San Francisco, CA – Thursday 18th August

San Francisco, CA – Thursday 18th August

 

2:41 PM

Terminal 1, Departures – Door 10, San Francisco International Airport

MILES 14.45

TRIP TIME 00:28:10

FARE BREAKDOWN Base Fare $2.00

Subtotal $24.82

Booking Fee $1.55

SFO Airport Surcharge $3.80

Total $30.17

Diogenes 4.35 stars

 

A Cadillac Mustang tentatively slows, curb crawling with the driver leaning forward peering out the dusty front window. Smiling and waving, Steve steps forward, phone in hand, to open the front passenger door.

Hi, I’m Steve.

I drag my suitcase from the pavement. As it dumps onto the bitumen, the driver appears by the rear door and heaves both our suitcases into the trunk. They land between slabs of bottled water and a forest-green sports bag that may or may not have a small dead body inside. Over-dressed for the surprisingly warm weather, I peel off my baggy black jacket I have carried with me from Melbourne before jumping in the backseat.

 

I’m still reminiscing over my breakfast – a six-egg white omelette with sautéed kale, guacamole, roasted baby yams and shaved turkey breast. Could it be any more American? Egg white omelettes and turkey breast first came to my attention thanks to a plethora of television sitcoms. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them on a menu in Melbourne. Unfortunately the tea was truly American in style also – tepid dish water. Thankfully, I brought a stash of real tea bags with me from home. These will have to be rationed out over the next month. Americans may start their day with coffee but I’m a cup of tea girl all the way. I’m not pretty without my cup of tea. America and Australia may well have been colonised by Britain, but the tea has an altogether different standing in Australia than in America. I’ve visited the USA three times and rarely have a found a kettle, electric or otherwise, in a hotel room.

 

Steve always sits behind the driver as the English gentleman in him won’t allow me to get in the car on the road side and naturally as a lady I can’t be expected to scoot over. I allow him these indulgences, quieting my inner rabid feminist. From my position in the rear passenger seat I get the perfect observation point on our Uber driver. Burgundy check shorts and a ‘limp from years of washing’ indistinct logo t-shirt. Bob Dylan’s version of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ plays too loudly on the radio.

And so begins our trip up the west coast of America. For the next month, Steve and I travel up the west coast, fly across the top stopping in Chicago before landing in New York then down to New Orleans and back west to San Diego.

 

Eagerly embracing the new disruptive paradigms of Airbnb and Uber, we tasted a previously hidden or hard-to-find version of America. Staying with an American version of my great aunt and uncle in Bend, Oregon and an ageing Mills-and-Boons’-cover-model-turned-bar-owner in New York City, we meet many entertaining people who opened up their cars and homes to us. Uber drivers in exchange for pieces of gold, similarly opened up their private space to strangers from a foreign land. Unable to retreat to a distant room, our Uber host must find their own space within the metal cage.

 

How long you been doing this?

Steve always starts the same way. He doesn’t actually really care how long you’ve been working your car for Uber or been driving that day. It’s a hook to hang the rest of the conversation on. It turns out our driver today is named Diogenes. The app tells us so. Diogenes himself doesn’t actually tell us much at all. The fourteen and a half miles over twenty-eight minutes costs a total of $30.17 which includes a surcharge of $2.00 for pick up at the San Francisco airport. When you submit yourself to a taxi in a foreign country, there is a fair degree of trust involved. Ubers take this one step further. A private company with little external regulation, car sharing is just one part of a new society we are figuring out as we build it.

 

San Francisco, CA – Friday 19th August

 

12:13 PM

395 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

MILES 1.21

TRIP TIME 00:07:41

FARE BREAKDOWN Trip fare 9.61

Subtotal $9.61

Total $9.61

Driver – Antonio

 

San Francisco may well be my new favourite city. The weather is nicely temperate; there’s a cool breeze off the water which means walking around isn’t over heating us. Steve has a tendency to get sweaty easily which means he’s reluctant to do too much walking. I love walking around a new city as its such a great way to get to know a place at ground level. The slow pace allows me to peek into stores and eaves-dropping is unavoidable. The pavements are dirtier than I’m used to. Lots of chewing gum is stuck to the surface and I feel the need to remove my shoes the moment we step in from outside. It’s summer and I’m wearing sandals so my skin is too close to this filth for my ease.

