Having spent some hours scanning through my photographs from my recent trip to Barcelona and Lisbon, with side trips to Gerona and Sintra; gathering selects, retouching, etc, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I’m not interested in creating some kind of narrative or linear story of our trip, as it wasn’t linear, and the narrative changed constantly.
So I’ve decided to start with some high-chroma and steep (naturally) scenes from Lisbon, in the Baixa-Shiado and Alfama neighborhoods, and a couple farther afield. The Alfama ones were from our Castelo Sao Jorge day— it was a grand afternoon of meandering and taking things slowly. We also met some peacocks, but that’ll keep til another day.
For now just take in the angles, colors, and alleyways and feel the sun on your face and the cobbles under your feet.
There was this restaurant which hadn’t been on my radar as a destination, but the one we’d meant to go to told us on the phone Our last seating is at 8:45 on Sunday, and it was 8:35 already, so.
So we opted for this New American place also in the Bywater. Trendy. When we arrived it was Well, no reservation, give me a few minutes, trust me and after 15 minutes of being ignored by the bar and searching our phones for alternatives, he gave us a table that had been empty in plain sight since we walked in. It’s like they want to make you sweat and make the reservation-rule-abiders feel good and special.
Anyway we had a pretty smashing meal and a nice Alsatian blend and got friendly with our server, who turned out to be a recent-ish transplant, a singer, in love with the city, on that arc, that high note where you’re meeting people and making things happen. We talked with her at length after meal service had finished and she told us about a bar farther out that she liked, so we decided Fuck it let’s go.
Some blocks later we found the place. It had a vast high-ceilinged interior, like so many places in NOLA— always surprising as they look small from outside. It was a chill vibe, and good music playing. Some folks playing pool at the far end.
There were a couple of people in black hats and robes like witches with fairy lights on. Another with them was dressed like some kind of dinosaur or abstract unicorn, and some in regular clothes. A private party, they seemed, off at a table. We sat at the bar and ordered, were served. I got consumed with the orb lights, gradually shifting colors and making decent compositions in the camera. I wrote in my book a little.
The bartender, a beanpole sporting a hipster half shirt and suspenders was speaking more or less continuously to a chap sitting on the other side of Z. Z and I chatted here and there, but he seemed distracted. Maybe he was tired, or listening in on the conversation. I couldn’t hear anything but the rutabaga-rutabaga murmur of television scenes in rooms where music and conversation overlap.
As we finished our drinks I asked if we ought to stay or move on. Z said Move on. When we were some blocks away Z relayed to me the disturbing conversation he’d overheard between beanpole and the guy, who’d been explaining that his coke dealer’d raped someone. The two of them then went on to discuss all the many ways said dealer had fucked numerous people over in the more usual ways; money, broken promises, &c.
I dunno if the dealer had been arrested or if he’d now gone a shade too far to be tolerated by the guy at the bar; I didn’t hear any of it. Maybe he was doing that thing of fishing for a shared line or two by talking about such things in earshot of strangers who might by chance also partake. I told Z he should’ve said he wanted to leave sooner. It clearly made everything uncomfortable. Z’s experience had been nothing like my naive absorption in orb lamps shifting colors, and book and pen.
It makes you wonder about all the many conversations in all the bars and restaurants that go on all over the world— all the conversations you don’t hear. It makes you aware how much general trust there is in polite exchanges, and how separate you are from what’s behind every door, every curtain.
It reminds you that everyone has a different measure or barometer of what’s normal, of what counts as day-to-day, and makes you thankful that your version is way less fucked up or hideous than some others.
When I watch something like Blue Planet II, practically every frame of the incredible footage begs to be drawn or painted, so I spent several hours last night sketching some of the beasties— and consequently missing many of the others. Next time I can draw some of the ones I missed this time around.
Last week I did the same thing while watching (re-watching) Civilizations. Some sketched interpretations of ancient art came from that session.
