20 October 2006

Dog Day Afternoon

Last night we watched the Mets lose in the rain, both of us with an animal tucked under our arm for comfort. I didn’t mean to become a baseball fan but I got lured in by my husband’s enthusiasm. And his cute hat. The only good news of the day is that I managed to finish two pieces of artwork.

I said before that I didn’t really labor over either of them...but that ended up not being true.

First, I painted this dog for the living room. It’s a silhouette of Sam (sort of) in one of my new favorite color schemes. I found an old sheet of canvas fabric in the basement that I’d used long ago to paint a sign for one of Jeremy’s CD tables. I flipped it over and discovered that I really like painting on this type of canvas, as opposed to the stretched white kind from the art supply store. It was easier to control my brush. Although I am really happy with how this dog painting turned out and love how it brightens up a once too-brown corner of our living room, I can’t really take much credit because I copied the design. While flipping through my Anthropologie catalog, I had spotted this similar silkscreen print of a greyhound and had one of those “I can do that,” revelations. Especially since their version was $498!

Here are both versions:

I tried to use Sam as my model, but he wouldn’t hold the pose for very long, so I ended up stealing a few details from the catalog page. I figured it’s okay since I’m not going to sell it, and I’m admitting that mine is entirely unoriginal.

This is a photo of Jeremy (later in the evening) showing his excitement over the dog painting (okay, actually he was cheering for the Mets who made an amazing play in the 6th inning.)

After the dog, I moved on to something more my own...I decided to finish this fork painting I had started two years ago for the kitchen...(another unfinished piece I found while scrounging in the basement.) All it really needed was a background and a few details so I got out my palette knife and slapped on some blue and white paint. That’s the point when I thought I was almost finished, and started my bragging about having whipped up two paintings with barely a thought. Tra-la-la.

But after the Mets lost, I went back over to inspect the fork and realized I didn’t like it so much. It didn’t measure up to the quality of the stolen dog, the tines on the fork were uneven, and the image was too small for the space it’s going to hang. So I painted over it and now it’s a pear.

19 October 2006

Waiting for the paint to dry...

Now my head feels more like it’s stuffed with only a pair of socks, so there’s progress. I really could not bear another 12 hours of lying on the sofa, so I decided to make something of today whether I felt like it or not.

Jeremy recognized my cabin fever and took me out to lunch at the Red Wagon. I could eat a pound of their pickled grapes (the only thing pickled I will allow near my mouth.) We escaped the rain and had a quiet lunch in the cozy café and talked about how strange it is that we’re about to become parents. Then we drove to Portland Brew so I could get a cup of jasmine hot tea, and admired the changing red bud tree in the yard of our friends who live across from the coffee shop.

Jasmine Tea always makes me think of Kim Son, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Houston. I think it might be closed now which is slightly devastating.

At home, Jeremy set to work on some new lyrics, dug out his old harmonica, and called the piano-tuner to make an appointment. I decided to paint for awhile because it’s somewhat mindless but makes me feel productive. That, and I like the backdrop of Jeremy’s songs while I’m chiseling away at my art. It’s as if we’re both contributing.

Outside, the gutters are spilling over so it sounds like a spigot, and the windows are steamy. (editor's note: I originally spelled "spigot" as "spicket" but in thinking back, it just didn't seem right to me--though I could think of no better spelling. After a good bit of searching, I found that it's actually spelled "spigot." Who would have guessed that? My whole life I thought that water thing was called a spicket. Didn't you?)

I am waiting for a few layers of acrylic to dry so I can finish up, and then I’ll post the day’s creations. Nothing I slaved over really, but it feels good to be up and about again.

17 October 2006

fat city

I think I need to just sleep for about a week. My head feels like it’s stuffed with thick wool from ear to ear, and I have an ache in my back on one side. I think I pulled a muscle while coughing. I do realize that I am far from being the only person on the continent who is sick right now…but nonetheless, a cold can be a lonely place. Just me and my Kleenexes to keep me company. Occasionally Mia hops on the bed to sprawl out for a minute, fluff her tail at me, and let me know she cares.

