Perfect Places – How to Love Where You Are [as an immigrant and an artist]

Chocolate Labrador Puppy

It was 8:30 AM. I locked my chocolate lab puppy, grabbed the keys and a tray with painted fondant trees, put the cake in a bag and rushed out. I was excited. 15 hours ago Lorde’s new song ‘Perfect Places’ was trending on Twitter. She asked in the song, what was the perfect place? Today I new it is “where the wild things are”. It was painted on a cake I was bringing to the whether Cake House in Old Town Scottsdale in Arizona. In fact, on the way there, I pulled my “follow the green lights” thing. The trick was to never stop at a red light. Ten years ago that brought me to the doors of the National Art Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ten years after I was parking by the cake house.

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Jessica, the owner, was making magic with her mom and two other girls at the back of the bakery. She is probably the ‘meant to meet’ kind of person and also, the one who gives the most excited response to anything I paint. That is the second cake we made together, and I find it thrilling to be able to deliver your art to a viewer through food. Not that kind of food, like molecular restaurants, do, that screams: “I am so spoiled and fed up that I need an exquisite something to play with”. No, I learned my homework good. I can still hear Zazu’s voice asking Scar if his mom ever told him to not play with food [in the Lion King movie]. Food is meant to be rich in nutrition.

 

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Now, sweets are where the game begins. The illustration I painted this time on the cake is taken from the Maurice Sendak’s book. It tells a story of a kid who rejected his parents and dinner, and left his room for the place ‘where the wild things are’, becoming the king of ‘wild things’. The book is only about 338 words long but it gets you deep. How many of us are in search of that perfect wild place? I know Lorde is. I always have been.

Primavera Sound 2016 BCN Spain
Primavera Sound 2016 BCN Spain
A year ago my best friend and I went to Primavera Sound concert in Barcelona for that exact reason. My tattooed [during that trip] on the wrist space shuttle brings me “there” every time I seek to it. Today, she made a video call at 7:30 AM on a beach in Barcelona. I am not there this time, but I am happy to have a puppy and a cake to deal with. #FlashBackFriday right?

 

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In the book, the little Max kid chooses the comfort of his room and a ‘still hot dinner waiting for him’ to the wild place. But what if you decided to indulge the wildness? What if you moved to a different country or even a continent. Crowds of people speaking a foreign language, strange glances when you do something so habitual to your birthplace, yet completely odd under new circumstances, weird food – all these may make it seem like a legitimate jungle.DSCN7993.JPG

I remember when I was to Starbucks for the first time (during my first visit to AZ at fifteen years). Those bagels with cream cheese ‘to go’ and decaf caramel macchiato amused and took me away. I was seriously thinking of bringing it to Kyiv and emailed Starbucks later on, inquiring on their licensing policy. Naturally, there was a response that they are not interested…

Am I interested in their bagels anymore? Not really. It has become a regularly available item you try to avoid. (See my nutrition reasoning above) On the contrary, Americans are still flattered to be treated to a home cooked meal made completely ‘from scratch’, (meaning of which they had to explain to me over a long period of time), unless it has a ‘weird texture’.

National Donut Day

Ukrainians have no sense of time, so all the meetings are arranged ‘around sometime’ which can be in a range of at least an hour. Americans don’t seem to approach to a lunch with friends as an activity that accedes an hour and a half time period. Unless it’s a football game on Sunday and you meet at a bar over a beer or bloody mary at 10 AM. Back in Kyiv I once bought a bottle of vodka, celery and tomato juice and brought it to my friend’s place in the morning. Not gonna lie, I received that questioning look, as in whether I needed some help or a friends advice.

