Smokey thinks he wants to go out more than he actually does

9 Feb
Smokey desires to dominate, conquer the snow. Photo: Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Smokey the cat desires to dominate, conquer the snow.


Son number 2 found Smokey near train tracks by a dumpster. while he was on a smoking break behind Shop-Rite a few years ago. Back then, she was a pathetic, beat up kitten with gigantic, pink ears that had disgusting black gunk in them. The Child brought a box home at midnight, burst into our room with excitement, said, “Guys! I got a surprise!” and out popped that tiny sad kittenhead mouthing a silent fangy meow.

“Noooooooo,” said the father.

“Nonononononononono,” said I.

“Just for a day or two,” wheedled son. “In my room.”

We couldn’t figure out if Smokey was a boy or a girl several weeks later when we took her to get spayed. We knew there was something about a “colon” or a “semicolon” look to their hindquarters that was supposed to tell us. For some reason, we were certain that whichever of those indicated she was a girl, that was the one that was correct. Smokey went to the vet a girl, and came back who the hell cares. But technically, his preferred pronouns are he/his.

I didn’t want to have a dumpster kitten. We’d raised dumpster kittens in the past and found them sad, damaged souls, skittish and difficult. Smokey is skittish compared to his brother cat Monk, who is a big hopeless schmoo who sleeps on our bed all night and smothers us with love. Smokey doesn’t like being picked up. He is particular about when he will have his back scratched or when he will touch your finger with his delicate trianble of a nose. But he radiates happiness. I look at him taking naps on a pile of laundry, (happily shedding his cheap fur), lying on his back in a patch of sunlight, chasing a small jingleball with fierce attention, grooming Monk or having a back-to-back cuddle in some obscure corner that no human has thought to make use of, and he makes me happy. He just looks as if he’s feeling so safe, so comfortable, so settled.

Soon, the Child will be taking Smokey to live with him. He’s missing his dumpster kitten, now healthy, happy big boy cat. He made a good choice, saving this seemingly unsaveable little being. Smokey brought us a lot of pleasure. I know that sometimes people go too far trying to intervene in hopeless situations. But maybe, sometimes, there are times when a intervening turns out even better than one imagines. Finding Smokey the little dumpster cat was one of those moments for my son. And for me.



I’m out of words, I’m just going to draw things #5

14 Dec Thanksgiving table. by Alexandra Hanson-Harding, 2016.
Thanksgiving table. by Alexandra Hanson-Harding, 2016.

Aunt Perstephone’s Thanksgiving table. by Alexandra Hanson-Harding, 2016.



I drew this picture on Thanksgiving, which thanks to my lovely sister-in-law, had delicious food and a beautifully set table. I have no complaints about almost everyone in the whole family! Isn’t life interesting and complex! How boring life would be if everything were just easy all the time, and if everyone were just on the same page about how to act on special family occasions, don’t you agree? Anyway, dear Aunt Perstephone, this picture is for you, because you made everything so nice, and because you laughed when you saw me drawing and said that my drawings made everything look as if they were dancing. XOXOXO.


Your handy guide to jobs available at Scholastic, Inc.

10 Dec

For once I’m not being sarcastic, mirabile dictu. I came across this blog by Scholastic, Inc., my old stomping ground, and it showed jobs available now and links to other jobs. The three feature jobs they mention

  • Director, Digital Analytics and Insights, eScholastic
  • Director of User Experience, Digital Classroom Magazines
  • Warehouse/Distribution Center Manager, Scholastic Book Fairs (Orlando, FL)

don’t exactly sound like my cup of chai, but if they sound good to you, and if poking around the site reveals  others, and if working in children’s publishing is your dream come true, keep checking it out:

Happy hunting!



