So what is it with Standing Stones? Obviously my interest in the first picture is a professional one - lots of lichen! And this lichen is adhering to an upright rock, flanked by two others. These have been in place quite a while - they have a purpose, too, in that they demarcate the corner of a driveway. But in the last year or so, all over Eldorado tall stones have been appearing - and continue to appear - that serve no discernible function, and so - one might guess, are presumed to be ornamental. But why? We have a Scottish friend up the road, and she clearly regards their in the spirit of a dolmen. But why the general growing profusion. Do people think - oh, there's an upright stone at No. 109, say - and therefore want one too? That might hold water as a hypothesis for people who want, say, to have a tin raven on top of their mailbox, but generally, it's a bit baffling.
Saturday, October 30, 2021
We now have a genuine French restaurant in Eldorado - Le Pommier, run by French people, and set up in as French-brasserie style as any place that I've encountered this side of the Hudson (with the possible exception of a restaurant I went to in LA in - in what? 1991? - the name of which I can't remotely remember any more). The food couldn't have been better: I had a galette with scrambled eggs and spinach, plus salad; Alice and a friend quiche lorraine and salad; other friend soupe à l'oignon. But the service was mystifyingly inefficient and clueless - or maybe not mystifying, given the dearth of people looking for jobs of that sort right now. There was, however, an accordion player ... maybe it was putting a little bit too much effort into being French, and not enough into, say, remembering to bring us any menus...But I'd go back, most definitely.
Friday, October 29, 2021
These photos of fall leaves were all taken during a stretch of a few hundred yards on East Alameda - the cottonwoods following the Santa Fe River (and replicated in their goldenness in damper pieces of ground all the way between here and Albuquerque). But I don't remember ever seeing these very local ones look quite as stunningly, blindingly beautiful before - I guess this is because we had a much more emphatic monsoon season this year. The second photo - the one that looks like gilded broccoli - I'm pretty certain shows a tree in the front yard of the very first casita I lived in, for a summer, the first time I was in Santa Fe - twenty seven years ago, now ... The last ten days has brought home, in all its full fall color. how this is unequivocally my favorite season here.
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Are we the only people in Eldorado to have Halloween/Day of the Dead decorations? The ghoulish extravaganza in Los Angeles is - as you know - in full, inventive force. And here - nothing. Or rather, we now have three large pumpkins, and four Mexican-style corrugated cardboard cats. I saw these four cats - each one different - sitting on a lawn on Griffith Park Road back in LA, and of course immediately had to source them, and they look very fine - two in front of the house, two behind. But - are we alone in this? There are two rather sad bedraggled purple ghouls hanging in the Eldorado Supermarket, to be sure, but that's about it. (I should say, hastily, that it's not that we want youngsters turning up Trick or Treating - they would go away empty-handed, or clutching small fistfuls of Sprouted Quinoa Granola, or stale almonds, or whatever else we could find in the kitchen closets. But it's a strange regional difference ...)
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
It really was this color - a combination of the setting sun and hazy air. There were plumes of brown smoke coming off the mountains behind Santa Fe, but they weren't sinister ones, just the signs of a controlled burn.
Walks - and I have to say, for this purpose, they're best as solitary walks, but Eldorado being Eldorado, I usually end up sharing part of them with a dog walker or two, although not yet, this fall, the parrot walker - walks have been so important to me for thrashing out my writing thoughts. I've made a few crucial turns, I think: somewhere around this spot, this evening, I tried out the idea of jettisoning a whole chapter. I'm sure it can be its own freestanding article (or two), so that I don't feel melancholic at the idea of abandoning the work that's already gone into it (and some of which, to be honest, has spun off into another article, in any case). But it's a hard thing - or should I say, I find it a hard thing - shelving something that's been part of the book's structure for a while, even if that part of the structure seems ominously flimsy if one leans against it. So flapping around out there is a whole chunk of prose comparing American and British ideas of wilderness in art, and its underpinning by violence - against people, against game birds - and even writing that out, in all its brief banality, convinces me that it really isn't going to fit.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Fairly early morning, with the clouds rolling in - I think the very last remnants of the California storms - and then a dusty, windy late afternoon. Even though they looked to be full of moisture, there was only about two minutes of rain, alas. But the air was full of dust and swirling yellow leaves, and when I came back from a trip to the local shop around 2 p.m., there, huge and happy, was the first of the season's giant dry tumbleweeds blocking the front path.
