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Nine Month Trip

Introduction   California    Mexico (Dec-Jan)    Mexico (Feb)    Boston (one week)    Paris



2 - Stephen in Boston
3 - Arrival
10 - Family & Tea Garden
13 - Camping in the Presidio
15 - Wood Line & Spire
20 - Eatery Reviews
21 - Taming of the Shrew
27 - Tree Fall
28 - The Tamer Tamed


4 - Officers Club, Earthwall
5 - Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
11 - Sand Castle Contest
14 - Note on Sitting Meditation
14 - Paso Robles
16 - Monterey
19 - Palo Alto, Cantor Museum
21 - Evening at the Café Bazaar
23 - A New Religion?
24 - Alchemy of Gender
28 - Backyard Photo
30 - North Beach
31 - Halloween


1 - Party Time!
4 - Election Day
6 - SF Dance Film Festival
9 - Raiders Game
16 - Grandchildren and videos
18 - Adam Came to Dinner
29 - Archery
September 2
Stephen in Boston

Even though I am still in Boston, because Dawn is in California already I am going to put this on the California page. It is an email to Dawn and you can see by the contents that I am nearly out of here already.


I sat in the dark this morning on the back deck. I was up early, 4 AM, to prepare for tomorrow’s early flight. I expected it to lighten as I sat but I guess it was too early for that, so it just stayed dark. It was just me. the peepers and the cicadas. Maybe three cars went by during the thirty minutes. Afterwards, I saw a few stars.

Time seems like a conveyor belt, bringing me my tasks, fix the federal tax estimateds, check; get my boarding pass, check; make my last pot of coffee (I will just reheat a cup tomorrow morning, no check there, vacuum the house, check; do two last loads of laundry, check Later today - food shop and decommission the car, double check there. Chillout Taxi is set for 4:40 tomorrow morning, bags are packed except for my sandals and this laptop.

So I wait. Even though we plan to be back for a week at the end of February and then for the summer, I can’t remember feeling so much that this is the end of something. In the past my life has seemed a series of phrases and commas, maybe a semicolon once in a while. Life just moved on. Now this seems like a period, a full stop. I won’t go around the house turning the lights off one by one like in some melodrama but it feels that way. All this is more powerful because I am without you. What I am used to is the twisting serpentine duet that we have danced for the last thirty-five years; I am not used to this soloing.

But not for long.

Tomorrow, black bag, check; carry-on backpack, check; bucky filled with socks, check; passport check; wallet, check; cellphone with boarding pass, check. Then lock the door.

And fly to you.


September 3

Well, I did fly and I did arrive. My check list was on the laptop and once I closed it and packed it the list was unavailable and I neglected to pick up the charger that was on the floor and hidden by the chair. So I guess it is not going to be the perfect trip. But better, something full of surprises as Patrick was headed for Best Buy after dinner so I went with him and picked up another one, so I am back online.

Bed Kitchen
Our little apartment is great. We are downstairs from Amber and Patrick with a kitchen and a bathroom and a door to the yard. It is small but we seem to be finding places for all our possessions. Our kitchen has a new fridge. (I think Patrick might have some bait in the freezer). We are looking for a coffee pot but the coffee this morning was great.


September 10
Family & Tea Garden

I have been in San Francisco for two weeks now. During the first several days, I played the classic “Action Grandma” role (Patrick’s name for me) by helping out a lot while Amber had clients, Patrick was working, Lily was in school, but Cole was at home. At four and a half, Cole has grown up so much! He had no problem hanging out with me for five or six hours a day. We had great weather then so it didn’t hurt that we shot hoops and played soccer together. What surprised me was how intrigued he was by my reading Alice in Wonderland with him. He had an attention span for about forty pages in one day. Lewis Carroll is big on word play and wrote in an “older” English (I think he wrote in the 1860’s), but a little “translation” went a long way. I’m also reading Through the Looking Glass with six-year old Lily who seems to love the backwardness of everything that happens and all the bizarre characters. These editions are from 1946 with beautiful renditions of the original illustrations. My mom read them to me, I read them to my children, and now to Lily and Cole.

Often Stephen and/or I “accompany” Lily to school, about ten blocks each way. That means that she zooms ahead on her scooter, stopping at every street crossing to wait for the (slower) adult, negotiating steep downs and ups and watching out for cars backing out of garages. It’s a little hair-raising, but she is very careful and skillful. My legs are slowly adjusting to all the fast walking on pavement that we seem to do daily.

When I arrived on August 26, Lily had a front tooth hanging by a thread. It was increasingly difficult for her to chew, and I can’t believe it didn’t come out until this morning! Finally! So the Tooth Fairy is on for tonight.

Before Stephen got here, I went to the Exploratorium At the Exploratoriumwith the family and some of their friends. It is much improved in its new Embarcadero location compared to what I remember of it when my son was born here in San Francisco forty-four years ago! It’s a great hands-on experience for kids, but I think Stephen and I should return there on our own to have time to enter into all the activities. There is plenty of science to be learned by adults like me.

