California or bust

Neal forwarded this KQED episode about three good eats in the Bay Area, just in time to whet my appetite for our trip west next week. We'll start off in the Sacramento area, where we'll take advantage of proximity to west coast chains we don't have here in New England (In 'n' Out, Rubio's, Chevy's, maybe the buffet at Thunder Valley Casino...) but we'll finish off our trip in our adopted hometown of Oakland. There's too much good food there to enjoy in one short weekend. If we had more time, we'd try to hit all of the places on our long list of local faves, including but not limited to: Cactus Taqueria (but just about any Mexican joint will do), Barney's (I like the Sunshine Turkey), Zachary's (mmmm, spinach & mushroom stuffed crust pizza), Arizmendi (scones every morning), Katrina Rozelle (where we got our wedding cake), and Holy Land for possibly the best hummus and falafel I've ever had. This last spot is the first restaurant discussed in the clip by the social worker from Oakland and the visuals of the food served there interspersed with her commentary are pure food porn. Each of the three guests has a restaurant to review but they all go to eat at each of the three so that they all have something to say about each one during its turn. About four and a half minutes into the episode, the guy in the middle seems to have had an equally delightful experience but keeps going on about how he had to travel "overseas" from San Francisco to Oakland to get there. Gag me! No offense, because I think I might have a San Franciscan or two who read this blog, but I've never understood the SF snobbery and the difficulty so many folks who live there seem to encounter upon leaving the city. Do they inject you with something when you become a resident? Is there an invisible fence halfway across the Bay Bridge? I mean, seriously, San Francisco's the size of a peanut and the rest of the world is a mere 12 miles away. And the bay is not a sea. Anyway, I suppose you could argue that my reverse snobbery toward Oakland is just as bad but, whatever, it's my blog and I can always delete your comments!

Seriously, though, it's always a tricky thing returning to the place you've left and have since completely glorified in your mind. Comments like that guy's remind me of the little things that added up to a smugness that in part inspired me to look east for grad school. This article, which appeared on Salon several years before we moved east, sums up my feelings pretty accurately, although I'm not sure my mixed feelings about the place can all be blamed on the dot com bust and boom since I began to feel ambivalent about Berkeley and San Francisco (before moving to Oakland) very soon after moving to the area in 1997. Eight years later I finally got about 3000 miles of perspective on the place, but I've been dying to get back ever since. Well, back west more generally, although I have to admit the bullseye of that large target is definitely Oakland. When we returned to the area for the first time last year I was apprehensive, but pleasantly surprised with how much I still enjoyed everything (plus, the area where we lived in Oakland - Lake Merritt - was just about to build a Trader Joe's within walking distance from our old apartment). I didn't move to Boston for the overrated change in seasons, despite having previously written about how magical the first snow can be (27 inches of snow in one week, it turns out, is not so magical). The accent that was initially charming is still sometimes annoyingly difficult to understand. And while I technically live in the city of Boston, in a neighborhood diverse with Vietnamese restaurants and Irish pubs, I'll never feel like a local because I can't claim that my family has lived here for at least three or four generations (how your family could stick around that long is beyond me). And yet I still have these reservations about California. Ultimately, I think the reason people settle in a particular area has more to do with family. That would explain why people stay in New England for generation after generation, or why native New Englanders who've experienced life elsewhere return to this place winter after long, snowy winter. So, I don't know, maybe I'll never feel completely at home, here or back west. But what fun would it be to live in a place you can't complain about? Especially so long as the weather is mild (there is a change in seasons: foggy in the summer, Indian summer in the fall, rain in the winter, and pleasant in the spring!) and the food is tasty.



Okay, so it's not technically the first snow (since we've been in Boston I've tried to blog about the first snow each season and I think I was successful the first two winters), but it's definitely the first significant storm. We've enjoyed a "wintry mix" here and there since about Thanksgiving - and that's actually worse, in my opinion. Not a lot of snow, but usually mixed with rain, occasionally freezing rain, and sleet, and typically followed by freezing temperatures that create a slippery glaze over everything. Treacherous. I'm not a huge fan of snow no matter how fluffy, I have to admit. I blame it on my first winter of independence, living in Bend, Oregon, during an unusually cold and snowy winter. They don't seem to clear the streets as well there as they do here and they use lava rock instead of the sand/salt combination, which is pretty tough on the roads and the cars. My theory is I'd rather survive my drive to the grocery store...I can always buy a new car or get a new paint job. Anyway, I digress. Despite my preference for milder weather, I can see why folks get excited about the fluffy white stuff. It is pretty magical.

Here's the view out our kitchen window, looking up the hill that lots of cars returning home from work when I took these pics around 5 p.m. this evening had a tough time climbing. That's our car, which we (aka Neal) will get to dig out tomorrow.

Here's the view from our front door. Our landlord's usually kind enough to shovel out our little walkway when he does the driveway.

Here's the view down the hill at the corner, outside our bedroom window.

And making a full 360 back to the front of the house, this is the view out of our other bedroom window. You can just barely see someone digging out their car early.

