What is a true eclectic to do when her passions lead her in different directions?
This is a blog for the unfocused, the round pegs in the square holes, the short-attention span types, and all those who just can't bring themselves to join the ranks and adhere to a single category of activities or interests...whether sketches, drawings and comics, fixing an old farmhouse in Oregon, or whatever else strikes my fancy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Belgium: My Aunt and Uncle (11-25-08)

While in Belgium, I went to visit my aunt (Tante Marcelle) and my uncle (Onc' Jacques).
My aunt is 83; she always has some interesting story to tell, while my uncle (85) tends to joke, with the same sort of dry humor my cousins inherited.

Tante Marcelle:
"Ah, that reminds me what happened with the neighbors, but that was 16 years ago, no, wait, it was 12 years ago, because I remember the wall hadn't been rebuilt yet, well, what was I saying? Oh, that's right, the neighbors, nice people; they always say "Hello" so nicely. But they have the nerve to park the truck right across the gate and there's no room left for anyone. Did I tell you the man is a truck driver? No? Anyway, they always say hello very nicely, but then, the kids do the darnedest things. They keep kicking their soccer ball over the gate, and it pisses me off that they keep doing it, over and over. When I go down the alley, if I have to go get groceries, and I find the ball, I throw it back over the gate, but I had to go tell the mother to tell the kids to stop ringing the doorbell at the gate. It's happened several times, I had to go all the way down the alley, then the stairs. -Ah, it was exactly 12 and half years ago, because we redid the stairs after the wall!- So you see, it just doesn't seem right for an old lady like me to have to go down all the way down the alley then the stairs, and just for a soccer ball, you see. It's bad enough that I have to go down those stairs twice a week to go get groceries. Ah, yes, that's right; I was telling you about the neighbor. What did I want to tell again? I can't remember anymore... I have the worst memory. No, really, I assure you. I can't remember anything. It's terrible how low we sink. So, as I was saying, those people are always parking their darn truck in the street and there is no room to do anything, see, since it's a cul-de-sac, no one can turn their car around because of his %^!! truck. But they're nice people...for the most part."

Onc' Jacques:
"You can almost tell whose car it was by the color of the paint scrapes on the side of the truck!"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paris: Les Deux Moulins (11-21-08)

...This is the coffee shop featured in the movie "Amélie."

On my last day in Paris, I decided to walk from the hotel all the way to Montmartre despite the hotel's concierge trying to persuade me to take the Metro instead. I wanted to see the average streets of the city, the day-to-day banal and morose façades, and to not restrict myself to the picturesque only.

It was a long walk. My foot had started hurting again, and Montmartre was far away, uphill. But on the way, I did several things I couldn't have, had I taken the Metro.

I went to the Fragonard Museum of Perfume (essentially a perfume store) and sampled perfumes willy-nilly, and it was deliciously and fragrantly fun. I walked by the Opéra. I went in the Galleries Lafayette (department store), up to the rooftop terrace and enjoyed a beautiful fall view of the city. I had a late lunch in the cafeteria, and marveled at how everything looked delicious, from the salad bar to the steaks grilled to order (compare that to greasy burgers in the U.S.). I went up narrow streets full of people going about their lives. I went into the Sacré-Coeur (the big white church in Montmartre), and enjoyed the opportunity to simply be there. The view from the steps outside the church was memorable; the sky was streaked in pinks and mauves.

It was getting dark fast; it was my last evening in Paris.

As nighttime came, it got really cold. I was limping and every step on the cobblestones was painful. I found the coffee shop, hesitated, then went inside and had a wonderful little cup of hot chocolate. It was magical to sit in a place I had seen in a lovely movie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paris: Buddha-bar (11-19-08)

Late one evening, I went to the famous, super trendy Buddha-Bar.

I went inside, past the bouncers, and down a wide staircase to a dimly-lit landing and was directed to the balcony-level bar. I found a table in a corner of the balcony and took my time working in a my sketchbook, sipping my 9 Euros 0,5 liter bottle of water over the course of two hours, taking in the sounds and the sights.

The place was dark, music was blasting from loudspeakers, -I love club music-, people wore black (an art statement), graying older men wearing sport jackets over turtleneck sweaters were hunting for girls to pick up, pretty girls were laughing and busy talking over the noise. Looking down from the balcony to the cavernous space housing the basement-level restaurant, one could faintly see tables full of people and the great Buddha statue the restaurant is famous for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Paris: Moroccan Restaurant (11-18-08)

... I found an absolutely great Moroccan restaurant in the Quartier Latin.