 

Although this day may be slotted for art viewing, our brewcation is not taking a back seat. After a coffee and bagel earlier, our first stop is Mikkeller bar in a seedy area known as the Tenderloin. Drug deals and sex workers aside, theatres and dive bars sit side by side and I’m sure it all looks shinier when lit by neon at night. With Uber Antonio dropping us right at the bar’s door, it wasn’t long before Steve has an oatmeal coffee stout in hand. I choose a lingonberry-flavoured sour.

 

Soon enough we have a couple of brews under our belt and it is only a few blocks’ walk to the art. As a visual artist, the art museum in every town we visit is usually on my list. San Francisco is no different. Steve is trained for this by now. I think he secretly appreciates a respite from the heat and sun as well as a chance to sit where he can. Before we even get to step inside a gallery, we come across two people perched on makeshift stools at a fold-out table offering poems for sale.

 

I can’t resist. After a short conversation, Devon starts tapping away at his vintage typewriter to produce a bespoke poem for Steve and I.

 

There’s winter left

so so have we, we’ve

traversed meridians, both in our minds and globally, taken to

the air, decided to discover

ourselves through

the new lense(sic) of a new street or two

From Winter Left by Devon Kingsford  August 2016

 

Ten US dollars later, I tuck my personal poem in my notebook and we head through the large glass doors and into the expansive light-filled atrium. With admission tickets purchased, the pressing job is to decide where to begin in the seven levels of galleries.

 

As both daughters are also studying art, my camera is rarely out of my hand as I snap images and artist details to send to them later. There is so much great American art but one that really connects with me is a piece by the artist Chuck Close. He makes large portrait paintings in which he lays down a unifying grid then adding circles and other shapes of varying colours. This has the effect of pixelating the image and slightly abstracting an otherwise straightforward head portrait. I remember loving his work at The Met in New York City and this was a chance to share it with Steve.

 

But how can you share art with someone? A person’s response to a piece of art is just that – their response. It is also tied to a particular time and place. If this was the first time I had seen Close’s work, would I even feel moved by it? That’s a question without an answer. It was on a visit to New York five years prior. I can recall seeing the painting in The Met as I entered a contemporary art gallery and it was on a far wall. Initially, it was just a large painting of a man’s face. Only as I walked towards it (or is it more accurate to say pulled towards it?) did the gridded abstraction technique make itself clear. It was a hot summer day in New York City when my then-partner and I decided to spend the bulk of the day in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park to which it abuts. The bright sun was unrelenting with heat radiating off the brick and concrete all around us. So it was that the lush dark green and cool shadows of the park called.

 

After a slow stroll through the park and a snow cone replete with lurid red flavouring, we joined the throng climbing the steps from Fifth Avenue to enter the museum. Immediately, the visitor finds themselves in a vast multi-story foyer, light streaming in, wide arches and dome that in itself makes you draw breath. I’m sure I spied Close’s piece just as I had started to reach overload. It’s that point when nothing starts to make a connection and you find yourself walking past more than you stop at.

 

And make me stop it did. I rushed past the adjoining walls, seeing only the painting in front of me and there I stayed for a long time. Standing, watching, observing others as they barely glanced at this masterpiece. I stood back and I stood close. I didn’t want to leave it but once I did I knew I was done for the day. Nothing else would matter now. How do I share that with another person?

 

So goodbye to Chuck Close, my tired feet and swollen ankles signalling the end of art appreciation for the day and the start of the evening’s entertainment. Another Uber to our dining establishment is both welcome and needed. A fortuitous meeting the day prior has lead to a masterclass of American west coast wines pre-dinner at the restaurant’s bar.

 

Local Kitchen & Wine 330 1st St #1, San Francisco, CA 94105

Starters

Spicy smoked chicken nuggets unlike Ronald McDonald has known with a green goddess dressing, all herby and zesty cutting through the fried protein.

Roasted Brussel sprouts with a mustard vinaigrette, slightly charred on the outside and meltingly soft inside

Main

Wood fired pizza with hot pepperoni, pork and fennel sausage, fresh goats cheese , cherry and San Marzano tomatoes with generous slabs of buffalo mozzarella.

Dessert

Olive oil semi-freddo accompanied by char-grilled, perfectly ripe Californian peaches and a sweet Saba vinegar.

After my spontaneous American wine masterclass, we opted for a wallet-lightening Chateau Montelena 2013 Zinfandel. By dessert, we were ready for a glass or two of 20 year-old Tokaji – sweet without being cloying.