And of course, this was three hours ago and it's been snowing steadily since. It's still snowing although it seems to be tapering off. I haven't been able to find an updated snow accumulation for Boston itself but Burlington, about a half hour north, was at nearly 10 inches almost an hour ago. Tomorrow should be a fun-filled day of digging out.


masshole...and proud of it

In all the thesis hubbub I nearly forgot to post a pic of my edible art. Here's the piece I did for Matthew Meta's show. It's titled Metaconsumption.

It's a plastic pen cup holder, actually, with a little plastic insert that allows you to put four photos inside. So I trimmed my screenprint into four pieces then filled the holder with the actual candies. Attempting to visually define "meta" is always fun. It seemed like the representation partly masking the real thing might work here. Anyway, the back-story is that when I first met Matthew two and a half years ago he only wore black, white, and gray. And for his first review board he had custom color M&Ms in black, white, and gray printed with his name that he handed out in some sort of game he played with his board members. Then suddenly this summer he started wearing color. Crazy color in crazy combinations with crazy socks and shoes. And I like M&Ms so I figured, why not make art with them? I don't think anyone ate the M&Ms during the opening or after, but a friend's take on that installation episode was that it would be cool if you were supposed to eat the candies because then you'd be consuming the art in both figurative and literal ways. I thought that was a pretty good idea...for a future project, perhaps.

Anyway, my thesis defense went really well (fifteen minutes of craft nit-picking, followed by 45 minutes or so of mostly positive and/or really constructive feedback), but sadly, I was feeling just under the weather enough on the afternoon of the gallery talk to not attend. I was really torn but told it was a very informal event so in the end I decided to stay home and nurse my cold.

Otherwise, I've been keeping myself busy just generally catching up and getting ready for the holidays. I've done very little shopping, baking, or card-writing so far, but I'm getting there. I did decide yesterday, however, that the remainder of my shopping efforts will be conducted online, as much as possible. I swung by the mall to buy one gift - in the middle of a weekday - and it was a total madhouse. I don't even want to imagine what it's like this weekend. Macy's, for example, lures you in with these one-day sales and previews to that and coupons on top of it, but there are so many catches and exclusions you can only actually save money on three items in the entire store! Electrics, for just one of about fifty examples, were excluded, so basically that ruled out anything with a plug. What is this, Amish country?! It's all part of their strategy to lure you in and once you get there, deal with parking, make your way past disorganized, dazed shoppers (make a list!), you're not going to want to leave empty-handed. But I refused to pay full price for the item I desired in light of their crafty ways. Instead, I took my business to Crate & Barrel. I paid the same amount, of course, but it was the principle of it all. At least C&B is fairly overt about their inflated prices.

Anyway, needless to say I have zero patience for holiday madness. I believe the technical term for what I suffer from is "compounded stress." At moments like that, I just want to steal away to Germany and spend my twelve days of Christmas eating curry wurst and drinking cocoa while strolling through the Christmas markets. The problem is that New Englanders are already pretty gruff with one another, even on a good day (they'd "already rather be bow-hunting," so to speak). So it gets downright inhumane in an elevated stress situation like holiday shopping. As if to enforce my point, during my drive home I noticed a huge truck in front of me with a bumper sticker that looked like a small, customized Massachusetts license plate that read, "MASSHOLE." Kinda like this one:

That's the spirit. Why do you feel inspired to advertise this stereotype proudly? Why?


what lies between the opening and the review

The show is now open and has officially been received. The reception went well. I found a glittery gold sweater to match my glittery gold water globes and a black and gold and lace skirt I've had for years but never worn. I even found matching shoes and a little clutch purse. The first half-hour or so was slow, but after about 6 p.m. there was a steady stream of visitors, including lots of local friends I'd sent invites to.

And the installation held up for what will probably prove to be the majority of overall attendance to the show. The main surprise of the night was how interactive visitors were with the piece, even in areas where interaction was not my intention or goal. There was one guy in particular who brought his toddler over about four or five times to watch him weave through the paper columns. People couldn't seem to help themselves from touching the columns and lifting the water globes.

Had I known gallery visitors would feel so emboldened as to touch the art, I might have considered making the globes more intentionally interactive. I did invite them to take a set of postcards and pose for a portrait in front of my recreation of the Parthenon, which is why the image above was originally taken (and only later revealed evidence of interaction where I didn't necessarily want it). In fact, this image was taken by this couple's daughter, unbeknownst to me, standing at that moment just a few feet away from my camera, which was set up on a tripod. Okay, glitter globes are pretty irresistible, I'll admit, but I can't imagine walking up to a camera on a tripod in the middle of a gallery and starting to snap away. I have to admit, I was a little annoyed, but she did take a pretty fabulous shot. You can see all 18 images on my Flickr page. For more images of the installation itself, check out the newly updated thesis section of my website. You can even download and read my full statement, if you're into that kinda thing.

The thesis show activity will continue tomorrow evening with my final committee review and a gallery talk with the artists on Thursday at 6 p.m. If you're local and wanted to know more about a particular artist's work, you should attend. I've only done one gallery artists' talk before and the audience was made up almost exclusively of other artists in the show and a couple of friends and significant others.