… and I have slips of paper all over the place with a million little notes jotted down so that the second it starts, I’m getting back to work.
I can’t help but think that the forced time away from the studio has been sort of a good thing – it’s given me some clarity about where I want the work to go from here. So it’s not all bad… even if I am getting a little nutty from not making things 24/7.
But soon. Soon…
Oswald died early this morning. Anyone who knows us knows that we have been in love with that cat since he first found us 12+ years ago.
When Jeff and I were first married, I used to wait for him to come home from work by sitting on the stoop of our apartment building. One day, out of nowhere, this neighborhood stray just walked up to me out of the clear blue and sat on my lap. This was my first introduction to Oswald.
I didn’t want to adopt a cat – I really, really didn’t. First off, our landlord didn’t allow it, but secondly I just didn’t really want the responsibility. But still, here was this cat every evening, showing up and wanting nothing more than to sit on my lap and chill out. As summer turned to autumn and it started getting colder out, I stopped waiting for Jeff every evening but that didn’t stop Oswald – he figured out which apartment we lived in and came by the window and cried to be let in. And so, that’s how we adopted him or he adopted us, depending on how you look at it.
Two years later (in 1999), once he was fully “our” cat, I noticed something was wrong with one of his eyes. I took him to the vet right away only to be told a variety of contradictory things – it was cancer, it was herpes, it was feline HIV… all of which he came back with clean tests for, and yet the doctors kept insisting that he had only months to live. We refused to have him put to sleep as they suggested, and instead took him home and took care of him the best we could. I never, ever, ever thought he’d last another ten years, but so he did.
Oswald would sit on my lap when I would draw; he’d sleep between me and Jeff with his head on my pillow. I can’t really imagine how it’s going to be without him. I am very, very grateful that he when peacefully and quickly at the end, and that he seemed to be in no pain. I just don’t know what I’m going to do without him.
Ok, first things first: New drawings will be posted this weekend! Yes, I’m totally jinxing it by writing that, but I’m gonna take that chance. I have two sitting on my desk just waiting for the tiniest little tweaking and then they’re ready to go… so I need to finally finish them already.
Despite all my whining, I actually haven’t been spending 24/7 teaching. It’s just that between prep, teaching, follow-up (grading, etc), I have little of the kind of headspace I need to make my work – which is to say that I need to make myself be very open and relaxed if I’m going to actually write anything of substance; not normally a hard thing to do, but my defenses are up just because of school so it’s not really “flowing” as well as it should. (School ends early in May, so this state is very temporary, I keep reminding myself.)
Once all the teaching and prep and etc gets done, I have about one solid day to myself, during which I have been doing things like preparing our backyard for vegetable gardening (oh MAN I am so excited for this!), going to yoga class, and investigating veganism (ie, researching recipes, all the new stuff on the market, etc).
I’ve gone vegan before, only to crash and burn. The most pathetic attempt was around 1992 when I lasted all of 48 hours or so. That bad experience has crept into my mind whenever I’ve thought seriously about trying it again, but the world has changed a lot in the intervening years. In 1992, you couldn’t get soy milk for tea or coffee at about half the places in Manhattan, for instance. Forget about eating at a restaurant other than the crunchiest and most unpleasant place. And did you happen to sample any vegan cheese circa 1992? The memory of it is enough to almost make me cry – it was like biting into a salty rubber sponge (it had to have been created by someone who has never had “real” cheese in their entire life). As someone who loves dairy cheese, this “soy cheese” was enough to make me feel like the universe was laughing at me.
But like I said, the world has changed – there’s actually vegan cheese that tastes good, not to mention soy yogurt in a gazillion different flavors (oh, also: yogurt made out of coconut milk. yum!!!!!), and most places that I ate at anyway have options available to me even now that I’ve changed things up in my diet so drastically. It’s actually completely fine and pretty easy to do now (I say this going on about week 3… you might want to check in in a few months to see if I still feel that way).
I do, however, find it difficult to ignore that this newly found convenience (and yumminess) comes at a price – that while the food in 1992 was really terrible, it was really “pure” in a way. The Nabisco Corporation or the Mars Corporation or whatever has never come up with a product where you have to soak a bunch of their food in water overnight (as we had to do with beans), which meant that making the simplest of dishes involved a lot of planning. And, as I recall, people who did it successfully back then (and before) carried their meals with them in tupperware, rather than buying their hummus salads in disposable packaging without a second thought.
And then, add to all this the loathesomeness of a group like PETA, which can’t seem to promote its agenda without getting some young starlet to pose naked save for a faux fur (save the animals by throwing women’s rights under the bus, I suppose); they also count among their major “achievements” convincing KFCs in Canada to carry a vegan sandwich. I can’t tell you how much these two things come together and make me want to order a hamburger so bad. They are the antithesis of the broader agenda that everyone I know who really gives a shit about veganism really cares about, that broader agenda having to do with respecting one another and at the same time recognizing the broad implications of mass market “fast” food and culture.
