By way of explanation.

I have been received occasional emails and comments from people wondering why I have stopped posting on this site. Let me begin by saying that Jack and I are doing quite well, despite the silence. We have both had milestone birthdays in the past month; he turned 16 and I turned (gulp) 50. We have been making a lot of art, spending time with each other and friends,moving our lives ahead. There have been setbacks and moments of deep sadness and anxiety, but as each one passed, I felt stronger and clearer.

I have decided however that I am less comfortable sharing enormous amount of detail here. I have received a lot of encouragement, wisdom and support from visitors to the site,  but I feel that these enormous passages in our lives should be expressed somehow differently, with more care and perspective. So, while I continue to write and draw about these days in my journal, I will be much more selective in how I share them, here and elsewhere. Instead, I shall use dannygregory.com as a place to express myself as I always have, about matters creative and artistic, rather than as deeply personal as the posts I put up in the early summer. I promise to share a lot of this material with you in the future — just in a different shape and form.

I don’t regret that public airing of my private feelings, but I no longer have the same need to do so. I’m sure you understand.

Also, after being plagued by malware and paying a consultant to repeatedly exterminate the vermin in my site, I have decided to radically redesign dannygregory,com. I will launch the new site soon and on it I will share a lot of material from my sketchbooks which I  hope you will find useful.

If you have visited this page over the years, you are probably quite used to my occasional bouts of ambivalence about leading a public life and know that inevitably I shall prance back onto center stage, neuroses in full display and reveal more than a sane person probably should about my experience of the world.

Until then, I remain small and timidly yours,

Danny

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Oh, one more thing  —  Seth Apter has just published an interview with me in which I explain, for the first time, the real origins of Everyday Matters. You might find it interesting.

A Challenge for the Whole Family

[Seth Apter of The Altered Page is conducting a Buried Treasure hunt and encouraged bloggers to resurrect one of their favorite long ago posts. I like this one. I may put up a couple more golden oldies to follow. Then back to the normal sturm and drang of the present.]

It’s the 13th anniversary of Patti’s accident. Jack wrote a lovely essay about how that event has effected him since he was just a baby. Here’s a video of him reading it at his school’s literary festival.

The video is above and here’s the text:

A Challenge for the Whole Family by Jack Tea Gregory
It was June 8th of 1995 when the incident happened. It felt like a normal day, nobody expected anything out of the ordinary. My mother was waiting for the 9 train and she was in a hurry. She was rushing to a demanding photo shoot that was very important to her career. While she was standing near the tracks, peering down the tunnel, her stress and the intense heat caused her to faint. She started to fall just as the train pulled up to the platform and the wind caused from the train whizzing past pulled her into the middle of the track, allowing her to avoid any electrocution. However, she wasn’t safe, the way she fell caused her spinal cord to bend and her back twisted, just before a dangling piece of metal hanging from the train hit her. She was immediately taken to the hospital where they placed an iron rod into her back because her spinal cord had been broken. My mother had been paralyzed from the waist down. She could no longer walk and was forced to sit in a wheelchair. Ever since that day, her life and those surrounding her was instantly affected greatly. Luckily, she was able to get through the therapy and with the support of her family, a new child, and a great sense of humor she was able to push past the injury and escape the pit of despair that many fall into. Many people who are hit by trains come out the tracks in different ways; some are bruised and some are killed. Luckily she didn’t experience the latter, but still life has been a challenge. Our family has also recovered from it and is able to say that they have grown used to it.
Living in New York hasn’t been the easiest, there are a lot of places that don’t have ramps or aren’t accessible. Whenever we find a problem we try and make the best of it. For example, when Mom got her first wheelchair, instead of grimacing about not being able to walk, she would place me on her lap and we’d ride down huge ramps and hills together. The rush between fear of falling and the fun of the wind speeding past our faces created a sense that nothing else in the world existed. My old school had stairs everywhere and she often couldn’t come to school performances or celebrations. I would usually try to take pictures of what was going on so that I could bring her a substitute for not having been there. I would bring her my work if we were celebrating a finished work party.
When my mother would pick me up from school, I would look up from the monkey bars and see all the kids starting to crowd around her. They would ask her questions like, “Do you sleep in a wheelchair?” or “How do you go to the bathroom?” Being the kind woman she is, she’d simply answer them as if nothing was wrong. But I couldn’t help but feel separate from the rest of the children. They found it cool and interesting that my mom was in a wheelchair. They didn’t know how it really was though, all the things we couldn’t do anymore because of this problem. We sometimes can’t go on vacation to certain places because the hotel has a flight of stairs or its elevator has broken down. There are a lot of cars that she can’t get into because they are too high for her to transfer into. However, we find ways around this. My father or I lift her up the stairs and we use a small piece of wood that we call “the Transfer Board,” which she uses to slide across onto the car’s seating.
Taxi drivers are our next issue. Since we didn’t own a car, taxis or the bus are our main form of transportation. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the drivers actually know how to load up a wheelchair. We have to help them to understand how the wheels come off and how to fold up the seat. This can take about 15 minutes and it becomes very annoying after the 20th time.
This incident has changed our life completely and entirely. I can’t imagine or picture how different I’d be if my mother wasn’t in a wheelchair. Most people would think that this is a near to impossible lifestyle but it’s not. We get through each challenge and we do it as family, together. We have as much fun as any other family would; we just do it in a different way.

