Greece and the Newly Single Girl

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 | Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | Comments

I recognize him immediately, that guy who is just not the marrying type. He’s in his mid-40s, extremely handsome, never married, but he talks dreamily of marriage, spending lives together, dish patterns… I am drawn to him like bees to pollen, sure that once he samples the depths that are possible with sustained intimacy, he’ll blossom into that other guy, the one I’m certain I’ll be with forever. Then one day there’s the guy I recognized at first—the one in the wheelchair that I shoved down the stairs to make way for my fantasy—that guy who isn’t quite ready to settle down or explore perpetual commitment. Just not the marrying type at all.

I’m in Greece, visiting Stavros and traveling around with him and my buddies from San Francisco, Dean & Mike. A few days after our arrival, Stavros announced that he and I would be better off as just friends, apparently misreading my busyness and distraction over the past few months as a lack of interest. I wasn’t sure at first if it were a pre-emptive breakup based on misinformation or a genuine desire to reposition himself in the relationship, but our subsequent conversations have clarified the urgency for both of us to embrace a different kind of companionship. In a way there’s some relief on both sides. We like each other so much and have so much fun together, but he’s focused on a career that’s going to make being together a challenge. And there are those 6,000 or so miles between us. Or maybe we both knew from the beginning that we wanted different things? It’s painful and uncomfortable, but, but… actually, but nothing, it’s just painful and uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea at all of being 50 and single, so my suitors better start lining up, the twilight of my 40s is quickly slipping into the darkness of 50ness. But, soft! what hairy forearm through yonder window breaks?

Greece, on the other hand, has been a delight, and despite breaking up, Stavros and I have had a great time together as usual. Except for that brief moment when we tried to drown each other in Ormos Giannaki. We’ve been toodling around with Dean & Mike, showing them Athens and beyond, bonding with antiquity as well as the vibrance of city and village life. We visited Mycenae and the remarkable Tholos tombs there, then spent a few days with Yorgos & Filios at their getaway in Methana, then the theater at Epidavrus, the beach and ruins and Tomulus of the Athenians in Marathonas, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounio… I’ve written about these places before so won’t bore you with details, but stick around for some more entries about the rest of the trip.

So let the Dating Game begin. I’m currently accepting applications from eligible bachelors. If single and furry and slightly over-the-hill and planning to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope with your name and shoe size to Sanfranchrisko, San Francisco, California.

Deep in July it’s Nice to Remember the Fire of May that Made us Mellow

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 | Food, Stavros, Travel | 1 Comment

It’s July in San Francisco. Cold, foggy, drizzly. Now that my show is up and the dogs are sleeping, I’ll attempt to fill you in on some of my adventures of the past few months.

In May I spent a few weeks in Greece, exploring the northwest mainland and Corfu with little Stavros.

We visited Nikopolis, which Octavian founded following his defeat of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. Napoleon’s troops plundered and looted the site in 1789, the treasures eventually ending up with the Ali Pasha when he defeated them. So as with most of these ancient sites, there’s not much left, save for some interesting floor mosaics, two theaters, a quaint little museum with the plunderers’ rejects, crumbling ruins and an aqueduct, all beautifully set in gently rolling hills. The stadium, buried under weeds and bright green grass, nibbled on by sheep, must have inspired several Romantic odes. A shepherd told us with a snicker that his sheep were part of the stadium restoration.

We spent the night in Parga, a hilly resort town on the Ionic. Standing up after resting on a bench by the sea, I felt my camera slip from my lap. It seemed like forever after my eyes locked with my neighbor’s that the “plunk!” that we both anticipated finally came. There was quite a scene as a local fisherman and his kid tried to get it out of the water for me. A large crowd gathered and cheered after they finally fished it out. People around town were pointing at me all night. I was able to save the images in the camera, but since the camera was on when it fell into the water, the electronics shorted out. I used my iPhone for the remainder of the trip, and realized how dependent I’d become on my camera to document and record my experience. When I first traveled to Europe in the mid 80’s I refused to take pictures. This is when I was studying photography at the Art Institute but considered myself a conceptual artist. Ideas and experience were paramount, the object inconsequential. I didn’t want anything mitigating my first Grand Tour. I wanted to experience the real things that I had read about and studied in art school, with my own eyes, that I’d seen in textbooks and in movies… I didn’t want my memories contained within photographs, they’d always be alive in my head. And of course now I don’t remember anything. Thus I’ve become one of those obnoxious tourists who takes pictures of every pre-historic thimble and my memories are fairly restricted to what has been photographed.

