Tag Archives: new york city

new york, i love you.

i wasn’t born in the states, so when describing myself i call myself german. perhaps german american would be more appropriate, but slipping ‘american’ in there has never felt natural. and i have to confess, i don’t really like calling myself an american.

i know it’s the land of the free where you can pursue happiness and have the right to free speech, but when i think of americans i have this terrible image in my head of people who are greedy, selfish, and overindulgent. it’s not accurate nor is it fair. although i’ve met some people in my life who certainly fit that profile, A. it’s a mixed bag since a lot of them weren’t even american and B. i know a hell of a lot more people who are anything but. and although this country certainly has its problems, there’s a lot about america to love.

i’m talking about this today for obvious reasons. it’s the ten year mark of a horrible tragedy that occurred in my favorite city.

i’ve been stewing about my own discomfort with this for a few days and i think i have a fairly good handle on where my disdain for calling myself an american comes from. it’s a combination of things that can be traced back to my childhood.

being relocated here from germany when i was just four years old has always irked me. we moved because of my father’s job with microsoft, which is why we ended up in seattle, washington. part of me feels robbed. like america took away the german in me. it took away my first language, it took away the childhood i could have spent in germany, it took away my family. of course i have my nuclear family here in the states, but if i ever wanted to pay anyone in my extended family a visit, i’d need to go the airport and fly east for around ten hours.

if you’ve never been plucked from your country of origin and placed in another country, you may not understand this feeling of displacement and unease. and i’m not pointing fingers at my parents or anyone else. there is not a single person to be blamed for how i feel, it’s just how i feel. anyone with a similar experience would probably agree with me that the word lost describes it pretty well.

another word now comes to mind. the word home. i don’t really know where home is. part of me truly feels like i can’t call anywhere home. real home. home implies comfort, safety, and origin. i call seattle home because it’s where my immediate family is. it’s where i did most of my growing up. it’s where i have all of my memories stored. but it doesn’t feel like my “real” home. i haven’t been back to germany for well over a decade, but when i conjure up the thought of germany in my head – it feels like my real home. i don’t think i have any memories of it, but i have formulated them vicariously through the pictures i have seen of me when i was a little girl and the stories my parents have told me over the years.

going back to my previous statement about americans, i’m pretty sure the reason for those assumptions resides in the fact that i was reared in bellevue, washington. being a ‘softie’ (a child of a microsoft parent that is, yes i coined this term on my own), i grew up with wealth and wealthy people around me. this is not something i like to discuss and unless i really feel i can trust someone, i rarely mention this fact. but i guess it’s time to let the cat out of the bag.

and to call all wealthy people greedy, selfish, and overindulgent is clearly stupid because it’s just not true. however, we humans have a way of focusing on the bad and forgetting the good. for every negative there may be four positives, but we’ll still focus on that one negative. so this is me focusing on that one negative :: the memories i have of certain people i grew up around who fit this profile. some were friends (at times) and some were not. again, it’s a mixed bag. all i can say is that i have seen, first hand, what wealth can do to a person.

[listen]

i moved to new york city in two thousand and three. almost exactly two years after the towers had fallen. i moved there in august. i lived in a very cramped cozy apartment with my best friend. when september eleventh rolled around, we went to our rooftop at dusk. i’m not sure if they still do this, but when i lived there they would shine two spotlights directly into the sky from where the two towers once stood. from our rooftop, we had a perfect unblocked view of those spotlights. i’ll never forget it. i remember feeling like i’d really missed out on something. had they still been standing, we would have seen them perfectly from our little patio.

if you’ve ever lived in new york, you’ll likely understand this sort of territorial feeling you have about the city. when you ever hear people talking about how “pushy” or “aggressive” new yorkers are, you’re blood will boil like mine does. new york has this connotation of being always and forever fast paced and abrasive. a lot of people i know claim that it’s a place they like to visit but they would never ever live there because of the city and its inhabitants “attitude.”

if you ask me ? i don’t have any memory of this “attitude” that so many people speak of. there were no more pushy or aggressive people in new york than there have been anywhere else that i have lived or visited. in fact, i think i’ve met more kind and friendly people there than anywhere else. new yorkers will do anything to help you out. i remember needing help on several occasions and people were all too willing to lend a hand.

