Friday, November 27, 2009

And, Or

I know you've been waiting with bated breath for the exciting conclusion of my San Diego painting... and now, after more than two years, I do believe it is finished. Let me take you way back before I unveil the final product.

Here is the original inspiration -- a seedy-looking shop on El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego:

Here is where I started:

And here is where I left off a few months ago:

I couldn't stand the flowers, almost immediately after I'd painted them. I'm embarrassed to admit how much time I spent looking for images, drawing them, enlarging them, transferring them to the canvas, and then painting them... Maybe only my friend Amie, who once watched me spend an equally embarrassing amount of time painting life-like cowrie shells onto a different piece, can guess how long it took. At least those cowrie shells made the final cut. These flowers, on the other hand, really had to go:

I firmly believe that every step in the painting serves the painting somehow. For this piece, I'd really wanted to achieve that layered look I see on brick and concrete walls everywhere -- a result of shop owners trying to stay ahead of the graffiti. Really the only way to get that look is to paint over some shit you don't like, so there you go.

I started liking it again after some thin washes of cover-up, and blobs of light and dark paint here and there. Then I added a branch of eucalyptus leaves, which suited it much better than the silly cactus flower:

I kept looking at it and thinking that it still needed something in that space where the big "F" used to be. This is what stumped me for so long.

Finally I decided to stop thinking so much and to just do something. Hands! I like to draw hands! I'll draw some hands!

Hands? Not so successful.

Does it make any sense? I asked Jason.

"Sure," he said, "the hands are catching the eucalyptus branch."

Hands had to go.


More thumb twiddling for me, for breath bating for you.

Until I figured out that if the first branch looked nice, then maybe another one would be the best compliment:

And at last, the final piece:

San Diego Florist became San Di Flor, and now it's pared down even further to an enigmatic but fitting, "And, Or."

I'll leave the meaning up to you.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Montreal, c'est vrai

We just returned from a lovely week in Montreal, where Auden and I tagged along to see the sights while Jason attended an academic conference. Within hours I was sufficiently enchanted by the busy downtown, the narrow European streets and, I'm not even kidding, the authentic European smell (good coffee, good bread and, I don't know, good air) and imagining that I could live there. I know, I know... I just said that about upstate New York, but really. I wouldn't even mind learning French.

My cousin and his family live there, and they took us out on our first day to see an exhibit about Pirates at the Point a Calliere Museum of Archeology & History, which was very cool; then his sons entertained Auden with their trains and books while he and his wife fed us lovely beet soup and vegetable risotto.

Jason graciously ducked out of the conference for a day (or two) to help us explore the city, because it's so irresistible:

And then Auden and I ducked into the Palais de Congres, where the conference was being held, because the multi-colored wall of windows and the escalators inside were irresistible, too:

On the day Auden and I were on our own, we started out at the RedPath Museum at McGill University, where Auden chased dinosaurs and I gaped at a necklace made of human teeth and the cast of a Chinese 3-inch bound foot:

I mean, who's weirder, dinosaurs or humans?

We took the Metro to the Old Port where I searched out an art gallery that ended up being closed, then as Auden snoozed in the stroller I wound my way back up to our hotel by way of a Basilica and a Bookstore.

After a late lunch I foolishly decided we should take a little jaunt up to Mount Royal. Because, apparently, I hadn't had enough walking for the day. It's a park right? Kids can run around at parks, right? NO IT'S A MOUNTAIN. And for some reason there is no easy access to this Mountain from the southern side, at least not for me with a stroller and a toddler and some groceries and a pregnant belly and CLOGS for god's sake. So I finally found some stairs and thought Fine, I'll let Auden walk and I'll hoist the rest of the gear up to the path. Surely there's a path.

Well, yes there was a path, but there was also Diminishing Daylight, so while we had indeed made it into the Mountain, this is what we saw 10 minutes later:

Friends, let me tell you that I am still sore, if not in my legs then in my pride, for being so stubborn and hauling us both on this ill-fated "jaunt."

It was supposed to be an hour, and it was supposed to involve Auden running freely in the autumn leaves. It ended up being THREE HOURS and required him to stay strapped in most of the time as we were bumping down footpaths over rocks and roots in the DARK. We were miraculously aided by two women and their dogs who lifted the stroller over the alligator-infested moat and pointed us in the right direction down a bike path, but then I MISSED the turn back into the city so that we ended up on THE ENTIRELY OTHER SIDE OF THE DAMN MOUNTAIN. Okay. I'm done with caps lock now.

