CD’S & Patti Smith

January 9, 2019


Burning Bridges

November 22, 2018

I’m not sure I know anyone who has burned a bridge, except my mom, who burned them often and without regret.

But now, among my friends, I don’t know anyone who has. I’ve known people who know people. I’ve seen it on you tube. But I don’t know one person who has even wanted to burn a bridge.

The world, and my tiny state of Rhode Island, feels too small, too intimate, too connected.

I might know people who need the bridge, and like it. Who want it to last. Who want to use it. These people, who are my friends, will be angry at me.

There is a bridge I have wanted to set afire for about three years.

At first, there were a few people on the bridge I hoped would be on it when it went up in flames. Now, with the passage of time, I have softened and there is only one person left on the bridge when it collapses.

I have mentioned this desire to a few people and all of them warn me against it. No who knows why I want to burn it thinks my desire is unjustified. They just believe it will backfire and somehow hurt me.

And therein lies the dilemma.

Is it always necessary to use good judgement?

In this day of cell phone recorders and cameras, how many people are going to question my judgement when the moment of wreckage is taken out of context?

At this moment I still want to burn the bridge. But I am not stupid or reckless. I have to wait.

By the time I am ready, I wonder if that one person will be around to fall. I wonder if I’ll be around both in terms of geography and of mortality.

By the time the time is right, I wonder if I will still have this desire and the courage to see it through.

I wonder if good sense and a forgiving nature will win out.

I hope not.

Just once I want to let my anger run its course. I don’t want to pour water on the flames. I want to open the door and let the oxygen rush in. I want to see a blaze and then, I want to finally walk away, walk away.

Walk away.


May 20, 2018

When I was 7 or 8 or 9 I was in Florida staying with my grandparents. My two brothers were there as well. Even on sunny days I spent hours coloring, drawing. I wanted to be as good as my oldest brother who is 7 years older than I am and a year older than my middle brother. My grandmother thought he was a genius. He was the most creative, most intelligent, most beautiful of us. I agreed with her.

My grandmother had taste. She knew Andy Warhol. She had a fake Picasso, a big eyed Keane, and leopard print everywhere. Also houndstooth, Cupids, turquoise. She owned Pucci dresses. I tried to make art as good as my brother’s but I just couldn’t.

One sunny afternoon I did a drawing with pencil or crayons or markers. It was half a face in blue and half, upside down, in red. It was on white paper. I was trying for Picasso, but I thought it was a failure and I think I left it on the table.

My grandmother discovered it. She thought it was amaaaaazzzzzing. She put it in a lucite frame and declared my brother the creator. I still thought it wasn’t so great but I could not believe that she would not believe me when I told her I had made it. I had no proof. But I remembered all my choices. The colors, the hair, turning the paper. My brother had no memory of making it but she would never believe me. My middle brother knows this story and thinks it’s hilarious.

I don’t. There was an infinitesimal part of me that suddenly had doubt. When she would not believe me, I did not believe me. I needed her belief in order to restore mine.

It made me feel invisible.

The drawing has long since disappeared.

I drew it.

Here I Am.

April 19, 2018

I haven’t written a blog in a long time.

Much of my life right now is not shareable in this age of sharing everything.

I am most visible at work. At the library, my full time job, I am usually in the center of a big room, standing in plain sight, with a name tag hanging around my neck on a black nylon cord.

After work, I like to run. Now that the light lasts longer, I see people I know.

I go to art events when time allows. Those are tricky. I seem to have my response time set on delay, so that when people ask me how I am, a reasonable question, I freeze for a moment.

Some nights I have time to draw. I like to have a movie playing on my studio tv; the movies I know, almost by heart.

My recent drawings are made with pencils.

As I draw, head facing paper, my favorite background movies are You’ve Got Mail, Shopgirl, and Julie & Julia.

Julie & Julia was on tonight. When Julie Powell is interviewed by Amanda Hesser from The NY Times, her life changes, and I am excited. She goes from unknown secretary at a call center to writer, with 62 messages on her answering machine from editors, publishers, literary agents. I am weepy when Julia Child gets the letter from Knopf (she says to her husband Paul “is it K-Noph or Noph? and he says “who cares! And she says who cares?!”) telling her they would LOVE to publish her cook book.

