DAY FIFTY-THREE (MAY 9)
PART ONE: PLOT FUTURE REJECTIONS: Re-collect and regather my focus by spinning out some future adventures. Try to push the envelope in new directions.
PART TWO: SUGGEST COLLABORATION ON A LONG-TERM ART PROJECT WITH THE NEW DIRECTOR OF THE EAST HAMPTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Over the past few years I have been both volunteering for several non-profits and NGOs and rebuilding my art practice. Happily, I’ve been able to create some overlap between these two. I soon found out that the most mutually satisfying and productive way to volunteer is to offer services that draw out your own passions and skills. So along the way I’ve done visual art, design projects, and art-oriented activities for kids and adults at benefit gatherings.
I seem to be gaining some natural traction. On this day I attended the monthly meeting of the Ladies Village Improvement Society, a local do-gooder group I’m apprenticing to join (takes two years, folks, so join me for a celebration in 2018!), mainly because the speaker was David Rattray, editor of our local weekly paper, The East Hampton Star. As a former journalist and committed resident, I was eager to hear his spin on the Hamptons, as his family has been here for generations.
While we shuffled into our seats, I struck up a conversation with a woman next to me, who turned out to be the new director of the East Hampton Historical Society. I’ve had a project brewing in my mind for 5 years now that involves mapping the area in various ways to draw connections between history, social class and other demographics, and the natural environment. I’ve learned during my brief exposure to organization culture that newly minted staff are often more responsive to new initiatives than are more entrenched operatives. So I seized the day to spring a rough take on the project to her, to see if she might be interested in collaborating. Score! She seemed quite excited and even mentioned some ways the EHHS resources could be of use in my work. Now I just have to do the follow up . . . (Acceptances: 1, Rejections: 0)
DAY FIFTY-FOUR (MAY 10) ASK SOMEONE FOR THE SECRET TO THEIR SUCCESS: PART ONE
I’m always curious about why some folks succeed merrily (in any field) while others struggle. I figure each of the stars must have some skills/methods they’ve developed to oil the wheels. Skills they might be hesitant to share lest others take them and run with them.
So first I asked my trusted massage therapist, the guy I turn to whenever something’s off with my body and the person I send others too when yoga and my own therapeutic work needs supplementing with some focused hands-on. While I’m on the low end of his fee scale (due to our long-term friendship and cross-referrals), I know this guy is busy enough (i.e., in demand) that it’s often tough to get a session with him at all. Given this, and the fact that he moves among some Manhattan and Hamptons one-percenters, I figure he can charge pretty much whatever he likes. And he’s implied as much in casual conversations.
So I start right in, asking him the secret of his success. I get an interesting 3-part answer:
“First, you have to really want to help people.” He says this a few times, till it sinks in that he’s saying it’s often really hard to help people—the resisters, the assholes, the ones who are never satisfied, the ones who ask too much. So far, so good. I share that passion and that willingness.
This one comes out slowly, as he’s clearly hesitant about addressing the key to financial success (which all “service providers” like massage therapists and yoga teachers struggle with, as we only have so many hours in the day to ply our trade, and when we’re not working, no money comes in). “Frankly, I’m just a little bit greedy,” he admits with a complicit smile. “So you charge people a lot?” “Of course!” Nervous laughter. “On a sliding scale.” Aha, that’s probably the gene I’m missing. I’ll always deprive myself in order to feed another.
But then comes the consequence of #2: “But then of course I have to deliver.” I know what he’s talking about, and boy does he deliver. A session with him usually 90 minutes instead of 60, it’s totally focused on the specific ailment at hand, and he uses his body, arms, and hands strenuously throughout.
Will his plan work for me? I remember several years ago when I experimented with raising my rates significantly. Suddenly I felt my students might question whether I was worth the extra $$, and I found myself working twice as hard to prove I was worth it. Plus, a couple of them said no outright, and a couple dropped out over time. Forgetting those who were perfectly happy to pay me more, I got gun shy about repeating the request going forward. It’s gotten to the point where this summer a student who hadn’t seen me for 10 years was shocked I hadn’t raised my rates in 10 years. On her second visit she tipped me generously. Guess it’s time to put the word out that I need to at least bring my rates up to par with my peers. Life is expensive, and the solvency math just is adding up.
(Rejections: 0; Unsolicited offers: 1)
DAY FIFTY-FIVE (MAY 11) ASK SOMEONE FOR THE SECRET TO THEIR SUCCESS: PART TWO:
Ask a photographer: most/least flattering ways to photograph a woman
I’ve worked with quite a few people in the fashion business, and I’ve always been fascinated by the image-making industry that supplies us with all of those enticing shots of unbelievable bodies in clothes with equally unbelievable price tags. So, I ask a fashion photographer at the top of his game the secret to his success. It went something like this:
LOIS: So, if you wanted to photograph a woman in the most flattering way, how would you set up the shot? [I’m projecting so next time the paparazzi catch me on the red carpet, I know how to position myself just so.]
