Except I actually do. This is a sentence I have heard twice in as many years. Two men who have said to me that they do not read.
Not can not. Do not.
Mark Twain, be still!
Then I begin to think in my head about all of the love I have for books and all of the memories surrounding reading that exist in my life. When I was five, I was on the front page of our town newspaper because I was there so much. I was already a reader and I was also going to graduate high school in the year 2000. In 1987, this was a big deal...for town newspapers.
I seriously went to the library constantly. Bless my mother and father for buying a home around the corner from the town library. My parents also read to me every night. I was a repeat reader, always wanting the same stories, and I still like to re-read books. I love to see how the meaning changes as my life changes. Perhaps it is an exercise in vanity, but I really don't care. I love the story of Seal Child
and who gives a shit if it was written for fourth graders and I am now thirty one? I also love Oranges are not the Only Fruit
and can pretty much read that book once a month until who knows when.
The point is, I love books. I have many books. When John Waters spoke about how you shouldn't have sex with people if they don't own books
, my agreement soared like the Reading Rainbow logo
. But what do you do when you meet someone who seems interesting, only to discover they do not read?
Mortar board tells all.
In 2008, I moved to Brooklyn to attend Hunter College and study dance. A small U-haul truck loaded with a mattress, my clothes, various art supplies, and my cat served as a vessel for transition. It should have been the easiest move ever, considering the light load.
But why should it be easy? ;)
The ride from Rochester, NY to NYC only lasts about 6.5 hours, 7 maybe. I cannot even say how long it took me to reach my new home in Crown Heights that day. I've blocked the exact number of extra hours out, and so has my cat.
Lost on the NJ turnpike (I had driven to NYC a MILLION times, but on that hot August day in a non air conditioned truck...who knows.) a state cop asked me how I gained access to their parking lot, which is apparently secure. He was baffled, I was lost, Meara (the cat) was hot. Have you seen a cat pant? I didn't know my cat could pant until that day.
Finally, I arrive in Brooklyn, ready to meet my dear friends who were waiting to lend a hand in unpacking & welcome me into my new home.
Did you know that when you move into a new place, you should always check the city parade schedule? Now you do. If I never write anything of use to you again, please remember this one helpful tip. I never wish upon you a duplicate of the events that unfolded that day.
Obviously traffic was at a standstill, I was calling everyone apologizing for scheduling a move during the West Indian Day Parade which marched and danced and boomed right past my new building, and meara was still panting. I was blocks away from my moving party, and yet it took me hours to arrive.
My amazing friends never once became upset during the worst move. Ever.
Later, while snacking with my pal Tim over some tasty buss up shut roti, I began to slowly realize the new path my life was taking.
Moving to NYC is hard. I'm convinced everyone goes through a hazing period of some kind. Whether it is monetary circumstance or just getting the pace into your bones, it's just different here than other places. Which is just about the most arbitrary and true sentence I could have written.
Mine included: Trucking up the 59th street station escalator, which was broken, with a severe case of bronchitis my first winter here. I was slow, people yelled. I got some Jewish guy that lived in the neighborhood arrested for aggravated entry after he followed me into my building and asked if we could "make yoga". That thanksgiving there was a double homicide on the doorstep of my building. The kids in the building wrote 'bitch' on my door because I didn't want to buy their school chocolates. Oh well. The building got bed bugs which means I got bedbugs. Meara also had bedbugs. They spare no mammal. Gun shots in neighboring apartments became semi normal.
I mostly stayed at Hunter. I slept over there many nights. The seventh floor studio is very private. I don't think anyone knew, or at least they didn't say anything.
The 10 year old who owns these shades is cooler than me. Trust.
Eventually, I got the hang of things.
I moved to Bushwick. I broke up with a guy I was dating back in Rochester. I took some time off from school & worked, found stability, made a support network here, went to Australia, made new and awesome friends, danced a lot, cried a lot, sang a lot, and made some art. Then I went back in the fall of 2012 to finish what I came here to do and even jetted off to Argentina on a Gilman scholarship. Not bad.