I’m out of words, I’m just going to draw things #4

24 Nov Thanksgiving 2016 Mandalas with blue leaves by Alexandra Hanson-Harding
  1. Thanksgiving 2016 Mandalas with blue leaves by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

    Thanksgiving 2016 Mandalas with blue leaves by Alexandra Hanson-Harding

  2. My art room is a Stygian pit.
  3. I once again discovered why I should never have been allowed to be in the same room with chocolate cereal, milk, and a bowl, with or without a spoon.
  4. Situations.
  5. Donald Trump.

Here’s a picture.

I’m out of words, I’m just going to draw things part #3

23 Nov Couple at a Turkish restaurant, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding, 2016.
Couple at a Turkish restaurant, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding, 2016.

Couple at a Turkish restaurant, by Alexandra Hanson-Harding, 2016.


I’m cleaning the Augean Stables aka my art room and never as there a more hopeless task. Thank god for artistic blanketlike objects that can drape over piles of various bins of things. I am going to die before I get to that point, though. I want to make this room nice for son number 1 when we have an onslaught of relatives tomorrow night.

In the meantime, the news is dripping poison in my ears, Hamlet’s uncle style. Every item is another acid drop.

  • Trump considers naming Ben Carson to head HUD. Dude, you’re going to let him build pyramids for grain storage in the inner city?
  • Trump names Betsy de Vos to head Education Dept. Really? Mrs. Amway? Who never sent her kids to public school?
  • Hillary has more than 2 million votes more than Trump–now it’s just getting painful.

I really can’t take it. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to share a picture of some people at a Turkish restaurant I spy drew (drawed)? for your viewing pleasure.

I’m out of words, I’m just going to draw things #2

15 Nov Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding
Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding

Chickpeas for dinner. Alexandra Hanson-Harding


I’m eating oatmeal while  child #2, the chef, is saying, “You know what would be delicious? Pancakes. You know what I want? Pancakes. You know what I wish someone would make me? Pancakes.” Father says, “There’s a package of pancake mix on the top shelf.”

“Pancakes pancakes pancakes.” says child. “Pancakes with a capital P. I want twenty tiny little pancakes that look like cereal but aren’t.” The rain is pouring down and he has a long nasty wait for the bus ahead of him to get into the city. It makes me sad, thinking of how many years I spent waiting at the same bus stop, rain pouring down the back of my legs, into my shoes. I’m more sorry for myself than the annoyance running around the kitchen.

“If only there were someone in this house who could cook.” I say. Child cooks at top restaurant in Manhattan. The other day when he was less annoying, he cooked us breakfast. Poached eggs that were lightly toasted in Panko and Afghan lamb spices, then fried, and served on top of sauteed brussel sprouts. “Poke the eggs so they go right on the sprouts,” he said.

How do you fry poached eggs? It’s like frying air. But they were delicious.

Okay, he started making the pancakes. He puts the mix into a small plastic bag, then cuts off the corner. “Piping bag!” he says. So fancy.

Husband says that he has to drink coffee or he’ll have organ failure. He read it in an article and it’s science.

“Big coffee’s feedin’ you a lie,” says child.

Child finishes his pancakes. They are the size of a quarter each.

So, a week ago, I woke up very confident about the state of this country. It was a beautiful Tuesday. September 11 was another beautiful Tuesday. The rain is drilling into the skylights.

Right now it seems very hard to want to leave this cozy little house with these crazy little people.



I’m out of words, I’m just going to draw things #1

14 Nov Concert to support the Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey, November 13, picture drawn by Alexandra Hanson-Harding.
Concert to support the Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey, November 13, picture drawn by Alexandra Hanson-Harding.

Concert to support the Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey, November 13, picture drawn by Alexandra Hanson-Harding.


It has been almost a week since the election of Donald J. Trump. My reaction changes day by day. Currently, I have reached the nonverbal stage. One way in which I, personally, am very fortunate, is that I am well adapted for hopeless situations. That is one of the gifts of having been relentlessly for five years when I was growing up.

