40. Gotta get that feeling

 

I can’t sleep so I lay awake listenin’ to the sounds of the city below
I get dressed and walk the streets but I got nowhere to go
Tonight it’s you I miss
Tonight my only wish is
Oh-oh, tonight

Someday we’ll be together
And the night will fall around us
This love will last forever
Someday you’ll be mine

Springsteen, Someday We’ll be Together

 

For me, life has always been a quest. I’ve been a seeker for the entire of my existence. And the thing I’ve been searching for is not hard to divine given the nature of this blog.

As a teen, while my friends talked endlessly about “getting laid”, I fantasized about finding that one soul, that woman who would look at me and truly see.

See what, you ask?

See me, the raw and naked I; flawed, damaged perhaps, but vital, and willing to pour all of myself into the vessel of the heart. At that time, and for many, many years after, it was a vain hope. I was not yet enough myself to be properly perceived by another; still caught as I was in the trap of seeking validation from others.

I did not love myself or like anything about who I was. How then could I ever have expected another to find in me a worthy object of their devotion?

We don’t recognize how incomplete we are until our souls begin to ‘fill out’. As life lends us experience and challenges to overcome, we begin to appreciate our own qualities and inner resources. Only at that point do we begin to become who we truly are.

That is when love; true, real, burning love, finds us. At least, that is when love found me.

After decades of uncertainty and self-doubt, I had finally reached an acceptance of myself and who I had become. I had acknowledged that after the second long-term relationship of my life had ended (rightly), I might just spend the rest of my life alone.

This prospect no longer frightened me. I was comfortable in my skin and happy in my own company. If that was to be it for me, if all the romantic relationships of my life were now behind me, then I was willing and able to live with that.

In truth, none of the relationships I had experienced had ever lived up to my internal expectations anyway. Perhaps it was better to live in solitude than in a state of constant disappointment.

Of course, that’s when she came.

She was a laser, blasting into my eyes all the way through to the back of my skull. She invaded my core and laid waste to all considerations of solitude or a quiet life. She found the kindling I had tucked away in my heart and set blaze to it.

In that instant, my quest, long delayed, found its goal. I had reached my golden El Dorado.

And I discovered that the quest itself is not purpose, but it can lead you to your life’s purpose. It can lead you home.

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The image used in this post is mine.

©2016

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39. Night and Day I dream of…

 

You say, my baby, all this time in between drives me crazy
I want a life on fire, going mad with desire
I don’t wanna survive, I want a wonderful life
(All my sins were born in a kiss on a night like this calling all lonely hearts)
I want a wonderful life

Brian Fallon, A Wonderful Life

 

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Now that we’re back to communicating via screens, I miss those days last summer, so much. I miss the sights and sounds of Jersey. I miss playing with those goofball dogs. I miss the kids explaining the plots of their crazy cartoons to me. Most of all, I miss her.

I have her in front of me every single day, I can look into her eyes, read her every mood, watch the things I say play out in subtle reactions across her face, but I can’t touch that face. When she smiles, I just want to kiss those lips. When she is sad, I want to brush her cheek. When she laughs in that throaty chuckle she has, all I want to do is squeeze her so tightly.

Currently, I can do none of those.

Here’s the thing, though, the physical screen through which we must now view one another is far less isolating than the mental partition that existed between me and every other woman I’ve known. I could touch all of them whenever I wished, but I could never get close enough to any. And none ever really got near me.

This woman has been the one exception in my life. Something in her and something in me acted like a key and a lock from the first moment. Were I asked to define it, I would struggle to do so, but if pushed I would say, there are hidden frequencies to this life; a near infinite number probably.

We all vibrate in accordance with the frequency that is the essential us. I’m not speaking here of our subatomic vibration, I’m talking about the vibration of our consciousness’, of our souls.

