Reblog: Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

Posted in Life, Stuff I Find On the Internet on December 14, 2015 by lisadiakova

SILLY WABBIT Print Shop Diakova

The irony and honesty of this blog entry by Anne Theriault really hits home for me. A few weeks back I was talking to some friends, and I realized basically every single woman I know has a personal story about being unknowingly drugged and/or sexually assaulted. Many women brush off social inequalities as normal, just something we have to endure.

No, that’s not good enough. That will never be good enough.

http://bellejar.ca/2015/12/03/being-a-girl-a-brief-personal-history-of-violence/

Road Trip: Winston-Salem, Charlottesville, Washington DC, Philadelphia

Posted in Art, Life with tags , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2015 by lisadiakova

The drive to Winston-Salem was so peaceful. North Carolina has such an impressive landscape. Surrounded by mountains and pastoral scenery, I wanted to pull aside every few minutes, but I was trying to reach my aunt’s house at a reasonable time. I did manage to sneak in a short detour through the little town of Marshall and snap some pictures.

I am somewhat regretful that I have not sooner had occasion to put my feelings into words about the time spent with family in Winston-Salem. I was only there two nights, but it was a wonderful moment to be around loved ones at that point in my trip. I had great chats with my aunt about life, family, traveling. She is such an admirable woman, and I told her as much. She’s full of life, protective of her family but not unreasonable or overbearing. She’s well-traveled, intelligent, integral. In the short time I was there, we laughed so much and so hard. Family—it’s that word you overlook until you feel the full force of what it means to be connected to your tribe. People who love you in the purest form, without motive.

On Sunday morning, I stopped in Winston-Salem’s Historic District, Old Salem, which provides a lovely glimpse into a Moravian Settlement. The old houses and shops were all labelled, for example: Third House 1767. The streets were practically empty, perfect for taking pictures. I also came across an artist who was painting outdoors. Just as I was leaving, the old Tavern opened up for brunch. I couldn’t resist.

My next stop was Charlottesville. I was a bit spent when I arrived so I stopped at Pen Park, which has some wonderful views. I hopped in the back of my car for a bit, and fell asleep to Portishead. When I awoke, all I could think about was food, so I took a walk through the city center. Most places were closed, a confirmation that this little night owl could never live in Charlottesville, no matter how charming it is. I walked past the Jefferson Theater, which announced Matisyahu was playing in a few hours. I bought myself a ticket and headed to a little French place to try some scallops and a watermelon sangria. The concert was so so much fun. I danced the night away, had a few too many beers then stopped at a late night bar for some antipasti and a cocktail.

The following day, I drove to Washington D.C. After spending some time nestled in the mountains, the big city pace affected me right away. A little more stress. Issues with parking. Stairs. Rubbing shoulders with strangers. Options, options. I didn’t eat that night. Didn’t feel like eating. I just wanted water, a shower, and sleep. The following day, I visited the National Mall and then went on to Arlington Cemetery. There are no words for the intensity of mixed feelings brought on by Arlington Cemetery. A picturesque landscape of rolling hills, manicured trees, cherry blossoms, and hundreds of thousands of elegant tombstones placed in neat rows like dominoes. I walked and I walked and I walked among headstones. Overwhelmed at times, tears came and went as they pleased. That day, I made a friend, a young man from Scotland named Craeg, we shared a few meals, including “a real American burger” as he put it, way too much dessert, and later I introduced him to ceviche. I also met a pair of German twins who were traveling the East Coast by bus, and because I have a fascination with twins, I asked to take their picture. They told me they had been to a baseball game where they met two other sets of twins, and promised to send me the photograph. On my way out of DC, I had every intention of visiting the National Art Gallery, but something felt really off, I couldn’t find parking, I dodged a few accidents. Detours and traffic everywhere. It was one of those days that felt like everything had been inched out of place. I wasn’t having it, so I decided to visit Art Whino instead, a low-brow gallery in National Harbor, where I met yet another pair of twins—two talented young men working at the gallery, who were also kind enough to let me take their picture.

