April 18, 2014

LEARNING MORE ABOUT CITY LIFE

Buck used Uber X in Los Angeles to get to the airport.  They have it in Denver and in Dallas and lots of other big cities.  It started in San Francisco as Uber with an app for Androids and Smart Phones using high end cars as taxis for the more wealthy.  Now Uber X is for anybody, and it works.  Buck's bus to the airport was late, so he tried it out and it cost him $6.00 - no tip, no exchange of money, just credit card use.  To be an Uber driver, your car has to be less than 5 years old.  It works through GPS.  You call, they know the closest car, they are there in 45 seconds and there you have your ride and good conversation in a jeep or SUV or any old thing with no sign on it.

M and A use Go To cars pretty regularly.  You log on and your location is shown, the nearest car comes up, you go get in it and you are charged by the mile, and you just leave it wherever you want to and the charging stops for you, and the next person comes to get it.  In Portland, it seems to have overrun Zip Cars.  You see Go To cars everywhere.  So, it cost M and A $3.00 to drive over to our house.  They just park and leave it.  No gas, no parking hassles or charges  (Go To has an agreement with City to park anywhere, pretty much), no insurance, no maintenance.



Mike has pointed out with happiness several times, that people in our neighborhood seem to have an understanding of the value and an appreciation of the fun in having classic, low rider vehicles.  We see them often and more so here than in other parts of Portland.


Buck left today.  We had a ball.  Last night at Bollywood Indian Restaurant, we ordered so much there was no more room on the table.  So fun getting to sample so many different treats from India, street food included.  

And we saw "Joe" which we loved.  Nicholas Cage is good in anything, but in this one, he comes alive with a very good and dramatic performance.  

And now off to catch the bus to downtown and Powell's.  We have some books we want to look over.   And then, we are catching "Northern Lights."  It is a 1978 film, one of the landmarks of American independent film, set in 1915, and played by an actual participant in the events, a 94 year old man in his Model T in North Dakota drumming up support against the trust-held grain elevators, trains, and banks that constantly threaten foreclosure.

We will most likely see at Powell's this fellow:


He is almost always there, sitting in the coffee shop, using napkins, paper cups, and straws from Powell's service counter making these flowers and quietly selling them to anyone interested.  Isn't it amazing that Powell's doesn't care!  People can stay in there all day and never buy a book or a cup of Joe.  Who would have thunk it?



April 14, 2014

TOO BUSY TO BREATHE

We have been so busy we forgot to post.

At the Whitsell Theater of the Portland Art Museum we have found some culture this week. We saw the FOUR hour long filming of the reconstruction of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam which took over ten years to complete due to complication after complication.  The four hours just flew by. It was so interesting.  The next night we saw the two and a half hour long new Russian film of Faust which also intrigued us to no end.  Now, I can take reading Goethe off my list, and I can know that Part 1 is all about the soul of Faust being sold to the devil.  Wow!  That is a memory!!

We just finished one of our favorites - lunch at Nicholas.  It is a Lebanese restaurant.  I just ate a falafel sandwich at the Egyptian food cart yesterday, so I can do it.  Love hearing all the middle eastern languages and music in both places.  Topped it off with Turkish coffee and baclava.  Yum Yum!


It is cold and wet and hailing in Gunnison.  The ski areas are closed.  People are hanging their skis up and getting their fishing and camping gear ready.  Surgery is a definite for me.  I am stewing on which orthopedic surgeon to use and which hospital.  I am open to anyone's opinions and experiences. Tomorrow, I will go for another acupuncture, but I have thrown in the towel on healing (it is just too loose in there) and am now strengthening for surgery.  Ralph is being discharged today from the hospital in Dallas after four days.  Amazing recovery, and that is going to be me with my knee surgery!!!

                            Flowers and more flowers!   Friends and more friends!



Buck arrives tomorrow and we will pick him up in our new car!


April 8, 2014

MORE AND MORE AND MORE

Jury is still out on the knee.  It has been a month.  I certainly do not trust it, but it is mending.

