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Atacama, Chile Jet Lag Journal: Part Uno

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Well, it’s only been an entire year and a half since the above picture was taken, so naturally, it’s time to finally get this Jet Lag Journal under way. After spending a few days in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I convinced Elizabeth that Atacama (or properly known as San Pedro de Atacama) was the perfect way to end our South American adventure, and that there’s really no other place on Earth like it, so naturally, she was easily persuaded by powers.

Atacama had intrigued me for years after visiting Chile/Patagonia and hearing about this ‘driest desert on Earth’, and I was determined to go. And it did not disappoint. Next to Patagonia, the trip was just as life transformative and memorable.

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This is the typical view from the bus window that you take for roughly an hour or two from the airport to Atacama proper (the length of your bus trip basically is determined by how many stops/passengers there are). Do you notice the color of the sand? Pink! That’s right–Atacama is also known as the pink desert because of the color of the salt that you find amongst it salt flats. Tidbit to know: Our NYC streets are actually salted in the Winter by this very same salt, carried and shipped all the way up the continent to keep us from falling and slipping and housed in Red Hook waiting for those icy temps. The view might not look like much here, but trust me, its breathtaking in its own serene and calm way.

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Above is a shot of our hostel’s courtyard and right outside our front door. That’s right, I said hostel. Hostal La Ruca to be exact.There was no extravagant boutique for these two ladies while we visited. I took a recommendation from a friend who had stayed here previously, and it really fit the bill. There weren’t any frills but that was ok–we had 3 nights to spend there, and were there to really rest our heads and take showers (although, the hot water heater wasn’t turned on for the first 2 days we were there sadly). We a complimentary typical South American breakfast, La Ruca gave us everything we needed.IMG_0830 IMG_0831

 

Looking into our hostal hut complete with 2 twin beds. The hostal was also very helpful in setting up some of our tours/activities which was an added bonus and I recommend you find a place that will help you organize your pick-ups/drop-offs right from your hostal.

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After our first day spending grabbing lunch (the restaurants are actually really quite amazing in Atacama, I was struck very surprised and well, grateful) and walking a small but quaint strip of artisan shops, we ventured to the international astrological site that resides in Atacama. Since its elevation and its remoteness, Atacama has the clearest skies in the world and its why astrologists travel from all over to do research in the desert here. There’s not many photos because I couldn’t take a ton at night that would come out well. But above, is just one of ten telescopes, we got to look through–one of the largest in the world is here. And it was fascinating to see Mars through these high-powered tools. The typical starry night was a sight for these sore eyes.

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The next day we were off early for a road trip with a guide (and 2 other couples, one French and the other Brazilian, if my memory serves me correctly). Here was another breath taking view out the window as we traveled and bumped along in our guide’s jeep.IMG_0865 IMG_0869 copy

There’s nothing for miles and miles and I loved it. To try and describe or explain the vistas and the air is like trying to explain a dream after you wake up. The sensory sights are all there, but the words are hard to come by. Here’s my best attempt: With continuous crystal and pastel colors in sight all day long, and clear stark air to be inhaled all day long, your mind and body literally start to shift. And they start to shift toward the acceptance of what you can’t control: nature. I became so acutely aware of a bigger power beyond me, that I simultaneously became eternally grateful for being able to experience the sights and wonders that kept evolving my way. Life and its previous NYC concerns and troubles seemed to melt away and really not matter.

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Here’s Elizabeth grasping at the salt you walk over and hear crunch beneath your boots–I couldn’t believe that its some of the same kind of salt that they sell at Whole Foods for like $10 a pop. You know Chilean salt? Mmm, delicious on those American fries.IMG_0927

So another sight you must see in Atacama and was our next stop on the tour, was Los Flamencos National Reserve. It covers an area of 180,000 acres, and is composed of the Tara Salt Flat–a natural destination that the hundreds of flamingo colonies migrate to every season to mate and nest for reproduction. IMG_0934 IMG_0949

There they all were just hanging out for us to watch them as we devoured our lunch. Provided by the tour guide/company, the lunch was simple but delicious (it probably also helped that I was starving and didn’t get a proper breakfast since we started out so early in the morning). Concocted and arranged in the trunk of our jeep, we chowed down on chicken, white rice, tomatoes and avocado. Like I said, simple, but glorious.

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Our last stop of the day was spent touring the rock formations that derived from natural weather, storms, and all that good stuff. IMG_1018

As you can see, it literally felt like you were on another planet–like Mars (hence why a lot of movies taking place on other planets get shot in this desert). IMG_1058 IMG_1062

 

The little growing wildlife that we did find on this day trip was so hyper-intense in color it was practically neon. Among all the rock pillars and salt flats are also sand dunes that you can also explore and ‘ski’ or ‘sand board’ down, which we didn’t get to do, alas.

