Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MET Day!

Tuesday, Aug 7

Today was MET Day!

In a pleasant reversal of the beginning of the trip, I managed to figure out each train's direction.  I also managed to look like I knew what I was doing, so no cousining vagabonds sidled up to me with schemes to offer local guidance in the hallways of the Port Authority Terminal.  The subway corridors weren't that confusing and only had a few proselytizing Christians.  It was if the day conspired to be an advertisement for Friendly New York City:  the woman I asked for help with the 7 train (I normally take the S train) and I had a friendly chat; and the engineer of the 6 train was looking out for me when exited at 77th street (I guess smiling when asking, "Does this train stop at 77th street?" and shouting "Yay!" when the answer is yes goes a long way).

There was a long line to get into the museum when I arrived before the doors opened... and then we were off!  To Egypt!  It's true, I'm a sucker for Egyptian stuff.   It's been two years since my last visit, and I visited all of my MET Friends.  What was strange was that various objects had moved around.  On one hand this is good, because you can see things in a new light.  On the other hand, I thought a few pieces were no longer shown to their best advantage.

The challenge now is to find something that I haven't photographed before.  When I'm in the Egyptian Wing, I try to get sharp photos of hieroglyphics, snakes, Anubis, and Thoth.

This box caught my eye because it looks like something from the arts and crafts movement.
This sarcophagus always confounds my camera's ability to take up-close photos of the hieroglyphics covering.  Something about the lighting and the flat matte color confuses the heck out of the auto-focus.

After traipsing about for about two and a half hours, it was time to leave the land of Egypt.

 I took over a hundred pictures and it's hard to include them all in a single blog post.

I nearly died (twice) from sticker shock at the MET's cafes; I remember that their food is always on the spendy side, but my goodness prices have jumped in the last two years.

I wandered through the American Arts and Sculpture.  At the clearance sale I picked up an iridescent tie based on a Tiffany peacock feather.

At the Fertile Crescent Wing, the displays looked wrong because The Elamite Cow was on loan! I wandered into the Medieval Wing at the right time for the sunlight, because my camera seemed less confused by the low lighting during this visit.

At the far end, there was a giant, way-over-the-top painting from the 1500's by a self-taught Mexican painter.  Smaller paintings by him were exhibited in a back gallery.

I wanted to go to the Music Wing, but it was closed for renovations.  Overall, the museum was not crowded, although there were a number of times when other patrons would step right in front of me as I was looking at the art.

Near the end of the visit, I went to the Gift Shop to look at the Sale Books.  I could easily drop $300 on art books there, but my main limit was the knowledge that I'd need to haul any finds through the airport on my return.  I restrained myself to some family gifts, a monograph on paleolithic cave art and a book on 3D pop-up construction.  In a continuation of Friendly New York, the clerk was from Oregon, and we chatted about living in different states.

After a short traipse through the exhibits under the grand stairs, I ended the visit in the Roman sculpture garden.  This time around, the visit was more about seeing favorites again, and less about finding new objects to learn about and appreciate and photograph.  While it was fun to go to whatever gallery I wanted and linger as long as I wanted, I did miss the banter Mark and I had had yesterday a Bear Mountain.

The guards threw everyone out.

So I went to buy chocolate.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bear Mountain Lodge

Monday, Aug 7

Originally Mark and I were going to have a date in New York City. I  had hit upon the plan to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens so Mark could show me his favorite plants from his last visit; and then we could visit the Brooklyn Museum to see their Egyptian Wing, which I've only seen for about twenty minutes over a decade ago.  But they were closed Mondays.  Mark didn't want to go to the MET or The Cloisters, which were the only museums in the city which were open.

Mark suggested that I go to the MET by myself, but I said that I had been looking forward to seeing something with him.  We were further constrained by needing to be at Kevin and Jackie's this time to actually meet with Jackie and their older boy.

The Internet came to the rescue with a picture of the Bear Mountain lodge, which looked like the Mt. Hood lodge and which was not on the other side of the state (actually, we'd driven close to it when we'd gone to Storm King).

Off we went.  It was raining.  Mark said that he'd actually run around Bear Mountain Park when he was on the high school track team, and later attending dance (and drinking) events in the lodge.  As we visited various locations I could hear the partial recognition in his voice.

The weekend had not been kind to the grounds; abandoned garbage was strewn about grills, picnic, and parking sites.  Mark suggested that we should create a photo exhibit of the site as patrons left.  I added that we should print the pictures, crumple them up, and litter them around the site so that patrons could participate in an interactive art installation.

Mark was worried that a kid's camp (or ten) might be having a field trip, but we pretty much had the park to ourselves.  It's possible Bear Mountain Park was also a state troop headquarters, as there were a number of state and police vehicles parked there.  We got out and tried to not look suspicious.

The mascot of Bear Mountain Park is a black bear with a (walking?) stick.  The Arts and Crafts buildings were mostly built by the WPA during the 30's out of river and glacier stones.  The impression that we were looking at a relative of the Mount Hood lodge was much stronger now that we were seeing the buildings in person.

We wandered around a carousel building; I took photos through the glass windows.  The carousel had panels along the rim of its canopy which appeared to be moments in Bear Mountain history.

From the outside, the lodge looked like a rustic version of Rivendell.  As we walked toward it, we saw a flock of large black birds roosting on the roof.  At first we thought they might be ravens, except they had necks like water fowl.  When some glided from the roof, they more like cargo planes.  It turned out they were black vultures.

