Friday, February 05, 2010

Excepts from a 1977 journal

1. Memories. That first bright night stepping off the bus, walking excitedly in the tracks, deep snow lightly dusting our noses. Streetlamp beams burning with the whiteness falling falling. The low sky reflected..snow..look up, a heavy blanket. Catching flakes on our tongues - the ritual of first snows. Tossing clumps at passing winter worshipers. On the campus, echoing dully, yells of snow battles and conquering rites. I follow her because I have never been on this street before. We have shared many secrets on the bus, and she invited me to her room , to smoke some dope, she said.The dorm is a maze with wet footmarks. I am lost immediately. Her barren room her black light her little steel pipe. The heat is stuffy. Outside, diamonds sparkle. For hours we listen to Joni Mitchell and gaze at the snow, still falling. It falls all night. She has an amazing capacity for smoking dope. I keep taking the pipe because it seems to be the right thing to do. I'm so concerned with conventions, that night. Later I am so burnt out I give up waiting for her advance and go to lie down on the other bed, disappointed. She comes over to me gently and tells me I can't go to sleep.

2. In a ryokan, Japanese-style hotel. Awoke surprisingly early, I think, for I was up 22 hours. Mr. Satori found me paging him at the info desk. We rushed off to the bus, then the train, two hours to Hamamatsu. he is very pleasant and even while laying on an authority trip, managed to stay likeable. Tokyo was very dull-looking, at night. The buildings were no bigger than Rochester - didn't see any crowds. Hamamatsu looks very Asian - like Hong Kong movies - we drove (on the right!) to this hotel after eating in a typical restaurant. It was just a bar arrangement with a counter and five cooks behind a half wall, silently cooking and rushing around a tiny kitchen. We had tempura, but first there was cold octopus, then raw fish (good), then pickled veggies, then the delicate tempura. There was ebi (shrimp), fish, and veggies in batter. I didn't think I was hungry but it was great. Also there was bean soup, tea and a huge bowl of rice. Anyway, the streets weave all around and there are strange looking shops - open front - among the big department stores and the banks and motorcycle shops. drove past the English Center. Today we're going to look at houses. Tomorrow I'll meet my classes, be introduced, etc. On Wed & Thurs, I'll teach! I don't know if I should wait up here for him or go downstairs. The bed is luscious. Last night, I took a hot bath and then collapsed. I guess I'll wait up here because I'm not lugging all my stuff down three flights alone. Out my window is fascinating. So much to see!

3. The file theory for language and life (conceived of during my senior year of college)
The basic concept of this theory begins with the image of the mind as a complex filing system, with the ability to mark and file bits of information for use. This brain/file is seen in action when we use language. The "marked features" of so many linguistic theories are the best way of imaging our mental file cards:
-meat eater
+weirdo (or a positive reaction)
Each feature has is own file as well. Someone offers me a hot dog. I say, "no thanks, I don't eat meat." There is a pause while the files shuffle.. (meat, meat, don't eat), "oh, you're a vegetarian?" The final feature (weirdo or whatever) determines the tone of voice the question is asked in.
If a concept, word , or memory of an event is not too well known, or rare, there are fewer cross references in the file. Perhaps you once heard of the place "Torremolinos" in a conversation about Spain. It would be only featured in your Spanish file. But if you had read Michener's book "The Drifters", with his detailed descriptions of the town, there would be many references in your file. Each story you tell is afterwards marked as to who you told it to, and when or where. Some of us are more meticulous in our file systems - others have no marker for story telling, and may repeat an event many times in your hearing.
The most personal and intimate part of a person is the way in which she orders her file system. the better you know someone, the more you learn about how the file works. Perhaps you have known someone well enough to feel you know what they were about to say, or how they would respond to anything. This is knowing what concepts and feelings (that are marked) are the most prevalent and what triggers file cards to be drawn. No one can ever know all of your file, and no one can know how it is arranged except you. If you want to learn your own system, you have to start with minute details like slips of the tongue and ways you mispronounce words. Or you might listen to your thoughts as you define each term you hear - and jot down the features that come to mind immediately.The better you know your own filing methods, the easier it is to store ideas and to recall them.
As to memory, the files are divided for convenience sake, into long and short term. When a card has not been used for some time (of course, the time and the choice depends on your own system), it is filed more obscurely. There may be a key word that will call it forward, but sometimes you never dredge it up. Or it may be attainable only through a complex set of cross-references.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Studio and Art

Our 2010 resolution is to create more art. Carving out a time for this is the essential thing. It's not that we don't have the time - we just don't have the habit. So if we make a timeslot, then it's possible. Sunday afternoons - no web browsing, no newspaper, no crosswords.. we call it Sunday Studio.

Last week I was on fire, worked on my painting/collage work, wrote up some things. This week, I am in the kitchen (culinary art? does it count?) trying to make a Martha Stewart cookie recipe. Hmm, harder than you can imagine. Also, I'm blogging. Is blogging an art? The eternal question: what is art? As long as the creative juices are flowing, and there is some passion involved in making it: that's my definition.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Virtual travel leads to actual trip

I'd like to get this blog going again - this year, Facebook took over my time & attention, and although I do love reading about friends new and old, somehow knowing WHO is reading my updates makes me less free to write what I want to. I think I write better with an anonymous (or in this blog's case, a nearly non-existent) audience. Of course I know this blog is public, too, but there is a disconnectedness to the real world that somehow makes me feel more free.

