Sunday, February 27, 2011

Zen Garden Pavel

I'm always in awe of my friends who are photographers. How do they make trashy, urban landscapes look spiritual? How do they turn lime green into electricity? How do they create images that hold more texture, magic, and energy than the real world?

When I first met my friend Pavel Sorokin, I had no idea he was one of these visual magicians. He's not one of those types who walks around everywhere with a giant camera bag and salon spiked hair, handing out business cards with flashy Photo Shop effects reading "Photographer. $500 per hour." Nope. Pavel is very quiet about the things he creates. He doesn't advertise them overtly, so you have to ask the right questions to catch a glimpse of his talents. His photos are that way, too. They don't scream in your face for attention. Instead, they exist gently, quietly, like Zen gardens, and it is up to the observer to step outside his or her human self-absorption to fully take in the subtle magic at work in their imagery.

Below are representative samples of Pavel's work, followed by a link to his online gallery. You won't get the full effect from these thumbnails, so promise me, PROMISE ME, you'll click on each one to see them in full size!

To see a more extensive gallery of Pavel's photos, please visit here, where you will also find his contact information. (Please get in touch with him at the email address listed on his gallery site if you are interested in owning copies of his photos, since the company that hosts his website does not share profits with the photographers.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Big-Boned and Fey"

My day yesterday:

7AM: Drag sleep deprived self to gym
9AM: Eat borsht out of a travel coffee mug in the car (gym parking lot), which was mine for the day! (Yay, auto body shop! Fixed the huge dent in the car that was caused by some American teenager sideswiping my seventy-year-old father-in-law in the car two weeks ago.)
9:10AM: Scribble some "epiphanies" (which today don't seem that profound) in the little "Pleasant Goat" journal I bought in China two years ago.
9:15AM: Drive to U-district listening to a CD of all the Tori Amos songs my ex-boyfriends made fun of.
9:40AM: Yay, Presidents Day! Free parking in the U-District! Make flashcards of Russian noun and adjective declensions at Solstice until my brain wants to explode.
11:45AM: Walk ten blocks north to Russian bookstore, which claims to open at 10AM, but never does. Take crappy cell phone photos of fascinating Ave. graffiti on the way.
12:10PM: Russian bookstore is not open. Sad face. (As a beloved little student of mine would say).
12:11PM: Turning and walking back south, run into gnome-like Russian bookstore owner on the sidewalk. He had just stepped out to buy cigarettes, he says. "Now remind me your name, miss, and I'll see if we have what you're looking for."
12:20PM: After holding my childishly written Cyrillic list at a strange angle four inches from his cloudy, impaired eyes, the bookstore owner goes upstairs to the stockroom to look for Auktyon (avant-garde punk band) CD's, leaving me with a stack of other CD's he thinks I might like to listen to on a malfunctioning, dry-soda-stain splattered "boombox" plugged in on the floor. I sit down in my long fairy skirt and attempt to make the thing work, with partial success. Meanwhile, an elderly, rotund, 5'2" Russian customer with an impish smile makes it his personal duty to hover over me and attend to any needs I might have in the absence of the store owner. Every time I look up at him over my shoulder, he is grinning down at me in a way that makes me feel like I'm made of marzipan. When I stand up, my shoe gets caught on my skirt, and I hear a ripping noise. Lord knows what that old man can see now from where he stands behind me.
12:30PM: I now own a 2-disk mp3 set of Auktyon's complete work from 1986-2002!!!!!!! Spend another half hour talking to the bookstore owner about the ideal borsht, Russian alcoholism, Venedikt Erofeev's Moscow-Petushki (semi-autobiographical book about a drunk in Moscow who spends his days thinking he'll catch a glimpse of the Kremlin, but whose plans are always derailed by alcohol), and Vladimir Vysotsky (1970's poet, actor, and musician extraordinaire).
1:15PM: Return a stack of of Russia/USSR related books and DVD's to UW Libraries. (Among them the movie Wings, a 1966 film about a middle-aged woman who finds herself dreaming sadly of the days when she was a pilot in WWII. Absolutely beautiful.)
2PM: Meet an old friend of mine at Sureshot. This friend is a calming angel on my shoulder. We talk for hours about all the ways in which he is more of a woman than I am, and I am more of a man than he is. We tell each other all our recent fears and epiphanies. We watch two pitbulls almost get into a fight in the middle of the coffee shop. Our conversation ends with me telling him that what makes a man a perfect lover has nothing to do with what that man does during sex. The most beautiful, tender lover I have ever had was the one whose fingers danced like ballerinas across my skin when we WEREN'T having sex. My friend writes these words down in the black notebook he always carries. He is a poet, with the most beautiful hands I have ever seen.
7:30PM: Meet another old friend of mine for baked potatoes and a beer. This friend has always been and will always be a fairy devil on my shoulder. The beautiful trouble he will get me into someday has once again been postponed, but in the long run, it is probably inevitable.
11PM: Drive home listening to a Vyacheslav Butusov CD that I also bought from the Russian bookstore. (Justification: $5 off coupon the bookstore owner's pretty young blond wife gave me back when I bought a bilingual Pushkin book several months ago.) As I drive, I conclude that the future of my life is as clear as a bug-splattered windshield.
11:30PM: Lean over and kiss my husband, pure beautiful soul, on the cheek a thousand times as he sleeps. Then go turn on the computer. Spend the next two hours listening to Auktyon mp3's, thinking of how I really should be going to bed, and how I really should be doing something productive with my life, then shrug and think that I only live once, why not let it be beautiful? I know that if there is one skill I possess, it's making up for lost time. I always meet my responsibilities in the end.
2AM: Fall asleep wrapped warmly, lovingly in my husband's arms. (All else fades in comparison.) Pass the night dreaming of sweet, adoring, asexual love with the gnome-like Russian bookstore owner, except in the dream, his body is strange, twisted, and deformed, but adored by me all the same.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Doomed Love Between Redheads

