Thursday, June 23, 2016

Crazy for vinyl

By 1967, the year I started buying LPs, I hadn't completely surrendered the Beatles, but they had certainly ceded any primacy they might have had to other artists: the LA garage quartet The Seeds, for one; the Dallas-based Five Americans; Bob Dylan, whose Greatest Hits was my first LP purchase (though I had to borrow about fifty cents from my mother to supplement the couple of bucks I had on hand). This was probably within a week of when the rest of the universe was lining up for Sgt Pepper and it's possible the price differential had an effect on my choice. But later that summer I began working at my grandfather's gas station pumping gas, washing windshields, checking oil, battery, radiator and tires, excited by the occasional tip. Most of my disposable income, as well as I can recall, started going to records. My 45s came mostly from the pharmacy across the street from the family church or from a television shop in a nearby shopping center which displayed the Billboard Hot 100 in thin wooden supports on the wall. LPs probably came as frequently as possible from Gibson's, the discount store which was, in some ways, probably a precursor to that current behemoth that starts with a W. For a while, my memory tells me, mono LPs were $2.47 plus tax and stereo LPs were $2.87, or $3.17, plus tax. But honestly, distribution wasn't all that good in those days, and we probably bought our LPs where we could find them--except of course for the really big groups whose records were everywhere. But I was already skewing oddball in a lot of ways, I reckon.

Later that same summer I got to see The Seeds in concert at some kind of small scale indoor festival or fair in Ft Worth. I won the tickets on the radio! The fair lasted a few days, and other bands played there--The Doors certainly, and maybe The Boxtops, come to mind, but it was The Seeds I wanted to see. At that point, I think the 45 rpm single of "A Thousand Shadows" was my only Seeds record. I took the paper sleeve of it with me to the fair and managed to get all the band members' autographs on it. Not long after, I used some of my salary to buy the mono version of their first album, the one with "Pushin' Too Hard", from the grocery store music selection across the street from the gas station. And not too long after that I bought the current release, the psychedelic Future, which was probably my favorite LP for a good while, especially the sprawling closer "Fallin'". I don't think I'd ever seen A Web of Sound then, and certainly its lead-off single "Mr Farmer" hadn't been played on Dallas radio. I'm sure it's a weird mix to some of you--Dylan's greatest hits, two Seeds LPs, and the Five Americans' Western Union LP, all bought within a few months. I also saw The Five Americans in concert that summer, on a bill with Buffalo Springfield, which would've been a favorite solely for "For What It's Worth" then. That Christmas my little mono suitcase-style record player got replaced by my first stereo, a plastic fold up model which had detachable speakers. And LPs? Buffalo Springfield Again, A Web of Sound by The Seeds, and A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues by the Sky Saxon Blues Band (actually The Seeds). As a younger boy, I'd spent all my money on car models. No more. I wanted records. My parents were surely wishing I'd regress a couple of years.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Malta in fiction!

Americans don't write about Malta. Americans don't visit Malta. Americans aren't sure if Malta and Yalta aren't the same thing. Mostly, anyway!

But of course there is Thomas Pynchon's V., partly set in Valletta. (I haven't read it.) And there are my tales of the Maltese werewolves, beginning with A Death by the Sea (see http://cooprenner.com). And now there is Elizabeth Kadetsky and her On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World. (Remind yourself what Mediterranean means.) Published by http://nouvellabooks.com/on-the-island-at-the-center-of-the-center-of-the-world/, Kadetsky's novella centers around the brief stay of a young single mother and her 11-year-old son in Valletta, as feast days approach, the groceries are in perpetual shortage, and the things on the island seem not quite to add up to reality. Not magic realism, not exactly realism, but something similar, something haunted, something just a bit skewed. Maybe you'll give it a look!

Monday, June 13, 2016

A sketch based on Canova's statue

This sketch (linked above, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/r3nn3r/19352670910/), one of several which I made last year and posted to Flickr, is based on Canova's statue of Theseus after he has killed the Minotaur (Victoria and Albert Museum). Several of the sketches reflect Canova's work; others reverse it, making the Minotaur the victor. Theseus is a typical "hero"--strong, blessed by the gods, irresistible to women. The Minotaur is more conflicted. Remember the old adage--the victor writes the history. What if, a la the Borges story "The house of Asterion" (La casa de Asterion), the truth was rather different? What if the Minotaur were not a monster? What if he were a persecuted being, afflicted for his "difference"?

