Friday, October 30, 2009

Part I: Art and Life

Cold, rainy weather graced New York City the weekend before Halloween, and so NCT and I, our Bear Mountain hiking plans scrapped, spent a frenzied Saturday afternoon at The Met instead. The frenzy came from the hordes of wet visitors crowding into the damp and warm galleries; as a result, we decided to visit just the following two exhibits: Vermeer's "Milkmaid", and the sculptures of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Since I began reading Robert Hass's Time and Materials, I've looked forward to seeing "The Milkmaid" while it visits New York. Of course, in true NYC fashion our viewing involved an aggressive, over-eager crowd of Met patrons, all of whom wanted a nose-to-the-glass perspective of the painting. Coupled with their zealous and occasionally questionable museum behavior was a very loud and very cunning security guard, who seemed to take pleasure in frightening these visitors with frequent jump-inducing barks. New York at its finest.

In the brief, noisy moments that NCT and I had before the painting I thought of Hass's acolytes, who "peel time, with absolute care / From thin strips of paint on three hundred year old canvas", and of "the faithfulness of paint on paint on paint on paint", and of the oddly disconcerting repetition of "milk". And yet, it was too loud in the windowless gallery--too humid, too crowded, the painting too small. We walked into the light-filled atrium of Greek and Roman statues, and their white, marble bodies seemed both "turned away" from us and "so alive"; in fact, more alive than the Dutch servant tilting her milk pitcher behind us.

Was it too anti-climactic? NCT almost walked into a headless centurion, and I started thinking about the word "scarab". And so we walked north towards the American Wing...

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Interview with Flint Richardson

Flint is so many things to so many people, which makes it difficult to sum him up in one blog entry introduction. Should I discuss the time that he bunny hopped--on his road bike--over a bloated possum carcass while riding 25 mph down Thomas Road in Ithaca, NY? Or the evening that he microwaved a bowl of very expensive dried cherries? Or that he can ski faster than the wind (and that the wind is pretty fast)? I think that, for now, I'll just say that his real name is Malcolm, that he works with homeless dogs, and that he hates onions.
CGC: If you could be an animal hybrid, would you rather be a zebkey, a liger, or an iron age pig?

MAR: Liger. Without another thought about it. Also endorsed by Napoleon Dynamite.
Liger or Zebkey?
CGC: What do you think is the strangest part of the French movie Tanguy?

MAR: Tanguy is one big freak fest. It is difficult to isolate a single instance that can be defined as strange, or stranger, when the continuity of strangeness continues throughout the entire film.

CGC: True or false: Toko is a cooler nordic ski brand than Swix.

MAR: Swix has massive sex appeal. Toko is a cooler brand solely because of my history with the brand and nickname of Toko Jerk.

CGC: Why do you find organic cereal and frozen vegetables so irresistible?

MAR: I must admit, I have reverted from organic cereal to Peanut Butter Captain Crunch...As for frozen vegetables, specifically Cascadian Farm brand, they represent a food group component that is absent from my typical diet, are readily accessible, and taste nearly as good as fresh steamed veggies.

CGC: Envision the following scenario: one morning you wake up and ride your road bike 100 miles around Cayuga Lake. Then, you get on your mountain bike and ride out to Shindagin Hollow, where you bunny-hop etc for an hour, then begin the ride back to your house. One mile from home, while rounding a corner, you spin out on some gravel and crash out. You wake up in the hospital and see a nurse worriedly bending over you. What is the first thing you say to her?

