Roberta’s

Rustic plank table, chilli flakes in the Parmesan shaker, salt shaker and three wilting chrysanthemums in a squat glass bottle; multi-coloured party lights drape from shelves and windows; unpolished concrete floors; two overhead fans rotate lazily; mirrors, hipster paintings, a pogo stick and a toy truck complete the interior decoration. My eyes keep coming back to one painting in particular: an homage to an iconic scene from Brokeback Mountain, the two central characters appear to be wearing masks that are a cross between a goat and a clown. This in no way diminishes the impact of the intimacy imbued in their body language.

‘Here’s your coffee, my dear.’ A hand reaches down and delivers the quintessential cup of American coffee: over-sized white ceramic cup and saucer, inky black liquid with a few bubbles clinging to the edge, two sugar sachets and tiny stainless steel jug of cold creamer. I look up to say thank you and am greeted by a perfect Roberta’s waiter.

Sleeveless, cropped white logo t-shirt, Levis 501 jeans fraying at the ankle, blue floral Converse high tops, baseball cap worn reversed, a two-day growth and multiple chain around his neck. His disarming smile compels me to continue to look into his eyes. His runaway blonde hair pokes out from beneath his hat. I can now read his t-shirt – THE FUTURE IS FEMALE. It is only now that I see that he wears glitter on his skin. It is lightly applied all over his face.

‘You’re wearing glitter,’ I say unnecessarily.

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Is that a cream or do you just sprinkle it on your face?’

‘I actually apply a bit of oil to stay hydrated and then I dab it on my face. It’s a special body glitter.’

‘I have a real glitter phobia but, on you, I like it.’ I make redundant hand motions just to drive the point home.

‘Oh, thank you.’ He half bows as best he can due to our close proximity. ‘Do you know that strippers aren’t allowed to wear any glitter?’ I nod genuinely interested. ‘Cause it sticks to the skin of people they come into close contact with.’ We both giggle at the possibilities of punters explaining to their significant others where the glitter came from.

‘What’s your name? I’m Mandy.’ I stick out my hand.

‘I’m Pedro.’

When he turns to get back to work, I think I can almost see rainbows and unicorns revolving around him.

‘Cheers.’ An icy tumbler of pale pink, alcoholic goodness is deposited by another waiter. This one is wearing a black band t-shirt, turned up jeans, black socks with runners that have seen better days and sports a high pony-tail and bandana. My ‘savage garden’ cocktail is skinos (a Greek spirit) agave gin, strawberries and coconut. It tastes like a grown-up’s version of a kids’ party drink. It’s fruit-sweet without being cloying, perfectly cold and the coconut milk adds a welcome creaminess.

Before long my ‘white and greens’ pizza arrives. Thin but not-too-thin base, still a bit chewy with that tang you get from a long-fermented sourdough. An adequate layer of mozzarella cheese (grated more finely than is the usual) is laid down with the additional onion I requested, then into the ferocious wood-burning pizza oven which backs onto the street. The balance of the kitchen is at the opposite end of the restaurant. Wood burning pizza ovens are a wonderful thing. They produce an intense heat which cooks food quickly and with plenty of flavour. But that heat has to go somewhere and not all of it goes up the chimney. It’d be a great place to work in winter but not summer so much.

Back to the pizza – the mozzarella and onion-ed base is given its obligatory few minutes in the oven, then topped with ‘greens’ which appear to be a mix of friselle, parsley, arugula and other unidentifiable bits. The pizza then gets a liberal dose of freshly-grated Parmesan and is plonked on a warm metal tray, cut into six slices and delivered to the lucky table. I demolish in about the same amount of time that it took to prepare and cook.

Yesterday was a full day for me. I was up at 5.45am in London to meet my 6.15am shuttle from the Hilton airport hotel, which naturally did the rounds of the other airport hotels before dropping me at Terminal 3. I then spoke to the check-in staff who were too perky by far for that time in the morning, collected my boarding passes and began the fun that is submitting oneself to security procedures at airports these days. It was just after 7.30am when I found my way to the lounge which looks like a cross between the Star Trek command deck and a 1970s swingers’ party. That was the highlight of my day. I spent the next 18 hours either queueing, waiting, flying or waiting some more.

