ragtags studio central: sarah's random this & that

random means "having no definite aim or purpose," (1655), taken from "at random" (1565), "at great speed" (thus, "carelessly, haphazardly"). In 1980s college student slang, it somehow, and sadly, acquired a distinct sense of "inferior, undesirable." (Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper) Well, okay, fine, Mr. Online Etymology Dictionary person, but THIS is the 21st Century. It's a whole new ball of wax.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Countdown, cont. (FELIZ NAVIDAD everybody!!!)

Merry Christmas from the Family

Jill Sobule | Myspace Music Videos

Monday, December 20, 2010

By Request - The Rose Colored Velvet Love Seat Part 1

Play back the circumstances and events of my life; I harbor few regrets, and none daily. Not having stick-straight hair, nor a pinto pony or palomino, and the tragic loss of our rose-colored velvet love seat are the exceptions. Thank God for product and straightening irons, and yes, I MIGHT someday lasso a horse. As for the third, no remedy seems likely. We left it behind years ago; flying back to the desert, we gave it away to a friend. He was getting married and after all, a plane is not a boat. Unquestionably, through either miracles or hard work, heavier losses to other people have been overcome.

Details are what truly matter --- you know, it’s always the little things. Our lives hinge upon, and play out amid exquisitely, often achingly felt, then remembered, touches, sights, smells. Acts of living are accomplished in scenes set upon stages we each craft to our particular muse.

Picture a city --- Chicago comes to my mind, but pick another if it suits you. It’s early summer, a fair number of years ago --- not too many, say 33, more or less. The neighborhood is mostly Puerto Rican, a little Creole. Radios through open windows inform us, sweetly --- and we can dance to it --- that we are the sunshine of Stevie Wonder’s life. Edgier unknowns are heard, too. Their fingers and lips interpret Hancock and Corea and mimic Muddy Waters, from within shadowed (though wide open) doorways. Platform shoes create a back-up rhythm and say “Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.”

Think of a girl --- a pale young woman, a girl really, appears on the sidewalk, heading for a cross street further up Halsted from Cornelia. A bit bedraggled, generosity compels us to fashion her Bohemian. Filigreed opal earrings, camisole, sandals, and a long handmade skirt comprise her everyday costume. With a black gypsy scarf covered in enormous vintage roses holding back long, ever unruly hair, she’s like a kid from some Wild West version of Hester Street. Truth be told, the girl stopped here, in this midwestern town, where Marshal Fields meets the lake shore, and took an available third floor walk-up. Coming from the clear blue heat of earlier years spent in New Mexico, she hadn’t the heart to continue further east where (at least the semblance of) prairie gave way to Indiana.

Imagine the hour --- earlier that day, on an especially roundabout way home from work, she notices it, past the window box flowers and street reflection, just inside the junk shop door. Stepping inside, she smiles and happily approaches the owner. It’s a good sign, she thinks, that no one bought it “in the meantime”. Two other pieces catch her eye. A little piano bench and botanical print (“Gurka vit.”) aren’t quite so dear; she schleps them home on the bus that afternoon.

A week or two later, she returns for the rose-colored velvet love seat, pays a second or third installment, pulls it out through the shop door and continues down the several blocks to her old brick apartment building. She stops occasionally to catch her breath, sits down on the love seat right there on the sidewalk. The wood trim of the arms and the feet have a nice, just-polished sheen. It’s in perfect condition. People passing her admire it. That velvet is such a lovely shade of dusty rose --- just like the sky over the west mesa late in the afternoon, when the green chile smells of everyone’s kitchens begin to mingle and entice. And really, it was SUCH a bargain, though of course she had had to scrimp some, and save.