Monday, October 25, 2021
The best thing about getting up pre-dawn for a Zoom meeting in another time zone is that one's fully awake when one gets to dawn itself (actually, it's late enough these days that I'm always always up, but not so caffeinated as today). Soon afterwards it turned a fiery red, but I was on line by then.
And at the other end of the day, golden light - an utterly perfect fall day, with the temperature in the low 70s, and as still and clear as I've ever known it to be.
And yes - the plumbers came!
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Perhaps to call these "stragglers" isn't quite fair - that suggests a kind of sluggish tardiness, like the tail end of the runners who one sees coming out of John Marshall High School, near us in Los Feliz, who are clearly pitched out periodically to Go On a Run. They are more like late season flowering miracles, caused by my watering them again, and also by a few fairly warm days. Thank goodness for the warmth - which will itself dwindle - because there's still no sign of plumbers. I'm promised them tomorrow ...
Saturday, October 23, 2021
A very quick trip to the Farmers' Market to grab some freshly roasted poblanos (look at those chiles being tossed around in the roaster!); a butternut squash, spinach, arugula, leeks, a watermelon radish, a black radish, garlic chives, marinated goats' cheese, very fresh eggs, very fresh potatoes - and, I confess, a Whoo's Donuts pistachio, white chocolate and lemon donut. I claim not to like donuts, but I will make a very occasional exception...
Only a flying visit? I wanted to be back for the plumber. The plumber. I am still waiting for the plumber. Texts have been exchanged ... Maybe tomorrow. So still no heat and no hot water, except what I boil. I might as well have spent longer down at the Railyard, browsing apples and pears and late season tomatoes.
Friday, October 22, 2021
A rather wintry collection of skies - though it had better not get cold, because I'm still without heat or hot water. You truly don't want to hear a saga of carpenters and (non-existent) plumbers: it should be sorted out tomorrow, and in the meanwhile, and even if I was chained to the house all day, there were these skies. There would even have been a fourth image, but the plumber called back just as I was moving into place ...
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Let's just say - sunset tonight coincided with the first innings of the Dodgers-Braves game, and I was quite convinced that I would be writing an elegy for the end of the Dodgers season, and that this would provide a suitably melancholy illustration. But no! An extraordinary 11-2 victory! Presided over not by a setting sun, but by a most excellent moon.
The moon, however, means a clear sky; and the clear sky means that it will be chilly; and I am without heat or hot water until tomorrow. You wouldn't have wanted to see a photo of the wreckage caused by a leaking boiler reservoir, made visible when they removed the system ... it's Halloween-scary worthy ...
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Nasturtiums! A flower which - as I'm sure I note annually - I tend to approach warily, because the ones of my childhood tended to have earwigs in them, and I didn't care for earwigs. But these are not only free of such insects, but have very cheerfully survived the last month - I'm impressed.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Back in Santa Fe for a short while - the plan is to do some thinking and writing, although there's such a collision of Zoom meetings with graduate students, and other administrative responsibilities, and plumbers, and such like, that I'm going to have to work very hard not to get derailed. But it's quiet, and beautiful - I haven't missed all the best of the fall trees - and I'm feeling optimistic (probably because the Dodgers managed to pull out a win ...). I've been pleased that a fair number of the plants have made it through; there is a bumper crop of parsley; the geraniums haven't been frost-murdered; and all the sunflower heads are going to make for some very happy birds this winter.
Monday, October 18, 2021
It's Véronique - whom I've known for (can it be?) sixty four years, and Gramsci, whom I've known for ... fourteen weeks and three days. Can that be all? Sometimes it feels like a lifetime of adorable tabby and white energetic monstrosity. He has grown up so much during that time, even if he still regards Moth as this inexplicably unbouncy punchbag. I'm sorry to have had only my iPad to hand to capture them both at this minute, rather than something more flattering to both of them ...
Sunday, October 17, 2021
This was pretty stunning.
