From Monica’s Birthday last week, at the new bar near my apartment, Branch Ofc.
Yesterday I went to the Spring/Break art show, as part of the Armory Arts Week. It was the only gallery I visited during the week-long, multi-exhibition celebration of modern art, but I’m glad I was able to make it to this showing. Going to any given art exhibition definitely encourages the fine artist in me to make and develop my own work, as it makes me think, “if they can make art and be showcased in a gallery, what the hell am I doing with my own stuff?” Call it competitive, self-deprecative motivation.
Spring/Break was located on a two abandoned floors of New York’s 31st Street’s post office (what’s with it with creative places and abandoned post offices?), a couple blocks away from Penn Station. Although a few of the exhibits were hit-or-misses to me personally, I enjoyed the majority of them and was even surprised to see some of the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, learn that one of the band members of The Strokes had his own exhibit, or experience some of the stuff I see on art and street blogs in real life. I’ve documented some of my favorite pieces here:
Based off my past post about traveling more, I decided to make good on my word and utilize some of my vacation days to travel somewhere outside my comfort zones of New York or Chicago. I flew to New Orleans, one of the few cities I’ve only read or heard about and whose lore and culture attract me on a quirky/intellectual/adventurous level (London, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Paris, Austin, and Portland are also on that list). It was a fairly short trip, and I scheduled it strictly around Presidents’ Day (my day off), so it was pretty fortuitous that my vacation down south would coincide with Mardi Gras. On my own, I spent Sunday night and Monday wandering around New Orleans. Arriving from JFK around 10pm, I checked in at the hotel at 11, dodging the beaded, ostentatiously-dressed co-eds who were already stumbling in drunk from the recent parade. My accommodations were nice and convenient: under the recommendation of my roommate, I stayed at an upscale and — more importantly — affordable hotel a block away from the busy Canal Street. The concierge gave me this neon green, waterproof wristband that proved I was staying at the hotel, also preventing any unwanted guests who may accompany me (more on that later). After dropping my luggage off in my room and changing from my NYC winter coat to a more comfortable, hey-it’s-70-degrees-outside-wtf jacket, I decided to venture out and see Bourbon Street.
I’ll admit, I wanted to get one of those dumb Grenade drinks filled with vodka or Everclear or whatever sedative-hypnotic they put in it out of sheer kitschiness and irony, but for the most part, I remained relatively sober for the entirety of my trip. Wandering solo around Bourbon Street my first night, it was interesting to see wasted people sober; I was entirely removed from a drunken haze, and it clarified my perspective that, “holy hell, I can be an asshole when I’ve been drinking.” Even more so, I was surprised at the amount of restraint people had: not one girl was flashing her boobs to get those coveted beads. I later learned from my friend Michelle (a NOLA transplant) that only dumb tourists with relationship issues are the ones expose their tits publicly to other idiotic tourists — and these dumbasses tend to pop up on actual, actual Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday was just two days away).
The next morning, I went to the famous Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. I was ready to pay for a legitimate cemetery tour until I realized I could just fucking walk in without wasting a single cent. I spent a good hour taking photos around the massive tombs, and I’ll be honest: visiting one of these legendary “cities of the dead” was a driving point for me to come to New Orleans. I don’t know, I’ve always had a fascination with death, the macabre, and — as a lapsed Catholic — religious imagery. It just felt natural I had to visit this place, just because I love spooky shit. My friends who’ve visited New Orleans in the past warned me about muggers hiding behind the tombs (a fact reinforced by a number of web pages), but for the most part I felt safe. My only concern was that the ghost of Delphine Lalaurie would follow me back to Brooklyn.
Afterwards, I walked a few blocks towards the French Quarter. I was in search of Ghost Pepper hot sauce under 4 fluid ounces that I can just put in my carry-on luggage and torment my friends with back in New York. Alas, I couldn’t find any. I bought a voodoo doll, a Cafe Du Monde coffee and some beignets, and sat by the Mississippi River eating and smoking cigarettes and contemplating which of my enemies I want empower into the doll.
After wandering around the French Quarter, visiting a few art galleries, and buying a bunch of veladora candles from Marie Laveau’s mansion’s gift shop, I met up with my old Parsons classmate Michelle and her boyfriend Andrew. We had dinner and headed to the parade, which by all accounts, is 4 miles long and loops the city twice. All the spectators had so many beads hanging from their neck, I was sure they would break. I wanted some as well, and the only parade marchers who would throw some to me were the females on some of the floats. They probably thought, “Oh wow, a hipster Asian! Hot!” Now nearly all the people on the floats wore masks, most of which were too reminiscent of some creepy murder-horror movie like The Purge. What’s worse, as the parade rode on, there were some men on horseback. They were obviously caucasian, but their attire and their own cloth masks loosely hanging over their faces eerily resembled that of a Klu Klux Klan member — except if that member decided to go to sailing at the Yacht club after a lynching; their costumes, though a subtle call back to the South’s darker history, were in very fashionable navy blues and other nautical jewel tones.
