Unconditional Love

On a late December evening in 2002 just before Christmas vacation started, I brought my little Moitié home.

Earlier that afternoon I had decided to give myself a little Christmas gift after a year of excruciating hard work at one of the city’s largest and busiest architecture and planning firms. At the Papineau Veterinary Clinic in Montreal, they have cats of all ages for adoption. The little 7 week old kitten – half black, half white – which they had found abandoned when he was even younger immediately won my heart with his affectionate demeanor. Within seconds of holding his little fluffy body in my arms, he broke out into a loud purr. He had found his home.

Later that evening I returned to make the payment of $89 and take him home in a cat carrier. “Home” was a cavernous 2 bedroom apartment next to the Oratorie St. Joseph  on Montreal’s Queen Mary street where I lived with my then-partner Guillaume – a successful lawyer now with his own practice, but at the time working on his Bar exams. We were both in our 20s, full of youthful optimism and naïveté, the world before us and not in the least aware of the twists and turns in our life that the little cat would be directly affected by.

On exiting his carrier, immediately the kitten started rubbing against both of us, unable to stop giving and wanting affection. All kittens are cute, but it was easy to see that this little one was exceptionally cuddly. Our other cat Biloo, a beautiful Maine Coon, around a year and half old which we’d both chosen together in the summer of 2001 to celebrate a year since our first meeting, had always been independent and was not exactly a cuddler, so this little one with a white dot at the end of his black tail was an instant heart-warmer. We decided to name him Moitié-Moitié (for the pronunciation- here) or “half-half” as he was half black and half white and was justly dividing his time nuzzling between both of us.

Moitié would go on to accompany us as we moved to the house we bought six months later in Montreal’s south shore with a big backyard and swimming pool. He loved the outdoors, and it soon got impossible to let both cats stay at home, as their exploratory instincts had taken over.

Biloo would die shortly after, hit by a horrible speeding car in the early morning in the fall of 2003 when she was making her way back home – and it would be eighteen hours before we’d discover her hiding, painfully injured but still alive, rush her to the vet, and be told that the best thing was to euthanize her. For years, it would remain an incredibly traumatic and painful memory in my life. Pets have that effect on us. They love us so innocently, so unconditionally, so simply…..anyone who has lost a pet knows how hard it is, and even more so, if the death was a violent or painful one.

Through it all, Moitié continued to love us, heal us. He was one of those cats who liked sleeping tightly right next to you, loved snuggling and sitting on your lap, and head-butting, licking or nipping like a pure eternal fountain of love and affection. He stayed on with Guillaume when I moved to Florida for a new job, with questions suspended around our relation, as quite frankly – I had reconsidered it by now due to sheer exhaustion as I was working crazy hours, while he was still getting his ropes around law. And there were other issues – which in retrospect were so minor, that they could have been easily worked out. Love or a lack of love as well as chemistry had never been an issue though, nor had there been any incompatibility in literary, artistic or intellectual tastes, as all those fundamental aspects we shared in plenty, and I am quite lucky to have been loved so deeply and strongly by a great person. It was more his extreme possessiveness and most of all, inability to understand the crazy working hours of the architecture world. Instead of loving support, there used to be constant rages against my working late, the long hours before deadlines, the loss of vacation time. I had no choice as he was still an intern, and we needed my job to keep going. Architecture hours are truly brutal and it would be several years before I would question the masochism and slavish workaholic brutality of my profession, and wake up to smell the coffee and look beyond the bubble architects lived in, but, alas – back then neither of us could understand the other’s point of view.

