Archive for Art

Important Perspective…

Monday’s catastrophic fire inside the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, terrible as it was, might just allow us to step back from the 24-hour news cycle and reflect on the longer horizon of human history. The fire damage to this iconic structure provides us an opportunity to look at a longer horizon and set other events in perspective. There is little doubt that the church will be rebuilt and restored. Even as the embers were still glowing, President Emmanuel Macron was promising to rebuild. This is not the first time its existence has been in peril. With luck, however, it may be the last. read more

Cultural Placeholders…

I’ve been thinking about generational differences lately and how each generation anchors itself with a set of creative icons, go-to figures, that serve as reference points on a timeline of cultural awareness.

What do you say or who do you think of when people ask you for your favorite movie, book, painting, or rock group? Who’s on that playlist? What music pops to mind? What paintings do you think of? What writers do you refer to and re-read? How you answer those questions most likely depends on the artistic/creative imprinting of your generation.  read more

Kindergarten Rules Updated…

In 1988, a local Unitarian Universalist minister published a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was a back to basics primer for Baby Boomers. It snuck onto the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for 2 years. Twenty-five years and 7,000,000 copies later the author, Robert Fulghum, revised his little primer and added  a few new essays for the anniversary re-release. Today, his advice is just as cogent as it was when first published – maybe more so in the Age of Trump.

Here’s Fulghum’s Kindergarten code, in red, updated for the Age of Trump, in black:

“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain (We don’t know about Donald, since he ordered his schools to hide his grades),but there in the sand pile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned: (Pay attention Donald. Turn off Fox and Friends. This is not Executive Time).

  • Share everything.Your tax returns and all the tainted money your father gave you. Be grateful.
  • Play fair. Stop lying, cheating at golf, and stealing from the American people.
  • Don’t hit people.Or put them in cages.
  • Put things back where you found themRussian money. Golf divots. Your dick.
  • Clean up your own mess. OMG, this is the big one. If you’ll get out of the way, the Democrats will do it for us.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours. The Affordable Care Act.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Mexicans, disabled reporters, Christine Blasey Ford, and the other 372,200,000 of us.
  • Wash your hands before you eat. Especially after you put everything back where you found it.
  • FlushFox News.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. KFC, Big Mac’s, and porn stars are not.
  • Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Hard to balance when you’re dancing with Lucifer.
  • Take a nap every afternoon. Alone. No tweeting.
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. If Melania lets you.
  • Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. The great wonder is how Trump ever got to the White House and how he manages to stay there.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup—they all die. So do we. And, so will Trump, in spite of Dr. Ronnie Jackson’s bogus misrepresentations.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned—the biggest word of all—LOOK. Not TAKE.
  • Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Fulghum’s Golden Rule is not a reference to the tacky decoration in Trump’s New York apartment, but I couldn’t resist this picture.
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    Gnarled and Twisted…

    I love this gnarled, twisted tree trunk. It’s “growing” in the front yard of my friends, Dick and Kit Duane, in Berkeley. Dick and I were law school classmates there 57 years ago. They bought the house 47 years ago, raised their children there, played music, made plans, drank wine, cooked meals and read poetry there. The tree is old growth by any standard of time, just as we are old growth by the standards of the Social Security Life Expectancy chart.

    Kit wants to have the tree taken out. She has a point; it could fall on the house when one of those fast-moving Pacific storms rips through the Golden Gate and blasts the Berkeley flats, but I’m betting on the tree. It’s seen a lot of those storms.

    Dick and I can’t remember the specifics of how our friendship began. We were in the same law school section, one of three, in a class of 750. He was recently out of the Navy and I was fresh from the Marine Corps but early on we uncovered a mutual interest in swimming. I had no talent…still don’t…despite millions of laps in thousands of pools around the world. He, on the other hand, was a competitive swimmer at Cal… but everything about him was relaxed. He never minded doing 3 laps for every 1 of mine, and I was grateful he didn’t mention it. We both needed a release from those mind-numbing hours in the law library and found it in our noon workouts at the UC pool and browsing stops at Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue.

    There is probably something deeply psychological about my affection for the Duane’s gnarly twisted tree. It’s like my gnarly wrinkled hand in some ways. Both show the effect of time in lumps, veins and scars on surfaces that were once  smooth and elastic. When I suggested to Marilynn that we take a photo of our hands for this article she didn’t want any part of it. I love her hands, but she tells me that women are sensitive about their hands and rarely does a “woman of a certain age” allow her hands to be photographed. I love her vanity. It means she still cares about showing the world the best side of herself. Me? Not so much.

    Nevertheless, last weekend M and I watched an interview with Angie Dickinson, a woman famous for her physical beauty who, at 87, was astonishingly unselfconscious about her gray hair, wrinkles, and hands. I found her confidence reassuring. After a lifetime of living shouldn’t we all be able to present ourselves proudly, and confidently “as is?”