The inside had had a face-lift in the eighties or nineties, and was kind of bland.  There were a couple of places in the stone walls where arched doorways had been filled, and a new square entryway had been cut out.   The main dining hall, however, still retained most of its Arts and Crafts charm--I especially liked the fireplace.  The furniture was rustic and cute.

We had lunch -- unfortunately, the sound system was tuned to a 24X7 Grateful Dead channel.  Mark remarked that we were probably the only two Eugenians who wouldn't appreciate the music.  It became more painful to listen to as lunch progressed, but at one point it was instructive as I explained to Mark how some Deadheads would be "Waiting for a Miracle" outside of live shows.

Afterward, we strolled through the Zoo and Historical Park.  Probably the funniest signs were for the Rattlesnake Display ("What would you do if it broke?") and the Clovis Hunters display with a gropey mastodon absconding with a busty Clovis woman.  I'm pretty sure we alternated damsel-in-distress versions of "Oh Halp! Halp!" with fits of giggling for about five minutes.

I'm trying to think of what in Oregon is like Bear Mountain, and the only think that comes to mind is the Eastern Oregon Nature Interpretive Center...or maybe Wildlife Safari...  except you walk everywhere and there's a swimming pool.  So I guess it's like a cross between a summer camp and a natural history museum.

We saw bobcat, weasel, several types of owl, brown bears, coyote, snakes, frogs, bald eagle, red-tail hawk, and all sorts of trees.   The brown bears were particularly interesting because the older one looked like a two dimensional Native American bead.

There was hardly anyone else at the park; every five minutes or so we'd bump into one or two other people.  The park is on the Appalachian Trail, so a good portion of them were hikers with giant packs.

At the far end of the park we came to a toll bridge.  The toll booth and highway maintenance building next to it reminded me of a German Schloss and an an Arts And Crafts Studio respectively.  Hiking was free, so we walked along it, singing "Yodel hey hee hoo!"

The gorge fell away and we were suddenly five stories above a river.  Stickers on the girders directed the suicidal to a hotline phone nearby.  I wondered who would jump off of the bridge--were they local townsfolk, and where was the nearest town, anyway?  Any how many were enough to justify an outdoor, on-the-bridge hotline?

I almost took a picture of a large butterfly resting, somewhat sheltered by the wind and rain, on the railing next to the bridge's walkway, but I opted to just enjoy it.

Back to Suffern

Saturday, Aug 5

We woke up, finished straightening up, said "So Long," to Maria and Mike, and drove away from the beach house.

Mark said, "There go the Canadians" as a white SUV with Montreal plates passed us on the Garden Parkway.   We then re-worked ABBA's Voulez-Vous into a song about geometry and beaches:  "...We've drawn it by the sea, it's intricate geometry  / drawings in the sa-aand. / triangles, circles, squares, arcs, hexagons and pentagrams / lure Canadia-ans! / Voulez-Vous, uh-huh... "  

Back in Suffern, it was a day settling in with unloading, laundry, napping, and reading.  I'm continuing to enjoy "The Golem and the Jinni."  Of course, as a writer, it's hard not to notice the occasional turn of phrase that stands out to me and watch the characters' emotional characters (which I wish I could do better--I'm seeing how, if this were my story, I'd clutter it with eye-candy and technical asides about the magic).  

The Ascendant Moon

Friday, Aug 4

Today was a beach day. Because I had a sun burn in my back, I tried to stay out if the sun more.  I read "The Golem and the Jinni" in a kind of hot tent.  The Child wanted to go into the surf, and at one point we'd gone out farther than the lifeguards wanted (Mark called us rebels afterward).

I did more compass work, a spiral made up of six circles.  I didn't use the yardstick for straight lines because my quads were sore from the previous day crouching and squatting.  I had tied a large beach towel over my shoulders because I wanted sun protection, and a shirt felt too hot.  I also wore a large floppy hat.  I'm not sure, but I think the combination of apparel flapping in the breeze made me look like some Beach Vagrant Version of a William Blake Painting of God the Architect.

The late afternoon wound up into a house-cleaning frenzy so we could leave early Saturday.

Late in the evening, Mark, Mike, the kids and I went to the south end of Ocean City to look for ghost crabs and horseshoe crabs.

The waxing gibbous moon cast pale light over everything, and the kids scurried with small flashlights from button-sized hole to hole, occasionally chasing a bolting flurry of crab legs before its owner disappeared into the darkness under the dunes.

They ran ahead.  My sore legs were improving, but would catch at me every other step with a sharp reminder of how I'd cramped them up yesterday.

I stopped to be alone with the moon ascendant over the rippling tide.  A persistant breeze out of the south pressed into me.  Polaris, Arcturus, Spica, Antares, and the other stars shone like beacons for the small cloud wisps sailing across the sky.  I felt as though I stood at the prow of the Earth as it plunged around the hidden sun, and the wind of our passage in my face was the same wind blowing against the moon.

I softly sang "Center of the Sun" and wondered how the moon would look in Eugene:  possibly rising over the eastern hills in a sky that would be blushing into twilight.  I supposed that it would be oppressively hot, as the Willamette Valley was at the tail end of a 102F heat wave, and I worried about our cats.  Smokey would probably snub us; Cicero, already with the aloofness of a barn cat, might have reverted to semi-feral savage (although there had been a photo of him hanging out with his brother, Spencer, on a neighbor's roof).

Then the others' flashlights became too distant for good hiking ettitquette, and I resumed walking.

In My Secret Bargain

Friday, Aug 4


I was following a young girl in white to a secret garden, which was located below my folk's swimming pool, and across Heather Drive.

