Today

Written April 16th, 2016


 

Today I am thinking about good things and bad things. Good days and bad days. I am thinking about how the seemingly smallest things can bandage big problems, like how poetry and getting a cat helps my sister cope with her daily struggles. I am thinking about how today, April 16th, I saw my mother in Philadelphia and ended the day with a text from my dad informing me that my grandmother, my Nana, had finally entered hospice care after two months of on and off hospital stays.

Objectively, I had a good day. I saw my mom, who I see less than one time a month. It was a beautiful day in Philadelphia– warm and cloudless but not overwhelmingly hot. I showed her around the city and we went to do some tourist-y things like visit Reading Terminal Market and the Liberty Bell (which I had never seen, despite living in Philadelphia for almost a year). The park was beautiful and the walking conditions were pleasant.

When the car rolled out of sight I totally hid my tears behind my sunglasses.

I don’t have the answer to why some things affect us the way they do. I wish they didn’t and I wish I knew.

Belonging

It’s part of human nature to want to belong. Even the people who stand out and don’t give a fuck about who and what or anything want to find a person who understand them. A common tribe. Some people don’t really notice this but are drawn to do certain things or go certain places by some otherworldly force. Other people call them safe-places or happy places.

One of the hardest things for me about living in Philadelphia is that I distinctly feels as though I don’t belong here. There are very few comfortable places for me to be. My room, clearly, but also perhaps the tech center, where I do all of my writing. But does that count is I spend the entire time plugged in, ignoring the rest of the world even exists?

Then the other day I went into the art building, where I have one class, for the first time. I felt a strange longing being in there, that my life was suddenly missing an essential part I didn’t even notice before. It’s strange, unsettling. Especially in a time in life where I am trying to make big, life changing decisions. Maybe it’s something I should pay attention to, but maybe it’s also just an unnecessary complication.

Does a sense of belonging develop over time, or is it a feeling you just get, that you just know?

The PAFA // Field Trip

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; March 17; Processions, the art of Norman Lewis


 

march20on20washingtonOn the afternoon of March 17 (a Thursday), I stumbled out of bed at noon with the leftovers of yesterday’s headache and an awful night’s sleep to visit the PAFA, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It was an odd crowd that day– on one hand there was a group of incredibly loud school children with clipboards who had come to learn and draw, and on the other hand a group of frowning old people. Although the children were loud and filled the museum with the kind of noise it ought not have, I was charmed and pleased that they possessed the opportunity to visit the museum at all.

I was at the museum because I had an assignment to visit the Norman Lewis exhibit. Norman Lewis was a painter in the mid 20th century, who although was prolific during his life, is often left out of modern art history. It’s quite sad, but the PAFA has compiled a comprehensive exhibit of his work.

My own personal aesthetics led me away from his more representative work (as much as one gets with someone associated closely with abstract expressionism) and towards the large-scale abstraction. I like large, bright things. I tend to favor color over form and stratification over the X composition of his more celebrated work.

Norman Lewis was loathe to admit it, but a large chunk of his work was politically charged. The PAFA exhibit is curated by theme, so all the Civil Rights works are grouped together and as a whole they are the most striking of his work. Sitting on a bench between Alabama, 1960 and A Journey to an End, I was unsettled, to say the least. And American Totem is the star of the show. It’s encased in glass in such a way that if I were a few inches taller, I would be wearing the white hood.

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Freaky.

Like all art, it’s better to see the work in person. The Norman Lewis runs for about another week or two longer, if you’re in the Philadelphia area and can come see it. The PAFA is free on Sunday to everyone during the exhibition run and all the time to students attending colleges in the area. Lewis really was a wonderful painter, and his strokes should be soon up close and personal. Plus, the PAFA is a wonderful little museum and is much easier to get to than the Fine Arts Museum. Oh, and there’s a cafe attached that sells good lattes.

Philadelphia Ad-Agency Crawl

I mentioned last week that I was going on an adventure on Tuesday. Well I did! Along with several other people from my school’s ad club, we went on an “agency crawl” as they’re so called, and toured three different advertising agencies in Philadelphia.