From Parga we traveled to Mesopotamos and visited the Nekromanteion, site of the ancient oracle of death and the door to Hades, where people came to connect with their dead ancestors. Three rivers join nearby and flow to the underworld. This is where Odysseus made his trip down under. On entering the temple grounds, visitors participated in an elaborate ceremony and were fed snacks laced with narcotics. After passing through a series of underground passageways, they’d pose their questions to the oracle, and the priest appeared to rise from the ground and fly around, the awed but quite stoned pilgrims unaware of the cranes and ropes hoisting them aloft. A busload of German women appeared at one point and pushed past me and Stavros in the underground chamber and held their hands solemnly to a crack in the wall, presumably seeking communion with lost loved ones. Then they hustled up the stairs and back on the bus.

On the way to Corfu, I read Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell, written before WWII. Not much has changed, it’s still all “Venetian blue and gold—and utterly spoilt by the sun.” Durrell says that while other countries offer discoveries in “manners or lore or landscape,” Greece offers something harder—”the discovery of oneself.” I don’t know that I discovered any new me, but I did enjoy the manners, lore and landscape.

We stayed on the west coast, in the Lido Sofia apartments, perched on the cliffs overlooking Agio Ghordios and the sea. Our hostess Sofia was charming and hospitable, and made us feel like we were old buddies staying in her home. A panoramic view of the sea, a beautiful pool, free wifi, lovely rooms and home-cooking… all for €25/night. A week in Greece is cheaper than a weeknight dinner in San Francisco.

Seriously, every other guy in Corfu is named Spiros, after the island’s patron saint.

One night, in the beautiful little mountain village of Kastellanoi, we listened to a soulful singer play guitar and croon about love, on the main square with just a few other locals, drinking homemade wine, watching our souvla sizzle away on the grill across the street.

Old town Corfu is surrounded by three imposing fortifications, dating from the period of Venetian rule. The architecture of the old town also dates to the Venetian period. Passed down to successive French, British, and eventual Greek governments, the predominately Venetian buildings of the old town incorporate elements from each of the town’s occupiers.

The Spianada, or esplanade, in old Corfu town is a large verdant park running between the town and the old fortress, with a bandstand, fountains, statues and a cricket field. At one end of the Spianada is the Royal Palace of Corfu, now the Museum of Asian Art, a grand neoclassical building with a beautiful pockmarked Doric colonnade. Running alongside the Spianada is the Liston, a long building with gracefully vaulted galleries, archways and hanging lanterns. The Liston was constructed during French rule, designed by a French Engineer as a mini Rue de Rivoli, now lined with elegant cafes and restaurants. When first constructed only noblemen were allowed to enter and walk along the street and under the arches. A special list ensured the area was kept elite. The name “Liston” is believed to be derived from a Venetian word that referred to both this list and a wide and straight road.

La Grotta Beach Bar in Palaiokastritsa is the world’s most picturesque swimming hole. One descends a steep stairway to a terraced cafe carved out of the steep cliffs surrounding a cove of icy blue water. A sole honeymooning couple alternately dipped into the water and embraced on the rocks, making out as the water crashed around them, upright versions of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, the rest of us their captive audience, sipping our freddo cappucinos to the thumping chill-out lounge music.

On the slopes of Mount Pantokrator we visited the abandoned village of Old Perithia, first established in the 14th century as Byzantines moved inland to hide from pirate and mosquito attacks. As pirates and mosquitos became less of a problem, people slowly trickled back to the coastal towns, and now only about five people live there. The per capita taverna ratio is 1:1, with five tavernas operating amidst the crumbling, Venetian-style houses. The per capita ratio of churches is even higher, with 1.6 churches for every resident.

We popped in for a visit to Empress Sisi’s little retreat in Corfu, the Achilleion. Elisabeth was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, the Empress of Austria, as well as Queen of Hungary and Queen consort of Croatia and Bohemia. She built the retreat in Corfu to honor Achilles and her love of Greek culture, a monument to platonic romanticism, aestheticism, and escapism. It was constructed in sadness, built after her son Rudolf’s murder/suicide, which set into motion events leading to WWI.

