Recent Ruins

Matt Paweski, KeyLime, 2013
Birch plywood, steel, enamel, wax
23″x 23″x 7″

Organized by Julia M Leonard

A one day outdoor exhibition

Saturday March 2nd at 1pm

At the corner of Park Drive and Ewing Street, Echo Park 90026

Ruby Rose Neri
Julia M Leonard
Chris Lux
Torbjorn Vejvi
Calvin Marcus
Michael Dopp
Nicholas Pittman
Erik Blum
Annie Costello Brown
Matt Paweski
Rainen Knecht
Christopher Baird

March 1st, 2013
Ben Bernanke, Hippie

NY Times Published: February 28, 2013

We’re just a few weeks away from a milestone I suspect most of Washington would like to forget: the start of the Iraq war. What I remember from that time is the utter impenetrability of the elite prowar consensus. If you tried to point out that the Bush administration was obviously cooking up a bogus case for war, one that didn’t bear even casual scrutiny; if you pointed out that the risks and likely costs of war were huge; well, you were dismissed as ignorant and irresponsible.

It didn’t seem to matter what evidence critics of the rush to war presented: Anyone who opposed the war was, by definition, a foolish hippie. Remarkably, that judgment didn’t change even after everything the war’s critics predicted came true. Those who cheered on this disastrous venture continued to be regarded as “credible” on national security (why is John McCain still a fixture of the Sunday talk shows?), while those who opposed it remained suspect.

And, even more remarkably, a very similar story has played out over the past three years, this time about economic policy. Back then, all the important people decided that an unrelated war was an appropriate response to a terrorist attack; three years ago, they all decided that fiscal austerity was the appropriate response to an economic crisis caused by runaway bankers, with the supposedly imminent danger from budget deficits playing the role once played by Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Now, as then, this consensus has seemed impenetrable to counterarguments, no matter how well grounded in evidence. And now, as then, leaders of the consensus continue to be regarded as credible even though they’ve been wrong about everything (why do people keep treating Alan Simpson as a wise man?), while critics of the consensus are regarded as foolish hippies even though all their predictions — about interest rates, about inflation, about the dire effects of austerity — have come true.

So here’s my question: Will it make any difference that Ben Bernanke has now joined the ranks of the hippies?

Earlier this week, Mr. Bernanke delivered testimony that should have made everyone in Washington sit up and take notice. True, it wasn’t really a break with what he has said in the past or, for that matter, with what other Federal Reserve officials have been saying, but the Fed chairman spoke more clearly and forcefully on fiscal policy than ever before — and what he said, translated from Fedspeak into plain English, was that the Beltway obsession with deficits is a terrible mistake.

First of all, he pointed out that the budget picture just isn’t very scary, even over the medium run: “The federal debt held by the public (including that held by the Federal Reserve) is projected to remain roughly 75 percent of G.D.P. through much of the current decade.”

He then argued that given the state of the economy, we’re currently spending too little, not too much: “A substantial portion of the recent progress in lowering the deficit has been concentrated in near-term budget changes, which, taken together, could create a significant headwind for the economic recovery.”

Finally, he suggested that austerity in a depressed economy may well be self-defeating even in purely fiscal terms: “Besides having adverse effects on jobs and incomes, a slower recovery would lead to less actual deficit reduction in the short run for any given set of fiscal actions.”

So the deficit is not a clear and present danger, spending cuts in a depressed economy are a terrible idea and premature austerity doesn’t make sense even in budgetary terms. Regular readers may find these propositions familiar, since they’re pretty much what I and other progressive economists have been saying all along. But we’re irresponsible hippies. Is Ben Bernanke? (Well, he has a beard.)

The point is not that Mr. Bernanke is an unimpeachable source of wisdom; one hopes that the collapse of Alan Greenspan’s reputation has put an end to the practice of deifying Fed chairmen. Mr. Bernanke is a fine economist, but no more so than, say, Columbia’s Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate and legendary economic theorist whose vocal criticism of our deficit obsession has nonetheless been ignored. No, the point is that Mr. Bernanke’s apostasy may help undermine the argument from authority — nobody who matters disagrees! — that has made the elite obsession with deficits so hard to dislodge.

And an end to deficit obsession can’t come a moment too soon. Right now Washington is focused on the idiocy of the sequester, but this is only the latest episode in an unprecedented run of declines in public employment and government purchases that have crippled our economy’s recovery. A misguided elite consensus has led us into an economic quagmire, and it’s time for us to get out.

March 1st, 2013
Get Off of Your Cloud

NY Times Published: February 26, 2013

When Marissa Mayer became queen of the Yahoos last summer, she was hailed as a role model for women.

The 37-year-old supergeek with the supermodel looks was the youngest Fortune 500 chief executive. And she was in the third trimester of her first pregnancy. Many women were thrilled at the thought that biases against hiring women who were expecting, or planning to be, might be melting.

A couple months later, it gave her female fans pause when the Yahoo C.E.O. took a mere two-week maternity pause. She built a nursery next to her office at her own expense, to make working almost straight through easier.

The fear that this might set an impossible standard for other women — especially women who had consigned “having it all” to unicorn status — reverberated. Even the German family minister, Kristina Schröder, chimed in: “I regard it with major concern when prominent women give the public impression that maternity leave is something that is not important.”

Almost two months after her son, Macallister, was born, Mayer irritated some women again when she bubbled at a Fortune event that “the baby’s been way easier than everyone made it out to be.”

“Putting ‘baby’ and ‘easy’ in the same sentence turns you into one of those mothers we don’t like very much,” Lisa Belkin chided in The Huffington Post.

Now Mayer has caused another fem-quake with a decision that has a special significance to working mothers. She has banned Yahoos, as her employees are known, from working at home (which some of us call “working” at home).

It flies in the face of tech companies’ success in creating a cloud office rather than a conventional one. Mayer’s friend Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook wrote in her new feminist manifesto, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” that technology could revolutionize women’s lives by “changing the emphasis on strict office hours since so much work can be conducted online.”

She added that “the traditional practice of judging employees by face time rather than results unfortunately persists” when it would be more efficient to focus on results.

Many women were appalled at the Yahoo news, noting that Mayer, with her penthouse atop the San Francisco Four Seasons, her Oscar de la Rentas and her $117 million five-year contract, seems oblivious to the fact that for many of her less-privileged sisters with young children, telecommuting is a lifeline to a manageable life.

The dictatorial decree to work “side by side” had some dubbing Mayer not “the Steinem of Silicon Valley” but “the Stalin of Silicon Valley.”

Mayer and Sandberg are in an elite cocoon and in USA Today, Joanne Bamberger fretted that they are “setting back the cause of working mothers.” She wrote that Sandberg’s exhortation for “women to pull themselves up by the Louboutin straps” is damaging, as is “Mayer’s office-only work proclamation that sends us back to the pre-Internet era of power suits with floppy bow ties.”

Men accustomed to telecommuting were miffed, too. Richard Branson tweeted: “Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.”