The bullying started when I was eight years old and my family moved to the suburb of Wilbraham, Massachusetts. The school officials thought that anyone from the “big city” of Springfield had to have an inferior education. So even though I had been in the gifted program in Springfield (my mother tells me), they put me in the equivalent of the special education class in Wilbraham. The teacher was cruel and abusive. She gave me an F right away because we didn’t learn cursive until 3rd grade in Springfield and they learned it in second grade in Wilbraham. She screamed regularly. Kids on the playground told me I was “retarded.” The next year I was tested and put back into the gifted class but by then it was too late. I was a very small, sensitive, and dreamy girl, the type who spent hours imagining how fairies eat, but zero hours imagining why people wanted to be mean.

Hmm.  Not long ago, a woman I know knew a writer who was writing a book about people who were bullied. She asked if the writer could contact me, and the writer did. I thought for a long time if I would answer. It seemed very rude not to, but somehow, whenever I thought of saying anything about what happened during those five years, I felt the strangest feeling, as if I were clutching my stomach and as if my hands were flying up to my face at the same time, and thought, No. No. No. I never actually answered her.

But as bad as bullying was, I did get one benefit. Resourcefulness. To distract myself, I learned. I read. I learned new facts and with them created new stories in my mind as it floated above my unpleasant reality. I also loved drawing.  It became a habit and a pattern to escape into reading and drawing, to learning and to observing, when I had the least power.
When I was weak, these habits were an incredible solace. And at times when I was more powerful, it turned out that those things were quite useful as well. It was a silver lining to the unnecessary  pain to which I was subjected.

Gosh, I don’t know what brought that to mind this week of all weeks.

At any rate, this week–until just now, apparently–I feel as if words have just failed me. It’s a good week to return to habits I developed in a time when I felt helpless. So here’s something I drew yesterday. We went to a concert at the Milburn Public Library to support the Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey. It was a beautiful concert of Mozart and Brahms, and another solace for a sad and beautiful day. We saw the big lovely moon when we drove home. And I was with my beloved husband. This election is bad. But music is good. Love is good. The moon is good. And art is always good.





135Journals: You Should Go to the International Print Fair. Here’s Why.

5 Nov img_2180

IMG_2180.jpg(Note: Linocut above by  the author, who graciously gave herself permission to use it.)


If you have the twenty bucks, and you live within a 20, no 50 mile radius of the Big Apple, and you have a few hours free, you would be insane not to gird your loins and race to the The International Art Fair at the New York Armory at 643 Park Avenue at 67th Street either today, November 5, (until 8:00) or tomorrow, November 6, 2016 (until 6:00) .

Why, you ask. What is this “Print Fair” (or more properly, “The International Art Fair Presenting Historic Masterworks, 20th Century Icons and Innovative Contemporary Projects” and why should I care?

The Print Fair, friend, is an exhibition of works on paper by some—probably most—of the greatest artists the world has known, curated and displayed for sale by vendors from around the world. It is a chance to get up close to gorgeous artworks that range from hundreds of dollars up to $160,000 or more. Just wandering around, you will pass by historical treasures such as original copies of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, works by Durer and Cranach the Elder and other Old Masters. There are also works by Picasso, Monet, and searingly emotional portraits by Edvard Munch. For those who favor more political and the moving, timeless, political woodcuts of the not-well-enough super-brilliant African-American national treasure Elizabeth Catlett, and the mocking pop art of Andy Warhol. It is hard to express the variety of what you can see here.

Here are a few  highlights from the fair:

Japanese woodcuts by the 19th century master of the Ukiyo-e “pictures of the floating world” School, Utagawa Hirashige. This school of art showed lovely, exotic and haunting scenes of beautiful women, theater, flowers—lovely and ephemeral things that haunt the Japanese esthetic spirit. These prints are amazing for their detail, but also for their incredible use of color and pattern. The subtle shadings of blues are so iridescent that I, a printing novice, cannot even fathom how they are done.

