Monday, December 22, 2008

News about the degree (12-22-08)

I can't believe I did it! I finally finished my last two classes at Portland State University.

Now, it is only a matter of time before I get my diploma.

Portland Houses: Pittock Mansion (12-06-08)

What can I say about this quasi-castle, the most famous house in Portland?

The Pittock Mansion is situated on top of a forested hill that must have been difficult to reach in the 1920s. Whenever I visit it, my thoughts go to the staff whose function was to be at the beck and call of the owners. So, more than the grand Music Room, or the Library, the spaces that interest me are those one which the rest of the house depended to be functional. For a long time, the kitchen was closed, but now restored, it is part of the tours. Although it is a large room with a great view of downtown, equipped with a superb top-of-the (1920s) line of stove, adjacent to a walk-in cooling room, there is hardly a counter to work on or a surface to lay things on.

Portland Houses: The Lion and the Rose (12-06-08)

The Lion and the Rose is a famous Bed and Breakfast in Portland. We were given a tour of this superb house by one of the owners. It has been gorgeously decorated (flowery wallpapers, antiques, period-style light fixtures, etc.). Imagine, 7 bedrooms and about 9 bathrooms! I loved the amazing attic with cavernous ceilings and a tiny turret room.

This house is listed on the Historic Register, and so a sign was posted announcing that the house would be open for tours the next day. I wanted J. and C. them to see this beautiful house, so we went back and had a great time admiring it.

Portland Houses: The Georgian House (12-06-08)

The owner of The Georgian House Bed and Breakfast gave us a tour of her house which she operates as a Bed and Breakfast. Although I am not partial to Country style, the consistency of the decorating was very pleasant overall. This house is obviously well-cared for and is a lovely, welcoming and comfortable place.

Portland Houses: White House (12-06-08)

The White House, a famous Bed and Breakfast in Portland is very impressive Greek Revival mansion is a breath-taker, a heart-stopper, a beautiful, immaculate house in a perfect setting.

Portland Houses: Clinker Brick House (12-06-08)

Hmm... Although this house had a certain charm, the dormers' metal frame windows were obviously not period and the big rust-colored metal panes in front of the gutter channels looked unsightly.

We used to own a (great) house in Medford with two fireplaces made of clinker bricks. I was told that these bricks which look almost black and whose shapes are often distorted were brought up to Oregon after the Great Fire of San Francisco in 1906 and used on new construction of the time.

Portland Houses: Tudor House (12-06-08)

I didn't care for this house. It seemed very average compared to some other houses in Irvington.

Portland Houses: Cottage House (12-06-08)

I did some sketches of houses for my last class at Portland State University.

The Cottage House is my favorite. It's essentially a Tudor style house whose woodwork has been refinished in natural stain (as opposed to the usual dark brown). I particularly liked the bent shingles roof, don in an effort to keep the general shape, -if not the look, of a straw roof.

Belgium: My Aunt and Uncle (11-25-08)


While in Belgium, I went to visit my aunt (Tante Marcelle) and my uncle (Onc' Jacques).
My aunt is 83; she always has some interesting story to tell, while my uncle (85) tends to joke, with the same sort of dry humor my cousins inherited.

Tante Marcelle:
"Ah, that reminds me what happened with the neighbors, but that was 16 years ago, no, wait, it was 12 years ago, because I remember the wall hadn't been rebuilt yet, well, what was I saying? Oh, that's right, the neighbors, nice people; they always say "Hello" so nicely. But they have the nerve to park the truck right across the gate and there's no room left for anyone. Did I tell you the man is a truck driver? No? Anyway, they always say hello very nicely, but then, the kids do the darnedest things. They keep kicking their soccer ball over the gate, and it pisses me off that they keep doing it, over and over. When I go down the alley, if I have to go get groceries, and I find the ball, I throw it back over the gate, but I had to go tell the mother to tell the kids to stop ringing the doorbell at the gate. It's happened several times, I had to go all the way down the alley, then the stairs. -Ah, it was exactly 12 and half years ago, because we redid the stairs after the wall!- So you see, it just doesn't seem right for an old lady like me to have to go down all the way down the alley then the stairs, and just for a soccer ball, you see. It's bad enough that I have to go down those stairs twice a week to go get groceries. Ah, yes, that's right; I was telling you about the neighbor. What did I want to tell again? I can't remember anymore... I have the worst memory. No, really, I assure you. I can't remember anything. It's terrible how low we sink. So, as I was saying, those people are always parking their darn truck in the street and there is no room to do anything, see, since it's a cul-de-sac, no one can turn their car around because of his %^!! truck. But they're nice people...for the most part."

