Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Dream

The Dream

When I was a kid in Hungary, we had this huge oil painting hanging in our bedroom called The Dream. It really was huge– over two meters long, probably a meter and a half wide, a painting by a Hungarian painter called Eisenhut. I don’t remember exactly what was on it–it was dark as hell, those oils get dark as the years pass, but there was a reclining woman–a hookah, maybe? (Or a samovar? Some exotic, steaming contraption.) And a monkey–the monkey was offering the woman a fruit, or a basket of fruit…

The picture is long gone–sold to someone–it’s hanging in some other bedroom now and even if we ever got it back, it’s too BIG to ever fit in our apartment, but–

One day, I’m going to get two meters of canvas, a bunch of oils and paint that picture–get it back! My own dream. (The boys posed for this sketch ^-^)

Hope you moofs had a nice Easter!!

Chrysanthemums and Triangles

“Millions of people can draw. Art is whether or not there is a scream in him wanting to get out in a special way.”

A fictional sculptor once said that there are only two ways to paint the world. The way of geometry, of the Greeks and Africans; which is the art of Picasso and Cezanne. And then the way of flowers; of China, Persia and India; which is the art of Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Chagall.

Which way do you look at it? Which way do you paint it? Well, I don’t paint the world in any way, but sometimes I sketch it, and I think I’d have to go the way of the flower =) A couple of sketches inspired by “My Name is Asher Lev,” which I refinished the other day….   And talk about  some wonky deja-vu…

“They aren’t naked women, Papa. They’re nudes.”
“I’m a reasonably intelligent man. Tell me what the difference between a naked woman and a nude is.”
“A naked woman is a woman without clothes. A nude is an artist’s personal vision of a body without clothes.”

Wooboy,  I’ve had that convo before! And my mom also used to ask me: Why don’t you ever draw flowers? Why don’t you try to make the world BEAUTIFUL? So I screwed around in my sketchbook and tried to make the world pretty this Good Friday, but it’s not easy….!

They aren't naked women, Papa. They're nudes.

Finally! Flowers and Birds I.

Sitra Achra (the Other Side)

A charcoal drawing of my エシャ、one week old.

” I wish you would stop drawing. We were done with that foolishness.
 Please don’t call it foolishness any more, Papa, I said.
They stared at me and were very quiet. My father’s face was going rigid. I saw him swallow. My mother was pale.
Foolishness is something that’s stupid, I said. Foolishness is something a person shouldn’t do. Foolishness is something that brings harm to the world. Foolishness is a waste of time. Please don’t ever call it foolishness any more, Papa.”

“Then I was back in my bed and the darkness returned and with it the memories and horror of the night. To draw, to make lines and shapes on pieces of paper, was a futile indulgence in the face of such immutable darkness, a foolishness I would certainly leave behind when I entered the world beyond the window of our living room. ……..
I would grow up.”

(from Chaim Potok’s novel, ‘My Name Is Asher Lev‘)

When do you grow up? What is the moment when you realize: I’m an adult?
I remember when I was younger, I thought it would be when I saw a movie all by myself, in a movie theatre. That is something I had never done and the act seemed to have a melancholic maturity to it–

Then I saw a movie alone in a theatre–Brattle Theatre, Cambridge Square, 2005–it was ‘Crash’–the showing was late–a man I bumped into coming out of the theatre said ‘watch it, lady’. Nobody had ever called me ‘lady’ before. I sat on a curb somewhere between Cambridge Square and Sommerville, talking to J on my cell phone in the hot summer night. Eleven o’clock at night. I had to be up by 430 next morning. I was crying because I was lonely. I was overworked and underslept and lonely.

I did not feel like an adult.

I threw my shitty life out the window and moved to Germany.
I apprenticed in a Japanese restaurant for two years and lived my George Orwell nightmare/dream.
I got married.
Now I have a kid.

I still do not feel like an adult.

Kabbalah divides the world into two areas and everything under creation fits into one or the other: Sitra D’Kedushah (the side of holiness) and Sitra Achra (the side of impurity, or the Other Side.) This is the side of evil God created with some trepidation, thinking man’s holiness will be more precious if he earns it by fighting temptation through his own free will.

In Potok’s novel, eponymous Asher Lev, a Hassidic Jew living in Brooklyn with his mother and father, is born with a gift for drawing. By age six, he is astounding people with what he can draw, but the older he grows, the more convinced everyone around him is that this gift is from the Other Side.

