Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


astor place 2007
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

This building now occupies the space where a parking lot once was, next to the old Carl Fisher building across from the cube at Astor Place. It looks ridiculous, this glass behemoth, slick and corporate in the heart of what once was a thriving counter-cultural community. Sadly, the East Village is like most of Manhattan now, populated by finance-industry types and trustafarians, with Duane Reades and Starbucks on every other corner, and expensive restaurants to feed the well-heeled clientele.

In the "Styles" section of the Sunday NEW YORK TIMES there is a piece about a Brooklyn artist and his purchase of a $25,000 watch, and how much joy it gives him. I wanted to scream when I read it. Since when does an artist care about such things? Since when does an artist have $25,000 for A WATCH???? And another article, in Friday's paper, documented the difficulties owners of country homes have trying to repair their SubZero refrigerators and Viking stoves. Poor things.

New York City as I know it, the city that I felt drawn to since childhood, is disappearing. Yes, we are happy that crime is down and that the streets are clean. But the only ones enjoying it are the wealthy. Since when do you meet any young artists? There is nowhere for them to live. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in such a place. I came here for the community of artists that didn't exist in Chicago, or Philadelphia, or the other places I'd considered living.

Ironically, the head of our school held a meeting yesterday in which he announced the board of trustees' commitment to substantially raising faculty compensation and benefits. While this is welcome news, the kind of people that made my school so great--not bankers or lawyers or CEOs--will no longer be here, and I don't want to be teaching the overindulged children of the bloated money generation. My values would be lost on them.

self portrait in window glass

self portrait in window glass
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I think I look scary in this picture.

"She" commented on a recent post of mine, saying she wondered what made me laugh. From this picture one might guess I never laugh or even smile. But I do. My pets make me laugh. So do my friends. My nephews make me laugh, and my students often do too. All of the above make me smile. I like to laugh with people. It bonds us. But today, when I took this picture, my ear was killing me--as it still is--and I felt exhausted and feverish, as I still do. I will go to bed soon. I hope this ear thing goes away soon, or I will go crazy. And I have a concert on Monday, and so going crazy is not a good option. So I am neither laughing or smiling, just feeling overwhelmed.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I have an infection in my left ear. The left side of my face hurts. I have antibiotic drops, four drops four times a day but I keep forgetting to use them. And then when I do use them, they don't stay in my ear. This ear infection is making me irritable. So I was feeling irritated all weekend, with some respites.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I have never been a conformist. It is simply not in my nature. As a kid this brought me some grief, but I didnt suffer too much because I was scrappy and fearless. I got in more than my share of fistfights. I was small and often took on larger opponents so I usually got beaten but I would always get in a first, fast and effective blow, which earned me points in the strange social/animal hierarchy that kids understand. Luckily, since then I have always been in environmentts where conformity is not the gold standard. I would never survive working in a corporate world where I would have to wear a dark suit and talk sports around the water cooler (if such places actually exist). My school is really a community of complete nonconformists, although among the younger kids a kind of creeping materialistic conformity is starting to emerge, much to the dismay of many of us.

Last night I had dinner with my brother at Savoy in Soho. It is a veteran restaurant, having been around for years, with very good food and a comfortable setting. But still I was surrounded by suits. They were making cassoulet in the fireplace. I could not resist. Everyone seemed to be ordering it and the NYTimes had even mentioned the dish in last week's food section. But having not eaten meat in a while now, I feel weirdly heavy and restless. It was really really good, but I won't have it again.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


canal wall
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Normally I spend a lot of time in reflection. My success as an artist and teacher depends on my ability to reflect, to consider, and to express my ideas. The last few days, though, have been so hectic that I have hardly had the time for such things. There have been too many demands on my time, culminating in a school concert last evening. My students played very well. As usual, though, when people came to congratulate me on the job I did, I immediately deflected the compliments back to the students themselves. Part of this reflexive response is entirely appropriate, because the students, not I, are the ones performing. But what lies behind this inability I have to truly believe the compliments I receive? What kind of insecurities do I have? Or do I just not trust people in general? Something to reflect on...

