Saturday, December 25, 2004
I've wanted to paint it for a while. So that I would better understand it I painted a study (oil, 12"x16"). I modified the scale to make the tower appear more imposing.
Monday, December 20, 2004
In the evening we saw the movie Sideways, which I enjoyed immensely. The perfect parts humor and humanity. It had a lot of elements that resonated for me. I'm a huge fan of Alexander Payne's two previous movies, About Schmidt and Election (I felt the later was a perfectly directed and sadly overlooked movie). I love mood pieces, governed by tone, of which I consider some of my all time favorite movies: Leaving Las Vegas, Garden State, and Lost in Translation. Again a great movie.
Sunday afternoon Kim and I went for a walk downtown, along the bay. The USS Midway is parked at the Navy Pier and has been transformed into a floating museum. Despite its enormous size, it's still hard to fathom living aboard for six month stretches of time. It would be an entirely different life.
Around 5pm, Sunday night, I got a call from my friend Tom. I've known him since I was in junior high -- he was the same class year as my younger sister. He called to tell me that his Denver based band, Devotchka, was in town and playing in a few hours at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. He put Kim and I on the guest list. I felt quite special going to the club's ticket window and telling the attendant that I was on the guest list. It was a first for me. Speaking of firsts, there are many firsts that you remember throughout your lifetime. The first time you get laid. The first time you kill a man. And the first time you see Devotchka live. They put on an amazing show. A unique band that you gotta catch in concert. You ain't seen nothin' like it. I found myself mesmerized and awed and desperately wishing I could play the violin.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
In the late evening I went outside to take my trash to the dumpster. A thick and eerie fog had enveloped everything, impairing visibility past 50 feet. The mist hung in the air like a visceral entity. On the late night news I saw that the airport had to cancel flights.
A long time ago I read Stephen King's haunting short story, "The Mist." It involved a fog that consumed a small town and a group of people found themselves trapped in a grocery store. Anyone that stepped outside quickly met their demise via vicious animal attack, including a pterodactyl.
Whenever I'm immersed in fog I immediately conjure up that story. It adds an atmospherical mystique to the experience. I'm not sure if I'd like the story to come true or not. On one hand it would suck to be eaten by a large monster. On the other hand, I'd really like to see a pterodactyl.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
I spent the first weekend of October in Denver. Kim and I checked out the Francoise Gilot exhibit at Gallery M. Francoise was Picasso's companion for ten years, and one of my favorite books is her autobiography detailing this time entitled, Life With Picasso. Viewing Francoise's artwork, it's interesting to see her strong personality emanate, juxtaposed with Picasso's influence. The gallery owner approached us and asked if we were familiar with Francoise's work. I told her that I had read Life With Picasso. The owner inquired how I became aware of this book. Kim relayed how each member of her book club brought their favorite book during one meeting. Her friend brought Life With Picasso. The owner asked the name of this friend. Kim said her name. The owner waved at the paintings behind her. "This is her collection," she said. Small world.
Kim and I proceeded to the Colorado History Museum to see their current exhibit of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. It was amazing. At times humbling. At other times empowering. Accompanying each photograph was a placard detailing the photo's context, information about the photographer and how the image was captured. I found it fascinating how many of the photos were taken almost by accident -- due to an odd set of random circumstances lining up in a peculiar way at a particular instance. If you only knew about the world through these photos, you'd think the whole world had gone to hell -- pure chaos... the evil that men do to one another.... But every once in a while you encounter a photo that makes you smile when you see the wonderful humanity within people.
On Sunday, Kim and I ventured over to Boulder to attend Open Studios -- one of the coolest art experiences out there. Over 130 artists participate in this event that spans two weekends. Each artist selects a single piece of artwork to be displayed in the Boulder Public Library. You go to the library, check out the artwork, and buy a map listing the address of each artist's studio. From there, you travel all over the town checking out each artist's locale and artwork. For me, the enjoyment is largely based on chatting with the artist and seeing his or her studio set-up. Sometimes the studio is an actual studio, sometimes a detached garage, and sometimes simply a room in their house. I bought a beautiful woodcut print of the Flatirons from Theresa Haberkorn. Kim and I both loved the artwork of Stephanie von Reckers and Gigi Lambert.
The following weekend my sister and nephew flew out from Phoenix to visit. We packed a lot of stuff into a few days. My nephew has a fascination with Egyptian stuff, so we hit the Museum of Man. We traversed the Coronado Bridge and set up temporary camp on the beach in front of the hotel Del. My sister rolled up my nephew's pants legs so that he could wade into the ocean water. In a little over ten minutes, he was completely soaked. That evening we headed down to Pacific Beach to enjoy some sushi. The next day we did a tremendous amount of walking. We started off in Little Italy to watch the artists fill the sidewalk at the Chalk la Strada festival. Vanessa did a beautiful chalk drawing. After grabbing an Italian lunch from a vendor, we made our way to a San Diego institution -- the Zoo. The weather was very conducive to animal wanderings because we saw a lot of typically dormant animals actively exercising.
The weekend after, my parents came to visit. It was an uncle and aunt reunion in San Diego so I saw a lot of relatives I hadn't seen in a long time. I introduced my parents to San Diego by taking them to Old Town for lunch and then ascending Mt. Soledad to see the spectacular 360 degree view of San Diego. My parents stayed in Del Mar, which was neat for me because I've never really spent a lot of time over there. Near their hotel, we crossed the railroad tracks hovering on the cliffs' edge, and found a relatively accessible point along the sheer cliff where we could descend down to the water. It was a perfectly serene evening watching the sun set. Before they flew out, I took them out for lunch at Point Loma Seafood Company -- one of my fave seafood places in the city -- and then up to Cabrillo National Monument -- which offers another amazing view of the city. It was the first time my mom had been to San Diego so I had fun showing her around so she could put a place to a name.