In “tourist” mode, we also got to a fascinating, if not slightly forced, exhibit at the Asian Art museum called Gorgeous. It seems to be a curator’s idea of how to attract more visitors by expanding beyond Asian art into many types of contemporary art that the curator believes are gorgeous, in varied senses of the word. Everything from stunning 18th century Japanese and Chinese multi-panel screens exquisitely drawn in ink on gold paper to Jeff Koons and Robert Mapplethorpe. Excuse me if I offend any one’s aesthetic, but I think Koons is overrated. At the same time, there was a stunning abstract sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly, "Untitled (Mandorla)"and a piece by Robert Smithson called “Nonsite,” interesting because his work is often so huge and site-specific. Both pieces really drew in the eye and activated the mind, with very few materials and in straightforward, yet clever ways. When art can do that, it makes me happy. At the same time, there was a simple, small sculpture of a young girl, made in China around 200 B.C.E. Even with the arms missing, there was something so engaging about her face, her sweet smile, that she touched my heart. When art can do THAT, it makes me happy!

At the Japanese Tea GardenWe also went to the Japanese Tea Garden where Dawn took this picture. I haven't been here since we spent three weeks in Kyoto. It is similar to the gardens there, but the scale is so different. In Kyoto, this garden would have been ten times bigger, at least.


Today we treated ourselves to lunch out at Cafe Bastille, a little bistro that felt like a corner of France outside of France. The patron and the waiter kindly indulged me in speaking French, and I had moules-frites, a classic combo. The mussels were delicious, but the fries weren’t quite crispy enough. When I mentioned this to the patron on the way out (assuring him that it was personal taste), he grabbed a frite off the plate that a server was taking to a table and said “Vous avez raison, Madame. “ (You are right!). Ah, and we will be in France again next spring…

But meanwhile, I am getting more excited about Mexico. Having gotten our San Francisco library cards and being old, retired folks, we are managing to read so much more than we did in Boston. I am deep into Mexican Days by Tony Cohan, a Californian who lived many years in San Miguel de Allende. He does the kind of travel writing that we enjoy…exploring the external world as a way of exploring one’s internal world as well. He had some intriguing things to say about Guanajuato where we will be staying December and January and about other places that are beginning to make me wonder if we might explore more of Mexico than originally planned.

Speaking of books, I have to say that I started The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert on my IPad on the airplane and gradually finished it out here. It’s a book that my book group chose to read, and i really enjoyed it. It is a highly researched tome in the area of botany, but it is also an engaging, multi-generational story. There was one section that didn’t ring quite true to me, but all in all, the central character is a fascinating woman. The novel is not at all like Gilbert’s famous Eat, Pray, Love.

Knowing that we are here in San Francisco for a long time makes it a very different experience from the usual one or two-week visit West. We have time to be with the family, often sharing meals and activities and helping out, but we also have plenty of time to explore our own paths of interest here. So far it feels like a nice balance.


Someone asked who sleeps against the wall.
We take turns. But we don't always have to get up.


September 13
Camping in the Presidio

CampfireAmber and Patrick invited us to join their annual family/friends' overnight camping in the Presidio last weekend. The Presidio was an army base until 1994 and sits on prime real estate in the northwest corner of San Francisco. Since '94, it has become a national park, and the former army housing units have become rentals. The idea of camping in the city is pretty odd, but the sites were okay. They are designed for groups. Our group set up seven tents, had multiple picnic tables, a nice fire ring, and food storage bins to keep the raccoons out. A short walk took us to a spectacular view across the water, with the Marin Headlands on the right, and the cityscape and Golden Gate Bridge on the left. It was a huge amount of prep to assemble equipment, food, wood, etc. for four adults and two kids, and then to break it all down and get it home and cleaned up...for only one overnight, but it was worth the effort. The kids love the camping, and we met some interesting folks of all generations. Although there are allegedly no mosquitoes in San Francisco (California is going through a huge drought after all), one hungry mosquito munched on me for half the night so I looked like a Klingon the next day since they love my forehead.


September 15
Wood Line & Spire
Wood LineWe returned to the Presidio to experience some of the site-specific work made there by Andy Goldsworthy. He is an artist who makes works in and of Nature, often in remote places. When the sites are difficult for the public to access, the artwork becomes the beautiful photographs that he makes of his installations, through varied seasons and/or times of day. This is the first time we were able to be physically present with two of his installations. "Wood Line" (2010) is a long path made of large logs from trees that had fallen in the area. The mid-afternoon dappled light made them look striped with shadows masking the downhill parts of each curved section, creating the look of zig-zags. A young woman walked on the logs of the entire installation in the downhill direction, saying that she just couldn't resist doing it. Stephen said, "How often do you get to walk on art?" So she asked, "Do you think it's okay?" I said, "You are part of the environment, so why not?" I hope Goldsworthy would agree. I had a momentary flash of a choreographic idea that would require a large group of people in this site, but I have no interest in trying to organize such a thing. Stephen and I have since mentioned the possibility of creating one of my silent video/movement poems in this installation. However, I remember how challenging it was in Kyoto to feel like I could add something meaningful to an environment that was already an art work. In the case of Kyoto, the temple gardens were already art, with the monks carefully maintaining their designed beauty.

