Sunday, July 29, 2018

An Abundant Life - Jewels Of The Sea

My father's favorite food was lobster. As I've written here at other times before, he taught me how to clean a lobster before I learned how to cut a steak. And though I like steak, I've always liked lobster better - I could eat it every day if I lived somewhere like Sakonnet Point where you can find the best lobsters in the world.

I grew up going to Rhode Island in the summer with my family. My mother had discovered a town called Little Compton as a teenager, and the first year I was born she found a little house near the center of town that my very large family somehow fit into. My earliest memory is of being in that house, sitting on someone's lap, I think it was one of my brothers, and watching someone come down the stairs while dipping their head to walk in the room because of the low sloping ceiling and door frame. After that first year, my parents found a larger house on the Sakonnet River in Tiverton through an ad in the newspaper, and arriving there sight unseen the youngest of my brothers said, "This can't be it, it's too beautiful!" We rented that house for six weeks each year, from the middle of July until just before Labor Day. We spent  every week day at the beach, with walks down to the Sakonnet River almost daily for clamming, finding shells, looking for horseshoe crabs and skimming the beautiful slate stones to see who could skim them the farthest and the most times. The house had a well for fresh water, and a large kitchen perfect for preparing the fresh seafood and produce that overflows in that part of the world. And of course there were lobsters, not every day as my father and I would have liked, but when we did have them I learned from my father the master lobster cleaner how to get every piece out of the shells.

At a potluck dinner with a group of our family's friends on the beach my lovely mother outshone every other by opening up her cooler and spooning lobster salad into small hot dog buns. I will always remember that night with the fathers putting together a clam bake while we all ate our elegant sandwiches that my mother prepared fresh on the spot. As my family grew older and there were fewer of us around the house, we stopped renting the home in Tiverton and our trips grew shorter. For a number of years we went to the old Stone House Club, with its previous owners who kept the design homey and lovely and the cost of the rooms affordable for a family like ours. We'd rent a few rooms or a suite and stay a few days or a long weekend, and one memorable time my mother's mother sent her a check so that she and I could go there unexpectedly. On another we received a call from the woman who had rented us the Tiverton house that there were two weeks she had available between summer rentals that she didn't mind giving to us for the price of one. And then about twelve years ago someone my mother knew mentioned that she had a small house in Little Compton that she rented out regularly, and my mother called me up to see if I could meet her there.

The house was on California Road, and a few doors away was a place where we had bought lobsters in the past, and so we walked over and picked two up and prepared them along with some fresh seasonal corn and a tomato salad for dinner. Though I've said it before in other posts and in this one, Rhode Island has the best and freshest seafood there is. I don't know why it is, though I'm sure some of the fishermen could tell me, but fish just tastes better and fresher there than anywhere else. And the lobster we get from Sakonnet Lobster is outstanding. Sweet and tasting of the sea, it's tender and feels so healthy to eat that I think it must be a perfect meal. And there are all kinds of fun things to see when you walk in the door at Sakonnet Lobster. Bumper stickers and photographs, newspaper articles and memorabilia, all lobster related and all chosen with a wonderful sense of fun and humor. The Mataronas family has owned the company, which was founded by James Mataronas III in 1971, for more than 40 years and has been fishing the area waters for lobsters through generations. In the earlier years we always saw the father, but then one day a few months ago when I posted a photo on Instagram from a dinner I'd had on California Road a number of years ago, I tagged Sakonnet Lobster and they started following me. I followed back, and the next thing I knew I was seeing photos regularly of the place where my heart feels at home.

The last time I had been there was ten years ago, and at the end of this last winter I decided it was time to take a trip. I'd been pining for it, and even more so when I saw the photos from Sakonnet Lobster, and so I sent a direct message to their Instagram account asking if they knew of any realtors who I could talk to. I heard back immediately with two names and I started to plan my trip. When I contacted the realtors I wasn't sure who to say it was who had given me their names, and so I sent another message to Sakonnet Lobster to ask. The answer came back "Doug," and I told him I'd definitely be coming to visit and thank him in person. So one lovely afternoon I found myself in the place where I love to be the most, and for a few glorious days I was able to walk on the beaches where I'd learned to body surf waves and play underwater tea party and where I'd learned just how delicious lobster can be. I stopped by to see Doug, and walking into the store brought me back to beautiful memories with my mother on California Road, and a history of lobster enjoyment that stretches back through my whole life. The day I stopped by I took some photos, but I didn't get one of Doug. He later sent me one through Instagram, and I've added it here so you can get the whole picture. The next time you're in Rhode Island, take a ride down to Sakonnet Point. It's worth the trip for the perfect beauty of it and it's definitely worth taking a ride for the best lobster around. I will warn you though - you won't be able to eat lobster in many if any other places again. Once you've had the best, you'll never settle for the rest.