I'd love to say that I was up early going for a walk, or gardening, or even admiring the extraordinary sky. In fact, I was waiting for a fire engine to arrive - I'd been rudely woken by the main fire alarm going off in the house (screeching manically; saying "fire fire"; terrifying the cats). It was pretty obvious that there was no fire, but scaling a step ladder and removing the battery and re-setting it made absolutely no difference, and who was to know that carbon monoxide wasn't seeping in from somewhere. Alice (at the other end of the phone at JFK) and the internal instructions in the ******* smoke alarm told me to call 911, so I did, and four burly, charming, smoke-smelling firemen turned up in a very large fire engine, and sorted it all out. For all I know they were unvaccinated hold-outs (a scary number of the LAFD are) - but they couldn't have been more courteous and helpful.
By the time they'd left, the sky was back to normal, and the cats needed a lot of love (and breakfast).
Saturday, October 16, 2021
... why Gramsci is making pitiful wailing sounds from behind a closed door. So that he doesn't come out and beat you up and chase you and bounce all over you with his claws out, my dear ... (Or possibly it has something to do with the Dodgers' loss - he is becoming a huge Dodgers fan). But it's interesting that she is intrigued, not repelled, by his presence.
This wasn't going to be the PoftheD - it's just that I came downstairs from cleaning up the kitchen and came upon this scene, with all its interesting lights and angles. It was obviously a day for sharp shadows and patches of light - this was my lunch on the sitting room balcony, with a brilliant blue sky (it was very hot today) and what suddenly looked like a very empty chair. But Alice will be back from NYC tomorrow!
Friday, October 15, 2021
It was so good to be at a genuine live event today - at UCLA - a roundtable to celebrate the publication of Liz Miller's brilliant new book, Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion. And the great thing about being on leave is that I've had time to read it since it turned up on Tuesday! I'm full of admiration for all that it does: it argues for the impact on fiction of the late C19th and early C20th extractive economy in a way that goes far beyond saying oooh! look! Here's a mine! - or even a reference to coal or precious metals. Liz relates C19th anxieties about finite resources to fictional form - realist fiction, adventure fiction, underground fantasies - in ways that make one rethink the work that genre does (they were, of course, ironic anxieties, since for now there's far too much fossil fuel down there, and it's the cause of so many of our environmental problems). And she also links this to our current fears and epistemological terror when it comes to thinking about futurity, and speculation (in all the senses of the word). In other words, it doesn't so much as grapple with the big question of how we write historically based criticism, but why we write it - although its very existence is testimony to "how," as well. Like Liz's earlier books, it's a deft display of someone knowing their subject, and the ideas and critical thinking behind it, so very well that she moves so easily from the big historical picture, to the intellectual issues, to close readings, and then back out again: quite simply it's a model of how to do it.
What was particularly excellent today was not just that we got to celebrate the book and (as Devin is doing here) wave copies of it in the air, but the presenters - Devin Griffiths, Susan Zieger, and via Zoom, Nathan Hensley - had been asked to talk about their own work in the light of the book, rather than plunge headlong into the book itself. This was a terrific move, because it meant that one could see how in practice one could use Extraction Ecologies - over and beyond admiring it, that is. I'm sure some of you were there in virtual form: at one time there were 80 people on line, which is probably 8-fold the number in the room. But it was so very, very good to see people, and to feel that in-person academic life can, indeed, happen again. And I certainly came home absolutely invigorated.
Thursday, October 14, 2021
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
The newest contribution - but certainly not the last - to this year's Halloween Decorations of Los Feliz series (and, just because I know you were wondering, I saw this evening that yesterday's snakey has red lights inside him - including within the hollowed-out gourd). These skulls are part of a whole outbreak of boniness in these parts: many skeletons, at least two of whom are wearing masks. We weren't here a year ago, so I can't tell you if Halloween decorations were muted then, out of deference and a sense of what might constitute the Inappropriate in the middle of a pandemic. In Santa Fe, I can't even remember if we ran to a pumpkin - I doubt it. But this year - here, at any rate - the ghouls are back with a vengeance.
[and this is why FTBL is such a good memory-resource! I checked back - apparently we did have a pumpkin last year!]