So I go into this with really mixed feelings. Actually, that’s a misstatement – I go into this realizing it’s not much more than a step (a highly symbolic step perhaps, but just a step nonetheless) and not a leap, that it shouldn’t be confused with a jump or a sprint in that respect, but at the same time that maybe little steps are sometimes worth taking.
Which brings me back to the vegetable garden…
For right now, I am mostly existing on veggie nuggets, veggie fake cheese, veggie yogurt, etc, but I want this stage to be a sort of halfway house for my tastebuds/life. Which is to say that what I’ve enjoyed most of all from this little experiment is really learning about food, really learning about ingredients and how to cook, and then going from there – so that (I hope) there is a time when I can break away from the Whole Foods Corporation that seems to have taken over my life. Hey, Whole Foods is about a million times better to its workers and the environment than KFC, but it would be great if I could move beyond even them.
This is a very, very longterm goal and it’s not the kind of thing that I would ever be able to fully accomplish living in the city, but again – little steps are worth taking. And also, maybe what my life has been lacking lately is idealism and it’s great to have a little bit of it back again. So, I don’t know – I don’t claim to be anymore “pure” than anyone who eats at McDonalds three times a day, and I don’t even know if by the time this post gets read by anyone if I’ll be chowing down on an extra large Pinkberry. But yeah… idealism, steps… trying to stay focused on that.
My GOD… I am furious beyond words.
It’s grad school application time, and so I’m watching my current and former students one by one go up, apply to their fave schools, get rejected by one and accepted by another, over and over. It’s an excruciating thing to watch even in a year when applications aren’t through the roof, as they are this year. Most years I know maybe one or two people who are applying; this year, it’s over a dozen.
And I know how these things go: You get to know a student well, so you become convinced that he or she is qualified beyond all other candidates; you hear their story and watch their work unfold and know all the things they go through to get to where they are. You see them grow, slowly but surely – intellectually, artistically, personally, etc. You know them, in other words – something that graduate school admission committees don’t. All the committee sees is a couple of slips of paper and a few images flashed on a screen for mere seconds, and from this they have to make their decision. I’ve been in that committee room before and I know how hard a process it is.
Still, life goes on and year in and year out, I have written letters for students applying to grad schools. And since I work with great students, and also because I’m a little picky about who I will write about, every year I see most of them at least get to the interview process. It’s not me or my intervention that gets them there – but I do get to support people who I honestly believe are the best of the best, and so it only makes sense that these are the ones who make it this far. (Sometimes things happen during the interview that keeps the applicant out of the school – it could be anything from the applicant freezing up terribly or the school simply trying to get a good demographic mix of students or anything like that. Basically, if you make it as far as the interview, you’re qualified to go there and the rest is basically luck – or so it goes in my book.)
So this is why I’m so shocked and upset as the news has started trickling in as schools notify their applicants of where they stand. Three young women I know, all of whom applied to Yale, never even made it as far as the interview stage. This is absurd.
When I heard about the first, I thought, “Well, maybe something went wrong with the application. The images didn’t look good on the screen or something was forgotten or whatever” because these things happen. For Person #2, I thought, “Well… maybe they’re looking for a totally different kind of painter or… something” (at this point in my head it was all getting a little suspect). And then Person #3 tells me that she didn’t get in, and now I’m ready to punch someone. I’m livid. It doesn’t seem possible to me that all three might have made some sort of mistake on their application. And I can’t say this enough – all three of them are super intelligent, very strong artists, totally played by all the rules and got great grades and did everything you’re supposed to do… and… this??
Who the fuck do you have to be? I have seen so many of my former students make it to the interview stage – did something suddenly change this year? Is it just that the numbers of people who are applying are so much higher? I’m just also confused – if these women didn’t get into Yale, how the hell did I get into Yale all those years ago?
And I know that I sound like a ridiculously overprotective mom for saying this, but I feel so hurt and disappointed for them. I want to take a big bottle of white-out to my CV and just cross out where I got my MFA from, because clearly this school doesn’t know talent when it sees it. And I can’t reiterate enough – it’s one thing if one (or even two) of them hadn’t made it to the interview stage, but the point where all three didn’t make it… that’s where this all seems suddenly really unfair and I start wondering what’s up.
I was just saying the other day…
You know those bands… those bands that are so influential but somehow elude anything even resembling something close to financial success… what happens to those guys? What happens to them when they get older?
Sigh. I just found out that Lux Interior died. Man, that sucks.
Lux, I’m dedicating the rest of Kitsch Class to you. I have to turn that damn class around as it’s just not working yet… maybe you can be my inspiration. I hope your widow is ok and I hope that you had decent healthcare up to the end. And I’m really sorry you had to go.