Of the many memorable meals on Corfu, one of the most memorable was at Archontariki, in Sinarades. Angelos, the owner, sat outside smoking and chatting to everybody who passed by, and invited us in. After ordering, and as Angelos and his son Vagellis chatted with us, we saw Spiridoula, the mom and cook, run down the street to buy items for our meal. The food at this family run restaurant gem was packed with flavor and sensation. The menu contained many of the same local specialties as in other restaurants in Corfu, but Spiridoula’s food was different: much more flavor, expertise, most ingredients grown by her and her family. Her “Grandma’s Meatballs” were exactly what I imagined my grandma’s meatballs would have tasted like, if I had had a Greek grandmother.

After throughly exploring the beaches, towns, castles, sites, sounds, and tastes of Corfu, we boarded the ferry for Igoumenitsa and drove inland on the road that connects the west coast of mainland Greece to Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is only 160 miles away, but it takes about 5 hours for a regular person to drive there. (A Greek, 2.) The new road is a public works masterpiece, snaking through and around the breathtaking Pindos mountains and a bazillion tunnels.

And what a beautiful place to have the car break down. We stalled in a tunnel, and as soon as we pulled over a phone rang. The person on the other end asked if we needed assistance. How’s that for efficiency? We got off the main road so we could drive slower and stopped off in Dodoni. Dodoni was the site of an ancient oracle devoted to Dione, Aphrodite’s mom. Priests and priestesses interpreted the sounds of the rustling leaves prior to dispensing their oracular guidance. The theater dates to about 300 BC, but was destroyed by Aetolians, rebuilt by Philip of Macedon, destroyed again by the Romans and then rebuilt by Augustus. Archaeologists have uncovered artifacts going back to Mycenaean times (1600-1100 BC). The theater is surrounded by mountains, fields and trees, just preposterously scenic. The site was undergoing another restoration, so I couldn’t climb to the top, but above is a panoramic photo by Onno Zweers, from the Wikipedia entry about Dodona.

We stopped for the night in a little alpine village in the Pindos mountains, Metsovo. In Ottoman times, the residents were granted special tax privileges in exchange for guarding the mountain passages and servicing passengers. Indeed there were three mechanics in this quaint little town and about a million places to stay for under €40/night. Stone and wood houses are tucked into the hillside, arranged like eagles’ nests rising upwards in a natural amphitheater from the central square. The village is the center of the Greek Vlach community. The Vlachs were originally nomadic shepherds, who claim descent from Latin-speaking Wallachians of what is now Romania. At the time of our arrival kids were running up and down the stairs of the bell tower in the central square, ringing the tower bells 400 times–representing the 400 years under “slavery,” a local priest dramatically told us, or the years under Ottoman rule. Georgios Averoff was born here, considered one of the great benefactors of modern Greece, who contributed to many social, educational and infrastructure projects, including the stadium of the first modern Olympics, and a museum and school of cheesemaking in Metsovo! The butter served at breakfast was truly the most amazing dairy product I’ve ever experienced. Sweet, complex, aromas of grass and herbs… I felt briefly in communion with the cow’s olfactory and taste sensations, imagining myself chewing the cud with the other girls on those bucolic hills. We missed seeing the 14th century monastery there, but we ate a lot of butter.

