Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

The List

Here’s a short list of my resolutions for the new year, in no particular order.
  • Get a Manhattan gallery that will represent my interests on a national/international level.
  • Do more group shows
  • Cure Beevis and Creepers of their respective illnesses/neurosis. Or at least stabilize them.
  • Rock Boston
  • Eat a super-healthy diet, including greens every day
  • Resolve my financial woes
  • Seize opportunity when it lands in my lap.
  • Find some kind of emotional equilibrium (yeah right!)
  • Always ask people’s names when talking on the telephone
  • Celebrate, rather than resent, my friends’ and neighbors’ riches.
These vows are pretty big-picture but I feel comfortable that I can easily achieve most, if not all of them. We’ll see how it goes…

One obvious way to improve my emotional well-being, which is seemingly omitted from the list, would be to resolve the tension between citymouse and countrymouse. When I decided to start this blog, I realized that the way out of that constant self-doubt is to actually embrace it. So no attempt to eliminate that conflict. Rather I shall attempt to understand it and celebrate it.

Tomorrow, I will recap last year’s vows and analyze their success/failure or how their context might have changed.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Urban Renewal

Good news: this is not a tirade about the changes in the neighborhood.

Since we weren’t going anywhere for the holidays, and Hennighaus-en-Harde did skip town (allowing free access to their facilities) we decided to finally fix our bathroom. It’s been a while since our cretin upstairs neighbors have overflowed their bathtub so now seemed like a good time to tear down the crapped-out ceiling, rebuild, repaint, re caulk, etc. We are usually good about customizing our space but we had become lazy and the squalid conditions started getting to us.

New Years is the ultimate moment to renew ourselves spiritually but also to fix the space around us. And the two are deeply connected, aren’t they? So we’re painting and doing a bunch of other projects (coat hooks, new light fixtures, hanging new art) and it feels really good. As one who owns a house and who lives in a rented apartment, it’s always problematic to spend time and money on a place you don’t own, but the bottom line is that it is our space, the space we inhabit and it’s up us to make of it something that nourishes and enhances our lives, instead of bringing us down.

Funnily enough, as I was walking into the Lucky Cat to write this entry, I was greeted by owners Lilah and Sasha, who are making many changes: lots of paint, new stage, new sound set-up, and new curtains. Of course, they're doing it in a totally green way, either freecycling materials or picking them up at a cool-sounding place called Build it Green NYC. Special shout outs to those guys (the Lucky Cat) for being the only place I know to use 100% bio-friendly cutlery and packaging for their take out. Anyway, their new space will be bright and acoustically sound. Our bathroom will go from being a source of embarrassment to a environment for accomplishing life's necessary functions.

Renewal is in the air!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Ramble's Still Wild!

Sebastian made a pilgrimage to introduce his dino toys to their much larger relatives.

Sebastian and I were taking a break from the Natural History Museum and he was playing idyllically by the edge of the Lake in Central Park when I looked down and saw a condom wrapper. Instead of the usual mixture of delight and revulsion I feel when I find them at the playgound (which is often) I felt unmitigated of elation. It was a sort of validation that New York is not dead yet. People are still turning tricks in the Ramble, and doing it safely to boot! What could be better?

Nearby, I also had confirmation that New Yorkers are still rude, which was less encouraging. This woman was seated in a rock, deep in thought. Who knows what she was pondering but it seemed pretty heavy so Sebastian and I gave her some space. Soon, and inexplicably, another woman marched up and sprawled herself on a rock directly in front of the woman (who was having her moment). I guess in retrospect, it might have been a gesture of some kind and it's possible that neither woman was a New Yorker. Either way, it's wack.

*When I find a condom wrapper on the playground (or its less savory cousin the Dirty Johnnie) I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand there's nuisance and potentially gross cleanup. On the other, one must appreciate the nearly undeniable evidence that someone just got lucky. The Dali Lama says that we should celebrate our neighbor's good fortune.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My most challenging resolution

Each year, I come up with a bunch of pretty challenging New Years resolutions and I usually make good on them. In addition to the usual mundane “buy a house/get health insurance/run more often” type of self-helpish to-do-list items, I try to list some self-helpish abstract ones that address my character flaws more directly. For example, last year I resolved to learn the differences between my boundaries (good) and my limitations (bad).

This year I would like to stop worrying (or obsessing) about other people’s advantages because it interferes with my happiness. That, in turn, makes me cranky, which is bad. It’s such an easy trap to become envious and so enamoured with the riches we see all around that we lose track of our own gifts. Every minute we spend thinking about how easy our neighbors are riding makes our own trip a little bit harder. I would like to free myself from that.

Yet in America, and especially in New York, Envy is big business. It’s peddled in ways both obvious and subtle all the time, every day. From gigantic billboards with airbrushed faces and bodies clinging to cologne bottles to that little message tagged to the end of emails that reads “Sent from my Crackberry.” It's bad, dangerous stuff and you have to be really strong to shut it all out and remain focused on what’s really important.

The good news: I am, in fact, really strong. So I can do this.


My first thought was that a little bit of envy can also be called "motivation." When I see how well other people are doing, it makes me want to work harder and do better for myself and my family, which is good, right?

I think that is true as long as we keep things in perspective. Many of our envious thoughts are quite simply inaccurate. We have no way to judge how difficult or easy someone else's lot may be and we never have all the facts. Let's don't judge one another without the facts, please.

What seems to dog me even more is my tendency to lose track of my own position and to forget my own advantages and consequently not use them to best effect. That's where the real waste happens.