 

San Francisco, CA to Mendocino, CA – Saturday 20th August

 

During our three days in San Francisco, I had tried and failed to light the gas stove so I could boil some water for tea. There’s no point saying I should go out to Starbucks to buy tea. I need tea as I’m pottering around getting ready in the morning. This is a non-negotiable. On our final morning in my new favourite city of San Francisco, I woke early and sat on the mustard velvet love seat peering out the bay window. While the world went about its workday morning business, I curled up and caught up on my journal writing. I decided to take one last go at lighting the mid-century stove in our eclectic Airbnb.

 

Our host is a photographer and the apartment reflects his visual aesthetic. Visual vignettes are everywhere. An over-sized glass candy jar filled with fluorescent-yellow foam ear plugs graces the bedside table. 1960s postcards decorate the table lamps perched on the triangular tables twinning the loveseat. A wooden artist mannequin resuscitates a polymer cockroach. There’s a fine line between art installation and amenity in our second floor Oak Street apartment.

 

With the stove finally conquered, I realise I need to go out hunter-gathering for milk. Americans may like their tea floral, black and insipid but I like mine strong and milky. Coffee here in America is filter coffee with creamer. Creamer is a bizarre concoction of corn syrup solids with hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil and white powder thrown in to make it acceptable. Espresso is yet to take strong hold.

 

So out I trek to find somewhere to buy milk. I aim for a service station or convenience store thinking that will be my best bet. A block west and half a block north and I find two service stations opposite each other. Things are looking positive. As I stand on the street corner waiting for the lights to change, I pull my jacket tight around me to guard against the chilly early morning wind. Unmarked white buses pull up just prior to the intersection and collect a small number of people I’ve just noticed gathering. Later, I discover this is a common practice to bus staff out of town to large corporate estates.

 

As I enter the store, I head towards the fridge I see at the rear. There’s no familiarity with the bottles I see on the shelves. Out of the way, I manage to decipher images and words to find plain, unflavoured milk. It would have been easier to buy soft drink, sports drink, juice or even bottled water than milk. America clearly isn’t a strong dairy culture, regardless of the cartons of milk I remember seeing children drinking on television. Like a conqueror, I return home successfully and provide caffeinated beverages to prepare us for a long drive to Mendocino north along the Californian coast, the Pacific Ocean at our side.

 

9:01 AM

955 Oak St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

MILES 12.96

TRIP TIME 00:19:44

FARE BREAKDOWN Trip fare $35.11

Subtotal $35.11

Total $35.11

Driver – Tommy

 

We get dropped off at the Europe car rental section of the San Francisco airport. Staying close to our luggage, we take our place in the queue which snakes across communal foyer. The vibrant carpet no doubt hiding all manner of stains.  Finally, international licenses in hand it is our turn and we stand at the long counter. At five feet tall, I’m not tall enough to lean on the top of the reception counter and yet somehow seated the rental sales person still manages to look down on me. The psychology of sales is not lost on me.

 

After negotiating our exit from the car park maze, we can begin the self-guided drive portion of our journey. Across the Golden Gate Bridge which this morning is shrouded in fog and we finally start to move away from the tourist traffic and put some miles under our belt. All too soon though it’s time for our first pit stop at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. Our American brewcation was Excel spreadsheeted to the hour by Steve, so we manage to avoid the heaving crowds by turning up as they open at 11am. A tasting paddle of their brewery-only beers and a soft pretzel with beer cheese sauce is a fine late breakfast.

 

Four days of self-driving through Northern California and Oregon dictate that designated-driver Steve is on strictly limited tastings only. California has a legal blood alcohol concentration of 0.8%. While this is higher than what we are used to, the craft beers we are tasting range up towards wine level of 12% ABV (alcohol by volume). The craft breweries we have planned to visit offer all manner of beers from simple west coast IPAs through to barrel-aged stouts. Thankfully, every place offers small tasting paddles.

 

I’ve offered to drive more than once but Steve definitely prefers to be in control. I don’t think he likes being a passenger, in any sense of the word. I’m trying to avoid leaving nail marks in the door upholstery. Why is it that each corner delivers an RV travelling too fast and too close to the centreline?

