Just call me Little Shit

About 3 years or so ago, I started to write a memoir of the summer of 1972. When I enrolled in a Ph.D. program, I put aside the work in progress, but I still think about it a lot, and hope to get back to it someday. I envision something poignant yet with humor, along the lines of Haven Kimmel’s A Girl Named Zippy. If you can’t laugh at your own dysfunctional family, life can be pretty grim.

 

A little back story: in the summer of 1972, my mother, who until late 1971 had seemed to be a sensible, level-headed woman, married her second husband, Van, who I thought then and still sometimes think, was the devil. He was tall and freakishly thin, with a pointy beard. He smoked and drank pretty much all of the time, and didn’t really seem to like children.

stock-vector-smiling-devil-face-vector-illustration-all-in-a-single-layer-112148375

 

My mother, at the time 36 years old, a pretty widow with 4 children, had dated and had some serious beaux, some of whom we all liked and wouldn’t have minded her marrying. All 4 of us were in agreement that we greatly minded her marrying Van.

mom
My beautiful mother in 1969.

But marry him she did, on July 15, 1972. She sold our beloved house on Dyson Drive, and we moved to the previously unknown (to us) city of Sacramento, California.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 2.37.31 PM

Or some of us did. Cathy, #1 sister, was already married herself, with an adorable baby who I was going to miss seeing grow up. Ellen, next up, was forced on the death march to Sacramento, but then would fly back to Atlanta to finish her senior year of high school while living with her best friend. Brother Steve and I had no choice in the matter. I was 10 and he was 14. I even considered asking to live with my grandmother, Nanna, but I was a little afraid of her anyway and figured it wasn’t going to happen.

We were loaded up in the Chevrolet Impala station wagon, and began the 2 week trek along the southern route from Georgia to California. Remember, it was summer and there was no air conditioning in said station wagon. No one used the term second-hand smoke. MADD had yet to be formed. And Ellen has a tendency to car sickness (somewhat exagerrated in my writing, sorry Ellen).

chvrolet impala wagon

Van did all of the driving, both he and Mom smoking and drinking Seagram’s Seven with ginger ale the entire journey. He had this black case that looked like it was for some sort of spy business; it was the mobile bartending set.

Vintage-travel-bar-kit

He was never pulled over for drinking while driving or, as I hoped he would be, child endangerment. In my daydreams while in the hot, smoky car, we would be taken by law enforcement and sent back to Nanna and Cathy in Atlanta. My mother would cry and realize the error of her ways, Van would be thrown in jail, and we’d go back to life as it was meant to be.

No such luck. I spent a lot of the trip in the “way back” of the station wagon, as far from the front seat and the devil as possible. Have you seen the film The Way, Way Back? That brings up a lot of memories for me.

way way back
Liam James in The Way, Way Back (2013).

That’s the summer I was given my nickname Little Shit. Of course, Van was the only one who ever called me that, or even seemed to think I was such a thing. He did bring out the worst in me, I admit.

the alamo
At the Alamo on the 1972 cross-country trip. From left, Van (aka Satan), Ellen, Steve, and me (aka Little Shit). I don’t remember what I was mad about.

 

I’ve decided to start posting some excerpts of what I’ve written so far, just for fun. It’s the first draft, not particularly polished. Today’s vignette takes place in the New Mexico desert. We have just spent way too long in Texas, and are finally headed from El Paso to Tucson, Arizona.

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 1.28.50 PM

 

[text copyright Genevieve Cottraux 2017]

“I really need to pee!” I wail from the way back of the station wagon, where I’ve set up camp behind the ice chest with my books and art supplies. Ellen moans from the back seat, “I have to throw up.” She’s been carsick since we left Georgia. We all hoped the straight, flat roads of the New Mexico desert would help, but she’s still curled in a hot, sweaty, miserable ball. Up in the driver’s seat, Van takes a sip of his drink and, through exhaled cigarette smoke, says grudgingly, “Okay, but be quick,” as he pulls off the road into the only gas station for miles.

            I jump out of the car and run to the gas station bathroom. As I hurry back out, I can see Steve’s gleeful face at the back window, waving goodbye to me and pressing down the door lock as the station wagon pulls out of the gas station and enters the lonely highway, a trail of dust in its wake.

            I don’t cry. I don’t chase the car. It’s hot in New Mexico, but different from the heat of Georgia, and I like the way the sky stretches out in all directions, nothing green to be seen. “Excuse me, sir, is there a Coke machine?” The man at the pump points the way. I finger the cat’s-head shaped coin purse I have tucked in my pocket, insert the coins in the machine. It’s my favorite, the Coke in small glass bottles, and it’s icy cold.

            I can see the car heading across the desert, getting smaller as it heads toward Tucson on the way to California. Part of me wants it to keep going without me, but part of me wonders how long it will take Mom to notice or care that I’m not in the car.

            “They’ll come back,” says the attendant, whose name patch identifies him as Eddie. “Not the first time a family’s driven off without somebody. There’s a chair inside, where it’s a little cooler.” Maybe he’ll adopt me, I think. He seems nice enough, and I much prefer his smell of gasoline and oil to Van’s smell of whisky and cigarettes. I sip the Coke and wish I had my book. I look longingly at the television set in the corner but Eddie doesn’t take the hint.

            I don’t wear a watch, and have no idea how long I’ve been sitting here, my shorts-clad legs sticking to the vinyl chair and my hair damp against my neck. “Here they come,” points out Eddie, though the overloaded station wagon is hard to miss in the empty surroundings.

            “Little shit,” Van grumbles as he opens the car door and lets me in. Mom is lighting a cigarette. Ellen is clutching her paper barf bag. Steve is trying not to laugh. I get in the car and crawl over the seats into the way back. I wave to Eddie as we pull back out on the highway.

 

 

Please let me know what you think! I’ll post more bits and pieces if you like them. I think the next one up might be Mom and Van’s wedding.

Peace and hugs from A Girl Named Little Shit.

me

Let’s Go Glamping!

I was sitting outside at work the other day, drinking my iced tea and eating grapes on my break, when the random thought, “It’d be nice to go camping!” occured to me. I am able to ignore a lot of random thoughts, but this one startled me. I do not camp. I have in the past, but I’d rather not do it again. Like the David Foster Wallace essay about going on a cruise, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, camping seems like it should be fun, in theory, but in reality, not so much. And I have no desire to ever go on a cruise, either, thank you very much.

Camping. First of all, why should I sleep on the ground when there is this great invention called the BED? Second, I hate dirt. And peeing behind trees. Indoor plumbing, hello?!

