Brooklyn is my neighborhood

Carson McCullers wrote a cute, brief essay on Brooklyn that was published in Vogue in 1941. Since I’m sure absolutely nothing has changed in Brooklyn or even New York in general since then, I thought I’d share a piece in honor of Mia’s new home, and, more importantly, give me a taste of something to look forward to when I visit in August.

“Miss Kate is a good woman,” this competitor said to me. “But she dislikes washing herself. So she only bathes once a year, when it is summer. I expect she’s just abut the dirtiest woman in Brooklyn.” His voice as he said this was not at all malicious; rather, there was in it a quality of wondering pride. That is one of the things I love best about Brooklyn. Every one is not expected to be exactly like every one else.

I could have quoted Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but I think McCullers is one of the few authors Mia and I both read and liked, so it seems a little more apt. Now, onto the photo montage of the home and memories Mia left in Seattle. This is gonna be better than a mixtape! There are so many pictures of Mia on this blog!

Family, Home, Me

My dearest of dears, my friendest of friends is putting together a pretty incredible project in her town of Xerém, Brazil. Her photojournalism/storytelling project is engaging the kids in the community she works with there, as well as everyone else from home and abroad. So, I highly recommend 1. checking it out here 2. participating.

So, Michelle, here is my submission for photos of home, family, and a self-portrait.

On a semi-side note:

I’m reading Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea right now, and I was reminded of these people (family) and places (home) that are so inseparable from who we are and how we see ourselves. I suppose this photo project really gets to the crux of that, but when reading Mishima I was reminded of what it’s like to be a child and to take great meaning in the relationships between so many other people, places and things— mostly by allowing them to play a much more intimate role in characterizing what I thought of myself. I remember trying to understand my world by creating rules for how things must be, how people and places had to align, because that was just the way things were. Once I had rules for the world I could understand how to exist within those norms. I want to say a big part of growing up (sigh) was letting go of those rules, of those direct lines we draw from bed to safety or from home to family or from one heart to another….but really I think I ended up drawing more lines, building more relationships between places and feelings, or between people and myself.

Of course, Mishima’s Noboru captures it all so perfectly drastically:

“Noboru and mother– mother and man–man and sea– sea and Noboru…

He was choked, wet, ecstatic. Certain he had watched a tangle of thread unravel to trace a hollowed figure. And it would have to be protected: for all he knew, he was its thirteen-year-old creator.

‘If this world is ever destroyed, it’ll mean the end of the world,’ Noboru murmured, barely conscious. I guess I’d do anything to stop that, no matter how awful!

Home

Family

Self-Portrait

Dear Mr. Sendak,

I’m sorry I never wrote before this, and I’m very sorry to hear that you have passed.

Most people I know read your books or had your books read to them when they were quite little. And, as they grew older, they never really got over them. This must have been what led so many people to call your works timeless.

I wasn’t really one of those kids. I remember “Where the Wild Things Are,” of course, and your illustrative style is so familiar to me now it feels like it was penned from my own hand. In reality, though, I fell in love with you last year.

Imagine me, Lindsay You Don’t Know, working in a bookstore, trying to make big decisions. So I make a friend. She happens to be 65 years old and loves scrap-booking. She loves storytelling and crafts and things that remind her of days past. She collects vintage Penguins and hand-drawn postcards and I think she must be God. So I ask her questions and I tell her about myself and she brings photos of the places she’s been in her life and when she talks she often wells up with tears or reaches to touch you like a cat. Except that I mind cats and I mind touching, but I don’t mind this. This goes on for a year or so.

This is where you come in, Mr. Sendak. It’s the day that we get in this extraordinary book. The Art of Maurice Sendak by Selma G. Lanes. I pour over it, touching the pages with the palms of my hands because my fingertips are too dirty and I just can’t resist. It’s big and it’s heavy as art books are. Because my friend assumes the best in all people she tells me that she loves that I love you.

She didn’t know that I was just getting to know you. That you were securely pinned somewhere in the back recesses of my memory and she would be the one to bring you out.  And, since she is God, she already knew that I was to love you.

I’ll speed up the story a bit now, because I know you don’t have time for this. You don’t even know me. Basically, I get to know you so well all at once and in all the right ways. My friend brings me a copy of Higglety Pigglety Pop, or There Must Be More to Life. And I find myself reading, re-reading, and quoting aloud from a children’s book as though it’s gospel. Then, at home, on my wood floor in front of the heater, I read the story behind the Higglety Pigglety Pop, and Jennie, your dog. I am so sorry to hear about her passing. I know how hard losing a dear friend can be. I’m sure she would have loved the story, too.

