Thursday, November 29, 2007

fear of all fears, horror of all horrors, mother of all phobias

those of you who have spent any time around me are probably familiar with my aversion to needles. this extends to most things medical, but especially the evil nasty needles. i swear it all stems from the memory of having a painful operation on my foot as a child. naturally memory is the great distorter, but when the nurse picked up that needle, to 'anesthetise' my foot, i swear it was longer than my arm! and straight into that wound did she plunge that instrument of torture. i have since learned, after working for a foot doctor, that the injection should be administered between the toes, NOT smack dab in the center of the inflamed area! this is nice breakfast banter, isn't it? needless to say, i cried throughout the operation with pain from the shot, not the dry ice nor the cutting out of infected cells. and so, whole and raging, a new phobia was born. don't ask me to watch the surgery channel with you. don't ask me to listen to your tales of injuries and blood (though i'm about to regale you with mine!), because you will find me turning green and sitting down quickly. and woe is the nurse that ignores my pleas to lie down after having blood drawn--even the pinprick in the finger kind. i don't care about what's on the closest horizontal surface. i don't care if it's dirty or you have to walk over my clammy body. just let me lie there, NOW. another nurse (take note, beloved nurses-to-be of mine) felt i would be much more comfortable in this situation if i could lay down on a cot. she picked me up off the office floor and tried to walk me across the hall. and i heard, as though from a distant radio transmisssion: 'get her head!' and down i went. embarrassing, yes. totally irrational, i know. but it's just the unavoidable way my overactive mind works. consequently, (torturous and frequent dental experiences aside) i've been able to avoid the needle on several occasions. call me black hearted, but you will not ever talk me into donating blood. it's just more than i could voluntarily bring my selfish soul to do. and it's miraculous that on two occasions i have braved the tattoo needle, and will again soon. these instances have all been accompanied by the wooziness and the fainting or almost fainting episodes. i can hardly bring myself to be embarrassed anymore. i can be a tough girl sometimes. just not around needles. and gloriously, i have managed in my life to avoid other such injections. okay, so i had to spend the first day of school each year in the principal's office explaining that i belong to a cult-like religion that does not allow immunizations. i'll just ride on your vaccinations, other kids, thank you. crazy that this was cause for social ridicule, along with 'why doesn't kitty say the pledge of allegiance?' oh, that would be because i pledge my allegiance to jehovah god, not the flag. what? but i digress.
the other night my artistic and adventurous side found me joining the crew of a crazy artist who launched a homemade one-man submarine into the new york harbor. and now, time to display said once-confiscated-by-the-police vehicle at an art show. it was a strangely warm and rainy november night. the truck lurched over the cobblestone streets down on the docks of red hook, brooklyn. from the wrought iron staircase clinging to the side of the old brick warehouse, the city was blanketed in what this northern californian could only call fog, but i could see the tip of the statue of liberty's torch rising above the factories and lofts. a light rain began to fall, or rather, it felt like that fog just came over and wrapped around us. the task was to unload the steel top of the submarine out of the truck and onto a dolly to transport it to the woodshop where the barrel of the sub sat waiting to be capped off. oh, and a lot of rocks. to weigh down the submarine of course. okay, it was heavy, but i'm a strong girl (as i keep insisting!). I lift a lot of stuff. i grew up out in the garage helping my dad with cars--i'm a tough girl! keep telling yourself that, kitty, right? but the submarine cap wasn't just deathly heavy. it was also completely unwieldy, outfitted as it was with long vertical pipes, glass portals and such. fog had turned to rain and that big piece of steel was slippery! thanks be to god, gaia, martin gore, whoever--i didn't feel the steel slicing my finger like a piece of polish sausage at the hands of a greenpoint stone cold polish fox and a deli slicer. my hands were happily numb from the cold. but as i stood above the dolly trying desperately to swing those pipes around, in the dull glow of the light escaping the freight elevator, i saw a pool of blood deepening on the blond wood of the cart. the blood was gushing from my very finger! i could see that a flap of flesh was half separated from said mutilated digit. so i held pressure on it (stop gushing!) and we went upstairs to the wood shop first aid kit, leaving a trail of crimson blood to mark the way through the pale fresh sawdust on the floor. thankfully, said submarine builder is also a non-squeamish tattoo artist, wasting not a moment in flushing out the wound, pulling out a mysterious shard of steel, and bandaging my fountaining finger tight tight tight. thanks be also, to my long arms, as i lay on the filthy bathroom floor, arm extended up to the sink. and everyone shrugged and said, 'you'll be okay--when was your last tetanus shot?' and that's when the needle scratched the record and i began to freak out to have to answer--NEVER--but i sure could hook you up with some literature about jehovah god! who needs a tetanus shot? well, now that would be me. desperately. but because of a lengthy emergency room wait and my absolute fear of stitches (let's not even go there), i abandoned the hospital and found myself two days later, shaking at a stranger-to-me doctor's office saying, no really, i've never had a tetanus shot. and he looked at my finger and said, head shaking, 'how did you DO this?'
okay, and as usual, the shot wasn't so bad. yeah, my arm is sore and i feel mysteriously ill today. but the nurse was damn good. i closed my eyes and she pinched my arm a bunch of times so i didn't even feel the (gulp) needle very much. but my god, making the decision to do the right thing was so so hard and scary and only motivated by total paranoia of dying of lockjaw tetanus poisoning and i promise, next time i'll wear heavy work gloves. i have, at my disposal, many amazing images which could accompany this story, but i think it would be a copyright issue, so you'll just have to use your imaginations.
well, one little picture couldn't hurt, could it? i swear, if asked, i will remove this.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

