Thursday, March 28, 2002

Aaaaahhh, Passover

The chance to be constipated for a week from the deadly combination of matzo, hard-boiled eggs and potato kugel!

The once-a-year opportunity to submit to a long, long, long and very long explanation of the symbolism behind the food you are about to eat (and no Emeril).

But beyond all the piddly inconveniences, Passover has always been, at least for me, a sort of Jewish Thanksgiving. ..a chance to sit down with loved ones and remember the ancient story of Moses (before Charlton Heston ... although he's pretty ancient now, too, not to mention heavily armed) ... and to give thanks for just being there, eating a ton of food and feeling the good company around you..

Plus ... the chocolate covered macaroons are awesome!!

This first night seder was my first Passover with Zora, my soon-to-be-5-year-old goddaughter, as guest. I can't say Zora was impressed with the seder. I think she far preferred using my antique leather furniture as a trampoline. But she loved, loved, loved the hard-boiled eggs.

Go figure.

Zora's folks managed to actually find -- GASP -- decent kosher wine, which was enough right there to give thanks over. Adeena came over with her 4-year-old blonde vixen, Saphia, to give Zora a trampoline mate, and my two cats cringed in terror behind the bed.

All in all, a very successful seder.

So after al the folks left and I plowed through the mountain of dishes, threw myself on the bed (minus the terrorized cats) and flipped on the news.

"Passover massacre!" read the anchor.

"Nineteen Israelis died, 100 are injured from a Palestinian suicide bombing at a Passover seder."

My heart and the taste of undigested matzo ball soup rose in my throat.

Women, children -- innocent lives who had joined together to share this first night of Passover in peace and harmony -- murdered, maimed, forever terrorized and for what?!??!?! To help the Palestinian cause??

To help the Palestinian cause do what???

Anoint themselves as murderers ... as cowards ... as full out SCUMBAGS!!

I'm sick of this.

I've had it.

I'm tired of trying to be kind and understanding and open minded.

You want to walk into a Passover seder and murder innocent people while they're in prayer and now you want my sympathy for your cause.

Well, I was sympathetic. WAS, as in past tense.

Now I'm just disgusted.

This is Rossi with my not-so-PC Passover rant, and I'm here to say to all suicide bombers:

Go fuck yourselves.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Here's something I haven't thought about since September 11th:

I'm gay.

Yep, I'm gay!

It's not that I've forgotten. It's just that this part of the many, many parts of me seemed to fall to the wayside after 9/11. With all the sights, sounds, smells and feelings assaulting my very being, I guess my sexuality just didn't seem to have much to do with anything on my mind.

Three thousand people died that day. One can assume that at least 10% of those people were gay, but it just doesn't seem to matter. Who's really thinking about the victims of 9/11 in terms of race, sexual orientation or religion??

The victims of 9/11 fall under only one kind of label: Victim. Or perhaps another kind of label: Innocent. Except, of course, for the ones we also call Hero.

Sure, there is by many accounts, the most famous hero of 9/11, Father Mychal Judge, who is widely known to be gay but Father Judge's sexuality just doesn't seem to have much of anything to do with his heroism. So we don't talk about it, and our not talking about it is probably the reason mainstream America can honor him so freely.

Don't think, don't tell, just mourn.

I have heard of gay charities helping to raise money for the same-sex partners of 9/11 victims who got anything but the same treatment when it came to the financial compensation of the heterosexual married spouses. But I just kinda brushed that under the massive rug that I'd put all my personal issues under since 9/11.

9/11 took the gas out of my anti-homophobe engine.

I've been far too busy thinking about the big picture.

You know, the big picture?? The one where we all live happy and equal free from racism, homophobia and Regis Philbin.

But television this past week has shuttled me back to Planet Gay.

First there was the Rosie O'Donnell coming-out-to-save-the-children special. (Hey, Rosie, thanks. By the way, we all knew, a lonnnngggggggg time ago, but it's still cool.) Rosie was inspired to speak because of the case of the two loving foster fathers who have raised an entire family of HIV-positive babies, nurtured and nourished them so that now these children who were not expected to live past the age of 2 are 5 to 14 years old.

Florida says these men are good enough to be foster parents, possibly for the entire lives of these children, but not to adopt them. The fathers may now lose one of their sons. They were good enough to foster him to health, but now that he's healthy, they're not good enough to adopt him.

