Monday, February 17, 2014

For Papa
























When I was a little girl, I would climb into my grandfather’s lap, get right in his face, and say “I love you, Papa Artie”. He was a man’s man: a card-playing, Sinatra-singing, tough guy with a heart of gold. Inside he was a pussycat, but not many people called him out in that way.

“I love you, Papa Artie”, I’d say. And he’d grumble something under his breath and give me a punch in the arm, or a slap on the back.

Many years ago I was visiting my grandparents in New York. We were walking around in the City, my grandparents side-by-side. For some reason I noticed my grandfather drop back one step and cut around to the other side of my grandmother. It wasn’t until after he had done that that I noticed the guys standing on the corner up ahead. My grandfather had silently put himself between her and them. I don’t know if she ever even noticed, but I did and it stayed with me.

“I love you, Papa Artie”, I’d say. And over time he’d say, “Me too.”

When my grandfather turned 75, my grandmother threw him a surprise party. There were loads of old friends and family, all gathered in their home. This was in the late nineties, years before tragedy struck and robbed them of everything. During the party I went into their guest room to get something from my suitcase, and I saw an envelope tucked in the side, not meant to be found until I’d gotten back home. In it was a note from my grandfather saying that even with all his old friends there, what meant the most to him was that David and I had come.

“I love you, Papa Artie”, I’d say. And finally he’d say, “I love you, too.”

A few days ago my grandfather fell, hit his head, and never regained consciousness. I was there for one of his first bad falls, over 10 years ago now.There have been many falls since then; many heartbreaks; too many indignities to count. Time hasn’t been kind to my grandparents. I wasn’t there this time; in fact, I didn’t even know about it until a few days later when I was told he was being moved to hospice care. Each day, I spoke to my grandfather on the phone. I told him stories of our life together; of when he taught me to dive, or when he sang to me at my wedding (an amazing, a cappella version of Because God Made Thee Mine that brought the house down). And then I sang to him; High Hopes, many first verses of Beatles songs, lullabies. I’m told that on the last day of his life, when his breathing was shallow and fast, it slowed from 28 beats-per-minute to 22 while I was on the phone with him.

By the time I was in my 30s, my grandfather had gotten so used to saying I love you to me that sometimes he’d even say it first.

These past few days I’ve had a lot of time to think, and what I’ve come to is this: I loved my grandfather completely and he knew it. And he loved me right back. We knew exactly who we were to each other, and that is an amazing gift. 





















Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thirteen (for Dad)

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

—Leonard Cohen

Weird how things show up in your life just when you're in the right place to receive them.

I've been thinking the past few days about this blog post, the 13th in remembrance of my dad since he died (every December 5 and July 4 since 2007). I've been feeling pissed off at him. Pissed that he's not here, seeing my beautiful daughter grow up. Pissed that he's not here, seeing me rediscover myself as a artist. Pissed that he's not here.

And then tonight, as Anna was practicing piano on Dad's keyboard underneath his gold record, I looked at her fingers and remembered how he looked at her fingers after she was born and noted with pride that they were long. Good piano-playing fingers.

And then within the hour, I saw this quote online. I'm not a big Leonard Cohen fan and I'd never heard the song, but I saw the quote and immediately knew it was speaking to me of Dad. I knew it was again time to see the cracks for what they are, the way to let the light back in.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Irony

Many, many moons ago, sometime around 1989, I was standing in the parking lot of the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. It was chilly out, and I was dressed in a miniskirt, bra and blazer because you know, why not? I was with a friend, waiting to go in to the club, and I said I was cold. Just then two guys walked by and heard my complaint. With no hesitation one of them offered the following bit of advice: "Then put some clothes on!"

Honestly, I thought that wasn't an unreasonable suggestion and I also thought he was a total dweeb because, really, who in their right mind would tell me to put some clothes on?!

The irony is not lost on me then, that as I watched the Miley Cyrus video for “Wrecking Ball” I turned to David and said “She's sad because she forgot her pants.” I'm not a Miley fan — until last night I'd honestly never heard her music —but I had heard about the fuss over the video (in which she rides naked on a wrecking ball and licks hammers and shit).

Anyway, I could go into a whole thing about my take on the video and my delight at this spot-on parody, but really, that's not why I'm writing this.

