This PVD Artist Finally Got To See One Of Her Idols & What Happened Will Surprise You

What Do We Expect From Our Role Models?

I’ve been trying to see Patti Smith in person for years, and it always seems like I find out about her shows just a little too late, or am never “in the know” enough to find out about them at all. Her tour to talk about her new book Devotion was no different. By the time I found out about the RISD event in Providence at the end of September it was sold out. Oddly enough, I was able to get tickets to her show at the Back Bay Event Center in Boston, which happens to be a stone’s throw from the office I work in. Finally, I exclaimed to my coworkers! Something cool happening by work! And it’s to see one of my heroes! She’ll save me from my days in the corporate world! 

Like most Patti Smith fans, I love her not only for her outstanding writing and music career (most notably her book Just Kids), but for also her style. She embodies the kind of woman I always have wished I could become as I get older - someone who doesn’t hide her aging and who has that natural air of coolness without trying at all. 

Since I lined up early for the event, I got to listen to others chatting about what they hoped to get out of the talk. “I need advice on getting through this book I’m writing,” exclaimed one woman. Another attendee referred to her in a very familiar way.  “Well that’s Patti’s style, that’s how she is.” Holy crap, do these people know her, I wondered? Everyone seemed to have a story about her or a specific purpose for being there. And then I realized I did, too. I was hoping she was going to tell me something that was going fundamentally change me or help me make sense of the long, sometimes painful journey of living a life in the arts.

Smith came out on stage smiling but with sunglasses on, which totally surprised me. It seemed very too cool for school rock diva like, which I wasn’t expecting at all. She went on to explain that she was suffering from a terrible migraine and that reading was just too painful. Singing, she said, would not be a problem at all, so that’s what she would do for the evening instead. I gasped. Yay, I thought! Finally! A Patti Smith concert! I was kind of shocked that some of the people around me were annoyed by this change, and by the collective sigh they let out upon hearing that it would be more concert than lecture. 

Smith did talk about the creative process, but through song and through small stories of her life. Stories about her husband Fred “Sonic” Smith who passed away many years ago, and about her friend Sam Shepard only just recently passed. She sang about William Blake and talked about how he ended his life penniless. She sang “Because the Night” and asked everyone to sing along. She dropped a few f bombs and laughed at herself for having sunglasses on. She talked about how part of the “package” of living and loving life is to also loose sometimes. She talked about how important it was to just keep working, no matter what. Most notably, she gushed about her daughter who had accompanied her to Boston to play piano for this concert. It was easy to see how proud she was of her daughter in tone of her voice.

The Q&A session at the end of the event was a little weird. People approached the podium it seemed not to ask her questions, but rather to talk about themselves. Many wanted to thank her for helping them through a bad times, others said that they had brought artwork for her and were hoping she would take it. Smith was pretty dismissive of these statements, and at first, I was totally taken aback by her response. "Doesn’t anyone have actual questions for me?" she asked the crowd. I had thought she would be happy to hear these stories from her fans, so initially I was surprised by her reaction.

On the ride back to Providence, I gave the whole event some thought. Patti Smith ended up being both exactly what I was expecting and nothing like I was expecting. She definitely had the presence of a true rock star. Her reflections about living a creative life were thoughtful. Her personality seemed to be a funny combination of both quiet and brash. Her singing was beautiful and brought me to tears. She was also a lot of things I wasn’t expecting. She was tired and under the weather. She was a doting mom who little annoyed with the odd Q&A questions and seemed to react awkwardly to fans divulging that she had “saved” them.

Like many fans, I went to see her with a preconceived idea of what she would offer us. We are devoted to her history and her story of cool. I think maybe some of us (maybe even me) hoped that cool would rub off on us. What she gave was reality. She is rock star and poet trying to get through a rough day and do her work regardless. Just like all of us. We all have days where we don’t feel or do our best, but we try not to let it stop us from doing what we need to do. And of course, Smith does that very well. She is extremely talented on any given day. Maybe the big reveal from this is that we should just try to do our best. I know it sounds simple, but it’s really all we can hope for, right? Funny that I need to see Patti Smith to be reminded of that simple truth.    

Jenny Brown

More About Jenny

Jenny Brown is visual artist living and working in Providence, Rhode Island, whose primary mediums are drawing, collage, and works on paper. Her work brings to life a mythical world of sea creatures and celestial beings, realized through her love of paper ephemera.

Her recent collage works focus on a dream of representing harmony amongst different elements of the natural world (flora, fauna, the moon, the sea). An abundance of flowers in the work represent the hearts and souls of these fantastic creatures. Branches and tentacles share their yearning to be connected to the most basic elements of life which created them...the cosmos, the oceans, the skies.

Jenny studied art at Bennington College and received her MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York in 2005. She was a guest this spring on The Jealous Curator’s “Art for Your Ear” podcast, as well as a featured artist in Create Magazine, and “The Handmade Life,” published by Thames & Hudson. Her work is currently available at Collier West in Brooklyn, NY.

Thrift Or Treat: How I Made The Best Costume For My Daughter's Halloween

This summer Marvel released the latest incarnation of one of their most well known characters. Spider-Man: Homecoming also tossed cosplayers and those who love making Halloween costumes a softball. In this movie, Peter Parker dons a “homemade” costume, you could almost hear the young Spidey fans jump for joy. Keeping the color palette within his usual red and blue the laidback look consists mostly of a hoodie, a simple pair of pants, long sleeve shirt, and dark goggles. So when my five year old daughter decided she wanted to be Spider-Man for Halloween I knew just where to go.

On a busy first day of fall, I headed into my local Providence Savers with a few pictures of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man saved to my phone. Thankfully the colors are pretty typical among children’s clothing. Heading into the kid’s section, it was easy to find options. In fact, my only real challenge was finding a top without graphics or lettering on it. First I collected the base layer: light blue long sleeved shirt and leggings. (Photo above.)

After that I looked across both the girl’s and boy’s isles for a red hooded sweatshirt without anything on it. No luck. But that gave me an idea, all I really needed was the hood part of the hoodie. Finding a plain red t-shirt I was able to cut the hood into a type of cowl that can be worn under the shirt.

The Homecoming costume has a type of red tall boot he wears. I knew that would be a tall order for a kid’s shoe no matter where I went. But what I was able to do was stay in the color scheme, that turned out to be very easy. In the accessories area I found a pair of woman’s red winter socks. Tall enough to mimic the boot tops and the right color. Pairing those with a pair of GREAT children’s L.L. Bean boots that looked basically brand new. Probably $100+ value for $8.99.

In fact the only part of this Halloween costume I needed from the actual Halloween section were the goggles. Those they had in spades, although I needed to pull the biohazard stickers off the lenses.

Once I got home the construction began, it only took about half an hour to make the changes I needed. After cutting the sleeves from the red t-shirt I used a sharpie to make the spider symbol on the chest. After that I detached the hood from the sweatshirt and turned it inside to hide the lettering. Final step was the mask. This was something I had gathering dust, it was a free bag made of jersey material. I cut two small eye holes and slid goggles through.

And just like that, for less than most licensed store bought Spidey costumes my daughter will be webbing through the neighborhood this Halloween!

More About Colin

Colin is a local author and freelance writer.

For more from him, please check out:

@colincarlton on Twitter + Instagram

@colincarltonofficial on Facebook

**Thanks to our friends at Savers for providing a gift card toward putting together Colin's daughter's costume. #SaversThrift #ThriftOrTreat #Collab

3 Best Things About Staying At A Famous Spa & What I Won't Miss

A couple of years ago, I had the chance to spend a long weekend at a pretty well known spa and resort, frequented by celebs like Martha Stewart and Alec Baldwin (before he met and married his much younger, yoga instructor wife Hilaria, and dropped a ton of weight) looking to relax and ramp up the healthy. Never did get back there (sad face), but tbh, it did inspire me to stop living almost exclusively on cafe mochas, bread & butter, and madeleine (French butter) cookies.

With that adventure in mind, here are some tips for co-opting the spa experience at home, how-to's for changing things up and feeling way better, all without having to field endless questions from fellow guests about what you do for living (ughhh, almost as bad as being at an NYC cocktail party), where you live (ditto), and what brand of yoga pants you're wearing (Yes, THAT really happened, over and over again.).

1. Elevate Your Tub & Shower Time

Spas have amazing white robes and towels that make your usual shower or bath that much more relaxing. If yours are mismatched and dingy, donate them to a local animal shelter. One of my sister-in-laws gives all her old ones to the shelter where she and my bro adopted their dog. These organizations are always looking for old towels, blankets and sheets (still in useable condition of course) for both dogs and cats.

And you definitely don't have to be a millionaire to afford beautiful towels. I say some of Target's offerings are better quality than a lot of fancy schmancy department store brands I've come across. Also, as always, if you have the time, the patience and luck is usually on your side, stalking your local Home Goods is another option. They have been known to have some pretty fab ones on occassion

2. An Easy & Affordable DIY Treatment

Spas and beautifying treatments go hand in hand, but those treats can be pricey, and take hours (#yawn). Here's a little something you can do at home on the cheap that doesn't take long and will make you feel almost like you're at a wellness retreat.

My local Whole Foods had a bunch of organic aloe vera leaves the other day, so I picked one up and stashed it in the frig for a day until I had a chance to research, aka, Google and watch YouTube vidoes, how one goes about cutting up one of these odd looking green thingies. (Click here for a quick demo.) Turns out, it's not so difficult - the thing to watch out for is the very real possibility of cutting yourself while extracting the aloe vera gel from the thick outer layers.

Once you've whipped your gel up in the blender, store in the frig in an air tight container (for up to a week or so) and mix with other ingredients later to create a mask. You can also freeze the whipped gel in an ice cube tray and use the cubes to spot treat any fugly breakouts that *might* pop up while you're PMS'ing.

3. Now & Zen 

Every spa and retreat these days is probably going to offer yoga, a moving meditation, and meditation, a workout for your mind. But before you run out and put a meditation app on your phone, consider shutting down your phone (for a while anyway) and motoring over to the  Providence Zen Center, a monastery in Cumberland, RI. They offer weekly meditations, retreats, and more. (Someone I used to know made a guy who had a crush on her take her there for their first date. Gotta love it!)

Patty J


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