Monday, December 31, 2007

out with the old, in with the new year!

i've said it at least three thousand times. this year has sucked. sure, there were decidedly amazing events which transpired, like the birth of my little niece rory. but most everything else felt much like having a pillow fight with an ogre wielding a sack full of nails. in the midst of getting my ass kicked, i had the chance to exercise those buddhist philosophies and try to let go of my attachment to material possessions. many things were lost to those bugs. some through infestation, some through the precautionary high heat dryer, and some to the mere circumstance of sitting in a plastic wrapped box out on a fire escape in new york city for a month of monsoon-like storms. turns out a couple of those boxes didn't have the greatest seal, despite my exhaustive efforts. and after the monsoon came the hundred plus weather. opening those boxes was a truly frightening science fair experiment. then after pouting over throwing a bunch of stuff away, i realized i could photograph things and thereby keep them (albeit, in a furrier than remembered condition) forever. brilliant! this is better than manhattan mini-storage.

ah, the wallace and gromit box set. why was i hanging onto it anyway--i don't even have a vcr or a tv anymore! because linda and damon gave it to me...

my nephew, kyle, picked out this hello kitty garment bag nearly ten years ago when i started catering (wearing a tuxedo!). he was five years old. it has served me for a decade. definitely hard to part with.

Monday, December 24, 2007

excuses, excuses...

yesterday my sister said unto me, "you didn't send christmas cards".
and i said unto her, "no, i didn't"
and my sister said unto me, with mounting disapproval, "you say that like it's no big deal!"
and i said unto her, with the lack of energy i have to give this issue, "i have reasons."

understand, fair people of the earth, that i dream big. i have endeavored to send you all much more than a christmas card that you can put on ye olde refridgerator (don't get me wrong--i love christmas cards--keep them coming). but because the funds are severely lacking of late, what you receive in the mail, will be more than a card, rather the most amazing homemade gift you may have possibly ever been given in your life.
it's that major. so major, that of course it has required countless (i really mean shockingly so many!) hours of labor plus the brains of my genius boyfriend. so fear not, fine people of christmastown, thy gifting and carding will be done. just late. so in the meantime, maybe you can print this for the refridgerator?

so how's christmas in new york? well, on the plus side of not being able to go home for christmas, i'm discovering so many consolation prizes. for example, not having to pack during finals week. not worrying about all christmas gifts during finals week. also, there's that whole 'new york city at christmastime' thing which is really beautiful. and having the time to sit on my couch at night and gaze at the christmas tree. i'm particularly enjoying the view out my window, watching people come select christmas trees. i made gingerbread yesterday and brought some down to these guys who are out there in the cold providing christmas cheer for me from out the window. and i don't think i ever saw so much gratitude after giving any gift. as i've said before, little things mean a lot.
and now, i swear, one of my readers asked for more ornament pictures. really. so i'll load them at flickr to spare those who don't want to fall asleep while attempting to read my blog. thanks. here you go abbie. since you don't want a material gift--here's a virtual one.

Friday, December 21, 2007

welcome to the old people's club

if today is indeed the winter solstice, that means that it's tristan's 30th birthday. tristan is a conscientious friend, an amazing front-seat father of twins, an insane marathon runner, a bicycling fanatic, master gardener, talented multi-media artist, possessor of great style and impeccable musical taste--and perhaps most importantly to me in that it concerns my dear friend kim--likely the greatest husband i've ever known. happy birthday, tristan--enjoy big sur.

i took this portrait of tristan in the pre-photoshop days, looking through a set of binoculars backwards at his city garden plot in berkeley.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

one room, one woman, six weeks

okay, okay, i get it--you don't like the ornaments. in my defense, i have been very busy with finals. just trying to throw some fluff your way as a distraction to my absence. i know, it was boring. so back to the depression of the chateau. fine. have it your way.
the opening image

strong hand grasping


the blue worm

and finally, my info page photo, obviously not by me.

