Monthly Archives: August 2011

summer pledge drive

It is high time for a Lunar Camel Co. pledge drive! The pledging is for my aquatic pod fund. I would find it very relaxing to spend time in a boat-like pod, bobbing around in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Maine, but it’s probably not going to happen without reader support. Here is the aquatic pod I need:

here is the aquasphere I need

It looks like I’ll need a minimum of $100,000 to get ensconced in one. Cough up enough support and I will rummage my apartment for a coffee mug or tote bag to send you — surely that makes your contribution tax-deductible. I would greatly appreciate it if you could be as generous as circumstances permit because I know I’ll find my pod extra relaxing if it’s customized with a reclaimed teak deck and if the interior is upholstered with Josef Frank’s Navigaire and antique Japanese boro textiles. Stuff adds up, people.

Josef Frank - Navigare kimonoboy.com boro-1045-1

Navigare fabric, Just Scandinavian, $270 per yard; “extreme sashiko” boro at Kimonoboy’s Japanese Folk Textiles, $1,750.

Accordingly, I am prepared to invite contributors at the $10,000 and up level aboard for an intimate thank you-cocktail gathering as soon as the vessel is seaworthy as a small token of my considerable appreciation.

Minn0wbathers weed brief

Click on the weed swimsuit or the meta-beach bikini below to buy one to wear to my pod party.

We Are Handsome meta-beach bikini

my aquapod door is open for you

Summer is nearly over, I know. I’m thinking I’ll need the coming winter to make all of the necessary arrangements for my aquapod and have it built, and then next summer will be amazing. Eventually I want to have half a dozen pods or so, functioning as a sort of oceanographic sanitorium / artists’ colony, but I am pragmatic and economical and would be happy to get started with just one pod. Hammacher Schlemmer is selling the “aqua pod suite” pictured above for $91,100 but I wonder if it would be more cost-effective to have these pod people build me a one-off pod. The mini-bar included in the Hammacher Schlemmer model is a must but I could certainly do without central air. It may be possible to find an old pod and lovingly restore it. It was a vintage pod I saw on Wary Meyers that set my pod-planning in motion.

Wary Meyers unidentified floating object

click on the image to have a look at that aquapod

There is a question of where to anchor the thing. I have a place in mind but not a particular spot. I’ve been going to Vinalhaven — an island in Penobscot Bay about twelve miles off the coast of Rockland, Maine — for a week or two every summer for years, and this year I will be going to the nearby island of North Haven instead. I’m leaving the week after next and I will have aquatic pods on my mind. These are old photos from summers past but they will hopefully give you a sense that it’s an ideal place for an aquapod. It’s a pain in the ass to drive up the coast of Maine for hours and then get on a ferry but I think the privacy and the pine trees and the detachment from just about everything I have ever wanted to get away from are well worth the trouble.

on the ferry on the way

Lane's Island nature preserve North Haven

Don’t be shy about contributing at a lower level than the $10,000 Platinum Party Friend Circular Circle. Maybe you could give $500 and be a Driftwood Bounder. (Your name would be scratched into a piece of driftwood in my pod’s bar area).

In the meantime, here are some songs I’d play in my pod. I can’t cosily embed the 8tracks mix I made here in my blog post, but if you click on the player you will be taken to the place for listening to it.

click to listen to my aquatic pod pledge drive mixtape

aquatic pod pledge drive mixtape

Glenda Collins, “It’s Hard To Believe It”

Josef K, “Sorry For Laughing” (Postcard 7″ version)

Black Randy And Metrosquad, “I Slept In An Arcade”

Anika, “Terry”

Ruth, “Polaroid roman photo”

Magazine, “Boredom” (Peel session)

The Fall, “Glam Racket – Star” (Peel session)

Adam & the Ants, “Cartrouble (Parts 1 & 2)”

Alien City, “Cathode Rays”

Can, “She Brings The Rain (From ‘Bottom-Ein Grober Graublauer Vogel’)”

Marcos Valle, “Minha Voz Zira Do Sol Da America”

Television, “Carried Away”

The Breeders, “Only in 3’s”

Young Marble Giants, “Eating Noddemix”

Yays & Nays, “Nature Is My Mother”

The Kinks, “Animal Farm”

Orange Juice, “A Sad Lament”

If you don’t have time to listen to the whole mixtape, at least check out the Black Randy and the Metrosquad song. It’s so good.