tristan, consider this your invitation

i know, it's totally old stale news now, but that's how my thoughts are running--totally behind schedule. as opposed to the nyc marathon, which barrels through my neighborhood like clockwork, reminding me another year has flown by--and so quickly! it's disturbing to reflect on the light-speed of time, yet whenever the marathon comes around i'm charmed. i like to get out early and see the building mayhem as it runs through greenpoint (mile 12.5). it reminds me of the apple blossom parade back home in seabstopol--the little apple. there is such a feeling of community and small town pride in this race despite the big city setting, despite katie holmes and diddy participating. i think our biggest celebrity guest in sebastopol was that old guy who did the oatmeal commercials in the cowboy hat. and he turned out to be a jerk! but back on track--i'm truly touched to observe the ghetto kids at the automotive high school handing out gatorade, paper towels and bananas to the exhausted runners instead of....i don't know, calling out, "i want to f*ck you, red-headed lady!" from the barred school windows even though i'm twice (!) their age. have i addressed my thoughts on the topic of child raising in new york city yet? unnecessary, right? you get the idea.
anyhoo. first the wheelchairs come through--the tricked out high speed horizontal numbers powered by arms. they never cease to bring tears of inspiration to my eyes when i see people without legs nonetheless racing a course i couldn't dream of completing. everyone goes nuts and cheers, banging their long inflatable sticks together to make noise (whose idea where these?). the bad local bands that can't get a gig anywhere else despite the 5000 venues in new york city tune up and serenade with their amps. then it gets quiet. anticipation. and the top women follow a police escort. the blonde woman who will win leaps past me like a gazelle. i know she will win and she does. i still feel smug for knowing. shortly thereafter the men come. i feel like i'm at the olympics. then the masses. everyday heroes. your friend that flew here from kalamazoo. and a dozen rhinoceroses. running rhinoceroses. of course. and for hours you cannot cross the street. i love it. to see more snapshots from the marathon, click here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

