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The Pace of Life…

June 13, 2014


Hmm, not that things haven’t been happening but I”m less sure of their significance as far as being of interest to anyone else. Nevertheless, here goes.

In part I chronicle the Sprinter adventure here but the art work venture as well. This is about travel. Being retired means only a new set of activities, the time to plan for them and… choose a pace. I find our pace of life is slower but maybe more understandable and even, dare I say, controllable apart from illness and road rage.

The trips have been family related, Mississippi and Florida. I must say I know of no more hospitable family than the Otis Allen family(ies). We were able to see my dear aunt Helen Tucker Allen for her 95th. Seems pretty spry to be approaching the century mark. But then her sister was able to attend the party at 100+ years. Amazing sisters. We spent time there with a bunch of other family as well from Arizona, Florida and Kansas. Every minute with those folks is fun. The best of memory makers.

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We had planned to take our first Sprinter long trip in May. We did. The itinerary was pretty full, hoping to see some sights and a lot of friends we haven’t seen in a while. We went from Atlanta to Flat Rock North Carolina so that we could see the Carl Sandburg Home. It was worth every minute. Our guide was our age, funny, informative, involved in the history of the laureate. Mrs. Sandburg had 270 goats there at the farm the descendants of whom roam around in lesser numbers. There is nothing more joyful than watching about 12 little goat kids play around until exhausted when they collapse together. Much of Sandburg’s life relics are in the house as they were. Moving at times.

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We stayed overnight in Verona Virginia the next night before heading into D.C and over to Maryland to see Paula Beall and Ken Schiano. It had been about 14 years since we were together. They look pretty much the same but a lot of water has passed beneath the bridge since we last met in Eastport Maine. Wonderful place, Eastport, on the Bay of Fundy and near Campobello, but the winters are harsh and the economy depressed.

They moved to Chestertown Maryland a few years ago. They are practicing, licensed architects. The company is QA13 Architects. We saw first hand the extraordinary nature of their combined talents in their own house. As a house it might have started out pretty ordinary but now it’s one of the coolest I’ve seen. It is extremely comfortable and spacious… for them and their cats, those they chose and those that choose them. Lucky cats. We got to see other examples of their architectural work in the area and were equally impressed. Totally livable, beautiful spaces.

Ken is somebody you don’t get to see much, a working artist. He is represented there in Chestertown and elsewhere, successfully. His work is difficult to explain in words, not because it must be understood and containerized as words attempt, categorized, but because it is consistently mysterious, varied and inspiring and about what it should be about, discovery. It’s about his peering into that lovable abyss of possible creations and finding the process to make real what he sees in there. It means we’re sighing with relief that the trip he had to take to get here is his alone and we get to share in the results without the pain. I was always just short of laughing with joy at all the work and the way it made me feel. Such beauty and adventure, I’ll always be grateful for the experience and exhilarated at the possible continuation, his as an artist and ours as observers.

Ken has an obvious galloping compulsion to make the stuff he makes. Wanna see? Enjoy.

Paula is about things I think matter a great deal, deliberately ignored by some. She’s what we need a more of, an opinionated, daily operational conservationist. She is about caring for living things and it’s always obvious. And her sense of design and her contributions to the QA13 combine show her to be a quiet powerhouse. Someone to know, and learn from while enjoying her company.

Eating at their house was a treat. They are vegetarians, Franca and I are near vegetarians, maybe nearer after this visit. (Photos from D. C.; Street Scene, Korean Costume, Lobby of The Hirschorn Museum, an extremely important corner shadow, a sculpture from the Hirschorn Sculpture Garden and a sign I thought was amusing.)

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It’s a short drive from Chestertown to Livingston New Jersey. In Livingston lives one of the most singular people I know. I’m always happy in her presence because she is “there” every minute. Carole was Franca’s first friend at Cooper Union. She has worked at Random House since 1972 and is now a vice-president with many books to her credit and affiliations with many authors. Her heart… on a beautiful neighborhood street in Livingston in the little red house she has worked on for years, soon to be the place she always wanted. Her decisions are careful and the results are appropriate and absolute. The sprinter looked huge in her driveway but cool. We talked and ate together and got to see her wonderful mother, Jeannette, going strong at 91.

