Sunday, August 30, 2009

 

Sasha, looking almost exactly like her mother as a baby.



Portland Pictures: The Chinese Classical Garden


Patterns in pebble mosaic pavements:








Two approaches to Bonzai:




Leafy canopy over a courtyard:


And lotus in a pool below:


Saturday, August 29, 2009

 
I have a goal, something I hope to do once before I die. It has nothing to do with professional accomplishment or finding true love or having loving, wonderful children--I've been immensely fortunate to have those things in my life.

No, just once I want to arrive at a rental car counter and get the small, compact or subcompact car I actually reserved two or three months in advance. Invariably I hear that all the small cars--the ones I reserved--are gone BUT they have good news for me. There is a wonderful mid-sized car to which they've upgraded me for not a dollar more than the small car I should have had. I have heard this all over the US and also in New Zealand and Wales, both of which have narrow roads in their countryside and small towns, roads frequently contained by solid rock walls on both sides.

Also invariably, these cars have bodies and rear windows so designed and shaped that from the driver's seat you can't see any part of the hood or the trunk, in other words I wind up in an unfamiliar vehicle, larger than I wanted, with no idea where my corners are, or how long my front and back are. I faced this problem most recently in Portland where the excellent and spacious Mark Spencer Hotel had an underground garage planned and built in an era of smaller and narrower vehicles, a garage with tight turns, a forest of columns, steep ramps and lots of SUVs sticking well forward from the other spaces.

To my credit, I have never returned a rental car with so much as a scratch on it, but driving these larger cars has always involved a bit of tension at the very least. I'm a Jeep guy. A Jeep is a box, a squared off, big-windowed box whose hood doesn't fall away into invisibility, whose back bumper is in a wholly predictable place directly below the back window. It's a practical, non-glamorous workhorse that's reliable, nimble, comfortable on cross-country trips, able to carry everything I need, a friend.

I write this today because the day before we flew out of Manchester Airport, I drove the Jeep home from a trip out for errands, parked it at the house, turned it off--and it would not start again. It sits at home, quite dead, awaiting my return on Monday. I'm sure it's something relatively simple, at least I tell myself that. The battery isn't dead because all the lights and other electrical functions work. We'll see when I get home. It recently passed 200,000 miles acting as if it was still a young vehicle--with luck, it will be with me many, many more.

*******

We arived in Los Angeles yesterday and ny younger daughter picked us up at LAX and drove us back to her West Hollywood apartment. It turns out to be in a very gay neighborhood, attractive and filled with good restaurants. We had Nouveau Tex-Mex last night (shrimp enchiladas, swiss chard tacos). Today we head out to the Getty Villa and one of the local museums.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

 
Our time in Oregon is coming to an end--this is our last full day here, which will be spent with my daughter, son-in-law, and little Sasha. We're cooking dinner for them tonight, my paella, and then driving up to the Portland airport Ramada Inn in preparation for our flight to Los Angeles tomorrow morning. Because the kids have expressed a great deal of happiness with this area, I'm confident there will be more trips out here in future, which will not be a hardship by any means.

Our four days in Portland were most enjoyable. They began with most of a day spent with the irrepressible Arnie, his husband Blair and the delightful Mason:

They'd planned dinner at an outdoor concert which was a revelation to us easterners--NO BUGS. Not one. For me, the mosquito magnet, it was a pleasure to sit outside in the clear evening air and not dread the onslaught of hundreds of mini-vampires.

Excellent hosts, they'd packed a picnic of little delights, a bottle of wine, and their great good spirits.

Sunday we were meeting friends from Seattle up in the Pearl District. We started at Powell's Books, seen here framed by the sculpture that sits in the traffic island in front of it. We then wandered through the Pearl, a collection of older buildings preserved and converted into lofts, condos, bistros and caf├ęs, newer buildings constructed green (including one that powers four of its residential units by wind turbines on itsw roof), galleries and shops.

This handsome fellow observed the passing scene from a loft in a converted warehouse, now the background for its residents' gardens and front patios. The matching building is reflected in the glass above him.


And this is Gabriel Manca's BONK, purchased more or less (more!) on impulse in the afternoon at the Froelick Gallery. It was only later in the evening when we were winding down our day that I remembered that during our visit to the Classical Chinese Garden, we had all taken our fortunes from a the little numbered doors in a Fortune Chest. Mine had been, "There's a great temptation in store for you. Think clearly." Clearly, I didn't follow the advice but went with my gut feeling.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

 

Sasha, just over to weeks old and briefly holding up her head during "tummy time" on a wedge-shaped pillow. She's a real charmer.

