Taylor Mead: Diamond in a Grey City

Taylor and  Anton Perich . I ran into Anton after Taylor’s death during a screening of a documentary on Burroughs. We talked a little about Taylor, and some mutual friends. Anton invited me to his gallery show. I sent him this picture. Magic happens when you walk into a poetry house with a camera and a journal. I was introduced to Taylor by Jeffrey Wengrofsky who did the documentary ‘ The Party in Taylor Mead’s Kitchen ’

Taylor and Anton Perich. I ran into Anton after Taylor’s death during a screening of a documentary on Burroughs. We talked a little about Taylor, and some mutual friends. Anton invited me to his gallery show. I sent him this picture. Magic happens when you walk into a poetry house with a camera and a journal. I was introduced to Taylor by Jeffrey Wengrofsky who did the documentary ‘The Party in Taylor Mead’s Kitchen

"You're a female Jack Kerouac, a real sweet talker too." He didn't look at me when he said it. He sipped his Dewars and placed it down on the worn wooden bar.  I looked at him both befuddled and amused. I didn't know whether he was talking about me or my writing. I was even unsure if it was a compliment or an insult.  He focused his attention on his portable cassette player pressing fast forward and rewind. "I don't understand those electric things."  He said rifling through his bag pulling out crumpled pieces of paper scrawled with poems and drawings.  The tape recorder came to a halt with a slight hum. 

Taylor Mead was the only man I ever committed to.  Every Monday night I'd venture off to Bowery Poetry Club to see him do his spoken word. Taylor was one of the last of the Andy Warhol Art Stars and Beat Generation. Like a lot of people I was looking for a New York that no longer existed. I was a romantic, Taylor however was a realist. He knew cities changed, the idealized times were over. He told me the difference between now and then. Higher rents and no established center for artists to meet. "You're not going to find another Max's Kansas City. No one wants to feed the creators. NYC went from 5 artists to 5,000." The city was rapidly paving over it's history with new buildings, all tamed, condensed, and regulated. Here we were two artists in a bar talking, not knowing how long this would last. He was 87 and being threatened with eviction. I was 33 and still struggling to make something of myself. Sometimes you walk into the right place at the right time and you realized you've just stumbled upon a jewel of some sort. New York City is still filled with them. Cafes established in the 1890's with the perfect cappuccino and Italian bakeries that have withstood the mass developments within the city. These were the places I found comfort in.

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I believed that Taylor was a master of time. Things like dates or years didn't have much importance to him. As he talked the stories flowed into each other making it sound like Kerouac's original scroll. He handed me his unpublished book, Son of Andy Warhol. Taylor said it was some of his best work and it was. Every week we'd play out the same scene with slight differences. "Jack once told me in a past life we were married. I was the girl of course." He pretended to flip his hair as he made his way to the stage. Like every other time, he read the same poems. Sometimes if there was a screening or an event he'd talk about that. There were always slight variations. For Taylor routine was also an art form. Sometimes he'd lose parts of his work, other times he'd distract himself trying to find the right point in the Mingus tape to read the story to. There was humor in all of it. One of his staples was a fairytale featuring Andy Warhol as a handsome prince. It started, “Once upon a time there was a man fucking a bicycle. Meanwhile in a village nearby a handsome prince terrorizes the village.”It ended with a monster riding a camel-horse to slay the handsome prince. "They fought like hell. They both LOST!" The prince's castle was put up for rent after. 

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After reading his dirty poem, the only one he could recite from memory, he made his way back to the bar. I ordered him a drink and bought his book. One copy for me and one for my friend Andy, an artist that mingled with the Beats back in the day. "You're making me into a celebrity." He joked then held up his hands "No paparazzi! No pictures!" and we cracked up laughing. He signed Andy's book "To Andy, Not Warhol. Thank God." and transitioned into stories about Max's Kansas City and broken promises. There was love and anger in his voice. "Andy was Andy and that's all he could be."

I loved Taylor. I loved everything about him from his blue velvet coat to his black, red, and green striped shirt. He loved that shirt. It was what he wore when I first met him and what was gifted to me after his death. I loved his stories and the way he'd look off wistfully when speaking about any of his friends. He was a glittering diamond in a grey city. I told him this as we sat there that night at 308 Bowery. "Did you mean what you said to me earlier?" I asked. "I’m 87 years old don't even remember what I had for lunch." He replied. Then he looked at me. "Yes." It turned out he thought I was like Kerouac in humor and writing.

I was born in 1979, the year Sid Vicious overdosed on heroin and disco officially “died”. I grew up with typewriters, rotary phones, letter correspondence, and tape recorders. I felt fortunate to have seen how times had changed and experienced life before the internet. For Taylor time both changed and stayed the same. He was timeless. He was as he called it "a drifter in the arts." I think about him daily and cherish the time I had with him; Six years later and I still can’t find it in me to delete his number from my phone.

At the screening of "The Flower Thief" and met Priscilla Mead. Pricilla was extremely kind and gave me Taylor’s shirt he wore when I met him (It was also the one he died in) and some of his writing as well as a piece from his memorial. I cried. It was such a blessing.

At the screening of "The Flower Thief" and met Priscilla Mead. Pricilla was extremely kind and gave me Taylor’s shirt he wore when I met him (It was also the one he died in) and some of his writing as well as a piece from his memorial. I cried. It was such a blessing.

Glamour, Tarot Archetypes, & The Crescent City

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I dreamed of New Orleans long before my first trip there. At sixteen I made plans to get a chartreuse tattoo and move to Bourbon Street. It seemed the ideal when young and rebellious and in love with the characters in Poppy Z. Brite novels. (I still love them.) Over time it morphed into a love of history, jazz, and Marie Laveau. I would dream of walking along the streets and often looked to documentaries to see if these dreams were based in reality. These days I know the streets like the back of my hand. For all her glamour and all her grit New Orleans has long been the muse of many. When you step onto the land there’s an enchantment that wraps itself around you. It’s duality giving us deeper context to glamour and mirror work.

She guided me during my first experiments with color films. Ones that explored her magic, mirror and crossroads magic, and Romani proverbs mixed with poetry. I played with grainy textures and swung from the porch swing as storms rolled in and the caretaker told me stories of his life. I want to breath in the history of cities and their people. I want to make human connections and weave stories. If New Orleans was a tarot card she’d be a combination of The High Priestess and the Devil and I mean that with the highest respect.

The city has been home to many authors who found it to be conducive to the writing muse. William Faulkner, whose house is now a wonderful bookstore. Tennessee Williams wrote various plays including the classic including “A Streetcar Named Desire” while he lived in the French Quarter. His first Vieux Carre apartment is at 722 Toulouse St. now home to the Historic New Orleans Collection. Truman Capote took a greyhound to the French Quarter ending up at 811 Royal to master the art of writing.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s boarding house 2900 Prytania overlooks Lafayette cemetery in the Garden District. There he frantically edited the galleys of "This Side of Paradise." So how does this play into glamour and archetypes? Writers in general can harness both the magician and hermit in one while dancing with the Empress. They have the power to become both the star and the world through words and mythology. Here’s where glamour steps in, by spending time in the haunts of historical figures and great writers we can harness that energy within us by connecting to the land memory and those who dwelled there. Looking for the creative muse? Stand in Tennessee Williams’s old apartment or on the steps of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s boarding home and connect with the soil. Connect with the memory and spirit and feel the words seep into you. Looking to tap into luxury and old world style, then walk just a short distance too Commander’s Palace and bask in the rich history. Commander’s Palace has made stars out of it’s chefs and there, you can tap into that star quality or even the chef within you.

Faulkner’s former residence now Faulkner House Books.

Faulkner’s former residence now Faulkner House Books.

On many of my trips to New Orleans I’ll pick certain destinations, certain hotels and Bed & Breakfasts and try to tap into whatever each one wants to share. Sometimes it’s the former streets of Storyville or to the crossroads where a former brothel may be. Other times it’s hotels where jazz musicians stayed on their journeys through the city. Last year, Sherene, a group of wonderful people, and myself lived in a world of glamour and ritual, where mirrors opened portals, and the breeze aided us in meditations. I believe fully in the power of mirrors and poetry as spells. I believe in bits of paper placed into building cracks and music as a frequency shifter. In fact I’ll let you in on a few little secrets. There is a Romani tradition that if you leave one of your belongings in a place you want to return to, you will always have a passage to entry. Years ago on my first trip to the French Quarter. My roommate at the time came into my bedroom and said “Pack your bag, we’re going too New Orleans on Saturday.” I had about $100 in my account but knew I needed to go. A friend of ours had a plane and was willing to bring us. I also knew if I took this gift, the door would open to even greater possibilities. In my bag I packed a key. I knew where I wanted to place it, where it would remain for many years undisturbed. And so I packed a bag and headed and didn’t mess with fate. The Wheel of Fortune was clearly on my side.

That’s me in the cockpit playing co-pilot.

That’s me in the cockpit playing co-pilot.

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That was my Fool’s journey, the absolute trust in this gift to unfold in so many ways. With New Orleans being the Crescent City it’s hard not associate her with the High Priestess. The rich history and secrets of the land can lead you down secret streets and into small shops filled with candles and herbs. They can lead you to perfumeries and carousel bars for delicious sazeracs or sometimes to Galatoire's for an evening with friend’s a la “Streetcar Named Desire.” Many nights I’ve spent doing mirror magic in rooms where ladies in waiting would pose for incoming suitors.

“For A Gadjo” above shows you a peek inside that mirror magic mixed with poetry. Films and photographs can be visual spells. It ended up creating it’s own spell when it was shown at the Cinamatique Francais in Paris as part of the Romani Avante-Garde Film Sessions. Years ago I purchased a brush and mirror set specifically for glamour magic. As I brushed my hair I looked in the mirror and saw myself transform into the person I knew I was on the inside. Now I’ve been doing this since I was a little girl. I remember getting ready for either pre-school or Kindergarten with a brush and mirror set and brushing my hair 100 times based on an old myth I had heard. I remember as I did this I would pretend to transform in the mirror. I didn’t know it then but I was performing magic.

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And so every time I travel I bring one of my magic compacts and this brush and mirror set which I ensorcel with magical oils, intentions and secrets, and wrapped in wonderful scarves. I brush my hair in the mirror and say, “Let’s see what doorways we will open today and what Empress magic we can make. Let’s allow the crescent city to open her arms and show us her mirror so that we may find our own.”

I was telling this to Sherene one night in the Soniat House, where we held our last retreat. The air was cool and we were trying to keep candles from going out in the breeze. “We should do this every year.” She said and I knew in that moment we’d be in New Orleans every year on. Us and the city, the city and us, we had just made a pact. So if you’d like to join us on this magical journey “The Tarot Diaries” May 12-16 (My birthday!) we would love to teach you the secret paths of the major arcana and how they weave their way through the streets. We want to share the warm breeze in a mirrored courtyard and morning coffee/tea and meditations. We want you to enjoy the daily spreads of the cards, the messages and the numerology and dream work within them, how to incorporate glamour and tarot into your daily practice, and of course we want you to experience the glamour no other city has to offer. And if you’re not able to join us in New Orleans do not fear, we are offering a 1 day intensive on the Major Arcana. Learn how to find your soul archetype, understanding the archetypes and how they work through you, in depth look at the journey of the fool and how it pertains to you, and of course incorporating the magic of the tarot into your daily life.

Simple oil recipe to bring joy to the home through mirrors. Clean your mirrors and add a little bit of this oil too the solution or a bit of rubbing alcohol.

Orange peel, cinnamon, clove, and a bit of sweet orange oil mixed with almond or coconut oil.

Money Magic: The First Steps

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At some point in our lives we’ve worried about money. Some of us worry a lot about money and others seem to have periods off prosperity and then of worry. For a few people, they don’t worry at all. Money is abundant and they spend freely having overflow to both purchase and save for later. I see a lot of talk of manifestation and while I agree with some of it, I do feel a majority of it sounds like victim blaming. “If you’re still poor or it’s not happening it means you didn’t want it enough.” This isn’t the case. In fact the poor often spend more on every day items, they are stressed more causing havoc on health, often there’s not a consistent schedule, especially working in retail or food, and the list goes on and on. It can wreak havoc on self esteem as well. There’s a lot of talk about poverty consciousness as well. Lack and fear are very realistic issues to navigate during a time of need. And it’s important to assess poverty consciousness at its roots and find where it can be tied to us both energetically and physically. For instance, in times of need, “I need to pay this rent.” we can fall down a rabbit hole of despair trying to figure out where the income will come from.

Feeling needy is uncomfortable. It’s like a hammer to the ego saying “You couldn’t do this. You let people down.” and yet there are important lessons in this. That feeling of need is important to assess. It’s also important to work with that feeling and change it from despair to “How can I work this out?” In this you can become the problem solver. As a freelancer I’ve taken a number of odd jobs while pursuing my career. I've worked at Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop, a chambermaid for a bed and breakfast, Macy's as an Elf, Fedex-kinkos, National Mah Jongg League filing paperwork and inputting numbers, handing out fliers, an artists model, tarot reader, candle maker, and oil mixer at botanica, and as an artist's assistant. There are times when I am relaxed about money and there are times when I’m extremely stressed. What I have learned over the years is that stressing never helps. It only makes it worse and the more creative I get with my answers, the more I’m able to navigate these times with grace. Now I have to point out I can only speak for myself in these situations but I have been at one time or another in my life so poor I’ve lived off rice, eggs, and tomatoes, sometimes for months. I’ve also experienced the fear of not being able to pay rent on time, one of these being when my rent was only $300. As rents raise and inflation and real wages in the US remaining relatively the same since the 1970s/1980s poverty consciousness is a very real issue. So what should you do? Look at what is working for you and what isn’t. Write down anything you are worried about and underneath write three solutions to each. Start working through the solutions. If one doesn’t work go to the next. if that doesn’t work then do the third. If that still feels blocked write down three more. It’s amazing how many ways the brain will twist and turn to help you find a resolution.

It’s okay to ask for help. One of my biggest breaks in life was when I let go of my ego and messaged friends an email I never wanted to send. I had three jobs fall through in one week. I didn’t have enough to pay the rent and I over estimated my expenses and was in deep trouble. I explained this in the email and asked trusted friends if they knew of anyone looking for an artist whether it be an illustration job, design etc. I didn’t care. I was willing to take any lead. I’d be willing to take on part time work in cafe or temp agency etc (Although in all honesty I’ve never been gifted in food services. I was a terrible waitress. Hats off to those who do it and do it well.) My friends came to my rescue, offering me work on videos, tours, private commissions and it helped out so much I was able to get back on my feet. Now this isn’t always the case, but asking people for ideas, leads etc never hurts. You never know who may have work for you. I was once handing out fliers outside in freezing cold weather when a woman came up to me. I told her I was in between work. She replied, “There’s a temp job in my building. Do you want me too vouch for you?” And to this day it was one of the greatest acts of kindness I’ve experienced. Don’t be embarrassed to tell the truth or ask for help.

The next step can be really hard. This is where we take responsibility. It’s important to acknowledge the need and fear. If you take that in accept it and then head into the place where you become the problem solver this leads you to where you can look at where you are spending. For instance, if you happen to take on an extra job or get a good paycheck it’s important to see where it’s being spent. Did you pay off rent, a bill or someone you owed or did you spend it on a gift for yourself, a vacation etc. These things can affect your money magic energetically. Part of money magic is to pay off what you owe. If I have a large bill to pay I will pay the bill (or if I don’t have enough I will pay a portion and every paycheck after pay off a portion until it’s fully paid) and say, “I’m grateful I have the funds to pay this and I know more will come too me so I’ll be able to pay off the next one with ease.” I don’t always believe it but I say it. I try to get into the habit of paying off debts and allowing for the space for it to become full again. Magically speaking if you owe people money that have been helping you, try to pay off whatever you can even if it’s a little at a time. This way you aren’t upsetting anyone’s spirits further digging the hole of debt.

Part of taking responsibility is to see also where you can trim and where to add. When I was in NY I always had to have a roommate. I wasn’t able to afford the rent by myself and sharing the space with another not only cut down on rent but also most of the time we’d share the food and cleaning supplies. This helped immensely. While I wanted to live on my own I knew at that point in time it would be irresponsible to do it. It did help that I had awesome housemates. This is all another part of letting go of the ego. Assess where your ego is holding you back. Do you not want a part time or full time job because it’s not coinciding with your full dream? What if you consider it a stepping stone? These are things to consider when taking responsibility. Also look at the different abilities you have. Is there a way to have a side business with them or use them to help push forward your current business? Now this isn’t for anyone who wants to keep a hobby a hobby. If you enjoy something or have a gift that you’d like to keep as a de-stresser or a way to enjoy life/relax then keep it that way. No need to bring added stress into your life. Also is there a need for something that hasn’t been filled? Another part of taking responsibility is to talk about money. Find trusted friends or even make an appointment at the bank to talk about devising a plan. It’s important to disperse the fear of talking about money and the shame that goes along with it. Also look at family history with money. Are there wounds or insecurities there?. These first steps are something I have actively started doing in my own life to make sure I’m not holding myself back. There are always exceptions but as we go further into money magic we can heal the roots of our money wounds and get on track to financial success.

RECAP:

Understanding Need and Fear - It’s important to acknowledge both of these. Feel them for a minute but don’t let them control you. Falling into a pit of despair has not helped anyone BUT feeling these emotions can lead to great moments of clarity and new ideas.

Become the Problem Solver - What is working for you and what isn’t? For every issue write three solutions. If they don’t work write three more. Allow your brain to get creative. In that creativity usually lies the answer.

Ask for Help - You never know who will help you along the way. It may be in the form of insight, advice, or opportunity.

Take Responsibility - Look at where your spending lies. Also look at ways to condense or get creative with money. Also look to where ego may be holding you back.

