Days 49-52, August 2012

 Day 49: August 21, 2012
"Waiting for Access-A-Ride"
watercolor on paper 5.5" x 5.5"

On the 21st, Matt and I take a cab down to Coney Island to sign up for Access-A-Ride services, a mini-bus that shuttles handicapped people around the city. The driver on the way is a polite and curious lady, asking questions about Matt and his story.  The Access-A-Ride lobby is pretty grim. Several elderly people, a gentleman with a cast on his leg and a huge, well-decorated lady in a black motorized chair accompanied by a young girl in a neon red wig are our companions. This lady is anything but courteous when entering the building. I watched as she yells at another handicapped lady to get out of the way as she exited the elevator. She then careens her huge motorized wheelchair around the waiting room until she is properly situated. I think to myself: Hey lady, everyone's handicapped here. There is no trump card. 

This past week of attending social services meetings, waiting in line and more lines and more lines until Matt secured the services he needs has been beyond exhausting. A phrase repeas itself in my mind: Why would anyone choose to do this? But there are many people who do choose this lifestyle. Sure it takes days to get social services, but then you don't have to work! Then, how can I judge someone based on appearance. There are many physical jobs that Matt cannot do, which is why he is taking steps to become a teacher. So when we see a room full of able bodied people, it is easy to judge. I wonder what people's stories really are. How much is this costing the government to pay for all this, all these workers, all these claims, all these stories.

On the way back, we learn that the gentleman with the cast injured himself as a bike messenger on a bridge when his brakes failed. He fractured his fibula. I cannot imagine the pain. The taxi driver is curious to hear his story, but as soon as the injured gentleman hops out, only a few blocks from our home, the driver addresses us in the back seat, asking why we couldn't have found a better neighborhood to live in. Interesting how he waits until the black man had left the car to ask this pointed question.


 Day 49: August 21, 2012
"Self Portrait with Swollen Eye"
watercolor on paper 5.5" x 5.5"

A few days ago, my eye and neck blew up. Now I believe it's from an IKEA pillow but for a while I accredit the swelling and itching to an old mango allergy (I've been eating them lately). As luck should have it, the eye swelling coincides with an appointment at the DMV to secure my New York State ID. Smile for the camera! What a great way to banish self-consciousness. I remember a teenage summer when I contracted poison oak so badly that I resembled the elephant man. We take a family vacation to Monterey where I spend evenings soaking in oatmeal baths. The crippling shame and embarrassment I feel nearly prevents me from visiting the aquarium and Cannery Row. But my family insists, so I go. As we ride through the town on a four-person bike, the wind hits my face and I forget about my condition. I feel happy. A curious glance from a passerby reminds me of my hideousness and I feel briefly like crying. But my family loves me and they don't care what I look like. Same with my New York State ID. It will be with me for the next five years.


 Day 50: August 22nd, 2012
"Matthew's Dreams"
watercolor on paper 5.5" x 5.5"

This is Matt talking to my mom. And these are his dreams.

 Day 51: August 23rd, 2012
Transcription of "Sulla Terraza" by Peter Ruta (1957)
watercolor on paper 5.5" x 5.5"

Today I met Peter Ruta and his wife, Suzanne Ruta. Peter has been painting for as long as I have been alive, my dad has been alive, and then some. Born in Germany in 1918, relocated to Italy and then immigrated to the United States in 1936, Ruta studied at the Art Students League and in Mexico with the famous mural artists. In World War II, he was wounded at the retaking of Bataan while serving in the Pacific Theater US infantry. A Fulbright Grant landed him in Italy after the war, where he secured his degree at the Venice Accademia in 1948. Since then, Peter has lived in Italy and New York, while painting in New Mexico, France, Spain, Mexico and New England. He was painting views of Manhattan until August 2001 at the World Trade Center, when a fortuitous trip took him out of the city. Recently, he has been working on a series of "indoor landscapes" in his studio at Westbeth, New York City. I have enjoyed getting to know Peter and his wife Suzanne and hope spend more time with them in the future. Visit Peter's website to see his work and learn about his life. This watercolor is a transcription of one of his paintings from 1950's Italy. While painting, I felt as if I knew exactly where each line would go. It was bizarre to feel so in sync with a work created so long ago.

Peter's wife Suzanne is an author who recently published To Algeria With Love, which I hope to read. She will be giving a reading at Westbeth on October 16, 2012 at 7pm. 
 
This October, Peter showing a selection of his work at the Westbeth Gallery from October 6-21. 

Westbeth is located at 55 Bethune Street between West and Washington. 
I hope you can make both of these events!


Day 52: August 24, 2012
"My Life So Far"
watercolor on paper 5.5" x 5.5"

Taking stock of my life on the last page of my watercolor book!
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