I ate well in Paris.
Since I was there for work, I even had the opportunity to splurge and have a fine meal in an elegant Art Deco-era bistro warmly recommended to me by the hotel concierge as "a great value for the very reasonable price" (30 Euros Prix Fixe Menu for dinner: a generous portion of Foie Gras as an appetizer, Steak Tartare with Fries as a main course, and Crème Brûlée as dessert)...

But the best place I ate at was at this little Moroccan restaurant in an alley bordered by narrow streets with ethnic and regional cuisine restaurants. The warm welcome, the good food, the tea (oh, the mint tea...), and the price which was much more affordable made this place one I will gladly re-visit if I get a chance.

I had a delicious Couscous with chicken. The best part of the meal was the mint tea, sweet and hot. I sat in a daze of happiness, sipping my tea and weakly trying to refuse the many refills I was offered.

Paris: I met a Fairy Godmother (11-18-08)

I know it sounds strange, but I met a Fairy Godmother.

Sitting on a bench in the Akira Kurosawa exhibit in the Petit Palais (art museum), I was lost in my thoughts. I hadn't been feeling well and was debating what to do once I left the museum.

I looked up when I heard a woman standing nearby sigh out loud, as if to catch my attention. She then began to fan herself with a program, exclaiming that she was exhausted and sat down on my bench. She started talking to me, as if we had been visiting the museum together all along. I immediately felt like I knew this woman.

She was small vivacious, talkative, funny. We talked about the Kurosawa exhibit, his movies, Art, museums, and things to do in Paris, Life, what it is all about. She told me that she lives in the countryside and comes up to Paris once a year to visit museums and go to the theater. She asked me about myself, how I was. She told me I was very brave and courageous.

As we were talking, I kept asking myself how it was possible that I felt like I knew her... She was in her mid-sixties, perhaps older; her hair was dark brown and cut in an impish pageboy style. Would she have gotten along with my mom, had she ever met her? Was it my mom she was reminding me of? True, my mom had the same self-assured manner and friendly way with people… I asked her name, “Oh, it’s a stupid name, Elizabeth.” I then asked her, should we perhaps exchange addresses? She brushed my question off. "Whatever for? There is no need for that!" And she was right.

We went together to visit some of the rooms in the museum, showed each other artwork we had admired on our own. She shared some Japanese art she had liked and I showed her a floor-to-ceiling painting of “The Good Samaritan” that looked so real, I had at first thought it was a color photograph. Still talking, we walked out of the museum together and went to the nearest Metro station. She decided to accompany me to the St Michel stop.

We got off the train. I wanted to thank her in for her kindness. I offered to draw a portrait of her and give it to her, but she laughed and refused; she said she looked terrible in portraits. She then hugged me, said "Au revoir, ma grande," kissed me on the cheek, waved goodbye as she walked away, down a flight of stairs to her train, and disappeared among the crowd. She was gone.
I suddenly felt very lonely.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Paris: Chez Flottes (11-16-08)

...On my first night in Paris, I had dinner at Chez Flottes, a small bistro near the hotel.

I had a delicious onion soup and a perfect little crème brûlée for dessert.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Off to Europe! (11-14-08)

I'm leaving for Paris tomorrow, then off to Belgium next Saturday and will be back on November 26 (Julia's birthday).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wordstock: Lynda Barry (11-09-08)

Alas...Wordstock is over.
I managed to escape from my obligations today and go to the Convention Center this afternoon. I had a great time walking down row after row of booths and tables hosted by small presses and other vendors who deal with the printed word.
My main reason to go was to see Lynda Barry, and she was worth the trip. She was shorter than I expected, wore cat's eye glasses and a big red and white polka dot headband wrapped around her head and tied into a knot on top. She laughed a lot, sang funny songs, and was natural in an I-don't-take-myself-seriously way that was both humbling and very real at the same time. (I'm afraid I don't make much sense here. What I'm trying to say is that her unguarded manner endeared her to the audience.)
I had purchased her new book (full of drawings!) and had been given a big ad poster for the book. As I approached the signing table, with my sketchbook, the poster and the new book in hand, wouldn't you know it? The Powell's guy-in-charge made some grumbling sounds to the effect that people should one get only one thing signed...event though he hadn’t said a word for the people before me.
Once at the table, if I was going to get only one signature, I wanted it in my sketchbook. She drew a monkey on the page across from the drawing I had done of her, and then offered to sign the new book and poster also. She was really cool and friendly. I showed her some of the Maxine comics from my "Maxine on the run" blog and gave her a card with the address for the website.
Lynda Barry: A+++

