Thursday, June 30, 2016

dawn (front of the house, back of the house)

It was well worthwhile getting out of bed very early this morning (and not just to find out that Michael Gove had stabbed Boris J firmly and squarely between the shoulder blades).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

stray corners of santa fe

On Monday night, my father said something to me that nonplussed me: he had no idea, he said, what Santa Fe looked like.  Yes, under pressure, he admitted knowing what the view from our house looked like (dawn, sunset, thunderstorm) - but not what the city itself was like.  So - one of my missions this summer is to make sure that he does have a clearer idea (my mother, much more internet savvy, and in conscious possession of a book called Santa Fe Houses, seemed to think this lack of visual knowledge was as strange as I did).  But here we go: this is the School of Advanced Research, where a USC colleague was giving a talk this lunchtime - and I'd never before been inside its completely stunning grounds.

Oh, and he also asked who "Fe" was - as if he or she were a relative of Claus.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

leaving England

... in the very early morning: I'm now back in New Mexico.  It was a quintessential mid-summer's morning: thin golden sunlight; a little dew; plenty of roses in my parents' garden.  And yet - the England that I left isn't the England in which I arrived.  It's a country stifled by its own xenophobia, anxiety, nostalgia, narrow idealism, and deplorable, pathetic, lamentable naivete.   This isn't true, of course, of almost all my friends (indeed, probably all my friends) - but this is at least part of the compound that makes me deeply, deeply sad that, barring miracles, I won't go back to a place that I love and find it much, much smaller and sadder.  Nostalgia isn't just the prerogative of those older people for whom now - if one's to believe social media - no one much is prepared, any longer, to stand up on the Tube.  It belongs to those of us who cheered all the ways in which the Britain of June 2016 is emphatically not the Britain of - say - 1967, when we were clambering out of post-war greyness, and when Charles de Gaulle was delivering his emphatic "non."  I'm still finding last week's result hard to process in its emotional ramifications, let alone its political ones.

Monday, June 27, 2016

tennis windows and musical ephemera

At this time of the year, the shop windows in Wimbledon Village burst into yellow and white, and green/purple/white (the tennis championship colors) decorations.  Unfortunately, my camera battery gave out after I'd captured just one or two - too busy using it earlier in the BL, mostly to take pictures of rag-picking machinery, but also, in hunting down the "Shoddy Polka" and the "Shoddy Ball" and the "Shoddy Galop," taking pictures of some other magnificent pieces of sheet-music ephemera.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

fun fair (aka carnival?)

When I was small - let's say, between the ages of 7 and 11 - I loved the annual visit of the fun fair to Wimbledon Common, sometime in mid-June.  Now it seems to be held on two consecutive weekends.  So, for Old Times' Sake, I went back for the first time in decades.  It still smelt the same - crushed grass, oily generators, and candy floss.  The music was identical - My Girl Lollipop - or generically similar (YMCA).  There seemed to be more rides and fewer stalls where you threw things at yellow plastic ducks, and no stalls at all where you rolled ping pong balls down chutes, or threw them into goldfish bowls (with prize being a live goldfish in a precarious, slightly leaky plastic bag), or lined them up in the sights of an air rifle.

But the general sense of raunchiness was still there, on the dodgems, on the Waltzer.  Gone was my favorite ride, which had imitation motorbikes on an undulating, fast-rotating track; gone was the big roundabout with the painted ponies.  But I still envied the cool-looking, tight-jeaned, casually balancing and spinning guys who man the rides - that was a job, when I was 10, that I hugely wanted for myself ...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

a very English party, attended by the 48%

To Godalming, for my cousin Peter's 60th birthday party.  What could be more English that those strawberries and cream, the red checkered wicker basket liners?  And yes, those are a couple of cats on top of the cake - it runs in the family.  You'll see that it's sunny ...