Tackle Debts - Pay off bills and anyone you owe. This energetically keeps the movement flowing and allows for more to come in. Always thank the universe/higher power/whatever you choose to thank for the opportunity and funds to pay off your debts and the knowledge that the money will be returned plus extra.

Look at Your Gifts - What are you good at? Where can you add or combine to create extra income. For example: Are you a great thrift shopper? You can check prices online and use your gift of finding gems to generating income through online sales.

What are the Needs of the People - Assess the needs of people and create a job from there. My friend Molly Crabapple started illustrating her own articles. This was a brilliant idea because it allowed her access into places that didn’t allow photography but also added an extra dimension too her already wonderful writing. Haus of Hoodoo has built up a wonderful business through working with clientele and listening to their needs and creating candles to aid those in need. She sells out of product within minutes and is currently creating a wonderful line specific to Haus of Hoodoo.

Talk About Money - Learn to disperse fear of talking about money. I learned this from Jen Dziura who is a brilliant entrepreneur. She has an amazing school, blog, and community helping people create and run successful businesses. You can sign up for her courses, read her blogs, and shop the site here: Get Bullish

Look at Family Money Wounds - Start looking at your family’s history with mooney. Write down memories of money. I’ll write more on this in the next Money Magic blog. This is the initial look.

INSPIRATION

Buckminster Fuller: https://www.bfi.org/about-fuller/biography

Ella Fitzgerald: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/blog/unraveling-mystery-ella-fitzgeralds-adolescent-years/

Weegie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5jdT2Kj_1E&t=53s

Glamour Magic: Light & Dark

Photo by Jaime Morrissette with edits by me.

Photo by Jaime Morrissette with edits by me.

I was considered an ugly duckling. -Eartha Kitt

It’s hard to think of Eartha Kitt as anything less than talented, whip smart, and drop dead gorgeous. I grew up watching her slink around as cat woman, wishing I could mimic her voice and moves. As I got older I heard tales of her commanding a room and how men like Orson Welles were so smitten that he called her, “The most exciting woman in the world.” What I didn’t know until much later was how tragedy can play into glamour and how hard she worked on herself to overcome her heartbreaking childhood and transform into the larger than life superstar we had all loved. I would never think of her as a victim and while Eartha knew her wounds and where they were rooted subconsciously and consciously she knew her worth and it could be seen in every photograph, film, and interview.

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As a kid I was called “fat Pippi Longstocking” and “fat Orphan Annie.” The boys would make lists in shop class of who the prettiest girls were and the teacher read them aloud. I remember being relieved at being a 5/6. That same year the doctors slipped a brochure in with my parents on our way out of the office. The “Shapedown” brochure sat on the refrigerator door. The girl on the front in stripes and shorts smiling. I hated her and I hated my thick legs that were already getting cellulite. I hated my frizzy red hair, buck teeth, pale skin and freckled face. I wished for brown skin and jet black hair.

As I grew older I began to grow into my features. I moved out of my small town and began to appreciate my body more. In the city curves were beautiful. The Cuban women at the restaurant near me used to laugh. “You don’t even know what you have. We’ll take care of you.” And I loved them. I loved sitting in the cafe with my cafe con leche and talking with them for hours. They made me feel human. In college I was chunky and mismatched. My mid twenties were a time of experimentations in style, and by my late twenties and my Saturn return I had finally gotten a grasp who I was and what I wanted to be. Before that time I had thought of myself as mediocre, someone people passed and never remembered. My art was still forming, I was a late bloomer, and I was still struggling with not feeling good enough.

And then something kind of magical happened. It didn’t fully heal everything but it gave me some perspective. I started to model and take self portraits. I did it to pull myself out of comfort zones and be okay with my body. I did it to become someone else for a moment. I did it to see myself and every personality type that was within me.

Photo by Vlad Kenner 2008

Photo by Vlad Kenner 2008

There was some kind of magic when it was me and a camera. I liked modeling but when I took self portraits something happened. I wasn’t concerned with how I looked, I played with the camera, the angle, my face, and body structure. I could be whatever I wanted. If I felt depressed I could photography myself drowning. If I wanted to be a snow queen I could be one. It was the first time I really understood glamours and shapeshifting. Over the years I’ve figured out how to turn on the glamour when I need to. I’d look at pictures of movie stars and try to mimic the expressions. I always looked to Eartha because even in glammed up photos there was still something so authentic about her. I would think about her style and how she would look if she was still alive today. Eartha died the year I entered my Saturn return.

Self portrait. 2008

Self portrait. 2008

I was thinking about her again when I had to book an early flight and a hotel room right after Christmas. I booked a room at the Fairmont Hotel in Boston. While Eartha hadn’t stayed there (that I know of) she had performed at the Fairmont SF’s Venetian room. I figured I’d take a few photos in the hotel and run around pretending I was a old movie star. I have a tradition of taking New Years photos to signify what the year will bring. I wanted this years set would be filled with glamour and luxury. I messaged my cousin and asked her if she’d like to come. She accepted. Stepping into the hotel felt like stepping into another world. Intricate mosaics lined the floors and each ballroom was a different design. We ran through the hotel looking at spaces and marveling at each theme. I wanted us to have a one day vacation. Beautiful images and crowns, a laid back dinner, and some facial time, since I had been in the cold and was preparing for a flight. I wanted a day for each off us to transform. Every time I step into a hotel or historic place I can automatically feel the transformation of numerous timelines. The hotel opened it’s arms to us and the restaurant while completely packed almost immediately found us a table. “You both look so fabulous, I feel like I need to find you a table right away. Although you may bring in more clients just by standing here.” The hostess said as she searched her tablet for an open table. As we were seated the waitress took my hand. “I’m not trying to hit on you but you smell so incredible. It’s not just the scent but the chemistry you have with it. “

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Glamour magic is series of small practices that flow into a larger narrative or character. There were stories of Eartha walking into restaurants as if she had flung the doors open just by her energy. Glamour magic however does come with a darker aspect. If you look at the villains of films or exotic women that lure the “hero” away from his “girl next door” there’s always an aspect of danger to glamour. There can also be an air of “untouchable.” I’ve dated men that liked to carry around my picture rather than see the reality in me. They couldn’t understand that I could hike in the woods, take 16 mile bike rides, and stick my hands in mud and still dress in evening gowns. They wanted to keep me hidden, lounging on a bed waiting for them to enter. And other times it’s people who think they can’t approach me. There were years where people wouldn’t talk to me thinking I wouldn’t have anything in common with them because I had been in documentaries and acted in plays. Glamour can sometimes be lonely. There’s a great piece on the darker side of glamour magic in this New Inquiry article.

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In order to work glamour magic you must know both sides, both the shadow and the light. In my first article on glamour magic I discussed Marilyn Monroe and the Roosevelt Hotel. Both Marilyn and Eartha both knew the darkness and light of glamour. Eartha however had more steam in her and while they spoke to each other about their traumatic childhoods and never feeling good enough. Being glamorous takes a lot of strength especially in the face of doubt and fear. I don’t always feel glamorous and those childhood years do stick with you. I remember when I first started talking to my now best friend he said, “You have no idea how beautiful you are. I’ve met women all around the world, some of the most famous beautiful women in the world and you’re right there with them and you don’t even know.” I remember being so shocked because no man had ever said that to me before.

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It took years for me to find a voice and style. It took hours, days, months and years of mirror and photo work to understand who I was, who she was and how we could combine to create balance. Part of it is my love of land and history and old Hollywood style. Part of it was going deep into myself and finding those places that I didn’t want to touch. When I did find them I took to the camera giving those places a physical outlet. Within each image, holds a piece of me and a piece of glamour. Allow that glamour to glow, to heal, and to teach you each and every day.

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Venus Diaries

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No matter which way I try I almost always fall into the traditional Venus in both her morning and evening star archetypes in photos, dress, and art. Even as I created this image, I found myself going back through the Fairmont Hotel photographs and incorporating older drawings. How Mercury Rx shadow of me. That being said, Sherene informed me that Venus has moved from Capricorn into Aquarius. My weeks of healing, self development, and research into self sabotage were now being moved forward into cultivating friendships and remaining true to myself. One thing I’ve very much gotten into this winter is tea, especially spiced orange tea and anything orange in general. I’ve spent days hidden away in a writers retreat making olive oil cake while the snow fell all around us. I created a magical oil based on that very cake recipe, and I’ve spent long nights trying to figure out how to incorporate orange trees into my work while perusing vintage box labels. Color and design have always been something that has uplifted me in long winter months. When I lived in NY there was one very long dreadful winter and I found myself calling my mother in all seriousness saying, “I really don’t know how I’m going to make it.” I was depressed and stir crazy. It had snowed a lot that year and didn’t look like it would be letting up any time soon. I lived near a giant fruit market. I loved it because it was open all year long and every time I went the colors would uplift me. I found myself buying a lot of fruit that winter but I always made room for either a bowl of lemons, clementines, or mandarin oranges. I loved them most when they came with leaves. Just having them around would pick me up right away and drinking lemon water was my way of drinking in the sunshine of the spring and summer to come. I was nervous when I first moved to Chicago as well. Chicago is known for it’s long cold winters and any work travel for me to focus on I was concerned I’d become depressed again. This is where my Venus steps in. Being a Taurus I’m ruled by this fiery little planet and she keeps me inspired and warm even in the coldest times. I started working with both Venus and Jupiter elements within my work and style and became enamored with colors of all kinds.

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In the midst of this frenzy Sherene asked me if I would be interested in doing a five day retreat in Morocco. Of course I had to say yes. Five, the number of Venus, me being ruled by Venus, Marrakech with Sherene and our beloved guests in the gorgeous Riad Enija. I had decided for the New year that I was going to give myself over to new experiences and this would be one of them. While we’ve done retreats before I felt it was the perfect way to tap into the full on Venus experience. I looked over images of gorgeous fountains filled with fresh rose petals daily, suites fit for royalty, gorgeous mosaics, and long corridors with lush green plants. I wanted to drink it in. I knew this would be the perfect place for Sherene and I to share our gifts with others. I thought about morning coffee and Moroccan mint tea on the terrace, reading leaves and grounds. I’d incorporate some of Brion Gysin’s methods into meditation and perhaps include the trance state music of the Master Musicians of Jajouka. There was so much whirling through my head, frequency shifting, hands on healing, bellydance, glamour magic, and photo shoots, astrology, tarot, and so much more. Venus was swirling around me and pulsing through my veins.

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It’s important during any long rest or transition period (winters are good for that) to focus on that loving Venus energy that inspires us to do better in taking care of ourselves. Personally I’m taking this month to focus on food, getting enough water, and exercise. While I’ve done wonderfully at making all my food from scratch I have also succumbed to baking lots of treats and we all know that means sugar. In my defense there’s nothing like making fresh soup and baking delicious cake in the winter before settling in to draw in my sketchbook with a glass of lemon water and a cup of freshly brewed tea. If I’m feeling very luxurious I’ll put on old radio shows and lounge in a kimono. I’m all about adding Venus to the every day. For more information on the “Venus Diaries” retreat from April 13-17 2019 visit http://sherenevismaya.com/events/marrakech-retreat-2019 We would love to share this incredible experience with you.

What are you doing this winter to take care of yourself? Feel free to comment here, any social media, or drop me a line and share what your personal Venus time entails.

Brew up some delicious Moroccan Mint tea or a bit of black tea with sliced oranges, honey or jam and get into the zone with the Master Musicians of Jajouka.

Glamour Magic

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"I'll never forget the day Marilyn and I were walking around New York City, just having a stroll on a nice day. She loved New York because no one bothered her there like they did in Hollywood, she could put on her plain-jane clothes and no one would notice her. She loved that.

So as we we're walking down Broadway, she turns to me and says 'Do you want to see me become her?'

I didn't know what she meant but I just said 'Yes'- and then I saw it.

I don't know how to explain what she did because it was so very subtle, but she turned something on within herself that was almost like magic. And suddenly cars were slowing and people were turning their heads and stopping to stare. They were recognizing that this was Marilyn Monroe as if she pulled off a mask or something, even though a second ago nobody noticed her.

I had never seen anything like it before."

~ Amy Greene, wife of Marilyn's personal photographer Milton Greene

I’m going to tell you a secret. I’m terrified of public events, parties, and any time I have to be the center of attention and sometimes when I don’t. I can spend an entire day mentally preparing myself for a party amongst friends and if it’s a public event the preparation starts the night before. I’ll analyze, overthink, come up with every situation that could go wrong and turn the brightest shade of red right before I’m about to leave.

As my career has grown I’ve had to get used to being seen more publicly. It can be rough when your self critical or feeling insecure. In order to help ease the panic I started to ritualize my process and delve into glamour magic. Often on trips you’ll find a collection of compact mirrors, and a mirror and brush set packed within my luggage. These are my tools in glamour magic. Glamour magic itself is an illusion, a seductive beautiful allure around you that demands attention. It can be tapped into in numerous ways and can be turned off at any time when you feel like blending in.

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As a child I was obsessed with Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe. All I could think about was one day I’d go to Los Angeles and see the Chinese Theater and stay in the hotels that all of the stars stayed in. I wasn’t fully concerned with modern day movies but I loved the old greats. I wanted the glamour of silent films, the transition to talkies and films through the 50s. I’d look at images of these starlets and dream of long dresses and fur stoles. I wanted the dream I had created in my head.

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The Roosevelt Hotel is alluring in every way, from the history it possesses to the location right across from the Chinese Theater. The moment you walk into the Roosevelt, the air changes, you know you’re walking in between ghost. Hollywood has glamour, although sometimes you have to breathe deep to catch the layers. As part of my glamour magic I would tap into the Roosevelt. I would breathe it in. Land memory has a great deal to do with glamour. It can remember steps, it has the imprint of everyone who has walked over it and through it. I arrived early and checked in. I looked at my room and noticed it was right across from Marilyn’s room. A picture of her hung in the stair way from the cabanas to the pool. I walked out to my balcony and smiled at the green plants folding over onto the rail. I was starting to get the tingle.

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The tingle happens when you first connect and you and the land or place are speaking to each other. The tingle means you’re accepted. It runs through your body and tickles your insides. Sometimes your breath becomes heavier. I was on little sleep that day so the tingle was strong. I had already stepped into the portal when I visited a friend only to find out she lived in Marilyn’s adolescent home. I headed out to the pool to have a drink and relax before getting ready for the party. That friend joined me and recounted tales of Los Angeles from the beat and punk days. I dipped my feet into the pool and visualized Marilyn’s shoot. I asked her if she was there. The delightful afternoon wind lapped at my neck a blew my hair gently. I could tell the glamour would come. I didn’t know how much, but it would allow me to be social that night and I needed to be social.

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The hotel had accepted me. We share some similar dates. The hotel itself is the baby of filmmakers Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Mary Pickford, and Louis B. Mayer. It opened its doors on May 15, 1927. Two years later it would host the first Academy Awards. This date, May 16th, happens to be my birthday. I always feel a bit of connection with places that have a historical connection to my birthday. I spent some time at the pool and then made my way back into the hotel to admire it’s beauty, take some photographs, and make my way to the Chinese Theater. I placed my hands onto Marilyn’s imprints and traced her name with my finger. There’s energy in that cement. It’s imbedded into the prints and deep down into the earth. you can feel it when you touch it. Energetic Imprints of hope, happiness, sorrow, fear, want etc. I tapped into the laughter and glamour. While Hollywood is filled with stardust and hope there is also an underlying dark side. I didn’t want to tap too far in so I focused only on the imprint in front of me. And no, Marilyn’s hands were not that big. I pulled mine back a bit as I was turning towards the camera.

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My face became warm and then hot. I walked back to the hotel to prepare for the evening. Inside I wrote notes on hotel stationary. There is nothing more romantic than writing letters, poetry, entries, and notes on hotel stationary as I travel from city to city. It becomes a captured moment in time. A fragment of that sliver of magic. I carry them with me and send them out. Sometimes I take the stationary and carry it with me using it as a journal to tap into the energetic frequency of the building and time.

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Before the party started I slipped into my sequined dress. I took out my mirror, an old Versace pressed powder compact. As a poor student in NY, I would stop into Sephora and look at the makeup. Versace was everything to me and those compacts meant luxury. I couldn’t get them out of my head. When I made my first large amount of money I bought one. They were discontinued but I tracked it down. I knew only to hold it would encorcel any place, room, or person. And as a relatively shy person, I was glad for any help I could get. Mirror magic was my sweetest friend. In mirror magic you become friends with the looking glass. You wipe it down with oils and whisper your secrets. You blow on it three times, waking the other world and peer in watching as you transform through the glass. I took a deep breath. “There she is.” The transformation is subtle, a blank of an eye and a sly smile. The redness in my face would fade. I was here and now in this moment. Even my dress fit different. I snapped a picture.

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As the time came, I walked into the party, lifted my shoulders, took a deep breath and stepped into the doorway. My friend and bombshell Veronica Varlow taught it to me. In one minutes time, you can command an entire room. I lifted myself and walked in, heading to the bar for a cocktail. It was beautifully crowded and I was happy to see so many people there celebrating my friend. There was a psychic there that described my bedroom in detail, knew about my Versace compact, that I carry it with me like a small treasure, saw Al Capone with me, asked about my book with Burroughs before it was in formation. Told me Burroughs wanted me to visit his home again because in a way it was my home too. Then went on to tell me about how my love life would go when I asked about work. I would end up with someone I would work with who loved my art, and liked my quirks even if he didn't always understand them. It would be unnerving and a little bit scary, it may take some time. We'd create something big together and to keep moving along as I was because, the path was clear even if I wasn't fully seeing it. Glamour is trusting the path as well. It’s saying to yourself every morning, “I’m worth it.” even if you don’t particularly feel it.

