Transparency

When I saw that transparency was the assignment for this week’s post, I sort of drew a blank. I knew I could come up with a visual, but I like for my blog posts to relate to my current life situations. What do I say about being transparent? Then, as I thought about it, I realized that transparency is becoming more and more important to me. I feel the need to just put it out there, say what’s on my mind, and let the chips fall where they may. This kind of freedom has always been sort of elusive to me. The fear of offending, of not being liked, of going too far, has governed me for most of my life. It is only since I retired from running a business that I have fully realized that I no longer have to sell anything to anyone, and that if I do offend someone just by being who I am, then I am probably better off without them in my life.

Today I put a post on FaceBook that was a bit sarcastic about how disgusted I am with most of the people who are currently running for president. This is true. But, this is certainly not the reason I was ready to leave the USA. I was ready to leave because I honestly wanted to live in a different country just for the sake of having a new experience. At nearly 73, I feel I need a big adventure; sort of now or never. Most of the reasons I was ready to leave are very positive ones. I’ve already had a lot to say on this blog about those reasons. One person responded to this post by talking about being proud to be an American. And that phrase has lingered with me this afternoon. To be totally transparent, at this time in history, I am not proud to be an American. I am very aware that most of the rest of the world thinks of America as a spoiled, gun-toting bully. When I look at the situation in America right now and think of what it has the potential to be and what I see it becoming, no, I am not proud of that at all. I can only say that I am glad that the people in Mexico don’t seem to be judging me by Donald Trump and his posse. I see things getting crazier and crazier back in the USA. I am truly appalled that all the choices of candidates for one of the major political parties are so distasteful to me. If this is a choice, God help us. I am sickened by the fact that President Obama has received so much hateful criticism during his successful time in office. So, yes, to be honest, I personally think it is a good time not to be around for what I know is coming. The shit is already hitting the fan. Before it’s over I may have to withdraw from most media, just to stay sane. But, I will keep working on my transparency, and hope that I can somehow inspire others in some small way; not necessarily in some political way, but simply to live as authentically and transparently as possible.

Love.

My assignment for this week forthe blog project with Sylvain Landry was simply, “Love.” This morning when Fred and Pinky and I took a long walk around what is going to be our new neighborhood (that’s all I’m saying about it right now, but we’re pretty excited. More later). I felt filled with love. For Fred, for Pinky, and for this glorious day.

Alone (but not lonely)

I took this photo of the living room at 2700 Oakland as I walked out for the last time before handing over the keys to the new owners. In that moment the house truly felt empty to me. Like a blank slate…a new notebook with crisp pages. It was a very strange instant, and the house felt alone; like we were abandoning it.

That house had served us well for so many years. We had worked harder this summer than I can even imagine sitting here now. Both Fred and I were motivated to leave it in as good a shape as we possibly could. It became a project that was motivated not so much by getting the best price we could for the house, but by love and respect for the house itself. On that day time was a critical part of the project. We had to be out of there by 5. There simply wasn’t time to do things like take down picture hangers and touch up paint. I worked myself up about it, and decided that it had to fall into the category of, “It is what it is.” I had gone over between the movers and the estate sale and put a major clean on the kitchen, so I felt good about that. We had time to Bona the floor on that Sunday, so that was good. But, the picture hangers were still in the walls, and there were a couple of small repairs that were going to need to be done after we were gone. (Stuff happens).

We hadn’t had an opportunity to meet the couple who bought our house. We were to meet them at the hand over of the keys. I was very pleased when we met. They are a young couple; slightly younger than I was when I moved into that house with Fred. And the thing I realized most of all was that they were falling in love with the house. They loved the back porch. They didn’t care about the picture hangers or the repairs. After we had been there a few minutes some of their relatives arrived. I could tell they were in a party mood, and excited. I also felt that they were in their brand new, perfect house, and it was time for us to leave. For the first time, I was standing in that kitchen and it wasn’t my job to pour everyone a glass of wine. But we were not leaving an empty house, we were leaving a house that would provide a brand new chapter in another couple’s life.