Mostly, the people we encounter operate on frequencies that are too differently tuned from our own. We may find them pleasant, fun,  even compatible where certain ‘note’ clusters resonate or perhaps harmonize with our own, but over the longer span, their frequency will  inevitably diverge from our own until we are hopelessly out of tune with them and they with us.

Occasionally, however, we meet someone whose frequency so mirrors our own that it almost creates a sub audible hum, like a beacon. This literally seems to happen at that unconscious level of pure vibration. In such instances, the two frequencies become one and something fundamental unlocks in both parties.

I think I just might be describing the music of life. It may all be happening at a pitch even a dog couldn’t hear, but it is the most beautiful music I’ve ever known, because you let it in, not through the ears, but through your heart.

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Image used in this post is mine. Meme author unknown.

©2016

38b. You can look (but you still can’t touch)

 

Yesterday I went shopping buddy down to the mall
Looking for something pretty I could hang on my wall
I knocked over a lamp before it hit the floor I caught it
A salesman turned around said, “boy, you break that thing you bought it”

Springsteen, You can look (but you better not touch)

 

Princeton part 3

Just a couple more modern pieces to begin with.

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Sir Edward Burne-Jones, “Saint Cecilia”, 190o. Stained & painted glass panel
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Frank Lloyd Wright, “Tree of life window” 1904. Stained glass panel.

And now on to the classics and antiquities (sorry, I don’t have descriptions for all the pieces).

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Guernico, Saint Sebastian, circa 1632-1634
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Follower of Hieronymus Bosch, “Christ before Pontius Pilate”, Ca. 1520 (detail)

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Capital from the Church of Sainte Madeleine, Vezelay, 1140s
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Medieval and Byzantine antiquities hall.

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This relief is Assyrian which has to make it the oldest artifact on display.
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Roman and Etruscan
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I loved this little centaur. Greek, possibly Athenian. Ca.530BC.

 

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Roman Noble Woman.

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Egyptian

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Cartoon Network….er… Mesoamerican.
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Colombian Bling.

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Eventually, we had to leave. None of us were keen to go, but I knew we’d be back at the first possible opportunity. As we walked back through the campus grounds the clouds were closing in and the paths were empty.

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In the car, it was Pony Face that sang us home.

All pieces are from the collection of the Princeton Museum of Art. All photos are mine.

©2016

38a. You can look (but you better not touch)

 

From a house on a hill a sacred light shines
I walk through these rooms but none of them are mine
Down empty hallways I went from door to door
Searching for my beautiful reward
Searching for my beautiful reward

Springsteen, My beautiful reward

 

Princeton part 2

The moment we entered the gallery, I knew we were in for a treat. The first piece I saw as I walked in was Matthew Jackson’s Dresden. I was so overwhelmed by the power & scale of that piece that I almost think that if I’d been alone, I might have simply stayed with it. However, we had kids to inspire and there was so much more to see.

I think I’ll let the Art speak for itself. Some of these are minor works by major artists, but all were worth making the trip for. It was great to watch the kids reactions (actually, I think they were more amused by mine).

I hope my photos do justice to these works.

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Matthew Day Jackson, “August 6th, 1945 (Dresden)”, 2010. Burnt wood and lead on wood panels. 96 x 123 in.
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Yue Minjun, “Dejeuner sur I’herbe”, 1995.
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Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Leonardo da Vinci’s Greatest Hits”, 1982. Acrylic, oil paint stick and paper collage on canvas.
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Claude Monet. “A Medow at Giverny”, 1894.
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Jean-Antoine Houdon, “Moliere”, 1781. Terracotta bust.
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Pablo Picasso, “Man’s Head and Seated Nude”
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Auguste Rodin, “Danaid”, 1885-90
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Andy Warhol, “Blue Marilyn”, 1962.
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Andy Warhol, “Brillo Box”, 1964. And in the background, Tom Wesselmann, “Great American Nude #62”, 1965.
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Sol LeWitt, Untitled, 1982.

I’m realising that to do the entire Museum justice, this may need to be a series. I’ll end here on the modern works and cover the antiquities and early art in another post or two.