In Shopgirl, Mirabelle Buttersfield is an artist, unknown, waiting to be seen, noticed. And then, eventually, finally, she IS seen. First by the wrong man, and then the right one, as well as a gallery. Her relationship with Ray Porter reminds me of a relationship I had with a much older man, in my 20’s. This movie has a fairy tale quality, but something about it grabs me and gives me hope.

There is art. And this quote:

As Ray Porter watches Mirabelle walk away he feels a loss. How is it possible, he thinks, to miss a woman whom he kept at a distance so that when she was gone he would not miss her. Only then does he realize that wanting part of her and not all of her had hurt them both and how he cannot justify his actions except that… well… it was life.

You’ve Got Mail breaks my heart because it is about the end of an independent bookstore, swallowed whole by a giant big box store. Of course there is love and a new beginning, but there is a scene where Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly closes the store and feels like she has failed the memory of her mother. Something about that beautiful, empty shop makes me ache .

These are not great movies, but they are my movies.

I draw.

I am here.


November 21, 2017

My husband and I were more afraid to get a dog than we were to have a child. And we were mighty afraid of being parents.

But our son goaded, pleaded, reasoned and chipped away at our resistance until finally, when he was 14 years old, we agreed to get a puppy.

Of course, we wanted to be persuaded. We had serious dog envy. We would hold out our hands to cold noses, offer up our faces to big wet tongues and get down on a sidewalk to bask in dog love. We barely looked at the owners.

Each winter when we took a trip to see my in laws in Florida we would go to DelRay where there was a pet store (I know, EVIL). This pet shop stayed open late and had a topless wood structure in the center divided with partitions. Each cubicle contained four or five puppies. Unlike other pet shops where puppies played or slept behind glass walls, out of reach unless you were SERIOUS buyers, this Florida pet store let you play with these pups to your hearts’ content. My husband and I were safe because no way could we buy one and bring it back to RI.

One night though, we came close. We found a puppy we loved. We thought about the air plane ride, the logistics and the timing, imagined explaining to our friends that we bought a puppy from a puppy mill even though this place had PROOF that their puppies were not puppy mill puppies. (They were.)

We did not buy a puppy that night. We went to our favorite hotel bar, ordered cosmopolitans for us and a coke for our son, and I wrote a contract on my trusty note pad. We were ready for a dog of our own. I would have naming rights (this was most important). We would try to get a pound puppy. Our son would walk her before and after school. I promised I would be cool and aloof so the dog would love my son more than me.

We tried to get a rescue puppy. We failed.

We got a King Charles Cavalier puppy, a breed we knew from my sister-in-law who had two we adored. I named her Alice.

I was cool and aloof for exactly zero seconds.

Our son trained her. She was a lovable, good dog.

In her puppy years she soon had a medical problem associated with her breed; a bad hip with a scary medical name. She whimpered each time she would jump on or off the couch. It got worse. We took her to the vet and the breeder paid for most of her surgery. She was healed but forever after not much of a jumper. We would lift her on to the couch, into the car, on the bed. It it did not bother her or us.

King Cavalier Spaniels are in-bred. They are also among the sweetest breed around. If every dog has a little wolf inside them, Cavaliers (called Cavs by owners) have the least. One drop of wolf. They have no ambition except to be on or near a lap. Alice was afraid of her own bark. She seemed to have no wolf at all.

We proudly walked her around our block like Rhett Butler taking Bonnie Blue out in her stroller. People stopped their cars to coo at her because she was impossibly cute.

She became part of our lives the way pets do. You leave lights on. You come home early from a night out because you worry that they are lonesome. You notice the sky and the leaves and the ground and all sorts of things because you walk at their pace. You get used to them being ever present. You miss them on vacations. You laugh at their antics and get frustrated by their shortcomings. But mostly you let their unconditional love for you give you comfort through life’s ups and downs.

Alice had seen my little family through some very dark days.