I also read much more about your life, but I won’t be one of those weird people who pretends like she knows you because she’s read your works or something someone once wrote about your life. That’s the last thing you need right now. What I’m writing to tell you is just how much you inspired me at a certain time in my life. Maybe for most kids it was at an earlier time, and not at twenty-two.

So now we’re getting back to why everyone calls your works timeless. I suppose because what you write and draw has everything to do with time. It has everything to do with understanding what it’s like to be a child—particularly by bringing out the often eerie, haunting experience of childhood. It also has everything to do with a deep-seeded understanding of mortality that transcends both time and age. It has everything to do with mischief and monsters– with being trapped in unruly nightmares, and finding adventure in the solitude of our imagination. Somehow, in all your sketched oddities or three-worded prose pieces, you manage to recall the momentous courage found in insatiable hearts.  The Odysseys that stretch between dream and reality.  The nakedness of our thoughts. The child, maid, monster, or dog who loves salami finding wonder and meaning in the wilderness we inhabit…both together and entirely alone.

So there you have it. Now you know me, or at least you know of me what you so graciously gave to me. Thank you, Mr. Sendak.

Always,

Lindsay

 

“Two pillows, two bowls, a red wool sweater, eyedrops, eardrops, two different bottles of pills, a thermometer, and he even loves you.”

“That is true, ” said Jennie, chewing more leaves.

“You have everything,” repeated the plant.

Jennie only nodded, her mouth full of leaves.

“Then why are you leaving?”

“Because, ” said Jennie, snapping off the stem and blossom, “I am discontented.I want something I do not have. There must be more to life than having everything!”

The plant had nothing to say. It had nothing left to say it with.

 

 

Ode to an apartment

They tell me they are going to tear my building down. I found out with a note under my door, a link in my inbox, and, later that day, an article in the paper. Nothing will happen until June next year, and who knows where I will be then?

In the meantime it’s made me a bit nostalgic. This has been my first apartment on my own. (Ridiculously nice, yoga studio-esque ‘dorms’ in Germany excluded.)

I’ve started wishing I knew more about this building, or, more importantly, about the people who have inhabited this place before me. It’s old enough that it has certainly seen death. And I know that since I moved in, and hopefully since it was built in 1916, it’s seen some pretty great times, too. But apart from what this little shoebox has done and been for me, I really don’t know much more.

Now, I don’t meant to get too sentimental. This 300 square foot beauty wasn’t exactly where I was planning on settling down for life, but it’s been a perfect host to this particular part of my life. I would hope that someone else would get to inherent this space and all its glory— god-awful plumbing and grey-painted wood floors included.

I grew up in a family of six, and we moved more times than I could count. Six times in five years was the most in a row, but we never really seemed to stop. Not very far, usually, but enough to shift the ground under my feet and dramatically increase the likelihood that I would throw tantrums when I couldn’t find the scissors.

With four kids curled up in our beds, my father used to play the “memory game” with us before we fell asleep. He would ask us where we put the broom in the Grossbeak house, and what color was the bathtub in the D street house? I was likely too young to remember many of the answers, but these never-to-be-forgotten spaces were then transplanted from my father’s memory to mine.

My senior year of high school I lived without my family. When I felt lonely or out of place in someone else’ home, I thought back to the places that had set the scene for so much of my past.

In college the moving from dorm to dorm to house to house was all part of that transitory time. Walls with footprints, windows with cardboard, and beer cans lining the dining room where no one ever dined. I’m glad I lived in all these places—I’m not sure I’d ever choose to move back–but they’ve become part of my own memory game now.

And so now I have this apartment. I only assumed that someone else would move in after me and this would be her very first apartment too. Maybe she would throw more parties or put up a more charming decor. Probably she would have more sleepovers and certainly a better stocked refrigerator. Or maybe this would be the place where she would get the phone call that she got her first real job, like I did. Maybe she would set up her couch just right, so she can sit on its edge and watch the world below her and feel so independent and so free. Mostly she would sit watching people get arrested while eating toast, like I do. But sometimes she would buzz a friend or family through the front door and find so much pride in this 300 square foot life she’s made for herself. Four walls, six book shelves, one life all her own.

Winter Favorites List

Mia asked me to write down my top ten favorite books. She said I had until Friday. Roughly two months later, I have a number of lists scribbled down on a number of different receipts and bookmarks.  I tried to keep each of my lists to roughly ten books, and when a list got any longer than that I made lists for separate sub-categories. They span from “coming of age” to “family chronicles” to simply “Japanese.”

But today, since I saw some sun through the shop window for half a day that put me in a chipper mood, I thought I’d put together a list of the books that got me through this particular winter. As I have probably mentioned to some of you, I didn’t think this winter was particularly bad. That could be for a number of reasons, and I certainly wouldn’t rule out denial, but a good book is a pretty distracting thing…especially on a rainy day.

