Carrie Allen – Carnivals, Cars and Chili

We are inherently social beings.  Our lives are shaped by our ability to cooperate and coexist with those around us. The power of community is our greatest saving grace in the face of meaninglessness and destruction. I have no words for the horrific events that took place in Las Vegas this week. My heart aches for the victims and their families.  With this post, I want to focus on communities and events that bring us together. For society to renew, individuals must constantly focus on self-renewal.

Self-renewal requires you to cultivate your capacity for renewal by doing new and different things. We can too easily become complacent with our lives and settle into a rigid structure of sameness.

As we mature we progressively narrow the scope and variety of our lives. Of all the interests we might pursue, we settle on a few. Of all the people with whom we might associate, we select a small number. We become caught in a web of fixed relationships. We develop set ways of doing things.

Doing new things shakes us out of our apathy. This is why when you travel you regain an attentiveness that heightens every experience. Use your weekends to explore and engage and try new things…even if you feel like staying home.  Push yourself.  It’s worth it. In the warmer months seek out things like carnivals, antique car shows and, yes, chili cook offs.

This summer my kids pushed me to go to the En Ka Street Fair in Winchester, MA.  I was at first resistant but I am so glad we went. There was something thrilling in being one amongst the crowd, everyone just relaxing and having fun.

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Traveling carnivals are fun to explore and are a good example of temporal experiences set up to bring people together.  The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 was the catalyst for traveling carnivals, rides, food (maybe not fried dough back then…), games of chance, thrills and more.

Every May in Sandpoint, ID there is a Lost in 50’s Car Show and Street Party.  This past May was their 32nd annual event, which is impressive in and of itself.  Krister, my love, attended and took these luscious photos. The downtown streets were lined with beautiful vintage cars, musical acts, street dances and more.

People bring their antique cars from far and wide, even Canada, to participate.  You can feel the sense of pride in sharing their restorations, which sparks many conversations.

In June, stretched out across City Beach in Sandpoint, ID with a back drop of blue skies, big mountains and boats on Lake Pend Oreille, cooks from across the region set up their tents and chili with the hope of taking home the top prizes for their recipes and a chance to compete for the World Chili Cookoff in Nevada. (Who knew there was such a thing?) The community comes together for tasty chili while enjoying the camaraderie and competition.

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I have a robust commitment to hope.  Happiness is not something we find.  It’s something we make. We need each other. Friendship and love dissolve misunderstanding, force fresh perspectives, alter judgements and break down barriers.  Explore, try new things, connect with people. Be open to loving and being loved.  Magic is something you make.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Cry, heart, but do not break

To be human is to know pain.  During times of loss and personal crisis, we are thrown into chaos and can often tumble into despair, misery, bitterness, anger and angst.  Whether it be physical or emotional pain, we all have dark hours. In those darkest hours, it feels like you are so completely alone and you lose hope.  I know, I’ve been there.  Yet to be human is also to be resilient.  We do heal.  Things get better.  It just takes time.   Albert Camus asserted that “there is no love of life without despair of life.”

Everyone has his or her own path for grieving, for mending…for coping.  For those I know hurting now, try to slow down and find solace in quiet moments, simple things.  Focus on the senses. The way a breeze feels on your skin.  The taste of a treat.  The texture of a fabric. A soft touch. Smell. Breathe. Taste. Just be.   Staying present and intimate with the moment, requires mastering maitri, the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness toward oneself, that most difficult art of self-compassion.

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When my brother Robbie passed away in 2001, it was a horrifically dark time.  In my attempt at trying to find order, to cope, I chose to paint a portrait of him, painted from a small wallet-sized senior high school photo of his. I still have it today, it’s scratched and worn, but Robbie’s spirit shines through.

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I painted through my tears. I painted and painted, reworking it over and over.  My intention was to paint a portrait of my brother for my father as a gift, to help him heal.   I spent many months with the painting.  I realized much later that my colors were skewed.  His vibrancy does not come through.  I think my sadness shrouds the painting still.