presented my final group of images last night, printed large, in a portfolio book. my class was very kind (how could you not be, i suppose, with such subject matter)--but one classmate even had tears in his eyes. it's good to see the images are powerful to other people. i am so emotionally tied to this project that i have no way of gauging it's effect. i typed an explanation on the large border of the above image as a title page with my old typewriter full of errors:

all photos taken by kitty joe ste-marie in november and december of 2007 at the chateau medical facility in rochelle park, new jersey. one room, one woman, six weeks.
i embarked upon this project to discover what presents itself under the same repetitive conditions.
i found strength among apparent fragility, spirit in a depressing place, chatter from a woman with no voice, and unexpected beauty in the horrible details of dying.
visual themes emerged again and again, each time calling attention to something new. hands reach for words, hands stabilize, hands call for help, hands grasp at love. the framework of tubes choke like vines, yet bring life via air, nourishment, medicine, limited maneuverability, distraction through television. the tubes join the retro 50's fabric of hospital gowns in lovely patterns. all is lit by rays of weak winter sunlight slicing venetian blinds, reminding me that even though i am 'family', with the camera to my eye, i am also voyeur. what i see and represent is slightly taboo. as a society we don't want to see this 'unexpected' yet significant end to millions of our lives, lest we glimpse ourselves in those lonely faces.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

the second day of christmas (ornaments)

my boss and friend, humberto, brought a set of three picture frame ornaments one year. found this little thumbnail printout to be about the right size and theme--emre and i in costume.
oh, and the lovely clear glass dipped in white--a gift from lauren and matt--from the cooper hewitt design museum (they brought a set each of white, red and green).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

honeymoon egg

like a mini-version of the twelve days of christmas, i just might feature some of my ornaments here (oh my god, could there be a more boring blog topic--geez, i'm really reaching new heights with this one!). as i already mentioned, i missed the narcissistic chance to pass one out to each friend and say, "here, you can put this one on the tree. it's new this year. kathleen and jason brought it back from their honeymoon in austria because they know i'm a sucker for egg ornaments, being that i blew the yolks out of at least 75 of them, dyed, glazed, beaded and gifted them ten years ago. " i know a very small percentage of them are still in one piece. gotta love the homemade xmas gift. this year's is in the works. all who want it speak now or forever hold your peace. hint: if you're over the age of 40, you may not appreciate it.
and yes, that is a cat ornament butt in the background.

Monday, December 17, 2007

put the lights on the tree

you know i'm not much of a scrooge. in fact, i'm pretty sure if you look up scrooge in the dictionary, you will find 'opposite of kitty joe ste-marie' listed somewhere in there. yet this year we decided not to have our annual christmas tree decorating party, nor even get a tree. this year has just been too much, we declared. but considering i will cross the street just to walk through a sidewalk christmas tree sale, happily inhaling the smell of christmas, and especially being that there is one such seed of temptation across the street from my apartment--it was too much for me to resist. and anyway, kitty without a tree--it's just too hov-y for me. suddenly, with my dad in town, i found time to do it up right. it was saturday night. we decided to forgo the 1920's costume hawaiian steel guitar swing party (poor dad) for a quiet evening home resting his shins. i brewed a pot of ikea christmas tea (those swedes know a thing or two about 'white christmas!), donned the felt santa hat and cranked up the 'home for the holidays' record box set i found at the salvation army compound in healdsburg. it was perfect. and now i'm so happy. so for those of you who missed the private showing, you're welcome to come on over. finals are over on thursday (!) and it'll be a blue christmas without you...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

i am tourist

there is a first time for everything. yesterday i sat on the top level of a double decker tourist bus for three hours, 25 degrees, with my dad, seeing manhattan from a whole new perspective. i tried to channel timothy 'speed' levitch from the cruise. if you haven't seen it, i suggest you run out to your local independent video store (or netflix) NOW and rent it. i have to admit that i didn't make it through the whole loop, times square to times square. when the bus paused at 1st avenue and st. marks place--my east village territory--out of the bus we did run to warm up with an amzing bowl of carrot ginger soup at yaffa cafe.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

