Curtain Call on these Careful Days

So.  As it turned out, the blog turned out to be a relic of a life lived away rather than among.  Days pass now, as rich and as full as they ever did, but the time or need or desire to collect the moments here hardly pulls on me.  The sweet friction of friends and family who now bear witness to, and join me in my careful days, more than satisfies my need to share my experience and pouring myself out here, on top of this awesome contact, feels both self-indulgent and unnecessary.

End of an era seems a bit melodramatic.  New chapter seems overly simple.  Regardless, I have decided to close the curtain on 2beanornot2bean, the blog.

Thanks to those of you who have come with me for the past almost 5  years.  It’s been a great joy to share my travels and photos and meanderings with you and a wonderful comfort to bring you with me on my adventures….I anticipate that the energy once poured into collecting my thoughts here will be channeled into collecting myself, in general, and I’m hopeful and curious to see what comes next.

Eternally optimistically yours,

Beana Bern



10 years later…

10 years ago this morning I was living on Cornelia Street in the West Village and running late for work.  My boss was away on business and so I decided to run a few errands before heading North to Midtown.  It was a cloudless day and I remember smiling for no reason as I walked down the street to drop off my dry cleaning.  Still smiling, I headed around the corner to Bagels on the Square to get a coffee before heading up to work.

I don’t remember why I decided to walk around Father Demo Square before getting my coffee but I found myself on the corner of 6th Ave and Carmine Street when I heard a strangely loud noise overhead.  I flinched at the sound of it and saw a couple people around me do the same.  When I looked up, I saw an American Airlines plane flying over my head – too low and close than was normal – and head straight down 6th Ave.  The 30 or 40 seconds that followed are etched in my mind with such detail that even now, 10 years later nothing is lost.  It was the longest 40 seconds of my life watching that plane fly right down 6th Ave and into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Poof.  That was the sound I heard almost a mile away as I watched the gray billow of smoke form and then slowly rise up the side of the building and into the sky.  “A bomb!” somebody screamed who was standing next to me at which point I turned and matter-of-factly asked him, “didn’t you just see that airplane fly into the building?  it went right over us?”  Apparently he didn’t.  For one shocked moment I thought to myself that they might be filming movie and these were some awesome new special effects but that thought dissipated as I watched the World Trade Center burn.

I called my then-boyfriend who was not a morning person and woke him up to the news that ‘a plane just crashed into the WTC.’  He was pissed at me for calling so early and was only able to reply that, “that’s impossible, Beana.  Manhattan is a no fly zone.” before my phone went dead.  I stood watching the Tower burning for a few more minutes and decided that I should head to work before I get in trouble with my boss.  In a dazed state, I sat down on the F train and, looking around me, said to no-one in particular that a plane had just crashed into the WTC and that it  was burning as we speak.  I can’t help but think about how those people are reflecting today…about the shocked woman with wide eyes who was the one to break them the news on an Uptown F train.

By the time I reached 57th Street, the second tower had just been hit and it was clear that something was happening.  Some colleagues were hysterical and others were not sure how to process it.  I called my Grandfather to let him know that I was okay and then found myself in a city with no subways, no busses, no noise (except sirens) and no idea about what to do.  I started to walk  down 6th Ave and was fully running by the time I passed Radio City.  Something prompted me to wear heels that day and I can remember the pain in my feet as I picked up speed headed downtown.

From a crack in the buildings near Union Square, I saw the towers fall.  It felt (and still feels) like an impossibly bad dream.  I don’t have any recollection of anybody around me.  It felt like me and a crumbling New York.  My head seemed to argue that running towards that insanity was not a good idea but my instincts insisted that I try to get to my boyfriend on Mulberry Street.  My pace slowed a bit and, as I got further downtown, I can remember these dust covered zombies walking North passed me.  These people had been close enough to the Towers to have not escaped their cloud and were migrating North in silence like a flock of alien birds.

I have never in my life experienced anything even close to that day.

By the time I got to Houston Street the NYPD had already barricaded every path downtown and only people with proof of residence were allowed past.  I was subletting my flat and had no proof.  Walking East and West along the barricade at Houston I finally found a way through and didn’t stop moving until I got to Mulberry Street.  Hours of streaming news feeds and trying to find out what was happening are a blur.

