Petit Force!

On a drizzly, unseasonably cold Phoenician day in May, I was fortunate to be stuffed into a pew at the Methodist Church Hall to bask in the white-hot energy of guest speaker Philippe Petit during a presentation of his new book, Why Knot?

Petit spoke of ropes and cords, fibers and wires, strength and tension and how the difference between life and death could very well hinge on the simplicity of a well-tied knot. You know, like that time when he walked and danced and reclined a quarter mile above the earth on a wire strung between the Twin Towers WITHOUT A SAFETY HARNESS! Back and forth eight times, for nearly an hour. My knees turn to jelly just thinking about it. He was a week shy of his 25th birthday when he pulled off what may be the most astounding "art crime" of all time. If you haven't seen the documentary Man on Wire, do so tout de suite, sweetie! What Petit pulled off on that August morning in 1974 was breath-taking and daring and more intricately plotted than any grand bank heist, real or imagined. Mon Dieu! Just look at him up there!

But back down to the nifty, knotty present and our very vibrant host. Here is Petit demonstrating a few of his favorite knots. He was so personable and charming, even while tying up an unsuspecting volunteer, and he was a total sweetheart to all of the children in attendance, making it a point to fully involve them in his presentation.

So perfectly poised is Monsieur Petit! Therefore, none of us were fooled when he took a stumble getting to the podium! He then proceeded to reveal the key in perfecting a fake foot fumble. I will not reveal this closely guarded secret, but I assure you I will use it only for good.

This special program was a benefit to raise money for the Phoenicia Library, which sadly, was destroyed by a fire in 2011. They are close to reaching their goal in rebuilding a bigger and better library for their patrons. The Golden Notebook, a Woodstock-based book shop was on hand with stacks of books (of which they were contributing 20% of the sales), including Man on Wire - Petit's account of what went into that amazing day; his lovely illustrated children's book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers; and of course, his latest, Why Knot? - which includes a red cord for recreating all 60+ knots.  Petit illustrated the book and wrote all of the text and instructions. Here's my attempt at a double surgeon knot:

His text is as playful as the man himself.

While we queued up for the book signing, I found myself tongue-tied in the presence of this fabulous funambulist, but I managed to loosen my vocal chords enough to express my delight and to ask M. Petit if he would sign a book I had brought along - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. This heartbreakingly tender novel weaves together several urban lives on that summer day back in '74 when a French sprite traversed a wire in the clouds between the great towers. Petit is not named in the novel, but he is the connecting cord between all of the characters. Here is what he wrote:

A multitude of thanks to the Phoenicia Library Trustees and Library Director Liz Potter, The Golden Notebook, the Methodist Church Hall, and to the magical and incomparable Philippe Petit for making an ordinary day in the mountains quite extraordinary!

For more information on the Phoenicia Library Fund…Click Here!

Extra special thanks go to my friend DeLisa Brown Guc for turning me on to Let the Great World Spin.

Be back soon!

I appreciate your patience while I'm out looking for more oddities. In the meantime, please enjoy the lovely scents and sights of spring at your local Designated Use Area™ 
No permits required…but please keep your pile of ice cubes neat and your ghost dog behind the diagonal line at all times. Kite flying will not be tolerated and will result in public flogging with a wet noodle.


It's a Small World!

How about a little mid-century mod to light up your life?

When passing by the Villa Vosilla, the Italian resort hotel in Hunter, one can't help but notice the distinctively retro lamps that dot the landscape. According to their website, owner John Vosilla was so enchanted after attending the 1964 World's Fair in New York City, that he wanted that magical moment to last forever. And so, he purchased a trio of original World's Fair street lamps, known as luminaires, to light the way in welcoming his guests.

Here they are in their original setting:

Imagine riding that Royal Tires ferris wheel…wheeeee!

Here's one more, because I dig that boy in his khakis and Keds. Pay no attention to the man in the hat.

There were 76 different cube and color combinations used in the 1,842 luminaires that lit up the walkways of the fair at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens. The triangular bases contained state-of-the-art high fidelity speakers that were tied into the public address system. This allowed the fair to broadcast background music and announcements.

Here's one more photo that I took in the summer while passing by the Villa Vosilla.