... but it wasn't sunny all of the time: nothing says an English Garden Party like a damp tent, steam/smoke from the barbecue, and the smell of wet grass (my cousin Jon in the foreground).
The talk, nonetheless, was very much of Brexit, our horror at Brexit, the difficulties for anyone with jobs that involve engagement with Europe, the position of one of my second cousins' Spanish partner, our sense of shame/embarrassment (yes, that's very British, too), as well as anger.  And we want to know where we can obtain "We are the 48%" badges.  Something, too, that floated through the air were the many rumors of friends-of-friends who voted Out as a protest vote, never dreaming that the Leave campaign would win: it would be fascinating to know whether this is a real widespread phenomenon, or a (sub)urban myth. 

To conclude: the birthday boy ... Happy Birthday (on Thursday), Peter!

Friday, June 24, 2016

the day after

This says it all: a remain flier, crumpled, and in a drain;

flags from a Remain party that people who live opposite my parents had yesterday (yes, I can see that's a Norwegian flag);

the dismal sight of the newspapers at LHR when I flew in this morning, after a long, long night of on-line watching;

the poster at a local church (always good with its posters), bringing the referendum and Wimbledon Tennis together;

and, well, Englishness.

I'm still processing the whole thing, because there are so many moving parts behind the Brexit vote.  It's brought out very, very plainly the two-nation character of this country - or the several-nation, given that Scotland may well vote for independence down the road: this was in very large part a Trumpish revolt against what's perceived as ruling-class arrogance and Experts (but then - factor in the paradox of both David Cameron and Boris Johnson being Old Etonians).  There's the globalized wonder and delight that is contemporary London, versus, broadly speaking, the rest of England, apart from university towns and their hinterlands (and no, NYT, Newcastle on Tyne is not "a university town" - that's a bit like calling Detroit a "college town.")  The voting stats show very clearly that the lower people's level of educational achievement, the less likely they were to vote Remain.  And the older they are, the more likely to vote Brexit.  To be sure, there's a good deal of nostalgia for familiarity there.  My parents are good (and educated) examples, I fear: they want to be able to buy vegetables in pounds and ounces again, not in kilograms (and my mother needed to be put straight that the EEC hadn't been responsible for making us adopt decimal currency).  My father voiced his disdain for having decisions that impact the UK "imposed" by numerous (foreign) bureaucrats in Brussels.  So the slogan of "Take Back (Democratic) Control" has a lot of resonance.  But then - there's a nasty, small minded, angry nationalistic component to all this - easy enough to see that this comes from de-industrialization, and lack of local opportunities (as well as resentment against, say, Eastern European vegetable harvesters) - with no realization, seemingly, of EU subsidies that cushion some of this economic woe.  And it's this component that is going, I fear, to feed fires within Europe (as well as the US).

And so much more.  I'm exhausted, but more thoughts will follow - because there are, as I say, so many other pieces in motion.  And yes, it's all emotional in a very visceral way - my own relationship to my own country, to Englishness and European-ness, has just received a big bad jolt.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A hopeful dawn ...

- well, hopeful-ish, when I left the house this morning ...  Greetings from DFW, waiting to get the flight to LHR - charging up all electrical devices, and hoping that the promised wi-fi on board may work (it doesn't, all that often) and that I won't have to wait until landing to see what's happening in the UK.  I'm reading all the Live Reports and trying to second-guess what they all mean (other than that a number of you may be very very wet today) ... 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

a failed Remain mission - and a scary tale of air travel

I'm still in New Mexico.  This was not the plan.  By now, I should be just boarding at DFW, ready to catch a plane to England, ready to go to the polling station.  But.  If Remain loses by one vote, here's the story.  The Warrior Woman sculpture at Santa Fe airport - inappropriate, indeed.