* * * * * * *

After the concert I ran home to see the "State of the Union" address given by W. I could have had dinner, on the school's dime, with some of my colleagues instead. But I was committed to watching that sad, tired speech. I should have gone to dinner instead.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was walking on the beach and the temperature was in the seventies. The last few days I have been freezing. I think the cold affects me more the skinnier I get. Maybe I should eat more.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

in a glimpse...

patsy monster
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I happened to catch Patsy making this monster face. So if you never knew Patsy and all you saw was this photograph, she would be some kind of monster to you. In reality she is as sweet a cat as you can imagine, although she is still not even two years old and remains impish. Funny how one slice of time can represent the totality of someone, archivally speaking, so that once personal memories fade all that remains is a monster, perhaps, or an angel. But everyone should remember that things are never so simple as that.

Friday, January 19, 2007


winter road
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Well, it was not like this picture. But it did snow late last night. I noticed when I woke up to feed Patsy. Mabel would have loved it, but unfortunately for her, I fell back asleep and by the time I took her for her morning walk most of it had melted. But the cars parked on the street still had a covering of snow, and it was beautifully glinting off of the tree branches too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


moss and red paint
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I have a new regime which I am following in an effort to find "alternative" ways to treat my bipolar depression without medication. Years ago, while summering in Vermont, I followed a macrobiotic diet and quit caffeine, and I felt great. While I attributed my feeling great mostly to the beauty of my surroundings, I can't downplay the effect that my "lifestyle" habits had in keeping my mood stable. So I have resumed a vegan diet--not dogmatically, but generally avoiding all animal products--and have cut way back on my caffeine intake. In two weeks' time I have lost six pounds, have more energy, and I feel generally calmer (and I sleep better at night). I don't want to jump the gun and say that it is all due to what I am eating, but it clearly makes a difference. And for me to lose six pounds is considerable, given that I didn't know I had six pounds to lose. I will see my physician on Monday. I am curious to know what other effects this change has wrought.

But in any event feeling better makes me get better work done, and I don't feel so stressed. I wonder if it is really working, or if this is an example of the "placebo effect." I will let you know as time passes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


ruins (3)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Yesterday was one of those days: I did not leave my place (except to walk Mabel). I considered going out to do some errands in Manhattan, but never got up the energy. I worked at home, several things at once, "multi-tasking," something I have always done even before the term was invented. Why didn't I go out? Agoraphobia? Depression? I think it was a little of both. One of the reasons I love the country so much is that there is not any pressure to "go out." Sometimes I wonder why I live in this city if I have so many days like yesterday, when I have no desire to see people, to walk down a crowded street, interact with strangers. But in the country it would be far too easy for me to become some kind of scary hermit with a long beard and twigs in his hair.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

see through

When I was was seventeen--I don't remember exactly--my mom asked me to go somewhere with her, on some errand up in Montgomeryville. So I went. I had a very tense relationship with my mom those days. And my behavior was out of control. I stayed out all night. I cut school. I was a badass. On our way back from doing whatever it was she had to do, driving in the dark (it was almost winter) in her battleship-gray huge-engined Ambassador wagon with the posi rear (any good motorhead will know what that is), the engine thrumming and the enclosed air dense with the smoke from her cigarette, she was talking and out of nowhere she said "I have to ask you a question. If something were wrong, if you had a problem, a real problem, would you tell me?" I was surprised. "Yeah," I said, but I didn't mean it. "Why are you asking?" "Please don't get mad at me. You know how important you kids' privacy is to me. But I found your journal, and I read something in it that scared me. You were writing about harming yourself."

see through

I sat, stone-faced and silent. I was furious. I could not believe she had done that. The silence was thick. I started to yell and then she cut me off, said "are you gay?"

I almost exploded. "No I'm not gay." My words fell like stones. I didn't know I was gay. I didn't understand myself. I liked girls. I messed around with girls. I felt something about guys, but I thought, caught as I was in the crazed horniness of adolescence, that it was not attraction, just a response to the high-tension-sexual-atmosphere-at-all-times of my age. The only gay men I knew were freaks, outcasts, perverts, and pedophiles. They were readily identified, understand, but no one ever talked about it. Whispers, maybe. Like Mr. White, in sixth grade, with his photography club, all boys, the most popular ones, of course. Since I didn't respond to my mom's question, she went on. "It wouldn't matter to me. I would still love you. I would just worry about you, that you would have a hard life, a lonely life."

