My father grew up in a small town in NJ and was the first in his family to go to college. He lived at home during his undergrad and then spent 16 months in Grenada for the Peace Corps.

He said that was a gap in his life. Or, he might say, he filled a gap in his life with that experience. Gaps shouldn’t have a negative connotation, he’d say, but rather, simply, “your life is defined by the gaps.” Make the most of them; savor them.

I’m preparing to end my summer in Toledo and for lack of a better and equally financially responsible decision- I’m going to move back home for a bit. And part of me feels defeated.
Or maybe that’s a gap within a gap?

My dad schedules his whole life using this Microsoft program called Outlook. He enters in every event/task he must accomplish and reminders pop up on his computer screen probably every twenty minutes. Take vitamin. Attend wedding.

And he saves every one.

At this point he has amassed a saved chronicle of the events of the past five or six years. He’ll send me emails every so often where the subject line is just one of these reminders. Like,

June 22, 2006 – Lauren’s Montclair High School Graduation

8/14/09 – Lauren and Henry from Reno to Newark – 9:40 AM – 7:57 PM, via PHX

Today I got this one:

8/23/2009 – Lauren to Smith for Senior Year / Morrow House President

And I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. This time last year, my dad drove me up to Smith for the last time and took a picture of me sitting on the window sill overlooking the Quad. He left me in my room full of sheets, sweaters, extension cords and he said, “I’m proud of you, Muffin.”

I remember it very well.

Edited:

Okay, now that I have internet access, maybe I’ll explain the context of these pictures a little more.

I work in an art museum so I look at pictures all day– big pictures, reproductions of pictures, thumbnails of pictures. I keep coming back to these pictures.

 

 

1. Daniel Clowes’ “The Boomerang Generation” a New Yorker cover from a few months ago. And this NYTimes Magazine article full of statistics that predict the age I’ll accomplish all I’m supposed to accomplish. 

“One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.”

2. Louise Bourgeois’ I Do for Freedom to Marry campaign. 

“Everyone should have the right to marry. To make a commitment to love someone forever is a beautiful thing.”

3. Camille Pissarro’s Still Life from the Toledo Museum of Art. One of my projects I’m working on at TMA is developing a guided tour of the collection through staff and curator favorites. I record interviews with the people at the museum in front of their favorite work of art as they respond to the question– why? 

It’s interesting because many of these people have worked in this museum for years, decades even– and whether it be as a utility worker or director there is something really special about having someone stand in front of something they really like and have maybe even have studied for years– and explain why.

The Pissarro (above) is my supervisor’s favorite. He is the curator of European and American Art before 1900– nearly half the collection of TMA. 

He said that looks at this painting more than any other– “it is never disappointing.” He paraphrased Marcel Duchamp, who said that a work of art is only complete when a person looks at it. “This painting is about change in me; it’s about change in all of us as we look at something over and over. One year later. Eighteen years later.” 

4. Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Worship and this.

And this

5. Still from  Sesame Street’s “Don’t Eat the Pictures.” There is an upcoming Egypt Experience exhibition opening at TMA and every day I’m reminded of this movie I watched when I was little– a VHS that my mom probably bought at the A&P for $5. Trapped in limbo/ the MET with Big Bird:

6. “More interesting work with moderate pay? Or uninteresting work…?”

This picture popped up when I was searching the TMA Luna database.

 

 

Margaret and I just moved into a new house sitting location complete with cozy animals. This past week has pretty hectic what with moving and all. And made all the worse by CAR TROUBLE.

Ok, I should preface this by saying that Margaret and I kind of knew what we were getting ourselves into with this car situation. Toledo is not really  a city where you can walk places. Everyone takes the expressway to the grocery store. Everything takes 1 hour on foot and 12 minutes by car.

The car we’re driving—a 1995 baby blue Toyota affectionately called Bluey—was given to Margaret for free. It lasted a few weeks without problems, but then a few things went wrong…

  1. The exhaust system had to be replaced.
  2. They botched the replacement of the exhaust system and it had to re-replaced.
  3. Our battery bolts were… rusted?

You know, as far as car trouble goes, we’ve been pretty lucky. Not stranded in the middle of a blizzard, or on a freeway. But being in one of these situations really makes you wish you knew more people.

The third time we had to pick up our car from AAA we had to take a taxi to the outskirts of Toledo. The cab had worn blue upholstery, smelled like my grandmother’s house, and had no idea where AAA was. The cab cost $23—complete with a few wrong turns—and cleaning of the bolts of the battery cost $47.

My point in bringing this up—car trouble tests your independence. Margaret and I quickly realized after dropping Bluey off at AutoConnection that we had no idea what could be wrong, no idea how much it could cost, and no idea how we could get the car back. 1hr 20min walk to AutoConnection along Monroe St in our business casual in 95 degrees?