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Part of glamour magic is frequency. If you want to tap into frequency go to a place that has the frequency you want. Have a drink at a fancy hotel or explore a place that has deep ties to what you are working with. This is always the first step in conjuring glamour: Frequency. Take a deep breath every day and visualize tuning into a radio station, some parts will be static and some will be clear. Get as clear as you possibly can. This alone can raise a frequency. Do this daily and often.

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Valentine's Day: Love Magic

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Every year a slew of articles come out on the hatred of Valentine’s day and the fear it can bring. Between stores jacking up the prices of bouquets and candies or those relationship questions that give us knots and butterflies, this year may be the year to let it all go. You don’t have to break the bank, have a partner, or even leave your home in order to have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. This year make it about self love. If you are spending it with a significant other then make it about strengthening bonds and being individuals while maintaining a partnership. If you are spending it in limbo focus on qualities you’d like to bring into your life, and if spending it with friends focus on those ties.

The rituals below can be as simple or as intricate as you make them too be. The ingredients and supplies are household items or easily attained. While I love intricate rituals, I grew up with folk magic and often it’s simple things that can have great effects. I’ll give a recipe and a ritual for a bath too get you into the mood and headspace and then a simple ritual to weave your desires into being. It’s important to focus on your needs, what you require to fully strengthen your gifts, allow you to help others, and bring you into your most fulfilling life. You don’t have to have a glamorous job, tons of money, or status to be truly successful or fulfilled. While that may be someones wish or goal, for others it’s finding a lover, partner, family, children, or even a steady income. Whatever you choose to bring in is your business. Don’t let anyone try to say differently.

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Ritual Bath:

One of my favorite things to do before I start my magic is to take a ritual bath. You can do this a few different ways. I’ll have options for both baths and showers. I like to create magical spaces for bathing. I didn’t always have a nice bathroom like I do now so I would do little things to make bath time special. Make sure too clean the bathroom a few hours before so that you are stepping into a fresh, clean space. I like to mix a little baking soda, vinegar, salt and essential oil after my usual cleaning to cleanse off any spiritual residue. Light any candles you’d like for lighting. I like to line the floor leading to the tub with tea lights in glass holders. You can find sets in any dollar store or you can pick some up at an antique store, specialty store or anywhere else you choose. If you like incense light some. Play some music that is sexy or sensual to add to the atmosphere. Light the candles before getting into the bath or shower. Starting at the door, drop your robe or towel to the floor and walk down the candlelit path to the bath or shower.

MILK BATH

Milk (Goat, Coconut, Donkey, or Cow) Choose any of this or combine them.

Honey

Rose petals (Flower shops usually sell the petals very cheap. I used to get them for $3 a bag)


LAVENDER BATH

Sea salt

Lavender

Rosemary


HEART BATH

Epsom Salt

Sea Salt

Rose Petals

Lavender

Nutmeg

Ginger

Allspice

Basil

Cornflower (Optional)

*If you are using a bathtub you can mix these ingredients right into the bathtub. If you are showering you can make the salt based baths into a scrub by adding oil to them. Olive oil or coconut oil will do. Almond oil is great if you have it as well. You can make the milk bath by mixing it in a large bowl and then pouring it over your head while in the shower.

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After bathing air dry or dry yourself with a fresh towel moving in upward movements to bring the love energy to you. Dress in something that makes you feel good or feel free to do the ritual naked. Whatever you prefer.

You can also prepare a oil for the ritual. Pheromones are chemical substances released from our bodies that attracts and affects the physiology of others . Pheromones naturally initiate a sexual response and make us more attractive to others. A female’s putative primary pheromone is copulin and a male’s putative primary pheromone is androstenone.

We can increase pheromones through exercising, bathing a little less or using mild soap, eating zinc, and getting more sleep. You can also enhance them with scent. Traditionally scents such as musk mimic the scent of pheromones. Other scents such as vanilla, cinnamon, citrus, and licorice to name a few. To make yourself a sexy oil you can follow this recipe or create your own.


VALENTINE OIL

A portion of a vanilla bean or a few drops of vanilla oil

A pinch of cinnamon (Do not use if you are allergic or have respiratory problems)

A few drops of lime or orange oil (Or some dried orange or lemon zest)

A drop of musk (I’m not a fan of musk so I use it sparingly)

Base oil: Sweet almond (Can be found at the drug store where they sell international beauty products)


VALENTINE OIL #2

Rose (Dried or oil)

A portion of a vanilla bean or some oil

Mint

A pinch of cinnamon (Do not use if you are allergic or have respiratory problems)

A drop of musk

Base oil: Coconut or Sweet Almond


You should be able to find most of these oils at any botanical or small files online relatively cheap. You can always replace oils with herbs but it may take longer to get a scent. You can make an incredibly potent oil by making it on Valentine’s Day and allowing it to absorb the herbs over a period of time, making it a part of your love rituals or chanting to it on a chosen day.


When you feel it’s ready you can dab it behind your ears, on your wrists, collarbone, and above your genitals. You can also add some to your braiding /weaving spell below.


Weaving/Braiding Ritual:

You can use yarn, ribbon, or if you have a weaving loom or bead loom feel free to expand on this. I’ve been very much into weaving and looming as of late. Not only does it connect us with our ancestors but also it gives us a physical working to enhance over time.

YOU WILL NEED

Yarn, ribbon, shreds of oils clothing for material. (You can use any of these or mix them)

Small bells ( Can be obtained from a craft store or online)

Any charms you’d like to add

Bay leaves

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I used some keys I had, a couple trinkets I found in my jewelry box, coral beads, ribbon from the dollar store, and part of a ring I bought in Mexico. The ribbon was bought at the dollar store. What you’ll be doing is braiding magic. Give a purpose or significance to the ribbon you use. For example you can strengthen a relationship by designating one ribbon for you, one for your significant other and one for the bond in your relationship. You can work with it to draw in a lover by using the same type of energy. You can even strengthen the relationship with yourself. I like to anoint the ribbons with oil and chant or talk while I braid it. You may need to braid a few times. Also remember with ribbon it will not be a straightforward braid. If you’d like that you can use yarn and braid that. When all finished blow on it three times and place it somewhere special. I have mine on my favorite mirror.

At night place a bay leaf under your pillow before you go to sleep and ask for guidance in reaching your goal. Record your dreams.

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Enjoy your time this Valentine’s Day. Make it about enriching your life. Make yourself a great meal like in Dinner & History or order out. Create a fantastic dessert as in Dessert & Charms and enjoy the aphrodisiacs in all the food you prepare. Then prepare yourself for a luxurious bath, oil making, and love magic. Involve your lover or do it yourself. Create a sexy day or series of days to get in touch with your body, wants, needs, and requirements. Go wild.

Valentine's Day: Dessert & Charms

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What is it about the lure of chocolate? Is it the way it touches the lips, rolling softly over the tongue melting into a rich ripple of flavor? Or perhaps it’s that theobroma cacao translates to “food of the Gods” in Latin. Chocolate has seduced many over the ages since it’s discovery in the Amazon 2000 BC. The Aztec emperor Moctezuma considered chocolate to be highly prized and as valuable as gold. He also believed it to be an aphrodisiac and drank large quantities of it before romantic trysts by roasting cacao beans and combining them with cornmeal, vanilla, honey and chilies to enhance its effect.

The Spanish conquest of the Aztecs took chocolate overseas where Europeans learned of it’s seductive qualities and mythology. In 1657 the first chocolate house opened in London. These became all the rage, competing with coffee houses and like their rivals provided meeting places for those wishing to social climb, conduct business, and indulge in hot topics. In France Louis XV drank it daily, even making it himself in his apartments. Madame de Pompadour both drank it and wrote about the popularity of it in the court of Versailles. She recommended it for heating up cold temperaments to satisfy the King in which a drink is made with chocolate, triple essence of vanilla, and scented with ambergris, followed by truffles and celery soup to make one heated for lovemaking. Madame du Barry, taking note from Madame de Pompadour was said to mix amber into the chocolate for it’s aphrodisiac properties.

Louis XV’s recipe:

“Place an equal number of bars of chocolate and cups of water in a cafetiere and boil on a low heat for a short while; when you are ready to serve, add one egg yolk for four cups and stir over a low heat without allowing to boil. It is better if prepared a day in advance. Those who drink it every day should leave a small amount as flavouring for those who prepare it the next day. Instead of an egg yolk one can add a beaten egg white after having removed the top layer of froth. Mix in a small amount of chocolate from the cafetiere then add to the cafetiere and finish as with the egg yolk.”

Source: Dinners of the Court or the Art of working with all sorts of foods for serving the best tables following the four seasons, by Menon, 1755 (BnF, V.26995, volume IV, p.331)

The marriage of Marie Antoinette to Louis XVI in 1770, brought more chocolate recipes for various health conditions through her personal chocolate maker including chocolate infused with orange blossoms to calm the nerves, chocolate and sweet almond milk for digestive issues, and chocolate with orchid bulbs for strength.

The strangest recipe recorded was from the Marquis de Sade’s “chocolate cantharnidine”, a toxic blend of beetles, cacao, and aniseed, presented in a crystal box. While he was only trying to play with aphrodisiacs it was not a pleasant evening for those who indulged.

While chocolate remained popular with the elite through the years it wasn’t until Victoria became Queen in 1837 that Valentine’s day and later Valentine’s chocolate would become a commercial success. While new technologies allowed Victorians to gift their significant others with printed cards, chocolate was about to transform as well. Ray Cadbury was looking for a way to expand his family’s recipe for drinking chocolate. His idea was to make small bite size chocolates. Cadbury designed the boxes for these and in 1861 created a line in heart shaped boxes with cupids and roses. Those who purchased them not only enjoyed the sweets inside but also could keep the decorated boxes for letters and other keepsakes. Hershey’s jumped on the bandwagon late 1800s with caramel topped chocolates and Hershey kisses. Clara and Russell Stover begin making candy in the kitchen of their Denver bungalow home. It was first known as Mrs. Stover's Bungalow Candies focused on local stores then created an ice cream parlor in Kansas. They shifted their focus after changing their name to Russell Stover to department stores and filled heart shaped boxes with treats that we associate with Valentine’s Day now. Whitman’s started in 1842 as competition to the French candy makers in Philadelphia. They offered chocolate covered sugar plums in illustrated tins. They eventually became known for their samplers in the trademarked original box. In 1939 they launched the incredibly popular "A Woman Never Forgets the Man Who Remembers." campaign. It remained popular for two decades. Whitman’s was eventually bought out their competitor Russell Stover.

Chocolate is sensual. Who can forget Jean Harlow lounging in sequins nibbling chocolates from her bed in Dinner At Eight or how Juliette Binoche plays a single mother in Chocolat who moves to a repressed rural French town during Lent changing the lives of the townspeople through the art of chocolatiering and a bit of intuition. Chocolate is good for our bodies as well. The cocoa bean is rich in magnesium, creating a feeling of relaxation and receptiveness to amorous interactions. Copper helps form the collagen and elastin, that give your skin strength and suppleness. Iron brings oxygen to all cells and stores oxygen in muscles so when you have an increase in activity level there is extra for those rendezvous. It also regulates the immune system to help fight infections.  Zinc in chocolate helps to maintain taste and smell and phenethylamine boosts endorphins and increases brain levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, which enhance any romantic situation whether alone or with a partner.

I like creating rituals and art out of every situation. When designing the menu for this piece I wanted to create a series of fun sexy images to go with it. I encourage you to do the same whether it’s with photos or writing some love poems, draw hearts with Cray-Pas, even dancing to music will change the frequency you’re in and allow for some new energy to flow through. With my love of candy, Valentine’s, and dressing up I played with polaroids and camera glitches to create the images you see here. Since this is a three part series of blogs I suggest taking the 13-15th to love yourself completely. Of course you don’t have to do those exact three days, any day or weekend will do. Make yourself for you and your partner a nice dinner and dessert, do creative things, get sexy, and use the love spell in the upcoming blog to boost your self love and confidence.

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Now onto dessert. Chocolate covered strawberries have become a staple of seduction and charm. Strawberries, heart shaped in design, make the perfect edible valentine treat. Rich in antioxidants to help you look and feel your best they are also filled with vitamin C which promotes blood flow and for women helps to produce estrogen. The also contain magnesium, which plays an important role in both nervous and endocrine functions allowing for sexual fulfillment. Magnesium also combats anxiety and prevents depressive feelings, allowing for you to relax and enjoy yourself more. Potassium not only regulates the heart but also the way muscles contract and folate regulates the production of histamine which is released during an orgasm.

Strawberries have been served at weddings to induce fertility in Europe, and associated with Venus since Ancient Rome. Covered in chocolate they are a dream. They are also extremely easy to make. I used Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers and melted them in a pot with a metal bowl in it. I then dipped the strawberries in and sprinkled them with hazelnuts and pecans. Hazelnuts are known for wishing spells, for when you eat them it is said that the spirits are listening. They were also given as gifts to new brides for luck and fertility. It has also been linked to wisdom, protection, communication, poetic inspiration, and reconciliation. Pecans have been linked to prosperity and increases in money. And who wouldn’t want a little of that mixed in with their charm and seduction magic? Make any meal a spell by adding intentions into it or creating your own spell or poetry to whisper into the ingredients while making it.

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Hot Chocolate:

3 tbsp cocoa powder

3/4 cup water

3 cups milk

3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate

3 tbsp sugar ( I like Piloncillo but you can use granulated if you prefer.)

Cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp cinnamon)

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I usually use 1/4 of a vanilla bean)

Whip cream for the top (I made my own using whipping cream and a little sugar.)

You can add a little bit of half and half for creamier chocolate as well.

*Again these are just estimates. I usually add spices until I have the taste I want. Feel free to do the same.

Bring ¾ cup water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Add milk and return to a simmer. Whisk in chocolate, sugar, and the rest of the ingredients whisking frequently, until mixture is a creamy consistency and chocolate is melted. Add half and half if desired and whip cream. Shave chocolate onto the top.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake:


1 cup  semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar or sugar in the raw

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs slightly beaten

1/2 cup  cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375°F

Grease, butter, or spray either an 8 inch round baking pan lined with parchment to fit pan. If using cupcake tin grease or spray tin. Set aside.

In a metal bowl above a pan or double boiler melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. The water should be simmering. Remove the bowl or top part of the boiler from heat and mix sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, mixing well then sift in the 1/2 cup cocoa powder mixing until combined. Pour batter into pan or muffin tin and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes if in pan and about 12 -15 mins if in tin. The top should form a thin crust. Cool the cake for approx 5 mins and place on plate. Dust with powdered sugar or cocoa powder. You can also serve this with raspberry sorbet.

*Cake keeps for one week in fridge.

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I didn’t make the chocolate gelato with raspberries, chocolate, hazelnuts, honey, and fig pictured here but it does make for a wonderful desert. Topped with raspberries whose shape and texture alone make it one of the most erotic fruits, raspberries contain proanthocyanidins, which increases blood flow, vital for sexual arousal. With a high zinc content, they are key to stimulating the libido. Honey is rich in B vitamins, which not only helps testosterone production increasing desire, but also estrogen production, for the female libido.

Pair this with hazelnut coffee and you have a delectable and sexy dessert to celebrate the day of amore. Enjoy dessert and stay tuned for the next and last part of the series, Love Magic.

Valentine’s Day: Dinner & History

Valentine by Katelan Foisy

Valentine by Katelan Foisy

I’m attracted to reds and pinks, to frilly paper hearts and paintings go cupids with their bows and arrows. I want to take vintage popup cards and hold them close to my chest while dipping my hand into a candy dish of red juju hearts and cherry lollipops. I cherish boxes of candy hearts with sayings stamped onto them. I love the aesthetics of Valentine’s Day without the attachment of the day itself. We can be sexy and romantic for ourselves or others on any day of our choosing and no one should be made to feel guilty or unwanted because they don’t have a partner on a specific day.

Valentine’s Day originated as a pagan fertility celebration which was held from February 13-15th. Lupercalia can be traced back to 6th Century B.C.E and the days of King Amulius who overthrew his brother’s throne and killed King Numintor’s son. He forced Rhea Silvia, Numintor’s daughter to become a vestal virgin to ensure there would be no heirs to the throne. She defied him, giving birth to Romulus and Remus. Rhea named Mars as the father but stories vary from, Mars appeared and lay with Rhea Silvia. Some myths say the father was actually Hercules. However, the author Livy claims that Rhea was raped by an unknown man, but named Mars as she imagined it to be him to cope with the horrors of being raped or because it was less discreditable to have committed an offence with a god.

Amulius demanded the twins be thrown into the Tiber River to drown as punishment for their mother’s broken vow of celibacy and Rhea be imprisoned. The servant ordered to drown the boys took pity on them and placed them in a basket. Tiberinus the river God carried the boys downriver to a fig tree where it became caught in the branches. The tree was located at the base of the Palatine Hill in the Velabrum swamp. The she-wolf Lupa, who had just lost her own cubs found them and let them suckle while a picus (woodpecker) fed them in her den. During this time Tiberinus rescued Rhea Silvia and took her to be his bride.

The twins were eventually adopted by a shepherd and his wife: Faustulus and Acca Larentia. They learned their adoptive father’s trade and became shepherds themselves. One day while they were herding their sheep, they happened upon shepherds of King Amulius.The shepherds began fighting with the twins which resulted in Remus being captured and taken before King Amulius. Romulus gathered fellow shepherds to help him rescue his brother in retaliation. King Amulius, not recognizing the boys did not see his own demise in sight. Romulus freed his brother and killed Amulius in the process and reinstating Numintor as king. The boys then found the cave den of Lupa who had nurtured them and named it Lupercal. The name Lupercalia is thought to give honor to Lupa and to please the fertility god Lupercus.

