Saturday, January 10, 2015

There's No Good Way To End

As you could imagine, packing a studio and apartment into a truck, then driving it over 1250 miles of cold highway under the gun of a brewing snow storm, and finally unloading the eleven hundred seventy six cubic feet of deeply frozen objects in subzero temperatures, left little room for blogging. I was fortunate to have Matt, friend and artist I met long ago at Skowhegan, help me pack the apartment and half the studio into the truck on New Year's Eve. Big thanks go to friends of two decades, Mark and Shelly, who kept me well fed and rested after the apartment became unusable New Year's Eve through the second of January, Andy and Rachel who threw us a never-ending party the Saturday before, Mark, again, for copiloting my drive of two days, then carefully hustling things into and out of the house all through a blustery, subzero snowstorm, Marie for her generous tribute on her blog, and Sara, who has been cleaning and organizing hundreds of items into categories of keep, yard sale, auction, and trash.

So, nearly two weeks after that balmy Saturday walk around Prospect Park's lake, I can sneak a few moments from the cleaning, the disposition of a lifetime of things, the organizational relating of new, old and less so, to move this blog ever closer to the present moment...

Forsythia, having had a cold November, thought December must be spring.

The lake was in fine form.

On its south side, newly laid plastic to smother view-killing phragmites. 

Because the lake is all for the seeing of it.

Inspiring towers to go up, as they are beginning to, around Prospect's most affordable corner.

As expected, the new skating rink is immensely popular.

Many new people are visiting, leading to much needed, improved maintenance on the south side of the lake and ever more likely are towers to surround it.

But the beauty of Prospect Park is the ability to disappear into it, to disappear the city around it.

Yet all agency is marshaled toward development for the wealthiest and all too often in the name of preserving what is intended to benefit all. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Keep On Truckin

Renting a twenty-four-foot box mounted on a two-axle truck is always more than one bargains for, but even more so in a city where myriad obstacles to productivity, safety, and security are enshrined into law. 

Simple questions like "where can I park this truck?," are met with simple answers like "nowhere, if by 'where' you mean a street."

The truck depot tells me that thieves, the clever ones, know if a truck is empty or full by the look of the tires. I admire anyone who is good at what they do, I simply wish they could put that effort into something not quite as disruptive as stealing all our belongings while the truck is parked illegally on a deserted commercial street from 9pm till 5 am. 

I don't think any of us are aware of how many overpasses there are in NYC that are too low to accommodate a 13-foot tall truck. Twelve-foot, eleven-inches is common enough, but thirteen -that's a nasty number, so nope, not doing it. Do you know the anxiety of approaching an unlabeled overpass? NYC happens to produce a map highlighting all the probable impacts, and would you be surprised to hear that some appear (although the map is poor enough in detail that one cannot be sure) to be on highways like the BQE?  

We've all experienced how difficult leaving NYC can be, even if only for the weekend in a rental car. This is like that, except loading the car takes three days, you can't park it on the street, people are always beeping at you, you just might run over a pedestrian or drag a parked car 20 feet if you're not careful, and you never really know if you're going to crash into a bridge. 

I do not envy truckers, but they probably have sweeter rides. My truck, a GMC with 160,000 miles to it, rides like a pogo stick, has a slippery bench seat and the floor has a shiny, sticky residue harboring crumbs from someone's last long distance dinner. There's a Wendy's straw deep on the dashboard. The thing rattles so much, the objects in mirror are experiencing a 9.2 earthquake. 

It's not all bad. I'll miss the once in a blue collared moon favor called in by my father. In the past that might have looked like a climb up a power plant smokestack to get a needed photo. Today it looked like buying donuts and coffee for a guy named Charlie (who refused a good tip) so that I can park the truck in his company's lot over night. I'll be there tomorrow at 7am sharp, after a bus ride and 18 block walk, to get it outta there. If I'm lucky, he'll agree to my pushin' it by asking if I can leave it there once again tomorrow afternoon, loaded with my apartment things, until 7am sharp, Friday morning. 

Then I can pack the truck full of vastly more studio belongings in anticipation of one night of illegal street parking on a deserted industrial block, all set then to leave Saturday morning, driving headlong into a snowstorm beginning in Pennsylvania and getting nasty by Ohio. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014


The last few days have been the hardest, after ten days of packing both apartment and studio, but this morning, well, just before noon, Betsy made her way out of Brooklyn, in our van, via the tunnel, up the West Side Highway, which hardly lives up to its name, to the GW Bridge, and then on to I80 westward. 