Onc' Jacques:
"You can almost tell whose car it was by the color of the paint scrapes on the side of the truck!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Paris: Les Deux Moulins (11-21-08)

...This is the coffee shop featured in the movie "Amélie."

On my last day in Paris, I decided to walk from the hotel all the way to Montmartre despite the hotel's concierge trying to persuade me to take the Metro instead. I wanted to see the average streets of the city, the day-to-day banal and morose façades, and to not restrict myself to the picturesque only.

It was a long walk. My foot had started hurting again, and Montmartre was far away, uphill. But on the way, I did several things I couldn't have, had I taken the Metro.

I went to the Fragonard Museum of Perfume (essentially a perfume store) and sampled perfumes willy-nilly, and it was deliciously and fragrantly fun. I walked by the Opéra. I went in the Galleries Lafayette (department store), up to the rooftop terrace and enjoyed a beautiful fall view of the city. I had a late lunch in the cafeteria, and marveled at how everything looked delicious, from the salad bar to the steaks grilled to order (compare that to greasy burgers in the U.S.). I went up narrow streets full of people going about their lives. I went into the Sacré-Coeur (the big white church in Montmartre), and enjoyed the opportunity to simply be there. The view from the steps outside the church was memorable; the sky was streaked in pinks and mauves.

It was getting dark fast; it was my last evening in Paris.

As nighttime came, it got really cold. I was limping and every step on the cobblestones was painful. I found the coffee shop, hesitated, then went inside and had a wonderful little cup of hot chocolate. It was magical to sit in a place I had seen in a lovely movie.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Paris: Buddha-bar (11-19-08)


Late one evening, I went to the famous, super trendy Buddha-Bar.

I went inside, past the bouncers, and down a wide staircase to a dimly-lit landing and was directed to the balcony-level bar. I found a table in a corner of the balcony and took my time working in a my sketchbook, sipping my 9 Euros 0,5 liter bottle of water over the course of two hours, taking in the sounds and the sights.

The place was dark, music was blasting from loudspeakers, -I love club music-, people wore black (an art statement), graying older men wearing sport jackets over turtleneck sweaters were hunting for girls to pick up, pretty girls were laughing and busy talking over the noise. Looking down from the balcony to the cavernous space housing the basement-level restaurant, one could faintly see tables full of people and the great Buddha statue the restaurant is famous for.

Paris: Moroccan Restaurant (11-18-08)

... I found an absolutely great Moroccan restaurant in the Quartier Latin.

I ate well in Paris.
Since I was there for work, I even had the opportunity to splurge and have a fine meal in an elegant Art Deco-era bistro warmly recommended to me by the hotel concierge as "a great value for the very reasonable price" (30 Euros Prix Fixe Menu for dinner: a generous portion of Foie Gras as an appetizer, Steak Tartare with Fries as a main course, and Crème Brûlée as dessert)...

But the best place I ate at was at this little Moroccan restaurant in an alley bordered by narrow streets with ethnic and regional cuisine restaurants. The warm welcome, the good food, the tea (oh, the mint tea...), and the price which was much more affordable made this place one I will gladly re-visit if I get a chance.

I had a delicious Couscous with chicken. The best part of the meal was the mint tea, sweet and hot. I sat in a daze of happiness, sipping my tea and weakly trying to refuse the many refills I was offered.

Paris: I met a Fairy Godmother (11-18-08)

I know it sounds strange, but I met a Fairy Godmother.

Sitting on a bench in the Akira Kurosawa exhibit in the Petit Palais (art museum), I was lost in my thoughts. I hadn't been feeling well and was debating what to do once I left the museum.

I looked up when I heard a woman standing nearby sigh out loud, as if to catch my attention. She then began to fan herself with a program, exclaiming that she was exhausted and sat down on my bench. She started talking to me, as if we had been visiting the museum together all along. I immediately felt like I knew this woman.

She was small vivacious, talkative, funny. We talked about the Kurosawa exhibit, his movies, Art, museums, and things to do in Paris, Life, what it is all about. She told me that she lives in the countryside and comes up to Paris once a year to visit museums and go to the theater. She asked me about myself, how I was. She told me I was very brave and courageous.

As we were talking, I kept asking myself how it was possible that I felt like I knew her... She was in her mid-sixties, perhaps older; her hair was dark brown and cut in an impish pageboy style. Would she have gotten along with my mom, had she ever met her? Was it my mom she was reminding me of? True, my mom had the same self-assured manner and friendly way with people… I asked her name, “Oh, it’s a stupid name, Elizabeth.” I then asked her, should we perhaps exchange addresses? She brushed my question off. "Whatever for? There is no need for that!" And she was right.