So when I moved to South Florida in early 2006, it made sense that Moitié should stay back with Gui as he had grown more attached to him as in his kitten days it had been Gui who had spent more time at home while I was at the office. In 2004, soon after his internship, he had refused an offer to join that firm as an associate and instead decided to start his own law firm which had only led to an increased workload for me as now I was working as an architect by day and moonlighting as a legal assistant at night, helping build up a business, where failure was not an option. Gui had rented an office on Montreal’s Rene Levesque Boulevard, but the pressure and exhaustion had caught up with me and I was ready to leave to be on my own now, to have my own metaphorical “space” to grow individually. It was a sad, uncertain period for us, and Moitié comforted him unconditionally to the point that Gui would joke that all his inheritance would one day go to the cat. We sold the house we’d bought and now had our own apartments in our own respective cities. On every visit back to Montreal I would run to hug and spend time with the little fella, who had never forgotten his mommy.

When Gui decided to leave Canada to open a second office in south-east Asia in early 2007, he handed the kitty over to his twin and his girlfriend. The cat must have been confused and devastated. He had known no others except Gui and me. It took him a while, but soon enough, he was giving his love to Raphael and Marie.

In mid-2007 they all bought a beautiful duplex I had picked out, the twins deciding to live in the same building, or at least renting the upstairs when Gui was away while Raph and Marie would live downstairs. When I returned back to Montreal – there was Moitié – affectionate as ever, fatter, wiser and giving love to all who came his way, even to my grouchy new cat Mojo – who had been adopted after being found starving and abandoned in a garbage dump in Fort Lauderdale, along with his siblings locked up in a box. Moitié in the meantime had survived many adventures, disappearances (when he ran away from the twin for a month), break-outs (when he found a way out from a basement heating room to escape in the bitter Canadian cold for 14 days and lived outside till our return from a vacation in Cancun) and many other ups and downs in his kitty life.

On this return, I stayed on for another 18 months much of which, from the early summer of 2008, I spent in an apartment on the top of the Mount Royal Summit Park (on Ridgewood avenue) and resumed working at a distinguished firm I’d worked at since 2004. The housing recession had started to strike much of the US, and Canada had a far more stable job market at the time. Gui and I figured out our relationship and finally split on very amicable terms and moved on with new partners in new countries – he deciding to spend the major part of each year in Asia and me moving to Cambridge in 2009 and eventually to New York.  As I had already spent some years in Asia, prior to meeting him, I didn’t feel like going back there again, while for him it was a fascinating novelty. While we had “officially” or legally split in 2006, this time any strong lingering emotional ties were cleared up, and boundaries that reinforced mutual respect towards each other and to our new partners further strengthened. We still remain professional trusting friends, and on my trips back to Montreal, I’m always invited to stay at his mother’s or at his twin’s – and they both extend the invitation even to my present partner.

Moitié stayed back with the twin after our split and would later even become a patient and loving pet to the little baby girl that Raphael and Marie-Claude would have in 2011. He was well-known in the neighborhood as a loving, peaceful cat, a gentle soul who liked taking strolls through connecting backyards, protective of new kittens and ready to take on any feline bullies.

He was there to comfort me when I returned deeply hurt after receiving the insulting rage in a supposed meeting for a long overdue in-person  “apology” by a cruel individual in October 2010; he had always been there whenever I used to come home exhausted from a day in the office; he was always there to greet me every time I would visit Montreal,  a can of his favorite cat food in my hand, my pace escalating with excitement and anticipation as I walked round the corner towards the duplex, crying out “Moitié, Moitié” as he would come running from wherever he was like a faithful little dog.  And he had been there, as a steady anchor, for all the other humans in his life, nuzzling, cuddling, always demanding and giving affection, with dog-like loyalty yet in full feline grace and elegance.

Cats on average live for about 15-18 years. Moitié was only a little over 11 years old.  So it was with a jolt of shock when Sunday night I was forwarded a mail from Raph to Gui about the sudden demise of this little feline angel. They had found him paralyzed in half his body in the bedroom on their return home from an afternoon out. He had suffered a stroke.  After careful consideration, the vet’s advice and several hours in the clinic they had opted for euthanization. He died in their arms, purring and rubbing against them till the last moments before falling asleep forever. Living in New York, I had last seen him only several months back during a summer visit to Montreal. Little did I know it would be for the very last time.