While it is true that women have looked to technology as a leveling force in the marketplace, it is also true that tech innovators — even as far back as Bell Labs scientists — have designed their campuses around the management philosophy that intellectual ferment happens when you force smart people to collaborate in person and constantly bounce creative ideas off each other.

Mayer has shown that she is willing to do what it takes, with no coddling. She has a huge challenge in turning around Yahoo — she was the third of three C.E.O.’s at the company in 2012 alone. She had success brainstorming face to face during her years at Google, where she was the 20th employee, the first female engineer and the shepherd of more than 100 products. The Times’s Laura Holson wrote that when meeting with Google subordinates, Mayer came across like a “meticulous art teacher correcting first-semester students.”

Mayer’s bold move looks retro and politically incorrect, but she may feel the need to reboot the company culture, harness creativity, cut deadwood and discipline slackers before resuming flexibility.

Coming into the office, Yahoo H.R. chief Jackie Reses wrote in a memo, ensures that “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” adding tartly that if “Yahoos” “have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.”

Maybe as Mayer rejuvenates “the grandfather” of Internet companies, as she calls Yahoo, she needs the energy and synergy of a start-up mentality.

She seems to believe that enough employees are goofing off at home that she should bring them off the cloud and into the cubicle. But she should also be sympathetic to the very different situation of women — and men — struggling without luxurious layers of help.

Mayer has a nursery next to the executive suite. But not everyone has it so sweet.

February 27th, 2013
Lucas Knipscher, Win McCarthy, Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke, “Untitled (Nugget),” 1986, gelatin silver print, 23 3/4 x 20 1/8 inches, 60.3 x 51.1 cm, unique

Through March 3, 2013

Rachel Uffner

February 27th, 2013
nuts in may

Nuts In May Part 1 of 5 by Hyperbolic780

Nuts In May Part 2 of 5 by Hyperbolic780

Nuts In May Part 3 of 5 by Hyperbolic780

Nuts In May Part 4 of 5 by Hyperbolic780

Nuts In May Part 5 of 5 by Hyperbolic780

February 26th, 2013

A Village by the Sea, 2011, 35mm, black-and-white, optical sound, 5:40 min, 35mm single-screen magnification

February 27 through April 21, 2013


February 25th, 2013
Owls Start Coming Into Full View

Barn owls communicate through a complex, rule-based series of calls, trills, barks and hoots, says Alexandre Roulin of the University of Lausanne. Photograph by Amir Ezer

NY Times Published: February 25, 2013 Comment

Washington — The day after a frigid, star-salted night spent tromping through the Alexandria woods with David Johnson of the Global Owl Project, and listening to the stridently mournful cries of wild barred owls that remained hidden from view, I stopped by the National Zoo around sunset to take visual measure of the birds I had heard.

The two barred, or Strix varia, owls were just rousing themselves in the outdoor enclosure, and they looked bigger and more shaggily majestic than I expected, with capes of densely layered cream-and-coffee plumage draped on their 17-inch frames and pompous, Elizabethan feather ruffs encircling their necks. Like any good royalty, they ignored me.

That is, until I pulled out my phone with the birdcall app and started playing the barred owl song. The female’s languid eyes shot wide open. The male’s head spun around in its socket by 180 of the 270 degrees an owl’s head can swivel.

With the distinctive forward-facing gaze that can make owls seem as much human as bird, the barred pair stared at me. I played the call again, the male grew bored, and I was about to put the phone away when suddenly the female — the larger of the two owls, as female birds of prey often are — pitched her body forward on her perch, lifted up her heavy, magnificent wings and belted out a full-throated retort to my recorded call.

After a brief pause, she hooted the eight-note sequence once more, at which point an astonished zoo-goer nearby burst into applause.

In the Western imagination, the owl surely vies with the penguin for the position of My Favorite Bird. “Everyone loves owls,” said David J. Bohaska, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who discovered one of the earliest owl fossils. “Even mammalogists love owls.”

Owls are a staple of children’s books and cultural kitsch — here wooing pussycats in pea-green boats and delivering mail to the Harry Potter crew, there raising a dubiously Wise eyebrow in the service of snack food. Yet for all this apparent familiarity, only lately have scientists begun to understand the birds in any detail, and to puzzle out the subtleties of behavior, biology and sensory prowess that set them apart from all other avian tribes.

Researchers have discovered, for example, that young barn owls can be impressively generous toward one another, regularly donating portions of their food to smaller, hungrier siblings — a display of altruism that is thought to be rare among nonhuman animals, and one that many a small human sibling might envy.

The scientists also discovered that barn owls express their needs and desires to each other through a complex, rule-based series of calls, trills, barks and hoots, a language the researchers are now seeking to decipher.

“They talk all night long and make a huge noise,” said Alexandre Roulin of the University of Lausanne, who recently reported on barn owl altruism in the journal Animal Behaviour with his colleague Charlene A. Ruppli, and Arnaud Da Silva of the University of Burgundy. “We would never put our nest boxes in front of a farmer’s bedroom, or the person wouldn’t be able to sleep.”

Other researchers are tracking the lives of some of the rarer and more outlandishly proportioned owls, like the endangered Blakiston’s fish owl of Eurasia. Nearly a yard high, weighing up to 10 pounds and with a wingspan of six feet, Blakiston’s is the world’s largest owl, a bird so hulking it’s often mistaken for other things, according to Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia program. It could easily look like a bear in a tree or a man on a bridge.

Or maybe Ernest Hemingway. This powerful predator can pull from the river an adult salmon two, three or more times its own weight, sometimes grabbing onto a tree root with one talon to help make the haul.

Ferocity is essential for a bird whose frigid, spotty range extends across northeastern China, the Russian Far East and up toward the Arctic Circle, one that breeds and nests in the dead of winter, perched atop a giant cottonwood or elm tree, out in the open, in temperatures 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Dr. Slaght’s colleague Sergei Surmach videotaped a female sitting on her nest during a blizzard. “All you could see at the end was her tail jutting out,” Dr. Slaght said.

Aeronautical engineers are studying owls for clues to better wing designs. Many owl species are renowned for their ability to fly almost completely silently, without the flapping noises and air whooshes that might warn prey of their approach.

Researchers have traced that silent flight to several features. The bulk of the wing is broad and curved — the ideal shape for slow gliding — and is abundantly veined with velvety down plumage to help absorb sound. Moreover, the feathers at the edge of the wing are serrated to effectively break up and smooth out air turbulence as a comb disentangles knots. At a meeting of the American Physical Society last fall, researchers from Cambridge University proposed that well-placed perforations in an airplane wing could have a similar smoothing effect on turbulence, leading to quieter and more fuel efficient flights — and mealtime voles for all.

Owls date back 60 million years or longer, and they’re found in nearly every type of habitat: tropical, tundra, desert, Central Park. Some 229 species are known, and the list keeps growing: last summer, two new species of hawk owl were discovered in the Philippines, and earlier this month researchers reported on a new species of screech-like owl from the island of Lombok, Indonesia.

