Thursday, March 29, 2012

writing retreat: a wish comes true?

Amazing. It might actually come to pass that I have the opportunity to run off somewhere alone and finish the novel(s) in April. For security reasons I'll report on the specifics of this escapade after the fact.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

verdi's macbeth at the met

Photo is from the Met website and is not mine. Shared here with a handful of friends in the spirit of enthusiasm for the Met and its productions, and with thanks to the talented photographer, performers, set and costume designer, and staging artists.

opera with a friend

As I write this, I'm delighted to be with a dear friend at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for a performance of Verdi's "Macbeth".

Musically this is unfamiliar territory to me, but Verdi being Verdi and the Met being the Met, I'm sure it'll be a shiny experience on a Saturday.

It all started earlier this morning in my home office in San Diego. A little back and forth on Facebook, a warmup on my coffee, and this happy email from a friend winked open in my In-box:

I am on a train to NYC to see the Verdi opera Macbeth & it's hard to type. (bumpy ride). But, did you see the piece in AT mentioning Bradbury? Hope all is well with you.

More Later,

Within a half second a series of vivid images raced across my mental workspace: New Yorkers bundled in winter coats on a rocking train, my friend stopping a moment to reach into her pocketbook and type the email on her iPhone; then some wandering around before the opera, the stairs at Lincoln Center, the massive and iconic chandelier, a walk down carpeted aisle, the stage with its aura of anticipation, the pre-opera murmur accented by occasional practice flute trills, violin scales, and glimpses of tympany like familiar distant thunder.

My day was shaping up. I reminded myself to read the article about Ray. Mindful she was on her iPhone, thinking I might catch her en route, I kept my reply brief:

Can't wait to read it. You're on a train to see Verdi's Macbeth?! I wish I were too! Have a fabulous time! /hugs b

More time then passed with me wandering around cyberspace. I tracked down a way to listen to the broadcast.

Noon was a ways off, but my stomach began growling. I rejoined my own space/time continuum long enough to reheat some leftover lasagna in my home office microwave. Between mouthfuls I clicked my way to some basic information on this opera. Seems Verdi created the work fairly early in his career, before he gifted the world with La Traviata or Rigoletto. The 1847 version of Macbeth was apparently very successful. The 1865 revision, produced for Paris in a French translation, was less successful and the opera largely faded from public view until the mid-20th century revivals.

As I type here about my morning, the Lincoln Center audience is now applauding at the conclusion of Act 3. An ominous drum roll and Act 4 has now begun while I return to writing this story.

I thought about Verdi in his tall hat and dapper ascot, and I thought about the time period of his compositions. Then I thought about the last time I was in New York.

Another email blinked open. H again, and this time it was an iPhone photo of a red gown in the Opera Shop at the Met. It's an incredibly perfect you-are-there moment, and I had a huge wave of the incredible wow-ness of this kind of communication and connection.

I fired back:

That gives me a happy chill.


The broadcast quality was good. As I began to listen to the pre-opera chat, it was then I decided to share my morning's anecdote-in-progress with my father, who has a natural feel for this kind of thing. He's 500 miles away but I have unlimited long distance calling so it's like he's across the street.

The same opera was obviously playing in the background as Daddy picked up the phone. I chattered away and brought him up to speed.

We talked for a while. He loved how my New York friend was at the opera and sending me emails, and that I was having a virtual opera adventure and now sharing it with him. More catching up, and it eased into a multi-subject conversation that included his recommendation of the new mystery novel "After the Poison" which sounded so good that while we were talking, I ordered a Kindle copy for myself.

As I type this the last act of Macbeth has two more scenes. I hope to synchronize the posting of this article with the closing applause and joyful bravos in real time.

Anyway, I again emailed my friend H:

I'm listening live! YAYY-- enjoying the opera with my dear friend!


She wrote back:

Oh how exciting. I was wishing you were here. Now you are. Only thing I just read it's set post WWII so costumes will be more modern. 1st act 80 minutes long. That's long! Now, must turn off cell in theater. :-)


And I couldn't resist writing one more note:

This is great! I get to clap right along with you guys & imagine myself there...


Now I was thinking not only of my friend 3,000 miles away but also my father in the Bay Area who, as it turns out, had just spoken on the phone with his lady friend in Utah... who was also listening to the broadcast. He said he looked forward to sharing my story with her.

More coffee. More reading about Giuseppe Verdi. What would that fellow make of all this astonishing magic?

* * *

I've caught up to real time, now.

And so it is that I'm magically in New York on a Saturday, listening to an opera I've never heard before. Soon my friend and I will both be clapping our hands.

Click, send. Clap.


new van gogh painting, new mozart composition

This week has seen some interesting developments in the world of the arts. If I learn anything worthwhile or pick up some credible tidbits, I'll post them here.

