The beginning of a multi-month journey to my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, with expected travels out of the city, to visit nearby (in the American sense of driving cross-country, nearby is within six hours!) friends and family; to venture to an abandoned family home; to assist my parents with their own health and hopefully enlighten them to alternative modes of living from those they’ve been repetitiously executing for decades.

My father recently had a “massive heart attack”, his first major malady, which I would say arrived quite early, before late-life has really begun, largely due to stress which unexpectedly struck his own family in the past year. His stubbornness (which I find cute) and unwillingness to discuss his personal ailments (sometimes not so cute), and my inability to do anything about his condition over the phone, has prompted me to uproot my own life, to disrupt my own patterns and repetitions, to assist my parents and in doing so better consider my own future age.

My final days in New York City were both relaxed and feature-packed, and I’d like to take this moment to extremely thank Alison, Cassie, Richard, Mark, all the Stipanovic family, my sister and the various people I mingled with and met during my final days and hours which reminded me before I left of the reasons why I’m certain I’ll be returning and calling one of the outer boroughs “home” once more.

After casting my ballot – and certain of the outcome – I proceeded to my friend Alison’s very homey home, the type of place after my eviction I found myself somewhat yearning for, and not at all typical of New York living. The type of home where days after Halloween, pumpkins are easily left on the front porch to collapse and continue looking beautiful! The type of home that will be an absolute delight in the dead of winter after a night fall of snow to wake up inside! The type of home where roommates actually yearn to do their dishes and keep the place looking spectacular! Homes, like these:

(see more domiciles of South Brooklyn on my Flickr)

Walking the entire perimeter of Greenwood Cemetery with Alison’s roomy Mark included an excursion into the cemetery proper:

This place is amazing, and grand! Grand both in acreage and the monumentality of some of these tombs and gravestones. Mark and I toured a mere nugget of a corner on the map on this place, and were well-occupied for over an hour, our time spent scaling hills, finding hidden footpaths, creating our own genealogy of the dead, and inpsecting the overall superb craftsmanship of this place. Bonus: views of Red Hook – “there’s THE Ikea!” and Lower Manhattan are available.

Monk Parrots can also be found at the Cemetery’s north entrance and they’re an absolute delight to watch build their nests and listen to them communicate with one another, and in the overcast day their green feathers were darker than usual and had an almost metallic sheen to them. Really wonderful bird!

(see more photos from Greenwood Cemetery on my Flickr)

I couldn’t leave without paying a visit to Olja, Robi, and Bartol himself, who debuted on this blog a month ago now. The image above was the eve of his 1 month anniversary. Did you know babies can grow 5cm and gain 2lbs. in that short a span of time? Isn’t that nuts? Merely from feeding on breast milk. I mean, HOW? The human body’s engineering at such a young age is truly astounding.

(more of Bartol the Big Boy)

A visit to Hunter College’s MFA Open Studios introduced me to the work – and the man – of Darren Jones. While the above picture is a work that wasn’t on display at the event, it is from a series of similar works that forced me to engage in a conversation with Darren, albeit quickly, about his work. In the work I saw which was still in progress, Darren culled discarded balloons from seaside beaches. The balloons were weathered, worn and decrepit. Their once-humorous or cheerful slogans had turned into cracked skin which was flaking off. Bunches were tethered upside-down and hung from meat hooks, their collective form suggestive of the type of pitiful shape a cow or lamb might take after it’s throat has been slit and its body drained of blood, removed of all life and energy, before it is processed into meat for edible consumption.

Other than Darren though I must say I was quite disappointed with the open studios. Or rather not “disappointed” as much as not ultimately satisfied. Granted I didn’t have significant time or interest to engage everybody in a 60-second interview, but there wasn’t much in the way of developed work from the more-senior graduates, instead they were largely repeating tried and true techniques. Most graduates seemed to be trying to force their work to exist in their studios. Few merely let the work exist as it is.

And what I’ve always found odd about these engagements is how I seem to be more enthralled and captivated by places outside of the gallery, or in this case outside the studio:

This hallway area has always been an interesting area to engage, as it is noticeably large, usually unoccupied or at least sparsely filled, and yet always manages to achieve being more interesting in composition and arrangement from the junk left there than the work available in the many-numbered and expensive studio spaces occupied by fine art graduates. There was some sort of sound installation emitting from the lockers on the left, so I can’t say for certain that this wasn’t entirely devised, but I understood the sound work to be more of a site imposition rather than an element of a larger site specific work.

After culturally digesting graduates’ art practices until the last minute, the following night, or morning of the next-next day, a 3am departure from NYC’s Penn Station took me to Washington DC’s Union Station, one of these monumental depots of yesteryear that managed to avoid being torn down and replaced with some “modern” atrocity.

From DC I departed for the longest leg of my journey, a 24 hour and 25 minute train ride that cut through Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana before its final termination in Chicago, Illinois. I took the Cardinal not the Capitol trip from DC, which should you ever take westbound I recommend sitting on the right side of the train. I made the mistake of choosing the left side, and the train was full so I couldn’t relocate, and wound up having sun in my face for a good 5 or 6 hours as well as missing all the good views. Still, there were moments to be enjoyed:

panning while traveling at 70mph is so much fun!

My arrival in Chicago was short, with a mere couple of hours to kill. I deposited my luggage in those wonderful new storage lockers in Chicago’s Union Station, proceeded to Daley Plaza (I lived in Chicago for a year so I know the downtown area quite well) to see the large Christmas tree that is being constructed from many many single pine trees before meeting up with Leslie (a Chicago native) whom I befriended on Halloween back in Brooklyn:

the eventual tree can be seen in the background, that “tree” is already constructed from about 8 single trees.

the significant guy-wires and steel framing (clever design) used to fabricate this sensation.

the future christmas tree trees!

Leslie and I met up for a quick drink, with the weather the way it was (Chicago-cold) meant a shot of whisky and a beer. Drink! Hurry! My train is about to depart! I arrived back at Union Station with literally “one minute” to spare, as the conductor told me and shoved the train doors closed behind me right after I boarded – before I was seated the train was moving!

the final leg of my journey took me through the heartland of America, with the train for some time traveling parallel to Route 66:

Route 66 is the paved road in the foreground there. And you can see the signage on the barn in the midground. All in all I’d have to say the train is a wonderful way to travel, and Amtrak conduct a brilliant service and strive to accommodate everyone accordingly. My only argument is the lack of wifi on the trains for us e-commuters, while the train crew itself have a locked WEP-encrypted network to access (via satellite no doubt). Otherwise if you have the time, it’s a wonderful way to travel, and extremely easy on the pocketbook I might add – cheap, like $3 above $100!

And now I find myself sitting in the room I spent a large portion of my early adult life in, having not been here for any extended time in over 7 years. Life in London followed by life in NYC has meant I haven’t had much time to get away from the demands I surrounded myself with. Of course I have goals I’ve set to achieve while here, both personally and professionally, and am looking forward to the time ahead. There’s a lot of work to do, and I’m certain a lot of fun to be had as well. But first, publish!