We went together to visit some of the rooms in the museum, showed each other artwork we had admired on our own. She shared some Japanese art she had liked and I showed her a floor-to-ceiling painting of “The Good Samaritan” that looked so real, I had at first thought it was a color photograph. Still talking, we walked out of the museum together and went to the nearest Metro station. She decided to accompany me to the St Michel stop.

We got off the train. I wanted to thank her in for her kindness. I offered to draw a portrait of her and give it to her, but she laughed and refused; she said she looked terrible in portraits. She then hugged me, said "Au revoir, ma grande," kissed me on the cheek, waved goodbye as she walked away, down a flight of stairs to her train, and disappeared among the crowd. She was gone.
I suddenly felt very lonely.

Paris: Chez Flottes (11-16-08)

...On my first night in Paris, I had dinner at Chez Flottes, a small bistro near the hotel.

I had a delicious onion soup and a perfect little crème brûlée for dessert.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back from Paris! (12-01-08)

Well, Paris was Paris.
The women were beautiful and stylish, the weather was nice, the food was great...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Off to Europe! (11-14-08)

I'm leaving for Paris tomorrow, then off to Belgium next Saturday and will be back on November 26 (Julia's birthday).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wordstock: Lynda Barry (11-09-08)



Alas...Wordstock is over.
I managed to escape from my obligations today and go to the Convention Center this afternoon. I had a great time walking down row after row of booths and tables hosted by small presses and other vendors who deal with the printed word.
My main reason to go was to see Lynda Barry, and she was worth the trip. She was shorter than I expected, wore cat's eye glasses and a big red and white polka dot headband wrapped around her head and tied into a knot on top. She laughed a lot, sang funny songs, and was natural in an I-don't-take-myself-seriously way that was both humbling and very real at the same time. (I'm afraid I don't make much sense here. What I'm trying to say is that her unguarded manner endeared her to the audience.)
I had purchased her new book (full of drawings!) and had been given a big ad poster for the book. As I approached the signing table, with my sketchbook, the poster and the new book in hand, wouldn't you know it? The Powell's guy-in-charge made some grumbling sounds to the effect that people should one get only one thing signed...event though he hadn’t said a word for the people before me.
Once at the table, if I was going to get only one signature, I wanted it in my sketchbook. She drew a monkey on the page across from the drawing I had done of her, and then offered to sign the new book and poster also. She was really cool and friendly. I showed her some of the Maxine comics from my "Maxine on the run" blog and gave her a card with the address for the website.
Lynda Barry: A+++

PSU Class: Michael J. (11-08-08)

A quick sketch of Michael J. of Cascade Geographic Society who organized the PSU class visit to the McLoughlin House in Oregon City.

PSU Class: Oregon History Interpretive Center (11-08-08)



A trip to the Mc Loughlin House in Oregon City, to visit "The Birthplace of Oregon" as part of a PSU class.

There hardly was anything in Oregon before the 1860s, in contrast with Europe.
By then my great-great-grand-father had already bought the stone house in Polleur (Belgium) and had set up a blacksmith shop. Years later, when my grand-parents were still alive, various old-fashioned tools still hung on the walls in the shop area.

It never ceases to amaze me to get inside old wooden pioneer houses in Oregon, so tiny and reminiscent of "The Little House on the Prairie." To think that this area is still so new... The sad thing, is how quickly things get demolished in this country, just because it is "old" (that is, over 40 years old). (Or worse yet, to see a charming "restored" farmhouse for sale, and to walk in what obligatorily ought to be a period-style kitchen, and to see stainless steel and mottled granite counter tops...)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wordstock: Poetry Slam at the Bagdad (11-06-08)