I'm not sure how the garden was secret, as it was screened on only one side by a fence of broad, grey weathered planks.   But the girl in white was stealthily walking down the hill (which may have been more wooded than it is in real life) and I could tell she was hoping that I'd miss seeing the secret garden.

I didn't, and had just entered it when (I think it was my sister) appeared on my folk's lower deck and said, "I think he's around here somewhere."   It sounded like there were several people with her.

I hid behind the fence, but I was still pretty visible.  The girl in white and I had a wordless exchange of glances that went something like, (her) "great, now they're going to find the garden," and (me) "don't worry, I'll distract them."

By this time, Julie and (I'll say) a 30-something businessman were walking along "the lower forty" below the deck.  I waited until they were turned away from me, and then I stepped onto Heather Drive.    Julie turned around, saw me in the middle of the street and said, "There you are; where did you come from?"

"Here I am!" I said, lapsing into a Zorro Quote.

I'm not sure where Julie went for the rest of the dream; Sarah and Gretchen, my former land-ladies, appeared around a corner.  "Oh good," Sarah said.  "We'd like you to meet Mr. Suit." (I've forgotten his real name, and in waking, this is obviously the Bad Businessman character who pops up in my dreams.)

Sarah and Gretchen wanted some land work done which involved a kind of chemical treatment--I'm not recalling if it was for my folk's land, their land, or Mark's and my property.   I was leery about spraying stuff all over, and I had some concerns that Cicero and Smokey would be poisoned.

"So."  I turned to Mr Suit.  "Do you use an herbicide or a pesticide for this treatment."  

Mr. Suit gave a condescending, "oh look, isn't that cute, the stupid hippy has read something on the 'net and is trying to ask an intelligent question" jargon-filled non-answer.   I asked again a few more times with similar results.

I lost my temper, said something along the lines of Mr. Suit was either dodging my questions or didn't know how his product worked and that his company should send a representative who knew what they were doing.  I think the dream-scape changed, and we were now in a college campus theatre.

Mr. Suit stormed away, angrily muttering about wasted time.

My former landladies were livid.  Sarah read me the riot act:  "Do you know how hard we had to work to get him to agree to come out here?"   They agreed that Mr. Suit had been rude and given non-answers, but apparently, I had derailed a complex arrangement of jobs that had to be done.

"I'm sorry," I said.  "This has been my day for challenging people who don't give me straight answers."  The dream went on... and when I woke up, I realized that I'd been dreaming about non-answers at least twice.

Yard Work and Bocce

Sunday, August 6

I woke up after erotic dreams involving a tree house and somehow being late to provide technical support for The Child's school...

I padded around the house and made tea.  Mark's mother's house has various singing floorboards, which are good for honing early-morning ninja skills.

I'm sure I wrote something...

Sunday was a yard-work day, Mark and The Child mowed the lawn, and I pre-groomed it by raking up all the fallen twigs.  Then I spent some time with an edging tool cutting away the grown over sod from rectangular marble pavers running along the side of Mary's house.  I had a vague notion that I'd do the entire path, but the sod was thicker than I expected and I only really got about five done.

That evening was supposed to be a home karaoke night, but somehow that didn't happen.  The Frullaney Family (three generations) visited for dinner and bocce.  Team Opera Glasses (Carolyn and me) beat Team Stooges (Joe and The Child) by about three points.

Sand Castle

Thursday, Aug 3

Today was a sandcastle day!  I went out to the beach around 9:30 with my compass, yardstick, and small bag of supplies.  Low tide wouldn't be for a couple of hours, and nary an umbrella could be seen on the wide, flat shore stretching away north and south.  The day stretched forward like the smooth sands around me.

First I made a net of circles--a tessellation of six circles around a seventh in the center.   It's a relaxing pattern that let me get a feel for how the compass would respond in the sand.  I continued the net out and then highlighted various circle sections to add some visual variety.

Then I made a simple spiral labyrinth; next a bird constructed of repeated circles on a line.  The bird came out vaguely flamingo-like, so I added a small hedgehog next to it.  By this time I noticed that I needed to hold the apex of the compass in my palm if I wanted to avoid having the rubber bands in the hinge flex and make different shaped circles.

The occasional jogger and one beach comber with a metal detector came by.  A woman asked me if it would be OK for her to photograph my labyrinth.  Later, a woman and her child stopped by; we tried to interest the child in walking the labyrinth, but she only wanted to watch adults walk the spirals.

A group of four teen boys set up the first umbrella; they had some musical device with them which was slightly annoying, but easy to ignore.   Mostly they sat in beach chairs looking out over the waves.

It was time to design the sand castle.  I wanted it to be more historical than random.  I drew a very large circle, then two interlocking squares for placement of eight outer curtain wall towers.  Then a smaller circle and square arrangement within for the inner curtain and central keep.  I suppose that historically, this would make my castle a late fourteenth century castle, with towers in corners supporting outlying towers from cannon fire.

A retired engineer came up to see what I was doing, and we had a talk about castles and Oregon -- it turned out he had done some consulting on structures' abilities to withstand waves at various points along the Oregon coast and sort of knew Corvallis (where OSU has a wave lab).

I returned to construction.  One of the supplies was a simple tower sand-mold, so I placed some of the towers.  The resulting towers were simple, but towering enough.  Sand from the excavated moat was piled into the center for the keep.  Occasionally I would pour water onto the pile and pound it to consolidate the sand into a mass I would be able to carve.  In the back of my head, I recalled that sand sculptors said they started at the top of the sculpture and worked their way down.  The tower-mold helped a lot, and by happy coincidence, seven in a row was the length of the inner curtain square.

