Primary Food

  • Primary Food

    Babies learn about the world by putting everything into their mouths. I have learned what I've learned about the world and people by bumping and jumping into things - sometimes without looking. This summer I did a blind experiment: rappelling into three new cities with three different languages and cultures without doing any research - apart from learning how to say 'hello,' 'please' and 'thank you' in Portuguese and Croatian (I already speak Español decently well). While this way of being feels liberated and fluid - and is the way I like to roll, - bumping and jumping has also catapulted me into suffering on more than one occasion.

    Badass Croatian children

    My brilliant and beloved friend, Nupu
    Three cheers for free-spiritedness. . . it has both inspired and served me in my travels. Travel has helped create a liminal space - a space which I use to work internally, to find new ways of seeing the same things. It is this free-spiritedness - a decision to plant my feet and my expectations firmly in the air from time to time - that has also brought suffering upon me. . . suffering that is inevitable when I ignore warning signs - it's a shame they don't appear as a label across the forehead - or when I lie to myself about what I can and cannot handle. Suffering occurs when I am intoxicated by potential - potential that exists primarily in my own magnificent imagination. Suffering occurs when I ignore disclaimers in favor of my own delusional projections, allowing myself to be seduced by blank lines, empty space, possibility.

    The Blue Cave and an underwater land bridge

    Hope is the taste of the sea

    The Alcazar - Seville, Spain

    The Iberian Peninsula, where Spain and Portugal reside and with its history of Moorish occupation, is covered in decorative tiles - which, some argue, are a visual response to the fear of emptiness, or 'horror vacui.' This kind of visual over-population or crowding is also associated with art made by artists who resided in psychiatric hospitals and prisons. We seek to fill the emptiness - the empty stomach, the empty heart. In Buddhism, the space of the empty mind is actually a goal. Personally I'm afraid of words that are empty - words that have ceased to hold any shared or enduring meaning, leaving our communication as little more than lobbing beautiful iridescent bubbles back and forth. Love. Friendship. Truth.

    As much as I enjoy telling stories, I’ve never been good at telling jokes.  Invariably, I forget to include some critical piece of information until it’s too late for its inclusion to have any dramatic effect.  I have also been known – believe it or not -- to be a little slow in understanding jokes.  E.B. White said that explaining a joke is a lot like dissecting a frog – edifying, but generally fatal for the frog.  By that rationale, I suppose it’s best to let jokes – and stories – exist simply for what they are, without connecting all the dots, dissecting or explaining.

    portrait of a married couple by brilliant and self-taught Heremenegildo Bustos
    from Chavez Morado mural
    I heard a story the other day about a wealthy Spaniard in Mexico whose first wife, an English woman of noble birth, was an art collector.  The wife was ill for a long time, and the Spaniard started to have an affair with another woman.  Of course the wife knew something was going on, and said to her husband, ‘Please, just be with her – be happy.  I’m dying, anyway.  Life and love are precious.’  So the wife died, and the Spaniard married his mistress, who was a Mexican woman.  While he loved his new wife, the Spaniard insisted that she keep the house exactly as his wife had it -- the art continued to catch the sunlight at the same times of day, the furniture occupied the same places in the same rooms, and not a drop of paint was applied to the walls.  The new wife respected the sanctity of the late wife’s home, not wanting to offend the dead or to cause trouble with her husband.

    Over time, the friends of the couple noticed that the mistress gradually started to take on the dress, hairstyle and general appearance of the deceased wife.  She cut and dyed her long black hair and traded her colorful dresses for conservative, neutral clothing.  Finally, one of the Spaniard’s friends approached him and said, ‘Why don’t you turn your house into a museum in honor of the memory of your late wife – and build a home for your new wife so you can start a new life together?’  The Spaniard saw the logic in this suggestion, and he did just that.  The Mexican woman and the Spaniard moved into their house and began their life together.  Slowly but surely, though, the house began to take on the characteristics of the museum they had left behind – the furniture, the colors, the way they had the rooms arranged. . . and the Mexican woman and her Spanish husband found themselves living in the shadow of the past, ever-reaching for but never being able to rest in the light of the present.

    printing invitations

    Despite E.B. White’s wisdom about jokes and frogs, my impulse is to analyze and to find meaning in the story.  Maybe the past is bound to become the present.  Maybe the shadows and the light are all part of the same day.  Maybe sometimes we choose to wait rather than to act – or maybe waiting is an act in itself.  We could talk to Hamlet about that.  Maybe all we can do is recreate and repeat the past because it’s what we know, it’s who we are, it’s in our bones.  I guess the job of the storyteller is to draw the dots, not necessarily to connect them.  Connecting the dots is the job of the hanged man in his state of waiting; it is the job of living and of the dying.  We are all of those things at different times of day. 

