Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Yearly Goals Check In

Way back in January, I set myself a few New Year's resolutions, and since we're exactly halfway through the year, I thought I should check in on them. The goals were: read 45 books, send out 52 submissions, become better with money, get back into some healthy habits, and visit historic house museums. Here's how it's going, six months in.

Read 45 Books:
So far, I've read 13 books in 2015, which Goodreads tells me is 9 books behind where I should be. This hasn't been a banner year for reading, especially considering that two of the books on my list are comic books and two are art books, but I've found myself pretty taken in by nonfiction lately, so that's been an interesting shift. We'll see if I can manage to catch up before December. If not, it's okay, guys. It's okay.

Send Out 52 Submissions:
Okay, so I'm almost on track with this one, since I've sent out 19 submissions (I should be on 26 by now). But, I also sent out all 19 of those on one evening in January and haven't sent out any others. So, anyone want to have a poetry date soon? So much for weekly goals.

Be Better with Money:
This one has actually been a small success for me. I haven't done too much paid freelance work, but I am hoping to improve on that soon. I did write one paid article, and I've sold a few things on eBay, so it's not all lost, but I can definitely work better for a side hustle. However, I did manage to get a job with a 40% pay increase, and for the past two months, I've been on a cash budget, which has really helped to reign in my spending. I consolidated my retirement accounts, and opened a high-interest online bank account to save for an emergency fund and for travel. So far, so good!

Healthy Habits:
I did rejoin Weight Watchers after the marathon, although I haven't been great about losing weight, after an initial 5 pound weight loss. I'm planning to try it for the rest of the summer, and if I'm not down at least a bit more by September, I'll probably stop. Unfortunately, as part of being better about money, I quit my gym, so I'm slowing figuring out how to work out on my own. Fortunately, I've been much better about eating out, and I started walking to and from the express train, which helps in that arena. Together, R. and I have both been much better about cooking dinners, even though our dinner share ended when I took the new job. It's definitely a work in progress, but I'm getting there! As for writing every morning, it just hasn't happened yet. We'll see, guys.

Visit All the NYC Historic House Trust Houses:
I can pretty much guarantee I am going to fail at this before the year is out, but I've had such a blast checking out the houses I've visited so far! I've got recaps on the Wyckoff Farm House and the Morris-Jumel Mansion up already, and I hope to post about the Old Stone House and the Poe Room (not a Historic House Trust house) soon!

Did you make any New Year's resolutions? If so, how are they going?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Take Your Base 5K 2015

This weekend was busy, but tons of fun! On Friday, I pinch-hit for an LNL interview, and got to meet two really interesting poets whose work I've admired for a long time now. One of the best parts of working for them is having the chance to meet so many great writers!

On Saturday, I woke up early and headed down to Coney Island, where Danielle, Nora, and I ran the Take Your Base 5K. We ran it last year, too, and I think that—like the Freihofer's Run for Women and the Putnam County Classic—it's becoming a race I want to run year in and year out. Traditions are pretty important to me, and I like having a routine, and so I'm excited to have a few races that I like to run every year. This one is probably the most fun of any of the races I run, so I was really excited to get out there, and it was a blast!

Even though the day was grey, I would have liked to spend a little time on the beach, but alas, after a great finish on homeplate and a Nathan's hot dog, I had to be on my way. That afternoon, R. and I were heading to our friends Caitlin and Tej's wedding celebration!

The couple got married a few weeks ago at city hall, so they had a small, self-catered reception at their house. It was a blast, and they made some of the most delicious food I've had in a long time, including grilled paneer and papri chaat! It was tons of fun to catch up with everyone over such a happy occasion.

The happy couple!

After the party, it was even more food and friends! We headed to a friend's apartment for an incredible dinner of feta and watermelon salad and duck cassoulet. The cassoulet was so rich and delicious that I wanted to eat it forever. We brought over a salty honey pie, so it was quite the evening of rich food. But even better than the food was the conversation, which went until 1am. It was great to catch up with them, and really closed out a lovely day in the perfect way.