I'm pretty proud of what I've made of myself so far. I'm not rich, I don't have letters to follow my name, and I haven't even seen my name in lights, but I have learned huge important lessons that may not have come my way until much later had I chosen a different path. Who knows?
I earned what I have with the support of my parents, my school, and my friends. I am lucky. Very lucky.
I love Brooklyn. I don't know if NYC is my home forever, but I am glad that my dream of living here is now made true. I always knew I would move here, and I will continue to travel and launch into new phases.
I am more myself now than I ever have felt. Finally.
I welcome the changes that are coming, and I thank all the people and opportunities along the way.
You can teach yourself this skill, but it's hard. I recommend a professional. Me! ;)
Hey! One thousand page views this month people! Not a lot for Sir Internet, but I am impressed...
I don't care if those views are accidental page hits or not. Pretty neat that someone, even a robot, is clicking around.
In celebration of this, I give you something I was already making anyways:
Some trunks are bigger than others.
Taking orders, so let me know what color and you too can have a lovely cute, completely unpredictable elephant. Ellie Fant. Elli Phunk. Ello Font.
Unpredictable because I have no clue how each one is going to turn out. Ever.
But seriously, if you want one, ping me.
I have never had a coach before. Well, maybe once, in t-ball or when I learned to swim, but that does not count because I was not on a real team and the only thing that coach did was throw me in the deep end as I screamed and cried.
I was that kid. Oh well.
Regardless, I suppose I have been coming to terms with the idea that I can't do it all alone, and also, I don't want to! I LIKE having people around me, I ENJOY being in a class, and I LOVE discussing ideas out loud.
So I got a creative coach and there are group sessions and it is all hunky dory. Ah yes. 'Hunky dory'
Anyway, what I am realizing is that I kinda need to be a little bit of that jerk coach and throw myself in the deep end. Because for every compliment I receive about how much someone liked my piece or whatever, I always secretly think to myself, 'thank you but you haven't seen what I can REALLY do.'
And what kind of shit is that? What am I waiting for? Have I seen what I can really do?
Ugh. Just do it already. I know I'm not alone in this. Most artists will relate to this at some point.
Sometimes I think about how this blog is mostly quite personal and doesnt really touch on issues other than, well...me. But something about taking this time to write it out, post it publically (for, like, the two people who read this-Hi Dad!) to see, and thus take some sort of tangible responsibility for what I write and think and say feels necessary.
(Side note - My need for permission has really got to go. It seriously hasn't ever been productive.)
I pulled a card from the Artist Way card deck while at the group meeting. I'm on my ipad, so linking to the author is not gonna happen. Google it-worth it, I promise you.
Anyway-my card was Strength, and this is what it told me:
"As you learn to recognize, nurture, and protect your inner artist, you will be able to move beyond pain and creative constriction. You will learn ways to recognize & resolve fear, remove emotional scar tissue, & strengthen your confidence. Damaging old ideas about creativity will be explored and discarded."
That is one hell of a fortune cookie.
I think a lot of art comes from pain, and perhaps can even be born out of emotional scar tissue. Then again, I've been wrong before.
I suppose what all the words I wrote tonight really come down to is this:
I want to spend more time doing what it is that I do.
Dance. Create. Teach.
More of this.
I know I have never written a letter to you before, or even really acknowledged you are here...but today I write to you to tell you how happy and grateful I am that you exist.
I've never seen your face, at least not as I see my own in the mirror each morning. I've never experienced your scent, not the way I can still conjure the mixture of Irish Spring soap, pressed powder, and geraniums that was my grandmothers house. I've never held your hand as I do a child's, or touched your skin as I have the body of someone I love. I cannot hear you sing, and I do not know the shape of your smile, but I know when you are not there.
