Rest In Peace, Tiger

I read yesterday that a creature I would consider a friend passed away. It hit me pretty hard. 

Tiger was a constant on 6th Avenue, where I passed walking to work every day. I had seen him for many years, even before I moved to the neighborhood. It did not go unnoticed that we would move so close to him. We were pretty excited about it.

He was almost always around, guarding his turf, or snoozing in the sun, sometimes chasing down baby birds fallen from the nest, or eyeing down a terrier.  He had a regal apartment, decked out with beds, hammocks, toys, and food. He had an "upstairs neighbor who sometimes hung out in the window above him. He didn't seem to mind the occasional pigeon sharing his meal.  Tiger had his own bench. When he wasn't in front of his opulent abode, he was winding his way to greet you or any passerby (he really liked kids),  surveying local construction, or hiding out at one of his other stomping grounds near by. 

I would often look for him, and be delighted to turn the corner and see him, perched at eye level, on a trash can cover near some potted flowers. Sometimes I would spy him further up the block in yard with a red Japanese maple, red stones, and a red fence. It was always just like greeting a neighbor you've seen for years. You are happy and surprised at their presence, cheerful to say hello! Tiger, you could tell, felt the same. He'd come out to get a scratch, perhaps trailing behind you for a few houses. 

I didn't know Tiger well. I did, in fact, think he was a she for our entire acquaintance. (I also always pictures her name being spelled "Tyger" in a sort of grrrl power way).  But he was a staple of my day, my week. He had a distinctively handsome face and a particular white triangle on his nose that you couldn't mistake. He was a fixture in the neighborhood and I am not the only one who will dearly miss him. 

In a way, it feels like the universe telling me it's ok to go now. The things I love in Brooklyn are dying and I'm ready to move and move on. 

  

2 Days in Alabama

Over the weekend, we attended my Brother-in-Law's wedding in Andalusia, Alabama

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Having never been to Alabama, I wasn't sure what to expect. And honestly, spending only 2 days there did not give me the full picture, I don't think. 

We flew into New Orleans and drove the 4 hours to Andalusia with just enough time to check into the hotel, get dressed and head back out to the wedding. 
We stayed in the Best Western Andalusia where my in-laws also stayed. We chose this hotel bc it was the only one in the area with a pool. Very important, of course!!
The hotel is also very centrally located in the small city. It's in a busy, commercial area, but only minutes from the town center and square. 

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The wedding was held at the Sweet Gum Bottom Bed and Breakfast, which was about a 20 minute drive from the hotel. It was a very quaint and lovely spot! In addition to the B&B, it also housed a small, simple chapel, and a small reception hall. One stop shopping for your wedding local in Andalusia. 
The wedding ceremony was lovely and brief with the bridal party wearing white and cream, and the groomsmen in light grey. A dear friend of the couple officiated and the groom's brother and father stood by his side. White flowers and babies breath decorated the hall. 

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The reception was held next door and catered with traditional Southern cooking; black eyed peas, bitter greens, and rutabagas (all drowned deliciously in butter and bacon!) as well as fall off the fork, melt in your mouth, stuffed pork chops and beef brisket both with their own gravy. Mashed potatoes, a veggie mix and fresh rolls were used to sop up every bite. There was enough sweet tea to satisfy any trip to the South. 
The wedding cake was simple and super tasty and apparently procured from a cake baker who works out of a gas station. Alabama seems to love combining businesses where ever possible. We passed a shop proclaiming "New Fashions" on one side and "Used Autos" on the other. 

After the reception, the party moved to the couple's home on Gantt Lake, in Gantt, Alabama. Although some partied into the night, we headed home early. 

In the morning, after a quick dip at the hotel pool, we checked out and went to the town square. A tiny old town, Andalusia boasts one of the oldest existing Dairy Queens. The town must once have been a really lovely place to live, the remnants of business, commerce and industry can still be seen. But everything there now is only the leftover hollow shell. Very few small, unique businesses now exist in town centers but chains, discount shops, and big corporations abound by the highways. Alabama was very sad in this respect, depressing. We drove through many such towns, which once must have been thriving communities but we had long since missed them and were left only with their ghosts. Andalusia was at least still trying, painting murals and advertising attractions such as the gas station where Hank Williams got married (falsely married, however). 

