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Les Semaines



Home Again Again

I'm sick of traveling and ready to be home now for a good, long while. I've done far too much travelling this year. This was a fine trip between the convention and seeing Jim's family (at least a few of them--Jim got to see more because most of them were only free over the weekend while I was at the convention.

The convention was best for seeing former Clarion West students, Leslie and I roomed with Ysa and Adrian, and we saw many other students for various amounts of time. Saw a few old friends and acquaintances, former teachers, talked to a few upcoming teachers and possible teachers, too. Spent time feeling a little out of it and part of it and all of those things all at once. There were far too many people I wished I'd managed to talk to more.

Didn't go to too many panels--just a couple. And didn't hang out in the bar much, either, though of course that's where a lot of the action is. Did go and hear Charles de Lint, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, MaryAnn Harris, Nina Kiriki Hoffman and their musical sessions. Ran in and out of crowded parties and less crowded parties. Talked too much and not enough. Wandered distracted here and there. That's the nature of the event.

Sunday afternoon I met up with our friend Neal who is from the DC area but currently lives in Albuquerque. He was here on business, and had seen Jim on Friday night. We went to the National Gallery and wandered around there, looking at the contemporary work. Too much looking. But we really enjoyed having a chance to visit and talk. He took me to the station for a 5:00 train to Baltimore, where Jim and his nephew Mark met me. We went out to dinner (when will I learn I can't drink Tequila?) then home to Mark's new house that he just sold. It's a lovely old place way out in the country--the living room is clearly an old cabin that the rest of the house was built onto. Probably 200 years old or so.

Spent Monday doing not so very much. Jim's brother Rick came to visit and it was great to see him looking so good--he is the one who had the horrible car accident two years ago, when for a while we weren't even sure he was going to pull through. He's doing great. We got steamed crabs for dinner and had a feast. It was delightful. I'd forgotten how wonderful east coast crabs taste--very different from west coast crabs. Sweeter or something.

photo booth picturesThis is Jim, Mark, and me taken in the photo booth in the basement of the American Visionary Art Museum. We visited the museum on Tuesday, first going to lunch on the patio of the restaurant on the top floor (it was great) then working our way down the floors of the museum. The first exhibit we saw was a series of amazing tapestries telling the life story of their maker: a Jewish woman from Poland who with her sister hid during WWII, though the rest of her family were killed. These were both beautiful and affecting; their beauty contrasting with the horrible story they told. Saw lots of other interesting things there, too: paintings and sculpture and photographs. Most haunting. It's a fascinating gallery, and I recommend it to anyone visiting Baltimore. There's a wonderful huge sculpture that moves in the wind to watch on the restaurant patio. I gather the exhibits inside change quite a lot but from what I've heard they're always interesting, quirky and fun and strange and affecting and disturbing and haunting and there certainly was a lot there we enjoyed or were happy we'd seen even if often they weren't exactly what you would call enjoyable. I think the robot family is a permanent exhibit, though. They're quite charming. Reading the artist's biographies and statements can be quite disturbing, just as a word of warning.

Anyway, when I went downstairs to use the loo and saw there was a photo booth, I had to call Jim and Mark downstairs so we could use it. Of course it was too tiny for the three of us. I wish I'd ducked down lower so you could see Mark better, but I'm really glad to have a commemoration of this day and that we were able to capture some of its spirit.


Made it back safely, though we had to run between planes because the first flight was late. Came back to two hectic days of work, then a day-long Clarion West board meeting. Today I've done very little. I'm tired.

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We picked up the new Lamb album in Baltimore. It's wonderful!


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The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and The Tears of The Giraffe are the first two of an ongoing series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith about a Lady Detective in the contemporary, changing world of Botswana. Delightful, fun, moral, with small and larger mysteries solved by an intrepid and charming detective whose knowledge of human nature helps her in her work. While the mysteries aren't particularly challenging, and characters and the world they live in is really charming.

Kathryn L. Grant's The Phoenix Bells is the first of a trilogy published about 15 years ago, the story of the pampered young emperor of The Land of Ten Thousand Willows who must leave his country to seek the right wife who can call dragons or it will be the end of the dragons and the end of the world. With a huge entourage (That gradually diminishes as the forces trying to stop him and his search continue to attack) he travels to Russland, then across Europe and finally to England. An intriguing tale, with the worlds vividly described. I got entirely caught up in the descriptions and enjoyed the characters, though the characterization is perhaps a little understated.

Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord is a children's novel about two orphaned brothers who run away to Venice and become part of a gang of children protected by the Thief Lord, who steals items to them to sell for food. Their aunt wants the youngest of the two to raise (she is not at all interested in the older brother and the brothers desperately want to stay together), so she sends a private investigator searching for them, and he starts trailing them and their companions. Then the man who buys their stolen goods tells them that someone wants to arrange for the Thief Lord to steal a certain item and their adventures become far more complicated. This was an intriguing and fun novel though full of plot holes that I think even children would notice. The fantasy aspect that comes in at the end was fun but a little clunky.