On Sunday, we decided to take it a little easy after such a busy day. We tried to go to the Morbid Anatomy Museum's flea market, but the line was literally around the block, so we just made a nice long walk to Target for a few things, and then headed home to catch up on some reading and work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Jasmine Dreame Wagner

Jasmine Dreame Wagner is the author of three collections of poems: Rings (Kelsey Street Press, 2014), Rewilding (Ahsahta Press, 2013), Listening for Earthquakes (Caketrain, 2012), and an e-chapbook, True Crime (NAP, 2014). Her newest chapbook, Seven Sunsets, launches on Monday, and she's playing a show at the Palisades in Brooklyn to celebrate. If you're around, you should definitely stop by!

Who are you? My name's Jasmine Dreame Wagner and I'm a poet, artist, and musician. I'm the author of Rings (Kelsey Street Press), Rewilding (Ahsahta Press), Listening for Earthquakes (Caketrain), True Crime (NAP), and two forthcoming chapbooks: Ask (Slope Editions) and Seven Sunsets (The Lettered Streets Press). My collection of lyric essays on silence, noise, and violence will be published by Ahsahta Press next year. I'm also a songwriter and a musician—I'm currently at work on my first studio record for voice, chamber orchestra, and jazz quintet.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I've been chronicling my life online for as long as I can remember, first on a personal website I built for school and on Livejournal, then on each of the social media sites as they rose and collapsed (Friendster, MySpace, etc.).

What I refer to these days as my "blog" is my Tumblr, though for a while I was using Twitter like a blog, too. I would tweet jokes along with book/music promotions and the minutiae of the mundane details of my life but I always approached tweeting like writing a poem with formal constraints. When I started, I was inspired by Weird Twitter—the Twitter underworld where pranksters (who I imagined as graveyard-shift pharmacists and gothic teenage girls) masked by avatars would tweet puns mixed with non sequiturs, political rants, and emotional appeals—but I never went full-anonymous myself.

If I had to describe the trappings of my online persona, I'd say, it's a mix of red-lipstick selfies, photos of the city, the woods, and abandoned things, updates about shows I'm playing or readings I'm giving, and deeper commentary about life and art. For example, I blogged about hiking up to the bat hibernacula at the Roxbury Mines and responded to Cynthia's Ozick's rant about young people and ambition in The New York Times. My poems are personal, political, and saturated with images, just like my blog.

It was around the time that HTMLGiant and other folks on the literary internet started to rave about "The New Sincerity" that I came to a critical realization about my poems and my online habits: In my "literary writing," aka, my poems that became my book, Rings, I was using (and abusing) formal verse to examine post-industrial decay. I felt an insane pressure (from who? my professors?) to keep the personal out of my work. Architecture was a worthy subject; my bangs and woes were not. So instead of writing poems about my personal life, I would blog and tweet about it. But technology requires form—it also creates new forms as it evolves. Literally: You've got 140 characters, fill in the box. That's formal verse. Why was I confessing in formal verse in one place (online) but not in another (my poems)?

The poems in my forthcoming chapbook, Ask, were created by cutting and pasting directly from my tweets, conversations, and from anonymous questions received on Tumblr and Ask.fm. The poems also engage with other internet forms, for example, OkCupid profile fields and the way that Tumblr text cascades as posts are blogged and reblogged. Ask is a collection of poems. It's also an archive and an autobiography of a brief period of time where I was a sad adjunct, blogging about Lana Del Rey and New York City's changing landscape, a time when I spent a lot of time talking to people online.

Why do you write? I write to connect. I write to remember, to understand. Through writing, I've learned that I don't really understand a thing until I can write it down clearly. I also write to preserve. Over the course of my short lifespan, I've seen landscapes and populations completely transformed and I feel an overwhelming desire to fix what I saw.

