Spare 2: Still in Oxford

Pictures tell their own story.

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is SPARE.

Krista explains the thinking behind the prompt. She is writing about California’s Joshua Tree National Park:

Gazing into this distance, pleasantly spent from the exertion of the climb, I couldn’t help but feel at home in this spare landscape — despite the great differences in climate and altitude to where I live.

Self is still in Oxford. Spending Sunday with poet Jenny Lewis and her granddaughter Abigail and Abigail’s dad, Tom.

We went boating!

It was a lovely, overcast day on a tranquil river.

SO peaceful.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

SPARE: Daily Post Photo Challenge, 27 May 2016

Spare landscapes are often quite beautiful in their minimalism (if you choose to look)

— Krista, The Daily Post

Below are a few pictures that struck me as evocative of this week’s theme, SPARE:

Self took a walking tour of Oxford, day before yesterday. The quadrangles in front of the main buildings are surprisingly spare: free of fountains and monuments. Pristine.

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The building used to house Oxford University Press.

The India House was of course a very important building, especially during the days of the British Empire. With true British understatement, there are no signs indicating the building’s historice function: only the elephant on the weathervane:

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Weathervane on top of India House, Oxford, UK

Finally, the Weston Library is a moden structure directly across the street from the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Oxford. The facade is spare, with one banner announcing the current exhibit (in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death): Shakespeare’s Dead:

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A banner announces the Weston Library’s current exhibit.

Hope these are suitable examples of SPARE.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Have That Chocolate Milkshake

Have dear blog readers ever tasted a lukewarm chocolate milkshake?

(Self knows, right?)

It is a hot day in Oxford, UK. Everyone strolling around, including three tourists who are attracting attention for a (fake) loud quarrel — self is pretty clued-in now to what’s fake and what’s real. All you have to do, really, is look at the person’s face. The woman who is allegedly being wronged by her two male companions has a huge, shit-eating grin on her face. She has cropped, dyed-platinum-blonde hair. She has deep brown, leathery skin. She’s wearing blue jeans and a white tank top. This makes her stand out because most of the women self sees around Oxford are of two, maybe three types: young Asian women who are extremely thin, very stylish, and very low-key; young white women who wear sneakers, cigarette jeans, and muted sweaters; older white women who dress a bit eccentrically, in floppy hats, or voluminous, bright sweaters. The strange woman keeps screaming, at the top of her voice, ruining a pleasant afternoon: LEAVE ME ALONE! ASSHOLE!

Really, self hates the drama. This is on a tiny street, where everyone’s so quiet, they all jerk their heads up and look alarmed. If self were to be truly cynical about it, which she isn’t, she might hug her purse closer to her body, just in case there is a point to this loud altercation.

Demonstrative fake quarrel aside, today self got to:

  • see a couple of Shakespeare folios
  • see the Harry Potter dining room
  • see an annotated map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth
  • check out Blackwell’s Crime & Thriller section, where she jotted down the titles of a couple of mysteries she wants to add to her reading list.
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An Amazing, Almost-Summer Day in Oxford, UK

Really, if a lukewarm chocolate milkshake is the worst part of self’s day, she’s had a pretty good day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Jubilant: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 20 May 2016

  • Jubilant, adjective: showing great joy, satisfaction, or triumph; rejoicing; exultant

This 40th Anniversary Calyx anthology, published April 2016 by Ooligan Press, is everything:

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A sunny day in Dublin is always cause for celebration:

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April 2016:  Bed and Breakfast, Inchicore, Dublin

Last but not least: On self’s first day back in London in 2016 (early April), she met up with poet Joan McGavin, who took her to the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Self is always jubilant to be back in London:

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The Most Beautiful Window: Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London

Self is at her best when she is traveling. Her state of mind when traveling can best be described as jubilant.

If you try to stop her from traveling, she will be in a bad mood.

Not only that, she will hate you forever.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Anjelica Huston: Venice Beach

Well, self will be sad to finish this book. She started reading it in Cork, continued reading it in Wexford, continued reading it in Dublin, and now has been reading it in London. She didn’t start with high hopes, especially since there’s a cringe-inducing love/hate thing going on with Jack Nicholson. But Huston shines when she describes a place. And she’s been to some pretty fabulous ones.

