Monday, October 31, 2016

the strangeness of memory

So this is what perplexes me, as I slowly unpack and re-arrange my office.  Some things I've carried round with me, from university office to university office, since my first over-heated glass room in Bristol in 1980 (where, indeed, I caused consternation among the cleaning staff by growing tomatoes on my windowsill - very tasty ones, too - it was about the only thing that I could do in that non a/c'd climate).  Some are more recent.  I'm trying to be selective, or at least rotate.  But where did these faded rose petals come from?  I know the origins of the bowl they're in - a gift from a friend in Oxford.  But whence the dried blossoms?  You'd think that, in some T. S. Eliotian, Four Quartets like way, that they'd take me back to some gift, some gesture, some ... something.  They seem like a clichéd repository for memory.  But the horrible truth is that I can't even remember which country they originated in, although I have a sense that maybe, yes, they were once pulled together in a small bunch.  Does this mean that I should throw them out, since they no longer appear to be the bearers of any significance?  Or what?

Sunday, October 30, 2016


It's squash season.  And quite apart from all the Hallowe'en decorations (and live spiders), and pumpkins being carried around by people with ambitious ideas, presumably, of turning them into Trumpkins (anything to distract one from election nerves and jitters), it's also damp and rainy here in Los Angeles.  It must be fall!  It is quite wonderful to have it damp, even if also decidedly reminiscent of England.

hallowe'en decoration

Really, I don't think that we have to bother with Hallowee'en decorations this year - the front yard seems to be decorating itself.  Here's an orb weaver spider, happily eating a large fly.  Next, they caught a bee, which we were less ecologically happy about, even if fascinated to see it being wrapped up in spider thread to neutralize it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

to downtown

With a couple of hours to spare before the volleyball game this evening, we took the Expo line to downtown - emerged - ate at Little Sister, on 7th St (south-east Asian food - very much recommended) - and returned to campus and the Galen Center.  There was something very strange about going underground in LA - as though we started in LA and emerged in NYC, and vice-versa, an illusion sustained by having the subway under our feet as we ate.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

pale greens

This looks somewhat like seaweed, or some strange maritime foliage - but that seems unlikely.  The plant's actually huge, sprawling out of a very large pot in the Huntington Gardens, and managed, even in today's dull, pre-rain light, to have a strange luminosity.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

students being students

This is the view from my USC office window: green, pleasant, unremarkable, peaceful.  And on the grass neatly arranged, some specimens of student life, as if posed for a college brochure photo any time during the last forty years or so: one lying on their back reading a book; a couple sitting chatting/singing, with one playing the guitar, and one guy in the foreground, to all intents and purposes asleep.  On second thoughts, maybe someone more active should be photoshopped in to that last posture ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Californian cliché

This elderly Chevy made its presence felt on our walk this evening.  It's not just its shiny chrome and stream lined tail fins that make this fit subject matter for a Larry Sultan mimicry photo; it's the impeccable 1950s domestic architecture behind it ...

Monday, October 24, 2016

the lightness of office leaves

... not the leaves out of the window, but the ones that slowly rotate in my new office in Taper Hall.  They had their origin in the leaf mobiles that we saw hanging from the ceiling of the Grove cafe in Albuquerque back in 2011: Alice gave me this mobile as a gift when I moved into my original Taper office and somehow they never made it across to VKC.  But here they are, offering a tranquil meditative focus.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Halloween is starting...

Halloween is starting ... and this garage roof decoration just round the corner from us is a great reminder of how lucky we are to live in a neighborhood where people like set designers abound ...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

silver lake balloons

And what are these balloons in Silver Lake proclaiming?  It looks a little bit like a Victorian pawn shop, with the three golden balls ... oh, wait, no ... it's another juice bar!

Friday, October 21, 2016

ascending thoughts

I walked through one of our campus buildings today - the Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall was formally opened back in 2014, but I'd not set foot in it before.  Very glossy.  It houses some branches of the social sciences - not, alas, humanities.  But I was very struck by the sculpture, the mobile that cascades down from the center, and apparently changes color according to the light.  Interesting, it seems to be art by design - that is, I can't find a single artist claiming responsibility for it, but rather, SKA Design claims responsibility - and their website, and the publicity surrounding the opening, tell me that it's optimistically called "Ascending Thoughts."  In this environment, even a couple of studious (well, let's surmise) individuals manage to look like an art installation.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Route 66 - restoration and decay

