Taxi Driver Horoscopes: A Second Date, Unsolicited Advice, and a Two-Bite Brownie

We were standing on the corner of Houston and Allen Streets. We had covered the entire west side and a good portion of the lower east side. My feet didn’t hurt, my hair still had a few good hours left in it, but the mist was beginning to turn to rain — a signal perhaps that it was time to call it a night.

Should we lyft, subway, or splurge on a yellow cab? Red asked.

IMG_20150602_082913I looked around. Houston was uncharacteristically jammed with “ready to hire” cabs. I answered the question by hailing one and said the fare was on me.

Red and I had talked freely all night, and continued to swap stories, each of us sitting as close to the windows and away from each other as possible. Like two kindergartners who were afraid of catching cooties.

As was my luck, I had picked a cab with one of those drivers who decides to pop-in on your conversation, then shares his life story, then offers you advice. He was wearing a powdered blue suit. He had class.

Are you two married?

Ha! No! We both replied.

Boyfriend and girlfriend?

Nope. Again, in unison.

Then Red: We’re friends.

Good friends?

We both remained silent and looked out the window. Our hazy night was reflected back to me in the silhouettes of NYC’s buildings zipping past.

Your date is so seeeeexxxxy! Red’s friend Leanna drunkenly announced when we dropped in on her Cinco de Mayo party. Keeeep herrrrrr!

Marry her! Another random party-goer said to Red when I sourced ladles as shot glasses.

We looked the part of couple, but were d-level actors at it.

It was a second date that should have been a home run given the success of our first and a long list of shared interests. I hadn’t been this excited about someone since Clark Kent, the museum exhibition manager with the kryptonite touch from the summer before. This one felt written in the stars. And yet, everything fell entirely flat. We were having a good time, but we would have been having a good time whether or not we were with each other. We were out together, but not really together.

The man should chase the woman, our dapper taxi driver said at one point.

It was perhaps his wisest remark of our northbound drive. I had quasi chased Red, and while I don’t believe in following all the standard rules of engagement in love and lust, experience had taught me to let the man take the lead.

Outside his apartment he gave me a firm hug.

I like you. I had a great time. You’re really sweet, but I don’t think we have much in the way of chemistry.

No. It seems we don’t.

We have a lot in common, and we should totally keep in touch.

Absolutely. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

As I walked to my car, I remembered I had a two-bite brownie in a hidden pocket of my purse. I sat in the driver’s seat. Cranked up some Beyonce. Ate the brownie in four bites, then drove off into the rain.

The End of a Hiatus

I turned the corner just in time to see the Physicist walking up to the entrance of my gallery and stopped dead in my tracks. Before he could pass through the bronze doors he paused and turned, catching what I’m sure was a look of shock on my face. For a moment we stared right at each other, and in that same moment I traveled back in time three years…

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I was wearing that stunning piece by Anya Caliendo. He was wearing tweed. We were different. 

He was standing in that doorway the first time I saw him, walking into the opening reception for one of our exhibitions. It was a wintry Sunday afternoon in February, and he was wearing a long white-black tweed coat over slim red pants and a black turtleneck. He looked so bloody French (which we was), and therefore was the best thing I’d seen in a longtime. I was wearing  a sequined feathered whimsy on loan from one of Lady Gaga’s milliners. It happened to sit right in the center of my forehead and project a foot into the air. I looked… different.

He was walking out of that doorway when I decided to run after him to give him a piece of paper with my phone number scrawled on it. I was two weeks out of a serious relationship and was in an empowered mood that bordered on reckless.

It was a week later, on Valentine’s Day, when a few doors down from that doorway we went on our first date.

And then a month later, we were in his doorway and he kissed me good-bye. As I walked out into the lion’s roar of March, I was certain that I’d never see him again…

And then, here we were, three years later on a wintry Friday afternoon in January standing in that doorway again.

“I wish you had told me you were coming in,” I said. “I would have made sure my hair looked better.”

The Physicist was visiting a chapter of his old life, on vacation from his new life in eastern Europe. We caught up over coffee in a trattoria behind the gallery.

“You don’t blog any more,” he remarked once we made it past a catch-up on work life and started the transition to personal lives. “Is that because someone’s given you reason not to blog?”

“I’ve been seeing someone, but he’s not the reason I’m not writing. I just haven’t had any time to write. And maybe, these days, I have too much to say.”

“You should make time. I liked reading it. And writing mattered to you.”
He handed me a deck of playing cards — my gift. The face side of each card was a soviet-era “propaganda” poster. I laughed out loud as I shifted through the images and he showed off some of his Russian. img_20170106_164308060

Sometimes it’s hard to attribute any value to the ephemeral relationships that make their way into and out of our lives. I always considered the Physicist as a quasi toxic vignette in my dating life (even if was French and had a six pack.)  But his cameo at the start of 2017 was a valuable one — he reminded me to hold onto all the things that make me ME.