Along the pilgrimage route is Russian River Brew Company. These legendary craft beers are difficult to get anywhere in Australia. If we had wanted to sample beers from their bar, the wait line was over an hour. Instead, we opt for takeaways from their bottle shop which requires only a 20 minute wait in the noonday sun. We buy their legendary Pliny the Elder which is a Double India Pale Ale that is not only rare in Australia but also overpriced at AU$50 for a standard 500 ml bottle. Much lauded as the ideal DIPA, it regularly receives 95% and higher on beer ratings websites. What do we think we finally get to taste it hours later? Meh; it’s nice but it is nothing more than a well-balanced, bitter fresh ale in the manner of west coast ales with loads of citrus and pine.

We also snag their available barrel aged beers -the Supplication brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries, the Temptation blonde ale aged in Chardonnay barrels and the Consecration ale aged in Cabernet barrels. The Supplication is funky thanks to the added yeast and bacteria and nicely tart from the sour cherries. It’s my kind of beer. The Temptation is buttery and slightly oaky with its time hanging out with the Chardonnay barrel. The Consecration is the youngest of the barrel aged beers but is satisfyingly full bodied with hints of chocolate and spice. At 10% ABV, this is our sipper beer that ends up rounding out our evening.

Before we can get to any of that though we need to complete our allotted day’s brewery visits. Next up we have Anderson Valley Brewery in Boonville, CA. It’s after 3pm by the time we arrive and the dry dusty fields that serve as their car park are full of tents and inebriated campers. Turns out, we’ve happened upon their annual Disc Golf Championship weekend, though we never actually witness the event in action. Essentially a competitive frisbee round-robin, Disc Golf, as we soon discover, has a strong craft beer drinking participation in the west of the United States.

We easily locate the taproom by the steady stream of shoeless people trudging towards an unsigned shed. Now, I know Anderson Valley beers from buying them overpriced from our fabulous bar/bottle shop near our house. Their tart thirst-quenching Briny Melon Gose is a go-to for my summer drinking. Salt and watermelon? What’s not to love about that in a beer. Cans and bottles of Dreef Fooper IPA, Boone Amber Ale, Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout, and Blood Orange Gose find their way into our cooler. Two litre Growlers and six-packs fill the hands of campers as they stock up and make their way back to their camps, like ants filling the home stores.

Just before we get to Mendocino where we are to stay for the evening, we stop in the town of Little River and buy some snacks for dinner from the only store in town. Its dark weathered exterior nestles into the grey green cliff side, white breakers relentless below. Inside is a bustling well-stocked convenience store that sells bait, beer, groceries and hot food. Crackers, some cured meats, cheese. Earlier we bought ourselves a cooler box so we would have cold beer with us at each destination.

Sitting on a damp garden bench, my bare feet push into the humus rich earth beneath them. Though low clouds have rolled in from the Pacific Ocean hiding the tops of the dark redwoods in their misty skirts, the sky beyond is still bright. Our tiny log cabin is marginally larger than our queen sized bed. An electric kettle, for which I’m grateful, sits upon the mini-fridge. Gathering what we need for the evening from the boot of our rental vehicle (an oversized SUV), I’m eager to simultaneously flop onto the bed with its soft, white linen and explore my surrounds.

The main house is quaint, pale yellow weatherboards and dark grey slate roof. Chooks roam free everywhere except the fenced off vegetable garden. The host family  – mum, dad, five year old daughter, eight and eighteen year old sons – are tucked up inside going about their evening routines. I can hear no cars, no airplanes. It’s odd – this loud silence, almost unnerving. The sound of my pencil rustling against the paper is louder than the birds in the woods that surround me.

Eureka, CA to Elkton, OR – Monday 22nd August

 

A misty morning in the marina at Eureka gave way to sunny clear skies as we headed inland. Each afternoon while travelling along the Northern Californian coast, a gothic fog rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. Cutting off the outside world the mist hangs low among the bobbing boats, the tips of their masts disappearing above. The American Gothic genre is finally beginning to make sense to me.

 

Eureka is a working fishing town with a sprawling marina sheltered behind Woodley island nature reserve. And as such the town is just another typical non-tourist town. No photo-worthy vistas are presented just street upon street of retail, light industrial and residential use. Breakfast had to be at The Chalet House of Omelettes, which we spied on our way into town the previous afternoon.  Its laced lined windows, blue paint trim and over-sized slate tile roof helps it stand proud in a large asphalt car park. After a few days driving on the other side of the road, turning into driveways still challenges Steve with his car positioning and more than once we have stopped halfway only to let an exasperated driver manoeuvre around us, shaking his head and no doubt cursing loudly.

