Jon Crispin's Notebook

The Willard Suitcases at The American Shakespeare Center

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(That’s me in the middle with the actors.)

I have written before about Julianne Wick Davis’ song cycle based on my Willard Suitcases Project photographs.  The piece recently had its premier at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA and I was lucky enough to be in the area on Saturday evening to catch a performance.  Here is a link to Broadway World’s piece on the production.  Here is another write up in DC Metro’s Theatre Arts section.  I am sure there will be more reviews coming in the next weeks, and if you are interested just do a search for “Willard Suitcases Julianne Wick Davis”.

I was totally blown away by Julianne’s music and by the ASC’s production.  Ethan McSweenys’s direction was perfectly respectful of my work on the project, and of the patients featured in Julianne’s songs.  It was a really emotional evening for me, and if any of you live in the area (including DC, which is only a few hours away) please make every effort to see this before it closes on the 1st of December.  Staunton is a lovely town, and the ASC is remarkable.

I am so proud to have been an inspiration to Julianne and Ethan, and I am grateful for their sensitivity to the Willard patients whose suitcases make up the collection.

A Tale of Two Cemeteries / New School Talk Announcement

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Last week when Peter and I were driving back from Cleveland/Meadville we decided to take back roads up to the Thruway.  I had especially wanted to go through North Warren,   PA to see the  Warren State Hospital.  It is only about an hour from Meadville and is a really amazing facility.

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It is still an active psychiatric hospital so I wasn’t allowed to photograph, but I was actually more interested in the cemetery.

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I have written often about the issue of names in relation to my suitcases project.  Especially how the State of New York prohibits the use of full names of the patients in respect to my work and in regards to the hospital cemeteries.

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Here in Pennsylvania patient’s names are on the grave stones.

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If you were to drive north about 60 miles into New York State and go to the cemetery at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center, you will find an entirely different story.

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While there are a few graves marked with names, the vast majority only have numbers.  This is mostly due to New York State’s primitive privacy laws, which supposedly protect families from the “shame” of having a relative who was institutionalized.

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There are groups throughout New York that are working very hard to memorialize patients who are buried in hospital cemeteries.  There is a lovely Helen Keller quote on the memorial stone above, and this cemetery is very well maintained.

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It just seems so wrong to me that New York State continues to stigmatize folks who were patients at state hospitals by basically denying anyone (including families) the knowledge that they existed.  Here is a link to another post I did that gives a bit more background on the issue of names.  Just don’t try to contact John B. Allen at NYS OMH.  He no longer works there.

Thanks for following.  I’ll be presenting the suitcases project at the New School on Thursday the 12th of September at 6:00 PM.  Here is a link to the announcement, but as of today, the time listed is off.  I start speaking at 6:00 and it ends at 8:00.  I really hope to see some of you there.  It will be interesting.

 

A Few Days In Kathmandu

Posted in Jon Crispin, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 29/07/2019

Hi Everyone.  I’ve been shooting a bit here.  Here are some notes.

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Some days I walk to the World Education office and some days I go to a local coffee shop to work on the suitcases.  Coffee Escape in Lazimpat has really good wifi and an interesting view of Kathmandu traffic out the front window.

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I almost always see these dogs while walking from the hotel to Coffee Escape.  They hang together and sleep wherever they want.  Today, a security guard at one of the nearby businesses was chasing them away from their usual spot.  They were back by the time I returned though.

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This is Ramesh Mainali.  His business is Shrawan Handicrafts and it is where we go to buy pashmina.  He is a great fellow and was introduced to us by his childhood friend Narayan Thapa who works the desk at the Hotel Tibet.

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Narayan often stops by for a chat on his way home from work.

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I have never been to Nepal during monsoon and it is amazing to see all the flowers, fruits, and vegetables in the shops.  It hasn’t rained much at all since we got here, but India is apparently getting hammered.  There was some flooding in Kathmandu before we arrived, but it hasn’t even rained every day.  When it does, it’s nice as it keeps the dust down.

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There are shrines to Hindu gods everywhere. Here is a little shrine to Hanuman.  When ever you see him, he is dressed up with clothing.

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We are kind of obsessed with dogs here.  This guy (and I wrote his name down somewhere; if I can find it I’ll update) was hanging out at the amazing Saturday Farmer’s Market at the LeSherpa restaurant.  As I have mentioned before, you can’t really mess around with them, but this  fellow had a collar which indicates that he belongs to someone.  He was totally trying to cage some cheese from the cheese booth and he sat there like a statue.  Everybody seemed to know him and he was super friendly and was open to being pet.

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We bought a couple bottles of achar pickle from these folks; lime and radish.  Their business is called AMĀKO, and the samples were amazing.

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I bought a couple of these cookies and they were amazing.

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Amazing breads too.

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I am guessing that this is some kind of kohlrabi, but it is hard to know.  You can see the corn to the right.  Lots of sweet corn here and you can see people roasting it on the streets for sale.