Maybe take another look into this, now that it's February 15, 2017 and I'm stopping by from the future...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

notebook mystery revealed

Hi Brenda;

I called your Dad back right after he phoned me this morning . He had called to tell me that he had sent me an Email. I told him that it was true that I had been a student of James Eakle during the time in question; I'd taken Art History 190B and several other classes that were art related from Mr. Eakle. He was, by far, my favorite instructor!

Eakle resembled Don Knox in appearance but had a large, booming voice that carried long distances. He was a passionate promoter of art, especially painting, and came across as someone who lived and breathed everything and anything art-related. In addition to the artists you mentioned in your blog I remember he also discussed Mark Tobey, an artist from the Seattle area; he seemed to find Tobey's work of special worth.

Mr. Eakle lived in Point Richmond during the same period of time that Arlys and I lived there; he lived in a house that overlooked the Bay, towards Marin County. We would pass each other on occasion and wave - I always regret not stopping to talk to him but I felt guilty that I had not pursued painting as he suggested I should and couldn't bring myself to talk to him about it.

So. The notebook. You mentioned you thought the handwriting looked feminine. I take no offense because it should look as it does. You see, your Grandmother, Iris, took a few classes during the same time period. I had no car so I rode the bus out there to the "old" campus, Mom did like likewise but at a different time of the day because she wasn't taking very many classes; we'd pass in the hallways now and then between classes and say Hi.

It's your grandmother's notebook. Mystery solved. Good detective work, Brenda. And I enjoyed reading your essay.


Uncle John


Thursday, March 8, 2012

the stuff from february's kitchen adventures

Asian lettuce wraps
Strawberries and blue cheese with apricot balsamic reduction
Parmesan crisps
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Gnocchi with two sauces
Chicken and rice Garam Masala
Crab, tomato, avocado ceviche orange vinaigrette, salsa finish
Spiced mango lassi with agave syrup
Kentucky butter rum cake
Farfalle pasta with lemon cream sauce and capers
French toast a la Bananas Foster
Tuscan kale with seasoned butter beans, on spelt
Butter bean hummus (two versions)
Polenta molded in loaf pan—slice and grill
Rosemary salt
Coffee and Christmas spice liqueur
Homemade farmer’s buttermilk cheese

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

february's food forays & frivolities

Food and food preparation is a new topic here at DL&CS. It's not a cultural pursuit in my life to the extent, say, of fashion design or fiction writing, but I've been fond of cooking ever since those first home economics classes in 7th grade. It's earned some time and space here. Only my notorious overabundance of interests keeps me from serious food study.

Who doesn't like to eat good food? While I'm fairly competent in the kitchen, I'd love to be more of a true expert, comfortable in a useful variety of modern basics.

Even if it weren't so trendy to be a foodie, I like creating a wonderful bowl of soup that rivals a twelve-dollar restaurant offering. I've been known to read vintage cookbooks the way some people read novels. I love wine glasses and dishes and place settings and kitchen appliances and pot racks and playing around with my spice collection. When I was younger I jumped right into entertaining with more enthusiasm than skill. I have several decades' worth of recipes, magazine clippings, and restaurant menus. I scribble notes during cooking shows, and I've taken a few classes. It's only the frustration and drudgery of having to stop and cook when I'm otherwise occupied that can make cooking as annoying as any other household duty.

With the January Project largely under control, in February I began taking my food planning, purchasing, and preparations more seriously, browsing through my oversized cookbook collection for inspiration. It's fun to eat new and interesting food, but in the long run I'd like to feel accomplished in this area with better culinary skills and wider horizons.

I know what you're thinking: I whine almost ceaselessly about how little free time I have and how I need to spend precious waking hours on my writing and not frittering it away (on fritters or anything else). Why on earth, except as self-sabotage, would I suddenly put down my virtual pen and grab a potholder?

The answer can be found on my blog's masthead: Tempus fugit, carpe diem. Given that I will waste X number of hours per week anyway, my soul needs to look at life's big picture and plan to spend at least some of those hours on things like my love of food, sightseeing, mastering a foreign language, and the like. As a related aside, I'm also following a very realistic fitness program because sitting at the computer all day isn't healthy. A writer writes, but a writer also lives their life and values their health.

I can do this.

Anyway, I was off to a great start in February, and queued up a number of interesting food projects. Having organized my kitchen and pantry in January, as well as my cookbook collection, I was off to a positive start. Having an electronic day planner for the first time and actually using it (surprise) has also been a great aid to these efforts. I now grocery shop on an actual schedule, just like a grownup, and always have food and wine information with me on my iPad. I take my food supplements on schedule, too, and follow scheduled exercise sessions both at home and at the club.

Interestingly enough, thus far all this planned activity has resulted in my being more productive, not less, in my writing. I still dream of monastic seclusion, of removing myself from the household during the last weeks of my novel... but more about that later.

Later this week I will upload a summary of what I was up to in my food-focused February.

Cheers, gambatte, a votre sante, carpe diem, and bon appetit.