Pamela Harris

A Blog Opera June 15, 2013

This morning was hectic hectic hectic

by eight a.m. we hit the greenmarket and I wrap

three birthday presents for a seven year old who I love very much and

then we have to cook and eat and clean up what we ate and shower

shower you're getting bread and I'll shower first before we head out

Okay Joe says but be quick since I don't want to be late and I thought

if I had an axe an axe an axe had a nice sharp axe I

might swing it am I ever late?

We drive over the Williamsburg Bridge

Joe is driving and I am in the passenger seat not aware I'm --

How's your brake? he asks Your brake brake brake?

I'm slamming my foot on my imaginary brake every time a

motherfuuuu-oh my God - the truck the taxi it's veering into our -

I'm going to die

close my eye

s oh my

I see a sign

it says Take Turns Meandering

that's a weird sign for the Long Island Expressway

and I realize it says Take Turns Merging

a sign a sign a sign!

I swing my feet and pfffft I'm good

Bird Chips June 10, 2013

One of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits was when John Larroquette played a recently deceased guy and Dana Carvey played the angel he meets when he goes to heaven. The angel asks the deceased guy "Anything you want to know?" and after a bit of conversation the deceased guy asks "What's the grossest thing I ever ate?" The angel quickly says "You don't want to know." The deceased guy says, "Okay, what's the 200th grossest thing?" and the angel replies "That would be some butterscotch pudding that had a dead earwig in it."

The dog has gotten so much better with vacuuming the street, but occasionally she'll grab something off the sidewalk before I can kick it out of the way. Sometimes I don't know what I'm fishing out of her mouth and last week I wrangled a flattened and stiff bird part from between her teeth. (There was a beak, a head and a bit of something else.) A fellow dog owner referred to it as a 'bird chip' and for the record that bird chip barely makes the top ten things I've fished out of the dog's mouth. The week before she got her jaws around a massive cockroach, also dead, and that makes the bottom of the top ten because a cockroach beats a bird chip any day in terms of not wanting to touch.

After 9/11 our neighborhood changed in many ways and one that's been long lasting is the kind of wildlife and vermin we now have. One of my close high school friends was a flight attendant on the first plane through the towers and ten days after they fell, when I was packing to go to her memorial, my phone rang with "Has the infestation reached you yet?" The caller lived eleven blocks south of me and they were being overrun with cockroaches. Right as they asked a giant waterbug lumbered across my living room floor and I panicked. It made sense - the vermin had to go somewhere. Bizarrely, I had crickets right after the towers fell, the most beautiful, sleek black crickets that tweeted comfort for two days then went silent. Crickets were okay, but cockroaches weren't and I left for my friend's memorial unsure of what I'd come back to.

What I came back to was getting mugged at knifepoint by a transvestite who was better dressed than me, but no cockroaches. Seagulls, rats the size of cats, doves, a hawk and a praying mantis moved onto the block and stayed. Praying mantis look like floating fairies when they fly and though they're the rarest thing I still occasionally see one. Last night the dog ate a ladybug, which I love, so I'll have to keep my eyes out for Tinkerbell, should she fly by.

Woof June 3, 2013

For six months this dog was silent, then two weeks ago she heard a sound in the hall and bam! She was at the door with rogrogrog. We stared at her in wonder, like Dr. Zira did at George Taylor in PLANET OF THE APES when he growls Get your paws off me you filthy ape and she realizes It speaks! Two weeks later we're not at It doesn't shut up! but we do have a solid watch dog.

I use 'watch dog' loosely. An egg carton in the kitchen got a growl and a woof and yesterday she dove on her bed in the living room and leapt off it just as fast, like it was about to snap it jaws around her. She glared at it with a grrwoof then she head butted it for a solid minute before plopping down behind me and conking out. She likes to lay down behind me while I work - I'm on a deadline which is why I'm posting mostly about the dog - and suddenly she'll be up and across the living room, with wargwargwarg out the window. We're quite a few stories up so she can't see the street below, but she'll sit and stare across to New Jersey, or a block away at scaffolding on Renwick Street, or at a construction crane on Hudson Street and woof and grunt and pfft. Argargarg.