Around 6pm we walked through Little Italy towards the smoldering pile of New York  to see if there was anything we could do…or give…or try…We got a little past City Hall before we were stopped and the volunteer guarding the gate said that we could go to the Javits Center to give blood but, up until now, there weren’t too many survivors visible.  The fiberglass and toxic dust was thick in the air and I can still taste it coating my mouth if I try.

The erie silence of the city that night and the days that followed impacted all of us in the same and, most likely, profoundly different ways.  In my case, it brought me closer to the man I was dating (we eventually were married…and divorced).  It instilled in me a belief that life is short and there is not a lot of time to waste (surely contributing to my completed degree, 1st round of published photos and eventual decision to move to Europe and see the world).  It reaffirmed my love of New York as being the greatest city on the planet and piece of me (perhaps tying the string around my heart that eventually pulled me back here after 4 years gone).

I was here 10 years ago today and, with so many miles and lifetimes between us, I am here today and I will never forget.

’cause i feel like it

do what i always do

I’ve sat down t write something here many times during the last few weeks and, every time, after typing a sentence, I’ve walked away.  It’s not for not having some thoughts in my head.  I’ve got some of those.  The hesitation has stemmed more from a concern that veering too far from my eternally optimistic tone may read as alarming to some.  I mean, if we were to analyze this blog I would guess that the words “lucky,” “grateful,” and “awesome” appear more than any other.  It’s rare that I scratch the surface…

It’s probably better that way…but when has whats better stopped me from doing what I want?

A (rather big) piece of me wanted last nights hurricane to affect us.  Not in a catastrophic way but in a humbling way that required humans to use their instincts instead of the internet.  The earthquake we had the other day scared me and immediately following scared I was irritated.  Stupid, entitled and numb New Yorkers were so unaffected that, while the building was swaying, they were reaching for their phones to tweet about it.  (I waited to tweet until I was outside and relatively sure that I wasn’t going to be crushed in a pile of falling ruble.)  The point being that for hyper-connected beings it is all feeling pretty detached…

It’s possible that this is my own not-so-subtle reaction to a string of mild rejections or it’s possible that this is a trending problem that nobody will pay attention to unless it’s #trending or #viral or #somethingallyourfirendssawtoo.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that, for the first time since I moved back to the USA, I’m feeling pissed off.  And lost.  And lonely.

There.  I said it.

The water in this city is like a stimulant and anesthetic.  I am powering through days and nights…busy and occupied…and then I come home and have the same sinking feeling.  I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel – running myself ragged and going nowhere fast.  In my past life, it was the opposite.  I was so stationary and stuck in my isolation that I set myself free in my head.  Turns out that the fantasy and the reality are a lot alike except for the fact that one doesn’t feel like anything and the other feels confusing.  I’m leaning on things that I didn’t think I would lean on and looking for things I told myself I didn’t want.

So now what?

..wait for a natural disaster to flood the change i’m seeking?  stay in the fast lane and trust that my moral compass knows where the hell i’m going?  pull over and ask for directions?  wake up tomorrow and take it from there?  I’ll probably keep doing what I always do…wake up tomorrow and take it from there but, damn! it would feel great to  see some fresh light cast on these old ideas and it would feel better-than-great to be rewarded for putting myself out there instead of left hanging like an asshole.  I hate that i’m complaining but i’m just sayin’…

Anyway, I think I already regret dumping this honesty out into the world since it’s unclear to me who even reads this shit.  But there is also something therapeutic about materializing thoughts into words and turning words into action.  So….boom….lights, camera, ACTION!

Dimples That Can House the Ocean

The last couple weeks have been so full that, when contemplating how best to re-cap things, I find myself stumped.  If there’s a theme to be found, I’m guessing it is what it usually is….I’m some special variety of Lucky Bean.  Perhaps a hybrid bean made up of some parts Jelly, Mexican Jumping, Magic, Lima, Baked and Green?  James Garfield once said that, “a pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck” and I have been plucking and lucking like it’s my job…

The most noteworthy news would have to be my 3 days of documentary photography at Levon Helm’s Studio in Woodstock, NY.  Chris Castle rallied The Womack Family Band, Garth & Maud Hudson, Tommy Ramone, Gabriel & Salli Butterfield, Sandy Allen, Daphne Lee Martin and Carl Franklin together to make an album.  The session was masterfully run and engineered by Justin Guip and his assistant Brendan and, in a nutshell, it was amazing.   The atmosphere is something all by itself but add to that some rock and roll icons and 5 cameras and you’ve got a smile so wide my dimples could house the oceans.  I’m still editing away and hope to be able to share the work and – eventually – an album cover with you…fingers crossed.  Even if the work never sees the light of day, pays me nothing and costs me plenty it was a worthwhile experience and something I hope to do more of.  Though I will never complain about shooting rock shows, the quiet tension of the studio and added elements of hope and waiting and architecture challenged me in a new way.  It’s been a while since I have felt like a humbled and hungry artist….mostly becuase I’ve been consumed with my day job…but it feels great. 

