Sunday, September 28, 2003

Thursday afternoon, Kim and I sat in front of her office computer, and played with an array of dates, locations, routes, and times. The result? On November 20th, we fly into Frankfurt, Germany and on December 2nd, we fly out of Munich, returning to the States. But this is just an intermediate step. Our true destinations: Prague and Vienna.

There were some flight logistics we had to work out. Namely, that Kim would be flying from Denver and I out of San Diego, and ideally we wanted to fly together. Fortunately it worked out quite well. We both connect to the same layover flight in Pittsburgh on our way to Europe. And we fly back from Europe together to connections in Philadephia, where we'll each take a separate flight to our respective homes. Thus, we're on the same plane to and from Europe.

While I've heard wonderful things about both Prague and Vienna, my desire to visit is largely art generated. These two cities have concentrated collections of my three favorite artists: Klimt, Schiele, and Mucha. It's difficult to view their artwork in breadth anywhere outside of these cities.

Currently we're trying to get some semblance of a plan together as far as length of stay in each city and potential side-trips. A few side trips discussed include Dresden and Bratislava. Mainly we're looking at casually paced days where we get to absorb and appreciate each city we're in.

I imagine I'll maintain an online journal while I'm away, but I'm not sure of its web site location. It will probably be concatenated onto my previous European travel journal.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Last night I returned to San Diego after an amazing two week stay with Kim in Denver.

When I flew into Denver International Airport, Kim greeted me at the security checkpoint, and we walked over to the luggage rack, awaiting my two checked bags. One bag contained my clothes. The second was my folding French easel. We waited for the bags. And waited. And waited. Then over the loudspeaker we heard, “Paging Tipton. Please go to the baggage office.” Never a good sign. We entered the office and Kim sullenly pointed down. Sitting on the floor was my splintered easel. The top clamp was snapped off. Wood was ripped in half and missing. Screws barely held together. I talked with the desk clerk. As I held the shattered easel in my arms like a sick puppy, our conversation began like this:
Desk clerk: You have to be careful with the parts that stick out. Its extremities. This wasn’t built for traveling.
Me: But it’s called a traveling easel.

He wasn’t compassionate. I thought about aggressively pursuing my case, but knew I was in the wrong. I had nothing to stand on. It's not a resilient apparatus. Before I began the trip, I had even joked with Kim about my doubts the easel would survive the trip, and told her we would probably end up with kindling. Instead of arguing, I played the waiting game and kneeled next to my easel, clutching it to my chest. It was like standing at a bar until it closed, hoping that some girl would simply find pity in you and take you home. Saying anything before that time would only prove detrimental to the cause. Reveal you to be a fraud. Eventually, he relented and gave me a fifty dollar credit on a future Frontier flight. It worked out well. Analyzing the damage I realized I could patch together my $85 easel, and would definitely get use out of the fifty dollar credit.

Fixed with rubber bands and rogue screws, I set up my repaired easel on Kim’s third story balcony a few mornings later, and did an abstract painting of her downtown view.

We spent the first weekend with my parents in Colorado Springs and attended the Air Force Academy football game. It's great because my parents have tickets to the Blue and Silver room so we got to stock up on free beer and food before the game. This room also paid great dividends later, as it was 40 degrees outside, and thus we could go inside at halftime to warm up. As I’ve lived in California for over seven years, my ability to handle cold weather has diminished greatly. Kim said that my California living had made me fragile. “I’m not fragile,” I joked. “I’m sensitive.” It’s all semantics, I know, but it sounds better to be sensitive. The fighter plane fly-overs were powerful – bone-chilling and teary-eye making (remember I’m sensitive) – especially when accompanied by the national anthem.

The second weekend we spent three days up in Breckenridge. We brought Kim’s two dogs, Oscar and JJ, and took an indirect route through Kenosha pass so that we could see the aspen leaves change. It was beautiful. Along the way, we stopped in Conifer to each eat a foot long hotdog, chili-cheese fries, and a shake at hot-dog shaped restaurant. A definite trip highlight. One morning I walked around the Breckenridge shops, ducking into a coffee shop to write, and then wandering through great art galleries. Later, while sitting on a bench, I quietly sketched the ski-trail covered mountain.

This last week we hit two of the big Denver sports venues. On Tuesday (Sept 23) we watched the Avalanche beat the Los Angeles Kings at the Pepsi Center. I loved seeing Sakic set-up one of my fave players, and newest Avalancher, Teemu Selanne for a goal. On Thursday (Sept 25) we saw Bruce Springsteen play a two and a half hour show at Mile High.

Sandwiched between these stadium events, we made a trip to one of our favorite places: Boulder. Kim and I walked hand in hand along Pearl Street, and meandered over to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art to check out an amazing exhibit by Jim Byrne. In the late afternoon, we made our way to Chataqua Park, located at the base of the Flatirons, and I set up my easel. The hazy sky and evening sun sliding behind the mountains created a diffused light effect, thus blurring colors and leaving few shadows, so painting was a challenge. While I worked on my painting, Kim laid on a blanket, reading a book, with dozens of hikers and joggers zipping past us, each one glaring curiously at my progress. It was a beautiful day.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Friday night I started and completed a painting. One of my favorite things about painting is finishing one. I receive a great sense of accomplishment. Perhaps it's just the act of signing my name on the bottom. It's like asking myself for an autograph.