welcome to brooklyn, dad

my dad is flying somewhere over michigan right now, en route to new york. have i mentioned ten times here that my dad has never set foot in any of my last four homes? which is to say, that he's never been to new york. this is a consequence of moving halfway across the world that i never considered--opting out of the dad's home improvement help that my local sisters got. hey dad, i know you've got like, only four days, but how 'bout checking out this crumbling tin ceiling in the kitchen?
i'm excited to show him around, because, like me (probably not a coincidence, as i am his flesh and blood), my dad is totally fascinated by everything, and he loves to talk and brag about his trips. so i feel all pressured to give him something to brag about. i leave that task to new york city. i guess it's a pretty impressive place all on its own without me even trying. but also, there's the fact that i owe all of my impressive reputation as a tour guide to this man en route on an airplane, who tirelessly toured every foreign exchange student in the state of california (whether or not they 'belonged' to us) to see every beach, drive through redwood tree and beautiful back road in northern california over and over and over, until i, as a child, rolled my eyes and said, "we're going to armstrong grove (which is now on my top five places in the world to be) AGAIN!?"
after much brain wracking i've decided to keep it simple and classic tourist. after all, it's his first time in new york. gotta see times square and rock center. and eat bagels, and pierogis and knishes and turkish food and thai food. dad, did you pack the tums?
seriously though, this trip will mark the first time that my dad is on my turf, which may be strange for someone who 'knows everything', who just happened to spawn another human who 'knows everything' (that would be me).
this featured note was a reminder to me the last time i visited california and borrowed a car of my dad's that almost made me cry with laughter. really dad--have you forgotten that i grew up late nights in the garage pumping the brakes and helped build that mgb? can change a tire. DEFINITELY know what a dip stick looks like and how to check the oil! love the drawing though. and the fact that my dad's handwriting is the only specimen of penmanship on the planet that is worse than my own.

Monday, December 10, 2007

nothin' like knockin' new boots around

meet the new boots. you may have heard me complain about being broke. you may have heard that i don't dare step into a store because i'm a student and shopping is just something i don't have a budget for, even at beacon's closet, the salvation army or other such denizens of thrift. thank goodness for the steady stream of clothing coming from crazy turkish gift-givers who now wholly control my style. these new threads nicely compliment the ripped up sweaters and tights i still cling to from my high school wardrobe (didn't you hear that grunge is the new retro trend? i never went out of style!)
but when your winter boots have earthquake sole splits to rival the san andreas fault, a trip to star deli leaves your feet soggy, and the snow starts coming down, it's time to break down and look for a new pair of boots. but when does one have time for something as frivoulous as shopping, you ask? of course when one's instructor has followed the rest of the city down to miami for the myriad of art fairs (why am i only now hearing about this phenomenon when everyone i know seems to be down there? did i fall asleep and wake up years after everyone plotted this whole miami hoax?!), and thus class is cancelled for the day, leaving someone who otherwise plans her days to the minute, with a gaping 3 hour gap of TOTAL MINDBLOWING CHRISTMAS SEASON FREEDOM! freedom to walk down 'shoe row' popping into no less than 35 shops to wrinkle your nose at all the high heeled, sleek, pointed toed boots. none would do. they must be everyday-comfortable. they must be funky. well, turns out that's totally out of style. the above were the best i could do. i've fallen in love, even though it wasn't love at first sight, we were comfortable from the moment we touched and their embrace leaves me warm and cozy. right now we're in the blissed out honeymoon phase, barely past the excitement of flirting.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

alice, this one's for you

coincidentally, or serendipitously, i write this entry after midnight, on what i realize would be my recently departed grandmother's birthday. so grandma, this one's for you. see, we used to love to do crossword puzzles together. or rather, she loved to do crosswords, and very tolerantly allowed me to steal the daily puzzle when i'd come visit, then throw out answers, since i'm really not too good at crosswords. still she would tell anyone around how smart i am and what short order i can make of crosswords. but only the daily one in the press democrat. give me a difficult puzzle and i'm useless. the day of her memorial as i entered her house, i followed my usual pattern. grabbed the newspaper, flipped to the second page of the D section, and ripped the strip of puzzle out. flopped myself down in her chair, feeling her presence so strongly, and proceeded to knock that puzzle out in no time flat. and there she was, looking back at me from the very blocks of the puzzle. 12 across--tv waitress: alice.
happy birthday grandma! i know it's not clam chowder, but it'll have to do.

