Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Pirouette

January 18, 2014

Ceres Chair

Went to the movies the other night and saw August-Osage County which I just learned was nominated for several Oscars this year.  Hmmm.  Interesting performances, but I just couldn’t relate.  Never interacted with a family so rife with dysfunction.  Film starts off with senior male member of the clan, played by Sam Shepard, taking his own life.  Mother, played by Meryl Streep, drops the f-bomb with great frequency.    If I ever heard my mom utter that epithet I’d know the end to be near.

Sitting there attempting to get comfortable I thought a bit about Shepard.  He’s good in everything and makes memorable the smallest bits of a role.  There’s a personaI connection: I always think of his crooked teeth when I look in the mirror.  Anyway, as you may know he’s also a playwright and something he said about the craft came to mind.  “For me, playwriting is and always has been like making a chair.  Your concerns are balance, form, timing, lights, space, music.  If you don’t have these essentials you might as well be writing a theoretical essay, not a play.”

Well, for me, those concerns weren’t well addressed in that film, but as luck would have it, I got a new chair for Christmas and thus have been given to think about Shepard’s metaphor in relation to the gift and my way in the world.   Visitors to this space will know that I’m a world class daydreamer and should thus expect that facilitation thereof to be important to these ruminations.  Call me VP in charge of staring off into space.

The factors Shepard mentions are all important, but for me light and music stand out. In a chair you ask?  They’re not important for mushroom theory of management* sorts, but reign supreme wherever creativity is important.  And where is it not? I read an article in the Harvard Business Review a while back that described an incipient trend in which job candidates with an MFA were hired over those with an MBA.  They’re better equipped to develop ‘over the horizon’ scenarios.

Light and music in a well wrought play might refer to the manner in which truth about a character, or the plot, or life is revealed.  Think about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid maybe.  Ya, remember when they’re in Bolivia and Strother Martin asks The Kid to demonstrate his marksmanship?  The Redford character first misses the block of wood Martin’d tossed out, Newman winces, but the Kid then says “Can I move?” and with speed, agility, and grace destroys it.

I’m gonna quote myself to bring in a bit of science: “Recent article in the Boston Globe and WSJ describe new research into the emerging field of embodied cognition.  Investigators do indeed believe that movement and gesticulation enhance cerebration.  ‘People think with their bodies, not just their brains… arm movements can affect language comprehension… children are more likely to solve math problems if they are told to gesture with their hands….’”**

Ya gotta move and I can in this new seat like in none before.  I lean forward to type and then back to look at the ceiling or out the window and feel like I’m getting a massage as I stretch.  I think about Dad telling me not to lean back and rock in my chair, and then an article in the New Yorker about how those with Aspergers like to rock and then one in the same issue about how Bill Gates does too.

I quickly became so fond of my new perch that I traced its designer to Germany.    Guy by the name of Wolfgang Deisig.  “A chair should be like a comfortable jacket, you slip into it and it feels good” he says.  Interestingly, for me anyway,  Deisig has had a long relationship with the famed German Vitra firm.  At the Vitra Design Museum near Basel Switzerland recently launched an exhibition about the life and work of architect Louis I Kahn prominent in which is work by his collaborator Anne Tyng about whom I’m deeply engaged in research.

Tyng was fond of psychiatrist Carl Jung who coined the term synchronicity and amazingly enough, that’s just what we have here.    I’ve a long way to go, but look forward to a pirouette from time to time for inspiration and/or celebration.  My chair and I will see this project through to the end together.

Ceres Chair 2

*Keep ‘em in the dark and feed ‘em shit

** See post of January 24, 2008

***Chair is the Ceres by Hon

****Speaking of synchronicity, Ceres is the Roman Goddess of Agriculture-Perfect for this site, no?

I Don’t Get It

January 10, 2014

Big Mac 2

Roy Kroc, the man who made McDonald’s into the purveyor of billions of Big Macs, Royales with Cheese, and reconstituted French Fries once said that “As long as you’re green you’re growing.  As soon as you’re ripe, you rot”.  Look at the photo above and meditate upon that metaphor.

That burger is about fifteen years old.  Recalling how my brother would drive and hour and a half to McDs when he was a geologist in a uranium mine in the middle of nowhere Wyoming I decided to give him one for his birthday many years ago.  Figured I should make sure preparation was up to snuff so took a bite before wrapping it up.

He was thrilled and I was pleased.  I’m older and have always looked out for him and taken pains with instruction related to the Golden Rule.  Imagine then how greatly I was moved when six months later I loosed a ribbon on a box from him and found the same sandwich!