Florida needs a kick in the Bush.

Then there was the Matthew Shepard story on NBC. I just can't talk about Matthew Shepard without sharpening up my chopping knife and heading into a redneck bar for revenge, so I'll drop it for now.


But oddly the thing that really got me the most was simply the news.

It proclaimed proudly and broadly how wonderful the St. Patrick's Day parade was this year with its tribute to the 343 brave fireman who gave their lives and all the heroes of 9/11.

That was all wonderful, of course, but this is the first year that I didn't even hear a peep about the exclusion of gays from the parade.

I guess the parade picketing folks felt like I have, that it's ok to postpone our gay selves in the wake of 9/11 because the massive tragedy of 9/11 is far more important then our personal rights or lack of rights as gay Americans.

But two wrongs don't make a right.

9/11 was the most terrible thing to happen in my lifetime, probably in yours, too.

It was the cowardly act of ignorant, racist, evil bastards who just wanted to end innocent lives simply because they were American lives.

The best way I know to fight back the terrorists who did this is by obliterating homophobia, and anti-Semitism and racism and sexism and any other kind of -ism you want to throw in there.

Some might say that this was the year that no one should have mentioned the exclusion of gays in the St. Patrick's Day parade, but I think just maybe this was the most important year to fight for those rights.

I admit I didn't want to see any picketing or controversy on the news. It would have seemed, well, disrespectful, but when the 343 flags marched by as teary eyed spectators pointed and smiled, I suddenly felt so shut out. Heck I'm about as far from Irish as you can get being a Hungarian Jew and all, but amid all that goodness and heroism it just felt even sadder that this parade really does stand as a symbol of homophobia.

If Father Mychal Judge were alive today and wanted to march under the banner "gay hero," he would not have been allowed in that parade.

Everyone has their heroes. My 9/11 hero is Father Judge. I picture his kind face kneeling over the fallen firefighter trying to administer last rites as he loses his own wondrous life. To me he stands out as a symbol of selfless kindness and bravery, but he could not march in The St. Patrick's Day Parade with a banner proclaiming who he is.

Haven't we learned anything?

Like I said, I felt sad when I watched the news footage of the parade and I felt sad as the news ended and sad as Saturday Night Live began and then I watched Sir Ian Mccellan come on stage and say, "Thanks for making me feel so welcome, which is more than I can say for the St. Patrick's Day parade does, as an openly gay man. ... Although they don't seem to have a problem with priests."

I just love that guy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Did you see the documentary 9/11 ?

It was so controversial that in the days before its broadcast, my e-mail was crammed with arts organizations wanting me to take part in web chats about whether or not the film should have been aired.

As a matter of fact, I’m invited to one tonight.

So I figured if this flick was stirring up so much debate it would be graphic as hell: blood, gore the whole shebang.

But it wasn’t.

At least not to me.

They must have edited it mercilessly, because they managed to film the destruction of the towers inside and out without showing the multitude of broken people that were all around them.

There was the heart-wrenching, horrific sound of the jumpers landing on the awning, but mostly the horribly graphic images where what they told you they were not filming.

“There are two people over here completely on fire, but I will not film them.”

I understand some of the controversy was over filming people who are now among the dead, so perhaps I do not have the right to comment here, but I can tell you how grateful I was to see the clip of Father Judge. There he was, surveying the situation with his fatherly concern. I never knew the man, except from his photos, but immediately after it was too late, I felt like I wanted to know him. Now, at least, I have been given this brief peek into what he must have felt like that morning. His expression said it all.

He was trying to keep it together while slowly realizing the magnitude of what was happening around him. He was preparing to inspire while praying for inspiration.

Of course, it was agonizing to watch these brave men, milling about, waiting for orders, setting up their command post, heading up the stairs, all the while knowing they had to get out; the building was coming down.

That’s how it was that day. No one, NO ONE expected those towers to come down. No one I know, anyway.

I was up there photographing them on my roof, not to watch them collapse but to watch what I felt was going to be an amazing feat; the putting out of those two horrible towers of flames, so high up in the sky.

I guess it’s silly to say, but I was expecting to see helicopters dropping water.

I don’t think the reality of what happened dawned on anyone, not the firefighters or New York, until the next day.

The camera really captured it, that terrible moment when the men saw for the very first time, what was left of the World Trade Center. Their dulled ,shocked faces said it all. Simply put, their entire world, and ours, had been completely altered.