And so, just as the American political leadership is trying to silence the voices of women and minorities, and just as I start down new paths of my own, I return to my soap box.

They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband is back.

Thanks, Physicist.

 

Behind Home Plate: Considering a Woman’s Place

league3In my hometown, girls who wanted to play in Little League played on co-ed baseball teams until the 5th grade. Despite being the generation that watched “A League of Their Own” in the theaters, there weren’t many of us who wanted to be Dottie Hinson (played by Geena Davis). We were evenly distributed across all the teams, and that meant that most of the time there were no more than two of us. I wanted to pitch, but a coach told me: “Girls don’t pitch.” But I had a good arm, so I was put in right field (well, that was the justification for it, anyway.) Girl 2 on the team was also put in the outfield… a fake position called “center right.”

Often at practice, Girl 2 and I would out-slug the guys. But when it came to setting up the order, we were always placed at the bottom. Come game time, when we’d get up to bat we were heckled by the boys on both teams — by our teammates and by the opponents. The male coaches never did anything to make the boys shut up. If I struck out, which I did a lot (and no more than the boys), I’d be met back in the dugout with “what do you expect from a girl!?”

When I was finally old enough to join the all-girls softball league, everything changed. I became a starting pitching, a top-of-the-order batter, an All-Star. When we’d play co-ed softball in gym-class, I was a first round draft because I could out-everything the boys.

There was no more heckling. There was just the game.

1923570_528551231932_5298_nI remember being in pre-school and wanting to be a boy. I’d try to pee standing up (I learned after one attempt that we’re just not built for that.) I guess it’s a phase all children go through — that phase when they’re trying to understand what makes us different from the other kids on the playground, and then trying to appropriate some of those differences… because the grass is always greener on the other side.

Maybe that’s why I preferred a hammer, nails, and a block of wood to dolls when it came to toys. My school folders had cars on them instead of “My Little Pony.” As I got older and moved into sports, I always played with the boys. I’d swim in the boys’ lanes, or go to their practices in girls’ off season. I fight the boys in karate and bout with the boys at fencing practice. In college, I majored in Economics. I did my problem sets with the boys and go for morning runs with the boys.

And then I’d throw on a pair of high heels, a bedazzled shirt and some eyeliner and drink beers with the boys. The boys would often still be in their gym clothes.

The battle of the genders begins from day one. There’s only a short, sweet time when the playing field is level and then the realizations kick in – boys and girls are not the same.

We fall from Eden.

Putting aside basic biology, what is it that makes men and women so different? To me, it’s all about experience. We fall from Eden not because we realize our nakedness, we realize we don’t have access to the same opportunities. The boys on my little league team were never told they couldn’t pitch because they were boys. As we think of what makes us strong as women, so much of what empowers us is how we learn to define ourselves in relation to the boys — even if we don’t want to admit it. What if my little league team had been 50-50 boys and girls? What if my coach had had daughters instead of sons? Would I still have been told “girls can’t?” Would someone have said “boys can’t?”

 

Reflections: She’s More than a Pretty Face

Last week I opened a new exhibition. It’s been two years in the works, and to date is my biggest curatorial achievement. People seem to like it. They’re telling all their friends and sending me nice emails. It’s bringing people together.  So I’m kind of proud of it.

A friend who came to visit was kind of proud of me too, and  passed my catalog onto a friend of hers who happens to be a hugely influential collector of contemporary art. He flipped through the catalog, recognized two of the significant names, and then shared his one comment on the content…

“Oh wow! She’s really pretty!”

He was referencing my head shot.

I laughed when she told me. Inside, I was rolling my eyes.

It’s like Hillary Clinton being told to smile more.

If I were a man, would he have told her I was really handsome?

There really is nothing more demeaning to a woman in a professional setting than a reference to her attractiveness. Don’t tell me I’m pretty. That’s not going to convince an artist to work with me (well, it might if that artist were Jeff Koons) or a museum to hire me. “Pretty” isn’t something I’ve worked to achieve — it’s not a professional milestone. When it comes to my job, I’d rather a criticism on the quality of my work than a compliment on the quality of my face.

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“Good Smile, Great Come” by Tracy Emin. Maybe it’s time we start talking about how men look in the workplace. 

 

As the Calendar Changes, a Look Around

The first thing I did in the New Year was pay my American Express bill (well, technically it was the second think I did, after picking up the broken champagne flute and depositing the empty bottles of Veuve in the recycling.) Next, it was on to the gym. When I got home, I baked butter tarts and cheese biscuits, then googled “Oscar Isaac relationship status.”

If these acts kicking-off my 2016 are in anyway indicative of some underlying, motivating New Year’s resolutions, those resolutions would have to be:

  1. Continue to improve personal financial solvency.
  2. Obtain fitness model physique.
  3. Consume more carbohydrates.
  4. Marry Oscar Isaac.

If I really think about it, I’m fairly confident I can achieve all of these in the next 12 months (even if Nos. 1 and 3 seem in complete competition and I didn’t get a FitBit for Christmas). #4 seems particularly obtainable…

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Oscar Isaac… Swoon. (New Year’s Eve had included seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D.)

