Friday, March 22, 2019

RICHARD, WE HARDLY KNEW YE


POSSIBLY TAKEN AT PETEY'S 

One of our favorite relatives, known to me as Cousin Dickie, died last Friday.

Here's the obit I worked up:

Richard G. King, 80, of 1459 Ocean Boulevard died on March 15 after a long illness.

Born on July 11, 1938, in Danvers, MA, Richard came as a child to live in Rye Beach [NH] with his paternal grandparents, Jeanne and Richard G. King, Sr. He never left.

A long-time member of the Bricklayers’ Union, Richard also worked variously as a house cleaner, landscaper, handyman, and dishwasher at Portsmouth’s Metro Restaurant.

As well, he faithfully cared for both his grandmothers through their respective last long years.

Richard had an encyclopedic knowledge of the sale price of every home up and down Ocean Boulevard from approximately 1955 on, a special affinity for the Early Bird Special at Betty’s Kitchen, and a virulent aversion to Rye Beach motorcycle traffic and the current inhabitant of the White House.

He played the organ and sang a killer version of “O Holy Night” on Christmas Eve.

But his real heart was for gardening. Each fall he unearthed his treasured dahlia bulbs, wrapped them in old pages of "The Portsmouth Herald," and put them up in the cellar till spring. He had a patch of unusual pink lilies-of-the-valley, several prize irises, and a champion peony bed. “They don’t talk back to you,” he once observed of his blooms. “And if you care for them—they sing!”

He is survived by sister Nancy King-Morelli of Laconia, NH, and by cousins Allen K. King, Sr. of Los Angeles, CA, Heather D. King of Pasadena, CA, Joseph P. King of Marietta, GA, Ross J. King of Alhambra, CA, Geordie H. King of Eliot, ME, Timothy F. King of Rye Beach—Richard’s caretaker during his last years—Richard Tessier of Portsmouth, and Meredith A. King of Northampton, MA.

Funeral services will be held at Buckminster Chapel in Portsmouth.


RIP DICKIE.
WE LOVED YOU AND WE LOVED THE HOUSE AND YOUR GARDEN.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A FIELD TRIP TO BEVERLY HILLS: THE PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA




Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

From a recent email sent by my little brother Joe: “Hey aged relative — do you have [our brother] Ross’s address? I bought Allen [our nephew] a signed 8-by-10 glossy of Martin Milner from ‘Adam-12.’ I know he likes the show.”

Me: “Who’s Martin Milner?”

Joe: “Martin Milner? Are you tripping? Pete Malloy from Adam-12? The greatest cop show in the history of TV? Late ’60s, early ’70s? It was produced by Jack Webb, so there’s all sorts of killer episodes of stoned hippy parents who beat their children to death or let them drown while they’re smoking marijuana cigarettes. Funny as hell.”

My own TV watching came to a screeching halt right around the time “Mr. Ed” completed its run. Still, I dearly wish my brother (who heads up a punk band called The Queers) lived in LA.

For here’s a fun thing to do on the Westside: The Paley Center for Media, smack in the middle of Beverly Hills.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

CHESTERTON AND VON BALTHASAR



"The Church is the one thing that saves a man from the degrading servitude of being a child of his time."
-- G.K. Chesterton

“Love alone is credible.”
― Hans Urs von Balthasar


I DON'T KNOW WHY--THE PHOTOS AREN'T EVEN THAT GOOD--
AND I DON'T KNOW THE NAME OF THE TREE--SOMETHING AUSTRALIAN,
I'D WAGER--BUT THESE SPEAK TO ME!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

JANE BROX'S NEW BOOK: SILENCE



Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

Jane Brox has written, elegiacally, of growing up on her family’s Massachusetts apple farm in “Here and Nowhere Else,” “Five Thousand Days Like This One,” and “Clearing the Land.” Her nonfiction book on the evolution of artificial light is the aptly named “Brilliant.”

Her newest work — fitting for Lent — is called “Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives.”

The first takeaway (perhaps unintended) is a new awareness of the hideous tortures imposed by humans upon other humans in the name of “correction.”

Brox opens with Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, established in 1829 as an experiment in prison rehabilitation. Each cell was essentially what we would today term a Special Housing Unit (SHU).