On my way to Philadelphia, I decided to pull aside for a bit. I had to be in New York City the following evening to meet up with a friend, and also pick up Sebastian at JFK. I didn’t want to waste a lot of time but I had no idea where I was going, so I stopped by a drive-thru to grab a quick bite and gather myself. The guy at the window asked three times to confirm my order and got it wrong anyway. No big deal, I went back to the window, he apologized, and then politely asked if I was single and perhaps might want to go out with him that night. A first for me. I had never been asked out at a drive-thru window. Gutsy, but sweet. “I had to ask,” he said.

I decided to book a cheap room in an old mansion tucked away on the outskirts of Philly. Some of the housemates invited me to roast marshmallows over a fire that night, which sounded really appealing, but instead I read a book and fell asleep. The next morning I had a quick breakfast, met some nice girls from France, Saint-Martin, and Spain. Everyone was on their way to New York City. I drove into Philadelphia, and spent the day at The Mütter Museum, analyzing specimens, sketching malformations and other odd things.

Marshall:

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Winston-Salem:

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Charlottesville:

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Washington DC:

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Washington DC (Arlington Cemetery):

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Washington DC (Twins):

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Philadelphia:

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Road Trip: Charlotte and Asheville

Posted in Art, Life with tags , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by lisadiakova

I drove into Charlotte late in the afternoon and roamed aimlessly around downtown, then the suburbs, when my car kindly reminded me that I had about 5 miles of gas left. My energy was a bit low as well. After filling up the tank I hit up a Barnes and Noble to create a plan for the following day. The U.S. National Whitewater Center was close by and I figured my beer-abused, sleep-deprived body could use some exercise.

Some of the houses in Charlotte are really impressive, at certain angles they kind of take your breath away. The next morning I snapped a few pics but could not capture the feeling, so I gave up and headed to the Whitewater center, where I worked my butt off rafting, zip-lining, and balancing on the ropes courses. I wonder if there’s a word for that—the frustration of not being able to capture something in a picture? Perhaps Germans have a word. Germans have a word for everything, my favorite being “Backpfeifengesicht” which means a face that needs to be punched/slapped. Ever met someone with a face you really want to punch for no reason? Nope, not me. Never. 🙂

I was excited to visit Asheville, because my friend in Savannah said I’d love it, and every person to whom I mentioned Asheville, had great things to say. To make a long story short, I was supposed to stay there two nights, and I ended up staying for five. Asheville is a kind of Bohemian paradise. It has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city. There is a shortage of jobs, so the people who live there are often severely over-qualified for the work they do, which makes for interesting conversation. On any given day, you’ll find some really great music being played on the streets. The restaurants and shops are engaging in their design and products. The antique stores are pretty massive, and I didn’t think it could happen, but I found a doll that was too creepy even for me.

The city seems to have a little bit of everything you could want, and the options are well executed. I met some really incredible people in Asheville… motorcycle aficionados, nature enthusiasts, college students taking an epic road trip, musicians in town for a handpan gathering, even an Aussie who refused to go any place where he’d have to wear shoes.

Asheville is surrounded by mountains so there are many options for hiking, outdoor sports, nature studies… On my way out of Asheville, I decided to stop at the Hot Springs Resort, where I soaked in an outdoor tub filled with natural spring water while observing the encompassing landscape. A few spiders here and there, but worth facing my fears. I’m not too keen on spiders.

The entire time I was in Asheville, I felt comfortable and inspired. I didn’t have much of an urge to do anything touristy. I just enjoyed the regular rhythms of the city and its people. Everyone I encountered had their own peculiar story about Asheville, a woman in a fairy outfit, a man dressed as a nun while sipping beer out of a car window, a lady who actively protests circumcision (Oh, yes. She incorporates signs and other visuals)… One afternoon, I stepped outside to find a gathering of models and photographers. I was informed it was a Fash Mob. It’s like a flash mob but for industry professionals, so models and photographers meet each other on the street and take spontaneous pics. Asheville is odd in all the right ways. I saw something that read, “If you are too weird for Asheville, you are too weird.” That’s a pretty fair assessment.