One thing which Canova makes clear--and something that puts me squarely in the Minotaur's court--is reflected in my sketch: Theseus is a slick-limbed, slick-torsoed pretty boy, exactly like you find in Hollywood movies. The Minotaur, on the other hand, is "bestial"--that is, he looks more like a "real man," with hair on his chest and in his armpits.  Granted that hair is more difficult for a sculptor to carve than smooth curves and planes, there is still an animosity at work here, an animus against non-androgyny: sculptors all the way back to Ancient Greece and Egypt don't mind taking the trouble to carve hair on the head, or beards, or even pubic hair; they don't mind carving fur and feathers and scales on animals. But normal masculine body hair is ignored in almost every case. And don't forget the ancient epic of Gilgamesh--perhaps the very oldest story we have: the natural man Enkidu, who becomes Gilgamesh's alter ego and foster-brother, is originally covered in hair like the animals he lives among and that hair must be shorn so that he can join civilized society. What about the story of the enmity of Esau and Jacob? Esau, the hairy; Jacob, the smooth, the clever. And Jacob "wins", despite their father Isaac's preference for Esau, the elder of the two. And even Isaac, who dared to prefer the more "bestial" son, is sort of the lost patriarch of the Hebrew Bible. Jacob becomes Israel and gives his name to his people. Abraham is the father of the faithful. Isaac, not so big a deal.

Why do I care about any of this? Well, I could make an argument simply for reality and accuracy over "style," but it's also true that I'm a hairy guy. I don't like hairy guys being treated like some kind of aberration or prehistoric atavistic embarrassment or, even, examples of ugliness or brutality. Maybe this is a part of the reason for my novels of the Maltese werewolves (see my website at http://cooprenner.com) who exult in their "animal" heritage and embrace it. Hair is a part of being mammal, it's a source of sensitivity and protection from the weather, it's an adornment. Are all men hairy? No. But those of us who are needn't be treated like something malformed. My message to all of my hairy brothers: embrace the hair! Start a Neanderthal society! Enjoy what the gods have given you. And if you're not hairy--that's fine too. It's the way you were genetically encoded. But please don't "do a Canova" and turn your nose up at the rest of us.
Hello, all! No, I'm not traveling again yet--that comes in August--but I think I may begin using this site also for stray comments and even "reviews" of books, music, artworks that interest me. In that vein, I'll begin by saying this: on troublesome, wearisome days and weeks and months, when I despair of ever seeing the sun again, some few things can cheer me, one of which is the marvelous song "House of Mine" by Sky 'Sunlight' Saxon and Firewall, from the mid-'80s lp Destiny's Children. While it's really quite an upbeat track, Sky's slightly ditzy take on peace and harmony and philosophical universalism, much more common to the '60s than the '80s (or any time since), can bring tears to the eyes as he bucks us up for whatever we face: "Don't need forgiving / 'cause we're all living / in a house of mine." Fruity '60s organ, perhaps played by Mars Bonfire, is the perfect musical accompaniment to this out-of-due-time hymn to hanging on. You can buy it on MP3 or hear it at YouTube (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sxTIDbv-vX8). I definitely recommend it for any disheartening day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


May 30, 2012: Back in the States

Well, I arrived back in the States yesterday about 7:15 (on the ground anyway) after a long long day. I was a little apprehensive at the airport because I was unable to check in online at the American Airlines website and was afraid they had messed up my ticket. Then at the airport itself the check-in kiosk didn't work either. But when I got into the long "bag drop" line, other people said they had had the same problem. I guess AA's computer system was just on the blink. After a longish wait in line, 30 minutes or so, I had a boarding pass in my hand and went on up to security, so I could get all the icky stuff out of the way and settle in for some food and reading while I waited. My boarding time wasn't until 2:30 and I was into the longish security line by noon, probably. No removal of shoes for most of us, and nothing "on my person" set off any alarms, so it was no trouble getting through the checkpoint once I got to it.

I was disappointed, though, that the secure shopping area didn't have a Marks & Spencer Simply Foods! So I had to use one of my two remaining albacore tuna packets for my lunch, along with some chips, a croissant and some hot tea from Pret a Manger. I roamed around a bit, got a copy of the International Herald Tribune, read a while. Got another cup of tea and a chocolate chip (what else?) cookie from another eatery called Eat. I don't know how good their food offerings are, of course, but their tea isn't as good as Pret a Manger.

