Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

Big Dig

July 24, 2008

I had spent a week in NYC before leaving for a three-week stay in Boston. Beantown brought with it the chance to catch up with some friends and provided what was tantamount to hospice care for someone like me, dying in the “real world.” It also provided some quiet days, allowing me to write, create… and wonder- what would Nair do to a grown man? In an effort to find an answer (former foreign correspondent) Aviv bravely disrobed and valiantly volunteered himself for the grand experiment. A rhesus monkey called Scatback flew a sub-orbital flight on December 20, 1961 but was lost at sea after landing. Much like Scatback, Aviv was a hairy pioneer of territories uncharted; but while Scatback is still lost somewhere out at sea, Aviv has found himself in his own private sea of hairless glory and minor chemical burns.

The rest of the Boston trip went swimmingly, but was cut a bit short as I returned to New York City last night for an interview.


Snow Drifting to Sleep

December 5, 2007

The bed sheets looked like snow drifts as I tucked myself in to the warm winter.


A week on the road and while everyone else in the world was eating leftovers I was making friends and finding butterflies. On Sunday I said my goodbyes, and left for Rochester in the early afternoon. I managed to get as far as Verona, NY before my car made alternative plans. I sat in the driver’s seat, singing to the Talking Heads; the windshield wipers kept a steady beat as they cleared the flakes of snow… meanwhile underneath the hood of the Chevy Malibu trouble was brewing. I pressed on, oblivious to the strained serpentine belt that was slowly failing only a couple feet in front of me. A serpentine belt sits next to the engine and maintains its tension via a spring-loaded pulley. The belt connects to and helps function your alternator, power steering, air conditioning and water pump.

My serpentine belt broke on the New York State Thruway, putting a quick end to the convenience of power steering and coolant system. I caught a tow to a service station in Oneida and checked in to a motel. After a week of falling asleep in a warm bed I was now alone with little company aside from the Gideon Bible tucked away in the nightstand drawer.

Back in Rochester now with a new serpentine belt, snow on the ground, and a certain melancholy that seems to have attached itself to me during my exit from Boston.

Looking out my window, the snow drifts look like white linens as I tuck myself in to the cold bed.

154 Thorndike

December 4, 2007


I spent the last week in Brookline with the colorful residents of 154 Thorndike- Aviv, Masha, Allison, Tori, Justin, Urs, and Eleanor & Michelle (not pictured). Somewhere between the vegetarian family dinners, David Bowie dances, foreign phrase-book pickup lines, and Jäger bombs we fell in love.

The weeks events included Boston’s Critical Mass bike ride; Exploring the tastes of Japan with Anthony Bourdain (who, while not busy being Messianically idolized by those of 154 Thorndike, is a chef, adventurer, smoker, crime novelist, bad-ass and smart-ass) ; Conversing with Allison’s “special” T-train friends; and Learning Urs’ less-than-orthodox, Swiss method of making mashed potatoes.

It is weeks like these that leave one smiling, basking in the romance of being young.

Earlier in the week Eleanor and I had a conversation- sharing our experiences living abroad… She gave a half-laugh at our respective travels, at how they were not quite as romantic as the smoky jazz clubs where American expatriates secretly and unconsciously pieced together a revolution of arts and literature; or as sententious as the “finding oneself” stories of the 1960’s-

But thinking back on the past week with a smirk, Eleanor and I may have been looking for these romances and meanings with astigmatic vision. Trading the French accent for the less-sexy New England elocution and the Cafe Delmas on rue Mouffetard for Herrell’s on Brighton Avenue- one can see that “expat” and “student” are just words… that the romance and meaning are directly in front of us.

If only we could just watch ourselves just being ourselves in this strange movie.

While taking off I remembered how to laugh and never forgot it again.

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

November 29, 2007

A bit of youthful presumption and quick answering found Rob and I at the Press Screening of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. After persuading the film’s publicity agent that she was indeed expecting my arrival- she greeted me, asking if I was the one scheduled to interview Schnabel- Rob and I joined the small coterie of critics from, among others, the Boston Globe and The Phoenix.

