Aubrey and I created endless art together as kids. Its wonderful that we are still at it after all of this time. Here are a few quick sketches we did in Chicago.
While in Chicago I decided to take a flying trapeze class. I have some limited experience with ariel arts from my time in Istanbul, but I never imagined myself flying through the air like I did the other night. As soon as I saw the long ladder, the net and people flipping off the trapeze, I felt a lack of trust in myself and my ability to conquer a never ending fear of heights. But once I was chalked up and holding that bar I knew there was no going back, and my feet left the platform. What an incredible feeling of triumph and freedom. My confidence rushed back as I regained trust in my body and the people supporting and catching me. I think I might have found a new love.
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
I have never realized just how “campy” American culture is until this past week on the road. The highway is littered with billboards advertising small western towns that offer “Free Ice Water!” and “5 cent Coffee!” and “America’s Only Corn Palace!” My fellow traveller and I stopped in one of these obscure places as we were determined to fill up on kitschy attractions and french fries served on styrofoam plates. The idea of camp was something so prevalent in my childhood that I never realized how imbedded it is in our culture until I immersed myself in a foreign one. Driving along Interstate 90 brought back a strong sense of nostalgia as I recalled long road-trips with my father, stopping at corny attractions, drinking milk shakes and listening to Garrison Keillor.
We had everything we needed for a 16 hour drive; coffee, bagels, audio books. It was early in the morning and we had just put in our first book when the car started acting funny. We turned around, trying to make it back to Rapid City before everything quit completely, but soon enough we were on the side of the road waiting for the tow truck. Its a good thing that Aubrey is a pro at small talk, otherwise the 40 minute ride to the car garage with the tow truck driver might have been incredibly awkward. A few hours and about 5 cups of free coffee later, we were informed that the car needed overnight repairs. Ah, road trips.
I have decided to take a spontaneous trip to Chicago with a childhood friend. My last long road trip was through Anatolia, and as we drive through the countryside I am sometimes surprised at the similarities I see between western America and central Turkey. No matter where I am, driving is therapy, especially when I can talk endlessly with the person sharing the long stretches of road with me.
My favorite season in Istanbul was, fig season. Never having seen or eaten a fresh fig in my life, I was fascinated by this strange and delicate fruit. My first encounter with them came when a great friend and I were walking through the sea side town of Kuşadası, on our way to catch a boat to Greece. It was mid August, the air was thick and sweltering and our back packs were heavy. We stopped to stare curiously at the fresh figs a woman was selling by the side of the road. After buying 3 liras worth, we continued trekking through the busy streets to the dock. An hour later we were on the boat, rocking in the rough water, our skin covered in sea salt from the occasional splash on board. We examined the figs in their intricacy. They were plump and round, fitting nicely into the palm of my hand. Each one a deep purple, fading to a bright green towards the small stem. Small flecks of white covered their skin and as I looked closer I found many other colors; blue, grey, pink, orange, red. We tore them open, indulging on their seeded insides.
After our trip to Greece and the departure of my dear friend, I watched the figs fill every market place, and they became my daily purchase. Subjects in my paintings and photographs, I was always happy to indulge in them and remember my boat ride to Greece. By the middle of October, they began to taper away and I felt disheartened to see them diminish. Every day during fig season I recalled Sylvia Plath, and my favorite passage from the Bell Jar. The passage is about choice, each fig representing a potential path in life. While living in such an overwhelming city, I felt a connection to this idea in an entirely new way. Everyday presented me with infinite choices, and I was only hoping to be picking the right fig.
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7