Ballerine in rosa by Edgar Degas. I danced for 17 years. It will probably take just as long to finish this tattoo. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tracked and Insured

Priority Mail

There's this sticker, or the remnants thereof, suckling the metal covering of an energy box on my street. Thinking you are street enough to lay stickers as a means to tag, is a very suburban, New England, thing to do. This street, perpendicular to my new apartment, is where the USPS label lies dead, tolerating more sun and his humor than I ever could in the end. It grows fainter with each day, fuzzier with each season and feels less painful with the approaching year. I used to pretend not to pay attention to it, like you do with flashing yellow lights, hushes from old wealth at Broadway plays, in previews, and side-eyed new mother when cursing in front of her child on the train for the first dozen rides. I walk by it every day. When the paper was still fresh the rain began to moisten the edges of it and it began to peel like an annoying price tag. The pathway of suck lingered like a trail.

It's almost gone now. I correlate the time it will take for it to be completely decomposed with the amount of time I will measure the weight of my guilt and the singleness of my new 30-ness. But IT'S STILL THERE, like the online dating apps are that I had deleted. Even after that, I was asked to politely recycle one in order to initiate the beginning of a modern-day courtship, so I said 'yes'. Dating apps gone. But the leaves, they always come back, and the desire, like the sticker, never truly unfurls itself. Like a re-downloaded OkCupid icon shows: a year and change doesn't amount to the fact that bad art, and emptiness, never die, and we weigh more than the 140 characters our generation has been limited into becoming.

One-hundred forty characters reveals more than you might intend to disclose with the world. I know. The one thing, you should delete, while you rehang the broken frames he or she smashed, and rescue all the holes and screws left exposed, are the late-night pictures of your relationship (and your cat in the fetal position, even if he is, or was, your millennial version of rehab).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Strong Women Who Are Misunderstood

I think . . .

When you make friends with an artist it’s a brilliant type of bond.
It’s like finding a member of your tribe.
You have a common language.
You can share your non-linear ideals of the world at the top of your lungs and it’s never too loud.
You can talk about seeing colors, or hearing a rhythm, before you talk about the physical descriptions of things and people.
There is a layer of judgment that has been long removed and you can candidly and earnestly share your fear and your desire, without knowing this person for far too long.
You trust that they will listen and keep your pining to him or herself.

And let’s face it.

You can be frank and blunt and boastful, because you love yourself, or at least you love the truth in your work.  And you know she will, too.

Imagine finding this friend, who happens to be an artist like you, in the most unlikely of places. 
Imagine this person was used to dwelling in the same place you grew up.
Basically in a neighboring backyard.
You are very different, it’s true, but have tasted the same tastes and smelled the same smells.

Hell, you don’t have the same taste in shoes, or beer or men, but you know she wouldn’t turn her nose to the ideas that seem far-reaching or far-fetched to most other people.
This person wouldn’t make fun of you for being feel-y or roll eyes when you talk about smelling smells and tasting tastes in your blog.

About this blog, the blog you barely ever write in. You’re obviously moved enough by this person’s coming or going to write about it right now.

There are certain people in the world who don’t understand your hopes and dreams because they may have a limited view of the dashboard. They don’t ask the existential questions. They’re not driving the car. From the backseat, they don’t ask the seemingly important questions, ones like, ‘wouldn’t it be fun if' . . . or the ‘why not’s’. These people don’t go with the gut.

I’m so grateful to have been able to collaborate and grow as artists with this friend.  It’s been difficult lately to stay afloat. You feel as though the solid ground is replaced with eggshells. That the canvas is ripped, and that your strings are cut, or that your energy can barely move you. Or at least, in a place that’s suppose to foster creativity, I have felt this way. But she’s keeps me up.

On this rainy day, I want to look at the mess and be grateful for such a friend.

Here’s to the one I can call before dawn to bring me in on the toughest of mornings.

Here’s to the friend who brings me food when I prioritize work over a full stomach.

Here’s to the friend who goes out and dances to 90s music when the rest of the ‘adults’ around weren’t even born yet.

Here’s to the friend whose music inspires every generation, the very young and very old.

Here’s to the percussionists, the rebels, the ones who make the most noise, but carry the steady beat of the world for the rest of us.

“Here’s to us.

Who’s like us?

Damn few.” 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

With friends at the finish line on Boylston St. in 2012, feet from where the two bombs were detonated this year. 