Tears and sadness at the pain of loss have engulfed me since the news. Guilt as well….wondering if I should have moved him with me to Cambridge, to New York…..but then he really loved his backyard and the house in Montreal and he would cry and bellow whenever he was moved to a new place (had tried that) and was a creature of habit. He was happier where he was. And what guarantee was there he wouldn’t have had a stroke at that age anyway?

I beat myself up with all the possibilities (as unfortunately I often tend to be quite hard on myself at times), was upset for a while wishing they’d informed me earlier so I could have rushed to Montreal to see him one last time, but then finally reconciled that what happened was probably the kindest and sanest option – that at least he had not been killed by some car and died without being found and painfully bleeding. After a long phone conversation with Marie on Thursday other facts started to bring in some peace, despite the sadness. At least the stroke had occurred at his home, not outside, where the paralysis would mean that he would freeze to death, unable to walk in the -25 Celsius Canadian winter that week. It had always been a concern of mine – that such an incredibly loving and affectionate kitty should be near his loved ones in his last moments. And in that respect – his death had been peaceful, relatively painless and dignified. Guillaume was perhaps the most devastated as the cat had been like his son. He is still inconsolable, breaking out in tears in the middle of the day in his office, and buried with guilt wishing he had never left the cat and moved away to Asia. He had thought the cat would live for 20 years so when he returned back full time in another 3 years, he would be reunited with his “son.” Alas, that was not to be. Fortunately he had been able to spend three weeks last Christmas with Moitié during a trip back to Canada.

Animals come into our life, mostly the mammals we have as our pets, they give us irrevocable love, ask no questions, pass no judgment, spend the day waiting for us to return home, all they ask for is to be fed and walked, loved and caressed and in return they give us the most unconditional and loyal love we will ever know or experience in our lifetime… They remind us over and over again the simplicity and beauty of life and love, bereft of the complications, greed, power-wars and duplicity of humans who have innumerable flaws and failings – especially when it comes to loyalty and unconditional love. Yes, no one can love you like a dog, a cat or a faithful pet. There is no substitute for that kind of joyous, simple, innocent and genuine  love.

We see all around us in our world (at least those who are introspective or meta-analytical to see) hypocrisies, superficialities, toxic attention-craving, ass-kissing hierarchies, injustices (tons of those committed against animals), online status-whoring among fame-and-validation-hungry people, narcissistic self-indulgence, mind-numbing idiotic “selfies,” pussy-footing political correctness where we’re disallowed to call a spade a spade,  and many more  widely accepted societal “norms” that make the mannerisms of the human race often seem so pretentious and repulsive at times.  I came to a realization a few months ago; it’s something  some others I know also believe in – something I used to feel as a kid too, but at some point I’d lost that wisdom: that I prefer to trust warm-blooded animals far more than humans; that I’d rather spend time with the innocents of another species than with some of the conniving, constantly self-promoting caricatures of our species…Being an introvert who loves solitude, and generally not very social (except in good company) that realization wasn’t hard to come to.  Moitié’s death and his legacy reminded me even more to focus on real life in all its textures and fragrances, instead of the virtual parody much of “life” has become these days with an overdose of excess-information-without-wisdom, quantity-without-quality..….

Spring will step into Montreal again this May, the last slivers of snow will melt and the tulip buds sprout, the birds will commence their singing again….but this Spring I will know that no pink-nosed Moitié will awaken from his lazy slumber to go out and play like he did every day.  Life will go on. Except someone will now live on only in memory and in the innocent love he brought to all whose lives he touched in his short time upon this earth. This Spring, the new grass in the backyard of that house will sorely miss the silent and soft steps of the most affectionate cat in the world that I ever knew and who will forever live on in my heart and who I’ll always deeply miss – mon meillieur minou Moitié.