At the foot of the steps inside the front door of her building, the girl is momentarily distracted by the row of mailboxes. She can tell at a glance if there’s mail; she can see it through a slot. There’s something anyway; an eagerly awaited note from home, a plea, a prayer, a promise. She’ll come back downstairs for it later. On the 2nd floor, someone comes out to help her the rest of the way. His door closes on a room crowded with people, guitars, old women, music, glasses clinking, and babies crying. Once the 3rd floor landing is attained, he heads back down and she pushes her treasure into the apartment. A couple of panes in the bay window are open and there’s a light breeze off the lake. The apartment is nearly empty of household goods, except for a borrowed radio, two enameled cereal bowls, a handful of silverware and small paring knife, a Baby Ben that keeps falling out a window onto the alley below, a few postcards (reproductions of Symbolist art) and a vintage photo postcard of a dancer. There’s really nothing of any value.

The radio plays something new. At least, the girl thinks, I haven’t heard it before. Dancing in the Moonlight. Centered in the living room, the rose-colored velvet love seat looks perfect. The pretty botanical print of the fresh from a turn-of-the-century garden, Swedish cucumbers hangs just to its left, and the little piano bench completes the tableau. She keeps walking back into the room to admire it as she runs a bath.

By Request - The Rose Colored Velvet Love Seat Part 2

The Rose-colored Velvet Loveseat - Part Two
She was crazy about the city. The clatter and hummed cacophony, the hot smell of buses, cars, the El, and doorway cafés, stolen hours at the Art Institute, stolen meals at the Midnight Jewel.

She imagined herself a sort of pioneer, only backwards...Leave the contents of desks and drawers, the potted geraniums on windowsills. Begin your travels from a quieter, slower, western place. A place where the reason for waking up before anyone else - or maybe never even going to bed at all - is because by 6, the sky is already the clearest, thickest blue imaginable. A blue you could fall into. Just lay on your back and look up. Breathe deep, catching gulps of wind, dirt, piñon. In the foothills, in the valley, in your yard; it's all the same. A blue you can get lost in. 

They say at higher altitude, out west, the air thins. She knew that was wrong, some sort of miscalculation formulated by someone in a closed in space. Someone scribbling notes and equations as they breathed the permanently recycled air locked in the building with them. She found herself traveling toward the true drawn, thin air, further east, where buildings were constructed of metal and glass instead of - face it - mud. The city's suburbs were different; someone had once tackled prairie, mountains, even desert, as muse and revelation. But the catenary of the the lakeshore craved height for balance, and the architects of the city proper were quick to capitalize. The city's heartbeat had her mesmerized. And she had a story. She was looking for adventure. Looking for herself. Eastward bound. A pioneer.

And yet. In an achingly halcyon, long ago summer, romance met reality.

The rose-colored velvet love seat was more comfortable than the tattered sleeping bag on the floor in the bedroom. Even with no pillow, even with no throw, it seemed cozy; it held the heat of the day long after the last strains of Good-bye Pork Pie Hat drifted through the open window on a cool lakeshore breeze. She had intended to eat something earlier. Maybe run out for Greek, just up Halsted, but the letter - 7 pages, both sides, typewritten - made her forget. She really should have left it in the box, Return to Sender, or thrown it away unopened. Passersby below (she was on the third floor) looked up, saw only a dark and empty window. She thought she could steel herself. She thought she possessed an iron core. Instead she cried far into the night. 

First light, the crack of dawn, night breeze turned morning; "sleeping" on the love seat was a habit that would long follow her. But now she was nearly late. Down the block she ran, past sidewalk marks - Latin Eagles are now (apparently) Eating Bagels - and it's-time-for-supper-the-night-before abandoned and forgotten toys. Around the corner early risers - or had they walked the streets awake all night, too? - called out their "Hey, pretty mama"s and she flashed them each a quick and rueful grin. It wasn't their fault. The doors of the corner bakery where she worked were already propped open to let some of the inside heat out. "Hey," she called, " I made it."



