So I am halfway through (day 5) my annual lemonade fast, aka master cleanse, and I will now answer some FAQs.
Don't you eat anything?
Can you drink coffee?
Are you hungry?
Is this the thing Beyonce did where she lost all that weight?
Do you keep the weight off?
Have you heard that this is really bad for you?
Why do you do it then?
Because I agree with the health nuts who believe that drinking a lot of lemonade once in a while is better than drinking a lot of beer all the time.


now playing at the dowling intercontinental

Like most New Yorkers, she gets up and goes to work on the subway. Except she stays on the subway, singing on the platform. You can hear her at Kathleen Mock.
I first heard her voice years ago when I was taking the subway to work, and we became friends. Now, having sublet her apartment, she's staying here for a couple of months before going back to Alabama and her family. It's a cold time to be a busker on a subway platform. She got home the other day (above) soaked from the snow, dressed in her stage outfit. When one of her friends asked her when she was going to have her hair cut, she said (in an exasperated tone), "Most of my life is spent underground with a hat and a fucking dickey around my neck, I don't give a fuck what my hair looks like!"


coral relief

When we received this invitation to SeaWeb's charity auction benefiting preservation of coral reefs, we were psyched. One of the pieces pictured (the fish) is by Tiffany's Schlumberger and the other, "Coral Relief" is by Hannah Garrison, designer and founder, AZU. Valued at $1100 in sterling with a black diamond, it will be shown at a gala event at Rouge Tomate on February 26 and auctioned on line at CharityBuzz. "For this piece, I was influenced by the reef at my granddad’s house in Jamaica and by the winter waves in my hometown, Block Island, Rhode Island," she says. "Historically, jewelers from Tibet to Peru have used coral in their designs; we still do, but as inspiration only."


another career bites the dust

The newest and the oldest employees of Life magazine were fired last night. When I, the oldest, confronted the editor he said he had no idea we had been fired, that the office manager must have decided. Yes, friends, this was a dream—Life itself got fired nine years ago now—but it bears a strong relation to waking life.
Journosaurus, as my friend Ed has dubbed us, along with subspecies reportosaurus and photosaurus, is now Journosaurus, wrecks, tottering around on its last lizard legs.
Two friends who recently had to travel to Washington D.C. and Albany (respectively) from New York, made it in day trips, because their news organizations (one radio, one TV) would no longer pay for a hotel. The last magazine I did a free-lance piece for just went down the tubes (yes, I got paid). Everyone I know who works in print goes to work wondering if they'll still have a job at the end of the day, and that goes for the most venerable of publications (Tribuneodon comes to mind). The New York Times company announced that their revenues went down by nearly half in the most recent quarter and that they're putting up their new hq for sale. I am freely prophesying that we will see the death of many of these dinosaurs this year.
The reasons are twofold:
No ads.
No readers.
Think of all the mischief all these unemployed journalists can get up to. Seriously, though, You should write a book!


real estate update

Property development continues apace in The Family That Ate the World.
Erin's timber frame is scheduled to go up on February 16, and her blog (see link at right) has captured the attention of the Globe, which is planning a piece.
About a half hour south, Wolfen has listed an apartment for rent. You can see details on Craig's List For those of you with dreams of founding an empire in downtown Woonsocket, she also has a storefront for rent.
Word is that the buildings' disused heating oil tanks will be emptied and closed up to the Department of Environmental Management's satisfaction this week. Closing on the property should ensue next month on the 25th. Then the new tenants move in the first of March. Wolfen posted the Craig's List ad just last night and has three showings already scheduled. So if y'all want to move to Woonsocket (easy commuter train to Boston, 15 minutes north of Providence), y'all better hurry.
This seems like a good time to discuss my theory that even in the non-personal ads most people are on Craig's List to meet people, but this is going on too long, so we will have to go into that another day.