I had a ticket to see Shawn Colvin at the Ryman last night, and that ticket is still tucked inside the pocket of my purse---eager, but a day too late. I just couldn’t muster the strength, as much as I wanted to go.

I saw her perform once, years ago in Houston. Mostly she’d just have been nostalgic last night, because I haven’t paid her music any attention until two weeks ago at the Tower Records pseudo-sale. But back in the day, all I seemed to listen to was Jonatha Brooke, Indigo Girls, Patty Griffin, and Shawn Colvin (with a little Ellis Paul thrown in for variety.)

Even the first few notes of “Fat City” can still take me back to the Fountainview apartments where Lisa and I lived. We always had music playing. At this time of year, Lisa would be getting the itch to carve a pumpkin, and I would be shopping for old cardigan sweaters at Savers for those one or two days when the temperature dipped below 80. We always used to say, “life will never be like this again,” and we were right. We meant it in a good way, that there was something very real and very “twenty-ish” about that time. Always a slew of friends around for impromptu potluck dinners, late nights of coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches, lots of road trips in Lisa’s Honda, and everyone we knew playing acoustic guitars. Well, maybe some things haven’t changed so much.

Who would have thought that so many of us (our friends) would end up in Nashville? Around the end of 1999, I guess we all grew tired of the Houston humidity and decided to begin the new century in a city with actual seasons. Most of us go back at least ten years, which is a third of our lives and the part that seems most important. Now we all know each other’s husbands and discuss scary things like mortgage rates and topics that never would have occurred to us ten years ago.

But then there are things like Shawn Colvin, following us to Tennessee to play us some songs for the memories. And occasionally we still meet for coffee too, only now it’s in the afternoon.

16 October 2006

Plain Beauty

Today’s a sick day for me, and it’s also raining outside. Sam is asleep in his green-plaid dog bed next to a small space heater on the floor. His own personal fireplace.

Yesterday I didn’t feel well either, and at around 4 o’clock Jeremy decided that he needed to spray the entire house with Lysol (even though the germs had already done their damage to us both.) I opted to escape until the fumes settled: A. because the smell of Lysol makes me choke, and B. because I glanced at the clock and realized that there was only one hour left to see Evie Coates’s art exhibit.

Yesterday was a fitting day to see some art. My dad, a conservative accountant, always loved art museums. He had been to the Louvre in Paris, and had a membership to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Often when I visited, we’d embark on fieldtrips downtown for lunch and a peek at what the Impressionists were up to. Similar to his habit of photographing anything potentially symbolic (like a Starbucks sign) he also insisted on renting the $7 headphones and cassette tape that accompanied new exhibits. He didn’t want to miss out on any information or important detail. I preferred to see each painting or sculpture on my own, without the droning narrative.

The Art and Invention Gallery is just a few blocks away from my house, and there’s always a dog lounging out front or just inside the doorway. I arrived 45 minutes before closing, on what was the last day of Evie’s show. Her artwork is both beautiful and rustic, so very imaginative, and it makes me wish I lived on a farm. If you’ve seen Andrew Peterson’s album artwork for Behold The Lamb of God, then you’ve seen Evie’s work...paint and ink set against a collage of old barn planks, rusty nails, scraps of screen door, and assorted bric-a-brac.

This particular exhibit was called Plain Beauty ~ Places in America's Heart, and I was captivated by each and every layer of metal and wood. Evie had also tacked short essays below each group of her pieces-- explaining vividly, though not too literally, her inspiration for her collection (much better than a casette tape.) I could see her there, perched on the crooked steps of some old house with no neighbor in sight, sipping on lemonade and watching a windmill spin against the sky.

I stayed long enough to gaze at each piece for a few lingering moments, and then revisited a couple that I found most intriguing.

Though I definitely felt inspired to come straight home and paint something (as I most always do when I see other people’s art) my head was growing foggy, and the Lysol-drenched sofa beckoned. Jeremy and I spent the evening sharing a box of Kleenex, eating soup and cheese-bread, and watching the Mets game. Creativity is on hold for a few days, it appears.

