Do Crows Make More Noise When It’s Hot, Or, Saturday Morning At 7:51am


“Do crows make more noise when it’s hot?” I Googled.  No clear answer.

We’re having a heat wave in Northern California, which, given our usual deeply temperate climate, feels a little apocalyptic. If the Apocalypse comes in small doses that is. The crows are cawing late night and early morning. Jays are screaming, and fighting with seagulls in from the bay.

My house was built in 1953 and I do not have air conditioning. New houses in the Bay Area may, but we faithful few, we soldier on. Come the annual heat wave – because it happens almost every year and each time we say to each other, “Oh, it’s so HOT!”- we long-time Northern Californians open our windows at night and close up tight around 9:30am. We wait it out, feeling like we really live here.

The day before yesterday Yahoo weather got stuck at 102°. Long after Weather.com and Wunderground were calling the temperatures down like an election, 93, 86, 82, our phones just glared at us, 102. Hotter than decades past.

Yesterday wasn’t much better. I drank cold water with a lot of ice and a little lemonade. By 3pm the heat had reached its peak. We opened the doors in surrender, and hot air blew through the house. I lay on the sofa with my legs resting up the back, fighting off foot swelling. What a heat sissy, acknowledged.

And, even though at one point the heat weighed on my chest so heavily it was almost hard to breathe, I felt a sort of gritty joy. Reveling in my body dealing with extremity, perhaps.

When I woke at 1:30am the temperatures had fallen to the 70s, as our marine layer cooled us off for sleep.  Now as I write, the back door open to a morning in the 60′s, I see today they predict a maximum of 88. I can recollect 102 fondly, “Remember that summer when Yahoo Weather got stuck?”

This may be the purest definition of privilege. In an abundance of 75° days we can enjoy one nigh-on painful sweating. In comfort we can enjoy hardship – it feels like life force, not distress.

But if I back away from my own senses and good cheer, I remember we’re in a drought. Delaine tells me it’s spreading across the country. This is the flipside risk of privilege, we find the crows to be an annoyance rather than intelligence from the front lines. I don’t want to feel danger, who would unless they had to? Maybe we have to.

It should go without saying that the responsibility of privilege is empathy, and on a broader scale some kind of global consciousness, but I still need reminding.

Have a wonderful weekend. I believe it’s possible, even when we acknowledge the hard stuff.

The Long Awaited Return Of Professor C. In Which We Discuss James Joyce And John Huston’s The Dead.


My very distinguished father, Professor C., on The Dead as written by James Joyce, and then written again and filmed by John Huston and his son, Tony. If you find you would like more of these pieces, please look to the sidebar and click on “Professor C.” Thanks Dad, for all sorts of things.

“The Dead”

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James Joyce’s “The Dead” is one of the best short stories ever. John Huston’s film adaptation of “The Dead” may be the best translation ever of fiction into film.  At least I think so. As do many others. So what to make of this outlier from “Rotten Tomatoes”: “Disappointing adaptation of the last story in Joyce’s Dubliners. It has dullness written all over it. It makes Merchant Ivory seem like Rambo.” This nonsense in fact undermines itself and helps explain why, and how, Huston’s film, about as far as it could be from Merchant Ivory’s glossy stuff, is a masterpiece. In the story and the film, nothing to speak of happens. Or, make that, “nothing” happens. There’s a Christmas-time party in 1904 at the house of two old spinsters and their niece. There is music and formal dancing. The guests are friends and relatives, among them the spinsters’ nephew Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) and his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston). Snow is falling. When the party is over, Gabriel and Gretta go back to their room in the Gresham hotel, where Gretta is overcome by the memory of the boy Michael Furey, with whom she went out walking in their youth and who died, she thinks, for love of her.  And that’s it. Behind it all stands the ghost of Chekhov, master of domestic dramas in which nothing happens and everything depends on networks of implication and desire.