Back in Athens I had only a few days to visit with my buddies: G, who works high in the Greek government and has read more english literature than anyone I know and pens highly literate pornographic tales on the side; M, a gentle half Greek/half Brit giant in search of a meaningful relationship with an ever-elusive succession of increasingly distant and increasingly older daddy bears; T, engaged with intellectual life and microbiology; and P, my froggy nurse buddy and student of English desperately seeking his Prince Charming. I didn’t get to see T, but I had a salad of baby valerian greens one night. They call it valerian, but I later discovered that it’s what we call mâche. A different species of valerian grows out of cracks in the sidewalks in San Francisco, so ubiquitous that it’s not even noticed, a tough drought-tolerant summer blooming perennial with heads of pink flowers that attracts both rats and cats and smells like cat pee. And there it was on the menu! Or so I thought, this common weed that is thought of as food by only certain moth and butterfly larvae. Remember when arugula was an exotic green? I daydreamed briefly of the valerian revolution I would ignite upon my return to drought-stricken northern California… Ah, but only mâche, already available at Trader Joe’s, and not the stuff growing out of the cracks in front of my house… G took us to Piggy-popoulo in Pagrati for souvlaki. Pagrati is a little off the beaten tourist track, with many restaurants catering to locals. In Metaxourgio, I went to a kalamaki place called Elvis, “Sweet Home Alabama” blasting in the background, and later that night met up with P for drinks at one of my favorite spots, the Dyari Cafe. The host is always charming and welcoming. This time he treated us to a liqueur that he made from the insides of the apricot pit. “Pit” is “kookoutsi!” in Greek. I love that word, and what a kooky idea for a drink! We ended up in Kerameio, a bar in a former pottery workshop in Keramikos. The bar was packed with noisy hipsters, but P and I sat alone in the central courtyard, sipping raki and talking deep into the night. The courtyard was open to the sky, a single tree sharing the sky above us with the moon, the crowded hipsters pressed against the glass walls framing the courtyard, music blaring on their side of the glass; on ours only the sound of rustling leaves, the sweet smell of jasmine, and the intimate banter of dear friends.

New Installation: Scylla & Charybdis

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 | Art | Comments

My new exhibition is up, in Oakland, at the Mercury 20 Gallery. If you can’t make it to Oakland, no problem, just click on over!

It’s a photographic installation that I’m calling Scylla & Charybdis, after the two sea monsters that Odysseus had to choose between and sail past as he worked his way back to Ithaca and his beloved Penelope. Choosing between “Scylla and Charybdis” has come to mean choosing between two equally unpleasant options.

I’m looking at the gallery as the setting for a kind of aesthetic journey, inviting the viewer to contemplate new ideas about beauty through a visual engagement with our subliminal and overt anxieties about the body.

At the center of my installation are two 12-image photographic grids, composed of the same 12 black and white images, but arranged in different ways to evoke abstracted versions of the two creatures. The component images are closeup photos of the same large hairy male body.

A third grid, called “Swell” is composed of closeup photos of a man’s long white beard and furry shoulders, the images arranged to echo a tumultuous seascape, and bringing to mind Poseidon, the god of the sea.

Flanking the grids are large color images of spider webs. The webs are blurry, set against a lurid red background, creating a kind of psychologically charged space. Insects wander into spider webs, only to be trapped and devoured. My installation is an aesthetic trap, the viewer lured into my world, invited to wander through and consider a very different kind of artistic subject matter.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Breezing into the Windy City

Monday, December 29th, 2014 | Art, Food, Travel | Comments

I love going to Chicago. It’s like “the big city” in a way that New York and LA–and certainly little San Francisco–somehow aren’t. Maybe it’s the grandeur of the architecture, or just that everything seems so… what? Big? Even small plates at restaurants seem huge. I was there recently, and even I came home bigger, after stuffed pizza, fat steaks, half pound burgers and Whitey’s chocolate malts. Whitey’s is in Moline, on the Iowa border, where Big Chris’ family lives. We stopped in Moline for a few days to visit with them and see the “Self-Taught Genius” show at the Figge in Davenport, across the Mississippi. And Whitey’s malts every night. And there are all these fantastic slow-foody restaurants, with local products, vertically constructed architectural dishes, craft brews and spirits. I remember going to Italy in 1993 with Bob and discovering field greens, which seemed so exotic at the time, and then coming home trying to find things like arugula and frisée, which at the time weren’t yet widely available. I’m so happy that people are rediscovering their local farmers and producers. It makes visiting those places more special, when something uniquely of the place can be experienced.

At the Art Institute of Chicago we saw a show of James Ensor’s work, centered around the restoration of his Temptation of Saint Anthony. What a wonderfully tortured artist. Having never successfully resisted greed or lust myself, I found his anguish at the brutality of modern life quite intense, and so lushly theatrical.

There was also on view a more recent body of work examining the drama of modern misery, from 1980, Sarah Charlesworth’s Stills. Each of the 14 photographs is 78 inches tall, and features a blown up reproduction of an image from a newspaper of a person falling from a tall building. They’re beautifully unsettling, shocking documents that reduce existence to the split second before it’s all over.