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Robbie’s birthday was July 29.  He is always with me but these last few weeks even more so. I honor him with this post. This entire blog is a tribute to him. I miss him every day.  His passion and zeal for life and adventure touched so many.

The day after he died in March 2001 his close friend wrote a poem for him.  I close now by sharing it with you here.

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To Robbie, March 23, 2001

I loved a man who danced with Life;
He’d twirl her in his arms
Until she dropped exhaustedly-
Too heavy with his charms.
I used to look on jealously,
And wonder if he knew
How quickly I’d replace her
If he’d only ask me to,

Because I feel I wouldn’t tire,
But last into the night.
I’d take his turns and twists and dips
With all my strength and might.
We’d cha-cha, tango, maquerena
Till the dawn broke in,
And once we thought we’d had enough,
We’d jitterbug again.

Unconstant Life, you drew him in
Until you recognized
How much he needed loving you,
How much of you he prized.
So whimsically you threw him off,
Refusing one more dance
To one with whom I’d dance forever
Given half a chance.

Love, Kathryn Dunnington

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Steven Duede – “Home is Where…”

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

In these images of very small model houses I’m teasing at the notion that the house is a home. That our homes are a part of us in an organic way. Looking at these ‘homes’ in miniature, of plastic, from sky view, in isolation I feel as if in some way, the viewer is an observer into something that is artificial in the way we might see what a home really is or can be.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

These miniature homes, rescued from an old toy box, dusty, slightly damaged, a bit out of focus enhances the abstract synthetic nature of these images. I feel they also reflect a theme of home as something commercial, as something artificial, that is isolating.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

These images devoid of lawns, actual people, surrounding neighborhoods, sentimentality, might remind us that the sense of home is not in the structure in which we reside at all. Home is where the heart is?

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

Furthermore, given that I mention that these images lack sentimentality; for me these subjects, but not necessarily the photographs themselves, have a sentimental slant. Many years ago, I endured severe illness in childhood that left me with permanent injury. I was ‘home’ bound for the better part of a year when I should have been in middle school. During that time in isolation, in recovery, my parents gave me N scale model train kits so that I might have something creative to participate in.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

These little houses I constructed from these kits. They might have been therapeutic at the time. I’m not sure. I think they just might be now when I look at them through that long lens of time and experience.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

In developing this project I’ve been not only considering my own experience in detachment but cannot help but wonder where so many of our hearts reside.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

 

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Steven Duede is a fine art photographer, artist, designer and arts administrator living in Belmont, MA.

These and other works can be found at http://www.stevenduede.com

Hannah Dunscombe – Naive Melodies

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There’s a little boy and girl who live across the street from me in a handsome pink Victorian house. When I first moved into my shabby apartment building with a condemned front deck five years ago, the girl across the street was just a toddler, and an only-child. About a year and a half after I settled in, a large cradle appeared in their front window and a tiny new person appeared in her parents’ arms.

As I’ve watched the kids across the street grow, I’ve felt more and more removed from the comfort of my own childhood. When I first moved to Boston, I was excited to make my first real apartment after college into a home. I created a studio, decorated the walls, cared for plants, adopted pets, mopped the floors, and lovingly kept our dishes clean. But I didn’t really feel like an adult.

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I was working a minimum wage job that I didn’t care much about, barely scraping by, and every year that went by was another year that I hadn’t done much with my education. I could never afford to go home for the holidays, so I missed them. I found that I had some of the fatigue of being an adult – of having big plans but always being too tired to see them through, and instead focusing on cooking dinner, running errands, and getting as much sleep as I could so that I could do it all over again tomorrow – but I felt removed from the autonomy that I had always imagined all adults possessed. And even then, I didn’t have nearly as much of the responsibility that I observed in the parents across the street.