Hot Dog June 1, 2013

First time in a pool, following her favorite dog in.

Holiday Dog May 28, 2013

Her favorite dog is a Rottweiler who lives downstairs. They're a few months apart in age and about 75 pounds apart in weight. They go at it when they see each other; the Rottweiler loves to chew my dog's ears and my dog loves to chew his chin.

Both dogs are breeds that are perceived to be tough and both dogs are the exact opposite. On Saturday we took them to a dog run together and though they'd play with all the other dogs they kept running back to us for a pet, for reassurance, to stand between our legs and watch the action. They're both big babies, which is probably why we love them so.

(photo of the meat packing district by Christopher Payne)

I've been in a bad mood about the art world for a few years now. I love money, I love fashion and I love art, but I don't love the way they interact. Gavin Brown was recently interviewed by Nicole Phelps at and said it well:

What do fashion people get wrong about the art crowd? And vice versa?

The fashion crowd doesn't get anything right about art. The two tribes speak two entirely different languages. You are either on one side or the other. This is a particularly interesting week to think about the difference: the punk Met Ball and Frieze Art Fair. Both sides using the other to dress themselves up as something they are not, and destroying something essential about themselves in the process. The punk Met Ball was particularly hideous. The final enslavement of one of the most powerful postwar social movements. Reduced to Sarah Jessica Parker's fauxhawk. A sad and accurate diagram of the state of our culture. A crowd of shiny morons turning reality inside out so it matches the echo chamber of their worldview. Would Sid have been invited? What would he have thought? Is this what Mark Perry meant by "This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band"? The English art schools of the sixties and seventies—the cradle of this creative movement—must be writhing in their supply-side straightjackets. It only emphasizes to me that fashion—whatever that is—sees art (and artists) as an idiot-savant gimp, and they keep them on a leash, begging for glam snacks. And fashion follows along behind art, picking up its golden shit.

How different is the art world from the fashion world, in the end? Hasn't all of the madness around collecting, and the obsession with which artist is up and which artist is down, eclipsed the art?

I see the fashion world with my nose pressed against the window, but from that perspective it seems dynamic, fast, frothy, and 99 percent empty. But that really isn't so different from most cultural worlds—including the art world. There are creative and talented people doing incredible things at the heart of each arena. But both fashion and art suffer—in different ways—from the crushing weight of capital. And in this sense, they have both been co-opted to do capital's bidding—as it reaches into every corner of the globe. Wherever you find an LVMH store, a brand-name contemporary art gallery will surely be very close by. The right bag and the right painting are the clearest ways possible for those with money to recognize each other.

Dealing with people on the street has been something I didn't anticipate. This dog wags her tail at everyone, loves kids, has a great air about her and is a beauty. When we're out people stop us constantly to ask about her and to pet her. Kids who are terrified of dogs want to touch her, adults who have had bad dog experiences want her to be their initiation back into dogville. It's great, she loves it, but I'm still getting used to it.

When we first got her I'd take her out early with my teeth unbrushed, hair in a messy ponytail, wearing dog slobbered clothes. We'd get stopped and I'd be covering my mouth to answer questions or talk shop about the dog. Now I brush my teeth, put on lipstick and try to have my hair in some kind of shape before I take her out. Thank god for vanity.

The Soho Grand put in a dog run for the neighborhood dogs and guests. It's very pretty, more for owners than dogs. The grass at a week old had patches that had been dug up and eaten and the large polished pebbles are hard on a dog's running feet. We go there at least once a day for a sniffathon: the top photo is the dog meeting her first fly; sniffing the pebbles; facing off with a Starling; sniffing a rock on the grass the bird was on. Neighborhood dogs are starting to find it so we'll even get a romp in, but mostly it's for climbing on benches and smelling everything.

Thanks to all the comments and those of you subscribing. It's great, actually. Thank you, too, to the reader that mentioned a photo loading issue. We tried to find the issue and everything is loading on this end, so perhaps there was an outside issue that day.