MAR: "Are my eyes still blue?" Ya...that happened...except the 100 miles was to Binghamton, NY and back.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quotes of the Week

After traveling every ten days or so for the last two and a half months, and after a beautiful yet freezing weekend in the Adirondacks, I came down with the type of virus that my old grad school friend JT liked to call a Krankheit Katastrophe. Fortunately for this blog, however, the days leading up to this KK, and the days of the KK itself, have yielded a well-rounded crop of quotes. Enjoy!
While watching the last installment of Ken Burns's _The National Parks_, which showed footage of the Iditarod.
CGC: "I want to do that some day--the Iditarod".
CG, rolling her eyes: "No you don't".
On CGC's recent bone worries.
CG: "If dwarves can have regular full size babies, I don't see what the hell you're worried about".
While discussing Yo-Yo Ma's cello performance for a bunch of disinterested bushmen in the Kalahari Desert.
DP: "They literally had no reaction. They were just like 'why did you drag this big thing into the desert'".
CGC: "Well I guess we would be the same if someone started singing a song to us in click sounds and we had no context for them".
DP: "There was an exchange where they performed for him, too".
CE: "Really?:
DP: "Yeah. It's like [click !kung]".
Ten seconds later.
DP: "I'm not pronouncing that right".
While discussing an acquaintance's boobs.
CE: "She has these big sloppy boobs, and she needs to just strap them up and--"
DP, puzzled: "What?"
CE: "She has these big sloppy--"
DP: "Wait, what was the noun? I didn't hear the noun".
CE: "Boobs".
DP: "Oh, boobs".
DP: "Have you seen my blue sweater?"
CGC: "No, I've been keeping an eye out but haven't come across it".
DP: "Have you seen a pair of grey pants?"
CGC: "You lost your pants, too?"
DP: "Haha, yeah. I think I just disrobed at some point and didn't even notice it".
While walking through the Hunter's Gate in Central Park, past a woman walking three small dogs.
LRC: "That woman's dog is like a rat".
CGC: "You realize that woman is Glenn Close, don't you".
LRC: "What?"
CGC: "She just won an Emmy, and you called her dog a rat".
On Day Three of the Krankheit Katastrophe.
CGC: "I'm lying on my couch, watching Kathie Lee Gifford interview Willem Dafoe about his role in Antichrist. Is this actually happening, or is it a Mucinex-induced hallucination?"
While discussing the ongoing and unexpected renovations in CGC's building, while CGC was in the throes of the Krankheit Katastrophe.
CGC: "I just found a cockroach in my apartment".
LRC: "What?"
CGC: Between the cockroach, the contractors, the water being shut off in my building, the heat not being turned on, my landlord not calling me back, the Spiderman movie filming, and whatever the f it is they're building over my staircase, I've just about had it".
Five seconds later.
CGC: "I also just joined the "Friends of David the Gnome" group on Facebook".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A is for Applesauce

No more blossoms grow on my lemon tree, and the lavender seems to pull its feathery leaves inward. Fall is in full swing in New York, and yet all my recent traveling--and consequent blog neglect--means that I haven't really had the chance to enjoy this seasonal shift. I rectified this situation, however, this past weekend, when I went to the Adirondacks with some friends, and returned to New York City with half a peck of small Jonagold apples. It was already dark when I returned to my apartment at 6:00pm, and as I switched on the lamps in my living room, I decided to make one of my favorite simple Autumn dishes: applesauce. "Dish" may be too formal a term, but applesauce's flexibility, in my mind, makes it just as noble as coq au vin or bouef bourguignon. I eat mine over oatmeal or with roast chicken, or just by itself, re-heated and stirred with a cinnamon stick. Applesauce is also one of my favorite comfort foods, particularly when I'm sick, and because I felt the faint headache of an impending cold, I set to work.

As I sliced and heated--I leave my apples unpeeled, because I prefer the sauce's subsequent color and texture--I thought about my friend DEM. She was very generous with both her time and her love, and even when she was swamped with work and family matters, she still often put our friendship first. Three years ago, on a frigid November Ithaca night, that generosity manifested itself in the shape of a syrupy canned peach cobbler, which she unexpectedly brought to the section meeting for our "Anglo-Saxon Law Codes" course. The October before, despite a heavy schedule of her own midterm exams and student papers to grade, she happily surprised me by appearing on my doorstep in the midst of a raucous housewarming party, and ate applesauce and Nantucket cranberry pie while we talked for hours. And the Fall before that, when I finally came home from the hospital, she moved into my apartment and cared for me as if I were her own daughter.