I guess I'm writing this because I've finally realized that growing up means knowing when to keep your clothes on (and, of course, when to take them off).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pont du Gard

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For our last little adventure this summer we took a day trip to Pont du Gard. Built in the 1st century AD, Pont du Gard is the highest Roman aqueduct bridge and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. All summer long the various Roman sites we've seen have just boggled my mind. Honestly, I don't know enough about engineering to know how one would go about constructing an aqueduct today, but the thought that it was being done with the resources available 2000 years ago floors me. It's worth checking out the Wikipedia page on this if you're interested.

There were several bonuses at this site, including an indoor area for kids to learn a bit about archaeology, water collection and disbursement, and life in Roman times. An additional bonus, which we knew about ahead of time, was that you can swim in the Gardon River, just below the aqueduct. The water is frigid, but it feels great after hiking up and down the surrounding hills. And like all good Roman sites, there was ice cream available.

A side note: I do believe I've eaten more ice cream this summer than in the previous few years combined. I know that Anna's eaten more than she's had in the rest of her life! It's amazing how certain practices go out the window when the temperature is above 90. Every. Single. Day.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Versailles

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For a while now we've been promising Anna that one day we'd take her to a real castle. Last year we talked about going to Versailles, but never made it. We intended to take her to Buckingham Palace, but didn't count on it being sold out days in advance. So with the determination required to brave the crowds, we finally made it to Versailles.

We were lucky to get a day that wasn't too hot, though after many, many hours of crowds and lines and walking David and I felt like we'd been through a battle. That said, you can't deny the beauty of the place, especially the enormous grounds. The sheer number of fountains is amazing, each with a different size, shape and theme. Time and time again a blind turn in the gardens would reveal some beautiful surprise.


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Inside the chapel (which is inside the Palace).


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One of hundreds of chandeliers in the infamous Hall of Mirrors.

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A bedroom fit for a queen.

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A detail from a painting of the coronation Empress Josephine.

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View from the Grande Trinon.

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One of the hundred of statues in the main gardens. I took a particular liking to her.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

A little London, a little Paris

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One of the weird, wonderful paintings at the Tate Britain.

The past week or two have come and gone, and I just haven't gotten around to posting. In London, we were crazy busy the entire week. It was great to see so many new things, but it was also exhausting and we got pretty burned out. By the time we arrived in Paris, we had lost most of the energy for sightseeing and mainly just hung out with friends (there was one major exception, which I'll post about next time!).

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One of the beautiful horses at the Royal Mews (the stables for Buckingham Palace).

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Waiting patiently for 4:00 tea at a London Tea shop.

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Approved!

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A small painting by John Singer Sargent at the Tate Britain. He's my latest obsession (what can I say? I am very behind the times!)

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In Paris, we took our friends to a few of our favorite haunts. This is by the Nikki de Saint-Phalle fountain outside the Centre Pompidou.

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Heading to the Tuilleries by way of the the courtyard at the Louvre.

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Flying high at the Tuilleries.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

London: part 1

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The beautiful, enormous Museum of Natural History (which we did NOT make it into).

Ohmygosh London is big! BIG! So big that despite my best intentions, there is just no way we're going to be able to see many of the things I had hoped we'd get to. Some of it is due to crowds (The Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace) and some of it is due to the sheer enormity of the places we do get to (the Science Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum).

Here's a look at some highlights from days 1-3:

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Little Miss, setting out for our first day’s adventure. She’s in front of our lovely, if somewhat inconveniently located Airbnb flat in Kensal Green.

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At the Science Museum, a model of a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud (with an airplane suspended behind it).

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For the geeks among you :-)

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A small portion of an elaborate monument to Prince Albert, in Kennsington Gardens.

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In Kennsington Gardens

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After a walk along the Thames, we stopped to admire Tower Bridge.

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The Victoria & Albert Museum has the most amazing program for kids. For an hour at a time, they can check out themed backpacks full of information and materials that introduce them to works within the museum. Anna did this for eight hours one day and went back for more the following afternoon! Far and a way her favorite was the Architecture bag, which happens to be the newest addition to the program.

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The view from the V&A courtyard, where we spent an hour sitting in the grass visiting with some Portland friends who happened to be in London at the same time.

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We wandered from the V&A to a perfect little Indian restaurant.

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The next day we spent time at the Transport Museum, which has great displays of various trains, buses, and cabs from throughout London's history. I just loved the mannequins in this one!

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And a close up.

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In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Underground, the Transport Museum was displaying many of it's historical posters. This was one of my favorites (from 1938), though there were lots of great ones.