A Painting A Day: Days 40-46, August 2012

 Day 40: August 12 2012
"Welcome to the neighborhood"

After a week in the new neighborhood, I still adjusting. Adjusting to the myriad of races and religions, churches lining the block: a Meninite Hatian church around the corner; a Spanish-speaking church literally next door filling our Sundays with off-key singing and shouts to Jesus; a monolithic stone church a block away with boarded up stained glass windows, inhabited by an orange tabby (stripped, does it resemble St.John the Divine?). Painfully, I face my notions of race, racism and cultural biases. Growing up in San Francisco, I attended countless school meetings and clubs about racial diversity, but clutch my purse while walking through the Tenderloin district. This hyper-liberalism created a schism in my mind. I believe I'm fine until I encounter fear walking through my new neighborhood. Granted, it's not as sharp as before, but it's there and it bothers me. I realize I want to be part of this community, even though I am in the racial minority. People here are just like me, with similar preoccupations, joys and sadness. Why are we born looking one way and not the another? 

With these questions in mind, I head home late one night in the subway. A few drunk and rowdy youths crowd the subway. They light cigarettes and take off shirts. Passengers curl lips and move away. I smile: they are funny! "What are we doing on this f*ing subway?" one yells. Stuck in a subway, drunk and not knowing how to get off. One boy is asleep and a friend gives a good smack to wake him up. His hat falls off his head and I replace it. I wonder: if these boys were white, wearing nice clothes, how would this be different?

Walking home from the subway, I feel an intense desire to belong here, to be a part of this community. Will they accept me? I encounter another group of youths walking in my direction. They have long braids and amazing curls. Any girl would be jealous of their waves. One comes up to me: "How are you doing tonight?" I answer: "Tired and happy." We walk a little ways and he makes note that I am not afraid. I bring up the incident on the train and laugh. It was funny, not scary. I like this neighborhood: people up at all hours, the kids running around, playing in water pouring from hydrants on hot days. "Yes," he continues. "I want to make sure people are welcome in my community. Don't be scared because my face looks like this and his face looks like that. This is a great neighborhood. I want you to feel at home." We exchange names and I leave, happy and grateful. It's as if these kids heard my silent question.

 Day 41: August 13, 2012
"Matt and Tiggs"

Matt and his parents arrive the next night. After a day of moving, we pass out. Due to a recent injury, Matt has to sleep in a chair. I place Tigger beside him for company.

 Day 42: August 14, 2012
"Angels on DeKalb Avenue"

Matt's parents arrived around 4am on Sunday morning. I couldn't sleep all night, waiting for them to arrive. The all-night party across the street made it even harder to relax. Curious, I peer over the balcony to see a bouncer let people in and out of the restaurant that I've never seen anyone eat in. Later we find out that it is a space people rent for parties. When Matt's parents first arrive, they sleep in the truck, scared that someone will steal the belongings. "Who would want this stuff?" I ask angrily. This is only one night after my encounter with the young men nearby. But to people unfamiliar with the city, everything must seem dangerous. Around 6am, we wake up. The bouncer offers to park the truck at a better angle so the u-haul doesn't stick out. For a second, fear shoots through me: what if he drives away? But he doesn't. After several tries, he gets it in. We talk: he is a bouncer at a club in Brooklyn, we must stop by. And did you know that in New York, clubs go until 1 in the afternoon? He was also a bike messenger in San Francisco. Now that's impressive. 

We open the trailer to boxes and furniture stacked to the ceiling. I wish that Matt was able-bodied but all he can do is watch from the balcony. How frustrating that must be for him. A group of young men stand by the club. They watch us fumble with boxes for a while then one approaches Matt's mom: "Do you need help?" Matt's mom says yes but she can't pay them. "You don't need to pay us!" he answers, and he and his friends get to work. They unload the trailer box by box and hoist the queen-sized mattress above their heads. Everything is in front of the building. I wonder: do we have to carry it up all those stairs? No! They just don't know where to go! Up two flights of stairs. We are all sweaty and worn out after the multiple trips. They always offer to carry Matt's mom's boxes. The boys egg each other on. "This one's not heavy enough!" one notes, and stacks more boxes on his load. One of their big friends is hiding in the trailer. We tease him. We laugh and laugh, even when a sleepy neighbor complains. At the end of the long-haul, we drink water. We exchange information. I'd like to thank them somehow. So this watercolor is a start. 

Thank you, Oauriel, Jose, Argeny and I forget your friend and the bouncer's name. Please remind me! You changed Matt's parents, who had the idea that all New Yorkers were rude. You changed all of us. Would people in Oxford, Ohio help strangers move at 6 in the morning? Or San Francisco? For no pay??  For the next few days we are thunderstruck: what are the odds that an all-night party is going on the night of our move, and five able bodied, helpful gents are standing around willing to help move a truck-load of boxes up two flights of stairs? In the words of Matt's mom: "If you don't believe in God, this will make you believe." 

 Day 43: August 15, 2012
"Plants on the balcony"

Rosemary, parsley, basil and baby carrots on our balcony overlooking the street.

 Day 44: August 16 2012
Transcription of "Yogi and his disciples with ritual objects" 
Kangra, c. 18th century, Goache on paper
From "Yoga Art" by Ajit Mookerjee
An interesting image in Ajit Mookerjee's "Yoga Art," The big guy, whom I suspect is the yogi, reminds me of Ram Dass' Maharaji. Also a big yogi, his only possession was a blanket. This big guy only wears a thin red undergarment. Funny how we associate India with skeletal yogis in the mountains. Some of these guys are huge! And they never eat! I am looking forward to the reversal of the impossible standards placed upon men and women to have the body of a ten-year-old boy. Be who you are! Big or small. Take care of your body and love it.

Day 45: August 17, 2012
"Diagram of expanding and enclosing functions of time cycles" 
Rajasthan, c. 17th century, Gouache on paper
from Ajit Mookerjee's "Yoga Art"

Another interesting image from Mookerjee's "Yoga Art." According to the book: "time acts on space and incorporates space into itself. The two together constitute a single progression in which space represents a momentary section of the flow which is endowed with depth and cohesion by time. The three verticals end in tridents, emblems of Shiva, who is called Mahakala." (Mookerjee, Ajit, "Yoga Art," New York Graphic Society, 1975, pp.125)

The faces are memories of the men outside of Home Depot waiting for someone to pick them up for a job. These same men wait in Graton, California, Santa Fe, New Mexico and wherever they can find jobs without work permits. As I approach, they crowd around, as if to swallow me. Am I looking to hire them? No, I want to know why they are here. They explain that people shopping at Home Depot often look for help installing things in their homes. So they wait for work. One lady, like me, hooked them up with work at her office. Unfortunately, I just started my job and they seem to have more than enough help, so there is nothing I can do. But I will pray for them and we exchange names and cards. "Ariel, like the angel?" one asks. I can't believe he knows that. His name is Pablo. I tell them I hope that I won't see them there again (as in, they will have work). And if I do hear of someone looking for help with construction, I know where to look.

Day 46: August 18, 2012
"Diagram for use in astronomical computation"
Rajasthan, c. 18th century, Gouache on paper
From Ajit Mookerjee's "Yoga Art"

"The interpenetrating triangles and rectangles symbolize the interrelation of time and space. Such a diagram can be used as a yantra a focus for meditation." 
(Mookerjee, Ajit, "Yoga Art," New York Graphic Society, 1975, pp.66)


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