 

An extensive laminated menu is handed to us upon our seating and coffee poured without asking. Additionally, decorated chalkboard menus above the counter spruik today’s, and possibly yesterday’s and tomorrow’s, specials. Wall space was taken up with more menu exposition, photos of local celebrities and historical images. They needn’t have bothered with the cottage-style striped wallpaper or plywood panelling.

 

Opting for a plate of biscuits and gravy to tick that off my to-eat list, Steve chose scrambled eggs with country sausage (a seasoned mince patty) and a hash brown that I’m sure was half the size of his face. To decode biscuits and gravy, you need to realise that it is not a biscuit as in a cookie and nor is it a meat juices based reduction. American biscuits are a version of a scone with no sugar and not necessarily as light and fluffy as you would want with cream and jam. The gravy portion is a white, roux-based sauce that hopefully has cream added for richness. It may or may not come with seasoned ground meat through it. The better ones do as it gives you a reason to eat the dish.

 

I have made this dish at home a year or two prior to my travels. I browned ground pork with fennel, garlic powder and onion powder as per my American cousins like to use, paprika, parsley, salt and pepper then drained off excess fat. Adding this to a basic white sauce made with heavy cream and serving with fresh biscuits/scones and I can see the appeal. My biscuits and gravy at The Chalet house of Omelettes, however, was not appealing.

 

So we hit the road resolving to stop somewhere along the way for second breakfast.

 

‘You don’t do road trips well, do you?’ Steve proposes about an hour into our morning drive.

 

Reaching forward to turn down the podcast we are streaming through the car stereo, ‘Why do you say that?’ I ask, genuinely curious.

 

‘Well you don’t seem to want to stop much. We’ve missed two things already this morning.’

 

‘I don’t like crowds and stopping to take a picture of the largest redwood along with fifty other people doesn’t really do it for me.’ I’m not sure what more to say. I’m rarely attracted to the things that other tourists are drawn towards. I’m not interested in the Grand Canyon, the 911 memorial or Disneyland.It’s the Queen Anne style house, painted murky green on a hill overlooking the Eureka marina that I am drawn towards. It’s the discovering of something unexpected and unearthing its story that most delights me. The Carson mansion built in 1884 looks like it has come direct from Disney Haunted Houses 101.

 

The Denny’s restaurant we decide to stop at in Crescent City shares a car park with a bridal and a gun store. This is the America I came to experience. The sum of our experience is made up of the deliberately sought and the accidentally found. A slice of chocolate caramel pie for Steve and bacon cheddar tater tots with a side of jalapeño honey bacon for me.

 

Back in the car and more of Mark Maron interviewing other celebrities is our slightly aggressive soundtrack for the afternoon drive as we press on into Oregon. Almost immediately the quality of the roads change. Yes, we saw the state line signs to alert us that we were leaving California and entering Oregon but I would’ve known some border had been crossed. The roads change altogether. The lanes get wider with large cleared shoulders on each side, the asphalt becomes smoother providing less road noise inside the vehicle which had the effect of amping up Mark Maron’s verbal attacks. Tall lush green redwoods no longer loom over us.

 

At first, we think the change might be temporary but it isn’t. While I can’t definitively declare, I believe the state tax on the now-legalised cannabis industry has been pumped back into state infrastructure. It is a conversation I bring a few days later with Uber driver Jaimie. He confirms that the state government is enjoying a new found wealth thanks to the booming legal cannabis industry.