    Chavez Morado
    Cosmic retablo by Bustos. . . the sun!



  • Save the Date

    40?  So what?
    376 Ninth Street between 6th/7th Aves.
    Brooklyn, NY
    Saturday, March 12th

    Hilary and friends making music for you in celebration of living, growing and loving
    Please come!



  • Slow

    I met a lovely Cuban architect on the coast in Oaxaca who told me many interesting stories -- including a parable about a fisherman and an investment banker.  Feel free to exchange the characters for say, yourself and any bossypants know-it-all who wants to give you advice about how to live a good life. 

    A banker is on vacation, sitting on a pier in a peaceful coastal village in Mexico when a boat approaches.  The banker admires the quality of the fish, but notices there are only three in the basket; he asks how long it took the fisherman to catch them. The fisherman said it only took a little while.  “Why not stay out longer and catch a few more?” the banker asked. 

                “Well, I have one to eat now, one to give to my wife to prepare later, and one to sell in the market.”

                “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” The banker asks. 

                “Well, I sleep in, do some fishing, play with my children, take a nap with my wife. . . and then we usually take a walk in the village, have a glass of wine and play a little guitar with my friends.  My life is busy and full.”  The banker digests this.

                “. . . but if only you spent more time fishing, you could sell more and buy a bigger boat – then eventually a whole fleet of boats.  Instead of selling your catch to the middle man, you could sell directly to a processing plant. . . you could even open your own cannery.  With the success of your business, you could move to Mexico City, then to LA. . . maybe even to New York City.”  The fisherman contemplates this possibility.

                “How long do you think that would take?”

                “Probably 15-20 years.”

                “. . . and then what?” The fisherman asked.

                “Well, this is the best part: at that point, your company will be worth millions, and you can sell stock in the business and become very rich!” 

                “Hmm. . .” The fisherman considers this.  “What would I do with all those millions?”

                “Well, then of course you would be able to retire to some small fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, spend time with your friends and family and play guitar.”

    I greeted 2016 with some wonderful friends in Cuernavaca, about an hour south of Mexico City.  We had a feast and fireworks, and Lya and I climbed a mountain on New Years Day.  At the top of this mountain in Tepoztlan – a town which is categorized as a ‘pueblo magico,’ along with another of the towns I happened to visit – is a pyramid.  On the journey to the top, we were accompanied by people of all ages and states of health -- adorning footwear of varying degrees of practicality.  

    Teddy and Noura

    Lya, David and Teddy
    Lya, Teddy and Noura

    Peacocking inspiration.  I don't look this good when I do it.

    We took our party south to a favorite spot on the coast of Oaxaca.  There we visited with new and old friends, watched sunsets and moonrises, sang boleros with Mario at the dinner table, roamed remote beaches and let the waves wash away 2015 and carry in the possibilities of the weeks and months ahead.  In a neighboring town, I met an old friend who I call The Tall Spaniard -- we bathed in the salty sea, I taught him how to open a coconut with a machete, and I allowed him to defeat me in various racquet sports before I returned to the cliffs above the ocean for a few more days of rest and yoga and music.  A group of birdwatchers arrived, quietly watching and waiting.

    early morning surfing (I watched)

    Pierre found this in New York and was reminded of a song by The Snow

    All roads seem to lead back to Guanajuato, my home away from home.  Here, I am floating through the days, taking my time, not worrying too much about anything, doing a little tan maintenance, and slowly plotting my next steps with my friend and soothsayer, Hugo.

    watching over the winding alleyways leading up to El Pipila, the hero of Guanajuato

    age, layers, beauty
    Hugo and afternoon coffee in a Parisian cafe, just steps from home



  • The Readiness Is All

    Torino, Italy - Photo by Ingi Erlingsson

    I wrote an advice column in 7th grade, West Sylvan Middle School.  My fellow counselor was Maggie, the new girl in school.  Some deeply innovative and collaborative thinking led to the name of our column, “Dear Hilary and Maggie.”  I saved the letters we received – they were carefully folded and placed in a silver Converse shoebox, stored under my bed.  I don’t remember as much about the advice we gave as I do about the questions and worries and dilemmas our fellow adolescents shared in their queries.  