Winter 2011/2012 Favorites List, in no particular order:

Kazuo Ishiguro- Never Let Me Go

I don’t read much modern fiction, but this winter I dabbled in some more recent stuff, and I’m really glad I did. Another of my somewhat recent modern favorites is Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. I mention him here because both he and Ishiguro play with memory, mortality and destruction in such a way that somehow turns an  imaginary past into a haunting place of refuge. Or, as Sebald says in Emigrants:  “Zerstöret das Letzte die Erinnerung nicht

Gabriel Garcia Marquez-Clandestine in Chile

I thought I had read everything Garcia Marquez ever wrote (er…that was published), until I realized I had mixed up News of a Kidnapping with Clandestine in Chile. I remedied this over Christmas. It was such a fantastic, quick piece of non-fiction! And somehow it also doesn’t lose any of Garcia Marquez’s iconic style.  In fact, sometimes that magical realism is almost more poignantly voiced through the mouths of unbelievably real people with a seemingly supernatural, omnipresent love and longing for ‘home.’

Carson McCullers- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

“You’re tearing me apart Lisa!!!” Scroll down to the blog post from sometime this winter in which I pour my heart out to Carson McCullers. Since that post, I’ve read a bunch of her short stories and essays and a few other novellas. All good. All great, actually. But Heart is a Lonely Hunter can so solidly stand on its own. Big love stamp from Lindsay on this one.

Willa Cather- My Antonia

When  I started to read this I was shot back to my childhood Laura Ingalls Wilder phase and I was certain I’d just be reading about Ma and Pa and dang snake bites and passing the ol’ pig skin to kill time out on the prairie. I was mostly wrong, in all the right ways.

Just when you’re not sure how all her portraits and landscapes are going to fuse together in any clear-cut, overarching understanding, she pulls out lines like this: “Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky- Memories of the Future

Memories, memories, memories, time travel, memories, memories, time machine, memories, memories, mad scientist, memories…

Patrick Leigh Fermor- A Time of Gifts

Like Carson McCullers, I was so entrenched in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s travel memoir/prose/pre-WWI historical sketching that I dedicated a short post to him earlier this winter. It was, in a sense, a rough read, because it brought back that contagious feeling of adventure through travel. And in a less self-indulgent, egocentric Jack Kerouac kind-of-way, he wraps you in his travels by so eloquently capturing the character of  a people and the complexion of a place.

Side note– did you get a look at that jaw-line?? Cat sounds!

Least-Favorites List

A few books I could have done without this winter, all for completely different reasons, but mainly under three categories: “Bored to tears,” “Holy God I’m too depressed for this” and “Oprah’s Book Club” in no particular order:

Margaret Atwood- A Handmaid’s Tale

Knut Hamsun- Hunger

Maude Hutchins- Victorine

Ijburg and the Treaty of Nostalgia

This time of year I get pretty nostalgic for pretty much anything. The Germans have the perfect word for it: sehnsüchtig. From sehnen– “to yearn for” and suchtig– “addicting.” All together we get the ever-so-romantic adjective of “being addicted to yearning.”

So I got nostalgic for traveling, and then I looked through old journals and anecdotes from some of my early trips out of the country, and found that in those travel journals I wrote mostly about my memories of home. There really never is any simple satisfaction, I suppose.

My cooler-than-cool younger brother just got back from Amsterdam, and I certainly hope he spent less of his time day dreaming than I did when I was there. So, for giggles, here’s an old journal piece from the last time I was in Amsterdam.

“Ijburg,” I said. The man behind the glass shield just laughed. “I mean …Centraal Station.” We were at Ijburg, the last stop on the 26 tram. I passed him my 2,40 Euros and, with an embarrassed resignation, took a seat by the window.

Rainy days in Amsterdam are so different from rainy days in Seattle, I thought, but could not think beyond the frustrations of the day to my support my observation.

At the station, I stepped off the tram and pulled my hood over my head, relentlessly pushing my wet bangs away from my eyes. Centraal Station is always teeming with people, but somehow the rainy days made the insatiable crowd more overwhelmingly vacant and domineering.  I remembered a tale a boy once recounted for me; hungry ghosts, I thought, all I see are hungry ghosts. So I hurried by the vibrant accordion player and his trumpeter companion pinned against a wall by the mass of people. I stepped past wide-eyed backpackers and stumbled across the intersection of trams, knowing this specific spot was my least favorite crevice of the planet.

I followed Damrak, my pace quick and steady through the mélange of sex shops and tourist traps. I was still encircled by assorted faces and legs and arms and hands—some with umbrellas, some without.