Now I think of that conversation, and I still feel mad. I know she meant well, but she wasn't really thinking of what would help me. She was thinking of herself. That's what she mostly did.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

So Friday afternoon I drove with Y to Philadelphia to visit C and go to the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia's acclaimed new concert hall, to hear Marc-André Hamelin give a recital. I don't often write about music on my blog (oddly) and I won't say much about the concert other than to comment that Hamelin possesses one of the most formidable techniques I have ever witnessed. I don't always go for his interpretations when he plays standard repertoire--this time my favorite Beethoven sonata, the Opus 109 in E Major, one that I love to play myself--and the rest of his program consisted of more obscure but highly interesting virtuosic works. The Kimmel Center is beautiful. Although it is a bit "corporate" looking, (the main hall, where the amazing Philadelphia Orchestra plays, is called "Verizon Hall"), the acoustics are nice and it has a relaxed, comfortable vibe.

I am amazed at these ruined buildings near C's house. They are so beautiful and scary and sad.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Walking on the path along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, behind my best old friend C's house, I came upon ruins of the old Water Works, from the time when this part of the city was heavily industrial along the river's edge.

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I had a very interesting appointment with my doc yesterday. I told her about the difficulties I have had since I saw her last month, and how the rapid cycling of my mood is puzzling to me. We discussed medication and whether or not it was worth going back on lamictal. My feeling is that it is not worth it. Since I have stopped taking it, my tremor is substantially better and I am not having the horrific memory lapses that were scaring me. And she told me that I might just have to choose to accept the fact that this bipolar-ness is the way that I am, and that since medication does not solve the problem--it just exchanges one set of problems for another--I can just continue to manage myself as I have done (mostly) successfully so far. It makes total sense. It is something I have been thinking of--and writing of here--for a long time. So that is what I will do. I'll just have to hold onto my hat.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

hitting the wall

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I have been disoriented this week. I am currently in an unusual mood pattern, what is called "rapid cycling." Deep depression lasts a day or two, giving way to hypomania, which lasts a day or two, and then back. I feel as though I am hitting the same wall over and over. And the hypomanic mood makes me very tired, physically. My intense energy, expended in all sorts of ways, gives over to complete exhaustion. I am seeing my doctor in an hour. I wonder if she will have any advice.

It's that time of year when old students, now in college, come back to visit, since they are still on winter break. It is nice. One of my favorites, of all time, came back a couple times. He has suffered some intense personal tragedy in the past year, and you can see it in his eyes. I feel like I want to help him in some way, and that I am not really doing anything effective. But maybe just him coming to talk is helping him more than I know. I hope so.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

bad behavior

Pineapple Street
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I was sitting in my car around 5 pm, waiting until I could leave it safely without getting a ticket. A silver Subaru pulled into the space in front of me. Normally this young guy parks in motorcycle at the first space on this block (where the Subaru was) and he was in the process of moving the bike when the Subaru pulled in. It seems that the Subaru driver, lawyerly-looking thirty-something guy, was bothered by the fact that the young cute guy was putting the bike in front of his car, and he unleashed a string of profanity-laced invective at the young guy. And guess what? The young guy is black. I was shocked by the anger of the thirty-something guy; there was nothing wrong with the guy parking his bike there. I got out of my car--I had been sitting with the window open talking to a neighbor--to observe, and to be present to try and cool things in case a fight started. But the young guy said "I am not going to stoop to your level and yell at you like you did to me. But I am taking down your license plate in case you try to knock over my bike." I know the bike guy in passing; he loves Mabel and we say hi to each other on the street. He is really cute and a nice guy; he works as the super in a small coop building down the street from mine. If he had been white, the Subaru guy would not have at him that way.