The weekend my parents visited, San Diego had set a record of consecutive days without rain at 182. Then it rained. And it's been pouring rain over the past few weeks. We've set a record for most rainfall during the month of October. The thing about rain in San Diego is that it has the same impact on traffic that a blizzard has in Colorado. Perhaps worse. It completely stifles it.
I spent this past week in Dallas on business. My rental car was a Pontiac Aztek. A submerged submarine has more visibility. A thick horizontal bar dissects the rear window. Accompanied by high seats that block a blind-spot check, you realize that you're in a moving bomb shelter. But as time went on I grew to like the Aztek. It's quite agile for a large vehicle. It was also nice sitting up so high instead of the Docker's commercial crotch view I get in the Mustang. Driving around a new city, one of the toughest obstacles is finding a good radio station. I stumbled into one that I kept on the dial the entire time. The music was great but the DJs were annoying. I have a simple test to determine the quality of DJ's. The more DJ's spontaneously laugh after each thing they say, the worse they are. If something is funny, it's funny. I'll laugh. You don't have to convince me by being amused by your voice. "You know what, Dan? I went to the grocery store and had to pull into the third row." "Ha, ha, ha, ha." "That's so funny, Dave." "Ha, ha, ha, ha. The third row? You kill me."
Leaving from the airport, I headed straight to the Dallas Museum of Art. Perused their collection for an hour, and then located my hotel.
The taste of Dallas water has definitely improved since my last visit. I'm guessing that the algae level has decreased. I'm not a big fan of Dallas, but throughly enjoyed visiting its neighboring sister city of Ft. Worth. The city has a section of town called the Cultural District, with three fantastic art museums clustered together, across the street from the beautiful Will Rogers Memorial Center.
I started at the Kimbell Art Museum. There were a lot of kids throughout the museum, each armed with a canvas and a pencil. The child sat patiently in front of a painting he or she selected, and tried to replicate the painting onto the canvas. Feeling content with the drawing, the child brought it over to an extended table where brushes and acrylic paints awaited them. Then the kid went after it. It was fun to watch the process, although it kept the guards on edge. I always like it when children are engaged with art. The museum itself had a nice collection, including a few of my faves like Cézanne and Munch.
I walked across the street to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, one of the most stunning art buildings I've ever seen. A man-made pond runs to the very edge of the museum, creating a fantastic visual effect. There is a concrete hallway that runs along the outer glass wall, bordering the pond, creating interesting nooks where more sculptural pieces sit. The galleries are spacious and arranged well. And the collection is fantastic. There are some artists that I'm familiar with peripherally, and their art starts to resonate powerfully as I become more aware of their ouvre. Every few months an artist is added to this list. Currently, my latest fascination is with Gerhard Richter. They had three of his pieces there (I also saw two at the Dallas Museum of Art). I'm astounded not only by the sheer visual impact of his artwork, but also by his versatility and proficiency. A couple of my other faves include Edward Ruscha and Chuck Close. How the latter accomplishes what he does with seemingly random circles, lines, and dots fascinates me.
I took a lunch break and did a drive-by of the Fort Worth Stockyards. They were fun to drive through, but the immediate area surrounding it looked like the land that time forgot. You could conduct an atom bomb test there and not notice a difference. Abandoned and desolate buildings everywhere. But looking eastward, it's beautiful. Everything was green and trees were full. A river wound it's way gracefully towards downtown which was modest but stood proud. A Portland of the plains. The city has a painterly charm to it, and I'd love to lug my easel and brushes around the place. Great skyline. Nostalgic railway scenes. Peaceful yet lively fields. Barns and silos that seem to be disappearing from everywhere else.
I returned to the Cultural District to finish off my museum triumvirate at the Amon Carter Museum. Growing up in Colorado Springs, I went to Charles M. Russell Junior High school. Despite my three years there, the name never had an association. It was just a label. It's only been in the last few years that I've developed an understanding of the person behind the name. My first exposure to Charles M. Russell's artwork was a few years ago when I visited the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (an underappreciated treasure in C/S -- they have some great stuff). The Amon Carter Museum had an astounding collection of C.M. Russell's artwork. It was a treat for me to gain a further appreciation of my junior high school's namesake.
Perhaps it's due to the name of the airport being DFW (Dallas/Ft Worth). Perhaps it's because on a map it looks like a Rorschach blob. But I always thought that Dallas and Ft. Worth were a large contiguous entity. There's actually a lot of land separating the two (at least from my naive perspective).
Thursday, October 07, 2004
- If your car is so impaired that you need to drive with your hazards flashing, stay off the highway. Back roads only. Tow truck preferred.
- If you're driving 45 mph in the left lane, you may as well build a blockade, because that’s what you’re doing.
- People who apply their brakes with the frequency of a hummingbird’s beating wings… stop it. You need therapy. Electro-shock therapy. Connected directly to your brakes.
- I won’t delve into people who simultaneously smoke and talk on their cell phone while driving. Let me just say that if I’m Dante, you’re in my ninth circle of hell. Along with all pigeons.
- There is an enormous difference between being lost and acting lost. Being lost allows you to discover new places. Acting lost will get you mugged. Possibly shot.
In the time it took to read this, a woman driving on Balboa Avenue just applied her brakes one hundred and seventy three times.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Thursday, September 30, 2004
- Without the distractions of music, my driving skills are honed like a ninja wielding a sword. Double lane changes at eighty five miles per hour within a distance of a hundred feet are artfully conducted like an orchestra. Sipped like a fine wine.
- I talk to myself. Out loud. A lot.
- The beautiful subtleties of the landscape. How the morning sun illuminates the hillside in golden green tones and gracefully shades the palm tree leaves in yellows.