The birds own the night, although some hunt at dusk and dawn and even during the day. And hunt owls tirelessly do. By one estimate, a group, or “parliament,” of 10 owl families living in a barn in Central Florida cleared the surrounding sugarcane fields of about 25,000 cotton rats a year.

Owls were long thought to be closely related to birds of prey like hawks and eagles, which they sometimes superficially resemble — hence the names hawk owls and eagle owls. But similarities of beak or talon turn out to be the result of evolutionary convergence on optimal meat-eating equipment, and recent genetic analysis links the owls to other nocturnal birds, like nightjars.

Through the Global Owl Project, Mr. Johnson is working with researchers in 65 countries to compile a vast database and celebration of all the world’s owls, with descriptions, natural history, genetics, vocalizations, rough population estimates, owl myths and legends.

Westerners love owls, he said, a tradition that dates back at least to the ancient Greeks and the association of owls with the wise goddess, Athena, and her gray “shining eyes.” In some countries, though, owls are seen as bad omens and harbingers of death — perhaps, Mr. Johnson proposed, because owls often nest in cemeteries, where trees are left to grow undisturbed and the nesting cavities are comfortably large.

Would that owls might lend us their ears. Species like the barn, barred, screech and horned have some of the keenest auditory systems known, able to hear potential prey stirring deep under leaves, snow or grass, identify the rodent species and even assess its relative plumpness or state of pregnancy, based on sound alone.

Again scientists attribute that to a consortium of traits. Prof. Tim Birkhead of the University of Sheffield points out in his new book, “Bird Sense,” that the owl cochlea is “enormous” and densely packed with sensory cilia. The barn owl, for example, has three times the number of hair cells expected for its body size. The paired ear openings are also exceptionally large and asymmetrically placed on either side of the skull, the better to help localize a sound’s origin; the super-swively neck further enhances the power to sample the ambient soundscape.

Then there is the owl’s famously flat face, also called the facial disk — pie-shaped in some species, heart-shaped Kabuki in the barn owl. The facial disk serves as a kind of satellite dish, to gather sound waves, which are then directed to the owl’s ears by stiff, specialized feathers along the disk circumference.

Even the owl’s forward-facing eyes may have as much to do with hearing as with vision. Graham Martin of the University of Birmingham has proposed that with so much of the lateral real estate on the owl’s skull taken up by the giant ear openings, the only place left to position its eyes is in the middle of the face.

Here’s looking at you, Strix. Will you please call again?

February 25th, 2013
david korty

Untitled # 1, 2013
Ceramic and Glaze
9 x 6 1/2 x 4″

Through March 24, 2013

Shop Exhibit

February 24th, 2013
David Lynch Is Back … as a Guru of Transcendental Meditation

David Lynch for The New York Times
David Lynch took a self-portrait at Idem Paris, a fine-art printing studio, in December.

NY Times Published: February 22, 2013

Inside David Lynch’s bunker of a studio in Los Angeles, a small crowd of happy people gathered on a late summer morning to meditate and learn about the nature of consciousness. The dozen or so young actors and musicians and others were recent initiates of Transcendental Meditation, a trademarked form of relaxation that involves sitting quietly and saying a mantra to yourself for 20 minutes twice a day. T.M. initiation — a multiday instruction program that includes the bestowing of a secret personalized mantra — costs, on average, $1,000. But those gathered had been initiated as a gift of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Through its work, Lynch, who has been practicing T.M. for 40 years, hopes to teach meditation to the world and, as a result, create world peace.

Lynch’s compound is where Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette dove into a nether world of lust, porn, murder and shadow selves in his 1997 film, “Lost Highway.” But “Lost Highway” was 16 years ago, and besides, it was just a movie. On that recent summer morning, the sun flooded into the dining room and the table was laid out with pastries and lemonade. The wild-eyed actor B. J. Novak, formerly of “The Office,” wandered in, holding a to-go cup of coffee. The heiress Aileen Getty, whose foundation supports Lynch’s work in teaching the homeless to meditate, lingered near the door. Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, stars of the sitcom “2 Broke Girls,” stood to the side, laughing. Adam Gaynor, a former member of the band Matchbox 20, told me how meditation helped him deal with the recent death of his mother. “I heard about it and pushed it off a few times,” he said. “But afterward, I was so grateful.”

Near a window that looked out onto the Hollywood Hills, a large, framed, pastel poster was set up. Standing beside it was Lynn Kaplan, a dark-haired, energetic woman who works for Lynch’s foundation, which is based in Manhattan. Kaplan had assembled this group of young talent and personally initiated each one with their own mantra. “This is where the mantra comes from,” Kaplan explained, gesturing toward the evolutionary pictogram of Indian men radiating light. At the base stood a small man in a white robe, his hands clasped. This was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, she said, the late founder of the T.M. movement and Lynch’s guru. Beneath him floated a pastel world, glowing.

Word came that Lynch was on his way down, and the crowd shuffled over to his in-house recording studio and screening room, settling into built-in, modern easy chairs. Lynch slunk in through a side door, casting a leery eye up at his audience. He took a seat near the wall, looking uncomfortable. Everyone fell silent. Lynch was stylishly rumpled. His frame was lean and his hair was pomaded loosely into a mature faux-hawk. He wore faded khaki pants that bloused over a worn leather belt. In the breast pocket of his white dress shirt, a pack of American Spirit cigarettes was at the ready. Lynch is a notorious creature of habit: he spent seven years drinking the same chocolate milkshake at the same time every day from Bob’s Big Boy in L.A., because he thought it affected his creative process; and part of his persona is his uniform approach to dress. That day, a yellow watch gave a flash of color.

Lynch, 67, has the plain-spoken demeanor of an old cowboy actor, a posture that masks a lifelong fear of public speaking. When his quietness got uncomfortable, Kaplan announced the start of a short meditation. For 10 minutes, the soundproofed room was dead silent. When it was over, Lynch stood up, refreshed. “So, do you guys have any questions?” he asked.

Kat Dennings’s boyfriend raised his hand and asked how he started meditation. Lynch made a funny face — he has answered this question a hundred times, all over the world. “I started here in Los Angeles on July 1, around 11 o’clock in the morning, a beautiful Saturday sunny day in 1973.” The group laughed at his exactness. “It was just yesterday,” he said softly. He continued: “I always tell the same story. The Beatles were over with Maharishi in India and lots of people were getting hip to Transcendental Meditation and different kinds of meditation, and I thought it was real baloney.” There was a knowing murmur — those in the audience had once had their doubts, too. “I thought I would become a raisin-and-nut eater, and I just wanted to work. And then all of a sudden, I heard this phrase, ‘True happiness is not out there, true happiness lies within.’ And this phrase had a ring of truth.”

Lynch brightened proudly. “You just got to stay regular in your meditation,” he eventually said. “It’s the transcendent that does everything good for us human beings. You get a key that opens the door to that with Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.”