Camping_Toilet_Rothco020
Any activity that involves this, please let me stay home!

my idea of camping

Have you ever watched the show Monk? Mr. Monk is one of my idols. Mr. Monk had to go camping once. He didn’t like it.

monk

I’m fine not taking a shower for a day or 2, and being outdoors is great. Within reason. But outdoor living should refer to the Sunset magazine, California lifestyle variety, not living in a tent for fun!

1953 Sunset
1953 Sunset cover; my kind of outdoor living.

I love a good picnic; eating out of doors is nice. Especially if you bring really good food. And make it really pretty and romantic.

gina-sofia-outdoor-dining-alfresco-centerpiece-better-decorating-bible-blog-Mediterranean-Spaces.jpg

I like the idea of outdoor living. If it’s civilized.

There are wonderful ways to spend time outdoors with friends and family while remaining clean and comfortable and having access to an actual bathroom. Outdoor kitchens and living rooms are quite “the thing” these days where the weather permits.

There are more modest ways to follow this idea:

I adore the idea of the unfortunately named “she shed”, the feminine alternative to the man cave.

Who-says-She-Sheds-have-made-wood-glass.png

sacred women.jpg

These can be basic too.

glamping basic.jpg

This one veers a little close to camping, but I’ll allow it since it’s adorble.

Mobile-She-Shed

But please don’t ask me to go camping.

new friends

do you know me.jpg

139de65c36b232796c8fb91c12861a27

My camping experiences started when my mother married her second husband, Van. He loved camping. But his idea of camping was parking his GMC truck, equipped with a camper shell, by the side of any old river and proceeding to fish (boring) and drink a lot. I always took a lot of books. Anytime I was forced into outings with Mom and Van I made sure to have a book. I spent a lot of time in bars and by the sides of rivers reading while they drank. But since he was a cabinet maker, the camper was nicely kitted out, and Mom always tried to cook something nice. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.

Then when I got married, we thought we liked camping. Like Van before us, what we liked was a different setting for drinking.

Wine_Camping2314.jpg

We made a point of going to walk-in only sites so it would be more private and we wouldn’t be surrounded by RVs.

rvpark

Yellowstone
Campground at Yellowstone. No thanks.

I would cook a lot of gourmet food ahead of time, we would make sure to have lots of wine, and off we’d go. I never slept well, partly from the wine, and partly because sleeping on the ground in a tent sucks! I don’t even do well with cabin camping. I didn’t sleep for an entire week last summer when I went to Maine, but I did gain a new appreciation for frogs.

Given half a chance, my ex-husband would probably have had us going out camping in an old VW hippie van.

bus1

If we had to go camping, I’d have preferred a somewhat less conspicuous van back then (although I do love the hippie van now as a look).

camper-van-404_683331c

But we were poor, so it had to be a tent and sleeping bags. As long as we had the money for the wine. I can see us in something like this as well.

110-9-Effective-Bug-Out-Location-Options-270x250

I’m older, wiser, and sober now. And I think life is too short to do things we don’t like if we don’t have to.  I don’t have to go camping, and despite my random thoughts I don’t really want to.

love not camping.jpg

What about camping even appears to be fun?

lotsa tents
This does not look fun.

Camping is dangerous, besides. There are crazy people out there looking for dummies zipped into sleeping bags and tents, ready-made targets for horror movie mayhem. There are bugs and spiders and creepy crawly things.

spider

The food chain is fine and all, but I’d rather not be a part of it, thanks.

soft tacos

And coffee. Let’s talk coffee. I’m sorry, cowboy romanticism aside, boiled coffee made over a campfire does not taste good.

I haven’t mastered the art of campfire espresso, although I suppose it’s possible. But I am not really interested in learning the art. My beautiful Rancilio Silvia machine at home is just fine.

NUOVA  001
Admit it, this looks like a serious coffee maker. My best friend.

I’d consider easing myself into the idea with the she-shed (buit it does need a better name), and work my way up to “glamping”(glamour camping).

I could be a glamper. See this Project Runway clip for a good description of glamping. If Tim Gunn is on board, okay!

I’d even go with an Airstream or tear-drop trailer if they were glamped up.

There’s a book for people like me: I Hate Camping, but I Love Glamping! by Lynn Sable. There is also Glamping with MaryJane, by MaryJane Butters. I’m sure there are many more.

One thing I will grant on the plus side for camping: s’mores. I had never had a s’more until I went to Maine last summer. Zoe Weil at the Institute for Humane Education taught me how to make and eat a vegan s’more at the campfire, and I even willingly sang camp songs after ingesting a couple of those. All that was missing was a great cup of coffee.

IMG_4596
Age 54, my first s’mores experience.
Vegan-Smores-with-Dandies-Vegan-Marshmallows
Use a vegan dark chocolate and Dandies vegan marshmallows for cruelty-free s’mores.

But are s’mores enough reason for camping? No, you can make s’mores at home. There is not enough chocolate in the world to make camping fun.

10-ReasonsCAMPINGis-for-CRAZY-PEOPLE-1013x530.png
Only 10?

If all tents could be like the magical ones in Harry Potter, that would be okay too. Wave a wand and have all the comforts of home at your fingertips. Or, alternatively, stay home! Or go to a nice hotel.

WeasleyTent
The Weasley tent in one of the numerous Harry Potter films.

As we enter the summer season, I’ll be enjoying outdoor time and sunshine. Just my way, not the cowboy way. And I’ll be a happy camper, ignoring my random thoughts.

The word soup in Thomas Wolfe’s refrigerator

If you have ever met me or read my blog, you know that I am not a tall person. And I’m okay with that. Thomas Wolfe, on the other hand, was not a small person. I assume he was okay with that. Tall people come across with a sense of authority and power to us shorties. I am 5′ 0″. Wolfe was 6′ 6″.

Tom and me
Due to budget constraints, the “life size” Wolfe is only 6′ 0″. The actual life size me is 5′ 0″. Add 6 more inches difference. He was really tall; just sayin’.

 

I’ve always kind of known about Thomas Wolfe, mostly from the book title You Can’t Go Home Again (published posthumously in 1940) and the romanticized view of Southern writers that an avid reader who spent her childhood in Georgia can’t escape.

EGcoverCan'tGoHome

 

After watching the film Genius, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer A. Scott Berg book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978)  and writing about it, I have continued reading and researching into the life of Thomas Wolfe.

 

I loved the film, but after my recent sojourn to Indianapolis for the 39th Annual Meeting of the Thomas Wolfe Society, I have even more questions. (And I’m buying yet more books. Running out of places to put them all!).

 

What was interesting to me is that so many dedicated Wolfe scholars and readers had some negative reactions to the film, which we watched together at the Indianapolis Public Library as a part of the weekend. Author Berg, on the other hand, who spoke to us to a standing ovation at our closing banquet, was pleased with the film. And I still love it.