She was a dog we kept on a leash because as much as she loved us she paid no attention to our commands when she was able to run free. The only exception was on snowy days. The kind of snowy day where life slows down, and schools are closed. Neighbors come out to shovel and sled but the only moving vehicles are plows. On those days I would allow Alice to run free. She would suddenly be a REAL dog with two drops of wolf. She would run like the wind, ears flapping. She would race ahead of me and then turn her little head to make sure I was watching and she would run more. If I would stop she would come racing back to me, full throttle, and spin around my legs to run off again. It made us both so happy. She would have snow on her black nose.

When the vet first told me he heard a heart murmur on April 25th I did not worry much.

This breed also comes with heart issues. But when she started coughing every few hours, then every couple of hours, then more, we took her back to the vet. Sure enough her illness had progressed but there was medicine and we still had hope that we would have her at least a few years more.

It was not meant to be. Every night she paced around, looking up as if she could find something in the air that could help her breathe. We fed her sweet potato, her favorite food, and walked her more often because her medicine made it necessary, but for shorter walks because she tired easily.

Everyone I know who has a dog or had one loves them. Everyone can write a story like mine. But you have to believe me when I tell you she was not only loved by us, but by so many others too. Tom, a neighbor who has his own dog, loved Alice so much that when he was outside and saw her he would sit on the cement and wait for her to come running into his arms. He would pet her and rub her belly till she moaned with happiness, while his dog Murdoch, looked on patiently. His wife called Alice his girlfriend. Our friends across the street took her in when my husband and I went out of town. They became her god-family. They kept a jar of treats for her, they let her on their couch, they spoiled her. Every Thanksgiving when my husband and I went to Florida they kept Alice and Tom walked her Thanksgiving day when the god-family traveled to Connecticut.

Heart disease is common in Cavs but for Alice it progressed unusually fast. We began to think she would not survive the year, but I did not realize her last night was her last night. I won’t go into details except to say that I was at work and her god-mother Susan, my friend, called to tell me she was worried about Alice. Had I realized what was coming I’d have left work and gone with my husband to the vet. But I fully believed I would see her in the morning.

I did, but she died just about 30 minutes before we could get to her. Our vet called us at 7:30 am. She was in a coma. And then, she was gone. My husband and I patted her and stroked her as if we could somehow give her comfort after the fact. We spent a long time with her. And then we went home. And then to work.

For days after I kept forgetting to lock our door at bed time because my husband used to walk her late at night. I missed her company, her weight, her love. I told our son, neighbors, her groomer. Her god family. Their son cried. We cried.

We will get another dog. We are open to a rescue dog. We know it is the better thing, the more noble. I don’t know what we’ll get. I only know that Alice helped us not be afraid to have a dog in our family. In fact, she made it impossible to imagine not having one.

We are brave because of Alice, and my son.

A Chair

August 30, 2017

In about six years I can write about what is happening in my life. Until then, here is a story of a broken chair. 

We have plastic Adirondak style chairs on our front lawn. 

We buy them from the supermarket. In the past I could only find them in a really uninspiring, non descript green (above left). Then, when we needed to replace one, I found it in a nice lavender. I particularly liked the lavender chair even though basically they are all the same molded form. It is not shown in the picture. 

Anyway, it cracked. A big crack. I still sat in it but my husband decided we needed to get rid of it. 

At one time in my city the trash people would take everything and anything. Not so anymore. Now, if it does not fit in a designated bin, they won’t take it. Needless to say the lavender chair would not fit in the designated bin. Usually if you leave something on the curb in our neighborhood and it is remotely decent someone will come along and take it. We put our chair out on the curb but no one whisked it away even after three days. So, I put it back on our lawn. 

I wanted this chair to have a new home. A good home. The right home. 

On my weekly walk to and from therapy, about 2 and 1/2 miles each way, I started to look for places that needed a slightly broken chair.  On this walk I see a number of homes that are a bit sketchy and in need of t.l.c.. 


I thought one of these places might like my chair, might NEED my chair. I told my husband. He was skeptical. I was determined. I convinced him that we needed to take the chair to someplace that needed a chair. I told him I thought if we found the right place it would be appreciated. 

One night after dark we put the chair in his car. 

I knew right away my husband would not have the patience to see all the places I had staked out on my walk. He just wanted to get rid of the chair. Pretty soon we came upon a lot that has a trailer for workmen. Near the trailer there is a grassy lot with a big tree. This was going to be the new home for the chair. 