SpireIt was summer in the city that day, and a long, dusty hike took us to another Goldsworthy piece called "Spire" (2006). At about ninety feet tall, it could be seen from the distance, sticking up above the trees, but it really paid off to get close to it and to see how many large tree trunks and branches had to be hauled and erected there to make a spire that reminded me of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. Although big public pieces of art often make one think that the artist must have a big ego, in this case, there was no signage at all...no bronze plaques with the work's title and artist's name, no artspeak explanation of the works. The art works just appear and speak for themselves.There is one more piece that we have not yet visited,"Tree Fall" plus a new one that is opening soon, "Mud Wall." We will certainly return to experience these. Although the climate and environment here are quite different from Haystack on Deer Isle, Maine, I was reminded about how many MassArt students have done works up at Haystack that were inspired by Goldsworthy's approach to art in Nature.

We've been getting around most of the time by bus, trolley and foot. Occasionally we borrow a car for a big food shop. That day, our navigational and bus-catching skills were a little sub-par
so it took us over an hour to get to the Presidio and then we walked a lot in the hot sun.
So, after we saw the two pieces, when I spotted a golf course cafe near the spire, we went in and ordered two cold beers and took them out on the patio where we watched some golfers chipping and putting their way around the 18th green. Having seen a sign for the "PresidiGo" bus stop much closer than the Muni bus stop, we got out there and waited a bit. It showed up and took us on a free ride through the park with lovely views, stopping at 25th Avenue just in time to catch the Muni #29 which leaves us practically at our door...sweet reward for tired, achy feet.


September 20
Eatery Reviews

We returned to Chomp and Swig, a sandwich and beer place on Clement between 17th and 18th Avenues. We had been there before on our first saunter through the neighborhood. We had been hanging out at Enchanté, a French/San Francisco type coffee house where we had been writing and now were ready for lunch. I guess this is going to be a double review of both places with a couple of thoughts about the judging itself.

I read Yelp reviews for entertainment and enlightenment about the human race. I realize that you find out more about the people who are writing the reviews than the place they are writing about. I also learn about what their desires were as they left their homes to visit these places and I am going to reveal these same things as I write these paragraphs.

For me going out is exactly like going to the theater so I am interested in the lighting, sound, sets, acting, dancing, the price, the people around me, the quality of the material and my date. I want to be amused, to be put at ease, to be educated and enlightened. I never want the food nor the wine to be more important than I or the people I am with. Informal over formal every time.

I like both places. I'll start with Enchanté. It is a coffee shop, but the coffee is not the first criterion. It should be as good as what I make at home, certainly not burnt, weak nor too strong. Here the coffee was okay. The place contributed to my writing efforts by surrounding me with other people perhaps doing similar things with their laptops. Edith Piaf singing quietly "La Vie En Rose" in the background and the murals on the wall added a nostalgia for all the hanging out we have done in France. The place met my needs. I liked the people coming in and getting their coffee, lots of regulars having a little chit chat with the barista.

Chomp and Swig meets a similar but different set of needs. An owner/operator is behind the bar, the place is small with kind of a half kitchen. The beer on tap is exotic, at least from a Boston beer drinker's point of view, and a huge bottled beer list. Everything was personal, no design consultants need apply. A place where after five minutes you reach across the bar to introduce yourselves and find out what the special of the house really is. We split the grilled cheese with avocado with some fries and it was really good. The second time we were there, we ordered and then sat at a table on the sidewalk (one of two) and when I went in to find out whether we should come in to get our food I found out that the order had not gotten placed. After I returned and reported to Dawn he came out with another beer for me to ease the extra wait, which in the end, was not very long.

I like regular food that is good but without pretensions. I have thought that the "Amuse Geule", food that is served after you sit down at the whim of the chef that usually fits in one spoon to be that kind of pretension. I had my mind changed when I took my first bite of my BBQ beef sandwich with Cole slaw on top. It was explosive experience, a combination of tastes, smells and textures that really go my attention. With the element of surprise gone, the remainder of the sandwich was good but not the amazing experience of the first bite. I had a fantasy that eight customers could order eight sandwiches and have them served as eight one bite servings. I have no idea whether the surprise element would survive.


September 21
Taming of the Shrew,
Jerry Garcia Amphitheater presented by San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

We went to a free performance of A Taming of the Shrew. We took Lily, a first grader and hoped for the best. Dawn and Lily went to a short pre-show event that helped by explaining a little background of the play. The play itself went fast, lots of word play, lots of people pretending to be other people, lots of sexist talk and although the publicity said it was a family show, there was no dumbing down of the text. Intermission came after an hour and we asked Lily did she want to leave. She said no because she wanted to find out how it ended. We were given a questionnaire at intermission that asked us to answer some questions and found out that Bianca was Lily's favorite character. Bianca is the "good" daughter in high contrast to Katherina, the shrew. At the end of the show, she was not so sure and allowed that Kate was an interesting character because she could be "good" or "bad." After the play, we were given the opportunity to make a contribution and Lily got an opportunity to talk to Bianca, but her shyness intervened.


September 27
Tree Fall

Tree FallWe got back to the Presidio at two different times to see the other two Goldsworthy pieces.

Tree Fall was installed in an old powderhouse in the middle of the central field at the former Main Post of the base. We got there on a bright afternoon. As we entered the small space, lit only by available light coming in through the entrance opening, I had to shed my sunglasses and wait for my eyes to adjust. I really enjoy this piece and want to return in the morning sometime to see it when the light comes directly through the entry which faces east.