At some point, my legs were cramping from all of the crouching, digging, and inscribing in the sand.  The beach started to fill up.  I wondered where the Dwyers were.  More people joined the four teens, and I saw that they were Canadians.  Sure enough, Marc appeared, said hello, and then a bunch of them walked toward the ocean with snorkels.

Later, the Canadians, spurred on by Marc, broke out shovels and pails and in no time had two large mounds built.  A few towers dotted the mounds, built from the deep trenches.  Another family on the other side of me also had shovels, which they used to make a kind of sea wall between the now incoming tide and their encampment of beach umbrellas, towels, and chairs.

On the other side of the seawall folks, I saw the Dwyer camp.  I saw Mark and The Child and walked over to him and sang a re-worked song from Avenue Q, "Oh, I wish you could meet my boyfriend / but you can't, 'cause he lives in Canada!"

"Oh," said Mark when he saw Marc.  "I spoke with him the other day; he's just friendly -- I don't know what my family is talking about."  Mark then went on to point out to me that my back was beginning to sunburn.  Twice.

I gave Mark and The Child a tour of the sand-works so far. The Child seemed nonplussed, and was more interested in swimming.  They added a few towers to the outer curtain and then left.

Finally, the castle was finished, or at least as finished as I wanted it to be.  I worked on another design, which started out like a racetrack and then started to look vaguely sexual, so I added more half-arcs to make it less like a yoni-lingam and more like interlocked arcs, which then threatened to turn into a swastika, so I stopped and took all my tools to the Dwyer encampment.

The tide would be splashing over the sand soon, and I was tired from all of the construction.   I'd noticed a small boy running back and forth and he finally built up enough courage to ask me if I had done all the drawings, and how (at first I thought he was one of those monsters who stomps on unattended castles).

"Hold, on," I said.  "Wait right there; I'll be right back."

He rooted himself to the spot, and I returned with the compass and ruler.  I explained how the compass opened and closed and let him have a go at it.

"Hold it and walk backward," I said when he jammed the compass into the sand and couldn't move it farther.  He made a circle and handed the compass back.

A woman, presumably his mother, hovered on the edge of our conversation, nodded her head and made a calculated grimace which I interpreted to mean "OK, this middle-aged, bearded Oregonian appears to be not summoning demons" and then wandered away when all we were talking about was geometry.

"Circles like to make triangles and hexagons," I said.  "What's your favorite shape?"

This seemed to confuse him and he said he pretty much liked all shapes, but that squares were cool.  So I used the compass and ruler to make a square in a circle, then extended the diagonals to draw a second square around the circle, and went on to reconstruct the plan of the castle.

He watched, enraptured.  I was glad to show it to him, and wished that The Child shared the interest - but he doesn't, and I suppose he makes up for it by enjoying Monty Python with me.

Later on, the tide came in.  At first the lapping waves cascaded into the moat, and I thought the castle would stand for a while.  But, I'd left an opening in the walls for the gate and the water poured through it much more vigorously than I'd imagined, and the castle fell to the waves within minutes.

That evening, with some amusement, we realized the Canadians were renting a house directly across the street from ours.  This of course prompted more renditions of "I wish you could meet my boyfriend."

Dinner was casual.  Afterward the kids went to the boardwalk, and The Child had fun smacking into mirrors in a mirror maze.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Figures in the Sand

Wednesday, Aug 2

I dreamed that I was supposed to fill in for one of The Child's teachers, but somehow I had a dental appointment instead.  When I got to the class, the teacher's assistant, who was very miffed, said she'd gotten the class organized and now it was my turn to take over.

Things got jumbled.  The 2017 eclipse was happening, but it was cloudy.  Insert a cool computer graphic of the cone of the umbra touching down on the globe here.  Between thick clouds and a streetlight, we did manage to see the sun's corona, and then The Child was missing.

More jumbled scenes with tunnels and Batman being killed by the Joker.

Apparently, while Mark and I were enjoying a lovely evening reenacting "Moulin Rouge" from the back of an elephant's hadow, our niece, Shannon, and a cast of aggressive terns were reenacting "The Birds" on the Ocean City boardwalk (they wanted her fries).

Mark and I went to the hardware store and he purchased a measuring cup so he could make pancakes and I purchased a yard stick to help with sand drawings.

Before high tide, I was able to make a decagram, but I couldn't remember how to get the stars around the ends so they circled up.  I think next time I'm going to have to draw to interlocked pentagons and go from there.  I did manage to diagram a hexagon and conjoined pentagon.

The compass mostly works, but I have to pay attention to how I'm holding it so it doesn't flex out of the circumference I'm wanting.  The yard-stick works mostly for making lines, but it works better as a guide for the last remaining shish-kabob stick.

When I was finished with various circle and line constructions, a Montrealer (named Marc) came up and asked about what I was doing.  I was a little worried that he might launch into a "are you summoning demons" tirade, but I explained that some people knit to relax and I like making geometric constructions, and added how I was getting messed up trying to find the golden mean for some of them.  He seemed very interested in various drawings in my Book of Art and we chatted for a few moments.  It was a refreshing change from the "OMG, a Satanist!" looks I usually get on the Oregon Beaches.

Shortly afterward, the tide came in and wiped out all the circles and lines.  I'm sure there's a metaphor in there, somewhere.

