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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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

R & R = zzzzzzz?

Is too much serenity possible?

Myrtle Beach was my fourth major trip in the past month and half, it was the only one that wasn’t about work, running a marathon, or family obligations. It was all about relaxation. And we went about it with gusto: pleasure reading (novel concept!), watching the sunrise/set, floating in the ocean, building sandcastles, watching basketball, eating yummy seafood, going for walks/runs/swims—it was all very peaceful. Very far away from New York and my many projects there.

Though I was never homesick, after a few days of serious chilling, I started to feel uncomfortably lethargic, as if Lilliputians were slowly binding me to the ground in a supine position. Don’t get me wrong: sleeping on the beach is one of life’s finest pleasures but after so much time enjoying and consuming (which I had also done on my other trips), I was ready to be back in the studio making something positive. There’s something about the beach that stifles creativity—as if life is so nice as it is, art is not really necessary.

By the time we got home, I felt something like a sugar-crash or a hangover. Too much sweetness can be bad.

About an hour after deplaning at Laguardia and catching up on all the latest playground gossip (much of it discouraging), Sebastian and I were waiting for pizza at Simple (cafe across the street from our apartment). We had the dubious privilege of witnessing a gang battle—complete with bottle-throwing, sticks, crashing cars and cops with guns—literally a few feet in front of us. Sebastian asked if the police would put the bad guys in jail and I had to tell them that I could not discern any good guys in the melee.

Did I just write that I needed more grit?

Friday, May 16, 2008


These two know how to have fun. Congrats Benjameister and Emski. We couldn't be happier for you.

Ben and Emily’s wedding was the full deal. Really four days of celebration. Huge tent like a circus or country auction set up behind the garden. Friends encamped on ridge opposite. Outrageously good barbeque. Plenty of excellent local creftbrew. Old friends from really far away. New friends. Missing relations and missed. New members of the family and they feel really close.

Torrential rains with cheery-sized hail that somehow replaced itself with perfect blue skies just at the right moment. Sunlight as if designed by an experienced theatre hand. May’s full bloom. No bugs(!) Four piece bluegrass band on a haywagon complete with hay.

Kids free to roam and do as they please with minimal supervision and tons of fun. Plenty of company for them and for us too. Wonderful people constantly figuring out how to help and just doing so with being asked or told. Two cozy fires, one with free neck massages.

An Aussie, an Alaskan dogsledrunner, lake-country Minnesotans, people from the hills of Carolina. New Yorkers, a photojournalist from DC. She had to leave early to shoot another wedding—the president’s daughter. Vollyball on the east lawn. Croquet to the north. Ping pong on the south slope. I watched them play from the outdoor shower. Of course a good friend just happened to be working on the catering staff. This is Charlottesville and all people of taste were mobilized.

Grass so green and air so sweet. Tiki torches. Fond stories of the one who could not make it. Wish she were here but our thoughts about her are celebrations. Washing dishes in buckets on the porch. Mark your cup with a sharpie or a white ribbon. You’ll want to hang onto it.

It was a wonderful, affirming experience. This pair was destined to marry but they worked hard to get to the altar. Not always an easy road for them but the right one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Farewell Margery

Margery Edson-Gould (pictured here on her wedding day) departed just a few days shy of her grandson Ben's own much-anticipated nuptuals.
Margery Swan Huff Edson-Gould (6/20/15-5/6/08) passed away last week, and we’ll all miss her terribly. Everyone who met her they always walked away thinking, "So this is what a human can be." She was quite simply magnificent and her quality shines brightly in her daughters and through to her granddaughter Meredith, my lovely wife. I have been fortunate to know Margery for the past eighteen years and I am better for it.

The first thing most people noticed about Margery was her fierce, burning passion for life. I say this not as a cliché about someone who is physically battered yet with a great lust for life, though by the end such a description would fit. She was physically precocious and her prime years extended well into what others would consider old age. She used to whip her grandchildren in tennis and was notorious for receiving speeding tickets in her VW Scirocco. She lived life as one on fire yet she was always calm.

She would have made a great coach, and she was, in fact, very interested in [and opinionated about] sports. I'll never forget the night I got us prime seats at the U.S. Track & Field Championships. I told a few people there that her grandfather had been an early Olympian but the luminaries of the running world treated her as a star that night for reasons not even they understood. There was something about her that commanded respect. Maybe it was her eyes, which were perhaps Meredith's greatest inheritance.

Margery inspired those around her not only by setting a great example, but by taking a very real and thoughtful interest in everyone she met. She was extraordinarily generous with her thoughts, praise, and many small gifts. She never met anyone she considered a hopeless case and saw great potential for good in everyone. She told them so and they wanted to go out and make good on the promise she found in them. Perhaps that explains her rapid ascent from the gym teacher to high school principal and beyond. She would have been a great politician and perhaps president in a different sort of world.

But she changed many lives nevertheless. Her influence was meted out in small conversations, cards and bouquets, winks and many, many hugs. She lived a very full and rich life and hers is an example I would gladly follow.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Barfight Averted

The other night I headed over to Clem’s for a post-studio pint, as is my habit. Clem’s is close to the perfect bar, but it has one flaw—and it is the type of problem that cannot be overcome. They have one bartender who possesses the planet’s absolute worst taste in music. It’s really bad and a bar with loud, bad music is just unbearable.

You might have encountered the guy—he likes to keep a cocktail straw in his mouth. On the way down the block, I vowed to myself that if Straw Guy was working I would go someplace else—like home.

I arrived to find the hotplaygroundmom we’ll call Goldilox hanging outside smoking with some equally hot female friends. I said to myself, “That’s it: I’m stayin’.” So I went inside and ordered a beer. In my distracted state I didn’t notice who was serving my drink until it was too late. It was him!

Then a perverse but admittedly magical thing happened. As he put my beer down, his straw somehow flipped out of his mouth, twisted end-over-end a few times in mid-air before striking me right in the forehead.

Why didn’t I pick up my stool right then and there and smash it to bits over his head? Was I afraid of starting a barroom brawl, being slid down the bar like a bowling ball or thrown through a plate glass window? No more so than usual.

What stayed my hand that night was a voice from the other end of the bar telling one of the other customers some unimaginably good news,

“We both forgot our iPods,” the waitress was saying. “So tonight it’s customers’ choice.” The words fell on me like manna from Heaven and my rage instantly dissolved. Then Goldilox came back in and her friends turned out to be a charming mix of artists and hotplaygroundmoms too.

Yup: definitely stayin’.