The problem is not even his talent–it is his dedication. So strong is the urge to draw that he neglects his schoolwork, his study of Torah, he makes no friends, he is disrespectful to his parents, he steals to keep himself in art supplies, he smuggles himself into museums to learn how to draw the forbidden images of Jesus Christ and nude women–his dreams are consumed by drawings–when people speak to him, he hears them only with a half-ear.

Drawing devours all of his energy; he becomes sick and lethargic from too much drawing and lives like someone in a dream from which they can’t wake up. The Other Side, they shake their heads around him, this is not a gift, it is a
temptation sent from the Other Side.

When will you grow up, Asher? His father keeps asking. When will you give up this foolishness?

Oh drawing, oh writing, oh foolishness!

When will you grow up? I ask myself. I have a cosmic connection to this book, feel close to it, though in many ways the characters are so removed, but they make me believe in some concept of ‘humanity’, of some connections that nothing can smear away; not time, not religion, not nationality.

I read Potok and think: I have wasted so much time with writing. There are perhaps thousands of pages on my computer that I have written. I have wasted so much time drawing. Hundreds and hundreds of drawings. I have neglected my duties–I have stayed up late at night, early in the morning. I have thought only of what I wanted to write, without consideration for what people around me wanted. I have hurt people around me, because they could tell that when they were speaking, I was not listening. I wanted to, but the urge to write something in my head, so that I could write it down later on paper, on my computer, was stronger than my consideration for their feelings.
Do you have a piece of paper? In a cafe, on the u-bahn, anywhere and then please don’t talk to me for a bit, scrawl, scrawl, scrawl, scrawl, scrawl.

What kind of Jewish boy doesn’t study Torah? Asher’s father rages. The boy answers that he finds nothing WRONG with studying–it’s just that drawing asks him for all of his time. He must give it up.

I have made myself sick writing. I have had days when I did nothing else for daylight and nightlight–where I woke up in the middle of the night and went straight to drawing. I do my work to earn some money, but always with an air of resentment–this is taking away my time, I think. In the past, J has worried. I’d collapsed over writing–this is pointless, this is stupid, this is a waste of time, why can’t I stop doing it?

Once he said, I worry you’re going to cross over and not come back.

Cross over where? I am not religious, but yeah… You feel this pull. Is it evil or good? You cannot be sure. Creating something cannot be bad… right? But how do you assign it worth or value? The worst is when it does not MATTER anymore if it is good or bad–you can’t stop doing it, any more than you can stop breathing. You think–this is a drug. When I can’t think of anything else, there must be something wrong. But you can’t stop.

I have a very good friend who’s father was a musician and artist. He said to me once that his father tried to be a good father, but ultimately, his music and art always came first. As a son, he could never quite forgive him for the neglect he suffered because of this. I worry for (–). I worried even before I had him, before he was conceived, when he was just a thought–what if I will be like that? Nobody thinks they will neglect their kid or be a bad parent, but obviously, it happens. Now he is here. Taking care of him demands a lot of time and energy. When I sleep at night, even I am too exhausted to think about writing. I close my eyes and it’s dark immediately. What I write here in this public diary is not even writing–it doesn’t satisfy the urge, this is just an overflow, an outpouring. You put a paper under and it soaks up the excess shit in your soul.

My mother says: When will you write like Ken Follett? I want to show my friends the things you write, but your stories are so vulgar. You write WELL, she says, but why must you write about these ugly things? Why can’t you write about history? You could write a historical novel about Japan.

I could, but I can’t. Those are not the stories that are in me.
Those are not the stories I find myself writing when I stare into the u-bahn window across from me and see the ghost of my face and all the faces sitting next to me. The stories I see then are about loneliness, exile, foreignness, friendship, sexual rejection, the search for something divine, or something or someone to  believe in.

But there is nothing about history.

I think, (–), I’m going to try. Asher Lev’s parents become increasingly ashamed of him. They cannot explain him to their Jewish community. I don’t want to be an embarrassment to J or (–)…’What does your mom do?’ ‘…well, she sits at home all day and… writes… and draws… things she never shows anybody….’
It can’t be a good example for a kid!

Sometimes, I think about going back to school. I’m going to learn German and stop living in exile. I could get a phD. That is respectable? I make the promise often, but then I write something. I draw. It’s washed away. The time, again, is gone. Oh, the fucking Other Side! But I couldn’t give it up. If I stopped writing and drawing, I would be miserable. I do scrabbly little jobs on the side to earn some money and not feel like a complete dead-beat deadend-weight in this household.