i’ll never forget the time i was walking to my commencement ceremony at school. it was a warm day in may. i was wearing rubber flip flops and running a little late as i bolted down 13th street towards school. in typical new york weather fashion, it suddenly began to pour warm muggy rain. i had just crossed broadway when my flat flip flops slid on a well paved piece of sidewalk. it was a textbook perfect cartoon fall. my feet went in the air in front of my face, my umbrella went flying, and i landed hard, slamming both elbows on the sidewalk. my backpack had, thankfully, broken the fall for my back, but that in turn meant my elbows took the brunt of it. i hit the ground so hard that my vision went completely black.

i couldn’t move my arms and i was blinking and blinking and all i could see was black. it is still, to this day, one of the scariest experiences i have ever had. so i sat there, temporarily blinded, on the sidewalk, in the pouring rain, at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in manhattan. what happened next completely surprised me.

a stranger, who i couldn’t even see, pulled me under some scaffolding about ten feet away to get me out of the rain. my vision slowly returned to me and i realized that there were at least six people gathered around me asking me if i was ok and one of them brought me my umbrella (i still have that umbrella). i said i was, but that i couldn’t use my arms. i hadn’t broken any bones (as it turns out), but i think my elbows had locked and pain was coursing through my arms. so a very kind man asked if he could do anything for me. i wanted to call a friend and get into a cab, but i didn’t have the ability to do either. so i asked him if he could call my friend devin, instructing him as to where my phone was in my backpack.

at this point, i was pretty sure that this man was just going to steal my cell phone. but he didn’t. he found my friend’s number, hit the call button, and placed the phone between my shoulder and ear. he stayed with me until i was off the phone, put the phone back in my backpack, and proceeded to hail me a cab and give me a ten dollar bill. to the new yorkers that helped me out that day, thank you.

that is what i think of when i think of new york. i think of kind people. and when i think of new york, i also feel like it’s the closest i’ve ever come to feeling like my real home. maybe that’s because it’s closer to europe than the west coast, but i think it has a lot more to do with the city and the fine people who live there.

my heart goes out to all those who were struck by this tragedy ten years ago today. to their friends, their families, their co-workers, their what have yous. you are an amazing group of human beings who have single handedly renewed my faith in the human race and moreover, being an american.

[tattered. 35mm film shot on my manual nikon in new york city.]

jessi

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the dalai lama.

did i ever tell you about the time i once ran into the Dalai Lama ?

i’m not kidding.

in two thousand and four, i went to central park with a friend of mine to see the dalai lama speak. we bought fresh doughnuts at seven in the morning, caught the F and then the 6 train uptown, and waited in a line for a few hours. a line that wrapped around the park. we were one of thousands of people waiting to listen to the dalai lama speak. during his speech we were far away. we could see the stage, but he was a mere speck on it. and his accent with so thick that the words of wisdom pouring from his mouth were a little difficult to understand. i remember closing my eyes tightly in an effort to understand him better. i’ve heard that if you loose one sense, your others will grow stronger. by shutting my eyes, i thought that my hearing would improve. it didn’t.

we left central park after he spoke. i wasn’t let down because i did understand a fair amount of what he said, but i was sad that i was unable to hear all of it. it was as if i was standing in front of some oasis in the desert. every drop of water would count for quenching my thirst and keeping me alive. but i was unable to reach most of the water. i think this had less to do with his accent and far more to do with how far away i was standing from the stage, huddled next to a plethora of new yorkers who did not believe in deodorant or simple hygiene. maybe i was an unlikely candidate for this event given what i’ve just written. but i waited in line, i did my best to listen, and i even shed a few tears from the few things i heard him utter.

after the event, me and my friend parted ways. he was bound for grand central station and i was bound for the six train that would take me back to my apartment. on my way to the subway i passed by a hotel that had a gathering of photographers and journalists stationed outside. they were crowding the sidewalk. taking pictures. notepads out ready for scribbling. i politely asked them what they were waiting for and the journalist i asked looked at me with raised eyebrows and disbelief.

well, this is where the Dalai Lama is staying. we’re waiting for him to come out from the hotel.”

ok, ok. this made sense. it was logical. it was the right timing, i suppose. i hadn’t expected the media to gather around him so quickly, but whatever. good for them. get your pictures and ask the questions that will most likely never be answered. i’m going to keep walking to the subway. the idea of seeing him up and close in the flesh was very appealing, but i did not want to be part of that crowd. so i kept on walking past the entrance to his hotel and took a left at the corner, headed for the subway. 