Of the many wonderful dining experiences this time around, my favorite was a seemingly dumpy Polish place on West Division, called Podhalanka. We were given a menu, but quickly discouraged from making any decisions and simply asked how hungry we were. “Average hungry” for the two of us resulted in white borscht with sausage soup, cabbage soup, grilled sausages, stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, pierogi and Cherry juice. One of the most memorable, satisfying and authentic Polish meals I’ve had in Chicago. The staff quite clearly hoped to give us an experience of Polish cuisine, and share their lovingly made traditional creations, rather than just feed us. I felt like my aunt Agnieszka was cooking–just for us!

My cousins took us out to a pubby restaurant called Publican that describes its food as an homage to bear, pork and oysters–a rowdy place, well-suited to my fun-loving cousins. It’s the kind of place where you could jump on the tables and sing the Whiffenpoof Song. My cousins, who are around my age, have a knack for finding mates who look exactly like what my husband should look like. When the time comes, I’m putting those girls to work on finding the next one for me.

Two More Days

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 | Film, Friends, Stavros, Travel | 2 Comments

I’ll be 48 for only two more days. Ron was 48 when we briefly went out nearly 30 years ago. Well, we didn’t really “go out,” we actually just boinked a few times, but man did I have a crush on that guy. His big gray mustache and eyebrows, his deep bellowing laugh, the craggy lines on his big face. I completely fetishized the late 40s for much of my baby gay days. I’m that age now, but somehow can’t make the leap to thinking of myself as his peer, or having my grays and wrinkles and ear hair fetishized.

My sister died less than 2 years ago. I still wake up crying, I still can’t wrap myself around the notion of Susie being so profoundly gone. I read about Syrians and Palestinians losing several generations of family members in one brutal moment, and wonder how in the heck they do it. And I have a home and hot water.

Life used to be this thing that was forever in the future, so many things to do, so much time to get it all done, later, always the possibility of later. Now it seems that later is now, and the only inevitability is more ear hair, more gray, a body that gets progressively less cooperative… On the bright side, I’m totally on the road to becoming the man I love, or at least looking like him. As soon as my back hair grows in I won’t need anybody. I used to think of old people as a sort of other species, that they were cranky because they were of a different sort of genetic material. Now I find myself complaining about Republicans and dirty sidewalks and noisy kids and the changing demographics of my neighborhood. I listen to the Carpenters with no irony.

And then Davide came to visit, fresh from his breakup, and dated up a storm while he was here, no not a storm, some sort of southeast Asian typhoon-like squall, and with all these guys with beards down to their bellies and bellies sitting on their laps.

And then Stavros and Giorgos came to visit. I seemed to be sick the entire time they were here, but with me hacking and wheezing we went to Lake Tahoe with Big Chris and the dogs, took the ferry to see Ai WeiWei’s show on Alcatraz (a few visually dazzling sculptural statements, but generally Public Art for people who like confirmation that what they think they’re experiencing they are indeed experiencing: lots of stuff to read, politically correct, softcore, nothing particularly memorable or challenging), we visited Julia Morgan’s Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, met with my movie group, had a reception for my show at Mercury 20 and the same three guys who eat everything at all of our openings came and ate all of our deviled eggs and pickled veggies, attended a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner in honor of Big Chris’ little sister’s birthday, celebrated my grand-nephew’s first birthday, attended an authentic suburban party in honor of my friend Thomas’ 50th birthday, with taco truck!, spent a day driving up and around the Sonoma Coast, saw a million movies together including Cloudburst, known as the best geriatric lesbian road movie every made, but it’s really the only geriatric lesbian road movie ever made and it put seven of us to sleep, plus two dogs… and then they were off, back to Athens, the visit over way too fast. Now I miss my little Stavros again, the dogs my only furry companions, pushing me into an increasingly tinier corner of the bed as they flash their fuzzy tummies at me to rub.

I hope you all saw Dean Smith’s show at Paule Anglim’s. It was great, paintings from before his current obsessive compulsive squiggly line and check phase. I was mesmerized by the simultaneous flatness and depth, some like windows onto some unreachable but lush and possibly fleshy scene. Those surfaces are something else, so much happening, with lines, strokes and waves going this way and that… and Dean’s hand nowhere but obviously everywhere. So satisfying to see paintings that have so much physicality and visual allure, that change so radically with proximity.