The artist covered the inside walls with thick adobe, mud that came from the surrounding area. He then found a large, branched tree trunk that had been cut on the property to facilitate the tunnel that is being built over the highway. That tree now extends horizontally from the far wall, over our heads with the branches reaching towards the front door. It almost feels like being underground, as if the branches were tree roots. Even though the piece is about a year old now, and the mud walls and mud covering of the tree are shrinking and cracking, you can still smell the earth in there. It feels cozy, and safe, like being in Nature's womb. The pattern of the cracking creates a beautiful, veined surface all over the tree and the walls and ceiling.


September 28
The Tamer Tamed

Dawn and I revisited this company when they put on The Tamer Tamed by John Fletcher, a contemporary of Shakespeare's. It is a sequel and a Feminist tract. It was a staged reading under Equity rules so they were limited to two rehearsals of four hours each. I was amazed by how far they got with the play in that amount of time. I spoke to the director about how physical the players were as they were still on book. It was also free, but the audience was asked to bring a treat to pass and a bottle to pour. So we showed up an hour before the show with our Pinot and some rice crackers and had a good time talking to the executive director, a board member and various other members of the audience. It was presented on the stage of a new play that had opened the night before at the San Francisco Playhouse, right off Union Square.

One more show with them and we will be done. Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender, a one-woman show by Lisa Wolpe, will play at the Officers' Club on the Presidio, a space that has been recently renovated into a cultural center after some time standing empty.


October 4
Officers Club, Earthwall

Earth WallSaturday was the opening of the newly renovated Officer's Club at the Presidio. It has become a community center, an art and history gallery, with a chic small restaurant, the Arguello. It has a top-floor ballroom that will undoubtedly be rented out for many functions with its spectacular view of the lawn, colonial type brick buildings and the harbor and GG Bridge beyond. The fourth Goldsworthy piece is at the end of an inner garden-corridor with no roof over it. It is a bit of a strange context for his work, being that it abuts the restaurant's patio so feels in the midst of the hustle and bustle of commerce. It has many similarities to Tree Fall, yet "feels" so different. Called Earth Wall, he covered a wall with adobe mud-again-from the area and-again- took branches that had fallen or been cut for the tunnel construction. This time he made a kind of ball of truncated branches that he set into a round niche in the wall. The adobe wall is set between two white walls of the building itself, one with an "Exit" sign on it. So the setting is not at all as "natural" or private as his other sites, but it is provocative for just that reason. Most people who encountered the work were not there specifically to see it. Instead they happened upon it and wondered what it was. Some folks went right by it; others stopped, looked, asked questions. Kids touched. Again, available light plays such a key role in how we see his work. My photo shows a strong diagonal shadow that seems to bisect the piece. Later that day, the piece was all in shade so less dramatic, but more coherent.

Back-tracking a bit, when we got off the presidiGo bus at the Officers' Club, we were welcomed by the sound of West African drumming. We entered the large room downstairs to find a family audience seated in front of a group of drummers who were back-lit by the bright daylight coming through the windows behind them. Too bad, because I really wanted to see their faces, not just their silhouettes. The lead guy did some dancing with a few acrobatics thrown in and worked very hard to get some folks up there to dance. While I didn't volunteer, i had a blast learning his moves in the back of the room where Stephen and I were watching. It made me realize how much i miss dancing, particularly all those crazy Zumba classes I took over the summer. Between schedule issues and aging body issues, I have yet to take a Zumba class here, although I've done some yoga, a bit of gym with Amber, and a Nia dance class which reminded me of old-time "modern" dance!


October 5
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

We went to The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival with Amber, Patrick and the kids. Had a great time. Patrick had some Friends and Family tickets so we could sit up close at a table. (Which was good for playing Uno between sets). The mix was really good and the sound was good no matter where you were. A beautiful hot cloudless day although the temperature plummets when the sun goes down. This was our most San Franciscan event. Its psychological roots go back decades although this festival is the result of one man, amateur banjo player and billionaire, Warren Hellman. He died three years ago, but his family carries on the tradition.

Dawn and Stephen and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Sunday in Golden Gate Park....with about 500, 000 "friends." Nitty Gritty Dirt Band gets up and plays "Mr. Bojangles." We sing along at the appropriate moments. I cry...for many reasons that I cannot explain here. Some of you know that I lived in San Francisco for a year, 1969-70 when I was pregnant with my son. Memories flooded in....Tie-dye, fringe, tattoos abound. It's a multi-generational affair. I'm happy to be here with Stephen, Amber, Patrick, Lily & Cole. Seven stages at the "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival..." We got to two of them Sunday. The air is filled with scents of Eucalyptus, Patchouli, sweat, and weed. It's a mellow time. ...friendly folks, no apparent over-indulging in any substances, no violence anywhere. Cops walk through; nothing for them to do! Even trash is under control. San Franciscans know to separate their compost, recyclables, and land-fill into the right bins. A couple of hours, and the kids need to leave. We say good-bye and move from the Arrow stage to the Banjo stage. I notice that everything looks like High Def video; the outlines of trees etched so clearly against the super-blue sky. We hear music from real Bluegrass to Gospel to Tweedy who has about four styles: experimental, folk, singer-songwriter, rock & metal to the closing act of the classic and still political Emmylou Harris. We walk home with thousands of others...no pushing or rushing. We wait to cross streets with the lights or crossing guards. Good vibes all around.

