Monday, December 31, 2012

My Brother was Smiling: Holiday Rituals and In Between Spaces

Check out that smile. 


The holidays bring out something lovely and sometimes trite each year.   I love the end of the year parties, the solstice rituals, salons, get togethers, the lights through the trees,  the December colors reverberating through the street puddles.  Visiting my family, I tend to regress back to my twelve year old self, reprising the same conflicts I've known with my brothers for decades now.  In between these moments, the rituals, the habits of the season sustain and help the passing of time feel worthwhile.
The herd of fun cousins at the kids table. Photo by Jennifer Shepard

Christmas eve, we enjoyed late night bull sessions, recaps while we cook Columbus potato rolls.  Its always heartening to watch the yeast turn a  cup of potatoes into a gurgling pile of dough as we talk into the night, adding flower, letting it rise and take shape.

Other afternoons we wandered to Marquand Park, where trees still lay savaged by the storm, mighty wonders laying  low, the kids exploring.  The band grew from six to seven this year with the birth of Will and Helena's Bruce.   

Dodi and Mom cooked brownies.
The two Dorothys in my life. Dodi and Mom cooking together.

Between kids romping in and outside, I cooked Cassoulet, brining the white beans, coaxing them into life, a  hearty winter meal over Thursday afternoon.  That night we enjoyed stories, red wine, and the good feeling of our years together, all these years.  And somehow we'd avoided the mass family fight!

  The next day, we'd take a break from the noise of the herd of kids and adults, leaving Princeton for a romp into the city to the Met, enjoying the quiet of eight million people along the majestic walk to the museum itself, visiting the friends who dwell there, the Rodins,  and the Diana, which once sat at the top of Madison Square Garden, who now lives there. 

Thinkers. Photo by Jenn Shepard

Diana towerring over MSG. Today she lives at the Met.

Finishing the Matisse show, we wandered through some of the modern galleries.  I loved Jean Dubuffet's View of Paris with Furtive Pedestrians. 

Dodi's favorite was Chagall's The Lovers.  "I always think of your grandmother here," I told one of my nephews walking past the Tree in the Medieval room on the first floor.  These paths between art and friends, streets and stories mark the contours of my life, memories,  and history here.

The Lovers.
Having fun with a cousin and exiting hte met.
Walking out of the show, we strolled by Bloomberg's house, grabbed a 6 train to Union Square and meandered West for dinner at the Cafe Loup.  I love Loup, not only for the Cassoulet but as it saved us from the upper east side restaurants inviting us over a year prior  when nothing else was open.
The gang at Loup, the bathrooms, and Caroline.

Weeks earlier, we'd scheduled a trip to the Marie's Crisis for show tunes, with some screaming show tune fans.  In between singing along with Oklahoma and La Mis, Rocky Horror and A Chorus Line, we talked about the workings of neoliberalism and the ways the tunes offered a way out of the carnage of a bleak world.  Music fans from across the city poured in to sing along.

Hanging out singing and talking politics at Marie's Crisis.

The weekend was filled with more parties and quiet days with the family.  Saturday night Monica and Gaylen held a party in Bed Stuy.   I didn't leave our house until ten pm.  In between detours which took me to Greenpoint,  the evening which started to feel like chapter from the old movie After hours, when a man gets lost in the night in leather bar in the West Village. I loved riding through the night, enjoying seeing what is becoming our streets from Carroll Gardens through Ft. Green, Bed Stuy, Williamsberg and Greenpoint, people giving me directions along the way, in between puddles and potholes, as I made my way back the party, to the right address, the right street in a city with countless, names, faulty maps, addresses and lost corners.

Making his way through a long night and new friends.

 Finally, I found my way back to the party where we danced, chatted, piled onto each other, and romped to a gay bar, dancing late into the evening.   I love seeing what these streets have to offer.
Street sign in Bed Stuy

It was a rough year, one friend noted.  But we're still here.

In between songs, I recalled the previous year's party and the friends who were there last year, who missed it this year.  Yet, people were so kind and imaginative.  We talked about jazz and occupy.  Change is life's only constant.   I didn't ride home till five, for banjo lessons and bagels at 9:30.

At  Judson, we  contemplate the doors closing on a year and why we rarely live up to our resolutions....  A year after one of the most dynamic movements of my life was born, we see the efforts the state takes to shut it down.   Documents show the FBI actively coordinated taking it out, but here we still are, organizing and living, despite our limits and setbacks.  The door opens with each failure...  with each swing through the history of our lives... open swapes open if we can see them.  Instead of making resolutions, might we just see a way of fully embracing  the yin and yang like moments our daily lives offer us?  Can we live them fully?  Remember to play the ukulele, even when we come home at 5 AM?  Learn a new song, write a new story, taste a new flavor, lay and do nothing, meet a new friend, or visit an old one, be less crazy.   Can we smile or dance each day? 
Chicken care at Siempre Verde.

Finishing the service at Judson, the sun shone through Washington Square, drowning the park in light.


We walked, munched on bagels, and grabbed the F up to the Park Ave Armory, for the Ann Hamilton show everyone has been talking about. 

Swinging bodies in the Armory.  And stills from Wings of Desire below.

Full of light gushing through balcony windows into the old armory, bodies cascading through the space, like the trapeze artists falling through the skies and the history of Berlin in Wings of Desire. 

Edging and dipping from this world into the skies and in between.

Dodging swings hanging from the ceiling, rows of bodies laying on the floor, gazing at a curtain ebbing to and fro, like a vertical wave.   I lay mesmerized, looking at the dancing sky.
The kids swing, bouncing smiling through time, from this day into wherever it will take us.