Back to Roberta’s. I’ve said this before about a few places this trip and I’ll say it again – good thing I don’t live here as I’d be here way too often. It isn’t the cocktail list with cbd oil additions. It isn’t the quirky artistic vibe of the staff. It isn’t even the delicious food and tempting drinks list. It isn’t that they have a thriving kitchen garden to augment their orders. I don’t know what’s it is exactly, I just feel like I belong here.

First cocktail down, pizza tray cleared, coffee now gone cold and I figure it’s best to down a glass of water. I’ve still got a few hours to fill before I need to leave for the airport and I need to keep my wits about me. Today’s flight will take me to New Orleans and that place is not known for its restrained sobriety. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

I order a second cocktail – the WIFI which is ironic because this joint doesn’t offer free wifi unlike many places in the United States. I’m okay with that. Six weeks of travelling without constant connection has broken the habit. Social media doesn’t distract me like it has in the past.

Aviation gin, watercress, lime and cbd oil. The watercress means that drink is the colour of healthy grass. No doubt it also helps tone down the flavour and colour of the cbd oil. The drink comes in a squat conical glass. Without ice like my previous one, this drink is a sipper. It’s concentrated flavour. By its conclusion, I’m definitely feeling more relaxed but I can’t testify as to whether that’s from the cbd oil or due to the pizza and cocktails.

The day has warmed up and I’m thinking ice cream may just hit the spot. The staff are very attentive so it’s not before long that another waiter swings by my table, so I enquire. Doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?

‘We got almond, blueberry and burnt fig. You can have it as is or in a sticky bun.’ I can detect an accent of sorts but I’ve no idea where it’s from. That’s something I’ve experienced a lot in America, or to be more precise, in New York. Most people are from somewhere else. Whether as tourists visiting or as recent residents, a myriad of languages and accents are heard throughout the city. But big cities are like that, and New York even more so. It represents possibility. Your dreams can come true, in theory anyway.

‘So did you decide if you want any gelato? I think the blueberry’s the best.’

‘You’ve convinced me,’ I say. Sometimes it’s easier to let other people make the small decisions. I don’t really care what flavour, I have. I just feel like a little something cold and sweet. I’m grateful to be able to get just one scoop. Meal sizes here can be over-whelming, especially when I usually want to try multiple dishes.

At the small table next to me, two women of dressed in jeans and flannel shirts make their way through a couple of pizzas. One leaves the crusts uneaten on her plate. It takes every ounce of willpower that I have not to lean over and ask her if I can have them. I’m not hungry after my full pizza but I abhor waste and pizza crust is yummy, particularly these pizza crusts. The crust is where you get the full flavour of the dough, slightly smoky and charred from the oven plus all that sour dough taste. I guess the real test will come when they get up and leave. Will I leave those morsels be? I’m saved from myself by one of the many waitstaff who arrives to clear the plates

They ask for the cheque and one says, ‘At least, I eat all my crusts.’

I smirk while the waiter retorts, ‘Well, I wasn’t going to say anything but.’

I’m presented with my dessert. The bowl cradles one generous scoop of the most intense blueberry gelato you’ve ever had. Well, I had it, not you. It’s perched atop wafers which taste like a version of cornflake. These are glued to the bowl with a delicious honey that they probably harvest from their garden. I lean forward so as not drip any of the purple dessert on my top. My luggage is packed and I don’t fancy opening it up in the middle of the restaurant to find something clean but crushed to wear. I’ve only got two and a half hours to get through unscathed until I make my way to the airport.

A stack of glasses are knocked over but the soundtrack of pumping background music and hearty conversation doesn’t pause one iota. Each table has now filled up and three lone wolves perch at the bar. I move to a corner and nab a vacant power socket to charge my ipad and phone. More pleasant to do it here where they serve drinks than to try find a spot at the airport where the drinks are over-priced and of unpredictable quality.