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What was up with February 9, 2014? That night I not only lost my beloved Moitié forever, early that week I received the news that on that same evening one of the kindest, gentlest, most beautiful and most unpretentious souls I had met in New York’s art world, Hudson – who ran Feature Inc. gallery – and was a breath of fresh air in the snooty art community, had also passed away.  He was only 63.  A New York Times article on his death: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/arts/hudson-gallerist-and-nurturer-of-artists-dies-at-63.html?_r=0

Hudson and I had connected instantly – from the first glance and further reinforced through our conversations. He was my kind of guy/human – solitude-loving, unpretentious, with good taste in art and ethics, and with “an enormously fine-tuned bullshit detector.” Humble yet firm, witty yet serious, energetic yet low-key – his innate authenticity and ethics shone through his gentle old-soul face. Every week I would receive his emails about the shows in his gallery and his opinions on art. It is with great sadness I will know that Spring will seep into New York City after this whitewashed winter, but Hudson will never be there in person again. One of the last remaining good ones…..He will be greatly missed. An apt eulogy written on him:

Seeing Out Loud: Remembering Feature Gallery’s Hudson

By Jerry Saltz

“Hudson — the founder of the Feature Inc. gallery, who went by one name — was one of the greatest of his generation, a generation that was rich in art-dealer talent. Feature opened on April Fool’s Day 1984 with a show of work by Richard Prince, and was eventually among the first to exhibit the art of Takashi Murakami, Raymond Pettibon, Tom Friedman, Charles Ray, B. Wurtz, Judy Linn, Richard Kern, Lisa Beck, Tom of Finland, and many others. Hudson was 63, but seemed timeless. He was one of the last of his kind, and among the smartest, wittiest, and most visionary gallerists I’ve ever known — old-school in that he almost seemed not to want to be a dealer. He just loved art and artists. 

The possessor of a sharp eye, an enormously fine-tuned bullshit detector, and an ability to disagree affably but firmly, he started in Chicago, then moved the operation to New York four years later, landing first at 484 Broome Street. Before that he’d been an artist and a performer and spent ten years as an administrator and curator in the not-for-profit sector. Hudson called his gallery Feature “as a way to deflect a personality from the gallery, an attempt to let the exhibitions be the focus. The structure of having several galleries simultaneously show differing exhibitions was my move against stardom and a push for pluralism and multiplicity … it is the artists who lead the way. Watch what they’re doing and you’ll see what is happening.” When it came to curators—many of whom drifted away from his gallery over the past decade — he told the artist Dike Blair, “They should flee from hipness and the current notion of art as fun … What ever happened to the museum as a place of study, aesthetics, and the subjective, or the quiet time wandering about a museum deep in thought or ecstatic with emotion? Perhaps museums should institute one silent day weekly … curatorial positions should be created for those with training outside academia.” Amen.

At first he might be placed in the class of gypsy-dreamboat super-intelligent anti-gallerists like Colin de Land, Gavin Brown, and Michele Maccarone. But Hudson was more taciturn, detached, solitary. He avoided being the center of attention and was not social. He said that when he went home after hours, he didn’t read the paper or the internet and, except for listening to music, remained in total silence until the following day. “I prefer art that is complex and multi-focused,” he said. “Such work is, and probably always has been, out there, yet because it isn’t an easy read, or easy to explain. It rarely functions in the market in a very big way.”

Hudson. (Photo by Judy Linn)

Hudson. (Photo by Judy Linn)

“Unlike almost every other dealer I’ve ever known, Hudson sat at the front desk. No office walls separated him from the gallery. Getting a checklist or signing-in meant seeing him, as he was forever working — usually with a staff of one or two. His great director Jimi Dams left to form his own excellent gallery in 2005. Since then, it’s mainly been Hudson and the wholehearted artist Anne Doran. Once, when asked to comment on the architecture of other Chelsea galleries, he remarked, “Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it architecture. In scale, administrative layout, and personality — the suits — we see business at work, the corporate model, which I don’t find rewarding or wish to encourage.” Whenever I called late on summer weekends looking for information, Hudson always answered the phone himself, in the gallery.