happy year of the ox

We are hoping for a better year this year. Obama was born in the Year of the Ox, 1961—"the perfect mix of ying and yang," according to a Malaysian numerologist. The AP reports that "The ox, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, symbolizes calm, hard work, resolve and tenacity." And the aspects of feng shui appear to be good. This lunar year the elements associated with Ox are harmony and peace. Not since 1949, when the world order was settling down after World War II, has an Ox Year seen two earth signs. Explained one feng shui master, "It is a year for healing ... from the turbulent time the world has experienced." No shit.


off season

Here is what the mice play when the fat cats are away. The whole scene, photographed by my brother-in-law from the top floor of his house, puts me in mind of a Bruegel. Perhaps it's the scale. I wish we could put our hands up to the fire they had burning and taste the marshmallows they toasted. But my houses (in background) are drained and buttoned up tight for the season, and only the real islanders are at play now. Maybe they'll take up curling if conditions hold.


on the couch

You really never know who's going to be there: Most recently, the iPhone Twins, followed by the Sausalito Snoozers. They all bring their personal electronic devices and their sleep/wake cycles, their Zabar's favorites and their cultural imperatives—and a proclivity for that loveseat.


let freedom ring

This is not a good video (perhaps because I couldn't see?), but it does show a scene that was playing out simultaneously all over the U.S. yesterday of people getting together in thankful and tearful and hopeful groups to watch President Obama—how wonderful that sounds!—sworn in. As one of the nonbelievers referenced, I can only say—huzzah!


we had a dream

And most of us are still pinching ourselves that it came true. Tomorrow we can start with the disappointments and compromises, the resolving of our dream and reality, but today we can be joyful and each celebrate in our own way. Wolfen, for instance, used a patriotic color scheme on her bed. And while I slept I had a dream of walking a long, long staircase, and on every landing were groups of little girls not playing Barbies, but Obamas.



It started with a walk to the Whitney and a William Eggleston show, about which all I can say is how could a person who wants to buy a derelict gas station in the Ozarks not like these pictures. Especially in the company of someone from Greenwood, Mississippi, where many of them were taken who actually knew some of the characters in them. And as long as we were there, why not see the Calder show? And then some of our number went to the theater ("August: Osage County") to return to find a near prostrate WNYC reporter (we won't tell you her name but you can hear her on NPR news today), a TV producer and the author of Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America. Adam Cohen, a NYT editorial writer, now seems prescient to have started this book two years ago, and it couldn't have come out at a more perfect time: yesterday, just before the inauguration of a President who'd like to be Lincoln but who many hope will do the work of Roosevelt.


how do you pronounce cai guo qiang?

Many of my readers want to know just one thing: how to pronounce the name of the genius who makes pictures with fireworks. They google this question from all over the globe and because of algorithms that I can't understand (or spell) they wind up right here at Claudia's Surf City. They don't seem interested in my witty prose, my fabulous photographs or anything else.
So here you go, art fans.
How do you pronounce Cai Guo Qiang?
Cai rhymes with sky with a ts sound at the beginning. In English the ts is sort of an impatient sound.
Guo would rhyme with more in a Brooklyn accent. Like gwoah.
Qiang is actually easy. Don't be thrown by the q, which is an aspirated ch. (Aspirated means you kind of force the air out through your top front teeth, aka incisors.) Sounds like: CHEE-ong (ong as in king kong).

Check this out on Chirbit

 Native speakers: Please feel free to correct this imperfect rendering.


airplane in hudson

This just in. That looks like the tail of an airplane sticking out of the water to me. (Click on pic for larger view.)
Near sunset, my friend at Fox called to say a plane was down in the Hudson River, enroute from LaGuardia to Charlotte. I ran up to the roof. The sirens are whooping, the helicopters hoovering, the boats gathering. According to the news, they seem to have gotten everyone off before it sank. The pilot is a hero—he coulda put it down in Manhattan.