Photography By Brian Hamill

What is “The Dead” about?  Almost everything: the falling snow and the Irish landscape; Ireland and England in the person of Conroy, an imitation “West Briton” who takes vacations on the continent; the Irish rebellion that is soon to break out; the two Irelands, east and, in the west,Gretta’s birthplace beyond the English pale  – Miss Ivor invites the Conroys to come with her to Aran in the summer, and Gretta, born in Galway, longs to return; the two languages of Ireland, English and Gaelic – “beannacht libh,” cries Miss Ivor, “good-bye to you,” when she leaves rudely and early for a meeting of Irish nationalists; Ireland and its Scottish diaspora – old Mrs. Malins, mother of the drunken, charming, puppyish Freddy, has moved to Glasgow to be with her daughter; women and the Catholic church; the music of melancholy and memory  – “Arrayed for the Bridal,” “The Lass of Aughrim,” the song that Michael Furey used to sing; Catholic drunks and Protestant drunks; social class; love; loss; desire; age; death. What more do you need?  Film and story overflow with something that is everything more than nothingness.  John Huston was dying as he made the film, in a wheelchair, hooked to an oxygen line. Dying, he knew that “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The African Queen,” good films all, were froth on life’s emotional seas, the comings and goings of every day.

In the script, by Huston’s son Tony, much of the dialogue is Joyce’s own; changes here and there are for emphasis. A new character reads (beautifully) the ending of an eighth-century Irish poem, translated by Lady Gregory, about immeasurable loss: “You have taken the east from me, you have taken the west from me;/
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;/
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me/
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!” Otherwise, Huston transplants from mid-story to nearer the end the emblematic tale of a family mill-horse, used to circling the mill, who starts circling a statue of the despised English King, William of Orange, when harnessed to a carriage for a day’s outing, an image of Irish life both political and domestic. In a bow to modern usage, Freddy Malins arrives at the party not “screwed” but “stewed.” The “jolly gay fellows” (“which nobody can deny”) of the traditional song become “jolly fine fellows.”  But the fabric of the original is intact.

The Dead Dinner Party

 

A final challenge, however, eludes the reach of acting and film-making, however adroit: the tumult of Gabriel’s feelings on his way to the hotel and the greater tumult after he learns of Michael Furey. As they go back to the Gresham, in Joyce’s telling, Gabriel is filled with quiet longing: the “touch of her body, musical and strange and perfumed, sent through him a keen pang of lust.” Years slip away: “as they stood at the hotel door, he felt that they had escaped from home and friends and run away together with wild and radiant hearts to a new adventure.” In the film, while in the cab to the hotel, Gabriel has taken Gretta’s hand, but nothing more. And all goes dead when Gretta, overcome by memories of Michael Furey and “The Lass of Aughrim,” cannot respond to Gabriel’s desires, which resist not only being spoken but, being silent, resist the power of film to capture them.

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The snow is falling again. In the story but not the film, Gabriel lies “cautiously” down beside Gretta, understanding his feelings now not as lust but love, and speaks a silent requiem: “The time had come to set out on his journey westward” — to the country where Gretta comes from, where Michael Furey is buried, and where spirits dwell. “Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland,” the weather report as a human condition. The final lines of “The Dead” are surpassingly beautiful. In the film, Donal McCann as Gabriel assembles their threads in a soliloquy, the best film can do with interior monologue.  It would be ungrateful to protest that film cannot do more. What it can do, and does in Huston’s “The Dead,” is enough.

Photo credits (affiliate links may generate commissions)
James Joyce via The Independent.
John Huston via Brian Hamill Photography
Anjelica Huston via iMDB
Dinner party via Slant Magazine

Gallivanting Through Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Hudson River Valley, And Short Hills, New Jersey


(Reminder, Professor C., James Joyce, and The Dead on Thursday)

 

I’ve been gallivanting.

First to Brooklyn and Manhattan to visit my son and others, then up to the Hudson River Valley for the extreme pleasure of staying at Reggie and Boy Darling‘s house, then down to New Jersey to see my best friend. It has been a wonderful trip. Highlights are perhaps in order?

I arrived at my son’s apartment Wednesday night. We went to dinner. He’d bought an air conditioner to make my stay comfortable. Adult children, for the win. The next day he worked, so I took the F train into Manhattan. First stop, serendipitously, the Jefferson Market Garden. A small public garden, pretty much defining the term, “jewel box.”

Jefferson Garden

Next stop, Buvette, for lunch with Susan Champlin, writer, author of the blog What Would Katherine Hepburn Do. She’s a Twitter friend, and all-around-lovely-person. Planned, but on short notice, so I was very happy she was free. Here’s our selfie. We were searching for the perfect profile. Susan says she’s still looking but I think she’s awfully close.