Photo credit: Jonathan Schwarz

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? Oh, there are many writers, artists, and musicians who inspire me. I'm awed by women who create large bodies of work in multiple fields, especially Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith, and Yoko Ono. Books that inspire me: Joan Didion's White Album. Chris Kraus's I Love Dick. Anne Carson's Glass, Irony, and God, Men in the Off Hours, Decreation, Nox. Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space. My editors at Ahsahta Press, Caketrain, and The Lettered Streets Press inspire me by creating and supporting great works of literature that are also beautiful aesthetic objects. My friends and collaborators inspire me most of all: Sondra Sun-Odeon, Charlie Rauh, Mia Theodoratus, Dana Maiden, Mira Lew, Jonathan Schwarz, Matt Sargent, Meghan Maguire Dahn. I recently saw a great show at Postmasters Gallery with my friend Hannah Berthelot—Eddo Stern's Vietnam Romance video game installation and Ada Karczmarczyk's Way to Conversion videos—and I immediately ran home, inspired to make things. I become inspired by moving my body through space, by taking long walks through the city or the woods, by practicing movement like yoga and piano.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? To the moon! But that's probably pretty expensive, right? If the moon isn't in the budget, then Antarctica. I love cold climates. I have to admit that I have a very romantic idea of what it would be like to approach Antarctica's looming ice wall from the prow of ship, a white cashmere scarf wrapped around my face, the tassels blowing the in wind. I would be wearing sunglasses and white Gore-Tex ski gloves! The ice would glow blue and white above the choppy waves! Penguins! I can hear the orchestral arrangement booming in the background. Arriving there would probably be totally different, but a girl can dream. 

Photo credit: Jonathan Schwarz

What is your favorite place on earth? I'm an East Coast girl—I grew up between Connecticut and New York—so my favorite place would be either the city or the woods. In New York, I always know where I stand. Figuratively, because people are straight with you in the city (you know who cares about you because they act like it and you know who doesn't care because they don't have time to pretend), but also literally. In New York, my internal compass knows due North. One can get lost in the woods—a frightening feeling, but one that can also be freeing. The air smells good around a bog and the chirping of tree frogs and cicadas, underscored by the low drone of bullfrogs and outlet brooks is one of the most soothing soundscapes in the world. The summer air in Northwestern Connecticut smells like orchids and fresh hay. There is an intense green canopy of trees that tents over the winding backroads like you're driving through a tunnel of jade. In the woods, there is an intense sensory experience that's completely different from the colliding architectures and smells of the city, where so many cultures, styles, and ideologies have accreted, bricked and piled atop each other, backlit by the blues and reds and oranges and pinks of a Hudson river sunset.

Photo credit: Jason Alexander

Anything else you'd like us to know? On Monday, June 29th I'll be performing at Palisades in Bushwick, Brooklyn, accompanied by Charlie Rauh on guitar and Mia Theodoratus on harp. Also performing will be Metal Mountains (Helen Rush, Pat Gubler, and Samara Lubelski) and sun riah, on tour from Oklahoma. I'll be celebrating the release of my new chapbook, Seven Sunsets, newly out from The Lettered Streets Press. Join us!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Father's Day Weekend

 First off, a big happy Father's Day to this guy:

The best dad anyone could ask for. I spent this past weekend at my parents' house, and the three of us headed to Pennsylvania to shower my cousin and his wife with love before they become parents themselves this August.

My aunt and her friends made some delicious food, and we all had a blast hanging out and watching the happy parents-to-be open gifts.

I like to think that whatever gift caused this laughter:

Also brought on this fantastic face from my father:

My mom and her brother, who is beaming at the thought of becoming a grandfather for the second time:

On Father's Day itself, we had a nice breakfast of French toast before doing a little organizing in the basement. We're getting ready for my parents' big 4th of July party, and having several overnight guests, so a little extra space around the house is always a good thing!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Jacob Riis Park Beach Day

This past weekend, we headed out to Jacob Riis Park to spend the day on the beach. It's a gorgeous beach and though it's not quite as easy for us to get to as Coney Island, it wasn't too bad to take the subway out to the Q35 bus, which dropped us off right in front of the beach.