 

One of the great Legislators and one of the great friends to the LGBT community.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

 
This is our last full day in Portland. We've had a good time here, notably because we've had so many friends to get together with, sightseeing being combined, or alternating, with good talk, good food and wine.

Yesterday we drove east to Mount Hood, driving u to the 6,000 foot level with a mile of mountain still looming over us, to the Timberline Lodge, a Grand Lodge of the Depression Era (the 1930s Depression, not this one) which was a WPA project that gave well paying work to an army of destitute laborers, craftsmen and artists. There are many pictures that will await our return to Salem tomorrow where I believe the WiFi will support uploading photos to the blog.

Last night we drove to North Portland for the evening with Stephen and Rolfe, both old theater men and delightful hosts. We spent our time mostly in the uniquely Stephen and Rolfe "fort" they've put together in their back garden (recently featured in one post on Stephen's Post-Apocalyptic Bohemian blog. It's a creation only a theatrical designer and an actor with an eye for the comfortable and unique could put together, a wonderfully surrealistic retreat from the city and staging area for quiet get-togethers.

Today we visit the Portland Art Museum, have lunch at the reputedly elegant, old-world Heathman Hotel, and probably a visit to the Japanese Gardens just west of the city center, high in the hills.

Monday, August 24, 2009

 

The hotel WiFi is running very slowly tonight so uploading pictures will have to wait for another time.

We drove up from Salem yesterday and checked into the Mark Spencer Hotel, located right on the border of Portland's Pearl District to the north and the major Downtown area to the south with a rich array of the city's most interesting attractions well within walking distance.

However the agenda for yesterday wasn't sight-seeing, but a long wished for get-together with Arnie (The Spirit of St. Lewis) and first meeting with his husband Blair. We'd had the pleasure of having Arnie stay over with us a couple of years ago and have been in touch ever since. We spent the afternoon touring the East Fremont neighborhood in which he and Blair live, touring the bamboo shop and nursery next to the building which houses their stylish condo, stopping for a gelato, viewing the extensive gardens their neighbors maintain.

The visit was capped with an outdoor concert of big band music in a local park with wine and a picnic dinner they'd put together. We were five in the park, the fifth being their irresistible little dog Mason. It was an afternoon and evening filled with fun and laughter and a great introduction to Portland.

Today we began at the famous Powell's Books and yes, we both bought something. Mine is "The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh" by David Damrosch which combines many of my favorite topics--archaeology, ancient history, and the base myths of our culture.

From there we walked in a leisurely way north to Cafe Nell, probably the single gayest eatery I've ever been in, where we met good friends Steven and Mark and Steven's brother Peter who had driven down from Seattle to spend the day with us. After a lovely brunch, we spent an hour or so in the Classical Chinese Garden. Pictures of this beautiful site will come later. A visit to the Museum of Contemporary Crafts was foiled by its being closed on Sundays, so we decided to stop in at a neighboring gallery, where I was struck by a three dimensional shadow box construction titled "Bonk" by artist Gabriel Manca. It combines found and sculpted elements in a witty and frankly phallic composition. I bought it on the spot and am having it shipped back home once the gallery's Gabriel Manca show closes at the end of next week.

We ended the day with good wine and great seared fresh tuna at Fish Grotto across the street from the hotel.

Tomorrow we drive to Mount Hood for the day and then we're looking forward to drinks and dinner with Stephen Rutledge (Post-Apocalyptic Bohemian) and husband Rolfe.

Friday, August 21, 2009

 
We arrived in Portland yesterday afternoon after one of he most trouble-free cross-country trips I've ever experienced. Both planes took off on time and landed early, our change being in Chicago, blessedly at Midway and not O'Hare. Traffic out of the airport at 4:20pm was just about like it would be in any major urban area. But we got down to Salem by 6:15, checked into our motel and walked the two or so blocks to my daughter and son-in-law's house in a charming area filled with arts and crafts cottages and bunglows, gardens and quiet streets.

