Sunday, April 30, 2017

morning to evening

Two different views from outside the front door ... today.  First, around 9.15 a.m., just before I took Alice down to ABQ to head back to sunny, warm Los Angeles; the second, this evening - the day warmed up (obviously!) and who would know there had ever been snow?  Who, indeed, apart from the ANTS - a large cohort of them seem to have marched indoors into the main study this evening, presumably horrified by the climate outside (or escaping the mockingbirds, who are digging up the terrace in a hunt for, I guess, ants).  I have sprinkled a lot of green chile powder over them, as one does, and I'll face the grim reality of this invasion in the morning.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

spring snow

We weren't expecting this.  I mean - of course we were, in the immediate sense of having read the weather forecast, but in the context of a late spring visit, in part to see our lilac bush blooming, in part celebration of Alice finishing teaching, in part quiet writing retreat for me (three million savage deadlines looming), it's been a surprise.

Rather than going into town, Alice was shoveling out the front path, and banging snow off the lilac bush;

and the lilac itself is looking very cold ...

and I was releasing the piƱon tree branches from half a foot of snow, and pausing to admire the incongruous beauty of snow on cactus blossom ...

Friday, April 28, 2017

keeping warm

The first night back in Santa Fe, even for a very short trip, it's a tradition, or a convention, or a very desirable convenience, to go to Harry's Road House.  Sometimes, like this evening, if we don't have the cats with us, we don't even get home first (I've made sure that their margaritas and burritos are in the acknowledgements to Flash!).  They've recently re-done the front waiting-area (overspill bar area), which now has a very neat little wood burning stove.  Surely not necessary in late April?  We'll see.  We drove in fairly late - big wet sleet on the way, but avoiding actual snow.  The overnight weather forecast, however ... well, we'll see ...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

sedona evening sunlight

Without any cats on the back seat, this time, we're taking a different route to NM: sunset on Sedona's red rocks never fail to disappoint, especially when they come with a glass of wine on our hotel balcony ... (time to celebrate Alice having taught her last class for 2017!).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

RIP, Lucy's Drive-In

I've been driving past this little corner drive-through restaurant on S. Hoover for years - one of those places where you know the food will either be very good or very bad (reviews on Yelp, indeed, show that it could be either - some raves, some horrified customers) - but where certainly, one wants to take a photo of its architecture/graphics - it's been there at least four decades.  But suddenly, this week, it was closed; immanently disappearing - indeed, by 3 p.m. this afternoon, disappeared.  And what will be there in its stead?  A huge CVS (according the on-line planning permission reports, with many many parking spaces ...).  Tamales give way to the (soon to be undertaxed, too) corporate.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

more roses in the 'hood

I know that there have been a lot of roses on this blog recently, but truly, this spring has just been exceptional for them (and for jasmine, and, indeed, for everything).  These ones are at the bottom of our street, where it meets Griffith Park Road, and stretch for ages.  They haven't got a particularly significant scent, however, unlike the ones below.  It's hard to go for a walk with Alice when there are roses blooming, because she endearingly stops and sniffs them all, like some beatific incarnation of dogs and lampposts.  It'll be no surprise to you, either, how (many years ago) she received her first bee sting ...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Is it a cake?

Is that really a cake with its icing edge made to look like a picture frame?  Are the letters on it, celebrating the VSRI and the end of the terrific, semester-long seminar of Visual History, really in the Visual Studies Research Institute's own colors?  Are the Pantone shades right?  Indeed, is it really going to be shared on USC paper plates?  Are those flowers on the table top really in USC cardinal and gold?  Vanessa appears to be trying to convince Daniela of all the above ... but no, actually, she's graciously thanking everyone, and bringing a fabulous day and a half's thought provoking symposium to an eloquent close.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Visual History on 24th Street

This afternoon marked the first of two days of USC's Visual Studies Research Institute symposium on Visual History - The Past in Pictures.  Today's session and reception was at the Velaslavasay Panorama on 24th st - once upon a time, an early moving pictures theater in LA, and now resuscitated as a tiny, but perfectly formed panorama, a conference space, and a pretty, leafy, delightful back yard.  Here are three dear friends and, in different ways, colleagues - Megan Luke, Jeremy Melius, and Allan Doyle, under an apricot tree.

We could, in point of fact, have just wandered up the street in front of some visual history - here's some ox ploughing in front of a very active volcano;

here's Mohammed Ali.

And here, back inside the Velaslavsay, are two shots of the Panorama of the arctic, which caused Jeremy and myself simultaneously to exclaim - "Man Proposes, God Disposes!"