Charlotte:

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U.S. National Whitewater Center:

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Asheville, NC:

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Road Trip: Savannah and Charleston

Posted in Art, Life with tags , , , , , , , on July 13, 2015 by lisadiakova

I started this entry in Charlotte, NC, after I left Charleston, SC, and now I’m finishing it in Asheville. It’s kinda hard to write on the road. When I depart a place, I usually drive in silence meditating on my experiences, and when I arrive somewhere new, my anxious little heart wants to see and taste everything.

A friend of mine was kind enough to let me crash on her couch for a night in Savannah, GA, while she studied for med school exams. We chatted a little about our travels, and I had some playtime with my ol’ buddy Xander the cat. He’s the only cat I’ve ever loved.

Savannah is one of my favorite retreats. It has a small town European feel, with ornate design features on the homes, flowers blooming everywhere, elegant park squares, and a riverfront with pretty views. I love it so much I almost prefer not to share it, but I’ll make an effort to be a good human being. 🙂 So, here are some pictures of Savannah:

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The funny thing is that Savannah and Charleston seem to have this weird rivalry. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that Savannah is dirty in comparison to Charleston, which is often described as Savannah’s rich older sister. So, I’d been curious about Charleston for a while and finally took the time to visit.

My first afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, I arrived with a massive appetite. Someone told me to head to King Street, so I walked a bit looking for a place to fill my gut. The bars and restaurants were still a bit empty. I checked out two places with decent menus but for some reason decided to keep walking. I came upon a little gray sign that read: Smoke BBQ. The restaurant front was small and had a menu posted on the window. As I approached, a young man with a long beard stepped outside for a cigarette break. “I’ll buy you a shot if you come in,” he said. I laughed. He introduced himself as Russell and briefly told me about their great selection of food, which included a 16-hour smoked pastrami. That sold me.

He treated me to a Honey Whiskey concoction that they make in-house. I am not a Whiskey drinker, but it was really tasty. He explained that it was their response to Fireball, which has become quite popular, but according to him, has terrible ingredients. I ordered the Pastrami Reuben with a side of Grits and Hash. The meal was superb. I tried a few more drinks, shared some laughs with the locals, and had to decline a drunken, albeit, very cute, marriage proposal with a college ring so large it slipped right over my wedding band.

The following morning, I had a late breakfast at Sunrise Bistro Xpress, which I whole-heartedly recommend. The food is fresh. The staff is attentive. Just don’t order a cappuccino, ‘cause it’s on the menu, but let’s just say it’s not quite a cappuccino, more of a foamed latte. I’m pretty low maintenance most of the time, but NOT when it comes to espresso. I can thank my friend Rachel for that. She ruined me for life. Kisses.

While driving around downtown Charleston, I couldn’t help falling in love with the architecture, cobblestone streets, vine-covered walls, antebellum mansions. I visited Waterfront Park, where children were having a fabulous time pressing their faces as close as possible to the fountain spouts so water would splash in massive spurts all around them. I caught one boy hiding under the waterfall of the lower level of the fountain. I followed my visit to the park with a little gallery-hopping, there were so many good galleries to see so I wandered. On the verge of committing suicide by way of heat exhaustion, I stopped in at Bakehouse for a Frozen Mint Lemonade.

Savannah and Charleston are two very different cities. While I can see the similarities, downtown Savannah feels quaint, its main attractions are the parks and riverfront. You can basically walk the whole place in a day. Charleston is large and more urban. Everything feels a bit bigger, more spaced out. However, I just had a conversation with a nice guy in Asheville about this and he says he always thought Savannah felt so large, and he used to live in Charleston. Lol, the debate continues. As far as cleanliness goes, I’ve spent most of my life in New York and Miami, I’ve seen and smelled some ungodly things… So, I guess I am not the right person to ask.