If you are wondering about that Glenda Collins, yes, it was written and produced by Joe Meek, so that is why it sounds like a Joe Meek song. Ready Steady Girls! says that after he shot himself, Glenda “took an office job and only returned to singing in cabaret and at weddings.”

Thankfully Adam Ant hasn’t gone that way. As a tiny schoolgirl I loved him — in one of my elementary school photos, 3rd or 4th grade, I wore an Adam Ant badge pinned to the outfit my mother dressed me in, and to this day I am grateful to have grown up thinking it is perfectly normal for men to wear a hussar’s jacket and lashings of makeup — but I’d never heard Dirk Wears White Sox until recently. It’s actually really good. I’d been meaning to give it a listen for years because I love The Monochrome Set and I knew some of them had been Ants. It’s darker and artier than I was expecting. It sounds a bit like a Wire album at moments. I think you should have it in your collection.

Two of the songs in this mix came to me via Allegory of Allergies: Alien City’s “Cathode Rays” (which I stumbled across in 2009, and I still listen to the album all the time), and Yays & Nays, “Nature Is My Mother” (which I listen to far less often, but appreciate as a perfect car song for driving to or from a stoned hike, and probably to or from an aquatic pod too).

The Marcos Valle comes via the former Mr. Lunar Camel Co.’s wine people, some of whom are really into Marcos Valle. You should ask your wine people what they are listening to; they might have something great for you.

how is your hurricane?

I hope you are carrying on a fantastic interzone love affair with someone from Zone A in your Zone C apartment, or are enjoying however you are doing things. We went for a walk this morning and there was a guy playing the saxophone in Marcus Garvey Park in lieu of this weekend’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.

Before the walk we had breakfast at Cafe Latte. It was very grey outside but it wasn’t raining. The restaurant was full, a mixture of local people and stranded Europeans.

breakfast at Cafe Latte after Hurricane Irene

After breakfast we went to 116th St. to buy bio coffee from these people but they weren’t open. We saw Marcus Samuelsson walking south on Frederick Douglass Blvd. as we headed back uptown to 125th St., maybe he was thinking about stocking up on bio coffee too. Bio coffee is coffee with wheatgrass in it. It probably sounds repulsive but it tastes good. It’s an instant coffee that has milk and sugar already in it, like instant coffee that you might get if you are travelling somewhere where people do not really drink coffee. Meaning they do not drink real coffee, but it’s not unenjoyable, the stuff they drink instead. I guess I’ve had coffee like it in Kathmandu or someplace in northeastern India. Here is the rest of the Food For Life Supreme menu, for the curious. I have been there a couple times now for bio coffee and carrot fries and I still don’t know what moon sauce is.

Mr. T was watching over 125th St.

Mr. T, 125th St.

There were large tree branches down in Marcus Garvey Park and a sign by the entrance saying the park was closed, but we went up the steps to the top of the hill. On our way up we encountered someone’s DVD, perhaps having been snatched from their grasp by the hurricane.

damaged trees, Marcus Garvey Park

Marcus Garvey Park after Hurricane Irene

someone misplaced their DVD

I took some video of a windy moment at the top of the hill in the park.

Jean Painlevé

Jean Painlevé with his aquatic camera

Jean Painlevé photo from Wikipedia.