We did a float.  Ever heard of it?   The largest one on the west coast is in the Hawthorne area.  It costs $50 for a 90 minute float, each of us all alone in a completely soundless and dark tank filled with Epsom salt.  I guess it could have been a Bungee Jump, just as easily, if one is looking for a thrill or a new-age experience.

It all began in1954 when a neuroscientist needed to eliminate incoming sensory information to create a control group for one of his experiments.  This one today, of course, was started in planning over beers in Portland in 2009 by two college friends.  Here is what they have to say and here is why I wanted to to try it.  Plus, I was thinking it would be good for my knee along with the acupuncture which I am doing regularly.  Plus, a person we have met here who we really like does it regularly - like every week, and so do MANY Portlandiers - and says you ultimately get a "Monk's Mind" without hundreds of years of meditation practices.  I guess one should not think they can get something like that so easily.

As we walked in, Mike said, "Now why am I doing this?"

Verbiage from Float On brochure:
Getting rid of all sensory input allows the "constantly-make-sure-you're-not-dying" part of your brain to chill out for a second allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play.  Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress.  Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness.

Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break.  Your body suddenly has loads of extra resources (usually spent supporting your weight, regulating temperature, and trying not to get speeding tickets), which it gets to focus on things like healing and resting. Your spine lengthens an inch, chronic pain is relieved, and your muscles get to fully rest. 

About 40 minutes into your float your brain stops producing its normal Alpha waves and starts churning out Theta waves which are responsible for that between waking and sleeping state.  The Epsom salts we use soften and replenish your skin.

I think each of you can imagine what Mike had to say when we were out of there.  At least we now know.  The interesting part is that each tank has 1000 lbs of Epsom salt, twice as much as the Red Sea.  Weird stuff, but no way to sink.  No fears of drowning in there!!!

So, a very big day was had yesterday.  We did a Float On, bought a new 2014 Subaru, went to the ballet, and our great buddy Ralph had a stroke down in Dallas.

Whew!
And so it goes...
Ralph is doing pretty good and said to his son last night that he was going to walk out of there.
Carry on!
Susan

HEAVEN

I think I may have died and gone to heaven.  It is a blue sky, sunny day, and 67 degrees.  I am eating a warm coconut macaroon fresh out of the oven made by our friend J who is the cake baker in the Whole Foods close to us that we can get to by bus.  She made our daughter's wedding cake and just recognized me in there.  The sweet little library next door to Whole Foods is next up.  I love to test them all out and spend time in my old stomping grounds.  Libraries are way cool!

"Rocco and His Brothers" was great.  It was 177 minutes long and completely gripping.  We are lucky to be able to see old films in 35mm formats and in a big theater.  The Portland Art Museum's theater was packed with movie buffs which makes it even more fun.  Alain Delon plays Rocco, and I still have him in my mind.  Indeed, each of the five brothers and their mother, who have freshly immigrated from the South of Italy to Milan and are out of touch with city life there, are memorable, and the sad doomed Cain/Abel like brotherly rivalry ending is unreal.  Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" is loosely based on this 1960 Luchino Visconti film.  And, we are going to the ballet Thursday of Rocco and His Brothers set in a boxing ring and danced by dancers from the Amsterdam City Company.  Another cultural highlight in the Newmark Theater, one of Portland's Five Centers for the Arts.  It holds 880 people but no seat is farther than 65 feet from the stage.

The house where we are living is four stories, five bedrooms, 4 baths, and huge sitting on large grounds packed with flowers and trees and gardens.  The neighborhood is new to us, and we are exploring.  There are so many cool restaurants and shops and action that we are never at a loss for something to do.  Powell's downtown is no longer our main attraction, but when we find ourselves there, we are at home.  We have all the bus schedules dialed and are free as birds.  What a walkable city!!  I thrive in the diversity of this new neighborhood - one that is our daughter's first choice.  May the black folk here keep their houses in their family!  May they resist the temptation to sell at these high prices!  May they stay!