The lunch rush comes and goes. Tables are re-set and the odd person remains, lingering over a drink. I’m one of those people. Suddenly, my phone buzzes. I had forgotten that it was still in vibrate mode. No one has called my phone for weeks. Apart from the obligatory message from my service provider to tell me what country I was in and that I was eligible for a day pass for only $10 a day. Yeah, no thanks.

‘THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is required.’

I’d heard about this FEMA test on the radio the day prior while getting a lift from the airport to my accommodation. 75 percent of mobile phones are expected to display this message. Around the restaurant, people pick up their phones, spend a few seconds and put them back down.

With a numb bum and an empty glass, I reluctantly decide that it’s time to make the break. I do and I don’t want to. I want to go to New Orleans and I want stay here in my new favourite place with my new favourite people. I bite the bullet, call for the bill and gather my luggage. With the receipt signed , I tip well and walk out the door.

Goodbye Roberta.

I love you, whoever you are.

Monday 27th August – NYC

4.08pm

We return home, our temporary home, with tired and sweaty feet. The subway exit is a block and a half from the apartment. Climbing the steps up to the street is just that extra bit of struggle after a crowded, stuffy four-stop subway ride. Scaffolding covers a high percentage of the Manhattan footpaths and today I’m grateful for the shade it brings. Waiting on the corner for the lights to change, I announce my detour.

‘I’m going to pop into Dylan’s Candy Bar for a look around before coming up.’

‘You going to get something for Steve?’ my sister asks.

‘Probably. I’ll see upstairs in a bit.’ It’s across the road and only a few doors down. No chance of me getting lost on the way back.

I cross the road and push open the double glass doors. It’s a multi-coloured wonderland inside. Over-sized fixtures proffer packaged confections in every colour of the rainbow and more. Signs point to the café upstairs, the cotton candy bar downstairs, corporate gifting in a corner and much more. Walls of jelly beans in every conceivable flavour, shelves of boxed chocolates and stands of personalised mints delight and confuse the eyes.

‘They really do have every kind of candy,’ I hear one kid say.

Earlier in the afternoon we visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or as the cool kids call it The Met. When my sister first moved to New York, she made the fortuitous friendship with a woman who has a membership. After some fancy soirées and exclusive tours, she now knows her way around this cultural institution without a map. We picked one up for me anyway.

Room upon room of art from around the globe and through the ages is presented for one’s viewing pleasure. Writing tablets from ancient Sumer, a complete reception room from early 18th century Damascus and six-metre high fresco of Buddha are only some of my highlights. Over two hours we weave our way through the galleries and exhibition spaces. Simone has compiled her own top ten list: Madame X by John Singer Sargent (link here), Washington Crossing the Delaware (link here), The Oxbow by Stephen Hancock (link here) to name a few. If The Temple of Dendur doesn’t impress you, then something’s wrong.

It was a shame that due to an exhibition setting up, we couldn’t get to the Frank Lloyd Wright room. I love me a bit of interior design porn. Up and down the odd stair, we would settle in the quieter rooms for some restful contemplation. Every now and then, an unexpected vista would present itself through a doorway. I can’t say which piece was my favourite. That’s like asking me to choose a favourite child. It’s the middle one but don’t tell the other two.

So after a few hours in air-conditioned splendour, we trekked out into the heat of afternoon and the sauna that is the subway platform. I hope Gregory is staying cool.

New York City, NY – Monday 5th September – part 2

Approaching the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue, colloquially known as Museum Mile for good reason, the building holds none of the magic that the Guggenheim art museum commands. From street level the brick pattern neutral coloured exterior is just another sheer building face with nondescript gaps for windows. If you’re able to step back and look up without falling into the road, you’d see the fussy decoration of an over-sized French townhouse.

Outside the front door is a black suited security guard. This is a sight I’m getting very accustomed to by now. As I attempt to enter he places his arm in front of me so that I walk into it.

‘I’ll need to search your bag, ma’am,’ he announces as settle back onto the lower step, bumping into Steve. I open the zip expecting a cursory glance for guns and explosives. Clearly a man who takes his job seriously, the guard lifts my wallet, tissues and other unmentionables in pursuit of who knows what. Snuggly packed into an external mesh pocket of my handbag is a half-drained bottle of water.