Not to overdo a good thing and drain the exchange of its cathartic potential,  we don’t pass the two patties, special sauce,  sesame seed bun, et al back and forth more often than every several years.  I’d forgotten about it in fact and was thus thrilled to find it in a package for me under the Christmas Tree this year. J

Back to the metaphor.  From the one mouthful, I can attest to its original ripeness, but as you can see there was no subsequent rot to the rest.  No rodent, bug, bacteria, or bit of mold has ever paid it the least attention.  It is not at all fragile.  A recent incredulous visitor knocked it off of my desk by accident and reassembly was a snap.

I don’t get it.  Could McDonald’s have the key to immortality?

Thought I’d Know More

December 13, 2013

Galesburg Rail Yard

Few days after Thanksgiving I dropped son off at train station for him to make his way back to work some six hours north.  We’ve had the pleasure of A fair amount of travel by rail and find it much the most enjoyable means by which to get from A to B.  You can move about, see the countryside, converse face to face, and get a neat nights sleep on longer journeys.  No TSA.

Depot is about forty-five minutes from our home and as per usual I used the time to share nuggets of my accumulated wisdom.   I could tell it was well received because son’s eyes were closed in concentration.   We hugged, I watched him board, and the bullet quickly departed on schedule having only stopped for ten or so minutes.

Wife knew of some sort of special repository in the vicinity and asked for me to find it and bring a load of stuff home.  I followed GPS to where I’d asked it to take me, but found that of the two related locations, I’d made the wrong choice.  Called the place and found that I was close and that the crow’s path would take me by the rail yard you see above.  It is huge.

In no hurry I stopped to survey the scene.  While so doing, for some reason, my mind went back to the advice I’d shared with son.  I remember thinking first that, like most of the time I hold forth, I should pay more attention to myself.  And then, while recalling the wizened faces of elders telling me how best to negotiate life’s labyrinth, realized that back then I figured that the nature of my consciousness would be different by this ripe old age than is in fact my experience of it.

Thought I’d know more, feel like a sage.

Proud to be from Davenport, Iowa!

July 19, 2013

  Col D 1

  Well, for a variety of excellent reasons, I haven’t been able to accomplish much this week and was looking out my window while trying to think of what to do next.  I noticed something white across the river and took up my binoculars to investigate.  White pelicans.  There were never any such birds around these parts when I was young, but now there is a healthy breeding population.   

  They are beautiful to watch in flight, particularly when in flocks.  (I looked it up, groups of pelicans aren’t flocks, they’re pods…)   The birds’ moves are coordinated, mostly, and are slow and elegant.  Not as exciting to watch hunt as their grey cousins however.   When fishing, the former sort of just bob.  The latter, collapse their wings upon spying quarry, point their beaks at dinner, and crash through the water’s surface in pursuit.

  They don’t live around here though and I soon bored watching the white ones lounge about and began to scan upstream.  Came to the house you see above.  It was built by Colonel George Davenport in about 1833 near the site of his first residence, a double wood cabin.  Davenport, after whom the largest city in our metro area is named, had an interesting method of organizing a family.

  He was about twenty-two in 1805 when he married the widow Margaret Lewis who was seventeen years his senior and had two children, William who died shortly thereafter, and Susan who had been born in 1800.  In 1817 Davenport and Susan had their first child, George Jr and in 1823 their second son, Bailey.   Colonel Davenport was also blessed with a daughter, Elizabeth, born to him in 1835 by, uh, one of the family’s indentured servants.

  Like I said, interesting.  Next time I get distracted and look out the window I’ll have to imagine what might have been the nature of dinnertime conversation over there.  Would have been a confusing eight plus place table, with Dad, four children, and everyone else named Mom.   

Stupid Squirrel

June 16, 2013

Father 1

I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you forgot, today is Bloomsday.  You remember, right?  It marks the life and career of James Joyce.  Why the 16th?  Well, Joyce chose the sixteenth of June to be that of the perambulation of the chief protagonist of his groundbreaking novel Ulysses.  Now, mining way down, to the bottom, why  June sixteenth?  If you’ve forgotten, I’m glad you’ve been curious enough to read this far.  That had been the date of his first outing with wife to be Nora Barnacle.

  They had children and Joyce said that children should be raised by love which is convenient because this particular June 16th is also Father’s Day.  Joyce would agree with Swiss child psychologist Alice Miller who looked at child rearing from the opposite perspective.  She wrote that the most pervasive and pernicious crime in modern society is child abuse which is at root of all evil in our world.  Her biographical analysis of Hitler serves her point well.