 Sakonnet Lobster
26 California Road
Little Compton, Rhode Island

Tanks With Fresh Sea Water
That Is Constantly Replenished
And Pumped Directly From The Ocean

A Special Thank You To
Doug Mataronas
For Helping Me Come Back
To The Best Place In The World


Jannie Susan

Sunday, July 22, 2018

An Abundant Life - A Beautiful Mind

Eric Sanchez has a mind that works in amazing ways. He's always making connections, and always thinking, and when he gets an idea he'll keep thinking about it until he can make it become a reality. I admire minds like that. He's a programmer and a web developer and he's also an artist. He's a film editor and a film maker and a musician, and he understands something very important - how to communicate with other artists, how to listen and draw them into a conversation that helps him understand how best they can work together. It's not often that you find someone who has a mathematician's sensibility and a technical engineer's brain combined into the soul and vision of an artist, and when I met Eric I knew I'd met someone very special.

I had wanted to write about him in my blog, but the first time I asked him he very modestly said that he didn't feel like he had enough of a story of his own, so I suggested that I introduce him to the artist John Fathom, the Art Director of 660 Studios, to see if they could work on some website updates together, and as they worked on that project I could write about Eric and his role in it. He went over to meet with John, and over the months since they met he has been giving suggestions and showing ideas to help create a stronger online presence for John and the work that he and the other artists he is involved with do at 660 Studios. It's an ongoing collaboration because Eric is careful not to push his ideas on anyone. He listens and makes suggestions, shows some mock-ups and lets people decide for themselves what they want. I know how rare that is because I've worked with other web designers before. Very often they have their own vision of how things should be, and because they have the skills to do what needs to be done, people sometimes end up with a product that while it may be well done may not represent who they are or the way they'd like to be seen. But Eric is very kind and patient, and he doesn't condescend or assume that the people he's working with don't know anything about what it is that he does. His wife, the artist Dana Gambale, says he's the nicest person she knows, and I have to say that after seeing him working in several different environments I agree.

A few weeks ago I heard from another artist who I know who needed help with upgrading and updating his website. He asked me if I knew of anyone and I sent a quick message to Eric to see if he might be available. After a long day at his office, he made the time to meet with me and the Artist Robert Streicher, and as I took some photographs of Robert for an upcoming blog post, I took some photographs of their time together also because once again I started to see a very special kind of rare communication happening.

Last week when Eric and his wife Dana and I were at an event at a Hoboken store and gallery, I introduced them to the artist Stephen Cimini who I wrote about a few weeks ago. As we talked about Stephen's work and Eric and Dana looked at a few images online, the conversation turned to the idea of a possibility of Eric creating a computer program that could create repetitions of Stephen's work within one photo frame. Stephen creates pieces that are geometric abstractions, meticulously crafted and based in a visionary imagery of patterns he envisions in the architecture and design worlds. Eric had been intrigued by the possibility of creating new patterns by using the repetition of the existing patterns, and the next night, after having that conversation, I heard from Eric that he had been thinking about how to create that program, and he sent me a basic version to see what I thought. I thought it was brilliant and sent it to Stephen who loved it too. I told Eric that I thought it was crazy cool because crazy is a term I use to mean anything that I find astonishingly amazing. I've included the link here with a screen shot of a few of the possible images so you can see it for yourself. I then asked Eric once again if I could write about him because anyone who thinks like that and takes the time for fun to create something so intricate and amazing is someone I want the world to know about. It's minds like the mind of Eric Sanchez that can make the world a much more interesting and very enjoyable place, and when you combine that with his kindness, patience and ability to connect with others you have the beginnings of a beautiful revolution.