‘You can’t bring that drink in here, ma’am,’ I’m advised brusquely. How the word ma’am can come across so aggressively, patronising and outright rude is beyond me. I am not sure I’ve ever used the word before in my life and I’m not about to start with this trip. Both sir and ma’am have been levelled at us often this trip with so little apparent meaning.

I breathe out slowly but deliberately. ‘Am I able to leave it with you?’

‘No, ma’am.’

I don’t move from my place on the doorstep and proceed to drink as much as I can. I offer it to Steve who on this occasion declines. Try as I might, I can’t quite finish it after a filling breakfast. Watching my every move silently, the guard looks away as I pour the remainder to the side of the entrance, only steps away from his position. Perhaps I should water the tree buffering the footpath from the road but I don’t.

‘You’ll need to check your bag before entering the gallery, ma’am,’ he calls out after me as I push past. At the base of the stairs, I remove my bag from around my neck.

‘Is this where I check my bag?’ I ask but am answered with a hand palm facing me fingers directing me to my left. A young lady, perched behind a bench looks up from her phone as I approach.

‘Is this where I check my bag?’

‘Yes, ma’am. That’ll be two dollars,’ she answers with all the enthusiasm of a teenager working the overnight shift at a McDonalds drive-through.

‘Okay. Just let me grab my wallet,’ I say pulling my bag back towards me before rifling through it.

‘Just a reminder that photography is forbidden in the gallery,’ she smiles and doesn’t smile simultaneously. ‘And don’t forget to visit the gift shop on our way out.’

I pay, collect my card and we head back to the foyer. A white marble staircase circles up and to the right, a black botanical-motif iron balustrade following it. In front of the staircase is a reception desk and the owner of the hand, who speaks as we attempt to climb the staircase.

‘Where you wanting to visit the gallery?’

‘Yes,’ I respond, thinking that it is rather stating the obvious.

‘Admission tickets can be purchased here.’

‘We’d like two tickets please,’ Steve interjects over my shoulder in an attempt to save the receptionist from getting his head bitten off.

‘Any concessions?’ he inquires.

‘Actually yes. I have a student concession card.’ Realising it is in my wallet which is now ensconced in the bag/coat check room, I consider my options. My dogged frugality wins out over my short fuse and I replay the procedure to save myself US$10. I’m unsure if it is worth it.

Some galleries and museums in America have a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ policy but not this place, at least not today. Traveling can be expensive. Obviously airfares and accommodation are the bulk of the expenses. In my lifetime though, airfares have become substantially more affordable. In the twenty years since I first began travelling, the price of my plane ticket has remain unchanged, regardless of inflation. The price of petrol, however, has increased by two-thirds. I sometimes wonder if it were more accessible, would more people travel. Perhaps they’re happy to stay at home, to stay in their knowable, predictable towns. I’m the kind of person who needs to save up for a holiday otherwise the stress of handing over a credit card every time outweighs the joy of the travel. Eating breakfast in and grabbing food from a market or grocery store also helps to ameliorate the ongoing shelling out of money. So yes, the saving of US$10 has a wider impact than its immediate perceivable action.

The collection at Neue Galerie includes decorative arts, sculpture and fine art pieces from various Austrian and German artists. Steve has brought me here for one reason only – to view the paintings of Gustav Klimt.

When Steve and I met through an online dating website, my profile name was Klimt. I had previously attempted online dating to greater and lesser success in the prior few years before meeting Steve and had learnt many tricks of the trade. One of which is not to give away any identifying information in your moniker or profile. Yes, you want to stand out from beachandsmiles76 and lovestolaugh71 but I always looked at a profile name as the first impression. I like to make a good first impression. One that draws curious and intelligent people in for a second look.

By choosing the name of one of my favourites artists, I felt I was sending a message about who I am as a person (artistic, slightly left of center) and also who I was looking to connect with (that might be harder to pinpoint in a few words). Needless to say, Steve heard my message loud and clear. I’m not sure if the entire time we’ve been together he’s been looking for some original Klimt artworks to direct me towards or if it was a fortuitous twist that he discovered the Neue Galerie here in NYC.