The sun was hot and the water was fine. It fed my soul. Nothing like a day on the shore!

Not pictured: the delicious El Salvadorian dinner we had that night, and the fantastic clothing swap I attended on Sunday.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Travel Shrine - Happier at Home

Shortly after moving to Brooklyn, I read Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. I really loved the book, and fell in love with its quick, easy steps to making yourself happier. I was also particularly comforted by the fact that she says you don't actually have to get rid of things to be happier. She acknowledges that sometimes objects make us happy, and the book is more about making those items work for us than about taking a minimalist approach.

One of the projects she mentioned, Cultivate a Shrine, struck an instant cord with me. We had space in our office, where we had been planning on putting up the shelves my father had made for our last apartment, but we were stalling on putting them up because we didn't know what to put on them. They'd held office supplies before, but we had a difference space for those now. When I read Rubin's idea about creating a shrine to work in her office, I realized we could start a shrine to our own passion: travel.

Not only did it make use of the beautiful handmade shelves, but having all of our little souvenirs in one place gives them a purpose, and being together makes them beautiful. Rather than being strewn about the house, they're all in one place and now whenever I pass it, I think of the places I've been and how happy those trips have made me. It was a quick, simple thing to do, but it's really improved my mood for months now. If you have a passion that results in some objects, I'd urge you to build a shrine to that passion by gathering them all in one spot and arranging them to be just a little aesthetically pleasing. You never know how they'll improve your mood when you see them!

So, what's in our travel shrine? A mixture of things, old and new, from our travels and from the travels of friends and family. Changing out the photos and objects every so often has kept it fresh for us. Here's what we have, from the bottom up.

A globe decanter from Roger's mother, an Adinkra cloth stamp from Ghana and a tiny replica of a Baule mask from Paris (gifts from Roger's too-generous former boss), a bronze pendant that Roger bought me in Ivory Coast, and a photo from our trip to Mexico:

Tour books from when Roger lived in Senegal and from a trip to Spain, a miniature terracotta warrior that my parents brought back from China, stacking dolls that my father's coworker brought me from her hometown in Russia when I was a baby, a block of wood from Senegal, a tacky David statue from my first trip to Italy, and a sweetgrass basket from Charleston:

And finally, a picture of us in New Haven, a handpainted sign from Senegal, a bell from Disney World, and several tchotkes that don't actually have anything to do with travel but need a new home eventually:

Do you have any shrines in your house? Any passions you want to commemorate?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Hobart and William Smith Colleges 2015 Reunion

A few weekends ago, Roger and I headed upstate to his alma mater, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, for his five year reunion. We had such a blast that we spent the entire drive home planning how to move out of New York City and into a college town. One day...

We drove through the night on Thursday, so we could wake up in Geneva on Friday and start our day right with some Wegman's breakfast sandwiches and this incredible view of Seneca Lake.

We wandered around campus, including the arts building, which is in a historic home near a graveyard:

And the newly updated library:

Before heading over to tour Fribolin Farm, a farm the colleges recently acquired. The property is gorgeous, and some of their plans (a solar farm and an orchard) are just as exciting as what's already there (a salsa garden, an internship program, and a horse named Gina)!

We met back up with friends for a little wine tasting on the nearby vineyards before heading back to campus for some hula-hooping and food trucks that night.

That evening, we visited Lake Drum Brewing, the brewery our friend Victor opened this past year. It was such a blast hanging out at his incredible bar and tasting the beer and cider he'd brewed himself. It was more proof that we know the coolest people.

The next morning, Roger and I woke up early to take mini-college classes, and—aside from seeing friends we don't see often enough, of course—the class I took on Architecture of Geneva was my favorite part of the whole weekend. It was mostly a photographic tour of the historic homes in Geneva, along with some quick lessons on architectural terminology. Right up my alley!