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This last photo is one of the images that comes to mind when I think ‘Atacama’ and how I like to remember the place. So serene, so raw, so pure, so up front, and so heavenly. Heaven really is a place on Earth! Stay tuned for our Part Dos coming up with llamas, geysers, and natural water holes, and more!

Atacama, Chile Jet Lag Journal: Part Dos

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Without further ado, the conclusion and Part Dos to the Atacama Jet Lag Journal–in which we embark on an epic last day filled with three amazing sights to behold.

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On our last day in the desert, we got up before the crack of dawn actually to take an almost two hour bus trip to the Geysers del Tatio. Due to the elevation and with no sun, it was quite frigid. We were not properly dressed for it, but as most things go, it was still worth it. IMG_1121 IMG_1123 IMG_1133

I was surprised how close you can get to the geysers, and just how many they were in this single area. I’ve never had the chance in the US to see some out west, so I took in all the geysers I could (while trying not to freeze my butt off).

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I had about 3 layers on but was still trying to keep in all the heat I could, hence my dorkiness with the hood.IMG_1169 IMG_1171

Frolicking among geysers is always a must.IMG_1172 copy

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Next up was a small pueblo on the way to actual second destination, a small detour or add-on if you will. And small, it was. The pueblo really consists on tourism alone and needless to say, it’s not bringing in the tourists by the thousands. But my favorite part of the visit was the llamas.

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Each llamas is marked by the various colors of yarn to denote which family claims ownership over them. I so desperately wish that someone would have sold the tassels of yarn on a keychain, as I totally would have bought one. My marketing brain was still on high alert even on vacation and miles away from the job. They were really quite beautiful and vibrant in their own personal way.

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The  next poignant stop on the day-filled excursions: The Dead Sea of Chile, a.k.a. Laguna de Cejar. This was a natural salt lake in the middle of the desert, and the strangest feeling I’ve ever felt was the natural flotation that occurs due to the high concentration of salt. The entire time I wanted to naturally tread water in place, but you have to force your body to just chill out and sit back and relax.

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The salt muck surrounding the lake was gross and fun at the same time to walk through! The feeling between your toes was hilarious!IMG_1201

Here’s what your entire body looks like after coming out of the lake–just think natural exfoliation through a salt bath!
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Perfectly timed on the trip is a stop at this natural fresh water sink hole, so to wash clean all the crusty dried salt. This picture is deceiving–that jump you see me making was actually the equivalent to a high dive board at an Olympic pool, I kid you not. I made the jump once and surprised myself with a yelp as I made the leap!

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Since its fresh water, it’s pretty cold in there. So we’re shivering in this photo but happy to be clean again.IMG_1220

En route to the final destination, our lovely Layana tour bus experienced an impromptu stop.
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But no worries since there were pisco sours to pass the time while we just hung out. Waiting. And who can complain with that view in the background?

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But it was a little nerve wracking only because I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the sunset on the last stop we were to make. I kid you not that the entire bus had to be pulled out by an emergency truck that was called in and a handful of men to help shovel away at some of the compacted dirt.IMG_1208
I’d say there was an extra good hour thrown in for measure with this debacle, but with new foreign friends to chat with we were fine to watch the scene unfold.
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Just take a look at the background. The scene says enough. Our last stop for the day, and we made it just in time to watch the shifting sun and sky have their go at a beautiful colorful dance. Salar de Atacama is the largest salt flat in Chile and with three volcanoes that watch over it, the sight is simply breath-taking as cliche as it sounds. I just can’t think of another word to explain it. I felt so peaceful and sublimely happy to have experienced everything I did in a single day, I tried to take it all in without forgetting a single detail.IMG_1312 copy IMG_1309 IMG_1307 IMG_1304 IMG_1303 IMG_1282 IMG_1276

 

If you happened to miss yesterday post on Part Uno, check it out here to see some of the other adventures we had. Without veering off too far into the “it was the best time in my life” and “I’ll never ever forget it” kind of wrap-up phrases even though they’re true, I’ll just say, if you’re even remotely close to Atacama while visiting South America, it would never ever be wrong to add on a few extras days to your trip and make the extra plane ride to this wondrous spot. I triple dog dare you to go and come back without a life-changing memory.

