Our story begins at the Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles’ Silverlake District. There are thousands of galleries in SoCal, but CatGirl and I love this one because it showcases some of our favorite artists, “low-brow” creators often featured in the likes of Juxtapoz (which William Gibson apparently reads to cure writer’s block). When we visited for the Amy Sol exhibit in June, we met the curator, Andrew, who was very kind and generous to us and especially supportive of CatGirl’s artist aspirations.
Flash forward to December 29th: I yelped a little Ethiopian dive, just off U-street in DC. We were tired of the National Mall–only so much Church of the U.S. a group of pilgrims can take before needing a taste of something different. We were sponging up the last bits of chicken wat and spicy lentils with our flat bread when a friendly couple sat down at the table next to us. When their food arrived, I realized that I hadn’t captured an image of our meal. Obsessive chronicler that I am, I asked them if I could take a picture of their spread. She asked me if I was going to blog it. A kindred spirit, I thought. I may flickr it, I said. I’m mind on fire. We parted.
January 3rd, in Manhattan. Again, we were museumed out. It was possible to get Van Gogh fatigue. Who knew? I viewed my flickr updates, and there was a comment from a haiku575, thanking me for taking her picture at the Ethiopian Restaurant. I checked out her profile and photostream, and not only was she from New York, but she had an eye for Awesome: Street art, flash mobs, an abandoned prison. I sent haiku575 a flickr mail, asking for advice on how to see the City through her eyes. We committed to roam bookstores in Lower Manhattan and set off for a bakery I yelped in SoHo.
The Grandaisy Bakery was heaven manifest in wheat form. Bellies full and brains caffeinated, we began wandering. While Jana and the kids were oohing and ahing in LittleMisMatched, I stepped outside to wander down the block and check my email. There was a response from haiku575. Her recommendations began: “SoHo is a great place to wander. You can start out at Wooster and Spring and move on from there.” I looked up, and this is what I saw:
I’m still blown away by the serendipity of it. How many street corners does NYC have? We spent some time seeking out and capturing street art between the encroaching boutiques and fashionable chain stores. Following a street address provided by haiku575, I walked up to a non-descript steel door and pushed one of the buttons. The door latch clicked, and I opened it, revealing a poorly lit concrete corridor. The kids were worried: Dad, what are we doing? What is this place, really? I led them up the narrow staircase, and finally up to Walter de Maria’s Earth Room. It’s very easy to describe the installation but not the experience. There we met the amiable Bill, the self-described “Keeper of the Earth.” His job is to curate the exhibit, raking it once per week, buzzing in visitors, and reading Thoreau:
The next day we met up with our friends Amy and Logan for brunch in Brooklyn, hipster capital of the world (I felt much more at home there than in most places in OC). Again, following haiku575′s advice, we visited the Ad Hoc Gallery. In addition to having way more fun and inspiration exploring a combined gallery-installation than we did in just about any place in the Met or the Smithsonian, we chatted for a bit with the curator, and learned that the Ad Hoc Gallery was curating a show in Thinkspace this month, called From the Streets of Brooklyn.
As a skeptic, it’s difficult for me to insert any kind of grand cosmological meaning in the unlikely serendipity of these connections we made, but I can appreciate them. As each line is drawn between two seemingly random dots, a link is made and significance given where none existed before. This is the magic of the social web, of Yelp, of Flickr, of FaceBook, of WordPress, to increase our ability and propensity to connect people and places and ideas. There’s something miraculous about that.
Special thanks to haiku575 for adding a little magic to our time in NYC.