 

genius poster

 

 

One of the complaints from the group about the film was the casting of Jude Law as Wolfe. Law, in my opinion, did a wonderful job, but he’s not anywhere close to 6′ 6″ and 250 plus pounds. But what actor would be close to that without being some former wrestler or football player of dubious acting ability? Law is better looking than Wolfe, but it’s a movie. I can look past that!

tom and jude

 

The book had been considered for films for many years, according to Berg. At one time, Paul Newman was slated to play Max Perkins. And at another, Tim Robbins wanted to play Wolfe. That I can see, in his younger days.

tim-robbins-2
A young Tim Robbins, who is 6′ 5″.

One thing to keep in mind is that the film is based on a book about Max Perkins, the editor who wrangled with Wolfe and served as a father figure to him in many ways. In the book, next on my to-read list, Perkin’s relationships with 2 of his other writers, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, are also featured. It’s not a biography of Wolfe.

perkins writers

In speaking about the casting of Jude Law, Berg said that in the interviews he did for the Perkins book, it was mentioned that when Wolfe first appeared in Perkins’s doorway at Scribner’s, Perkins saw, in his mind, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Berg sees Shelley in Law’s countenance. Of course, we don’t have photos of Shelley to get an accurate idea, but there are portraits.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

My imagination was totally captured by the images in the film of Wolfe writing as fast he could, using the top of his refrigerator as a desk, sheets of paper flying through the air as he filled them with words. I imagine the inside of his head as a swirling word soup. Mine often is like that, but my word soup tends to stay soupy and muddled, whereas Wolfe was able to put the words into such beautiful creations. If we were working in a restaurant, I would be the dishwasher and Wolfe would be the executive chef, the genius who I admire and emulate. Or maybe Wolfe would be the Chef de Cuisine, doing the work of making the delicious soup, and Perkins would be the executive chef, at the pass making sure the plates are perfect before they go out.

word soup 1
Word soup ingredients.

 

This leads to the burning question, can a refrigerator be used as a desk? Remember that Wolfe was 6′ 6″ tall. A typical 1920s-1930s refrigerator was probably just over 5″.

 

You can buy such a vintage refrigerator today if you think it will help you become a writer.

ebay ad.jpg

 

Being who I am, I had to test this out. My home refrigerator is 5′ 10″ tall. For me to use it as a desk, I have to stand on the kitchen counter next to it.

fridge writing 7
No worries; I sanitized the counter after I was done.

 

fridge writing 4
At 6′ 6″, Wolfe could probably even use a modern day refrigerator as a desk if he really wanted to. It wouldn’t be a good ergonomic choice.

 

One of my favorite papers presented at the meeting was by Paula Gallant Eckard of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She is the author of the recently published Thomas Wolfe and Lost Children in Southern Literature (2016).

 

There is a common thread of a sense of “lostness” in much Southern literature, especially in regard to children. Eckard discussed, among other contemporary writers, Kaye Gibbons (Ellen Foster, 1987) and Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones, 2011).

 

salvage and jes.jpg

 

Other highlights: the charming performance by the Indiana University Kokomo Players of “Wolfe’s Wanderlust: Scenes and Music from His Life and Fiction”

and the amazing table centerpieces created for the banquet, each based on a theme in Wolfe’s life.

 

Everyone I met was warm and welcoming. I arrived a bit anxious about going into a meeting of scholars with relatively little knowledge. I needn’t have been. They are all eager to share Wolfe with the world and bring him back into the canon of American literature alongside his contemporaries Fitzgerald and Hemingway. He died so young; who knows what legacy he might have left behind.

Speaking of young, the first person I encountered going to register for the conference was my new friend Savannah Wade, from Asheville, North Carolina. Pay attention to that name, she has a bright future ahead of her. I was so impressed with her varied interests and thirst for knowledge. When I was 23 years old, I wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to get on a Greyhound bus alone and head to an unknown city to meet with anyone! I felt so grown up doing this at age 55. Savannah, now, I can picture writing a work of genius using a refrigerator as a desk. And I can see that she has ways with word soup that I can only dream of.

Savannah
Savannah

And now I must go and dust off the top of my refrigerator. It’s the first time I’ve seen the top of it in a while!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame! (with an interlude at the Musical Instrument Museum)

 

take me out image

People seem surprised to find out I like going to baseball games. I wouldn’t say I am necessarily a baseball fan. I don’t really watch games on television or follow scores or statistics. But I love to go to the ballpark to see a game. There is something special about it that’s hard to describe.

 

 

Plus I love a good costume, and now I have a whole collection of Giants attire. Because I do root for the San Francisco Giants (and sometimes the Atlanta Braves, if they aren’t playing the Giants).

giants.png

 

game day ready
I got game! Well, I got a baseball cap, anyway.

 

purse
If this bag was vegan and less expensive, I’d buy it.

 

And I get an excuse to sing the Journey song Don’t Stop Believin’ at the top of my lungs without people thinking I am crazy.

 

For the third time since Bob and I have been together, we made it to the San Francisco Giants spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona this year. It was a short trip–we flew to Phoenix Monday morning, went to an afternoon game, out to dinner, Tuesday morning at the Musical Instrument Museum, an afternoon game, and home Tuesday night. But what it lacked in time it made up for in fun and sun.

 

spring_650x325

map 1map 2

 

training games

 

Our day 1 game was at Camelback Ranch, ballpark for the Chicago White Sox. Who actually wear black socks. I felt cheated. (Which leads to the question, are you a fan of high socks with the uniform? I am.)

socks
Giants Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey show their socks style.

 

b and g
At the Giants v White Sox. Giants win!

 

It’s really hot in March in Arizona. Really hot. Siri said so.

 

93 degrees

 

 

 

Belt
The closest I managed to get to a well-known player was when Brandon Belt was at bat.

 

Vegans and teetotalers can have a hard time at the ballpark. In the heat, while most everyone else was drinking beer, I really wanted a shaved ice. This is what I ended up with. I realize it is not a color known in nature. It was supposed to be cherry. I think it was sugar and red dye number whatever. But it was cold and I ate it anyway.

IMG_1156

 

After the game, we checked into the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas, a splurge but oh so nice! Thank you Bob for the indulgence!

The first thing I saw in the lobby when we checked in was the ice-cold fruit-infused water. This is one of my new obsessions. I drank about 4 glasses of the concoction while we checked in. Baseball is thirsty work.

 

Our villa suite was amazing. There was even a washer/dryer and a dishwasher! We didn’t stay long enough to enjoy all of the amenities, but it was quite relaxing and comfortable, to say the least.