Selfie With Susan

Then I scooted uptown to see the Jeff Koons exhibition. Serendipitously passing an extraordinary shop display on the way, I had to stop in to admire, briefly, what is essentially a museum of beautiful china. Quite something. The shop is called Bardith. Ring the bell, and smile at the proprietor to be let in. Some of his pieces are from the atelier of Marie Antoinette’s ceramicist. I know.

China Shop, Bull In

And then on to the Whitney for Mr. Koons. Jeff Koons is Jeff Koons, mostly monstrous, never pretty, highly annoying. The exhibit, however, is brilliant, and illuminates American cultural history in a way that I did not predict, drawing a clear line from early pop art to social media overexposure of today. Besides, Koons stumbled onto beauty with the balloon dogs and we will not forget. You might have to see the “balloon” polished surfaces in situ to believe me on the beauty thing. The porcelain sculptures of “Banality” are only monstrous.

Jeff Koons

A few hours later, revived by some caramel ice cream at the Sweet Shop, I met my son, @kidchamp, and her husband for ramen at Ippudo. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and then more wonderful.

The next day, the boy and I meandered around Brooklyn, where I bought him a blue t-shirt. He needed it. Then we made our way back to the Upper East Side, to meet the author of the great blog Reggie Darling and his husband, for a trip to their gorgeous house in the Hudson River Valley. The Architectural Digest article shows it off to best advantage, here, so I captured just a few details. The side entry, for example.

Doorknob-and-Number

After a drive full of entertaining conversation, we enjoyed a late dinner at Swoon, in Hudson.

SWOON

The next day, I had the distinct privilege of following Boy Darling, Reggie’s husband, on his sweep through a few antique and “picker” stores, again in the town of Hudson. A quite tony designer by trade, he can can spot a find in an instant. I was distracted by everything.

Self-Portrait-In-Junk-Shop

Or perhaps my focus is taken by this young man, caught in a serious moment of post-prandial contemplation. Lunch was pasta and he said it was delicious. I told you he needed a blue t-shirt.

Son

Back at Darlington House, we rested on the screened porch. Some beautiful sunflowers assisted.

Sunflowers-In-The-Day

We had to rest up, you see, as Reggie and Boy were throwing a dinner party. What a table. What food. Most of all, what guests!

Dinner At Darlington

We retired afterwards, again, to the screened porch. Sunflowers look even more beautiful at night.

Sunflowers In The Night

Spent the next day touring and exclaiming over the house and its extraordinary details. Then, almost overwhelming us with hospitality, Reggie grilled some chicken and vegetables for lunch, and served them on this table. Chamomile flowers by Boy Darling.

Lunch-On-The-Porch

One last look down the view before we headed back to Manhattan. Much as I love California, the green of an East Coast summer cannot be denied.

Lawn-Chair

And from there, I was off to see my best friend, who has returned from Belgium to live in Short Hills, New Jersey.

I’ve been gone just long enough to enjoy every minute, and now I’m ready to return home and and see Significant Husband. I miss him. However, lest I have not yet clarified, this trip has been a veritable paean to gallivanting, and I thank everyone who has hosted me so graciously. Never to be forgotten, thank you notes to follow.

 

 

Do Not Concern Yourself With My Absence, Or, Saturday Afternoon At 1:51pm


Well. I am back from blog break, but apparently not back enough to manage a Saturday morning post. Neither emergencies nor crises are at fault, and probably some stories of gallivanting will follow. I hope you are in the midst of a wonderful weekend.

The Return Of Professor C. And Suggested Preparations


As some long time readers know, now and again my esteemed professor papa writes for us. Theme?  Great Literature And Movies Wot Got Made Of Them. More elegantly said,  he has posted on several literature-based movies, Age Of Innocence, Wings of The Dove, and Passage to India, among others.

This time he’s written us a piece on on James Joyce’s very short novel “The Dead,” and the movie John Huston made of it. The book is available here, and here for those who shun Amazon. The movie can be found on Amazon Instant Video and, while not on Netflix, it is on YouTube in segments.  I’ll post Professor C.’s thoughts towards the end of next week, so, plenty of time for homework.

If you find you only manage to see the movie, nobody will know. I promise.

Affiliate links may generate commissions.