I’m going to stick with the oceanographic theme this blog has had lately because why not. Let’s watch some Jean Painlevé films. Do you know of him? He did a lot of things — he wrote, acted, translated, collaborated with surrealists, got involved in anarchist and communist stuff — but he is best known for his science and nature films, some of which he shot underwater using an aquatic camera like the one he’s holding above. There’s a very good essay by Jim Knox at Senses of Cinema here that captures what it is I like about his films:

Short works, almost exclusively documentaries devoted to natural history, his films were neither strictly intended as popular novelties nor as celluloid jargon for academic peers. This fragile balance of tone and method, so enchanting to an awestruck contemporary viewer, provides the clearest precedent for the work of an Anglophone documentarist like David Attenborough; Painlevé gives a fabulist’s account of the enchanted marginalia of animal life and behaviour.

Enchanted marginalia is exactly what I am perpetually on the lookout for. It doesn’t come off if the auteur holding up the frame around their chosen subject — the love life of octopuses, for example — has a cynical view of their audience, and unfortunately in my opinion most people who make films do. To maintain the fragile balance that Knox refers to requires something finer and stranger than empathy with one’s audience; it requires a sense that somewhere out there are people, some people at least, who will intuitively understand what is hilarious and touching about a crustacean waggling its antennae to plink-plonk music.

Here are excerpts from Amours de la pieuvre (Love life of the octopus) (1965), from The Criterion Collection’s DVD Science is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If the video won’t play you can watch it here.

And here is an earlier one, Crabes et Crevettes, part I, 1929.

If you’d like to read more about Painlevé I recommend the Electric Sheep review of Science is Fiction here, and the Scott Macdonald essay here.

north fork

When I said I was going to the beach last week my destination was Orient Point, at the end of the north fork of Long Island. I’d never been there before and was surprised and thrilled that it’s relatively easy to find a deserted or nearly-deserted beach there. I feel like I can tell you people — you lot are mostly continental or English and you’ve got your own lovable beaches much closer to home — but don’t tell anyone else.

let's go down there

Sometimes the nicest thing is to not have anyone else around.

IMG_5810

It’s all the more exciting to find a deserted beach with interesting structures on it, like this driftwood teepee-cabana.

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Or to find a beach where a sailboat with flashy silver sails appears on the horizon. My friend thought this was very Matthew Barney-ish but it remained too far away to see whether the mast was made of vaseline.

silver sailboat in the distance

Driftwood legs, agreed? The navel is low but those are legs.

driftwood legs

Our favorite beach find was this oceanographic sofa, where thoughtful beachcombers can sit comfortably and think about special rocks or driftwood wants and needs.

IMG-20110821-00150 Lolo

My friends were directed to the beach with the oceanographic sofa earlier in the week, when they arrived and discovered that the rental kitchen lacked a cutting board — people at the Orient Country Store knew it would be a good place to forage for a driftwood cutting board. Two designers in our party were inspired by the tremendous driftwood selection and made a chair too. It wasn’t quite complete when I took this photo but you get the idea.

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If you want to commission a driftwood chair or set of chairs I could probably hook you up. It would take a week or so to make so there’s the cost of lodging to factor in, plus me to document the process, plus an assistant for me, but think of how amazing your new chairs would be. Seriously, think about it.

You can see one of our driftwood cutting boards in the photo below of some farmstand herbs I made focaccia with. The focaccia was initially a disaster (it took three women wielding spatulas and knives to dislodge it from the pan it clung to, then was successfully resuscitated in breadcrumb form and used to stuff tiny peppers) but the driftwood cutting board was an unqualified success and we brought it to the Country Store to show it off to Miriam, one of the proprietors. Manhattan desperately needs small, friendly Urban Stores where people can exchange useful information and buy whatever little things they have a pressing need for, some candles or seltzer or a slice of peach-brown butter tart still warm from the oven. We have bodegas of course but I don’t think I’ve ever obtained any truly useful information under fluorescent lights because no one wants to chat when everyone looks hideous. Plus there is never a front porch and they are not run by bakers. There are some people who built a porch on their roof in the West Village and there’s been at least one gallery porch I recall, so I don’t see why this couldn’t happen.