After dinner, several in-laws informed me that Marc from Montreal had been hitting on me.  "He was standing really close to you," one said.  "I almost went and got Mark."   At the time over various geometric figures in the sand, I thought he was simply curious about what I was doing--but I had wondered as I trudged back from the beach if perhaps I had been so focused on the Golden Mean that I missed an undercurrent in his body language... and then dismissed the idea because he seemed about twenty years my junior.

In the evening, the family split up.  Some folks returned to Atantic City, others went out for a fish dinner, some to miniature golf, and others stayed home.

I stayed home; I tried to set up a table on an outside porch, but it was less rain-proof than I expected -- which was too bad, because I'd set up a table and chair to escape the episode of "Law and Order" that was on the TV.  I ended up writing to some baroque music I had on hand for just such a situation.

More Jersey Shore

Monday, July 31

I woke up at 6 AM EST and crept around the kitchen to boil water for tea.  Then I wrote... kind of.   Mostly I wrote journal entries and edited them a bit to polish the prose and add Fosterian WHYs to the already existing WHATs.  I figure any writing is better than no writing, and if I can get into the swing of writing blog entries in a different time zone, I can transition into some early morning short story writing.

We went to the beach.  This time I brought along my newly-constructed shish-kabob compass, my Book of Art (with decagram design) and water shoes (because I'd sun-burnt the tops of my feet the previous day).

The difficulty with making geometric designs in the sand with a compass is that sometimes you want a straight edge.  The stakes I had were fairly good for a cobbled-together compass, but they were too bendy to use as a straight edge.  I settled on using a yard-stick, but there were none to be found in any of the small shops near the house.

After swimming in the Atlantic, I tried to make some constructions, but the tide was too high.

As I was swimming for a second time, a young man waded up and said, "Hi John!"  I thought for a moment it was someone I knew from Carleton College, but it was Connor, Mark's nephew.

"Ah!" I said, "I didn't recognize your red hair (it was longer and redder).  You've got a beard!"

"You've cut your hair," he said.

Mark swam up.  "You've finally grown a proper Kringle Beard!"

Weird Ocean City Dreams

Monday, July 31

More weird dreams -- this time two families I know received interlocking furniture from a mystery benefactor.

One was a re-furbished airlines plane that was now a kind of fall-out shelter.  The outside was some dark, dull metal, but the inside was was slightly shinier.

The other was a flat wooden pallet which unfolded into a screen, dining table and chairs, and small front office.

In the second dream people kept leaving.  One friend and co-worker got promoted to a different module in the same company.  I was glad for him, but not exactly happy about it.

I was speaking to a former housemate in the dream, NK, who in this dream looked like a Sontaran.  He said, "I'm leaving, too."

"Oh," I said, "You've got a new job, too?"

"No," he said.  "I've got pneumonia, and..." he went on to list ten different conditions he was going to let himself die from.

I said I would talk with him, if he wanted, and he agreed.  Then I went back to my house -- which was a narrow plank with a bed mattress in the middle hanging over a vestibule -- and tried to reschedule a tarot reading with a client.

And the dream went on to something else involving a recycled sci-fi trope where plucky space people are hemmed in on top of a mountain (which is at the end of a dimensional tunnel) while evil space empire people send in five sets of assassins.  The one that could turn into a flat, pixelated crab and various types of bug eventually got eaten by a local lizard.

Elephant Anniversary

Tuesday, August 1

Our 13th anniversary.

Mark, Melissa, Maria and I went to the south end of the island and hunted for shells.  It was warmer than I expected because there was not much wind.  In the distance, a school bus of children took surfing lessons.

The New Jersey shore has whelk, razor clam, and large moon snail shells.  And scallops (Oregon has them too, only not quite so big and dark).  Shells and fragments paralleled the tide line along the strand.  The biggest difference between the beaches is that Oregon beaches have tons of logs and driftwood, and I've yet to find a stick here.   This beach made me realize that the beach near our rental is groomed, because there was a zone of grass and debris about forty feet from the high tide mark here.  A grassy nature reserve stretched along the bay-side of the island.

We separated to work different parts of the beach.  The sun pressed down upon us as we worked our way south and up the beach.  After a while, standing up after crouching over a wash of gravel, sand, and shell fragments made me a little woozy.

Collecting shells made me think of some shelled, pre-spaceflight aliens I'd written, and I wondered what it would be like to have an external shell, and what sorts of metaphorical shells we build up as we age.  Do those shells become our houses, or the way we hold our bodies as the years progress; do our skulls become a kind of inward turning spiral, made not of calcium, but rather our beliefs and experiences?

Later on, Mark and I stumbled across some ghost crabs, which scuttle sideways.  I managed to get close to one to see how it was jointed, because I'm writing some space-faring alien bugs and I wanted to see how arm and leg joints might work.  The crabs lunge quickly, in a flurry of legs and sand, and I imagine my alien bugs might walk in the same sudden fashion (only forward-back instead of sideways).

While we were walking through the crabs, we ran into a couple returning from the beach.  He was sort of beach-grizzled in high-end shorts and a collared beach shirt.  She was younger and wore a kind of crocheted net wrap, with stars knitted in, over her black, one-piece bathing suit.  I not-so-secretly wanted her wrap, (without the stars) because I've mentally re-worked an old Egyptian cure for a Pharaoh's melancholy involving female, mesh-dress wearing barge rowers and I think I could pull it off (at the right angle and in the right light).   It's that whole accentuate-and-conceal thing.  Mmm... barge rowers, rowing along the Nile... thick-stringed net wraps clinging as they... --er--  But Mark thought it would be a choking hazard, so we didn't drop everything and search for one in a boutique.  "They look like an ad for Viagra," he added, and I had to agree.