PHOTO GUY: Huh?
LOIS: You know, how do you make a woman look great, look sexy?
PHOTO GUY: Well, I don’t do “sexy,” I do more androgynous. [Which is true. He’s know for impassive angular shots that became the hallmark of the Kate Moss waif chic---he’s actually friends with Kate and has shot oodles of photos of her.]
LOIS: Okay, well let’s settle for flattering—just making someone look good. Should they stand facing straight ahead, or on an angle?
PHOTO GUY: A three-quarter angle is best, with chin lifted. And don’t look at the camera.
PHOTO GUY: Yes, look at someone off to the side. The camera is a blank, a black hole.
[I position myself according to directions.]
LOIS: How’s this?
PHOTO GUY: Fine.
[Now I’m ready for some fun.]
LOIS: Okay, now how could you make someone look really terrible—like say you have it in for someone and want to make them look bad?
PHOTO GUY [His eyes light up, which kinda surprises me because he’s such a nice guy. But I’m sure his patience has been tested more than once with difficult subjects.]
Well, first you put them in bright sunlight, so all their wrinkles show. [I move to the window.]
LOIS: And would you shoot from below or above? [I personally hate shots from below, which make the body look huge and the head too small, but the reverse isn’t much better. His answer surprises me.}
PHOTO GUY: It depends on how many chins they have! [Ah, sweet relief. So glad I haven’t reach that stage yet.]
So I position myself for the “ugly” shot as well. We ask our third party to do still photos of good and bad, but he misunderstands how my camera works and never gets the shots.
Look for me in the society pages and see if I picked up some practical tips.
DAY FIFTY-SIX (MAY 13) ASK CITARELLA FISH VENDOR HOW TO SCALE A FISH (WITH HIS ELECTRIC SCALER)
Time to get practical. I’m always interested in growing my skill set, which when it comes to things in the material world is surprisingly limited. And as much as I love devouring anything that comes out of the sea, preparing fish (cleaning, gutting, deveining, shucking, etc.,) can be a bit baffling. Not to mention dangerous, what with all those knives and other sharp instruments. I’ve also noticed that at Citarella they prepare the fish behind a white divider, so you can’t actually watch them at work. It’s mostly auditory learning—chop chop, crack crack, ehexckh as they pry open shells.
But today I encounter something new. Buzzing sounds from back there. Sounds like the guy is giving my striped bass a haircut. Super curious and pretty sure I’m going to get a rejection on this request, I practically leap over the counter to see what’s going on. I startle the guy so much he looks like he’s going to be assaulted, and unconsciously he waves his new electronic fish scaler up in the air in self-defense. Aha! Not likely I’ll be trying this one out at home, but it may speed the endless waits on the fish line come summer.
DAY FIFTY-SEVEN: (SATURDAY MAY 14)
PART ONE: ASK SOMEONE IN A STORE WHAT THEY HAVE JUST BOUGHT
Stop and Shop, East Hampton, Saturday 7:20am
Pretty much no one is up and about early Saturday morning in East Hampton, but our local Stop and Shop is nonetheless open 24 hours. So in search of signs of life (and a public bathroom I discovered behind the dairy section), I interrupt my walk to see what’s bringing people to the grocery store at 7:20am.
Turns out, not much. Meaning, not many people in here either. I do however home in on a solitary guy at the checkout counter. While I can see what he’s buying as it rolls down the conveyor belt into his requisite recycled bag, it’s my job to ask.
“Came in for a bagel, added the vinegar.”
Not much gleaned here, though I notice he didn’t mention the olive oil. Maybe it’s just too early for conversation.
DAY FIFTY-EIGHT (SUNDAY MAY 15)
PART ONE: SERVE AS UNSOLICITED TOUR GUIDE
It’s Sunday morning, and once again I’m up and out for my walk well before normal humans. I’m rounding the bend across from the train station when I spot two Latino day workers hovering outside Villa Italian, the local deli for sandwiches and coffee. Turns out it’s closed on Sunday mornings, and these guys look like they could use some coffee.
So pied piper style (verbal communication limited by the language barrier), I wave for them to follow me. In parade formation, with yours truly at the lead, we travel around the corner to Mary’s Marvelous, the pricey but yummy spot where the affluent and upwardly mobile start their days.
There’s some confusion at first, as every coffee bar works differently. So I have to show my new friends the different sized cups, demonstrate how to apply the optional cardboard cuff that keeps your hand from burning and the sippy lids, and, through creative gestures illustrate what each urn holds:
Sleepyhead (head resting on hands) position for decaf
Normal expression for regular
Fireworks explosion for high-test (Mary’s calls this “Sledgehammer,” but I can’t figure out how to charade that one, short of hitting myself on the head, which might circle us back to sleepy head)
From here we move on to the breakfast counter, as these guys are apparently also hungry. I’m trying to sell them on the “Eggs Colombian,” eggs, scallions, and peppers in a whole-wheat wrap (which, slightly racist of me, I assume they will like for its Latino flair), but they go straight for the chocolate croissants. Vive la difference!