Wordstock, the annual fun book event in Portland, started on Thursday with a Poetry Slam at the Bagdad Theater, which I attended as a volunteered. This was a perfect opportunity: I had never been to a Poetry Slam before and I wanted to do something in conjunction with Wordstock.
I helped set program booklets and pencils on tables in the auditorium and ushered people in, encouraging them to move to the front of the theater. The Bagdad Theater (it seems that I have been there a lot lately) soon filled with a merry crowd anticipating to have a great time.
When the emcees (performers from Good Sista/Bad Sista) asked for volunteer for judges, I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t know who the competing poets were, not had I ever heard of them, so that made me eminently qualified and impartial. I got to sit in the second row with a paper pad and a Sharpie marker, to rate poems by Anis Mojgani, Karen Finneyfrock, Buddy Wakefield, Jodie Knowles, Derrick Brown, and Tara Hardy. When ready, I, along with the four other judges, waved my scores high over my head, in turn cheered and booed by the audience. It was a blast!
The whole thing was a lot of fun, and the poems were amazing! Scoring them was difficult; how can one reasonably rate someone’s words and feelings, expressed as performance art? But some poems “spoke” to my heart, and they are, in no particular order:
- Tara Hardy: poem about sand
- Karen Finneyfrock: poem about the Statue of Liberty
- Anis Mojgani: poem about his talking to a little boy on the bus
- Buddy Wakefield: poem about his anxious mother
- Jodie Knowles: poem about (I think) her brother
- Derrick Brown: the poem about a schoolyard fight, mimed by Anis Mojgani (with the help of Buddy Wakefield, the latter supporting the former as he reenacted the author falling down from a blow, then standing up again); this group performance was amazing.
And after it was all over, I picked up the remaining booklets and pencils.

Election Night (11-04-08)

We were invited to the Crawfords' on Tuesday, for an "Election Night Party."
It was nice to see that there was an apparent consensus across the country, and it was as if one could feel people around the globe sigh with relief.
I was also nice to hear a great speaker for a change. Someone who spoke well, who said meaningful, complete sentences, with no snickering. Soon, the "nukular," the "He's a good man," the "Mission Accomplished," the "I am the Decider"...will become just fleeting elements of a nightmare from which people yearn to wake up.
Of course, I am not an idealist to the point of thinking that this election is going to be the dawn to a new course for the country, but, maybe, it'll bring enough small changes to make a difference for the better. We need to move on, to turn the page. Let's change our modus operandi and fix things rather than dismantle and destroy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cleveland High School Choir Concert (10-30-08)

Some experiences are so enjoyable they are difficult to describe. We went to the Choir Concert at Cleveland High School tonight, and once again were treated to a great, great concert.
Despite a challenging first year, Sam Barbara, the new choir teacher, has really done wonders with the kids. It was a tough job stepping into long-time CHS choir teacher Steve Peter's shoes after the latter's leaving, but Sam has grown into the position, even winning "State" for the last two years.
Of course, I may be accused of being enthusiastic because my daughter J., -in the drawing, she's the girl between the two young men wearing top hats,- is in the "Daires" Concert Choir, but regardless of J.'s (charming) presence, it was a nice feeling to see the auditorium full of people, and to hear these talented young people sing, and to find them equally good at early medieval songs, African songs, gospel hymns or plain sappy love ballads.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ralph Nader at the Bagdad Theater (10-20-08)



Ralph Nader came to speak in Portland several years ago and was impressed enough by his message to vote for him in 2000. Still bruised over the last two elections, I had just about made up my mind that I wouldn’t pay attention to his candidacy this time around. Everyone said the stakes are too high.
Originally a Hillary Clinton supporter, I was very irritated when Obama didn't choose her as a vice-presidential candidate, despite Biden’s extensive...blablablah…record, etc. In addition to having some residual grudge over the Hillary issue, I wasn’t thrilled by Obama, since issues that matter to me were never mentioned in his speeches, but I was resigned to vote for him, although, really, the whole process has been a drag and I’ve been getting to the point where I couldn’t care less. When it comes to politics, I think that one must be either crazy or out of his mind to want to be president anyway, so anyone running for office in today’s climate is suspicious (case in point: the last eight years).
When I heard that Ralph Nader was coming to Portland, I decided to hold off my vote until I heard his speech. After a mix-up at the Denver airport, which made him miss a connection to Eugene, Ralph Nader barely made it to Portland on time to speak to a full house at the Bagdad Theater. Nader, always a great speaker, gave numbers, statistics and facts off the top of his head. It was really impressive to see him go from one point to another, and to give a speech with substance and devoid of fluff. No surprise he has been kept off the debates: he may have called attention to issues plaguing the country, such as poverty, low wages, lack of insurance, corporate greed, etc.
It was refreshing to finally hear points that I care about brought up in Nader’s speech, which had for the most part been left unmentioned by both Democrats and Republicans: military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq, national health insurance, the reduction of military budgets, a national minimum wage, solar energy, crackdown on corporate crime. Thank you, Mr. Nader for having some clear objectives.
Unlike past elections, I filled out my ballot early this time, and dropped it off at the elections office the day after the Bagdad rally. I know the way I voted will result in some people feeling like that they have the right to lecture me about how my vote is going to count for the other guy, etc. I heard it all in 2000. Don’t blame me for voting for a person with integrity and principles. Blame the Republicans who voted for George W. Bush in the first place. And if Obama doesn’t win, people ought to look at the corrupted election process, not at my vote as the reason.