Devil's Cub is a Georgette Heyer novel I think I read as a teenager. Mary's younger, beautiful and silly sister is being pursued by a wild nobleman, known as the Devil's Cub. He arranges with the sister to take her with him when he leaves for France to avoid trouble caused by a duel with another man who lies dying. Mary intercepts the letter arranging their meeting, and decides to take her sister's place. The devil's cub is in such a hurry that he doesn't give her a chance to reveal her deception until they're at his yacht--and then he is so angry he decides to take her with him. Great fun. (See my March 18, 2001, July 8, 2001, July 29, 2002, September 14, 2003, and September 21, 2003 entries for comments on other Georgette Heyer novels.)

A Telling of Stars is a first fantasy novel by Caitlin Sweet. In it a young woman lives with her family by the sea, when the sea raiders come and kill her family before her eyes. One of the raiders runs away, and she follows him, starting a pursuit across her land, following the path of an historical queen whose army had defeated and cursed the sea raiders. Following this trail she gets caught up in the lives of the groups she meets who help her along the way, but she can't forget the revenge she plans against the murdering raider, who is always just one step ahead of her. This is a novel that was awkward at first but grew more assured and almost poetic as it continued.


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Very little accomplished in the last two weeks between travelling and all, though I did submit some poems to an anthology before I left.


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Retrospective: old journal

February 1991: Trip to England with Jim and Christina

Sunday, February 24, 1991

Another slow and painful awakening. Got moving in time for breakfast, but came back upstairs and dozed for a while. Christina and I went for a walk along Portobello Road. Not much happening there--a bit of a sale under the overpass. We look and then headed back. Nice to be out. Then dozed again.
     Shortly after two we went to the National Gallery again--full circle to our first day here. Hurried through the Renaissance and early European parts--for some reason I just didn't want to look at all the god and religion--though stopped to appreciate "The Madonna of the Rocks"--how it stood out among the other similar views of the Madonna, and Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" (she won). Enjoyed the Rembrandts, especially the ones of his wife, and his mistress wading. Saw "The Air Pump"--knew Jim would go nuts looking at it [1]. Also saw van Eyck's marriage painting and two Vermeers (women at virginals (standing and sitting).
     Found my way (by help of a guard) to the downstairs, where I was in heaven--the Impressionists and European since ~1850 were down there while their galleries are being renovated.
     I spent a lot of time staring at da Vinci's cartoon--amazing. It's large and so expressive, and its history, too, because of the shotgun blast makes it seem even more precious.
     The next rooms held the Impressionists and van Goghs--I was in heaven. Looked at waterlilies, bridge over waterlilies, Renois's woman after her bath, some Cezanne bathers, Seurat's huge bather. Van Gogh's green green long grass with butterflies--lovely--that I'd never heard of before. His chair and pipe, one of the sunflower (a Rousseau tiger in the rain in the middle) and then "Cornfield with Cypresses"--I almost cried [2]. Spent about 20 minutes staring, the sitting and staring, trying to memorize the colours of the bush to the left, the mountains, the sky. The motion in it all. So happy to see it because I'd thought I was missing it as they were advertising it on a Royal Academy show poster and we'd decided not to go--that was my only regret missing that show. The long grass and cornfield both were painted around 1898 when he was at the asylum at Saint-Remy.
     Went up to buy postcards (real colours far more green, more blue) and found Jim there. Showed him the cartoon and the van Goghs etc. Then back upstairs and down to the exit where we found an exhausted Christina waiting.
     Went to the crypt in St. Martin-in-the-Fields where I bought a few Morris things and we had some reviving tea. Outside there were protesters on the front steps--the land war started early this am. They had candles. Very moving. Just as we stepped out of the crypt the bells starting ringing the changes. We stood and listened. Amazing. The bells and candles and silent protesters. Started to walk into the subway, but I heard the bells again, so we went back up to listen. In another pause we went back down, but as we were passing Trafalgar entryway, Christina heard them, so back up we went, to a now empty and dark square to listen and try some photos of St. Martins and the candles and Christina with a lion.

St Martin'sThe protesters in front of St. Martins-in-the-Fields.

Christina and the lionChristina and a Trafalgar lion.

Then our last subway ride. Above us a Michael Draper (1563-1631) poem: "Since there's no help, let us kiss and part...". Can't believe we're really leaving--Seattle now seems the distant world, though I'm certain that this will fade once we're back there.
     Brought fish & chips back to our room, ate and packed. Very said. Christina gave us a lovely map of Herefordshire she'd bought in Hay for us.
     Right now she's asleep, there's plenty of traffic outside, we're all packed, Jim's just kissed me goodnight and our food's on the window ledge. Last night in London. Goodnight.



1. This is Joseph Wright of Derby's "Experiment with an Air Pump" which Jim had already written a poem about.

2. My roommate had had a poster of this in our apartment when I was in university.

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