Forever young

We watered our flowers. Every day. Unwound the hose from its plastic spinny frame that creaked everytime the handle hit 2 o’clock. The faucet groaned as it started to wake, weathered with years of rust, its watermarks like rings on an old oak tree. We would watch as the hose swelled with water, impressed by the forward motion, all of its force. He held the hose as I watched sitting in the shade, pulling sticky blades of grass from my legs, having sacrificed themselves to my gravity. Violets and tulips. Peonies  my favorite, daisies his. He would join me when the work was done. Water’s momentum halted. Flowers full. And we would lay, heads to the sky, hands entwined. Our bodies indented in the ground.

 

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One night in Spain (the not-prom version)

I’ve recently started buying lottery tickets on eventful days. The scratch off kind, not the big jackpot ones, because that would be stupid. Also, scratch offs offer instant gratification that is particularly conducive to people with impulsivity issues.

I never win, but if I do, I plan to give some chunk of the change to whomever I’m sharing that big day with. I bought one today because I’m going to a wedding of some good friends. I didn’t win. The $2 Wild Pixies game was a bust. Sorry, guys.

It’s ironic that something so seemingly reckless like gambling is an act of control I have chosen in my current stage of life where self-discipline is a conscious daily practice. Spending five bucks on a lottery ticket is a way to remind myself not to take shit so seriously all the time, not just in YOLO moments of rebellion against fear. I work my ass off to make money. So what’s the point of being afraid to spend it? Making changes to my outlook and living a life in line with my value system requires, I’ve decided, daily practice of it, so when times do get intense, I can make hard decisions quicker and easier.

Basically, my emotional life recently has been about forming a Jackie Mantey Code of Conduct without being self-help douchey about it. What am I OK with? What am I not OK with? From myself and others I let into my life. How can I create a lifestyle where I live according to those standards and am not afraid to face the consequences of them, like losing people who do not value my code?

You are witnessing a Work Hard, Play Harder, Fuck Your Standards proselytizer growing up.

I’ve been trying to take intellectual and business oriented lessons and apply them to my emotional life, because I do really respond well to discipline when it’s not rooted in unwarranted punishment or self-hatred. For example, time management skills. Before I choose to go down a Facebook rabbit hole or nap (I LOVE NAPS), I think, is this worth my time? Being cognizant of how little time we have on this planet (something I have always been painfully aware and fearful of) and skillfully acknowledging it by creating a systemic in-the-moment planning process that respects that knowledge has given me a framework for decision making at a time when things have felt very outside my control. The discipline of it creates this, I guess, confidence that I can trust myself to make good decisions for myself no matter how I’m feeling at the time. Being present with small daily choices makes bigger ones seem like no brainers.

And buying cheapo lottery tickets once in a blue moon is totally worth my time because of the value it recognizes and satiates responsibly.

This process is an ongoing one. I recently got invited to a dinner at German Village’s Barcelona restaurant. It was a four-course meal that featured, in between dishes, dancers from Flamenco Dance Columbus.

The evening of the dinner, I almost didn’t go. I was tired. Traffic sucked. I had brooding to do at home!

But being present with yourself means asking where each impulse, good or bad, comes from. I did want to go. I just wanted to hibernate more. Well, I’m tired of doing that. When we make time to give ourselves moments of pleasure—but not impulsive, reckless pleasure that often creates more pain in the long run—hibernate brooding becomes less and less necessary.

And, shocker, I had a great time. And none of my other responsibilities suffered in the process. In fact, they probably benefited from my caliente Me Time.

Flamenco is way cool. I forgot how fun it is to watch dance. It was soothing to see a structured form of passion that asks the body to be present in the process. Emotion channeled from flexing fingers to stomping toes–not asked to leave the body, but remain a part of it, a tool to express it, a source from which to experience it, ride it out and not push it away until something better comes along, and make it as beautiful as humanly fucking possible. Flamenco blends the best parts of tap and posturing of ballet with a romantic, fierce feminist attitude to boot (to dance shoe?).

flamenco

At one point, somewhere between the strawberry-topped flan and the Malvasia, Spain, wine, I caught myself squeezing my own hand. I was actually living in my moment without even having to think about it (or, let’s be honest, drunko). And having a fucking blast. I’m a real girl now!