All works pictured are from the collection of the Princeton Museum of Art. The photographs are all mine.

©2016

38. Hearts of stone

 

There’s a house upon a distant hill
Where you can hear the laughter of children ring
Guardian angels, they watch from above
Watching over the love that they bring
But at night I feel the darkness near, I awake and I find you near
I’m happy with you in my arms
I’m happy with you in my heart
Happy when I taste your kiss
I’m happy in love like this

Springsteen, Happy

 

I remember I was actually surprised to hear that Princeton was situated in New Jersey. Somehow I just hadn’t considered the Garden State to be a likely location for an Ivy League school. It’s amazing the way our learned prejudices feed us biased opinions.

We outsiders, are led to believe that New Jersey is home only to mobsters, some big-haired rockers* and little else.

Einstein had been associated with the  Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton from 1933 until his death in 1955 and therefore was a resident of New Jersey. Walt Whitman lived out his final days in Camden New Jersey and Edison devised many of his innovations in West Orange NJ where he had his workshop. New Jersey is not the stereotype, far from it.

A trip to Princeton was therefore definitely in order. I’d spent time living near Oxford many years ago and have a bit of a thing for classic university architecture. Plus, Princeton has a renowned art museum that we thought the kids would enjoy exploring.

We piled said kids into the car one bright day and headed out for an adventure. I’m glad to say Jersey girl’s children are always up for a bit of culture (or, as we pronounce it in my country, kultcha). This is an encouraging turn of events from my perspective; it’s an obvious sign of intelligence to hunger after new experience. This is something they get pretty exclusively from their mother (trust me on this, I’ve met the father).

The drive from Hunterdon County to Princeton is not long, but if you eschew the freeways and take the back roads, you will be rewarded with some very pretty country. If you are Jersey girl, you will probably also end up taking several roads, not on the route and discover bits of Jersey you’ve never seen before.

All part of the adventure kids.

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Student residences on University Place.

We rolled into Princeton town only a little later than we’d intended and found a park right off University Place. We’d decided to walk through the grounds to get a feel for the place and take in some of the views on our way to Nassau Street, and a spot of lunch. Food always needs to be a priority whenever you have more than one child in tow.

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We entered the campus via a rather evocative stone archway. It immediately put me in- mind of Oxford and I began to feel strangely at home. I didn’t actually go to Oxford you understand, I just visited the place, but the familiar architecture suddenly lent New Jersey a new quality, hitherto missing from my experiences of the place.

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I was reminded that this state was one of the original thirteen colonies and that a great deal of America’s treasured history has played out in and around New Jersey. As we walked through the dappled quads, I imagined a rumpled Einstein strolling along these very paths with his good friend Gödel, deep in conversation about his unified field theory. I’m like that I’m afraid; hopeless romantic.

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And speaking of romance, Princeton has it in spades. There was clearly an effort made to mimic Oxford’s dreaming spires, a bit of Cambridge too for good measure. Princeton’s architecture follows very similar lines to her spiritual cousins across the Atlantic. There are distinctly American twists to the template, but overall there are far more similarities than differences. That’s what I found so comfortingly familiar about it.

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There was also a German influence to some of the buildings.

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Nasssau Hall

We were walking through one of the great academic centers of the world. I wondered how such a place appeared to the kids; authoritative certainly, impressive undeniably. Could they feel its stillness? There were people all over the grounds, students, and tourists alike, but something about the set of the buildings, like the disapproving gaze of a stern teacher, imposed a silence upon it all. I gave a figurative tip of my nonexistent hat to the architects who had encoded such authority into the lines, curves and weight of these grand old buildings.

We traversed the grounds and came out on Nassau Street, on the town side. After perusing several restaurants up and down the street, we settled on our place, PJs Pancake and Pasta House. This restaurant was obviously popular with the students which struck me as amusing, most Princeton attendees come from money, but twenty-year-olds are all pretty similar when it comes to how they choose to spend their time.