I booked to fly to DFW - for the flight to LHR - from Santa Fe Airport, because, frankly, it was about $350 cheaper than through Albuquerque - and at over $2,000 for a flight back to the UK this summer, that mattered.  And - Santa Fe is this sweet little one-gate airport.  And it's local, obviously.  And I'd allowed for lots of in-between time at DFW in case of delays (or for adult refreshments in the airline lounge ...).  So ... the incoming plane was an hour late (functioning a/c in a sweet little one gate airport would be nice, but I'm fussy, like the rest of the increasingly antsy passengers).  We board. We take off.  We learn from the flight attendant that this was a substitute plane for one that had "had a problem with a handle."  It soon becomes clear - as we circle and circle in a stormy sky somewhere between Santa Fe and Albuquerque - that this plane has a rather more serious problem - one of its wing flaps is stuck.  Pilot tells us he might go back to Santa Fe; we might go to Albuquerque.  I ask if we can put this to the vote (bear in mind this is a small, 30 passengers on board plane), which gets a nervous laugh.  Pilot, though, doesn't think he can get us to Albuquerque - so we turn round and fly, very low, up the Rio Grande valley back to Santa Fe (at which point we start to notice the plane that's accompanying us, like a guide dog - and all the fire trucks racing towards the airport to welcome our emergency landing).  We land safely (or, I guess, I wouldn't be writing this).

And now, sweet little one-gate airport?  The two ticket desk operators have gone home - but they're scrambled back to deal with us.  No chance of flying out tonight - even if there was some miraculous working plane - TSA have gone home, too.  Then we're told we can't re-book yet, because AA has us all as having departed - flown - used our tickets.  That takes a while to sort out.  

And the upshot is?  I'm flying tomorrow - on a flight (from Albuquerque, in the first instance) that gets into LHR around 6.30 a.m. on Friday.  Not only do I not get to vote - but all the drama will be more or less over, I guess, by the time I land.  I feel devastated that all my Carefully Planned Plans have gone haywire.

And I will never, if humanly possible, use Santa Fe airport again.  It's not their fault, of course, that the wing flap refused to flap - but there is absolutely no back up system if things go wrong.  So, basically, if Remain needs that one vote - blame -  well, blame someone or something, in this tale.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Karli's talk - Rebecca Salsbury James

One of the real pleasures of the O'Keeffe is hearing everyone give a public lecture.  Today it was Karli Wurzelbacher's turn, and she did a terrific job talking about Rebecca Salsbury James, glass painting, and her use of South West traditions.  For my part, I realized how hard it is to get the exposure right, at a distance, for both speaker and screen ...

solstice moon

Not exactly strawberry pink, alas - but all the same, looking quite good as I flew out of LAX this evening.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

briefly home

Even if I'm back in Los Angeles for barely a day; even though it was 104 degrees here in Los Feliz when I rolled up this afternoon; even though the reason for my return is a semi-urgent dental appointment - it's still terrific to be back.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

getting up early

... means that one sees the sun coming in on the flowers on one's kitchen windowsill.  Otherwise ... it would have been images of spring cleaning?  Everyone does their spring cleaning in June, don't they?  #feelingvirtuousandorganized ....

Friday, June 17, 2016

why some of this summer's flowers may look familiar

No, I'm not talking about the ones in our back yard ... but at the O'Keeffe Research Center, the entire green and leafy gardens are planted with plants that feature in her paintings.  The grounds are beautifully tended: it's a daily treat to go arrive and see what's come into bloom.  The intense heat of the last couple of days has meant that where, at the beginning of the week, there were masses of green stalks, there are now lilies everywhere.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

catalpa and crow

All around the O'Keeffe Research Center, huge catalpa trees are in bloom.  These are the trees that, by fall, will be covered in long stringy seed pods drooping down - but these huge bunches of white blossom are what precedes them, and they are magnificent, and consoling, on a day in which the news coming out of England is too horrible to believe.  For me, there's the extra twist that Jo Cox was the MP for the area that my mother's side of the family came from, so all the images, all the accents, are painfully familiar.  Catalpa trees - like an American parallel to the candle blossoms of horse chestnut trees - seem to accentuate the sense of distance, although they're also undeniably beautiful. And yet - how real is the distance?  This seems like international fear and bigotry; Trumpism and Brexit; guns and guns.  But at the same time, there's still the sense of disbelief for me, at any rate, that an American style gun crime takes place in broad daylight outside Birstall library.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

los Van Van in Santa Fe!