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On our way north we stopped at a couple of interesting places, the home of the author Washington Irving, Sunnyside, and the Old Dutch Church which has some of my dutch relatives buried in the cemetery. We had an unexpected guide at the church and it was a really nice experience overall. The now beautiful Hudson river was never very far away. (Photos are Sunnyside and the Old Dutch Church in order.)

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I graduated from Western Kentucky University in 1964. Finally got focused enough to declare a major, finished my course work and went into the army. My college career, while pretty satisfying to me, wasn’t that of a scholar. I was just  interested in everything and took classes about… everything. I did have some memorable roommates in that stretch. Among those was Eric Knutsen, a guy from my home town, actually. I was a sophomore he was a freshman in South Hall, on campus. I could relate a lot of stories… but they did not involve college capers, they were about conversation, music, aspirations. He was the kindred spirit the others never became. After I left to be in life Eric and I lost touch. Fifty years of lost touch. Out of continued curiosity, I had tried before to find him, one day at the computer I searched the web for Eric and there appeared a photograph of a guy who looked pretty much the same as he always did and with a little effort I found his email. Long story shorter…   after Livingston we went to Wappinger’s Falls, New York and spent some time with Eric and his wonderful wife Valerie.

I have to tell you it was strange. Fifty years is half a century, yes, I know you know. I’m sure we didn’t remember the last conversation we had but it seemed that way, just picked up. I’m here to tell you that if you’ve lost touch with  someone who meant and means something to you… go at it. The worst anyone could say is, “Who?”

We really ate well at their home, Rick’s culinary efforts taught me to like Salmon after all. And we ate at a couple of places around that part of New York state, neat towns on the way back to vital from years of just being there, good food. Got to go to Dia Beacon again. I never tire of that space. We took in a lot of small commercial galleries and then there was Storm King Art Center. Storm King is 600 acres, plus or minus, really well kept with sculpture judiciously placed over the entirety of hills, forest and standing water. Magnificent! Some of the pieces are 40 feet tall, taller maybe. Some painted, some natural rust, some finished metal surface, some stone, various. I think there must be some very satisfied sculptors out there who worked to a grand scale and then placed their work without compromise at Storm King. I’ll always be grateful to Eric and Val for taking us there. Won’t be the last time.

Rick and Val’s personal life is theirs to reveal. They’ve done well, have a wonderful family, are accomplished and are great hosts. Remember, don’t wait.

(Photos here and the header are from Storm King Art Center.)

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We then spent a short couple of days with another of our favorite couples in the world, Barbara and David Hirsch, Brooklyn. We’ve visited their wonderful home before. They have a way of making you feel at home immediately… read French Toast for breakfast that was the best I ever had and conversation. They are the best company and time spent with them is always too short. We walked from their house to Prospect Park together and over to the Brooklyn Museum. The Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the museum was awe inspiring. It represents 20 plus years of work by a singular Chinese artist, a lot of monumental installations, an acerbic visual statement about oppression as he sees it in his native land. We look forward to a western trip next year and seeing David and Barbara in their new house there.

 

(Photo of an Ai Wei Wei installation at the Brooklyn Museum.)

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On home. Our experience has been that the RV parks we have encountered so far have been run by nice people and every single one of the now 25 stopovers has been a nice experience.

(Photo self portrait. I get transparent when I get tired, I’ve noticed.)

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I must say that traveling with my wife is a joy. She makes the day enfold the way it should and is always up for side trips and unexpected adventures. Lucky dude… me. After planning to do this for years while slugging away in business it is certainly a pleasure getting to do what we planned together.

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Next post? Who knows… C

 

 

 

 

 

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