The International Herald Tribune, which is the "global edition" of the New York Times, is printed like a regular newspaper in the UK, which means bigger print but also more difficulty in holding it, turning the pages, and so forth. In Malta it's a tabloid-size production, so the print is a lot smaller, but the pages are easier to deal with. I enjoyed reading it the several times I got it, maybe even more than the New York Times itself. I don't know if it actually has some different stories--more world-focused than the Times--or if it's just that it has a lot fewer pages overall, and so it seems more focused and interesting. It's also a better choice for most Americans, I think, because the crossword puzzle is US-tilted. I found the puzzles in the UK newspapers (which I bought in Malta several times) to be really difficult: the clues and answers were of course UK-slanted, which means a lot of the clues were simply meaningless to me, and they don't have as many intersecting words as US puzzles usually do. There's less to fill in, but that also means you have fewer letters from intersecting clues on answers you know to help you fill out the answers you don't know. I found the UK puzzles incredibly difficult. The International Herald Tribune also features the Jumble, which is in many US newspapers, but not in the New York Times.

Anyway, about 2 pm, they opened up the gate for my flight back to the US, so even though it was earlier than our boarding time, I zoomed on over there. As some of you know, I got bumped from an AA flight last year, and I get really nervous about that. So I went through the final check-in and sat down. People just kept coming and coming and coming. As boarding time neared, they told us the flight was full--which didn't do anything to help my anxiety. Then they started boarding with people with difficulties or complications, then first class and business class, and so on. My boarding group was "group 4," which also worried me. I mean, good grief, I checked in more than 3 hours ahead of time. How could I be in such a low boarding group? By the time they boarded group 2, which also included everyone who had a flight booked via British Airways and several other airlines, the gate area was almost empty. But we all seemed to have gotten on, so I guess they filled every seat without bumping anyone.

For some reason, Heathrow was only using one of its two runways at the time, so we had to wait until about 4 pm to actually take off. And then we were finally on our way. It's nice to know that you can't be bumped once you're actually airborne!

The flight itself of course is simply interminable, not so much because 9 hours is so long a time, but because commercial jets are so incredibly cramped and inhuman and claustrophobic. I sort of drifted off quite early in the flight for just a short while, maybe not even 15 minutes, and then after that I stayed awake. I didn't really want to sleep, since it might have made it harder to sleep once I got ready to sleep last night. I kept the little television screen on the back of the seat in front of me going most of the time, watching movies mostly and reading as well. I watched most of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen but missed almost all of the last 20 minutes or so while waiting to go to the bathroom. It's an interesting film which I might have to check out on DVD at some point to watch. Then I tuned into Journey 2: Mysterious Island, a simple-minded adventure show of no particular merit or demerit. Just passing time. Then I watched a movie I'd heard of but forgotten about: This Means War or Terms of War or something like that. It starred Reese Witherspoon as a young executive being pursued by two CIA agents, not as a suspect in a crime, but as a dating prospect. The two agents were best friends, so that was the twist in the plot, as it were. It was light and entertaining.

I finished reading Clare Peake's memoir Under a Canvas Sky and started reading one of my Spanish books, Oscuro bosque oscuro, as well as finishing up with the International Herald Tribune. Except for having to be confined for so long, the flight was tolerable. And the earburds for the movies kept out most of the noise of the other passengers (and sometimes obnoxious toddlers).

We were, I suppose, about 3 hours from landing, when one of the stewardesses came over the PA, asking if there was a doctor or medical professional on board for a medical situation that had arisen. Then as we were taxiing at DFW Airport, the captain came on, asking us all to remain seated after we parked at the jetway, so that the EMTs could come on and deal with the person needing help before the rest of us disembarked. I have no idea what happened of course, but 3 EMTs came on and went toward the back of the jet, and then they came back, along with an elderly couple, but the couple were walking on their own power and weren't being assisted. Who knows?

Then we all got to get on with things. I guess it really only took me about 30 minutes to get through customs and passport control and baggage claim, mostly of course because I walk so fast I was nearer the front of the line than many at the first "stop," which put me ahead for a while anyway. After getting through the final checkpoint--customs--I stopped and got my phone out of my duffle, so I could see if Debbie had called or left a message. The phone didn't beep or anything after I turned it on, so I flipped it open to call her and let her know where I was. But when I flipped the phone open, I saw that I had a text from her. That told me where to head for, and fortunately for her, she had sent it only about 10 minutes earlier, so I knew she hadn't had to be waiting long. Within a few minutes I had found her, and we were off.