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"and he was in the coffeehouse business"

"The first coffeehouses in the district --- two spare neighboring rooms called Edgar's Hobby and David's --- had opened in the late 1940s for the area's Italian population. Their inheritors --- more than a dozen places all around the Village with progressively whimsical names such as the Figaro, the Rienzi, the Caricature, the Cafe Wha?, the Dragon's Den, the Bizarre, the Why Not?, and the Hip Bagel --- now offered folksinging (sometimes mixed with poetry readings, jazz, and comedy) to the mobs of weekend visitors, including uptown residents who would stroll around the Village, just minutes from their homes, as if it were a resort. The owner of a small garage on West 3rd Street, a block south of Washington Square, took a threadbare wool couch with one leg missing and miscellaneous battered furnishings from  neighborhood trash piles, tacked a "Folk Music" sign on the front wall, and he was in the coffeehouse business."
David Hadju

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

You're Invited

Friday, December 10, 2010

it was a dark and stormy night

(1968) Randy Newman

Broken windows and empty hallways
A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Scarecrows dressed in the latest styles
With frozen smiles to chase love away
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Lonely, lonely
Tin can at my feet
Think I'll kick it down the street
That's the way to treat a friend

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Thursday, December 09, 2010

This a testing, Walker? You reckon we been slack?

{Feels like} a Flash from the Past

Was on ebay for some reason the other day and happened to run across this review (see below) of In This House! Makes me wanna read it - and very glad I wrote it! Thanks Janet, for at least nudging me to revisit!

"I'm so very pleased that I took a chance on buying In This House. I half expected it to be a tutorial and that I might get a little more inspiration for my own work. I was delighted to note, during the first flip through, that it is so much more than that.
I think that many people want to use their skills to make "altered art" and "altered books" and what happens so often is just a hodgepodge of junk or repeats on the same themes. There is not much staying power.
This book presents a challenge, a simple house shape, asking the contributing artists to use the template to build a book that illustrates what home is to and for them. They are left to make of the challenge what they will.
What emerges is a neighbourhood of artists. A map is even supplied to help the visitor get to know the lay of the land.
At each house we are bid welcome to come in explore and make ourselves at home. Each chapter is a new house to visit, with a new mistress to get to know, her personality, her sayings, her heart's decoration (bloom where you are planted), the memory verses that keep her propped-up. We see her strengths and style, stories that are shared and secrets we must keep.
After our visit we have a chance to have a one-on-one with the lady of the house, the artists, and within a 2 page exchange we have a chance to have some questions answered.
I was reminded of my time as a young bride running to neighbours to learn a skill as my mother lived some distance from me. The doors of some houses were more welcoming than others and the advice whether it worked for me or not was always free.
Tonight is my 4th night in the book. I have so enjoyed it, I have been pacing myself and only allowing 2 houses a night. I love the ideas that are unspoken in this book (a) Some houses are small and some bigger (more pages).
(b) Each artist chooses her strengths plus practical skills to use to feather her nest.
(c) The mistress of the house can be true or imaginary.
(d) She chooses the time, situation and story.
I find the whole thing so familiar as I live on a block of 95 year old houses. There are 9 houses on a row that were all put up the same summer by the same company. Some like mine have had 5 owners while others 27. Some are happy houses while one is the divorce house (no marriage has survived it) We have built good relationships and taught each other many things but every house though architecturally the same is completely different landscaped and inside.
This book brings the idea of community together.
Although I have not completed In This House yet, I am already regretting finishing it. I feel that I know these ladies though we have never met, another cup of tea would be wonderful. I almost wish that the last page had photos of each of them...but I guess we know enough.
Finally I truly feel that this creative effort - book - is a resounding success. Yes I will use it as a resource book for techniques but more that that, it challenges me to put me on the page. To reveal myself or my character with conviction. A more critical eye to stay true to this value will be more important to me now in my altered work and not just to combine random items because they are pleasing to my eye.
To the collaborators and the editors, bravo. In This House will be enjoyed and shared for years to come. It stands on its own as a gallery of amazing art.
Now to knock on the doors of houses 7 and 8..."
Janet Hannam