 

Next day, we hit the Musical Instrument Museum before settling in for the Giants v Padres at the Scottsdale Stadium. As I might have said, when a museum nerd (me) and a music nerd (Bob) travel together, this is where they go.

MIM

I was thinking it would be a small, homey, do-it-yourself place. One of those old-guy-with-a-collection opens his garage kind of things. Was I wrong! This is a beautiful, world-class museum and collection. It is well worth a day or two of wandering and wondering. Athough I was a bit alarmed and amused at the no weapons sign. I’ve never been to a museum that specified this. I didn’t think they needed to.

 

Just a few highlights:

Danish design
One more example of the superior lines of Danish design.

 

The Johnny Cash tribute.

 

One day, I will be that lady banjo player.

 

The 60s. Suit worn by Roger Daltry of The Who. Jimi Hendrix on the monitor.

 

glass orchestra

 

 

Just another visitor trying out the piano in the lobby.

 

 

Apollonia
The Apollonia, in the Mechanical Music Gallery, a 2-ton dance organ.

 

 

I have a whole novel centered around the Apollonia worked up in my head, and it would make a great movie, too. I’ll fill you in in a future blogpost.

Don’t forget to exit through the gift shop!

exit through the gift shop

 

Back to baseball! On to the Scottsdale Stadium, where our seats were a little more in the shade but a lot more behind really tall people. It Genevieve’s Law: the tallest adults at the ballpark (movie, concert, whatever), will have tickets for the seats directly in front of the shortest adult at the ballpark (movie, concert, whatever).

 

tall people
My view.

 

souvenir cup
New souvenir cup to add to my collection.

 

The Giants win again! Then a short trip into old town Scottsdale before heading to the airport.

 

 

I bought a beautiful ring at one of the nicer stores there on a previous visit. But I am clumsy and sometimes forgetful, so I managed to lose the ring. I was hoping to find the same store; they have less-touristy merchandise and less, shall we say, ostentatious designs. Bob was on the case, and lo and behold, the first store he suggested turned out to be the right one! If you are in Scottsdale, check out Scottsdale Jewels on N. Brown Avenue. Don’t be alarmed by the taxidermied bear (okay, be alarmed, but it’s still a nice jewelry store and they aren’t pushy like in the other stores).

IMG_1350
I wish someone had thought of the Don’t Touch idea before killing and stuffing the bear.

A quick flight home, and back to life as usual. Which is a good life all in all.

Baseball season 2017 opening day is Sunday, April 2. I’m not sure when I will get to a game, but I hope to see you there! Go Giants! Peace and hugs from this Giants Girl.

original-3739-6549-17openingdaylogo

Giants girl

 

 

P.S. Another obsession: I saw this dress in the Southwest Airline inflight magazine. I want it. I must have it. I can’t afford it, but maybe I can put my sewing skills to the test and make my own knock-off. Fashion detectives, if you can lead me to any information about this dress, I will  be forever indebted.

the dress

When a Danish Modern Minimalist tries to live with a Whimsical Collector (and they are the same person)

For Christmas, Bob gave me a book titled Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford.

IMG_9817.JPG

The note attached said something like “it will all be okay”. I’ve been stressed out by what I perceive to be chaos and mess in our home. I have always prided myself on being a neat freak, with a tidy home and everything in its place. Apparently I have Benjamin Franklin to thank (or curse) for the saying.

quote-a-place-for-everything-everything-in-its-place-benjamin-franklin-65292

As you may know if you ever read this blog, I not only work full time, but I am working on my Ph.D. full time as well. It’s hard to keep everything in its place when you have deadlines and timeclocks. And some of the things I try to keep in their places are alive: right now my extra bathroom is home to a beautiful momma cat and her 4 lively babies. I foster for the East Bay SPCA, plus we share our home with 3 resident rescue cats and Einstein, the ridiculously cute terrier saved from doggy death row.

img_9814
Foster family Rosarita and her 4 little beans, Fava, Garbanzo, Lima and Lentil.
img_9839
Einstein; just look at that messy face and try not to fall in love.

 

Trying to get everyone to sit still for a family Christmas photo proved impossible.

 

It’s hard to have a houseful of animal companions and not have a certain amount of mess and chaos. Is it a coincidence that one of my other gifts from Bob was the movie The Secret Life of Pets?

 

I adore Danish Modern furniture and home design. I see the clean wood lines and open spaces and think, “That’s where I want to be.” In my minimalist daydreams, I picture kitchens of big empty countertops and gleaming stainless steel.

Cool-Kitchens-by-Neil-Lerner-Designs_29.jpg

And living spaces like Don Draper’s apartment on Mad Men or the Jetson’s sky pad.

mad-men
Don Draper’s New York apartment on Mad Men.

 

If asked, I would say the kitchen I drool after is the set for the Eric Ripert show Avec Eric. It doesn’t hurt that Chef Ripert is drop-dead gorgeous, but that’s beside the point.

eric-ripert-kitchen

This picture of a minimalist home makes me swoon.

alts-design-office-768-sf-japanese-family-small-house-003-600x399
Think of all the reading and writing I could do in this clean, quiet space.
modern-minimalist-home
And the tidy meals we would eat in the dining area.

I think I’d sleep so well in this bedroom, but then I think “where are the dogs and cats?”

minimal-bedroom

My favorite television character of all time is Mr. Monk, played by Tony Shaloub. I identified completely with his dislike of dirt and chaos. Other viewers might think he’s an exaggeration, but I can tell you he’s not.

 

But in reality, I don’t live this clean, ordered life, as much as I’d like to, or think I’d like to. And if I did move into one of these fabulous spaces, I’d probably start assembling one of my little collections of things and cluttering up the space, and bringing home all of the stray dogs and cats in the neighborhood, and loading the kitchen counters up with gadgets and appliances.

I think of the kitchens that look like they have produced not just good food but good times and family togetherness.

cozy-kitchen
This looks like a kitchen where memories are made.
juliachild
Julia Child’s kitchen. She lived a good life.

In my own experience, just recently one of the best times I’ve had was cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my friend Bev in her tiny San Francisco apartment kitchen. The crowd of 12 (15? I lost count) of us sat with our plates on her bed and floor and had a blast.

 

When I finally got my dream trip to Paris a few years ago, the kitchen in our apartment was eclectic country French something-or-other, and it was wonderful. (Note to my vegan friends: I wasn’t vegan yet then so please excuse the cheeses and butter and fish.)

When we went to Oslo a year later, our tiny cabin had a tiny kitchen and even though it was designed for someone 7′ tall, I loved putting together meals there.