We caught up on various things, including our different trips after I got off the ship and she stayed on, on the drive back to Duncanville, and she let me run in at Tom Thumb to get a couple of food items for a light supper that evening, since I hadn't had much to eat on the flight--another tuna packet, a couple of crackers, part of a cookie.

By about nine, I was back at Mom's place. Debbie helped me bring things in, and I gave Mom her scarf and Debbie her thank-you book--a "vintage" mystery by Margery Allingham--and we all visited a bit before Debbie headed on home. Now I look forward to meeting up with her at the coffeeshop and seeing all her photos of Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Venice. Also Florence, since she made the day trip there, and I didn't.

Today I grocery-shopped, visited with Mom, spent some time at the coffee shop--so I could feel like I was back in my "normal" kind of routine.

And of course I drove my truck. It was lonely for me. I love my truck.

The grand adventure 2012 is over, and now summer awaits me.

Conclusions?

1. The weather in London was the very best weather of the trip. And that is an amazing thing to be able to say. It was great not to have to wear a windbreaker all the time; it was great to visit Kew Gardens in nice weather.

2. It's also nice to be in London for access to Marks & Spencer grocery food. I have to be frank: deli meat in Malta pretty much stinks. I mean it's edible and all that, but it's not in any sense gourmet. The ham is like the kind of sandwich ham we ate in the '60s: no honey-smoked or brown-sugar-baked or anything like that. Just salty sandwich ham. But M&S in the UK has a much better line of meats: chicken and turkey and ham, and even actual chicken breast already cooked and sliced and ready-to-eat. It's like being a human being again!

3. Another nice thing about London over Malta is having access to coffee shops that give you the option of getting a LARGE hot tea, instead of a paltry 8 or 10 ounce tea cup that lasts about 3 gulps. In addition to Starbucks, which I think I went to in Kew, they have Costa Coffee Shops where you can get a large tea, and even Marks & Spencer will put your tea bag in a large cup if you ask. And it's really grand that Costa and Pret a Manger (but not M&S or Eats) have good quality pyramid-bagged tea, instead of ordinary paper-bagged tea.

4. I may have done all I want to do in Malta, unless I can get someone else to go with me to share it. There are things I haven't seen still, places I wouldn't mind revisiting, but I get tired of being there on my own. London on the other hand has so much that, even on my own, I imagine being back there, as well as other places in the UK. I still haven't been to the Tower, or inside St Paul's. I still haven't wandered around Oxford or gone to York. Or Cornwall!

5. It sounds silly, probably, but I miss hearing English when I travel. Traveling alone can make one feel fairly alien anyway, and when one is not even understanding what's spoken a large part of the time that heightens the alienness. In Malta one hears German and French and other languages, but mostly it's Maltese if it's not English. In England one hears Hindi (I presume), Arabic, French, German, all sorts of things; and of course one hears English with an English accent. But one still knows that one is in England.

6. London hotels are really expensive, at least for this Cockrell Hill boy, even when one is trying to be as economical as possible. One can stay much more cheaply in Malta, but of course there is much less to do.

7. The British Museum rocks! So much history in one place. And Gudea, my old Mesopotamian friend is there. Cool. And the Rosetta Stone. And, at the moment, those Picasso etchings.

8. Big London bookstores are cool. They may not be appreciably bigger than Barnes & Noble, but they are full of different books. The English are reading some of the same books we are, but much of what they read is simply not available here. It's cool to see so many different possibilities.

9. HMV Music Store is amazing. As far as I know there are individual music stores in various places in the US that might be as big as an HMV, but I don't think we have a chain store like HMV left. Tower was probably as close as we got, and it's online only now.


Monday, May 28, 2012


May 28, 2012: A Day on My Feet

Well, the Victorians are letting me down. Or maybe it's that the 21st century Londoners don't sufficiently respect the Victorians. You remember that on Saturday I found the Dickens Museum closed, but it didn't occur to me till today that this is the bicentennial of Dickens' birth. Wouldn't you think they'd want the museum to be open during the bicentennial year, instead of undergoing upgrades for 2/3 of the year? I would. Hmmm.

And then today I decided to walk down Melcombe Place, which is a block north of Marylebone Road, so I could see one of the places Wilkie Collins lived. Unfortunately I couldn't find a marker for it. Unlike many streets in London, it's actually several blocks long, but the block that looked most likely, on Dorset Square, didn't have the right house numbers. There was one, though, that was being painted, so maybe the numbers have changed and the marker was down for the paint job. Who knows?