And now my sister Carol is visiting. We’re up at my other sister June’s for the day, in Santa Rosa, the first of my birthday celebrations. Last night Carol and I watched a wonderful Italian film, Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso about a studious shy recluse, Roberto, swept away by a gregarious stranger, Bruno. Virtually the only person in town while the rest of Rome is off to the country celebrating Ferragosto, Roberto lets Bruno use his phone, and then reluctantly agrees to take a short break from his studies to share a quick drink with the dynamic Bruno, who is eager to show his gratitude for the use of Roberto’s phone. Once in the car, numerous delightful diversions ensue, with Roberto gradually relaxing and letting himself enjoy the various unexpected and wild whims of Bruno. After 2 days on the road together, Roberto, excitedly egging on Bruno to pass cars, laughing wildly, declares the past 2 days to be the best of his life. The car swerves off the road, Bruno is thrown safely to the shoulder, but Roberto, our shy recluse, trapped in the car, is crushed to smithereens as the car tumbles down the cliff.

It can all end any minute now, so stop resisting and enjoy the ride.

Spotlight: Rosy-Fingered Dawn

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Art | Comments

Yesterday at the gallery a woman walked in and expressed her admiration for my “beautiful flowers.” I talked with her about the Cecile Brunner rose, and explained that the grids in the show were not actual flowers but were comprised of closeup images of large hairy men. “You mean big creepy guys?” she asked. “No,” I replied, “men that I find beautiful, big hairy bodies that I love looking at.”

In a way I found this exchange encouraging, that she was experiencing beauty in something that she had previously considered with such hostility. I aimed for subtlety in this show, like William Friedkin slipping in a flash of a sexually graphic image, to arouse a subliminal response in my viewer, but to subversively steer it in a different direction.

For this particular piece, Rosy-Fingered Dawn, the title is taken from an epithet in Homer’s Odyssey, a metaphor for the beginning of Odysseus’ journey, marking the dawn of a new day and symbolizing his journey from inexperience to triumph. It refers to the personification of the goddess of the morning, rising out of the ocean with rose-colored fingers, gently scattering dew.

My model for this piece was someone with whom I had a torrid but brief yet unforgettable affair. The piece records our final moment in bed, my hands running through his chest hairs, the sun rising in the background, each of us soon to depart in very different directions. The images form a sort of deep red rose, a traditional symbol of romance and passion. It’s a record of the pleasure that we experienced, the dawn bringing not only the end of our time together, but the promise of a new day and new aesthetic challenges.

Preview

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 | Art | Comments

Opening tomorrow, on view through Nov. 1

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Art | Comments

What I Did This Summer by SanFranChrisKo

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Art, Film, Food, Friends, Travel | 1 Comment

I’m up at my buddy David’s, enjoying a quiet weekend at his place in Point Reyes, overlooking the placid Tomales Bay, like sitting in a Monet painting, finally able to do some catching up.

For the past few months I’ve been preparing a show of my work, my first solo exhibition in 7 years. I’m showing now with an artists collective in Oakland, the Mercury Twenty Gallery. The thought of being with another commercial gallery—well, actually their collective sort of decision to not work with me, lol—pushed me into seeking an alternative venue to show my work in, one not constrained by profit or homogeneity, but defined by community and the support of ideas and creativity. The members of the collective are responsible for all aspects of running the gallery and presenting exhibitions. I have a backlog of projects, rejected over the past few years by the likes of Mark, Pat, Paule, Brian, and Bernie, that I’ll now have the opportunity of moving from my basement into the light of the white cube, that you all can finally see!, beginning with my recent projects Bouquet and A Dozen Little Roses that opens this Thursday.

So David. He and I dated briefly 20 or so years ago. He’s kind of exactly the guy that I should have settled down with, but I was distracted by the chubby men. Years go by without seeing each other, but whatever attracted us to each other in the first place keeps bringing us back together. He’s working on his memoirs in the garden, while I wait for the blur of my summer activities to coalesce into some internet appropriate narrative.