winter blahs

It seems to be about this time of year that I start wondering whether to keep going with this dumb blog. I usually do keep going, and I probably will this time. But I'm ready for a change.
What do you guys want? More videos about the weather? More photographs (most of the one's I've posted recently have been by other people)? More stories about real people like the woman from the Arkansas woods? More news clips? Real estate? (My crisis, BTW, has passed due to the almost total booking out of both houses. Phew.) More of my dreams? Boring stories about acid trips I took decades ago? Sex? Scandal? Neurosis? Travel?
Help me out here. Are you putting your energy into Facebook instead? I know that many of y'all think that a blog is a totally self-focused form, but really, if none of you were reading, I would not be writing. And it's so much better when you comment and make it ours.


in my dreams

My nights are thick with visions, but lately I have noticed a recurrent theme: real estate. Any idea why?
Totting up the properties I own in my dreams—and only counting ones I've visited more than three times in three different dreams—I am currently the proud owner of the following:
Three apartments in New York City. Two are vaguely similar to the one I actually live in (though the dream New York bears no resemblance to the real one) and one is a slummy place in a bad neighborhood kind of like the Lower East Side used to be.
A loft in Chicago. It is extremely large and hard to find your way into via a maze of stairways and halls. It has a great kitchen, but much of the space is unfurnished.
A loft in what purports to be Providence but looks nothing like the real Providence.
A huge space built into a cliffside for me by my brother-in-law in some wooded area. It has lofts and catwalks leading to many levels. Very rough around the edges.
Three rental houses in Block Island (that's one more than in reality). In dreams, I keep forgetting about No. 3 to the point where I even neglect to list it for rental and can't always find it. (Maybe because in reality it doesn't exist.)
An old house that I've just bought that has two kitchens. I'm not sure where this house is located, but the stashes of antiques that I move around in there are very well detailed.
There are probably more that I'm forgetting right now, but these nine properties are enough to make me startle when I walk into one of them in my dreams and wonder whether I've remembered to pay the rent/mortgage lately.
I also have a black Harley-Davidson that I always forget I own until I stumble across it in a parking space or garage. As a New Yorker, I know I have to be dreaming when I'm talking parking.


winter sea

A photograph taken by my brother-in-law of the winter beach in front of our compound. I am happy to report that, despite my concerns, rentals are moving briskly and the season is more than half booked earlier than usual. This year I am pushing the environmental angle—no need for a car—and putting in an organic kitchen garden for guests to play with. It is the first year that I am making no major financial investments in improvements (I hope—other than the damn electrician, if he ever shows, and a new sofa for Claudia's), so I figure I can invest some energy.


off the grid

As I was leaving the camp in the middle of the Arkansas woods, the woman came running out to me with a basket. Inside were two scones she had just baked, some homemade jam and a jar of moonshine her husband had made from "chicken scratch from down at French's Feed Store." Said the woman, "That's an Ozark continental breakfast!"
I still have the jelly jar of moonshine, which tastes basically like hi-test. But I hadn't heard from the woman who gave it to me since her husband, Paul, died. He was a guy who tried to escape from government supervision and live off the grid. It always seemed to me it was harder on his wife than on him—she was the one who had to feed a family on pennies and bake the bread, wash the clothes, stoke the fire, teach the abc's and etc. He went to meetings with like minded wackos and collected junk cars in the yard. And made moonshine.

I recently heard from her:
My traditional, loving early childhood was close to idyllic. I recall that Paul had a long, difficult time convincing me that all I had learned as a child was wrong. He was an interesting individual for sure, and made my life very complicated, but you know I loved him. That's probably a horrible excuse because I know it is what women in many bad situations say.
Eventually, Paul realized that he had been deceived, too, and was looking into how to get himself, and his family back into the system without it causing legal problems.
I remember that at first I felt afraid to go to Social Security, and to try to get legal birth records for my children, and all. Because of my brainwashing, I was afraid I would be in some kind of legal trouble. I had been taught to fear authority. As you know, after Paul died, I took all of our children back into "the system", and have been trying to live a "normal" life.
Sometimes, people I met from those alternate lifestyle days come back. In November, my children and I had a horrible episode with a mentally unstable Gulf War Vet we met in 2003 when he came with a church group to help after Paul died.
The church was one of those non-mainstream ones. The leader had contacted me saying he heard Paul had died, and he had church members who wanted to help. In retrospect, I should have hung up the phone.
Short version, the vet arrived at our home unannounced and uninvited, and terrorized us. We are still living in anxiety. We aren't sure of his whereabouts, or if he
plans to carry out any of his threats.