Damrak turned without notice into Rokin. The voices of tourists faded into the sounds of trams rushing against their wet metal tracks and a woman’s boots methodically clapped against the cobblestone pavement with a beat that was just slightly off. Sex shops became coffee shops and döner kebab joints. Rokin crossed Singel and Amstel before it transformed into Vijzelstraat. I walked on the side opposite to the cinema where the night before I watched My Bloody Valentine through 3D glasses, and I felt my lingering horror and a maturing disgrace with my judgment at the time.

Cold and wet, with pangs of hunger, and still embittered by the lasting effects of that damn movie I continued. Herengracht passed, and then Keizergracht. I stopped under the striped awning of a forlorn café to check the map I had scrawled out for myself that morning. My blue ink scratches told me I had gone too far. I crossed the road, turned down a narrow side street, and eventually found myself at my destination. Lipstick-red Helvetica that spelled out F-O-A-M was my guiding beam of light, so I pulled down my hood and rowed my boat ashore.

Perhaps if I wasn’t still loosening the buttons on my jacket I wouldn’t have gone down the wrong stairwell after entering. Perhaps if I wasn’t alone someone would have pointed me in the direction of the start of the exhibit, rather than the end. Maybe if I had learned Dutch I could have read the signs. But my jacket was too stiff and wet, I was entirely alone, and I know hardly a word of that linguistic anomaly some call a language. And so the second portrait I saw in the Richard Avedon exhibition at FOAM Fotogalerie was not of Marilyn Monroe’s tragic smile, Andy Warhol’s scarred stomach, or any number of artists whose portraits were more familiar to me than their works.

Instead I met eyes with the portrait of a bare-chested, bald man with only a minor expression on his face. His body—pallid and glowing against the white background—was shrouded by bees. I stood before him rain-drenched, resentful of the day’s circumstances, and still unable to admit my own likeness with the masses of hungry ghosts. The shock of the bees and the unnervingly slight expression on the pale man were aesthetically wasted on me until I read the words below. Beekeeper. May 9, 1981. Davis, California.

I had to look twice, and then a third time, but it was still there: the hallowed writing on the wall.  Davis, California. Then, for the first time, I felt the man watching me. I looked back. I spied the photographer’s reflection in the eyes and recognized the scenery behind the man with a camera: the landscape I knew so well. I thought I saw the navy silhouette of the mountains from the hollow of the valley, and I could have sworn to have seen the shape of the fields along Russell Boulevard in the spring. There I saw it—the playfulness of shouts and hollers around the town’s sulfuric fountain, the succulence of the peach from a weathered palm in the Saturday market, the vivacity in the dance of moths under her doorstep lantern, and the roundness of all the molecules that together compose a place, a home. Somewhere, in the acuteness of his eyes I recognized the surface of the world as seen from my dreamscape.

In the solitude of my own flight from familiarity, I recognized the contour of the world I would never, could never leave behind, as it is not mine to lose.

When I left the gallery the rain had stopped. On my way back I found comfort in the cadence of the city—its shadows and echoes, its lines and curves that cast the landscape of dream and memory for someone else. I found myself in a palace of memories I did not own and therefore could not see. I followed the tram lines through a labyrinth of translucent narratives, and I held tight to a timeless and unconditional nearness to home.

Image

Oh hey, Blog, how you been?

My least favorite thing to read when I’m scanning other blogs is: “It’s been a while since I last posted…” It’s a line much overused, in my humble opinion, yet here I am, implying that it belongs here.

A lot has happened since my last post. Not ‘a lot’ like zombie attack ‘a lot’ but, ‘a lot’ like the ordinary happenings of a Lindsay ‘a lot.’ For one thing, I did get an iPhone, which has made it a bit more difficult to bring out my camera when I have one sitting so nicely in my pocket. So, what better way to share a few Lindsay adventures than through that new gadget that sucks up time and sometimes makes phone calls too.

Let’s start with when I received cool things in the mail from Maureen.

Or when Mia introduced me to my new favorite sandwich at Salumi’s, and we were both in Heaven.

When we continued for a “Second Lunch” in the International District.

I met a great dog on a sunny day.

Took a stroll near my apartment.

Attended my first hockey game.

Ate my way through Valentine’s Day.

Made a dent in Mia’s white chocolate mountain.

Took some pics of a Swede-heart.

Tim came to visit after his 2 month trip in South East Asia.

Made a second trip to Salumi’s.

Attended a robot flash mob!

And it went really well!

And made some new friends!

To watch a really nice piece KOMO 4 did on Make-A-Wish kid, Alex, and his wish to help humanity using robots click here.