On my way out of Charleston, I visited Folly Beach, where I did some light reading and dipped my toes in the ocean. A few surfers were trying to ride the short waves. Families were getting settled in. Children were freely splashing in the water with that kind of freedom only children have. The water felt so nice I couldn’t resist. That first jump into the ocean is always a baptism, a submersion into something so much greater than myself, something I could never, would never think to try to control. How often does that happen? Nirvana.

Pastrami Reuben at Smoke BBQ

Pastrami Reuben at Smoke BBQ

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Russell

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Art by Cynthia Tollesfrud

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Art by Nathan Durfee

Art by Joshua Flint

Art by Joshua Flint

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Road Trip: Vietnamese Sandwiches and St. Augustine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2015 by lisadiakova

“I think life is better when people can just laugh, instead of getting caught up in I could’ve been this or I could’ve been that.” is what Dick casually said over my shoulder while he added sugar and milk to his coffee. He was flirting with all the pretty women in the shop. “When you get to be my age, you learn all the tricks.” he said to a stranger, as he winked at me.

Two days ago I hit the road, excited to leave Miami behind for a bit and let myself wander through the country. I made a brief stop in Orlando to grab a #1 at Banh mi Nha Trang, a little hole in the wall that came highly recommended from a trusted source. 😉 I arrived two minutes after closing time, crossing my fingers that I could still grab a bite to go. To my surprise, the adorable owner invited me to take a seat and enjoy my meal. “How many?” she asked. Clever woman. “I’ll take two.” I replied. The sandwiches were delicious, and she smiled wide when I told her I raced from Miami to try them.

I continued my journey onto St. Augustine, Florida, a place I’ve passed many times but never visited. It’s always interesting to see the irony that surrounds historical sights—the tourist traps, gift shops, the nonchalance of the locals. Best of all, I enjoy the stripping of romance that we so often attribute to history, as if it were all freshly-pressed period costumes and reunited lovers. I had a chance to tour the Castillo de San Marcos, the resilient sea-side fortress that crowns St. Augustine. The dress I was wearing was light and fresh, but in the hot Florida sun I was sweating buckets. As I sauntered in and out of dusty, stone rooms, I thought about the soldiers bearing the weight of their uniforms, the Indians who were held as prisoners there, the population seeking refuge during times of war. All the bodies. Hunger, Gunpowder.

At 6 am, that morning, I drove to the coast and dipped my feet in the cold Atlantic, while I watched a tangerine sun glow on the ocean waves. I’d been thinking about it since the night before, which was detrimental to my sleep, but well worth it when I finally arrived. Breakfast was pretty good at Café Eleven, where I sketched a little, while sipping Iced Tea.

The shops and restaurants in St. Augustine were charming, but after spending $9 on a small packet of truffle salt at The Spice and Tea Exchange, I forbade myself from entering any others.

I ended my visit by taking a tour of The St. Augustine Distillery, where I had a chance to sample their Gin and Tonic and Moscow Mule. Both were delicious. Everyone at the Distillery was cheery and kind. The place itself was laced with the sweet smell of bourbon aging in Kentucky barrels that were beautifully crafted and displayed. It was like something out of a dream.

St. Augustine Beach

Lisa Diakova Feet

St. Augustine Beach 3

Scramble at Cafe Eleven

Scramble at Cafe Eleven

Lisa Diakova Road Trip Sketch 1

Lisa Diakova Road Trip Sketch 2

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos 2

Fish Tacos and Clam Chowder

Fish Tacos and Clam Chowder at Catch 27

St. Augustine Distillery

St. Augustine Distillery

St. Augustine Distillery

St. Augustine Distillery 2

Banh mi Nha Trang in Orlando

Owner and I

Every Sunrise Is Worth It

Posted in Uncategorized on June 16, 2015 by lisadiakova

Sunrise

I woke up at the crack of dawn, unable to sleep because my mind was in a haze, partly from illness, and partly because I’m stirring. The last few months I’ve been proactive in trying to understand aspects of myself that fall short to my ambitions. I’ve gone to great lengths to uncover those things, which has been a rather painful experience. It’s like shedding a thousand pounds that you can’t even see. You feel raw, exposed, disproportionate.