 

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The point is, it’s hard to fit in sometimes. It gets confusing. It’s like hyperbolized feeling of leaving your parents home in search of the one of your own. You get to deal with bureaucracy. You need to get a new driving license, work permits, permanent residency cards in addition to rent contracts, cellular etc. I was used to thinking Ukrainian system for that is a disaster, due to corruption. No visible corruption here, in the US. However, you go apply for a driving license, spend 3 hours on a chair, holding random conversations with strangers like you, and then they say you need a social security card. You drive another 40 min to a place, where you can get a social security, only to sit on the same chair waiting for your number to get called and hear you need a driving license, ID or a permanent residency card to receive social security number. And then, like in the book by Marcel Proust it all repeats itself. I traveled a lot around the US. I wanted to stay in Arizona forever, then I cried to leave it forever. According to quantum physics theory and a movie ‘Interstellar’, there are the endless number of layers to our life, we exist within all of them at the same time. To an extent, it will never matter where you at. Finding your inner peace is the key to a ‘Perfect Place’ that is inside of you.

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It’s just being an immigrant makes it more fun! You get to experience multiple childhoods with a need to explore in the ‘trial and fail’ style. It is important to be tolerant, adaptable and motivated to start over and over again. It’s also easy to get lost in a place where nobody seems to care about your existence. But then – see instructions above, regarding the perfect place. In the end of the day, it presents you a life from different angles. Just like that cake that Jessica put on a perfect black stand now. Happy future Birthday baby Max and Happy Birthday to everyone, who immigrated today. For my next move strategy – see a ‘why you should start your bucketlist yesterday‘ post ūüôā

 

 

These Places Are The Reason I Wake Up (part II)

Continuing the list¬†(These Places Are The Reason I Wake Up (part I)), that so much aspires me make every new step… I just wanted to add that right after finishing the yesterday’s post on Iceland, I read an article on Werner Herzog’s film (that he shot last year in Iceland)¬†Into The Inferno. It tells a story of a volcano eruption, braided into the local mythology. Its presence in Cannes and a notoriety of Herzog to be an exquisite romantic, makes The Inferno another must see.

Thinking back to the point I stopped the list makes all the dreams and pictures arise again. It is, as usual so close, yet so far. Just as far as a the airport. The next one is very special to me:

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Montana, USA

I remember I was 14. I was studying in the art school for teens in Kyiv, dreaming of establishing a sanctuary for wolves and becoming a movie director. Most of my friends lived in the neighborhood within walking distance. So I walked. I came to see my friend Ksusha. She was at home in her prolonged bedroom, at the far right corner of the apartment, her family lived at. A lot of defining moments of my life somehow happened there. She was reading a book, that I unfortunately can not remember. We decided to play a game, that was quite common for kids. You ask a question, open a book randomly, read a random passage. This was supposed to be an answer to your question. Usually, one would rather make up the connection between the actually words and the question, just keep it fun. Making text fit the question is quite easy. These time it was different enough to give me shivers. I remember asking a very cheesy question: “Where will I find happiness?”. The lines of the book said straight and clear: go buy the tickets, get on the plane and fly to Montana, USA. I wish I could quote. It was the end of the chapter. My friend and I got silent. No words needed.

Terry Badlands in Montana

I haven’t been to Montana yet. It almost feels like a reserve. In case, it got too unbearable – I would still have a dream to pursue¬†and a place I was promised to find happiness.

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Beautiful Downtown Neihart, MontanaMission_Mountains_National_Bison_Range_Montana

Montana is on the far north of the US. It shares a great national reserve with Wyoming and   Idaho. Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500 sq. mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. Montana is also a state, that is famous for its snowboarding. But mostly, it is a secluded place where vast territories make the size a very diluted extension. The Summer is short and the winter is longer, than in most parts of the US. The film Revenant was partly shot there. The movie production team noted, though, the unusually high temperatures and lack of snow that year. Hopefully Montana is still there when I need it. And hopefully that happiness is not covered in snow.