Lupercalia rituals took place in a few places: Lupercal cave and within the Roman al fresco meeting place called the Comitium. The festival began at Lupercal cave with the sacrifice of one or more male goats for their strong sexual instinct and a dog. The sacrifices were performed by a group of Roman priests called Luperci. Two young people of noble birth were then led to the Luperci, and their foreheads marked with a sacrificial knife dipped in the animal blood. The Luperci immediately after began wiping off the blood with wool dipped in milk. Afterwards the youths were required to break out into laughter. Part of this ritual was to symbolically purify the shepherds and the land and to protect them from evil spirits. When the sacrifice was over, the Lupercipi took part in a large feast at which they were supplied with copious amounts of wine. They then cut the skins of the sacrificed goats into pieces and covered parts of their body in honor of the god Lupercus. The rest of the skins were cut into thongs. With them they ran through the streets of the city tapping and striking women, many of them voluntarily as it was believed to be struck would render them fertile and make childbirth easier. Men also randomly chose a woman’s name from a jar to be coupled with them for the span of the festivities. Many of the paired couples would stay together until the next year or go onto marriage. Over the years, nakedness during Lupercalia lost popularity and it took on a more chaste approach where clothed men whipped the hands of the women.

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Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. There is evidence of a few different people under the name Saint Valentine or Valentinus, all martyred, two on the same day Feb 14th but different years. The most common story though is that of a priest named Valentine who under the rule Emperor Claudius II in 3rd Century Rome had performed secret marriages. Claudius II had made the decision that single men made better soldiers than those with families and made marriage for young men illegal. Valentine deemed this unfair and oppressive and in this conclusion began performing the marriages. When it was discovered that Valentine was challenging the law behind the Emperor’s back he ordered his death. There are other legends that talk of Valentine helping Christians escape persecution and harsh conditions in Roman prisons such as daily beatings and torture. There are a few legends that follow Valentine’s imprisonment and these are what lead up to what we perceive as Valentine greetings today.

Valentine was set to be judged and sentenced. Oner of the men who was to judge him was named Asterius. Asterius had a blind daughter who Valentine had healed through prayer and devotion. The effect of this was so grandiose that Asterius himself converted to Christianity. In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution. This consisted of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation. He wrote one final note to Asterius’ daughter signing it "from your Valentine."

Writers such as Chaucer who may have written the first Valentine’s poem and Shakespeare who mentioned it in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day 
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

- Chaucer “The Parliament of Foules” 


To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime, 
And I a maid at your window, 
To be your Valentine. 

-Shakespear “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Handmade paper cards became the tokens of affection in Middle Ages. These traditions originated in fourteenth-century France and England. It came from the belief that on February 14, birds began to mate. The tradition eventually made its way to the new world. The industrial revolution made way for factory made cards through the printing press and cheaper postage. Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since. "Mother of the Valentine" Esther A. Howland sold the first mass-produced cards in America in the 1840s. Hallmark cards entered the scene in 1913 and it’s been ongoing ever since.

I love finding the origins of holidays and how they progress over time. I also love celebrating holidaysand making paper cards and dolls to go with them. Whether you decide to dine in or go out take the time to celebrate yourself as well as anyone else you’d like to add in. There have been times I’ve spent Valentine’s eating pizza and drinking red wine with whoever I was dating and there’s been other times where I’ve spent it in the bath eating chocolates and drinking champagne. Whichever way you’d like to celebrate, love yourself and do something nice for you. I’ve compiled some sexy recipes to celebrate. One is for those who eat meat and the other is for vegan and vegetarians. I’m not a chef but have been experimenting with recipes for the past year. These are some of my favorites. All are based on foods of love.

HIBISCUS TACOS

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Aphrodisiacs are named after, Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love, fertility, and beauty. They can be enjoyed anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour before lovemaking to intensify the experience. They can also be used to enhance self love, sensuality, and enchantment. In this recipe, corn is for the libido, hibiscus for love and beauty, if you’d like to make salt one use Himalayan pink salt for love and protection. Onions and garlic build sexual energy, chili peppers mimic sexual arousal by raising body temperature. They also plump the lips and add spice to your life. Greeks and Romans used Coriander in love spells and it has been said that it cures impotence. Cumin boosts dopamine, and Aztecs considered avocado an aphrodisiac based on its sensual shape. Cheese, if used include phenylethylamine, or PEA. PEA is believed to be responsible for that hormonal rush during sex, the same as chocolate releases. Oregano stimulates the heart and increases sexual energy and tomatoes also called the "apple of love," contains acids that stimulate blood flow to the lips and mouth. They also enhance sexual performance as well as improve muscle control. I hope you enjoy these recipes I’ve gathered and personalized to make your Valentine’s Day or any day of your choosing the most special yet.

For Tortillas:

  • 2 cups Masa Harina

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • A tortilla press (A skillet or large baking dish will do if you don’t have one.)

  • A large freezer bag cut in half

  • Basket and towel to keep them warm

Add the 2 cups of masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a mixing bowl.

Next one cup of the warm water and stir until all of the water is absorbed. It will look crumbly. When it gets to this consistency you can start adding the rest of the water a tablespoon at a time until you get a smooth dough. If it is sticking to your hands you have added too much water and add a little more of the Masa Harina. I like to knead it with my hands until I have a large ball. From there you can make smaller balls about the size of a golf ball. This should create a tortilla 3.5 - 4 inches across. Place them in a bowl with a damp towel over them to keep them moist.

Place half of the freezer bag on the tortilla press (or on the counter if you are using a skillet or dish.) Put one of the dough balls onto the press and cover with the other piece of plastic. Press down.

I like to heat up the skillet to medium heat while pressing and then placing right onto the skillet. I flip them 10 seconds each side then 25 seconds each side twice. Place it in the basket covered by a towel and go on to the next until you have pressed and cooked each tortilla. Covered tortilla baskets are wonderful as well. I bought mine from Edgewater Produce.

For Filling:

  • 1/2 onion chopped

  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped

  • 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers

  • 1/2 serrano chili, finely chopped 

  • Salt for tasting

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • Avocado

  • Queso fresco (you can substitute vegan cheese or no cheese)

  • Sour Cream (optional)

Take the dried hibiscus and rinse thoroughly then place into a pot with 4-6 cups of water. Allow the hibiscus to boil for 10 minutes and then steep for 1-2 hours until the flowers are soft.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and serrano chili, sauté until fragrant and translucent. Add the hibiscus flowers and a little bit of salt to taste. Some people like to add other spices but I find the flavors are lovely on their own and enhanced by a little salt.

Place mixture into the tortillas and top with avocado, cheese, chili sauce, and sour cream.

New Mexico Chili Sauce:

  • 6 dried ancho chiles

  • 9 dried dried guajillo peppers

  • 2-3 or more dried arbol peppers (Optional)

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly

  • 1 onion peeled and chopped roughly

  • 4 cups water or broth

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp coriander or cumin seed (This depends on what you prefer. I like cumin.)

  • 2 tablespoon lard

  • 2 tablespoon gluten free all purpose flour

  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano

  • Small piece of dark chocolate

In a skillet place the chilis without oil. Roast them for a few minutes without burning. They should be fragrant and place them aside. Add the onion, and garlic on the skillet and brown lightly.

Remove the stems from the peppers and slice them open. (Use gloves if using hot peppers.) Remove the seeds and the membranes. Place the peppers in a bowl. Place peppers in boiling water or broth , cover the pot and let them sit for 30 minutes or until soft.

Put the peppers, 1 cup of the liquid, onion, garlic and all remaining ingredients (except for chocolate) in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more of the liquid as needed. If you feel it’s still a little lumpy or there’s skins you can strain it through a strainer or some cheesecloth. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then repeat until you get a smooth sauce.

Some people like to cook the sauce adding 1 tbsp olive oil to a pot and then adding the sauce and checking for consistency while simmering for 30 minutes uncovered. Make it thicker by stirring flour into melted lard (or vegetable shortening) over heat until browned and adding it to the sauce.If you want it thinner add more water. The sauce should be semi thick in consistency like whipping or heavy cream.

Add the chocolate. If you don’t like chocolate you can add a little brown sugar or honey. The sauce doesn't taste good on its own but enhances anything it is mixed with. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week. Can be frozen for up to 6 months.

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The aphrodisiacs and foods de amor for this recipe include thighs and breasts for symbolic means. Potatoes were once considered aphrodisiacs in Europe because they were rare and a delicacy. The high potassium gets everything flowing. Greeks believed olive oil made men virile. Rosemary is good for the heart and is believed to draw a lover. It is also used to heal wounds of the heart and build self esteem. Oregano increases the heart and sexual functions while garlic builds sexual energy and stamina. Black pepper boosts virility and spinach’s folic acid increases fertility and boosts the libido. Blackberries where considered aphrodisiacs by Arab physicians in the 10th century and today still considered one of the most sensual foods. They help with cardiovascular effects that help enhance performance and thought. Cleopatra thought vinegar to be one of the most sensual foods that brought with it sexual bliss. Like chocolate, goat cheese contains phenylethylamine (PEA) and that hormonal rush during lovemaking. Hazelnuts for love and romance, fig and cocoa for their sexy qualities. Figs are filled with potassium and fiber. They are also the inspiration for the poem of the same name by D.H. Lawrence.

Rosemary Chicken & Potatoes

  • 2 chicken thighs or breasts ( I use thighs.)

  • 4 small potatoes cut into wedges. I cut them in half and then in thirds at an angle.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary. If using fresh 2 tbsp chopped or throw some sprigs on the chicken.

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 3 garlic cloves chopped

  • Himalayan pink salt and pepper to taste

  • I added a little lemon pepper to the recipe as well since I had it on hand. (Optional)

Note: These are estimates. When I make this recipe I usually sprinkle the herbs until I feel they are the right amount. If you feel like using more or less feel free to do so. Also be sure to brine the chicken before cooking.

Preheat over to 425 for thighs and 325 for breasts.

Coat chicken with oil and place into a baking pan with potatoes. Pour the rest of the oil in the pan and coat the potatoes. Sprinkle the herbs and coat the chicken both under and on top of the skin. Place into the oven and bake uncovered for aprox 30 mins (thighs) and 40 mins (breast) basting the chicken every often with the oil. Chicken should be 165°F on a food thermometer. You can flip the potatoes every so often.

Hazelnut Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Blackberries

  • Spinach

  • Blackberries

  • Goat Cheese

  • Hazelnuts

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tbsp Raspberry Vinegar

  • 1/3 tsp Dalmatia fig cocoa spread

  • Honey

Mix the greens and blackberries and top with hazelnuts and goat cheese. For dressing mix two parts oil with one part vinegar and add in the spread. Mix thoroughly then add a few drops of honey. Drizzle onto salad.

Stay tuned for Dessert & Charms, part two of this Valentine’s Day series.

Deadlines: Finding Inspiration Before, During, & After

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I like to think of my life as a silent film, the black and white stills merging into present space. I remember moments in freeze frame, like the parties in NY where we wondered if someday someone would write about us the way they do about the lost and beat generations. These memories take me down a road of incredible writers, artists, and tales of wild parties. I remember a quote by Gerald Murphy to F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter, “Only the invented part of our life—the unreal part—has had any scheme, any beauty.” And for a while I believed it. When it came to the mundane I was bored. The day to day of paying bills, drumming up work , and sending invoices was not how I wanted to live and yet it provided me with a roof over my head. The same could be said when I worked jobs in retail or at the print shop and yet when I think back to these moments I find them to be exercises in character building. I would not have the tools I have now without those jobs.

I find my mind wanders on deadlines. Sometimes it gets in the zone of not wanting to paint the same style, not understanding how a character moves through the space, and overanalyzing how I’ll get large amounts of work done in short spans of time. I always start projects inspired. I read through them, tap into their energy and want to be completely immersed. Buy the time it’s halfway through I start to wander, going down memory lane like the writing above. I’m restless, I’m tired and I could love the project completely but I’ll have to admit that maybe I’m tapped out. Before heading straight into burnout I’ll do a few exercises to get me back into the creation space.

Before the Project Starts:

I like to spend a day gathering images. A lot of my work is based on Victorian images, so often I will spend some time reviewing images for inspiration and collages. I usually make digital sketches which I then make into crude little drawings. Sketching is my least favorite part of the process so I have to think creatively and say to myself. This is a very important part of the project. These are the bones. My friend Rita J. King finds creativity in everything from emailing back potential clients to marking things off her to do list. I have started to take this into account whenever I do mundane tasks. I also try to do the sketches with the most detail first and then disperse easier ones in between. That way I get a big portion of the harder work done which inspires me to get into the project. I also listen to podcasts and documentaries on the subject. When I was working on The Hoodoo Tarot I watched documentaries throughout the process on the South, on rootwork and its historical figures, on slavery, black history, Romani and Indigenous peoples history. This helps me tap into a project and really feel the core of it, which once again inspires me to keep working. It also gives me the understanding to get through the sketch process. It also helped that Tayannah sent me a pdf rich in imagery that was inspiring and easy to get the idea of how she wanted the card depicted. When working on the Smashing Pumpkins tour I was given a few images for inspiration and keywords that I was allowed to interpret and really play with the imagery. I don’t always get that lucky with projects. Some I really have to dive deep for imagery.

During the Project:

I call the mid project creativity jumpstart “The Reset.” I reset by doing something different creatively. If I’m painting then I’ll take a series of photographs to reset my mind back into creative mode and to push out of painting burnout mode. When my hands are becoming wobbly as I paint, I know that it’s time for a reset. I’ll also take a little break and check out a museum, go for a bike ride, go for a color walk. (A color walk is where you choose a color, go out for a walk and focus on everything that is that color. It’s a great way to look at the world with fresh eyes.)

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I took these images while working on the Pumpkins tour and waiting on approval for sketches. I was deeply inspired by the imagery during the tour and both William and I have a love of silent film. I’ve always loved this image of Theda Bar and wanted to do my own version. I wanted to keep the momentum of working up without losing it. Sometimes when I take too long of breaks it takes a while to get the creative juices flowing again. With photography it’s me, a camera, and then some photoshop for the vintage look. Editing photos puts me into a very calm space, it gives me the focus and change I need to press reset and go back into whatever project I have at hand. It’s been a lifesaver when I’m trying to avoid creative burnout. During these times I’ll often clean the house and get my space back in order or cook to ground. Any number of these things can help me refocus my energy on the deadline and jumpstart inspiration to go forward. The photo at the top of this blog was taken over Christmas break when I was traveling through Boston. I was working on sketches and had a very early flight. I booked myself a night at The Fairmont. I was lucky that my cousin decided to join me and together we explored the hotel taking photos like we were stepping out of an old Hollywood film. It was the perfect amount of creative time and downtime so when I got back to Chicago I was inspired and ready to paint.

After the Deadline:

This can be the hardest part for me. Once everything is turned in I don’t know what to do with myself. I half mourn the project because I’ll no longer be working on it and laugh because I thought I couldn’t get it done. (This happens every time.) When I finished the tour I spent time outside, getting sun and enjoying the summer. I also had trips planned so I didn’t have a lot of downtime. Vanessa Sinclair and I were filming for the publication of our book Chaos of the Thirdmind . We planned our annual trip to Atlantic City to enjoy the beach and spend a night in NYC. It was definitely a trip I needed to get me back into the creation space and figure out how I was going to manage time for The Hoodoo Tarot. The day I uploaded the images I cleaned the house thoroughly and cooked and baked. I wanted to ground as much as I could and get back into the mode of having a beautiful home again. I created this space so I’d be surrounded by beauty. I’d wake up to a paper moon every morning and art on the walls but sometimes when I’m working a create small disaster zones filled with dirty paint water and crumpled up paper towels. I’m inspired by my home and want to keep it a happy healthy environment. The next day I took myself to the spa. I never was a spa person until recently. I didn’t realize the reason I couldn't understand it was that I didn’t know how to relax and do nothing. I had always thought I had to multitask and never sit down. Through my practice of swimming and biking I’ve since learned how to take a deep breath and just enjoy the moment. I brought a reference book to read for a new project, brought out a comfy slip dress, and made my way to the spa located in a Burnham designed building.

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I took a full day, swimming, using the sauna and hotter and bathing in the aromatic showers . It was a great way to recalibrate and get my engine running again. It also gave me time to journal and think about what I’d like to accomplish this upcoming year wether it be personal projects or commercial ones. It was during this time I made the decision to take archery lessons and learn more Rromanes and Cree so I could tap into my ancestral guides. Sometimes you just need a day to let everything go in order for it to all fall into place.

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Final Thoughts & Actions:

Get out of your comfort zone. The best way to get inspired is to do something different. Often I’ll check google maps to see which museums are near me and ride my bike to one of them. Other times I’ll pick a neighborhood I haven’t been to do a little research and check out what they have to offer. When I’m stuck on time I’ll google a random phrase like “Vintage lobster posters” and come up with a treasure trove of imagery. This is a quick boost of inspiration.

Watch documentaries and then let youtube autoplay the next. Sometimes I’ll find a gem in there that completely changes my perspective.

Learn a new trade. Besides archery, I’ll be learning how to use a bead loom this year as well. Many museums have free classes. I took a class on making paper flowers on at the Mexican Museum of Art and honestly it was the best Halloween I had ever had.

Look into your ancestry. There may be a language that you’d like to learn that’s no longer spoken in the family or some sort of recipe, text etc that may boost your inspiration to dig deeper or take you on a whole other path.

Go to a beautiful hotel, a place with gorgeous architecture, a church with beautiful stained glass, or even an airplane graveyard. Put yourself in a different time frame. Check out events at your local library. I once went to a magic show at the local library and it was a fantastic way to spend a few hours.