You know what else feels great?  A whiskey-drunk Thile & Daves show at the Bell House.  I could not like these guys any more than I do and I especially love rocking the front row with a video-equipped recording device.  Here’s my favorite shot of the night and a little video clip.  If you want to see the rest of the album (published on their Facebook page by Red Light Management) click here and click here for a couple more videos.

Thile & Daves @ The Bell House

The down home goodness just kept giving when some besties rolled in from far and wide (VT, PA, SF) for some mexican food and karaoke.  The nice things about time rolling past us so fast is that good friends become good, old friends in no time flat.  Queso & Karaoke are always good fun and throw in a cute (and amazingly well-behaved baby) and it’s a party!

The gift of GOOD kept on giving for a third, yeah!  that’s right!, third night of Tragedy at the Brooklyn Bowl.  I skipped my weekly Glitter Anonymous meeting and decided to indulge for their finale and I’m glad I did.  You can check out the growing archive or Tragedy pix here or, if you’re lazy, just check out one of my favorites right here…

Tragedy @ Brooklyn Bowl

The text and life that occurred between all this rocking punctuation were as – perhaps even better – than everything else.  I’m beginning to feel like myself again after a long haul of identifying myself as an expatriate before whatever came next.  It feels like a long, cosmic exhale.  


In the immortal words of Oprah, “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. “

Want vs Right

If we were to reenact a modern-day “Rumble in the Jungle” only, instead of Ali v Forman, the fight was between Want versus Right, do you think it would it last 8 rounds?  Would it be as sensational?  Would it be scandalous if Want triumphed in the end?  “Right” is something that, luckily, happens without much effort or planning from my side even though I feel like most of my days are guided by “Want.”   My moral compass seems calibrated so, even when blind or stumbling, I manage to stay on the bright side and now, finding myself with a moral dilemma rumbling  in my head, I find myself unsure of what to do.

Wait.  That’s not true.  I know exactly what I want to do.  I’m just wondering if it’s what I should do…

When what you want isn’t the same thing as what is right, is there clear protocol for what to do?  Especially if what you want isn’t wrong, per se, but isn’t the most noble choice?  In the context of business, I navigate these waters every day.  Analyzing costs and benefits to arrive at conclusions that seem best for everybody involved.  Nobility isn’t really a factor so there’s less cosmic weight to those decisions.  Applying the same logic to my art is a harder since, it seems, art is also business in its own way…

Choices beget choices beget choices and, eventually, you have brought yourself to where you stand.  I know which way I’m going.  Which way would you go?

Spectacular Geography

Where to begin?

The thing about life in the big, bad city is that – in an instant – everything can change.  BAM! new places.  POW! new people.  HUZZAH!  new stories.  A door opens, a path unwinds and you find yourself amazed at the possibilities.  I should probably rename this blog because it seems like every time I sit down to share a thought it begins with my spectacular geography.

The last couple weeks have been filled to the brim with work and music and photos and friends and it’s all a little too much to try to weave into a tale for you now.  There’s been no discernible theme other than, ‘go with the flow’ so I’ll keep it simple.  Here’s a glimpse at what I’ve been up to when the work is done…

Tragedy @ Brooklyn Bowl

A glitter-infused, rocks off, metal-tastic, spandex-wrapped party with the Tri-State Areas #1 Heavy Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees.  You can check out a few more images from this night right here.

A slightly more subdued evening in Gowanus with Vetiver & the Yellow Birds, a friend and I enjoyed some pretty, pretty music while conjuring the life stories and intentions of just about everybody present.  It was great.  You can see more pix of Vetiver right here.
Then we headed back to Greenpoint for another night with Tragedy that ended with whiskey consumed from the bottle and a great deal of footage that will support the making of a Glitter PSA.  Did you know that the #1 risk of glitter addiction is “Confetti in your eye” followed closely by “Sparkle Cough?”  Seriously, glitter is no joke.