I smiled all the way home, windows rolled down, phone dead, pleased that my luck continued as this song came on the radio, a jukebox hero to carry me home. Lottery winner or not, I’m so lucky to have gotten to this point.

 

A time to rally

(and thanks to the friend who sent me this quote)
“It’s strange, but as I grow older I find myself developing more optimism. I keep inching towards the point where I believe that it’s more difficult to have hope than it is to embrace cynicism. In the deep dark end, there’s no point unless we have at least a modicum of hope. We trawl our way through the darkness hoping to find a pinpoint of light. But isn’t it remarkable that the cynics of this world-the politicians, the corporations, the squinty-eyed critics-seem to think that they have a claim on intelligence? They seem to think that it’s cooler, more intellectually engaging, to be miserable, that there’s some sort of moral heft in cynicism…I think that real bravery comes with those who are prepared to go through that door and look at the world in all its grime and torment, and still find something of value, no matter how small.” Colum McCann
lady

studio shot/ Tacocat

 

Hey, nonny, nonny

We just got these dish towels in at The Library Store. I had to get her. Nonny, nonny, nameste.

We just got these dish towels in at The Library Store. I had to get her. … nonny, nonny, nameste, and oh this hurts, it hurts so hard, and just keep swimming, nonny, nonny….

From Much Ado About Nothing by big Bill himself.

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
    Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
    To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into hey nonny, nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no moe
    Of dumps so dull and heavy.
The fraud of men was ever so
    Since summer first was leafy.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into hey, nonny, nonny.

 

10 Questions for an Artist: Illustrator Caitlin Hay

caitlin main

Oh, regular reader, you’ll notice this blergh’s got a brand new look. That’s thanks to this lady.

I met Caitlin Hay at The Candle Lab, where we both worked. She is deliciously honest. She’s also a great illustrator.

After moving back to Columbus, her hometown, following nearly a decade in the Big Apple (more on why she made the move soon), she decided to launch her own custom illustration business, Caitlin Hay Ink to Paper.

The business has been going strong for one year this month. In addition to her very detailed typography work — a real strong suit for her work — she spends  a lot of time getting to know her clients or, because she gets a lot of commissioned work for wedding gifts, the people her work is for.

A commissioned piece for a Cleveland newlywed couple. The illustration highlights things they two love and places in Ohio that mean a lot to them. And also David Bowie. Because, David Bowie.

A commissioned piece for a Cleveland newlywed couple. The illustration highlights things they two love and places in Ohio that mean a lot to them. And also David Bowie. Because, David Bowie.

 

 

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I had to fill out a questionnaire about my interests before she even got started on my Medusa meets Marie Antoinette meets me logo.

Congratulations on a year of business, Caitlin! In your honor, I ask you very personal questions about your art, running a business in Columbus, and why Shaq is awesome.

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caitlin_thegroom8.5x11

(deconstructed bride and groom)

 

Has art always been something you’ve felt compelled to do?

I drew a lot when I was young. I used to draw fake architectural plans when I was little. I would imagine the inside of houses and draw that. I remember a friend of mine and I used to sit at the kitchen table and we would draw every single person in our class, with their names written below. Fifth or sixth grade. Maybe even younger. It was almost like as important writing their name below each person.

I’ve always been really into handwriting and I remember I got reprimanded in first grade for writing in cursive. They asked me, “Please don’t write in cursive anymore. You’ll learn cursive next year.” But I just remember thinking, “Oh! I can’t wait to do it.” I’ve just always seen handwriting as art and so mostly what I would do when I was younger was write words and names and names of places. Really typography brought me to more of the illustration stuff.

When I was a teenager I stopped doing all of those things. I stopped being artistic at all. I started getting into sports and friends and boys. But I didn’t think about drawing as a career or a path for education at all. I actually wanted to be a writer and I did a lot of writing when I was younger. I actually began school as a journalism major and then I sort of realized that that probably who I wanted to be. I was bored of it. Gathering information is fun but the reporting wasn’t as fun to me and I wasn’t good at coming up with ideas of what to write about. Honestly, I don’t think I was mature enough for college yet. I wasn’t into it, so I took a break. I didn’t go to school at all for a while.