And then I met Sasha Julia, my very lovely granddaughter who has no fear of being confronted by new people as long as they know how to hold a baby and give a bottle. My son in law's parents were there for their last night before going home to Philadelphia so we got to see them again after far too many years, and we all went out to dinner at a great little bistro in the neighborhood. Sasha slept through all of that in her little carrier cradle. We finally got back to the motel at the equivalent of 1am east coast time but we made it through the evening, slept in a bit this morning and then set out to explore Salem, Oregon.

It's the state capital but not it's largest city and is, in fact, a fairly quiet place. Within three blocks of the motel is the Capitol Building on one side of our street, and the beginning of the Willamette University campus, where my son-in-law teaches, on the other. We decided to explore the campus which is quite beautiful, the usual mixture of buildings from the last third of the 19th century (it was founded as a Medical School in 1867), the 20s and 30s, then various modern periods. Red brick is the predominant building material, combined in one case with copper facing in a kind of board and batt configuration that is striking if somehow not particularly handsome. Maybe when the copper gets its green patina--or maybe not.


The very first building we encountered was this reproduction French baroque hall, the great sconces dramatic but just out of scale for the building as a whole. It turned out to be the showiest building on campus, which is low key and handsomely landscaped.


This circular grouping of giant sequoias was planted by an alumni group in 1942 but has obviously grown fast, towering over everything else.


We walked inside the circle and all I could think of was what a lovely setting the space inside the giant trunks would be for a wedding or other affair.


Next to the Library runs the very fast moving stream that had already rushed through the lumber and woolen mills on which the city's original economy had been built.


The mill buildings, adjoined by the original wooden frame houses and
Meeting House of the Methodist founders of Salem (one of them the oldest surviving framed building in the state) are now a museum complex.


The University has a fine botanical garden for quiet study and just plain enjoyment.


We love purple foliage as an accent in a garden and have some of it in our own back home.


We're off now to their house where I think some new pictures pictures of the baby will be taken that should be ready to post here tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

 
In twenty minutes we leave for Manchester, NH airport flying to Portland Oregon through Chicago (Midway, thank heaven, not O'Hare). We'll pick up a little rental car and then be on our way to Salem and our first meeting with little Sasha. My son in law's parents are out there until tomorrow morning, so we'll have the pleasure of dinner with them tonight.

We'll also be spending four days in Portland just having fun with some of the boys and seeing the sights in a city I hear great things about but have never visited before.

More when we get established on the ground.

Monday, August 17, 2009

 
We celebrated Fritz's birthday last night in Portsmouth at our favorite area restaurant, Radici. It's a modestly sized place, relatively quiet (ie. you can eat and hold a conversation with friends without having to shout to be heard) with attractive decor that isn't afraid of color, and excellent service.

On one occasion when we went there on impulse with no reservation, all the tables were taken but we were offered seats at the bar if that was OK with us. I've always liked eating at bars so we went for it and discovered that their bartender, Sam, was a lot of fun to talk to and quite attractive. One could get into a lot of trouble with Sam.

Fritz's sister drove up from Cambridge, MA to join us. The evening special was grouper in a lightly curried cream sauce over spinach and tomatoes accompanied by asparagus and a classic, very simple risotto. She and I had that while Fritz went with his favorite Seafood (mussels, scallops and shrimp) Fra Diavolo. They pour a particularly crisp and dry pinot grigio at Radici. Desserts were had, as was a lot of fun.

*******

We're in the doldrums of an "official" heat wave, ie. at least three days above 90 degrees in a row. It's also quite humid, a combination I particularly dislike, along with the fact that the air isn't moving at all.

When I was growing up, I'd hear people say how they couldn't sleep in the heat of summer and I never understood that. Heat knocks me out. It pulls all the energy from me and lethargy takes over my whole body, or almost my whole body--sometimes really intense heat makes me very horny.

We had several errands to do today that involved being outdoors with some physical exertion, so I suggested doing them very early in the day before it got really bad. We needed to get rid of our old queen sized mattress because the sleep number has been a big success for us an we obviously weren't going to send it back after the one month trial. The mattress and paper recycling from Fritz's Center, including a pile of corrugated cardboard, meant a trip to the Transfer Center, the current euphemism for the dump.

The wild turkeys have returned to the area. I've seen one near the house for two days in a row. Yesterday one was strolling through some of the new plantings around the hot tub; today, I was coming up the road to the house and one was standing right in the middle of it, quickly scuttling off to the side and then into the woods.