I’ve done some wonderful things this past year, as well as made many mistakes. And I’m grateful for all of it. But, pain has a way of punching you in the gut as soon as you quit clenching. It all comes rushing back—the heartache, the empty pit, the mundane nuisance of having to go to the damn store, groom yourself. As I watch the sun rise above my neighborhood, I think: Every sunrise is worth it.

One of my best friends died many years ago, and I remember her on days like these. She was a tree-hugger, a green-eyed hippie, a gardener of hearts. She took her life, we were told, though there’s a part of me that never believed it. Sometimes I breathe for her a little. Although there’s a tightness in my chest, there is also fresh air.

In recent months, so many friends have unwittingly said the most magical things to me. Their words built me up, gave me power, gave me enough strength to keep depleting, keep pushing. Then there are the laughs, fun drunken nights, a felt embrace, the scent of Sebastian’s skin. Love is such a potent force. It’s stronger than the dirtiest words, than physical pain, than loss. I look around at people, all brothers and sisters on this crooked family tree, suffering in our own language. The way we deal with pain defines us, influences our choices. Our choices compose our lives.

It’s easy to feel angry when people treat us unfairly, but the option to love them back is so rewarding, so empowering. We sabotage progress by wallowing in hurt egos or fixating on what’s already occurred. Or worse, we pretend. We insulate ourselves under layers and layers, to the point that we no longer feel, because we think not feeling is better than hurting, denying one of life’s most precious gifts. Pain is a frame of reference. If you’ve had the privilege of suffering great loss, it means you’ve also enjoyed the privilege of having something to lose.

Each day we live a little more, which means we die a little more. We can’t have one without the other. Making the choice to fearlessly coddle that thin line is probably the closest thing to living.

The Angels of Our Expectations by John Wood

Posted in Uncategorized on January 5, 2015 by lisadiakova

For some they are probably
handsome young men
smiling widely, as in some bright
photographed moment
once long ago; for others,
tough, demanding women
uncompromising in the rigor
of their wishes; and others,
solid, manly girls who go sweet,
soft in the seclusions of an embrace;
and still for others, perhaps,
a no-longer doddering mix
of mothers all looking alike,
grown young again and more lovely
than all the other women
whose arms ever held their sons.

“‘Carl, Carl,’ they called,” my father said
describing his having nearly died.
“They were burlesque girls, looked like
Sally Rand, but without her fans. I could see
right through their gowns, could see it all
because the light was so bright,
and they were drifting all around me calling
but couldn’t see me. ‘Carl, Carl.’
‘I’m right here,’ I said. But they couldn’t see me.”
And when my mother ran to the door
screaming that he was turning blue,
an orderly picked up a 200 pound oxygen tank
and ran down the hall with it,
and soon Daddy was back in his bed.

This was in 1950, and I was three.
But I heard the story often—
years before the slick God-hucksters
started packaging those ladies and their light,
turning that one last comforting fling
before the brain shuts down for good—
or thinks it’s shutting down—a final
orgasmic flash in the face of extinction
and decay, one more moment
with the angels of our bliss—turning
a last rapture’s gold and glowing grace,
life’s final affirmation,
worthless, turning it into the nightmare
of perpetuation and monotony, worse
even than that shackled stupor
of old Eden…unless, unless
all memory of sense and touch,
that thrill of flesh,
was erased in those high,
terrible hospitals of heaven
where white robes moving
with angelic speed
and knives bright
as the morning star
lobotomized away
all we’d ever loved.