Sunday, September 13, 2009

Good Africa: Part 1

I have been home from Africa for over a month now. Finally, I am able to tell you the good things, and there were many.

We arrived in Nairboi, Kenya in the night on July 6th. My two friends and I checked into our hotel, The Kenya Comfort. Everything felt orange and brown and creaky and crumply and slow. The night was heavy with intentions. It was like a collarless dog that you go over to pet; it could greet you with a welcome wimper, or bite your fingers off. We dropped our belongings and headed to the hotel bar. I drank my first Tusker, a huge local beer that tasted pretty damn good. The three of us sat at a high small round table with metal chairs and wicker seats. Our feet did not touch the ground. We were tired from our absurdly long journey: Newark, NJ to Brussles, Belgium stop over in Uganda and finally Nairobi. The windows of the bar were large with some old worn metal fixtures on them, I looked around and I liked it. A mosquito (or two) tested my patience. We enjoyed some exhausted light conversation. We talked about the trip ahead and made some predictions. They told me how they had first met, in Nairobi, many years ago and I could imagine it being romantic. We were the last people in the bar that evening. I could’nt believe I was really there.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sailing down the Avenue

About 8 years ago I was an intern in the art department at a certain womens/lifestyle magazine in New York. I was their first intern. They were a new publication, all idealistic and clueless. And I was fresh out of art school, all idealistic and clueless. It was a terrible fit. The design and layout of this particular magazine is what initially struck me. I was in Barnes and Noble admiring its spare, well considered photography and quiet whispering fonts and my friend said, “Why dont you just send them an email and ask if they need an intern?” I love her for that advice. So I did, and there I was.

I was getting paid peanuts and my brother gave me the advice that I should not buy one new piece of clothing for this job, because I couldn’t afford it. And I wanted desperately to move out of my parents house as soon as humanly possible. So I was wearing some outdated baggy dresses that I was way too young and slim to be wearing with my long unstyled hair up in a clip from Duane Reade. Now I look back and I realize that I was in the dark about how New York really worked. I didnt realize that a new outfit was probably exactly what I needed in this environment to be taken seriously. Forget about practical, comfortable shoes, what I needed was something snazzy and overpriced. But I never got it, I just saved my money and shuffled around in those platform/elastic black sandle things that were in style a few summers before I was wearing them. And I worked.

The editor of this magazine was almost completely wretched. But she was actually an excellent writer. She was playing the part of a nightmareish woman in magazine publishing very well. I saw it in her eyes, that she hated herself and deep down that she knew she was being an asshole. But this is how it was done. “When in Rome” she probably told her-fucking-self. She would flit around the office shouting absurd demands that turned what had been previously agreed upon, on its head. Everyone hated her but no one said a word. She would occasionally stroke people, just enough to keep them working, like dogs, irrationally, at this poorly oiled machine of a publication.

One day I was working on designing an article that was going to be in the magazine. This was a big step for me. Prior to this, I was cutting up mock-ups and making copies, incessantly. Well, the editor came around to look at my computer and she told me she loved what I was doing. Then the art director told me she also loved it. I went home that day a little bit proud. The next morning, the editor whooshed past me and went into the art directors office in front of where I sat. She closed the door. I heard talking but no words.

The editor emerged and the art director, sweet person that she was, had a red face and came over to me and told me to stop working on the article that I was designing. The editor decided she didn’t want interns designing the articles. I was completely dejected and went over and made another cup of coffee with hot chocolate mix in it.

Then in about 20 minutes, the editor came over to me and asked me in a tone that dripped with sweet evil, would I be a doll and go pick up her shoes from the shoe maker? She handed me the tag and some money. I said, “oh sure”, in fake sweetness and even faker ignorance, and I smiled. She made it very clear where she wanted me. So I had to make it even clearer where I wanted me. I put her money and her shoe tag on my desk. It was around 1pm. Then, in a brave and radiant fury, I walked out of the building and I sailed down 6th Avenue a few feet off the ground and rising as I got further from the building. and I never. went. back.

There are many many things I love about this story and one of them is that about two years later, the art director tracked me down and called me and asked if I wanted a position as an assistant art director there. I told her I was working in a genetics lab and going back to school now and thank you for the offer, but no.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Junk Drawers

The photographs of Paho Mann. I like these junk drawers a lot, but somehow I want to see messier ones. It must be the Pig Pen in me.