Pamela Harris

Ginger Warm February 12, 2015

Randee Sue Phillips is an amazing knitter. She's also an amazing friend. When I mentioned Ginger's ears got cold on these freezing days she whipped up a little ear warmer for her.

Up north is getting astounding amounts of snow, but we're getting more of a slushy ice mix. Which then freezes. The sidewalks are covered in chemicals to melt the ice and the streets are filled with salt, and all of it burns paws. We tried the blue balloon booties, which are good for two or three wearings. We then went hardcore with real boots, but once she got used to them and started prancing around they came right off. She can feel the ground through the balloon booties and they stay put, so we're back to those for now. What do you use for your pup's feet in salt?

Rat Chips February 2, 2015

What are rat chips, you ask?

Take one large rat, preferably the size of a cat. Hit it with a car then run it over 30 or 40 times until it's nice and flat. Let it freeze completely and get buried under snow. Then walk Ginger.

We were walking, enjoying the fresh snow, then bam! Her face was in and out of the snow, rat chip clenched in her jaws. We start rolling on the snow, I'm fighting to take my mittens off so I can grab at the rat chip with my bare hands, Ginger's prancing the length of the leash just out of reach. Neighbors with cats are horrified. Neighbors with dogs nod knowingly. I eventually won and got the chip, but what exactly did I win.

Facebook and Birthdays January 27, 2015

I love birthdays and Facebook.

I'm rarely on FB, and every time my birthday rolls around I wonder why I'm not. The generous culture of it floors me - happy birthday, like like like! But I also love how technocellular is it, i.e. I may see the guts and string of my life, but I also get to see yours.

This year the first birthday wishes came from friends far away, friends who live in time zones where their tomorrow is still our today. My Aussie friend is a newer friend and work acquaintance who posts pics with his boyfriend, his dog and the design work he does for a magazine. He's a screenwriter, a good one, but he posts nothing about that ever.

An old friend now lives in Zurich. I say now because I consider her a good friend, yet she moved there over twenty years ago and I've seen her maybe twice since. Seeing her online makes me go to her homepage and holy sh!t there's her brother! A flash of a vague memory erupts, we're in our twenties, maybe at The Ballroom, maybe it was Area. Her daughters are close to twenty and look at them! They're gorgeous!

High school FB friends start posting birthday wishes, the early risers first. Most of them I barely knew in high school - I was a burn out and they weren't, but my town was small and I've known most of this group since kindergarten. I feel a swell of love for them, as I do every year. One always posted about her husband and kids, then about two years ago her posts went through a one day at a time feel, a today is the first day of the rest of your life vibe. Divorce? AA? I look at her homepage and take a closer look. She looks good. She looks clean and sober. I hear you on that one, sister who I don't know, but do.

I get a private happy birthday message from another acquaintance from way back when, someone who lives in a small New England town and always has. Small Town Guy is married, but has been in the closet forever. I know this because a close friend here in NYC (and FB) who's far out of the closet emailed me some time ago and asked why my Small Town Guy who he doesn't know and never met is trying to friend him. That's when I realize that Small Town Guy has a secret life and must be trying to find a community he can be less secret in, albeit online. I feel a pang of sadness for him. Then I think damn, you're hiding in the LGBTQ (is for questioning) world of today? But, see, lately I've become aware of just how much angst I have over how others see me, how I sand down my aggressive corners or how I have a moment of panic when someone posts a photo I'm in where I don't look great.

That thought pinballs me to, do my business acquaintances and friends know how old I am?! I go to my FB account and there's my birthday date. With the year I was born. Does the year show?! Fu@k it. Does the year show? Fu@k it.

I get a post from a high school acquaintance - she's a grandmother?! How old am I? Soon after there's a post from a friend the same age who has a six-week old baby. How relieved am I?

I start scrolling my general feed. There's a post from the first studio visit I ever had. This guy posts everything - nothing is off limits - which I love. Small Town Guy should definitely friend him. There's a post from the first curator who put me in a show. You never forget your first. Oh! My work has gone up at auction (it sold well, thank you very much) and I've shown in non-profits. Those fu@kers always post the year. My birthday is out there.

Egad. Get off the age thing. Look at these people I went to high school with. We look great!