    Dick and I took much different paths after law school. Things have changed since we were there, but the curriculum and vector in those days was toward an elite private law practice. I followed the vector by way of Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles and lasted nine months. Dick, who spent a law school summer in Georgia doing civil rights work before graduation, spent a couple of years doing poverty law in DC and San Francisco before returning to Berkeley to start his own small general practice. I remember Professor John Jackson, our Contracts teacher, taking time to extoll the virtues of small private community based practice. It seemed so contrary to Boalt’s big firm bias, but that’s what Dick chose and I know after all these years that he loved it and never thought of looking back.

    Friendship, like love, is a mix of intangibles. Several of my most enduring friendships were formed in law school, though most of these were with classmates who didn’t follow traditional paths. Like friendships formed anywhere, law school was simply the nexus that brought together a cohort of people with similar characteristics, interests, and experience. We were all achievers in one way or another, competitive and curious in others. Some moved on according to someone else’s plan and some worked out their own.

    The cement in my friendship with Dick is probably that we were slightly out of synch with the curriculum and our classmates. We maintained those friendships too, but ours didn’t depend on a shared professional experience. We were focused elsewhere. We both loved the outdoors. He was a serious rock climber (including El Capitan and some first ascents) and I spent most of my adult life skiing and living in ski areas. He’s an avid reader and lover of poetry. So am I, and we both play the guitar, though neither of us is very good. On top of that, Kit was a book editor and both couples have spent serious chunks of time traveling and living abroad. It’s all added up to a great recipe for friendship.

    Steep rock faces and snowy steep chutes are behind the two of us now. His granddaughter is on her way to becoming a world-class rock climber and my grandsons are serious freestyle and backcountry skiers. We’ve had a hand in paying it forward for them and are enjoying the ride as they figure out their futures…but the best part for us now is our enduring friendship, memories of shared experience, and talk about what’s next. Neither of us is through…just adapting to changed circumstances.

    Dick and Kit in Provence last year.

    Two Degrees of Separation…

    I didn’t know Albert Finney, but when he died two days ago, I felt the loss personally. I’d admired him as an actor since first seeing him as the randy Tom Jones (1963) and again as Audrey Hepburn’s husband in Two for the Road (above) in 1967. He was nominated for an Oscar five times, but never took one home. He was an actor’s actor, but it wasn’t his acting chops that made me feel his loss.

    Finney and I were only a year apart in age. Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, but I know he was an avid horse racing fan who followed the ponies from Saratoga to the Triple Crown and on to Santa Anita in the fall. In a tangential way, it was his interest in racing that provided our connection.

    Mr. Finney was friends with Karen and Mickey Taylor. Two friends of mine. Two degrees of separation. The Taylors purchased Seattle Slew for $17,500 in 1975. Slew went on to win the Triple Crown and made the Taylors very wealthy. I knew them because they were customers of mine at Piccolo, the little Italian café my wife, Abby, and I owned.

    Running a small restaurant is a labor of love – especially in a seasonal resort like Sun Valley. I made the pasta and bread. Abby ran the kitchen. Our small operation was either wildly busy or empty depending on the season. Christmas holidays were especially chaotic, and one Christmas week Mickey and Karen stopped in for lunch. The café seated 44 but there were probably 50 eating lunch on that particular day. Abby and the kitchen staff were cranking out the pasta dishes and I was up front seating customers, making espresso drinks, and busing tables.

    At a particularly chaotic moment, with all the tables finishing at once, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a grinning Albert Finney. “Hello, Jack. I’m Albert. It looks like you could use some help. Let me give you a hand cleaning up these tables.” I was nonplussed. I didn’t even realize he was in the restaurant, but for the next 30 minutes Albert Finney and I were the busboys at Piccolo. He couldn’t have been nicer or more natural, and that’s the reason I was personally touched when I heard of his passing on Thursday.

    Sun Valley was founded by Averill Harriman in 1936 and always had celebrity appeal, but it was years behind Aspen and Vail in becoming a “scene.” When Abby and I moved there in 70’s it was very sleepy. In 1987 when we opened the restaurant it was becoming more popular but still a one-story, log cabin kind of town and quiet escape for some celebrities. Jamie Lee Curtis used to bring us loaves of bread from the La Brea Bakery in LA, and Edie Baskin (Baskin & Robbins/SNL writer) brought us fresh mozzarella from Dean and DeLuca in New York.

    Piccolo was a place celebrities with a local connection could come for a dish of pasta and not be bothered. Carole King, Scott Glenn, Adam West, and Jack Hemingway were lunch regulars while Jamie Lee and husband Christopher Guest, Brooke Shields, and Peter Cetera were often there for dinner. It was a few years later that the one-story log cabins were replaced with two-story banks, galleries, and glitzy boutiques. Change is a given, but I feel fortunate to have been part of it before the change.

    Albert Finney’s passing reminds me of those times. I left Ketchum after 25 years. Piccolo has closed its doors and I’ve lost touch with Karen and Mickey. Even so, Abby and all three of my children are there and it remains a special place for me. Tomorrow I’m planning to settle in with a cocktail and watch a couple of Albert’s films – maybe Murder on the Orient Express or Annie – just to keep this memory fresh. My day busing tables with him is the perfect reminder that in this time of megalomania even a rich and famous celebrity can be modest, friendly, and helpful.

    RIP Albert Finney (1936 – 2019)