- That being without a car stereo really, really, really sucks.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
This morning I visited one of my favorite places in San Diego, the Mission cafe. It's a small shack located along the Mission Beach boardwalk. My last visit had been far too long ago. So long so that both the color (now green) and name (now Cantina) of the place had changed. During my self-imposed two year sabbatical, I ventured down there every morning to write and draw. It's a great place to people-watch as they stroll, walk, bike, and jog across the boardwalk and descend onto the beach. So as to not disappoint, this morning as I wrote in my journal and drank coffee, a dog wearing a harness with long leash flew past me swiftly as it pulled a man crouched low on his skateboard. It was a Southern California version of the Iditarod.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Due to the subjective nature of music, I frequently find its written criticism to be trite and contrived. I'll read a Rolling Stone album review and cringe when the reviewer includes two lines of lyrics to support his or her view. Two isolated lines prove nothing as a song's power depends heavily on its music, and you completely remove them from their context (the substance of all art).
I argue that painting is even more subjective than music. Consumers and critics can come to a general consensus that some music sucks, but I don't believe that you find this same consensus about art (outside of people that just hate art as a whole). If you encounter a painting style in the everyday world that you hate, there's a good chance that you can find that same style housed on a museum's walls. I remember walking through the Denver Art Museum with my friend Meegan ten years ago, and she commented, "Have you ever wondered why one painting makes it into a museum and another doesn't? What makes a painting museum worthy? If you see two similar paintings, why is one included and the other disregarded?" They were poignant questions, and I try to answer them as I stroll along museum walls. Rarely can I answer them absolutely.
Painting offers a rare quality in the creative fields. Immediacy. It elicits an immediate reaction. A book takes six hours to complete, a movie two, and even a song takes a few minutes to seep in. But standing in front of a painting the image is burned instantly. Of course one acquires additional messages and impact upon absorbing the image through time and study, but it still possesses that initial reaction (or lack thereof). How do you describe it and the cause? Is the painting effective?
My long winded approach is arriving at the fact that I've never really read any art criticism. I questioned if it be worthwhile or is the subjective nature of art too prohibitive. Would I find it as pretentious and contrived as music criticism? Would it resemble the current nature of politics where a person has already taken a stance and simply warps facts to reinforce this idea, or would it consist of a dialogue that evolved into an enlightened view?
I decided to give it a shot and returned to Robert Hughes, best known as the art critic for Time magazine. I bought his book, Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists. I've found it thoroughly engaging and fun. I've seen enough artwork to have developed what I believe to be informed opinions on what I like and dislike, the reasons thereof, and whether a painting is effective. It's been fun to volley my thoughts against his, and try to understand where we concur and differ and why. I've made no veiled declarations that I thoroughly despise the work of Mark Rothko. I enjoyed reading Hughes' essay on Rothko explaining his genius. He validates my reasons for dislike (Rothko can't draw, the paintings have been identical for the last twenty years of his oeuvre and meanings associated with them are dramatically overblown), but Hughes' doesn't see them as a distraction to the paintings' power. The book collects his critiques on art exhibits and books and are based per artist. His ability to articulate his thoughts is amazing, and I enjoy that he gives a context to the art we're seeing (my own creative dogma is that an artwork derives its power from context). A thoroughly engaging read. Highly recommended.
As an aside, I also bought his book, Barcelona, which gives a historical and opinionated view of the city. The city is one of my faves. I'm looking forward to reading the book.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
They boil down to the phrase, “Society believes (this) because of (that).”
Perhaps my criticism is guided by my adverse Pavlovian response to the phrase, “Society thinks….” Upon hearing it I cringe. I heard it frequently repeated during critical thinking classes in college and the phrase always struck me as being pretentious and trite. It’s a concept too ambitious to be uttered by a guy having done keg stands fourteen hours earlier. It’s simply a pet peeve of mine. I have a visceral reaction to the word society. I hate it, and thus never use it in my creative writing.
Arguments involving it always collapse on themselves, where one caveat can turn the carefully balanced structure into sawdust.
Society thinks that this journal entry rocks.
Monday, August 30, 2004
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Out of curiosity, I tried my hand at abstract painting, and thus produced, Abstract Number 1.
A close up taken at an angle....
The challenges in creating an abstract painting arise from the number of variables. They include color, style, texture, spontaneity, and arrangement, among others. It was both fun and frustrating playing with all. Unfortunately I can't get a good photo reproduction of the painting and its texture.
Like Spiderman and Haley Joel Osment, I too have a sixth sense. By witnessing a person’s smallest perceptible behavior – a poker player would call it a tell – I can immediately discern whether he or she will be a pain in the ass. In my head, I catalog these tells. Included in this list are people who make substitutions at restaurants and those that require more than three qualifiers to describe their coffee order. After my flight to France, I have added two more: women who take small dogs with them as they would a cell phone, and hippy parents accompanied by their kids.
If you choose to bring your tiny yap-yap dog on the plane, I shouldn’t hear it yap-yapping. I’ll tolerate a couple of minutes for you to get settled, but I would consider two hours of yap-yapping on an international flight to be excessive, and by all means violates my general rule of “not existing.” Out of the four legs of my trip, two of them contained yapping dogs.
I saw her carry the dog down the aisle and instantly knew what to expect the rest of the flight. She would be a pain in the ass. It didn’t necessarily involve the incessant barking of the dog either. During the entire flight she had the flight attendant scurrying around the cabin to bring her various items.
I’ve transported kids on planes. I know how difficult it can be, but parents must show a little decency. The entire plane is not a playground. The hippy parent sitting across the aisle from me, attired in tie-dye, governed her child with a free spirit laissez-faire style. She let him run continuously in the aisles, scream, jump, swing around seats, and disrupt other passengers within a couple aisle radius.