boyfriend bragging time

you know what i admire so much about emre? he is exactly the opposite of me when it comes to any kind of art project. when i get an assignment--no--when i merely think about taking a class in which i might be assigned projects--i panic. panic. my brain melts. i cry. there can't possibly be a single worthwhile idea in me. and if there is, it's stupid or it's hiding. i'm sure of it. that's how much confidence i have in myself.
emre, on the other hand is completely nonchalanct in such situations, tricking me into thinking that he is underachieving, or he will never finish, never figure anything out. deadlines approach, time runs out and still there is no stress. just out pops something whole, complete and awesome.
this past week when we hosted his father from turkey was no exception. while i was cursing the god's of transport and lack of time, he casually multi-tasked a fall colors family trip up to lake minnewaska--slash--video editing class shoot without nary a mention of his idea in advance. thankfully, it's not only his sister who has a flair for drama. his father, you can see, had too much fun running through the snowy (!) trails at the stunning lake minnewaska while emir and haley patiently stood by freezing, and i bossily scouted locations and shots while emre said, yeah, that's what i'm going to do next. except emre wouldn't say yeah. 'cause his english is better than mine. did i mention that he beats me in scrabble and that's just not fair, considering this is my native language, not his?

since emre had to compress this considerably to get it on you tube, the image is tiny, so try 'full screening' it by clicking the lower right hand icon on the little screen--that was clear--to enter full screen mode. could someone find me a job writing instruction manuals? clearly i've missed my calling. click here for 'feeble' by emre balik.

and by the way, if anyone wondered at my exhausted state of late, maybe you understand a little better now after seeing emre's unstoppable ball of fire dad in action. even this self-approving tour guide can't keep up!

Friday, November 16, 2007

'the chateau' week two

getting out to the chateau to see lynn this week felt like a near herculean (wow, dictionary says this is actually a word!) task. first delayed by switching work schedule, then a groggy late start due to not enough sleep, then there was the task of transporting emre's non-english-speaking father to the russian and turkish bath, which opened an hour later than its website claimed it did. are we sure mercury is not in retrograde, cause i'm feeling it! on to port authority where naturally, i just missed my hourly bus to new jersey. a different bus came, but i'd have to walk an extra couple of miles. i waited for the proper bus. when that one pulled up, the driver informed me that due to construction, there would be a detour. i needed to take that other two-mile-off-the-target bus, which i'd just eschewed. ah!!! when the fourth bus finally delivered me two miles from 'the chateau'--ah, what a name for a place to be poked full of tubes!--in rochelle park, i was an aggravated mess. see i had a very limited amount of time left due to the ultra tight manner in which i schedule my hectic life. but new jersey did something magic to me. it calmed me down. somewhere between walking through the beautiful 60 degree day filled with the most vibrant shades of fall colored trees all around, bright leaves underfoot, and reflecting on lynn's situation, the 'problems' of the day revealed themselves to be mere annoyances which could simply be let go of if only i decided to. so i left them in the leafy gutter and took advantage of the time i had remaining with lynn. she was so happy to see me. though i didn't wash her hair as she had mentioned last week, she had me comb it. still holding over that spirit from the 'postman' series that i so love. of course i didn't start shooting immediately when i arrived. it's true that i'm making this weekly trek with the objective to photograph lynn. it's also true that i chose her as a subject partly because i wanted to be forced to spend more time with her. this delay in starting to shoot did, however, present another timing problem, because the nurses sat her up in her wheelchair, a 'chore' she absolutely detests and that took every last speck of energy she had. i shot for about fifteen mintues, and once they put her back in bed, she fell asleep. i waiting and waited, but sadly had to leave her a note and slip out of the chateau. surprisingly, i got much more in that fifteen minutes than i expected, so i'm glad i decided not to stress. getting back to new york took THREE HOURS.
so the theme of the day was late. here are three portraits which i executed by the urging of one of my classmates from last week's critique. i didn't get a chance to go wide angle as i'd planned for week two, to include the whole room. that will have to wait. and no, i didn't manage any 'sleeping' shots because the room was darkened and i didn't want to wake lynn. next week will be near impossible for me to get to jersey, as my nephew kyle is coming to visit (!) we'll see !
so, the two or three of you who are still with me, would you mind casting your ballot for which of these three portraits you prefer, and tell me why?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