Another surprise for me was the kinetic, expressive artists of the Grosvener school, such as Sybil Andrews and Claude Flight. These artists worked in London in the  1930s, using linocuts brilliantly to express movement and pattern which gave their pieces of everyday scenes (kids running, a motorcar driving, people at a coffee bar)  a fierce futuristic energy reminiscent both of jazz and machines.

Karl Schrag was a painfully beautiful and heartfelt artist whose work depicted the horror of living through World War II in Germany. His work had recently been acquired by the Susan Teller Gallery.

In fact, noticing what individual collectors chose to collect and talking to gallery owners was one of the great pleasures of being at the fair. After all, these people have dedicated themselves to spending their lives with these artworks. These people are often passionate artists of observation in their own right.  I mention the Susan Teller Gallery because I particularly enjoyed their collection. It  specializes in American works from the 1920s through the 1950s. in addition to Karl Schrag and my much beloved Elizabeth Catlett, many artists whose works just hit me in the gut, among them artists I’d never heard of before, but whose works I really liked, including Betty Waldo Parish, Victor deWilde, and Ansei Yashima.

One Dublin dealer opened up a box containing an extremely expensive and valuable artwork consisting of pages that contained large gold leaf circles to share them with me. I am ashamed to say that I was so stunned by his kindness and the beauty of the work that I forgot both his name and the piece—that I felt as if I were enveloped in magic. He did not have to share this with me, because I obvious did not have 20 billion dollars to buy it, but he could just tell I adored it and he did, too. Afterwards, I told him, “Thank you, I will never forget this experience.” And I will not. It’s stabbing me in the heart that I can’t remember his name. I certainly remember his kind face and his gentle hands, holding the paper so reverently. Sometimes, it feels as if two people just breathe together, seeing something beautiful.  That’s all and that’s everything. Because someone was passionate and made something with care, and other people are alive enough to see it. It’s powerful enough to cut right into your heart. That was one of those moments that make you remember how time tesseracts.

Gettin’ corny now, so I’ll move on. Let’s just say that I would definitely say that I wish I could  give this nice man a  shout out because he could sell anything, and I would buy that damn book if I had 20 billion bucks for sure!

Of course, it would not be an art show without a bit of entertaining bullshit about which to grumble in a misanthropic fashion. There was an artwork that consisted of a high heeled shoe on a stand. Maybe I missed something. And there was a Damien Hirst picture of dots. If Damien Hirst wants to arm wrestle me and tell me why his damned pictures of dots are worth ca$h, I’m game. I like abstract art, and I still say those damned dots are nonsense. This is the reason why your relatives make fun of you when you take them to MOMA. “Right, here’s a corn beef sandwich and you want to call it Icarus Seven.” “No, Mom, it’s actually the guard’s corn beef sandwich.” hahaha.

To return to why you should see the Print Show–now–it is worth going simply because this show brings together works that are rarely seen, because these pieces are for sale, and won’t necessarily end up in museums, but in hands of private collectors. This is your chance to see them. And they are all printworks of one genre, which helps to focus the mind and help you to see a new side of many prominent artists. But even more importantly, there is something profound about experiencing both the individual lines of the artists up close and about being so very close to the paper itself. It feels different and more real to see the actual paper with the actual indentations that was once handled by a real artist.

As a student of printmaking,  I was absolutely astonished by the incredible range of possibilities that different artists brought to paper. Printmaking is difficult, technical, and expensive. There are any number of ways it can go wrong and very few it can go right. Every time a piece of paper is run through a press, the ink can be too thick or too thin, leaving the paper blotchy or empty. It is so hard for it to come out right. So each print is a miracle. Seeing how many of these incredibly delicate miracles still exist today is a breathtaking delight.













135JournalsTime Travel: September 14, 1981

15 Sep


I hate wearing nylons on hot days. I feel like I’m trapped in a jungle. I called to the clothes store’s other branch, for a suit I want to buy.