Big Chris’ big family visited. We took them to see the sea lions at Pier 39, via the touristy Hyde Street Pier and Pier 39, but they were all off mating somewhere. San Franciscans never visit this part of the city. And really, they shouldn’t. Seeing the remains of what was once a working port was sort of thrilling but also instilled a sad sense of loss in my otherwise chirpy proto-tourist demeanor. I love the crazy gospel people, though, the ones with the “He died for you” signs and portable amplification systems, next to the break dancers and old Chinese erhu players. Their sincerity and intensity and vaudevillian showmanship make for great family entertainment, like the 8-year old reverend Jimmy Joe Jeeter on Mary Hartman Mary Hartman. And I love hearing those Bible words, like “smite” and “asunder.”

My mom flew to Chicago to spend some time with her sister, so I flew to Birmingham to dadsit. The downtown is really hopping, with a new arts district and lots of really great restaurants. Rather than replacing southern cuisine with healthy west coast or skimpy nouvelle stuff, they’re integrating other styles and flavors while emphasizing local ingredients and updating classic southern dishes. And you always get a square meal.

Same thing is happening in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Chrissy and I flew out for Labor Day weekend to pick up d’Auggie’s little brother, Zoobie, the latest addition to our ever expanding alternative family. Zoobie is great, the brother of the Best Dog Ever, soon to be the Other Best Dog Ever. He’s soft and cuddly and does all the same bad things that his brother did when he was a small puppy, down to chewing on the same plant in my garden and peeing on the same spot in my kitchen. So Sioux Falls has this little foodie renaissance happening downtown. We ate at Parker’s Bistro. My favorite dish was a soup, a warm silky sweet potato soup with a puree of chilly avocado and cream swirled into it, stimulating the taste buds with contrasting flavor and temperature sensations. We had an amazing meal, at about 1/4 the price we would have paid in San Francisco. And a parking place right out in front! I’m thinking of becoming a part-time mid-westerner.

Chrissy and I flew to New York for a few days. Just to remind people: we are not boyfriends. Despite his looking like the kind of guy that I would marry, despite having dated him on and off for the past 15 years, and despite us doing everything together, we are not boyfriends. My boyfriend lives in Greece and is named Stavros and you can read about him in my past entries, and when he arrives next month for his periodic conjugal visit. So anyway, New York. The occasion of our visit was to see Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in Genet’s The Maids, two of our greatest actresses in a deliriously demented play. And Jeff Koons’ show was great! Shut up! People who don’t like his work probably don’t like puppies either.

What else did I do this summer? I sadly missed all chances to have anything other than my extremities exposed to the sun, and thus developed a pronounced farmer tan. High school buddies Jason and Weestro came to visit, and Archie and Vicki, and Lilly from New York. Lilly was being celebrated for her films at the Jewish something or other Center in Berkeley, and I went one night to see her amazing film about good-intentioned heroic Palestinian and Israeli women peacemakers who end up at each others’ throats by the end of the film. I introduced my buddy to her afterwards and he said something along the lines of “Well, I can’t imagine giving Manhattan back to the indians” which amazingly and almost surreally missed the entire point of not only Lilly’s film but the entire Palestinian peoples’ ongoing struggle to free their land from its occupiers. Lilly’s talk after the film was interesting more for the sparring that took place in the audience. This was a mostly over-70 crowd, mind you, and most seemed well acquainted with each other and with each other’s long developed and unchanging perspectives, and ready to pounce. When one calm and articulate rival of hers seemed to be getting too much positive attention, Lilly leaned into her mike and chastised her with “Hey, this evening is about ME, not about you.” I started a new photo project with spider webs, Bob’s and my book project got shelved by our publisher, Aimée made raspberry-topped chocolate cupcakes for Luna’s birthday that were the best treats of summer—actually the best sweet treats, the best savory were the forbidden victuals at Traif in Brooklyn. I saw hardly any art. I’m like a lapsed Catholic kind of artist. Well, actually, I should say that I saw hardly any art that I can remember. Except for Christopher Williams’ The Production Line of Happiness at MoMA, which so completely and with energetic theoretical rigor encompassed the entire art making visual technical consumerist experience. I saw a million movies, but really liked Blue Ruin, The Test, Pietà, Night Moves, Martin Gable’s only (directed) film The Lost Moment, Stranger by the Lake, 7 Boxes, Enemy, Romance and Cigarettes and Under the Skin.

Okay, back to the city…

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