IMAG5011

The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes
They had only made it half way to the front door. I’d remembered to bring them down from my bedroom but left them on the half-height wall in the lounge. It was a habit we had gotten into – leaving things by the stairs to be taken up or down.  Our cats had other plans for things left on the walls. Like brave hunters protecting their masters, they would bat items off the wall and onto the floor, forcing the object to submit to their feline dominance.
So, I had moved the shoes in case they should suffer the same fate, the heavy wood heels marking the wood floor. Our landlords were cautious and had forced us to sign extra documents in our rental contract. We would not allow anyone to wear stiletto heels on the timber floor. Do I even know anyone who wears stilettos? We would not have any dogs or cats. Whoops.
The red leather shoes got put on top of a crate in my painting area. I don’t have a studio but a small area lined with a tarp then drop-sheet to protect the beloved floorboards. Plastic crates held my paints, rags and jars with brushes in varying stages of utility. Balanced upon a bar stool, an old tile served as my palette.
One evening alone and half a bottle of pink wine later, the urge struck. I didn’t have an image in mind like I often do. I looked around saw the shoes and thought why not. Loosely sketching the image onto the canvas, I got to thinking about such an everyday object in my life. I’d never been one of those women who own loads of shoes. I only wear shoes that are absolutely comfortable. I prefer flats over heels. Barefoot most of the time, any heels I do own must be able to be run in if the need arose.
There was a well dressed man who I briefly dated. He was a gentleman, sending a car to pick me up for our second date, where upon I met his best friend and wife. It was a well-reviewed bayside restaurant with an indulgent wine list and meal usually beyond my modest budget. I talked comfortably with the driver on the way to dinner. Working in a service industry myself, I’ve always chatted easily with waiters, bar staff and customer service assistants. They often know the best places for a drink or meal.
Over a few weeks, he wined and dined me. One afternoon, he turned up at my work to surprise me with a fancy dinner after work. We walked along the street after I finished up, me giving him the tour of the small country town in which I worked. Holding hands, we looked in the shop windows finally stopping at a popular bar for a glass of cold, white wine – a welcome perk of working in a fabulous wine region.
In the window of one store that I rarely entered due to my tight budget, we stopped and admired a pair of red heels. He asked if I liked them; I responded that I did. The store was closed so I knew he wasn’t going to buy them for me. I assumed he was just trying to learn more about what I liked and didn’t like. The seed had been sown though. I liked the shoes but I knew I didn’t need the shoes. I did, however, envision myself wearing them with jeans, with dresses, floral skirts – anything.
After we broke up, I decided to buy them. It wasn’t retail therapy to cheer myself up as I wasn’t really upset that we’d broken up. There had been something about the relationship that had felt a bit off. Maybe it was that he owned more beauty products and shoes than I did.
It was around this time that I began to reflect on what I had learned from the men that I had dated since my marriage dissolved. From one, I learned that I didn’t like being organized by others. From another, I learned that it is important to me to hear the words ‘I love you’. From the aforementioned gentleman, I learned that I could treat myself to some of the finer things in life.
So I went and spent more money on a pair of shoes than I had ever in my life. I slipped my feet inside and they were perfect – no pinching, no rubbing. And I did wear them with dresses, floral skirts and jeans. I loved wearing them. I felt special. Occasionally people noticed them and I would bend my knee, raise my hem and look down to admire them also. I smiled and said – thank you, I love them too.
I remember one night at a gypsy music bar in the inner north – you probably know it, it only serves crepes, two savory and two sweet options. Red-checked table cloths, velvet-clad chairs, and only one wine glass. If you are early enough you’ll get the wine glass, otherwise it’s a tumbler for you. I’m one of those early type people and while that doesn’t help with my social anxiety that the event won’t even happen, it did mean that the wine glass was generally mine.
 I found the bar via a piano-accordion player I briefly tried dating though things never seemed to quite work out there. We seemed to continually miss each other somehow.  I did, however, fall in love with the whole bohemian music scene. The swirling cacophony of notes, plaintive vocals and impassioned dancing hypnotized me. I was hooked and kept schlepping from middle suburbia into this exotic other world. My shoes brought me here. They belonged here.
One sultry summer evening, I didn’t feel like going out but had read in a well-meaning friend’s book on dating rules that the first step is just showing up. So I climbed into the low cut black dress that celebrated my curves and my comfortable, reliable red shoes. I did get compliments on my shoes. Small positive words buoyed me. The glass full of wine didn’t hurt either.
Then there was the Italian chef I had previously dated. I was now single. Again, it had been a relationship that didn’t pan out for any apparent reason. I wasn’t hung up on it. We’d both been invited to a party up country by the chef who had originally set us up on our first date. Not exactly a blind date, we had known each other through mutual friends.
Now country parties don’t normally seem like a heels kind of occasion but they had hired a function space and bungalows for the event. And I wanted to impress. I wanted to be the one who was in control. I wanted to be the one to choose to sleep with him or not.
It was going to be a great weekend. I’d taken the time off work, which was rare for me. Parties thrown by chefs are always good. Hospitality people like to drink and I’m not talking casks of Jacobs Creek. Platters groaned with piles of antipasto, cheese, seafood and more. Each surface offered up something delightful to eat or drink.
 It was late summer and the drive north was through some dry land indeed. Different shades of brown stretched from one side of the horizon to the other. Bushfires had raged across the hills only a year or two prior and many of the guests were somewhat twitchy. The firestorm was still a very real memory for most.
 I’m not a country girl though I worked out that way for many years and had grown to have an understanding of why people chose to live in such an area even though it was remote from the city with the very real threat of bushfire each summer. For me, I was always happy to return to my middle suburban life.
So I brought my shoes along with me. My red wrap dress and the heels worked their magic. I loved that evening. An entertaining group of people – I was with my tribe. I belonged even though I’d only met a handful of them before. I ate and drank with vigor, even danced to delightfully daggy 1980’s music. We did spend the night together. Though nothing further eventuated between us, I was fine with that.
Ten years on the shoes have seen better days – chunks out of the wooden heel, paint rubbed off the rear piece of leather, straps loose and soles very thin. Can they be rehabilitated? Should they be rehabilitated? Are they still relevant in my life? Am I painting a souvenir of times gone by or immortalizing a beloved item in my life?
A few days later, I find myself at the cobbler.  She is a short, spunky woman about my age who I slightly want to be. She seems to have found a trade she believes in and loves, that tires her but makes her feel useful. Her calloused, stained hands turn the shoes over and over, evaluating them while I try and explain what I hope for them. I’m not sure if what I’m asking is possible. How can I explain to her in just a few minutes what these mean to me, why I can’t seem to accept that they may have reached the end of their life? She finally looks up and smiles. I think things are going to be okay.