 These guys are so much fun it should (and probably is in some States) illegal.  There are still 2 nights of their residency glitterbombing the Bowl and you should grab some protective eyewear and get there.  Check out some more pix of last Friday’s party right here.
Judging by the party pix you just waded through you might not believe the week could get better…right?  Well, it did.
Saturday I devoured some risotto balls and a Scotch Porter while watching Del McCourey make magic at the City Winery.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there aren’t too many problems that some good bluegrass can’t fix.  I love how Del smiles when he sings…There’s no pix to share since I wasn’t “working” that night so you’ll just have to use your imagination…
Finally, the cherry on top of a mountain of fun….believe it or not…Motley Crew & Poison at PNC last night.  I hopped on a Rocks Off party bus with a real, live motley crew and the rest was history.  Imagine these 3 guys, 1 Bean and bus load of random poison fans…it was awesome and I descend into giggles just thinking about it.

motley crew

On tap for tonight is some Levon Helm & Emmy Lou Harris in Central Park with more bluegrass lined up for Wednesday and…wait for it….Death From Above 1979 on Friday.  I am making up for the musical drought that I lived through in Honkers and now my cup runneth over…


Is that the internet in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

It’s hard to imagine the world with no internet.  Even life pre-facebook takes some imagination to fathom and this is only the last 5 or so years.  The stretched limits, power and instant gratification that comes with a pocket full of bandwidth are amazing but the new layers of skin it places between already socially awkward animals doesn’t always feel like progress.  The notion of cyborg anthropology has arisen here before and it’s on my mind again lately.

I made a case to my 91 year old Grandfather that social media and ‘life online’ has been, for me anyway, a 100% positive experience that has added depth and breadth to my own knowledge & network making things possible now that weren’t before.  4 years of isolation and then a seamless reentry into a life I left behind are only one testament to this perspective.  If we discount the handful of less-than-awesome internet dates, I could stand by this sentiment and still easily defend the position.  Though I live and preach transparency and have a robust life online, I will not pretend that there aren’t downsides.

In particular, I see a new layer of living that isn’t quite grounded in 3 dimensions or cyberspace – a netherworld where new friendships seem to be still-born and old friendships go to expire.  Flirtation that has no intention of ending with dinner and dinner plans that revolve amongst calendars attached to phantoms.  This in-between place has an atmosphere that allows superficiality to flourish and flakiness to function as a standard operating procedure.  The life happening here is real enough to occupy thoughts, direct action and inspire though it simultaneously demands quick dismissals and casual acceptance of behavior that would not hold up when exposed to eye contact.  Something about digital connections allows them to be held by totally new standards.  We are on a frontier and there are only a few sheriffs and very few laws.  Etiquette is being reinvented as we speak and human interaction is molting like an old python.  I’ve been lucky to see real fruit bloom from cyber seeds though my feeling is that this non-landscape is less fertile than it used to be, the netherworld or cloud  is now a legitimate state and the expectation that rain will fall from the cloud is outdated.  A paradigm shift is in order.

Or a reprioritization, perhaps.

Anyway, I could rattle on about that for ages but instead I’ll share an example of when a digital friend escapes the fiber and emerges as one of the best tour guides Memphis has ever seen.  Ween and Facebook were the red threads that helped me get to know Johnny but 3 days together in Memphis are what made him my friend.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves and just say that I had a wonderful adventure in Tennessee…


the things that came before and everything after

Monte Cristo & Cheese Grits - Brother's Juniper


"Elvis, let me in" - Graceland


Beale Street Saturday Night


Huey's Midtown


Johnny Williams

If you want to armchair travel through the rest of my fun times in Memphis, click here for the whole album.
As for the moral of my story….I guess it’s presence is the best present.  It’s an affirmation from my side that, though I live an amazing life online, I still prefer the tangible present to the virtual one.  I can’t promise that I won’t continue to try to merge these 2 things but I am beginning to realize it may not always be up to me…