Scrolling more, there's the guy I lost my virginity to. When FB was a novelty we said hello! Hello! I lost my virginity at the Swiss Chalet attached to a Denny's. The following morning there was a knock at the door from the chambermaid. Being polite I opened the door and the chambermaid was the guy who sat behind me in homeroom. I screamed and slammed the door shut. I think I'm FB friends with that chambermaid ...

Right after I see my de-virginizer's post I get birthday wishes from the girl I met him through. Her mother and mine were great friends. And that sends me down the rabbit hole of remembrance: This girl's best friend ended up working for my stepfather, Nachum, a Holocaust survivor. He was much older than my mother and they were opposites in every way, except when it came to feeling feelings. Which was don't. My stepfather had a factory that blew up - oh my god she looks amazing! A post shows a picture of a woman I went to high school with who was a quiet little wallflower. Sh!t did she blossom.

Posts are like shiny objects - I look at that and that, then jump the tracks to that. My friends are interesting and funny and are in the world, so I read the articles you post, I look at your pictures. Yet all that bouncing around makes a piece of me click off and I need to step away. It's why I'm not on FB much.

When I'm in the studio working, whether writing or drawing or handling the business of writing and drawing, I'm all in, distractions off. When I'm not working I need time to stare off and do nothing. Living in New York City with its constant hum contributes to this need for pause, but living here also lets me spontaneously meet friends for coffee and lunch and stuff going on locally. If we move out of New York City my relationship to FB will change for sure. Maybe then my post-birthday like of Facebook will sustain itself for longer than a week. I hope so. I really do.

In and Out December 31, 2014

What I want to bring into the new year with me and what I want to leave behind:

In: The HBO series 'Getting On.'

No-one seems to have heard of it, yet it's one of the best shows on TV right now. It's a comedy and a drama, often at the same time, and I've never seen anything like it. I've wept watching this show, both from laughing so hard and from, well, crying.

Out: I pray to be less neurotic about Ginger.

Oh my god her toe is red. Oh my god she's making a hacking sound. Is she peeing more than usual? She's shaking her head funny - does she have a head cold? Is that a limp; does she look sad right now; she has gas - did she eat something off the street? Losing Opal has made me desperate to not lose this one. Ginger is a happy dog, a well cared for dog, a healthy dog. Chances are she'll be waking us up at 5:30 every morning for many years to come.

In: Trust my gut more.

I have an uncanny gut. I'll know things. I'll see things that may not be there, but are there. It's time to accept it and trust it more than I currently do. I'm quick to know I can be way off or totally wrong. Usually though, my crazy thoughts bear some truth. Go with them.

In: I'm very grateful that my home life of Joe, Ginger, what I do for a living and how we live, is solid. My friends, too, are very meaningful to me. This year I became more aware of how lucky I am.

Out: Fury and hurt and grief over my sister.

I have an older sister. She's my last immediate family member still alive. For context, my grandparents, uncles and almost everyone else except a few cousins and favorite auntie are also dead. (I feel too young to have no family, but it's how it went.)

The last time I saw my sister was four years ago, at our mother's funeral. It was also the last time we spoke. We never had a time where we were close, but in the three years taking care of our mother I harbored hope that we'd get through our differences. My sister still lived in the area we were born in, and from frequently going back to see my mother I got to know my sister very well. We are extremely different, opposites even, and not in the cute way that opposites can compliment each other. I tried to get closer to her, but she didn't want a friendship. I kept thinking she's my sister, so no matter what keep hoping we'll work it out.

Then, I started to change shortly before my mother passed. It was so hard for me to even think that I may not like her, or that it was okay that we weren't going to have a relationship. It was also hard to feel the hurt that she wanted nothing with me. She was my big sister, yet I always saw her as fragile and felt maternal toward her, protective. Yet at the end my mother took all my focus and my sister simply became a person in my life. I didn't feel good or bad about her; she registered, but no longer in a fraught or emotional way. Driving back to New York from the funeral with my friends, I felt okay that I wouldn't see her again. I even felt relief.

Five months later, the fury started. It'd come from nowhere, being so fuck*ng angry at her. It'd dissipate, come back, vanish for months at a time, suddenly show it's head then vanish again. This time when the anger came up it briefly shifted to hurt, which shifted to sadness. It bounced around there for a few months, then last week it hit me that it is what it is and it's time to find acceptance with it. Seeing this has let the rage go and with it, I will say sadly, thinking about her. Something has shifted and it feels like I'm moving on.