Like going to W’s. We’ve resumed our sessions again. This makes me happy, because I’ve really missed him the last two weeks– he is someone who also spends his whole day with his art, but with him, I feel it’s more legitimate. It’s his escape, I believe. –I sit on the bed with (–), I take him with me for his very first modeling session, at two weeks old. W draws us and we talk about art– I tell him I’ve dedicated this year to technical improvement and experimentation–I hope maybe next year to be technically competent enough to start with oils–W waves his hand.

Technique isn’t everything, he tells me.
I don’t know. I answer. I feel all these pictures I want to draw, but what keeps me back from drawing them well is my lack of technique.
I’ve seen some things you’ve drawn, he says. Your technique is good. But you focus too much on technique. You see too much maybe how the picture SHOULD be and then you are disappointed. Why don’t you try to draw and let the picture be what it wants to be?
Loosen up, Hazel would say.

What is the point of a drawing?
What can a drawing do?
What can a story do?
And do some people just never grow up? Even when they’re married, and have kids, and are getting older every day?

I suppose it’s best to not even question it.

Rage +30

The bullshit of my mother-in-law truly kens no boundaries.

Seriously, the woman is going to give me trombosis one of these days. Let me preface this whole rant with fact one:

It is REALLY hard to offend me. You have to TRY. Very. Very. Hard.
…Maybe if you shat on my bed, I would be offended (but if you explained that you really had to go and for some reason the toilet was not accessible to you, and only on my crocodile IKEA sheets could you relieve yourself, I would understand and find it in my wide heart to forgive.)

Yes, I am hard to offend, to say the least, yet miraculously, she manages to do it regularly with a breezy effortlessness that is glorious to watch.

…So, she comes over this last Monday to see (–) for the first time. It’s a simple dinner invitation, but already, shenanigans ensue. First, they cancel the original dinner date and move it to the next day lunch, because they’re tired. My mom shrugs and reconfigures the four course dinner she had planned to a three course lunch.

She wants to go out the night before and buy out the store, but I convince her to buy the ingredients the same day of the invitation, which is good, because then another call comes: They will bring the lunch to our house. My mom, who is always prodding me to be respectful towards this woman, raises her eyebrows:

They are BRINGING lunch? What does that mean? They are coming to our house…they’re our guests.
Well, his mom says she doesn’t want me to have to do any work for them this close after the birth.
…But I’m here, my mother says. And they KNOW that I’m here. Why would you cook the lunch? Of course I would cook it. Do they not trust my food?

I tell her to not worry about it and take it as a free lunch, but my mom comes from Eastern Europe where you do not ‘bring lunch’ when you go over and visit someone. Somewhere, she feels an assassination attempt has been made on her culinary identity…

The funny thing is, I can imagine my mother in law’s face if we ever came over to their place and brought food so she wouldn’t have to work so hard–I can see her offended to the bone.

Whatever. They come. They bring the food. She holds (–), plays with him, all right. Over and over, she coos: Kleines Jun-chan. Oh, my kleines Jun. (My little Jun– ie, her son.)

At some point, I really wish (–) was old enough to talk so that he could look up at her and say in his high, clear kid-voice: My name is not ‘kleines Jun-chan’. My name is (–), and I am my own person.’

When they leave, I tell J that I don’t want to give the kid a japanese name, because I don’t like double names and because I think she will then refuse to use his real name. Note how she refused to call him his name the whole three hour visit, calling him only ‘my little Jun’.

But in the manner of his family, he ignores that I ever said anything, perhaps hoping that this will cause the issue to be forgotten.

I can forget a lot of issues, but not one revolving around names, because I am a self-confessed unrepentant name-obsessed fool (yes, read my back entry on names if you don’t believe me.) And earlier, some pressure had been made that the kid should have a Japanese name as well, which I protested against. His name right now sounds very complete and good to me. And then, his father has one name. I have one name. If later the kid decides he wants to discover his Japanese roots and pick his own name (like I picked my own baptismal name at the age of twelve) that would be one thing… But right now, I see adding a second name and defacing the rhythm of his current one only as a measure to placate and make his mother happy.

And I have a habit of placating people only when I LIKE them.

She comes over last night to say goodbye to (–) before she goes back home to Italy. She bounces him on her knee, calls him ‘little Jun’ again, then turns to J in my earshot and says in Japanese: You really need to hurry up and pick a name–your grandfather would like to see pictures of the baby, but I can’t send them until I know what his name is. What about Tarou?”

Tarou?! I find my kid a beautiful name and she wants to ignore it and call him TAROU? One of the busu-est boynames to crawl out of the recently irradiated Japaner Islands?