the chateau--inspiration, explanation

So much happens in a day, a week, a month. I battle bedbugs. I do laundry, scrub the floors. I complain about it, yet she can’t even go around the corner to the Laundromat. I go to work. I lay on the grass in the park, look up at the clouds. Grass tickles my toes. I am charged with life. And all the while day after day, she lays in bed, immobilized by a tube connecting her to a machine. My birthday comes. She’s probably thinking of me. Yet I almost forget her. She is in New Jersey, in a medical nursing home. She has gone there to die. And to most of us, even those who love her, it’s almost like she’s already dead. I cannot call her to say hi. She can no longer talk! And our busy lives rush past us as she sits. How is it? Counting hours? I want to join her in that prison, see what it’s like not to see anything else but those four ‘tastefully decorated’ walls with the institutional touches. Nurses are her new family. They take the abuse we used to if everything wasn’t just so. I want to photograph that world that is left behind our mobile and swiftly moving dimension. How many thousand or millions of people live there—soon to be more? The forgotten. I photographed Lynn once before. It was a couple years
back. She was already sliding down this slope but in comparison she was much more mobile. She dressed up like a faded movie star and I gave her wigs and make-up whimsy. This time I don’t think even the clown nose will come in handy. I don’t want to be morbid, or exploitative. I just want to be there to see. I expect boredom. When you’re the only one who can talk, the sound of your own voice becomes annoying. I expect her to be cranky, not to get it. I’m not sure I even get it. It just seems like in this state, details become enormous, and I love details. I’m thinking black and white. Is that typical and nostalgic? I’m thinking of my 50mm 1.4 lens catching as much light as possible and giving me shallow depth of field. I’m also thinking of bringing that fisheye toy camera I got for my birthday. Maybe it would convey a bit of that trapped state. Black and White will be a challenge for me. I haven’t mastered the digital version. Maybe it would be a good challenge to make some beautiful (?) black and white prints for my final project. Or a homebound book? We’ll see.

i wrote this statement for class a few weeks ago. looks like i've ditched the black and white idea

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'the chateau' week one

so really i had to post the 'waiting for the postman' series as a primer for the work in progress that i'm shooting right now. it's a continuation or another phase of that series, except now lynn is living permanently in a medical center after having a tracheotomy. my challenge is to bring in new material every week. because i have all the time in the world to travel to new jersey by bus on a weekly basis. but that was kind of my motivations. her life dwindles and slips by while i run from one thing to the next, too 'busy' to visit. unfortunately, my time is so short that i cannot elaborate right now, otherwise i wouldn't get any of this up. maybe i'll return later with more words. these are all 'first drafts'. here is what i brought to critique last week, chosen quite hastily:

vital signs

having a chat


sun trails

hospital corners

Monday, November 12, 2007

the sweetest fortune cookie ever

from dinner last night at one of my favorite restaurants in the world--the little bear, in bearsville, upstate new york--where you sit by big windows overlooking a creek, jack-o-lanterns lit in the forest on the opposite bank. spooky dreamy magic.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

lynn: waiting for the postman

A Few Words about Lynn Kindred

Lynn has been housebound since the summer of 2001 when her little lung sacks stopped squeezing the carbon dioxide out of her blood. Actually, for a couple of years she was able to venture out, even drive, with the help of a portable mini tank of oxygen that lasted for about an hour and a half. We would take trips to Kmart and Parthmark with her envelopes full of coupons. This was more of a sport for her than a necessity, as she already had stockpiled enough cans, bottles and tubs of salsa, sour cream, pasta sauce, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Shake & Bake crumb coating and tuna fish to get her through 20 more years at home—and the doctors already told me that most of her food will outlive her. Having been the one to try to organize these reserves in the mice-inhabited cabinets of her little New Jersey apartment--cans and bags of pretzels spilling out into every closet and under the table--I begged her to slow down the shopping. I even composed “DO NOT BUY” lists of forbidden items—those she already possessed at least 20 of—and tucked them into her coupon envelopes. Finally, I gave up trying to control the clutter, when I realized well, that she flat out wasn’t going to stop.