Over the past few decades, David Lynch’s babbling dwarfs, ominous red curtains and just-around-the-corner episodes of hideous violence have become shorthand for a generation of art-house filmmaking. “Blue Velvet,” “Wild at Heart,” “Mulholland Drive” and his hit TV series “Twin Peaks” received critical acclaim. And somewhere along the way, Lynch’s fringe vision of reality became a marketable brand. He directed commercials — with flickering light and his signature unease — for Calvin Klein and Dior. He has lent his name to several products, from Lynch edition bottles of Dom Pérignon to the David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Coffee company. He recently released a discordant musical album — “Crazy Clown Time” — and has produced a number of others. For decades he has exhibited paintings and drawings and photographs around the world. He designed a nightclub, Silencio (a reference to the theater in “Mulholland Drive”), in Paris. Every night, people line up outside with hopes of experiencing something Lynchian, a phrase that David Foster Wallace once defined as that which “refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s containment within the latter.”

What Lynch has not been doing, though, is making movies. Since “Mulholland Drive” was released in 2001, Lynch seems to have turned his focus almost entirely away from shadowy underworlds and toward spreading the word about Transcendental Meditation. In 2003, he told a group of reporters that he was part of a project to build “peace palaces” all around the world, where thousands of practitioners would live, eat, sleep and meditate around the clock. And during the last decade, Lynch has traveled the world, telling all who will listen about transcending to a unified field of being. In the meantime, he has only released one feature film.

Whether his tireless work for T.M. has prevented him from focusing on his directorial work or whether the peaceful world he now inhabits has become his higher calling remains unclear. But in 2011, the independent film director Abel Ferrara told the blog Indiewire that he thought Lynch had given up on movies entirely. “Lynch doesn’t even want to make films anymore,” he said. “I’ve talked to him about it, O.K.? I can tell when he talks about it.” And then, rhetorically: “I’m a lunatic, and he’s pushing Transcendental Meditation.”

Watching Lynch stand in front of a giant movie screen, preaching in his singsong frontier voice about how meditation could transform all that ails, it seemed as if Ferrara might be right. Lynch told someone in the audience that the decision to meditate should be an easy one: “If you had a choice to vomit all day or feel healthy and strong, it would be kind of obvious.” Then he cackled, and it occurred to me then that, despite the lack of dwarfs or talking animals in the screening room, Lynch might be up to something else too. Trying to create world peace through meditation might simply be the most Lynchian thing that Lynch has ever done.

From the moment that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi arrived at the Honolulu airport in 1958, wearing robes, his ambition was to make Transcendental Meditation a global practice. He had been traveling across India for a few years, spreading the notion that meditation wasn’t just for monks and yogis but instead could be simplified for the masses. He would soon seize on a generation of young people’s desires to recreate the nirvana of hallucinogenic drugs and to live meaningful lives. In 1967, the Beatles met Maharishi, and he quickly became their spiritual adviser. Life magazine declared 1968 “the Year of the Guru,” with photographs of Maharishi. By 1977, a Gallup poll reported that 4 percent of Americans said they practiced T.M.

But then things got murky, and questions about the cult of personality grew. The Beatles left Maharishi’s ashram in a huff. Maharishi intensified his focus on a “world plan” to create peace through what he called the “Maharishi Effect,” in which 1 percent of the square root of the world population would meditate and radiate positivity. By the late 1970s, he had told his followers that they should practice more advanced, and more expensive, meditation techniques that took about two hours a day and could result in superhuman powers — the strength of an elephant and the ability to levitate.

By the 1980s, only a devout base remained dedicated to the world plan, and many of them settled in a small community in a corner of southern Iowa. Deepak Chopra, who worked for the Maharishi at the time, told me, “I started to be uncomfortable with what I sensed was a cultish atmosphere around Maharishi.” Soon, Maharishi stopped making public appearances, spending his time in an isolated compound in the Netherlands. He named a Lebanese neuroscientist as his successor, giving him the ceremonial name and title Majaraja Adiraj Rajaraam, the First Ruler of the Global Country of World Peace. He had given him his weight in gold.

Far away, in Southern California, David Lynch drank, made money, married a number of women and directed violent and dark movies. Still, he loved meditating. On set, he would leave each day to go spend time alone in his trailer, “diving within.” Then, in 2001, Lynch heard about a rare opportunity: the Enlightenment Course. Maharishi, who had barely been seen in public for years, was offering devotees the chance to pay about a million dollars to spend a month with him in the Netherlands.

When Lynch arrived at the compound in Vlodrop, in June 2002, he had hopes that the $1 million fee — a significant investment for him — would allow him to spend a month at his master’s knee, basking in the glow of his enlightened consciousness. He was disappointed when he was told that Maharishi would not physically attend the meetings but instead would communicate with the small group of devoted benefactors via a teleconference system from his room upstairs. But it didn’t matter — like all things Maharishi did, Lynch says, his absence made sense. “When I play it back in my mind, he was right there,” he said. “It’s a strange thing. He was right above us but came through the television. But it was as if there was no television. And that’s the way it was.”

At the end of the Enlightenment Course, Lynch made his way back to Los Angeles as a changed man. “Everyone I saw was like a hero to me, trying to do the best they can, live life,” he said. “I was just in the strangest place. I’d pass through these different airports, and I’d look at the people, and I’d just love, love, loved the people.” I asked him if he still had the same feeling. “Yeah,” he said, looking away from me. “But the thing is, you could very easily sit under a tree. But if I heard that before I started — that you might want to sit under a tree, I’d stay away from that ’cause I want to work. You see what I mean? It gives you that feeling that you could sit under a tree, but it also gives you the feeling you could just go work.”

Could he have ended up sitting under a tree? I asked.

“No. I’m not enlightened.”

Lynch did feel a new sense of mission. “It was important for me to say something to the people, whether they listened or not, about my personal experience,” he said. Though he had long been fairly private about his love of T.M., Lynch started announcing his support of not only meditation but of Maharishi’s agenda for world change. This zeal didn’t go unnoticed by the leaders of Maharishi’s organization. In 2005, John Hagelin and Bob Roth, who spent decades working for Maharishi, suggested that Lynch start a foundation dedicated to helping troubled children through meditation. Lynch quickly expanded on the idea: he wanted to raise $7 billion to spread T.M. “I just remember him taking this idea and going two or three ideas beyond what we had in mind,” Hagelin said.

A year after the inception of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, Lynch’s life began to change more visibly. He filed for divorce from Mary Sweeney, his third wife, longtime collaborator and the mother of his 14-year-old son. Not long after, Lynch was engaged to Emily Stofle, an unknown actress decades younger. When asked why he married so many times, he told this magazine: “We live in the field of relativity. Things change.” In 2006, Lynch released his first film in five years, “Inland Empire,” which grossed a meager $4 million. The Times called it a “savagely uncompromised” piece of art; others panned it as alienating nonsense.

Regardless, it would be his last movie to date. Lynch set out on a two-year global speaking tour that took him to more than 30 countries to talk to mostly college-age audiences about meditation, creativity and peace. Lynch’s phobia of public speaking was such that he occasionally pretaped acceptance speeches when honored with an award and stood silently at the microphone as the recorder played his voice. But on the global speaking tour, in front of audiences of hundreds, sometimes even thousands, he cracked jokes and told personal stories of his own transformation.