it was at this point that i became distracted by the intersection lights and i remember looking down at my cell phone, responding to a text from a friend.

it was also at this point that i had turned the corner, headed north, that i ran into the Dalai Lama. literally. i made physical contact with him whilst looking across the street and consulting my cell phone. you can’t make this shit up.

he’d been lead out of the hotel by the back entrance to avoid the onslaught of people i had just passed and scoffed at.

his bodyguards pushed me away immediately and with a great deal of gusto (BIG f*cking guys – footballer player size). i’m surprised i didn’t fall backwards actually. i think it was clear to them that my running in to the D.L. was an accident, so they did not push the matter. i simply stood there, with my mouth agape, and watched his holiness step into the back of a black limo that had been waiting for him parked at the curb. the limo drove away and i remained there, curbside, not quite believing what i had just encountered.

i’ve told a handful of people this story. i’m not sure if any of them believed me, but i believe me. it did happen. i ran into the Dalai Lama. and the only thing i had to say to him ?

“i really liked your speech.”

it’s pathetic, i know.  but when you crash into the Dalai Lama without warning after listening to him speak in central park, what the hell else are you going to say ? it was the best thing i could come up with at the time. we made eye contact. he bowed in my direction, as if to say “i bless you, child,” nodded at me, and climbed into the back of the black limo.

but that’s New York. you never know what will happen to you there. which is one of many reasons that i still miss it so much.

jessi

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might as well face it, you’re addicted to love.

i depart this coming thursday for seattle, my “homeland.” or at least, the land (post my first few years of life in germany) where i was raised since i was just a wee thing. a wee thing who proudly paraded around in spandex shorts like they going out of style (and trust me, they were so in style back then). i also remember this amazing pair of yellow boot slippers that i wore until they could no longer be worn (due to a serious amount of holes). they were a pale canary yellow and laced up to my ankles. they had no rubber souls (therefore they weren’t shoes) and since they reached my ankle i considered them boots. to this day, they are still my favorite pair of foot attire (blippoots :: boot-slippers, that is) i have ever owned. a close runner up being the black pair of (rather hideous in hind-sight) sneakers (this was during my ‘i like black everything’ phase) with black laces threaded with silver.

this memory of shoes brings back another memory about a certain blanket i once owned. i’m not sure if it had a name, such as ‘blankey’ (as so many blankets do), but it was special. and come to think of it, it was more of a comforter. not a full on puffy down thing, but a well padded blanket-comforter hybrid. i remember that is was blue and covered in clouds and sunshine. i wouldn’t be surprised if rainbows were involved as well. said blanket was my staple item when i was a child. it would wrap around me while i slept at night and i was never seen without it in the living room either as a wrap around or a spread on the floor, like a picnic blanket, while i played with my toys, which were probably My Little Ponies. i was particularly (and painfully) fond of this blanket. i remember feeling somewhat betrayed when it was forced to hit the washer and dryer. leaving me without my safety net. the demise of this blanket was quite traumatizing. it happened the day that my sister threw up on it.

i’m not entirely sure how accurate my memory is, but what i do remember is that my mom tried to hide the fact that my beloved quilt was no longer. perhaps she told me that it was in the wash. or it was lost. i have no idea. but i do remember that when i had learned its true fate. i was quite angry at my sister (even though she had been involuntarily sick) and i also remember crying over the fact that my favorite possession was now stuffed in a trash can saturated with vomit. it’s amazing how significant a piece of fabric and some stuffing can be.

 

i now have another memory that just popped into my head. as a child, i would collect caterpillars. i’d scoop them up into my hands and place them into small tupperware containers. i wouldn’t place a lid on them because i knew that would only smother them and prevent oxygen from reaching them, so i would cover the tops with saran wrap and, using a fork, poke air holes. i remember having quite the collection of caterpillars in my bedroom. i would stuff leaves in their containers and sprinkle them with water. i’ve never had a green thumb, but i treated those caterpillars like orchids. i watched them like a hawk. i cared for them so deeply and only wanted them to flourish.