On the other end of the completion spectrum, an orphaned 18"x24" canvas has resided on my floor for a year and a half, with a pencil drawing sitting placidly on its front. I based the drawing on a photo I had taken earlier.

A few days before Christmas 2001, I visited a friend in Los Angeles, and we hiked up Mount Lee. Accompanied by two dogs, we rounded the spiraling curve at the top and were confronted by one of the most powerful and recognizable icons in the world. The Hollywood sign. Except our view was unconventional. Different. You see, we stood behind it. One hunded feet away. We looked down upon the struts and supports that held it up. Oz behind the curtain. I won't delve into metaphor and symbolism. Los Angeles suffers enough from this. But peering out past the sign lay eighteen million people. Many of them lured by the essence of this very sign. I took photos from this vantage point, and when I got home, I drew my artistic interpretation of this scene onto the blank 18"x24" canvas.

I knew how I wanted to render the scene. What I wanted things to represent. I also knew that I would use oils. So for the first time in a while, I broke out the oils, set up my easel, and began throwing paint up. I quickly remembered how messy it was. After haphazardly flinging paint onto nearby blinds and my guitar, I became disenchanted by oils, and put everything away. I placed the barely begun painting behind the door and left it. This was over a year and a half ago.

Now that I'm getting better at oils, and addressing my original problem, I can handle them with minimal messiness, I decided to adopt this orphaned painting today and started flinging paint upon it once again. This time with a little more tenderness. Here is a picture of my new start:

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I'm sitting here knowing that I want to paint something, I'm just not sure what I want to paint. Finding the subject matter often takes me more time than the painting itself. I've been going through my art books studying the works of Klimt, Freud, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and others. This seems to have a paradoxical effect. While I feel inspired by their talent, I also come away deflated, wondering if I'll obtain the level of seeing and technical mastery that they have. Something to shoot for, I guess.

Kim flew into San Diego Thursday night and departed a few days ago. We had an amazing time.

Thursday night we went down to Moondoggies in Pacific Beach to enjoy a beer and their chicken finger appetizers. We then meandered half a block over to the ocean. While it's rare that the weather in San Diego isn't lovely, this evening it was perfect. A man juggling sticks doused in kerosene and lit on fire stood nearby. I wondered if he would catch on fire. Maybe it was a secret wish so that I could push him into the ocean. That would make for an easy, yet dynamic, life saving rescue. I'm not sure if God weighs the dangerous risk or relative ease of saving a life, or like football, a win is considered a win, regardless of how close or far the score was. I'm hoping it's the latter. Either way it's good to build up the karma. Especially when doubling down on a twenty dollar hand of blackjack in Vegas.

Friday morning we went down to eat breakfast at the Eggery. Kim and I walked along the beach, the cold ocean water collapsing around our ankles. After making a loop beneath the Garnet Street pier, we hopped in the car and headed over to Point Loma. Although the Hopper-esque lighthouse was undergoing repairs, the unique view of the city is enough to occupy you for a long time. We crossed to the other side of the peninsula's tip and peered across the ocean. Upon absorbing the views, we descenced down into Ocean Beach. We ventured along Newport Avenue and plopped down in Hodad's. Enjoyed a great burger and shake. In the evening we stayed in and watched Y Tu Mama, Tambien. A wonderful movie. There's something so romantic about road trips. It's all about freedom.

Saturday afternoon, Kim and I explored Hillcrest. Grabbed lunch, peered into a few bookstores and then took the Mustang down Park until pulling into Balboa Park. We meandered by the museums, and dipped into the SD Museum of Art for a gander. We walked to the beginning of the Prado Bridge that arches gracefully over Highway 163. And for the first time I noticed signs below that warned visitors that they were entering an archery range. How cool would you be if you returned from your summer vacation in San Diego with an arrow wound? You would have campfire stories galore. Especially if they were accompanied by having rescued a man on fire. In the evening, we got dressed up and drove to Coronado, eating dinner at Chez Loma. Being in San Diego, we both had to go with fish main courses. Kim went with the salmon and I opted for the halibut. Why did I go with that selection? I did it just for the halibut. The dessert was amazing. I had the fallen chocolate souffle which made me want to light up a cigarette after eating it. For the evening's entertainment, we went to see Anya Marina perform at Mission Beach's Cannibal Bar. Anya gave a fantastic show.

Sunday was our beach day. We ate at The Mission, a small cafe bordering the Pacific Beach boardwalk. After breakfast, we crossed the seawall threshold and took refuge in the sand, laying down our towels and kicking off the sandals. Kim talked me into playing in the waves, so we walked out into the water and as each wave approached, decided on whether to avoid the break by diving under or jumping over (I was a diver and Kim was a jumper). A full breakfast, the sun shining, and playing in the waves made for a refreshing morning.