April 7, 2014

Art and Money

First, it was Francis Bacon's Lucien Freud Tryptich selling at auction for $142 million to the ex-wife of Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino mogul. We saw the tryptich at the Portland Museum of Art, because the new owner loaned it to the museum for a certain amount of time (the removal occurred March 31). I wondered why Portland was so lucky. I found out when I asked my go-to guy for all questions needing answers, Jr., who explained that it's because Oregon does not have sales tax. Simple. Just good bidness. The museum director is a shrewd money person, who fairly regularly pulls off what Jr. calls "scams," thanks to the lack of a state sales tax. Mrs. Ex Wynn spends ONLY $142 million, and avoids sales tax because the art's delivery address is Portland. So, I thought, as in SO! THAT'S how the rich get richer, eh? (Think about it: the sales tax in Colorado is north of 7 percent. You do the math...for good reason.)

And there is a lot of money in the art world right now, now that the depression has ended and we're all fat and happy again. Just today, I read that another Bacon tryptich, John Edwards (no, not that John Edwards), from 1984, is slated for auction and the minimum price is said to be $80 million. A pittance, because the subject, Edwards, is not a famous subject, like Freud. He was Bacon's companion for the final years of the artist's life. BTW (there I go again), Edwards inherited Bacon's entire estate. But Bacon was hard to live with, so, hey, fair is fair.

It's not only art bringing in truckloads of money. The tech industry is loaded. Some of the major SV players (Silicon Valley--my idea, SV, which is pretty good, huh? I'll be surprised if it doesn't catch on. Say what? It already has? That's not fair!), like Google and Facebook, have been spending money on acquisitions--BIG money--while Apple is nestled atop $159 billion, wondering what to do with it. Keynes said corporations cuddle up with their money because 1. saving it for a rainy day, 2. operations or 3. acquisitions. Maybe Apple will buy the next Bacon, or the next Bush. Who knows?

Speaking, as I did earlier, of "fair," a new book, about the Duke lacrosse players accused of raping a black stripper (it's by the guy--Cohan--who wrote House of Cards), notes that it appears that justice was done, that the players really weren't guilty of anything more than being drunken and perhaps racist louts, but the fact that their families were "affluent and connected" and able to spend $3 million on lawyers' fees didn't hurt. Then, they settled their lawsuit against Duke for $60 million and are now enjoying careers in finance and law--"doing all right," Cohan says. The young woman? She was by all indications a total liar, another example of the result of living a hard and unfair life. She's in prison for 14 years for stabbing to death her boyfriend (she said it was in self-defense). All her three children will be grown by the time of her release. Luck of the draw...again.

"Life is unfair," my friend, The Admiral, told me recently. "It's not right, but that's just the way it is." I guess that he is on the mark with that judgment. There doesn't seem much we can do about it; try to help when we can. After all, we're on the high side of the unfairness problem. In my case, yes, Admiral, it's not right, but that's just the way it is--and if it has to be that way, I'm glad I'm not in jail for 14 years for stabbing my boyfriend or anyone else's boyfriend to death, no matter that he surely had it coming and then some. His experience, for what it's worth (and how much is that?), was likely not all that fair.

But unfairness has a long and noble history. How fair was it that Madam Bovary couldn't have what she wanted? or that that one little kid in Lord of the Flies wore glasses? or that Jim was black and Huck was--now, there was a fair man, Huckleberry Finn, a man willing to go to hell rather than be unfair, rather than to do the wrong thing. Maybe that's why we still read about him.


April 6, 2014

WHERE TO BEGIN?

We love our new digs. We love our new neighborhood. It is not completely gentrified yet, but has a good start.  Of course, we can see the problems with gentrification as we walk about.  Buck is coming in a week.  Thrifting is good.  Mike is signed up for Facebook and Twitter and doesn't really get how it works - who does? - and gets messages all night long that beep on his phone and now M tells us that he is sending his personal replies to all the people of the world.  He needs another tutorial.  I went through our entire blog to take every picture of our daughter off and to remove her full name.  I finally get it.  She does not want her students to google her and get her parents' little blog telling of their opinions and also sharing the happenings, pictures, and opinions of their daughter.  It is shocking what google already has up there and permanently.