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I had read an article about the market in one of the local English language newspapers and they were touting the “Say No To Plastic” campaign. This market was so wonderful and would rival many that I have been to in the US.

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My friend Katie Harhen was asking about the 2015 earthquake and how the country is recovering.  Here is a (rather disorientating, I am standing on the pavement looking up) shot that shows what one still sees around Kathmandu. There is a building boom here, but most of the new structures are commercial in nature and fairly big.  Some of the temples in the city have been rebuilt, but there is still evidence of the quake.

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I love walking around the city looking in shop windows.  This business was (among other things) a shop that made trophies.  Football, dancing, basketball, tennis!

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We always go to Bodinath to walk around the stupa.  I posted about it last year.

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This year was totally different for us.  First of all, it was jammed with people.  I have mentioned before that the area is an interesting mix of religion and commerce.  It is such a peaceful and comfortable place.

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This room is up a flight of stairs and has always been closed off to the public on our previous visits.  We were invited in this year (not sure why, really) and were encouraged to walk around and check out all the Buddhas.  Lastly we were encouraged to sit on the mat in front of the monk on the left, where he chanted and blessed us.  It was strangely moving, and felt like something very important had just happened.

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On Sunday we had a bit of shopping to do so we went to Thamel.  I’m always on the lookout for shrines to Ganesh.  Here he is being protected by a couple of Naga.

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We had told our friends Ken and Kitty that we would buy a carpet for them, so we went back to our favorite shop to see what we could find.  The guys at Carpet House are so nice and helpful.  Lovely shop and fair trade too!

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We had also promised our friend Suzan that we would get her a lungi (check out this how to video!).  The one we bought started out as a single piece of cloth that was not sewn closed.  The woman in the orange sold it to us in her shop, but said that she knew a tailor that could sew it up.  She escorted us up the street, but couldn’t find him right away.  After asking a bunch of different people she led us up a steep flight of stairs and introduced us to this gentleman with his treadle sewing maching.  Sorted it out in 5 minutes.  His shop had been at street level, but was leveled in the quake, so he moved across the street and upstairs.

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Here is a happy Cris outside of his shop.

Thanks for following along.  Sometimes I feel a bit like the neighbor back in the 60’s who would travel and then drag you over to his house to show his (always the dad in the family) slides from some “exotic” vacation.  Anyway cheers everyone.

 

Kathmandu Walk

Posted in Art, historic preservation, Jon Crispin, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 23/07/2019

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Cris and I usually walk to and from the Hotel Tibet to the World Education office, but since it is monsoon and has been raining in the mornings we only walk back at the end of the day.  It takes about 45 minutes and, while it can be a bit sweaty and dusty, I really look forward to it.  Yesterday I stopped to take the picture below and then this young man shot me this lovely smile.

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It is interesting to be in a country where so much work is still done by hand.

Thanks for following along.

Nepal Again

Posted in Food, Jon Crispin, Travel, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 22/07/2019

dosa time

Hey everyone!  We are back in Kathmandu and that means one thing.  Masala paper dosa time.  Cristine’s favorite food.  I love ’em too.

I will attempt to post regularly here and will almost certainly post daily on my instagram site @jonkcrispin.

Cheers and thanks for following.

California

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I’m sitting at the outside bar at the Long Beach Airport drinking a beer and waiting for my flight back home.

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It has been a pretty quick but lovely trip.

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The above photos are from a nice trip to Olvera Street that we took to eat some great Mexican food and walk around a bit.  Frida Kahlo is everywhere!

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Cris and I always try to go to Huntington Beach.  This day was cool, grey, and rainy.  Lovely.

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I really like wandering on and under the pier.

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It wasn’t very crowded due to the weather.

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A Ruby’s chocolate shake always hits the spot.

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I don’t remember Zoltar from previous years.  He will tell your fortune though.

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I am kind of attracted to photographing weird stuff.

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I wonder how many times the Life Ring has been used.

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The nearest In n Out is about a 30 minute walk from Lynne’s house.  So much to see along the way!

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My brother-in-law John knows so much about LA and it is amazing to spend a day with him cruising around.  This is the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Brentwood.  It is referred to as the Sturges House but is most famous for the fact that Jack Larson the actor who played Jimmy Olsen on the Superman TV show, lived here for many years.  It was to be auctioned a few years ago, but didn’t sell.  It is now abandoned and in rough shape.  Shocking.

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It is in a very quaint and beautiful neighborhood.

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Check out this deck from below.  It is nearly the size of the house which is only 1400 square feet.  I am always saddened and amazed that such an important house can sit abandoned and empty.  Especially in Brentwood!

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John grew up in Palos Verdes, which is to me the most amazing community in the LA area.  It was nice to go there for a coffee before driving back to Tustin.  This fountain is in the center of the little commercial area.

Thanks for following!

 

Willard Suitcases / Charles F. Grave / Ithaca

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I have known for a long time now that Charles F. was buried in Ithaca.

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The photo of his grave is the last image that I need for the book Ilan Stavans and I are doing for SUNY Press.

