name me

I just read that my name, Jonathan, means "gift of god."

Yeah, right. That's me.

trees and sky


single file

I am starting to really bore myself.


I could not sleep after 5 a.m.; as tired as I was, my thoughts were flying in all directions, and so I got up. It was too early, because now, at 8 a.m., I feel like half the day is done. And it's not.

young branches

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


veil of leaves


trees and sky, again

I love this picture. I took it today while I sat by my car, doing the move-the-car dance that is part of life in New York if you can't afford a garage. I took the camera with me because the sky was so beautiful. I am very happy with this camera, and as I learn to find my way around its complexities, it allows me a lot of control.

But that does not matter. What I want to say is that looking at this takes me away, back to times when I was in high school, old enough to escape my fucked-up family, drive in my car, go to mountains, hike through the woods, and lie on my back and look at a sky like this one.

The last few weeks have been a torturous time for me emotionally, and I feel wrung out like I have not felt in a long long time. In a way, my burning eyes, my blurred vision, is a symbol of how rattled my world has been lately. I don't think, after this, that I am the same as I was before. And yet, in my moments of peace, I know that I will emerge from these trials with more knowledge and understanding, and whatever direction I choose to go, I will do so mindfully.


I don't think that most people who know me know that I am depressed, or bipolar. I cover it well. And I am not morose or glum; my depression is subtle, at least in its appearance to outsiders. Another depressed person might sense it, the way gay people sense other gay people. This is ok with me, because I don't want pity and I don't want to be feared. But this is also why I don't tell most people about my situation: I don't want pity, and I don't want to be feared. And I take care of myself. But here, in writing this blog, I don't hide my truth. And, as someone said, the truth shall set you free.

on depression


I have asked each doctor I have seen for my depression the same question: will I be taking antidepressants for the rest of my life? The answer has been a consistent "yes." The belief (or knowledge?) guiding this is that every time someone has a serious depressive episode, the brain chemistry is wired more deeply for depression, so that each depression brings increased risk of recurrence, and that these recurrences will become more severe. So the trick is to avoid the episode completely. Well, that means I am already cursed, since I had more than a few severe episodes since childhood. But I feel that the antidepressants, or in my present case, lamictal, which is for bipolar depression, are not working. Each drug I have been taking works for some time, a year or two, and then become less effective. What happens if none of them works?

So when I express my weariness and my hopelessness, it is not because I hate life or the world, not even close. When Beth Gibbons sings "God knows how I adore life" I usually fight back tears, because that is how I feel. Otherwise how could I feel the things I do so intensely? When I feel good, I am filled with joy at all kinds of things.

Depression is linked to some deep sense of loss. In years of therapy I have catalogued the possibilities, and dealt with the feelings of those memories. And yet, instead of acting as a purge, this just helps me understand, but I still get depressed. It is a matter of brain chemistry as much as anything else, and I have a feeling I was born this way.

I used to think that my depressions were linked to situations: if I just know what is going on with --------, then I will feel better. If I can just get this problem with ------------ fixed, then I will feel fine. Once I know the answer to ------------, I will be great. But I have learned that this is not true. Depression is like the weather, only without the benefit of a forecast to help me prepare. I don't know if is going to rain tomorrow. I only know what the weather will be when I wake up and look out the window. However, in the same way that my arthritic knee warns me of coming storms, I do have a sense of approaching clouds in my head.

Physical pain does not scare me. I have endured some excruciating things. Physical pain gives a focal point; you can focus on it, on alleviating it; you can breathe, you can scream. Mental pain is something else entirely. It has no shape and no center. But it is much harder, I think, for most people to understand and sympathize with; someone you, the sufferer, are to blame. You bring it upon yourself. "Think of all the things you have to be happy about," people say, meaning well. But this only makes me feel worse, because I know those things already.

Monday, May 16, 2005

at sea

sea (detail)

a primer

The things about depression that I find particularly frustrating now: you can't talk about it with your friends, because it is boring and it just makes them feel bad, or worse, makes you feel pathetic; talking about it with your therapist is good at times, but you realize they are listening because you are paying them; the depression creates isolation, because you can't lie and say you are fine but you don't want to talk about being depressed, so you avoid people, don't answer the phone, don't go out; you know it will pass but it will just lie dormant until the next time.

So what do I do?


Earlier I wrote how I woke up feeling gloomy. It is as if my head were in some cloud, not in the sense of having "one's head in the clouds," but rather some kind of cloudy numbness. And something strange is going on with my eyes. They hurt, burn constantly, and my vision is blurry. I keep squinting, I keep cleaning my glasses, I tried putting on my contact lenses, but none of it helps. It is very odd and something I have not experienced before but I hope it is caused by allergies and will go away. But if it is not better in a day or so I will have to go back to the doctor, yet again. Perhaps it is all "in my head." But I don't think so.

time past

two tunas


How can it be that I can go to bed last night in a calm and peaceful mood and then wake up this morning feeling dark and filled with dread? Harbinger of sinking...was it my dream? Did I have some disturbing dream, a waking of some memory, that will bring me down and which, awake, I cannot remember? I used to let my moods be, let myself swing wildly and sometimes dangerously from high to low. Now I must try and exert some control. But perhaps this is wrong; I could just give in. In the past, if I woke up feeling like this, I would go back to sleep and let the day pass. But I can't do that today; I have to teach, I have things to do. But what I really want to do is let the day pass with my consciousness on hold.

5 15 05