however, in caterpillar terms, flourishing means turning into a butterfly. and when you have a mother who is a little freaked out by her youngest daughter stock piling caterpillars in her room on her window sill, there are consequences. i recall coming home from school one day to discover my large collection of window sill captive caterpillars had disappeared. it was beyond upsetting. i’d spent (what felt like) months, nourishing these pour trapped insects (thinking i was doing them a favor by “protecting” them from the severity of nature). i approached my mom about their sudden disappearance and she informed me, with a completely straight face, that they had all miraculously turned into butterflies and flown away. when she told me this i did keep crying, but i was pleased. i was happy. i felt responsible for their successful evolution.

i never collected another caterpillar after that. i believed her story at the time (even though, years later, she did come clean about her setting them free in the garden while i was at school). i’m not sure what stopped me from collecting them again. perhaps i felt a sense of guilt ? perhaps they’d have become butterflies far sooner had i not intervened ? and the weirdest thing is that to this day, if and when i see a caterpillar (which is not too often), i am quite squeamish. coming from the girl who used to display them with pride on her windowsill and admire their every awkward wiggle, it’s a little contradictory.

i remember claiming when i was a kid that i loved spiders. but that was never true. this was also during my “i like black phase.” spiders have and will always make me want to scream like a freshly castrated male, run, undress, and search my naked body for any signs of them. but spiders have nothing on cockroaches. i would gladly sleep with a bed full of spiders than encounter another cockroach.

 

when i lived in new york city, i had to deal with them once in a while (and once in a while turned into all of the while when i was a victim of a roach infestation – true story). i think the most frightening fact about them is that of all the creatures on this planet they are, apparently, the only ones that would be able to survive a nuclear attack. this also makes me quite weary of raid because if roaches can survive a nuclear attack, then what exactly is in raid that can kill them so easily ? this never stopped me from using the stuff. i treated that red can like a fire extinguisher during a house fire. seeing a brown, semi glossy, oval thing in my apartment – be it on the floor, wall, or ceiling – feels like nothing short of the apocalypse.

possibly the most infuriating part about cockroaches is their attitude. they have such despicable confidence in themselves. you can be staring at one, gripping a can full of raid, and they will merely twitch their disgusting little antennae at you. they have no fear whatsoever. perhaps they are aware of the fact that a nuclear attack could not kill them, but little do they know that that can of raid in my hand could end their life.

i’ve had cockroaches crawl (by the dozen) out of the radiator in my room in new york. which caused me to cry hysterically and run to my friend’s apartment so that i could crash on her couch. i’ve had two cockroaches, who were (in hindsight) unsuccessfully crawling on the ceiling fall, only to land on my head and shoulder. you will never know how terrifying that feeling is until it happens to you.

in my third apartment, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when i was going to the bathroom and encountered my favorite roommate. at this point in my stay at this apartment (all of three weeks in), i kept a full can of raid in every room. as i sat down to use the toilet, a cockroach crawled out from under the shower (only two feet from the toilet). i quickly killed it with raid (while still seated with my pants down). the next day, whilst showering, one crawled into the shower. i’m sorry. but when you are fully naked and an insect of that caliber – one that i consider to be the worst kind of villain from a science fiction story – wanders into your space – it’s time to lose your cool.

i purchased about three more cans of raid. i purchased about six cans of “foam filler.” every crack and crevice in that apartment was filled was faux foam. a substance that expands and fills any and every hole you can imagine. my apartment was lined with this stuff. it wasn’t particularly pretty, but it was effective. after gap filling my apartment, 90% of those despised creatures were gone in my apartment. i still had the occasional run-in and heart attack, but after that, i really couldn’t complain too much. however. no matter where i was in that apartment, i constantly looked over my shoulder. head. feet. on a regular basis i would claim to “see something” and proceed to skulk around my apartment with a can of raid gripped tightly in my hand. not unlike a cop keeping his hand held closely to the gun his holster. you can never be too prepared.

i can’t believe (or maybe i can?) that i just rambled on about insects for an entire post. i’ll be the first to admit that when i see a fly or spider or any other house hold “guest” i will crush it and dispose of it. i am not one who releases them back into the “wild.” i also have a deep seeded fear that for every insect i kill an army of their family members will, without doubt, come and find me. smother me. bite me. and suck my blood until i die. or apologize. whichever one comes first. but i am betting that an apology will never come. i am not sorry for the roaches or spiders i have killed. so, bring it on.