I wrote back to her and said, among other things:
A lot of bad things happen in little towns when people teach themselves that the government is evil and ministers are always right. Did you read about those poor children in Fouke, Arkansas? Anyway, that's my bandwagon. But I am a godless hippie New Yorker.

She wrote back:
I want you to know that I agree with you.
Government is not evil.
As far as the religious angle to out-of-the-system-people, they get convinced that 'mainstream' minsters lead people astray motivated by love of money. The problem with the out-of-the-system-people is that they don't realize that the religious leaders they follow do the same thing.

She would like me to help her write a book. What do you think?


extra income?

A thing of beauty, right? Everybody's looking for a little extra something these days, and this friend, an artist who created the UCM Museum in Abita Springs, La., took up playing guitars—and making them, too. This Gator Tar is constructed on the base of an old Stratocaster.
If you can't make money guitarwise, you could try guitar strings. Wolfen has put a call out for people who want to sell for Wear Your Music (see Obama red white and blue guitar string bracelet on sale now). If you are interested in selling bracelets check out Want to Make Money?
Wolfen says that you know you've made it when a customer writes that they heard about you in "a rock magazine ad i found in a 7-11 bathroom."


thus spake dawkins

I like the atheist bus ad campaign. But then, I would. I have long maintained that there is something really fishy about gods created so precisely in the image of men's own needs (and yes, women's too, but not as much). Yea, and devils, also: the Good Barbie and Bad Barbie sitting on your shoulders, each talking into an ear, projections of those warring moral factions which are actually between your ears. And proof? Probably not so much.


the season of make or break

The summer houses sit empty now, water and electricity shut off—thank goodness, because in this end-of-year storm you see here, Block Island lost power and furnaces went off and pipes burst in many a high-end manse. But Hannah's Hideaway and Claudia's Surf City—their living rooms stuffed with outdoor furniture, barbeque grills, blowup canoes and lawn mowers—are safe and dry, awaiting tenants.
But in this economy will there be any? That's worrying all of us who make our living in vacation rentals—my cleaners and real estate agents and my bro-in-law (who took this bitchin picture). And me. This is the month that will tell, so say a little prayer to the tiki gods that in this adverse climate my out-of-work Wall Street folk start dreaming of summertime at the shore.
Oh, and book now (see links to Offshore Property at right).


not far from the tree

Mothers and daughters and apples. . .


yes, sir, that's my baby

News from about town: The birthday girl and husband and CBA and daughter departed yesterday. I still have not removed my bedclothes from the couch. I am about to throw out the cake in lieu of mailing it to the French revolutionists or the starving masses in China. . . . And speaking of China, I believe today or tomorrow to be the birthday of the Artist Known as Chang, who is in Singapore with his bride. . . . We are anticipating the advent of J and Peter, along with The Pooch, who has new little red galoshes for the occasion, and meanwhile I plan to take a lot of walks and a lot of naps. I have not had time to make any other resolutions.


the mother of all holidays

This is how the first day of the year typically winds up: the birthday girl and the boys at 3 ayem and the rest of us (enough of us that that very couch is in fact my bed for the night)wondering when they're gonna wrap it up. The dishwasher has already been (loudly) run three times or so and the kitchen is still full of dishes and cake and rye bread. A burst of (toy) gunfire erupts in the other room, cries of "Hippy Ratday!", hats are exchanged (thank goodness the children are too old to pass head lice around), and Justin, whose birthday it has been for about three hours, begins his annual sexual assault on his hostess.
But all good things must come to an end, including the party and, thank you lord, the entire holiday season which starts off in a dead heat at Thanksgiving. Care for some cheese and bread? Cake?



CBA took this pic. She says, "We didn't even have to wait til the next day to realize how bad our behavior had been."


happy artificial calendar division!

Oceanluna sends birthday greetings to Hannah from a snowy Block Island.