  I have been fortunate enough to have had both a great dad from whom I solicited advice for the last time the day before he died in 2007 and a great father- in-law (who died just a few months back) to whom I posed a big question nearly thirty six years ago.  The former’s words helped prevent me from electrocuting myself that day and the latter gave his assent to something incredible.  I miss both dearly and think of them every day.   I think they’d agree that men don’t really ‘get’ kids until they have one of their own and know that they would with the Navajo who “think that a baby is fully human when it laughs for the first time*”.

Father to the Man by Tom C Hunley

The OBGYN said babies almost never
arrive right on their due dates, so
the night before my firstborn was due
to make his debut, I went out with the guys
 
until a guilt-twinge convinced me to convince them
to leave the sports bar and watch game six
on my 20-inch rabbit eared, crap TV.  After we
arrived, my wife whispered, “My water broke”
 
as the guys cheered and spilled potato chips
for our little dog to eat up.  I can’t remember
who was playing whom, but someone got called
for a technical, as the crowd made a noise
 
that could have been a quick wind, high-fiving
leaf after leaf after leaf.  I grabbed our suitcase
and told the guys they could stay put, but we
were heading for the hospital and the rest of
 
our lives.  No, we’re out of here, they said.
Part of me wanted to head out with them,
back to the smell of hot wings and microbrews,
then maybe to a night club full of heavy bass
 
and perfume, or just into a beater Ford with a full
ash tray, speeding farther and farther into
the night, into nowhere in particular.  Instead I walked
my wife to our minivan, held her hand as she
 
stepped down from the curb, opened her door,
shut the suitcases into the trunk, and
ran right over that part of me, left it
bleeding and limping like a poor stupid squirrel.
 

*Thanks to Dr Brother for fixing me up with this bit from the 12/20/09 NYT Mag. You would not believe the size of my clippings file.

 
 
 
 

    

Forward

June 10, 2013

Redemption 

On the way to Acadia National Park recently, for another wonderful Artist in Residency, roommate tired of my line of BS and honestly actually told me to go to hell.  Taken somewhat aback, my little black angel Nellie and I went for a walk in search of exercise and relief while my mind drifted (for the umpteenth time) to thoughts of redemption.  And if you follow this space at all you will know that when I saw the sign above thoughts arose related to synchronicity and hope.

  Expecting an assortment of other untethered souls, I soon found that all throughout Maine “Redemption” indicates a venue at which empty bottles can be exchanged for dirty coins.  Oh well, we headed back to the artist supply store where our truck was being laden,  working up our best sorrowful eye routine.  Our artist rolled hers.  Best case scenario.

  Making our way north we stopped at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art to see a remarkable show of pictures and sculptures by “Scandinavia’s most famous living artist” Per Kirkeby.  The Dane’s words greatly informed the experience.  “The point at which art is found is the point where what is intriguing is dangerous.”  I totally buy that.  In every regard.  Art, on an easel or in a life, will not be found – or made – very far from the edge.

  “Where is the border between one and the other way to organize matter?  For a brief moment I saw geology as a worldview… A huge stream of energy and materials, which now and then converge in crystalline structures, a mountain, a church, a brief moment, a breath, a morning mist over the ever-flowing river.  The mountain-building energies were no less cultural than the energies of the church-builders”. 

  Brilliant. Consciousness as a force of nature. Tectonic even.  Those scientists in search of a grand unified theory should start with him.   New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote of Kirkeby’s work: it’s like being: “hit by an abrupt , mildly disorienting spell of self-consciousness, a kind of mental stumble: the Kirkeby effect”.  See?   Just like the slap upside the head with which I was graced by my artist as described above.

  Below you see his “Fram”.  It is at once “a poetic rendition of nature with a great force of color” and a demonstration of Kirkeby’s philosophy that: “A picture without intellectual superstructure is nothing”.  He has said that Fram draws from Caspar David Friedrich’s Das Eismeer (The sea of ice) which you see at bottom.  If you’re not familiar with the latter, make sure to notice the shards of a wrecked ship being crushed by the ice.  Fram means forward and was the name of the vessel used by polar explorer  Fridtjof Nansens between 1893 and 1912.

Fram 3

caspardavidfriedrich_theseaofice

*Quotes, photos, and information from the exhibition catalogue: Per Kirkeby Paintings and Sculpture, Kosinski and Ottmann, Yale, 2012.  The show originated at the Phillips Collection and the only other venue was Bowdoin.  There through Bastille Day

You Know It Is Going To Be Something Cool…

April 19, 2013

Abby shot 3

  OK, as those few of you who occasionally visit this space can attest, I have a very short attention span and find it impossible to stay on the same subject for very long.  Nonetheless, it is necessary to return to one, a rather arcane one at that, less than twelve months after having first addressed it . * Rabies.