What surprises me most about New Orleans is the lack of police vigilance over open containers. We literally opened a bottle of champagne, the popped cork sounding off like a terrible gunshot, and the officers nearby couldn’t care less. They just didn’t want you crossing to the other street, cutting into the parade route. Even later that night, we had a few beers at a local bar and after our last round we just walked out of the establishment with beers in hand, like we gave no fucks (props to New Orleans for having $2 PBR, which you can’t find in New York or even Chicago anymore).
It started to rain a little, and Michelle, Andrew, and myself went to Andrew’s project space, an Escape The Room/immersive puzzle environment game, located on the abandoned floor of a post office. He proceeded to show me a lot of cool antiques, including a mummified mermaid and a ton of photos from the turn of the century.
At the end of the night, I went back to my hotel and waited in the lobby for my shuttle to take me back to the airport. I had three hours to kill, and since I already checked out and had my luggage with me, I didn’t want to venture out into Bourbon Street again with my laptop and clothes. I did, however, decide to go to the local 24-hour Walgreens to get a pack of cigarettes (again, $6 for a pack — it beats NYC or Chicago!). As soon as I stepped out of the pharmacy, a middle-aged woman who was missing her front teeth approached me. She was obviously drunk or maybe even on some drugs, and she asked for a cigarette. I gladly obliged, at which point she put her arm around me and asked, “Hey baby doll, you have a hotel?” She repeated the question a few times, obviously propositioning me for something. I eyed the neon green wristband still wrapped around my arm and contemplated the policies of the Wyndham Garden Hotel. I was honest with her and said, “No, I already checked out.” She sighed and then asked me for a dollar (which I gave her), and proceeded to stumble towards the direction of my hotel. I waited a few seconds for her to disappear to god knows where she’s going, lit my cigarette, and took a different direction.
Overall, the trip to New Orleans was great. It allowed me to get lost but still feel safe, and it reinforced the notion that I could travel anywhere by myself and be okay. Would I go again? Of course; I tried doing as much as I could in 2 days, and I’m quite certain that the city has so much more to offer. And yes, I will find that Ghost Pepper sauce.
Below are all the pictures I took during my trip.
Well, I’m officially launching PhillipRetuta.com again. Off and on for the past month, I’ve been working on the layout, design, and code, and I’m satisfied enough to announce that it’s ready. Check it out.
Over this past weekend, I went to the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The admission price is fairly cheap, and I managed to get in for $6 by lying and saying that I was still a student at Parsons (I still have my old student ID at all times, in case I need to get a discount at a movie or a museum, but even then the Gothy hipster girl running the admissions counter didn’t even check). Overall, I would suggest going to a place like this. I admit that it was small and that the two-room, single floor of exhibits seems like a collector’s apartment filled with strange trinkets and oddities — you feel like you’re at your weird, really-religious-but-somehow-progressive aunt’s apartment, and she just died and you need to clear out her junk.
As an artist, I loved nearly all the exhibits — from the two-headed kitten, to some guy’s tattooed skin preserved in a jar, to all the imagery of death and religion. A couple of my friends who went with me (excluding one friend that’s a fine artist) said the place is a rip-off, but they aren’t visual or artistically-inclined people; a large part of me appreciates the finest detail of even the littlest thing: from a well-preserved skeleton of a translucent tropical fish in a 2-inch jar, to the hand-carved Virgin Mary and Death statues that could easily balance on the tip of your finger. That shit takes immense skill to create, and yes, if you bunch it all together in such a confined space, you can easily overlook those details. I understand that nearly everything in that museum took patience to create, and I advise you to have such patience when visiting this place. It’s an interesting place if you’re fascinated by images of the macabre and sacred, and you’ll definitely need some time to examine all the books, photographs, and tiny pieces this small museum has to offer. If your expectations are to see a bunch of freakshow fuckery, you might be disappointed.
Oh, but they do have taxidermied squirrels and chipmunks gathering at a bar and a fair, respectively. There’s also a coffee bar and a keen gift shop on the ground floor, too. All of it is pretty fucking cool.
Click through some of the larger exhibits: