Getting Personal: Sasha Rubel

Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, Melissa Merli chats with artist Sasha Rubel. Getting Personal appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. In the March 25 newspaper, we'll have a chat with Lynn Brown, who works in behavioral health by day and sings with the Brat Pack by night.     

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

Between 6 and 7, contrary to my night owl nature. I bustle in the kitchen, cooking, checking email and cuddling with my two girls, Azure and Bianca. But first, I drink way too much espresso with cream.

What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?

Leftover spinach and mushroom quiche, a handful of walnuts and peach iced tea. At home, solo.

Best high school memory.

Dancing at Mabel's with my friends from the Vertebrats crowd. My fake ID stopped working, so my parents would take turns bringing me to the bar. My dad would do mathematics in the dressing room, smoking a cigar, with napkins stuffed in his ears to block out sound, oblivious to the hubbub around him. Me? I loved the music, the crowd. It was electric.

Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.

They were beautiful orange leather stilettos from the '50s. Well-made, so you could twirl without falling off them or teetering. I bought seven pairs in a range of colors from a vintage shop at $7 a pair.

What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?

A house full of people, a big breakfast. Jump on the trampoline with the kiddies. Then paint or draw while listening to music, or brainstorming with Dick, my artist husband. Read a book or hang out with a glass of wine.

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?

'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Also, 'Just So Stories' by Kipling and picture books by M. Sasek.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Small towns in Italy and the south of France. I'd like to borrow a dog, get a great loaf of bread and some cheese and pretend I lived there. Let life slow down a little, really look closely at an olive tree, a cobbled street or caf. Eat a pear and stare at a Matisse painting, or Vuillard, Bonnard, Picasso

Tell me about your favorite pet.

I love dogs, well, other people's dogs. You get all the fun and none of the cleanup/hassle. Plus, I'm allergic, so I can't really be around dogs for too long, which only makes me more unrealistic and besotted.

Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?

When my kids were born, the neat-freak genes from my mother finally kicked in, kind of a nice surprise. My mother Nina was a writer and newspaper reporter and was naturally interested in other people. She was a fantastic listener, so I try to be more like her in that respect. I've definitely become more like my dad in a getting-down-to-business way. He was organized, too, but not compulsively.

What would you order for your last meal?

Ethiopian food (injera, lentils, kitfo, etc.), red wine and really good chocolate. Chocolate mousse, chocolate hazelnut anything, whipped cream. The works! And a giant box of Kleenex.

What can you not live without?

Live music. Making art, especially drawing. My family. Friendships. Good teachers.

Who do you have on your iPod?

Absurd, upbeat pop music by radio divas like Adele, Lady Gaga, etc., for the gym. Also: Calexico, the Mynah Birds, Buddy Holly, Neko Case. Podcasts of every kind: New Yorker short stories, Stuff You Didn't Learn in History Class, Sound Opinions, This American Life, etc. I love opera, too, but it just doesn't sound right on my iPod.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

When our twin daughters were still tiny, my mother would come visit, and the three of us would sit and coo over every little thing the girls did. We'd be up to our ears in work, new paintings due and unending housework, but nonetheless stuck in our seats watching the little ones explore the world for the first time. Amazing.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

Three talkers/raconteurs: Fran Lebowitz, Keith Richards (or Ray Davies) and my brother Mark.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

My dad would say, 'Sometimes the only way through is through.' There are certain times you just have to keep going no matter what, no matter how tough. Short and simple.

What's your best piece of advice?

Hmm keep a mental list of things to be grateful for. Mine starts with plumbing, clean drinking water, Advil, central heating, etc. If you strip things back to the basics, you see how much you really have.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

I was a baby sitter for two little girls, probably 50 cents an hour. Later, I was a busperson at Dom's Patio Villa and made garlic bread. But it was really the lemonade stands we used to have that put me on the path to being self-employed.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

The most important decision was to pursue art full-time together with my husband, another artist. It's great to have a trusted pair of eyes to critique a painting or problem-solve. But more important is his unshakeable confidence in what I'm trying to do, in what I'm trying to create. Oh, and his computer and web design skills are a plus, too.

Do you have a bad habit? What is it?

I suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome, i.e., I get riveted by new technologies, gadgets, novelty websites, online Scrabble, you name it. It's a constant state of self-monitoring, with varying degrees of success.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I tell my kids, 'The first rule is don't panic. And the second rule? Panic!' So in other words, humor, and a little perspective helps, too. And remembering you're not the only one who's encountered these sorts of problems.

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