Day 86

Day 86, Gloucester & Mlton, Mass
Thursday, October 27, 2016
The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

Owen Hartford – my old Peace Corps buddy - plays American melodies on his mandolin. We are in his home in Milton near Boston, Massachusetts. We’re back from a midday trip to Gloucester. In 1974 the poetry of Charles Olson with its celebration of the town, including, its Melvillian raw whaling interface with the sea and the vernacular character of its local citizens that led me there; I found a coarse town of aging, wooden houses and a harbor of wooden fishing trawlers. A working man’s town with a few clam houses, fish restaurants and a sprinkling of June summer tourists. No computers in sight. The coastline was a shelf of harsh rocks, sand spits that contoured out into the sea, a few old highrise shingled hotels, few distinguished homes for the wealthy and an occasional little swimming beach. Much more interesting were the hills that rose above the town with its Portuguese and Italian churches – including one with the splendid blue spherical domes – not doubt a beatific delight to sailors returning home from rough seas. Not today. Shellacked with big City money, everything seemed so smooth. Neatly painted vacation homes with gardens, and no doubt gardeners, compact the edges of the shoreline. The old fishing boats are replaced with large steel fishing vessels with machine-operated spools for big rolled nets. What was intimate and relatively small has been forced to go big or find an exit strategy. Yes, we still had real good clam chowder and clams. But when they wanted to charge twenty-six dollars for a paper plate of little neck clams, you had to know that the clam house was no longer serving the locals. 
Indeed so nice to come back to this house in Milton to draw while Owen uses his mandolin to pluck out some graceful American classics including some laments.

Indeed so nice to come back to this house in Milton to draw while Owen uses his mandolin to pluck out some graceful American classics including some laments.

Day 87

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       Day 86, Gloucester & Mlton, Mass  Thursday, October 27, 2016  The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama  Owen Hartford – my old Peace Corps buddy - plays American melodies on his mandolin. We are in his home in Milton near Boston, Massachusetts. We’re back from a midday trip to Gloucester. In 1974 the poetry of Charles Olson with its celebration of the town, including, its Melvillian raw whaling interface with the sea and the vernacular character of its local citizens that led me there; I found a coarse town of aging, wooden houses and a harbor of wooden fishing trawlers. A working man’s town with a few clam houses, fish restaurants and a sprinkling of June summer tourists. No computers in sight. The coastline was a shelf of harsh rocks, sand spits that contoured out into the sea, a few old high rise shingled hotels, few distinguished homes for the wealthy and an occasional little swimming beach. Much more interesting were the hills that rose above the town with its Portuguese and Italian churches – including one with the splendid blue spherical domes – not doubt a beatific delight to sailors returning home from rough seas.  Not today. Shellacked with big City money, everything seemed so smooth. Neatly painted vacation homes with gardens, and no doubt gardeners, compact the edges of the shoreline. The old fishing boats are replaced with large steel fishing vessels with machine-operated spools for big rolled nets.  A large white tour boat that has the same design of an ocean cruise ship waits at a dock for customers.  What was intimate and relatively small has been forced to go big or find an exit strategy. Yes, we still had real good clam chowder and clams. But when they wanted to charge twenty-six dollars for a paper plate of little neck clams, you had to know that the clam house was no longer serving the locals.  Indeed so nice to come back to this house in Milton to draw while Owen uses his mandolin to pluck out some graceful American classics including some laments. 

 

Day 86, Gloucester & Mlton, Mass

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

Owen Hartford – my old Peace Corps buddy - plays American melodies on his mandolin. We are in his home in Milton near Boston, Massachusetts. We’re back from a midday trip to Gloucester. In 1974 the poetry of Charles Olson with its celebration of the town, including, its Melvillian raw whaling interface with the sea and the vernacular character of its local citizens that led me there; I found a coarse town of aging, wooden houses and a harbor of wooden fishing trawlers. A working man’s town with a few clam houses, fish restaurants and a sprinkling of June summer tourists. No computers in sight. The coastline was a shelf of harsh rocks, sand spits that contoured out into the sea, a few old high rise shingled hotels, few distinguished homes for the wealthy and an occasional little swimming beach. Much more interesting were the hills that rose above the town with its Portuguese and Italian churches – including one with the splendid blue spherical domes – not doubt a beatific delight to sailors returning home from rough seas.  Not today. Shellacked with big City money, everything seemed so smooth. Neatly painted vacation homes with gardens, and no doubt gardeners, compact the edges of the shoreline. The old fishing boats are replaced with large steel fishing vessels with machine-operated spools for big rolled nets.  A large white tour boat that has the same design of an ocean cruise ship waits at a dock for customers.  What was intimate and relatively small has been forced to go big or find an exit strategy. Yes, we still had real good clam chowder and clams. But when they wanted to charge twenty-six dollars for a paper plate of little neck clams, you had to know that the clam house was no longer serving the locals.