There are no words to really describe the visions that unfolded from that first plane hitting, to the towers collapsing, to the New Yorkers in terror, the people preferring to jump than to burn, the smoldering remnants of what were thousands of lives, but I do feel that this documentary, respectfully and almost kindly managed to get these things across.

My apologies to the people who lost loved ones and had personal issues with the airing of this film. I do not pretend to understand your pain and I won’t dishonor it by commenting further on your position.

I watched this documentary and cried a bit here and there and then I felt an eerie calm set in. Oddly enough, the night before I had a terrible nightmare. I was running as the Empire State Building was falling toward me. No matter how fast I ran, it kept coming, crashing down bit by bit just a few feet from me. I was still running as I woke up.

But the night I watched the documentary, I slept soundly. I felt validated somehow, almost like a secret I’d been carrying around had been let out .

My girlfriend called just moments after the film ended to tell me she loved me, and I know what she really meant -- that with all my efforts to convey to her what it looked like down there, she’d never grasped it fully until now.

There’s a gallery in my neighborhood, The Bolivar Arellano Gallery. They have a long-running exhibit up of the photographs taken by photographers of New York’s many daily papers. These photos, some of which were published, some were far, far to intense to publish are an uncensored, truly graphic portrayal of everything that film did not show.

What the people looked like jumping (they looked like angels).

What they looked like when they landed.

What the survivors looked like, half their clothes burnt off, their skin blistered and red.

There is a warning on the door about the graphic nature of what you are about to see.

I go to this gallery often. I think I’ve been there six times now. They’ve only added something new once, but I like going there. I feel like when I’m in that gallery I’m allowed to feel exactly how I feel all the time walking around the PC world where people are trying desperately not to talk and think about September 11th anymore.

That’s why I felt so happy for this film and for the commemoration of the 6-month anniversary.

It was a chance for everyone to stand up and say, “Yes this is still on our minds and in our hearts. We just pretend it isn’t.”

I went up on my roof last night and turned toward the place in the sky where the towers used to be and watched the memorial lights shoot up into the sky for their first night.

They are haunting and bluish-white and soft and strange.

My friend Wolf, visiting from L.A., calls them “The Ghosts.”

There are a lot of ghosts walking around Manhattan these days.

Some of them are dead and seem to brush past us when we walk anywhere near ground zero, or a fire station.

Some of them are alive and smile at us a little sadly when we look in the mirror.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Heard about an amazing organization that's just starting, called September Space.

What SS is doing is something I've been thinking about for a long time, dealing not only with the victims of September 11th but with the first wave of volunteers, what they call the "first responders."

They will offer a social space, counseling, art therapy and many other great services where the men, women and children affected by the disaster can come.

I think this is so wonderful because while all the help to the victims and the rescue crews was and is crucial, the volunteers who saw all that atrocity need help, too.

I think about myself. I don't know if you could call me a first responder (or what exactly dictates a first responder) because I did not make my way to ground zero until September 16th -- five days later, but to this day there seems to be nothing in my life, not changed by my experiences down there. and by watching the towers collapse on September 11th.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I lost no loved ones. I was not in or around ground zero on September 11th. I did not dig out body parts with my hands or fight fires. All I did was feed the rescue crews and go on gator-aid runs to "the hole."

With the exception of my first night there when the hotel next to us, The Millennium, was considered unstable, I did not fear for my life and I sustained no injuries, unless you count a lot of dust up my nose.

Yet here I am, all these months later.

I wake up every morning and look out the window to make sure The Empire State Building is still there.

I feel like crying whenever I see a firefighter.

My heart crawls into my throat at the sight of a plane descending, (they always seem to be flying too low).

When I look at any construction site I always drift back to the smoking wreck that was the WTC.

The list goes on.

So do the good things that have happened to me, hopefully, permanently.

I pet my cats more.

I say "I love you" to my family and to my friends.

I try to make sure that I am always doing something, anything for someone besides myself.

I think about Israel -- a lot.

After September 11th, I went back to painting and discovered that without planning on it, or even trying, my work had changed. The colors were softer ... child-friendly.

I talked to other artists whose work had also changed in the most surprising way. Not what you might think: their work filling not with fear and anger but the opposite.

"I used to make films and collages," said my new friend Lisa. "Now I make dolls."