Here's a link to my feelings that day

October 11
Sand Castle contest

We can read about something, put it in our calendar, and just go to it when its time comes around. Again, Ocean Beach is a ten minute bus ride from our house. It was fund raiser for a Leap Arts Program that services 7,000 students in the SF Schools.
They are trying to raise $300,000.

Sand Castle Contest Sand Castle Contest
Dawn took both photos. Right click on the left one to open it in a new tab. It shows some of the teams working to both bring water to their sites and then block the rising tide from taking down their work. The right photo is the contest winner. Showing a little Shakkei, (where the Japanese garden designer incorporates a distant scene into the overall look).
Lily and Cole
October 14
A Note about Sitting Meditation

We were sitting early in the morning before leaving on a short trip away from San Francisco.

Knock-knock at the door.

Hmmm, to answer or not. Knock-knock again. I get up and open the door to find Lily and Cole in pajamas with 'loveys" in hand. They want to make sure to hug us before we leave. I am filled with love for them and give big hugs.

If I can't interrupt my sitting practice to love these two children, then what is the point of meditation?
Paso Robles

We rented a car and took a little trip down the beautiful coastal highway, all the way from San Francisco past the Hearst Castle then inland to Paso Robles where some young friends of ours manage and live on a vineyard. Bastien is the son of the lovely folks who let us shoot video during the vendange in their French vineyard in 2012. Here he is developing the land into an organic vineyard with lots of Rhone type grapes, including Mourvedre which he likes a lot, plus Zinfandel which is very popular in California. We tasted his first rose with dinner. It was very nice. Rebecca used to live across the street from me in Newton. Amber babysat for her a few times when Amber was in sixth or seventh grade and Rebecca about five years younger. Rebecca and Bastien now have an adorable little girl who is growing up bilingual and gets to see baby cows right out her window. (Moo seems to be the correct word in either English or French.) We had a great dinner at their place, and the night before indulged in a wonderful meal of small plates and wine tastes at Thomas Hill Organics.

October 16
Monterey Peninsula (photos)

In spite of the usual tourist stuff, Carmel has managed to remain a beautiful old town with much public access and free parking at the beaches. Unlike Ocean Beach up here in San Francisco, the sand is very fine and white, even though there are stunning craggy, rocky coastlines as well. There was an international film festival in town so it was pretty crowded. We decided to forego being the first on our block to see a brand new release of an independent film and spent half the day at Point Lobos State Park and did some delightful hikes. We saw a couple of baby Harbor Seals struggle their way up the side of a rock so they could turn over and expose their bellies to the sunlight. After reading a San Francisco Chronicle article on restos on the peninsula, we picked La Balena to have another interesting, delicious, organic, locally sourced meal!

We drove up from Paso Robles, getting to Carmel around lunch time. Our B&B wouldn't be ready for an hour or two, so I put "lunch" and "view" into Yelp and the above is what it came up with. We wandered around the resort for a while trying to find it, but the view was spectacular from our terrace seats after we finally found the California Market South of town. The food was good enough and the service very polite.

Point Lobos
I am kind of pleased with this one (out of 6). No photoshopping yet. Point Lobos, named for sea lions, not for wolves, was a beautiful, magical place and spending a morning here was much better than the glassed in view from our car on 17-mile Drive on Monterey Peninsula

Point Lobos
Beautiful meeting between land and sea taken by Dawn.
Wine bottle - Dawn's Delight
Wine bottle - Dawn's Delight After our Point Lobos walk, we did a little wine tasting in Carmel. When we saw Dawn's Dream listed we knew that we had to start there. Kameron led us through 4 or 5 wines, each being more delightful that the last. We started with a white and then three pinots in a row each named after one of her daughters. Each as different from each other as I am sure that the girls are. Kameron's financeé came in for a moment and after we left we learned that they were headed for France and a barge trip next spring. Have fun and Bonne Chance.

We kept our wine tasting in the family by visiting her husband's wine shop Galente. Another great tasting, finishing with the above great bottle. I've got to start drinking less but better.
Monterey Point
Over in Monterey, we parked the car and meditated at this wonderful spot, Asilomar Beach.
October 19
Palo Alto The Cantor Museum and the Anderson Collection
Deborah Butterfield's Untitled of 1999, a sculpture of a horse.
It was made in driftwood, cast in bronze, and then finished to look exactly like driftwood again.
Robert Irwin Untitled
Robert Irwin Untitled
Untitled by Robert Irwin
It dazzled us when we came around the corner. Hidden in plain sight, the photographs don't do it justice. Something is there, but it is hard to know what. When we first saw it, it is not clear whether it is a painting or a sculpture.

October 21
Evening at the Café Bazaar with
Judi Jaeger and Mike Simpson

It is the first night of the World Series here in San Francisco. Amber, Patrick and the kids are going to a pizza party/baseball game viewing party at their friend Rachel's house, and we are headed for Cafe Bazaar to hear a singer/songwriter who has been singing there Tuesday nights during the month of October. She is "in residence." We have been writing in the back patio of this cafe during the occasional afternoon and now we are going back in the evening for one of their events.

We get there early to write emails and read. the crowd comes in slowly and seems to be mostly friends of Judi and Mike's who has been a mentor of hers and will accompany her, sing some harmony and share the bill with her by singing some of his own songs. The situation reminds us of the CD release party we went to in Berlin where we were the only people who didn't know the band.

