Monet and Boudin


Impressionism at the Legion of Honor. Renoir and his women, the softness that is softer through its forming. Cezanne and his fruit, oddly askew, not a straight meridian on the canvas. Gauguin and his lantern jaw, surly, brutish. Van Gogh and the idea of order in the tulip rows against the larger context of his madness.

For me though, it was Monet and Boudin. Especially Boudin. Boudin the godfather of the whole thing. Claude, check out this technology. It’s an iPad 3. No it’s not. That’s not out yet. What it is, is a portable easel. Get off your duff and get some air, straighten the spine, put beans in your belly and paint this world.

Honfleur. Deauville. Villers-sur-Mer. Where are these places? Not a map in the house… context, I need context.

Two days later. 91 degrees in Palo Alto. Laying in bed waiting to get tired enough to sleep with the the buzz of the AC running. Reading my book. A story, a passage: Mort Rosenblum. Monet and Boudin. One sentence. No, two: “La Ferme Saint-Simeon was where Boudin taught Monet about portable easels. Over the years, everyone spent some time there, painting light and trying their luck with the servant girl, Rosie.”

Those two sentences make Monet and Boudin come to life for me in a way that even seeing their paintings, even going to Honfleur (I haven’t, only been down the Seine as far as Rouen) couldn’t do.

Sun Day

Riding alongside Caltrain. Commuters in rows. Roses in yards. Yellow, reds, greens. Girls in sundresses riding bikes. Boys in business suits riding to offices. Oranges dangle in trees. Treats for the eyes. Each time we ride, home from the cafe.

April In Palo Alto

Rain morning in Palo Alto. Drip + drip = Ick. A fine morning to continue my love / hate affair with Zombie Runner: At 8:59 I hate the place, standing out in the rain, in line for this thing to open. By 9:05 I’m delighted. A well-pulled shot of well-roasted espresso, what can you say? Sip, and sip, and sip. Ten minutes of bliss.

9:15 AM. A woman, hurrying across a parking lot. Drops her keys. Her momentum carries her past them, a good ten feet. You wish she’d dropped them closer to you, so you could say “I got this”, pick them up, toss them over. Delight someone.

After the coffee, the rain seems ok. More of a drizzle, really. Notice roses against the grey, and the green of trees. An archway of Japanese Maples, yellow roses popping below, suddenly beautiful in the rain. You remember Paris in April, how delightful. And how in order for it to be Paris in April? It needs to rain.

Happy Easter

“Easter came in like a frozen hare – but it was fairly warm in bed.”

(Henry Miller. Tropic of Cancer)

Wine -> Wine

Dinner at Sauvage last night. One of the paintings on the wall, one they used as a label for their wines, reminded us of our trip to Walla Walla last fall:


3PM on the wine trail in Walla Walla. Started after bruch, at a downtown tasting room. Worked our way down towards the future Milton-Freewater AVA, where the Rhone varietals develop these wonderful mineral undertones and overtones that remind you of wines from, surprisingly enough, the Rhone. Graduated eventually to the quonset huts, the spaces out by the airport where a startup mentality lives and garagiste idea/ideals thrive.

So three o’clock in Walla Walla. And because it’s November, the sun is going down. We pull up to what we’ve decided – without deciding – will certainly need to be our last stop of the day. Inside, a bit of a surprise, a nice tasting room. Wood, marble and sparkle. Almost too nice. Guy’s over at the far end of the room, standing over what appears to be a piano. Definitely a piano, as the drip-dropping of black keys touched in no particular order resonates throughout the room, and he turns to acknowledge my cough-cough Anybody Home act.

“Hey. Didn’t hear you come in. Grab a spot at the bar, I’ll be right over.”

Our host starts into the wine tasting room spiel. Less formal than the usual, and his eyes are red and he’s staggering a little at the bar. A tad soused? Oh yes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that at 3PM in wine country. We ask about white wines, which is how and why we ended up here. White wines? No, they must have been mistaken. Wait, I am doing a Sauv Blanc this year. It just went in the fermenter. Want to try it? You bet we want to try it.

He leads us back to the winery. Staggering all the way. He has a wide open setup, a little equipment in too much space, several hundred-ish barrel fermenters in the corner of what might have been an airplane hanger. He leads us to a smaller one, maybe a fifty barrel, and fills a glass from a siphon.

The wine, this pre-wine, proto-wine: Unfined, cloudy, an unattractive hay color. But a great nose. And delicious, too. Very much Sauv Blanc with that classic grassiness, minerality and slight hint of gooseberry. A real treat – Jen and I have been wine tasting for years, tasted from plenty of barrels, but this is our first experience tasting wine that’s mid-ferment.

Twilight when we went out. 3:30 in the afternoon. November, the week before the Thanksgiving. The lines of vines brown on the hills. That low, desperate early winter afternoon sun, weakened and reddened, collapsing behind them.

The Big Six Weeks

The transformation that happens between March 1 and April 15. How to even begin to describe it? March first is still winter. April 15th can be summer-esque. Everything blooms in the interim; surprising, delightful, sublime.

Spring In Port Orchard

Back in PDX (again)

Back in Portland. Coava morning. Bright morning of blossom trees and spring enthusiasm of biking to work, why not it’s a glorious morning, the sun is up and what could possibly be wrong when there’s a row of tulips in every yard. April and another season of seasons in this offshoot of two rivers and rest stop along the I-5 whose freight truck traffic and Seattle-bound San Francisco-bound LA-bound drivers barely catch (or not at all if they take government recommended I-205 bypass) that there is this fine little Northern European university city at the confluence of Willamette (Wil-LAM-et for some Oregonian reason) and Columbia rivers. Blink and you might miss it. A whole city…

…with parks and trees and houses and shops and hopes and dreams and people who wake up at six AM to exercise and people who stay up half the night tuning their transistor radio to pick up basketball games from Anchorage AK and punk rock stations from Vladivostok. It’s the Pacific Northwest after all. Settler mindset, pioneer mindset, Go-west-young-man mindset.

Chuck Palahniuk: Being the cheapest city to live in on the west coast, Portland has its share of washed-up nothings making it rough around the edges.