Anyway I had decided I would go back to the British Museum (a third time in 5 days!) to look at the Picasso etchings again, and along the way I passed the museum of the Royal Academy of Music. So I went inside there and saw an interesting display about Dickens and some of the ways music was connected with his life and career. They also have a number of old and very expensive stringed instruments, mostly violins, on display--some Stradivarius models, of course! But I had to wonder if they get played anymore. The next floor up had a group of pianos, but they were not yet uncovered while I was up there. It was in the Dickens display that I saw some map references and information about various London locales connected with him. I decided to walk down Cleveland Street where he had lived on two different occasions, as a child and teenager. (There was another building of some importance in the same block, but now I've forgotten what it was supposed to be--a newspaper office, maybe?) So I modified my route to the British Museum, so I could walk down Cleveland Street.

But you guessed it! The house isn't marked and, in fact, one of the addresses given at the museum would seem to have been on the other side of the street, where construction was going on. But I'm giving you a photo of Cleveland Street anyway, and you can just imagine it in 1820!



As I moseyed on, I came to both Rathbone Street and Rathbone Place. Two of my sisters like the old Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone, so here's a photo for them. It cracks me up that the sign notes that Rathbone Street here used to be known as Upper Rathbone Place. Basil would be so proud.



I also passed this plaque, which I guess will have to stand in for Dickens and Collins. I can't for the life of me remember which street it was one.



Finally I made it to the British Museum and the Picasso etchings. They really are quite lovely, and look--most of them anyway--like pen-and-ink drawings. Many, if not most, of the ones on display come from the early '30s when Picasso was in his late 40s and early 50s. There are several featuring the Minotaur and quite a few of a sculptor with his models and sculptures. (I think I probably mentioned that on Saturday.) After I finished looking, I went over to Mesopotamia again and sat not too far from Gudea and drew my own version of a Picasso--mingling a werewolf, in place of the Minotaur, with other elements from one of Picasso's works.

By then it was time for lunch at Marks & Spencer, and something much more agonizing: scarf shopping for my mom. I'm sure you will all get a good laugh over the idea of my agonizing over women's scarves, but I did. I looked at all of them I could find in the M&S women's wear and then finally decided to go bcd to the other M&S, nearer the hotel, and make a decision there. I was thinking there were other scarves there, though I may have been confusing it with Debenhams.

But first after leaving M&S I went right across the street to HMV (music store) and looked at CDs again. Time for more agonizing. I discovered that there were other nice little boxes of 5 CDs in mini-LP sleeves besides Warren Zevon, including Dr John, Jefferson Airplane, and even Sly and the Family Stone. And of course there were the 2 for 10 pounds CDs. I'm sure you are all thinking that I am the only person in the history of the world who will agonize and ponder for as long as 30 minutes over whether or not to spend an extra 10 pounds while on vacation to get 2 more CDs to listen to in the truck when I get home. Finally, I decided to pick up the expanded CD of Tyrannosaurus Rex's record A Beard of Stars along with a fairly recent CD by a band called the Low Anthem which has been well-reviewed. I decided I should get something new to explore, even if I end up not liking it, rather than something from the old days, like the first Love LP.

So, after purchasing those, it was off to the other M&S to find the right scarf. I also had in the back of my mind that I should swing through Waterstone's bookstore and pick up a "vintage" mystery for Debbie, who will be picking me up at the airport on Tuesday. She likes mysteries from the '20s and '30s, and I found one that I hope will be new to her! We'll find out soon enough. If she groans when she sees it, I can read it myself, I reckon.

And then Marks & Spencer. The pressure was on because I needed to find a good scarf at this store, so I wouldn't have to walk back half a mile or more to the other store! And now I can't remember if it was at this store or the first store that I talked to two different women about scarves and the material they are made of. Y'all would all have been laughing at me. Finally I found what I think will be a good choice, and the woman at the checkout (the till) agreed that it would be a good scarf to match with lots of different colored blouses. Phew!