i had an actual story to tell before i began rambling about roaches and spiders, so the title will stick and if i don’t see you prior to this weekend it’s because i’m in seattle wearing a bridesmaid dress on saturday.

jessi

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sold, bought, & processed

i disappeared (er drove) down to Portland, OR a few weeks ago to, ya know, sell some art in a parking lot outside a really sweet-ass bar named Pearl Blitz in the pearl district of Portland. once again, i tip my hat off to both Jackie F. and Jay O. for making this event and experience possible in the first place (hopefully I’ll be there next month as well…). so, yeah, i sold a few things. and guess what ? i sold a few more whilst i was down south in San Francisco !

i had exchanged cards with a very nice gentleman by the name of Michael D. who had expressed interest in some ‘box paintings’ i had done back in 2007 when i still lived in new york city. i’ll do my best to explain them ::

so, this is only three out of the five that i sold to this lovely man in Portland. it’s a bit hard to see this from the images (and sorry, they are packed up, so deal with it, there is to be no rescanning), but i painted these images onto different boxes from New York City’s China Town and Little Italy (deep fried Oreos, anyone?).

the concept being :: these two very distinct (though neighboring) districts in the city are in the process of merging, whether they like it or not.

you may think (sarcastically), ‘wow, what an exciting observation…’ but in all honesty, the merging of these two sects and cultures is worth recognizing and is an important development in the LOHO world (that would be, ‘Lower Houston’ for those of you unfamiliar with the city). so, I purchased boxes from both china town and little italy, took a crazy amount of photographs, and through collage, acrylic paint, and different drawing mediums .. expressed the italian culture on the boxes bought in china town and vice versa. the concept is simple enough, sure, but the impact was actually quite strong when they were all displayed together. it’s the sort of concept that is so basic it needs little explaining and zero justification. a concept too simple to be true.

and the results ? well, i was pleased with them because all of these boxes remained portable and commodity-like, just as i wanted them to, but without being obvious. they were subtle. you probably could have placed them back on the shelves in their respective homes and people may not have given them a second thought, as they would have blended in with their backgrounds. the project was a labor of love. the pieces themselves did not take nearly as long as developing the concept and taking the many many photographs required for reference and collage purposes :: the end result was something i was more than proud of.

i have always held a soft spot for new york city’s Little Italy and Chinatown. they are special spots in the city. they hold onto their own cultural worth while appealing to the general (and, need i say, touristic) aspects of the city. a local would feel just as home in this area as a tourist. well, not quite as at home :: but not a far cry from it. as most (if not all?) businesses in the city, they are here to make m-o-n-e-y.. and residing in the hot spot of Little Italy and/or China Town :: they are destined to do so.

in any case. they have been sold to a terrific individual in Portland, OR and I know that they will hang or be placed proudly throughout his home. there are few things more satisfying than selling art or a series of art to someone who not only has an aeshetic, but also a conceptual, appreciation for what they are purchasing.

cheers, Michael ! i hope you enjoy them to their fullest extent.

[collage, paint, and dtawing on miscellneous boxes from NYC’s Little Italy & China Town]

jessi

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in an earlier post, i discussed a certain equestrian prize list that i did a series of illustrations for. part of their compensation for these illustrations was the choice for a quarter, half, or full page black and white advertisement for this here lil’ studio of mine. being the greedy person that i am, i opted for the full page. a larger ad must mean more exposure, which in turn must mean a higher chance of getting hired to do some work, right? well, that’s my logic at least, but i will be the first to admit that i am one of the most illogical people i know.

i’d like to give a shout out THANKS A MILLION to Liz C. and Nacole B. for giving me such a great opportunity. i’m not entirely sure when the prize list will become available, but i’m under the impression it’s set to hit the printers in the next week or two.

i am currently in new york city (well, brooklyn to be exact). it is very hot here. it actually feels like summer here. my pale seattle body is not accustomed to such temperatures :: think high 80’s, possibly low 90’s and so muggy the air feels thick :: it feels fantastic and the city, as usual, has me swooning. lots of photographs being taken, pictures being drawn, and so forth.

i am catching the china town bus early saturday morning, am very stoked. heading to maine for a three day sailing trip. i hope my cameras and sketchbooks are ready for a whirlwind of activity..

[digital design + black & white nikon photograph]

jessi

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