“[D]uring the period of their confinement, no one shall see or hear, or be seen or heard by any other human being,” ran a portion of the prison’s mission statement.

Brox goes on to compare this kind of punitive silence with the silence of the monastic cloister. And to her credit, she doesn't come entirely down on either side!

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

RUNNING FOR THE HILLS: AUTHOR HORATIO CLARE



I just finished an extraordinary memoir, Running for the Hills: Growing Up on my Mother's Sheep Farm in Wales by Horatio Clare.

Like many people I know, Clare grew up with a gloriously eccentric (sometimes bordering on scary) parent (the father left soon after the mother, Horatio, and his younger brother moved to a very isolated farm). They had no money nor TV but tons of books...and nature..."[T]hough I have learned of the dangers that attend and await romantic people, that bipolar breed, the certain failure, the heartbreak--theirs and others'--and the loneliness, I cannot quite wish that they, or I, had been otherwise. If life is hills and valleys, then let the hills be high"...

Here's his description of the place they found after the boys had grown up, the mother's heart had been shattered by a later-in-life lost love, and the farm became too much: "In the end we found a large old house, half derelict, half comfortable, which had not been much messed around. It had the thick walls and the old-ship feeling of the farm. It had an old apple orchard, and there were kind neighbors nearby. Jack's cottage was just across the garden."

I don't know Jack, of course, but no matter: that is my dream house.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

DO WE MAKE PEOPLE FEEL THINGS LOVEABLE THAT WE FEEL LOVEABLE OURSELVES?

LA QUINTA CA,
TWO DAYS BEFORE ASH WEDNESDAY

"I tell you, Edward," said my father with some severity, "we must judge men not so much by what they do, as by what they make us feel that they have it in them to do. If a man has done enough either in painting, music or the affairs of life, to make me feel that I might trust him in an emergency he has done enough. It is not by what a man has actually put upon his canvas, nor yet by the acts which he has set down, so to speak, upon the canvas of his life that I will judge him, but by what he makes me feel that he felt and aimed at. If he has made me feel that he felt those things to be loveable which I hold loveable myself I ask no more; his grammar may have been imperfect, but still I have understood him; he and I are en rapport; and I say again, Edward, that old Pontifex was not only an able man, but one of the very ablest men I ever knew."

--Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

Friday, March 1, 2019

PONTORMO'S "THE VISITATION"



Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

If there is one museum exhibit to see this year, I cast my vote for “Pontormo: Miraculous Encounters,” at the Getty. Its centerpiece is an exquisite rendering of the “Visitation.”

The Saturday I went traffic was horrible, getting into the Getty lot and finding a space took almost half an hour, and rather than stand for God knows how long more in the TSA-style security line through which visitors now have to pass simply to get on the tram, I opted to walk up the hill.

En route, I thought about how the whole experience of getting to our beloved Getty is a microcosm of our lives as Angelenos: the car, the beauty crossed with hardship, frustration, hope, and if we’re lucky, gratitude.

I thought of the “Visitation’s” backstory: how the angel Gabriel “overshadowed” the Virgin Mary, her question — “But how can this be?” — her sublime yes. Pregnant with Christ, she’d set out on foot, traversing “the hill country” to visit her aged cousin Elizabeth who, way past childbearing age, at the time was also miraculously pregnant.

To know the backstory is to know that Elizabeth was bearing into the world John the Baptist, who would say of Christ, “He must increase, and I must decrease,” who would be a voice crying out in the wilderness, and who would be beheaded in prison at the behest of a harlot and her mother.

READ THE REST HERE.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

ROBIN MAAS ON CARYLL HOUSELANDER



"It is one thing to worship Christ as the perfection of human
nature in the Incarnation. It is quite another to recognize and
welcome him "in every kind of imperfect, unlikely, and-assessed
by our own vanity-unsuitable human creature." But, [Houselander] insists,
there is "no kind of person through whom Christ will not love the
world." In particular, he chooses to dwell within those from whom
the "mediocre shrink . . . people in whom suffering is stripped
naked in all its ugliness, and whose suffering cannot be cured by
our charity.... Like the disciples in the garden we prefer to shut
our eyes rather than to enter into this suffering without being
able to hide or alleviate it. "

--Robin Maas, from "Caryll Houselander: An Appreciation"








Friday, February 22, 2019

ROBINSON JEFFERS' TOR HOUSE

HAWK TOWER, BUILT ADJACENT TO TOR HOUSE
FOR HIS WIFE UNA

Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

In his day, Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) was one of the nation’s best-loved poets.