Then I saw “Lost in Translation” and that made me want to go to film school. The subtlety of it. The entire movie happens between the lines of what is shown on the screen and that’s what it’s about. The whole ending where he whispers in her ear. You don’t even know what he says and that’s the big climax of the movie and it’s fine. You don’t need to know what he says, you get the message. … I remember watching that movie and then driving around Columbus afterward.

I was a 19 year old hostess at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe and I thought to myself, there’s so much more that I could be doing with this seed that’s inside of me. I know I could produce something beautiful but I want it to mean something. That’s kind of been my whole struggle in life. I want to make something that I can make that is meaningful to me but also meaningful to other people. And I thought, when I saw that movie, that’s how I’m going to do that.

So you decided to go to film school?

I had to quickly create an art portfolio in order to apply to film school. And I didn’t even take art in high school at all. In my group of friends I was the dramatic, poetic, writerly one. We already had an artistic girl in our group. I was that archetype and it never occurred to me, hey, maybe I could be an artist too.

I took continuing education at CCAD. At 19 I started learning actual techniques. I took two classes. I did a color theory class where we did shading and still lifes and color wheels, things like that. And that was pretty easy because it was following instructions and I’m good at that. But my figure drawing class was a bunch of people in a room with easels and a naked person in the center and we’re supposed to draw them, and our teacher taught us to look at the inside of the figure and where the light hits it and see those little shapes and start from the inside out. So I saw it like, here’s this woman’s rib as it’s hitting the side of her body and where the light is hitting it looks like a somewhat darker triangle than the rest of what’s around. … In the end it looked like a Picasso.  Everything was mangled. It was a complete cluster fuck. He pulled me aside one day, he came up to my easel, and started laughing! … What he was trying to do was get us to draw something that had depth to it rather than the outline of a person. So he taught me another method and all of the sudden it was like bam. And I suddenly was exceptional at figure drawing. If you were naked right now I could draw the shit out of you.

What he told me was to get the proportions right, it’s OK to start with an edge. You can start with whatever edge appeals to you. So let’s say I want to start with your shoulder, so draw the line of the shoulder on the outside and exactly what shape it is. Then look for a line that’s on the other side of the body and down a little bit, where you also see another edge that looks like it’s kind of the same angle of the line you just drew. Then connect those two lines. So I would draw the outside of the shoulder and get real light with it and then draw all the way through and then start drawing the hip. Then maybe start with her armpit and draw down to the side of her stomach. In the end you have all these lines that are connecting it. Your body is connected. If your left shoulder is cocked, then your right hip will be cocked because your body is connected by the spinal cord. So it looks three dimensional even though I wasn’t trying. It would just start to happen. I’ll never forget it. I wish that there were more instances where I could employ that technique. There’s not a lot else in the world that is built from the inside out like a human. … That was the first instance where I was like, “Hey I might actually be good at this. And I might not actually hate it.”

Did you like art school?

I went to school for film at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and I took my core drawing classes and found them mostly to be tedious and boring. The content and the materials were things I wasn’t always comfortable with. I don’t use any crazy materials now. One time they had us use guache, but I’m not a painter so I would get frustrated because I would not be super great with my first painting ever. But it was due the next day. So I’d stay up all night and get frustrated. I don’t remember a lot of the work I did then. … I didn’t like the work I was doing because I wasn’t confident as an artist. Everything I did positively reeked of me. No matter what I touched, I would see something in my brain, but it would come out looking like I did it. I would have these grand ideas. I think I have now found the thing I’m OK with positively reeking of me. I’m not going to be able to do ghostly images and spooky, but if you want me to draw something exactly how it looks, then I got you. But in a whimsical way.

How’d you end up in New York?