Tonight, to hear Los Van Van at the Santa Fe Brewing Company - Los Van Van are probably the best known post-revolution Cuban band (if you were thinking that's the Buena Vista Social Club - though that essentially was formed in the 1990s, it contained musicians who'd played at the Club back in the 40s, and played - and plays (I heard one of their incarnations in Havana last year) fairly traditional Cuban/Latino music).  Los Van Van are something else - Cuban music, much Afro-Cuban percussion, 60s rock (they've been going since the late 60s), disco, funk, salsa, songo, timba -absolutely distinct; great dance music; political lyrics (and I heard them having a discussion with people near the stage along the lines of "¿Estás a favor de Bernie ? ¿Y estás a favor de Hillary ? ¿Igualmente?")  All of this with the sun going down over New Mexico, excellent beer, and food from the Jamba Cafe truck - and a very mixed ethnicity/age crowd - it was a great small-town occasion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

not the Dodgers (and fennel)

Tonight, a baseball game!  The Santa Fe Fuegos vs. the Roswell Invaders (what else would they be called?) - in the Southern Division of the Pecos League.  This is a "Professional League," though I'm not sure what the definition of "professional" is - the weekly salary averages $50 a player, which isn't a whole lot... Tonight's game was sponsored by the O'Keeffe Museum, and was a museum employee Event - and it made even a slow, slow game of cricket in the Parks look dynamic.  I didn't do my customary homework beforehand (too busy preparing and giving a lunchtime talk), or I'd have known beforehand that the Fuegos are dismally at the bottom of the league.  Tonight they lost 10-4 - we could have prophesised that, so escaped at the end of the 4th to Harry's - which seems to be growing a fennel forest.  This was so beautiful that I think I'm going to plant fennel seeds all over the garden ...

the frustrations of the internet (for June 13th)

This is what I posted to Facebook late yesterday evening:

A tangled mess. Read as a metaphor, if desired. The tidy part is below the desk, where the cables and the shiny new Xfinity equipment refuses to work. So no Forms Traced By Light until tomorrow, since there's no internet. Given the state of the world, that seems a petty thing to complain about.

This morning, after forty minutes on the phone to Comcast, and much patient waiting (and much impatient waiting, as well), it works.  Phew.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

rodent art (and, today, the importance of the ordinary)

I was none too please today to reach down to a box of Kleenex on the floor on the passenger side, and to find that - well, it's been seriously chewed.  I hope the micies aren't making a nest in the engine: they tend to chew things.  I suppose one might call this Roden(t) Crater.

And here's another in my occasional series of egg photos, cooling off hard boiled eggs with ice.  No, no pun.  Rather, it's a kind of visual metaphor for fragility and life: the ease of cracking, splitting, melting.  Or: today's events make one reflect on the precious nature of the ordinary (like chewed tissues, like the beauty of eggs and ice), and the ease with which it can be shattered and taken away. This, of course, is precisely the powerful weapon that terrorists use to create fear, although I'm less than sure that today's horrible shooting counts as terrorism in that planned sense: rather, a hate crime carried out by a crazed bigot, claiming extra significance, as it were, for his action under the mantle of terrorism because in some way it made his hatred seem sanctioned, justified.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

new street art in santa fe

Two very constrasting pieces, within fifty feet or so of each other ... the top one is on the side of Warehouse 21, where the terrific wheatpaste portraits of Santa Fe teenagers were until recently - these were by Anne Staveley, and I think that she had a hand in this new work, too, but I scooted past the notice too quickly to register with whom (too anxious to get to the tamales from Nambe in the Farmers' Market before they were sold out ... but I was frustrated, since - the woman behind the stall told me - her grandmother just wasn't getting round to making them at the moment since she's been too busy in her garden.  Alas, because these are the best tamales possible, and well worthwhile getting up at the crack of dawn for).

