Thursday, November 29, 2012

Echo Mountain, above a rainy day


Debussy and Ravel feuded in public and in private. Their music had similar answers but each argued endlessly that it was wrong, so wrong, how the other had chosen to formulate the question.

They were related -- like big and little brother, first-born and next in line --  constantly encroaching on each other's territory. Eventually Ravel said, “It is probably better after all for us to be on frigid terms for illogical reasons.”

But both loved and protected Erik Satie. Their spiritual baby brother. Though, in reality, Satie was older than Ravel. Satie never threatened any borders, because he had a land of his own.

I'm just sorry Argerich never played this.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

On the street where I live

Well, strictly speaking, I don't live here. It's five blocks south, on Altadena's main drag.


"I can always tell when your writing hits a speed bump."
"Oh, really, how?"
"When your blog is picture, picture, picture."


D is a triple-threat. She can write, and cook,


and count. (By the way, I think the visual instructions on this sign are an accident waiting to happen.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

A visit to Big Blue, Part 2

Part 1 is here.


By now, I'm far less intrigued by this home than I am by my continued popularity in this august neighborhood.

Another walk around San Rafael last week brought more effusive greetings from the denizens. One gentleman in tweed called out, "Betty and Byron send their love!"

"And love to Betty and Byron!" I sang in reply. "We're due for a long chat at the club, over some dry martinis."

He looked puzzled, but nodded.


Albert and I hiked a steep private drive to catch a glimpse of the bubble house's back side. The blue butt, as it were. On the way, the postman smiled and gave a salute.

At the top of the knoll stand two impressive estates, each staking a claim, one to the east and one to the west. Rather than snap some pictures, I decided to play by the rules. As Albert and I made our way back down again, the owner of the east side manor was driving up, and waving so vigorously her car veered in our general direction; I feared we'd be killed by kindness.

I have two possible explanations for all the affection those in tweeds and the Bettys and Byrons throw in our general direction.

Explanation #1: Aristocracy is not a matter of money; it doesn't matter what you drive, where you live, what you wear -- breeding will out. A tribe recognizes one of its own. How to put this without sounding conceited? It's the way one walks, the set of the shoulders, the upward tilt of the chin, an aquiline nose. The ability to spell "aquiline" without autocorrect (work in progress). It's stature and bearing. Your mother told you to stand straight? Why, I have a broomstick stuck up my ass; always have and always will.


Explanation #2: I look like the local dog walker. They think Albert is their lab. Betty and Byron are cocker spaniels.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brazilian Pianist Joao Carlos Martins


João Carlos Martins was on his way to becoming the greatest pianist of his generation. One critic said, "He has a tiny brain in each of his fingers." Best interpretation of Bach? The argument is still Gould versus Martins.

Martins lost the use of both his hands after a mugging, concussion, and a botched operation. If this was a particularly bitter pill to swallow, he never let on. Instead, Martins immediately turned to composing, conducting. Oh yes, and he taught himself to play Bach with what he had left -- three tiny brains instead of ten.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The other white house


If you start from my front porch and walk four blocks south and two blocks east, this is where you'll land. The house is for sale.


I've had dreams about this house, though it usually plays only a minor role. But the other night, I dreampt I bought this house for $350,000.


That's how you know it's a dream; the wide awake selling price has one extra zero.



The devil's in the details.


Nothing says great wealth like a two-foot high coffee cup. There's also a chess room inside, with pieces the size of fourth graders.


(More info on architect Qingyun Ma of Sunday's Titanic House in comments)


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Art appreciation




There's this place I like to visit not far from where I live, about three miles by crow, six miles by Ford Fiesta, and much further away than that both financially and socially.

Al is my calling card to this extremely wealthy little hilltop. Because he's handsome in that generic black lab sort of way, when we walk the hood, people think we're neighbors. They beep-beep the horn, stop us along the way and say, "So good to see you again; it's been toooo long."

You're telling me.

"I know," I say. "And you look great!" And they generally do, too. Look great, I mean.




I drove up there yesterday, with Albert riding shotgun. On the way, it grew painfully obvious my shotgun had been rolling around in some dead organic material or another. I'm guessing squirrel, but then, I'm an optimist.

Oh Albert, I sigh, zooming down the windows, what will the neighbors think?




Albert doesn't mind the smell, dogs never do. They wear stink like merit badges, and favor a complex palette of odors -- odors that tell a dramatic story preferably one that ends in death and decay. We humans try to keep life's rich pageant out of our nasal passages.

We're better at the visual stuff. Dogs are not amused by complex images; Albert, for example, hates representational art, particularly animal statues. They look right, but smell wrong, especially the private parts. Should he eat, chase, fight, or hump them? Only after multiple visits to a particular statue can he finally relax his standards and enjoy a "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" moment.

A walk of a couple miles from the Rose Bowl brings us here. It looks like the aftermath of a violent head-on collision between the Titanic and a mountain cabin.




My favorite houses share a sloppy sentimentality, they're places where Jo, Amy, Beth, and whatshername could light the fire and wait for Marmee.

Mid-century moderns would die of shame if they ever had so much as a lace curtain or comfortable chair.

I can't smell this mid-century's private parts, but after multiple visits, have grown to appreciate what's going on conceptually. In a ceci n'est pas une maison kind of way.