Sometimes this neighborhood, filled more and more with wealthy snotty lawyers and bankers, disgusts me. It did not used to, in the early years that I lived here. I want NYC to go back in time, when there was more crime, when white lawyers fled with their pregnant wives to the suburbs, and people didn't expect NYC, even Brooklyn Heights, to be like lily-white Scarsdale. I hope the bike falls over and smashes the Subaru.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

In my neighborhood people have the wonderful habit of leaving unwanted books on a stoop. So occasionally as I walk along I find a selection of reading material for the taking. Late last week I picked up a dog-eared copy of May Sarton's JOURNAL OF A SOLITUDE. Sarton, a poet and writer of great accomplishment, kept this journal chronicling her days spent in solitude at her house in New Hampshire. She struggled with lifelong depression, and much of her writing is about how she copes, and how solitude both exacerbates her depression yet at the same time becomes of absolute importance to her and her work, mostly because she feels that she herself is so difficult, that her relationships with others are always troubled. She was a beautiful writer, and much of what she writes rings too true. I will post some quotes later.

* * * * *

Special bonus: I just went out to do the move-the-car-to-the-other-side-of-the-street (and sit in it for an hour until it is "legal" to park it) routine. To warm up the engine, and thus have some heat, I drove around the 'hood a bit. And lo and behold! I found a space in front of my building where I can leave the car until this evening, and thus I have gained an extra hour this morning. Lucky me.

Monday, January 08, 2007

rainy monday

mirror sky
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

This picture has little to do with this post, just so you know.

I return to my teaching duties today. The down side of these long breaks is the difficulty in returning after several weeks away. Waking up this morning felt so different even though I woke at the same time I usually do. It is just that for the last few weeks I have been able to wake and have no scheduled day ahead of me. Now, today, I feel oppressed by the various appointments of the day. And the cold rain does not lift my spirits. But in a few hours it will feel as though the break never happened.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Jones Beach

Jones Beach, January 6, 2007 (7)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I went to Jones Beach on this absurdly warm day. It was fascinating: winter light with late spring air. The beach was actually crowded. This photo looks like a painting and it is certainly trite but even still I like the way it came out. I am enjoying my new little camera, as you can see.

Friday, January 05, 2007

home improvement, continued

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

While on break from teaching I have been doing many minor home improvements. Here is the newly revamped corner of my living room; it is the northeast corner, to be exact. I like to sit here and read. The chair comes from Thailand. It is made of teak and is amazingly comfortable, contrary to its severe appearance. Next to it is a piece of a petrified tree trunk from China. The tree trunk is my single favorite thing in my apartment. I have an insane love for it. It has to be seen up close to be appreciated.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


potato pile
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I went to the Y this morning, late morning actually, to swim. On the way I did some little errands: the bank, the hardware store. My swim was pleasant, and I did more errands on the way back. As I walked up Court Street I was reminded of how pleased I am that the holidays are over and that all the jollity and frenzy of the run up to Xmas and New Year's irritated me so this year. It's not that I didn't enjoy the holidays, because I did. But the frantic buying and consumer frenzy are ugly.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

ho hum

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Now that most people have returned to their normal routines, I feel a bit odd. School will remain closed until next Monday, and so I am in a kind of limbo. Since I am not away I don't really think of this as a vacation, but yet it is one, since I do not have to go teach.

Yesterday I went to Fairway. It was strangely busy. In the evening I went to see "Letters From Iwo Jima," Clint Eastwood's latest film. It was stunning, horrifying, riveting. Rarely have I sat through a film that is as long (two hours and twenty minutes) without feeling bored or wondering when the film would end. Ken Watanabe, as the commander of the Japanese forces, was incredible. I am no fan of war films and rarely see them. But this one is a "don't miss." I think that Clint Eastwood is really a fantastic filmmaker.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Ashland Garage
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I had a busy few days: on Friday my digital camera, the Canon Elph, died. I have a large fancy one but wanted a small unit to carry with me for those spontaneous moments, so I went to J&R on Saturday, early evening. It was crowded and strangely sweltering, and I hastily bought a tiny little Casio Exilim. I like it. And it was on sale. New Year's Eve was quiet. First Y and I saw "Dreamgirls." Then we had dinner, champagne, and watched the ball drop. Odd how they have Dick Clark still hosting, post-stroke, with his labored speech. Wouldn't he want to retire? Or maybe he refuses to surrender and has some clause in his contract to insure that. New Year's day was drab, with a gloomy fog in the air, and I slept until noon. I still feel the residual effects of Friday evening, when I stayed up until all hours having fun. I am getting too old for such things.

Monday, January 01, 2007