    I was reminded of this – one of my first social service endeavors -- during my recent retreat in Colombia, where I read Cheryl Strayed’s collection of letters and responses from her advice column, Dear Sugar.  I devoured the book, Tiny Beautiful Things, over several days of yoga, tropical fruits, meditation, mosquitos, song, and consultations with oracles of various kinds – all the while among an impressive multi-lingual group of seekers from around the world.  We were disconnecting from ‘reality’ and reconnecting to something more fundamental that exists in each one of us, asking the same kinds of questions collected in Strayed’s book -- and even those submitted to me in seventh grade.  That I felt I had advice to offer anyone about anything at age 12 is, on one hand, ridiculous -- but on the other hand, kind of makes sense.  Perhaps at that point I wasn’t influenced quite as much by my mind and all its impressive exercises of thinking and consideration, and maybe instead had a little more connection to a different kind of knowing – one that generally has to be recovered in adulthood and requires more subtraction than addition, more simplicity and less complication.

    Anne, who sees

    The beach, Colombia

    Earlier this year at a Brooklyn house party filled with musicians, I’d asked my friend Andi -- playwright, professor, mother, and wife of one of my favorite songwriters -- to be my manager; I wanted someone to ‘produce’ for me, boss me around and tell me to get over myself.  She gave me an assignment, I said I’d consider it, and Andi reminded me that ‘considering’ was bullshit, that I should stop thinking and just do something.  Of course she was right; I had to agree that all my careful consideration isn’t winning me any Pulitzer Prizes or Grammy Awards.

    Advice from Andi
    Coming from a commercially-sponsored tour of the UK and Europe to film various football teams in the service of selling electrolyte replacement beverages, I’d put most of my personal and creative agendas on-hold, including my assignment.  The time in Colombia gave me an opportunity to shed cumbersome winter clothing as well as other unnecessary layers – and reminding me of Andi’s words of advice: Don’t consider it; do it!! Now!  Don’t think! 

    Madrid, Spain - Photo by Jayanta Jenkins

    night time departure

    morning departure

    Liquid light, London

    Producers, Madrid

    Dream production team, Madrid

    Producer, London

    Before returning to winter, I journeyed further south to meet my friend Doug – who was nearing the end of his global tour while the rest of us acquiesced to darkness and hibernation.  After a long journey and four airports, I arrived before sunrise in Buenos Aires to a lovely sparkly-eyed Porteño named Fernando, who ferried me back to his tastefully-appointed town house in Almagro with my suitcase full of filthy clothing to meet Doug.  Fernando welcomed us like old friends as we occupied two of the three rooms he and his boyfriend offer on Airbnb.  I slept for a couple of hours and went upstairs to the roof terrace to join the hombres for coffee.  Was I still dreaming, or were two men hanging my clean laundry to dry? 

    Colonia, Uruguay

    Buenos Aires

    Church, Buenos Aires

    Deep-and-meaningfuls continued as I spent the next days with these gents. Fernando – with his fellow Argentines, – has learned to live with a lot of instability and uncertainty, and has found in his work as an architect and designer that perseverance wins in the end:  Do something for long enough and you'll probably reach a reasonable level of accomplishment.  Doug’s mantra comes from Shakespeare, the readiness is all:  We can’t control what happens to us, but we can train and shape ourselves to be prepared for whatever may come.  It is no coincidence that Doug and I met and became friends years ago when training in martial arts.  I suppose it is again no coincidence that readiness is basically the same ethos that governs production: make plans but also expect the unexpected, and be ready to handle whatever happens.  Without thinking too much about it, I would borrow a mantra from Bruce Lee: be like water.



  • Light

    Charlottenburg, Berlin

    December in Berlin is grey and cold, and daylight is fleeting.  It’s further north than here.  By the time I'd showered and let my hair dry each morning, it seemed the sun was already beginning to set.  Nighttime lingered disproportionate to the day, but wore a cloak of luminance – a rain-glazed plaza reflected lights suspended in neat rows; a wide boulevard stood parted by bright sculptures and shimmering trees.  Night in Berlin was unlike the overcoat that wrapped the night in my neighborhood in Brooklyn – plastic nativity scenes erect before brownstones; blue, green and red, hanging and blinking in a window; streetlights casting a glow on pieces of trash escaped from uncovered bins.