We had a picnic lunch outside Lake Drum, and then headed back to campus for their Beer and Wine Festival.

After that, we headed up to the top of St. Mark's Tower to take in views of the lake and campus from above.

The evening only got better when dinner and dancing started, and at midnight, we watched the moon rise and set off sky lanterns over the lake, which was just stunning. From what I can remember, the evening ended in the dorms with a game Rob made up called "Catch the Hot Dog Roll in Your Mouth."

We all enjoyed one last Wegman's breakfast sandwich on the lake together, and Roger was especially pleased with the greyhound meet up we happened to see.

It was genuinely difficult to leave that afternoon because of all the fun we'd had. It's so rare to have so many people you love all in one place, and I'm so glad that nearly everyone was able to make it up. I can't wait to go back in 2020!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Lisa Carnochan

I've been reading Lisa's blog, Amid Privilege, for many years. Her writing has always struck me with a lightness, even as she's discussing serious topics, and I've benefitted from her wisdom (sartorial and otherwise) many times. I wanted to write here that she's reinvented herself many times, but I think actually she has just shared many sides of herself, a rare and brave thing on the internet these days. I hope you'll appreciate that and have a visit to her site when you're done reading here!

Who are you? 58­-year-old recently remarried mother of 2 adult children, former executive in the software industry, blog author.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? Remember, you're in a hot tub with them on a clear cold night, stars twinkling above you. They want all the details. If not, tell the hot­tub­stranger about your writing in such a way that makes them urge you to get an online receptacle for it. I struggle with that. Usually, in commercial situations, I position my blog as restrained luxury for women over 40—a niche which segments and monetizes well. I don’t know how anyone in the industry might actually describe what I do, and it feels weird to stand outside my writing and examine it as though it matters.

If I felt safe, I might tell my hot tub friend, “Imagine someone impatient with imprecision and platitudes but good with words and design. Someone come late in life to a an attempt at virtue, who wants, even so, to honor a family culture of luxury. Someone who grew up in privilege, and rather than deny it, tries to expand the definition. Now imagine that person writes a lifestyle blog.”

And then I’d quickly offer another drink, and change the subject. “But enough about me. How’s your new project coming along?”

Later, I might even say, “I do intellectual luxury.” But dear lord nobody loves an intellectual.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? During a break in my career, in 2009, I’d been working with a team of Asian­-Americans, the first people ever to ask me openly about my High WASP family. It dawned on me how much of how I approach to the world resulted from culture rather than private fantasy. High WASPs don’t usually like to talk about their ways, which are fraught with privilege and class distinctions, so it was quite liberating to launch into a loving exposé. As readership grew, I realized that it's good to write in a niche. Style came naturally, High WASPs have refined their taste through centuries spent with beautiful goods. So here we are.

Why do you write? Until very recently, because I’ve always talked to myself as though I were writing, and wanted to actually do it. But in retirement, I’m asking myself what’s the point—beyond self­-discovery, self­-expression, entertainment. I’ve edged the blog further and further into support for strongly­-held values, wondering if I can make some sort of difference in the world.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? That’s very nice of you to say. Other people’s writing tends to make me nervous if it’s good, and mad if it’s not. My inspiration comes upon me randomly as I putter about, or via a call to something that seems very far away. Like, “Hey weird words, whatcha got for me? Anything? Anything?”

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all­expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Everywhere. On a private jet to Glasgow, London, Stockholm, Prague, Paris. On a boat through the Galapagos, up to Alaska, and slowly down the Rhone or the Rhine or Nile or Amazon. On a train through India, again, as I did in my 20s. This time with someone to carry my bags. Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Peru. New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Guam.

Circle the earth in iambic pentameter, humming destinations, nose pressed to the airplane window.

What is your favorite place on earth? If we take actions as the truest sign of intent, my favorite place is the right-­hand side of my peanut­-colored faux suede sofa.

Anything else you'd like us to know? I’d need to ask what questions you care about. Thank you very much for having me here at Not Intent on Arriving.