It wasn’t until recently that Hudson participated in art fairs, saying, “We should all pay less attention to the salesmanship and showmanship of auctions and fairs, and, of course, be more aware of the not new and hot. Stop running around trying to see everything everywhere, and spend more time with the richness that is close to home.” Time eventually forced his hand, and over the past few years he did participate in a few, to fabulous effect. The first, I think, was at Zucher Studios on Bleecker Street where there were no more than a dozen other galleries, most lesser known. I bought two marijuana brownies from him for $25 each and gave them to my best stoner friend, who said they were divine and a great price. His fantastic booth at the Outsider Art Fair (Feature as an outsider!) was all tantric drawings by anonymous Indian artists.

I often saw Hudson early on Saturday mornings going around to other galleries. He saw a lot of art and had well-formed individual opinions on everything he saw. I learned a lot from him and stood corrected often. In the early 2000s, when photographic work dominated the scene, he called for a “moratorium on photography, especially art-directed snapshot-quality images of low life, especially when class, gender, and sexuality are pictured …. and avoid the notion of the largest possible photographs, particularly when laminated to Plexiglas. MoMA’s Gursky exhibition made me think that this guy makes great postcard images, and many of them actually would be more significant at that scale and in that form.”

He was ultra-aware of the shift in metaphysical control from artists and dealers to speculator-collectors and auction houses. He lost artists to bigger, slicker galleries. Still, few dealers have been more committed to and passionate about the artists they represent. In 2014, Feature is a special gallery of special artists: Always on the cutting edge, but always art-first. I often didn’t quite understand the work he showed. But — as with only a tiny handful of gallerists — I trusted him enough to make extra efforts to come to terms with it. I was sometimes sheepish around him, especially when I wrote about an artist and event I assumed he didn’t like. Even then, he was sweetly funny with his disapproval and scorn. He had nicknames for people. He called me “Salt shaker.” I knew this was a sly reference to the way I can get caught up in the flavorful hype and throw myself at, say, a performance by Jay Z. I’m told he could be quite harsh to artists who sent him unsolicited work that he didn’t like, writing notes that suggested why they might want to give up art. I’d love to do an exhibition or book of these letters and notes to artists. Hudson loved engaging with those who engaged with him. He was always available for conversation. I think I loved him. I know I’m in shock and despondent that he’s gone. The art world has lost a colossal spirit.”

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Memories of Montreal – un petit film

Montreal, Canada. 10-10-’10. I have been busy with my travels these past  several days and shall be traveling for a few more to come…..and Internet access has been sporadic and minuscule, at best. One of the joys of traveling and reconnecting with old friends and places in general is the humane factor of touch, sight, sound and smell which the virtual world, no matter how rich it can be, can never equal. The virtual at the end, serves only as the medium – the conduit through which the essence of the real can be captured only in bits and pieces on a two-dimensional plane.

So until I find the time to write a more reflective or analytical post, I’m re-posting an older article and video which had been, in essence, a quick ode to a city that has always remained dear to my  heart. On this trip, as I packed up the remnants of my existence here and found closure on many levels, I understood with some poignancy that it was indeed “Goodbye Montreal” and “Hello New York” for good. Time flies, people change, precocious girls we knew from our work days get married, have children; men we knew who carried an intense fire for living look beaten and broken in the grind of work life and compromises….those who thought they would live a ‘James Bond’ existence wake up to a reality of  ‘The Office’ (ah! mid-life crisis, or should I say mid-life acceptance, for many a man.)  A girl who was a sworn spinster is now married in a big Greek wedding with a baby on the way. A good architect friend who had the worst year of his life in 2008, is now not only on his best year but has become a successful theatre-actor on the side. Another who I thought would forever remain timid and servile has broken free and has his own firm.  A man who I thought had crazy intensity  ended up truly being intensely mentally crazy when I saw him again after two years. A girl I thought would never lose her integrity, I found, has now sold her soul in the name of society’s cliched definition of success……

We meet many, we lose a few, we remain static with some, we grow for, with and at times, away from others.  And for some like myself, sometimes looking back I have to confess (as a private joke that a few friends will understand) by fluke, I certainly was ‘Saved by the Bell’  in October 2008 in Montreal. Had it not been so, I certainly might not have perhaps found myself in Cambridge and subsequently in New York City. Thank you, Antonio Stradivari!