Today was a writing day for me; the shell hunt was my only foray to the beach -- which was a good thing for my skin, as I am getting too much sun.  I worked on what is turning into a series of short sci-fi first-contact stories.

I also napped; this vacation I'm simultaneously in the Pacific and Eastern time zones: getting up around 6AM EST, writing and doing beach activities in the morning, feeling a second wind 10 AM EST, eating and snacking a lot, eating a large lunch around 2PM EST with a nap, and then more activities.  If I'm good, I get to bed 10 PM EST, but usually folks are active then so I might stay up later for a game.

After my late-afternoon nap, Mark and I went out for our thirteenth anniversary event.  We found a hardware store (where I wanted to get a yardstick, but closed) and a bookstore (to get books for The Child, also closed) and then went looking for old Victorian style houses.  We didn't really find any, also we did find two fountains with mermaid trios.  Then we wound up on a toll bridge, got a little lost, and wound up at Lucy The Elephant (http://www.lucytheelephant.org/).

Mark had been wanting to see Lucy the Elephant anyway, so we marched up for a tour.  Lucy--a four story, tin-plated, wooden building in the shape of an elephant--was built in the 1880's.  A National Historic Site, she's been a bar briefly, and tourist attraction for about 130 years.

We were the only ones on our tour.  We climbed up a tight spiral staircase in her left hind leg.  From the woodwork and wainscoting, we could tell she was built by shipwrights.  We ended up in a large, resonant, chapel-like room, which had more square footage than our house.  The windows and doors were peaked in a vaguely Persian manner.  A glass skylight provided lots of light.

We climbed another curling stairway, through a boat hatch, and onto Lucy's hadow (the basket on her back).  We had a fine view of the Atlantic and of the surrounding buildings.

"So," I asked our tour guide of about seventeen tender years, "about how many Moulin Rouge re-enactments do you get a year?"

"Moulin What?" She looked at me blankly.

"Oh," I said to Mark, "You were right."

We had to explain--there was very little singing involved. (Sigh:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moulin_Rouge! )

Friday, August 11, 2017

Come and Play on Our Shore

Sunday, July 30

I slept poorly Saturday night.  I had a weird moment where I though Cicero was in the bed running his tail into my face.

Today was a beach day.  I looked around the local Five and Dime and found a package of thick shish-kabob stakes and a package of rubber-bands with which to make a simple compass.   I set them aside for construction later.

The beach at Ocean City requires a permit to use.  Folks laden with beach equipment arrive around 10 AM or so and set up an umbrella or other sun shade, beach chairs, and possibly small beach games.  By noon, the place resembles an outdoor art fair.  There's a lot of sitting around in beach chairs in swim-ware.  Occasionally, high school or college-aged officials will stroll by and ask to see a permit.

The Atlantic Ocean is warm, about 70 degrees, I think.  Life guards sit in a raised and covered chair.  Our guards had a rescue rowboat.  The guards set up flags on either side of their station:  green flags for permitted swimming zone boundaries and red flags for too-rough-to-swim.  Occasionally a guard on a jet-ski rides by.  Sometimes a guard will wade out into the surf with a buoy to test the current's strength and direction.

Oh, right; every so often a small prop plane will fly overhead, pulling a long banner add behind it.  This also strikes me as very odd and un-Oregonian.  I wonder if the pilots find it interesting or boring or simply a source of money.

Only a small percentage of the Jersey Short is state run, the vast majority are private, city-run beaches.  It takes me a while to get used to, because Oregon beaches are all public access, and pretty much "you're on your own" as far as lifeguards and safety railings go.  Oregonians tend to bundle-up and stroll along the beach more, and swim less (unless they have a scuba-suit).  It's typical to have a strong, consistent wind, which can make beach umbrellas a challenge.

Small children playing in the sand along the tide are the same on both sides of the nation.

That evening, some of the family went to Atlantic City to gamble (apparently Grandma had a lucky run).   The rest of us stayed at the house, had an ice cream bar, and played games like Boggle and Uno.

Come And Dance on Our Floor...

Saturday, July 29

We got up at 6 AM (which my body still thinks is 3 AM) and drove from Suffern to Ocean City.  This was not the Nine Hour Hell Ride Mark and I remembered from a few years back when we traveled the Parkway to Cape May.   The most remarkable things about the Parkway from an Oregonian stand-point is that A) it's a toll road (thank goodness for EZ-Pass), B) there are service islands (essentially mini-malls) located on the median between the north- and south-bound lanes (instead of two bathrooms on either side), and C) no semi-trucks are allowed (so no being stuck at 60 mph behind two eighteen-wheelers in tandem)

We pulled into Ocean City around 9:30, and made it to the boardwalk--"It's like Disneyland!" Mark exclaimed as we gazed upon the wooden walkway with its painted zones for pedestrians, bikes, and surreys.  Carnival rides, putt-putt golf, T-shirt stores, mirror mazes, folded ice-cream, roller-coasters, theatres, Ferris wheels, and iron lampposts with speakers and security cameras marched away in perspective to the vanishing point.

I was glad I wore jeans; the sky was grey and an intermittent rain fell. The blowing wind prompted me to go back to the car for a sweater.  What I noticed were the usual tourists, a lot of joggers, and a lot of families with toddlers.