13 October 2006

today's Blog is brought to you by...

...the letter "B"

Maybe it's the BURST of cold air that came through Nashville, because I have a sudden rush of creative energy (again.)

So today I am making:

a BABY BIRTHDAY gift for Elliott BRAGG

a BRIGHT BLUE headBAND to hold back BANGS


BANANA BREAD (because I am hungry.)

That's all for today.

09 October 2006

hot dog.

This morning, I dashed across the river to pick up some paint swatches at Sherwin-Williams. Just off Peabody Street, behind the old Episcopal church with the little red door, two hot dogs danced on a sign above a building. I have been there once or twice before, shelling out my two dollars for a plain charred hot dog with ketchup and mustard only.

It was still before noon but today felt like a hot dog day, so I pulled into the parking lot and headed into Hot Diggity Dogs for an early lunch. I know there are people out there who think hot dogs are disgusting. They're one of those mystery foods that no one (except the hot dog factory workers, and maybe a handful of pig farmers) really knows exactly what they’re made of. I, for one, am not a person who frowns upon foods of strange origin as long as they are tasty...and hot dogs (or hut dogs as my friend Lisa would say) fall inside that category.

Besides, they make me happy. Hot dogs render fond memories of football games with my dad, state fairs, and Friday nights as a kid---dipping them into ketchup while watching Hee-Haw and The Love Boat on the living room floor. Hot dogs are All-American, friendly, and comforting. They are easy to eat and you can buy them on the sidewalk. What’s not to love?

I once told Jeremy that if I am ever feeling down, all he needs to do to cheer me up is take me to Hot Diggity Dogs for a hot dog and I will be right as rain again. I realized this last December. It was cold outside and I was missing my father. Jeremy was out of town for a couple of days, and I’d stopped inside the Dog-shack one bleak afternoon. I sat on a red vinyl stool by the window, listened to “Blue Christmas,” thought about my dad, and ate my hot dog. It seemed like something he would have enjoyed doing too so I felt sad, but also happy at the same time.

Now, whenever I drive to the art supply store or the camera shop, I pass by Hot Diggity Dogs. I watch the steam coming from the chimney, and I think of my dad and feel a tiny bit better.

Today the weather was perfect, so most people were sitting outside at picnic tables enjoying their hot dogs mounded up with cheese and chili and all sorts of colorful toppings. I ordered my usual plain dog with ketchup and mustard only. I settled down on the red stool where I sat last winter and looked out the window. And then I drove back across the bridge and came home.

08 October 2006

With dancing goats and pencils...

There’s this habit Jeremy’s gotten into lately of putting a #2 pencil behind his ear and walking around with it there. He’s also curiously territorial about his pencil supply, as if they are very valuable to him. While working on my charcoal drawing a couple months back, I wore down the erasers on two without him realizing I had taken them. He was not as angry as if I had, say, cut all the strings on his guitars with kitchen shears, or dipped the toes of his socks into glue. But he wasn’t exactly happy either.

The other day he came home from the office supply store with a brand new box, and walked by me clutching it to his chest.

Mike, a guy I worked with years ago, always wore a single paper clip slipped over the collar of his shirt for no apparent reason. I asked Jeremy if his pencil-behind-the-ear was going to be something like Mike and his paper clip. You know, like a fashion statement or something. He said no, that he just liked having the pencils behind his ear while he is in a mode of writing. Maybe they help him think better.

Yesterday we went to the public library downtown to get out of the house and read. Jeremy studied some GK Chesterton, while I nibbled on a sandwich and shortbread cookie at the Provence Café attached to the library. It was a really beautiful day outside, and the library wasn’t too crowded for a weekend. I left Jeremy at the table with his cup of Dancing Goats coffee and wandered the halls on the third floor, pulled by the rows and rows of pages.