Based on the French memoir Le scaphandre et le papillon by Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly describes his life after suffering a massive stroke at the age of 42 that left him with the condition locked-in syndrome, leaving his only means of communication as blinking his left eyelid.

Through the frayed curtain at my window, a wan glow announces the break of day. My heels hurt, my head weighs a ton, and something like a giant invisible cocoon holds my whole body prisoner. My room emerges slowly from the gloom. I linger over every item: photos of loved ones, my children’s drawings, posters, the little tin cyclist sent by a friend the day before the Paris–Roubaix bike race, and the IV pole hanging over the bed where I have been confined these past six months, like a hermit crab dug into his rock.

No need to wonder very long where I am, or to recall that the life I once knew was snuffed out Friday, the eighth of December, last year.

Up until then I had never even heard of the brain stem. I’ve since learned that it is an essential component of our internal computer, the inseparable link between the brain and the spinal cord. That day I was brutally introduced to this vital piece of anatomy when a cerebrovascular accident took my brain stem out of action. In the past, it was known as a “massive stroke,” and you simply died. But improved resuscitation techniques have now prolonged and refined the agony. You survive, but you survive with what is so aptly known as “locked-in syndrome.” Paralyzed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move. In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.

Of course, the party chiefly concerned is the last to hear the good news. I myself had twenty days of deep coma and several weeks of grogginess and somnolence before I truly appreciated the extent of the damage. I did not fully awake until the end of January. When I finally surfaced, I was in Room 119 of the Naval Hospital at Berck-sur-Mer, on the French Channel coast — the same Room 119, infused now with the first light of day, from which I write.

An ordinary day. At seven the chapel bells begin again to punctuate the passage of time, quarter hour by quarter hour. After their night’s respite, my congested bronchial tubes once more begin their noisy rattle. My hands, lying curled on the yellow sheets, are hurting, although I can’t tell if they are burning hot or ice cold. To fight off stiffness, I instinctively stretch, my arms and legs moving only a fraction of an inch. It is often enough to bring relief to a painful limb.

My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court.

You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realize your childhood dreams and adult ambitions.


November 28, 2007

The Photographic Resource Center (PRC) in Boston is currently hosting an exhibition entitled AD | AGENCY . The show features artwork that investigates the power behind the objects, signs, and symbols of our daily cycle of consumption. The exhibit features a few interesting commentaries on the subject employing a mix of aestheto-conceptual erasures, appropriations, reproductions, and abstractions. Self-destruction and over-consumption make up the bedrock of American commercialism; in response, the photo-based works of the exhibition question the viewer with dry wit, deconstruction, and open-ended criticism.

Brian Ulrich was represented with a couple images from his “Copia” series, and Dean Kessmann with “Plastic on Paper.” It is interesting to think that the the plastic bags will outlast Kessman’s prints, the products they held, and possibly even the viewer. Matt Siber’s diptych from “The Untitled Project” was an interesting reminder of our ad-laden daily landscape. One panel presents a scene from which all logos and text have been removed; in the adjoining panel, the logos and text are placed on a white background in the approximate area from where they came.

Hank Willis Thomas‘ series, “Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968-2008” removes the text and logos from advertisements that were marketed towards and African American subject or featured Black subjects. The resulting “unbranded” images expose racial generalizations and shows literally what goes without saying- (what an advertising image is selling once removed from its written message)

Boston Public

November 26, 2007

Arrived in Boston last night after an arduous journey frought with car sing-a-longs, rising gas prices, and a traffic jam that stretched from the New York to Massachusetts borders (encompassing the entire state of Connecticut)- extending what should have been a four hour trip into a ten hour, nerve-taxing trek. The weather is not welcoming, but the company is.

I’ll spend the next week waking up on couches under covers, between two sheets-
Like corn husk or banana peel
A ripe fruit hidden comfortably in the center