Indeed so nice to come back to this house in Milton to draw while Owen uses his mandolin to pluck out some graceful American classics including some laments. 

Day 88

     
  
 
  
    
  
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    Beacon Hill, Boston, October 25  A walk with David Bonetti, my Boston native Virgil - guide among the invocations of the Founding Fathers, the 'orangy' brick and brownstone: Federalist, to Georgian, to Victorian, to Bauhaus & Gropius; to the afternoon sun and chilly wind to gold dome, white Cross & steeple, to Anglican Loyalist Tory King's Chapel family pew; to worn stone stairway, rippled red brick street and alley. To the Commons to the astonishing bronze three deep relief of black Civil War soldiers marching off to war and death. To early Public Halls to argue the formation of a future; the first black school, to the declarations of Frederick Douglas & his auxiliary love and use of his photograph. The mention of Robert Lowell growing up on the lower edge of the hill among the less than white Irish and Italians.   We walk and walk across the bones of the founding City, one script over another, the consciousness comes alive with an old historical intimacy; David, the native once school boy, quotes Longfellow with well remembered accuracy of those men with long rifles at the ready at the base of the "rude bridge".   That once declaration and protection of an independence; that perpetual vigilance in this country, wait now and forever for those who continually create it or those who would take it away.   

 

Beacon Hill, Boston, October 25

A walk with David Bonetti, my Boston native Virgil - guide among the invocations of the Founding Fathers, the 'orangy' brick and brownstone: Federalist, to Georgian, to Victorian, to Bauhaus & Gropius; to the afternoon sun and chilly wind to gold dome, white Cross & steeple, to Anglican Loyalist Tory King's Chapel family pew; to worn stone stairway, rippled red brick street and alley. To the Commons to the astonishing bronze three deep relief of black Civil War soldiers marching off to war and death. To early Public Halls to argue the formation of a future; the first black school, to the declarations of Frederick Douglas & his auxiliary love and use of his photograph. The mention of Robert Lowell growing up on the lower edge of the hill among the less than white Irish and Italians. 

We walk and walk across the bones of the founding City, one script over another, the consciousness comes alive with an old historical intimacy; David, the native once school boy, quotes Longfellow with well remembered accuracy of those men with long rifles at the ready at the base of the "rude bridge". 

That once declaration and protection of an independence; that perpetual vigilance in this country, wait now and forever for those who continually create it or those who would take it away.

 

Day 89

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    Day 89, October 24, 2016;  Thoreau’s “Hut”, Walden Pond  The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama      There is no “Hut.” The original house has been carried away to a museum. There is now a pile of stones to signify his absence. People gather them from the hillside near the pond, which is actually what we would now call a “lake”. Some of the white and gray stones have inked messages in English, Chinese and other languages Most appear to be good wishes to honor Thoreau’s memory. While I sit down on one of the bigger stones, my friend Owen and I strike up a conversation with a friendly, talkative, pretty South Korean woman. She is a final year law student at Harvard. She has just broken up with her boy friend of five years. “I am 36 and he still cannot commit. It was time to stop. It is very sad. I came out on the train to get away.”  As I continue to draw, one then another group of high school students gather around me. There are Asians, Blacks, Caucasians “Are you an artist? What are you drawing?” I explain. I show the other drawings in my binder. I give them my card.  They leave. In the now late afternoon yellow Fall light I imagine Thoreau, what he thought and wrote about the style of different conversations with visitors to his “hut”. If the talk was about the ordinary, they would stay inside. I was an argument with someone about public events, they would position themselves on each side of the pond. As they vented their passions, it was as if their voices were like skipping stones across the water. Unless Thoreau befriended a local Indian, I do not imagine he ever conversed with men and women of different colors and countries from all over the world. The wonderful mystery today is that the site of the “hut” continues to be a source for conversation.                    