Life goes on, time never waits and all that is left behind are memories…….Yet for some places and people looking back at them never quite brings clarity – like looking at one’s past and hoping to get a balanced vision – yet instead it feels akin to when you open an old book and find inside its pages a pressed exotic flower from long ago and its faint scents and faded colours prevent detached objectivity.

But: We move on, thus. We must. We look back – sometimes with 20-20 vision, and at times with visions still blurred and foggy. Yet we move on. Or at least try our best. Or hobble on. Or, if we are lucky, sail smoothly away.

And oh yes – one more thing – xkcd-style. Just for the heck of it (or maybe it’s just all these cafes selling baguettes here.)  Either way:

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MÉMOIRES DE MON MONTRÉAL

(originally posted on May 25, 2010)

This is a short and quick film I made to capture some moments at my favourite city where I lived and worked for many years as an architect. I made this to celebrate both Montreal’s unique poignancy AND vibrancy.

Location: The film is based on my photographs through my years in Montreal. The apartment featured is on Ridgewood Avenue where my balcony and windows opened out into the forest of the Mont Royal Summit, behind the gigantic St. Joseph’s Oratory featured both in the early part and in the closing shot of the film. The ‘summit forest’ is the highest point of the city at the bifurcating median of the eastern traditionally ‘French side’ from the western ‘English side’ though of course in reality the city is entirely mixed and diverse. My apartment’s location enabled an incomparable view of the surroundings as well as the seasonal changes of the magnificent trees in its forested backyard. I lived in two different apartments over the years on the same street though I lived in other areas of the city as well, including the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, in downtown Montreal, on the east side near the Village and also in the historic suburb of Vieux Longueuil. I’ve had 7 addresses during my years in the city.

The office featured in the film is of my architecture mentor Dan Hanganu on Rue Dizier.  Its arched windows looked out into the art galleries of Rue St. Paul. The three friends in the ‘four architects’ photo are Anca, Lucia and Athena (and no, we are quite the opposite of the self-absorbed, shoe-crazy, man-hungry, navel-gazing ‘sex and the city’ hyper-materialistic girls.) I met them while working at the historic multi-disciplinary and multi-national architecture firm Le Groupe Arcop one of whose founding fathers had a fellowship in his name at McGill university which I had been awarded more than a decade ago, not knowing then that some day I would go on to work at the firm he had founded. There are other pictures here of friends who are dear to me. I have added quite a few well-known streets and landmarks of the city as well as those places that are personally meaningful and memorable.

The repetition of the sunflowers in the clip is not just a reminder of the lively kiosks and flower shops dotted around the town (and the little herb and flower corner of my balcony), but also a representation of the human potential and inclination to seek and search for joy in life despite how gray the skies may become at times and…….well, because sunflowers are my favourite blossoms. I always say that no matter how sad a moment may be, looking at a ‘happy sunflower’ brings back the smile on my face. They just seem to be such sprightly optimistic flowers, following the light of the sun….