There is a sign above the corner where the musicians perform that says:

Are After my Dough
Sing Covers
Then Out You Go
Burma Shave

So we were in for any evening of original music.

The performance exceeded all reasonable expectations. Lyric driven, the songs were poems or stories that demanded attention. Stories about people they knew or people they made up. A song about her mother. Songs generated from phrases or songwriting exercises. Many sad songs about love but always with a twist.

At intermission, I strengthened the similarity with the Berlin evening by talking to Mike about using one of his songs for a video that I am thinking of. The song is about a couple and video would be shot at night in front of the Eiffel Tower. That is all I am going to say about this at the moment. I bought his CD, but the song is not on it so I will need for him to look at Bridge and some of our other videos and if he approves, send me the song for this project to go forward.

After intermission Mike sang Sorrow and Love, the title song of his CD, and the refrain of the song. At the end, instead of the refrain, he sang "Sorrow and Sorrow and Sorrow ...... "over and over. It was an immense relief when he finished with "and Love". For a moment, I thought I would have to go up there and shake him by the shoulders to make him finish the song properly. The power of Art.

Their songwriting confirms the belief that when it comes to art, "the most personal is the most universal." It felt like the first four songs they sung were "all about us." I'm sure others in the audience felt the same. One was about a couple who were together for some time, split apart, and re-united years later. Another was about a young woman who needed space and her own adventures, had to travel "a hundred miles," but came back to her soul-mate. Another was based on Judi's experience as a parent thinking abut her first child leaving home. Every one of those songs was based on personal experience or experiences of people they knew or encountered.

It was such a pleasure to be in an intimate venue where every word could be heard and understood, every guitar pick or chord clearly audible with NO electronic interface, no amplification....just voices, bodies, strings, and sounding boards making the magic.

October 23
A New Religion?

I see it everywhere: on park benches, in subways and buses, in coffee houses and schools, during lectures and performances, from San Francisco to Boston, in Rome and Paris, from Kyoto, Japan to Kayenta, Utah,…People are praying. Their heads are bowed, eyes downcast, shoulders curved forward, hands in lap. On streets or trails, some walk in meditation, apparently mumbling over their prayer beads or rosaries. Some walkers, so absorbed in prayerful posture, even walk into sign posts. This international “religion” transcends Christianity, Islam, and all the "isms:"Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sufism, Taoism, Agnosticism, Atheism, Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Conservatism. Many bowed heads and hands in laps go to gaming, commerce, or obsessive searches for information. At the same time, many “prayers” go to connectivity, wanting to stay in touch with family and friends or to make new friends with common interests.

I have scoffed at this prayer posture when I see groups of friends walk down the street, physically together but each absorbed in her own digital device, or when couples out to dinner, text on their individual phones. Have I not been guilty of the same on occasion? When I get a text or call from my daughter or son, often I cannot wait to respond, no matter who I am with or where I am.

Nevertheless, perhaps the urge for connection reflects the Buddhist concept of interdependent arising, that nothing and no one exists independently and immutably. A tree cannot exist without the clouds and rain, the soil and sun. A human being cannot exist without the abundance of the natural world. A person cannot exist without his parents, their parents and so on back. Everything is connected. Thich Nhat Hahn’s sense of interbeing asks me to see my “self” as but a thread in the fabric of all “selves.” As E.M. Forster’s Margaret says in Howards End, "only connect!" When our prayerful postures actually allow more connection among people, is this not a positive aspect of such "prayer?"

October 25
Alchemy of Gender

For the last of the Shakespeare events, Lisa Wolpe came to town to perform her one woman show at the Officers' Club in the Presidio. She is a Shakespearean actor who has played a lot of male roles. She told a story of her life using scenes from Shakespeare, including doing both parts of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. It was very good, especially her Shylock whom she seemed to inhabit. Her Richard III was not as good for me, his character is a far reach for most human beings. The performance was so direct, like much of what we have seen this fall. The performances have seemed to be almost tribal, some people in a room, or outdoors in a semi-circle, telling stories.

October 28
Backyard photo
Water fountain
I miss our garden in Roslindale, so I have been puttering around in Patrick's. Deadheading flowers, giving the strawberries space to grow, and fixing his solar powered fountains that aerate his gold fish. sometimes we have lunch out there or simply read. Yesterday, when playing around with the camera on the ipad I decided to take pictures of the fountain. After setting up our cutting board to shade my black T-shirt, this is what I got,
(top) October 30
North Beach

Earlier, we had had a drink at 15 Romolo Place on our way to hear Colm Tóibín read from and talk about his new book Nora Webster. It was a stone's throw from the Citylights bookstore which we hadn't been to yet. North Beach is the Italian section of San Francisco, but Columbus Avenue, its main drag has the look of a Parisien Boulevard. We did a bunch of things from going inside the Church of Peter and Paul to grabbing a gelatto at Naia's and then eating it at Cafe Roma a door or two down the street, but most of the time was spent browsing through Citylights and then the Beat Museum. Citylights has a nice balance between the old and the new. A store window exhibit reminds us of the censorship of the publishing of Howl by Allen Ginsburg a half century ago, but the book has never gone out of print and is still selling, million copies by now. (more to come)
October 31

It is Halloween, but it also Friday and therefore part of the Jewish Sabbath. Amber was working so Dawn went to Lily's school to be with her during the costume parade and subsequent party. I was invited to go with Cole to the Shabbat Service that his Jewish pre-school was having at noon to avoid the conflict with the night's Halloween Festivities. Perhaps I should have done some research first, but I just went. First I stopped in Cole's class so I could walk with him to the service.. After clean up the teacher ask everyone to tell what was making them happy. Everyone was very excited about Halloween and candy. When it became Cole's turn he simply said,

"I am happy because my grandfather Stephen is here today with me."