Jet Lag Journal: Lake Titicaca

Jet Lag Journal

In my last post on Lima, Peru, I offered up some tips for the taking, and I’m thinking that’s honestly the best way still to explain my other part of my Peruvian trip around Lake Titicaca as well. So if you do find yourself with an extra day and a half while in Peru, do get yourself to the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca–rich in color and rich in culture, you won’t be disappointed.  Continue Reading

5 For Friday

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Happy Friday! What are you up to this weekend? The beau is back in town, so we’ll be getting sushi, watching some movies and doing all things relaxing until it’s game time.  Continue Reading

The Smallest One was Madeline

Madeline BemelmansAt half past nine in two straight lines (not really – a line of one single person as usual), I visited my lovely, brave, spunky French orphan friend Madeline. At the New York Historical Society, Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans is in full swing. She’s older than I thought – 75! Doesn’t look a day over nine. This exhibit is a celebration of the artwork of Bemelmans,

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Pembra's 24-Hour BookstoreThe title of one of my most recent reads can be a mouthful, but that’s no reason to be discouraged from reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. For me, I’ll admit, the back cover summary sold me on this. I didn’t read any reviews and didn’t have a burning desire to read this specific author. I simply saw the bright cover in a favorite bookstore, and picked it up because of that simple marketing (or not so simple depending on how you look at it), liked its curious title, and read the summary, and thought, “ok, I’d like to read this eventually.” Continue Reading

Tour: Donald Judd’s Soho Loft

Tour: Donald Judd’s Soho Loft

After reading about the newly restored Donald Judd SoHo loft close to 10 months ago, I finally found myself taking the tour of the prolific artist’s home. I first read about it in The NY Times and New York Magazine last summer, and the tickets for scheduled tour times became hotter than Britney Spears’ comeback tour. So I decided to wait patiently, after all, the home wasn’t going anywhere. Finally, in December I found tickets available for the coming April 2014 and snagged some with the anticipation finally just 4 months away.

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The SoHo loft building today in all is blue grey cast-iron glory. So many windows, so much natural light.

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 The SoHo building as Judd saw it in the 1960s when it used to be a garment factory building.

And so two weeks ago Elizabeth and I were ringing the doorbell to 101 Spring Street. Judd died only 10 years ago in 1994 and made it pretty clear that the home and his other homes should be preserved and kept in tact alongside his artwork that he housed in them. So the Donald Judd Foundation was able to do so after a $23 million dollar restoration–that’s some big time dollar signs considering this: Judd bought the entire building in 1968 for just $60,000–in cash. Oh the glory days when you lived illegally as an artist in SoHo and you could afford to live with your entire family in a Manhattan building for just six figures. I can only just shake my head.

The entire 5 floors is completely infused with his minimalist style (although he abhorred being qualified in this realm and by this definition, for lack of a better word, I’m going for it) and his iconic installation artwork.  Since you’re forbidden to take photographs (I’m really not understanding these rules inside a home and you’re just trying to take a picture of chairs, furniture, etc.), the below digital photographic tour is complimentary of a slew of online publications. We’ll start where we stared, with the first floor.

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The first floor acts like a gallery for Judd’s work, which if you get a chance to see any of his pieces, you’ll notice a sense of progression, if you will, in each of them. He always worked to strip off all narrative and reference in his pieces and to make everything more autonomous as possible. Along the left and right walls line his anodized aluminum pieces from two separate works. He worked heavily in industrial processes which now only compliment the historic industrial neighborhood and the building. His sense of progression in his artwork was also often based upon the Fibonacci mathematical equation (a mathematically based sequence in which each number is the sum of the two previous two: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and so on). This sense of equation actually really starts to reverberate as you move higher and higher from floor to floor in the home. A sense of equality and purpose sits behind every decision of his home.

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Judd with some students on his first floor circle around his roll-top desk. The desk still sits in the same position today, and was left in the building when Judd acquired it.

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Floor number 2 was “the party room”, or the entertaining floor. Rarely did any guests actually travel any higher than this floor. Pictured front and center is a streamlined massive dining table designed by artist friends to seat 14 people, naturally. Beyond that is a very, and I mean, very industrial kitchen. Pieces were bought in the neighborhood at the time when the businesses were supplying restaurants and hotels, but Judd I believe found it convenient and in tune with this aesthetic. It was great to see original choices for kitchenware, utensils, liquor and even his favorite tea of choice: raspberry leaf tea.

judd-2nd-flThat triangle wooden wall inset houses something special: a custom made geometric (hidden from the naked eye) puppet stage/closet. Judd raised his two children, Flavin and Rainer in this home, and it seems like such a genius use of space plus a special idea for a child’s imagination.

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In it’s own smaller (I’d hardly call it little) corner rests this alfresco mural done by another artist friend. It’s been restored a couple times but it is one of the few spots of massive color in the home. The natural colors and very natural brush strokes are quite mesmerizing and meditative. At this point it must be stated: the entire building is 54% windows. That would be over half, folks. I noticed that literally there was usually only a single outlet for an entire floor. I started to imagine early evenings in the loft as the sun would set, those couple of hazy hours where you can just get by without electricity and pictured Judd lounging across the wooden floors lost in thought. You’ll notice the original wood floor boards here (and on other floors) still maintained original paint drips and creaking as you passed through; it was a detail I’m glad that wasn’t redone.