    My parents never put Christmas lights on the outside of our house in Portland.  We had one decoration: a large plastic Santa Claus that was stored in the attic most of the year, transported first into the house and then to the upstairs deck each December by my dad.  That Santa Claus had a light inside, and an extension cord that reached an outlet where he was connected.  There was also sand inside him, so he wouldn’t be carried off our deck and into the darkness by a strong wind.  He faced outward so cars driving up the street past our house might glimpse his friendly jolly countenance from below.  When we sat there in the evenings, we could see him turned on through the dusty curtains covering the sliding glass door in the living room.  We could feel his warmth, even while he turned away from us.  As I grew older and my belief in Santa Claus died, I came to appreciate the Pagan Solstice on December 21st more than December 25th The Solstice: the gradual return of the light, the lifting of obscurity.

    I’ve never done the math or applied for a grant, but I figure I spend several hundred dollars every year keeping my small apartment ablaze with candles – soy, paraffin. . . some tall with sublime scents and others small, quiet and plain.  As a DIY teenager in Portland, I collected cans from frozen juice concentrate and transformed my mom’s kitchen into a colorful mess sponsored by Michael's Arts and Crafts when my supply was depleted. Yesterday I emptied my freezer of store-bought candle holders, liberated them from their wax and metal remains, washed and promoted them to the cupboard, where they would be reused as vessels for other essential life-giving elements.

    Night contains the darkness and day contains the light – and each of us contains a little bit of both.  We try to hold them in their proper balance.  Sometimes, especially at certain times of the year, one overtakes the other – as in the northern parts of the world, depending on the season.  

    Having a little sand inside isn't a bad idea, either, lest we be carried off by a strong wind.

    Lucky seven: Charlottenburg, Berlin



  • Peregrinations

    Baby Jesus, wrapped in plastic

    A year ago, I visited a remote coastal area in Oaxaca state in Mexico.  While there, I met a tall Spaniard who told me, among other things, about the first in what ended up being dozens of journeys around the globe – his pilgrimage at age 16 to Santiago de Compostela.   I remembered learning about this tradition from the summer I’d spent on the NW coast of Spain, where I lived with the family of yet another Spaniard -- much shorter -- whose family politely looked the other way from his exuberant gayness and welcomed me as his girlfriend without asking too many questions about the nature of what was our totally platonic friendship. 

    This year, I had occasion to mingle with an equally worldly audience at The Financial Times’ Summit on the Business of Luxury in Mexico City – people with Hungarian fathers, Argentine mothers, childhoods spent in Mexico City while attending German school – and then college in Paris. . . this type of ‘global citizen’ gathered to discuss emerging markets, the growing middle class in Mexico and their taste for luxury goods, art, fashion and empire building.  Although I spent a full day wishing for an early death in a fancy hotel room, the parts of the conference I experienced were all quite fascinating – and stood in stark contrast to my much more modest (though still delightful) bus ride to Guanajuato at the summit’s end. Like any pilgrim, I had to travel long distances and endure bodily misery to better understand the turns my journey needed to take.

    Mexico City
    Mexico City

    Mexico City
    Mexico City

    A group of wealthy youngsters from Mexico City descended upon my friend Hugo’s stone-hewn bed and breakfast in the hills above the historic center of Guanajuato shortly after my arrival to witness their friends’ marriage in the neighboring hacienda. . . while resolutely insubordinate to the house’s minimal rules (showing up for reservations, paying the bill, etc).  Among the guests was a fellow bedecked in indigenous beadwork and crystals, his wild mane leashed by a headband.  Standing apart from the other guests, he confessed that he wished he could hang out with Hugo and me in the printmaking studio.  We learned from those more pop-culturally literate than ourselves that this man was a Mexican soap opera star and model. To me, he just seemed like a man with a resonant voice and a firm handshake, so I asked what he did.  He explained he was a former opera singer – now pursuing acting and producing, and maintaining homes in a handful of locations.  He left out the part about modeling, which I thought was in good taste. 

    Lágrimas de Visión

    print making studio

    Toward the end of the wedding weekend, a wind swept through Guanajuato as I sat on a balcony of a restaurant in town, eating a salad as buglers paraded in the street below.  While there are various theories about the exact meaning of these processions, the entire month of May is dedicated to the blessing of workers.  Today was the day of the blessing of the bus drivers.  Another day is dedicated to miners who work in the local silver mines.  I guess there's no shortage of groups within the world population to be blessed and looked after by guardians or patron saints, real or imagined.