*******


I've begun to pack for our trip out to Oregon, a new state for me. We fly into Portland on Thursday and get a rental car, then drive to Salem where we'll meet my new granddaughter for the first time. My son-in-law says she is very communitive facially, with different expressions for I want food, or I've just pooped, etc.

Life is very good right now, just moving at an agreeably slow pace and spent as much as possible out of the sun.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

 

OK, you get to guess:
A) it's a color blindness test, or
B) it's DesignerBlog's 6th birthday.

That's right, I've been blogging for six years and I still enjoy it enormously. These days I'm in touch with a lot of you on Facebook as well as via our blogs, but I see a real difference between the two. Perhaps it's just how I perceive them, but the depth of contact and exploration of a topic via a blog has allowed me to get to know many of you in a way that's led to valued friendships. The immediacy of Facebook allows me to keep in touch with friends, family, former colleagues and students in a way I haven't been able to before and I value that, but they're not the same.

I hear people say that blogs are over now because of Facebook (and that Facebook is over now because of Twitter) but not for me. As I see it the three, in that order, chart a progressive diminution of contact and intimacy in our daily lives, to the point where Twitter, which I don't intend to get involved with, limits the amount you can say in each transmission--the latest surrender to miniscule attention spans and avoidance of meaningful contact.

A lot of blogs I enjoyed reading and bloggers I had gotten to know this last year have decided to shut down, but I've found some new and quite wonderful ones--happily, not everybody seems to feel that blogs are over. In any event, I plan to be here for some time to come, and I thank you all for reading and commenting and being part of my life.


*******


The new English garden is becoming a bird and friendly insect magnet. We looked out this morning after breakfast and all at the same time were a woodpecker and a nuthatch at the suet feeder, a goldfinch perched on the flower stalks looking for seeds, an assortment of bees working the flowers and a hummingbird hovering and zooming around everything.

As an extra-special bonus, we get to watch the chipmunks eat all our blueberries!

Yesterday we welcomed the first
hummingbird moth that we've seen up here around the new house since we moved in. Not the one above because I didn't have my camera, but one very much like. These are friendly, gentle little insects who are much less manic than the birds they so resemble and for whom they're named, and who don't get spooked if you're standing near them as long as you don't reach out for them.

This all begins six feet in front of our big south-facing windows. It's so much better that television!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

 

I promise this won't get out of hand, but occasionally I'll post a picture of the young lady. My son-in-law put a lot of pictures on my daughter's Flickr page and I chose the best ten or twelve from among a lot of repeats or shots that just didn't work.

Mother and child went home on Saturday. In ten days we'll be there on a trip that combines time with my newly extended family with some blogger dinners and get togethers (Hi, Arnie and Blair, Stephen, and Steven and Mark!), ending with a weekend in LA where my younger daughter now spends three weeks a month for her job.

*******


A big milestone for the Jeep this weekend, as it gracefully rounded the 200,000 mile mark. It still has the pick-up of a 10,000 mile old. It's been an incredible work horse and still hauls loads of lumber, rock, firewood, furniture and yard sale items etc. with aplomb. I celebrated by buying it a set of new tires. It seemed pleased.

*******

There's an antique barn out in Cooperstown that's one of my favorite places in the world. I always plan to spend at least two hours there every year when I go out for the opera. There are five levels to it--it is truly huge--as well as an extensive set of grounds featuring a lot of outdoor stuff, including a wrought iron base for an outdoor table that I bought. I picked a round Moroccan mosaic table top. It stands between our Adirondack chairs on the new little deck outside our bedroom.

Three pictures from the place:


I fell in love with this fantasy outdoor throne with it's built-in birdhouses roofed with antique license plates.


The roof and top level are the domaine of the chair.


I so want to buy this incredible Art Deco kitchen dining set, but I have bowed to practicality--it's way too expensive, and Fritz owned an excellent one in a very simple style that fits perfectly in our kitchen dining area.

It's a very typical metal-topped table with wings that slide out from underneath the main top to almost double the surface area. It's the legs that love so much, as if Jacobean had gone Deco--or vice versa. It comes with four matching chairs, all for $850.00(!). It's been there for at least five years, calling out to me every time I visit. Dropping the price does not seem to have occurred to the management.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

 

Introducing . . .


. . . my new-born granddaughter and first grandchild Sasha Julia, born a bit before midnight last night, eastern time. Everybody's doing well and all are very, very happy.

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