Two extremes along Route 66: La Posada, in Winslow, where Walter Gomez and I spent last night - an old Harvey House railroad hotel, admittedly, as well as a Route 66 stop - it became railroad offices, before being bought and transformed through the architectural and funky design genius of Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion in the 1990s (and pet-friendly - no wonder we always stay there when we can) - and Ludlow.  Poor Ludlow.  I'm always stopping there, too - you may have noticed - because of the relatively reasonably price gas, but almost no settlement better epitomizes what happened when I-40 replaced Route 66.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

walter gomez watches the debate

Walter Gomez has never been a cat much interested in politics, and indeed, for the first twenty minutes or so of the debate, looked as though he was trying to hide under a hotel pillow.  But the mention of "bad hombres" got him going; made his Latino feline blood boil, and he became an increasingly engaged participant.  Not pictured: me, a margarita, and my own expression, changing between disdain, revulsion, and wide-eyed horror on the one side, and sheer admiration for a professional job well done on the other.  I thought HRC did such a good job of getting under the Orange one's skin, refusing to take the bait, and getting genuinely fired up and passionate about abortion, all the while having to share a stage with an ill-informed sensationalist monster.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

fall triptych

One last blast of New Mexican fall leaves - creeper on a wall behind Ohori's coffee, between Cerrillos and St Francis (I was stocking up on coffee to take back to LA - one of the essentials with which the car is packed: that and green chile).  It's doubling up on the theme of identity and difference that's characterized pretty much all the leaves of the last ten days.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Almost nothing gets me out of bed quicker than a spectacular dawn ... today, the huge moon was still sitting high in the sky;

whilst the actual sunrise wasn't bad, at all, in the other direction.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

my favorite tree, my favorite political sign, my favorite fall hike ...

I love this tree - the burning bush, one might call it.  I first took a photograph of it - I should think around 12 or 13 years ago - and in subsequent years I've been too late, or it's been too damp and cloudy to go hiking, or I've just not been around.  My favorite fall hike isn't one where there are aspens aspens aspens - though of course they are spectacular - but where one comes upon little groves of trees in all their fall splendor, or sees stripes of them in the distance, among the ponderosa pine, or, as here, sees the magical single tree.  It flames out, even when the sun has sunk behind the mesa.

This hike is one off the Panchuela Creek campground, and heads into the Pecos Wilderness.  It's just beyond Cowles, which in its turn is 20 miles above Pecos - and it was in Pecos that I saw this sign urging one to vote for "my grandma," Janice Varela.  No doubt that she'll be elected - she won the Democratic nomination for County Commissioner for San Miguel County back in June, and there's no Republican standing against her (Pecos itself is gratifyingly full of Clinton/Kaine signs).  Varela has done terrific work, locally, with water issues - she's the community organizer for the New Mexico Acequia Organisation (acequias, if you don't know, are community-operated water systems - ditches, like tiny canals, used for irrigation, and essential for local agriculture in very rural districts - a number of them around here go back over 400 years).  But seeing this sign was also such a strong a reminder that politics is a matter of local issues, local involvement, non-elite families (San Miguel County isn't the poorest county in NM, because it has Las Vegas NM in it - all the same, in the 2010 census, its median household income was $32,213, and 24.8% of its population live below the poverty line).

Hiking through the woods, with the sound of the creek all the time, was, all the same, a wonderful respite from politics for an afternoon, where the most pressing questions on this under-hiked trail were things like "I hope there aren't any bears around who're going to want my emergency chocolate supply," and "Is that poison oak or poison ivy?"  I saw an Albert's Squirrel - huge, magnificent, with dark tufted ears; a woodpecker; and on the road up to the trailhead, a deer - not sensible of it to be visible, since it's hunting season, which had determined my choice of a very, very bright pink backpack.

Friday, October 14, 2016

annual irresistibility

The aspen - the tree that's responsible for a million photographic cliches ... but I not only love them in and of themselves: I love the way in which every single shot is similar but very different; I love the impossibility of conveying the sense of how, up on the road to the Santa Fe ski basin, they go on, and on ... I also, in some perverse way, love the fact that 6 of these were taken with my Nikon D800, and one with my iPhone, thereby proving The Power of the Tree.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Outside the garage door (inside the garage, at last, there's a new boiler that's been installed) - a huge chamisa bush, which, like the chamisa all over Eldorado, is deeply golden.  I also think that it makes me sneeze.  Pretty sure that I'm posting all these photos of fall as an antidote to endless images of the Orange Octopus, looking more and more crazed and dictator-like.  That being said, I'll take all the pictures of Michelle Obama today that I can get - and if you haven't watched her speech today, do so, now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

more New Mexican fall

Most of the day I was chained inside, working, whilst the new and soon-to-be-necessary (judging by the temperature this morning) boiler is being installed.  And by the time Louie the boiler engineer had left, it had turned grey and windy - see above.  Then, suddenly, at the end of the day, an extraordinary sunset ...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

evening walk

It was an exquisitely beautiful quiet fall evening today - not so much with fall foliage (though there was some of that), but with fall grasses, and dried plants, all catching the evening sun when I was out for a walk.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

back yard in fall

This might just be the very best thing about being on leave - being able to enjoy New Mexico fall in my own back yard ... We always seem to miss these locust trees in their fall colors (they turn, and shed, just about a week before the aspens).  So - no matter if the guy who was meant to come today and replace the boiler didn't turn up, and no matter if the entire day was spent on writing letters of rec and reading (interesting) grad material - it is such a privilege to be here.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

before (and during) the debate

To the local supermarket to buy supplies ... with the clouds gathering over Eldorado (I just missed a huge thunderstorm - the kind that has sirens blaring out of the radio, and whooshing alerts going off on my phone, on the drive up here), and then shooting from front door, 

to back door, to the debate warming up ... it was very hard knowing where to direct my attention. These images do no justice whatsoever to the weird colors of the sky.