farmstand herbs

Also nice to have around: farms and farmstands and wineries. Here is a lavender farm where bees live in lavender beehives.

lavender farm

I didn’t see any lavender honey for sale but we did come home with a good-looking melon. Russians pickle the rind and other people make things with the seeds, but who has ideas about how to make curly watermelon tails into something?

our melon

We didn’t eat the melon tail but we did have a terrific salad with flowers and pickled beets in it, and afterwards I thought about starting a new food blog that has only remnants of food on it. There’s probably already a Tumblr called Fuck Yeah Plate Study. Hmm.

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pink remnants after beets

We didn’t spend the entire time eating salads; there was also a fair amount of bicycling around and looking at things like ospreys in their nests.

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There was a sandy beach much easier on the feet than the rocky ones we visited but it has umbrella rules.

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Do you prefer to read serious or fluffy books on the beach? I don’t think I have ever had a preference. It’s easy to get distracted by people-watching / -listening but sometimes little distractions are the perfect punctuation for serious sentences.

reading at the beach

We stayed near a marina where children sometimes practice sailing in tiny white sailboats. A fine thing to watch from a porch, but I would not want to be responsible for keeping them from heading out to sea. If someone had sat seven-years-old me in a boat just my size I probably would not be here writing this blog; I’d be on a small, grubby island wearing a seaweed turban and blogging about that instead.

IMG_5856 with circle

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IMG_5869 Lolo

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new oceanographic snack

I’m back and I have a lot of photos to sift through and a lot of insect bites to scratch and curse. In the meantime here is a new oceanographic snack, by which I mean it is just the thing to eat when you are near the ocean. It is vegetarian yet briny and requires little effort.

new oceanographic vegetarian snack

The snack from top to bottom is: farm stand tomato, cheese of your choice, one layer of Korean seaweed snack (the sheets of roasted seaweed that come in a little packet), toast. I have a strong feeling that a perfected version of this snack would be made with sourdough toast, extremely fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil on top, but the snack in the photo was made with brie on multigrain toast and it was delicious.

until then

a nice jellyfish sandwich

1962 Archie via If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger . . .

Hey people. I’m off to the beach and likely won’t say hello until Monday at the earliest.

at the beach

Beach reading to accompany your pink boombox:

The Element of Lavishness

The Element of Lavishness: Letters of William Maxwell and Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1938-1978. I’m going to do a post about this soon and I think you ought to read it in the meantime. A distinguished-looking English gentleman in a seersucker suit asked me about it on the subway the other day and I told him the same. I think I sold him on it because he told me I was “a precious source of information” about this sort of thing. Maxwell and Warner had tremendous affection for each other and were apparently never uninteresting.

Mr. Hodge and Mr. Hazard

Elinor Wylie, Mr. Hodge and Mr. Hazard. A 1928 novel about a summer in the life of a poet who — I am borrowing from the jacket here because I have got to go! — “is too liberal for the proper, prosperous England of his day.” I’m going to write something about Wylie soon-ish. Chapter titles include “Funeral of a Mouse,” “Ambush at the Breakfast Table,” “Camelopard at a Party,” “Reverie over an Apple-tart,” “Satan Finds Some Mischief Still,” “Unlacing of a Breastplate,” “Private View of the Invisible,” “A Deep Romantic Chasm,” “Unsubstantial Pageant Faded,” and “Crack of Doom in a Teacup.”

Singular Pleasures

Harry Mathews, Singular Pleasures. Literary people need sex books to bring to the beach just the same as anyone else. This one is about masturbation.

last-minute plans for you and your Monday

There are half a dozen proper blog posts I have mentally composed and very nearly actually posted before I was going to say anything about tonight, but now tonight is almost here. I know it’s kind of last-minute but you should come see my friend’s band Party Lights tonight at Mercury Lounge. They go on at 9. Unless you already have plans for tonight involving a garage rock band comprised entirely of sexy women, you really should be there.