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Also to note, as you travel and traverse the stair wells between the floors, you’re greeted by rows of Ethiopian leather shields and masks, more artwork bought locally from neighborhood importers–they’re a bit haunting but then again, it all seems in line with natural artwork.

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The third floor struck me as the most monastic of them all (even more than the bedroom, but I’ll get to that shortly). He did have a small alcove lined with book shelves and some chairs for sketching or contemplating, where you see the row of pencils rest in the above photograph. This floor houses one of his largest pieces of artwork, and it’s the focal point for the whole room/floor. The juxtaposition of the huge piece of artwork against his small corner installation of 2 stools, rug, and stone (neck rest? It puzzled everyone including the tour guide as to what this might be) just conveyed even more to me how much he liked to play with space. Judd  “conceived of each floor as a single, unobstructed space dedicated to a single activity: sleeping (fifth), working (third) and eating (second). He viewed the fourth floor, which contains tables and benches of his design, as a kind of parlor.” 

At this point, it’s worth mentioning that “Judd once characterized himself as having been “born attracted to space,” and 101 Spring Street was his first chance to show what he meant: art and other things worth looking at deserve to be seen, properly placed in the proper amount of space . . .” and after the third floor, it starts to really hit home, needless to say.

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The “parlor” if you will, with more gorgeous wooden furniture pieces and more large-scale colored artwork. Again, another dining table worth all the admiration in the world for design and scale, it’s something that only an artist could trade for and has a special one-of-kind quality. I found myself checking out all the details my eyes and senses could absorb on every floor, and realized what in fact is said in The NY Times article: “Every object chez Judd had a kind of strength of personality or presence, as if it had been carefully scrutinized before being let in the door, which it had.” Every choice was a conscious choice and not frivolous or trivial. It was thought in relation to another object and in relationship to himself. So when I saw his choice of graphic pencils of Rexel Cumberland (and all grades of hardness were lined up) on his desk, I knew he had thought about these specific tools beyond just a means to an artistic end. Each one had purpose, or ‘presence’ in its objectivity.

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The fifth floor housed the bedrooms–all in a single room. Both children slept in a corner loft while Judd and his wife Julie, camped out on the floor, on a wooden slat. The bed is framed in by more artistic presents, one being a neon installation from his friend, Dan Flavin given to him after replacing a smaller version given to him as a gift for the birth of Judd’s son. Notice no headboard?! I can definitively say, I need some backbone to my bed structure, and I would not be keen to be always having to prop myself up on an elbow. Not pictured: Julie and Judd’s closets filled with wonderful clogs, fur coats, suspenders, and other personal attire. And also a wonderful utilitarian tub and sink, in separate spaces, of course. Now, it also must be said, on the tour, we only saw a single toilet throughout all five floors. Just one, on the second floor. So we were curious if everyone was always traipsing and traveling back and forth between the second floor just to use the bathroom. . .

A historic note-worthy  fact:  “The Judd building is only the second fully preserved artist’s house-museum in Manhattan,  along with the Greenwich Village townhouse of the sculptor Chaim Gross, and only the third in the city as a whole. Its preservation and elaborate rehabilitation reflect the obstinance and inspired dedication of the artist’s son and daughter, Flavin and Rainer Judd, now 45 and 42. They refused to listen when advised to sell Spring Street to settle the debts of Judd’s messy estate and to support the larger concentration of Judd’s many activities in Marfa, Tex.”

Which brings me to our next destination for sometime in the near-distant future: We’ve got to get ourselves to Marfa!

Do I even need to say order your tickets early if you’re planning on visiting? Well, there, I said it. Dive deep in all that is Donald and his fascination with space, material, industrial, process, and find yourself asking how you conceive and define art, as all great artists should leave you thinking.

 

Imagery from: The NY Times, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, The Judd Foundation, The Wall Street Journal.

 

 

Warby Parker, Where Have You Been All My (Four-Eyed) Life?

IMG_2100I cannot continue the following blog post without first sharing my personal story as to how I became a legitimate four-eyes (I say, “legitimate” because these days, it’s cool to wear frames without a real prescription in them, so legitimate=prescription).

I was in fourth grade, sitting in the way, way back of Ms. Dunbar’s class, and we were doing math, and I couldn’t see the chalkboard for the life of me with the plotted out fractions, equations, or what have you. So I turned to my neighboring classmate to ask her to tell me what it said, in a whisper, and I got caught, and was initially questioned if I was cheating. No, no, I wasn’t asking for the answer, but to merely know the actual math problem posed to us, and I couldn’t see it. From there, it quickly sped to sitting in the front, until I could get myself to a Lenscrafter’s and get my eyes checked for the first time in my life.

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