The autumnal view from my Ithaca porch
This is my first Fall without DEM, and I must admit that I'm finding it more challenging than I would have thought. Maybe it's because Fall, more than any other season, reminds me so much of Ithaca. The leaves in Central Park bear the same changing colours as those in my old Fall Creek neighborhood, and the children running down my block are as excited by the start of the school year as DEM and I were back on the Arts Quad. Or maybe it's because, as I make applesauce made from Autumn Jonagolds, I remember how happy I was to see DEM on my doorstep that October evening, and how she walked out of the cold Fall darkness into our bright, warm kitchen, which was filled with friends, and food, and the scent of apples.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hardly Strictly Golden Gate Park

On all of my trips home to San Francisco I spend time in Golden Gate Park, but October is a particularly nice month to do so due to the following two phenomena: clear, cool and sunny afternoons, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. This year the latter--a free three day music festival featuring some of the best international bluegrass, country, gospel, and folk (among others) musicians--boasted The Chieftains on Sunday afternoon, and if there's an Irish traditional music group close to my heart, it's this foursome from Dublin. My sister and I spent years studying and performing Irish step-dancing in San Francisco, and as a result, the mellifluous sound of Paddy Maloney's uilleann pipes are as familiar to us as dancing the Hornpipe hard jig.

CG and I walked over to the festival on that brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoon, and as we passed through groves of eucalyptus trees and by the burnished tower of the De Young, I considered how viscerally important Golden Gate Park is to me. As in, I would feel wounded if it were to change drastically, much less vanish.
A 1970s Cyclocross Race in Golden Gate Park
I continued to think about the Park's significance in my life, and its emotional importance to me, the following morning, as I went for an eight mile run roughly around its perimeter. There is, for example, the Park's familial significance; my paternal great-grandfather, maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, and mother all explored and played in the Park as children, and my grandmother's memories of walking the Stow Lake path with her father physically resemble the same walks I completed with my own. My maternal great-grandmother's ashes are scattered among the Park's gardens. Both of my siblings rode horses on the trails in the western half of the Park, and my brother, sister, and I each learned how to ride a bike near the Academy of Sciences. Our dog took her last steps by the Fulton playground.

But there is also the Park's developmental significance, as in my personal development. Golden Gate Park is where I played Viking League soccer games as a child, ran cross-country races in high school, and practiced cyclocross as a young adult. I've had birthday parties, elementary school picnics, high school baseball games, and even running dates in its green and golden environs. I saw my first concert at the Polo Fields, as well as my first actual polo match (with horses), and even my first Dutch windmill (Queen Wilhelmina's). Each time I run or walk through Golden Gate Park, I have the wonderful sense of both homecoming and possibility.

By running west on the trails past the Chain of Lakes and Beach Chalet, I emerged out of the Park and onto Ocean Beach. I've always loved that feeling, of running west through the Park to the Pacific, as it allows me to feel--quite literally--that I'm running to the continent's edge. I stood on the sand and watched the surfers, their heads hooded in Neoprene against the cold Autumn water. I smiled, then I turned around and ran home through Golden Gate Park.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mt. Tamalpais, I Salute You.

Because I could see your peak from the Stanford foothills, my high school track, and flights home from England. Because in you the Miwoks saw the profile of a sleeping princess, and because my great-grandmother used to ride your slopes on the "crookedest railroad in the world". Because you possess redwood groves, hidden lakes, vernal streams, and a summit that rises above the Pacific fog. Because I've watched the sun rise on your eastern face from Corte Madera creek, and the sun set over Stinson from your western flanks. Because you are the birthplace of mountain biking, the focal point of Tom Killion's woodcuts, the home of the Mountain Play and the mother of the Dipsea trail. Because I know you better than any other mountain in the world. Mt. Tamalpais, I salute you!