After our brief tour, we headed back to the lake. More swimming!

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Like most places I have visited in America, I was interested to see how Alabamian's live, and I would love to see more. Driving thru only gave me a small glimpse of what life there must be like. I was very happy to be in a place I've never been (albeit a downtrodden, depressing one), and see things Ive never seen before (an armadillo! Albeit a dead one).

What struck me most about AL, was the changes and diversity in landscape. From the piney stretches, to wide open fields filled with hay rolls or cotton (beautiful!!!), to the cheesy chain lined highways, and near abandoned brick towns, to the shimmering lake and waterways, I was never sure what I was going to see next. And Alabama is full of butterflies!

Bc we now have a brother and sister who live there, hopefully we will be back to do more exploring of life in Alabama. Even though it was a depressed and depressing place, one that time seems to have either forgotten or sped over, Alabama seemed to be brimming with potential. Andalusia seemed to me to be just waiting for the next thing to restart it's dying culture and community.
Potential is always intriguing.

More Modern Art with my Father

Earlier this year, we took a trip in to The City with Stephen, my father. We went to the MOMA to see some modern art. A few Sundays ago, he came to visit and we decided to visit the Brooklyn Museum. 

There were two modern art exhibits up that we had been wanting to see and we got to explore both; Ai Weiwei and Swoon.

Ai Weiwei crabs. This room also had two huge bowls of pearls, which were begging to be touched. They had a guard to keep peoples fingers out of the pearl pots.  Pardon the blurry picture. 

Ai Weiwei crabs. This room also had two huge bowls of pearls, which were begging to be touched. They had a guard to keep peoples fingers out of the pearl pots.  Pardon the blurry picture. 

Ai Weiwei's work is very political, often criticizing the Chinese government and practices. His work sometimes seems light hearted and whimsical, but often has undertones of loss and violence. 

The last Ai Weiwei room we visited was right before the next exhibit we were there to see and blended perfectly, having many pieces made from reclaimed wood. 

The last Ai Weiwei room we visited was right before the next exhibit we were there to see and blended perfectly, having many pieces made from reclaimed wood. 

In a lot of the work we saw from Ai Weiwei, He used found objects, or reclaimed materials. Some from earthquakes, some from destroyed temples, but all things that impacted the people of China's lives. 

This giant tree created from paper mache, dyed fabric and paper cuts, was the center of the Swoon exhibit and served as a dock for two hand made  boats from a previous art piece.   

This giant tree created from paper mache, dyed fabric and paper cuts, was the center of the Swoon exhibit and served as a dock for two hand made boats from a previous art piece.  

In contrast to Ai Weiwei's deeply political, world wary work, Swoon's art seems to be about creating new worlds by taking the leftovers from this one.  Often using found objects or NYC garbage, she has created floating cities and strange spaces. 

A room and resting place besides the tree dock invites you to sit among bees, wasps and their nests. 

A room and resting place besides the tree dock invites you to sit among bees, wasps and their nests. 

Swoon reformed the gallery space by painting the walls and creating an organic feel using wood, cloth and paper. 

Swoon reformed the gallery space by painting the walls and creating an organic feel using wood, cloth and paper. 

Swoons first inspiration and applications as a street artist were increasingly delicate and detailed paper cuts pasted to walls and buildings using wheat paste. 

Swoons first inspiration and applications as a street artist were increasingly delicate and detailed paper cuts pasted to walls and buildings using wheat paste. 

Having followed Swoon's street art for practically all my years in Brooklyn (who else remembers The Splasher?), it was wonderful to see a show of hers in a major museum. Although she has been having such shows for a while, it was a first for me. 

A familiar sight to the Jersey Shore bred. Reminds me of this  work  by fellow New Jerseyan,  Mermaid Trousers .

A familiar sight to the Jersey Shore bred. Reminds me of this work by fellow New Jerseyan, Mermaid Trousers.

In both these artists work there was a mix of the grotesque and the gorgeous. Both seemed to be about creating beauty from the fallen or forgotten. 

As usual it was nice to see art and hear three different perspectives on it. I'm sure there will be more modern art trips for our family this year!