Paul Theroux at Portland State University (10-18-08)



The world changes, and the travel writer rarely revisits places he may have written about, but in "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Railway Bazaar, his latest book, well-known travel writer Paul Theroux tells of his returning to places he documented in "The Great Railway Bazaar" in the 70s.
Theroux's visit to Portland State University was the main event of PSU Week-End. As soon as the doors to Smith Ballroom opened to the general public, baby boomers and PSU alumni ($10) and students ($5) filed in early for a chance to get a seat close to the center of Smith Ballroom to hear Theroux.
His speech to a full room with nary an empty seat, was somewhat disjointed, like, say, it was a speech he may have prepared for a generic college graduation, but reworked for the old folks (Class of 58) who were sitting at the front of Smith Ballroom, eating a $125 lunch served by PSU Catering services, -and based on the food served by at the English Department’s “Meet and Greet” event a couple of nights before, a frightful prospect if there ever was one.
Despite the many conversational-style pauses and hesitations in his delivery, Theroux told interesting anecdotes, confirming that a travel writer would certainly experience the unusual during his trips.
I was particularly thrilled to get him to sign one of my favorite books of his, “The Collected Stories,” and, of course, my sketchbook.

Mike Richardson (Dark Horse Comics) at PSU (10-16-08)


Portland is home to comics giant Dark Horse Comics. Company founder and owner Mike Richardson recently made a generous gift to his Alma Mater’s Library: a collection of Dark Horse comics to be used for research purposes. Consequently, and in conjunction with PSU Week-End, Richardson gave a presentation to an attentive audience in packed Smith Ballroom, about how he got into comics and how he founded Dark Horse Comics, the evolution of trends in comics, etc., taking time to answer questions afterward.
The audience mostly consisted of male geeks or nerds in their late twenties to mid-thirties, the type with jet black hair, torn grey hoodies, and ill-fitting dark blue jeans and Converse shoes, people that one would picture as staying in dark basements, playing video games, who came up to the surface en masse for the occasion.
As soon as the Question/Answer session was over, I ran to the front to talk to Richardson. He was friendly and very approachable. I showed him a sketch I'd done of him in my sketchbook and he graciously signed it, telling me an anecdote about once signing another person's autograph album in Italy.
For a long time after the room had emptied, fans were still patiently waiting in line to talk to Richardson. Each and every person who had been waiting got to talk with him, and, like I had been able to, tell their story, and engage in a conversation in which he actually participated, listening, telling anecdotes, giving tips and information.
What a contrast with the other one (the Superstar).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Art Spiegelman at the Bagdad Theater (10-09-08)



Despite a lack of proper lighting in the Bagdad’s auditorium which resulted in only his silhouette showing in the dark space, Art Spiegelman, author of "Maus" graphic novel, gave a great and very interesting presentation about the evolution of the comic genre and its influence on his early life, illustrated by many images from his new book.
However, the book signing session afterward soured my positive initial impression of the author and of the event. Totally jazzed up by the presentation and pleased with myself for getting my 15-year-old to attend, as people were still filing out of the auditorium, I marched straight to the Powell’s table in the lobby and, without a second thought to such matters as whether I could even afford it, bought a copy of the new book, telling myself it was a bargain, on sale at the event for $19.95 rather than the regular $27 retail price. But that was to be the end of my elation.
While waiting in line for the book signing to start, daughter J. told me how enthusiastic she was at the prospect of meeting the quasi-legendary author of “Maus”; she was hoping to get his autograph in her notebook. Sometime around then, one of the Powell's Books employees managing the event announced in a loud voice that "Mr. Spiegelman" would ONLY dedicate the new book. I was disappointed to then realize that we wouldn’t even get an autograph in our well-worn copy of “Maus.”
I asked the Powell’s guy-in-charge if I could bypass the autograph in the new book I’d bought, and which was pre-signed anyway, and get Spiegelman's signature in my sketchbook instead? The Powell's guy said that he wouldn't even entertain, let alone pass on, any request. I could tell J. was disappointed. Not only had we paid $5 a person to get in the Bagdad Theater, but it now looked like, to even get an audience, one had to have a new book to present, a book which was looking less desirable by the minute. I started having regrets for making a foolish purchase.
As always lacking any sense in these situations, rather than return the book right then, I stayed on, waiting in line, like a dummy. There was something very strange about the set-up: the Master sitting at a table midway up on a level part of the ramp to the second floor of the Bagdad and we minions, waiting in line at the bottom of the ramp, until a Powell’s employee motioned for people to walk up the ramp, one by one.
I showed Spiegelman the sketches in my sketchbook, but not wanting to get a refusal, I didn't even bother asking for his signature. He was a short, harried-looking bearded man with huge thick glasses; he looked fragile and nervous at the same time, like a gruff post office worker or a stamp collector, or someone who stays indoors all the time. As Spiegelman hurriedly scribbled my name in the new book, I realized that, gosh darn it, I now couldn't even return the book for a refund anymore. Our one-minute meeting over, J. and I both walked out of the Bagdad, totally disappointed and already jaded about the experience.
And as for the book: spare the expense; it's very thin, even skimpy, filled with a lot of Robert Crumb wanna-be stuff from the 70s, and the essay at the end is equally disappointing. Looks like I’m going to post it on eBay.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Busy last few days attending cultural events (10-18-08)