If it wasn’t for turbulence, I would have had a vasectomy on the plane.
I have a couple of solutions for parents traveling with kids you are unable or unwilling to control. The first is to add a little Kahlúa to their milk. Not only will it make them sleep during their flight, but it will also build their tolerance to alcohol so that they can more easily become raging alcoholics once they reach college (if they aren’t incarcerated before then). The other method of subduing your child on long flights? Tranquilizer gun.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
When it comes to painting and writing, there is one environmental element I cherish most: a great album. But it can't be any great album, it must meet specific criteria. First off, it must set a mood conducive to creative endeavors. Although I love Slayer, double-bass 178 beats per minute riffs are distracting, so mellow works best. It's imperative that the album sets an engaging tone, whether sentimental, longing, melancholic, reflective, hopeful, or somber. Another requirement is that every track must be good. When I'm elbow-deep in turpentine and yellow ochre, paintbrush swinging wildly, I can't afford to venture over to the CD player to forward ahead tracks.
Here are the all-stars in my current rotation:
- Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
- David Gray - White Ladder
- Leona Naess - Comatised
- Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See
- Mazzy Star - Among My Swan
- Norah Jones - Come Away With Me
- Spain - She Haunts My Dreams
- Sheryl Crow - Sheryl Crow
- Shawn Colvin - A Few Small Repairs
In the past few weeks, I've added two new ones that haven't left the CD player:
- Beck - Sea Change
- Garden State soundtrack
I was never a fan of Beck's previous work, so it surprised me how much I like Sea Change. It's a wonderfully intimate album. The Garden State soundtrack elicits a strong association as I reflect back on scenes from the movie and their tone.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
L.A. traffic is a visceral entity. It becomes a part of your life. If someone asks you if you have a family you could realistically say, "Yeah. I have a wife, three kids, and traffic." It's like having a girfriend. You schedule your life around it. It has a personality that you work diligently to try and understand, but despite all your efforts, it still maintains its sometimes random and mysterious nature. A girl can't reveal all her secrets. In my case, the secret would be that I wouldn't get past third gear driving from Anaheim to Hollywood.
In Studio City, I picked up my friend Shannon, and we headed to Pasadena. We ate lunch at a Spanish restaurant called Bar Celona (say it outloud) located along the downtown Colorado Boulevard strip, and I ate one of my fave foods, seafood paella. Following lunch we visited the Norton Simon Museum. The museum has an astounding collection, both exhaustive and diverse, spanning from the 14th to 20th centuries. Everything from Rembrandt to Van Gogh. One of the interesting aspects of the museum is that it has pieces from early moments in an artist's career, that reflect a different aspect of the artist. I have a love/hate relationship with Renoir. While I love his use of color and subject matter, I question his drawing skills and find fault with the way all of his female faces look identical and even unrealistic with their puffy and balloon shape. But then I see an early painting like The Pont des Arts, Paris, and it makes me rethink my stance. They had an extensive collection of works by Degas, Van Gogh, and Picasso. The placards describing each artwork were enlightening and informative. Especially intriguing was the one sitting beside Modigliani's painting, Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Jeanne Hebuterne. It described how the day after Modigliani's death, his wife was so despondant that she commited suicide. She was nine months pregnant.
In the evening, Shannon and I went to the ArcLight movie theater in Hollywood and bought tickets to see Garden State. The ArcLight theater is an enormous complex offering fancy service. Tickets cost $14, and the seating was reserved. Like attending a concert, you selected your actual seats (there isn't general admission). Before the movie starts, an usher announces the movie, running time, and the fact that there aren't any annoying commercials, just three movie previews. Also, if we encountered any problems with sound or picture, to alert them immediately.
Watching a movie in Hollywood is a unique experience. An alluring aspect of movies is its suspended reality. However, seeing a movie in Hollywood causes fiction and reality to coalesce. The audience contains many people familiar with the industry -- the most (ab)used word in all of L.A. -- and know about Oz hidden behind the curtain. They're familiar with the science behind the trick. The audience laughs in odd and delayed segments, like a high school band where a few people are ahead of the beat and a few people behind. They may have friends who worked on it, or the always popular friend of a friend. Also, the stars of the movie, projected thirty feet high, can potentially live a few blocks from where I sit in the darkened theater. At the end of the movie, the audience applauded. I haven't heard applause after a movie since my fifth grade teacher repremanded us for applauding, adding that it was a useless practice since none of the people responsible for the movie could hear us. In Hollywood, this isn't necessarily the case.
One of the previews was for Ben Affleck's upcoming movie, Surviving Christmas. If Ben's goal was to get people to stop talking about Gigli, it looks like he's succeeded. After the first thirty seconds, I scrounged for a sharp object and prayed it wasn't dull. A painful viewing experience.
I really enjoyed Garden State. I loved its pacing, tone, and intimacy, and found its quirkiness -- disliked by other critics -- to be a welcome asset. I'd rather have a personal yet flawed movie than a perfect and disingenuous one.
When we bought the movie tickets, we had an hour to kill before the movie started, so we walked next door to Amoeba Records. I've been to the original in Berkeley, and the L.A. one has its own unique charm. Based on a friend's recommendation, I bought the Garden State soundtrack, movie unseen, and was really glad I did. I left L.A. after the movie -- around 11pm. I asked Shannon if I should expect problems with traffic on the way back. She said there shouldn't be any. I left Studio City, put the soundtrack in my CD player, and discovered that my girlfriend named Traffic still held another tiny secret. Brake lights from Hollywood to downtown. After that, she blew me a kiss and I floated effortlessly down to San Diego.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
As I referenced in a previous post, I love the cafe culture in France. In America, eating at a restaurant is based largely on sustenance. We're hungry, and we need food so that we don't pass out. From the restaurant owner's perpspecitve, they want turnover. But in France, dining is a social endeavor, and an evening long event. A couple will go there together, talk the whole night, continuously engaged in the conversation. They look at each other, and don't stare off to continuously monitor every passing person that walks by. You start off with a drink and appetizers, move onto the entree, and follow that with coffee and dessert. All the while, taking your time. Never feeling hurried. Everything done casually. Enjoying each other's conversation. To an outsider, it may seem haphazard and wasteful, especially if you're used to everything being done in American staccato fashion. But I love the pace, and the respect people give each other at the table. It's genuine.