And then, on the way back from the market (you may remember the little devils from last year) - Cash for Your Warhol.  I so love this!  It's the installation brainchild of Geoff Hargadon - here's a great piece about the project in, no less, the Warholian (as his site shows, under "Press," plenty of other features about the project, too).  But, even though it's been going 5 years or so, this is the first time that I've encountered one of the actual signs, made, of course, by the same people who make the Cash for Houses signs, etc, and playing on post-recession panic.  Santa Fe is a pretty good place to make people uncertain about what's true and false, when it comes to flogging a surplus Warhol that one might have hanging around the place.

Friday, June 10, 2016

downward cat

After Walter Gomez's adventures into the world of acupuncture yesterday, today he decided that it was time to investigate yoga.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

the after-effects of acupuncture

Today was the day that Alice took both Walter Gomez and LucyFur to the local vet who practices acupuncture (not together.  Their sustained feuding underlay the need for some - any - remedy to be found. We single-handed, or multi-pawed, keep Feliway in business).  This is Walter's response, on coming home (the little Buddha in the background seems kind of appropriate).  He was told that he had Hot Energy - I guess he's cooling down.  I doubt - the vet doubts - that this will produce sudden harmony in the peaceable kingdom.  She thinks that Lucy may be suffering from PTSD - brought on by the advent of Kittens four years ago.  But what was very good (and I wished that I could have been there myself) was the vet spending an entire hour with each of them, focusing on their bodies.  She located considerable tension in Walter's cervical nerves - that would be like a pinched nerve; found that he had tension, too, in his lower spine.  What one does with this information I don't quite know - massage?  Lucy seems very relaxed this evening ... but we're certainly not attempting any reintegration.  It's a strange feline household.  Moth continues to bounce around.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

a new walk to work ...

It's striking how changing one's familiar territory even by a couple of streets makes one see completely new things in a city that one thinks that one knows very well (after all, I've been coming to Santa Fe for, gosh, twenty two years, now).  But the O'Keeffe Research Center is in a little part of town, to the northwest of the Plaza, that I guess I drive through when looking for parking, but I'm not used to walking around.  And there are some really old and pretty structures.  This is the First Presbyterian Church - founded in 1867, and the oldest non-Catholic church in either NM or Arizona (not the first to be founded, though - it itself was built on the ruins of a failed Baptist church).  The first structure was adobe; this is - according to the history - is red brick, underneath.  It's had a slightly uncomfortable history as a building - it caught fire in 1907, and the organ was inadvertently electrified in 1921.  Really, I'm slightly shocked not to have registered its presence before.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

pink flowers

I thought, when I left the National Humanities Center, that I would be free from the lure of baked treats ... little did I know that at the O'Keeffe, *pink icing cupcakes looking like roses* would appear.  Sigh.  And this was after a fellow Fellow had brought in some home-made brownies.  This could be a dangerous summer.  Meanwhile, the gardens contain numerous beautiful pink, organic, non-sugary flowers.

Monday, June 6, 2016

new month; new fellowship ...

I am super-lucky: I have three more months of Fellowship at a Research Center - this is the walk down the front path of the Georgia O'Keeffe Research Center for American Modernism in Santa Fe, and below is my office - the second floor corner one.  There are only four of us fellows - a very congenial and hard-working bunch, I'd say!  But best of all, it's in Santa Fe, so I can live at home with Alice and the cats and the thunderstorms (violent hail tonight - let's see if any delicate poppies are left in the morning). And it's in an unbelievably beautiful old Santa Fe house.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

another New Mexico stormy evening...

From our front door this evening - what a difference five minutes or so makes, when the sun is dropping near to setting, and there's a storm passing through.

So - even if we drove from NC to NM, and then from LA back to NM, an operation involving two humans, two different cars, and three cats (the fourth cat having been driven to NJ the weekend before) - which is a bizarre route, we've now driven across a continent during the last two weeks, and have most definitely earned the right to stay still for a while, and admire the sky.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

on the road ...

La Posada, Winslow.  Three cats; two rooms.  This isn't the place to test whether the Kitty Wars still continue, and to start to effect a reconciliation.  So I'm sharing with the remarkable LucyFur.