  You know it is going to be something cool when your kids call in the middle of the night.  Like about  3:00AM a few Saturdays ago.  Picked up the phone and youngest daughter – who I knew to be in Costa Rica – was on the line.  “Dad!  I’m freaking out!  I think I’m going to die!”  She had plenty of breath so I figured her demise was probably not exactly imminent so I asked what was up.

  “I’m staying in this open air hostel in the middle of the jungle and I just woke up with some sort of huge possum or rat biting my toe!  There’s blood everywhere.  Think I’m going to die?”  Well, I thought, she probably won’t exsanguinate if only her big toe was involved.  “Everybody’s got to go sometime.” I replied, “but I don’t think this will be yours.  You’re going to have to get rabies vaccination when you get home though”.

  After she hung up I messaged Dr Brother who agreed about the rabies series and said that she should organize some antibiotics.  Fine teeth of small rodents or marsupials insert bacteria more deeply with less likelihood of being easily washed off than, say, in the case of a dog bite.  Just as wife began to rub her eyes and make inquiries phone rang again and daughter asked “figure anything out yet?” 

  “Ya, I’m glad you’re on your own insurance.  When I got the rabies shots it cost me several thousand dollars.  Also, I talked with your uncle and he said that you should get some antibiotics or something in the morning.  Is there a witch doctor in the village?”  “Thanks Dad… I’ll find a pharmacy”, which she did later that morning and at which she discussed her allergies and arranged a course of ‘Ciprofloxacina’ with the help of her IPhone and Google Translate.

Abby shot 1

  She returned to her home in the mountains of Colorado without further drama where we visited her on part of a previously planned trip a few weeks later.  It was fun to accompany her for the first round of shots.    It had been a long while since she’d had an injection and she didn’t believe me when I said that they really didn’t hurt.  Much to her surprise then, the first of six – tetanus – brought a smile to her face.  “You’re right!” she said. 

  However, she wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of loading up her big toe up with gamma globulin which process you can see below.  I said that I wouldn’t be either, but that it was going to be much easier for me to observe than watching the orthopedic doc some years prior stick a big needle in deep behind her kneecap.

In the event, she did drop an F bomb, quietly, and the docs laughed happy to have counterpoint to my commentary.

Abby shot 2

    *June 15, 2012  “Exercise is stupid”

…Of Which Reason Knows Nothing

March 9, 2013

 Chair in fireplace

In the New  York Times the other day* there was an interesting article about Norwegian firewood.  Apparently the subject arouses considerable passion in the Land of the Midnight Sun.  There is a bestselling book – Solid Wood  – and a twelve hour television documentary that, through its course, catalyzed a string of invectives via text of which half complained that the firewood was stacked bark side down and half worried about what they saw bark side up.  Uhm, the denouement of this program was a live, fixed, close take of a hearth borne conflagration log after log after log.

  Thinking that perhaps related emotions were cathected into the Beatles’ tune Norwegian Wood, I investigated.  Probably not.  The lyrics most likely refer to cheap pine paneling in allusion to a venue of illicit love.  John: “I’d always had some kind of affairs going on, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair…”  Really great melody in the key of E Major and was their first song to employ Harrison on the sitar.  Rolling Stone placed it #84 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

  But back to the bark.  If you need some firewood, let my little black angel help as she did in the photos above and below.  At top you see a kitchen chair she dispatched to the woodpile by gnawing through all four of the lower horizontal cross members.  It still stood, and I would have kept it, but wife was concerned for embarrassment should it one day collapse beneath a friend or relative.  Pulling apart its back I felt like how I imagine a surgeon does while making way through a ribcage.  In contrast, the seat fell with measured grace to my Scandinavian axe.

  The scene at bottom is another of creative firewood procurement and this one is special on two counts.  First, the painted shingles shorn from the front of our house add a certain sparkle to the fire made all the more special with the knowledge that they are no longer available.  Second, notice the exposed TV and Internet cable at lower right.  Service has lately acquired a special intermittency.

  Oh well, she has my heart  and as per Pascal: “The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing”.

Missing Shingles

*NYT 2/20/13

** This is a wood cut by daughter of her friend Max

Max

Wow!