Volunteer at an Elderly Home get to know the people in your community and learn the stories of the elders. I love talking to the elders. Their lives are so rich and I feel honored that they take these moments to tell me their tales. Join a museum or a center and see what programs they have coming up. The world is your oyster, take that to heart and believe it with every breath you take. I believe in you.

Deadlines: Self Care - Home Spa

Home spa and wish journal.

Home spa and wish journal.

It’s been a busy week, you’ve just finished fourteen paintings and turned in sketches for fourteen more which need to be completed within the next few days. You’re overworked, you’ve missed some events you would have liked to experience and you haven’t seen or talked to a person besides a store clerk in a month. That was my life for a while and it was effecting me mentally. Normally on a deadline I’d push through, try to watch or listen to something happy and end up exhausted afterward. This time I focused on self care.

Sometimes self care is answering every email in your inbox and paying your electric bill and other times it’s creating a spa environment in your home with only a few hours to spare. I had just delivered the new batch of sketches and was waiting on approval. I knew I wouldn’t have time to fully go anywhere but wanted to keep true to my promise to myself that during deadlines I would dedicate time to balance both my mind and body. I decided on a home spa.

There’s a few key factors to creating a home spa:

The Location- Bathroom and bedroom work best for the home spa. While you’ll be doing all the cleansing, bathing, steaming etc in the bathroom the bedroom offers a relaxing in between space for reading, lounging, and meditation. You can also purchase a bath bar or a simple shelf to create a bath bar. I chose a inexpensive white shelf I found at the hardware store for $9.00 but a nice bamboo bath shelf will cost anywhere between $20-40. Adding eucalyptus to the shower head allows for the plants natural oils to defuse through the air when you are showering as well.

Music - I don’t like a lot of spa music but I do enjoy this flute and rain combination. https://youtu.be/jGpWfY1saxY

Or this classical mix of Chopin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mi145S-HfQ

Lighting - A few tea light candles or some scented candles should do the trick giving you a warm atmosphere. Some scents to consider: lavender, chamomile, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang.

Engaging the Senses - In any spa experience you’ll notice that all your senses are engaged Find things that are pleasing to your sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. This will give you the full experience. Infused water, teas, and fruit and nuts to snack on. Incense or oils for scent, adding greenery or fresh flowers to the bathroom for sight, a nice bathrobe or fresh towels and the textures of different scrubs and masks for touch, and relaxing sounds for hearing are all wonderful ways to enhance your experience.

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I start by cleaning my bathtub with grapefruit and salt. Take a grapefruit and slice in half. Pour some ground sea salt onto the grapefruit half and scrub down the tub with it. I like to use Himalayan pink salt. This gives a nice scent and allows you to energetically cleanse the tub before getting in. Gather some towels and place them by the bath. I like to roll one for a head rest and then place the others aside. If it’s winter you can place fresh towels on the radiator so they’ll be warm when you get out of the tub. . Prepare the recipes in advance and place them on the bar in a way that is pleasing to you. If you have a diffuser you can place that in the bathroom to give you an aromatic lift. I place fresh flowers and my journal on the bar too in case I want to write. I also place flower petals nearby to add to the bath. Cucumber slices or chamomile tea bags for the eyes are a great addition. For tea I usually choose jasmine, green, mint, or chamomile. The contrast between the cool infused water and the warm tea is exceptionally nice for the senses.

Recipes:

Homemade Peel Mask #1

Lemon and lime juice

1 tbsp unflavored gelatin

papaya or pineapple

tiny pinch of cinnamon

In a mortar and pestle or a bowl smash up the papaya or pineapple, add in the lemon and lime juice. I like to squeeze a little of both about 2 tsp of each into the mixture and add the cinnamon. Set aside. In a small bowl add the gelatin and some hot water until it makes a glue like consistency. Add in the other ingredients and then quickly spread the mask onto your face. It’s okay that you do this before you get into the bath. This mask dries fairly quick so you’ll want to put it on before it sets. Allow to dry 15 mins and start from the chin pulling up as you pull off the mask.

Homemade Peel Mask #2

1 tbsp of unflavored gelatin

2 tbsp whole milk

1 tbsp honey

Heat the milk until it’s hot but not burning. If you have a microwave you can do it there, if not I like to make myself some golden milk and just save 2 tbsp from that. Add the gelatin to the milk and stir until it become glue like, then add the honey. Once the honey is mixed in spread mixture over your face and allow to dry for 15 mins and pull upward from chin when removing.

Neutralizer

Baking soda and 1 tbsp water act as a neutralizer after you make the peel masks. You can pat your face down with cotton and the neutralizer after the mask.

Oatmeal Mask (for dry skin)

1/3 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup hot water

2 tbsp full fat plain yogurt

2 tbsp honey

1 egg white

Mix together and allow to sit on face for 15-20 minutes

Acne Mask

1 egg

2 tbsp Milk

1 tbsp Honey

Mix together and allow to dry fully on face. If you do this for three days straight acne will start to disappear.

Banana Mask

1 banana

1 tbsp honey

Mash up banana and add honey until they become a smooth paste. Smooth over face and allow to set for 15-20 mins.

Bath Salts

1/2 cup baking soda

1/2 cup epsom salt

1/4 cup sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

1/2 cup powdered milk

a few drops of lavender oil

Mix together and put into bath for silky skin.

Coffee Sugar Scrub

1 cup Brown sugar

The mornings coffee grounds

Coconut Oil (Use as much as you feel necessary to get a good consistency.)

Mix together and place in a bowl.

Lemon Sugar Scrub

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 cup of sugar white or brown

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 tbsp almond oil or vitamin E oil (optional)

Lemon essential oil (you choose how much)

Mix together and place in a bowl

Hair Mask

Mix coconut oil, honey, and banana together for a wonderful mask for dry hair. The portions depend on how much hair you have. See what works the best for you.

Mix apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 cup) with lemon and 1 tbsp of honey for oily hair.

Infused Water

Slice of grapefruit

2 slices lemon

2 slices lime

1 slice of orange

Place into a jug with water and allow to sit for a few hours before drinking. You can also use cucumber water or any other concoction you may think up.

After you make the recipes and set up, fill up the tub, light the candles, and start the music. Create a ritual around your spa. I like to create a pathway on the floor leading to the bath so it feels like a sacred space that I’m stepping into. I also like to practice face massage while in the bath. While the claims are that it smooths skin and fades wrinkles it also feels really nice and relaxing. Here’s a two minute version which is a really lovely way to quickly alleviate stress. I didn’t know how much tension I stored in my face until I started facial massage.

Feel free to create your own recipes or add and subtract from the list I have given. Make sure while in the bath you give yourself the time and space to do absolutely nothing. I had to train myself to do this and now that I’ve learned it’s really nice to let go for a little bit. After the bath I like to moisturize with shea butter and then lounge in my bathrobe for a little bit. Snack on fruit, chocolate or anything else your heart desires. As you go forward try to block off specific times to do your home spa and make a habit of it. Don’t feel guilty for taking a little time for yourself. Not only is it good for the mind and body but it gives you a chance to reset and refresh for the next goal you have to conquer.


Deadlines: Time Management

Sketch journal where I don’t have to worry about perfect drawings or writing.

Sketch journal where I don’t have to worry about perfect drawings or writing.

There’s a superstition that what you do on New Years is significant of how your year will be. So if you go out to a wild party, your year will be full of social engagements, if you spend it with close friends or family, it will be spent cultivating close relationships and friendships, and if you spend it alone, it will a be year of self reflection and care. Last New Years, I spent it alone, cooking, cleaning, and on a deadline which was Jan 1. I knew the year would be filled with projects but I didn’t know how large or fantastic they would be. I also didn’t know how isolated I would become. It’s easy to hide away on deadline, to just focus on the work, and feel like there’s not enough time for anything in between. I’ve done it and found myself depleted during and very much after those deadlines had been met.

When I was working on The Smashing Pumpkins tour I slept about 4 hours a night. There were a lot of images to complete and my main focus was to make good looking work that reflected what the band needed aesthetically. While the work came out great and the concepts were fantastic and exciting, I wasn't taking very good care of myself. I barely got out of the house, ate whatever was fastest, and rarely exercised. I was so focused on finishing and making good work in a short amount of time that I completely forgot about balance. Once the target date had passed, I immediately crashed. I had another project coming and was struggling with finding the energy to finish it. In the midst of this I recalibrated and tried to work out a plan that gave me time to exercise, cook, and possibly socialize. (This isn’t always achievable. Especially when trying to paint three to five paintings a day for huge projects.)

I started to look at the way I was framing time. I get up in the am, make coffee, pet the cat, check email, and take a few moments to put my to do list together and make day goals and then I’d spend the rest of the day painting or writing until I met those goals with just a few breaks in between for food. I would fall asleep exhausted only to wake up four hours later just as tired. I began to break up time into increments. The morning would remain the same, get up, make coffee, have breakfast, and then I’d get myself to the gym to swim or I would ride my bike down the lakefront for a few hours. Sometimes I would do both but the rest of the day had to change otherwise I was going to crash and burn quickly. I decided to do some research on productivity.

Author Tony Schwartz founder of The Energy Project suggests we focus on the 4 main pillars of human energy needed to avoid burnout.

  1. Physical - Focusing on nutrition, sleep, fitness, and intermittent breaks throughout the day.

  2. Emotional - Developing and nurturing the emotions that coincide with higher performances. The idea that emotions can influence performance.

  3. Mental - Switching between calculated, detailed thinking and the bigger picture. Utilizing focus to create results.

  4. Spiritual - Purpose and serving something other than the self.

He also categorizes work performance into different levels.

  1. The Performance Zone - This is where we produce our best work. The four categories above are being met and energy is at its peak.

  2. Renewal Zone - Restorative yet positive energy, conducive to daydreaming and restoring focus on bigger picture goals.

  3. Survival Zone - High energy but negative, impatient, critical, and stressed. We can no longer focus on the bigger picture because we are caught in a cycle of productivity but moving towards burnout.

  4. Burnout Zone - Low and negative energy fed by depression and exhaustion with very little productivity.

While I haven’t looked into too many of Tony’s methods I do feel that this simple breakdown of how we work and what we need for balance is true and effective.

In a  2008 University of Illinois study found that attention spans and memory drop after long periods of focusing without breaks. performance declined in those without breaks but brief interludes increased the focus of those observed.

Upon further research I discovered scientists at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (BSI) had uncovered tools to help the brain focus by routing relevant information to noncognitive domains of the brain. This allowed them to gain insight on how the brain is disrupted by distractions. Justin Gardner and his research team found the brain uses a two step process.

  1. Sensitivity enhancement - Look at the project as a whole and assess what needs attention. Focus on what needs the most attention.  

  2.  Efficient selection - Zoom into the task at hand. As you do this it helps you enter into the Performance Zone.

Using these pieces of information I formulated a plan for my next deadline. I would stop multitasking. There was too way I could answer tarot related client questions, paint, keep up with social media, and try to take on other projects at the same time. I had to focus one painting at a time. I came up with actions that were achievable for the most part.

-I would try and get 8 hours of sleep a night. I used this “Swamp Sounds” recording to get me relaxed and fall asleep quickly.

-I would exercise 5-6 days a week for 1 hour increments but would not beat myself up if I fell short of this.

-I would try to cook easy meals in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry about eating quick foods.

-I would drink lots of water.

-I would use errands as a way to stop for breaks and engage with the outside world

-I would go to a museum, attend a cultural event etc whenever I could to give myself a rest and gather inspiration/feed my mind.

-I’d keep a journal where everything could be messy and imperfect and I wouldn’t have to worry about what I wrote or if it was poetic. The drawings could be messy and smudged. It would be a place to play.

With theses changes I was able to manage the emotional and mental aspects of the deadline. Swimming in the morning allowed me to process any feelings I had and gave me the energy to step into work mode once I got home. In order to cook food I made sure I took breaks in between painting to make easy recipes such as soups and baked healthy muffins for breakfast or boiled up some eggs for easy quick snacks. I also cut up fruit into water and kept it in the fridge so I’d have access to fresh infused water throughout the day. I also assessed the ways I worked fastest. I’m someone who is easily distracted in a quiet room, so I found myself working faster when I put on a podcast or a documentary. That way I could listen but my full focus could be on painting while I listened and absorbed any other information. I also turned off social media during heavy work periods. The spiritual aspect was the process itself. When I paint I spend a lot of time looking at people, trying to understand them, what makes them special etc. This is working outside of myself. Am I telling their story in a way that will make them proud? These were my thoughts while working on “The Hoodoo Tarot.” While I did get to Survival Zone by the end of the deadline. We were working on a lot in a short time span I didn’t feel fully burnt out. I considered this experiment a success and know for the next deadline I’ll be able to manage it even better.

My friend Chiron Armand suggested the Pomodoro technique of 25 minutes with a five minute rest and uses Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant a google chrome extension.

I’ve also been exploring a bit of the Ultradian rhythm of 90-120 minutes based on experiments of brain activity while sleeping. First brought to our attention by Nathan Kleitman his research was called “Basic Rest-Activity Cycle” in which he focused on the 90-minute cycles during which you advance through the five stages of sleep.  He also took notice that the brain mimics this during the day as well with higher and lower attention spans throughout the day.

I’m looking to try both of these and see which works for me personally. As a freelancer it’s very easy to get sucked into the feeling that you can’t stop until you’re finished. Allowing myself breaks in between, even if it’s just to prep food completely reformulated the way I work creating a more efficient and less taxing way to meet a deadline. I’m still a work in progress but feeling much healthier, stronger, and much less stressed because of it.

Remnants of Storyville

From 1897 to 1917 Storyville was one of the first of the tenderloin districts after the "Swamp" (Between South Robertson and South Liberty Streets) started to decline. Spanning a sixteen block radius (Iberville to St Louis and North Robertson to North Basin Streets, just Northwest of the infamous St Louis Cemetery No 1.) Named after Sidney Story a councilman who in 1897 enacted a city ordinance designating a confined area for prostitution. Lining Basin street were high end Saloons and mansions which offered beds, gambling, drinking, entertainment, and ladies for the evening. Storyville has often been credited for the beginnings of jazz as well as  a city of degeneracy. Most of Storyville was torn down to make way for Iberville Projects. These three buildings remain. 

Location of Lulu White's Saloon Photo 1943 from Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

Location of Lulu White's Saloon Photo 1943 from Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

Lulu White's Saloon today.  237 Basin St. Photo Katelan Foisy 2018

Lulu White's Saloon today.  237 Basin St. Photo Katelan Foisy 2018

Lulu White found herself in Storyville from Alabama in 1880. Lulu, born in Selma, moved to Louisiana with a long list of offenses. She became a well known Madame and ran Mahogany Hall and Lulu White's Saloon which catered to some of the most prominent and wealthiest men in the area. Her love of extravagant jewelry earned her the nickname "The Queen of Storyville." Her jewelry was so lavish that they were described as "like the lights of the St. Louis Exposition." which was quoted in the "blue book" (a directory for brothels and prostitutes) for her business. She called herself "The Diamond Queen." She was also known for her bad business dealings which eventually left her broke and with a prison sentence which she asked to be pardoned for poor health. The sentence was commuted by Woodrow Wilson. She returned to running a brothel shortly after and remained a madame until her death. 

Mahogany Hall (235 Basin St) was demolished on Nov 22, 1949. It was four stories and in it's prime made of marble with five parlors, fifteen bedrooms with bathrooms and closets and boasted hot and cold water in all of them. The bottom part of Lulu White's Saloon is all that remains of these businesses. Mahogany Hall was immortalized in "Mahogany Hall Stomp" which has been recorded by Louis Armstrong among others. 

Arrow points to Mahogany Hall. Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

Arrow points to Mahogany Hall. Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

Location of Frank Early's Saloon on Bienville and Crozat (formerly Franklin) Photo taken 1940s found in Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

Location of Frank Early's Saloon on Bienville and Crozat (formerly Franklin) Photo taken 1940s found in Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

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Frank Early's Saloon. Photos Katelan Foisy 2018

Frank Early's Saloon. Photos Katelan Foisy 2018

Best known for it's connection to Tony Jackson,  who created the song "Pretty Baby" Frank Early's Saloon provided work for musicians. Tony had worked as a musician since he was a child and was known for his large repertoire which earned him the nickname of professor, a term used to describe someone with a vast assortment of music. Jelly Roll Morton came into contact with Jackson during their years of playing brothels and despite the ten year age difference, different sexual preferences and the opposite upbringings they became fast friends. Jelly Roll look up to Tony like a mentor. Tony could mimic any style music and voice and was considered one of the most talented musicians out there, notwithstanding the taboos. 

"Tony was considered among all who knew him the greatest single-handed entertainer in the world. His memory seemed like something nobody's ever heard of in the music world. He was known as the man of a thousand songs. There was no tune that come up from any opera or any show of any kind or anything that was wrote on paper that Tony couldn't play. He had such a beautiful voice and a marvellous range. His voice on an opera tune was exactly as an opera singer. His range on a blues tune would be just exactly like a blues singer. Tony happened to be one of those gentlemens that a lot of people call them lady or sissy."

-Jelly Roll Morton in an interview. 

Tony Jackson via Wikipedia

Tony Jackson via Wikipedia

Location of Joe Victor's Saloon intersection of Villere and St. Louis Streets. Photo 1943 from Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

Location of Joe Victor's Saloon intersection of Villere and St. Louis Streets. Photo 1943 from Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

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Joe Victor's Saloon. Photos Katelan Foisy 2018

Joe Victor's Saloon. Photos Katelan Foisy 2018

There's not much known about Joe Victor's Saloon or the man himself. Census records show he had two sisters that owned the saloon with him and one article in the Times-Picayune. Joe Victor's was cited for leaving manure on his property in violation of the city’s anti-housefly ordinance. No records show of musicians playing there, nor is it mentioned in any interviews or historical texts. 