[Originally posted June 7, 2008]

Jack's Audition

Stage parents wait for their auditioning offspring.

Jack is applying to the Summer Arts Institute, a fantastic program which allows him to study drawing and painting for eight or so hours a day through July. It has loads of dedicated teachers and visits with professional artists and, probably most importantly, the company of other teenagers who are committed to art.
He participated in the program two years ago and did some extraordinary work.
Admission is fairly competitive; applicants need to show a portfolio, complete a drawing assignment, and survive an interview and portfolio critique.
Jack’s portfolio is really diverse these days, oil and acrylic paintings, pastel, conté, various types of prints and the medium at which he truly excels: pen and ink drawing.
Early Saturday morning, Jack and I rode out to the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a beautiful new public school in Astoria. While he went off for his audition, my pal Tommy Kane drove up and we pulled our pens and drew next to the elevated subway overpass. I think this may be my first drawing in this borough.
An hour later, Jack appeared with a broad grin: “Interview went well. The teacher didn’t like my paintings but loved my drawings and sketchbooks. I think I’m in.” I’m sure his confidence isn’t misplaced, but then I’m his biggest fan. We hope to hear the verdict soon.
Next landmark event: next’s months audition for the Summer Outreach program at the famous Cooper Union School of Art.

Under the subway overpass, Tommy draws the 99c store.

This is Jack’s current portfolio.[click on any thumbnail to see the gallery].  Next time, I’ll share some of the work in his sketchbooks.

Glasses

When I was little, it seemed everyone had glasses.
My mother. My grandparents. My relatives. My friends.
I thought they made people look cool or more grownup. So if I wanted to become one or the other or both, I had to get my own glasses.
When I was fourteen, I told my mother I was getting headaches and thought I needed glasses. She took me to the doctor. As he looked into my eyes with a gizmo, I crossed them slightly.
Amblyopia,” the doctor told my  mum. “Strabismus. Heterotropia. Something like that. His eyes are slightly crossed. He needs glasses.”
I spent a long time picking out frames. When my glasses finally arrived, I put them on excitedly.
A week later, my mum asked me where they were. “Why aren’t you wearing your glasses? They were expensive.”
I didn’t want to tell her they gave me a headache and so, conveniently, I’d lost them.
A decade later, I married a girl with glasses. I got in-laws with glasses. Then I had a son. He got glasses too.
In my mid-forties, I started getting headaches again. I could only read in bed with the lamp on. I had a tough time with restaurant menus. My friends called it “short arm syndrome.” Someone lent me a pair of drugstore glasses. I was amazed at how much better I could see. It had been so gradual but it was beyond denying. Presbyopia.  A gradual thickening and loss of flexibility of the lens inside my eyes that makes it tough to focus on things that are near.
I like my glasses for what they do for me. I am less thrilled about what they say about me. Welcome to middle age.
So far, I don’t wear my glasses when I draw. I can see what I’m drawing without them, and not being able to see the page clearly is fine. I know what I’m making. And there’s the added pleasure of putting on my glasses when I’m done, to examine the lines on the page as they really look.
My eyes have brought me a lot of pleasure. I count on them to make a living, to make art, to watch my wife brush her teeth. And I’ll need them for a while to come. I hope.  But nonetheless, they are changing. A reminder that every day, so am I.  And so is everything I see.

Drawing with Tim

Tim is three now and it’s high time he learned a trick or two. I read in an old German dog-training handbook (“Wie die Ausbildung von drei Kilo Wiener, um Ihnen eine heiß Tasse Kaffee” by Dackel J. PferdApfel) that, with the judicious application of a stout cudgel and hard taffy, one can get even the most timid long-haired miniature Dachshund to speak.

We spent a frustrating weekend working through the manual with Tim and were finally rewarded with his first few words. After a month of follow-up work, he is now entirely fluent in English, has shed most of his Dusseldorf accent (replaced for some reason with a Bensonhurst growl), and bores us with long monologues about lunch meat, cats, and the perils of thunderstorms.

Now we’re working on a much bigger challenge — getting him to draw. On Tuesday night, we began his first drawing lesson and he did a passable portrait of me, before moving on to sketch some flank steak, a barbecued chicken and a meatloaf. Fortunately, a local documentary film crew was on hand to capture his first faltering steps and they’ve been posted online.

I urge you to try to encourage your own family members to draw. It’s fun, it’s relaxing, and it’s easier than chasing your tail.

This video is also available in HD and on Youtube.