I worked late Monday through Thursday, so my evenings consisted mainly of descending down to the beach and lounging in restaurants. We had a half-day at work on Friday, so with the afternoon free, I took the train from the hotel to Nice proper (about seven miles east). I walked down to the beach and sat there for a while writing. It was abominably hot, between the temperature and the humidty -- a level I can't ever remember ever experiencing before -- and had I been dressed for it, I would have jumped into the Mediterranean Sea and stayed there for hours. And for those of you wondering, yes, I did sunbathe topless. Longing for shade, I crept back onto city streets and wandered through old haunts. I sat down under the awning at my favorite Nice cafe called Mori's Bar. On average, it may have the ugliest clientelle in all of Nice, but it has an undescribed charm that I gravitate to. Perhaps it's because I feel good looking when I'm there.
I returned to the beach and ascended up a staircase that wound up the side of Castle Hill, upon whose plateau offered one of the most beautiful views of any city I've ever seen.
Nearing dinner time I strolled the streets of Old Town and heard two acoustic guitarists playing familiar songs on an outdoor patio. I took a seat and enjoyed drinking beer on a beautiful evening while the guitarists played an ecclectic mix of English covers including Beatles' songs, Nora Jones' Don't Know Why, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Billie Jean, Stand By Me, and Wonderful Tonight.
I left Old Town to catch the train back to St. Laurent du Var, but I literally missed it by seconds. It departed as I approached within yards of it. With the next train not leaving for two hours, I found a nearby Chinese restaurant to grab dinner in while waiting. The food was horrible, but the ambience charming. I drank my favorite French beer, Kronenbourg 1664, and upon completing my dinner I caught the train and returned to the hotel.
On Saturday morning I caught the train to Villefranche-sur-Mer. Well, technically I caught three trains to Villefranche. I had assummed that my train from St. Laurent du Var would stop at my desired destination, but it happened to skip that one, so I had to take another that returned me to Nice's main station and the third train took me to Villefranche. The town is stunning and one that I had become enamored with when I visited France two years ago. The village is comprised of tightly woven buildings that cling to the mountainside. I passed through narrow alleys, paths, and staircases, to arrive at the Citadel, an amazing stone fort built in 1557. Two sections contained the ouvre of two local and deceased artists. The artwork was exceptional, but as there was no ventilation or air conditioning, the heat in the corridors was beyond intense and I couldn't linger for long. I saw one work on paper and thought that it was a watercolor since the paper was buckled. I looked closer and saw that it was pastel, but the weather conditions within the room caused the paper to bend as it would if water were placed on it. The sculpture and drawings in the Musee Volti were fantastic. Just wondering through the building made you feel like you were living in Medieval times.
After spending much time walking around the city I took the train back to Nice and went to its Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. The building itself is a piece of artwork. It is composed of four five-story columns with connected glass corridors. The museum has a great collection of artwork, and I was impressed -- and surprised -- by its focus on modern American art. One of my favorite pieces was Damien Hirst's, Five Black Dots. It was painted directly onto the enormous wall, and resembled a Twister game with large equidistant dots of different colors. Upon first look, it appeared that there were more than five black dots. But closer inspection revealed that some of the dots that appeared black were actually dark brown, green, and blue. Perhaps a comment on race and the hazards of judging on first appearence? I found it engaging in its simplicity. The very top of the museum had an open air atrium with beautiful views of the city and an interesting way to interlock the functional columns. They were spanned by an arching path that resembled a bridge that one would find in a Japanese garden.
I retraced some of my earlier steps through Old Town, accompanied with a cup of gelatto. In the evening I took the train back to the hotel, and left Nice early Sunday morning. The flight had a barking dog and kids that continuously ran through the plane and swung off seats, so it wasn't a calming flight, but not too bad. I wrote, read, watched TV, slept, and did a drawing.
Friday, August 06, 2004
Writing from Nice, France. I'm done with the business part of the trip so the next day and a half are mine to spend in the French Riviera. It's been quite warm since my arrival, the humidity especially noticible, but there have been beautiful thunderstorms over the past few days that have made for beautiful scenes and eliminated both the humidity and marine layer. The work site is in an incredible location, placed on the hillside in Villeneuve Loubet, overlooking the entire Nice coastline. My hotel located in St Laurent du Var is amazing too, situated along the beach, amid dozens of cafes and restaurants. I've been eating well and enjoying my coffee as I look across the still blue water, watching planes land at the Nice airport. I absolutely love French cafe culture (equivalent to my appreciation of British beer pub culture), and I've loved partaking in it every evening with sketchbook in hand. I got off work early today and jumped onto the train and took it to Nice proper (the hotel is about 8 miles west of Nice). I went down to the beach and hung out with the multitudes of sunbathing people. I've gotten a lot of creative writing done this trip and continued with the trend down on the stone covered shores. The other time I've been to Nice was in October three years ago, and it's amazing how much difference those two months make in atmosphere. It was much more subdued and quieter during October than August.