These days, even shopping is too much for her fragile breathing, and her life, and my visits, are confined to her home. Lynn is a creature of habit, and as a result, I can predict the passing of every hour that I am there with her. When I arrive it’s hugs, updates and photo sharing. After about an hour of visiting she instructs me to eat Triscuits and cheese from her bulging refrigerator. Now that she can’t leave the house, I pity the “youth volunteer” who comes once a week to carry out her very specific shopping orders. As I eat my snack, Lynn rests in her bed. Her rhythm is about 2 hours up, 4 hours in bed. I am generally under orders not to enter her bedroom. She fears what I will do with her many boxes of cubic zirconium necklaces ordered at 2am from the Home Shopping Network.
While she is resting I clean the bathroom, vacuum the living room, and dust the knick-knacks in the kitchen. I have finally learned not to bother her about the 4 foot high back stock of newspapers waiting to be clipped of their coupons. These are her pleasures, and she is damn stubborn about them. In fact, the only way she will part with anything these days is if she sends it home with me. I have learned to pack light on my way to Lynn’s because she always sends me home with the black and white plastic mesh BIG BAG full of candy, magazines and baffling gadgets bought on QVC.

I bring her goodies too. She always has very specific requests. Sometimes they are typical cravings, like Krispy Kreme Donuts or a fresh loaf of Italian bread. But sometimes they are a little more eccentric, like foam clown noses, or the time she just had to have a pink feather boa. She models these items for the mailman, the ice cream man, anyone who will smile, as she sits out on the porch, her oxygen tubing stretched to the max.

Sometimes while she is resting, I rest too. I read while lying on the couch, and inevitably fall asleep. When I awake, I know Lynn will be in the kitchen, arms resting on the edge of the sink, back hunched over. Sometimes she is waiting for her coffee to warm up in the microwave—two spoons of non-dairy creamer and one packet of Sweet-n-Low. But sometimes she is just gazing. Maybe she’s gazing out the window at the neighbor’s wisteria vines, maybe just at the dishes in the sink.

In trying to capture the essence of Lynn in a photo-essay, I was initially frustrated by her desire to alter herself for the photographs, with make-up, with costumes, and with props. I envisioned creating a very sad reflection of what seems simply to be a sad life. When I was finally forced to let go of that vision and instead embrace the fantasy Lynn was anxious to present, I realized it was just as real. To an extent, we all present a mask to the camera; wish to glamorize our lives or appearance. Unfortunately, with Lynn there is simultaneously no escaping the reality of her terminally ill situation. Early on in the shoot, she tried to remove her breathing tube, and of course, a fit of coughing sent her straight to bed. So the breathing tube returned along with a new vision: One of a woman bound to her house, not yet even “old” by society’s standards, trying to bring whimsy and joy to a day-to-day life filled otherwise with physical pain, loneliness, and monotonous routine.
The series was shot digitally on a Nikon D70s, with an effective 27mm, the widest angle lens I have. This was necessary in dealing with the claustrophobia-inducing size and layout of Lynn’s apartment. I was also assisted by the used of a tripod, essential in retaining the rather cavernous natural lighting at exposures averaging 1/10 second. Though a help, the tripod also presented an additional challenge, littered with “treasures” as every square inch of the apartment was.
Lynn generously found the strength to model in 30 minutes bursts, with 5 hours rest in between, time I utilized by dreaming up scenarios, checking lighting, setting the frames, and of course, doing chores. This way, as soon as Lynn woke up, it was straight to make up, costumes and posing. As such, a series that could have normally been shot in 3 hours spanned the course of 3 days.
In printing, I chose to present a number of 11”x16” fantasy ‘feature’ shots, along with a series of diptychs, most pairing a wide angle ‘everyday’ shot with a close-up ‘escape’ detail.
If I didn’t know Lynn better, I’d think the photo shoot was a big misery for her, with the exhaustion, the displacement of junk, the forced focus, the spilled coffee, her oxygen cord endlessly tangled in my tripod, the cranky disposition. Yet, as I expected, three days later she called and declared, “I just made it out of bed for the first time since your visit. What joy. You make life worth living. Now what the hell did you do with the coffee filters?!”

see more of this shoot here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

happy birthday sissy!