I don't know why I didn't just hail a taxi from there. See "pride," above. So I walked back. I limped. I stumbled back to the hotel room. I promptly drew a steaming bath for both of us, and all I can say is hallelujah for short-term baby memory and the miracle of hot water.

By the next day Auden was ready to go again, and, fortuitously this time, we hopped on the bus and rode with no clear plan until I spotted a jolly playground. The weather was fantastic the whole time we were there, and we played outside until it was time to join Jason & a friend of his from college for lunch. And then coffee and some UHH-mazing chocolate pastry things.

The bus was clearly the favorite for Auden, but the Metro was not chopped liver:

In that picture we were on our way to the Biodome, and were foiled by a poopy diaper and the fact that we had no reserves in the (so-called) diaper bag. Fortunately for us all, Jason made the utterly rational decision to go back to the hotel and do the Biodome the next day. (Why weren't you with me as I ascended THE MOUNTAIN OF DOOM, Utterly Rational One???)

I was fantasizing about a diaper vending machine for situations like that, and wouldn't you know it, we saw one the next day. At the Biodome.

But it was still a good idea to do this outing on our last day, refreshed and re-stocked. Auden loved running through the different habitats:

And we got to see monkeys, fish, crocodiles, and feeding time for the penguins. We had to tear Auden away from the giant aquarium, though I think he was more excited about jumping down the stairs in the little amphitheater than checking out the dogfish and sturgeons lazily swimming overhead.

After that, lunch in a restaurant where I actually had to use my pitiful High School French (and was flummoxed by a brain that wanted to use Japanese instead), another romp at another playground, and then onto an evening flight where Auden charmed everyone in his airplane pajamas and surprised Jason and I by actually falling asleep during the landing and staying asleep through the re-combobulating and jostling in-and-out of the car ride all the way home to his own bed.

A wildly successful trip! And you must never EVER talk to me about Mount Royal again.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

number two

I haven't had the time to get very philosophical about this pregnancy.

With Auden I knew to the day how pregnant I was and knew according to several books and several hundred websites which developments were taking place ON THAT VERY DAY. And then I'd ponder the appearance of eyelashes or a brain stem or lanugo on a being I hadn't met but knew so intimately that I wondered secretly if he could actually hear my thoughts. You know, through my blood or something. I talked to him all the time, made sure I sang a lot, too, and listened to good music. We nicknamed him Grover and tried to imagine what he'd be like and how our world would change with him in it.

This time around it's just different. For a little while my priority was finding the right maternity pants (which, you'll remember, was a laugh and a half last time) because I'm vain and had to have a fashionable way to show off the bump. I was briefly rapturous when I felt those first fluttery movements inside, but half the time I'd forget that I was pregnant at all because mama mama mama! truck juice giraffe rock ball!

Now, suddenly, I'm coming up on 28 weeks and that February due date isn't looking so far away and Holy Cats ANOTHER BABY -- she's going to need a name!

We kept Auden's name a secret and plan to do the same with this one, but I don't have the slightest inkling. Names I liked before just don't seem right, and even making a list of possibilities is more of a perfunctory task than a delightful brainstorm... Every time I try to visualize calling her by her name, introducing her to people, writing her name on school applications and to-do lists, hoping to jar my cosmic memory -- or at least get some initials to work with -- I end up with the internal equivalent of the scene in Being John Malkovich where Jon Cusak is trying to guess Katherine Keener's name and he's all "Mmmmmaaaa vvveerrrrrr dannnn Kaaaa sssaaaarrrr Chhhrrrrrr Aaannnn waaaaa Grreeee....?"

So, no leads. We can't even find a nickname that sticks. We tried jokingly referring to her as Grizelda, or The Griz; Jason's mom likes the name Isabella (after her own grandmother), & calls her Bella. My mom told me how my sister didn't have a name for a couple days after she was born and they just called her Maisha, which means 'girl' in Dutch. I thought for sure that would catch on, but Jason couldn't remember it the next day and said, "What are we calling her, Monisha?" Instead we most consistently refer to her as the new baby, or worse, Number Two.

But I want to take this moment to LOVE being pregnant, because I do. I totally do. And I'm not sure how to love it more than I do, but I'm bent on discovering a way, aside from clingy clothes and excessive belly-rubbing, to remind myself this is probably the last time I'm going to do this and it's definitely the last time I'm going to have just Auden... and even though my revelations about gestational magic are curtailed by a more potent combination of Swiss Cheese Brain + Busy Toddler, and even though I'm sure I'll be waddling and snoring and heartburning and cursing by the end of the 9th month -- I mean, we have yet to add snow to this equation! -- I want to have some record that I enjoyed every minute of having this baby inside me.