Music: The featured musical pieces on this video are ‘Oblivion’ (violin – Joshua Bell; bandoneon – Carel Kraayenhof) & ‘All of Me’ by Jazz great Lester Young (tenor sax), Teddy Wilson (piano), Jo Jones (drums), Gene Ramey (bass). Since I wanted to capture the paradoxical ‘poignant joyousness’ of the city, the first half of the film includes a heartfelt piece ‘Oblivion’ played by the versatile virtuoso Bell (whose movie The Red Violin’s ending culminates in this city and who I met in Montreal, so I thought it would be appropriate to place his rendition.) The second half of the film picks up the tempo, rhythm and joie-de-vivre unique to this belle ville and reminiscent in a very jolly 1950s tune ‘All of Me’ (composed by Gerald Marks & Seymour Simons) played by the jazz legend  Lester Young – which captures the spirit of the famous International Jazz Festival that Montreal hosts every summer and also the ambiance of its many cafes, clubs, youth culture, its ‘book capital’ status and bicycle and pedestrian-friendly street life.

Additional photography: Almost all the photographs used here are my own. The ‘night vision’ shots though hazy, I felt captured the lights, music and movement better of the city’s nightlife and festivals than clean ‘perfect’ ones taken with a camera stand. There are around 5 pictures featured here taken from Montreal tourism. And out of the total 160 photographs used here – 12 are from the collections of two friends who are extremely talented professionals and have their own studios and should be credited – Jessica Petunia and Robin Cerutti who are both Montreal residents

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/jessicapetunia/popular-interesting/

http://robincerutti.com/

The music in the video is beautiful when heard through the right speakers since a tiny mono speaker of a laptop cannot do justice to a big jazz band nor to a 1713 Stradivarius.

This is just a little personal ode to a city that has meant so much in my life and where, in many ways, an integral part of my mind, heart, soul and body will always remain, always belong, and live on through its multifarious memories.

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Random Acts of Sunshine

RANDOM ACTS OF SUNSHINE

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Nothing starts a day better than a little dose of sunshine with the timeless music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the piano and the optimistic joy of sunflowers. This is the first of my ‘Random Acts’ short video series that I’m working on to celebrate the little pleasures  of life. And Bach and sunflowers have been two of my favourite ways to start a morning for as far back as I can remember……Perhaps, like the Himalayan mountains beckon my blood, as does the Mediterranean Sea, so do the sunflowers of Provence and the music of Bach.

My personal favourite in this collection of sunflower photos is the one of the sprightly lone helianthus bravely blooming at the edge of a grey sidewalk. A symbol of spunky joy indeed! I hope you like viewing this little piece as much as I loved making it, though of course Bach sounds its best when the speakers are good.

Please note that the last photo in the closing shot of the little child in the field has been taken by an exceptionally talented young lady Iryna Smolych from jossphoto.com who I hope to interview some day on my blog. Please watch this in the full screen mode. Happy mornings!

Random Acts of Sunshine. (full-screen it please.)

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I do not know about you, but for me – music is one of the greatest affectors of my moods and state of being. I’ve just always had extremely sensitive ears (and an oversensitive nose – but that’s another story). My dad had to take me to several trips to an audiologist or ENT specialist when I was a kid because I’d complain of hearing everything too loudly or pick up sounds that others would not find disturbing, or sometimes not even notice.

Turns out my ears were indeed too sensitive and I was hearing frequencies and pitches beyond the normal range. Yes – the doc played and experimented with several tuning forks and for a while I became his pet ‘freak’ patient. I later wondered if my affinity for dogs and other animals came from this auditory anomaly.

As a little kid, I had the ability to pick up any music by ear and play it on the piano (an ability which alas, my parents never encouraged, pushing me into dance instead to tone down my ‘tomboyishnes’ – but a decision of theirs that still makes me a wee bit sad at times. ok – here’s more looking at you sunflowers! to forget that!) Anyway, the solution was to wear ear plugs for a while and carry them around at all times, but even to this day, I remain very sensitive to sound, pitch, tonality and my entire body jangles in pain if a certain piece of music is incongruous in context or time of day, or just plain bad. I also like music that is ‘pure’ – i.e. the instruments are real and tangible. Till date, I still am not crazy about digital ‘instruments’.