Nothing original from the historic buildings is left inside them. They have been stripped down and gutted numerous times, made into storage facilities and grocery stores. But the stories passed down by word of mouth and writing still exist and they weave their way through the streets and into the ether. If you stand there and squint for just a moment you may see the former shape of Lulu White's Mahogany Hall and the women bustling up to their rooms or posing for a photo to be used in the blue books. And if the breeze hits you in just the right way, you may hear the remnants of Tony Jackson's honeyed voice crooning through the walls of the old saloon. For now the area seems to be in development. What was once one of the birthplaces of jazz, became the Iberville Projects and now goes through another transformation building new housing for mixed income families through a grant from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

Map of Storyville from Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

Map of Storyville from Storyville New Orleans by Al Rose

 

 

Santisima Muerte

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Approximately sixteen years ago I witnessed a murder, sort of. I don't remember the exact date or time and being that I was in a relatively quiet neighborhood, it never really made the news. Quiet areas like the one I lived in liked to keep things hushed especially if there were thoughts that it could be gang related. I remember walking down the street and past the bar with a new friend I had been hanging out with. Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to know him. We had just had dinner and he was walking me home. I saw a car approaching slowly and made a comment about it. I heard him say "Oh God, turn your head!" I don't remember if I turned it or he did for me. I was pushed and there were loud sounds and everything became fuzzy. I never saw the faces of the people who did it, I only slightly remember the car. I remember the face of one of the men lying on the ground in front of me, and for one moment I saw the life drain out of him. In that moment I saw peace. My friend took me home. I sat on my bed looking at my shoes. There was specks of blood on them. 

 

It took a week for the blood to clear the streets. The bar didn't really clean it and until it rained you could see the splatters from where people lay. Every day I went to work I jumped over the spots. I didn't want to look at them. The day before the rain fell I stepped in it. I remember writing "Tonight I stepped in another man's blood." in my journal, then losing the pages sometime later. Over time I put it out of my mind. I went to the bar once years later. The bar was now nicknamed after the murder but no one ever talked about what had happened. I'm not even sure anyone that experienced it still lives there. I remember walking past the area where the bodies lay. My friend asked me if I was okay. We ended up playing darts in the back. Time went on, and I pushed it out of my mind.

 

It wasn't until a conversation about perception and life experiences occurred that I remembered.  As these memories flooded back I called Chiron Armand and scheduled a session with him.  Santisima Muerte was very present. She helped lead me through a past issue and create an opening or space for it to be rectified. She blessed the new opening/union and asked me to paint her red aspect. While my history with her is long, it's been variable up until recently mostly because I hadn't found people who worked with her traditions and cultural lineage, and I didn't feel I knew enough to fully work with her and show the proper respect. I knew the time would come eventually and so I did what I could until the right time. She was gracious and understanding. She helped me with prison work and protection. Once when I asked her to help me make a decision she alerted me that someone I was dating needed to go. She did this by breaking a candle shaped like her in half while we were both sleeping and the only ones in the house. I found it on the floor by his side of the bed. Within two weeks he was out of my home. A few weeks later I would fully realize why. 

 

There's been a lot of articles written about Santisima Muerte in the past few years, many wrought with misconceptions. As my practice is fairly new, I encourage you to seek out a practitioner who has the training and skill set. I will post recommendations at the bottom of this blog.

 

Who is Santisima Muerte? To her followers she is death and an archangel second only to God. She is a Mexican folk saint typically dressed in robes, with a scythe, an owl, an hourglass, justice scales, and cupping a globe in her palm.  She has three aspects: White for peace, blessings, clarity, protection, healing and prosperity; this aspect can also be prayed to for a peaceful death, and represents those who have died the peaceful death such as old age, stillborns, dying in one’s sleep, etc. Red is for matters of the heart and according to some represents those who have died in crimes of passion. Black for Protection, obstacles, spirit communication, and hex breaking; she also represents those who have died violent deaths and can be prayed to for justice or to ease the souls of those departed; this is also the aspect in which some people do brujeria, or negative work. While her appearance, name, and traditions seem Catholic in nature, the Roman Catholic Church has not recognized her as a saint. In 2013, Cardinal Ravasi condemned devotion to her and called the practice "anti-religious". "Religion celebrates life, but here you have death," he spoke. "It's not religion just because it's dressed up like religion; it's a blasphemy against religion."

 

Devotees of Santa Muerte think otherwise. Known as a healer, bringer of love and prosperity, a fierce ally, protector, and a bringer of justice, she is non discriminant and will work with anyone who comes to her no matter who they are or what they do. This is exactly what led me to her in the beginning. As everyone in this life will die, she has a place for all that seek her. The night I witnessed the man die, was the first night I experienced watching death. I had experienced death in my life, friends and lovers died. Pets I had as a child would curl up on my lap as they took their last breath but I had never seen it happen to a human being in front of me. I had a complicated relationship with death for years. A boy I thought I would marry overdosed and passed away on this day March 31, twenty years ago. My cousin overdosed Thanksgiving day seventeen years ago, and for many years I lived a life wondering why I lived and they died. What kept me alive was curiosity. 

 

When I came into contact with Santa Muerte I was drawn to her. I didn't know why. All I knew was that she felt good. My immediate reaction to her was a peace I had never known, it pushed up from inside me and enveloped my entire body. "This is what it must feel like to die,” I thought. And in that thought I had a better understanding of life. In my session with Chiron I channeled the message:

 

    "She responds to the sound salt water creates."

 

Sound travels at about 1531 m/s  up to 33 meters per second faster than freshwater at 1450-1498 m/s . The speed of sound in water depends on salinity. Salt water is about 2-4% more dense than fresh water. Its bulk modulus is about 9% greater than that of fresh water. So the higher bulk modulus overpowers the density, producing a higher speed of sound.

 

Santísima Muerte responds to tears both in joy and sorrow. She understands human emotion at its core. The tears you shed in prayer travel quickly to her, and in her understanding she deciphers the best course of action. She acknowledges the inner workings of the heart and mind. In my work with her, the trauma of seeing this man I never knew take his last breath rose to the surface. It took me down a path of deep wounds and wove it's net around them. I thought about this as I painted her portrait. I became afraid I wasn't depicting her right. But as paint hit paper and layers surfaced that fear subsided. I blew smoke against the layers and anointed it in tequila. I crushed roses into the paint until they became fine dust mixed with tears. I hoped that this would depict both the beauty and sorrow. I whispered prayers as I placed the painting into the frame and sent images to my nearest and dearest. Death walks beside us all.

If you would like to learn more about building a relationship with her I suggest Steven Bragg's (New Orleans Chapel of Santa Muerte) books. You can purchase them here. You can also visit or contact these temples. 

New Orleans Chapel of Santa Muerte 

Santa Muerte Queens NY

Templo Santa Muerte Los Angeles

Santuario Nacional del Angel de la Santa Muerte

Temple of Santa Muerte, Chapitero Mexico

 

Edelweiß: Bloom of Affection, Song of Resistance

Vintage edelweiss pendant from Austria.

Vintage edelweiss pendant from Austria.

Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white, clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white, clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

At the top of the Alps in Austria lies a small flower known as edelweiss. Fairytales tell us it formed from the tears of a Snow Queen and local lore speaks of brave men risking their lives to pluck the flowers for their beloveds. It is a symbol of devotion and purity but also of resistance. Leontopodium alpinum has woolly white bracts and yellow or white in the axis. It grows on the steep mountain terrain surrounded by harsh weather conditions. It is said when a man has fallen for a woman he would climb the mountains risking his life to pluck the flower and bring it to his partner as an act of devotion. She would then press it into a necklace and wear it around her neck as a token of their love. Many men fell to their deaths trying to obtain one for those who survived the journey it symbolized great bravery. In German, “edel” means noble and “weiss” means white. It was a symbol of noble purity. 

I've been drawn to edelweiss for years. Growing up I would take my grandmother's pendant and hold it in my hands wondering who picked the flower and if it was given or bought. I wished for one of my own. When family would visit from Austria they'd bring us jewelry. Sometimes it was necklaces with red ruby like stones and other times bracelets with the flower etched and painted into the metal. I thought I would never get one of my own. Christmases would come and go. We'd exchange gifts, sometimes perfumes or candles with the edelweiss scent but the US was not as interested in the flower as I was. I forgot about the pendant but still the little woolly flower crept into my consciousness in many ways including pop culture.  

It became a muse to the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The Sound of Music"  where Captain von Trapp and his family sing it as support for their homeland. As Austria was being taken over by Germans, it became a song of resistance as he is pressured to join the German Navy following the Anschluss. It becomes a symbolic goodbye to his homeland as he makes the decision to flee to nuetral Switzerland. The song was so convincing that people thought it was the national anthem. 

The song took a ominous turn when it became the opening soundtrack for "The Man in the High Castle" The 2015 tv series is loosely based on Philip K Dick's alternative history novel set 15 years after WWII in which we see America divided after an Axis victory. The east is run by the Nazi Reich and the west by Japan. The show focuses on the rebel fighters resisting totalitarian rule. It offers multiple timelines offering a different outcome of the war through propaganda films that are being distributed by the resistance. While "The Sound of Music" offered hope, love, and resistance this version becomes a haunting dystopian melody of desperation. 

Edelweiss has been valued for centuries as a medicinal plant aiding in protection against ultraviolet radiation. This comes from the harsh conditions it grows in. It is a natural anti-aging plant as it carries a high amount of antioxidants, and it's root extract is used as a cure for dermatitis and fluid retention. It has been traditionally used to help with both respiratory and abdominal issues due to bactericidal properties. It is not edible and the plant should not be eaten. Currently there are legal limitations to the picking and usage of the flower. 

I recently purchased the pendant at the top of the page as an ode to my grandmother. It formed new meaning as I thought about her life in Austria living through the Anschluss, and settling in the US as an Austrian and Sinti woman. I've always felt connected to edelweiss and the stories connected to it. Life can be bittersweet and this tiny flower is an incredible reminder that sometimes the sweetest things are worth the hardships we endure. I've always thought the deepest love and joy is felt through our experiences both positive and negative. We can't feel true happiness until we've understood sorrow and vice versa. 

To end this on a magical note I bring you to the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the Snow Queen, a tale of love, loss, and a flower by the name of edelweiss. 

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There is a legend that, once upon a time, a beautiful fairy, the Snow Queen, lived on the highest, most solitary peaks of the Alps. The mountain folk and shepherds climbed to the summits to admire her, and everyone fell head over heels in love with her.

Every man would have given anything, including his life, to marry her. Indeed, their lives are just what they did give, for Fate had decided that no mortal would ever marry the Snow Queen. But in spite of that, many brave souls did their best to approach her, hoping always to persuade her.

Each suitor was allowed to enter the great ice palace with the crystal roof, where the Queen’s throne stood. But the second he declared his love and asked for her hand, thousands of goblins appeared to grasp him and push him over the rocks, down into bottomless abysses.

Without the slightest emotion, the Queen would watch the scene, her heart of ice unable to feel anything at all. The legend of the crystal palace and the beautiful heartless Queen spread as far as the most distant alpine valley, the home of a fearless chamois hunter. Fascinated by the tale, he decided to set out and try his luck. Leaving his valley, he journeyed for days on end, climbing the snowclad mountain faces, scaling icebound peaks and defying the bitterly cold wind that swept through the alpine gullies.

More than once he felt all was lost, but the thought of the lovely Snow Queen gave him new strength and kept him moving onwards. At last, after many days climbing, he saw glinting in the sunshine before him, the tall transparent spires of the ice palace.

Summoning all his courage, the young man entered the Throne Room. But he was so struck by the Snow Queen’s beauty that he could not utter a word. Shy and timid, he did not dare speak. So he knelt in admiration before the Queen for hours on end, without opening his mouth. The Queen looked at him silently, thinking all the while that, provided he did not ask her hand in marriage, there was no need to call the goblins.

Then, to her great surprise, she discovered that his behaviour touched her heart. She realised she was becoming quite fond of this hunter, much younger and more handsome than her other suitors. Time passed and the Snow Queen dared not admit, not even to herself, that she would actually like to marry the young man.

In the meantime, the goblins kept watch over their mistress; first they were astonished, then they became more and more upset. For they rightly feared that their Queen might be on the point of breaking the Law and bringing down on the heads of all the Mountain People the fury of Fate.

Seeing that the Queen was slow to give the order to get rid of her suitor, the goblins decided to take matters into their own hands. One night, as dusk fell, they slipped out of the cracks in the rock and clustered round the young chamois hunter. Then they hurled him into the abyss. The Snow Queen watched the whole scene from the window, but there was nothing she could do to stop them. However, her icy heart melted, and the beautiful cruel fairy suddenly became a woman.

A tear dropped from her eye, the first she had ever shed. And the Snow Queen’s tear fell on to a stone where it turned into a little silvery star.

This was the first edelweiss … the flower that grows only on the highest, most inaccessible peaks in the Alps, on the edge of the abyss and precipice . . .

Chicago: Graceland Part 1

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I've long been fascinated with the way cemeteries in cities are set up. Growing up in a small town we had tiny old cemeteries attached to small white churches. The bigger cemeteries were a mixture of neat new rows and toppled stones. When I moved to New York I became interested with the layout of large cemeteries as they were the first rural cemeteries, an idea brought over from Europe, and provided relief from a plague ridden city. It became a place of beauty and prestige where families could take carriage rides, see monuments and have picnics with their deceased loved ones. They went on to inspire public parks such as Central and Prospect Parks. 

When I moved to Chicago I noticed the cemeteries were smaller but landscaped in much the same way. Graceland and Rosehill are the largest cemeteries in the Chicagoland area. In 1860 Thomas Bryan a successful lawyer purchased 80 acres and hired landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland (designer of Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord MA,) to design Graceland to be park-like in appearance. Later William Le Baron Jenney, a renowned architect and "father of the skyscraper" contributed to the design and engineering of it. Jenney passed it on to his assistants who established the firm of Holabird & Simonds and worked on it from there. They were joined by a third partner, and shortly after this Simonds left the firm to focus solely on Graceland. Ossian Simonds was the last architect to work on the cemetery bringing it to what we see today by adding plants native to the area to the landscape design. Graceland is now the most well known cemetery in Chicago and doubles as an Arboretum.

Wandering through the cemetery leads you to the resting places of many great architects, artists, public figures, sports legends, and inventors. I'll lead you down the path to some of my favorites. While I enjoy grabbing maps and finding renowned graves, my favorite thing to do is wander and see where I'm lead to. 

“Eternal Silence” created by Lorado Taft in 1909 for Dexter Graves.

“Eternal Silence” created by Lorado Taft in 1909 for Dexter Graves.

Upon entering the cemetery you may be startled by the haunting sculpture "Eternal Silence" that marks Chicago hotelier Dexter Graves and "500 Chicagoans" on the census taken right before Chicago's incorporation. He moved from Ohio along with 13 families to settle in Chicago. Graves died 16 years before Graceland was created and his body was moved there from the Old City Cemetery where Lincoln Park now exists. That statue was erected in honor of the Graves family whose will enabled the city to pay for the monument. Lorado Taft based it on the original depiction of the Grim Reaper and was inspired by his own ideas on "death and silence." There's a bit of folklore to this sculpture as it's rumored that you cannot photograph it. While I had to a do a bit of editing to get the details, I was able to although the eerie feeling the sculpture gives cannot be captured. The bronze against black granite has been oxidized through time and weather giving it the green hue it is now. Walking by I had the sense that at any moment the eyes would open and he would awaken into a new world.  For a bit of urban legend, it is said that if you stare into the face of the sculpture you will get a glimpse of your own death giving it the nickname "Statue of Death."

Jack Johnson: First Black Heavy Weight Champion of the World

Jack Johnson: First Black Heavy Weight Champion of the World

As a boxing fan I was delighted to come across Jack Johnson's grave. Nicknamed the "Galveston Giant" he was the son of ex-slaves and the third born out of nine. As many children did, Jack only had a few years schooling before he went to work full-time in sculleries and on boats. During this time he traveled to Boston and NY working as a longshoreman. Around 16 years of age he engaged in his first boxing match. The prize was just $1.50 but he saw it as an opportunity to expand and eventually leave his hometown. Jack quickly rose up in the black boxing circuit but his goal was to be heavyweight champion, the title held by white boxer James Jeffries. Jeffries like other white boxers would not fight him. During this time Blacks were prohibited from fighting for heavyweight champion as they were closed off from fair competition. He finally got his chance for the title when champion Tommy Burns, who had recently won it from Jeffries agreed to fight him after being offered $30,000.  This was helped by Richard K. Fox, publisher of the Police Gazette, who said that Johnson deserved a chance. Being that it was the most popular sports paper at that time, it helped the argument. Jack London attended and wrote about the fight including it lasting 14 rounds, only ending when police came to break it up fearing a riot. Johnson was named the winner and continued his taunts and calls. Jeffries was pulled out of retirement to fight once again. Johnson got his wish on July 4, 1910. Jeffries was considered the "great white hope," a term given by those infuriated by the win. Media dubbed it the "Fight of the Century." Held in Reno, Nevada more than 22,000 boxing fans made their way to see it. This became more than a fight for Blacks, Johnson was a hero and a a beacon of hope. Winning this fight would be a huge victory for Blacks especially during this time when segregation and Jim Crow laws were in full force after the 1896 Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson declared it was not unconstitutional. Race riots and lynchings were everyday realities they had to face. Sports were a significant part of American culture. Fifteen rounds later Johnson was declared the winner. Race riots ensued and resulted in the lynching of at least 20 black people after the win. Whites searched for another "great white hope" to take the title from Johnson.

