The Summer Ends

I have a lot of rituals and little traditions I've created for myself, and I think most of them are centered around the end of summer and the entire autumn. I switch back to hot coffee after Labor Day since I don't really care all that much for the cold version unless it's really good. There's just so much shit iced coffee out there. I read The Turn of the Screw every year towards the end of September, and treat pulling out the sweaters and jackets like Christmas Day. I give myself a date, and swear by it, looking over the calendar and waiting for the holiday I've created. If it's premature then so what? If it gets unseasonably cold then I have a few sweatshirts and light jackets in my closet –– I'll be fine. I won't skip songs like Yo La Tengo's "Autumn Sweater," "The Summer Ends" by American Football, or "Autumn in New York" by Billie Holiday like I'm prone to do when it's warmer. They're all great songs, but I feel strange listening to them in June. Autumn is, by nature, a time for rituals, I find the transition seasons are good times for getting your eggs all into one basket, to do familiar things, and to feel some comfort for the heat or cold that's a few months away. 

For the many reasons you can easily find by reading the Times or scrolling Twitter, these last days of summer have been stressful, I think we all feel that. You can get buried under the avalanche of daily horrors, and take a lot of time clawing your way out, only to be trapped beneath another pile of rubble. I've been trying to cut down my time on social media, trying to get a good feel on a daily basis for what's happening, but not trying to let it overtake me. I try to find my own time, I attempt to breathe, incorporating tricks from my morning meditation routine into the rest of the day. I want my own space where I can get away from things. 

All this has led me to rediscover my love of getting lost in things, mostly books, music, and films. I've been diving into everything and anything, reading and re-reading novels from Ragtime to Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. I can now say I've seen every Hitchcock film since I finally bothered to get The Family Plot from Netflix, and I took a long hike through some trails in Connecticut last weekend with Sandy Bull's "Blend" on repeat in my ears. There is nothing wrong with escapism, I think, if you're also willing to let in reality. It's all about doses of each. Try not to let yourself rot. 

Another autumn tradition is I am more willing to hike up to upper Manhattan to revisit museums I've been to a dozen times or more. And while you can't beat the real thing – up close and personal – I've also been admiring a lot of work online, specifically Fei Wang, who goes by the name Mr. Slowboy. He's one of my current obsessions. 

I like whimsical, I can't lie. Whimsy is the best way to escape, it's why I'll always go to bat for Whit Stillman or Wes Anderson films or why I have a handful of books filled with works by Fairfield Porter or David Hockeny. I love fanciful and a little strange, but also lots of color. Those things almost always tend to draw me in. 

Fairfield Porter, Autumn Tree, circa 1964

Fairfield Porter, Autumn Tree, circa 1964

That probably explains why I'm so drawn to autumn: it's full of color and whimsey. Sure, I love it when I start seeing people gripe about pumpkin spice everything, when they start saying they're "Mr. Autumn Man," or that it's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers, but there's more to it. I love the feeling of shedding off the skin of the previous season and slowly turning into a new one. Autumn gives me plenty of reasons to just stop and look around, and these days we could use more of those.  

People in Glass Houses

For the first official week of my new life as a freelancer, I decided two things: 1. I'd start blogging again for no real reason besides I missed it. I used to write blog posts and see the post had 30 people and I thought that was maybe the greatest thing ever. I miss just doing stuff, writing just to write. 2. I'd finally go to Philip Johnson's Glass House.

I've been obsessed with the idea of visiting the Glass House for about five years now. I'd passed through New Canaan dozens of times, knowing it, along with a handful of other modernist homes I'd like to see, lived there. I went once, not realizing you needed to buy a ticket in advance, then made plans twice more, only to have them, eh, shatter. (Sorry. I couldn't help myself.)

Even though the temperature hit the low 90s as we walked the grounds, the breezes usually came in at just the right time, making the experience of walking for a directly under the sun, into a house that was floor to ceiling windows, not entirely horrible. I had water. I was fine. Who cares if I sweat? 

The guided tour, which cost fifty dollars, took us around the grounds, starting with the Glass House itself, complete with Mies van der Rohethe-designed furniture, a fireplace, and a view of the entire landscape from all angles. I stood there for a few minutes and tried to imagine living there, and I really couldn't. I felt too vulnerable. Then we moved on and visited the underground painting gallery filled with works by Julian Schnabel, the sculpture gallery complete with a Bruce Nauman sculpture, and other work by Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and more. The part I was most curious about, Johnson's studio, the odd little single-room office and library, was just something we looked at from a distance, the Frank Gehry-inspired Ghost House, a weird little structure that lives up to its name, looking like some forgotten structure on Daphne du Maurier's fictional Manderley.

The whole tour was lovely, I'd suggest it. The guided tour is great for the first time, but I want to explore more the next time I go, so I think I'll try out one of the weekend DIY tours. Yet despite checking another architectural landmark off my list, what may have taken me surprise the most was the reaction I felt looking out from the Glass House, not that far down the little hill, and seeing Robert Indiana's One Through Zero sculpture, and feeling very moved by it – not the reaction I was expecting, to be really honest. Seeing the numbers one through zero, each number representing a part of life, one being birth, zero being death, made me think about how I'm just at three. That, if I'm lucky, I've got a lot of numbers to go. That was a nice little takeaway from the whole experience.