so it seems to be all about birthdays around here lately, no? today my sister abbie turns 37? wait, how old am i? i can't keep track of any of this anymore. emre thinks it's personal and asks me periodically, "how old am i, kitty?" i usually answer with "ask me how old i am, i probably have to think first..."
the above photo wins the prize for the coolest photo of abbie ever. she was a month shy of 5 years old. i was three days shy of being born. at the sonoma county harvest fair (which used to be all about apples, not grapes and wine), a photographer from the local paper in cahoots with a security guard 'framed' abbie to get this fantastic front page photo--told her to go ahead and pick the best looking apple from the display of gleaming boxes (they really polish them for this event!) and take a bite. naturally this went against everything little abbie had been taught by our very strict father: don't touch the display, don't cross the roped off area. but the guard said it was okay. he had authority even over daddy. yet as soon as she took a few bites, the guard turned on her and reprimanded her for sneaking an apple. and she gave the photographer the perfect horrified guilty face. brilliant. though i think she's still traumatized by this event and sometimes answer to 'eve'.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

not exactly the life of the party

grief is an interesting thing--how it comes in and just sits on you like an uninvited pillow, damping down the sound and speed of everything. even when you think you're ready for it--you've visited, you've rationalized that your grandmother lived a long and happy life. you're now happy for her to be free from her body which has become a painful trap--even then, it still takes an unexpected swing to knock you down. i lost my grandma a couple days before my birthday. so when the usually anticipated 'big day' that always makes me feel giddy and young--despite the advancing years--came, i was in no mood to celebrate. emre was sweet and tender with me in the morning, insisting i pose for photographs when i really didn't care. that worked well, the whole not caring thing, considering i hadn't yet even brushed my teeth. he encouraged me to call a few friends, and eleven people shocked me by showing up at sea with less than 24 hours notice. apparently, i learned, last minute is the way to get people out in this town. send an evite out two weeks in advance and everyone's hemming and hawwing--gee, i just don't know, there may be something else going on... furthermore, these people who came at such short notice, some of them even brought gifts!
who are you people, and how did i get so lucky as to befriend you? the grief pillow lifted and i smiled, especially when emre serenaded me with the kazoo my aunt sent in an also smile inducing package and then my dessert came to me, on fire.
and now by sad coicidence, emre has just lost his grandmother, and unlike me, is not able to make it back home for services. i see the pillow weighing him down. maybe i should pull out the kazoo.

by the way, i've made a new flickr account just for snapshots, so more birthday photos here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

the resurrection (ooh--so dramatic!)

pop quiz:

a) the rumors are true: i've died. here is photographic proof.

b) my stylist and life coach messed up (britney--i feel you)

c) i'm impersonating the beloved and mysteriously dead laura palmer. twin peaks. google it. stop looking at me with that blank stare, you make me feel so old!

if you chose c, you win! sorry, no prize.
i threw a costume ball/turkish dinner party for emre's thirtieth birthday. in case he snowed you into thinking i'm the social one around here, it's a lie. 40 people showed up to our "little" dinner. thankfully, i had prepared food for 120. i should say 'we' as it was truly a collaborative effort, dish for dish. it's surprising we got such great feedback on the food considering most of it was prepared in the wee hours of the mornings leading up to the party. thank goodness for cold turkish appetizers that actually demand being made in advance!
other than the full time working, full time schoolgoing (that's right, i've deciding to stop saying i'm only in school part time, as i take an additional class at the education alliance and am the teacher's assistant to a fourth class), unpacking of our entire apartment from boxes, applying for jobs i didn't get, hunting high and low for a shoulder gun holster so emre could be the agent cooper to my laura palmer, and filing back taxes for three years, i'd been totally idle all week. what's new.

supposedly it's national blog-a-day month. how do we ever keep up with the grueling list of monthly themes, overlooked people and issues to honor? i know, i know, i'm late. but hey, i just heard! i figure i owe it to my adoring and heartbroken public to return and blog every day. like jesus christ on resurrection day (can i say that?!) i will roll the rock from my cave of slumber and hit you full force with the fun details of my life. um. maybe tomorrow.

by the way, eddie and maria as axl rose and slash--amazing. but we'll discuss that later in another 'national blog month' post (c'mon! i gotta save some material--i'm rusty!)

photo courtesy of haley balik