 

My whimsical side has always loved the idea of living like the characters in one of my favorite childhood books, The Borrowers. I could fashion furniture out of thimbles and spools of thread and matchboxes and make my own whimsical clothes (a la Stevie Nicks) from scraps and wisps of fabrics.

003-borrowers-emilia-dziubak
The Borrowers, illustration by Emilia Dziubak.
stevie
Stevie Nicks

I love the idea of Hobbit Houses and tiny houses and Steampunk houses.

 

Every time I visit the Berkeley store Castle in the Air, I think I want to live there, with its puppet theaters and doll houses and troll villages.

castles-03

So which is it, less is more or more is more?

less is more.png

In fashion, I admire Coco Chanel and her classic looks.

cc

classic-chic

But I also want to be Stevie Nicks twirling around in my scarves and skirts.

 

Mae West said:

mae-west

But should I take her as a role model? I bet she had a good time and didn’t worry about chaos.

The late fashion designer L’Wren Scott, whose work I only just discovered but find to be quite lovely, said:

sparkles.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 5.31.12 PM.png

I am confused! But that’s okay. 2017 is going to be the year that I embrace disorder and chaos. Tim Harford says it’s okay and will make me more creative and resilient.

messy back cover.JPG

embrace

After all, Einstein (the other one) was a pretty smart guy and he embraced chaos. So here I go, and I plan to enjoy the ride!

einstein-2

Peace and hugs.

We❤️ Van (or, A Weekend in Vancouver, or, I Want to Live in British Columbia)

Last month, Bob and I spent a long weekend in Vancouver. Several times I saw the “We ❤️ Van” motto. It took me a while to figure out that it’s a reminder to recycle. And I hate to admit it took me a while to realize Van refers to Vancouver. Please note that my mother’s second husband’s name was Van and he wasn’t my favorite person on the planet. Every time I saw it I thought of taking a picture and sending it to my siblings with a 🚫 drawn over it. That explains why I was a little slow on the uptake on that one.

We heart Van
It depends which Van you mean.

By the way, can anyone tell me why the Vancouver airport designation is YVA? Just curious.airport

One of the things I love about being in Canada is the positive vibe to everything. Even the street signs and pedestrian crossing lights have a “wow, here’s what you can do” message rather than a “you better not do this” implication.

green circle
Isn’t the green “yes” circle much friendlier than the red “no” circle?

The walkers in Canada clearly have a jauntier air to them than their American counterparts.

jaunty walker
Doesn’t he look like he’s having a good day?

The signage is also clear; it’s a very bicycle friendly city, and to prevent pedestrian/bicycle mishaps, the paths are clearly marked as to who should be on which side of the path. It was very helpful to this pedestrian, who has spent a lot of time at UC Berkeley and UC Davis dodging bicycles.

walk ride
Keeping the traffic polite.

Even the post boxes are more fun and colorful than the boring blue boxes in the US.

mailbox.jpg

I was worried about finding vegan food, but I needn’t have been. The first night, we found a wonderful place, The Acorn, that I wish I could go to every week. Creative and wonderful flavors, like being at Millennium or Sanctuary Bistro in Oakland/Berkeley, but a little quirkier in atmosphere. The beautiful, willowy hostess and wait staff in their flowy black dresses and faint Québécois accents made me feel like I was an American in Paris.

facade 2
S’il vous plaît venir.
cheers
First decision–drinks. I always look for fun non-alcholic drinks, and they had them. Mine is called the Little Bitter. I forget what oddball cocktail Bob picked.

menu 2

But what to eat? It was hard to choose.

specials
The special; two kinds of mushrooms so I’m in!

Pleasantly fed, we went back to our hotel and turned in for a good night’s sleep in preparation for our trip to Granville Island the next day.

vancouver-map-0

To get to Granville Island, we took an aquabus from Hornby Street Dock and headed to face the tourist crowd on a Saturday.

 

bridge 3

The island has a huge public market, art galleries, boutiques, a marina, and oddly, Ocean Concrete, but even that has been transformed by the Brazilian art duo (and twin brothers) Os Gemeos, into a public art project. Take a look at Ocean Concrete.

concrete 3
Ocean Concrete silos, Granville Island.

Scenes at the Public Market:

 

After a day of walking the sea wall and maneuvering through the tourist crowd, we headed back to downtown and set out on a trek for dinner to Yaletown, an old industrial area that is a successful example of urban regeneration.

view

I  had less luck with the vegan food in Yaletown, although I did find vegan chocolate ice cream, so I was happy.

After so much walking, we decided to stay closer to the hotel on Sunday, making the short walk to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Don’t let the name gallery fool you; it’s a world-class museum and currently is showing a Picasso exhibition that I was excited to see.

 

Bob with signs

The Picasso exhibition is sectioned by the 6 women who served as muses during Picasso’s life: Fernand Olivier, Olga Kohklova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque.

picasso_muses_2_3563924b

Fernand Olivier:

 

Olga Kohklova:

Picasso 2a
Head of a Woman (Olga), 1917
Picasso 3a
Portrait de Femme (Olga), 1917

 

Marie-Thérèse Walter:

Picasso 6a
Guitar Hung on a Wall with Profile, 1927
Picasso 7a
Marie-Thérèse’s Face

Dora Maar (you can tell from his portraits of her that they had a volatile relationship):

Pablo and Dora 1
Picasso with Dora, far right.
Picasso 9a
Woman in a Hat with Flowers, 1944
Picasso 11a
Weeping Woman, 1937

 

Françoise Gilot:

Pablo and family 1
Picasso and Françoise with their two children, Claude and Paloma.
Picasso 12a
Françoise, 1946
Picasso 13a
Claude et Paloma, 1950
Picasso 14a
Femme assise, 1947

 

Jacqueline Roque:

Pablo and Jacqueline 1
Pablo and Jacqueline, 1957

One of my favorite sections of the exhibition was the video loop playing of Picasso painting on glass with filmmaker Paul Haesaerts filming from the other side, made in 1949.

But wait, there’s more! There were also wonderful exhibitions to see of the streetscapes of photographer Harry Callahan, photographer Steve Waddell, text art by Barbara Kruger, an historic look back at Canadian artist Emily Carr, and a moving exhibition by Bharti Kher, a female artist in India whose work was a revelation to me.

Callahan:

Waddell:

Kruger:

Carr and Paalen:

Bharti Kher:

IMG_6755

 

Tired? Hungry? Let’s visit the cafe! It’s one of the better (and lovelier) museum cafes I’ve been to, and they had vegan options!

vegan soup and cookie
Vegan soup and cookie, thank you!
flower water
Flower petal water.
cafe patio 2
The cafe patio.

 

All refreshed, we then headed for a walk to Stanley Park, a gem of the city.

Lord Stanley 1
Lord Stanley himself.