Tomorrow I plan to begin the day in Villefranche sur Mer, one of the places I longed, but didn't visit, during my last visit to France, and afterwards I'll explore more of Nice with a quick trip to its Museum of Modern Art. I return to the States on Sunday. I'll elaborate more then.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
The San Diego Comic-Con is based entirely on nostalgia. That's its currency. Its heart and brains and lungs and legs. Comics don't change much. They're still 22 pages with two staples in the center. Themes may be updated. Instead of a superhero lifting a car off a lady, the superhero may now be gay with a sister addicted to heroin. But in the end, he's still lifting the car off the lady. Movies are premiered and promoted, but they're based on fifty year old comics and twenty year old books. Circle back. It's all about nostalgia. It all emanates from that base. That's why visiting Comic-Con can be both exciting and disconcerting.
In a time of war and political polarization, there's something calming about seeing Corey Haim and Corey Feldman together again, sitting at a table and signing copies of the Lost Boys DVD. When I took a week long driving course at 16, we watched their collaborative effort, License to Drive. That in turn brings back memories of those summers when life was solely based on working at TCBY, playing home run derby, and drinking Slurpees. At a table around the corner sat Ms. Daisy Duke herself, Catherine Bach.
Then there are the comics. The Comic-Con provides a unique environment. Rare is it that you get such amazing access to industry leaders in any field. It's fun to walk by tables and see the artists and writers I loved growing up. But while I recognized the names, I couldn't connect all of the dots. I couldn't remember which comics they wrote in 1990 when I collected them. I guess that this is the disconcerting part of nostalgia. It reminds you that you're getting older and are further removed from those times. You're detached.
The Comic-Con was absolutely packed and a lot of fun. I saw some great artwork. It may be obvious that Star Wars has generated its own economy, but I don't know if people are aware of how vast and pervasive this economy extends. The tentacles reach far and swing wildly. You can buy anything you want emblazoned with a Star Wars logo. Some people base their careers on the fact that they were tangentially associated with one of the movies. You can get an autograph from the girl who was Jabba the Hut's alien slave girl (not Princess Leia, although Carrie Fisher was there too). The convention is so enormous that it can quickly become overwhelming. It helps if you go in with a focus or plan.
One of my favorite artists is Simon Bisley. If you know him only through his artwork you'll imagine him to be psychotic and menacing. His artwork can be aggressive, wild, and violent. It's also engaging, inspired, and brilliant. Simon brings with him his own mystique and reputation (he's collaborated with Danzig after all). When I saw him at the Heavy Metal table, he had his expected unkempt spiked hair, goatee, and tank top that displayed his huge arms and extensive tattoos. I bought one of his books and had him sign it. Approaching the table, I wasn't sure what to expect, but upon hearing his British accent he seemed more like Jamie Oliver on steroids instead of the wild image that preceeds "the Biz." He was easy going and funny, but so as to not disappoint, he did take a swig straight out of a nearly empty vodka bottle before signing my book.
The Comic-Con took up all of Saturday. So how did I spend Sunday? By watching the I Love the 80's marathon on VH1. That nostalgia is a funny thing.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
A week and a half ago I felt numbness in my left arm. A short time later the numbness descended down my hand. It was followed by tightness in my chest. Then it all faded, only to appear the next day. I thought I may have slept on my arm wrong and the circulation was poor. It continued. Perhaps it was poor ergonomics at work. I changed chairs and setups. It continued. The tightness in the left side of my chest sidled my left arm numbness. Could it be due to stress? I reflected on my life and realized that the only anxiety inducing element to my life was my guitar being out of tune. It didn't seem like stress was the cause.
It continued for a few more days until last Tuesday when the pain grew intense. The muscles on the left side of my chest clamped down like an old lady on her bingo cards. It felt like my heart was being crushed and rebar driven through it. Despite my condition, I felt the need to drive home first and grab my health insurance card before continuing onto my doctor. I loathe melodrama. With that being said, sitting at a traffic light, I genuinely thought I was going to die. I wouldn't have time to see my doctor. I needed to visit the hospital. Somehow, I still retrieved my insurance card thinking that having to deal with the hospital without this card would be worse than actual death. At my home, I pondered calling an ambulance, but not wanting to make a spectacle, I drove myself to Scripps Hospital in La Jolla.
I walked into the reception area and upon telling the receptionist about my chest pains he instantly directed me to an adjacent room where two nurses waited. I told them about my condition and they took my vitals. The nurse asked me questions about my history. Do you smoke? No. Are you diabetic? No. Are you allergic to anything? No. Have you ever freebased with Motley Crue? Once.
After this initial examination the nurse walked me over to a curtain separated bay with a bed and told me to change into a hospital gown. She returned a few minutes later and stuck electrodes all over my body and hooked the many strands of wire to a machine on the wall. Another nurse entered and placed an IV into my arm. She took four vials of blood and then attached a solution bag suspended from the ceiling. I was now tethered. The final touch was a glycerine patch placed on my chest.
A series of technicians entered my bay with equipment and took an EKG reading. Later, two guys wheeled in a machine, propped me up, and took a chest x-ray. The doctor came in and asked what I was feeling. I always hate this moment. Regardless of my condition, I always feel like it's my job to convince the doctor that I'm feeling what I'm feeling and be able to articulate this pain into terms that generate an immediate diagnosis from him. I could enter the hospital impaled with a spear, have both ends of it sticking out of me, and still feel this innate vulnerability that he'll think I'm faking it.
I've described all of this in staccato fashion, but the elapsed time at this point is about three hours. And I need to pee. I inform a passing nurse of my predicament and she returns with what is dubbed, "a urinal." It's a water bottle with the opening tilted at a forty-five degree angle. As simple as it looked, I didn't quite understand the subtlety of how to use it. In the spirit of the NBA finals, should I sit it at the edge of the bed and just aim for the rim? Do I stand it upright and mount it like zebras mating in the Serengeti? I had limited mobility due to the combination of electrodes and IV. In addition, when the nurse exited my bay, she didn't fully close the curtain, and therefore left a foot wide gap of open space where busy, sullen, sad, and sometimes crying people passed continuously. Somehow I managed with grace and what I'll admit to be a bit of style. You're probably asking, what could enhance my hospital experience?