Party Lights at Mercury Lounge

at the Boggsville Boatel

I was so moved by those amasan photos I found that I decided to get my sea legs ASAP at the Boggsville Boatel, a hospitality experience / art experience happening at Marina 59 in Far Rockaway, Queens this summer.

BOATEL

Actually no, this wasn’t a spontaneous thing — it was kind of difficult to get a reservation after the NY Times article came out, and I was ridiculously excited when my time on the waiting list finally paid off with a night aboard The Crumb. It did not disappoint! We had a genuine seafaring adventure and the very next day we became big in Japan as a result.

aboard The Crumb

It was raining when we arrived at the Boatel so there would be no movie or lecture at the boat-in theater that evening, but we had a terrific time hanging out in our boat.

our bell aboard The Crumb

It has a very cozy cabin (entered via a sweet little curtained door), a giraffe mascot, and some inspiring art.

The Crumb

inside The Crumb

inspirational art in The Crumb

(We’re pretty sure those tuff ladies were part of a sea-going rival gang to the Van Dykes).

where we slept in The Crumb

We slept in that sleep-space there, in the bow. It’s dark, I know. There’s no electricity in these boats. We brought a lantern and a flashlight but didn’t use them — there were plenty of candles in our cabin, along with a battery-operated boombox and a handwritten note explaining that drunk guests would be sent to bed rather than fished out of the spaces between the boats. We had plenty of sheets and pillows and, most importantly, no leaks. It rained all night but the atmosphere at the Boatel was charming, lit with just the blue of the neon sign and the orange glow of candlelight in everyone’s cabins. We drank prosecco and my friend iPhone-DJed Northern Soul, and I took a terrible photo with my Blackberry.

nighttime at the Boatel

At some point there was a liquor run with other guests. The neighborhood is what one might call seaside scuzzy — there are housing projects next to the marina on one side and a school bus parking lot on the other, or possibly a labor camp for kids who were really bad on the bus — but we went out in a group and nothing bad happened. To give you a feel for the surrounding environs, my friend and I wandered over to a pizza place we’d noticed on our way to the liquor store the following afternoon, and the pizza didn’t look so good so we stood by the window for a moment, wondering whether we ought to try the Chinese place across the street instead. We hadn’t been looking out the window for more than a few seconds before another pizza customer asked “what’s wrong, the police out there?”

It really is pretty amazing that there’s an incredibly cool marina with all sorts of fascinating arty stuff going on one block from the A train. It makes me very happy to live within a subway ride of this place. (A long ride, but still). It’s exciting in a way that very few parts of NYC are anymore, and Rockaway Beach is just a block away from the train in the opposite direction.

The next morning we awoke to a sky still peachy around the edges and promptly went out to sea in a rowboat.

morning at the Boatel

The Princess Ladyboat

rowboat

heading out to sea

No, no, it’s dumb to go to sea in a rowboat. We just went to have a look at a rusty old abandoned tugboat.

abandoned tugboat

And to look at nature. Those are mussels there, and a crab way in the back. We didn’t get crabs in Queens because we’re entirely / mostly vegetarian, but we saw people getting crabs all day long. Note the oars for the boat are made from police barricades — an excellent use for them.

mussels

It’s Queens so the wildlife is all mixed up. In addition to mussels and crabs we saw beautiful shorebirds in the marina and at the beach, one big fat rat (which is sometimes reassuring to New Yorkers, being a reliable indicator one has not strayed far from home), one pet iguana on a leash (sunbathing atop a parked car near the beach), and, living in the marina, a family of goats. The baby one there was born at the marina in May and is already really good at doing goat stuff (i.e. eating trash). There’s a dad goat too; later on we walked past the goat family again and he ran over to stand next to the baby.

marina goats

I’m leaving out an important part of our day here, which is that before we went out in the rowboat, Connie — artist Connie Hockaday, creator of the Boatel — told us a Japanese teevee crew would be coming by that afternoon to do a live broadcast, and we should stick around and meet them. OK yes!