Either way, we find ourselves mingling with a couple of dozen other visitors on a glossy tiled floor, in a cool dark long room. Ten or so pieces drawings and paintings hang solemnly behind glass around the room. A few plinths in the middle display sculpture of marble and bronze but I barely glimpse at them. I step swiftly past numerous pencil studies to get to the main subject. There are too many people in my way. Can’t they go away and leave me alone with this woman I’ve traveled so far to see. I decide to do another lap of the room, this time pausing at the pencil studies, admiring the energy and fluidity of his line work. Various poses with body twisting first one way then another, her face barely even blocked in and yet it cannot be anyone else but her. I see a break and decide to take another run at it.

Adele Bloch-Bauer. She is unmistakable – dark hair piled high in folds upon her head, elongated neck swathed in a jewelled choker and her pianist-perfect fingers awkwardly held in front of her. A chaotic mosaic of triangles, squares, eyes and swirls envelope Adele, merging her dress with the background. Gold leaf dominates the oil paint, elevating the portrait to somewhere near religious icon status. I smile to myself. ‘Nice to finally meet you, Adele,’ I say under my breath.

Later, I descend to the bathroom below street level. One thing I quickly learnt as a tourist is that you take toilet stops when you can get them. Incongruously, it is here outside the ladies bathrooms that I find a life-size poster of Adele with a sign next to it encouraging selfies and the gallery’s social media platforms so I can tag myself in.

What do you get when you cross an engineer and a design graduate?

What do you get when you cross an engineer and a design graduate?

A book cover artist of course.

Another Word Con and more engaging presentations from a variety of professionals in the publishing industry. Though I was saddened not to listen to Justin Heazlewood’s session (and more importantly get him to sign my copy of his book ‘Funemployed’), day one was full of fun and facts.

Rob introduced us to Marisa and Puja from Hardie Grant Egmont, specifically from their YA and middle-grade fiction. Though not a field of interest to me, I enjoyed the dissection of the publishing process.

Andrew presented a session exploring the space between flow state and focus in our contemporary, increasingly distracting, society. Robyn Doreian’s guest Cate Blake from the Penguin Random House imprint Viking proved a popular guest. With a focus on middle market and literary fiction, Cate pulled back the curtain on the submission process and emphasised the importance of being involved in literary competitions. Venetia bravely pitched her completed novel, putting into practice exercises from the previous semester. If I had a completed manuscript or even a firmer grasp on my project’s thesis, then I am sure that I would have also pitched.

Emma Noble was the final guest for the day. With a background in the publishing industry in various roles, she currently runs her own business as a literary publicist. Overall, Word Con 4 is a ripper of a mini literary conference. I enjoy the variety of presenters and the range of positions they can talk to within the publishing industry.

I found Puja’s contribution to the first session the most engaging. Puja’s varied background, including an engineering degree, reinforced for me the obscure nature of many career paths, my own included. Through the publishing subjects, I have managed to combine my innate visually creative inclinations and the book embryo I am birthing. As with Puja, every step that I’ve taken professionally has led me to this point though not necessarily via any predetermined plan. As a side note, she was completely charming to speak with after the session.

vibrant

 

discover who you are through writing

 

Science fiction, speculative fiction – yep, you can keep them. Adam Browne’s lecture on his process of translating his narratives to short film seemed like a diversion of interest only to others. I was wrong. Slightly nervous with reflux tablets to hand, Adam cut a ‘handsome genius’ figure, to paraphrase his blog site. Checked chef pants, fire-engine red runners and tropical bird print Hawaiian shirt only added to the quirky image of him as author, illustrator, and filmmaker.

Between attempts to play his short films and responding to Andrew McRae’s prompts, Adam also fielded a mess of questions from the audience. During ‘The Adjustable Cosmos’ I noticed he sat, arms resting on his head and eyes closed. I couldn’t not ask him about this.