We drove in the lot, careful to make sure no one spotted us. Not because we were doing something wrong, but you know, it might look like we were up to no good.

My husband took the chair out of his car and put it near the tree, and made sure it was on a level bit of ground so it would not fall over. The whole adventure took five minutes. 

I am seeing a different therapist now but I still run on this route so I always look for the chair. I can tell you this chair IS appreciated, and used. Every time I jog past it, it has been moved just enough that I know there is a man who is hoping to catch a few rays of late summer sun. Maybe he is having a smoke and thinking about his life. I know my chair is appreciated. We found it a home, and it makes me a little happy every time a see it. 

Walking Mr. Sweetie.

June 4, 2017

I appreciated this nice day, sandwiched as it was between soggy cold ones. 

Mr. Sweetie and I were on a walk. He is the rescue dog my mother got just before her mind really started to go. He is mostly Yorkie. Walking Mr. Sweetie is the only real help I can offer my mother’s round the clock angel caregiver, G.. She doesn’t mind this chore, but still, it is nice for her to have a break. Mr. Sweetie likes to sniff every millimeter of every inch. Dirt, cement, poles, trees, anything that touches the ground is his territory, so walking him is slow going. He is surprisingly strong, for an animal that reaches only around six inches off the ground. He will not be rushed. 

I had been weepy from the moment I woke. My mother saps my strength. I don’t want to feel that way, but I do. I approach my monthly visits with the admirable goal of seeing through the person she has become, this person who cannot carry on a conversation because she can’t remember what she just said, or what I just said, to the person she used to be. I fail.

Anyway, it had been a particularly rough visit, for other reasons too. After this walk, this small gesture of thanks to the one person who accepts my mother for who she is, who loves her unconditionally even when it brings tears to her eyes, even when my mother says terrible things to her, I would drive home.

I let Mr. Sweetie sniff and pee every few inches. I tried to give him the patience I can’t seem to give to my mother. 

I have been around this block hundreds of times, in now chic Williamsburg, Brooklyn. My parents bought their house when it was not only unfashionable, but considered a form of lunacy as a destination. They sold their stately brownstone (actually limestone) on the upper west side to move to this homely three story house across the street from a vocational school. Now, of course, people marvel at the foresight. 

The ugly vocational school has been undergoing construction for what seems like years. It is covered with a red netting that to me, has transformed it into a beautiful Do-Ho Suh-like installation. I always wonder if anyone else sees this. 

There is trash everywhere because it is New York with millions of people and millions of trash cans spilling over with garbage, plus wind. I grew up in New York so it doesn’t phase me, much. I just notice. 

I was thinking ahead to my four hours in the car, with my current audio book for company. I love the drives back and forth. The solitude is my reward, both to and from. Especially from. I always stop on the road for a Dunkin Donuts cappuccino with a turbo shot. I don’t mention these trips because it is too hard to explain to people that I can’t get together and go to a museum or a gallery. It’s too hard to answer questions about how things are. It isn’t worth it. 

Mr. Sweetie found a square patch of dirt where a tree should be. I know this patch. He likes it, likes the smell and the wide openness of it. He is a small dog, so this patch of dirt is land for him. He started to walk round and round, which means he will poop. That is the brass ring. It means G. can relax until just before the bed time walk. Success. 

I knew I should have picked up after him. I knew it. I am usually very good about it. I am a good citizen and a good neighbor and at home I always clean up after our dog, Alice. But I was sad and tired and felt that considering all the trash blowing about, one small poop on an empty patch of dirt was not worth using plastic, which is far worse for our planet than what he had left. I thought about all these things and even had a pang of guilt but I was so sad that it made me a little angry and mean. This was not just laziness or apathy. It was a decision. A way to feel in charge of some small moment in my life. And so, I walked away with Mr. Sweetie knowing I had done a wrong thing. 

A voice called out and I just knew it was directed at me. I turned around and saw a woman stride towards me. She looked like a movie star. In New York tons of women are movie star beautiful. But really, she was something. She was in her late 20’s I think. It was a nice day and she was wearing a flowing blue dress that came to just above her knees. It was not hipster wear. It was a dress you might see at a garden party, or a fancy brunch. She had strawberry blond hair which had just enough wave so as to make it not stick straight, but not out of control frizzy like mine. Her skin was perfect. Pale, with a few freckles that looked like they were the last thing some deity had painted on her face with a tiny sable brush. 