Beana Bern - Central BBQ - Memphis, TN


Stairway to …

i have a lot to say right now about a lot of things.  the usual gratitude, a healthy dash of adventure, some musings on middle america, love in the 2st century and some work on the horizon that can change everything….while the words find their ways towards one another and my mind has a little time to cluster things, i’ll share this photograph from Memphis

stairway to heaven

Down home Goodness, Butter & Love

Rolling East on I-40 last night out of Memphis, I was kept company by a stream of semi’s, rolling in lines and groups like an alien school of fish, and the pink-orange light of the sun setting in my rearview mirror.  A thousand lonely voices on the radio kept me company and taught me a thing or two about cheatin’ men, pick-up trucks, heartache and red necks.  After a day in Dallas and 3 days in Memphis, it was nice to let the night sky envelope me on the road to Nashville.   Like a kind of baptisim, the grease of pulled pork and sweat from the hot Tennessee sun have reimmersed me in America and I feel like I’m home.

Dallas was all business and, aside from a triumphant pit stop in Richardson, was most memorable for dinner at III Forks and some fun-seeking in Old Plano Town (fyi, there is no fun to be had in Downtown Plano).  Dinner was epic, in the scheme of beef, and I will not soon forget my 15 oz “Baseball Cut”.  With 3 days to kill before moving onto Nashville, I decided to scrap plans to accumulate miles and opted instead for a weekend in Memphis…which turned out to be one of the best ideas I had all day!

My camera is brmming with a wonderful narrative of sweet Memphis – as is my belly which is still coping with the down-home goodness, butter and love that makes up the Souther diet.  36 hours felt like a week, we covered so much ground though, at no point, did we ever have to try to hard to get anywhere.  Sun Studio, Graceland, Beale Street, the Brooks Museum, the Metal Museum, sunset on the Mississippi and eats from the likes of Huey’s, Central BBQ, Dyers, Brothers Juniper…tipping our hats, of course, to The Buccaneer, Murphey’s, Westy’s and some more I’m forgetting.  I feel like I have a family there now and look forward to a reason to return.  JW is – officially – the best tourguide and baked potato/frenchfrier that Memphis has ever seen.  

Gotta get back down to business now here in Opreyland but stay tuned for some photos and more tails of savory pork, sour mash and good times.

On a road to . . .

With 15 pages left to the novel I was reading, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, I found myself so impatient to see how the story ended that I got frustrated with my inability to read faster.  Shifting in my chair, sitting up straight as though that was going to streamline absorption, I was relieved when I finally reached the  end.  I’m commenting on this because it was a new feeling.  Usually, I get a little sad when a book is ending and tend to drift off before reaching the end, perhaps to keep the end from coming…Anticipating the need for a new beginning I picked up another paperback off a stoop today and wonder, already, how that story will end.

This seems to be a theme with me:  a pounding desire to know how the story ends.  It didn’t occur to me until pretty recently that this may be a trend worth diverting.  Perhaps, like the mighty Mississippi, I can reshape my own path and carve a channel through a more patient and meandering landscape.  I think to myself (everyday) that I want to write a book and then think a little longer (every time) that I can only begin when I know how the story ends.  Tonight is the first time that it occurred to me that this may not be true.  Maybe I just need to know where it begins…

The last couple days in NYC have proven to be filled with stories.  Cue up a soundtrack of some old timey Rugged Sauce and ease into Paul Simon playing his acoustic guitar to a silent Webster Hall then fade into a jubilant David Byrne followed by a melancholy and over-crowded Andrew Bird.  In front of the music was a hard lost fight with an endless To-Do list, some unidentified ailments and a little caffeine. Perhaps more excitement than some people score in a lifetime but, for me, a rather typical week.  It’s utterly overwhelming.

Pinch me, I'm dreaming

I keep waiting to wake up feeling ‘normal’ and it keeps escaping me.  Overseas I dreamt of the ease with which my life unfolded in America.  Now that I’m back I realize how easy I had it beyond the beyond.  The grass is always greener…the water always clearer…the smog always smoggier in the space between what we know and what we think we know.  It’s both reassuring and a little anticlimactic to constantly realize that wherever you go, there you are.

Old Rugged Sauce - Brooklyn Rod & Gun Club

Succumbing to the overwhelmption (should I trademark that word?) seems to be the only course of action.  The things to do, places to go and people to see are not going to decrease in number.  It’s up to me to make the space, make the time and make it work.  It’s breezy tonight in New York City and I have opened my windows wide, allowing the wind to stir me up, fill my sails and carry me a little ways.

Lonely Geometry

There’s a city in my mind…it’s very far away but it’s growing day by day…but it’s alright…