 (just in case you've forgotten it, here's the Landseer picture of that name ...)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

under cobweb veils

Sitting, today, in chair that I don't normally occupy in my study (LucyFur had pushed me out of my desk chair, and who am I to argue with her?), and this meant that I saw this carved wooden pillar in a shaft of sunlight.  It came from a shop somewhere down the Cowley Road, in Oxford, twenty or so year ago - some of you might even remember it from my office in the St Cross Building.  So I don't know anything about its real provenance or function, but I've always really liked its two tiers of women (only the top one is visible here, of course).  Ideas welcome about its true context ...

Friday, April 21, 2017

roses and fennel, with a library attached

Round about four o'clock this afternoon, sitting taking notes in the Huntington Library, I thought - this is crazy!  It's a beautiful day out there!  The Rose Garden should be in full bloom.  Which it was - overwhelmingly so.  I don't have a particularly good sense of smell (apart from jasmine - happily; bad things, and olefactory hallucinations of fire), but even I was knocked back by rose scents.  And they went on, and on ...

although I always especially enjoy the adjoining herb and vegetable garden (cabbages look very good, with large dark curly leaves, as a backdrop to roses).  Today, the stand-out plants were the blooming fennel -

and then, in the center, this blue jay flew in.  I promise you he's not stuffed.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

egg wreath

One last Easter offering, hanging from the gate of a house in the 'hood, seen on our late afternoon walk.  I want to think that it's home made - I've Googled and Googled, and although I can find similar artifacts (mostly illustrated in craft magazines, and pinned to Pinterest - obviously there are armies off egg wreath crafters out there - who knew ...) I can find nothing that comes close to this.  So I want to believe that it's impressive and home made (go on, now - spoil my illusion - tell me it's from World Market ...).  Whatever, it was pretty and spring-like.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

books furnish a home

It's time for the LA Times Festival of Books on campus!  Hooray!

But wait ... what is this stall?  What will it sell?  Bookcases?  Planks, screws, brackets, electric drills, and paint, so that I can put up my own?  How-to books on - well, how to put up bookshelves?Wallpaper with books on it?  (courtesy of eBay).

Stick-on wall murals, like this one?

Blackboard paint, so that you can cover your walls and chalk your own narrative?  Books by the yard?  I can't wait to go and check it out ...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

La petite histoire de Blackie

It's that time of the year when I start to fantasize about tidying up the garage, and organizing my old papers and photos, and and and, and then get distracted by the first container that I open.  This is the product of my first year learning French - aged 11-12.  

Oh?  You want to read the rest of it?  I don't think that we'd approached the past tense yet - a whole year without talking about the past?  Is that possible?   Maybe this was just the end of the first or second term.  But I'm impressed by my vocabulary ...

I also note that my punctuation seems to be American.  No wonder I've always had problems with consistency.

Monday, April 17, 2017

working at home

I wish I could get more into the habit of working at home - it's such a wonderful and green-surrounded space, and I have books and internet ...

... and impediments.  The impediments roam around my desk.  I found this out, once again, today, when I had to stay at home for work people: freezer surprisingly warm: needed the condenser vacuuming (I'm sure that's an American thing - whoever heard of taking an industrial strength vacuum cleaner to one's refrigerator innards?) and washing machine - leaking - needs a new gasket. Really, it would be good if the cats would go out to work, instead of gazing skeptically at my notes.

Oh, and this is what LucyFur does, at the slightest hint of a workman anywhere near her space.  No one can see her, can they?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

happy Easter

There's something that's more than a little surreal about this tableau in the front yard of a very, very small private school in Silverlake. I'm assuming that it's more or less Easter themed - a Pasqual lamb, some rabbits, some hens (but no eggs) - but who knows?  Happy Easter, anyway!

roses in the 'hood

Some of our neighbors, I think it would be fair to say, are a little bit more assiduous and talented than we are when it comes to gardening ...