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EVOKE HEALTH

Pharma has a reputation for being stuffy and boring, the literal death to creativity everywhere. The treacherous realm of the review that widdles down fun ideas into boring ones because you might insinuate some drug or another cures cancer. Or that a house at the end of a path “represents the end of a person’s life” (actual example). From others I’ve heard that Pharma is the most professional advertising gets– the offices look like boring offices and the people dress like boring business people. Well, not Evoke! Their tagline is “making health more human” which, ok, I agree with. Pharma is how a lot of agencies make the money necessary to keep the lights on but Evoke makes it fun. The office culture (and aesthetic) seemed very upbeat and cool. And for a Pharma agency, they’re quite small and personable.

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MASTERMINDS AGENCY

Masterminds is located in a cute little office in the Philadelphia building. I had heard of them and knew they were small but honestly wasn’t exactly sure what they did. Well, they started out doing casino advertising in Atlantic City, but burst onto the Philly scene a few years ago. They do a lot of restaurant advertising and branding, and it was explained to us that while that industry gives you a lot of freedom creatively, there’s not a whole lot of money being thrown around. Also I think they’re website is a cool but also a pain in the ass to navigate. But that’s besides the point. Masterminds in the kind of agency a person could fall in love with (as long as you love long nights of course). It’s so small that by nature the whole experience is extremely collaborative. You can just poke your head into your boss’ office and ask people about what they’re up to. A place where you can wear a lot of hats. I love wearing different hats.

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RED TETTEMER O’CONNELL AND PARTNERS (RTO+P)

Is there a cooler ad agency in Philly (America? the World?) than Red Tettemer? Probably not. I was a little disappointed in my experience there, but it was the last visit we went on and I was absolutely exhausted. The office is amazing, colorful, has a fat cat named Pedro. They have all their awards thrown in a wagon. During the presentation they gave us they provided a big long spiel about why their logo was a cowboy, which was mostly bullshit, but to be honest it’s because they don’t give a fuck. They’re the coolest kids in town, damn it. They also happen to do amazing work, which you’ve probably seen. The Planet Fitness “no gymtimidation” spots are theirs. Side note: the corporate headquarters of Planet Fitness is very very close to where I live, and I had to bite my tongue from asking if they knew that the headquarters is where a Chuck-E-Cheese used to be. Also did I mention that their office is the 24th and 25th floor on One South Broad Street, aka where the Wanamaker residence was? And their offices are in this amazing space that used to be the penthouse apartment? No? Well, it is and it’s amazing.

Field Trip! Wilma Theater, Philadelphia

Staying in my dorm all day is lousy, so I try to take myself on field trips around the city as something to do. Solo trips can be fun!

The school was kind enough to pay for a ticket to see Antigone at the Wilma Theater in Center City, Philadelphia. It’s kind of notorious for being an “artsy” theater, which, yeah. I’d agree with that. However, I’m into that kind of thing. My theater director in high school spent a lot of time dragging us around Boston to see shows, and we certainly saw some weird ones (Shockheaded Peter, anyone?)

The Wilma is beautiful. The facade itself harkens back to the past thirty years and is lovely, but I do wish the lobby was a bit bigger. Especially because they didn’t start seating until nearly 8, when the show was set to begin (they also specified no late seating, meaning most people were well early and had to stand around waiting). In the theater itself (holds 300) there’s not a bad seat in the house, and the light and sound systems are superb.

If you’ve never seen or read a more conventional version of Antigone, you probably would have no idea what was happening. In fact, the translation was so different– the performance is in both English and Greek– I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening and I read the play two days before I saw it. At times it certainly tries too hard to be unique and some very odd artistic choices are made. Spoilers, there’s a lot of spitting. While most people I talked to didn’t understand this choice at all, I (think?) I did. It’s a physical play, tackling the innately physical nature of suffering.

I could be making this all up, but we try to make sense out of what we see.

I was intrigued by the company, though. Overall, the performances were strong (even if Antigone suffered from Constantly Yelling Syndrome). Even better, the Wilma currently has a bold initiative to make theater affordable, meaning you can get tickets for $25 (general public) or $10 (students and theater professionals).

In conclusion: the Wilma is worth a visit even if to just appreciate the theater itself. It’s cheap as hell to see a play, and even if it’s weird and you don’t like, chances are a night out on the town will be fun anyways. To see the full catalog of shows, tickets, etc., visit the Wilma’s website.


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