The service was wonderful. Much singing, dancing and education. Much better than the Masses that I attended hundreds of times when I was growing up, more personal. It felt informal inside a religion that I have believed to be very formal. I again was asked to introduce myself to all. I did a little research before writing this and found this site to be most useful in understanding what I had been to, http://www.reformjudaism.org/shabbat-customs.

It is hard to take pictures in the dark. Dawn went with Amber and Patrick and the kids up to Lake Street and Seacliff to trick or treat where the decorations rival the fanciest Christmas decorations in Roslindale. It seems to be an occasion to have parties, so people who stay hidden in their multi-million dollar homes the rest of the year, become visible this one night behind their glass windows.

Cole and Lily are two of the most energetic people I know, but this picture reflects the idea of the spirits who some believe roam our world on this night once a year. We are taking co-credit on this photo because Dawn took it and I worked on it in Image Tricks.

Kids Trick or Treating

November 1-2
Susan's Visit, Zumba

We had a party. Susan came out to Berkley to visit her mom and the two of them came by our house. It was too cold to sit outside to we gathered in our kitchen and drank spritzers, (Aperol, Prosecco, soda and a slice of orange). Patrick, Amber and the kids came down and it turned into a raucous party. The sun streams in at this time of day so the placed looked very cheery.

The next day, Amber, Dawn and Lily went off to Zumba in Golden Gate Park near the Carousel.


November 4
Election Day

Being the first Tuesday of the month, the deYoung and the Contemporary Jewish Museum were free. We went to the deYoung MuseumdeYoung to seee the African Art in the permanent collection. We got sidetracked into the Oceanic Room first and were knocked out. I would say that I would have taken home over 95% of the work there, compared to around 5% for most exhibitions.

We went on to the Jewish Museum to see a photographic Exhibition. From their website:

Arnold Newman (1918–2006) was one of the most productive, creative, influential and successful portrait photographers of the twentieth century. With great sensitivity and care, he incorporated the personal environment, the work, and the intellectual background of the subject in his photographs. For Newman, creating a successful portrait was a question of camera, lighting, film, and the cropping of a picture. His metaphorical studies of famous artists, creative professionals, scientists, intellectuals, and statesmen are formally and conceptually balanced compositions. Martha Graham, Philip Johnson, Marilyn Monroe, Grandma Moses, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and Pablo Picasso are only a few of his celebrated sitters. With his poignant and symbolic portraits, Newman set high artistic and aesthetic standards.

Marilyn There were around 200 photographs. Only a couple were recognizable. In the end, I thought the work was too much about him rather than the sitters.

We tried taking a docent led tour, but too much talk and not enough time standing three feet away from the photos just looking at them.

One of the ones that we really liked was this one of Marilyn Monroe. She was havings drinks with Carl Sandberg in 1962. He was cropped out of the frame.

We came home and were whisked to an Election Night party hosted by Patrick for all the people who worked on Proposition I. It passed. We had spaghetti with meatballs, very good and then left pretty early. Patrick continued on visiting several events. The next morning he was up at 4 AM to get a jump on the opposition by starting construction before dawn.


November 6
SF Dance Film Festival

Happily, I have found a wonderful yoga teacher, actually a former Boston Ballet dancer. He mentioned that the San Francisco Dance Film festival was in town for a few days. We went to the Thursday showing. Although I have basically stopped applying to such festivals myself because I don't think the videos that I make with Stephen are "dancey" enough to get chosen in that context, I do like to see what other people are doing with the genre. Mitchell Rose, a student of Dance Collective in 1973(!), has become well-known in the dance/film world and has made some delightfully clever pieces. His latest, called Globe Trot, used Bebe Miller's choreography and was filmed in fifty-four different countries, performed by a vast variety of folks, some dancers, some clearly not. He edited it together so that we saw the entire four and a half minute piece in sequence but taking place in contrasting environments. It was very clever and moving from the "we are the world" point of view, but it was actually too short! He could have given us the exact same piece twice, and I would have enjoyed seeing it repeated.

The piece that appealed to us the most was called Off Ground. It featured Louise Lecavalier (founder/director of Montreal's La La La Human Steps) and a pre-teen boy named Antoine Masson. Louise is now a "mature" dancer, and the boy was an amazing performer. The set was a simple table and chair. The choreography made clever use of over and under the table, and the camerawork/editing used the old technique of turning the camera 90 degrees to change horizontal into vertical perspectives on occasion. This trick (which Robin Doty and I used in my Imaginary Crossing in 1979) was only used when it was conceptually appropriate. The piece seemed to be about the bonding, the conflicts, and the inevitable letting go of a son and his mother. It was handled mostly in a light-hearted, humorous way, but had moments of deeply touching emotion.