I was thrilled to find out about the World's Fair connection regarding these lovely luminaires and I chose the title for this post - It's a Small World! - for two reasons, the first being the surprise at finding a remnant of a major cultural event from the past seemingly plopped into the present (and many miles away!). The second is a bit more personal. When I was 11 months old, my parents took me and my older brother to the 1964 World's Fair (My dad had been to the 1939 World's Fair when he was a boy). To this day, my mother tells me how much I smiled and giggled while riding on the Disney attraction, It's a Small World. If only I had been a few years older, I would have remembered it myself! Luckily, there are so many publications, websites, and personal family anecdotes to keep the memories of this marvelous World's Fair alive.

Dedicated to the ones we loved.

This sign caught my eye as we were turning a corner one day, driving home from a hike. There is something so sweet and heartbreaking about this simply etched scroll of tree bark that pays tribute "to the cherished memories of those now gone." The semi-circular garden area, complete with a miniature dog house and several stones, suggests that this personal memorial park is the resting place of someone's animal friends.

Several weeks later I was ambling through an old country cemetery. It was filled with tombstones of men and women who had lived and loved and died in the 1800s. In a far corner I found another memorial, also cut from stone and made to last. Even though the sweet memories of our animal friends are infinitely stronger than any physical representation in wood or steel or stone, seeing this little stone dog sitting faithfully in the snow tells me that once upon a time, maybe a hundred years ago, he or she was very much alive and loved and missed. Maggie's Memorial Park also shares that sentiment. Our animal friends give us something precious that lives beyond their own short lives - something that makes our time with them and beyond very rich indeed.

This past December, my boyfriend and I lost a special friend. Daisy, a beautiful husky mix with multi-colored heterochromic eyes, was John's companion for sixteen years and my friend for almost twelve. She epitomized every good quality associated with dogdom, particularly in her loyalty. Here is a one of my favorite photos and an oddity in and of itself! During the course of a year or so, a beaver couple had taken up residence in Warner Creek, damming it up to form a large pool. Daisy loved bounding into the water to greet her wild friends, who would pop up to make their presence known at her arrival. They would swim circle-eights around her…at a respectable distance, of course! I dedicate this post to Daisy. You were such a good girl. We miss you very much.

Tying the knot…or six degrees of separation in Saugerties?

I love to share oddities that can be tied to a holiday-themed post. So back in September when I spied a heart-shaped sculpture sitting atop a hill in Saugerties, I decided to file it away as a future contribution to Cupid's internet feed come February. Nonetheless, no matter when I share an oddity it's always a thrill to happen upon one, and I carried that good feeling with me as I made my way down the road to the annual Garlic Festival. Thanks to the interconnectedness of social media, my friend Andrew realized we were both attending the same garlicky-good venue. We arranged to meet up for dinner at the nearby New World restaurant - he with his charming friend Holly, and me with my sweetheart and a few friends in tow. Over appetizers, Andrew asked if I had found any oddities while in Saugerties. At that moment, a vintage bottle of coincidence was uncorked when I showed him this photo:

Cue the string section of serendipity! It so happened that Andrew knew the artist - in fact, he knew him rather well! Ze'ev Willy Neumann, the Israeli-born sculptor of the aptly-named Love Knot, is the father-in-law of Andrew's sister, and on this particular weekend, Andrew and his friend Holly were guests at his home and studio.

Willy Neumann's original concept was to construct a heart-shaped apple for the iconic  
I Love NY slogan. This idea evolved into an expression of his love for the town of Saugerties, where he makes his home and art, and nearby Woodstock, with its tie-dyed immersion of groovy art and culture. My snapshot of the heart is actually a prototype for the finished Love Knot - an installation of two hearts, one to be placed in Saugerties and the other in Woodstock, with accompanying directions on each guiding the viewer to the other, in effect tying the conceptual knot. Here are the finished pieces. Aren't they lovely?

With the infinity symbol as a grounding element, each heart speaks of the eternal love between two mountain towns that are united through their cultural connections. Once placed in their respective homes, these harmonious hearts will create a bridge to this link and Neumann's vision will be realized. I love this photo of Willy with his daughter-in-law Tracee and darling granddaughter all framed within the heart. The repeated curvatures of the piece beckon the viewer to sit or recline within its enveloping shape.

While symbolizing enduring love of place and connection, the Love Knot also represents the infinite circle of life that binds us all together. Cupid may hoard his arrows for that one day in February, but that cheeky cherub known as Coincidence and his sister, Serendipity, seem to strike when least expected and never fail to make my heart skip. Many thanks to my friend Andrew for leading me to the story and artist behind these heavenly hearts.  More about the infinitely interesting Ze've Willy Neumann can be found at his website by clicking this link. And here he is in action!