Waiting to be lifted out of the tub.

Master of Reality May 12, 2013

(Photo by Joseph Szabo)

“Get your shit.”

Shelley was yelling at me because our parents left for the weekend and she was stuck baby-sitting even though I was almost thirteen. We were going to New Hampshire and her boyfriend, Bruce, was picking us up any minute.

I ran upstairs and pulled out my psychedelic suitcase, the one printed with ‘Tiptoe through the nasturtiums” and ‘Make love not war.” I didn’t know what either meant but the suitcase colors matched my wallpaper and I wanted it. I threw a Black Sabbath eight track in – what do you pack for the weekend? What had I brought to my dads? I added pajamas, Frye boots and a troll, just in case. As I ran downstairs with it, Bruce pulled into the driveway.

Shelley glared at me. “Why do you have a suitcase?”

“I thought we were going to New Hampshire.”

“For an hour you stupid shit.”

Bruce honked and I followed Shelley out, suitcase in tow. New Hampshire was only a half-hour away, but when I left what I knew I had anxiety. With my suitcase I was ready for anything.

“Hey little Pammy,” Bruce said as he pulled the passenger seat forward so I could climb in the back. “Nice suitcase.”

“Thank you,” I said, and put it on the seat next to me. I took my cigarettes out of my sock and lit one.

Shelley stared at me. “Since when do you smoke? It’ll stunt your growth.” She cared. I sat back, happy.

Bruce drove fast and we were at a state liquor store in New Hampshire in twenty minutes. I smoked two cigarettes in the parking lot while he and Shelley went in. They came out carrying two cases of beer, two cartons of Marlboro's, a bottle of Kahlua, a bottle of vodka and a bottle of something that made my heart plip because I knew it came in a purple bag. My dad drank the same stuff and had given me the bag, which at the moment I kept polished rocks in. Excited, I leaned out the window. “Can I have the purple bag?” I had a homeless Spanish coin collection stuffed in the toe of a sock.

Bruce nodded as he put everything in the trunk then got into the car. He turned to me and asked, “Are you hungry?” I shook my head as my sister got in the car. “We’ll get a pizza after one more errand.”

Twenty minutes later we were back in Danvers and we got off the highway near the mall. This was the historic part of town where houses wore plaques that said ‘1776’ or ‘The Parker House, 1795.’ My new friend Leah lived on this street and her house had a secret staircase behind the kitchen that was tiny and twisty. We drove past her house and pulled up three houses down.

“I’ll be right out,” Bruce said and Shelley and I watched him stroll up the walk of a little white house with blue shutters. Someone must have seen us because Bruce didn’t have to knock – the front door opened as he approached. Shelley and I smoked a cigarette as she stared at the windows then absently looked around. “What do you want on your pizza?” she asked.


“We like mushrooms. We’ll get two.” She looked at the house again and Bruce came down the steps. She looked relieved.

Bruce got into the car and handed me a present about the size of a Grape Nuts cereal box. It was wrapped in hot pink paper. “Don’t open it until we get home,” he said. I love presents and I turned it over and over, dying to know what it was. The wrapping paper was thick, slick and shiny, perfectly taped and smooth. I smelled the box but there was no scent. We got pizzas and hurried home and when we pulled into our driveway I grabbed my suitcase and the pink box. “Hang on a minute,” Bruce said as I headed for the house and he opened the car’s trunk. “Can you carry this?” He held out a three-foot square plastic tray that had a small lip all the way around. I added it to my stuff and brought everything into the kitchen. Seconds later Bruce and Shelley came in carrying the liquor and a large duffel bag. Bruce made two drinks out of Kahlua, cream and vodka that were foamy and rich and smelled like chocolate molasses. Shelley saw me smelling them and said, “White Russians and you can’t have one.” I didn’t care. What was in the present box?