He was known mainly for his epic Greek-style poems, modern-day tragedies based on California’s central coast.

He toiled in obscurity, then hit it big around the age of 37, when “Tamar and Other Poems” became a best-seller. Six years later, he was on the cover of Time.

He and his wife, Una, came to Carmel in 1914. After their twin sons were born in 1916, they bought land on an isolated, wind-swept promontory. There were no paved roads, no trees, no neighbors.

Jeffers began hauling stones up the hill from the beach by hand. With no written plans and no formal training in architecture or construction, he built an English garden-style cottage (later expanded) and, from 1920-1924, an adjacent tower of granite.

Tor House he called it, “tor” being a Celtic word meaning “outcropping of rock.”

Today you can take a docent-led tour of Tor House and Hawk Tower on Fridays or Saturdays, reservations required.

Here, you can learn all about the Jeffers’ backstory, which began with a scandal (Una was married when they met; her ex-husband, an LA lawyer, ended up building his own stone house right down the street).

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

#ALLOFUS


"Unhindered by the guards, we stood by the barbed-wire fence which separated our compound from the men's, and gazed spellbound at the long line of men who passed before us--silent, with bowed heads, plodding wearily in prison boots similar to ours. Their uniforms were also similar, but their trousers with the brown stripes were even more like convicts' garb than our skirts. Although one might have thought the men were stronger than we were, they seemed somehow defenseless and we all felt a maternal pity for them. They stood up to pain so badly--this was every woman's opinion--and they would not know how to mend anything or be able to wash their clothes on the sly as we could with our light things...Above all, they were our husbands and brothers, deprived of our care in this terrible place. As someone expressed it, quoting from one of Ehrenburg's early novels, "The poor dears have no one to sew their buttons on for them."

Each face seemed to me to resemble my huband's; I was so tense my head ached. All of us were straining to try to find our loved ones. Suddenly one of the men at last noticed us and cried out:

"Look, the women! Our women!"

What happened next was indescribable. It was as if some strong electric current had flashed across the barbed wire. It was clear at that moment how alike, deep down, all human beings are. All the feelings that had been suppressed during two year of prison, all that each one of us had borne solitarily in himself or herself, gushed to the surface and mingled in a flood that seemed to be both within us and around us. The men and women were shouting and reaching out to each other. Almost all were sobbing aloud.

"You poor loves you poor darlings! Cheer up, be brave, be strong!" Such were the words that were shouted both ways across the wire....

The next stage was the throwing of "presents" across the wire. The emotional tension on both sides needed an outlet in action: we each longed to give something, but we had no proper possessions to give. So one heard:

"Take my towel. It's not too badly torn!"
"Girls! Anybody want this pot? I made it from a prison mug I stole."
"Here, take this bread. You're so thin after the journey!"

There were also violent cases of love at first sight. As if by magic, these almost disembodied human beings recovered their sensibility, which had been dulled by such cruel sufferings. Tomorrow or the day after, they would be led off in different directions and never see one another again. But today they gazed feverishly into each other's eyes through the rusty barbed wire, and talked and talked...

I have never in my life seen more sublimely unselfish love than that which was shown in those fleeting romances between strangers--perhaps because, in their case, love indeed was linked with death.

----Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg, Journey Into the Whirlwind (trans. Paul Stevenson and Max Hayward)

Ginzburg (1904-1977) was a mother, wife, educator, journalist and dedicated Communist who was caught up in the Stalinist purges starting in 1934. She spent two years in solitary and 18 at hard labor in the notorious gulag at Kolyma.

The above scene took place at a Siberian transit station where both female and male inmates, recently released from solitary confinement, interrogation, and in many cases torture,  were being transported to draconian work camps.