The Holy Virgin and all her Fucking Saints!

And what do you mean: I can’t send pictures until I know the baby’s name. Uhm…. ??! (A line of doublethink on par with her excuse for not attending our wedding. She said: ‘I didn’t know you two were getting married, because I didn’t get an invitation’. To her own son’s wedding. Yes. That was her excuse for not attending and the ensuing two years of silence on the subject.)

I jump up and glare at her–not that glaring is sufficient, she should really be smacked upside the head cock-slapped, something, I suspect, grossly lacking in her upbringing. But I am a fairly civilized person.
I glare and say:

The kid HAS a name already.

Then retreat into my room. I don’t come out until she leaves. I don’t say goodbye to her. Yes, I’m being rude, but fuck it, I’ve shat three times in two weeks so it was her mistake to mess with me in this emotionally and gastrointestinally precarious state.

The funny thing is, she’s so fucking nibui that I doubt she even knows I was pissed off. And if she does, she certainly doesn’t give a shit. After all the crap she’s pulled, this is just a little more blood under the bridge, but as far as I’m concerned, she can use my kid’s one and only name when she speaks to him/about him or call him nothing at all.

Rage.
Rage.

(–)

…is here.
Born April second. At eleven at night.
I’m in love.

With the due date on the ninth (tomorrow actually), the last two weeks, all I could think about was: What would it be like? Where would the water break? Will the whole thing really hurt like a mother bitch? A boy? Girl? What will he look like?

What will he or she BE like? Will they like me? Will I like them?

To answer those questions in order of their appearance:

It sucked. But I won’t ever forget it.

The water broke, very lightly and undramatically at four in the morning.
Not at all the momentous cataractgush of amniotic fluid I had expected; it was a gentle, pink-tinted trickle….

Did the birth hurt like a motherbitch? Hell yes, it did. Perhaps it was just my karma; payback for the smooth and relatively wonderful pregnancy I had– and going in there optimistic, after so many people, my mom including, having reassured me that the process can be rather fast and relatively suck-free. My aunt Sally used to say, in fact, that she would rather give birth to a kid than go to a dentist…

After all that….

All I can say to that is, man… she must’ve had the lovechild of hannibal lecter and freddy kreuger for her dentist… He must’ve been one sadistic sisterfucker.
Because giving birth to my (–), I did not tap into a hidden vein of femininity and feel like an empowered woman. I felt like a slave getting her ass whipped. . I know now what a junky in rehab feels like–stripped down to a naked (literally), shivering, drooling, screaming, shitting, bleeding WORM, those moments, I would have done ANYTHING to make the pain stop–J was my only salvation. And after a while, not even he could help. Only the drugs…

Fortunately, I was too drugged up to feel ashamed of myself.

Once the going got gruesome, J got banished to the waiting room and three seconds before a C-section was bawled out to commence, (–) finally emerged–slipped out of me like an eel; I don’t even remember passing 3200 grams through that poor hole–suddenly, after an eternal waiting. (–) was just THERE.

What is it? Boy? Girl? What is it?, was all I could mewl weakly.

See for yourself, the nurse lays the screaming, amniotic-reeking, squirming wet little mass on my chest, and I saw that (–) is really an (–), like I had always suspected, a boy. And healthy. And screaming. I could’ve passed out from relief.

And once he was clean and dry I could do a full physical inventory determining that:

(–) is a
Delicate brunette
with a full head of hair
Smoke-blue eyes.
And his skin has the faintclean scent of kitten fur.
Give him two decades and take away the l’eau de fresh kitten, and this kid
is gonna have some fucking pulchritude.

He’s even made me look better. Three days after the birth, I stood in front of the hospital mirror, staring at myself like Peter Parker must have after he got bit by that screwed up spider. Because (–) has transformed my rather ordinary chest into a supersonic RACK. I’ve got apocalyptic, granite tits of death.  …now if I could just get my new-found assets to stop dripping milk everywhere….

And then, he’s a baby you can chill with. You know how ‘chill’ and ‘babies’ don’t often go together, since babies are always screaming about some stupid shit that you then have to  Sherlock Holmes out? But with him, you don’t have to play ‘name that cry’.

(–) screams when he’s hungry. That’s it. When he’s hungry, he screams like one of Sauron’s Nazguls, but once his hunger for souls has been sated he is the quietest, sweetest baby.

Oh, I hope he’ll get to like me, because already…

I love him, I love him, I love him! <3