Eventually I collected an interesting stack and settled myself in a leather chair at the end of a short row to read and look out the window. From that far up, I could see the street below, and a small courtyard where some people gathered near a fountain. After awhile, “out the window” became more interesting than the books in my lap; I watched a large flock of birds swooping in formation. There must have been fifty of them, in a perfect triangle pattern with equal spaces between them. They dipped and rose in the most beautiful way for a long time, as if performing a well-rehearsed dance that only I was watching.

Jeremy called and pulled me from my audience seat. The parking meter was running out. We left the library and headed toward our car: Jeremy, the pencil, and me.

On a roundabout way home, we passed bright sandwich boards announcing that Tower Records was going out of business. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt inspired to buy a new CD, but we ducked inside to see what was on sale. Twenty minutes later we left with a CD each, and the Garden State DVD. I glanced at the receipt on our way out the door and pointed out to Jeremy that even with the liquidation prices, we had still spent more than we would have on Amazon. “I know. But this is commemorative,” he said. And then made us pause for a moment of silence in front of the record store.

My uncle Phil used to work at Tower Records in Northern California, back when I was much younger. Even though I never really shopped at Tower that consistently, it’s still sad to see it go, in a symbolic sort of way.

Last night the baby was darting and diving around inside me like those birds at the library, so I had a fitful night of sleep. This afternoon, we headed over to visit our friends, the Smiths, who just had a baby boy yesterday. He looked so tiny and dependent, with his little legs curled up to his body and his sweet, sleepy eyes. I feel at the same time excited and apprehensive, inquisitive and hopeful, as we await our turn to do the same in January. I know I should enjoy our Saturdays of doing nothing much at all, while I can.

05 October 2006

Signs of Autumn in the Garden

This time of year is newly bittersweet for me. I have always loved the fall, but this year, along with fleeting rushes of colder weather and tinges of orange and yellow on the backyard leaves, I have experienced waves of sadness. It was just a year ago--hard to believe how quickly it's gone by--that I was sitting alongside my dad in his hospital room. I really miss him this fall. As soon as the calendar flipped to October, it seems, my emotions began a daily ebb and flow.

This afternoon, I stepped outside and noticed shades of autumn beginning to peek out from the garden. Taking photographs is not only my favorite creative outlet, it's also a tribute to my father in some ways. He's the one who gave me my first real camera and inspired my love of taking photographs. He always loved taking photos himself, and never missed an opportunity to capture any tourism landmark, every single Christmas morning moment (while we stood chomping at the bit to tear open our stockings,) and even the first Starbucks he visited--as if it was a novelty.

He left me with several of his old cameras that I need to try out one of these days. My dad enjoyed gardening too, and I thought of him a lot today as I crouched in the yard capturing images of this season of change...

noisy red caboose

They say that when you’re pregnant your sense of smell becomes more acute. I can attest to this, as can my poor husband who hears my complaints whenever he sprays even a tiny spritz of Windex or 409 three rooms away. Amazingly, the potency to my pregnant nose is as if he dumped half the bottle directly up my nostrils. I can also detect cigarette smoke trickling through our car’s a/c vent from a driver in front of us if their window is open a crack. And we cannot forget the infamous night that Jeremy lit the Nag Champa incense in our house. I honestly thought I was going to have to check into a hotel for a few days until it cleared.

I cannot say I have ever read anything about pregnancy igniting a stronger sense of hearing. But I am starting to think my ears have become bionic along with my nose.

I hear trains all the time now.

I think we have tracks somewhere near our house, but they must be several blocks away at least, since I can’t say for certain where they are. Down by the river maybe? I have lived in this house for over three years and I have never noticed train sounds until a month ago. Now I hear them constantly. I just heard one pass five minutes ago, and all throughout the night they blast their horns in declaration that they are moving through…whee whee! Whee whee!

I have tried sleeping with ear plugs tucked inside my super-powered ears, but can still manage to hear the trains seeping in and pulling me from slumber every few hours. It is the strangest thing, and I know that I am not dreaming or imagining it. I can’t be.