Here she describes the view from her house in Venice Beach:

On the top story was a little parapet from which one could see the whole of Venice Beach — from the flags of the many nations on the roof of the youth hostel next door, above a faded sepia mural, to the Townhouse bar across the street, the tattoo parlor, Animal House, the hippies and the homeless, the vendors, the performance artists, the swami with his turban and electric guitar on Rollerblades, the runaways, the snake-charmer, the rappers, the chalk and sand artists, the weight lifters, the addicts, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the tourists and the surfers, the skateboard kids, the guy who played “Eye of the Tiger” relentlessly and did crazy stuff with a chainsaw for eight years.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Brutal

The more self reads of Anjelica Huston’s Watch Me, the more her respect for Huston grows. The book is called Watch Me for a reason. It reminds her of the saying: “A person who has something to prove can move mountains.” That quote might have come from Robert Greene, in his 48 Laws of Power.

Quoting directly from the book, “no talent agency wanted to take me on prior to Prizzi’s Honor. Most didn’t even bother to return my phone calls. Eventually, I joined the Yvette Bikoff Agency. It was a small agency, but Yvette seemed to have more confidence in me than the others.”

Huston wants Yvette to try and get her paid more for her part in Prizzi’s Honor. Yvette tells Huston that she tried, but the producers “refuse to even discuss it.” Huston keeps pressing, until finally, with Huston in her office, Yvette places a call to a producer and puts him on speaker phone:

An irritated voice came on the line. “You want more money for Anjelica Huston? You must be kidding . . . go ahead, ask me!” said the voice. “We’d like nothing more than to see her dropped from the film. She has no talent. Her boyfriend is the star and her father is the director, that’s the only reason we are even having this conversation.”

If you’ve never heard of Prizzi’s Honor, go rent it from Netflix. Self only saw it once, but she can still remember the last minutes of the film so clearly. Anjelica Huston was absolutely right for that role. She is so physically imposing, which is why, when she projects vulnerability, it just breaks your heart.

Anyhoo, it’s almost midnight in London. Self had a grueling day. Swore she’d never take a cab from Heathrow, got lost at least three times looking for the Heathrow Express, carting her heavy, overweight luggage. She didn’t ask for help and no one offered any. (Good). She made it to Paddington. She was so famished she ate two meals sitting on a bench. She got into a taxi. She hauled luggage up four flights of stairs.

This is definitely a city. By that she means people are largely indifferent. But it’s a great city. She knew when the cab got near to Bloomsbury. Great Russell Street is her own little patch of London.

Self loves the parks: Regency Park, Hyde Park, Kensington. If all she does while in London is visit one park after another, and look at the Serpentine, and drop by Battersea and gawk at the huge Tate Modern, and then pay a visit to the exquisite Wallace Collection, she’ll be happy. Oh no, wait. No visit to London is complete without Chez Mamie. She even made a reservation because the place is always full now. And to think when she met Emily there last year, we were even wondering whether it would last a year! It’s still only got six tables, but for some reason, the last few times self has been in there, there seem to be a lot of Americans. All in suits. Conducting who knows what kind of negotiations.

Tomorrow she’s going to the British Museum to see an exhibit called “Sunken Egypt.” It’ll help her finish a story she started at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a story called “Residents of the Deep.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Rich Are Awful

Still reading Watch Me.

Self has this theory that the rich are awful people. Why? Because they’re surrounded by enablers and sycophants.

Self is in no way letting poor folk off the hook. She’s met awful, poor people as well. Awfulness comes in every demographic! But right now, she’s reading about rich people. Because this is Anjelica Huston’s memoir of the rich and the beautiful.

In Watch Me (Chapter xx, self forgets), Huston’s in Cannes. She’s on a yacht owned by Sam Spiegel. Parties are fabulous, the yacht interiors are “tasteful beige and maritime navy blue,” and everyone throws tantrums. The “widow of Anatole Litvak” (Self has no idea who this is; should she care?) lights up a cigarette on the yacht, thereby making herself the focus of Spiegel’s wrath, while the male guests are allowed to puff merrily away “on cigars.”

Self would not last one minute in such a crowd.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Anjelica Huston’s Beautiful Life

Finished reading Paul Theroux’s Deep South a few days ago.

Currently reading Anjelica Houston’s second memoir, Watch Me.

Self doesn’t understand why readers on Amazon have bashed this book for being nothing but a collection of names. Names and Places. Names and Places and Things.

Self likes that it’s just a collection of Names and Places and Things.

Theroux’s book was so deep. If she had to read another deep book, she might end up with serious issues. Sometimes (like right now), she likes to indulge in superficiality.