There’s No Place Like (Your Adopted) Home

Sept. 11, 2011 was one of the first days of my sophomore year of high school, a tough and emotionally draining tour de force of early teenage-doom. As an avid student and extracurricular achiever, I rarely missed school. I hadn’t yet diverged from the catty clique I had surrounded myself with since kindergarten. I was happiest then, the ‘then’ being the end of my  ‘friend’ self, right before I became ‘my’ self.
It was the knot in my stomach, which talked to my nurse mother that morning, that asked her if I could go back to sleep. She and my father both left the house for work very early, around 6:15AM. As they pulled out of the driveway I flailed about my bed, unable to sleep all morning, like kids usually do on days off. I went downstairs to watch a quite unusual program for someone that stubborn. I flipped on the morning news, and actually watched it, and it sounded a bit different than the background noise that facilitated typical political bickering between the parentals and myself. That morning I saw Bush senior reading to elementary school children and I immediately became bored. I went to the bathroom and came back to witness a tower in flames. Then another. And the Pentagon . . . and Aunt Elaine. Was she alright? Was she still working there? I couldn't get a hold of my Mom, or my aunt. I was scared and I knew I didn't want to be alone. All I wanted to do was go to school! All I wanted to do was be around my people.
I seem to fall through the cracks during national disaster and tragedy. I remember when I was young and I watched the horrors of Columbine on the television set of my Disneyworld resort hotel room. Four years earlier I saw newspapers headlining the domestic terrorist bombing on the federal building in Oklahoma City shortly after landing on vacation. Three weeks ago a shootout happened at the bus stop next to me, a half block away, while I commuted home from work. I missed the crossfire. Two weeks ago I decide not to substitute teach, on the school day during the week that I do not instruct my Theatre and Dance classes, because I had to take care of travel arrangements to the Netherlands. That day the community was put into ‘containment’ or ‘lockdown’ because a shooter was on the run, weaving down blocks close to the elementary school I teach at in Dorchester, MA.  Again, I missed the violence.
I have not had the chance to sit down and speak with anyone from Boston about the bombings that occurred in my adopted hometown at the marathon on Patriot’s Day. I am visiting Europe, and though my Dutch friends have lived in Beantown briefly, and offer clever perspective, I really wonder what my friends back home are feeling right now. I was at the top of the highest church in the Netherlands a few hours after the incident and felt afraid and it wasn’t from the height. Why was I so apprehensive? Did I fear apathetic responses from friends and strangers here? Or of retaliation? Maybe an attack on more Americans, in the US, or even here in abroad, were moments away. I have Wi-Fi spottily tethered to the states and received a dozen messages from friends and family when I came home from dinner Monday night. All correspondence was in the form of wall posts on Facebook and private messages (since my phone has been on airplane mode since I arrived here). “Thank god you’re on vacation Stephanie Nikolaou and not there!! Prayers for everyone in Boston right now!” Like the rest of you in the city, I received lines like this. Like you, I searched names of friends on Facebook, one by one, and scoured profiles for a current message reassuring his or her safety. Like others in my generation, I found that in these moments of tragedy I could read more easily into the personalities of my friends, friends in my native-born Rochester, my home of Boston and everywhere else. After a while, I had to log off. Some of the messages were positive and hopeful. Others were full of spectacle, drama and rumor. Some scrapped away at surface layers of prejudice, at others’ real faith in God. What else could I do but say ‘I care’ to those that I love and head to bed. I tossed and turned. I felt so uncomfortable. I needed to write. I needed to paint. I needed to find solace in something. Some person. Some place. Something.
I’m in the heart of the country of the people who founded my beloved, and often estranged, Boston. The Pilgrims were tough as nails. Like me, they came to Boston seeking a place to be their 'individual' selves. I left for a European holiday because I was tired of its passive aggressive touch. This trip, and this particular situation, has helped me try to figure out whom my people are. I thought I’d find the alternative folk in groves here. I thought I might never leave. What I may have found, finally from afar, is that Bostonians may in fact be my people. Your mind and your heart yearn for things out of reach, things that are lost, and stolen and passed on. I sit in an open-air window seat at the Central Bar in Amsterdam, along a canal, writing home. It’s 5:00PM and I miss you, Boston. Maybe your hard past, your 86-year-old losing streak, your cold wind and your receding hairline, due to the rare removal of your Rex Sox cap, should be traits I am more patient, or even proud, of. As a native of New York State, it has been difficult to snuggle close to your pale, cracked winter hands the past five years. If I have learned anything from this eerie moment, it is of the necessity to spend time focusing on sights of “kindness, generosity and love,” like Obama so simply said to your people the other night. 
I needed the shelter of a kind place. Many don’t think of the Anne Frank House as a kind place, but I do. It was the acts of kindness of Otto Frank’s associates that kept a families together for two years. Many tourist make the stop in order to better understand the Holocaust, the persecution, the prejudice and the pain of Jewish people. I came to be inspired to not buy into the extremism, into the fear. Anne wrote, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” People are good, people just like her people, like my people, the Marathon-Monday-ers. Bostonians have had each others’ backs well before that first race in 1897 and obviously have well afterward. It took a plane ride, the lack of instantly gratifying communication and an act of terror for me to realize just how good my people really are.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thumbtacks and Calendars

Chalked my time
through memorized lines
and glasses deep of red, red wine.
Turned pages
turned heads, turned
nonsense into rages upon stages
into couplets of end rhyme.
January pens
make more martyrs
out of all mens' souls.
Got nine lives readily planted in the hole.
Where do I go?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Knew You When

You haunt me like a fucking stench

only Tuesdays

seem like days

that make the least sense.

Like a light kept flickering inside my room

corner lampposts

fire sadness

passerbys can consume.

You held my body, now let go

Shake my life

on top or bottom

breaths short and shallow.

Just let me know you’re dead.

Tremble 10 years of my youth

Thoughts stolen

lovers I’ll never have

I fucking hate you.

I barely knew you.

A replacement for the accused

few see me shine but

I fit like that glove

cowards like you have to use.

You pulled the trigger and everyone would know.

Thanks for being the first taste of death.

and the asthma inside my chest.

Thanks for making me appreciate the pace of my body,

the weight of a family crest.

Thank you for letting me feel loss and giving me the job of letting go

of everyone’s mess.

Thank you for making me the go-between

between life and death.

I knew you when.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Old Man and the Sea

Don't have much to say when I get out to sea,
I break with the wave and write quietly.
Know not where I'm going, but know where I been.
I drift,
till I sink,
and I'm one with my skin.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Headphones and Handlebars

Every other morning around 8

he tiptoes his bike down the hill,

sipping his coffee

ignoring his tie

down the long way to work.

His son’s feet dangle above the pedals.

Or if the sun is shining

and he’s feeling brave

he pushes bangs out of his eyes of nine

and hangs his frame from the right side.

They both listen to music

holding the handlebars

rolling along to mine.

I see you

and smile.