Please go to "Theme Options > Posts Slider Settings" in your admin panel and enter "Total slides" value.

The City Rises

Kathleen Griffin Backstory Leave a comment   ,

Drawing by Kathleen Griffin

“Of course, we are people who ride in steel boxes daily, where the smell of our humanity is not uncommon to us… you are the city that inspires me. You rise to everything that meets you.” – Kathleen Griffin


So, I am hoping that you are doing well after the storm. Just as it’s effects where unequal, so too where the responses, and I guess I mean that in a good way.

I was out of town last week so I spent days checking in and re-checking in with friends about their status and whereabouts and dozens of people reached out to me – webbing together a story at a distance. Some were basically skipped, though mostly no one had power, one even had been out dancing on thursday night (yes that was Brooklyn). Several were out of their houses for the week or had their homes and all of their possessions totally destroyed by the storm surge, that was also Brooklyn.

Two friends have restaurants downtown that were in chaos and one friend is a florist who literally lost all of his flowers. Yet both of them, after seeing the destruction, gave the most right back, going to help cook at shelters. In so many cases, equal to the hardship and tragedy was the response, friends sent texts of where they were volunteering or pictures the lines of people they were feeding, volunteering as EMT’s, others who had lost everything had so much strength and perspective, just happy for the safety of their family and the hope of insurance. Another friend who was in a hotel for the week was equally strong despite the real hardship of being displaced from her home.

And every call seemed to include the things that people had done or given to someone else, they had been all day helping a friend with a business, cleaning up someone’s flood damage, collecting clothes, getting food deliveries in dry ice for a boyfriend.

Yes, there were stories of fist fights and jackasses, but that, like most New York crisis made me really proud of the strength of our city – our character. Of course, we are people who ride in steel boxes daily, where the smell of our humanity is not uncommon to us. But I just wanted to say, that as always, you are the city that inspires me. You rise to everything that meets you.

The Ruins

Kathleen Griffin Backstory, Blog Leave a comment  

Here’s how it starts:

It’s February 2009. I’m driving down the FDR for the billionth time in my life, feeling sad and overwhelmed. I’m broke and living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Astoria, using my living room as a studio. I had come two months before to New York with a plan, and with solid work in place. But everybody I knew had lost their jobs. I remember that January being the longest month. I had been teaching, and doing production design, but it all kept falling through. Or you work on a project and receive a fraction of the pay you were promised or the check bounces. But my sister was in New York, and upstate was lonely…

Around 70th Street, as I approach the rust-colored supports of the Queensboro bridge, I start thinking about the Ruins – the collapsed Smallpox Hospital on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, in the East River. I peer left, out the car window, past oncoming traffic, to see the building that I have loved since I was a little girl. I look to it for the comfort it has always provided me, and instead, I have a vision: Butterflies.

There has always been this connection for me. As a child I the early 1980s I’d visit the city several times a week from New Fairfield, Conn. with my mother – a Bronx native. On the ride home we’d get stuck in rush hour traffic, and for me this only heightened my anticipation of leering at the Ruins. I saw the stone structure as an old castle, and I would imagine that someday I would renovate the palace and live there – the Queen of Roosevelt Island. Being a little girl, I always thought it was a castle.

My mom was only 33, and I was six or seven, and we’d have these adventures — a return to this magical place, had crummy cars breaking down, and whenever the car broke down, someone would rescue us. New York in the 80s was wild. We’d go to a diner and they’d give us free donuts.

Later, when I tell my friend from graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design about my project, she laughed.  I always mentioned the ruins on road trips from Providence, she said. I have imagined them a thousand different ways over my lifetime.

But today, I see a swarm of shining yellow butterflies over the building, carrying it off, magically transforming the Ruins; completing, perhaps, an idea I started as a young girl. It was like a dream that had always been floating just above the spires of the old Small Pox Hospital, waiting for me.