Mark, The Child, Melora and I snagged a delicious breakfast in a pancake house / gift shop.  We met up with Melissa, Kristina and Mary.  Maria, Mike, and Devon showed up, and later Shannon and Brenden.

As the day progressed the joggers dropped off, the tourists increased, and the toddlers hit the 11:30 pre-lunch non-nap.

We discovered that our end of Ocean City had flooded in the intense rain of the previous evning.  Parts of West Street, a thoroughfare, were flooded, as were various numbered streets.  Luckily, there was only about an inch of standing water in the carport when we pulled up--which receded by 5PM.

The house is a cute-ish, three-story, 1930's-ish, Art Deco-lite, split-level townhouse.  Three stories (living room, bed rooms, bed rooms) on one side, and two stories (kitchen-dining, bedroom) on the other, connected by a steep stairwell in the middle.  The interior goes back and forth between 1980's ranch (kitchen), white and coral coastal-kitch (dining and some bedrooms), Art Deco stain-glass (mostly the front door), and cheesy "Three's Company" Set (the living room and some bedrooms).   Children's bedrooms at the very top have bunk-beds and are kind of "Finding Nemo."

I'm pretty sure everyone with mobile devices had connected to the local WiFi within the first half hour.

It's Art Jim - But Not As We Know It

Friday, July 28

Mark, The Child, and I drove to Storm King Art Center (http://stormking.org) .  We got a little lost (our directions were Googly and sent us on a long loop), and wound up on the back roads of Bear Mountain overlooking Westpoint.  Eventually Mark saw signs directing us and pulled into the entrance--about a minute later, Megan and her two boys pulled up right behind us.

I'll confess that every time I encountered the name "Storm King," I thought of the web-comic "Girl Genius."  I was expecting something like a park filled with giant topiary meets Michelangelo's David meets The Enchanted Forrest.

What it was actually was mostly like the orange-red steel girder structures littering the greenways in various Eugene Interstate off-ramps.  Instantly, I heard Doctor McCoy's voice chanting, "It's worse than that it's Art, Jim," followed by Mr. Spock saying, "Well it's Art, Jim--but not as we know it."  Later, The Child added, "There's Artists off the starboard bow."    The place reminded me of Tina Howe's play, "Museum," especially when we found a series of plate steel panels cut into random shapes and painted white.

Mark seemed to really be into it, so I bit my lip and kept my sound-track internal.  The children were not quite so tactful.  Megan really liked a giant Buddha sculpture there.

I did like the giant columns near the visitors' center, which were out of proportion with everything else.  "We should get some and put them in front of our house," I said.  I probably giggled at the thought of thirty-five foot columns towering over our house.

"Go for it," Mark said.  "You could build them; but if they're ugly, I'm knocking 'em down."

"Oh, I think they're funny," I said, imagining them hollow, with a secret staircase, so you could climb to the top and meditate naked like an Old Testament prophet.

We took a tram for a quick overview of the 500 acre park--I'm pretty sure the recording was made by a former commando, probably from the Brutalist Architectural Style.

"Sea Current" was a motorized sculpture of two spiraling rods that was cool, and reminded me of a toy-sized executive desk gizmo.

There was a stone wall that playfully wove between trees, dunked under a lake, and came back up on the other side.   The undulating wall sequestered a grove into little shrines for single or a triplet of trees; in one, all there was was a stump with a saw-dust covered wall arcing around it.

There was a collection of culvert pipes, rusted brown and smooth, which for me was impossible not to see as a cathedral once you learned its title.  I liked it, and it was corporate in scale.  I meant to try to walk under and through it, but somehow that didn't happen.

From a distance, I liked "Orbit," a pole with spinning ribbons of chrome--which wanted to be an armillary sphere or a vertical sundial, but once I got close to it became a high-end garden spinner.

There was a tensegrity structure, "Free Ride Home," which was about twenty highly polished aluminum pipes suspended into a kind of cloud and held in place by the tension of the steel cables running from their ends.

Places like Storm King remind me that my art preferences in general lean toward the pedestrian and specifically to objects that have a high narrative value.  This bothers me a little, because it reminds me that authoritarians don't like art (and label it "subversive" or "decadent") if they can't understand it right away.  But then I put on some Phillip Glass or Laurie Anderson.

I'm never quite sure why what's at Storm King is Art, and it reminds me of the days at Arcosanti when we would have hotdog lunches and I would plunk two hotdogs between two buns on either side, with a knife placed placed diagonally across them onto a plate, call it "American Symmetry" and then make up an artist's statement involving the meat and steel industries, and corporate America's castration anxiety.  I loved lunches when I could make Hotdog Art.  Now if I could only open up an Art Store and sell black and white photos of Hotdog Art.

I think the pieces I liked the best --"Cathedral," "Sea Current," or "Free Ride Home" -- I liked more for their craft than for their art.  Or because they were shiny.  Or because I thought they were hilarious.  In trying to apply this to writing in general and what I do specifically, I guess I like well-crafted stories that aren't too opaque.  And I already know that I like eye-candy too much.

Family and Maintenance

Thursday, July 27

Mark, Arthur, Kristina, Melora and I visited Mark's nephew, Kevin, and his son, Stephen (his wife, Jackie, was at work--Even, his four-year-old was at camp).  It was Kevin's birthday, so when we spotted him pushing the pram, we rolled down the windows to the car and sang "Happy Birthday" at him.  Jackie's parents were there, and I think our singing put Kevin into that slightly embarrassed, slightly resigned place that only crazy relatives can put you in.