Then, in February 2008, Maharishi died. In the weeks before his death, the guru acknowledged Lynch’s birthday in a group teleconference — a special honor. “It was a celebration taking place long-distance over Skype,” Hagelin said. “Maharishi was so intent on participating and hearing, and he took great satisfaction. Even then Maharishi saw with David the great potential to meet many people, to fulfill Maharishi’s vision of alleviating the problems of the world.”

On a 100-degree morning last summer, I was with Lynch in the back of a stretch limousine for a long, slow ride down Mulholland Drive. The narrow two-lane road, which runs along the top of the Hollywood Hills, separates the multimillion-dollar canyon homes of Los Angeles from the sprawl of split-levels that make up the San Fernando Valley. Tacking between suburban and glamorous, the road itself is broken down, potholed and in places overgrown with desert flower bushes. It always feels a little lonely.

There was an unspoken logic to us being up there. It was during the making of “Mulholland Drive,” which opens on a shot of a stretch limo lurching down the road, that Lynch began his transformation from iconoclastic director with a public-speaking phobia to global public evangelist for meditation and peace. On that summer morning, Lynch was a bit grouchy. (He was on a cleanse.) He squinted, watching the road as if we were braving a blizzard.

As the car hummed along and we relived his spiritual journey, I asked Lynch what he really believed. Did he see Transcendental Meditation as simply a technique for relaxation, perfect for young Hollywood actresses, or rather as an all-encompassing way of life, as Maharishi had encouraged — one with peace palaces and an army of meditators fomenting world peace? Lynch paused, and then spoke for more than five minutes, explaining that T.M. was the answer for all seeking true inner happiness. He ended with this thought: “Things like traumatic stress and anxiety and tension and sorrow and depression and hate and bitter, selfish anger and fear start to lift away. And that’s a huge sense of freedom when that heavy weight of negativity begins to lift. So it’s like gold flowing in from within and garbage going out. The things in life that used to almost kill you, stress you, depress you, make you sad, make you afraid — they have less and less power. It’s like you’re building up a flak jacket of protection. You’re starting to glow with this from within.”

Lynch looked over at me scribbling on my notepad. When I finished, there was a pause, and I laughed — what could I say after all that? I had asked if T.M. was something he believed could be compartmentalized, like doing yoga or avoiding dairy. Lynch chuckled, but it seemed as if it was because he felt that he’d just given the definitive answer to all questions that might follow from me or from the universe for that matter.

I should say here that Lynch was not explaining transcendence to a neophyte. I got my first T.M. mantra when I was 3 years old, and for as long as I can remember, meditation and Maharishi were the basis for everything I did growing up. I was 5 when my family moved to Fairfield, the small town in Iowa where Maharishi and his followers bought a bankrupt college and established a community. Most of my early education took place at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, where our curriculum was interwoven with our guru’s philosophy. His photograph hung on nearly every wall of my school and home. We wore crisp conservative uniforms and meditated twice a day in our classrooms. Those meditations were graded.

I still meditate. For 20 minutes or more, twice a day, I’m able to step back from the news scroll of thoughts and be truly quiet. I use T.M. to deal with anxiety and fatigue and to stave off occasional despair. But that’s because, in my head, I’ve managed to excise the weird flotsam of spirituality that engulfed T.M. for the first part of my life. Now, for me, it is something very simple, like doing yoga or avoiding dairy. Objectively speaking, meditation has been shown to decrease the incidence of heart attacks and strokes and increase longevity. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense commissioned studies to determine whether T.M. can help veterans alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder. Thanks to the David Lynch foundation, low-performing public schools have instituted “Quiet Time,” an elective 10 minutes, twice a day, during which students meditate, with some encouraging results.

Lynch seemed unsatisfied with my limited appreciation for the possibility of T.M. “Now, Claire,” Lynch said, leaning forward and staring into my eyes. “When I first met you, I felt that you had doubts. Is that a real feeling?” By doubts, Lynch was talking about T.M. as a worldview and the belief that Maharishi was an enlightened guru. He was talking about the T.M. organization’s $7 billion plan to create world peace. He seemed to want me to understand that transcending would change everything, for everyone. I had doubts.

As the sunlight streamed through the tinted windows, my mind turned to Laura Harring, the red-lipped heroine of “Mulholland Drive,” and the way Lynch used this road as a portal into an underworld where monsters and dwarfs await by the nearest stalk of bougainvillea. Where had transcending taken Lynch? Had T.M. stripped him of the subversive weirdness that made him such a powerful artist? Had he allowed himself, on some level, to sit under a tree? Then, before I had a moment to consider the notion, he was nudging me, laughing. “Wave to them! Wave to them!” He rolled down his window and waved gaily to a Hollywood tour bus across the street, full of passengers frantically taking photographs of our limo. Lynch beamed. It was hard to see the macabre in the mundane.

As he rolled up his window, I asked him about the rewards of immersing himself in advocacy and philanthropy. Did they outweigh those he felt as an artist? He snapped at me — saying that this was all just a thing that happened and that his real focus was his wife, his children and his work. Lynch said he was just waiting for a movie idea to come to him. Then he quickly switched to the quantum mechanics of transcendence, and my mind wandered to what Abel Ferrara said. It must be hard to come up with an idea for a movie when you believe that you have the power to change people’s lives and maybe even the world.

The office of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace in New York is filled with young adults, many of whom grew up practicing Transcendental Meditation. Since Lynch started spreading the good news about T.M., the number of people learning the technique has increased tenfold. Close to Lynch’s heart are those suffering from PTSD, it seems, but it is in his own industry that he has made a more visible impact. Roth, who runs the foundation, spends much of his time flying around the world as well as initiating a long list of public figures: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Simmons, Katy Perry, Susan Sarandon, Candy Crowley, Soledad O’Brien, George Stephanopoulos and Paul McCartney’s grandchildren.

Russell Brand, the British comedian, often accompanies Lynch as an M.C. at the foundation’s star-studded fund-raisers in New York and Los Angeles. Howard Stern, Laura Dern, Clint Eastwood and Jerry Seinfeld, who meditated without much fanfare for decades, have filmed testimonials to help Lynch reach his $7 billion goal. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr sang together for the first time in years at a Lynch fund-raiser at Radio City Music Hall in 2009. Oprah Winfrey recently dedicated an entire show to T.M. As did Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Despite the totality of the vision he laid out in the limo, one thing that is abundantly clear inside the foundation’s office is that the Lynch brand of Transcendental Meditation is vibrant and uncomplicated and unburdened by T.M.’s more controversial past. It is no longer, as Brand often says, “for weird, old hippies.” Nor is it only for committed devotees willing to spend their lives meditating in rural Iowa. Maharishi’s visage was nowhere to be seen.

