Photo diary/Culture Vulture: Andy’s birthday week

August 28, 2016

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We started Andy’s birthday celebration with a delicious dinner (and sparkling dessert) in the company of Ben, Randall, and Hugh at Gastroteca Astoria.

8-24 party posse ben randy hugh8-24 cake sparkler8-24 we accept walkens8-24 gasatroteca funny girl
The celebration continued Friday night with a sunset bike ride down to the Village and a stroll through “Human Interest,” the Whitney Museum’s show with its intriguing array of interpretations as to what constitutes a portrait. Alexander Calder’s wire mobile of Edgard Varese. Diane Arbus’s baby picture of Anderson Cooper. Urs Fischer’s giant sculpture of Julian Schnabel as a burning candle. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Hollywood Africans. Duane Hanson’s Woman with Dog, so startlingly realistic that I seriously believed it was a little piece of performance art, someone sitting and reading letters all day with a dog at her feet.

8-26 edgard varese by calder8-26 arbus anderson cooper baby8-26 schnabel candle in the mirror8-26 basquiat hollywood africans8-26 duane hanson woman with poodle
Saturday turned to be a perfect day for a ferry ride to Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook, NJ, bicycling to and from the Seastreak terminal on the East River. For dinner we met Cesar, Alison, and Bob for Ethiopian food at Abyssinia in Harlem.

8-27 abyssinia posse by bob8-27 ethiopian beer
Sunday afternoon I took Andy to the Metrograph Cinema to see the Madonna documentary, Truth or Dare, which he’d never seen. We enjoyed strolling through the Lower East Side and Soho, taking in the new storefronts and street art. We thought our T-shirts together could form the basis of a PhD thesis about the cross-pollination of comic books and gallery art in the late 20th century.

8-28 dumping is prohibited8-28 laura callaghan mural detail8-28 LES storefront gallery


Photo diary/Culture Vulture: FlameCon 2016

August 21, 2016

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Andy and I checked out day two of FlameCon, the LGBTQ comics convention at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. It was a dazzling festival of gay geekery as far as the eye could see, with a full range of ages, colors, races, gender identities, and geek communities in evidence.

8-21 supergeek
Andy got to reconnect with Tony Breed, an artist whose web comic inspired an ongoing Twitter conversation and virtual friendship.

8-21 tony breed and my big honking geek
We were both delighted to meet big sexy bear Steve MacIsaac, creator of the smart and beautiful and melancholy graphic zine Shirtlifter. (I overheard him earnestly explaining to someone where the name comes from.)

Shirtlifter4
The organizers did an impeccable job thinking of all the ways to make FlameCon inviting for populations who don’t always feel welcomed — free day for teenagers, stickers indicating what pronouns you prefer, a break room with a name I couldn’t parse (AFK Lounge, which my darling Big Honking Geek translated for me: Away From Keyboard).

8-21 afk lounge
I bought a book (Kindris) and a T-shirt from Anthony Dortch, Jr., whose trippy textured work immediately resonated with me.

8-21 kindris
O, Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn!

8-21 dump trump


Quote of the day: UGLY TRUTHS

August 20, 2016

UGLY TRUTHS

As a longtime resident of Montgomery, [Alabama, Bryan Stevenson] often thinks about Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit at the back of a local bus in 1955 set off the modern era of the civil-rights movement. “We have reduced her activism to this celebratory tale—‘It was all great,’ ” he told me. “Here’s what most people don’t know. After the boycott was declared officially over, and black people were sitting on the buses, there was unbelievable violence. There were a dozen people who were shot standing waiting on buses. We had white people going around Montgomery shooting black people who dared to get on the buses.” For a time after the boycott, the city shut down bus service altogether. And then, to make way for the I-85 highway, the local authorities, led by a state transportation commissioner who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan, bulldozed the city’s major middle-class black neighborhood.

Stevenson [below] believes that too little attention has been paid to the hostility of whites to the civil-rights movement. “Where did all of those people go?” he said. “They had power in 1965. They voted against the Voting Rights Act, they voted against the Civil Rights Act, they were still here in 1970 and 1975 and 1980. And there was never a time when people said, ‘Oh, you know that thing about segregation forever? Oh, we were wrong. We made a mistake. That was not good.’ They never said that. And it just shifted. So they stopped saying ‘Segregation forever,’ and they said, ‘Lock them up and throw away the key.’ ”

–Jeffrey Toobin, “The Legacy of Lynching, On Death Row,” The New Yorker

bryan stevenson


Photo diary: Salt Lake City stories

August 10, 2016

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Salt Lake City has gotten considerably more hip and groovy since I lived  in Utah in the mid-1960s, at least in the downtown neighborhood where I stayed for two nights. Bike Share. Yummy little restaurants with multicultural cuisine and good wine. People on the street who aren’t all white Mormons.

7-31 SLC downtown7-31 salt lake city bikeshare7-31 eva's7-31 ancestry HQ7-31 SLC city hall

Here are some things that I saw in a walk around the neighborhood.

A “Black Lives Matter” sign nailed to a tree.

An old man sitting in a wheelchair with eyes closed in front of a post-acute facility, one hand in a bandage, both arms covered with sores (skin cancer?), his wife sitting on the porch looking tired and anxious. Waiting for a ride home, I guess.

In the middle of a quiet residential block, police action. Two cop cars (one with flashing lights), three cops, two white men, one white woman. They’re standing around a spilled shopping bag of stuff on the sidewalk next to a small blue zipper pouch. One cop politely asks me to go around. I hear him say, as I pass, “We still have to figure out how much is in there.” Drugs? Cash? A white woman sitting on the front passenger side of one cop car.

Down the block, The Dollar Store. Literally everything you would find in a Duane Reade in New York, no more than $1.00. Some items 2 for $1.00.  A black man in a wheelchair can scarcely believe it. He’s loading up his shopping basket with canned soup.

Delicious meal at Cafe Niche: warm quinoa salad with salmon and two glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. My young bearded server, Kyle, says, “You ordered exactly the meal I would have ordered for myself. I’d probably like the book you’re reading, too.” I say, “You probably would.” Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.

At the next table, a handsome beefy bearded guy and his date, a South Asian woman with fingernails painted light blue, both of them around 30 She says, “I’m guessing all your previous girlfriends were Asian.” He indicates that’s true and says something I don’t catch. She says, “Why do guys always say that?” A relationship that’s not going anywhere.

On my way to the restaurant I pass an African family — mom, dad, two boys around 5 or 6 or 7 years old — on their front lawn, the younger boy posing for pictures with somewhat campy gestures. They all see me approaching, I’m smiling broadly, but they still have a guarded look — white man coming, what’s he going to do/say/think? I just keep smiling, exchange hellos with the mom (very dark-skinned, maybe Senegalese or Somali, gap-toothed like me) and keep walking.

On social media, I connect with a friendly young guy named Peter, who turns out to be the roommate of the one person I know who lives in Salt Lake City, my old friend Duff.  And they live half a block away from my hotel. Teeny-tiny world!

7-31 duff and peter7-31 slc by night8-4 breakfast garden UTL8-4 spiderweb dew


Quote of the day: ART

August 8, 2016

ART

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.

–James Baldwin

james baldwin


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