Annoying as it is at times, I am also beginning to like the sound of trains. There’s something old fashioned and nostalgic about a train---the chug-chug-chug as it rolls along the track. There’s always a mystery as to what’s inside the cars…is it coal or steel, or a filthy-clothed stowaway who hopped on board to catch a ride to the next town?

Jeremy and I are driving to Chattanooga this month to take some photos, and Chattanooga always makes me think of trains. I can almost hear them now, ever so faintly in the distance.

04 October 2006

current favorite color...


for some reason lately, i love this shade of orange. and not just to eat, although i did make two loaves of pumpkin bread (not to be confused with my friend Keely's pumpkin ROLL, which is much more special and which I am hoping to receive again this holiday season. yes, that is a hint.)

it's probably the time of year, the changing of the leaves--from green everywhere you look to shades more interesting. it's how much I love the fall, and the orangey-ness of gourds piled high in the produce section. and a pumpkin-colored T-shirt I want to buy for the baby.

i have decided that very soon i need to paint something in this color and hang it in our house.

in the meantime, all i have is a loaf of pumpkin bread and my new orange spatula to admire:

02 October 2006

One Night in Vermont

This is one of those really good nights, the kind where you actually stop and think to yourself, “this is a good night.”

Not good because anything spectacular has happened. In fact, it’s more the opposite. An appreciation of the mundane maybe. It’s been one of those evenings when neither of us had the inclination to turn on the television (even for background noise.) Instead, we busied ourselves with simple, more important things.

I made dinner. We sat at the table and ate it, along with numerous slices of honey wheat bread from Great Harvest that we can’t seem to get enough of. Then Jeremy decided he needed cookies. At one point in our marriage, I thought he was becoming legitimately addicted to cookies and grew worried. I guess it was my fault, in part, for continuing to bake them, but even when I didn’t, he’d find some other stash. The cookie stand at the mall food court. Any coffee shop in town. Even the slice-n-bake variety from the grocery store. He did not discriminate.

In desperation, I tried reading to him a chapter from my favorite childhood book, Frog and Toad Together---the one about will power where the frog and the toad cannot keep from eating all the cookies. Yes, I realize that we’re adults, but mainly we liked it for the drawings of amphibians stuffing their faces, and the fact that they wore pants, and the way they tended to argue. They just don’t make good stories like that for adults.

Tonight he claimed to need the cookies for inspiration, something I can relate to, so off we went to Kroger. We stopped to feed a friend’s cat on the way home, then readied the cookies to bake. The only sounds on a night like this are the dryer tumbling a load of towels, and the clanging of the metal pan as it hits the oven rack.

Eventually, those sounds blended with the keys of our piano, alternating with the strumming of a moody twelve-string. I decided to give myself a pedicure. I figured I should paint my toes while I can still see them. Waiting for the color to dry, I spent awhile flipping through the fall issue of a magazine, mainly looking at brilliant photographs of pumpkin patches and old farm houses in Vermont. It has always seemed to me that Vermont would be the ideal place to spend a fall season, above any place on the entire earth. Having never been there, I can’t say for sure, but in my mind, it’s the place where the leaves are the orangest and the crunchiest, where there’s that perfect chill in the air, and where everyone shops at general stores for homemade beeswax candles and fresh loaves of pumpkin bread and tips their hat as they pass by.

I might grow tired of a place like that, one that moves so slowly, after awhile. There’s definitely some allure to being near a city, and having things to do and places to go. But for tonight, Vermont looked as cozy and welcoming on those glossy pages as a plate of warm cookies and the songs of an old piano, right here in our own house.

01 October 2006


i mentioned a few posts ago that i was working on a new project. i finally completed it yesterday...a long-requested tree painting for my friend Lisa. i promised her a tree painting about three years ago (or more) and finally got around to painting one as a wedding gift for her and her new husband. they got married in june on a tree-lined bluff overlooking the water. there was this ancient live oak with huge lumpy roots that watched over the whole ceremony, so that's the one i chose to paint.