In the last two weeks, I have seen Art Spiegelman at the Bagdad Theater, Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics at Portland State University, Paul Theroux, also at PSU, and Ralph Nader at a political rally at the Bagdad Theater.
I am going to post my thought about each event, along with the sketches I made, if any, in my sketchbook. Note that if any of the personalities drawn signed the sketchbook, the scanned image will have been doctored in Photoshop to remove said signature, for privacy reasons.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Weight Off My Shoulders

I finally applied for graduation and signed up for the two 1-credit Education classes to get my diploma. It's funny, but when I initially signed up for distance education courses, I thought it'd be no big deal, quickly over and done with. I had plenty of time, -one year,- to work on them, why rush into it? The year came and went, and I did nothing. True, it wasn't all due to slacking: I was busy; I was under tremendous stress over other issues, etc. So, in January last year, after determining that I didn't even want to bother again with the one class out of three distance education courses I had vaguely look at, I dutifully signed up again (and paid tuition) for the two remaining courses... And now, even though the one-year completion time hasn't elapsed yet, I feel strangely free after deciding that I will not finish this round of courses either... The lesson in all this? Don't choose subjects you have no motivation to investigate, and stay away from distance education courses.
And what after the diploma? Oh, the inner satisfaction... and more.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Day at the Beach (ca. 07-01)


A page from my sketchbook, a reminder of an unusually sunny day at the beach in Waldport, Oregon. The weather was invariably overcast every time we went to the beach house leased by my husband's employer, so this visit was a pleasant surprise. I had a small pocket-sized box of watercolor with me and painted the beach. In retrospect, I am glad I took the time to do this, since, due to a change of circumstances, we stopped going to the beach house, and the memory now seems all the more precious.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Horrible Massage (ca. 02-04)


A few years ago, I decided to treat myself to a massage on my birthday. Anticipating that I may be going through one of those depressive moods that seem to strike around the date, I wanted to do something preventive that would soothe me into my next age. So I called one of the local Massage schools. The student assigned to me, they assured me, would be a senior soon to graduate. I gathered up my courage (I hadn't done this before) and made an appointment. This was going to be a special birthday.
By the time I got to the Massage school for my appointment in the late afternoon of my birthday, I felt tense and harried. I was wearing black. The day hadn't gone so well and a massage was just what I needed. I felt secretly pleased with myself for anticipating my needs.
I went in the school building and was directed to the upstairs waiting room where my student was waiting for me. A tall, lumbering man holding a towel stood at the top of the stairs. I looked around and realized that this had to be my student. Here I was expecting a perhaps bookish, but nevertheless efficient young woman, and I got a lumberjack! My heart sank. He led me to a large gym in which other students were busy providing massages to people lying down on their backs or stomachs on foam mats directly on the wooden floor. I was increasingly apprehensive.
The big guy, -a giant, really, took me to a corner of the room. I set my things down on the floor, took my shoes off and eased myself down on the mat. The student gave me a small hand towel to place on my chest over my sweater. I closed my eyes and ordered myself to relax. The massage was nondescript and clumsy. I was surprised that a senior student could be that ineffective. I was resigned to get through the session and be done with it.
But as time went on, I felt myself pulled out of my self-induced semi-meditative state by some grunts and panting sounds that became increasingly loud. I opened on eye, to see what was going on. The student was now working on my legs through my clothes. He looked uncomfortable, his bovine face looked grey and pasty, and large beads of perspiration were forming on his forehead. I was alarmed. The man may have a heart condition, I suddenly thought. What would I do if he fell on top of me, like a great tree falls in a primeval forest? He kept on kneading my legs, working his way upward in an erratic manner. Through my half open eyes, I could see him strain to keep on task. What a stupid way to die, I told myself, crushed to death, and on my birthday of all days possible! I was frozen by fear, with visions of myself squashed, flattened like a bug on the floor, blood pooling under me.
I kept hoping that, perhaps, he would move aside, and give himself s few minutes to recover. Not so. He was now directly over my head, massaging my shoulders, then my neck. I quickly opened an eye again. There he was, haggard, breathing like a bull charging through a field, sweating away, right over my face. I closed my eye shut quickly. I felt a drop of sweat splash on my face, right under my right eye. Paralyzed with horror, all I could think was "Body fluid!" I could feel every hair on my body stand straight. What if it had fallen in my eye! I tried to calm myself down; there was no need to panic; there was no reason to overreact. I carefully wiped the wetness off my fingers. I was busy thinking up an excuse to stop the ordeal, when I felt the towel being picked off my chest. What was he doing this time? I opened both eyes at once, to see him rolling the towel in a ball, wiping his forehead with it, and, once done, placing the wet towel back over my chest.
To this day, I still wonder why on earth, I didn't simply put an end to the séance the instant I saw that things were off, but too often, my reaction to something weird going has been one of surprise, disbelief, then magical thinking: if I close my eyes, it'll disappear or pass eventually. Of course, nothing ever does.
In any case, the drawing was done a few minutes after leaving the school with encouraging words to the inept clod who inadvertently made this birthday one I'll always remember.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My New Year's resolution...a few months late (10-02-08)