For everything I do not know about you, that is what you know of me. This must be true, because when we are together, when you come into me, you never lead me astray. If I let you in to rearrange the furniture to your liking, you always direct me in the best direction. Regardless of best, most, peak of ability or form, it is always exactly what I need to learn.
You make me high. You drive me. You move so quickly, so elegantly, that sometimes all I can do is laugh...or cry. This usually causes me to abandon words, surrendering to deeper communications that are both more accurate and less specific. Thank you.
Sometimes you paralyze me and disarm all I have built only to show me how to walk into the fire while acknowledging the pain and coming out the other side exhausted and fragile with altered composition.
It is then that I grow. A seed germinating in volcanic ash. It just goes.
When you leave, I morn you. I find you, and once again I have found myself.
You are my greatest inspiration. You create through sabotage and encouragement, enthusiasm and chaos.
Sometimes you never shut up and I simply cannot chase you. You expand and touch every part of me, as air can, and I am overwhelmed by our relation.
You know all of this, because you never really go away. I will act like I do not want you but really, I need you everyday.
You are why I breathe.
You are why I love.
You are why I make.
You make me strong and fearless and I trust you with all that I am.
What's past is past. I will never stop trying for you.
I changed the keyboard on my iPhone to Korean. I wanted to understand her, understand what had happened. She was a quiet woman and her english was enough for most occasions, but not for this one. My coat had been damaged at the dry cleaners and she was trying so hard to tell me what went wrong. Her husband appeared, spitting words out, saying (I think) that the buckles were already damaged when I brought the coat in. I couldn't really understand him either, but with her angry husband there, she too began to bolster herself for a fight.
I told her I wasn't angry. I said I just wanted to understand what she was trying to say.
"YOU PAY." he shouted.
I ignored him. I no longer pay attention to people who yell at me. Ever.
"I really just want to talk to you." I tell her. She nods. She looks at the counter. She begins to shake.
"YOU PAY NOW." He grabs the coat off the counter hanger and slams it back on the cleaning line.
"Please give me my coat and I am going to pay." I say this all to her.
She nods. She shoos him away. For awhile we are alone and she gives me a markdown for the damage. Above the register there are two family photos. In one, she is wearing a fantastic fuchsia ball gown that is wide with taffeta. Her children are stylishly dressed in black behind her while the father stands off to the side while they all show their smiles. I handed her my iPhone, she began to type. The husband returns and found her with my iPhone and hits her shoulder hard. She doesn't react. He screams and hits her again, this time on the back. She is shaking harder...for the years of marriage and work and who knows what else...
She tells me she will replace the buckles by friday and she is breathing so lightly. I give her money and finally we look at each other. She looks so scared and so apologetic. When she hands me the change, I sneak $10 under the change and say "For you" and she nods a thank you. I wish I could give her more; something that would save her from him.
He finally leaves the corner behind the line where he has been watching and listening. She takes my hand and looks at me and says she sorry. She is so sorry. So, so sorry. I kiss her hand. She has nothing to be sorry about. We step over to the rack and she promises me my coat by friday and takes my hand again..."No," I tell her, "it's okay. I understand. I understand you." And she squeezes my hand.
"It feels like..." and she motions with her body in a small way to her chest. I know that feeling of intimidation. Of humility. Of being trapped. My situation was so much easier to leave than hers, but the mind control is the same. The adrenaline that courses through you makes you sick, and you learn to maintain yourself. I hug her. I hug her so tightly. I tell her she is okay, but then I think that her husband is actually right about me being a liar. I lie to her and she smiles the same pink taffeta picture smile. "I know. I know. I know." Is all I can say before she hugs me again, before I leave her there with him.
Who knows why you see people crying on the subway. They're scared, they're angry, their heart broke for someone they felt close to for only 10 minutes.
When you have experienced abuse and then you meet someone who is presently trapped inside it, what can you do? How can you help?
I don't know. I still hear him, "You pay. You pay now!"
She is the one who pays. I used to pay, but then I stopped.