‘You sat through that with your eyes closed. I wondered if it may have anything to do with the fact that as a writer you were concentrating on the words unlike the visuals over which you didn’t have any control,’ I asked.

‘No, just nerves,’ he replied.

I pursued him further. ‘You write, illustrate and make films. What comes first in your head? Is it a linear or circular process? Or more like a pizza dough?’

‘That’s a good question that I don’t have an answer to. I don’t know.’

In a way, I had hoped that he was going to answer that he sees his stories as a movie first of all. This is how I experience my stories. Even when writing from my own real-life experience, I see the movie unfold in my head. I then try to describe the scene, picking out key details that will express the most in as few words as possible.

I’m curious about the interplay between the part of my life as a visual artist and that of a writer. As Adam said – a good question that I don’t have an answer to. I will, however, take solace in another piece of wisdom he shared – that you can discover who you are through writing.

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San Francisco, CA – Friday 19th August  

San Francisco, CA – Friday 19th August

Oak Street on which we are staying is a busy thoroughfare and the morning traffic is an effective alarm clock. Since we are up and moving, I propose we go in search of a hearty breakfast. A few blocks down hill and around the corner and we find ourselves in a bustling enclave of designer retail outlets and cafes. The pace is slower here. No one is hurrying off to work. Young families with dogs in tow linger outside the bakery.

From across the street I spy a restaurant with the subtitle Comfortable Food.

‘I want to go there.’ I say, pointing at the black and white striped awning.

‘Where?’

‘There. Stacks. Comfortable Food. I don’t know what constitutes comfortable food but I want it.’

Phone in hand, Steve proceeds to look up said restaurant. I’m already crossing the road to see if there’s a menu in the window.

‘All American breakfast. Old fashioned hospitality,’ he calls out after me. ‘Waffles, omelettes, pancakes.’

By the time he joins me at the front door a server has emerged with a couple of large laminated menus.

‘Good morning. Where can I seat you guys?’ a young, perky woman asks us.

‘Here looks good,’ I point to the aluminium chairs on the pavement behind me. Menus are placed on the table and she returns with iced water before we’ve managed to read even a quarter of it.

‘Can I get you guys some cawfee to start with? Or a fresh-squeezed juice perhaps? We have a fabulous range of fruit smoothies too’

‘Umm, I’ll have a coffee,’ I say without looking up.

‘I’ll have one too thanks,’ Steve adds.

‘Great. Milk or cream?’ she asks.

‘Cream,’ Steve pipes in before I can say the word milk.

A short stack of two raspberry pancakes, whipped butter already melting served with a jug of maple syrup for me and banana pecan waffles with whipped cream for Steve. Possibly we should have chosen from the something light section instead. Oatmeal, yogurt or fresh fruit somehow don’t leap off a menu in the same way. American breakfasts are often sugar-laden affairs and I prefer not to think about the calorie content when I’m fork deep in fluffy, syrup-laden pancakes.

Coffee is needed to cut through the tooth aching sweetness of this meal. Our standard issue cafeteria mugs rarely are allowed to dip below the halfway mark of caffeinated beverage. Bottomless jugs of drip coffee are the expected level in American cafes and this one doesn’t deviate from that.

Two-thirds through my breakfast, I feel the need for a bathroom break and so step inside the café for the first time. Inside, the ceiling is rimmed with artificial plants. As my eyes accustom to the dark, I see large ceramic urns weighted down under bouquets of flowers. Waiters in stiff white shirts descend on me to help.

‘Bathrooms?’ I enquire and am pointed towards the rear of the restaurant, past several large red columns.

Large groups and noisy families fill the majority of the seats, their tables groaning under plates of half-eaten dishes. I’m grateful for the relative peace we seem to have found outside on the footpath. Upon my return, Steve has thrown in the towel on his breakfast also. I’m informed that our next move from here is one of his most anticipated.

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

Although this day may be slotted for art viewing, our brewcation is not taking a back seat. 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.

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 much walking. I love walking around a new city as it’s such a great way to get to know a place at ground level. The slow pace allows me to peek into stores and eavesdropping 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.

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, visitors find themselves in a vast multi-storey 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.