My mom's stuff

This image description is limited to 125 characters, so the full ALT text will accompany an image within the article
Image: Joe MacLeod

Today: Joe MacLeod, Creative Director at INDIGNITY and author of the column MR. WRONG.

Issue No. 74

A View With a Room
Joe MacLeod

A View With a Room

by Joe MacLeod

[ALT: L-R: A wide, curtainless, shadeless picture window with details of the exterior blown out by sunlight. Inside, small American and Maryland flags, a lamp without a lampshade with a bare bulb, illuminated, and a bird sculpture on the finial, a dish of dry cat food, a cat bed, a tiny pillow, a chair with some old ornate fabric on it, a piece of butterfly art with a mirror in the middle of it, a mirror, a shelf with assorted kitchen stuff on, a small modern-art-looking figurative sculpture, a small bird sculpture, another lamp with a bare bulb on, a hanging rack with pots and pans, another mirror, a red toaster, an old can opener, a shadow-darkened area (the tiny galley kitchen), another mirror, a bunch of framed art along the wall, an arrow-shaped sign with COFFEE on it, a diner-style napkin holder with a brass snail on top of it, salt and pepper shakers, a bowl with plastic fruit (banana, orange, pear), a metallic vase with some metallic floral-shaped stuff comingout of it, a basket, some books, a bookshelf with a clock on it, a chair with a pillow on it covered with wacky fabric, another pillow with wacky orange fabric, some wacky checked fabric on the seat, a small table covered with some brightly-colored floral-inspired fabric, a small vintage Vornado fan, a vertical-striped vase with paper flowers in it, a batik-looking wall hanging, my mom Jessica sitting in her chair with her feet up on asmall wooden stool looking at a notebook, a ceramic bird sculpture that opens and you can keep tiny junk in it, a fabric sort of Rothko-inspired-looking wall hanging on the apartment door, a metal butterfly on the wall near the door, soem tiny framed artworks, a really big artwork taking up a large portion of the wall near the door, a multi-bulb lamp with no shades except for one, and it’s on its way out, a basket with notebooks in it, a can with pens and scissors and stuff it it, some art books on a wire shelf, some fabric with tiny mirror sewed into it, a bunch of postcards, the top of a Picasso, a bookshelf, full, another wall full of framed art, an off-white painted mantel, framed photos on top the mantel, a small plastic figure of a boy’s head, a big yellow ceramic vase with paper and plastic flowers in it, an old glass insulator that got decorated with some metallic markers, a glass vase with a glass ball in it, a small basket with a metal figurine on top of its lid, a computer monitor, another mirror with me in it taking the picture.
Jessica's apartment, circa 2016

Jessica, my mother, has been gone for a while now. I recently found a picture I took in 2016, in her one-bedroom apartment in Baltimore, which was on the seventh floor of a rent-controlled seniors building. Her place had a million-dollar view of the city. You could see the Baltimore Harbor and the Key Bridge, which is also gone now. 

Take a look at this picture, it’s from my old phone, so it’s not the greatest panoramic shot, some stuff is a little glitchy, but she’s right in the middle with her notebook and probably another notebook. Her style was, I guess eclectic/accumulative, maybe? What I think they call “maximalist,” now. She had stuff that had meaning and stuff that just sorta ended up there and got integrated into the firmament. It was kinda tough on my wife and me, getting all her stuff out of there when she passed, oy.

I def inherited her accumulating gene, but I try to fight it, oy. I also inherited her mild contempt for holidays, so, of course, Mother’s Day is here, and I miss her. Anyway, check out my ma, in her crazy living room!!

  1. Butterflies: She loved butterflies, I always think of her whenever I see one out in the world.
  2. Birds: The bird thing was older than her butterfly thing, but I don’t feel the same way when I see birds, mostly because butterflies don’t crap all over your car when you park in a certain spot near the pine trees on my block.
  3. Kitchen stuff: The kitchen in this place was really small, a micro-galley, it’s the dark area to the left in the photo, so some kitchen items are visible, such as the red toaster and the ancient electric can opener, but also some has crept around the corner and is in the living room. She did everything in the microwave anyway; boil water, cook eggs, even. My mom was the ultimate target consumer for any kitchen implement that meant you could cook stuff in the microwave. She bought one of those microwave egg-cookers, and I was served perfectly acceptable breakfasts created with it. 
  4. Mirrors: She always had a lot of mirrors around, to increase the light in any room. I count six, maybe seven, not counting the mirror in the little butterfly thing near the window, and the piece of fabric behind the bare-bulb lamp. The fabric has a buncha tiny mirrors sewn into it.
  5. Artwork: She always said art should be displayed “salon style,” which means you can cram as much on any available wall space as you want. There’s the top of a Picasso visible on the back wall, and it’s authentic. Just kidding, she loved reproductions, why not, you get to look at a picture of a picture of a great picture! She told me that back in the day, you could go to the library and check out reproduction art to hang in your house. We had a Mona Lisa in the bathroom for years.
  6. Naked lightbulb light fixtures. She just kinda didn’t care about lampshades, ever, and I think as her vision aged, it was simply a matter of using all the light provided by a lightbulb.
  7. Objet d’art: Sit with this photo for a bit and you’ll start to see stuff. The one that always got me was the brass snail, which is visible on top of the diner-style napkin dispenser, as brass snails should be. I am also on my mom’s behalf, declaring plastic fruit as an objet d’art. When I was a kid she used to have a bowl of fruit on the table, because she liked how it looked, but then we’d get fruit flies, because my brother and I wouldn’t eat it, so eventually she settled on the visual aspect of fruit. Also; paper flowers. She wouldn’t have real flowers or plants because she was worried the cat would eat them and get sick.
  8. Wacky fabric: I mean, again, just let the image rest in front of your eyes, she’s wearing some vivid fabric, just, like, part of the whole visual.
  9. Books: When I was a kid and my friends used to come over to our house, many of them were puzzled by the bookshelves and piles of books, why so many, did she read ‘em all? My answers were, I don’t know, and; yes. In my adult life I live in a house with a lotta books.
  10. Fake fireplace mantel: We never lived in a house with a fireplace, so my mom bought this really nice mantel with a buncha small, real logs in it and a lightbulb inside a roll of plastic that would turn and made it look like a fire, plus it had a heater in it. It worked out great. Cozy! We currently have a smaller version of this concept in our living room. 
  11. Coffee propaganda: My ma had an ambivalent relationship with coffee. In the tiny kitchen she had little pictures of coffee ads she cut out of old magazines, and she had pictures of coffee stuff; coffee beans, old-timey coffee grinders. She had multiple devices for making coffee, one of those glass Chemex deals, a percolator, a Mr. Coffee, you name it. She always worried to me about whether she drank too much of it, and she’d dabble in other stuff, instant freeze-dried coffee like Yuban (seemed weaker), Folgers, Sanka and any caffeine-free brand, the New Orleans stuff that’s cut with chicory, but she always went back to regular coffee. When we went out to a diner for breakfast or lunch she usually knocked back four or five cups, but that’s diner coffee, right? I told her there was published scientific evidence that caffeine keeps you sharp after a certain age, and that outweighs the negatives. I also used to tell her about the study I read about and how nicotine affects seniors and that she should start smoking, but she wasn’t really ever a smoker, even in art school. She made it to 87, though.


Congratulations to Jim Cooke!!

The Society for News Design presented an Award of Excellence to Jim, Allison Hong and Patrick Hruby for their design in the Los Angeles Times.