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Hallowe'en decorations are springing up thick and fast all over Los Feliz ... the usual hordes of ghosts and witches hanging from trees; spiders crawling everywhere - but this is absolutely my favorite so far: an inspired conversion of a gourd. Did the creators see it in a grocery store, and think - you know, those little bumps look as though they belong right over reptilian eyes? And the stalk ... that's surely a tongue! And then to find the casing stuff that would make its wriggly body ...
I realize I don't know - do dragons count as reptiles? Or is a dragon a dragon?
Monday, October 11, 2021
...and he was so very, very comfortable that he didn't even budge as I picked up my cell phone ... Tonight, he'd better be very careful of the arm that received its flu shot today. At the moment, I'm trying to encourage him to watch the Dodgers, but I don't think that they covered even the rudiments of baseball in Foster, so he's staring at the game in complete puzzlement, while juggling a large paper clip.
Sunday, October 10, 2021
I was looking forward to getting back to my desk, to my book-in-progress, to thinking through some of the many, many art pieces that I've seen during the last ten days, and doing some more research, and writing up some notes ...
...But. Gramsci had some other ideas. He seems to have grown an inordinate amount since I've been away, and he's most definitely - all five months of him - a Young Cat.
Saturday, October 9, 2021
... a hop skip and a jump back from NYC to celebrate Connie's birthday dinner at Cafe Stella - where I'd not been for a long long time: the food was terrific, but the noise levels ... still: much fun, even if it now feels very late at night indeed ...
Friday, October 8, 2021
My final research visit - to the Yayoi Kusama "Cosmic Nature" show in the New York Botanical Gardens - somewhere where I've inexplicably never been before, and which would have been stunning even without the Kusama - that is, without being greeted by a whole lot of well-established trees swathed in red and white spots.
One of my two favorite installations was "Flower Obsession" (I don't care if Will Heinrich, in the NYT, called it "too gimmicky") - where what started off, in April, as a kind of greenhouse with furniture in it is, by now, buried in flowers - every visitor is given one to stick where they like, so that the whole thing is drowning in flowers, like a benign version of Alma Tadema's The Roses of Heliogobalus.
I'm not sure how some got onto the roof.
And then of course there were pumpkins. My biggest disappointment is that I've not been able to go the show three or four times - the works are surrounded with different flowers growing in different seasons. This huge pumpkin, in one of the conservatories - "Starry Pumpkin" - is meant to recreate Kusama's delight at coming upon a growing pumpkin for the very first time. At the moment, it has many chrysanthemums elegantly growing near it (not my favorite flower, but the displays showed how the Japanese tend and manipulate them almost as carefully as Bonsai trees).
I've always found the big shiny surreal flowers of Kusama's more gimmicky, but these ones - on loan from Beverly Hills, if they look oddly familiar - looked at their best (what wouldn't?) reflected among water lilies.
Outside the conservatories, there was a Dancing Pumpkin, split open like an octopus, that one could stand inside.
In further pumpkin homage, the steps up to the conservatories and to the library/art gallery (which showed an assortment of her drawings and paintings - including some beautiful, and very botanically exact early work) - were lined with elegant cornucopia-like falling gourds.
There was a tiny Infinity Room (which hasn't been open all that long, because of Covid - and you could still only go inside with your Own Party, which was great for me ...) - which reflected the gardens in its mirrored outside.
I loved another brand new mirrors/lights/pumpkins piece, Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity, which gave spotted pumpkins their own infinity room in which they were gradually illuminated before falling dark again - but no photos allowed, there.
This, in the Native Plants wetlands section of the garden, is a more familiar piece (its concept goes right back to an intervention Kusama staged at the 1966 Venice Biennale), Your Narcissism For Sale - mirrored orbs gently knocking up against each other ...
And behind this part of the gardens - no more Kusama, but a wonderful chunk of rare old growth forest - which formed the core of the gardens when they were founded in the late C19th, and - I never knew such a waterway existed - the Bronx River. This is an artificial waterfall - it was used to provide the waterpower that drove an old tobacco mill, which ground tobacco into snuff.
And, finally, in case you think I don't look around me on the streets of Manhattan, here's one of a pair of lounging figures on 23rd Street.