Bruce put the tray in the middle of the kitchen table. He held his hand out for the pink present and I gave it to him. “Sit back,” he said to Shelley and me, then he raised the present and whacked it hard on the edge of the table. There was a loud crack as the box slightly split and he gently placed it in the middle of the tray. Slowly, the present began to crackle, then it began to grow. Sticks and leaves were unfolding out of it as it split apart more and more – it was like those animal sponges that were flat and tiny until you dropped them in water and they puffed up into dinosaurs. This smelled rich and sweet and was turning into a large pile of dried green leaves. Bruce helped the box away from the pile and untangled a branch out. “What you do is pull the leaves off against the way they grow, like this." He stripped the branch of leaves and put them on a clean part of the tray. He then swept a bunch of seeds off the tray into his hand and tossed them into a clean ashtray. "Put loose seeds here.” He reached into the pile and held up a dense cluster that looked like a cocoon made out of leaves and yellow or reddish swirly things. “This is a bud. Don’t break it.”

I was mesmerized as I pointed at the pile. "What is that?"

"A pound of pot. Good stuff, not that five-finger an ounce shit.” Bruce pulled a pack of rolling papers from his pocket and laid a creased paper open in the palm of his hand. With his other hand he teased a shriveled clump of leaves out of the pile and crumbled them into the paper's crease. The paper had a thin shiny strip on its top and he licked it, then with only one hand's fingers and thumb he carefully rolled the paper back and forth, massaging the pot into a log shape. He then rolled the paper all the way up into a joint.

I hadn’t ever smoked pot. Snorting speed was becoming my favorite after school activity and I had even begun breaking the bridge on my cello so I could skip orchestra and hit the woods with Suzy, Leah and Cindy. Bruce took two hits off the joint, passed it to Shelley and she took a hit. He exhaled and gestured the pot wasn’t bad. I reached for the joint and Shelley held it back.

“I’ve snorted speed.” I stared at her, matter of fact.


“With my friends.”

“I better not catch you doing that,” she said and took a long sip of her drink. She finally passed me the joint and I took a hit. It did nothing and I took another. Still nothing. Pot sucked. Bruce laughed, then finished the joint the way I would a cigarette.

Shelley went into her bedroom and put on Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride, a record I knew because I had recently begun sneaking into her room to listen to her albums when she went out. For the next hour we worked quietly breaking up the pound and getting the sticks and loose seeds out. We took a pizza break then Bruce pulled a box of baggies and a scale out of the duffel bag. The scale came with little gram weights, just like the one in the science lab at school, and Bruce used them to balance the scale. He set it exactly to one ounce and I watched as he filled a baggie with a couple inches of pot, weighed it, licked the baggie flap and sealed it closed. He was precise to the midge.

After watching him weigh out half a pound I got bored and started fidgeting. “You can leave,” Shelley said, and I scampered upstairs, put on a sweater, and went out and stood on the lawn. I suddenly giggled, I don't know why. Maybe the pot was kicking in. The sun was going down and I lit a cigarette and looked around my neighborhood. I hadn't seen Janet Craft in a while and I headed toward her house, hoping she was home.

Spring Dog May 6, 2013

On Tuesday I met a friend uptown and she took me through Shakespeare's Garden in Central Park. What a beauty that garden is. There were Robins everywhere and I mentioned that I don't see them often downtown.

On Wednesday I was walking the dog and she dove for something on the sidewalk. It was a dead baby Robin, not yet 2 inches long, almost featureless. I pulled the dog away, we kept walking, and I started seeing blue egg shell pieces on almost every block. Maybe Robins like all the scaffolding, maybe they like the eaves, maybe old predators are gone or all the recent construction has shaken everything up. We're Starlings, Pigeons, Sparrows, the occasional hawk or rogue Yellow or Red Finch, but rarely Robins.

Thursday and Friday I saw another dead baby Robin, same on Saturday. Walking the dog home this morning from the park I saw another, but it was more fully developed. It's beak was yellow, it's body plumper. I don't know if a nest mate is kicking these birds to the ground or if they're falling. I've never seen a baby Robin that close, but I'd rather watch them develop live versus, well, dead. Any naturalists out there who can fill me in on why Robins now?