Above is a photograph of most of my fork collection, arrayed by size and type. I remembered, as I reexamined them for the first time in years, that I downsized and edited the collection once before; there used to be many more sets of little cocktail novelty forks and fondue forks, &c.
A reasoned edit was the goal yesterday as well, and I wanted to have a photo of as many as possible— see them all in one place and count them. (185 shown I think)
Here is a photo of the keepers, bundled to go back in the box, with the exception only of the strawberry forks, given me by a friend’s mother (they’re back in their box, as they’re so delicate).
Here is a similar photo from last week, when I initially laid them out to assess. This image shows them on a lumpy old sheet, and includes almost all of them, before I removed many of the busted ones and contemporary stainless steel ones.
These days following the winter feasts bring a quiet with them, not necessarily unwelcome. Often grey and a little lonely, or too-quiet for some, yet there is a gentleness to them that eases the emotional tumult forced by the calendar shift into a new year.
When I was younger, I longed for the new year to turn at Springtide, or during the full heat of Summer. As I’ve got older, the shift has felt more accustomed and proper happening in the dead of winter— it allows a moment, at least, for reflection which those other times wouldn’t afford.
(I’ll own, this is clearly the result of living one’s entire life in the northern hemisphere, in the west. Nurture and nature have their sway.)
Upstate at the Farm over the winter holiday is something I’d not trade. Cold, and snowy, I can see the sun and shade of summer in every angle— but those white cloaked fields are equal in my mind to their mild counterparts. Some of my best memories are of being alone in a quiet icicled clearing in the woods; or frigid rides along field paths as snow-blanketed as the horse’s backs, and my eyelashes— in awe of the change a bit of weather can make.
Sure, we get more irritable in the cabin-fever months. But also we get closer, cozier, if allowed. Weather does change things. It’s one of the things my cold-climate friends and I always joked about— nothing akin to Russian novels ever comes out of easy climates!
We complain, yet we can’t rightly imagine life without seasons. Or we try, and give it up for folly. Relegate easy to vacation times, to the fleeting (and also irritating but in different ways) Summer. It all balances out in ways we’ve grown accustomed to; in ways that make sense to us.
Anyway, I rather enjoy and look forward to the quiet spell after the hectic holiday time —before it turns into the doldrums— at which point I’ll want winter to go. There’s a period during which it’s welcome and agreeable; and productive, honestly.
Eventually, of course, the grey just becomes too much, and all we want is the return of green trees and sunshine. That’ll be hitting us around mid-February, I suspect, when the whole city has lost its luster; after the fairy-lights’ve been long taken down, and all the world just feels like it’s given up.
But, just as we reach our wit’s end, some modest glorious crocus will raise her chilly new petals from the snow, and give a beacon of spring, a bit of hope to see us through.
New Year’s Eve: the borderlands of the year; symbol of hope, renewal, revelry. To some, the biggest party of the year. To others, just a day like all the others. I reckon my take on it falls somewhere in between. It’s nice to mark it, to be in the company of others, but not the sort of event I buy new clothes for, (Although, to be honest, I rarely buy new clothes for anything in particular.)
So it was I found myself at my local around 10pm. I braved the dismal rain for two whole blocks to meet up with TL after her shift at the restaurant. She went home before the changing of the guard, but I stayed.
I’d spent the day working on updating my art website, and along the way I realized I’ve not done any drawings in two years with my trusted old ball-point with the ink that smears so wonderfully—so I armed myself thusly before heading out, hoping to fill the last few pages of my sketchbook at the close of the year.
The simplicity of working with a single pen is good for bar drawings. You must work fast, as people may walk away or re-orient at any moment, The setting is dim, so details are hard to pin down anyway. These are aspects of bar drawing that I really enjoy. No time for thinking— just keep grabbing what information you can.
The type of decision-making apparent in these sketches differs from my more thoughtfully-approached drawings. I learn so much from doing them, despite that they never look finished or beautiful.
And now, it’s time to begin a new Moleskine, the first of 2019. Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!