We saw "Noah". Don't go. We saw "Tim's Vermeer". Do go.  We saw "Enemy." Don't go. We are sitting at Powell's and Mike says, "Is today April 6th?"  And when I say yes, he says "We have to go to the Whitsell at 6:30 today to see "Rocco and his Brothers," a 60's Italian film, a Visconti masterpiece.  That is in two hours, so we will stop off at the food carts for a Falafel Sandwich at my favorite Egyptian cart.  Who knows how hard it will be to get home tonight?  The busses do not run as often on Sundays and we both had a hell of a time getting downtown today separately and on different bus lines, but we are loving the PDX Bus App on our phones.

Last night we went to a Film series recommended by A - a film and discussion series held in various galleries around town.  Interesting comparison between two films and one of them was the 1925 silent film "The Lost World" brought to life by the Alloy Orchestra. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the book and was in person at the beginning of the film with his words intertitled.   The dinosaurs in the film were fantastic.  Amazing what they were doing in 1925 and the Alloy Orchestra is always outstanding.

Mike dropped the Philip K Dick class.  The teacher was going to do an hour of group work every other class and group work is NOT Mike's cup of tea.  It just frees us for more stuff to do.

                                           Blooming

                                          This is one cool sign for a guy running for state representative.




April 3, 2014

The Golden Days of Publishing


On October 3, 1900, Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville, NC. After studying at the University of North Carolina and then Harvard, he moved to New York City in 1923 to pursue a career as a playwright. For the next few years, he worked as an instructor at NYU while beginning to write, and write, and write some more. He was a lousy and failed playwright, but...

In 1928, he sent the legendary editor Maxwell Perkins a rambling and massive (1,114 pages) first draft of a fictionalized autobiography he was calling "Look Homeward Angel." When Perkins opened the manuscript, he was touched to notice that Wolfe had dedicated it to him. But once he started reading it, he found it pretty tough going.

Realizing he had a difficult editing job on his hands, he sent a copy to his old friend F. Scott Fitzgerald and asked for his opinion. A few weeks later, Perkins received a note from Fitzgerald that read: "Dear Max, I liked the dedication, but after that I thought it fell off a bit."

That mess became, after Perkins' handiwork, an American classic--and it is still tough going, though not quite as long now.

I think of the Maxwell Perkins Era as, man, oh, man, those were the days! A time when the biggest name (probably) in NYC publishing would actually open and read an unsolicited manuscript. Not anymore, or if it happens, it's a total once-in-a-lifetime thing. On agents' websites now (as well as in conversation with them), a writer is specifically instructed to not send even a single word of a manuscript, unless asked. Instead, a couple lines of introduction and a brief description of the work. That's it.

And this morning in the NYTimes, in a feature on the non-fiction writer Ken Auletta, I read that, first, he's married to power agent Amanda Urban, and, second, that they have a great apartment on the Upper East Side, and a home in Bridgehampton, and he's just a year my senior. He's been in the mix, and power to him. It's another example of the insularity of the publishing bidness--New York City, boy, that's where it's at. It doesn't seem fair, does it?

Well, in my view, those of us who, for whatever reason, did not go and are not in New York have no reason for whining. That's the way the game is played and where it's played. To try and break in, succeed, outside the action is very difficult, like trying to make it in motion pictures without going to Hollywood. It can be done, of course. There are too many instances in which it has been done to make a wannabe writer just throw in the towel.

That's the writing lesson for today. Remember that James Joyce could, and did, write anywhere, in any circumstance and under any condition, physical or otherwise. Reading about his life and all he overcame to reach the very pinnacle is to put things into perspective. And stories of similar accomplishment, while not multitudinous, certainly exist.

Yours in faith-based another one of those stories will be taking place before long, if you get my meaning-ism,

JMR