Post #1248 • October 27, 2008, 4:30 PM • 11 Comments
We spent the weekend in beautiful Gloucester visiting our friend Ed and taking in the sights. I lived for a year in Southern California, and while I like to think that the ability to find inspiration in one's surroundings rests within oneself, SoCal never made me want to run back into the studio to paint. Gloucester did. Boston does. SoCal, nah.
Of course, there were any number of scrumptious bikini-clad Californian specimens who would have made fine studio subjects in their own right, but that's a different kind of thing. And there was one time when Supergirl and I were walking along the ocean at Long Beach, and a gaggle of children at Junior Lifeguard Camp were drilling their drills in identical navy blue bathing suits and red rubber bathing caps. It was like a scene out of a Piero, translated to a setting where surfing is high culture. But by then we were driving out of town for good. Our half-baked plans to settle in Los Angeles and make a living by painting seascapes peopled with tanned blondes riding longboards would soon disappear into the rearview mirror.
This must be partially my own shortcoming. There's a fine school of California Impressionism that is not inferior to its counterpart in, say, Russia. But for whatever reason the bloom came off the rose by the time that quintessentially French impulse went too far around the globe; Prout's Neck wasn't too distant, but Laguna Beach was, to say nothing of Moscow. Nevertheless I'm troubled by the notion that had I looked more deeply into the surfers' hearts I might have seen what Millet saw in his farmers.
But here in New England, I don't have to strain. The soul of the place jumps right out of the clapboard, the turning leaves, and the blue autumn sky. The leaves are always lemon, pumpkin, scarlet, and cranberry - they only appear verdant before the tree ceases its manufacture of chlorophyll for the year. What we call turning is really a refrain from toil. There's a lesson here about the production of beauty - the necessity of timing, effort, and place to come into rightness.
October 27, 2008, 6:53 PM
For a minute there I think I was channeling Verlyn Klinkenborg.
October 27, 2008, 8:03 PM
Sounds like Garrison Keillor to me.
October 27, 2008, 10:00 PM
Southern California, LA especially, has always seemed like a foreign country to me. This feeling usually strikes as soon as I walk out of the airport. And I love it.
I love the flippant superficiality, its loving disregard for its past, the brightness of its sun, the nearly perfect temperatures all the time, the lemon trees, the culture of excess, everyone wearing sunglasses, extremes in dress, and even the dust in the streets. It is forever young.
Unfortunately, I could never afford to live there.
October 28, 2008, 8:34 AM
Well it does sound to much like the Gloucester I know :-)
October 28, 2008, 10:55 AM
That's LA. It does have its own light...
October 28, 2008, 1:20 PM
I was only in San Francisco once, recently, and just for a day or so, but what struck me about the people I met was this sense of immediate but shallow friendship. People would instantly befriend me -- granted I was with there with a friend, so I sort of became a friend by proxy -- and then start talking as if we'd known each other for years. After a bit, though, I realized it was more like I'd arrived in the middle of an ongoing monologue: These people weren't talking with me, they were talking and I happened to be nearby.
San Francisco is also the first place in my 37 years on this planet where I was offered marijuana. Not for sale, I mean -- I've been accosted plenty of times on the street in New York City for "smoke smoke" and one time even "acid" -- not for sale but just an offer, like, hey, you guys want some pot with me?
Out on the west coast I also realized just how much it rains around here. We get more rain in New York than they do in Seattle, London, or Glasgow, to name three supposedly rainy places.
October 28, 2008, 3:25 PM
Chris, maybe you look too much like a cop. Come up to Edmonton, and I'll be happy to smoke a doob with you... while I make fun of your liking Wesselman et al...
October 28, 2008, 4:41 PM
I've lived in both places, made and sold art in both places and loved both places. But where is the water? You were in Gloucester and didn't post a single picture which included the sea?
October 28, 2008, 5:44 PM
I don't think I look like a cop. I look like a nerd who doesn't do drugs. Which is fairly accurate. My friends have done an excellent job -- which I've probably helped by being dense -- of hiding their use of illicit chemicals. I recently found out a friend I've known for about 25 years has done an array of substances that'd shock Cheech and Chong.
At this point so much of my reputation is bound up with being straight-edge that I couldn't take drugs with most of my friends, even if they offered, which they've somehow managed not to do.
The funny thing is I avoided all that stuff -- even avoided alcohol mostly -- because I figured it'd hurt me more than it was worth. Now I'm 37 and I'm taking about ten different legal chemicals just to keep myself moving. Apparently my body was programmed to fall apart regardless of what I did, and now I don't even have good times to look back on.
Kids: Just say "Fuck yeah!" What difference does it make?
October 28, 2008, 9:18 PM
I think I feel a tear forming. Beautifully said Franklin, thank you.
October 27, 2008, 6:31 PM
You are getting downright phil-o-soph-i-cal.