I moved to New York with a man. He was going to grad school so it made sense for us to be together there and it made sense for me for film. I could go to LA or New York. I ended up working as a digital media coordinator at a post production house for an advertising agency. … It wasn’t creative but I liked it because I worked with creative people. Lots of film kids. Really nice job perks. That’s how they keep you in New York. Your life is so hard all the time because you’re struggling constantly and they don’t really pay you that much, but then they’ll, like, feed you.

How is being an artist in Columbus different from being an artist in New York?

Being an artist in Columbus gives you this really close knit supportive artist community. Here I feel like people have been more supportive of what I do than I ever could have imagined. Everything I turn out people get really excited about. There are so many smart, bright, talented people doing interesting stuff here in the arts. But in New York there’s so many, it’s hard to stand out. And I feel like people kind of want to pull you down there a little bit. I do miss New York, but I also feel I wouldn’t be as successful there as I am here. Here we all really like each other. I’ve met so many interesting people.

What I do is a niche thing and doing that here people recognize its uniqueness, whereas in New York there probably are a billion people doing this. Me standing out there is probably not going to happen.

What is the ratio of work you are doing?

About 50 percent wedding stuff. And that ranges from personalized wedding gifts for people, like illustrations other people commission to give as gifts, to invitations and any kind of signage. The rest of the time I’m doing small business art, logos, website stuff. I also make cards and things like that when I feel like it and sell those.

The balance is what’s important. And I like that I can do both. Typography comes more naturally to me because it’s really just a series of lines. People say all the time, “I wish I could draw! I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” … But you don’t really need training to draw a series of lines. You just have to be thoughtful about where you put them, and I think what it comes down to a lot of the time is just tedium. And tedium is something I really like. It’s therapeutic kind of. All drawing is is patience. … It’s comforting to know you do something well, too.

If you weren’t afraid or you knew you would succeed what would you do?

Casting director.

How did you start into typography?

When I was working at iPatch, that job lent itself to some typography type stuff and people started to notice little notes I would leave for people and comment on how good my handwriting was. … One day I decided, I remember I was on the subway, and I thought, “I think I should make my best friend’s wedding invitations.” I knew that she was doing a lot of DIY stuff for her wedding. So I asked her as a gift if I could make her wedding invitations. I started working on them with no intention of turning it into anything other than that job, but I worked on them at work and people started noticing and talking about them a lot. There was one girl in particular who also had super perfectionistic handwriting and a wonderful artistic spirit, her name is Moitri, She was a dear friend to me and she would sit at my desk and we would draw together. She’d always encourage me to do this. She planted a seed. She encouraged me to step out of the box and turn it into something. That was two and a half years ago.

What is challenging about creating other business’ logos?

A logo’s really important. It’s going to be printed all over your entire life. It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve had hits and misses. I’ve had people who didn’t really know what they wanted, I’ve done something, and  they loved it. I’ve also had clients who said it was close but it wasn’t quite right but couldn’t tell me what they wanted. … Art is personal, so I kind of take it personally when someone doesn’t like it. But I try not to. It’s business.

Caitlin_devanbizcards_revised2

What are the pros and cons of being a freelancer?

I don’t consider myself a freelancer. The only distinction is that I don’t get hired by other companies to work on their time. I decide what I do. … I kind of feel like I’m making up everything as I go along, so to have another professional looking over my shoulder and seeing my process, they’d be like, “Did you just Google how to make a square on PhotoShop?” I’m still learning PhotoShop.

What are the pros and cons of being a business owner?

I am not a slave to my alarm clock and I’m able to work when I feel like working. I do work every day but I find a lot of times I want to work from 8 pm to 3 am, and that’s fine.

I’m trying to get faster at things. I just don’t take days off. I figure if I’m home and I’m just sitting around, I feel weird if I’m not drawing something or doing something.

Sometimes it feels like work I’m just not getting something right or someone keeps coming back to change something.

I use an app on my phone to track how long I work on jobs and now I’m seeing I work a lot more than I feel like I do. Who knew?

I do get distracted really easily. I haven’t been working for 20 minutes, I’ve been looking at Tinder. How did I get here? There’s a lot of forcing myself to get back on track, but how is that different than working at an office?