Johnson was a showman. He loved cars and women, and bowed down to no one. He earned $117,000 for that fight and it would be five years before he would hand over the heavyweight title to Jess Willard in a 26-round bout in Havana, Cuba. Johnson was hated for another reason too. He loved to party and he openly had romantic relations with white women. Angered whites actively tried to find a way to stop Johnson. They found it in The Mann Act. The Mann Act was part of social reform that intended to stop prostitution. Often it was depicted as naive white women being lured by immigrants into opium laden prostitution houses. Race mixing was considered immoral. Boxing was also coming under attack during the reform as it was considered a savage sport. This was a weak spot for Johnson. His first wife Etta Duryea committed suicide in his Chicago night club, Café de Champion. After long term depression brought on by the public's hostile attitude, Jack's infidelity and sometimes abusive behavior and her father's death, her depression had become more than she could handle. Three months later he married Lucille Cameron with whom he was having an affair and was under investigation for bringing her across state lines before their marriage.  Cameron's mother had gone to the police and charged Johnson with kidnapping her daughter. She was outraged her daughter was having romantic relations with a black man and accused him of having hypnotic powers to lure women. He was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1913, but fled to Europe for 7 years. When he returned he served his sentence of 1.5 years. 

As Johnson got older he used his name to keep afloat. He and Cameron were divorced due to infidelity. He married Irene Pineau and they moved to Europe where he told his story in dime museums, played music, made predictions on fights, and did a bit of fighting in small exhibitions. He even took out a patent for a wrench. He also planned to create a boxing school but Hitler's rise to power curtailed it. One of his great loves was the automobile and driving fast. In 1946 he died in an automobile accident. Irene buried him in Chicago with his first wife Etta. After his death she was quoted as saying  she loved him "because he faced the world unafraid, fearing nothing and nobody."

Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum designed by Chicago School architect Richard E. Schmidt.

Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum designed by Chicago School architect Richard E. Schmidt.

Peter Schoenhofen was a well known Chicago brewer. He was part of a group of brewers who transformed production techniques and developed transportation alternatives. The process started in the mid 1800s and by 1900, there were sixty Chicago breweries producing over 100 million gallons of beer per year. "In the basement of the old brewery building is the only artesian well still in existence in the Chicago area. At 1600 feet deep the well is capable of producing one million gallons of water a day for the next 100 years."

The Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum was created in the Egyptian revival style by Richard E. Schmidt out of granite and contains both Christian and Egyptian imagery with the angel and sphinx. The gateways at Karnak provided the inspiration for the door. The imagery contains lotuses, serpents, and bundled reeds. It is considered one of the most famous and photographed mausoleums at the cemetery. 

William Kimball Monument by McKim, Mead & White

William Kimball Monument by McKim, Mead & White

William Kimball started out as a real estate broker in Iowa and liquidated his estates before the Panic of 1857, the first worldwide economic crisis. He moved to Chicago and started the Kimball Piano Company with just four pianos. He quickly rose to success having a store in the Crosby Opera House. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed it and he lost more than $100,000 with the destruction. He moved his location and started to manufacture paints on his own building up to 100 pianos and organs weekly. After his death his son took over the company, and during WWII the Kimball factory produced aircraft parts for military airplane manufacturers, such as BoeingDouglas and Lockheed. After the war, piano production resumed but a series of poor financial choices by W.W. Kimball Jr led the company into decline. An heir to the family bought the company, reformed it, moved it to Indiana, and it once again rose to power and created offshoots into appliances and technological advancement. The piano portion of the company closed down in 1996 but the company still remains in furniture and electronics. 

One of the largest monuments in Graceland, it has Corinthian columns made of white marble. It was erected in 1907 from a design by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. An angel watches over the graves below but much of the detail is worn away due to weather.

George Pullman Monument by Solon Beman

George Pullman Monument by Solon Beman

George Pullman was an Industrialist and creator of the Pullman sleeping car, a luxurious train car designed for comfortable overnight travel. He was the son of a carpenter who created and patented jackscrews while working on the Eerie Canal. After his father's death he took over the business and relocated to Chicago where it was his job to raise building over the Lake Michigan flood plain. As the structure of city building began to advance, Pullman knew he had to create a new business to keep afloat with the changing technology. Railroads and train transport were becoming increasingly popular. Pullman himself rode the railway for business but felt the experience was not pleasurable and became interested in personal transport. He convinced Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Railroad to allow him to convert two of its cars for overnight comfortable travel included private sleeping quarters and good ventilation. They contained fine tapestries and decor. Pullman Sleepers debuted in 1859 and were an immediate success being compared to the luxury of Steamboat cabin travel. 

Always looking for a new endeavor, he became interested in the Gold Rush and relocated to Colorado where he focused on the needs of the miners which gave them hot meals, comfortable sleeping quarters and a place to switch out the crew, animals and supplies before they headed out to the mountains for mining. 

He headed back to Chicago in the 1860s, hiring a replacement for himself in the Civil War so he could focus on business. He worked on expanding the cars and creating his own, the “Pioneer,” invented jointly with Field. The 1865 car contained folding upper berths and extending seat cushions that could be made into extra bunks. The Pioneer was the most famous of these cars even transporting President Abraham Lincoln’s remains to his burial site. Pullman leased these cars to railways and by 1879 had made millions. Pullman also constructed a town made entirely for his employees. What at first seemed publicly ( it was featured in 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition) like a wonderful place to live and work soon showed a darker side. Pullman's original vision was to create place that  hired diverse staff, solved the poverty issue, provided fresh air, housing, and entertainment for those he employed. It was soon discovered that he ruled over the town like a tyrant creating a hierarchal structure. Executives received the best housing, skilled labor received row houses, and unskilled labor lived in tenement buildings. Newspapers and free speech were prohibited within the confines of the town and churches were only allowed Protestant denominations which he charged high rents.

With the economic depression, wages were lowered and people were laid off but the rent, gas, and water bills remained high. The workers called for a strike. The workers were tired of the lack of equalitarianism and the heavy handed control the company used over the workers. They were also not allowed to buy houses. Disgruntled workers met with the American Railway Union (ARU). A grievance committee attempted to meet with Pullman, who refused to recognize them or negotiate  and had them all fired. A strike was called with little to no success. Eugene Debs, the founder of the ARU called on a boycott of Pullman cars on the railways. It affected most rail lines from Ohio to CA and involved over 250,000 workers in 27 states. Violence and rioting ensued, especially in Chicago. Thirty people were killed in the riots and up to 80 million in damages. The federal government stepped in and placed an indictment against Debs, the union, and others who participated in a leadership level as they were interfering with mail cars, impeding service. Pres. Grover Cleveland, ordered 2,500 federal troops to Chicago on July 4, 1894. The strike ended a week later and troops were recalled July 20. Debs was arrested on federal charges and defended by a team including Clarence Darrow and Lyman Trumbull. At the trial, Darrow argued it was the railways that met in secret and colluded against the union. Despite being talk of an acquittal, a juror became ill and the prosecution dropped the charges. Debs went on to the Supreme Court where he was sentenced to 6 months. 

Despite the strike, George Pullman's business thrived and went on to many other endeavors. After his death his body was laid to rest in Graceland where he was buried at night with a lead-lined coffin, then placed in a steel, tar, and cement vault and reinforced with railroad ties. It was then poured over with concrete so that angry labour activists could not exhume, desecrate, or hold the body for ransom.

The monument was designed by Solon Beman and features a large Corinthian column.

Potter and Bertha Palmer's Greek Temple designed by McKim, Mead & White

Potter and Bertha Palmer's Greek Temple designed by McKim, Mead & White

Potter Palmer was best known for his rebuilding and developing of Lakeshore Drive and downtown after the Great Chicago Fire. Starting in NY, he worked as a clerk in a small general store. He worked his way up within two years and from there he opened a store of his own. Upon two failing endeavors he gained financial help from his father and moved to Chicago to open a dry goods store on Lake Street in 1852. Palmer had a different approach to handing his business. He focused solely on women, allowed people to test merchandise, didn't ask questions when someone returned product, and set up pleasing window displays with price comparisons. He also offered sales or bargain deals. He also offered the latest women's fashion. 

Upon failing health and his doctor's urging, Palmer first brought in partners Marshall Field and Levi Z. Leiter, then sold his shares to focus on real estate. He built several buildings along State Street, including the Palmer House Hotel. When the Great Fire of 1871 hit, he lost his buildings and had to borrow 1.7 million with the help of his wife's influence to rebuild. He also helped to develop swampland into what is now known as Lake Shore Drive. 

Palmer's wife Bertha Palmer was impressive on her own. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and quickly became popular as she was a musician, linguist, writer, politician, and manager. She married when she was 21 and he 44. She helped her husband with business dealings. She was taken in by Chicago's elite and charmed them with her knowledge and talent. She quickly rose to chairman of the Board of Lady Managers for the World's Columbian Exposition to be held in Chicago two years later. Under her administration, Bertha made sure the accomplishments of women were noticed. Using Palmer’s personal connections with political leaders and royalty, she worked the board to create The Woman’s Building, designed by Sophia Hayden, an architect and interior designer. Sophia and Bertha argued over the donation from the rich as part of the interior design for the building. Sophia feared it would clash with the design. Bertha fired her from the interior and hired Candace Wheeler. Palmer worked closely with curator Sarah Tyson Hallowell on the exhibits and murals that would be exhibited. It contained two murals "Primitive Woman" by Mary Fairchild MacMonnies Low and "Modern Woman" by Mary Cassatt. She also convinced Congress to produce a comparative coin for the Exposition which became the Isabella Quarter. 

Bertha and her husband were avid art collectors and supported artists with the help of Hallowell, who they trusted to pick up on the latest trends. They spent a good portion of their money on decorating the Palmer Mansion, including works by Claude Monet, as well as fine jewels. Bertha was known to travel the world entertaining with royalty and politicians. Her husband was not fearful of her fame and encouraged her to do whatever she desired. She also supported the Jane Adam's Hull House, giving to them financially, and was also a trustee of Northwestern University. As a mother, she supported kindergartens until they were made a part of the public school system and rallied for inexpensive milk to be made available for the poor and for children of imprisoned mothers. She also planned a dinner between workers and capitalists to work on social reform. She received criticism from Mother Jones, saying because Palmer was upper class she did not have the insight to solve the working class problems. 

When Potter died, Bertha took over management of his business, which was worth 8 million, and doubled it. She became interested in Florida and the agriculture there. She became a rancher and land developer focusing on innovative ways to encourage farmers and land preservation. Bertha is buried at Graceland along with her husband in a Greek Temple style monument with twin sarcophagi designed by McKim, Mead & White. The inverted torches on the sides of each, symbolic of death.

Reading Tea & Coffee

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It  begins with land and memory. Every herb harvested for tea or bean gathered for coffee comes from somewhere. Some are chosen with care and others in collected in mass. While you can do tasseography with any tea, I like to work with Madame Zuzus teas as they are high quality, personally chosen and harvested with care. For coffee I prefer Armenian, Greek, or Turkish coffees. You can work with anything you choose. It will not effect the reading. 

The most important part of tasseography is creating a relationship with the tea or coffee itself.  Every morning I get up and make myself coffee. I then slide back into bed and make "to do" lists or check email. I take this time to fully wake myself up and prepare for the day ahead. In the afternoon and evening I like to brew tea. Sometimes I brew regular tea and sometimes Romani tea. This is my daily ritual and makes me feel grounded despite the piles of work I may have to do. Think about your personal relationship to beverages. How do they make you feel? Do you have your own personal ritual with these beverages? Does tasting a certain tea or coffee bring back memories? For instance Cafe Bustelo reminds me of my days in Bedstuy listening to NPR and jazz as I finished my projects for college and tried my hand at black and white photography. Armenian coffee takes me back to Astoria and mornings with with Armenian neighbor Kristen, who brewed up the best tasting cup as we talked of faraway lands. The taste of chicory coffee is distinctly New Orleans and walking through the French Quarter to Cafe du Monde. Think about the history of the land you are getting you tea or coffee from. History reminds us that chicory and coffee have somewhat of a mysterious beginning. Some say it began when Napoleon initiated the 'Continental Blockade' in 1808 and divested France of its coffee. Once the block was lifted the French believing in it's health benefits continued to use it. Although it was here in the US due to French influence, it was considered an additive until the Civil War where coffee deliveries were often blocked. It became a substitute or mixed to keep rations from dwindling. When the war ended so did the need for chicory, except in New Orleans. It became a staple, and undeniable taste that makes it unique to the Crescent City. 

Crema Earl Grey takes me back to painting divination tables and creating prosperity spells at my former home in Queens. It also makes me think of land and how recipes are formed from the land itself.  The history of Earl grey goes back to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834. In the early 1800’s he was given a sample of tea by a Chinese diplomat. It was a blend of tea from China flavoured with rind of bergamot The water at Howick had a high lime content and the tea masked the taste of the water. Grey served it to friends that visited and eventually gave the recipe to George Charlton in 1830. That recipe has been used ever since. 

Think about these things as you brew and hold the cup in your hands. When you take the first sip savor it. Notice the flavors in the tea. There is a romance in tea and coffee. It's something that over time we have created relationships with and to think that there are messages hidden at the bottom of the cup is quite a magical experience within itself. 

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Before we go further lets go into the history of tasseography itself. The root of the word is derived from the French tasse and Arabic tassa , meaning cup and the Greek suffix graph and mancy meaning writing and knowledge. Tasseography  was thought to have been brought over from China when Europeans were introduced to tea in the 17th century and it's origins have been credited to Asia, Greece, and the Middle East. It became popular in the Victorian era.  Interest in the occult was becoming widely popular as was self analysis brought on by the work of Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer. This interest brought on an "acceptance" of certain cultural practices that were normally shunned. The Roma who were often banished from towns and cities were now part of the social circle making house calls for divination for a fee. Many immigrants found work in fortune telling as they were not allowed to work regular jobs. For the Roma, it was hard no matter where they went. The church attacked fortune tellers and tried to force deportations. Often the Roma were sold as slaves or faced racism and persecution in Western Europe. An example of this was Napoleon transporting hundreds of Roma men to Louisiana right before he sold the territory to the US. By the end of the 19th century many were immigrating to the US as they felt their lives would be better there.   During the 1920s tea rooms were formed and allowed for immigrants to make a living telling fortunes, this however made some people angry and laws were introduced to ban payments for fortune telling services. "Gypsy Tea Rooms" were created to find loopholes around the laws. Often the fortune tellers would not charge for the reading but one would come free with a tweet-five cent tea purchase. It has been noted that Chicago’s Gypsy Tea Room on 22 West Monroe where the Majestic Theater is may have been the city’s first tea room. The Persian Tea Room on 16 West Jackson, and the Garden of Zanzibar Tea Room on 54 West Randolph Street created a little while later also did quite well. The Queen of Heart Tea Room on N Dearborn offered palmistry, tasseography, cartomancy and numerology as well as a selection of teas to choose from. During this time pottery used for divination was formed. Teacups with symbols painted into them helped aid in the fortune telling. Bottom of the Cup 327 Chartres St. in the French Quarter, New Orleans  was established in 1929 and still stands to this day being one of America's oldest tea rooms still in business. 

Tasseography takes a different kind of concentration. While the symbols you see are important, it's also important to take notes of what you're being told. This will often come in as a thought bubble or something that pops into your head. These are often the most important messages.

How to Read the Leaves

*Something to keep in mind: When drinking the tea try to focus on something specific you'd like the answer to. If you have no questions just think about your life in general. 


There are a few ways to make the tea. One is to put a pinch of the leaves into the cup, add hot water and drink the tea with the loose leaves. I use a tea strainer and then add a few pinches of the leaves to the cup when there is one sip left. Leave that liquid in the cup and add the leaves. For Armenian coffee, you take a tsp of the coffee and some sugar and add to cold water in the pot. Stir the mixture and set on low to medium heat until the coffee begins to simmer and the foam rises, lower the heat, and let it settle then do this two more times. Pour into a cup. 

Once you have finished drinking your beverage take your left hand and swirl the cup counter clockwise three times and put the saucer or a small plate over the cup. Flip the cup over and put it right side up. Look at the way the tea leaves form. At first you may not notice anything but as you look further you will start to see shapes appear. Turn the cup around to see all angles. Squint your eyes if you need to to get a better grasp of images forming.

There seems to be a resurgence in tasseography as a divination art in the past few years. This may be with the rising interest in both the occult and tea in general.  Tasseography is the perfect method of gaining insight  by sipping (putting your essence into the the process of drinking) thinking about what you'd like to know and then looking at what the cup and you essence (saliva) are telling you. In Romani culture saliva is very sacred. It contains your life force and can be used both to bless and curse.

Starting with the cup handle (current month) and going left to right you can see how each part of the cup represents a month in the future. Now look inside the cup. The bottom of the cup is Current. then it goes up to beginning of month, mid month, and end of month or future.

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Crosses: Dramatic changes and choices to make.

Straight or Curved Broken Lines: Projects to be started creativity.

Curved Wavy Lines: Use caution. Need better direction or control.

Separate dots: Money or possessions. The position in the cup indicates amount and time frame. For example in the image there are 5 dots in the 5th month position. This could be an indication that a raise is coming or change of work for the better but also that you will be incorporating more. It could be redoing the home or buying a car etc.

Circles: Energy influencing events, completion of cycles and projects.

Groups: This could be a group of circles, curved lines, symbols etc. Look at the grouping. You will probably have to squint as the lines can be faint.

Cluster: Usually a cluster of the same symbol such as a circle along with another set of symbolism. It represents emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger etc.

Remember: At first it is going to be hard to see the symbols and make the connection to what they are. I remember my first time doing it I felt so overwhelmed and like a failure because I couldn't automatically make the connection. I felt blocked or like I was making it up. The important part is to notice patterns. If you see shapes like stars, hearts , horseshoes, animals etc track down a symbolism dictionary or look online to see the hidden meanings. You can also look at dream dictionaries for symbolism. Often there is a crossover. 