February 16, 2013

Valentine 1valentine 2

 

  Last month I read an interview with Alan Arkin in which he recalled observing a fellow actor synapticly filing away a bad emotional experience for future use.  “I had done it myself many times and it was one of the things I found horrible.  I don’t do it any more.  Until my late forties acting was my reason for existence.  Now it’s a reflection of my existence”*    The bit came to mind last week as I began to clean out my office and prepare for something new.**  It dawned on me that if Plan B was to be an acting career I had just hit the material mother lode.

  My father and grandfather were previous occupants of the office and my mother had been just down the hall.   The first thing I noticed when I started though the secure storage was the sheer scale of their work product.  Those people worked hard and long.  I felt guilty as I began to shred.  Had to call upon Dr Brother for support.  “Hey man, I’ve moved twelve times, get over it, it’ll be good for you”.

  Then I began to find stuff.  Oldest document, so far, was deed to a farm in Texas dated 1909 next to which was related correspondence with farmer.  I remember hearing about my great grandparents taking a month long trip down there leaving my sixteen year old grandmother in charge of the farm here and her five siblings.  Then found a file regarding mineral rights and thought of Dad’s zeal in related self education.  Farm was sold in mid sixties.

  My father’s settled estate is still in a cabinet in my office and so I’ve frequently touched it in the years since his death.   In the safe are documents related to seven others.  Two grandparents, four great grandparents, and my brother.  Middle brother’s been gone since a week before 9/11 and I hadn’t looked through that box since receipt of the AOK from the IRS.

   I kept everything.  Medical bills, receipts from a trip to Oregon to box up his affairs, emails I’d printed out from Dr Brother explaining the inexorable,  the will I vividly recall drawing out near the end.   Emotions rose with such force I was nearly overwhelmed and had to shut the door.  It was as if I’d gone back in time.  I realized fully what Arkin was talking about.  The idea of summoning all that forth to repurpose is sort of terrifying.   What if you couldn’t shake it?

  On another shelf I found an accordion file filled with documents and correspondence.  Dad’s report cards from elementary school, letters from his parents to him in college, a epistolary exchange between his father and brothers, a letter to him from my mother’s father, several from his soon to be brother-in- law in preparation for the wedding.

  Not all somber and purposeful though.  There are several  Valentine’s from my mother to him.  The one you see above was postmarked February 14, 1952.  I was born four months later.  Glad to know I had that goin’ for me!  They were younger then than any of their grandchildren are now.  Wow.

*http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/the-last-word-alan-arkin-20130110

**Which is why my posts have been a bit irregular.  If you’ve missed them, thanks and sorry

And I Won’t Even Have To Send Her To College

October 19, 2012

 

  You’ll recall that some months ago (4/20/12) my little black angel had her way with our computer.  Well, now she’s not so little, wife is away for a spell, and thus the major occupation of my increasingly enfeebled mind is that of her energy management.  No small task.  She’s now an eighty pound bolt of black lightening.

  Raring to go at 5:00 AM every morning, a five or so mile run gets her down to about neutral for a while and it’s fun.  Today for example we crossed paths with a young reporter for a local TV station on a live remote.  She was cute, but for some reason evinced perturbation when Nellie attempted to wrestle the microphone from her grip.  More friendly are the folks at the coffee shop close to home.

  Worried sick about the inside of our house, I race home for lunch hoping to beat her full recharge.  So far the worst has been the demise of a phone book and package from LL Bean.  (Please don’t mention this to wife.)  Outside is another story.  While I’ve been changing clothes sweet Nellie has torn drain tile out of the ground and shake shingles from side of house.

  So, every day at noon I grab a quick bite and then take her for a drive to a hike in the woods and problems of a different sort.  There are more than 100 acres of timber where we go and first couple of times out she disappeared.  It’s deer season and some years ago old friend Sauger was ahead of wife and son in these woods.  They crested a hill to see a deer hunter with bow drawn and aimed at our (then) pup!

  We’ve seen (and chased) a few deer, but had no such incident.  However, several days ago I found myself, uh, bewildered in the Daniel Boone sense of the word.  For a good long while and in the rain.  By the time I made it back to our vehicle I had worked up considerable concern, but Nellie was there and I could tell she’d been concerned too because she ran the multiple tight little circles she does when exuberant. 

  The experience was good for us both, first because an approach to the razor’s edge is always invigorating and second, lesson learned, we now pay attention and pretty much stick together.  And finally, for the opportunity to feel such deep connection.  Like wise wife said (12/2/11): “Every dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart”.   

*Interesting.  Auto correct wanted me to substitute ‘that’ for the ‘who’ in the last sentence.  Take note couch potatoes, there is no heart in your machine.