And I don’t even have to wear pants if I don’t want to.

Why is it important for you to get to know your customer?

I want them to like the work. If I know the person and I know what they like and what they’re about then I can give them a better product. And also I make a lot of friends.

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Where do you do your work?

Out here on the patio. Or sometimes Crimson Cup in Clintonville. If I know I need to buckle down I’ll go out in public because I can’t be an asshole with my TV on and draped all over the furniture. I need to look like I’m doing something. That helps.

It must be temperature regulated and have iced coffee. And I want it to be a local business.

Goals for the next year?

I don’t put a lot of time into marketing. I’m a night before person. If I have a show coming up, I just keep everything in my car so I can roll up and set up and there you go. I should spend more time promoting. So far I’m busy, though.

I wanted to give myself a year with the business and see if it was what I wanted to pursue. To check in with my happiness level. Profitability, yeah, but I know it’s always going to be rocky terrain because it depends on other people. In August I’ll start thinking about new ways to grow as far as getting the word out and getting the products out. When I began this business I had no idea what it was going to be. If it was only going to be weddings or if I was going to do mostly custom work or not. It’s still developing and shaping into what it’s ultimately going to be. I think I’ll need to sit down and make a list of all the jobs I’ve had and what they’ve been like and where I want to go from there. With stuff like this you can’t force it. … It’s organically grown into something I don’t hate.

You’re a perfectionist?

It’s a blessing and a curse. I find I always have to do things in order. Sometimes there is no order but I feel I have to put an order on it. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to do something rather than just doing it. The fact that I’ve even begun this in the first place is massively deviant from my norm.

Caitlin_ashleysamfull

What led you back to Columbus?

My life sort of imploded a couple years ago. I moved back to my hometown [Columbus] from living in the city for almost 8 years. I knew what I was doing before wasn’t making me happy and it was all sort of wiped clean. I lost my job and had a really bad breakup. It happened all at once. I had two choices. I could either stay there in New York and face an uncertain rebuilding year where I would have to scrape myself off the floor and fight tooth and nail to get to where I was, which I had just done three years prior, or I could totally bail and come back to my hometown and face another uncertain future that could be completely different.

Why choose this?

Because I was tired. Tired of scraping. I missed my family and having the ability to keep a jacket in the car.

Good decision?

We’ll see. Jury’s still out. I’m happier in my day to day.

Three artists, living or dead, that you’d invite to a dinner party.

Shaquille O’Neal. Because I love him. He has no filter whatsoever.

Oliver Sacks.

Bill Bryson. You should read “At Home: A Short History of Private Life.” It is not short. It is long and you want it to last forever.

 

 

Goodbye, nice to know you

Letting go of something is necessitated by your fragility. You can not control an outcome. You are not in charge of your destiny. You are not in charge of your reactions. But you are in charge of your choices. Letting go is necessitated by too much past guiding the optimistic outline for a future. Letting go is living in the present and saying “I can’t do this right now.” “I can’t have this right now.” “I can’t be this right now.” And accepting that. Letting go feels impossible only when you are holding on too dearly to a future that is not yours to determine. Otherwise, it’s pretty easy. Happiness always seems to find you again one way or another.

You’ll never be open to it with the front door bolted shut, you inside, trying to find a way to make the puzzle fit together even though it came in the box without all the pieces.

Letting go is at the opposite end of grief.

You’re almost there.

Let go.

Fall into the next adventure.

Your heart will leap after you soon enough.

Taking off the Shell

Comedian Dustin Meadows’ show Struck a Nerve is so good. It’s once a month. You’re missing out by not being there. Cowabunga-up dude. Don’t be a party pooper!

struck a nerve

 

Imagine April O’Neil was real. And she died today.

This is such a weird coincidence that it’s the same day as this event, but April O’Neil passed away this afternoon. I wrote a whole essay about how the Turtles were the quintessential ’80s boy band, but, in her honor, I’m going to read her official obituary from her former employer, Channel 6 News, instead.

“Famous news journalist April O’Neil has gone to the big pizza party in the sky. She was perpetually 27 years old.