Another place to definitely be at is:

Norway

Oslo – the city of¬†Edvard Munch, who painted the pre XX century icon Scream. Oslo is the capital of Norway, one of the most expensive and happiest countries in the world. If you don’t earn¬†locally, a $20 pint of beer might be a bit too feisty. I can still remember the camping zones of¬†Scandinavian football fans in Kyiv, Ukraine during UEFA Euro 2012. Hypnotized by the $1-2 for a half litter bottled beers, Swedish were countless times noticed by the grocery stores, dragging them by blocks. That followed the articles, that Swedish consumed all of the beer researves at the fan zones.

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Norway is also a very environmental friendly country. It reported to be moving towards banning the gas-burning cars by 2025. Great hiking. Plenty time to commit to it even for a full-time worker. Looks like a dream, on paper, at least to me.

Norway reached a planned 50 000 non-gas cars by 2015
Norway reached a planned 50 000 non-gas cars by 2015
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Bergen Sandviken, Norway

norway-geirangerNorthern Lights near Troms√ł, Norway

So far I only had a chance to visit Finland. It was a rather harsh experience. Granted I was pretty young kid. I remember a hotel that was promised to be right outside of Helsinki. Around an hour drive along the forest, in reality. I remember arriving on Sun just to realize, that nothing is open in Finland on Sundays, including the hotel reception. We found the keys in the mail box, along with a notion that we were the only visitors so far. After a few hours of struggle to find some signs of civilization, lost-in-translation issues, and false hopes to walk to a nearby town center, we managed to call a taxi. It took us to the only, still open bar. They obviously had no food, but alcohol and tea with sugar. A small gas station shop, with its heavenly cookies, was a save-of-the-day. As our further pre-travel research skill developed over time, this trip to Finland, I will never forget. There was the most gorgeous lake right in front of the hotel, surrounded with trees, bigger, than I could grasp. And that also was Finland.

Trollstigen Mountain Road in Norway
As I am watching today’s stage of Tour de France, the look at this photo makes me want to cycle there just too bad.

Lysebotn, Norway

There is much of the useful information for the future travelers, that made me very curious.

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These places are the reason I wake up (part I)

It appears that I accumulated a solid amount of places, that are an absolute must see, while I was thinking on the bucket list. Their absolute beauty makes me ecstatic and motivates everyday to actually get out of bed, and do something, that can bring me closer to any of them. Here is just a few:

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Bolivia

I couldn’t recall what linked me to the country, but it’s picture of the sky reflected in the rainfall-covered desert was deeply curved in my imagination. I read about Salar de Uyuni. It is the world’s biggest salt flat. And just a few times a year, during the rain season in Bolivia, it gets covered by a few inches of water. This makes it the most perfect mirror on Earth. Scientists use it for the satellite calibration. While the local people enjoy its natural salt resources and tourist attraction, as their string to income.

I imagined the surrealism of the place. The infinity. I am obsessed with cycling. The road and the two wheels make me never want to stop, and so I often come back home exhausted and completely happy, laying on the cool floor right next to the dusted bike. I imagine cycling through that salt flat in Bolivia. I imagined the whole cycling competition there, like Tour de France or Giro. The never-ending snake of the peloton. How fascinating that would be? I painted it over and over again. And hope to experience it soon in the real life. If not a race,at least as my own challenge.

 

Chasing The Pink
Chasing The Pink 
Sky is The Limit
The Pink
Flat Tire In The Pink Desert
In the Pink Desert
Almost Emptiness
When Mountings Became Flat 2015
 

 

 

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Iceland

I saw Iceland many times from the plane, during those hideous transcontinental flights. I saw it in one of my favorite movies The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. My friend  found a great reason to go to Iceland: Secret Solstice. It is a music festival, held in Reykjav√≠k over the course of three days in the 24 hour midnight sun during the summer solstice. Iceland also seems to be a thrilling place to see Northern lights. I read a very picturesque description of how to accomplish it the best, in the blog, that was featured on CNN eventually.