I want to live in the park restaurant.

I had a much needed coffee. Bob happily tried the beer.

Bob

Back to hotel for a rest. Finally, the traditional feet picture!

feet 2

A last dinner at the restaurant Notch8 in the Hotel Georgia, a beautiful hotel that if you have to ask how much a room costs, you can’t afford it. We did not stay there but in the Metropolitan next door. I especially liked the Art Deco architecture of the vestible.

 

Sadly, we had to leave this beautiful city and head back to our real lives. But I can dream. Someday I’ll get back there. Look for me under the sign of the diva, or on board the little houseboat of my dreams.

Diva

yellow boat1

A Short Trip to the Kitsap Peninsula

Our holiday travels this year consisted of a 2-day trip to the coast of Western Washington, specifically, the Kitsap Peninsula.

Kitsap Pen
The Kitsap Peninsula, Washington

There was a reason for this trip other than needing a getaway after a very busy year. Bob’s brother Jack, planning ahead for retirement, bought a parcel of land outside of Belfair, on the Hood Canal. He’d been there in nicer weather and wanted to see it in the winter. When he asked us if we wanted to tag along on a short trip, of course we said yes! I love the Pacific Northwest, and have my own daydreams of settling in that part of the country. So we packed our carry-on bags and headed out, flying in to Seattle.

Diva
Seattle, you’ve got my number.

The rental 4-wheel drive SUV (I hate SUVs but in this case it seemed prudent), skillfully piloted by Bob, got us out of Seattle and over to the peninsula, where it was snowing! I grew up mostly in Georgia and California, so any amount of snow strikes me as wondrous and beautiful. And cold and wet, best viewed from indoors or on Christmas cards.

snow pan

snow person
Of course I had to build a snow person!

This is an area with a much larger population in the summer; in the winter off-season it is very quiet. Which is fine with me! But it would be fun to spend some time here in the summer too.

boys 2
The living room windows will face the canal view, thataway.
footprints
I was hoping for animal tracks, but all I saw were my own.

moss

The route for the next day: morning in Poulsbo, then to Bainbridge Island, and finally the ferry back to Seattle for a night in the city.

Poulsbo is a charming town on Liberty Bay. Its historic downtown, referred to as Little Norway, is popular with summer tourists. On the way in, make sure and stop to see the 12-foot tall Norseman who stands at the intersection that leads into town.

Norseman
Velkommen

First things first (well, second; seeing the Norseman was first), the search for coffee. I was not dissappointed. Viking Brew to the rescue!

sleep when dead
And it tastes so good!

A very welcoming town, Poulsbo, and quite proud of it’s Norwegian heritage.

velkommen

 

ship mural

 

Thor
The hammer part would scare me if I were interested in getting a tattoo. Which I am not.

Poulsbo 1885

And there is the beautiful view of the bay and a quite large marina.

Poulsbo pan
Winter on Liberty Bay at Poulsbo.
JJs Fish House
This guy outside of J.J.’s Fish House did nothing to change my mind about being vegan!

Next up, Bainbridge Island, a place I’ve wanted to see for a while. Winslow Way seemed to be the main drag and center of all things commercial.

Bainbridge sign

I’m not sure what the deal with frogs is, but like Chicago has its cows, San Francisco has its hearts, and Atlanta has its peaches, Bainbridge Island has its frogs.

I’m honestly not much of a shopper, but I can say shopping opportunities abound! We did make our way into a travel store, which included a great book section. I had no idea you could get Dr. Seuss in French. What happens with the anapestic tetrameter in which he wrote when translated?

cest bon
Smart kids on Bainbridge Island!

We also made our way into one of the many art galleries, Roby King Galleries, to look at their show of contemporary works based on Alice in Wonderland in honor of its 150th anniversary. Some fun, some weird, some a little scary.

Alice
Alice, by Helene Wilder

The highlight was a visit to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, a really beautiful space with several well-curated exhibitions on view.

Bainbridge Art

The first exhibition you enter, on the ground level, is Steven Maslach: New Light. Maslach does amazing things with glass and color. The museum space, with its light, open spaces, makes a good backdrop for his work.

ladder on fire
Steven Maslach, Ladder on Fire, 2014, hot cast glass with color filters, wood, steel base
kitsap boat
Steven Maslach, Kitsap Longboat, 2006, life cast hands, hot cast glass, steel base

I was particularly struck by the display of his casting jacket and the burned arm; I am in awe of people who work with the heat and fire of glass.

Also on the ground floor is Nancy Thorne Chambers: A Story Place, a whimisical ceramic installation that I found to be quite lovely and nostalgia-provoking. I was transported back to a childhood of reading books like The Wind in the Willows and my lifelong love of books and animals.

story place 3

Moving upstairs, the group exhibition Thought Patterns features regional artists working in an array of media but with a commonality of working in patterns and repetition.

museum general view

Some of my favorites:

waterfall
Jane Sekiguchi, 2014, Waterfall, scroll cut engineered wood, enamel
cantinas panel label
Julia Haack, Cantiñas Panel, 2014, latex paint and salvaged wood
mojave mattress
Julia Haack, Mojave Mattress, 2005, fabric over wood and metal
wilting
Peggy Smith-Venturi, Wilting, 2012, artist’s book

The most beautiful exhibition, to my eye, is the gallery of artist’s books. As an art form, these can be difficult to display and interpret for an audience. They can best be understood up close and personal (i.e., by handling) but are too fragile and vulnerable to allow this kind of contact. I think the specially fitted gallery allows for close viewing, safe exhibition, and a quiet, reflective space befitting this kind of collection. The particular exhibition on this visit: Artist’s Books: Chapter 6: Regarding nature…or disregarding it (Collection of Cynthia Sears).

The introductory wall includes this painting that a book-loving girl can’t bypass.

girl with raised hands
Jeff Weekley, Girl with Raised Hands, oil on cradled wood panel

artists books roomartists books 1artists books 5artists books 2

And as at all well-run museums, please exit through the gift shop!

yoga elephants
How could I resist the Yoga Elephants???

There is a children’s museum next door that looks quite fun, but no time to stop other than for a bit of silliness.

silliness

Time for the ferry to Seattle.

seattle from the ferry
The approach to Seattle from Bainbridge Island.

We made it to the University District, but given that it’s winter break, not a lot was happening there. But the Hotel Deca was quite nice.

 

For dinner, we headed over to the Wallingford neighborhood, which reminded me a little of the East Bay with its Craftsman Homes. Through the guidance of Open Table, Bob found the restaurant Tilth, one of the restaurants of executive chef and James Beard award winner Maria Hines.

tilth sign
Tilth, New American cuisine, 1411 N. 45th Street, Seattle.