LPC Is At The Highland Fashionista Today


I took advantage of my blog break to deliver on some long-delayed commitments. I hate when I fail to do as promised, everything feels off balance, but the world is now back on its axis. As evidence, today I’m over at Kristin’s wonderful blog, Highland Fashionista. I hope you read her, she’s funny and gorgeous, with a wicked eye for sporty style – with a touch of rocker. The question she asked was, “Ought you change your style when you turn 40?” I answered by telling the story of my 40th birthday party, which you’ve heard before, here, but this time told with photos and flamingos. If you have a moment, you might take a look, here.

June 20th, 2009, Saturday Morning At 6:47am


A post from the archives, during my brief blog vacation.

I’m sitting at my kitchen counter. It’s old. 17 years old. Butcher block. Which means that by now it boasts some fissures, a burn mark or two, and various mottled patches. Don’t get me wrong, I scrub my counter with reasonable frequency. I’d be embarassed not to. But wood seems to have a memory that cleaning substances and Scotch Brite can’t erase. Hmm, I see what looks like a pen mark too. Old homework relic. Time to sand. Rub it down with mineral oil. One of those house tasks that you carry in the back of your mind thinking to take care of. Whether you do it or not, who knows.

Last night my son said, “This is one of the great kitchen counters of all time.”

Being a parent of young children is such a large job. It’s like a camping trip, you pack everything you can into a car and take it with blind faith out to the wilderness. You get there and realize that you have forgotten your flashlight but you have the cayenne. You make something spicy to eat and sit by the fire. When you get home, some day when you are putting away the laundry or sorting the mail, your kid tells you, “Mom, you know when you forgot the flashlight? That was one of the great camping trips of all time.” It’s not just that you can’t tell if you are doing it right, it’s that you don’t get to say what any indicators that you are doing it right might look like.

February 26, 2011, Light In The Morning, Or, Saturday At 8:07am


As I am off this week, I’m republishing some Saturday posts. I know it’s not the weekend, bear with me.

There’s nothing better than light in the morning. Just now some camellia leaves outside my window are shining so brightly they throw the folds of this sofa cushion into high relief. I can even see the nap of faux suede, in ridges like sand blown by wind across dunes. There must be dew on the shrubbery.

The light’s going to fade in a minute. Yes, the camellia has gone green again. The sofa cushion reverts to upholstery. The coffee table shines instead, briefly. I got it at Pottery Barn.

This is how to feel time. Every little increment shining. Each regular thing lit in turn. Now the dust on that same window turns platinum, almost white, and the camellia bushes throw spiky shadows on the glass. I’m expecting the pile of laundry on the long low basket drawers to light up next. Maybe my leopardskin tee shirt. Maybe the baby blue towels. We don’t always get to choose what illuminates. Nor, really, would we want to.

Have a wonderful weekend.

March 13th, 2009, Saturday Morning at 8:05am


As I am off this week, I’m republishing some Saturday posts. This was the first, from back in 2009.

It’s Saturday morning. And my son is home from college.

My children are grown. They have not a vestige of body fat left on them that I can call my own. Nothing to pinch. I do not own their sweetness any more. But still when they are here it’s like I’ve remembered to put slippers and a bathrobe on after sitting at a cold kitchen counter for hours. Some part of me just wants to hum. Like Winnie-the-Pooh with honey.

I had been dying to have children all my life. I worried I wouldn’t be able to, maybe because it was so important to me. I remember to this day my first ultrasound. I didn’t know what was going to happen – I had no idea you could hear a baby’s heartbeat at 10 weeks of pregnancy. I remember looking at my 30-year old belly. The gel they put on you so they can use the ultrasound wand is chilly. And the OB squooging the wand around. I didn’t know it, but he was searching for the heartbeat. Good thing I didn’t know or I would have been terrified since I was terrified of everything during pregnancy that might have meant there was a problem.

The sounds at first are like the soundtrack of a submarine movie. All gurgle and swoosh. Then suddenly and quietly you hear the very quick thump thump thump. Almost closer to a pitpitpitpitpitpitpitpit. The OB said, “There it is.” And all I could think was, “Oh my god, I’m a mother.”

I still think that. And when my son is sleeping in his bed, I get to sit here with a cup of tea and warm my feet at that fire.