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Ilan’s essay is beyond amazing, and I am really happy with the section of the book that has the two of us talking about our feelings about Charles and to the contents of his suitcase.  / Searching online I was able to find the location of his grave, but I had no map of the cemetery by which to determine the exact location.  This morning I went to the Ithaca Town Hall where a very nice and helpful person gave me the information that I needed.

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There are two sections of the cemetery that are reserved for the burial of Jewish folks.  When I saw these graves I knew I was getting close.

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Charles is buried at the most Southeastern corner of the cemetery.

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The fact that (by New York State law) I have to obscure the surnames of the patients is really pissing me off these days.  Charles died in 1950 and I think it continues to stigmatize patients to deny who they were.  I hear so regularly from family members seeking information about relatives who lived at Willard, and I feel terrible that I can’t help out.  New York State law supercedes Federal HIPAA laws about what can be revealed to families and other interested parties.  This can only be changed through the legislature, and I am really interested in finding a legislator in Albany to introduce a bill to bring New York State in line with Federal law (the Feds put the cap at 50 years after death, and for New York State the cap is forever).   To cover myself here I put these leaves over his name but IT JUST FEELS SO WRONG.

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Here’s a view from another angle.  Much more pleasing that the previous one showing the buildings in the background.

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Peter Carroll came along to shoot some B-Roll as I worked today.  We are slowly moving ahead with the documentary on the project.  It’s still very early stages, but we are hoping to put up a Kickstarter appeal sometime in the late Summer in order to be able to produce a short piece which we can then preview to funders.

Thanks for following along everyone.  I am posting almost daily to the @willardsuitcases Instagram account, so if you haven’t checked it out, please do.

Pirates / PNC Park

Posted in Baseball, baseball stadiums, Jon Crispin, Sport, sports, Uncategorized by joncrispin on 03/04/2019

Pirates v St Louis

Peter and I arrived in Pittsburgh today so he could take a look at the Pitt program into which he was accepted.  The Buccos were in town and lost a really tough one to St. Louis in extra innings.   It was a great evening for an early Spring baseball game and we had a blast.

Pirates v St Louis

Is this a classic fist bump, or what?  As often happens, one of the participants doesn’t look too comfortable.  The guy on the left is kinda unsure that this is a good idea.  The guy on the right is totally going for it.  At least it wasn’t the proverbial “missed high five”.

London / Paris

Posted in Cities, Jon Crispin, Uncategorized, Weirdness by joncrispin on 06/03/2019

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Hi Everyone.  It’s been a while.  I have been mostly posting on Instagram on both the @jonkcrispin site and the @willardsuitcases site, and for some reason things have fallen off a bit here on WordPress.

Cris and I are traveling for a bit.  We had a very quick stay in London before catching the Eurostar to Paris.  A wonderful experience.  It was nice to walk through Bishop’s Park up to Craven Cottage.  We missed the Chelsea match by a day, but it was a nice walk.

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By an amazing coincidence my dear friends Alex and Cathy are also in Paris, and we met up and went to the Sévres Museum.  Walking back to the Metro we passed La Grande Cascade which is a very large fountain (not yet running for the season).  You have to say that the French do monuments really well.

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One might say that they also do weirdness pretty well.  I have no idea what was going on here.  The guy on the street didn’t fall; I saw him lie down and then lower his face shield. I watched for a bit but absolutely nothing happened.  The fellows up top just stood around chatting, and never really paid much attention the guy down below.  I eventually moved on, savoring the mystery.

Willard Suitcases/Charles F/News

 

Willard Suitcases Project

 

Happy New Year everyone.  And as usual, thanks so much for following along.  I wish you all a happy and productive 2019.  For many of us 2018 turned out to be a difficult year, but let’s all be positive and look forward.

I first met Ilan Stavans in the late 90’s when the New York Times hired me to photograph him for this article.  He and I have kept in touch over the years.  I found myself thinking of him while I was photographing Charles F.’s possessions for the Willard Suitcase Project.  There seemed to be a connection and so I was able to help Ilan get access to the New York State Museum storage facility to have a look at what Charles brought with him to Willard.  Ilan was very moved by what he saw and felt, and on the drive home we spoke about a collaboration, although at the time we had no clear idea as to what would develop.

 

Willard Suitcases Project

 

Several months ago we started talking in earnest about what we could each bring to a project about Charles, and it is exciting to be able to say that we have signed a contract with SUNY Press to produce a book.  I’ll have more details soon, but we are both really excited about this.  We are looking at an early 2020 publication date, which will coincide with an exhibit that will travel.

 

Willard Suitcases Project

 

This is just one of many collaborative efforts that has come out of my work with the suitcases, and it is one aspect of the project that makes me especially happy.  It is so nice to have been an inspiration to creative and interesting people and to be a part of their art.

For those of you who are on instagram, I am starting to post suitcase photos @willardsuitcases on what I hope will be a regular basis.  You can also still see my goofy side @jonkcrispin.

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