Below is a list of teas you can purchase from Madame Zuzus and their magical properties. If you'd like to hear me speak about Tasseography, you can find my interview on "I'm Spiritual Dammit" with Jenniffer Weigel on WGN here

Recipe for Romani Tea via Jessica Reidy. We differ in our opinions of reading for yourself. I feel it's okay and have done it many times for myself. The main thing is to be detached and don't project your own feelings into the reading.

Forgotten History: Roma Slavery in Romania

The secret history of Earl Grey tea by Legacy.com

The Hidden World of Tenement Fortune Tellers in 19th Century Manhattan

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ZUZU'S VANILLA ROOIBOS  

Rooibos purifies, rejuvenates, and brings magic into ones life, it also brings peace and is wonderful for dream work. Associated with Venus, Vanilla brings about calm peaceful energy with a loving vibration. Use for questions on love, lust, healing, luck, life path, and mental clarity questions.

ZUZU'S 3 ESTATE BLACK TEA

Back tea is the traditional tea for tasseography. This tea gives the strength and agility to push through hard times. If you are looking for clarity or navigation on tough decisions, this is a good choice.

ZUZU'S LITCHI NOIR

Removes negativity and brings in sweetness and happiness. Excellent for connecting with the divine feminine and moon magic. Also good for when you need to speak your mind without being harsh. Good for any magical concerns you may have in your line of questioning.

ZUZU'S BLUE DRAGON OOLONG

The oolong helps in meditation and concentration while the blue pea flower creates a sense of inner and outer beauty, love, loyalty, marital balance, harmony, and peace. It is also excellent for overcoming addictions, obsessive behaviors, and fears. 

ZUZU'S ROSE NOIR

Black tea is associated with Mars and male energy while the rose is Venus and provides female energy to balance it out. Together this is the perfect tea for anima/animus questions as well as inquiries on love, romance and partnerships. 

88TH NIGHT SINCHA

Harvested on the 88th night of spring this tea brings luck and good fortune to all that taste it. 

ZUZU'S TROPICAL SPICED CLEMENTINE

Clementine along with Apple, Rosehip , hibiscus, and 3 types of cinnamon make the perfect combination for self love and healing. 

BLACK CANADIAN SMOKED ICE WINE ELIXIR

 Black tea is good for prosperity, attracting money, good health, strength, and endurance. Grapes are wonderful for abundance work and ice wine is excellent for relieving the blues and freezing out negativity. Work with this tea for business questions as well as health questions. 

EMPEROR'S PRIVATE RESERVE AMBROSIA ORCHID OOLONG

 Made from five rare orchid scented oolongs this tea is wonderful for reflection, meditation, inner wisdom, and fantastic for concentration and the mysteries of life. When combined with the rare orchid it attracts romance, love and deep relationships and friendships. For inquiries this would be good for discovering hidden blocks that keep you from your goals. 

EMPEROR'S MOONLIGHT LITCHI BLOSSOM

 Removes negativity and brings in sweetness and happiness. Excellent for connecting with the divine feminine and moon magic. Also good for when you need to speak your mind without being harsh. (With this tea you would be reading the blossom more so than the leaves.)

PRIVATE RESERVE HAND ROLLED HIMALAYAN PEAK DARJEELING

 Promotes spiritual growth, the champagne of teas, it brings luxury to one's life. Go to this if you have questions about how to bring a higher frequency into your life. 

WILD BLUEBERRY NOIR

 The blueberry provides protection while the black tea gives the strength and agility to push through hard times. Work with this tea in times of uncertainty. 

WILD FORAGED STINGING NETTLE LIMON

 The Nettle dispels negativity and fear, stops gossip, envy, and jealousy. Excellent in an emergency to help with clarity. Lemon is a natural cleanser used for purification and clearing blockages.

MADAME ZUZU'S ROYAL WHITE MOTHERBUSH DARJEELING (EXCLUSIVE) (OUR MOST PRESTIGIOUS TEA)

 The motherbush is the bush that creates all the other bushes, it is the original and one rarely touches this bush. This tea is excellent for working with the energy of the divine mother Goddess. It represents new beginnings, clarity, cleansing, meditation, connection to the earth and history,  purification and protection. An excellent tea for working with your ancestral spirits as well.

MADAME ZUZUS TROPICAL FRUIT MEDLEY (EXCLUSIVE)

 A gorgeous blend. The honeybush is used for purification and rejuvenation as well as weight loss. Cantaloupe aids with balance and success, honeydew for love, pineapple for hospitality and blessings, Seville orange to regulate the flow of energy, and blood orange for warmth, safety, and protection.

MADAME ZUZU'S FRENCH KISSED MOROCCAN MINT

 The Dragonwell green tea brings passion and energy as well as a boost of magic while the biodynamic spearmint brings, healing love and protection. The biodynamic peppermint increases vibrational frequencies while purifying the body and mind. The lavender promotes healing of the mind, sleep, and depression. If you're looking to tap into some Brion Gysin energy  Moroccan Mint tea was his favorite. 

ZUZU'S OSMANTHUS OOLONG

Brings warmth, compassion, and understanding. Good for questions on healing old rifts or disagreements. 

CEREMONIAL YUZU KUKICHA

Promotes transformation. It has been compared to the “Ugly Duckling” fairytale wherein at first glance it looks like, stems, stalks, and twigs but transforms into a golden flavorful potion with a hint of citrus. It is one of the finest teas in Japan. Yuzu pushes out negativity and attracts healing and prosperity.

MADAME ZUZU'S MOCHA CHAI

Brings strength and stability. A great tea to drink if you have just closed a chapter of your life as the black teabrings closure. The cacao improves mental weakness and stimulates happy thoughts. Excellent for releasing the past. The chai allows for new awareness and opening of the heart.

MADAME ZUZU'S STIMULUS (EXCLUSIVE)

Energy, energy and more energy. Oh and some healing too but energy! Rapid growth and big steps in the right direction. Focus!

ZUZU'S SENCHA

Healing and progress are the name of the game when you drink this tea.

ZUZU'S LEMON BERRY MERITAGE

The lemon purifies and renews while the currants bring a higher vibrational frequency and passion, hibiscus brings love and warmth, blueberries for protection and feeling safe, raisins for pushing out the old and bringing in the new, and cherry for a bit of sweetness and attraction.

ZUZU'S PASSION FRUIT DREAM GREEN

Love, passion, and sexual energy.

MADAME ZUZU'S 2011 VINTAGE OAK BARREL AGED KEEMUN (EXCLUSIVE)

Energy and luxury. Oak bring vitality and long life as well as inner power, centering the mind and avoiding distractions. It inspires leadership, prosperity, bravery, strength of character and also grounds and balances.

ZUZU'S GEORGIA PEACH NECTAR ROOIBOS

Rooibos purifies, rejuvenates, and brings magic into ones life, it also brings peace and is wonderful for dream work. Peaches are wishing fruits and are thought of to bring wishes into fruition. It is also wonderful for exorcising negative thought patterns and energy, longevity, bringing in loving vibes, and fertility. 

ZUZU'S DECAF REGAL ENGLISH BREAKFAST

This tea is wonderful for removing and expelling negative energies around you. 

ZUZU'S CHAMOMILE CITRON

Love healing and success are all things chamomile brings in. It also dispels negativity, breaks, blocks, creates peace and harmony within the mind and body. Washing hands in chamomile infusion brings luck in gambling and money attraction. When sipped daily it brings long lasting feelings of pure love. Anhui wild lime promotes calmness, tranquility and helps to strengthen love while purifying the mind of negative thought and actions.  Lemon peel removes unwanted negativity and blockages.

ZUZU'S EMPEROR'S GOLDEN HOUIJI GENMAICHA

This tea promotes youthful energy and passion. It is great for educing progress. Rice is used for money, sex, fertility, and protection.

ZUZU'S 2010 VINTAGE SICILIAN BLOOD ORANGE PU-ERH

Luxury, healing, energizing. Promotes clarity of the mind as well. The blood orange helps with divination, luck, money, love, and prosperity.

ZUZU'S MOONLIGHT JASMINE BLOSSOM

Jasmine is wonderful for attracting spiritual love, soul mates and higher vibrations. Drinking Jasmine allows the mind to accept wealth and money without doubt. Helps creativity and new ideas. Excellent for prophetic dreaming. (With this tea you would be reading the blossom more so than the leaves.)

ZUZU'S CREMA EARL GREY (MOST POPULAR CUP OF TEA IN ZUZUS TEASHOP)

Black tea dispels negativity and allows for prosperity to begin while the bergamot is great for prosperity., money workings, removing obstacles and blocks, success, and protection from illness.

ZUZU'S EMPEROR'S MINT MERITAGE

Biodynamic spearmint is for wishing magic, health, healing, love, and to dispel bad dreams while biodynamic peppermint increases higher vibrational frequencies, aids in changing ones life for the better and purification. 

ZUZU'S FIRST FLUSH DARJEELING

Promotes spiritual growth and understanding, connects one with the land. Excellent for working with spirit guides. 

ZUZU'S MAGNOLIA BLOSSOM OOLONG

The oolong helps in meditation and concentration while the magnolia blossom creates a sense of inner and outer beauty, love, loyalty, marital balance, harmony, and peace. It is also excellent for overcoming addictions, obsessive behaviors, and fears.

ZUZU'S 2010 VINTAGE CARAMEL DREAM PU-ERH

This tea allows you to feel the richness in life and connect with the earth. It heals negative thought patterns as well as energizes the body and mind. The caramel promotes love, happiness, love, sweetness, riches and self worth while the vanilla promotes playfulness, lust, energy, and passion. 

CIDER SPICE NOIR

A love spell in a cup. 

 

 

 

 

Obscura Day Tour - William S. Burroughs' NYC

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Taft Hotel – 152 W 51st St

Now the Michelangelo Hotel. Reportedly Burroughs had a room there and met a man named Jack Anderson who he decided to have romantic relations with.  They left the door open and a hotel employee caught them in bed together while he was checking the doors. Ten minutes later Burroughs was told by hotel management that he had to pack up and leave and would be refunded for the remaining time. Burroughs became enamored with Jack andmoved to the boarding house Jack was staying at.

 

55 Jane St – Boarding House

 

Burroughs moves in to become closer to Jack. Jack was bisexual and enjoyed bringing men and women back to his room for sexual encounters. Burroughs became so distraught that he cut off the end of his left little finger with poultry shears and brought it to his analyst, Dr Wiggers. Dr. Wiggers committed him to Bellvue (462 1st Avenue). He then was transferredto the Payne Whitley Clinic (525 E 68th St.)

Burroughs wrote about this incident later in a sketch called “The Finger” it is included in the 1988 Interzone collection.  During this time he also experiments with automatic writing. He was sent back to St Louis after his time in the hospital where he and Jack kept in touch. Jack visited him there and they immediately got into a car accident whichshows up in “Driving Lesson” in Interzone as well as glimpses of the relationship in The Wild Boys and Port of Saints.

 

69 Bedford Street

 

Lucien Carr and Dave Kammerer had just moved from Chicago to NY. Burroughs followed along soon after and moved to Bedford St. Kammerer lived at 48 Morton Street which was just a block or so away and was intrigued by Carr. Carr was not homosexual but enjoyed the attention and allowed Kammerer to follow him. Here Burroughs met a man who worked for the New Yorker who introduced him to Truman Capote. Burroughs was not impressed. Around this time is where Burroughs met Ginsburg through Carr. 

 

Chumley's – 86 Bedford St

 

Chumley's was one of the homes to the Beats. You could often find William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, or Jack Kerouac there. Burroughs and Kammerer would have drinks and dinner there. It was founded in 1922 by Leland Stanford Chumley and used as a speakeasy modified from an abandoned cobbler shop. The rumor is that the term “86'd” started here to describe being thrown out of the bar since one would land under the bar’s address 86. Hence “86'd.” It is more likely, though, that the term came from Article 86 of the NYC Liquor code which details reasons why a person may be thrown out or removed from a bar. Edna St. Vincent Millay was known to stop in for a drink as well as were EE Cummings, Eugene O'Neill, John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser, and others. The bar closed after a chimney collapsed and has had trouble re-opening ever since. This is mostly due to neighbors protesting. The bar is fully renovated and contains the book covers of those who visited. 

 

White Horse Tavern - 567 Hudson Street

 

The original White Horse Tavern was constructed in the 1880's.  Much of it has been preserved to stay true to its roots. Jack Kerouac lived upstairs and would come down for drinks or food. Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Dylan Thomas, Hunter S. Thompson, Jane Jacobs, and Norman Mailer where some of the many that stopped by in our their travels. There is a rumor one can still see the words “Jack go home” carved into one of the bathroom walls. This is also the infamous tavern where Dylan Thomas drank too heavily one night, stumbled back to the Chelsea and died a few days later of pneumonia with pressure on the brain. Diet and lack of self care may have been a part of his demise. There is a plaque honoring him within the tavern at his favorite booth. Burroughs came here for drinks while visiting Kerouac. 

 

Minetta Tavern - 113 MacDougal Street

 

Minetta tavern is named after a small stream that once flowed through Union Square to the Hudson River. As time passed and the city created streets, the path the stream once took was renamed the Minetta Triangle. The tavern opened in 1937 and has many of the original fixtures giving it a “tavern of the time” feeling. It was the base for the original “Reader's Digest” and a favorite of E. E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and Eugene O'Neill. Many of the Beats including William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Joe Gould would come to dine and drink but are barely mentioned in the roster of writers who dined there.

 

421 West 118th Street

 

This was Kerouac's apartment he shared with his girlfriend but it became a sort of artist gathering space. Burroughs at this time was living on Riverside Drive at the end of 108th st. He spent a lot of time working communally and socializing at Jack's place. 

 

360 Riverside Drive, west end of West 108th Street

 

August 14, 1944, Burroughs awoke to knocking at his door. It was Lucien Carr who immediately handed him a blood stained pack of Lucky Strikes and told him how Kammerer had tried to come onto him on the grass below Riverside Drive and west 115th st. They were both drunk and a fight ensued. Kammerer was taller and bigger than Carr. Carr took out a knife and stabbed him. He then ripped his shirt into strips, tied rocks to his arms and legs and pushed his body into the Hudson. Burroughs advised Carr to turn himself in and destroyed the cigarettes. They then took a trip to Kerouac's to tell him the story. Kerouac and Carr went back to the park and disposed of the knife in a sewer drain. 

Carr turned himself in 2 days later but without a body and Carr being so awkward the chief didn't believe him. He locked him in the cell and waited for the coastguard to alert them of the body. Carr then took the police to where he killed Kammerer and buried his glasses. Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as material witnesses. Burroughs' father posted bail and Kerouac with no one to post bail stayed in jail as his family would not bail him out. His girlfriend's parents agreed to post bail if he married their daughter. He did. 

Carr was sentenced to up to twenty years for first degree manslaughter but only served two. He worked at United Press until his retirement. 

Burroughs and Kerouac later wrote And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,  based on the experience. 

 

419 West 115th Street

 

Joan Vollmer lived in this apartment. Joan was married at the time and had her daughter Julie living with her. She had met Ginsberg and they had become friendly. He ended up moving in along with Hal Chase reforming "the libertine circle" which had been first formed at Kerouac's. Kerouac came back from Michigan and moved in and Edie, his wife followed shortly after. Burroughs had an apartment near 59th and Broadway at Columbus Circle. He started hanging out at the apartment and he and Joan became a couple shortly after. He moved in sharing the bedroom with Joan. Joan's husband returned home from Germany a few weeks later disgusted. He filed for divorce soon after. 

 

204 East 7th Street

 

Burroughs stayed here after a few arrests for narcotics and the death of Joan. He killed Joan accidentally in a drunken game of William Tell. His brothers went to Mexico City and bribed the authorities to release him. He was released after just 13 days. This was his first time back to NY in 6 years. He stayed there a short time before moving to Tangier. 

 

Chelsea Hotel - 222 W 23rd St

 

Burroughs took up residence there. There is a strange video of Andy Warhol having dinner with Andy Warhol from this time where they talk of chicken fried steak. You can hear Nico talking from the other room. Rumor has it that parts of Naked Lunch were drafted here. Burroughs and Gysin also came to the Chelsea to market the “Dream Machine” The “Dream Machine” consisted ofa spinning paper cylinder with slitted sides and a light bulb inside. It was made to create a psychedelic experience for the viewer without the use of drugs. Unfortunately it did not make them rich. They also created much of the work for “The Third Mind” while here. Rumor had it that if Stanley Bard felt you would become Somebody he would let you live in the hotel for free or at least a discounted price. Hotel Chelsea is now closed and being remodeled to include a retail space and restaurant. Lord knows that can't end well. 

 

210 Centre Street

 

Burroughs lived here very briefly in which he did readings for friends events. He moved to London after.

 

452 Broadway

 

This was right around the corner from his old apartment. He worked at City College as a creative writing teacher. Ginsberg got him the job. 

 

77 Franklin

 

Burroughs lived on the third floor of this building mid seventies. He stayed there briefly before giving it to Malcolm McNeill who he had brought over from London. He and malcolm were working on various projects together. 

 

The Bunker - 222 Bowery

 

Burroughs hated teaching and only lasted a semester. At this time he moved into “The Bunker,” described as a windowless locker. Burroughs lived here and worked with James Grauerholz who was his assistant and agent,. James would book him speaking engagements. He also became a columnist for Crawdaddy Magazine interviewing people like Jimmy Page for the magazine. He lived there entertaining friends and working until 1981 when he moved to Lawrence Kansas. His room has been kept the way it was since he departed by John Giorno a friend of Burroughs. Gothamist posted images inside the Bunker taken by a photographer allowed to photograph the space.