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I sometimes use childhood photos as inspiration for paintings and drawings. They both remind me of my childhood and allow me to better relate to my parents. I use photographs of strangers on the street or at the park and use them as subjects, and imagine what their lives are like. Sometimes I change the backgrounds to expand the plot of the scene. I’m most drawn to photos where the subjects’ faces are turned away from the viewer because I can relate to people more without the specificity of facial features and expressions. There is more available for interpretation in posture and gesture. I can read into their story like a picture book without words.

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Last year, I was staying home sick when I heard the sounds of an aluminum ladder making contact with the dilapidated deck outside my room. Over the course of the next two months, the landlord paid a construction team to sand off all the old paint, build level floors, install handrails, and put on a fresh coat of white paint. For safety reasons, they had screwed my door shut from the outside when they started construction. But as soon as they wrapped up, I was so eager to stand in a place I had never stood before in my own house that I climbed out of my roommate’s window with a screw driver and unfastened the door myself. I noted that when the door closed, it made a satisfying “click” when the latch caught on the strike plate. I brought out a collection of secondhand chairs that I had collected from the side of the road, and invested in hanging flower baskets and a watering can. My house of four years had suddenly grown a new limb, and I now had a place to look out over the street and feel like a part of the neighborhood rather than its eye sore.

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There are little shifts like these that slowly budge the breadth of my understanding of being an adult. Shifting to a full-time job. Adjusting my expectations of how often I can create artwork. Commuting two hours each day. Securing health insurance. Starting a retirement plan. Watching my parents retire. Breaking off a longterm relationship that began when I was still a teen. Watching my brother marry his wife. Watching my ex marry his wife. Seeing my grandfather for the last time and recording his voice. Paying the bills. Building credit. Having a deck where I can come home from a long day and daydream about having a place of my own, while I watch the parents across the street shepherd the kids home from school.

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As I get older and accumulate more adult experiences, I find myself relating more to the parents than the children in my drawings and paintings, even though I’ve only ever played the role of the latter.

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I’ve noticed that in most of my compositions, the parents are often off to the side, or in the background, guiding the children, sheltering them, reading the paper, making sure everything is well. They are not the center of attention, and not engaging in anything exciting.

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I think about how my parents did this for my brother and I when we were children, after a decade of shabby apartments and piecing together their rent. They bought a house near a park. They bought us new shoes every year that we wore on walks to the park. They bundled us up in hats and snow pants and pulled us on sleds. They brought home books from the library so they could read to us every night. There is a lot of selflessness there, to raise a child into an adult, but the children must figure out where to go from there. Meanwhile, the children I draw are playing, exploring, and being comforted. They exemplify vulnerability, hope, and energy. Drawing the parent/child dynamic allows me to meditate on the different roles that we play throughout childhood and into adulthood and parenthood.

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I was recently sitting on the deck after just having finished a book. It was a Sunday afternoon and I could hear the local high school band playing “Pomp and Circumstance”. It took me a second to recognize it. Its echo was diluted by the sounds from the main road and the train tracks. The kids going by on scooters. The neighbors across the street were ushering the kids to the van. The younger brother came out of the house singing, “N-G-O! N-G-O! N-G-O!” I was in the process of spelling this out in my head when he followed up with, “And Bingo was his name-o!”

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Two different groups of kids sharing songs that convey the beginning and end of childhood. It took me a little while to recognize both.

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Hannah Dunscombe is a photorealistic painter and portrait artist from Upstate New York. She graduated from Alfred University in 2012, studied Old Master techniques in Paris, and currently lives in Brookline, MA. She spends as much time as possible out on her deck, reading, writing, and drawing.  http://www.hannahdunscombe.com/

 

Todd Maul – The Mai Tai

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This drink is probably the best known and worst executed drink in the tiki universe. It is a drink that has a storied origin and colorful past but lets just settle on a recipe and move on. For me: it is a slight variation of Trader Vic’s recipe from his book “Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide Revised

1oz aged Agricola rhum
1oz Antigua rum (a round sweeter rum is needed)
1oz fresh lime juice
½ oz. orgeat
½ oz. orange clement schrubb (I like this because it’s a rum based orange)

Lets put the actual drink aside for a moment. How do you garnish this masterpiece at home? How do you make this drink pop at your deck party, or hell for just a sunny Saturday afternoon at home?  I like to think it is in the presentation that separates good from great. I like to think that every part of the drink should be accounted for, meaning: Ice, vessel, and garnish. Garnish is its entirety.