We also saw:

Vanishing Points
(Canada, 2014) 8:41
Director: Marites Carino
Choreographer: Tentacle Tribe
Like two molecules unknowingly affecting one another in space, conceptual hip-hop dancers collide and share fleeting moments of intimate synchronicity on the streets of Montreal. Sucked into a choreographic time warp, viewers slowly realize things are not always as they seem.


(USA, 2014) 2:40
Directors: Andrea Lerner, Rosane Chamecki
Choreographer: chameckilerner
In their new video “Samba,” the Brazilians Rosane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner filmed a single samba dancer in extreme slow motion. What you see will change forever the way you perceive the body and its motion.

Both were good in very different ways, but Samba was extreme because it was probably shot at 1200fps and when shown at 30 you got to see what her butt was really doing. (There were groans from women in the audience as the seemingly sleek, toned body had slo-mo flab flaps flopping around her butt.-DK)


November 9
Raiders Football
Patrick invited me to theRaiders game. We were six strong. Patrick, his friend Gabe, Cole, and Patrick's brother Jim and his son Quinn and myself. The foodand the mimosas and the beer were all great and what a festive atmosphere, especially for a team that is 0-8 and soon to be 0-9. The guys on motorscooters were police and they were checking that no one's stuff went over their boundary line. They corrected the group next to us by 4".

The Raiders made the Broncos look bad for a while, but then the game returned to form. The Raiders made loser's mistake, even the coach got penalized for throwing a challenge flag when he wasn't allowed to. He won the challenged but lost a time out anyway. Kind of strange. Losing like that must be such a drag, I mean it literally. In this league, if you play at 98% you are going to get cooked by the other team. And when Denver went ahead missed tackles and bad coverages just opened the flood gates. We left at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Denver pulled Peyton.

A good time was had by all and I was so exhausted that when we got home at 5:30 I went to bed and napped and didn't get up till Monday morning.


November 16
Grandchildre and Videos

It really feels like we've been here a long time now. We will all miss each other when we leave. The kids are really delightful, although spending intense periods of time with them is certainly exhausting. On Veterans' Day, Lily had a holiday from school and Amber worked so I did a crafts project with her (made a very weird turkey), taught her some yoga and dance and worked on her cartwheels, gave her a piano lesson, got her breakfast and cocoa, teeth brushed, etc. for almost 4 hours. Then I took a nap! The day before we took Cole to school by bus, picked him up later and entertained him for awhile. In any case, it has been great to get to know them more intimately, and they are very affectionate with us.

Snail Painting
Here is a painting.

We saw it in the hallway waiting to pick up Cole.

Done by preschoolers.

They placed snails in pools of color and let them crawl where ever they wanted to.

We sent a copy to Nita at SIM at MassArt just so they can stay ahead of these preschoolers

or perhaps join them.


Happily, I have also found a really good yoga class that I can walk to and have been trying to take Zumba(!) twice a week that is offered free in the parks. On Sundays, sometimes we do a three-generation Zumba class: Lily, Amber, and me. This morning Lily felt like staying home, so Amber and I went to "shake our booties" together. It is now a bit cooler but has generally been beautiful here. Zumba warms ya up pretty quickly.

Below is a little piece that I made last week for Harris Barron, the founder of SIM, my department at MassArt, who was being honored with an alumni achievement award. Funny that I have not been moved to do anything "artistic" here until the opportunity arose to make something for someone else, and then it just happened. I wrote the "poem" one afternoon, audio-recorded it that evening; then Stephen and I made the video next day in James Turrell's Sky Space, did a bit of editing together and off it went, within about 24 hours! Harris's artistic name is Eagle Air; he is very involved with flight and gliding, hence all the airborne imagery in my piece.

For Harris on Vimeo.

For Harris' receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award at MassArt

It is not HD but it gives you an idea of the piece. Since the minimal choreography is just
improvised, make sure you hear the voiceover because that's what it's all about!
Friday night we saw a wonderful, moving performance by Korean artist, Dohee Lee. She went back to the island of Jeju where she was born and did research on rituals and myths from her ancestors. She created a contemporary "Shamanistic" ritual, using her body, voice, Taiko drumming and technology in a compelling fusion. Nothing felt gratuitous as the use of technology often is ("See all the fancy tricks we can do with a computer and audio/video looping, etc.") Everything she did related to her essential concepts. She managed to get the audience involved in a couple of interesting ways. From experience, i know what a challenge that can be. Honestly, this is the first thing we've seen in the last year or so that really made me miss performing, myself.


Dohee Lee
Patrick was off crabbing with some buddies for the weekend, and we managed to get the other five of us into seat belts in the car to go to the Randall Museum, a free museum for kids. The weather vanes in the clip, which I sped up, were on the side of the building. A great mix of science and art. The wind was blowing straight at the wall that day and the vanes were showing how the wind was getting away.

One day every other month they allow kids to drive the trains downstairs in their train setup. Just for kids...

November 18
Adam Came to Dinner
Adam, Amber and Dawn

Adam was on a quick business trip to San Francisco and we were able to have dinner with him at a nice restaurant on the edge of the mission, The Heirloom Cafe. Patrick graciously volunteered to stay home with the kids so it was the four of us, Adam, Amber, Dawn and myself.
November 29
Archery Patrick with bow

Patrick took me bow shooting on our last weekend in California. We had a lot of fun. My ring finger on my release hand has finally returned to normal after being numb for a couple of weeks.
Stephen with bow


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