I knew what she was going to say. I knew she was going to scold me and she did, with her soft, baby, Marilyn Monroe voice. 

“You really NEED to pick up after your dog. I see there you have a bag.”

I said “okay”. I had no tone. It was clear I would pick up what she wanted me to pick up but she was not done. She felt bold, the way an alpha dog feels. I can’t remember exactly what she said next but it was a variation on how I needed to clean up to pick up to do the right thing. 

I said “okay” again. 

And then she swirled around (really!) and walked away. She did not wait to watch me. 

I could have left the evidence of my bad behavior, but I didn’t. I knew she was right and I was almost relieved at being called out on it. I WANTED to do the right thing. 

I also wanted to be mean. All the way back to my mom’s house I imagined telling her, in a sad tremulous voice, that I knew she was right but that I was in a daze because my father, no, my husband had died just that morning. Or had been KILLED. Not just killed, but MURDERED. Or, not just murdered, but MURDERED at WAR (what war?)! Or RUN OVER! I know, bad karma. 

I knew with absolute certainty that she walked away feeling oh so smug, so Brave and worthwhile. I knew she would tell her friends, who were probably as beautiful as she, about how she made New York a more civilized place by shaming some rude woman to pick up after her filthy dog. I wanted to show her how broken I was, and that she had broken me further. I wanted to transfer my shame on to her

But it was too late. She had gone to wherever she was going in her beautiful blue dress. 

I walked back to my mother’s house with a little plastic bag, filled, as it should have been. 

I threw it away, and I drove home. My audio book for the ride home was Anything is Possible. 



A Legacy

April 17, 2017

I have not posted a blog in a long time. There are matters I want to write about, but nothing I can share. I have not been entirely okay. The irony is that none of my current troubles have to do with Trump, or my mother, which is what people assume to be the case. Both, of course, are black clouds and a constant source of anxiety and sadness. Trump is even worse than the monster my imagination could have conjured, and my mother is ever so slowly losing her identity in small degrees. Still they can’t be blamed for what is wrong with me. I do not want to add to the noise, the opinions, the articles, photographs, sound bites, images, news regarding Trump.There is nothing to say about my mother.

So, this.

One of my favorite episodes of Little House on the Prairie (don’t judge). . .the one with Michael Landon as Charles (Pa), was when he was feeling, after the sudden death of a friend, like his life was passing by and he would not leave a legacy. He worried that when he died he would be forgotten entirely.

A present-day (1982) couple buy an antique, folding-leaf table with a large “I” branded on it at an auction and are curious to learn about its origins. The story focuses on Charles’ efforts to patent the table and have it mass produced. However, a ruthless businessman is successful in a bid to steal the patent and snare an ill-gotten profit, forcing Charles to realize that his family, and not the tables, are his greatest legacy. Back to the auction. The bidding is furious and competitive. This piece of furniture is obviously a treasure. It is sold for a large sum of money unimaginable to Pa. The buyers are thrilled and at the end you see them lovingly loading it on to their truck to bring home.

Does everyone, every creative person worry about their legacy or lack thereof? I would not say it is a worry of mine, but I do feel kind of sad that after decades of making small drawings most will probably disappear to, recycle? Landfill in Johnston, RI? I don’t know.

I think of Eva Hesse and Francesca Woodman, Christina Ramberg. All artists who died so young, but had such strong voices that they are still exhibited, discussed. Relevant.

I am a late bloomer. I did some good work when I was young but it took me decades to develop a consistent artistic voice. And it is quiet.

I am going through an especially quiet phase. I have dropped more and more color until there is just the color of pencil lead. There are all the shades of grey, and pencils that come in black and gold and silver.

I started using pencils with gouache and ink, and then more pencil and less gouache and ink, and then, all pencil. Pencils will be here as long as I am here. I feel secure in my love for them. They won’t leave me like me favorite pens have.

Ink has a darkness, a hardness and permanence to it. The way I use pencil is soft. I could press harder, but I don’t. These drawings are flat and kind of grey, like an overcast sky.