In the back of the van are various items that cannot or should not freeze, things that, along with the cat, Betsy must haul into a roadside motel. Among these are three houseplants -a Norfolk Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), a Pothos or Philodendron (Epipremnum aureum), and a purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis). These have been with us so long that I often confuse their origins. The pine may have been a gift, the Pothos possibly a specimen from my greenhouse project at Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Oxalis a yard plant bought when I was living in New Mexico. All three should survive the move, after all, they've survived considerable neglect in our apartment, but I do think the Norfolk Pine will suffer under the unrelenting low humidity of the Minnesota house. I am no daily mister, so maybe a spot in the bathroom will suffice? 

Several days ago I clipped the Pothos so that it, along with two other plants, can be easily moved between van and motel in an old plastic laundry basket. When I slid the white-stained terra cotta pot from its roost of a dozen years, I was surprised to find that the vine, above, was not rooted in any soil at all! It was and is still rooted only to the painted wall. Is it gleaning moisture from the air, the walls, the paint, or is it not in need because it has entered winter dormancy, a time of exceptional drought tolerance? 

I would leave it there, for the next tenants, if I had half the belief that the landlord would appreciate its tenacity. Instead, I will pry this talisman from the wall paint and carry it along. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Silent Night

Larry's trees, sometime in early December, after a brief snowfall.  

I haven't spent Christmas Eve in Brooklyn since 2001, but this year it was necessitated by packing both studio and apartment. We bubbled and glassined, crated and boxed delicate painted, ceramic, steel, and fabric objects until seven thirty, at which point, if we were going to cook, we needed to cease. After a stop at the grocery store, the van did not start. I jumped out, did some fixing (at least it was warm), and got it going. Cooked a quick meal, then collapsed on the couch, surrounded by piles of boxes and bubble wrap, escaped into a Nature episode about Tibet on PBS while the upstairs people banged and harangued with heavy heels, dragged furniture, and the whining of a motorized toy for the man-boy. 


Today it is Christmas. We are going for a long, quiet day at my cousin's place in Carroll Gardens, no packing, a day of rest. Betsy is scheduled to leave tomorrow, in our van, with cat, and things that cannot freeze (my paint and houseplants, for instance). I am scheduled to continue packing, until Tuesday, when I pick up the twenty-four-foot-box truck, and begin to load the apartment. If I complete this mission according to schedule, I will drive out of Brooklyn on Friday, January 2, with every thing we have in tow.

I believe I just saw a little sun on the wall, in the cavity of an emptied bookshelf.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A History of Surveillance

A history of our Friel Place garden, front and then side yard, over the last eight years or so as seen through the changing lens of the Google van-o-scope.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Final Touch

I hadn't been to the beach farm in two months. It was hard to go, out of busyness as much as emotion, but it was time, or rather time was running low, so this past Sunday, blustery, cool, and unfavorable to contemplation as it was, I went.

The buckwheat never got turned under which, in retrospect, appears a good practice given no other fall planting. The tangle of light carbon comes to be an effective mulch, keeping down weeds and shielding the soil from eroding winds. It should be turned under next spring.

In our other, short-lived plot, the unharvested fennel bulbs died back from frost and have since re-animated. I let them be.

Just down the row, under the blackened skeletons of tomato vine, speckled romaine has sprouted. The spring romaine must have successfully self-seeded, something I have yet to see in any lettuce I've sown.

Adjacent to graying, dry fennel stalks and the soggy flesh of decayed eggplant, our parsley is embracing a return to normal temperatures. I pinched some.

From the shed I collected some belongings, a bin, two types of spreaders. I left my wheel dib prototype hanging along with rarely-used garden tools and Wolf's jug of wine.

On this last visit to the beach farm, I was visited by what I think is a young eagle. I missed and will miss the autumn congregation of migratory birds and their electric cacophony. 

Finally, the beach farm was a great place to bbq with friends. I think this post by Marie, of 66sqft, brings it home. We had some great neighbor gardeners -Jimmy, Wolf, Joanna and others. They'll water your garden when you are away, rib you for your weeds, then offer you a cold beer, and they always took heed of my experiments and that is how I earned the nickname: the professor.

Two plots available. I recommend F12.