You have to ask for help.

The third time Bluey died outside a small shopping center, I hailed downed a man named John. In the midst of what felt like a flash flood in the Panera parking lot, John jumpstarted our car. And the second time Bluey died, the Interim Director at the Museum drove us to the mechanics and took us out to lunch. And the first time, when Bluey sounded like a thunderous motorcycle, my supervisor drove us home and we brought in blueberry muffins for her the next day.

All the honeys who makin’ money
Throw your hands up at me
All the mommas who profit dollas
Throw your hands up at me

These were delicious.

My brother sent me this link. A man who kept a record of the last eighteen years of his life by taking one polaroid picture every day. The record starts off pretty simple– portraits of people you assume are friends and family, food and signs. As you go through the years you begin to pick up reoccurring characters– his wife? The photographer himself and his hospitalization.

I’ve never been much of a journal-writer/scrap-booker. I don’t usually like to follow routines. And this blog has proven to be kind of a challenge so far. This man’s prolific record is really fascinating and beautiful– in all its anonymity, honesty, and intimacy.

If I took one picture every day for eighteen years– what would that end up looking like?

Maybe just muffins? Years and years of baked goods?

My sister (Smith ’05) just visited Toledo for a week. I took a few days off work and we went to visit family friends in Michigan, to Ann Arbor, and to Cedar Point!!!!, world’s biggest/tallest/awesome-est amusement park.

We went to Cedar Point, our eyes wide with anticipation for the dozen-plus roller coasters. Amusement parks, generally I’d say, are pretty crazy. You end up waiting HOURS for probably a total of 6 minutes of actual RIDE time. Cedar Point has some of the best offerings around. It certainly out shines southern Jersey’s pride, Six Flags Great Adventure.

One of the most interesting things about amusement parks, especially given the ride/wait proportion, is the endless array of people-watching delights. Cedar Point was full of gems– people that had really pushed the limits of the ‘shirts at all times’ policy, kids on leashes, etc. And my personal favorite– a man that had “VAG” tattooed in cursive on his bicep.

And I guess I have been doing my own form of people watching in Toledo.

Case Study No. 1: Mary

Mary is the best. She works at the museum in the Facilities Department and I have the joy of seeing her once a day when she comes into the Curatorial offices to empty the trash can she specially decorated for Margaret and me. A few weeks ago I was able to see Mary outside of the museum, turns out that she has a BA in Drawing and is a working artist. Mary’s work is hard to describe– based on the paper snowflake shape, she cuts incredibly intricate shapes narratives out of paper. She also designs specialized templates for kids– frogs kissing princesses and ghosts for Halloween.

At a picnic table in a MetroPark in Toledo, Mary showed me how to follow one of her templates designed for five-year-olds. Mine turned out pretty terrible. A patriotic eagle with punch-out stars and waving stripes. I am in awe of this woman, who is so humble and talented. She is sometimes the only one that laughs in the Curatorial office all day. Admittedly, she didn’t imagine herself working in her current position, but she says, it brings her closer to the art and allows her the time to develop her work.

Case Study No. 2: Tim

Tim works in the museum on technical-interpretation, which is like, audio-guides and videos. Tim got his PhD in Greek and Roman Art, but developed an interest in this more technical side of things after his first museum job.

After sitting in a meeting about possibly using iPads in one of the galleries, Tim came up to me and asked if I wanted to be a voice-actor in the upcoming Egypt Experience audio component. (OMG-yes!!) After he showed me my script, we talked for a while about how he got into this line of work. He advised me to seek out “gap-careers,” something between two disciplines– that is where you can find a niche and be truly valuable. Tim seemed genuinely excited by the work that he had done and was still doing.

My dad always says that, “going back to school is an inefficient way to learn something.”

I wonder how long I can prolong that. Not go back to school and ride Millennium Force more frequently.

My dear dear friend, Henry Fandel is currently biking across the country. After graduating, he and his best friend, Sam McLaughlin decided they would dedicate their first free summer to raising money for the non-profit, 4Walls International. Henry and Sam are biking across the country, east to west, to raise funds and awareness of this sustainable development start-up.

Henry and I have been friends for years and I have always admired his spontaneity and adventurousness. Last night he called me from Oregon. One month left on his trip and only two states left.

In our years of friendship we have mostly been “long-distance-friends.” Henry brought this up last night—that the reason our friendship works is because we don’t have to talk everyday. And when we do, we don’t have to catch-up. It’s effortless. And really, he said, “aren’t we all long-distance friends at this point?”

It’s true, with the exception of Margaret, the women that have been my best friends for the past four years—the rocks that I built my Smith experience on, and were literally inseparable from for four years—we have been displaced across the country, and in two cases, outside the country. Now we’re all long-distance friends.