Their house is compact and very cute, with a basement and a second stories.  Jackie's decorated it in a relaxed "American Family Adage" style, with lots of candles-and-flowers, pictures of their boys, cushions, and little mottoes in stylized typefaces.

Kevin has plans to re-landscape their back yard, with extra decking, and a garden on the south side.

Kevin was focused on his youngest son, Steven, about eight months.  Steven passed out about three-fourths of the way into our visit.

Later in the day, Mark and I lopped tree limbs from an as-of-yet-unidentified tree so that they wouldn't trail on his mother's house's roof or take out a gutter in the winter.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bethesda Terrace

I'm sure that I've seen Bethesda Terrace before, but I must have been in a hurry to see the MET or to meet Mark or it was rainy.

As soon as Mark pointed it out, I was off faster than you can say "F-stop."

We got there fairly early in the morning, and there weren't too many other tourists about.  People kept telling us that it was a lovely day and that we'd just missed the heat wave (I think the New Yorker's cover that week was The Devil driving a Metro Subway out of Hell).

Areas like Bethesda Terrace make me wish Eugene wasn't covered in Brutalist Architecture, Graffiti Murals, and Hippy Sculptures--or to quote Frederic Edwin Church, Eugene's "ideal of architecture is wrapped up in felicitous recollections of a successful brick school house or meeting house or jail."  At least we have the UO Art Museum, Knight Library and Hope Abbey.

First Day in New York

We took a trip to visit Mark's family in New York. (Tuesday, Aug 25)  Our flight left in the early afternoon, served a complimentary meal that was decent, and arrived a little early.  The oddest thing was that all of the seats had little LCD screens on their backs, so everyone was watching a different movie or news show or flight progress.  I wanted to turn my screen off, but--unlike the other screens in front of Mark and The Child--there was no option on my screen to do so.

At JFK, we took various trains and subways to our New York City friend's apartment.  At Jamaica Station we saw a mother raccoon and two babies crawl along the tracks, scale a short wall, and disappear under a metal cap of a building wall.    As a warning that my sense of direction was even more scrambled than it usually is, every train that we took traveled in the opposite direction that I thought it would.

LGL had to work the morning, but he stayed up to greet us and chat a little bit.  We fell asleep to the sounds of traffic.

The next day (Wednesday, Aug 26), LGL snuck out to go to work before we were up.  

After a quick breakfast, we walked about four blocks from the apartment to Central Park.  Everyone told us the day was wonderful, as it was (a humid) 78F (previous days, there had been a heat wave).  We wound around a bit on some of the paths, but Mark knew that I'd want to see (and photograph) the Bow Bridge, and the Bethesda Terrace Fountain.

What struck me about Central Park was that it was cleaner than a lot of Eugene Parks.  Along the way we saw lots of granite or marble embedded with mica, and a family of turtles (which I startled) staying out of a bright green algae bloom by sunning on a long rock.

The Bow Bridge (http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/bow-bridge.html) looks like something out of a Disney Movie.  At first I thought it might be Fiberglas, but Mark told me it was cast iron.  Given all the quatrefoils and embossed knot work, that's impressive.

We went on to the Bethesda Terrace Fountain (http://www.centralpark.com/guide/attractions/bethesda-terrace.html) , but more impressive were the carvings in the plaza surrounding it.  As Mark expected, I rushed off to try to digitize every square inch.  I kind of lost track of time....

A Eugene-looking man in paint-splattered overalls stood before the archway and released gigantic bubbles from a bubble-solution soaked string contraption.   A guitarist filled the chamber with music from his six-string.  Painting of the seasons lined the place, but they seemed like faded memories of the seventies; I enjoyed the sculptures and textured stone more.

It was time to go so we could meet LGL for lunch.  We walked --uh, South-- toward the end of the park, stopping for about ten minutes to watch a magic show, wherein one of Mark's twenty dollar bills was made to disappear and then reappear from within an uncut lime.  The magician, dressed in short-sleeves, was very good, making things appear and disappear.  I think his best trick was pointing to his "invisible" wrist watch and making several invisible watch jokes at various intervals, and then pointing to his real watch, which had appeared on his wrist without anyone noticing.

Mark was in charge of navigation, so we detoured through a fancy hotel where you can still sit for tea... which I want to do now (hmm, how to incorporate sitting for tea there with a visit to the MET, which is in the middle of the park...).  We were supposed to meet LGL at a lunch placed called Hamburger Heaven--but it was closed for renovations, so we waited for him at Sach's across the street and looked at expensive jewels.

After a lovely meal at an Irish-ish pub, we walked LGL back to work, and then headed for The Strand Bookstore.  The Strand is sort of like Powell's City of Books, only smaller.  I'd say that the selection of Powell's is larger and includes more titles, but The Strand was less industrial.

I went to their occult section, and saw the usual Wicca 101 books -- I almost got a copy of Penszack's "Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe" -- and some of the pictures of fit nude men (with ritual items strategically placed) helped me to understand why the Eugene Library can't seem to hang onto a copy... but... it didn't speak to me as much as it would have a me twenty years ago.   I wound up purchasing a book of New York stone sculptures, and Helen Wrecker's "The Golem and the Djinn."   (It turns out that Bethesda Terrace Fountain plays a large part in Helen's book.)

Mark took us to the Village.  I must confess the balls of my feet were bothering me.  There was an uptick in cute guys, and the difference between Washington Square and Central Park was the difference between The Eugene Weekly and The New Yorker.

Oddly, it's pollen season here, too.