Eric Sanchez
With Artist John Fathom
At 660 Studios
660 Grand Street
Jersey City, New Jersey

And With Artist Robert Streicher
Jersey City, New Jersey

Patterns Within Patterns
An Early Prototype Of A Program
Created With Inspiration
From Artist Stephen Cimini's Work
A Work In Progress

Screenshots Of A Few Variations


Jannie Susan

Sunday, July 15, 2018

An Abundant Life - Photographic Memory

A few months ago I went to see a play that an Actress I've known for a number of years was in. She is a very special person to me, and a wonderful actress, not only to watch but to work with, and I know how great she is because I've been on stage with her before. When I heard she was in a new play and I started reading about it, I told her that I wanted to go to a performance and write about it in my blog if possible. She invited me to the invited dress rehearsal, and helped to connect me with the publicist, and so I went to see what turned out to be an extraordinary play and had the chance to meet with the Playwright and Director and write about it. On the night of the invited dress as I was waiting for the play to start, I saw a man who I recognized in the audience. He seemed to recognize me and said hello, and though I couldn't quite place him I had the feeling he was an Actor or Director or someone else who was involved in some way with the production, and as we talked and tried to figure out how we knew each other, I asked him his name and he said, "Gerry Goodstein," and before he could quite finish his explanation that he was the photographer for the play, I finished his sentence for him and said, "You're Gerry Goodstein the photographer who used to work with Circle Rep."

That was the beginning of a much longer conversation, because Circle Rep is one of the dearest places to my heart and soulful beginnings of living in New York City. As I have written in other posts before, when I first moved to Manhattan I had an internship with the Circle Repertory Company, at the time one of the greatest, and honestly I think the greatest, of the theatre companies in New York City. There are so many stories and so much of my personal history that is tied up with the people I knew and the plays I was a part of that I could write a book, and so whenever I have the pleasure to see someone from those wonderful days I could reminisce for hours. But because we were at another theater and another play and the lights would be going down any moment, we held off our longer conversation until another time. That night I had the beautiful experience of watching a beautiful and powerful play that was so well acted and directed and designed that it was breathtaking and deeply moving. In addition to watching that beautiful play, I was able to experience the additional beauty of watching Gerry Goodstein photograph the actors during the action of the play. I had seen him do just that so many times over the years gone by that it was familiar to me in a way that felt like home. He's a marvelous photographer, but it is also the way he moves with the actors, almost dancing as he finds the perfect moments with care and tenderness that create images of extraordinary intimacy. If you've ever seen great theater photography, chances are you've been looking at Gerry Goodstein's work.

When we followed up, I discovered that his first love was acting, and he is very well trained and passionate about the work of an actor. In speaking with him over a late lunch that stretched into dinner time, it started to make perfect sense to me why it was that he is able to work with actors in the way he does, at times getting on stage with them in a way that could be distracting if it was someone else. He told me that it had been an Artistic Director of a theater company that had first encouraged him to do that, and because of his sensitivity to other people, he was hesitant at first, and it was that sensitivity that helped him to take those steps and feel intuitively how to work with actors in that way to bring the most powerful work they were doing right into and through the camera lens.

It is also that extraordinary sensitivity that makes him an excellent actor. I had not ever seen his work on stage or film before, and I asked him if there was any way I could. He connected me with Clara Dubau, the Director of a student film he had just recently completed, and she gave me access to view it. Titled "Fabula Rasa," it is an intensely moving piece, and Gerry's work in it is so powerfully and deeply real and moving that the character comes alive in the way that only actors who take their craft seriously and have the commitment to apply technique to their skill can do. The film itself is beautifully and carefully crafted, and the experience of watching it was a powerful one. I have added some screen shots below, and it's a wonderful testament to his work to compare those with the photographs I took of Gerry when we met at a diner on the Upper West Side. It is the same person, but not the same - it could be an identical twin with a completely different personality. That is the power of actors who have learned their craft and respect the painstaking process of building a character, and it is his love and respect for the work and the process that helps Gerry Goodstein work with actors as a photographer and bring their stories and vision alive.

Gerry Goodstein On The Upper West Side

A Selection Of Theater Photography
Photographs Courtesy Of Gerry Goodstein

"King Lear"
Connecticut Repertory Theatre

Fordham University Theatre Company

"The Trial"
Phoenix Theatre Ensemble

"Rosemary And Time"
Independent Production

"Guys And Dolls"
Papermill Playhouse

"The Belle Of Amherst"

"Murrow's Boys"
Irondale Ensemble

"The Skin Of Our Teeth"
Theatre For A New Audience

"Trip To The Moon"
Paper Bag Players

"The Taking Of Miss Janie"
New Federal Theatre

Dorset Theatre Festival

"Florinda's Time"

"Lenin's Embalmers"
Ensemble Studio Theatre

"The Screwtape Letters"
Fellowship For The Performing Arts

"Single Black Female"
New Professional Theatre

"Polaroid Stories"
Marymount Manhattan Theatre Company

"A Streetcar Named Desire"
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

"Halcyon Days"
Oberon Theatre

Screenshots From Film
"Fabula Rasa"
Directed By Clara Dubau


Jannie Susan