unique-ness

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the threads that pull seemingly disparate pieces of my work together. Whilst I may have an idea going into something the sheer nature of arting/playing means that the result isn’t always an intended one. I see value in and enjoy the process of exploring an idea, a theme, a medium. a technique. It just doesn’t always got to plan.

Just like now with this post, I’m already off on a tangent diverting from my initial thrust.  (I’m actually thinking of getting someone to interview me about my art and recording the session to see where my brain takes me that usually my fingers are too slow to capture. This, I see, is a parallel idea to the Hemingway “Write Drunk. Edit Sober” quote/misquote,)

Anyways…

I’m thinking about the ideas of uniqueness. Fingerprints, how they relate to contours, landscapes, landscapes of the female body. Also our eyes, doorway to our soul(?) their unique colours and patterns. Surely we don’t refer to them as eyescapes. Looking at leaves, they all have a ‘scape’. 


There’s actually not too much to write about this cause mostly it’s still trapped inside my head, tangled, arse over tit.

Just so you know, I really like it when people comment here rather than just a FB like. To me, it feels like you’ve actually read it.
I’m guilty of this behaviour also. I’m trying to change. Unless, I’m stalking you – then I read but not comment.

Final Tokyo chapter

Walking up a side street we spied a coolroom of hanging meat on the second floor of a restaurant. Naturally we were drawn to investigate. Gonpachi hadn’t exactly satisfied. Up we wandered and soon we found ourselves sitting down with some jamon, terrine, cheese and baguette, a rose wine for me and a red wine for Steve = Happy days! 

This place was a delicious, delightful respite. Le Petit Marche in a back street of Roppongi was just what the doctor(chef?) ordered. Fortunately it was mostly patronised by Asian customers with only one other Western couple (American, I think).

 It was from here that we walked up to Kento’s – a 50s/60s pop club which although was a bar, looked more like an american diner. The band does 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off throughout the evening of american 50s/60s pop – with the occasional Abba song thrown in for good measure. The band is appropriately attired and coiffed wooing the audience who really seem to get into the swing of things even if they have little to no sense of musical timing. I drank some sweet garishly coloured cocktails; Steve had some 12 year old Yamazaki whiskey. All was somehow right with the world.

Coming home along the main street where lots of restaurants and clubs are situated was a different experience altogether. So many noisy westerners that I became quite resentful. It’s an odd feeling because I am a westerner but I was almost offended by the presence of so many westerners. I’m still processing that bit.

One guy deliberately tried to bump into me either to pickpocket(of which I had nothing on me) or to ‘cop a feel’. Either intentions aren’t pleasing but that’s honestly the only unpleasant experience like that on the whole trip.
All in all, despite many instances of language barrier, we have fared very well. Japanese people, as a culture, are very honest. They also, on the whole, have very good english language skills. Way better than our ridiculously small grasp of Japanese.
Note to self – learn more basic language skills of the country I’m travelling to.

next installment…

Saturday April 5th 5pmish


We are all checked in to our swish accommodation – Hotel S – on one of Roppongi. It’s very modern with tight, efficient design = very japanese and one thing that I’m actually quite attracted to. I didn’t quite prepare for what I might buy here. A knife was a possibility but to be honest I don’t really need one. The ceramics and fabrics are highly covetable but again it’s all want not need.