I feel very much in love with Brian lately—with his looks, and that he’s a teacher, and that we’re both grown up and that we share so much. He was very mushy feeling yesterday, too. He said that he can tell that I always try to be nice to him (not strictly true, but most of the time), and he’s seen me grow and struggle. He’s going to be at Eileen’s tonight. I want to do something at J’s.  I was going to be doing something with Dan and shopping for a suit, but that’s out of the question because there just isn’t enough time to get to the train and try the thing on etc.

Hot weather today–beautiful this morning, but now oppressive, with the smell of exhaust spewed into the filthy air—aahh, New York. That’s one thing I notice that’s depressing. Even on sunny, crisp, days the buildings look indistinct and fuzzy so that you don’t see them, but its weird.

Evelyn wore astonishingly beautiful clothes when she was here. She has unusual but gorgeous taste.

This train is going the speed of mud and is so unbearably hot. I’m sorry I wasted my time wearing my new red shirt which I washed by hand. I’m going to get a nice cool something with ice to drink.J and K are anemic and I also am somewhat anemic, too.

E., who lives in the apartment I’m moving into, called up and asked in a bitchy way if I were absolutely sure I would be moving there. I guess it give me reason to be more secure, but she certainly is no angel of tact. Luis seems pretty nice in a vague leftist way; i.e. everything I do is right because I belong to the left; well, I’m being unfair, I’m saying that because of an awkward circumstance, that he had to speak for a long time without any help from me because I couldn’t think of much to say when I got tired.

Spent the evening with Jennifer and Karen, eating English muffins and watching TV. I got a sliver of glass in my foot and I thought, ‘it sure gets complicated when you’re on your own—you feel so much more open to the elements,’ But then Brian walked in and started fussing over me and running to get the peroxide.

Jennifer said she thinks I’m very pretty today. She said it in a way that made me believe her. It gave me a Cinderella feeling. It makes me want to dwell on my charms. But of course the old charms are going to be here tomorrow. If they’re still that good, I’ll write. Karen is taking a course at Hunter.


135JournalsTime Travel: September 13, 1981, Sunday

13 Sep

An excerpt from Volume 51 of the journals of young Alexandra Hanson, 35 years ago today:

The building I work in doesn’t have a 13th floor. Maybe I should try walking up some of the flights for exercise. Hah! I would have to walk up 12 flights of stairs to get up to the second bank of elevators .That’s a little too much exercise for a girl, I’m afraid.

It was a nice day today—going out to the street fair, shopping with Laura and John Flansburgh, and watching him question a woman about why she uses Pampers and not a diaper service.  I got money out of the bank and cleaned up the apt. a little while Brian was out in South Orange, NJ, looking at the place where he’s going to live. He’s very happy about the place; it’s convenient, it’s beautiful, it’s $150 a month, it’s with a woman who’s middle-aged who always has guests over and he likes that kind of thing—guests and friends and visitors . Only, he has some sad thoughts about it, about moving away. He’s glad to get out of this dilapidated apartment building and leave the mice. I saw one today when I opened the cupboard door, leaping over some plates and staying very still in the hole behind the cabinet, only its little tail sticking out. I yelled “BOO” at it and it still wouldn’t move. I wish it would do a better job of hiding if it has to be there. I felt less able to take care of it without Brian hanging around oohing and aahing with admiration at my competence in mouse disposal. Anyway; he not all that happy about moving away from me. He’s very nice. This weekend was happy in a lot of ways. I spend it mostly with Brian and we spent a lot of satisfying time together in a way we haven’t in months. I know he’s finally relaxed about teaching and a place to live. I know he appreciated my weird sense of humor and rambling monologues this weekend.

Before I write anything else I want to say that I hope I write less slavishly in the future. I’m hoping I can break through to deeper, truer writing than I can now. I am afraid of myself. Afraid of writing even the most trivial things.