So far (Chapter 3), Huston describes doing  the following:

  • seeing Milan from the back of a friend’s Harley-Davidson, while wearing a fetching “Missoni cloak”
  • visiting Britt Ekland in a hospital in Hampstead Heath (Britt’s just had a baby boy)
  • visiting iconic model Jean Shrimpton at her home in Berkshire
  • visiting a friend’s apartment in New York’s West End Avenue, an apartment that’s all “high-gloss black lacquered walls and blacked-out windows”

Huston writes this about LA:

Things happened at a leisurely pace. Unlike New York, where the pavements abounded with energy and purpose and everyone seemed to have an objective, Los Angeles was filled with friendly people who seemed content to hang out at home in tracksuits and kaftans, waiting for good things to come to them, or those who relied on whimsy for advancement.

Nice!

There is something corrosive in Anjelica Huston’s life, though, and that is the black hole of being the girlfriend of philandering Jack Nicholson. Already, Huston’s shed many, many tears  (and self’s only on p. 22). Self wants to comfort Huston by saying: “He’ll get old. Don’t worry.” Self is no fortune-teller, but she can’t help feeling smug about the fact that Jack Nicholson has indeed grown old.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Cork, Ireland News Flash

Today, self walked quite a bit. She took a break mid-afternoon and went back to her room. A news program came on. “A young boy drowned today in the Liffey, 2:30 p.m.”

She looked at the time: 5:30 p.m.

So, only three hours earlier?

It’s Saturday. How could the boy drown on a Saturday? With people out and about. In the middle of the afternoon.

It was a beautiful day. At first self thought the death occurred in Cork. Then she remembered the river around Cork is the Lee. The Liffey is in Dublin. This made the news marginally better. She would absolutely hate to think the boy drowned in Cork. She was enjoying the day, it was such a nice day. And in the meantime, a boy was drowning close by. And she so unaware!

This is the thing about Ireland: it’s small enough that a boy’s death in Dublin gets broadcast to Cork.

This trip, she learned that the greater Los Angeles area has more people than the whole of Ireland. One city in America, just one city, has more people than Ireland.

That really puts things in perspective. Somehow, because of the literary richness, she imagined — still imagines — a much bigger country.

Ireland is small, but it’s also so specific. Which county you’re from in Ireland matters a lot. She always ends up asking people which county they’re from, and the answer makes a big difference: County Kerry means one thing, County Monaghan another.

That trip she made two days ago to Dublin? Two and a half hours by train.  She was in Dublin one night, then back to Cork. Self could probably do the whole country in 24 hours.

During the last AWP conference, self was talking to Your Impossible Voice editor Stephen Beachy, and he told her he commutes to his job in San Francisco from San Diego. So it’s all a matter of perspective, really. Californians would probably think nothing of working in Dublin and then going home to Cork every night. Cork (if it were in California) would be considered a “bedroom community” — a suburb that’s like a ghost town in the daytime, while everyone is away, working somewhere else. A two-and-a-half hour commute each way? Small potatoes!

For that matter, you can even work in London and go home to Dublin every night. It’s only an hour each way by plane, after all.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Theroux: “I drove off the main road, Highway 71 . . . “

The day was dusk-dark but there was still no sign of a storm. I drove off the main road, Highway 71, and took a dirt road up a steep slope into the woods, past shacks and trailers. At the summit, where the road became a muddy track, I came to a ramshackle house — a spectacular ruin at the edge of a field littered with cast-off shoes, rags of clothes, old rubber tires, hubcaps embedded in the earth, children’s faded toys twisted apart, plastic bags tangled on bushes, areas strewn with bottles and jugs, and shards of broken glass — a hovel with junk heaped against it.

Deep South, by Paul Theroux

Two days in Cork, one afternoon on the train to Dublin, morning in the Irish National Portrait Gallery, and the end of Theroux’s Deep South is in sight.

In the intervening time, she’s learned about: Faulkner. Erskine Caldwell. Gun shows.  Clinton’s boyhood. Poverty. Segregation. Dying Towns. Activists. Meth labs. etc.

She read the reviews on Amazon. One woman says she wishes Theroux had focused on the “nicer” parts of the south. Instead, he stayed on back roads, and focused on talking to poor people.

That is who self wants to hear from! The poor people! The ones who make some parts of the South resemble a Third World country! Because — that is reality.

Keep going, Theroux.

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Reading DEEP SOUTH in the National Portrait Gallery, Dublin

Earlier, she was in Hodges Figgis and bought yet another book to weigh her down: My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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