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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Memory Fault

                                                    Virginia M. Packard  1912-1997

  Virginia Woolf wrote, "Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that."  This sentiment was brought to bear during a reunion with my brothers last month.  We spoke about our parents, and while recollections of our father were generally coherent, those of my mother were dramatically askew.  I am the youngest, with two brothers, one three years older and the other six years older than me.  When we spoke, it was of "my" mother.  She appeared to be an entirely different person to each of us.  Whoever she was, we each believed we were her favorite child.  I find that a remarkable achievement on her part.  Our rearing was markedly different.  My eldest brother was born during the deprivation of World War II.  They were apprehensive parents, following B. F. Skinner's draconian schedule.  When he was a toddler, he wore a baby harness and was staked in the yard of their Brooklyn apartment.  Someone called child services. (I would never have believed this but my mother confirmed it.)
  The next brother was a sunny kid.  Skinner was abandoned for Doctor Spock.  My father was emotionally removed, reportedly because his second son resembled his mother-in-law.  But this brother was the 'easy' child.
   By the time I came along, I think they were out of dogma.  I remember a happy childhood marred only by weekly weigh-ins with both parents in attendance.  Food is and was always an issue.
   I brought my mother's travel diary from 1958 to the reunion, and read it aloud after cocktails.  I was ten in 1958 and my brothers thirteen and sixteen.  My father had earned success with "The Hidden Persuaders," the year before and decided to take the family to Europe for the summer. Illogically, he intended to write his next book along the way. Mother noted in her diary that we started the trip with twenty-two suitcases.  That morphed into fifty-one suitcases by the trip's end.  Part of it was doubtless Dad's research material, but I know one (mine) was full of breadsticks that I had collected from dinner tables across Europe.  It was with great bitterness that I discovered, on the ship home, that breadsticks go stale.
Given our age differences, perhaps it was to be expected, but Mother's entries sparked different memories for each of us.  Having four viewpoints of an event provided a kaleidoscopic quilt of reality.  Whose memory was true?  Does it matter?  Naturally, I think my version is the bedrock.  As Mark Twain once wrote, "When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happen or not."




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bells and Whistles (and Beeps)


I am not opposed to technological advances.  I drove my hybrid Prius for 10 years.  It barely had a horn and much less bells and whistles.  As I only drive to my studio and to the grocery store, it has less than 67,000 miles on it.  But  I am aging, and felt I needed a car that rode less like a tin can.
   Reliability is key.  The Prius was, except for the time it refused to turn off.  That was fun.
   We spent the last three weeks looking at new cars.  It is a brave new world, with a kaleidoscope of options.  Cars that parallel parked by themselves, beep you into submission should stray over the lane marker, shrilly beep if you ignore their instructions.  And they all get lousy mileage.
   I ended up with a car that has the wingspan of a pterodactyl.  Getting it into the garage with the mirrors still intact requires a nervy tenacity.  The Nav system intuits the bushes by the garage door and sets off alarms and flashing lights which to me should be reserved for lurking villains.
   There is also a bodiless voice to heed my commands.  Unfortunately,  she does not wish to understand me.  I speak a command, and she says, "Pardon?"  I try again.  "Pardon?"  "Pardon?"  Driving is tough enough without thinking about Nixon.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Culture Clash

                                          copyright 2017, cindy packard richmond

    I bought the Sony DCS 100 rV for my trip to Japan and Korea.  A small, lightweight camera, it takes 20 megapixels images, which justifies its hefty price.    As someone who tried but was too impatient to master aperture and speed in  Photography 101,  I use point and shoot cameras.  You could do a lot more with this camera other than leave it on Auto, but I know my limitations.
I felt  smug as I dodged stooped tourists bearing heavy cameras with ever telescoping lenses.  I knew that with 20 megapixel  I could shoot at will and crop interesting compositions later.
    I was bent on finding iconic images, such as a geisha strolling the streets.  I was thrilled to find this maiko   (geisha in training) with her long sleeves and unpainted top lip.
    What I did not see, until I was cropping the image at home, were the teenage girls posing for a selfie inches from the maiko.   A rare bird among self-adulating pigeons, this was a true case of culture clash.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trouper

    On the plus side, my ankle worked.  My son took me to a 4th century Buddhist Temple in the Korean Mountains.  He had been there before and mentioned it was a bit of a hike.  He couldn't find the parking area half-way up the mountain he had used before.  We parked at the base. People who have read my blog will find it difficult to believe, but, I am not a complainer.  I am a trouper.  And I want that on my tombstone.
   I was winded, to be sure.  We saw the temple and continued upward.  I did not make it to the tippy top. The last hundred yards was deeply eroded and pock-marked with loose stones.  After they had disappeared, I started up after them.  I got halfway and saw the folly of my venture.  As it was, my

son had to support me most of the way down.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Travel Guides in Real Life


   Why do I expect foreign destinations to look like they do in the travel books?  I might just as well believe in unicorns.
   I spent three weeks in Japan and Korea (yes, as a dratted tourist).  We timed the trip to fall between  my ankle surgery recovery and a show that has to be hung next week.  I knew it would be Cherry Blossom time in Japan, but assumed I would be visiting other places, away from the blossoms.  Apparently a lot of people assumed the same thing.
   Wouldn't be lovely if Photoshop had a program to remove tourists?
   Kyoto was particularly bloated with Chinese tourists.  Many of the women took advantage of the kimono hourly-rental program.  Our guide, a Geisha expert,  dismissed their tourist kimonos, repeatedly muttering 'polyester.'  I wouldn't have thought I could tell the difference, but I became quite adept.  Generally, authentic kimono owners don't carry Hello Kitty purses.  Or sport selfie-sticks.  I will never understand the selfie phenomenon.  (Aren't there more interesting things to see than yourself?)
 Travel is supposed to broaden the mind, not make you crabby.   I wish I had seen what I went to see.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Munched Apple