In the meantime we went to Rockaway beach.

Rockaway Beach

vinyl forever

YES.

fat little beach bird

On our way back from the beach, after not getting in trouble with the law at the pizza place, we bought some sugarcane juice from this guy at a hefty white people-mark-up. I think. My friend is part Mexican but doesn’t look it and she thought this was a terrible injustice but I wanted some juice, and sort of didn’t mind contributing to the local economy.

sugarcane juice guy

Have you been wondering where did we go pee in this crazy place, this place WNYC referred to as a “floating flophouse”? Jesus. We weren’t roughing it that rough. Marina 59 has a really nice little building with very clean, very new-looking bathrooms and a shower. No fish-scaling allowed!

absolutely no fish scaling in here

When we returned from the beach the teevee crew had arrived and were starting to set up for their broadcast. They were from NHK, which is the PBS of Japan. They were all really nice people. I think you have to be pretty good-natured to work in or on live television because all sorts of strange shit could go so wrong. We made like teevee starlets and retired to our trailer (CRUMB) to practice our lines and drink beers.

the Japanese TV crew setting up

There’s the NHK presenter practicing her lines aboard the deck of the Ms. Nancy Boggs while we do the same in The Crumb.

NHK TV host

We explored our boat a bit more thoroughly in the daylight. We think it’s probably from the 1970s because the sleeping area has what appears to be an authentic vintage 1970s sex strap. I’m not quite sure how it works but I bet one of you people will know. Is there an attachment?

in our boat

We also found a bottle of Entertainer’s Secret, so we had everything we needed to become famous.

found in our boat

We toured the other boats too. Ours was our favorite but the Ms. Nancy Boggs is a close second. It’s got a cozy seating area, a spacious sleep area, and a sympathetic gazelle.

inside the Ms. Nancy Boggs

inside the Ms. Nancy Boggs

We did a couple of run-throughs with the NHK crew before the broadcast. It was an action-packed set-up: it would begin with the presenter sitting on the deck of the Ms. Nancy Boggs, follow her to an interview with Connie on the Zenobia, and end at the boat-in theater, where I was having an infinite BBQ. There the presenter would ask me how I liked the Boatel, and naturally I would say it is lovely, transporting, etc. My friend sat next to me having infinite beers as I piled BBQ goodies onto her plate. On my other side was Ari the marina owner and Milly the marina dog, who was exceptionally good about not snatching anything off the grill. Behind us a couple of kids from the neighborhood did infinite somersaults into the water, and on the other side there were some people doing an infinite rowboat tour.

NHK TV crew

I’ll update this post with a link to the NHK clip as soon as I can find one. Apparently it was seen by millions and millions of viewers! It’s got to turn up on the internet sooner or later.

If you have an interest in happenings on boats, you really ought to read Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford. It’s one of my favorite books and I thought of it often while at the Boatel. It’s about a couple who spend forty years on a gigantic, impossible, heavily-customized barge, never once going ashore. They plant a garden on board their ship, build an enormous greenhouse around it, and, if my memory is correct, eventually replace all of the leaves on all of the plants with handmade glass ones, for some compelling reason or other. And so forth. It’s relentlessly inventive and beautifully written, and it also happens to be an accurate depiction, somehow, of what it’s like to be very close to someone — at sea with them and them alone — and not have any idea What Is Going On With Us / What Is Going On With You.

Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine

The Boatel is all booked up for the rest of the season but you don’t have to be an overnight guest to attend the boat-in theater, and there are tons of other interesting things happening at Marina 59 and elsewhere on the water this summer. Go!