Maybe it's the need to create something soft and comforting to balance all the pain we've seen. I don't know. I'm not a therapist.

My friend Nancy said stopping trying to figure out the why and just live it.

That sounds like a great plan.

I decided to come out of retirement.

18 years ago I used to produce art shows.

I'm co-producing one now to show case how September11th has changed the work of many artists, especially here in NYC.

It's going to be a huge show of multimedia artists, ranging from painters to installation artists, video artists and performance artists.

We're giving all the profit to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the nonprofit that used to be housed in the WTC. They're the ones who supplied free artists studios in the towers. Now they're between homes.

I like the idea of artists surviving and moving past September 11th, helping to raise money for an organization that supports artists.

Artists for artists; a self-supporting, self-healing thing you might say.

History tells us that it's always the artists and the writers who preserve time. How would we know about so many things that happened a thousand years ago, if not for the statues, the poetry, the paintings?

I wonder if the artwork from this time, will one day be given a name. There was Cubism, Surrealism. Will this be Septemberism?

I'm looking forward to visiting the September Space. I may even show my work there. I'm certain to volunteer there.

September Space has managed to do the one thing no one else has been able to do: convince me that it's all right to consider myself a victim, that it's okay to let myself realize that I was damaged, too.

I'm in the midst of repairs at the moment. The sign posted on my forehead reads, "Caution. Road work ahead. Reduce speed."

I plan on re-building myself, perhaps with some help, a bit stronger and a lot softer.

Wanna know what my favorite TV show was as a kid? The Bionic Woman.

OH! FYI, here's the info for the art show, in case you're in NYC in May.
A Multimedia Art Exhibition and Performance Festival To benefit NYC Art and artists.

At the DNA Studio Gallery
2174 3rd Ave between 118 and 119

Opening night Friday May 3 from 7-11
Art festival Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 from 12-6
Gallery hours Monday, May 6 to Friday, May 10 by appointment

Closing Friday Night May 10th- 7-10 PM, Live Auction at 8:00 PM sharp

This weeklong Art Festival at the DNA Studio Gallery in Spanish Harlem is a chance to celebrate the great surviving spirit of New York artists. Reaction will explore the ripple effects of September 11th on the work of a wide range of New York artists.

This diverse gallery/festival will showcase art created before and after 9/11. Each artist will show a sample or samples of pre- 9/11 work to allow the viewers to note subtle and sometimes not so subtle changes in their style, media, or subject material. The bulk of the work on exhibit will be pieces created after Sept 11th, 2001.

"Without planning it, I and a lot of other artists have seen our work change," said Rossi, co-producer of the show. "It's like, here we are, so many months after this terrible tragedy, and suddenly we realize that the color of our paint is softer or perhaps the subjects we photograph are suddenly dolloped with tiny bits of patriotism."

The show will feature a wide range of media from painting, sculpture and photography to digital art, movie making, installations and performances.

"Our point is to show that creativity could not be stopped by terror," said Dror Katz co-producer of the show. "We believe that art, in any form, is the way to express emotions, feelings and ideas about the historical events we have witnessed."

The artists in New York were deeply affected by the tragedy: In addition to the emotional toll, artists' funds were cut and grants canceled. In the spirit of the show, the producers of Reaction are giving 100% of all gallery profits to an organization that helps artists in need: The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. This nonprofit organization is perhaps best known for providing free art studios in The World Trade Center.

They are now active in providing workspaces, grants and exhibitions for emerging artists all over New York City .

50% of the sales of art will go directly to the artist, the other 50% to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

The show will consist of visual artists ranging from painters and photographers to sculptors, film-makers and installation artists and an impressive roster of New York City performance artists.

Reaction will begin with a gala art opening Friday, May 3 from 7:00 until 11:00 PM, with catering donated by The Raging Skillet catering company.

The next two days will be an art festival dedicated to showing the works of talented performance artists. The performance festival on Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5 will run from noon to 6:00 PM, with live performances starting at 1:00.

Monday, May 6 until Friday, May 10 will have gallery hours by appointment only.

Reaction will close with a gala art auction and reception on Friday, May 10 from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. The live auction will begin promptly at 8:00 PM. Buyers will need checks and cash on hand to bid.

Reaction is being produced by Rossi and Dror Katz

DNA Studio Gallery
2174 3rd Ave., 3rd floor
NY, NY 10035