    La Casa de Espiritus Alegres, Guanajuato
    La Casa de Espiritus Alegres, Guanajuato
    La Casa de Espiritus Alegres, Guanajuato

    Alma del Sol, Guanajuato

    I’ve been engaging in many end-of-year and beginning-of-year transitional activities: list-making, auditing, seasonal gym re-joining, Perler Bead creations, visits to various professionals and caretakers, cleansing, imbibing, envisioning, visiting, making contact, and closet-cleaning of literal and metaphorical order.  

    heart, pre-melting
    Mt. Hood from Portland
    Upon returning to New York a few nights ago, I used my Uber account for the first time.  Improperly clothed for the arctic vortex -- having been in Portland and Miami for the last couple of weeks, -- I figured a timed pick-up from the airport was a good idea.  At the urging of my app-tastic friend Doug, I had signed up for an account while lounging on the sunny 75-degree sands of Miami Beach. . . and sure enough, Jimmy and his white hybrid Toyota appeared outside the American Airlines baggage claim, as if a white horse and its shining knight to shepherd me to Brooklyn.  As we rounded the Williamsburg corner of the BQE heading toward my own ice-coated trashy snow-laden little barrio, flames and burning particles lept across the highway like holiday parcel-senders for their place in line at the USPS.  There was desperation in the air.

    midnight on the BQE
    I, however, had nothing to complain about – I was fresh from two continents, three coasts, four cities and most of the last weeks for me had been spent barefoot.  The highway-side property owner whose wares were up in flames was undoubtedly but one sad story of the ever-apocalyptic conditions of the The Big Apple.  There always seems to be a sea of trash left behind whenever the snow melts here, and I'm reminded of the brief time I spent in Tunisia – where basic infrastructure and things like trash collection were among the casualties of power trading hands among various fundamentalist regimes – both elected and imposed.

    New Year's Eve in Miami

    So now it’s time to write the next chapter of history – starting with my own narrative, of course.  Having been back here less than a week, I have already witnessed the marriage of the only remaining bachelor of The Snow, met a punk jump rope class innovator, visited my Brazilian curl therapist, learned about the dark nature of chemtrails from Joseph the Healer, had both my refrigerator and my bikini top repaired, joined the gym and visited three times, made up the words to “Tennessee Waltz” in an impromptu performance with Sycamore Hollow, and started planning my next journey. 

    They say the Year of the Horse – which apparently doesn’t start officially until the end of January – will have the characteristics of the animal for which it’s named.  We’re meant to rise from the ground after a year with the snake and will move with power, speed and assurance into the future.  I tend to believe in signs and signifiers – not the least of which was the French comedian (!) who appeared with his sleepy girlfriend as my friends and I cast our wishes to the flames at a New Year’s Eve bonfire.  My first new acquaintance of 2014, a French comedian. . . This seemed no less auspicious than a rainbow sighting, or a white heron landing beside me on the beach, a surprise visit, or the company of a child who speaks Spanish at about the same (though more sophisticated) level I do. . . sometimes life is sweet.
    In response to my followers’ demands – I think there are three, -- I gathered some photos of myself while in London the other day – back where I started three weeks ago.  There are also a few paparazzi shots from Sardinia included – I can’t really explain how I got my hands on those; I did it for you.  Making up for deprivations of the past.

    My brother, Gile
    Henley Iron Man Triathalon
    Inside Fernsehturm radio/tv tower, Berlin 
    I mentioned a radio/television tower in Berlin where my friend Sibylle and I ate lunch in the revolving restaurant.  The tower is the fourth tallest building in Europe, and the tallest in Berlin.  It was built in East Germany in the 1960s and when the sun hits it, the reflection appears in the form of a cross -- ‘the pope’s revenge,’ they called it.  Funny how things like that happen. 

    Lunch in the rotating restaurant in the radio/tv tower, Berlin
    Sibylle, Berlin
    Michael, Berlin
    Left behind: Wallpaper Magazine guides to Oslo and Berlin (seeking a world beyond uber-designed cocktail lounges with $20 beers), a couple of New Yorkers (mostly un-read – was busy reading Dorian Gray and Manhood, which is fascinating and I’ll explain if you’re interested), various chocolate bars collected and distributed along the way, maple syrup (requested in Oslo), baby candles from my new favorite store in New York, Red Flower; one copy of the limited edition printing of “Disaster Is Your Mistress” by the European-but-infamously-domesticated The Snow.  Perhaps most notably: I left a completely in-tact manual transmission Fiat at the Hertz Rental at the Olbia airport after a sun-blinding early morning drive through the mountains from Santa Teresa.