Day 89, October 24, 2016;

Thoreau’s “Hut”, Walden Pond

The Last 100 Days of the Presidency of Barack Obama

There is no “Hut.” The original house has been carried away to a museum. There is now a pile of stones to signify his absence. People gather them from the hillside near the pond, which is actually what we would now call a “lake”. Some of the white and gray stones have inked messages in English, Chinese and other languages Most appear to be good wishes to honor Thoreau’s memory. While I sit down on one of the bigger stones, my friend Owen and I strike up a conversation with a friendly, talkative, pretty South Korean woman. She is a final year law student at Harvard. She has just broken up with her boy friend of five years. “I am 36 and he still cannot commit. It was time to stop. It is very sad. I came out on the train to get away.”

As I continue to draw, one then another group of high school students gather around me. There are Asians, Blacks, Caucasians “Are you an artist? What are you drawing?” I explain. I show the other drawings in my binder. I give them my card.

They leave. In the now late afternoon yellow Fall light I imagine Thoreau, what he thought and wrote about the style of different conversations with visitors to his “hut”. If the talk was about the ordinary, they would stay inside. I was an argument with someone about public events, they would position themselves on each side of the pond. As they vented their passions, it was as if their voices were like skipping stones across the water. Unless Thoreau befriended a local Indian, I do not imagine he ever conversed with men and women of different colors and countries from all over the world. The wonderful mystery today is that the site of the “hut” continues to be a source for conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 91

Sometimes in full darkness, the twist and turns of Angels will appear, among them a singular Madonna. No one knows their origins or why they will take presence amongst us. Some say, if not insist on the factor of prayer. Other say it is only by pure happenstance, luck of the draw, or whatever. And some will say it is a gift of compassion. Whether or not it is in an hour of ghostly need, almost by accident, the Angels and the Holy Mother will appear. They do not do anything in particular. Threaded in blue, gold and white, they gather to fill a room or the page with the blessings of their presence, their light.

Sometimes in full darkness, the twist and turns of Angels will appear, among them a singular Madonna. No one knows their origins or why they will take presence amongst us. Some say, if not insist on the factor of prayer. Other say it is only by pure happenstance, luck of the draw, or whatever. And some will say it is a gift of compassion. Whether or not it is in an hour of ghostly need, almost by accident, the Angels and the Holy Mother will appear. They do not do anything in particular. Threaded in blue, gold and white, they gather to fill a room or the page with the blessings of their presence, their light.

Day 92

October 21, 2016

Chicago Public Library

There is a wedding on the Ninth Floor under the skylight in the atrium. No. It is a rehearsal. The couple has “booked” the Library in a space without books. There is no music. The only music I hear is the sound of the pens exploring the paper as I draw. The artist as musician making marks responding to the voice of the rehearsal mistress giving choreographic instruction to the gathered as to how to enter the atrium from the sides to variously gather in and about the couple to be married. Everyone seems in that ripe moment of imagining the event while, at the same time, studiously withholding them selves to make small talk about other moments in their various lives. Seated sporadically around the edges of the circle small children, as if a spontaneous chorus, clap and play “paddy-cake”. 

On a day like today it’s such a sweet way to live as the pens savor and make color and work at revealing the shape and rhythms of the deeper structures of the material world. 

It is also exhausting. I have now worked long into the evening. The silence that surrounds and foretells a marriage I want with sleep.

P.S. Obama says the day he leaves Office he will sleep for two weeks. I cannot begin to imagine the depth of his fatigue.

Day 94

Obam­a’s Home, Hyde Park, Chicago

October 19, 2016

The thick green branched trees that break any view of the side and most of the front facades of the three-story house. I sit across the street to draw on the steps of the synagogue. Black and brown elementary school boys overlook me as I work.

            “I like your drawing. What is it?”

He seems to understand when I talk about using the pens like drumsticks that listen and respond to the shifts in the wind and the sounds of their voices. I demonstrate by making a few marks on the new piece of blank paper.      

            “Do you ever see the President in his house.”

            “No. He is never there.”

            “Will you miss him when he is no longer President?”

            “Yes. Yes, I will.”

When the boys call out to each other I hear the names, Israel, Zacharia, Thomas. I imagine the President would love these sounds, as I do.

I cannot see through the house’s stone façade. I imagine Chicago in the winter dark. Before he was President I imagine Michelle in the stairway from the entrance up to the second floor. The daughters are already asleep. He has come from a long day of campaigning for election of a local office. She is dressed in black outfit with a fresh red rose in her hair; the stem cleaves through her part. She is waiting to lean over to meet him from the second stair. In that brief space – that embrace, that greeting – the weight of political and public life drops from their shoulders. Rising up the stairs I can imagine them both sigh deeply back into the short deliciousness of a private life.

 

Day 94.jpg