Windows

The best thing about windows is the light they let into a room. I was so happy for the window in this room because I really wanted to take this photo and I had to work with natural light. I had been spending this particular afternoon in the West Village with my dear friend, Sunny. We had been out of touch for a few years, but were enjoying re-uniting. Sunny and I have known each other since 1983, when I first started making business trips to New York. I wanted to remember this moment with an old friend while the light came through a window inside a small room with a large mirror .

On the Road to Zinacantán, a Town Full of Flowers

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When we were visiting San Cristobal de las Casas we became very interested in the indigenous people who live in the villages close to the city. The little town of Zinacantán is famous all over Mexico for being the place where flowers are grown. As you enter the town you see acres of greenhouses. Flowers are the main industry of this place in more ways than one. The division of labor is very clear–the men grow the flowers and the women work with textiles, mainly stitching flowers onto blouses, belts, and skirts. If you ever buy flowers that are imported from Mexico there is a very good chance they were grown in Zinacantán. In each of the villages the women all dress the same, but differently from the women in the other villages. The women in Chamula, only a few miles away, all wear these big fuzzy woolen skirts (which are rather unflattering, to say the least) and shiny bright colored tops. But, in Zinacantán, all the women are covered in flowers.

When you drive into town there is a sense that you have entered another time. And yet, every day, especially Sundays, there are many visitors to this town. They usually arrive by vans or buses, with guides. Since Fred and I drove there, we were on our own. Our car was greeted at the entrance to the town by two young Mayan women in full flower dress. They charged a few pesos to enter the town. The young ladies were also quite okay with having their pictures taken for a small fee. These are people who are trying to hold on to their ancient ways of life while at the same time adapting to a changing world. I admire them for figuring out how to make a buck.

After you enter town and arrive at the square, you are greeting again by a young woman in full flower dress. This is usually a daughter, who wants to take you to her house to see her mother’s weaving. The young woman who caught my eye was quite refined, not aggressive, and extremely polite. She even suffered through my Spanish. The young women in these villages speak no English, only Spanish and their native dialects. Some of the older people don’t even speak Spanish. The house we went to was very small and rather raw. When we arrived the mother was sitting on the floor of the front room with a back-strap loom. We were treated like honored guests. We were offered pox, a beverage that is local to that area, tortillas, and given the run of the house to shop. And, of course, I shopped. How could I resist?

Now, let’s talk about the billboard. Coca-Cola is a big, big deal in Mexico. If you have ever had a Mexican Coke, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, there is a church in Chamula where Coca-Cola is actually part of the religious ritual. So, the good folks at Coke decided to put billboards up in both of these villages to promote their product and to show the thing about the town that people will remember. Here a lady is wearing the flowered cape and drinking a Coke. For Chamula, it’s a guy wearing the traditional white wool robe with a Coke in hand. It’s all just a part of the crazy mix that is Mexico. DSCF0696DSCF0689

And that, Sylvain Landry, is a piece of art that I saw on the road.

What Happens in Vegas

Several years ago, while Fred and I were still doing Margaret Ellis Jewelry, we did a trade show in Las Vegas. People had continually told us, “Oh, you should do the Vegas show.” After hearing this over and over, we decided that maybe we should. It was certainly by far an  outstanding show. It was outstandingly the most expensive show we ever did, and by far the least successful. It was a five day show of sheer misery. We had two sales in five days. One was a very small sale to a store in Japan that we never saw again, who wanted to “custom design” every piece they bought. The other was a sale to a regular customer that we could have seen in New York. We did write one $12,000 order, but they came by the next day and cancelled it.