I then went back to the hotel for a short rest, but mostly for a chance to unload the back pack! Had a bit of a snack and rearranged the backpack, then headed off again. I decided I was hungry enough to go ahead and have supper, and the nearest biggish grocery was actually  inside Paddington Train Station (where I'll head tomorrow to get to Heathrow Airport), a Sainsbury's according to a woman I asked on the street. But about the same time I saw Sainsbury's in the station, I also saw a Marks & Spencer Simply Foods, so I went there instead--I know what I will find. Can you picture me sitting on a chair in the train station having my turkey, chips and soda, while other people--presumably travelers--come and go in the adjacent seats? And can you imagine the youngish Asian woman with the continually toppling luggage who actually asks me, about the time I'm finished, if I will watch her luggage while she goes to the bathroom? I have to wonder if travelers through London are usually so trusting. She came back fairly quickly and I headed off. I wanted to visit Hyde Park one more time, enjoy the late afternoon, have my apple. I took a seat at the Italian Gardens, had some water and apple, and did a drawing, probably my last for London. Here it is: Monday in the Park with Cooper.



And then I walked around a bit, visiting Peter Pan again and walking up toward the Queen's Temple, which I couldn't quite remember. And I found a man standing perfectly still in front of it, with a book in his hands. You can see in the photo that his dark suit makes him look like a priest conducting a service. I took this photo from quite a distance off, so who knows what was really going on!



So, I've come to my last evening in London, my last evening of the grand European adventure 2012. Here are some observations about shoes:

For the 2007 trip, I took two pairs of shoes: a pair of Merrell's sandals my oldest sister bought for me and my so-called big boy shoes, Timberland's (I think) lace-up shoes with nice thick soles. I figured I would alternate the shoes and sandals, along with jeans and shorts, on the trip, but it turned out I wore the sandals and shorts almost every day. The Merrell's held up beautifully and I continued wearing them for at least a year afterward. I must have put hundreds of miles on them: maybe a thousand or more. And I kept the big boy shoes up until a few months ago. I never wore them as much, but they held up well for more than 4 years.

For the 2010 trip, I took only sandals, a pair of Timberland "fisherman" sandals and a pair of Dr Scholl's. The Dr Scholl's didn't wear well at all. The insoles were tearing before I left Malta and, after a drenching rain in London, I decided they didn't even need to make the trip back to the US with me. The Timberland's, however, held up very well and I continued to wear them for at least a year, just like the Merrell's.

This time again I've had two pairs of sandals with me. One pair is Bass, an expensive pair that I got heavily discounted at the outlet store. I consider them my "dress" pair. They have held up well and are comfortable, but I have my doubts that they will last the way the Timberland's and Merrell's did. We'll see. The other pair--the "water friendly" pair--were less expensive, but have still not done as well as I would have expected. They're from Alpine Design. The left sole has split all the way across, under the ball of my foot, and the heel is practically disintegrating. The right sole has held up much better, and the heel is still intact, but the sole is also splitting, though less drastically, under the ball of my foot. These too will not make the return trip to the US. There's no point.

So, okay. There's your shopping news for the day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


May 27, 2012: A Couple of Tates and a Lot of Walking

Another beautiful day today: not quite as windy and a bit warmer than yesterday. Like a very good April day in Texas. The parks were packed, but so were the museums, like yesterday.

I began with a long walk to the Tate Britain Museum which I think I've visited on every trip. Along the way I stopped at Pret a Manger, a chain which serves sandwiches, baked goods and drinks. The name is French for "ready to eat" and is pronounced something like Pret-uh-Mahn-zhay, but I prefer to think of it as Pretty Manger. They have good tea and good croissants. After my stop I passed by Buckingham Palace. They've got big grandstands/bleachers set up around the circle and fountain in front of the palace, and some kind of big rig--apparently for shade?--is going up around the fountain itself. It sort of looks like they're converting it into a merry-go-round for the Jubilee. I'll be missing the big celebration by less than a week, and given how smashed with people London will be, it's probably a good thing I'll be gone!



I moseyed on amidst the crowds and saw tourists having themselves photographed with the uniformed guard outside the Guards' Chapel, which is next to the Guards Museum. It's a museum I've never been to. One of these days, maybe. The amiable young man on guard looked exactly like the guys at the Palace.

In between there and the museum I passed this huge sculpture--two or three floors high--in front of what seemed to be an office building. Maybe it's the headquarters for a bicycling company? I didn't see a name on the building, but it was on Horseferry Rd.