In Imaginary Texas, We Wear Tony Lama And Chanel


Are you familiar with Tony Lama? Founded by an Italian American immigrant in 1911, now making boots in America, Mexico, the world? When Lama’s rep asked if I’d like to review a pair, I was excited but hesitant. They’re an iconic brand, one to spark the imagination, but not to wear in Silicon Valley. So here’s a review and a giveaway. One change, which I hope you’ll excuse – this time I chose a winner in advance.

100 Percent-Vaquero-Tony-Lama

My thing for Texas goes way back. Rooted in summers at the Hunewill Ranch, encouraged by debutante parties in Houston, sustained by who knows what. Myth, I suppose. But I live in Silicon Valley, so this Texas is imaginary. Think Tess Harper in Tender Mercies meets Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman but isn’t a prostitute and goes shopping at Neiman Marcus. Imaginary.

We’ll scrabble together some faded light, dirt without water, and a wood fence -  if you squint my back yard will do. Thank you for inferring the horse.Tony-Llama-Boots-And-Sunshine

And I’m wearing the Women’s Coral Tango, by Tony Lama. With one “L.” You probably already knew it was only one “L.” Let’s pretend I did too. Worn with a blue chambray skirt, a tank top because my gosh it’s hot even in pretend Texas, and a pile of jewelry that throws off light and clanks a bit. For swagger.

Let’s take a closer look at the boots. They’re not subtle, but I love the trim. They were immediately comfortable, worn with thickish socks. But if I really wore cowboy boots here in Silicon Valley, I might go for these instead. Or these. Please don’t tell Texas.

Tony-Lama-100 Percent-Vaquero

How about a closer look at the jewels? Very kindly loaned by Nancy at Beladora. In Imaginary Texas we like to match our jewelry, hence the Ippolita gemstones. And we think Coco Chanel was nuts when she told us to take off a piece, so we flaunt our right to excess by inviting her bracelet to an arm party. Take that, understatement.

Beladora-'Imaginary-Texas'-Jewelry-Set

The chambray skirt, soft, full, and pocketed to carry nails – as women will in Imaginary Texas – sparkles too.

Skirt-Pattern

And the ring matches the chambray! Kind of.

Ippolita-Ring-For-Imaginary-Texas

Most of all, we cannot leave Imaginary T. without paying homage to a bracelet.

It’s Chanel, in 18K gold. Heavy, beautifully made, even the latch closes gracefully. It looks like a series of geometric shapes, until you notice the little heart in the center of two of the circles. And once you notice the heart, you begin to think that maybe this series of shapes is actually a very abstract rendering of the word, “Love,” which would make this Chanel’s “Love bracelet.” Given that Cartier is famous for theirs, if the reference is intended, how brilliantly sly. How very Imaginary Texan in its effrontery.

All of this without a hint of visible logo. Unapologetically expensive, but a work of art. I held it and I will not forget.

Vintage-Chanel-18K-Bracelet

Here’s something. Imaginary style countries can help us all in finding an original way to dress; They’re another way to adventure, and understand where we call home. The term, “Bohemian,” after all, comes from the old country known as, “Bohemia.”

So, you may well ask, where are the boots now? Oklahoma? Australia’s Outback? The vast desert of Western Mongolia? Nope! The real world. Here you see them in deepest Southern California.

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And my daughter, simply dressed in a peach tee, scarf, and skinny jeans. A bit of humor, no pretense. She wore them line dancing with friends.

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It’s kind of a sucker punch, including her picture, I know. But many of you are also mothers of daughters, and you too might rank them among your real world jewels. Excuse the sentiment.

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The Coral Tangos have landed. They don’t miss Imaginary Texas one bit. Thanks Mr. Lama. Happy 4th to those in the USA, and a wonderful weekend to everyone.

 

Photos of my daughter by Kellie Satterfield. Kellie is a medical student at UCSD. In her spare time, she paints, makes jewelry, gardens and humors her friends by photographing them in the San Diego wilderness.

Products. Affiliate links may produce comissions:
Tony Lama Coral Tangos (for more subtlety, if you prefer, try the Rancho or the Tan Saigets)
Chambray Skirt by Suno via Saks now sold out, but an interesting designer, new to me.
Ippolita Lollipop Bracelet in 18K
Ippolita Blue Topaz, Quartz, and Mother Of Pearl Ring in 18K
Stephen Webster Crystal Haze Collection Opal Earrings
Chanel 18 K Bracelet at Beladora