Maharishi, in fact, seems to have disappeared from the conversation entirely. Many of those I interviewed, who learned T.M. through Lynch’s foundation, compared the practice to going to the gym. Kevin Law, a former music-industry executive who has been invited to join the foundation’s board, told me that he was inspired by the fact that people like Martin Scorsese and the billionaire hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio were very public that T.M. had changed their lives. “These masters of the universe,” he said, “all from different backgrounds, all have one thing in common and it’s Transcendental Meditation.” Law said that for him, T.M. is more like working out. When I asked him about his sense of Maharishi, he said, “I know shockingly little about him because it’s not important.”

This reminded me of a conversation I had with Lynch along Mulholland Drive. I asked him why he went from someone who would talk only to friends and family about meditation to someone who was spending his life on the road, promoting a cause. At the time, he shrugged and demurred that he had simply been asked. Now, in the clean and well-lighted office of the David Lynch foundation, I wondered if this, in fact, was the reason he was asked. Was this simplified version of T.M., based in an office with Oriental rugs and pictures of Seinfeld, in keeping with Maharishi’s dying wish? Or was it a creation of Lynchian proportions?

A few months later, I reached Lynch by phone at his hotel room in Paris. Bob Roth had told me that Lynch said he was working on a new script and that it was typically dark. When I asked Lynch about this, he paused, annoyed. “Bobby’s got a big mouth,” he said. I asked him if the script was influenced by his work with T.M., and he said no, absolutely not. This will be a David Lynch picture, he said, adding, “I think people would probably recognize it.”

During our time together, I heard audiences ask Lynch over and over how he could create disturbing movies while dipping into a field of pure bliss. He had universally assured them that it was no problem: he has been meditating for years, and it actually helps him be more creative, to come up with better, more visceral stories. But when I pointed out that it had been more than six years since his last film, Lynch demurred. He was just a tool, he told me, in some larger, transcendent plan. “Mother Nature is very, very happy when people stop suffering and move things forward in a beautiful way,” Lynch said. “That makes me feel good. I’m just the messenger. I’m just telling them what Maharishi told me

February 24th, 2013
adolf loos and vienna

In this volume, Marco Pogacnik takes us literally on a pilgrimage with Adolf Loos in Vienna, illustrating the intricate planning policies of the then Viennese administration, and the roles played by various core figures in the construction of the house on Michaelerplatz.

Adolf Loos and Vienna
By: Marco Pogacnk
Published by Quodlibet Studio


February 23rd, 2013
Alan Uglow

Through March 23, 2013

David Zwirner

February 22nd, 2013
A Treasure on Every Table

Chris Hinkle for The New York Times
A table at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show at the city’s convention center.

NY Times Published: February 20, 2013

TUCSON — The earth is made of them and space is littered with them and, for two weeks every February, this city of roughly a half-million swells by another 50,000 as mineral hunters from around the planet descend on southern Arizona in passionate pursuit of more rocks.

They come in search of the usual mineral suspects: emeralds, sapphires, rubies mined all over and transported to a gem fair that is one of the biggest things to happen here each year.

They come, too, in search of specimens and oddities, rocks with unusual names and baroque formations: purple apatite from Panasqueira in Portugal; carrolite from the Democratic Republic of Congo; epidote from the famous Green Monster mine in Alaska; sacred Shiva lingams rolled smooth over eons by the Narmada river in India; meteoritic litter like the stuff that rained down on Deputatskoye, Russia, only last week.

The umbrella term for an annual trade fair that is a key destination on an international circuit is the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. The name scarcely hints at the scope of an event that takes over Tucson each winter — 43 shows in 41 locations, including hotels, motels, dusty parking lots, the city’s big convention center and tent cities set up by frontage road along Interstate 10 — drawing dealers from China, Morocco, Siberia, Tanzania, Australia and India.

“There are dealers from literally all over the world,” said Tito Pedrini, a New York-based jeweler who arrived in early February for the American Gem Trade Association, a high-end fair that people in his business scour for exceptional examples of the colored gemstones fashionable now among celebrities and the ultrarich.

“You think, ‘Why is the gem show there?’ ” Mr. Pedrini said. “Tucson is such a difficult place to reach.”

What started 59 years ago as a show created by 18 local mineral enthusiasts and held in an elementary school has spread over the ensuing decades into a hunting ground for those looking to buy or sell anything from hulking geodes to a gumball-size Tsavorite.

Hardly a jeweler at work — from industrial Goliaths like Tiffany & Company and Bulgari to fashionable artisans like Mr. Pedrini, Ted Muehling, Susan Reinstein and Brian Ross of Reinstein Ross, or Ramji Bharany of the century-old Bharany’s in New Delhi — has skipped a visit to Tucson.

The reasons are simple. Gem trends are set there. New strikes are showcased. Peculiarities like the remains of fossilized monkey puzzle tree that the Victorians called Whitby Jet and used to make mourning jewelry turn up again suddenly, ready to be back in style. Freakish deposits appear there, things like a hunk of fluorite the size of a kiddie pool, pried from a mine in England and sold for a six-figure sum before the fair began.

It is here that the miraculous and precious stuff teased from the grip of the earth or else winkled out of safe deposit boxes miraculously appears.

“New York is one of the centers for colored stones, and it’s very easy to source them here,” Mr. Pedrini said. “I wanted stones that are more rare, and to find those you need to go directly to the source,” he added, referring to dealers in tourmalines or peridots or spinels or opals, precious minerals mined in places as politically and geologically disparate as Australia and Afghanistan.

“The Burma peridots, which people know better, are quieter and more silky,” Mr. Pedrini said of a scarce green stone sometimes mistaken for emerald. “The Afghan peridots are sparkly and lively, more yellowish green.” On his second day here, he came upon a fine 25-carat peridot that even in the midst of war was mined and exported from Afghanistan.

“You never know when there might be new finds in one particular area of the world, something different from the standard origins, and that provides renewal” to the jewelry trade, said Matthew L. Hopkins, a Rhode Island-based jeweler specializing in opals. The gems Mr. Hopkins had on offer come from a family-held claim in the Lightning Ridge region of the Australian Outback. In Tucson, renewal, or at least competition, unexpectedly appeared this year in the form of the Ethiopian dealers who have flooded the opal market since deposits of the silicate gem were discovered in the northeastern Wollo province in 2008.

“Probably 70 percent of the world’s colored gemstones on the market pass through Tucson during the month of February,” Mr. Hopkins said “Because the dollar is still not doing so well, our market is increasingly the middle class in Asia. The Japanese were really into opals in the ’80s and ’90s.”

In that pre-recession era, dealers like Hopkins Opals could charge as much as $10,000 a carat for top-quality black opals. That price plummeted when the fiscally troubled Japanese dropped out of the market; luckily, Mr. Hopkins said, it was then that an emerging Chinese middle class appeared.

“The Chinese have not gotten stuck in the realm of ruby, sapphire, diamond,” Mr. Hopkins said. “They have much more room for other stones.”