Lets look at the ice situation first. I like to serve my Mai tai’s on crushed ice. For me at home or in a bar, the best way to achieve this ice is with a vintage Ice-O-Mat. (You can find them on Esty). You want to pack the ice down well, and have it just overflow the mug.

I like tiki mugs for the “glass” –  the color, style and shape are really a reflection of how you see tiki. You can find a great selection on Amazon – Tiki Farm is a good source.

Now that we have the ice and the glass accounted for, how do we garnish this beverage? For me, I like a little surprise, a garnish that isn’t quite what it seems. I like to use two different cherries in concert and have them just taste different than your guest would expect. I like to start with the horrible Bing cherries, yes those bright red sugar bombs. Let’s lean into that bright red bomb. Be honest, it’s eye catching and going to make your drink pop, only problem, they are terrible. Solution, soak them in amaretto with some orange zest. Orgeat is an almond based syrup, this will tie the drink and garnish together.

The next cherry you want to use is a Luxardo maraschino cherry. They are excellent as is, but I like to manipulate them to give a “what the f&*k” note to the drink. I like to soak them in bitters and lime husk. It makes something that your guest thinks is sweet into bitter. The contrast of flavors, sweet and bitter, is further marked esthetically by the different shades of the cherries.

We are going to use a wooden skewer to hold the cherries. I like the combo of Bing, Luxardo, Bing, but this is really up to how you want to see tiki.  After this, we need a way to keep this garnish above the ice. I use an 8th of a lime husk, (remove the meat of the fruit with a knife) use the triangle husk as a “stopper”  and put it at the bottom of the cherry combo.

This husk will keep the skewer/garnish above the drink, in an eye-catching fashion.  You can use fresh mint to create a dry aroma around the top of the drink, again, lean into the esthetic and make it yours.

(Note for the real drink nerds: I like to soak my skewers in rum or orange schrubb, it gives off a aromatic that the drinker can’t figure out where it is coming from.)

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Todd Maul is Co-Founder of Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge, MA and an amazing mixologist who has revolutionized the way we see cocktails.

Juan Gamez – Lost in wanderlust

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About four years ago on my way to Japan for the very first time I felt excited to start over from a life that wasn’t what I wanted for myself, to experience the unknown, and to make memories that will last a life time. I found myself sitting on my flight listening to music when the song The Nights, by Avicii, started playing on my iPhone. The words spoke to me instantly…. Avicii said “When I was sixteen my father said you could do anything you want with your life. You just have to be willing to work hard to get it. That’s when I decided that when I die I want to be remember for the life I lived, not the money I made.” It seems kind of crazy but my dad told me that exact same thing when I was a young boy living in Colombia. It felt like the song was made for me. I knew that I had to stay hungry for knowledge and adventure, that’s when I got lost in wanderlust.

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Traveling, exploring new cultures and getting lost in foreign cities is what gets me going.

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There is nothing more exciting than when you are trying to figure out where to go or what to order but the best part is you have no clue how to speak the language nor do you even know the basics… It’s funny and fascinating. So what do you do when you have no way to communicate through speaking? Point at what you want, smile and hope for the best!

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Open yourself up to new cultures, new foods and new people. Getting away for a while will help you learn a lot about yourself.

In one of my journeys around the world I had the chance to meet some school kids in a village in Bali, Indonesia. They wanted to learn about where my friends and I were from.  As we told the kids where we were from we realized it was four different countries! In our group we spoke three different languages and we all came from very different backgrounds, but we were united by one thing – we were consumed by wanderlust.