Friday, April 14, 2017

spring volleyball

How I wish that seeing USC play at a spring tournament - in the practice gym - made me excited and fired up to see them play next season ... of course it was great being back in the Galen Center, and especially good to see the promise of our new setter, Brooke Botkin (she can really put it away as a hitter, too) and the positive on-court energy of Victoria Garrick - but oh, gosh, it's very much a work in progress.  You'd expect that at this time of the year, yes, but you wouldn't expect to see us lose to Cal Baptist, even if this is only A Friendly Match.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


To Caltech - California Institute of Technology - tonight, to hear a lecture by my old and dear friend Lynn Nead - on the aesthetics, the blacks and whites and shades of grey, of post-war London, and of their resonances with the return of the only-semi-repressed: Victorian England.  Interesting and provocative though it was - Lynn's always someone I'll go and hear speak if I possibly can - this didn't really mesh at all with the aesthetics of the CalTech campus.  I'm shocked that I haven't set foot on it since - yes - 1988.  It's very beautiful (and extraordinarily dissimilar to my early memories of post-world-war-2 London, all gaping bombsites and ragwort and rosebay willowherb).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

swan lake

Sometimes, I can feel very grumpy coming into USC early on a Monday or a Wednesday, when Alice teaches an 8.30 class, and I need the transportation in order to attend a mid-afternoon meeting (for I am not shelling out for my own expensive car parking pass when on leave ...).  But this morning wasn't one of these days - at least, not as soon as I saw that the reflective pool had been Occupied.  "They were out here early this morning," said the maintenance guy.  "The students.  Taking photos.  At least we've got them all to the sides now.  Do you want one?  We'll just round them up and throw them away, otherwise."  So there's now a small inflatable plastic water bird in my office.  I wish they could all have been found good homes ... surely the students might have taken them to a school (yes, I know it's Spring Break), or even the lake in Macarthur Park?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

a colorful campus?

I made a rare - at least, rare whilst I'm on leave - excursion today to the science part of campus, in the company of a friend and his son who are sniffing out possible colleges.  This building, under construction, is being painted a cheerful turquoise.  Please, please, please let this be its final color!  It would be so wonderful if our campus was colorful, rather than acres and acres of manufactured red-brick coating.  This was an inspiration as to what it could look like.  I shall keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

planting an avocado

This looks like a curiously well-camouflaged avocado - but it is, I promise you, here, amid the vinca and the California poppies and some white-flowered weedish plant I can't offhand identify.  In a few years' time - I think it has to reach about six feet - it should start to bear real avocados. It currently has tiny, tiny ones, the size of an ant, which will all drop off.  

It's been a dream of mine to have an avocado tree since I first visited LA, back in March 1988.  I went to speak at UC Riverside, - on Holman Hunt's The Awakening Conscience - and stayed the night with the amazingly hospitable Ruth ap Roberts and her husband: they had a sprawling (to my English eyes) house with wonderful art round every corner - including a huge painting of a foot - maybe a sculptured foot - in the living room.  They also had a huge tabby cat called Princess Di.  There was a star-studded cast for dinner, but I have no idea where I might have kept any record of that, and I can't, alas, remember who was there - but I do know that at least one couple who taught at UCLA came. Only now do I realize the magnitude of that driving gesture.  Back then, Riverside still had a good number of orange groves, and that struck me as extraordinarily exotic.  And Ruth had, yes, an avocado tree on the front lawn.  I don't know where, prior to this, I thought avocados came from (before the supermarket), but this was a revelation - the thought that one might have one's own home-grown avo supply!  And now, nearly 30 years later, I'm hoping to arrive, sooner or later, at this pinnacle of horticultural aspiration.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

a cocktail olive, and two statues in Rittenhouse Square

There was just time for some exploration of Philly this morning - the most wonderful object of all was this stuffed cocktail olive (I presume on top of a cocktail bar).  It's quite the period piece.  Round the corner from it is Rittenhouse Square - big tony 1920s apartment blocks, and such a cherished space, since it's been renovated, that it not only has a lot of notices forbidding one thing or another, but its own cop, or at least security guard, sitting in a kind of gazebo in the center.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


A lot of today was spent in Philadelphia Museum of Art - both in the magnificent American Watercolor show, and tracking down the Whistler Nocturne (which I'm writing about in relation to fireworks, or in this case, lack of them).  Some reproductions - not the Museum's own - show a hint of a star in the sky, and I wanted to check it out.  No pigmented star at all - but there's a raised speck of paint that catches the light from some angles.  That fits into an argument, somehow.

That's Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Diana (1892-3) created in 1892–93 as a gilded weather vane for the tower of New York’s Madison Square Garden, and rescued in the early 1930s by the Museum, when it had fallen into disrepair; and then the huge 1964 Angus Calder mobile, Ghost - in other words, a pretty striking entrance hall, and, even with these two large works, a place of contrasts.

So is the city - I was left craving an informed walking tour of the city's architecture, old and new.  I was embarrassed, all the years I lived in NJ, that I didn't spend more time in this city - I have no sensible explanation as to why not - and hope to get to remedy it ...