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I’ve noticed the kids are always upbeat whenever we’re all out for a meal together. I think it’s one of those activities that just feels so normal and gives them that sense of being a part of a family unit that they’ve been missing. I’m not their father, they have one of those, but I am a pretty standard model male with some serious parenting tendencies. I think they all appreciate that.

People often bring new partners into their children’s lives that have had no experience of parenting. Sometimes that works out, but often it just doesn’t. Both Jersey girl and I were very aware of how important it was to both of us that the other was a parent too.

A little anecdote from the day by way of illustration; we were strolling through the grounds and I was, as usual, taking a crazy amount of pictures. The youngest had brought her ipad and was also trying to take pics with it (its size and shape makes it a somewhat cumbersome thing to attempt this with). I had my own camera to my eye when, suddenly, there came a crash tinkle sound like some tiny car had just had a nasty collision.

We looked over to see a look of utter terror on the child’s face and the ruin of the dropped ipad on the ground. She wasn’t thinking, “oh no my beloved Ipad”, she was thinking, “oh no I’m gonna get it.”

Now I don’t want you to think for one moment that this was ever even a remote possibility while the children were in Jersey girl’s charge. That is not the sort of parent she is. However, the child’s father has one of those tempers that only extremely immature people can muster towards children.

It was from that, the child’s fears sprang. Immediately Jersey and I went into full parenting mode. The child was calmed and reassured that there would, of course, be no punishment for an accident that could have happened to anyone.

After a few tears, tranquility was quickly restored, largely because there were two adults exuding calm and exactly zero red faced adults yelling about the cost of ipads.

An agreement was later worked out with the child that she could earn back her ipad with simple chores. If the kid could raise a portion of the money, the rest would be covered by mom. The child is, needless to say, now back in possession of an ipad and a lesson has hopefully been learned.

After lunch, we went in search of the museum. I was particularly keen to check it out, this was Princeton after all, they had to have a veritable treasure trove tucked away in there.

Along the way, we stumbled across one of the reading rooms in a very fine old building called East Pyne Hall. The room was quite stunning with a stained glass dome and a circular gallery looking down upon the center of the space; exquisite. How the other one percent do live.

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At last, we found the McCormack Hall art museum. It was a fairly unimpressive edifice from outside compared to the East Pyne building, but once we were inside that ceased to matter. The collection, as I’d suspected, was incredible.

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It was so good in fact that it deserves its own dedicated post.

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*And Springsteen of course.

All images used in this post are mine.

©2016

37. Secret garden

 

Oh painted night set free with light
Glows outside the Rainbow Saloon
Matching braces with a Spanish lady
‘Neath a graduation moon
No more colleges, no more coronations
Some punk’s idea of a teenage nation
Has forced Santa Ana to change his station
From soldier to cartoon

Springsteen,  Santa Ana

 

I said I would be blogging the events of last summer in fairly random order and I’m sticking to that. Chronology just doesn’t matter that much and I work better if I don’t confine myself.

We decided to take the kids to Grounds for Sculpture.

This place is both awesome and bizarre in equal measure. From the questionable 9/11 tribute by the gift shop to the hard to avoid up-skirt pervert perspective when viewing the forty foot sculpture of a WWII sailor kissing a nurse, there is much to stand agape at. And yet, at the same time, the place has an undeniable charm and even some actual (and quite palatable) art works.

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I’ll be honest, something about this one didn’t sit right.

The theme of the park, loosely speaking, is art in landscape and ‘theme’ is the right word because this is basically a theme park. It should realistically be tacky as hell, but somehow it manages to work – mostly.

A big part of its charm (or its kitsch, depending on your viewpoint) is that many of the sculptures are 3D representations of the works of famous painters.

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Woman with a parasol.

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Garden at Sainte-Adresse.
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The Impressionists may be slightly over-represented.