The apocalypse didn't actually happen during it (though the Orange Groper looked like a tired, angry, desperate man, so that lack of an utter breakdown on his part was a matter for regret.  I wish Hillary had stuck it to him more - confident and clear though she was, I felt as though he had her somewhat on the back, defensive foot - not in terms of what he was actually saying, but in terms of what, always, was lurking in the background that he could say.  Although, in fact, most of what was lurking in the background was him.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Ludlow, CA

Ludlow, CA, is a far cry from its British namesake: Ludlow, the prettiest of English towns; half-timbered; with an old castle - nothing, but nothing, could be less like the god-forsaken couple of gas stations and crumpled buildings that greet one about forty five miles outside Barstow, on I-40.  But one always ends up stopping at Ludlow (this has to do with gas, and distances between gas stations, and my refusal to buy gas in Needles, where it's always outrageously expensive.

(and yes, I'm back on the road, with a basket containing a Deplorable, aka Walter Gomez, in the back seat ...)

Friday, October 7, 2016


Stopped at traffic lights in Silver Lake this morning, this was somehow a quintessential LA corner - a little bit of Italy, a little bit of Mexico, a little bit of funky US (note the litter bin).  I'm not putting neat identificatory labels on any of the components - I don't think they'd attach neatly - but a street scene like this brings home, in a quiet, understated way, why I like living here so much.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Donald eres un pendejo

The sidewalks of Silver Lake have spoken.  I couldn't have put it better myself.

And for anyone looking for an update on Moth - well, her ear's not mended yet.  But it was looking a little better today, and she was seeking out a sunny spot this morning.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

the kind of day when

... one is so preoccupied that - and this is rare for me - you forget that you have a photo to take ... (preoccupied with Moth's ear - she spent the day at the vet - keep her ear in you healing thoughts) and when you do, the only objects to hand are your desk, a cat (Lucy's tail) and a glass of wine ...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

almost like a kitten

LucyFur would like the world to know that she's feeling much better, thank you.  The whole gang went to the vet this morning, and the best news (apart from the fact that Lucy's leg has pretty much healed) is that her tiny heart murmur is just that - tiny - despite all the stress of the past few days. Moth's ear, however, is still worrying us.  And Walter Gomez is still in solitary (sleeping it all off in a suitcase), so he was deprived of watching the VPs talking over each other with the rest of us ...

Monday, October 3, 2016

in the pet store

Here's a conundrum.  In the local pet store, here was a little stash of Hillary rag toys - ready for your dog to worry to death.  Were there only Hillary dolls because (a) everyone in Silver Lake/Los Feliz is a Hillary supporter, and would only buy ones featuring her (b) everyone in Silver Lake/Los Feliz is a Hillary supporter, and has bought up all the Trump dolls, and their dogs are tearing them apart as I write, or (c) ???

And what was I doing in the pet store?  It was not a good weekend in the Flint/Echols kitty world.  On Friday night - Alice was out of town - Walter Gomez dashed into my study, and, when my back was turned - yes, my fault for not removing him immediately, and how many times do I try and replay those minutes in my head and do things differently? - attack both LucyFur and Moth.  He hates Lucy; we suspect Mothy tried to intervene.  Lucy had a bitten leg (Saturday: vets, anti-biotics, pain meds); Moth a torn ear that by yesterday evening had become abscessed (vets, anti-biotics, pain meds, cone of shame).  She was so sorry for herself in the Cone that I went off to Urban Pet and bought her this inflatable Zen Collar.  Only in Silver Lake ... but at least she can now see where she's going.

Yes - the house is now composed of entirely segregated cat zones, for now ... 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

fall wreath

This isn't Christmassy (and nor, so far as I can find out on line, is there anything especially apt for Rosh Hashanah in putting a wreath on the door); these are not huge holly berries, but little red gourds; this is not holly or ivy, but eucalyptus.  It just looked pretty in Trader Joe's this morning, and seems like something festive to welcome Alice home from her conference at Cornell/trip to NYC/the arduous Sunday night exit from LAX.

I'm waiting to see, too, whether critters - hello, raccoons? - will be jumping up to our front door with much enthusiasm ...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

in a drought

This is a very pretty stream, but it shouldn't have been flowing down our road - which it was, today, for hours - while meanwhile Griffith Park caught fire behind us.  Mercifully, a super-fast and efficient set of fire-fighting crews and a helicopter or two put it out, very quickly - but it burned five acres, which is quite scary enough.  Many thanks to the LAFD.  (and if that sounds very melodramatic, I was actually unaware for quite a while - no smell or sight of smoke or flames from our house, and I was deep into revising an article, until, after a while, I realized that there was an unnatural amount of noise from sirens and helicopters, even for LA ...).  Still ... don't waste water ... we don't have any of the naturally occurring stuff (and yes, I am aware of the irony that today's the day I publish a review article in Public Books about English weather ...).