One day I will disappear, unnoticed. Maybe that is not so bad. Maybe it’s okay to come and go and do no harm. And leave behind some good work.

Snowy Night in New York City. 

January 19, 2017

During a visit to see my mother in Brooklyn, I went out to see art work, which many of you know is a difficult decision.

Snow began to fall in the afternoon.

I went to see the Drawings of James Siena first. There was construction in the tunnels. I had to take a train, and a bus and walk a lot. I was icy cold when I arrived.

I did love the exhibit. I was sad there wasn’t a catalogue.

James Siena

I went to see Michelle Grabner’s cast Afghan blankets. That was a great show too.

Cast Afghan by Michelle Grabner.

I could not warm up.

I wanted a glass of wine, and a small hot food thing. All around were coffee shops,  but I did not want coffee.

My last stop was meant to be the Met Breuer to see the Kerry James Marshall work.

I walked a lot. I took a subway. I took a bus cross town.

I was freezing, and very hungry.

There were bars. The prices for little hot food treats were crazy high. I couldn’t justify it but then I could.

I walked past the Café Carlyle. I wished I could afford it.

I went to the bar downstairs in the Whitney. It looked cozy.

I went to the man seating people and asked for a seat at the bar. He said it would take a little while. It was busy, bustling.

I walked away and began to cry. Of course, when I cry these days it is about more than being cold, hungry.

Suddenly, the Man Who Seats people was at my side. He put an arm around my back. He asked me if I was okay. He took me to the bar and got me a seat. He seemed to have assigned every person at the restaurant to make sure I got water, wine, a small food thing. I looked at the prices. I could afford an endive salad, and a glass of wine. I am embarrassed to say what I paid for this. A lot. The wait staff glanced at me now and then to see that I was not crying anymore. That I was okay. It was genuine. Then they brought me a dessert. It was icy cold but I ate a little because they were so nice to give it to me.
When I finished and had to meet a friend upstairs I thanked the Seating Man, whose name is Robert Banat. He works at Flora, in the Whitney. He is a very very kind man.

Robert Banat

Kerry James Marshall’s paintings were a tour de force.

Kerry James Marshall

I was tired and sad when I got back to Brooklyn, but I was also so grateful.

Life is complicated these days.

Coda: Robert Banat gave me a business card. He photographs famous artists in their studios. I sent him an e mail, thanking him again. I sent him a few images of my work, because he seemed to care about who I was. I did not hear back. I wish I would have.

A New Day

October 14, 2016

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

― L.M. Montgomery.

My life at the moment is about learning to accept daily the mistakes I make, other people make and their after effects.

For even in a brand new unblemished day, you have to live with the consequences of all your previous wrongs. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.

In my artwork I have tried to explore, allow, and appreciate mistakes. My drawings and paintings look so careful, and in a way, perfect. But they are not. I am not Bridget Riley, or Tess Jaray, or Julian Stanczak. I don’t even know how they do what they do.

In my brick drawings I don’t use a ruler. Every single brick is a slightly different size. Most do not line up as they should. No structure could survive if it were built with the bricks I draw. I try as hard with these drawings to ALLOW these errors as I try in my non art life to be perfect. It’s a challenge. A part of me feels a pull to use a ruler, to keep each brick the same as the next. It is the same feeling I had with my slinky series. I had to fight the urge to check the circles with a compass. I have to fight my desire to control, to be ‘perfect’.

I know my art work is stronger with these imperfections. What would be the point of making perfect bricks or perfect circles when artists have already done that, and done it brilliantly?

But navigating life outside my studio, where I have to exist with rules and parameters, with hearts, minds, souls, individuals, I think it would be better if I could control more of myself. I used to think I was more interesting when I let loose, said what I thought, tossed off opinions even if I hadn’t thought them through. I no longer believe this.
These days, I try every day I try not to offend people, to do well at my day job, to be kind to my mother who is barely my mother, to be a good friend, citizen, wife, mother, pet owner, housekeeper. Each day I am not all that successful at any of these things. I hate myself for it. I can’t seem to find a balance between being myself, and being what I think I am supposed to be.

I can forgive the imperfect me. But only in my art.