Sunday, April 29, 2012


I saw this building on 4th Ave. off Union Square one day, and then, everywhere I looked, I saw green. 


 Frankie at Luna's with her cutting knife

Okay, this last photo isn't exactly green, but I love how Frankie, Maya's friend from Bard, is posing in this picture. Her bosses are breathing down her neck, telling her she can't visit with me, pressing her to get back to work, but Frankie laughs, and then strikes this serious pose. She works at Luna's in Tivoli as a sous chef, but perhaps one day she'll be president.

Green Green, Green 
You are so delicious!
(I just got President Obama's joke about the pit bull!)
You calm me down; you make me fall to my knees to embrace you
You draw me in: Oh, Green, how beautiful you are this spring! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Society of Illustrators

I decided to take a figure drawing class while in NY...I looked online in LA and picked one at the Society of Illustrators. Had I known what I was getting into I might have felt intimidated, but ignorance, in this case, was good. 

It was on the Upper East Side, an area of the city I haven't been to in years. The first thing I noticed were all the skinny women walking skinny dogs, and doormen with white gloves.

The Society's been around since 1901. On the way up to the third floor is a pantheon of illustrators on the walls: all white men. No women, no people of color. But upstairs, a blues band was setting up, and a bar with patrons was in full bloom; and talking about bloom, I spotted the model for the evening sitting on a chair sipping her drink. Her name was Tangerine Jones. 

On the second floor, I saw this Thurber, which almost took my breath away. I associate NYC with James Thurber and there he was, a big drawing on the flimsiest of paper, illustrating for us in just a few strokes the dynamics of a family. 

New York is one big illustration, of insanity, of beauty, of ambition and greed. The poorest are laid out on the streets around Penn Station—Bombay's beggars have nothing on the wretchedness of these druggies. The wealthiest are chauffered in shiny SUVs across Park Avenue on their way to Wall Street. Then, you see all the crazies: leftover Occupiers, hanging out in Union Square, looking worse for wear; a woman running through the streets at midnight, yelling for her pimp; a toupeed man screaming on his cellphone, "What other scams can you think up to screw me, Walter?" You see it all in NY; the compactness of the city makes it possible, unlike L.A. where everything's spread out. It's right in your face— the stylish beauty, the ugly poverty, the vastness of humanity.

Some shots of the week:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Fling

It's Spring! and time for cartoonist extraordinaire Jules Feiffer, and Dance to Spring

Jules Feiffer's "Sunday Morning"
(another version)

I'm getting ready to go to New York, a trip I've taken in spring for the past three years. The realization that I'm leaving soon has manifested itself in weird dreams and mental confabulations. I feel turned upside down, rushing forward, towards what, I'm not sure. Which brings to mind this drawing by James Thurber, of a crowd stampeding through the streets of Columbus, Ohio, during the imaginary flood of 1913:

 From Thurber's, My Life and Times, "The Day the Dam Broke."

I have a special fondness for Thurber, and bring him out whenever I need a good chuckle. In a shameless copy of his style, I drew this picture many years ago, of children running in all directions, holding flashlights, looking for a wild dog named Fatima:

I bring this up because, lately, I've been thinking about the act of drawing and how a drawing can disappear into the dustbin of history, only to be found in a box hidden in the back of a closet, high on a shelf, or on an obscure website, like this one by Zuni Maud, a Yiddish illustrator, cartoonist and puppeteer. (To see his amazing puppetry and more drawings, click here.)

What possibly could the name of this drawing be? "Jews gathering moss uphill?" "Sisyphusberg?" In his subtle comic style, Maud illustrates hopeless labor, like the Sisyphus myth, something artists, cartoonists and bloggers know well. But the mere fact that one can find humor in the act of hopelessness, is in itself, not hopeless, and a trait I much admire, which brings me back to Thurber, which makes me think of Feiffer...which reminds me that it's Spring!

See you in NY!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hazy, OK

If you've ever lived in the Midwest, you know what a hazy day looks like. It's different from Los Angeles, where the sky fills with white billowy puffs, or, on some days, with pollution. A Midwestern sky is partially white, mixed in with blue, but a timid blue, not bold. It's clear, but not sharp. Hazy sky means hot.

We walked on "the land" over the weekend, 30 min. outside of Tulsa, land deeded to Tom's great grandmother in 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state. The Dawes Act of 1887 set in motion the parceling out of tribal lands to individual Indians in Oklahoma; Tom's great grandmother, on his mother's side (Shawnee Tribe), received 120 acres. Half of it was sold, as were so many plots, back to the government. Like most people in those days, families needed money more than they needed land. This family plot of 60 acres is now the exception, surrounded today by privately owned land. If you climb the ridge you can see a big Walmart distribution center, an eyesore in the middle of woods that once was entirely Indian territory. 

Across this ridge, a Walmart distribution center

On our walk, the sky was hazy, the woods were humid and sweltering hot, the ticks were hopping. I've never seen so many ticks, tiny ticks, with red markings. Our jeans were covered, as we walked to the pond where a goose once attacked Maya. Tom's mom almost died of Lyme disease, so we were vigilant.

This land is old. Graves lie out here, engraved with names that have lost their meaning. Maya wanted to see them, but they lay deep within the woods, a wood covered in ticks, not to mention being almost done in by the heat and humidity—another thing you know well if you've ever lived in the Midwest.

It was Tom's mom's 80th birthday celebration the night before, and her children threw her a big bash with family and friends at the Holiday Inn in Broken Arrow—a night of honoring a much beloved woman. Ona Mae Shawnee was born outside of Tulsa, and grew up with six siblings on land near Miami (pronounced Mi-am-ah), in the furthest corner of northeast OK; their front door opened onto deep lead mines and chat pilings, which the children jumped over and played in on their way to school. Ona Mae's father, William, was a popular tribal elder, who grew even more popular as he grew older, with young people seeking his advice, and listening to and learning his ceremonial songs. He had charisma and good stories, something his daughter Ona Mae still possesses into her eighth decade.

Ona Mae as a nursing student (slide show)

 Ona Mae with grandson Mekko...

...and granddaughter Maya

The party was a happy, boisterous affair, held on a balmy Oklahoma night, with Orion in the sky and beer on tap.