How about an earthquake?
A magnitude 5.2 earthquake shook the hospital. Laying in the wobbly bed, I was in an optimal position to experience it. I felt the bed shake and saw lights, equipment, and the IV bag swing recklessly. A nurse stopped by to make sure I was okay.
Around 3:30pm a technician came down to my bed and brought my chest x-ray. She tucked it into the side of my bed and told me that I'd need it for my transfer. She vanished before I could ask her what she meant. The doctor returned to see me. He told me that my tests had come back negative for a heart-attack. My EKG had shown that there was stress to the left side of my heart but it wasn't an alarming reading -- no person's EKG looked textbook perfect he explained. But due to various factors, he thought that I should spend the night in the hospital. Although since my health insurance preferred a different locale, I wouldn't be spending the night in this particular hospital. He informed me that an ambulance would pick me up at 4:20pm to transfer me to Sharp Memorial. If one is fortunate, they get to experience both an ambulance ride and an earthquake over a lifetime. I combined it all into one day.
The ambulance arrived. They took my vitals and whisked me away. Driving south on Highway 163 the ambulence driver slammed on the brakes, tossing both EMTs and their loose equipment forward. I lifted my head enough to see out the back window. Cars skidded to either side to avoid hitting us. My ambulance almost needed to be rescued by another.
At Sharp Memorial I was placed in a staging room. My blood was taken every eight hours and my heart was constantly monitored by machine. When I was transferred to my room in the evening I was given a battery powered machine that I could take with me.
The nurses and doctors I encountered during my twenty-four hour stay were wonderful. Although all of the nurses commented on my hairy chest when they hopelessly applied the electrodes, wanting them to stick.
I tried to get to sleep but the IV in my arm kept me from bending it and was very uncomfortable. A man born in 1908 lied in the bed across from me, and caddy-corner was a man whose large and noisy family visited him until 1am. At 3am a nurse woke me up to take blood.
The next morning a woman looked at my heart with an ultrasound machine. Later, a man injected me with radioactive isotopes and placed me in a cat-scan like machine. I would repeat the isotope/machine process a short time later after having run on a treadmill for ten minutes (it's a heart-stress test).
Before being discharged the doctor told me that all of my heart-related tests came back negative. My heart looked in good shape. He believed that my episode was stomach related -- that I had bad problems that needed to be addressed (he said that it looked like acid reflux -- if John Elway has that problem it puts me in cool company). He added that if someone came to him with my symptoms, that he couldn't determine whether it's heart related or stomach related. The symptoms are so similar that they mask each other. He gave me some stomach medication and I was discharged.
While my hospital stay lasted twenty-six hours, it genuinely felt like weeks. Hospitals aren't fun. The hard part is the waiting. There's a lot of it, and while the doctors and nurses did a wonderful job of informing me what came next, it's still tough to wait. On the other side, it's an interesting place to be a voyeur. I have a belief that the only two places where everyone has a story are hospitals and airports.
I haven't been to a hospital since I had my tonsils taken out eighteen years ago. I hope it's another eighteen until I return. I'm glad that my heart is okay.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Kim and I journeyed into the mountains on Saturday and had an adventurous day. We passed through Boulder and Estes Park to venture into Rocky Mountain National Park and across Trail Ridge Road -- the highest continuous highway in North America. As we ascended the pass, hovering near the edge of the mountain, snow blanketed everything as it fell. Kim would point in a direction and say, "Usually there's a huge mountain right there," where we could only see a white wall. Upon nearing the top, we were turned around by the state patrol who said that it was white-out conditions past that point.
We retreated and drove through Rocky Mountain National Park, and in a short span we encountered a wide array of wildlife. A herd of elk chewed grass near the side of the road, and located at an address further along, a group of bighorn sheep played along the mountain side. They were beautiful to watch as they glided across rocks, and occasionally one would stand mightily on his hind legs. One of the coolest sights came unexpectedly. I was looking out onto a flood plain area when I saw movement. I told Kim to stop the car. We pulled over onto the side of the road and watched a coyote approach us. It strolled in front of our car, and upon nearing the road, it looked both ways before crossing.
Exiting RMNP, we descended into Estes Park to grab some grub at the Estes Park Brewery. After eating way too much stuff that had been deep fried, we eyed the nearby Estes Park Aerial Tram with curious apprehension. It rose from Estes Park to the summit of Mount Prospect. The wind had been gusting all day, a scary element when suspended from a cable, but curiosity won over apprehension, and we took the tram to the top. It offered spectacular views including the city of Estes Park and its infamous Stanley Hotel.
Kim and I spent other days dipping down into Colorado Springs to see my family and attending the Colorado Arts Festival in downtown Denver.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Aaaah, beer. Sitting in a Bennigan’s at the Galeria Mall, the kind waitress that called me dear, honey, and sweetheart throughout my meal asked what I wanted to drink. “I’ll have a Guiness, please.” She asked me if I had a Unicard. No, I replied. She then explained to me that since this area of Dallas was a dry county that she couldn’t technically serve alcohol, but there was a loophole that allowed me to drink if I filled out a Unicard permit and had it on record. She brought me the form and said that the restaurant would pay the application fee. Yes, in order to drink beer in Dallas as to escape the wretched water, I had to fill out paperwork.