Keep the eyes wide-open and know when generosity is merited instead of meanness. That's always good policy. At the same time, be aware of what's going on in my own pot of stew and how that can can get me where I want to go.


p.s. Is that ad telling us that the cologne will make us like the guy or make him like us? You know, really like us...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the bleak Mid-Winter

I love this time of year--the solstice season. It always gets a little bit warmer for a few days, the fields are cut, the birds easy to spot, and the light makes everything look like a fairy tale. The days are getting longer and the holidays create a tone of wonderment and awe.

If I were not in the city, I would go for a long walk through fields and forests, meadows and bogs and reflect on all that surrounds me. Since I'm stuck in the City, I went for a lovely run across the Williamsburg Bridge and meandering through East River Park. Let's be real--even though the gardens are nice it's not a natural environment. In fact, my reverie was disturbed by an attacking pit bull and its urban-cretin owner blamed me for it yelling, "why are you running around, anyway?" Well, countrymouse is well accustomed to negotiating aggressive dogs (almost every run in rural VA features at least one encounter). My tactic, which has always worked, is to ignore them completely (with the occasional gratuitous kick to the head) knowing they can't keep up for very long and are not fast, smart, or well-trained enough to know how to land a truly grievous bite.

The dog didn't disturb my reverie at all. Very Zen-like, actually, though the owner was less than courteous. I quickly distanced myself and had a wonderful run. The perfect weather (crystal clear and 45 deg.), combined with the Christmas-induced claustrophobia, and the sugar and caffeine rush from Cole's yummy cinnamon rolls and coffee created a perfect situation for a nice run, deep breathing, and as much peace and reflection as one can ever hope to find in an urban park.

Monday, December 24, 2007

John Adaster, almost the Sexiest Man Alive!

Congratulations, John, for looking exactly like the guy voted "sexiest on the planet!" And I get to run with you all the time!

Mad. Mike

Splinter and I are glad to welcome Mad[agascar] Mike to the Treehouse family. Mike's a sculptor on a monumental "hitch yourself in and get ready to fly" scale. He's a super-nice guy and he'll bring a great energy to the studio and we're glad to have him!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Track lighting

In an effort to increase the usable foot/hours of parkland in North Brookyln, the Parks Department is installing lights on the McCarren Park track and soccer field. By far the best place to work out in Williamsburg, the track (and the amazing infield) will now become viable options for runners late into the evening.

From a runner's perspective, this is a real boon. That track and the infield are the best option for anyone who wants to get off the often-dangerous roads, but not really available to the timid outside of business hours, especially during these short winter days when it's pitch-black by 5:00.

Perhaps McCarren Park, which is unusual for it's competition-sized 8-lane configuration (most City tracks are 6) will become a destination for after-work team workouts, which would be great.

This development is less good for the -er- developers. Having lived next to a lumberyard that sported 24/7 argon lights that allowed us to read the newspaper at night, I can only imagine what those stadium lights will be like for the glass-walled condos springing up around the park. That goes into the do-your-homework-before buying category.

Also, that's alot of light pollution and a big energy footprint, so those are two more significant downsides. From the standpoint of public health and fitness, however, this is a big step forward.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

New York men are unworthy

One of the joys of being married in New York is that you get to hear war stories from the front lines of dating in the City. What's not so great is hearing how pathetic the entire cadre of single men seems to be. Sadly, I have to agree based on what I've seen.

Case in point, I was walking through Union Square the other night with a friend of mine and she was telling me about a guy she had been seeing and his strange hang-ups. One example she used was that he kept all of his many fine books in some kind of individual wrapper (not the factory shrink-wrap) to keep them pristine. I forgot to ask if she was allowed to touch them but the inevitable next question did arise: did he wear a condom? Of course not! and he was equally adamant about that. Ex-boyfriend now.


Why am I doing this?

When Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan died in a double-suicide it was the talk of the town and the artworld. Now I could easily dedicate many entries to my feelings on the subject and about my on and [mostly] off relationship with Jeremy, and perhaps I will some day. But one thing that struck me was the surprising, central, role Duncan’s blog played in every piece of media coverage.

I had considered blogs to be mostly either soapboxes, dishie sources of “heard it here first” news, or, occasionally, outlets for worthy but disenfranchised members of the Fourth Estate. I still think that and there’s a lot of crossover between those things and they’re worthy, but I also saw that they can be windows into someone’s soul that can be quite touching and beautiful.

I’ve always been a very committed journal-writer and correspondent, but I’ve always kept my musings very private (even while doing them with an eye on posterity). But blogging can be a real act of sharing that can actually touch someone’s life, or at least let them know that they are not alone. That’s what art does and it’s what I try to do, so maybe a blog makes sense.

So here goes...


It’s certainly a better use of time than some of the other things I could be doing instead....


citymouse countrymouse

For a long time, I've been trying to reconcile the dualities of my personality: id vs superego, animal vs culture, Dionysus vs Apollo, countrymouse vs citymouse. Trying to figure out which one I am has really been driving me crazy and getting in the way of my art. I've resolved to accept that duality, though I will never stop tying to understand it. I recently did a drawing [pictured ain the masthead] that really expresses that ambivalence and its title inspired the blog.

I will write the blog in two voices, citymouse and countrymouse. They have alot in common (they're both me, afterall!) but they don't agree on everything. They're different in many ways. For example, citymouse talks alot, is a very savvy negotiator, and can be rather pushy. Countrymouse is serene, takes good care of himself, but just dosn't get it sometimes.

We'll see how it goes.

Thanks for visiting and come back often!