I don’t drink, but Bob was intrigued by the craft cocktail menu. I had a sarsparilla soda, which I didn’t know was a thing outside of cowboy movies. Bob’s not a vegan; he said the fish dishes were excellent.

tilth hot toddy

I was pleased to see a vegan tasting menu. That’s not easy to find! I had the vegan cassoulet; it was delicious, smoky and mushroomy. And for dessert we shared the vegan cashew “cheesecake” with cranberry compote and pomegranate.

 

All good things must come to an end (must they, really?), so we were up early the next morning to get to the Seattle airport and home. I had no idea it got so cold in Seattle!

seattle 7am
The University District of Seattle at 7 a.m. in late December.
seattle frost
What is this frost on the windshield business?
airport flying fish
Follow the flying fish to your gate at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

And now we are home, and it’s 2016. How did that happen? Happy New Year, everyone!

 

 

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…Chicago, part 2, the Art Institute

Warning: this is going to be a long post! But it will mostly be photos. If a picture paints a thousand words and you are at an art museum…

Founded in 1879 as both a museum and a school for the fine arts, the Art Institite of Chicago’s permanent home was built in 1893 at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street as a joint effort with the City of Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exhibition. The collection of the Art Institute of Chicago encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world and contains more than 260,000 works of art. The museum holds works of art ranging from early Japanese prints to modern American art. It is principally known for one of the United States’ finest collection of paintings produced in Western culture. It is the second largest museum in the United States, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The AIC in 1893.
The AIC in 1893.

AIC map

The AIC in 2015.
The AIC in 2015.

That building still serves as the entryway, flanked by the bronze lions sculpted by Edward Kemeys. commissioned as a gift from Mrs. Henry Field (Florence Lathrop Field).  While their official designations are the North Lion and the South Lion, Kemeys referred to them as On the Prowl (North) and Stands in Attitude of Defiance (South). Since all I knew about Chicago before this visit was from the John Hughes movies of the 1980s, I, of course, first saw them in the iconic AIC visit scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

On the Prowl (North)
On the Prowl (North)
In an Attitude of Defiance (South)
In an Attitude of Defiance (South)

FBDO

Ferris, Sloane,and Cameron approach the AIC
Ferris, Sloane,and Cameron approach the AIC

Despite my mission of taking a Ferris photo in front of the impressionist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Suerat, I did allow myself to enjoy an exhibit on Chicago architectural history outside of the Impressionist Galleries.

overview overview 2 flw adler sullivan flw detail label

And then my Ferris Bueller moment, finally!

Ferris clip 1
Cameron with the Seurat
my moment
Me with the Seurat

I am not the only one who bases museum visits on pop cultural references; the museum has a handout on how to do the Ferris Bueller tour of the museum!

tour 1 tour 2

My second mission was to visit the Thorne miniature rooms, which I know from the beautiful book that was a gift from Robert Ward after he visited the miniature rooms and knew it was a collection that I would love. From the AIC website: “The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.”

The rooms are very difficult to get good pictures of as they are behind glazing (understably; I would be able to resist touching!). An overview of the gallery:

overview 2 panel 1 panel 2

Here are just a few of my favorites; I apologize for the poor quality of the images.

English bedchamber
English bedchamber
A selfie in front of an English linrary
A selfie in front of an English library
French Modern (1930s)
French Modern (1930s)
New Mexico kitchen
New Mexico kitchen
California Living circa 1935-1940
California Living circa 1935-1940
California Modern circa 1940
California Modern circa 1940

Traversing the museum, you go through the art and cultures of the world.

China, Equestrienne, Tang Dynasty, 8th century
China, Equestrienne, Tang Dynasty, 8th century
India, Shiva as Lord of the Dance, circa 1000
India, Shiva as Lord of the Dance, circa 1000
India, Twenty-Armed Dancing God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, 11th century
India, Twenty-Armed Dancing God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, 11th century
Japan, Shukongojin, 12th-14th centuries
Japan, Shukongojin, 12th-14th centuries
Byzantine, northern Syria, Mosaic fragment with leopard, 450-500
Byzantine, northern Syria, Mosaic fragment with leopard, 450-500

rome 2 rome 2 panel

Some of the “Greatest Hits” at the AIC:

The American Windows, Marc Chagall, dedicated 1977
The American Windows, Marc Chagall, dedicated 1977
American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930
American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

I was particularly drawn to a selection of works by one of my favorite painters, Georgia O’Keeffe, in the Paul and Gabriella Rosenbaum Gallery, a gallery dedicated to Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz.  O’Keeffe studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago beginning in 1905.

Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy, 1928
Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy, 1928
Red Hills with Flowers, 1937
Red Hills with Flowers, 1937
Red and Pink Rocks and Teeth, 1938
Red and Pink Rocks and Teeth, 1938
Cow's Skull with Calico Roses, 1931
Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses, 1931
Blue and Green Music, 1921
Blue and Green Music, 1921
Black Cross, New Mexico,1929
Black Cross, New Mexico, 1929

And now, for a few things that I call Weird and Creepy for lack of a better description.

Statue of a Young Satyr Wearing a Theater Mask of Silenos, Roman, 1st century AD
Statue of a Young Satyr Wearing a Theater Mask of Silenos, Roman, 1st century AD

architectural creepy kid

Ivan Albright, Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944 (painted for the 1945 movie adaptation)
Ivan Albright, Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944 (painted for the 1945 movie adaptation)
Ivan Albright, Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929-1930
Ivan Albright, Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929-1930

And the final category, which I call Things I Like.

Auguste Préault, Le Silence, 1842-1843
Auguste Préault, Le Silence, 1842-1843
Jean-Auguste Barre, Mary of Burgundy, circa 1840
Jean-Auguste Barre, Mary of Burgundy, circa 1840

I was thinking Mary of Burgundy seemed like a kick-ass kind of gal, but then I read on the label that this sculpture depicts her in the moment before her tragic and fatal fall.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Interrupted Reading, circe 1870
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Interrupted Reading, circa 1870
John Bradley Storrs, Ceres, 1928
John Bradley Storrs, Ceres, 1928
Turkey, linen cover, 17th century
Turkey, linen cover, 17th century
Eastern Iran or Afghanistan, Incense burner in the form of a lion, 11th century
Eastern Iran or Afghanistan, Incense burner in the form of a lion, 11th century
Charles Ray, Silver, 2015
Charles Ray, Silver, 2015

And, of course, we exit through the gift shop! Yes, money was spent.

shop 1 shop 2

That concludes our whirlwind tour of the Art Institute of Chicago. Still to come: The Chicago Cultural Center, the Palmer House, and more!