In her 1996 autobiography, titled “Taking off the Shell,” O’Neil said she was raised in Duluth, Minnesota. Her idyllic childhood was spent reading, playing in oat fields and raising pet turtles. She loved visiting her Aunt Agatha, who was a detective. Both of her parents were scientists, a career field that was pushed on her, she said, and one she followed out of loyalty as her professional life began.

From 1983 to 1984 she worked as a computer programmer for the infamous Baxter Stockman, whose brain mysteriously disappeared after his death. Unsatisfied by the tech talk, O’Neil soon found her true passion—Journalism.

“April O’Neil was a pain in the ass,” said Channel 6 owner Burne Thompson, “but she somehow always knew where to find the story. I don’t know how she did it.”

O’Neil’s longtime co-worker and director Vernon Fenwick could not be reached for comment.

O’Neil’s tenacity in the field earned her many accolades, including several Pulitzers for breaking news reporting. Her ability to sniff out news was damn near fictional.

But the feisty journalist was not without her own scandal. In fact, it seemed to pursue her mercilessly.

Friends, including former Channel 6 receptionist Irma, say she moved apartments often and unexpectedly. Her credibility was seriously damaged in 2005 when she reported that there were anthropomorphic teenaged mutant turtles that were ninjas living in the sewers and fighting crime. O’Neil soon after checked into a rehabilitation center for exhaustion and pill addiction.

In 2003, she brought a lawsuit against Channel 6 for discrimination. She alleged that the station demoted her because she would not change her clothes. The station argued that yellow jumpsuits just did not look good in high-definition. They settled out of court.

In 2006 tabloids went on a witch hunt to find out if she was a natural-born redhead, and a highly successful pornography series, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Boners,” starred a busty, scantily clad O’Neil look-a-like and mocked her demise.

O’Neil is survived by her estranged vigilante husband, Casey Jones, who is due to get out of the New York State Penitentiary early because of good behavior as captain of the prison’s white supremacist hockey team, and their adoptive daughter, Shadow, who is, according to her website, a modpodge keychain artist and acupuncture sushi food truck owner.

O’Neil’s death happened under mysterious circumstances. A New York utilities worker found her in a coma three days ago in a sewer, surrounded by half eaten pieces of pizza. The pizza was deemed poisonous by the NYPD.

Adding another element of strange to her death, O’Neil woke up briefly and her last words before dying were, “The turtles have been framed. Shredder did it.”

The NYPD has listed Actress Megan Fox as a person of interest in O’Neil’s murder.

Rest in peace, April O’Neil. Talented and tumultuous life, the world needs more characters like you.”

A horse is a horse is a whore

This year I’ve kind of fallen into performing my writing. Sharing my work that way is not really a goal of mine — in fact, it’s quite terrifying — but everything I have been involved with has been so much fun. I love this town because opportunities to perform my writing live are even accessible! Anyway, I wanted to post about my favorite event so far because it will be reoccurring AND its motivations meant a lot to me.

At the first installment of Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse, four  women — a musician, an entrepreneur, a comedian and a writer — shared a 15 minute act inspired by whatever Horsewoman they had been assigned. For example, I wrote about war. We could take our theme whichever way we wanted, spin it however we saw fit. Proceeds from the event went to the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.

horsewomen promo

My essay played on the war of words we have with each other and between genders. It was about how words can feel dismissive of an entire self and how they are used as weapons of war against the Other. Part of my essay involved these bad boys.

cunt cookie

Cunt cookies. They were cookies iced with the words that we are called because we are women: cunt, bitch, slut, fat ass, crazy, weak, dramatic, princess, etc. The idea is that we made them sweet and we ate them in a new way. And the, later, we would turn them into what they really were — steamy, stinky piles of bull shit.

I felt so inspired afterward, by sharing my story and by hearing the other artists’ stories. I would share my piece here, but it really just feels too personal, too intimate, one of those essays that you have to share with someone in the moment. I left feeling completely in tune with the people who were there and totally inspired to keep fighting the good fight, making love not war even in times of war. Maybe I do want to do more writing like this…

Horses… horses… horses… whoreses…