Friday, December 7, 2007

fwd: fwd: fwd: re: my christmas plans

i was about to type the following words into an email response, but figured i may as well post them here since i seem to keep typing the same ones over and over. that way all the thousands of people who read my blog will be abreast of my riveting holiday plans.
the rumors are true. i will not be making it out to california this christmas. no holiday bread making, no drinking of aunt barbara's cider, no driving around like i'm elven years old to oogle the miles of christmas lights strung up to the fences and barns on hessel road by farmer skip. and please, send my regards to the man who sells me a bouquet of flowers every dec 25th on the railroad tracks in cotati and calls me his 'christmas angel'. maybe he calls every woman who stops by on christmas that--what are you trying to say--don't burst my pretty bubble!
the fact is that i have jury duty. it's time to pay my debt to brooklyn, this borough i babble on about so lovingly. i've put it off for eleven years, have photocopied countless airline tickets and school schedules. time to pay the piper. the good news is that people tell me judges don't want to work around christmas so they delay the new cases and jurors get out easy. too risky to plan the ol' new years trip though. hopefully i'll make it out later in january. until then, i guess i'm just stuck with the rockefeller tree's new LCD lights. thanks for asking.
ooh, but a christmas miracle: after eleven years, my dad is coming to visit me here in new york. wow. it's about time!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

return to the chateau

this is for you, august! these images are all from last week, which was ridiculously fruitful, despite my insecurites otherwise. i didn't return to the chateau this week because i've been sick, and it just doesn't feel right to expose such a fragile person to my cold.
this visit marked the first time i felt self conscious photographing lynn, on her behalf. sure, it's been awkward, all the staff wondering who i am and why i'm always lurking with a "professional" camera. it's kept me from shooting in from outside the building through the window, but other than that, i haven't really cared what anyone thought. oh yeah, and i also refrained from documenting the routine and endless injections, monitoring, strange windpipe contraption clearing--all very interesting--and easy. i've refrained.
but this week i felt different. when i arrived, lynn was in rough shape. it had been a terrible week. first a 2am trip to the hospital because of a panic episode and sudden plunge in blood pressure, then two nights later she woke up dreaming she had the luxury of getting herself to the restroom--ended up laid out on the linoleum floor, monitor machine pulled away from the wall, breathing tubes stretched taut. when i entered the room after these harrowing debacles, lynn was exhausted, newly overmedicated, and nauseated. she wanted to continue sleeping. when i tried to photograph her lying so vulnerable, teeth out, no discussion prior to shooting (usually i visit with her for at least a half hour before brandishing my camera), looking near death, i cringed each time i tried to release the button. it was unclear whether she was aware of my precense, but even through her silky black eye mask, she seemed to be delirously tracking my movements. instead i photographed the wheelchair by the window. then took a breather at the local diner to gather my gumption. perhaps part of it was the difficulty in seeing her rapidly deteriorating condition. whatever the reason, i was shaken. surprisingly though, after an hour or so, lynn sprang back into her usual self--demanding updates, offering tea, smiling. i spent the whole day there, joined by her son. i did not work to exclude him from the images as i had before, as he is part of her story too.
i tried to vary my angles. attached my wide angle and flash for full room shots, however gremlins possessed my flash, rendering it unusable (naturally it performed perfectly the following day). but in class, my fellow students were all drawn to this 'bad flash' photo above, citing some kind of spiritual component.
there are obvious themes emerging--the ever-present coiling of life sustaining tubes, the light slashing through the darkness from window blinds leaving diagonal stripes aplenty, the frailty and communication in her hands, the branding of the 'kindred' name into identification bands, her food, her room, even her teeth.
since i didn't have any new images to present, and for the past two weeks i'd shown my work via the computer, i did a massive two-day printing session and brought in nearly 40 prints for a comprehensive edit. understand that edit is not the fondest word in my vocabulary! and understand that i'd already edit down from hundreds of images to arrive at these forty.
i know, fundamentally that less is more. i just don't know that in my heart. my heart feels like more is more. this, of course, presented a challenge to my skillfully adept instructor as he tried to 'slash and burn' the series. somehow we worked it down to nineteen images, with a promise to shoot once more, cut four of these out and add three new. pity to my teacher, who looked guiltily at me as he made the edits, often asking, "are you okay? you look as though you're on the verge of tears?" a poker face i do not possess.
yes, i suppose i'm a bit too emersed in this project right now. i little too close.
also, completely unsure of how i will present the final series. only two weeks left of class! unreal how the time has flown.

i think i'll upload all images to flickr as a set and poll my myriad of readers. soon. just really busy now!

her fatal step

from the 'ancient diner' see more click here.