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Iceland was very well described by William Morris:

…on Thursday morning about three Magniisson called me up to see Iceland I think I told you we were to go to Berufirth in the east first of all and we were just at the entrance to it now it is no use trying to describe it but it was quite up to my utmost expectations as to strangeness it is just like nothing else in the world it was a wild morning too very black out to sea and very bright sun under a sort of black canopy over Iceland. (William Morris: Journals of travel in Iceland. 1871. 1873)

  

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Secret Solstice 2016
The only party on Earth incide an ice glasier
The only party on Earth inside an ice glacier
Secret Solstice 2016
Inside an ice glacier
Secret Lagoon Party
Secret Lagoon Event

Why you should start your bucket list two years ago

It was a 5am walk along the same single path through the park in Arizona. It was a bit dirty, as it rained last night. The first rain for the past four months.¬†People worshiped the sound of thunder. Humidity brought back smells to the air. The bloody red colored sun started to make its way through the protective clouds. It turns out one has to move to a desert to start to love rain. It took me two years. That was when my friend and I started the battle for that starved kid’s life inside of us. The one that once had no excuses and accepted no obstacles on the way to the wish.

The mission, as simple, as getting together at the music festival appeared somehow beyond accomplishable. For two years there was something in the way. I can remember each dialogue that excused it. The voices that were really trying to convince themselves, had adapted to accept the current life flow as the only option. There was constant lack of: money, time, reason, visa, etc.

February 2016 I received a short message: “Let’s go?”, with a headliners list of the Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain. The answer was just as short: “Let’s go.” Next week we bought the tickets. Emotions were overflowing us. We actually had a hard proof of the upcoming trip. It was hard to believe, the whole hing was about to go down, because of the simplicity we accomplished it with. To an extend, the situation reminded ¬†me of the Berlin Wall. When it was physically broken, yet its ghost was still curved in the people’s subconsciousness.

It took us over a month to get used to the idea we would meet at the music festival that was across the ocean.

In Pursuit of Spanish Visa
In Pursuit of Spanish Visa

Then we bought the plane tickets. We only needed a visa now. The vast majority of the world countries need to officially grant you, a Ukrainian citizen¬†a permit (visa), in order for you to¬†enter¬†their territory. It includes, but is not limited to: a detailed trip itinerary; information on the funds that cover your travel costs, and your stay at the country during the planned visit; description of the intentions and reasons for your travel; as well as a descriptive bio, working/marital status and a medical insurance. I found out that the nearest Spanish Consulates to Arizona were on Los Angeles and San Francisco. I couldn’t get hold of the first suggested location and so I booked a visa appointment with the Consulate General of Spain in SF.

Shortly I was on the flight to the most expensive city in the US, with only five hours to spare, in order to avoid the hotel costs, and be back to Arizona before night. The next words sounded like an echo in my dreams. According to the new agreements, Arizona is not under the SF Consulate jurisdiction anymore. I had to contact the Los Angeles office. And yes they have two websites, one of which has the outdated information. Yes, they have a tendency to not receive or return the calls. “Try to email them a lot.” – they said.

 

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Two month later my friend and I were both sitting on the sidewalk at 5am in Barcelona, Spain. We were trying to catch a taxi, but not really.. We were drunk with life, exhausted from all the dancing and high on oxygen in our blood. It was chilly and we had shivers from the sea breeze, that would sneak under our jeans jackets. The happy sound of the heartbeat resonated with the music and the feeling of life. It was so pure and real as if there was nothing else in the world. And no matter how many pros you can find – in the end of the day, it is always worth it!

WE CREATED OUR FIRST ‘BUCKET LIST’, when we came back home. Proudly, one dream was already accomplished, with a lot less effort than we were trying to label it with. The rest of the list doesn’t really fit in our current life stream. Most of it doesn’t pass the logical reasoning test. It is not meant for that magic and longed for post-retirement period of life, when one spare time and cash, hopefully. It is meant to keep us alive and conscious of who we really are. It is meant to teach us, what is worth our time. It is as simple as that: one needs a desert to worship rain; and one needs London to strive for a clear sky. And we all need air to keep us hight.

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