Las Vegas itself is my very least favorite city. It was hot as Hell, and the entire environment was so cheesy that it was almost (almost being the key word) wonderful. While there are some restaurants there that were started by some well-known chefs, they are located inside what feel like shopping malls. We were trapped in the convention hall from morning to night, with horrible food options and no air-conditioning on the set-up day. We stayed at the Luxor (maybe the tackiest hotel on the strip), and had to walk through the canyon of slot machine to get to our room. Fred and I kept fantasizing that we’d get on the elevator with Carrot Top (remember him?) who was playing there. We didn’t. The only comic relief was that a fake Elvis came by our booth. At that point anyone coming by our booth was a joy. We hated being in Las Vegas.

For therapy while we were there, we would go outside at night. There is more neon on the strip than there is in Times Square. Nothing seems authentic; everything seems fake. That’s because everything is fake—fake New York, fake Paris, fake Disneyland, fake Rome, fake Venice, and, of course, fake Egypt. And it’s probably gotten worse. But, the nights were salvaged by my camera. Taking pictures was the one thing that redeemed this trip. I started to experiment with “arty” shots of the lights, and ended up enjoying taking pictures very much. I played around with moving my camera when I snapped—sort of drawing with the lights. I started to see these photos of light as very psychedelic (not that I would know from personal experience, you understand). Since the assignment this week from Sylvain Landry was “Night” I went straight to my Las Vegas photos. I still liked the photos, but I still would never want to go back to this town, even if that $12,000 order had come through.

Downtown Light, New York City

The assignment this week is Light. And, by the way, if you’d like to check out a truly gorgeous blog go to http://www.sylvain-landry.com.  His photos are stunning.  I think he was looking for fast-moving light, but I was so taken when I came across this photo in my files that I just had to use it and tell you a little about it.

I took this photo the last time that Fred and I were in New York, late April of last year. This trip was purely for pleasure, with no business in the mix. We were so fortunate to spend 30 years of our lives visiting there several times a year for business, with as much pleasure as possible mixed in.  We always arrived much sooner than we really needed to, and stayed much longer than work required, so that we could just enjoy being in our favorite town. For the last several years our home when we are in New York has been the Washington Square Hotel, in the Village almost right across the street from Washington Square Park. We spent some time after dinner walking through Washington Square Park, where I took the photo of the man playing a piano. (Seriously, this street performer hauls a grand piano into the park and plays for tips.) The featured photo is a corner of 6th Avenue, right where you turn the corner to go to the hotel. I’ve seen this place a zillion times, at all times of the day. The restaurant is kind of tired, and the corner it is on is not going to be on anyone’s list of New York’s most glamorous places. But on that evening in April, walking up 6th Avenue with Fred, I only saw light. I saw that familiar corner with a new eye. It became beautiful because of the light.DSCF1027web

Margaret as Red Marilyn

I feel a little like an egomaniac posting two self-portraits in a row. In fact, I hesitated to use this photo for that very reason. I did have an alternate. But the moment the assignment came to use a photo that was RED, then I just knew that this is my favorite picture using that color. The mood of it is red, and it recalls a very famous red scene in a classic movie. I call a lot of my photos with me as the subject “self” portraits. In fact, I usually involve someone else to actually push the button. This person is usually Andrew or Fred. Truthfully, doing portrait after portrait of myself is a very liberating activity for me. And as another photographer said, “If you like to do self-portraits you will always have a willing model.

There is a little story behind this picture, inspired by Miss Monroe in “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. I had been doing a series of photos to promote my jewelry using various local women portraying famous people. I called it “Icons and Divas.” During this time I was also spending more and more time with friends who perform as female impersonators. And, as I once said, “If you hang out with drag queens you’ll end up wearing false eyelashes”. You just will. So, when it was time to do a shoot with Marilyn I decided, “Why not?” Let’s face it. Many little girls have fantasized about Miss Monroe…what it would be like to be her, what it would be like to know her intimately. This photo is a testimony to the amazing skills of my pals Andrew Pentecost (Angel Electra) and Arnold Myint (Suzy Wong). Andrew did this makeup job that is so another side of me that I had never seen, and Arnold loaned me the dress and helped style the photo. What an incredible fun night. I think we did this photo about five years ago, when I was 68.