I have neither a sensitive nor picky palette, but I just couldn’t deal with the taste. It astounded me that there wasn’t a revolt in the city over the water. I was curious if I was the only one aware of it. I went online and did a few searches. I found a recipe that said if you were making this recipe in Dallas during the summer months, you needed to use bottled water due to the “off taste” the water acquired.
The reason the water acquired this taste? During the summer months the algae levels in the lakes grew dramatically.
Dallas… it’s called a filter.
The Dallas Museum of Art had some great stuff and an interesting layout. It had five floors arranged in a cascading stair-step pattern where one flowed down onto the next. I say this with reluctance -- since I'm an artist I feel inclined to embrace all art forms -- but I hate square paintings. I loathe them. Every time I see a Mark Rothko painting with a description hanging nearby about its deep symbolism and metaphor I have a visceral reaction that makes me want to shake museum directors worldwide and tell them how they all have had the wool pulled over their eyes. The one exception to the square paintings comes from the artist Piet Mondrian. I enjoy his squares. However I seem to enjoy them more upon seeing his wonderful landscape and figurative work that preceeded the squares. The DMA had a nice collection of both.
Across the street I visited the Nasher Sculpture Center. The entrance fee was $10, which for an art museum is on the very high side, but upon entering I found that it was definitely worth it. The featured exhibit was Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier. A great collection. I'm not very good at internalizing sculpture, but the museum had so many engaging pieces laid out wonderfully in internal galleries and an outside garden that it made the attraction easy and instantenous. They also had some Giacometti sculptures which are always whimsical and intriguing. He's one of my faves.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Kim visited over Easter weekend and along with friends, we went and saw Anya Marina give a great show at Lestat's Coffee house. Since we arrived early, we decided to visit a nearby bar beforehand, The Ould Sod. Sitting in a lounge semi-circle booth, we talked about possibly hitting a karaoke bar at the end of the evening. Almost on cue, the music grew louder and a woman's voice was heard on a microphone announcing the start of karaoke. It was all very serendipitous. After hearing an impressive rendition of Jack and Diane, we returned to Lestat's to hear Anya perform.
In the times between painting and events, I've attended different art gallery openings in the area. A lot of good art is happening out there.
Sunday, February 01, 2004
Saturday, January 31, 2004
The queue is where my obsession lies. It becomes a storage space for desires, a reclamation of childhood, a visible beacon of wanting to have lived in a different era. I add recent movies that I want to see. I add movies that I should have seen growing up but never did. And I add classic movies that I've heard about but never had the chance to see. But perhaps even more so, the queue becomes a device to test your memory. In your head you have an internal queue of books you want to read. But what happens when you walk inside a bookstore? The queue is immediately flushed and you can't remember a single title you wanted. You hover by the Dr. Seuess children's books hoping that the list returns. And then appears the Netflix queue. When you log onto that page you soon forget that internal list inside your head of those titles that you want to see. I've recently been like the guy from Memento who writes stuff down on sticky notes in fear of thoughts being forever lost. Scrap paper and yellow sticky notes sit across my apartment and in sketchbooks when I'm away. A movie title that spontaneously pops into my head. I jot it down since I know it will vanish otherwise. And thus I have slowly built up my queue to the number it stands at today.
96 movies. Or as I like to think of it: a list of movies for the next 3 1/2 years.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
It's been a good run. Starting the day sipping coffee at the beach, writing in my journal, while others scramble to get to work on time. Drawing naked college coeds on Wednesday mornings. Trips to Las Vegas, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Nine visits to Colorado. And two highly memorable travels to Europe. These past two years have truly been a charmed life.
I recently returned from Denver and had a wonderful time. Kim and I went to a professional lacrosse game at the Pepsi Center where we watched our beloved Colorado Mammoth beat the Phoenix Sting in overtime. It was an absolute blast. The action is fast paced, the scoring abundant, and they beat the crap out of each other while music blares during play. And then you have the Wild Bunch dancers providing entertainment during the breaks. One person described their appearance as being one step above a stripper's. Upon seeing them, there was the tendency to recklessly whip out dollar bills.
One day we took a trip up to Boulder and walked around my beloved Pearl Street. We then proceeded over to The Hill, and sat in Buchanan's Coffee Pub. I was drawing Kim's portrait when huge flakes poured heavily down from the sky. We decided to pack up and return to Denver, hoping that dropping down in elevation would reduce the amount of snow we encountered. It only grew more dense. And for the first time in a long time, I was in the middle of a snow storm. In a few hours, we received five inches of snow. It created a beautiful scene.
Sunday, January 04, 2004
I spent a fun holiday season among family and friends in Colorado.
It began in unique fashion. I attended a trial Kim prosecuted. It was a double homicide. A man had shot and killed his two friends. Point blank. In the head. Blood everywhere. The crime scene photos were disconcerting and jarring. And very sad. The trial lasted a week and a half. On December 23rd, the day before Christmas Eve, at 5pm, the jury returned with a verdict. Guilty. It felt great that justice had been served. What created additional intrigue to the case was that the defendant had confessed to the crime in a taped interview, however his confession was supressed by the judge since he had exercised his rights just before admitting the crime. As a result, the prosecution had to rely solely on circumstancial evidence. They did an amazing job. In an odd irony, the defendant's birthday -- the man who shot his two friends and was now sentenced to life in prison -- is December 25th.
After attending the trial, I descended south to Colorado Springs to spend Christmas time with my family. It had been three years since I had last spent holiday time in Colorado, so it was nice, despite not having a white Christmas (you expect those romantic notions when visiting Colorado over Christmas, especially while living in San Diego).
Following the holidays I returned to Denver, and Kim and I went to two Avalanche games and a Nuggets game. For a period of four days we lived at the Pepsi Center. Had a great time. We spent New Year's in understated fashion. Playing Scrabble and popping out onto her balcony to watch the downtown fireworks at midnight.