This morning we commuted by train from Asakusa to Roppongi – that was after a hearty breakfast of cream cakes and coffee from Angelus, a store we’d been drooling at the glass of in Asakusa. Pretty much most of the way Steve was strongly advocating a taxi ride instead. That might, of course, be related to the many stairs Tokyo Metro seem to have as well as the need to transfer trains with our luggage.

After arriving in Roppongi and dropping our bags off at our hotel we went for a wander. Luckily, it turned out to essentially to be a dry day. I get to visit the art supply store (which is incredibly well stocked – far greater than anything I’ve previously seen and well presented in a tiny space). Again fabulous use of a small space.

A short promenade around the Mori Art museum area and we just happened to find ourselves at the Brew Dogs bar. Brew Dogs are a couple of the scottish guys who brew incredibly interesting craft beers. Beer in Japan can be a no-brainer – like in many parts of the world – but there is a growing market for craft beers – well made and tasty little numbers.

A few hours were easily lost there before we strolled/straggled back to our hotel via a very fancy, high end shopping outlet complete with an american high end food store – Dean and Deluca (WANKERS!)
There is quite a strong attraction to french and italian (more so than other european nations) food and drink here in Tokyo, and more so in Roppongi. Obviously a fair proportion of that is expat demand. Fabian. our Shinjuku guide from Monday night, did point out that it is most favourable and advantageous to be french in Japan. There’s clearly an attraction there.
So now at our hotel it’s time for a soak in the bath ( a little down time – aaaahhhh!)

After a most appreciated soak, we hit the town. We started at Gonpachi which is a restaurant that inspired a set in director Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill. It is a replica of older Tokyo (Edo) style places. Food was hit and miss, probably because it straddles too many styles (sushi, yakitori sticks, soba noodles as well as other odd items which felt western to me). Most other eating establishments we have visited usually had a tighter, more limited but more focussed menu.

Gonpachi was clearly playing to a more western audience, of which there are many in the area of Roppongi. We had heard there was a large ex-pat community in this area. Last night as we chose to walk up a quieter backstreet , avoiding the touts, we found an array of embassies. Pieces fall into place.

Bucket lists

What do we think of them? Like them or not like them? Do you have one? How up to date is it? How long since you managed to tick something off it?

They can be good incentive to get you up off your butt and out there into the world. Some people really enjoy ticking things off the list. For me, I like to make sure that the items are actually possible to achieve….for me. No point having it full of highly improbable things like travelling to space or running a marathon – neither of which I should point actually appeal to me although I know certain friends for which these are very real events.

Basically mine has expired – not that generally I believe in the old ‘use by date’ concept. Fundamentally I reckon we’ve become lazy and want  someone else to tell us when it’s okay to use a product. Use your brain people!Look at it…smell it.. taste a bit of it. Cheese ‘past’ it’s use by date? – Fabulous it’s usually reduced and now it’s in peak ready to eat condition! My favourite!

I read some interesting stuff on the interwebs recently ( who knew this thing would take off like it has AND be so useful ) about an art project that harvested bacteria from a variety of human sources and developed some cheese from said innovative bacteria strains. 

Now, I know plenty will disagree with me but I was a little let down that the cheese wasn’t actually consumed by anyone. I thought it was such a missed opportunity to close the circle, if you like. Would I have tried it? Probably. I’m not too queasy when it comes to food. Cheese is essentially off milk anyway…
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2511272/Would-eat-cheese-HUMAN-FEET-ARMPITS.html

But I digress…gee I’ve never done that before (you, stop laughing!)

So basically I think I need a new bucket list.

There’s a slight problem. I don’t seem to want anything. My life is going so well in all aspects that I genuinely don’t crave anything. It’s particularly annoying for my partner at this festive time of year. 

My list used to include things like – eat a trashy hot dog and drink a beer from a plastic cup whilst watching a baseball game in America, have matzo ball soup in a Brooklyn diner, go to an uber cool NYC club and drink an over priced cocktail that I’d never heard of before. Yes, I see the theme too – food and drink and entirely acheivable.

So what’s on my new list – not much so far. Definitely eating and drinking around Spain and Italy. Visit New Orleans with my man who has great passion for the city. But mostly, I think it’s to do what I’m doing. Paint, write, cook, walk, laugh, read, talk, meet people, draw, play, take joy in each day and more.