Saturday, November 8, 2008

PSU Class: Michael J. (11-08-08)

A quick sketch of Michael J. of Cascade Geographic Society who organized the PSU class visit to the McLoughlin House in Oregon City.

PSU Class: Oregon History Interpretive Center (11-08-08)

A trip to the Mc Loughlin House in Oregon City, to visit "The Birthplace of Oregon" as part of a PSU class.

There hardly was anything in Oregon before the 1860s, in contrast with Europe.
By then my great-great-grand-father had already bought the stone house in Polleur (Belgium) and had set up a blacksmith shop. Years later, when my grand-parents were still alive, various old-fashioned tools still hung on the walls in the shop area.

It never ceases to amaze me to get inside old wooden pioneer houses in Oregon, so tiny and reminiscent of "The Little House on the Prairie." To think that this area is still so new... The sad thing, is how quickly things get demolished in this country, just because it is "old" (that is, over 40 years old). (Or worse yet, to see a charming "restored" farmhouse for sale, and to walk in what obligatorily ought to be a period-style kitchen, and to see stainless steel and mottled granite counter tops...)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Election Night (11-04-08)

We were invited to the Crawfords' on Tuesday, for an "Election Night Party."
It was nice to see that there was an apparent consensus across the country, and it was as if one could feel people around the globe sigh with relief.
I was also nice to hear a great speaker for a change. Someone who spoke well, who said meaningful, complete sentences, with no snickering. Soon, the "nukular," the "He's a good man," the "Mission Accomplished," the "I am the Decider"...will become just fleeting elements of a nightmare from which people yearn to wake up.
Of course, I am not an idealist to the point of thinking that this election is going to be the dawn to a new course for the country, but, maybe, it'll bring enough small changes to make a difference for the better. We need to move on, to turn the page. Let's change our modus operandi and fix things rather than dismantle and destroy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wordstock: Poetry Slam at the Bagdad (11-06-08)

Wordstock, the annual fun book event in Portland, started on Thursday with a Poetry Slam at the Bagdad Theater, which I attended as a volunteered. This was a perfect opportunity: I had never been to a Poetry Slam before and I wanted to do something in conjunction with Wordstock.
I helped set program booklets and pencils on tables in the auditorium and ushered people in, encouraging them to move to the front of the theater. The Bagdad Theater (it seems that I have been there a lot lately) soon filled with a merry crowd anticipating to have a great time.
When the emcees (performers from Good Sista/Bad Sista) asked for volunteer for judges, I jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t know who the competing poets were, not had I ever heard of them, so that made me eminently qualified and impartial. I got to sit in the second row with a paper pad and a Sharpie marker, to rate poems by Anis Mojgani, Karen Finneyfrock, Buddy Wakefield, Jodie Knowles, Derrick Brown, and Tara Hardy. When ready, I, along with the four other judges, waved my scores high over my head, in turn cheered and booed by the audience. It was a blast!
The whole thing was a lot of fun, and the poems were amazing! Scoring them was difficult; how can one reasonably rate someone’s words and feelings, expressed as performance art? But some poems “spoke” to my heart, and they are, in no particular order:
- Tara Hardy: poem about sand
- Karen Finneyfrock: poem about the Statue of Liberty
- Anis Mojgani: poem about his talking to a little boy on the bus
- Buddy Wakefield: poem about his anxious mother
- Jodie Knowles: poem about (I think) her brother
- Derrick Brown: the poem about a schoolyard fight, mimed by Anis Mojgani (with the help of Buddy Wakefield, the latter supporting the former as he reenacted the author falling down from a blow, then standing up again); this group performance was amazing.
And after it was all over, I picked up the remaining booklets and pencils.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

From imagination: Woman face (ca. ???)

Another image from the brush pen series.
Although the precise strokes may look effortless, it took a lot of thinking to get the lines just where I wanted them, since these drawings were done straight with no pencil drafts.