Chicago, My Kind of Town, Part 1–Millennium Park

I finally made my first trip to Chicago (to the actual city, not to change planes at O’Hare Airport) weekend before last, and had a wonderful time! The amazing Robert Ward arranged for my air travel so I could meet him there and attend his performance with the National Brass Ensemble at the Chicago Symphony Center on September 20, 2015. More on that in a later post!

map CSC symphony-center-56 the concert performers

We stayed at the very lovely Palmer House Hotel (more on that in a later post, too). The ubiquitous selfie:

selfie Palmer

Since Bob was in rehearsals all day Saturday and Sunday morning, I went solo adventuring to Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Cultural Center. This part focuses on Millennium Park; there are several more Chicago posts to come!

My friend Debra sent the enigmatic message SEE THE BEAN. I had no idea what this meant; code for something sinister? But my other friend Google quickly got me sorted out on that, and I headed off to Millennium Park, just a short walk from the hotel and on my way to the Art Institute of Chicago. The park comprises 24 acres that cover the former rail yard and parking lot of the Illinois Central Railroad, and was established as a joint public/private partnership to celebrate the passage of the second millennium. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, attractions include the music pavilion (Pritzker Pavilion) designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, the Crown Fountain designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, and Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), by artist Anish Kapoor. This sculpture, in the AT&T plaze area of the park, is made up of 168 welded stainless plates, highly polished with no visible seams. Given that it measures 33 x 66 x 42 feet and is extremely reflective, it is hard to miss!

Maps of Millennium Park:

Map 1 map Millennium Park Map

Pritzker Pavilion:

pritzker 1

Cloud Gate (The Bean):

bean 2 bean 1

The Crown Fountain, whose walls show an interchanging gallery of 1000 LED portraits of Chicago residents:

plensa 4 plensa 5

Also on display in the park are additional sculputes by Plensa on loan from the artist and Richard Gray Gallery; the exhibition is entitled 1004 Portraits, referring to the 1,000 of the Crown Fountain now complemented by an additional 4: the 39-foot tall resin and marble dust sculpture Look into My Dreams, Awilda that graces the entrance to the park:

plensa 6

And the 3 cast iron sculptures Paula, Laura, and Ines that are each 20 feet tall and to the east of the Crown Fountain:

Plensa 1 Plensa 2 plensa 3

There are also other displays through the park, such as this photographic display of the history of the park:

park history display park history display label

And as one would expect, there are the more traditional park features and views:

fountain view

I could have spent the whole day taking in the beauty of the park; it is remarkably well-kept, with beautiful lawns and flower beds. Coming from the drought-plagued dry, brown hills of California, it was indeed a sight for sore eyes. There seems to be a lot of Chicago civic pride in their jewel of a city park, right in the Loop and easily accessible to everyone. But the Art Institute of Chicago was beckoning!

Next up: Ferris Bueller Had it Right (the Art Institute of Chicago)

Six Days in Seattle

After much agonizing over saving for a rainy day versus following my heart, I decided to go for it and head to Seattle and start a doctoral program. I am intimidated by the sound of it myself; I am starting on a PhD in Organizational Systems, emphasis Humane Education. I am not sure where my research will take me at this point, but I know I want to look at animal sheltering, animal welfare, animal agriculture and farm sanctuary among other possible topics. The program, through Saybrook University, requires all new students to attend a residential orientation conference for two days, followed by a residential program attended by all of the students, new and continuing. I am in Seattle for a total of 6 days at the lovely Cedarbrook Lodge. Today is Day 4, and we have a little free time (a little).

Of course, before I could leave Oakland, we had to say goodbye to foster kitten Abracadabra. She had gained enough weight to go back to the shelter for spaying and vaccinations to go out to the adoption center and find her new family. Good luck little Abby! It was hard to say goodbye.

Abby

I am an anxious traveler, and don’t travel alone that often, so this felt like I was going on a big adventure. I checked in at the Alaska Airlines counter in the International Terminal of San Francisco International Airport and had to go through the misery that is security screening with a very many international travelers even though my flight was domestic; it took quite a long time. But the International Terminal is quite nice otherwise. This mural is before you hit security. You might not love California quite as much afterward.

ILY

There is quite a lot of art in the airport, from wall murals to changing exhibitions. Some of my favorite murals were Joyce Hsu’s Namoo House:

Hsu 2 Hsu label

Enrique Chagoya’s Love Letters:

Chagoya Chagoya label

And Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s Waiting:

Sultan Mandel Sultan Mandel labl=el

After a coffee (why does soy milk cost 75 cents more than regular at a coffee place?), I headed to my gate. Right across the aisle was a flight for Paris. Too bad the conference isn’t there! Seattle is a nice place, so I went to my correct line and didn’t try to sneak on the Paris flight.

Paris Seattle sign

How civilized; there are charging stations at every seat on the Alaska Airlines flight. All planes should have these.

seat outlet

On arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and, dare I say, pretty, the airport is. Even the bathroom is pleasing to the eye! And you can rate the cleanliness; it was “smiley face” clean.

bathroom art bathroom rating

Everything was so well signed and accessible that I had my bag at baggage claim and was on the Cedarbrook shuttle in what seemed a matter of minutes. The lodge is remarkably close to the airport but it is anything but your traditional airport hotel. You feel like you are miles from everything!

Cedarbrook door Cedarbrook grounds 1

I decided to pay for the luxury and ease of dinner the the lodge’s Copperleaf Restaurant. I am not used to eating in restaurants alone, so I took a book (Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things), but I was too busy taking pictures and eating delicious food to get much reading done.

Cedarbrook dining Museum

I was intrigued by the table decorations; a frog riding a snail was the best. They sell them in the lodge’s gift shop. Might have to get one!

giddyup snail

The conference started bright and early the next morning. Signed in, got my agenda and name tag, and tried not to get any more anxious than I already was.

agenda student Day 1

It’s been a jam-packed few days but I have learned a lot, made a whole new group of friends, and been inspired to affirm that I made the right decision.  And 6 days at the lodge is not a bad thing! There is even a piano in the business center.

Cedarbrook room 1 Cedarbrook piano Cedarbrook grounds 2

Last night was the graduation ceremony for the 2015 graduates. It was very inspiring and I covet the velvet sash that I too will wear if I play my cards right (well, if I work hard).

graduates graduation graduation flowers

I am exhausted, overwhelmed, apprehensive, inspired, excited…but this is an amazing and supportive group of faculty and students and we are all on each others’ sides. I will be glad to head home on Tuesday evening, but I will also be sad to leave this amazing learning community to start doing the distance education work. That’s the plus side of social media–we can all keep in touch and keep our community going even thought we are spread around the country (and globe). Still smiling!

student Day 2