In: I want to go to the movies more instead of streaming everything on the box. Going to the movies alone in the middle of the day is a decadent joy. There's a great theater near me that is clean and has stadium seating and the crowds tend to be light and respectful of whatever is showing. Seeing a movie on a huge screen is incomparable. I want to put my shoes on and go go go.

Everything else in my life, i.e. art and writing and teaching and consulting and my writing group and greenmarkets and this blog and you dear readers and Netflix and Joe's family and all the stuff that makes my world spin is coming with me. And the meatballs Joe's about to make. This was a good eating year and starting a new one with meatballs sets it up well.

The happiest New Year to all. May you bring good things into the new year with you.

Ye Olde Holiday Frog December 24, 2014

Ginger does love her Fluff And Tuff stuffies. That line-up of carcasses above may look wretched, yet there's still plenty of tug-o-war and ripping to be had.

We just got her two new stuffies for the holiday and the kind commandant of Fluff And Tuff sent our little Ginger extras. It means Ginger will be in the disembowel business well into January.

I want to thank you all for reading and for commenting. I love reading your comments and hopefully soon we'll tweak the design so I can comment on your comments in a more streamlined way than I do now.

The happiest holidays to all. I still think it's March and can't believe we're barreling toward the end of 2014. Was this the quickest year ever?

Hack December 19, 2014

(photo by AFP)

Last weekend's protest filled twenty blocks. That's a mile-deep group of people that marched up Fifth Avenue, over to Sixth Avenue, up to Thirty-Second Street, and then down Broadway for over thirty blocks. Yet the mainstream press barely covered it. When they did they wrote about a handful of arrests that occurred at the end of the day by a splinter group. That wasn't the real story. It was the gossipy part of the story.

Similar reportage has been playing out regarding the Sony hack. I can't stop reading about it, but not because of the personal details released - these fritter into the air and are done. (This said, I do find interesting the details of men's pay versus women's, and how certain projects come together and fall apart.) It's, an email threat to a movie studio demands the studio pull a movie because it makes fun of the North Korean president, and the movie studio pulls the movie right before its release. What does this mean for freedom of speech? (This story is starting to get traction. I read a great quote by George Clooney: "We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people.")

Most of the coverage concerning the hack has focused on how embarrassing the leaked emails have been for those who wrote them. Yet right now, in front of the whole world, a new kind of war is being waged: A cyber war. We have no context for this, since we've never been here before. It's taken almost a month for this aspect of the story to show up on some front pages of mainstream press.

The Sony hack has moved us into the future. We don't know how to fight this war, what the end of it might look like, who else might get yanked into it, or how it might resonate on a global scale. The world we know has changed.

One Year December 7, 2014

(top photo by Joe Villari)

A year ago today, we adopted Ginger. I remember holding her in my lap as we drove down the FDR, her little head pivoting to see all the buildings, the cars, us. She came into our apartment and jumped right on her bed, but it took her a few months before she knew for sure she was home.

She still follows Joe around the house, she often wakes us up in the dead of night to get a pet of reassurance, and she still likes to come down the stairs with her nose wedged against the back of my knee. She's a toucher, this one, which I love. Sometimes I look at her and can't imagine all those years I didn't have a dog.


Joe's niece was in town from LI today to visit Santa at Macy's. It was a two hour wait to get in his lap. I said, "Convert to Judaism and go sit on Hannukah Harry's lap. He's giving out Dreidels. There'll be no wait." She said, "I'm asking Santa for big stuff. Get me Jenga."

A few nights ago there was a staged 'Die-In' at Macy's to protest police brutality and I was relieved nothing happened while the little one was there. However, her older sister went to the Wax Museum with a friend and I thought it would be great if she saw some kind of action or protest. They're from a sheltered area and although the city is a quick train ride away it's a continent away. Chances are they don't know what a Dreidel is. I know the little one would've converted if she did.

Protest December 5, 2014

Last week I had dinner with friends over near the Bowery. While we ate we saw a crowd run by, then a few minutes later the same crowd ran the other way. They were carrying signs, and given the Ferguson verdict had just come out we figured they were heading to Union Square, where most protests begin.

An hour later we finished dinner and I headed west on Prince Street for home. As I neared Broadway I heard chanting. Something felt off and as I got closer I noticed there were no cars, no traffic whizzing by. I reached Broadway and saw a large, angry crowd twenty yards away, heading my way.

