Reviewing 2016, at the Dawn of 2017

14474491_1675834952734334_2667882613095530496_n

Hello old blog! I seem to only revisit this site for reviewing the previous year, but I think it’s still an important outlet to have, when I need it. 2016 was definitely a building year in life, where I finally got my own apartment, in a building overlooking a beautiful Brooklyn park, and managed to pay for it only with writing (and a few cemetery tours and talks). The process of that was exhausting. However, I did travel, from Montreal to Route 66 to New Orleans, with some of my favorite friends. I also became an aunt!

Life is never a smooth field to walk over, there are always the rocks, maybe left from some old glacier you thought had long melted away, or holes you haven’t quite patched, waiting to twist an ankle. Hills appear unexpectedly, and are steeper than expected once you start to climb. I’ll try not to turn this into rather mediocre pastoral poetry, just to say that I value those people who give me their trust, love, and friendship on this strange and unpredictable path. Also, in my seventh year in New York, I get to unlock mausoleums and bring people inside to talk about dead magicians and occult history, and that’s pretty great, no matter what else happens next.

Writing is now my full-time job, so, for better or worse, that means that’s all I do for 40 hours a week, which can mean a lot of stories slip through the flow of endless internet content. I thought I would corral a few of them here… for my curiosity, if nothing else. Oh and I’m still visiting and writing about New York City’s greatest trees, but you can read all about them on my dedicated Tumblr.

And I got to meet this celebrity llama:

14504785_1208692635867861_8820718754070528000_n

And see all these beautiful, magical, and curious things:

929302_1697540433794371_1130829638_n

Chinatown, NYC

12446286_1159502080749601_491258309_n

Cherry blossoms, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

12568134_602012983283998_1863838960_n

Blizzard in Brooklyn

12826148_1674118116196295_1114977421_n

Prune Nourry’s colossal head at the Invisible Dog

13298058_1025529807483121_1892354475_n

Saint Roch Cemetery, New Orleans

13398997_235705170149773_482344898_n

Kayaking, New Orleans

13402648_653806424794794_386166057_n

Frog friend, New Orleans

13671129_1117395304992530_375939775_n

Corpse flower, The Bronx

13671221_179726125772030_1804591391_n

Secret Mausoleum Club, Brooklyn

13725674_1655238244796348_58461671_n

Opening a mausoleum for a cemetery tour

13734249_548343002015608_1403723357_n

Prospect Park, Brooklyn

13774749_178915132519866_1999942250_n

Rockaway Beach, NYC

14031740_979453458832666_149640621_n

Great Salt Plains, Oklahoma

14063181_1212462078796873_114744808_n

Biosphere, Montreal

14359963_602100763306108_1132558398_n

Taryn Simon, Park Avenue Armory

14474512_1473379312677859_2564549689978388480_n

Tree of Life, New Orleans

14482035_1207431825995024_5248085478887915520_n

Abandoned morgue, Ellis Island

14547724_1610257949280486_4250051159378624512_n

Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn

14583298_939471979490356_6357439835971518464_n

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

14736181_325951474435069_5150661185229553664_n

Bayside Cemetery, Queens

15101704_626563497552396_6637590614135275520_n

Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Cheers to 2017! This world right now is rather terrifying, but that there is still adventure and discovery to be had, and people who want to share in it, gives me hope.

 

A Belated Look Back at 2014

Muir Woods

Walking in Muir Woods with friends on my West Coast travels this year (photograph by Bron Hazelwood)

Is March too late to look back on the previous year? I’ve been meaning to parse through the 12 months of 2014 but haven’t quite found the time to sit down and do it. Recently I made a big decision to leave editing aside for the moment and focus on writing full-time. It’s still a big change, mainly in that I’ve always had a hard time focusing on one activity throughout a day, even if it tackles different subjects. But it’s exciting that after five years in New York, I’m making a salary doing what I wanted to do. And more than that, I’m really proud that I’ve been able to turn my personal passions into real world events with the cemetery tours and gatherings. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to revive the blog for a moment and look back at my favorite articles from the year, and some highlights from exploring.

WORK

I wrote quite a lot, particularly at Hyperallergic and Atlas Obscura where I worked on a regular basis. But I also did some freelance. Here are my favorites:

The Graves of Forgotten New Yorkers [March 18, New York Times] It was beyond thrilling to write my first NY Times op-ed with the wonderful Bess Lovejoy, and it was exciting to see my writing in a publication I never thought I’d get a chance to write for.