I decided to get serious about my writing, but there is a major obstacle in my way. I want to finish my Master's degree.
The last year was spent wasting my time and mulling over the two online classes I had signed up for and left undone on my computer, but I learned something through the process: I don't do well at all with self-managed distance education courses, an expensive lesson to learn. So today, after one year of inactivity, finally determined to get my diploma, I went to the Graduate office at Portland State University and turned in my graduation application. The plan is as follows: to sign up for the two credits I need and to get whatever class I choose over and done with. And no matter how tempting they may seem, to stay away from online courses from now on.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Party in the Street at People's Food Coop (ca. 09-08)


A few weeks ago, I was walking home from downtown and, walking down 21st, I happened upon a large street party at People's Food Coop. The farmers' market was winding down, to make place for square dancing. It was fast getting dark. As I walked up Brooklyn holding the dozen farm-fresh eggs I'd bought, I thought that it's nice to live in a lively neighborhood with a large variety of people and interests.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Objectivity Necessary or Required (09-30-08)

I was going through some of my old sketchbooks, and revisited some old situations and feelings, as I had interpreted them at the time. My sketchbooks are so precious to me that, -and this is something I have thought about many, many times, if my house were on fire, they are what I would want to pull out (assuming everyone is safe, etc.), along with my thumb drives, since they hold my written journal texts.
When I write, it tends to be in the "I-Hate-My-Life" style, while the sketchbooks hold so many moments of sheer wonder, happiness and pleasure (such as the drawing of my husband's hand with a paper heart next to it, a sketch of someone's toddler asleep on a plane, or an architectural detail on a building...), that words could not convey appropriately. Of course, I could write, "The child was asleep now, her soft, gentle face was peaceful..." and how BORING that would be. There is nothing like drawing it.
I decided to post some old entries from my sketchbooks. There is no specific order or reason that will dictate my postings, just whatever catches my attention and makes me smile at the memory.
I may at some point also post my pages on politics, -some are funny, while most express how helpless I feel in a world that is out of control.
[. . .]
I am not looking for advice; I am not looking for solace. I think that inner peace is something that is gained from life experience, and obviously, I still have a lot to learn.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A sketch of Paris (09-27-08)


Here is one of my favorite recent sketches: in July, I was lucky enough to draw one of the rooftops of the Paris Courthouse.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why I draw (09-25-08)


My sketchbooks are a source of comfort and pleasure. Whenever I feel bored or unsure about a situation, or when I plain don't feel like being sociable, I know that, in my purse, a world of escape awaits. They are my memory of events I enjoyed, my record of places visited, my outlet for what can't always quite be said in words.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tree cutters at work (09-16-08)


G. and I went for a walk tonight and, on our way, we walked down two blocks over eastward and were stupefied to see that the very tall and beautiful cedar tree on the edge of the second house from the corner was in the process of being cut down.
Now, this is a house that had been for sale for close to $700,000 in the past year, by far the nicest house in the neighborhood and, of course, part of what made the property attractive was the tree on the left side of the property.
There was a contractor's van on the street and scaffolding in front of the house. In my opinion, whomever has the money to buy such an expensive house, then remodel and cut trees down that were perfectly fine... (I won't finish my sentence).
Of course, the excuse will be invoked that 1) the tree was "sick," 2) it could be "dangerous" (so could Mt Hood blowing up), 3) it was "old" (see excuse #2), 4) it was "messy" (it shed needles/pinecones/horse chestnuts/leaves, or whatever else).
It makes one cynical.