Wandering the aisles of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, held in the city’s convention center, Mauro Parietti and Davide Viale, a jeweler and a mineral aficionado from Italy, stopped to look in on Mr. Hopkins’s booth. “You can never find any place else all the things you see here in one place at one time,” said Mr. Viale, who shops for rocks on the basis of their aesthetic value, a practice less common than it might seem.

Collectors are as various as rocks, said Thomas Raber, a salesman at Wendel Minerals, dealers based in southern Germany. “Some want only very aesthetic pieces, some want to get only things from certain mines,” he said.

“Some look only about rarity and some are systematic and collect only one kind of mineral,” he added, pointing to the prize display in his booth, a grotesque group of naturally occurring “threads” of Saxon silver, found in an old German collection and dauntingly priced at about $58,000 each.

Some collect on the basis of emotion because, as Elizabeth Taylor, that incontestable authority on rocks, once told this reporter: “Stones have a life of their own. There’s something mystical about them. They have their own vitality.”

It was the vibrancy of a particular Tsavorite that struck Mr. Pedrini, the Manhattan-based jeweler, when he visited Bridges Tsavorites.

“I went in the morning, because your eyes are only good once, and so you should only look at gems then,” said Mr. Pedrini, among the rare fashionable jewelers also trained as a gemologist. “And they brought out some stones, which were nice, and then this one that they told me is the most expensive and one they never show.”

The discovery of Tsavorite, a form of garnet, is generally credited to Campbell R. Bridges, a Scottish-born, Kenya-based geologist and a legend in the trade. It was in the 1960s that Bridges stumbled upon the rock formations that yielded a stone new to the trade while scouting beryllium for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. “He was prospecting in Tanzania, and a Cape buffalo charged him,” said his son, Bruce Bridges, 33. “So he dove into a ravine.”

Walking to safety, Campbell Bridges (whose 2009 murder by assailants armed with arrows, spears and machetes, in an apparent dispute over mining rights, remains under investigation in Kenya) came upon something flashing green on the ground.

“It was unlike anything he had ever seen before,” Bruce Bridges said.

Complex politics prevented the strike from being exploited for another decade and delayed the naming of the new gem until 1974. Mr. Bridges’s wife argued for Campbellite (and the slogan “Campbellite by Candlelight”); ultimately Harry Platt, the head of Tiffany, prevailed, and the stone was called Tsavorite after the Tsavo River and the Tsavo National Park.

“It’s still a very rare stone,” said Mr. Bridges, who explained that to find a Tsavorite exceeding two carats is vastly less likely than coming upon a comparable emerald. And unlike emeralds, which are sometimes characterized as sleepy and which are by nature delicate, Tsavorite is a tough stone, colored so deeply that it can sometimes seem faked.

“The color of the stone I saw was deeply saturated, neon, electric,” Mr. Pedrini said. “This is what happens in Tucson: you fall in love with stones you never knew before.” For now, Mr. Pedrini’s love for that particular Tsavorite must remain platonic: the cost of the 26-carat rock is about a half-million dollars.

“Now,” he said, “I have to find a husband whose wife cannot live without the stone.”

February 22nd, 2013
Sequester of Fools

NY Times Published: February 21, 2013

They’re baaack! Just about two years ago, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen of the late unlamented debt commission, warned us to expect a terrible fiscal crisis within, um, two years unless we adopted their plan. The crisis hasn’t materialized, but they’re nonetheless back with a new version. And, in case you’re interested, after last year’s election — in which American voters made it clear that they want to preserve the social safety net while raising taxes on the rich — the famous fomenters of fiscal fear have moved to the right, calling for even less revenue and even more spending cuts.

“Seventy percent of Americans support a balanced approach of raising taxes and cutting spending, while only 19 percent support the Republicans’ cuts only plan. What are Senate Democrats waiting for?”
Mary Scott, NY
Read Full Comment »
But you aren’t interested, are you? Almost nobody is. Messrs. Bowles and Simpson had their moment — the annus horribilis of 2011, when Washington was in thrall to deficit scolds insisting that, in the face of record-high long-term unemployment and record-low borrowing costs, we forget about jobs and concentrate exclusively on a “grand bargain” that would supposedly (not actually) settle budget disputes for ever after.

That moment has now passed; even Mr. Bowles concedes that the search for a grand bargain is on “life support.” Let’s convene a death panel! But the legacy of that year of living foolishly lives on, in the form of the “sequester,” one of the worst policy ideas in our nation’s history.

Here’s how it happened: Republicans engaged in unprecedented hostage-taking, threatening to push America into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to a grand bargain on their terms. Mr. Obama, alas, didn’t stand firm; instead, he tried to buy time. And, somehow, both sides decided that the way to buy time was to create a fiscal doomsday machine that would inflict gratuitous damage on the nation through spending cuts unless a grand bargain was reached. Sure enough, there is no bargain, and the doomsday machine will go off at the end of next week.

There’s a silly debate under way about who bears responsibility for the sequester, which almost everyone now agrees was a really bad idea. The truth is that Republicans and Democrats alike signed on to this idea. But that’s water under the bridge. The question we should be asking is who has a better plan for dealing with the aftermath of that shared mistake.

The right policy would be to forget about the whole thing. America doesn’t face a deficit crisis, nor will it face such a crisis anytime soon. Meanwhile, we have a weak economy that is recovering far too slowly from the recession that began in 2007. And, as Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, recently emphasized, one main reason for the sluggish recovery is that government spending has been far weaker in this business cycle than in the past. We should be spending more, not less, until we’re close to full employment; the sequester is exactly what the doctor didn’t order.

Unfortunately, neither party is proposing that we just call the whole thing off. But the proposal from Senate Democrats at least moves in the right direction, replacing the most destructive spending cuts — those that fall on the most vulnerable members of our society — with tax increases on the wealthy, and delaying austerity in a way that would protect the economy.

House Republicans, on the other hand, want to take everything that’s bad about the sequester and make it worse: canceling cuts in the defense budget, which actually does contain a lot of waste and fraud, and replacing them with severe cuts in aid to America’s neediest. This would hit the nation with a double whammy, reducing growth while increasing injustice.

As always, many pundits want to portray the deadlock over the sequester as a situation in which both sides are at fault, and in which both should give ground. But there’s really no symmetry here. A middle-of-the-road solution would presumably involve a mix of spending cuts and tax increases; well, that’s what Democrats are proposing, while Republicans are adamant that it should be cuts only. And given that the proposed Republican cuts would be even worse than those set to happen under the sequester, it’s hard to see why Democrats should negotiate at all, as opposed to just letting the sequester happen.

So here we go. The good news is that compared with our last two self-inflicted crises, the sequester is relatively small potatoes. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would have threatened chaos in world financial markets; failure to reach a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff would have led to so much sudden austerity that we might well have plunged back into recession. The sequester, by contrast, will probably cost “only” around 700,000 jobs.

But the looming mess remains a monument to the power of truly bad ideas — ideas that the entire Washington establishment was somehow convinced represented deep wisdom.

February 22nd, 2013
Casa Brutus kitchen issue

Peter Shire in his kitchen/studio.

Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow in their kitchen at home.