                                                             School Yard in Chelsea

  I forget how much I love New York City.  It's like a favorite uncle you think will live forever and forget to call.
  My connection with the city is long, if sporadic.  As a kid, I saw many Broadway musicals.
  When I was a teenager, I traveled alone to the city. At a movie theater near Bloomingdale's , I walked in to the fox hunt scene of "Tom Jones,"  and felt  giddy with independence.   
   In my later teens, I went to the diet doctor who gave me a monthly supply of speed.  After the weigh-in,  I repaired to Schraffts for a hot fudge, coffee ice cream sundae.
    Daring dates in Greenwich Village made me feel very sophisticated, though clearly I was not.
    When it came time to earn a pittance, I moved to NYC.   I worked as a dogs body at a publishing firm and shared a shotgun Brownstone apartment with two girls on East 52nd.  The rent was $450.  I was earning the princely sum of $110.  And the first week's check bounced. Seriously.
   When my husband shipped out to Vietnam mere weeks after the wedding.  I moved back to the city and lived in the maid's room of an empty Park Avenue duplex.  
   Later, We lived in Yonkers. I commuted to the city. He sold antifreeze in upstate New York, Vermont and Bedford-Stuyveson .  We enjoyed all the city offered, tentatively.  When we drove to our first concert in Central Park.  I insisted he leave his money and credit cards as I was sure we were to be robbed.  Instead, the car broke down on 8th Avenue.  He had pawn his watch to pay the repair.
   I remained with the publishing house even after my husband took a job in Syracuse, New York.  I flew down on Mondays and took the long train home Wednesdays.  A  friend of  my parents, Jane, let me stay with her on Park Avenue.  (Yes, I have been very lucky in my parents and their friends)  She was a lovely, helpless creature.  If a lightbulb burnt out it would stay out until I returned to replace it.  She cooked chicken in Campbell's mushroom soup and huge artichokes.  Mostly she ordered out.  When she drank she told me steamy stories about her  friends.  I begged her not to tell me anything about my parents.  
  I lived that double life for three years, going from the thrum of Manhattan to monotony of Central New York.  The commute was a slog, but I didn't want to leave civilization to become a housewife.
  Eventually, children intervened.  Trips to New York became child-centric.  Would that I could have afforded to take my daughter to Broadway shows.  But the museums and zoos were ample compensation.
    The lovely, helpless creature on Park Avenue died.  Walking to her memorial service during rush hour I felt my pace quicken to match the crowds.  I missed it.  We had bounced around the east coast, Connecticut, New Jersey and Boston but never considered living in New York City.  The crime was virulent, the rents catastrophic...it was hopeless.
   One of my paintings was to show in New York City starting September 15, 2001.  I planned to attend.  The horror and grief of 9/11 pre-empted everything.
   Years later, when I did a pastel series of public sculpture,  my husband and I trooped over a large swath of Central Park for photographic references.
   Living outside of Washington, DC satisfied most of my urban itches.   Recently, however, an artist friend, Susan Makara, and I decided to do a New York City trip to buy art materials.  We went on the cheap: a lovely bus ride $27 round trip and a hotel room in an ex-convent for $146 (for two) a night.  We stayed in Chelsea, a part of Manhattan unknown to me.  When I lived in New York decades before, I wouldn't have dreamed of spending time on West 10th Avenue.   I was amazed by the slow (relative to Midtown) pace of Chelsea.  The very livability of it.  I saw no homeless people nor any Starbucks.  We visited Susan's artist friends, went to the Neue Gallery, the Chelsea Market, Central Park, an art opening, many galleries, the 9/11 museum, the High Line, all in 48 hours.  It would have been a bargain trip had we not also visited Vasari Oil Colors and Sepp Metal Leaf.  We could not resist their wares.  Susan lugged her heavy Nikon everywhere.  At lunch she asked her friend Katrin Eismann, head of photography at School for the Visual Arts, for a recommendation.  Katrin looked at Susan's camera  and pronounced it a "cow killer".  She recommended the 20 megapixel compact Sony RX100 version 5. I have an upcoming Asian trip. I was dreading dragging my Nikon, so, naturally I leapt at the suggestion.  
    New York City has enriched me over the span of my life.  I am indebted.  But I ask you how does one repay such a debt?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Really Bad Habits


   
   It has been said that I overindulge.  Too true.  Especially with respect to art supplies.  (I won't dwell on the thousand plus of pastel sticks in the basement. Susan Makara won't let me sell them or give them away as she is sure I will, one day, go back to them. )  
   My husband wants to have a professional painter do our upstairs.  Those that didn't faint away at the sight of my jammed home studio, clung to the belief that we would empty the room.  From the breakdown of price quotes, it was clear we couldn't afford to have them do it.
   In my defense, I worked part-time in an art store for fourteen years. Where I had a discount.  You can understand the urge to accrete.  Also, I have a professional studio elsewhere.  Both studios needed to be stocked.
   I started the transfer today.  I wouldn't let my husband help as I don't  think the marriage could survive the knowledge of my curse.  Best if he  thinks I might be addicted without beating him over the head with it.
    How can anyone own too many art books?  Apparently, I do.  The top image is of my upstairs stash.  There are two more bookcases downstairs, groaning with the weight of images.  Some I inherited from my mother.  I hope to guilt my daughter into keeping the collection when I'm gone.
    The second image shows some of my brushes.  Most are in my other studio.
    I haven't started with the oil paints, mediums, canvases, frames, printers, files of paintings done and research for those to be.    It's too much.  It really is.
   I need an Advil.