Monday, September 8, 2008

House matters (09-08-08)



Since the house is for sale, I figured I might as well post a couple of photos of my favorite space: the kitchen I designed. I also posted photos to http://ratemyspace.hgtv.com (write "Pascale" in the Search field). It was pretty weird to see how many people looked at it only five minutes after it had been posted. And why not post photos, after all? I think the project turned out fabulous, especially with the color tiles on the wall.
I really enjoy watching the real estate shows, and usually laugh when I see "experts" walk in a house, criticize everything and turn it into a "staged" space that makes it look banal and tepid. Unlike some of the houses I see on these programs, my house has personality.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Recipe for Coffee-free Frappuccino (09-04-08)


And here it is, dear audience, my super-extra-addictive-no-coffee-much-chocolate recipe for Frappuccino. No need to rely run to your local (unnamed) coffee shop anymore, because you can make it at home.
And, oh, it IS so difficult to resist making it...over and over. Just like right now.
It sure looks like I'm going to make me one of these delicious chocolate-flavored drinks, since I won't have to share with a bunch of people (J. is asleep, V. is upstairs, M. and K. at work, G. is at a meeting; only C. is downstairs)...hehehe.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sad day: the Rosa Mulliganii came down (08-30-08)

This is totally hearsay, but this is as I understand it: the people who seemed (semi-)interested in the house apparently came to see it with their parents, and the parents may have preferred another house that had just come on the market, etc. Result: no offer.

In the meantime, since we had apparently nothing better to do today, we spent the afternoon cleaning the yard, and filling the trailer with year debris.

G. cut down the climbing rose (rosa mulliganii) from the cedar tree, a sad thing, since it took me 14 years to get that thing to climb up and stay in the upper branches rather than snagging me as I walked by. (Picture me standing up on a chair and trying to get the long thorny shoots to loop over the cedar branches with a rake held up high over my head, and them cascading down on head). Anyway, we did this after an arborist had assured G. that the rose would eventually block the sunlight from reaching the branches, and thus impede needle production, etc. So, it's been all cut down. G. was very happy, I guess, as happy as anyone can be after quasi-nagging me for 14 years about how the rose-this and the rose-that, and he finally got to take it down.

Looking up this rose on the web tonight, I just found out that it is the "perfect" rose to grow on cedar trees. Whatever. I have, like, so much moved on mentally that I don't care. All that's left is the base and the roots, and that, I am going to dig up and take with me wherever I go. No point leaving anything that people won't appreciate. Call me cynical; I just take comments that my yard is a "jungle" rather personally.

In the end, and surprisingly enough, the yard looks bigger. Let's see if that gets us some traffic, haha, and maybe people will notice that there IS a yard, all 60 x 100 of it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Procrastinating...again (08-27-08)

Well, today, we had another one of those speed-clean-the-house moments, because the house had to be shown. It's pretty difficult to keep everything clean all the time. What is even more annoying is to hear lame "feedback" comments and complaints, such as "But there's no yard..." (said in an annoying nasal voice). Yes, there IS a yard: right in front of the house and on the side of it. No, it's not a private yard where you can romp around in the nude, but it IS larger than the standard city lot.

Consequently, I still haven't posted any drawings.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Phil Spector: An Interesting Face and Name (ca. 08-08)

This is an old drawing I did in 2007 from a newspaper photo of 60s record producer Phil Spector during his first trial for murder.
I'm not trying to be funny here, but the name kinda matches the face...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

First impressions (08-09-08)

All right. It's time to get this stuff posted and stop berating myself for not doing anything creative. In fact, I got more creativity than I know what to do with, but what I don't have is MOTIVATION. So, in an effort to remedy the problem,

HELLO WORLD,

MAXINE HAS HEREBY STARTED HER SUPRA-EXCITING BLOG IN WHICH SHE WILL TELL IT ALL TO ALL, AND LIFE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME, etc.

(PS: the above text was not yelling; it was just an official announcement)