On Wednesday, the last day our offices were open in 2015, my boss called to riddle off a few final requests and bid me an enjoyable long weekend.

“2016 is going to be a great year for all of us,” she said.

“Well, I certainly hope so…” I immediately envisioned the upcoming 12 months — a long list of projects which forecasts a relentless, Sisyphean push uphill scrolled across my mental computer screen. I think I threw-up a little in my mouth. “Yes. I mean, yes. Of course it will be a fabulous year!”

sisyphusThe changing calendar triggers a flurry of contradictory feelings. Nostalgia — for the year closing and years past. Excitement — the chance to start afresh and the promise of new adventure. Fear — a lot of life happens in a short period of time; can I handle what lays ahead?

“Your Year Ahead” emails, complete with horoscopes, exercise plans, shopping “musts,” and travel suggestions start hitting your inbox on Boxing Day. If you hadn’t had a chance to think about what’s next, you certainly are now.

Resolutions emerge, our proposed answers to the question: how will I “show up” this year?

2015 was pretty fabulous year — the first 7 months were loaded with firsts, with successes, with travel, and fetes. In turned 30 and with a new decade came the summer — a slower paced season which brought changes, more travel, and a little illness. Fall was a mixed bag, highlighted by still more travel, but otherwise a slog. The year closed with the flu, but great family and friends. In general, I felt that I was always running to catch up and to get ahead. The changing calendar was the first time I had a chance to look back and enjoy, because from the moment the datebook read 2015, I’ve been looking ahead… into March 2016, September 2017, February 2018… If only I had a crystal ball.

There is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming months — exhibition openings, a wedding, arty parties, travel, an extra week of paid vacation — little exclamation points on my calendar that await sentences to fill the lines between them. Generally, I walk into the pages of this new year with excitement. Who doesn’t love the start of a new story (especially when Oscar Isaac is cast in the cinematic adaptation…) Let’s leap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamas, Please Let your Daughters Grow Up to be Cowgirls

“I don’t want to be in the Annie Oakley skit! I want to be in the Calamity Jane skit! Calamity Jane! I want to BE Calamity Jane.”

As a kid in grade school, I was always well-behaved. Comments on my report cards often read like: “Works well with others. Team-player. Needs to pay closer attention to her spelling. ” But in the 4th grade, I gave my teacher a bit of a shock when I threw a tantrum of epic proportions over the end of the year grade musical.

Apparently, I thought Annie Oakley was a sissy because she wore a dress and was an exhibition sharp-shooter. Calamity Jane was a real cowgirl! A frontierswoman. A daredevil… She could out stalk, out draw, out ride any many in Deadwood City. She also had a really tiny waist and a fabulous buck-skin outfit.

I really liked her outfit.

I should mention that I got most of my education on Calamity from the Doris Day and Howard Keel movie, which I must have watched about 1,000 times.

Despite being the class’s Calamity Jane expert, my teacher refused to yield. The Annie Oakley skit needed someone who could “fiddle” and I was the only violinist in my grade who could read music. She appealed to my “take one for the team! We need you!” better side.

It helped that we were singing “Anything You Can Do” — the whole reason why I wanted to be a cowgirl was because only boys were supposed to grow up to be cow-people. I took the battle of the sexes seriously, even in the sandbox. #BornFeminist

My mother had bought me the Calamity Jane musical on VHS because it had been one of her favorite movies, but also because she liked that I wanted to be a cowgirl when I grew up (so did she… in many ways, she was a kind of frontierswoman, but her Wild West was the wild, untamed, male-dominated land of finance.) Where most kids would want to be doctors or lawyers, teachers or nurses (if you were a girl,) I wanted to heard cattle and shoot cans off fence posts. I took riding lessons and imagined one day moving west to run a dude ranch. Not surprisingly, my favorite Nickelodeon show was “Hey Dude” and I was almost always a cowgirl for Halloween. I have about 5 pairs of cowboy boots, and a stetson. Somethings, you just don’t outgrow…

My parents never discouraged me, which I appreciate. Because wanting to grow up to be a cowgirl was about more than building a home on the range…

1.DustupFlash forward 20 years later, and I’m writing a grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Arts, requesting funds to support an exhibition about female identity. The whole exhibition is held together by one large central piece, “Dust-Up” by New York artist Nancy Davidson.

Nancy is witty and whip-smart. We’d meet several months later, after I won the grant, to talk installation. There’s a generation between us, yet as we swapped Calamity Jane stories, it was clear how much a little girl in the 1950s shared with a girl in the 1980s. Every generation will have its glass ceiling, and the cowgirl will always be a symbol for how, with a little gumption and a good straight shot, we can kick up a little dust up and shatter any barrier.

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When I started at my job, my friend Annie (a coincidence) sent me this card. It’s been on my pushpin board, looking at me every day since.