To call it a crowd underestimates its size: a mass of people covered all four lanes of Broadway and went north as far as I could see. People were pressed close to each other, stabbing the air with signs, fists screaming skyward, a mix of every ethnicity pounding forward. What struck me most was, without the headlights of cars, Broadway down here at night is dim, and the crowd blended in the grayness into a squat, ferocious war cry.

I quickly crossed Broadway and passed bystanders. Some were quietly passive, some were nervous, and some urged the crowd on with support. I was curious, yet on alert. People were streaming in from either side of Prince Street to join the protest, and as I headed west I could hear the howls and collective chanting for blocks. For some reason the grayness stayed with me, as if the crowd was an apparition appearing from the mist, then disappearing just as mysteriously. It was intense, different than the typical protests I see here. This one was angry.

Over the next few days I kept thinking about it. The Occupy movement washed through our neighborhood as other small protests have. Those groups tended to work their way to Wall Street or the Mayor's office or Foley Square and often came with a side show, i.e. people in costumes, fire eaters, hula hoopers. The Ferguson protest had a fury, but it also had a kind of anonymity that created a solidarity of purpose with the rest of the country, with all the other protests going on. The 20 to early 30-something generation who are often seen as aimless and spoiled - I heard someone refer to them as Generation W as in Wuss - they have found their aim. When it comes to getting their voice out as one, Generation W is not fucking around.

Yesterday, the Eric Garner verdict came down and helicopters started humming overhead at about 5:30. I went out shortly after, heading to a block south of Canal Street, the major thoroughfare in downtown Manhattan. I was with a group in a small room with a window that faced an alley, and despite the buffered walls we could still hear the helicopters, then occasional yells. When we came out around 7:30 Canal Street had what looked like thousands of protestors marching somberly across. Most were women and all were chanting "I can't breathe."

A few of us slowly navigated our way through the march. I wasn't on alert at all; we were amazed and awed by how loud, yet peaceful, how focused, yet calm the crowd was. Traffic leading to Canal was shut down and frozen, resigned to idleness with no where to go. Joe and I had been texting and when I got home he was at the windows taking pictures. The Holland Tunnel was closed, cabs had been abandoned by fares, and, from the kitchen, he could see the protest on Canal. An hour later we heard the tail end of the march turn north, but the helicopters were still whirring when we went to sleep.

This protest didn't seem to have the rage that the Ferguson march had. What it did have that Ferguson didn't is a sense that this is just the beginning. This is a new kind of protest. I don't know when it will end.

WTC December 2, 2014

I was down by the Trade Center recently and saw this structure that, at this stage, feels like Brutalism. Which is conceptually wild given where it is. It's a new transit hub designed by Santiago Calatrava; the two bottom images are renderings by James Ewing of what it's going to look like outside and in. You can see the progress of it here.

This afternoon I watched 'The Usual Suspects' and there was a perfect shot of the Twin Towers. My heart pounded in my chest and I had such a pang of grief. I can see the new tower from my kitchen and notice that I look away when we make eye contact. I avoid the whole area whenever possible.

Here in the city, buildings go up fast. They're putting up a high-end condo at the end of our block and it looks like a new floor gets poured each day. The building site never stops moving; trucks haul debris out in the morning and load new materials in all day. The speed in which things get done here has always amazed me: a few weeks ago a water main broke one block over and in less than an hour traffic was rerouted, the street was dug up and a crew was underground. Blizzards that freeze the rest of the East coast paralyze things her for a day at most, usually only hours. Broken traffic lights get fixed immediately and car crashes get cleared pronto. Despite all its cement and steel, this city feels organic in the magical way it gets things done.

The transit hub is eight years behind schedule and $2 billion over budget. The World Trade Center site has had cranes on it for thirteen years and does not have the goods to show for it. The effect of the towers coming down goes so far beyond the obvious, the emotional, the psychological. It reminds me of when our sweet Opal passed and it took us a week to pick up her water dish. For a very long time we didn't touch her bed or her toys or her collar or her jacket and we still have one of her toys out. She was part of our family. I see her toy every day, but occasionally I'll see her toy and get filled with such a longing, such grief, that my eyes will fill. I think this is what's going on at the WTC. The mind may want progress, but the heart doesn't want that hole filled in or erased. Ever.

Mug Shot December 1, 2014

The weather has turned cold. Overnight. I like it - I'm a rugged New Englander - though Ginger likes it more.