What are you doing for Valentine's Day? If you can grab a date and hop on up to Saugerties, drop by Willy's studio. He'll be hosting a party celebrating the completion of the Love Knot. Seriously, don't you want to sit in this thing?

Additional photos courtesy of Willy, Adam & Tracee Neumann. Thanks for your help, guys!

A Made Man

When life gives you an old washing machine drum...

...make a Washing Machine Drum Man!

This chipper chap was found standing sentry in front of a shed. Just look at that funny face...Ooooooo!

I really dig found-object art. It's green and doesn't take the mastery of a Michelangelo to make. All you need is an eye for seeing the creative possibilities in the prosaic; to imagine an object beyond its utility and infuse it with new life. Whimsical found-object sculptures dot the landscape of the Catskills, bringing a bit of humor to a yard or gaiety to a gallery. Who hasn't seen a smile in the grille of a car or a nose in a doorknob?

Take Mighty Joe Young here:

He was found in a funky Phoenician art gallery. Who would think that a couple of wrenches, horseshoes and a faucet handle could pack so much personality? It just took an inspired shift in perception. So before you take those old tools to the dump or leave those spare parts to languish in a shed, why not turn those figurative lemons into a cool glass of artistic lemonade?

Leaving One's Mark

On this chilly midwinter morning, I'd like to revisit a place I discovered on a sultry summer afternoon. I can't resist the charm of a covered bridge, so when I saw a sign for one up ahead I had to stop, stretch and seek some shade, and once there, I got a double treat - an historical marker! I love these ubiquitous bits of Americana! They are chock full of trivia, usually marking the spot of a revolutionary conflict or letting us know that Washington kicked back with a Sam Adams in the local tavern. (He would have loved that beer!) But I prefer the more obscure memorials, like this one, which marks the spot of a 19th century angler's favorite fishing hole. No big whoop, right? On the contrary. This guy was major! I know because I googled him and found a wealth of information.

Theodore Gordon was deemed the father of the American school of dry-fly fishing. The Quill Gordon dry fly came about after he imported English fly-fishing tackle and flies and began to alter the English flies to precisely match the insects hatching in the Beaverkill and surrounding Catskill rivers. Gordon was also a consumptive hermit who sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Badger Hackle. I love a mustachioed man who can rock a striped seersucker suit and enjoys the company of a dog friend. So kudos, sir! I shan't forget you or your insanely jolly pseudonym.

But not everyone can aspire to Theodore Gordon levels of greatness and the historical markers such achievements bring. Just the same, we ordinary folk like to leave our own marks. We all want to say I was here at this time and at this place. Just look at the Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux...or on the beams of a covered bridge. Let's go in, shall we?

What narrative do these markings
suggest? They are found on opposite sides of the bridge, directly across from one another.
Jenna G. had been visiting this bridge every year for a span of seven years from 2004 until 2010. Joshua G. had been visiting every year from 2006 until 2010. Who are they and why did they not return in 2011? I felt stymied by this and tried to weave a sensible narrative for both. Perhaps they are brother and sister, born two years apart and their parents have been carving in their dates of visit since the birth of both. Mr. G, after witnessing a botched mob hit in early 2011, had to bring his family into a witness protection program and they are now living in San Jose under assumed identities. Perhaps the G was for Gordon? Hmm, the plot thickens! Or were Jenna and Joshua lovers who happened to share the same last initial? Jenna had been visiting the bridge for two years, until suddenly, in 2006, she met the fly-fisherman of her dreams! But it was a whirlwind, tempestuous romance that ended bitterly in 2011 with Jenna destroying all of Josh's prized fishing rods. Who knows…they're gone now, but like Theodore Gordon, they were there and have left their marks for generations (and curious bloggers) to ponder.

Onward and Upward!

Wherever this year takes you, may it be on a path of renewal and replenishment, compassion and camaraderie…with way more ups than downs.

Happy 2013!

In my travels I've seen two of these striking sculptures. This one is on Route 28. Where is the other?  The first person to send the answer with a photo wins a brand new car mention on this blog!

FYI - You may wonder why that white van occasionally photo-bombs my posts. My partner in crime is behind the wheel, ready to whisk me away if I have to beat a hasty retreat!