When I look back at 2009, one experience stands out as something that not only was new to me, but also employs relatively new technology and therefore worth noting as iconic for the times. It has to do with my preparation for the trip to Provence that we took last fall. I used Google Earth extensively for the trip planning. We had bought a guide book or two, and I read online about hotels and restaurants in the area, but Google Earth took the planning to a different level. I felt like a futuristic voyeur as I entered what I came to call "the bubble".

I started out looking at Nice, a city I had never been to before. I needed to choose a hotel, and couldn't really tell from the map which part of town would be attractive to us. Sometimes it's best to be near the train station, but some places, it's not - it can be seedy or inconvenient to the spots you want to see. So I opened Google Earth and took a look. What I discovered is that the street view in GE is quite extensive. As you zoom in close to a street, you start to see bubble-like orbs floating above the streets.

Click on a bubble, and you move in, like Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz, passing through a fuzzy out of focus moment, until you are vitually standing in the center of that very street.

This particular view is of a street where a highly recommended hotel was located. As I rotated my vantage point and looked at the neighboring buildings, the traffic, the people loitering by the entrance, I could tell that this was not the hotel for us. For one thing, there were no nearby cafes. There was a large parking lot next door that was filled with mostly motorcycles - imagine the roar that might awake us in the morning!

I found that many of the hotels in the guide book were all in one neighborhood with little character. As I rode my vitual helicopter above Nice, I noticed an area of buildings which were much more dense, with streets that meandered circuitously, rather than fitting into a grid. Could this be the old city?

I zoomed closer and found that the street view bubbles were not available in this part of town! The street must be too tightly spaced to allow the Google photo vehicle access. However, in certain places, Google Earth has a red dot with 360 on it. These are 360 degree photographs, taken by aficionados and uploaded. Clicking on one of these in the old city sent me over the edge of excitement - I couldn't wait to get to this place and start exploring! I did a search right on this screen to find the hotels closest to this neighborhood. We ended up staying in one just a couple blocks outside Old Nice, which was perfect in every way.

 I spent so much time exploring virtual Nice that by the time we arrived, it felt familiar, like somewhere I had visited in my dreams.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


The Palais des Papes, in Avignon

The grand horloge in Antibes

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lola loves to roll in the grass

Ah, the simple pleasures of a grassy lawn!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The intermingling of ghosts

Something's been bothering me about Facebook, and I think I've finally put my finger on it. It's the ghosts, and how they are rubbing up against each other.

I think my life history is somewhat typical of an American of my age and class. I grew up in one town, moved to another for high school. I transferred a couple of times in college and I studied abroad. I moved away after college and lived in several places, each time with a different set of roommates. I married and moved again. I had several jobs in a few fields until I settled on a career. The people I have worked with have come and gone.

In each of these places and times, there was a unique cast of characters. As I moved on to the next phase of life, some of these folks stuck with me, but most became gradually fainter in my everyday thoughts. Some names were better etched in my mind - someone who had embarrassed me or loved me or someone who had a particularly odd set of ears or habits.

The kaleidoscope of people through whom I see my past is special to me. No one else has had exactly the same influences or experiences. The names in my past float through my dreams like ghosts, haunting me until I can remember what year that was, and sometimes annoying me by showing up over and over again like poltergeists.

And now those ghosts have materialized as my Facebook friends. The girl I slightly knew in high school who signed my yearbook, but who had only stuck in your mind because of her unusual name, now pops up daily as she updates me on her job and family. My former boss and the first person I went to a dance with in 8th grade turns up, right next to each other, as I read my News Feed. Looking at the Chat list to see who is online is like a "This Is Your Life" script - former lovers, someone I knew in preschool, a couple of people I sang with in chorus, my nephew, and a co-worker.

This line-up is disconcerting. Even worse is when they make comments on my updates, and then end up in a comment-discussion with each other! "Wait!", I think. "These timelines can NOT intersect! The time-space continuum will be corrupted if my next door neighbor from 1963 ever meets and talks to the former receptionist at my last job!"

Facebook has me hooked, but if I ever give it up, it will be because of the ghosts.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A walk by the bay

Just over the Golden Gate bridge, in Marin, is a lovely setting that we used to call Fort Baker. We took a walk down there last weekend and discovered that about a year ago, the decommissioned fort had been turned into a luxury hotel named Cavallo Point. We used to take the boys down there to the Discovery Museum, which is still vital. Now there is more to see than the hands-on children's museum. The fort's old parade grounds are soft and green with grass, and there is a nice restaurant and bar that we will visit someday soon. There's a spa and a beautiful grove of pines and gum trees. The view of the bridge is quite unusual from this side of things. Most tourists go over to the headlands side of the bridge, or look down at the bridge from the view lot positioned just above this fort. The views of the city can be great from here, depending on the fog, of course. We enjoyed a sunny day with minimal mist across the water.

You can take a hike under the bridge on a bike path and look straight up at the freeway's struts. This funky little building looks like something out of a fairy tale, but in reality held the circuit breakers for the nearby bridge workers' setup.