PART TWO: ASK CVS PHARMACY WHAT TO DO ABOUT MY FACE
I forgot to mention that during my Sunday morning walk I took a nasty fall. Not sure what tripped me up—new sneakers, some shift in the sidewalk?—but because my hands are in my coat pockets, I go down sideways like a tree falling and land smack on the side of my head. I’m more surprised than pained, though I do land with a significant thud. And my super-flexy, hyper stylish, practically invisible frameless eyeglasses bend to a strange angle. I notice I’m bleeding, so I turn around and head home. Looks like a surface scratch on my temple, so I slap on a band-aid and head out again.
Passing by CVS, it occurs to me that perhaps I should ask the pharmacist whether any action is recommended. Turns out the pharmacist is MIA (it is Sunday morning in the off-season, after all), but a salesperson suggests ice and Advil and sends me on my way.
DAY FIFTY-NINE (MONDAY MAY 16)
PART TWO: ASK MAMMOGRAM STAFF TO FAST TRACK ME SO I CAN GET MY FACE CHECKED OUT
PART THREE: ASK BREAST SURGEON WHAT TO DO ABOUT MY FACE (DON’T HAVE TO, SHE TELLS ME!)
By Sunday afternoon a significant bruise is forming over my right eyebrow, and I have to explain to my students that their exceptionally coordinated yoga teacher can’t navigate a sidewalk. By Monday morning I can’t open my right eye, which is making the sidewalk truly challenging (I remember learning in school that parallax provides depth perception, and I’m down to one eye). I edit balancing poses out of my morning class sequence.
By late afternoon, when I arrive in NYC, weird green, blue, and black streaks are migrating down from my right eye to my chin.
I zipped into town for my annual mammogram, an appointment I have to book months in advance, in tandem with a checkup with my breast surgeon, whose office is upstairs. LIRR train timing being what it is, I’m late. And the radiology center being what it is, the waiting room is packed.
I wait. I wait. And I wait. I realize that if I wait any longer, I’m going to miss my appointment with my surgeon. Plus I’m honestly starting to worry about my face. I’m getting weird looks. I look weird. I’ve read a little too much about concussions. I’m thinking the worst.
So I pressure the mammo people to bump me up the line, so I can get to an ER before nightfall. No dice, but they do agree to send me up to the surgeon first, get that out of the way. She takes one look at me and declares: “You need to have that eye looked at.” I tell her I have to get the mammo done first, or I’m lost until I get back into NYC in September. She’s not in the best mood herself, as she has one foot in a boot from a broken foot. She hobbles down the hall to give the mammo people a good talking to (and lo! They do move me to the head of the class!).
Halfway down the hall, we happily run into the plastic surgeon who works in her office. He does a quick test of my eye coordination and pain levels. He says I’m probably fine but I might have displaced the orbital something-or-other, meaning the eyeball goes off center. Even without pain, I might not notice anything for a couple of weeks—at which point my vision could be damaged. He says I need to see an opthamologist pronto.
DAY SIXTY (TUESDAY MAY 17)
PART ONE: REQUEST EMERGENCY VISIT WITH OPTHALMOLOGIST
Every spring before I leave for East Hampton, I do the rounds of all of my doctors for annual checkups. Annoyingly, I had just checked off my eye doctor two weeks before the fall, and here I am having to go back uptown (45 minutes or more of subways and walking each way), just when I need every minute to pack up for summer. I call his office first thing in the morning, and luckily so, as he is leaving work that day at 10:30am. So I hustle uptown. Thank God he reports that everything looks fine, and a CT scan would be overkill.
PART TWO: OFFER MY OPTHALMOLOGIST FREE YOGA
While he’s examining me I ask if he’s still doing yoga. No, he’s been tied up seeing his wife through cancer treatments, and it’s not looking good. I comment that he did strike me as looking really tired, and offer him some complimentary yoga to ease his burden. He nods appreciatively, but I know he’ll never call.
PART THREE: ASK FOR FREE NYC CULTURE PASS AT METROPOLITAN MUSEUM
I’m stranded uptown with two hours to kill before my next private lesson, so I head over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to check out the Fashion Institute Comme des Garcons exhibition and a smaller show by photographer Irving Penn.
I’d heard on NPR that NYC residents could get “cultural ID cards” that offer free admission to some top museums. But they also said that to get access to the Met in particular (my priority), you had to get your card at the Met. Back in my artworld days, I got free admission everywhere, so I never thought about it. But with fees up to $25, it does give me pause. So I trot up to the sales desk and ask for my free card. Alas, after a lengthy and unproductive exchange, it turns out I was misinformed—no card available here.
Ticked off, on principle I refuse to give the “suggested” adult donation of $25 and instead give the “student” donation of $10. Lucky I don’t have to have student ID card to prove it.
Read the next installment HERE.