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You only have one life so find happiness by doing what you love. Do it for yourself and the ones you love. Don’t be afraid of trying something new, experiencing new cultures, and the most important thing is to have fun on your journey. Get consumed by wanderlust.

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Juan M Gamez is a United States Marine. He was born and raised in Columbia, South America and moved to Boston, Massachusetts in the United States when he was 15 years young.  He is fascinated by culture and art.  He loves traveling, photography and seeking adventure at all times.

You can follow his travels on Instagram @jgamez

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Stefan Barton – Woodcuts

I am not a photographer. I mostly paint and draw. I really only take pictures with a camera if I feel I have to. I do it because I think nobody else would. The images are surprises I find in nature, in artifacts and in the play of light and shadow on some sort of topography. There are pictures of rips in plastic-foil glued to window panes, cracks in concrete walls, shriveled and nevertheless sprouting vegetables, light coming through glass-bricks, cracks in floating ice sheets on a river – and trees. What is different about the following tree pictures is that I manipulate them with my computer. Read on and find out why.

On a random road-trip through the countryside one of us got car-sick and we stopped for a short break. I got out of the car and walked around a little bit, eager to continue with the driving. Then I noticed something odd in a pairing of trees in front of the wall of some dilapidated and rather ugly farming-compound: nothing of importance, just a vague geometric sensation, an aesthetic challenge presented by the coincidental arrangement of lines and spaces. I debated with myself, but then got the camera out of the car and took a picture. I wanted to preserve the sight and find out if the vision would hold up on the computer, in a different environment, at a different time…

Some weeks later, I stood at the living-room window, staring at a row of far away linden trees. Again it took me quite a while to decide to get the camera, feeling a little silly. A hint of dancing, floating, naked figures, headless…

Another tree I could see from the same window, looking back at me somehow…

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Walking in the countryside, armed with camera. The realization that in a forest, in small groupings and single trees, there are countless perspectives, countless compositions of trunks, branches and twigs. I would sometimes run around among the trees for hours, circling them, walking away, getting nearer, studying the bodies, arms, faces, eyes. I could imagine seeing myself from a distance: some weirdo with a camera running randomly around in the forest, obsessed with something invisible in the canopies, in the bark of tree trunks, stumbling, unaware of the path, spellbound, unable to look away. Or standing motionless for minutes, seemingly lost in thoughts.

Afterwards, the downloading of selected images, manipulations with software. Careful cutting and deleting of content, rearranging, little alterations, leaving authenticity to a certain extent intact, the taste of the original randomness, a sense of believability, the possibility of the composition. Simultaneously creating an odd shift in reality, a perforation of it.

The manipulations leading to something recognizable, hinting at something familiar, classifiable, interpretable.

Is there something in forestscapes that wants to be seen; are there hidden images in trees, manifestations, truth in observation?

The way of the wood – branching, the dendritic ramifications – is in reality too chaotic for us to recognize the true emergent and complex structure of trees. It is chaos –  and self-organization. A tree is in its slowness something like a frozen fractal. But it is slow only to us. In its own temporal reality it grows rampant, shooting upward waving about greedily for light, competing for height and size. The procession of days is a flicker.

There is beauty in trees. They are reassuring and steadfast. But they are also mysterious, incomprehensible.  One can, as in clouds, choose to see metaphorical images, maybe meaning. The barren treetops and the geometry of wood transcend the apparently mindless growing-ons and sproutings. One can refine it, purify it, even show the absurdity of it.

Wood doesn’t blush.

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Stefan Barton resides in a village near Hamburg, Germany where there are many patient trees, but he spent 20 Years in the US (San Francisco and Boston Area). He works on paintings, drawings and printmaking. Once in a while he is transfixed by taking pictures and manipulating these in a peculiar way. To see more of his images contact Stefan (stefan.bartongmail.com ) visit  http://clex-werk.blogspot.de/  or look at a book:

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