The Sacrificial Glory of the Soviet Space Dogs [September 17, Hyperallergic]

Fatal Victorian Fashion and the Allure of the Poison Garment [June 20, Hyperallergic]

Washington Irving Bishop: The Magician Killed by his Autopsy [March 20, Atlas Obscura]

Before the Garden Gnome, the Ornamental Hermit: A Real Person Paid to Dress Like a Druid [March 18, Atlas Obscura]

After 27 Years, a New York World’s Fair Relic Reopens to the Public [April 22, Hyperallergic]

The Sci-Fi Writer Who Used Photography to Search for Ancient Aliens [March 6, Hyperallergic]

Double Sunsets & Peasants With Pitchforks in the Trials of 18th-century Balloonists [June 4, Altas Obscura]

Ruins of a Human Zoo at the Forgotten Edge of Paris [June 2, Atlas Obscura]

A Lost Constellation: The Great Printing Press in the Sky [January 16, Hyperallergic]

Portraits from Ellis Island’s Abandoned Immigrant Hospital [December 4, Hyperallergic]

Slashed and Hidden from Sight: The Strange Power of Cursed Paintings [November 11, Hyperallergic]

The Modest Victorian Proposal to Electroplate Corpses into Beautiful Statues [January 6, Atlas Obscura]

CEMETERY HAPPENINGS

Gathering in a mausoleum at one of the cemetery events (photograph by Hannah Cao, I'm lurking at far right)

Gathering in a mausoleum at one of the cemetery events (photograph by Hannah Cao, I’m lurking at far right)

I still remember when I had to drink a glass of red wine at nine in the morning because I was so nervous for my first cemetery tour in 2011. Not that I don’t get interior butterflies now, but it’s been encouraging to do something and have people be interested and get more confidence both in my public speaking and just in myself. Here’s some cool things people wrote!

Cited by the Wall Street Journal as an overly enthusiastic “resident cemetery aficionado” with Atlas Obscura at a crypt party in Harlem.

New York Magazine printed a short interview with me on legally exploring mausoleums in “The Everything Guide to the Urban Daredevil.”

And the New Yorker reviewed the Beat Festival collaboration called “Crossing Over,” where I’m described as “a woman in a black dress picking up a lantern,” which is accurate.

It was also awesome to help plan an H. P. Lovecraft reading in Green-Wood Cemetery, dance at a crypt party, see Philippe Petit do close magic in the Brooklyn catacombs, and collaborate with Green-Wood Cemetery on their Secret Mausoleum Club series. One of those things would have made a year, but to have them all in 2014 along with creating cemetery tours on magicians, symbolism, disasters, pet memorials, and forgotten NYC history was incredible. I’m already planning the tours for the spring.

Pointing out a butterfly symbol in Green-Wood (photograph by Monzeeki)

Pointing out a butterfly symbol in Green-Wood (photograph by Monzeeki, click here for more!)

ADVENTURE

So much! Traveling is always my favorite, so spending an extended week in Paris meeting new friends, walking an abandoned train track, visiting some of the city’s underground, and just spending time in the country where I used to live was great. In November, I met up with a couple of friends from Australia and explored San Francisco, a city I’d never spent much time in. I also did family visiting in San Antonio and Memphis, and in New York I still feel totally spoiled by how much theater, art, music, and awesome things are always waiting. It still has yet to wear off that I can get on a train and end up at a beach covered in glass bottles dating back to the 19th century, or a cemetery where all the tombs are made of metal, or just a ridiculous Broadway spectacle. I feel like I could capture the year better in photos, so here you go!

January:

easternstate

Visiting Eastern State Penitentiary on Atlas Obscura’s day trip to Philadelphia

A classy party in the Masonic Lodge of NYC (my photo isn't great, but there are more here)

A classy party in the Masonic Lodge of NYC (my photo isn’t great, but there are more here)

February:

Pretty surreal to be walking in MoMA and run into a model of a building from your Oklahoma hometown...