At the Tate I took a bunch of pictures of artwork, though the light's not really good enough for it and you aren't allowed to use flash. I also did a bit of drawing, like yesterday. One piece I drew is by Ian Hamilton Finlay, a Scot poet who died a few years ago. I'd almost swear he designed but didn't execute the sculpture, in bronze, because that seems to have been his common procedure. He considered himself a poet and not a sculptor. This work is a kind of stylized guillotine with a line from the Aeneid etched into it. While I was standing there starting to draw, I apparently met a Tate ghost. There was a network of lightweight aluminum railings near floor level, to keep us from getting too close to the works, and one of the railings suddenly just fell to the floor. Maybe it was someone who'd been guillotined and got swept from afterlife-Paris to afterlife-London on a spectral wind!

Perhaps the most amusing piece I saw in the museum is a very large painting, a joke on the American artist Donald Judd whose work is famously on display in Marfa, Texas at the Chinati Foundation which Judd started. The artists of the painting are a husband and wife, whose names I can't completely remember--Richards or Roberts, I think.



I had a bit of lunch at the cafe--yet another croissant and some sparkling water, along with one of the Starkist tuna packets I brought with me from the US. I figured I might have more trouble getting meat today, so I carried it with me. Then I visited the Clore Gallery, which is right next to the Tate and which houses an immense number of JMW Turner works, sketches, sketchbooks, paintings, etc. I've seen a lot of his work here, so I wasn't concerned to spend a lot of time there today. But I love looking at his sketchbooks, maybe more than the completed paintings. I also sat for a few minutes and drew a very simple pencil version of one of his paintings--one of the Roman Forum but looking very fantasized and "Romantic".

I had thought I might take the boat that leaves from the river near the Tate Britian and goes to the Tate Modern which is a couple of miles downstream. When I got to the pier, though, I saw that it would be about a twenty minute wait for the boat to return, and then an almost fifteen minute ride to the Modern, and I decided that, in that amount of time, I could walk two and a half miles. So I took off on foot. Along the way I took this photo of Victoria Tower, which is at the south end of the Houses of Parliament. Big Ben the clock is at the north end.



It was a long walk--maybe a bit longer than two and a half miles--but I made it. The river walk was quite jammed with people for most of the length of the walk, which took me past the London Aquarium, the London Eye (the frighteningly high Ferris wheel), and the National Theatre. Lou Ann will be ticked at me because I didn't stop for the 3 pm performance of Misterman, but at least I thought about it a bit.

Just before you get to the Tate Modern is the Bankside Gallery, which is the gallery of the Royal Society of Printers and Engravers (or something like that). They display a lot of prints, etchings, woodcuts, and so forth, which are by members of the society and are for sale. Some of them are quite lovely and not terribly expensive--but where does a man who lives in a Casita travel trailer display a beautiful print? I did however buy three little booklets originally published a few decades ago (I think) by English novelist J.L. Carr. The gallery has quite a number of the booklets, small enough to be mailed in a birthday card-sized envelope and very light. They include his selections of English poets of the past, little "dictionaries" of Kings and Queens, and so forth. Of course they are no longer published by Carr who is deceased, but they're still pretty cool.

The Tate Modern was more or less a disappointment, which it always seems to be to me. I like a lot of modern art, but the Tate Britain always seems to please me more. In fact today I discovered a new favorite artist I've never heard of before, which the Tate Britain has dedicated one room to at the moment: William Roberts. As well as paintings and "real art", he also designed book covers and apparently had a pretty strong sense of humor. He was already experimenting with cubism in his teens, inspired (according to the museum's explanatory cards) by another artist at the school he attended. I liked his work enough to look for a book of his work in the museum store. And yes, they had one, but 1] it was bigger than I wanted to think about carrying back in a duffle bag; and 2] it cost 40 pounds (over sixty dollars); and 3] it looked more like a "study" of his work--a lot of text--than just reproductions of his work, which is what I would like to have. Maybe there's something in print in the US. I'll check!

Well, after all this art-ing, it was time to start the long trek back to the hotel, although that trek included a muffin and tea at Costa Coffee and some browsing at Waterstone's bookstore.. I wandered a couple of streets I don't think I've been on before, including Savile Row (isn't that the tailors' street?). And on South Molton Street I saw, to my surprise, one of the bright blue historical markers telling me that William Blake lived here! You can see the plaque to the right side of this photo, but I wanted you to be able to see what Blake's old home is now so this photo isn't zoomed in.


Yes, it says "Ministry of Waxing." I'm sure Blake is pleased!

A busy, tiring day, so I should sleep well tonight!