All I can do is understand it. Intimidation. Silence. Secrets. Suffering.
She pays for everything.
Just thought I'd post this reminder to everyone...even sometimes I forget.
I also watched a video recently of a commencement speech given to I forget what class at what school (it was University of Philidelphia, Class of 2012) but that doesn't matter because it was Neil Gaiman.
He said, "When things get tough, Make Good Art."
There you have it. The best advice ever. He has a new book based on this speech and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
Make Good Art, people. And dance furiously.
Argentina...te extraño, todavía.
No puedo olvidar tus cuerpo, tus voz, tus aire.
Donde estoy? No cerca. No ahora. Pronto, voy a graduarme desde universidad y entonces, voy a ser libre.
Quiero enseñar bailar a los hijos y las hijas. Quiero tomar en tus calles. Quiero comer tus estrellas y ponerlos en mi bolsillos para más tarde, cuando otra vez, tengo hambre.
Ahora yo se porque el idioma de tus es muy poetica. Porque cuando hablarlo, veo cosas de vida con más hermosamente.
Conozco que no puedo a usar tus palabras corectamente, pero I puede algún día.
Cuando hago, entonces voy a escribir y decir todos cosa. Este es verdad.
te extraño, te extraño, te extraño
La cara de sus calles. Los sonidos de sus noches. Dijeron que no me gustaría a regresar a mi casa.
Para los desparacidos
Everything is new. New apartment. New degree. New motivation. New language. New opportunities. New outlook. New classes.
This past month, I've been teaching at the COHSI's Curiosity Project in Staten Island, curated by my friend and partner in dance crime, Melissa West. I also performed this saturday past at Jennifer Muller's HATCH series with Danielle Connolly. It was there that I met Jennifer Montoya of Touch Theory Dance and was invited to become part of her growing company. I will be styling for photographer Tim Goodwin for some of his headshot clients, and for Choreographer Trina Mannino for her recent work, set to shoot on May 10th. At this months end, I am co-hosting a workshop by one, wonderful Al Wunder from Australia! April 28th at the Randy Warshaw studios.
Now I know this is really a giant list, but writing it all out finally gives me a moment to say to myself...this is the beginning, how it starts. This is where it all gets rolling and keeps going until you look up later and say, hey! Look at all this stuff we made! All this work I've done.
And then you smile put your head down again, and keep going.
I'm keeping my head down for now-a brief reflection is okay for now, but no jumping away to the future without first doing the work. However-I'll still be smiling, even if it is at the ground for awhile :)
Running has really got a lot of fans, and this dancer is one of them. I am truly stoked about running. It's pretty much one of the best things to do with your body ever...after dancing.
For those of you who say to yourself, "I can't run" let me just stop you right there.
I used to say that. I told myself I couldn't run because doctors told me I couldn't run. Do you know how many times doctors are wrong? I mean, they know a lot about the human body, but they happen to ALSO be human. So that means they can be wrong, and man, were they ever wrong.
I have arthritis. I have mild asthma. I am a dancer sure, but my cardiovascular health was never a top priority because I thought dance was all I needed. WRONG. All of it is wrong.
If I don't dance and run, my knees ache. How's that for all the advice of doctors telling me to rest, maybe try cortisone shots, and while we are at it, manually drain the fluid with a needle...
No one ever ever ever advised me to run. Rest, they said, your knees are over used.
Now I believe that my knees were not used enough. They were quite literally aching to be used.
Relief from pain is not all running provides. Additionally, I happen to be happier ALL THE TIME. Which is fantastic! My cravings for food are less intense, and my appetite doesn't fluxuate as frequently. My body and mind feel nothing short of awesome when I run.
You are not me. Perhaps your arthritis is different than mine, perhaps your asthma more severe. All I encourage you to do is to believe you can do SOMETHING that will make you feel even more awesome than you already are.
I leave you with a very happy photo taken after a night of dancing but lead me to a morning of running (for 45 minutes!)
Getting down to get up. Team disco.