While I haven’t done a survey I wonder how many people are affected by sound deeply, intrinsically, achingly. It was no coincidence that later ‘Acoustic Design in Architecture’ (a great help when it comes to designing concert halls) became one of my favorite subjects and I’d end up even teaching that. 

I wonder if the liquid in our inner ears that maintain ‘balance’ in our body has something to do with our intrinsic sensitivity to sound and songs. Geek readers can check out this youtube video which explains how our ear processes sounds and how the fluid in our inner ears maintain our balance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTiGskc1o48  (Don’t get spooked by the animated biological skinless face at the start – not a pleasant sight to see after the sunflowers.)

I also wonder why  certain styles or pieces of music feel so right in the morning and others only at night? In eastern cultures, classical music was composed and played according to the time of day as well as seasons of a year. I’m sure everyone has different preferences, yet somehow the ‘sameness’ of biology all across the human race perhaps leads to similar effects of different kinds of music on our bodies? I for one, love Bach in the morning. And certain pieces of Mozart. Even Debussy at times. Or Bill Evans playing ‘Here’s to that Rainy Day’. Afternoons, when I feel drowsy I don’t mind a torrid flamenco guitar tune or even a few jolly Gypsy Kings songs to wake me up – their sunny candor taking away the boredom at that time of day. Late sunny afternoons for some reason, stirs a craving for world music – Saif Keita singing songs from Mali, Bob Marley’s nasal wailing or the more classical variations of some old Bollywood song (the ones with tablas and drums), or even Brazilian carnaval rhythms. Exotic. Erotic in the essence of strange accents and exotic languages. Musical metaphors of imaginary (or real) afternoon sex in hot climates. Your lover’s sweat seeping in foreign soil. Where music and moving limbs and eyes surpass the necessity of comprehending language.

Evenings are for more somber or sensuous tunes in Jazz, or even lively big bands, poignant French ballads, or Django Reinhardt-esque brazen liveliness, or classical symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. And late at night, I love the pensive mood of Keith Jarrett, or melancholic versions of Jazz, and of course, the nocturnes of Chopin.  Dark nights are also for Pink Floyd, Jimi Henrix, Tool, the Scorpions, a few selected Rave beats, as well as some heavy Metal groups or songs I listen to. They seem so in sync with the mystery and terror of night, with madness and mania, fury and fire, or even just contemplation of the ‘dark side’ of psyches or moons or ‘crazy diamonds’ ;) I do not know if the ‘metal-at-night’ phenomenon is more out of a habit from the architecture-school days when pulling all-nighters was accompanied by the thrash of metal guitars – haunting, screaming thrusting one into werewolf-energy while drawing lines or making sketches in an inspired frenzy. But even without the architectural memory, I still find that genre very effective only at night.

Somehow friends who listen to the Goldberg variations in the night and Metal in the mornings seem to have it all topsy-turvy. In the open studio of my grad school, there were fellow-students who would jangle the hall with  either Judas Priest and Metallica in the early mornings or depressed ballads of Sarah Mclachlan. (Why couldn’t they hear them in earphones, instead of jangling the entire studio and all my nerves??! and I’d retreat back to that kid with sensitive ears, my state of mind anxious and muddied, wishing they would understand the subtlety of tender timid sunrays that ask for the joy of sunflowers, not the stench of death and skulls.)  

I have no problems with either thrashing, heavy and/or melancholic music at night, but mornings – ah sweet, sweet fresh clean innocent new mornings – please give me my Bach, and sunflowers, a good cup of tea, and soft, happy strums of the guitar, the sitar and the piano – and let me glide into the day reflective, alone in my thoughts, alone in the peaceful solitude of a morning-mind, and lapping up quiet exultant serenity……..

So – to those who like genial harmony and genus helianthus  in the mornings – here’s to Bach and sunflowers!

And if such indulgence in making ‘random acts’ videos and thoughts make me an idiot, so be it. There is a great quote by Bach: “If I decide to be an idiot, then I’ll be an idiot on my own accord. ” 

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