(One of my favorite little scenes I've ever witnessed at Cafe Solstice.)

Curly-haired redhead lass comes in and sits at Solstice's second largest table on a Saturday, tan skirt made of wispy fabric, ugly thigh-length sweater with a fake gold belt buckled over it. Big, black, frumpy purse. Burberry scarf. Gray tights. Ankle-high brown leather boots. She walks up to the counter, buys two coffees, sits back down, and writes something in Sharpie marker on the cups. She draws a heart under each message she writes, sets the cups side by side, takes a picture with her phone, texts it to someone, then waits. And waits. AND waits!

Her nose is a little masculine, but it looks good on her. It is made femininely sexy by a rhinestone piercing. She has gold drop earrings, and bobby pins clip back her side-parted hair. She is getting antsy. Every time the door opens, she looks up, then back down at the cups in disappointment. She starts drawing koala bears on napkins. Then checks her phone. Then cranes her neck to look out the window. Then touches her hair to make sure it's still in place. Then goes back to drawing koala bears.

At long last, her man arrives. He looks exactly like her, but bearded. His sweater looks like Grandma knitted it, with brown deer silhouettes and red diamonds sandwiched between horizontal brown zig-zags. He sits, and the girl leans into him, trailing her fingers insecurely, possessively over his leg. He fails to notice the message and heart she drew on his cup. She tries to indirectly guide him to look, but fails, and so has to point it out to him overtly, killing the spontaneous cuteness of it all. The moment is painfully awkward. He tries to salvage it by toasting his paper cup to hers. The light weight of her cup against the full heaviness of his is a marker of just how long she had to sit waiting for him.

Would Malcolm Gladwell give them six months? A year?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beautiful, Beautiful Russian Men (East Coast Travels: Part 6)

In Brooklyn, and near Boston's Beacon Street grocery store, I encounter large quantities of Russian men in a street setting, which is something I have never experienced. My eyes do what they always do, which is something only strangers (male) know about me. I am putting up neon signs in my eyes. They announce a specific message: "Hello. I think you're beautiful. Sure, we're in a public place, and sure, I'm married. And you're probably also married. But behind my eyes, that LOVELY beard of yours is between my legs."

The thing about Russian men is that they SEE boldly. They don't miss the neon signs. They stare back strongly and unabashedly, without hesitation. They don't play coy games. They have full confidence in what they are seeing. They flash their own neon signs on in response (though they get switched off momentarily when their wives are looking). Their signs read: "I see you, winter-cheeked American girl. I know EXACTLY what you want in your mouth. Just WHAT do you plan to do about it." There is no question mark at the end of that. No games, no playful smile. Their signs call my bluff, accuse me wryly of initiating something I don't have the bravery to finish.

Russian men's eyes do NOT fuck around. Of all the places I've been in this world, no men have looked at me that way. The memory of it keeps hijacking my nervous system, filling my sleep with fever, with hunger...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

As Rain Design

My first encounter with As Rain Design involved Plot Bunnies. A Plot Bunny is a little creature that burrows into your thoughts and hijacks your brain, making you want to write stories when you are supposed to be doing "responsible" things like studying or completing mundane tasks for your boss. I had never heard of Plot Bunnies until my friend Max showed up to Write Club one week, about to bubble over with excitement, because at last she was going to have the chance to DO something with the Plot Bunny that had been running around her brain all day. The following week, she showed up at Write Club with these:

Oh my GOD, how cute!!!!! Where on earth had she found REAL Plot Bunnies?

It turns out that Max's sister, Sarina, is a jack of all trades when it comes to art. Sarina is the one who dreamed up these Plot Bunnies, and, as I've learned, so many other things as well! Give Sarina any artistic or craft medium -- graphite, beads, stained glass, cloth, paint, anything -- and she will create something beautiful. She calls her business As Rain Design. Here are some samples of her work:

If you would like to contact Sarina, you can follow As Rain Design on Facebook or email her here: She takes orders for custom projects, too. (She has just emailed me to tell me she's finished a Plot Bunny for me!)