Casa Brutus March 2013

February 21st, 2013
A Solid, Comforting Family Member

The George Nakashima table commissioned by the author’s parents. Courtesy of Wright

NY Times Published: February 20, 2013

The last time I saw my family’s Nakashima dining table, it was upended on a dusty Dodge Ram, a gray blanket wrapped around it. The ropes that tied the bundle to the van’s roof didn’t seem up to the task of keeping the precious cargo from slipping off and crashing on the road somewhere
between my mother’s town house in Pennsylvania and the warehouse of the dealer in New York who had just purchased it.

My mother had recently died, my father had passed away years earlier, and my three sisters and I had just sold the table. But I was having issues separating from the piece that my parents, in a burst of optimism, had commissioned more than four decades before.

It was the spring of 1967. They were young and adventurous, two Brooklyn-born, Syracuse-educated liberals who had moved into a 1920s house on the outskirts of Philadelphia because my father, an industrial designer, had a job nearby. But my parents never really fit the suburban mold. They steered our red-and-white VW minibus to art galleries and folk concerts, and Sunday mornings my siblings and I raked leaves while our neighborhood pals went to church in patent-leather Mary Janes.

At some point my parents heard about George Nakashima, a Japanese-American architect who had been interned during World War II and had set up a studio in New Hope, Pa., where he made furniture that celebrated the natural beauty of wood. They made a pilgrimage to ask him to build us a table.

With Mr. Nakashima, they picked out a vividly grained piece of American walnut from the raw slabs of wood lined up in his workshop like giant pieces of toast. They watched as he sketched out a table whose top would consist of two book-matched planks with undulating edges, the pieces held together with three rosewood butterfly joints.

My parents would keep the six-by-eight-inch scrap of paper in their safe deposit box. The table itself — once Mr. Nakashima had completed it and my parents had paid him $550, an extravagant sum for them at the time — became the centerpiece of our home.

Other houses in the neighborhood tended toward Lemon Pledged colonial reproductions. But our table went with our Hans Wegner lounge chair and ebony African figurines; architectural etchings by my father’s father, a W.P.A. artist; and Kathe Kollwitz’s lithograph of the 16th-century German peasant uprising, spears raised in the air. As a child, I envied the nondescript décor (and cushy chairs) of my friends’ homes. But I now realize that my parents’ design choices were their way of carving out an alternative universe in a place they didn’t quite belong.

Both were Jewish, neither religious. If my father worshiped anyone, it was Mr. Nakashima — never referred to in our house as George, as dealers do today. And he cared for our table in a way that seemed like a ritual of devotion. Periodically, he would remove the woven place mats that protected it from mealtime spatters, tipping a tall cylindrical container of oil onto it. Then, with a clean rag, he would anoint the wood, sweeping his arm back and forth. The table, still so natural looking, still so much a tree, drank it up like a living thing.

It was at this table that we gathered to eat all our meals and slice into birthday cakes. It was at this table that my father pounded his fist in frustration with a career that he ultimately found unfulfilling and a marriage that was coming apart.

And it was at this table, in the town house my mother moved to after the divorce and the sale of the family home, that my sisters and I gathered to regroup after her death. Here we mourned, planned her memorial, sorted through her finances and discussed what to do with her possessions.

There was an abundance of art and Danish Modern furniture, once again trendy. And there were a number of pieces by Nakashima, whose work had gained widespread recognition with an American Craft Museum retrospective in 1989, a year before his death. My mother had acquired four Nakashima chairs to go around the table, plus a Nakashima bench, ottoman and rocker, all of which she had saved for out of her schoolteacher’s salary.

It would have been nice if one of us could have kept it all, or at least the table my siblings and I had grown up around. But we had to empty her place of valuables so we could paint and put it on the market. Some members of the family needed immediate cash. One sister is more into traditional decorating.

I like modern design. But my husband and I live with our children in a New York apartment and already had furniture from my childhood home. And the Nakashima table was too big — 72 by 56 inches — to slip into a fully furnished room.

Besides, my mother had contemplated selling the furniture herself, in the last year of her life, to save my sisters and me the trouble after she was gone.

I called two dealers who specialized in Nakashima furniture, and both agreed to take a look. I had no qualms when the first carried off the ottoman and the second the bench, purchases my mother had made after my sisters and I had left home. The dealers passed on the rocker, completed after Mr. Nakashima’s death and therefore not signed by him, but they would gladly have taken the dining chairs, which they deemed very salable.

The table was a trickier proposition. The dealers admired the piece, but worried it was too wide for most dining rooms. It might languish in inventory for years, they told me, before the right buyer came along. Their offers were so far below what my mother had thought it was worth that it was easy for me to decline. When they left, I had two checks in hand, and my heart was still light.

But over the next couple of months, the table weighed on my mind. It seemed wrong to sell a piece that felt like a member of the family, only to have it end up in a storeroom until it was packed off to some decorator’s client in, say, South Korea, where Nakashima, I had learned, was suddenly hot. My hope was that we would not only find the table a buyer, we’d find it a loving home.

Briefly, I thought we had found such a home. A friend who is a modernism dealer introduced me to a gentle-voiced collector with a wife and two young children. He loved the story of my parents’ commissioning the table, the little sketch. His offer was slightly lower than what dealers might ultimately have paid, but I thought my mother would have liked the idea of the table going to a nice family.

In the end, though, the sale fell through; the collector wanted a table even larger than ours. So when the modernism dealer decided he was interested in the table and chairs (he had a client ready to buy the chairs), we let the set go.

When the shipper finally arrived, he pronounced the table, which I had come to think of as monumental, “light.” He wrapped it, flipped it on its side and slid it to the doorway. The table was too wide to fit inside his van, so with the help of a neighbor he heaved it onto the roof. In the last rushed moments, I handed the cherished sketch to him before he drove off.

I tried to get used to the idea of not knowing the end of the table’s story. But idly poking around online one day, I clicked on a couple of links and chanced on the Web site of a Chicago auction house where, astonishingly, the table was listed for sale. (I knew it was ours because our name and hometown were given under “Provenance.”)

I suppressed the urge to fly out for the auction. Instead, the day of the sale I lurked online, watching the streamed proceedings from my laptop. The auctioneer, standing before a screen on which a photo of the table appeared, opened the bidding at $14,000.

No one made an offer. I have no idea where my dealer friend — or whoever owned the table at that point — took it next.

I could have called the auction house to try to chase after the piece. But I felt I had dithered over the table long enough. It was time to let go.

The table is just a couple of planks of wood on a pedestal that I have freighted with significance beyond reason. For me, it represents my plucky parents and the golden age of my childhood, when my mother and father were still together and all six of us were under one roof.

Above all, it represents my mother, who lived with it longer than any of us. Just as the table grounded our family, my mother grounded me. Giving up the table has been so hard because it’s been so hard giving up my mother.

Still, it would be nice to see it one more time, and to know it is in good hands. Next time I sell a Nakashima table, I’m adding a visitation clause.

February 21st, 2013
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