Pretty surreal to be walking in MoMA and run into a model of a building from your Oklahoma hometown…

March:

Access without lock picking

Access without lock picking

Leading a mausoleum tour

Leading a mausoleum tour

April:

Visiting the NY State Pavilion on its first public day in 27 years

Visiting the NY State Pavilion on its first public day in 27 years

Catacombs gathering with Philippe Petit

Catacombs gathering with Philippe Petit

May:

May greenery on an abandoned Paris train track

May greenery on an abandoned Paris train track

National Archives in Paris

National Archives in Paris

Visiting the once home of Le Corbusier in Paris

Visiting the once home of Le Corbusier in Paris

Pere Lachaise in Paris

Pere Lachaise in Paris

Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris

Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris

Monumenta 2014 : Ilya & Emilia Kabakov at the Grand Palais in Paris

Monumenta 2014 : Ilya & Emilia Kabakov at the Grand Palais in Paris

June:

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery receiving tomb

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery receiving tomb

Secret Mausoleum Club

Secret Mausoleum Club

Patti Smith's installation at Fort Tilden

Patti Smith’s installation at Fort Tilden

July:

Preparing for the Lovecraft reading at Green-Wood Cemetery

Preparing for the Lovecraft reading at Green-Wood Cemetery

August:

Most Holy Trinity Cemetery in Brooklyn, where all the tombs are made of metal

Most Holy Trinity Cemetery in Brooklyn, where all the tombs are made of metal

Dead Horse Bay bottle collecting

Dead Horse Bay bottle collecting

Kensico Dam, Valhalla, NY

Kensico Dam, Valhalla, NY

Ruins at the Rockaways

Ruins at the Rockaways

September:

Reconstruction preview of King's Theatre in Brooklyn

Reconstruction preview of Kings Theatre in Brooklyn

Wagner Free Institute of Science, Philadelphia

Wagner Free Institute of Science, Philadelphia

October:

Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore

Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore

Bayside Cemetery tour, Queens

Bayside Cemetery tour, Queens

November:

Day of the Dead, San Francisco

Day of the Dead, San Francisco

Oakland sunset

Oakland sunset

Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz

Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz

Sutro Baths, San Francisco

Sutro Baths, San Francisco

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Letchworth Village, Rockland County, New York

Letchworth Village, Rockland County, New York

Mission Concepción & the Moon, San Antonio, TX

Mission Concepción, San Antonio, TX

December:

JR's installation in the abandoned Ellis Island hospital

JR’s installation in the abandoned Ellis Island hospital

'Tears Become Streams Become...' at the Park Avenue Armory

‘Tears Become Streams Become…’ at the Park Avenue Armory

Animal mummies in Memphis, TN

Animal mummies in Memphis, TN

And to conclude, how did I spend my New Year’s Eve? With the blast of some very powerful steam whistles in the cold of Brooklyn at Pratt Institute! Here’s a photo below, and for more regular updates on what’s happening in my life I recommend my Instagram where I tend to share the most snapshots of daily happenings. I know we’re now two months in, but I’m still feeling like 2015 is starting, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Where Does The Time Go…

I regret that I don’t have time for my personal blog anymore. I want to write here, I want to recap each detail of the all night adventures or just random wanders through an unfamiliar neighborhood, because otherwise they slip away so easily into a blur of motion. But of course, spending all day at a computer basically blogging as a job saps away my energy to type more in WordPress. Nevertheless, I did intend for this New Year to start out with some blogging, although somehow we are already to spring and it is March.

I’ll turn 29 next month, and while it is startling to suddenly be in my “twilight twenties,” it’s also astounding how much has happened in the last decade, and it isn’t even over. I was excited last week to have my first article in the New York Times, something I never thought I’d be able to do. So despite the feelings of exhaustion I sometimes get when crowded into a subway or lugging around a laptop until it feels like it must weigh more than me, things seem to be going better than I could have predicted when I showed up in New York in 2009 with a suitcase and basically little else.

And I want to remember that — the stretch of years that’s brought me here. And I can do that with this blog. So hopefully I will find more time to post, even if perhaps my readers have wandered off with my own attentions…

In the meantime, here are some recent captures of life:

I spend a lot of time waiting for the G train at the 4th Avenue stop in Brooklyn. It’s an outdoor stop which can be both good and bad. In winter you wait against the chill, in summer try to hide from the sun, and there’s always the relief when the train finally creaks up to the platform beneath the clouds.

I’ve gotten really into taking the train up to the Cloisters with its gorgeous medieval art collection. Half the fun is in the walk through Fort Tryon park to get there, where you feel like you are suddenly somewhere that is not Manhattan with its old trees and views to the Palisades across the river. Then the tower of the Cloisters emerges like some French abbey.

On the day I took that Cloisters photograph I also went by St. John the Divine to see Xu Bing’s “Phoenix.” I happened to get there just as Philippe Petit, aka the “Man on Wire” who walked between the Twin Towers, was performing. Because what is both thrilling and kind of terrifying about New York is you can just about see anyone, anytime, anywhere, doing something incredible.

I’ll try to capture more moments here this year. In the meantime, I’ll use this art recently viewed in Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg as an apology for my disappearance: