Thursday, December 28, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Holly Jolly Christmas
Back in October, when the decorations suddenly appeared in the local Eckerd, my brain refused to recognize the speaker from marketing and continued shopping for Halloween candy. All through November I continued treating the onslaught like I would the cover of the Post or The Daily News, occassionally interesting in its outrageousness, sometimes worth picking up and glancing through because there was nothing better to do, but, in general, the days carried on a-coming, one at a time and the Christmas Spirit smoked a few more filterless cigarettes before knocking on my door.
A few years ago I was asked to do Christmas cards for God's Love We Deliver, a New York charity dedicated to bringing food to home-bound AIDS and cancer patients. In order to have them printed and ready for the Christmas catalogue I had to create the drawings and have them approved in June. Audiogalaxy was still the Robin Hood of music distribution back then, so I downloaded a bunch of Christmas songs, burned them on to a disc and wandered the city listening to Christmas music and doodling. I always wondered what my neighbors thought, overhearing the Christmas cheer emanating through my walls as they made their plans for the 4th of July weekend.
That Spring was a fun Christmas; the only decorations were the ones I was making and I had total control of the music.
Oh, to have total control of the Christmas music . . .
This year I waited until a more traditional December, cruised the music blogs (Robin Hood is dead, Long live the Robbing Hoods), created a playlist of about 250 songs, picked my favorite thirty, loaded my new Ipod (thanks again for the Ipod, Max) and sat down at the Fall Cafe to draw my Christmas card.
"That's one sad-looking bird," Tina said when she looked at it, still rubbing her nose from the memory of the drainage tube which had only been removed three days earlier.
There's a lot of struggle, heartache, disappointment, unfulfilled expectations and ache on the figurative streets outside my bedroom window. Poor Shannon had to climb out of the subway and walk yesterday when someone put their bags down and took the plunge; she missed the dive, but she was there on the platform asking those who didn't what the delay was and whose bags are these anyway? "Christmas can make people sad, Michael," she said as we looked to see if Cash Cab was on.
On the other hand, Chris and Raina have a great tree and helping to decorate it started the official season for me. Chris knows how to celebrate an occassion right, knows how a tree should look and is happy to sit and stare at it when the job is done. And down my block, the inflatable Santa, the shirt-hanger reindeer and the colored-light brownstones have GOT CHRISTMAS as Nisi says.
On the otherother hand, if I field one more call about someone leaving someone in another scenario where there are no bad-guys, my empathy meter's gonna puddle at my feet; division to the left, division to the right, into the valley of "we're-better-off-this-way-really" we ride--I want to break my arms by wrapping them around you and holding on for the ride. That's not even taking into account the West-Coast scenario where right and wrong seems pretty clear to me, but offers no solace whatsoever to the Leavee's-Gonna-Break Girl looking at a holiday season of Christmas carols with the Thai-Family-Judgement-Singers. Climb in here, friend; my arms aren't broken yet. Nor does it include that wing of the old figurative home where the past is never sunset, no relationship is too toxic to toss and the rose-colored glasses are sold in a one-size-fits-all frenzy--seriously what is wrong with you people and what do you mean by "glass-houses?"
On the otherotherother hand, personally, I've never felt more grounded, more secure, more sure of what it is I'm doing than I do now, despite the slips and slides, the failures and the Almost-Made-It-Maybe-Next-Times which seem to be the mile-markers of us struggling artist types.
On the otherotherotherother hand I may just be delusional; seriously, I can always teach.
Where was I?
Oh, right: Merry Christmas, Baby. We're surrounded by good folk--we really are. There's talent all around. You make me smile--you really do and we're gonna make it through this together. Pass the Rose-Colored glasses; the Christmas Spirit is knocking and he's sporting some nog. We're buying a tree on Christmas Eve and gearing up for the birthday tunnel on the way to the New Year . . .
Don't stop us now, We're having such a good time . . .
Monday, December 18, 2006
The seats were on the fifty yard line in the third row of the top tier and I've never had a clearer view of so many people all at once in my life.
Gloria Reuben sang the National Anthem which is weird because I drew her earlier this year when Lameece was doing Stuff Happens. Ms. Reuben and I had had a nice long talk about a drawing of a cat that she really loved. People always try to connect. Then, yesterday, there she was, down on the field and singing her heart out.
Chris cooked us burgers, sausages and chicken on the disposable grill and we drank a lot of beer. I've never shotgunned a beer in my life, but now I can't say I haven't tried.
Better luck next time.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Draw holiday party for East of Doheny production company?
Create birthday card for the Aga Khan?
Spend Mom's birthday in hospital waiting as Shannon has surgery for bone spur?
Become official artist for Joe's Pub as a result of a blog comment?
Completely rearrange apartment?
Randomly get asked to audition for part of unassuming killer on upcoming episode of Law and Order?
Take a moment to shake head at random nature of universe?
Saturday, December 09, 2006
A New Argentina
Last night at Joe's Pub I got to spend a little time in history watching the future.
Leslie Kritzer is recreating Patti LuPone's legendary final 1980 performance of her run at the Les Mouches nightclub. I know it's legendary because the program told me it was.
Here's what the program says:
"On September 27th, 1980, Patti LuPone concluded a record-breaking thirty week run of midnight performances at the now long-gone club, Les Mouches. During the run she won the Tony for Evita and each Saturday, after that show, David Lewis would pick her up in a limousine and they would travel together to Chelsea, to Les Mouches, where for an A-List crowd, they would deliver a fierce and tender celebration of the hedonism, self-destruction and soul-searching of the time."
So, yeah, Patti LuPone used to squeeze in a little midnight romp after her two Saturday shows and the night before her Sunday show. David Lewis, the original musical director worked on this with Leslie and plays piano and throws in back-up vocals as well.
Well, I wasn't there for the original, but Leslie is great, the music is terrific and I'd probably listen to her and David and the rest of the band sing the phone book at me. And it doesn't feel like nostalgia--it feels like a great performance, dancing and singing the then in the now . . .
Thursday, December 07, 2006
When I first started drawing American Ballet Theatre, I didn't really have a very good grip on my process beyond "sit down and draw" and I knew absolutely nothing about ballet.
Still, over the last couple of years, I have come to recognize that the initial drawings--the first half-dozen or so--are the ones that ground me as I begin working; that my instincts lead me to the main focal points of a company or a rehearsal, and that, in any new studio, there's always an energy that demands attention and it usually shows up on my paper.
So, it's no surprise that Gladys at the piano was one of the very first three or four drawings I did of ABT, because if I hadn’t included her I would have been missing something essential and big.
We were downstairs at the Met and Irina Kolpakova was running the rehearsal. Every dancer who arrived checked in with Gladys, gave her a status report, answered her questions and gladly received her warmth. That's why I was especially pleased with the way that the reflection of a dancer can be seen in the piano; it seems to me that that's a pretty accurate depiction of the connection between her and the company—she plays, they dance and it ain’t just because she’s the rehearsal pianist.
I'm no expert on ballet, but I do know the dominant mother-figure when I see her. I also know that when I drop in for a visit at 890, I too want to stop and sit with Gladys and answer all her questions and tell her what's going on, because without doing that, the visit is incomplete.
So, Happy Birthday, Mrs. Celeste—I’ll be by to let you know what’s going on next time I’m in the building . . .