I've had a season pass to the zoo since I first moved to San Diego over two years ago. But I had never been to their summer season highlight -- the Night-time Zoo. During the summer, they stay open until 10pm. As Monday evening was their closing night for this season, Kim and I went to talk to the animals. It was a lot of fun. The nocturnal animals appear lazy during the day, so it was cool to see these animals doing calisthenics, having disco parties and limbo contests. While I have my favorite animals at the zoo, I am completely fascinated by one. It's called the fishing cat. Next to their display, is a large sign that has drawn pictures of the fishing cat diving in the water after a fish. It shows their webbed feet. Their fierce wild eyes. Their teeth and claws. But what have I seen in the dozen times I've been to the zoo? The fierce fishing cat laying in the exact same place on an elevated perch, looking like it's snorted three lines of catnip and done a beer bong the night before. I've never seen it move. Kim and I arrived at their exhibit this time, and it's dark, with the exception of some light entering enough so that you can see their pool of water and crossing logs. We sat there for a minute and saw nothing. Kim then points. I look and the fishing cats are moving along the logs. They pause and look like they're hunting. I saw movement! It was a small victory. We stood there for ten minutes, mesmerized by the fishing cats and their behaviors. Before the zoo closed we made our way to the Alaskan brown bear exhibit and one of the bears was very active. It stood at the edge of its habitat, and stared at the visitors. A few people threw popcorn at it. They would raise their arms and the bear would get up and raise his arms. Perhaps it was a former circus bear. It would just look at us. The zoo wasn't crowded either. It was a great environment to see the animals, and different ones emerge at night than during the day. Also during the summer season, Sea World launches fireworks every night at a quarter till ten. Since I've lived here I've only caught the show once. When we left the zoo it was around 9:30pm so I crossed a bridge and pulled onto a Mission Bay island facing Sea World and we watched the final night of fireworks.

Tuesday afternoon became a relatively idle day, but more so because of our lunch time meal than any intention. We ate a large Mexican meal in Old Town, and between the sangria and pound of cheese in each of our stomachs, we took it easy the rest of the day. We had an amazing six days.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I can't believe how long it's been since I've last posted.

I've been doing a lot of traveling. In the past two months I've been to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver twice. Been to three weddings. The first took place in Chicago.

My college friend, Julie, got married July 12th. Since I had never been to Chicago I decided to make it a full-fledged trip and visited for a week. I stayed in a hostel downtown. I walked much, and visited two wonderful art museums: the Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. I did sketches of artwork at each, at times feeling like a rock star as small crowds gathered around me to watch. MCAC had a 30 piece exhibit of one of my fave modern figure/portrait painters -- John Currin. Amazing exhibit. And the AIC speaks for itself. While there is no shortage of astounding artwork present, I found myself particularly engaged by their collection of American artists like John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer. I hit the Field Museum, took an elevator to the top of the Sears Tower, peddled a boat around a Lincoln Park pond with Kim, meandered around The Loop, sketched Buckingham Fountain while sitting in Grant Park, bought a shirt on Michigan Avenue, saw the penguins at the zoo, took The L out to Wicker Park/Bucktown and strolled along Damen Avenue where I got a tasty bite to eat. I interleaved my adventures in the hot humid sun with air conditioning, and this frequent swimming between the two took its toll on me, and a few days in, I found myself sick. Nothing like coughdrops, cough medicine, aspirin, and the will to live to help me recover.

A little over a week later, I visited Kim in Denver, and we attended her brother, Kyle's wedding. Had a wonderful time in Denver. For my birthday, Kim took me to Emma's for dinner. It was one of the best meals I've ever had. I felt adventurous and went with an appetizer of Oven roasted wild boar cassoulet with white beans, lamb sausage and tomato con fit. For dinner I opted for the Blue crab stuffed quail topped with a red onion salsa with pan roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus, sweet corn and a lemon chardonnay butter pan jus. Is your mouth watering wet? I thought that they were going to throw me out when I started licking the plate, but they were quite understanding. I have a fancy membership to the San Diego Museum of Art, which entitles me to free admission to seventeen other museums, including the Denver Museum of Art. Checked out the Sargent exhibit they have there. His efficiency amazes me. Standing close to his paintings, you'll see a quick economic brush stroke, but stand back and he's perfecly replicated the look of a statue's shadow or the texture of a brick. I particularly loved his watercolors. While I think watercolor is arguably the most challenging medium out there, you rarely see watercolor displayed in museums. Kyle and Beth's wedding was stunningly beautiful. Here is a picture of Kim and I at the reception:

I followed my Denver trip with a return to Denver, this time staying for ten days. Kim and I had another amazing time. We saw Sheryl Crow at Red Rocks. Fantastic show, and Sheryl must have received my love letter because she performed three of my fave songs: Home, Leaving Las Vegas, and Steve McQueen. Kim also took me to see The Taming of the Shrew performed at the Mary Rippon theater on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. We couldn't have had better weather as we watched the show underneath the stars.

I came back from Denver only to hop in the Mustang and shoot up to Los Angeles to see my college friend Brett get married. Shared many laughs as other college friends converged onto the Redondo Beach event.