Sounds bad, you say, and normally I would agree. However, the setting and the pieces chosen often manage to combine in just such a way as to be surprisingly complimentary.

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Certainly there are a number of missteps. Attempting a relief of Munch’s The Scream was never going to fly and comes off more carnie fun house than artsy.

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This makes me want to scream too.

I should point out here that there are some indoor gallery spaces where artists can exhibit in a more traditional sense. There are also several rather fine pieces scattered around the grounds, which caught my eye (and my lens).

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I really loved this piece.
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Probably my personal favourite (and one of my best photos – the pool guy makes it)

A lot of the pieces are really just cool objects designed to entertain the kids and those adults not so much keen on a cultural experience as interested in a fun hang out with the family. These are essentially life-sized figures scattered about the grounds in realistic or semi-humorous ‘skit’ poses. There’s the bicycle rider sunning herself by the pond and the amorous couple canoodling in the bushes among others. It’s all a bit of fun.

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Ummm, where are the boys?
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Apparently some of the plants are carnivorous.
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I don’t know what the hell was going on here. Just keep moving kids, breathe through your mouths.

Then there’s the aforementioned forty foot sculpture based on the famous (and now apparently controversial) VJ day photograph of the sailor kissing an unsuspecting nurse in Times Square. This wins on sheer scale, but you do need to watch where you stand with your kids (joking, it’s fine).

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That controversial kiss, writ large.

We wandered around the grounds for several hours and managed not to get bored. Jersey girl and I had actually had one of our very rare spats that morning (yes, we do occasionally disagree – shock) and yet, my memory of the day is a happy one, so obviously the place held any lingering feelings of angst at bay.

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She’d visited the park before, which helped when navigating the various twists and turns of the pathways. I’m sure we missed some of what was on offer, but thanks to her, I think we saw most of the good stuff. We had dragged her aunt Mary along (not really, she wanted to come – honest) and she seemed to enjoy herself as much as the rest of us.

Doing some math on my fingers, that’s three generations represented and no complaints, so I’d say the place was definitely a winner with us. And yes, it actually was pretty educational for children.

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Oh yeah, and they had peacocks.
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And this thing.

All images used in this post are mine.

©2016.

36. I wanna be with you

 

Stretch out baby
And call your daddy home
’cause I’m runnin’ tonight
Couldn’t be all alone

Springsteen, Spanish eyes

 

It was pretty busy a lot of the time, the kids’ dad never took them beyond the court mandated access (just not interested enough to bother). And so they were around pretty much all the time. Jersey girl also had to work for two of the weeks I was there, so I actually ended up spending a good deal of the time in the company of the children.

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That was fine by me, as I’ve said, they’re all great kids and no bother at all. It did keep me on my toes, though. There were meals to be got, dogs to be walked, and activities to come up with to keep their summer break interesting (between it all I did manage to get some writing done too). When Jersey girl was home we organized trips out to places we thought they’d like. And there was the nearby lake for swimming.

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When evening rolled around and the kids were all in bed, we had our time. The nights sitting out on the porch drinking beers and just talking, touching, kissing, are some of my fondest memories of that visit. This woman is like no one I have ever known. She is so vulnerable so much of the time and yet, in moments, so forthright and absolute.

She is funny as hell and laughs easily. She cries easily too, but never without reason. Her life has been no cake walk, but she carries herself with such grace and affords others such compassion, that few would ever guess.

Her empathy seems endless, far exceeding my own. She cannot abide cruelty and rails at injustice. She is one of the best mothers I have ever encountered, which is all the more remarkable since her own is easily one of the worst I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.

Jersey girl is quite simply my best friend in the world; the one person with whom I can share anything and know that I will be completely understood. She is the one person that does not judge and will not turn away.

This above all else keeps the fire raging inside me. This is what makes her the exclusive object of my intense desire. Physical beauty is fleeting, but connection like this is the greatest aphrodisiac I have ever known.

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All images used in this post are my own.

©2016