Legion of Honor. San Francisco.
Helga Viking Lens, Blanko Film, Jolly Rainbo 2X Flash, Taken with Hipstamatic
She slipped out of work early today, and we went to brunch in Cole Valley. We parked the car, and on the street she pointed to a fixed-gear bike with a basket U-locked to a no-parking sign. “That’s how you know brunch is near.” We ate gingerbread pancakes. At the table next to us, a drug rep in a mismatched suit was getting all chummy with a pediatric nurse that M knew from her old rotation. Cloudy or sunny—the day couldn’t decide.
But I was happy to be out in the afternoon. M took me to her favorite museum in the city, the Legion of Honor. She spent a lot of time there when she was in high school, and she said all the old painting by the Dutch masters, and the Rodins, and the Monets were like old family friends. We went through the entire museum and we left exhausted. Funny how the museum always takes so much out of you. All you’re doing is walking around looking at things. But that’s the way it always seems to go.
Would I rather teach the summer course at Stanford, or in Singapore? Hehe.
I’m in between jobs, so I’ve been using my days to take photos while wandering the city. I suppose I’ve been making up for lost time in San Francisco. I moved here in 2009 on a fellowship to write fiction. In the cocoon of my apartment, I typed away at a novel that looks a little hopeless at this moment, obsessing about the lives of fictional people and subsisting on nicotine tabs and Blue Bottle coffee. That’s the logic of a fiction writer: move to one of the most beautiful international cities in the world just to become more of a socially awkward hermit than ever before. Set the clocks and name the streets in a contrived fictional world, yet ignore the streets outside, the ones with very real people.
This area around Cliff House is the setting of Jack London’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Scarlet Plague.
It’s about time to leave the city for a week or so—we’re driving down 1 to Monterey and Big Sur for a couple of days, then on to Santa Barbara, and then to the scary Los Angeles. We’ve loaded up on Blue Bottle Coffee, and the camera batteries are charging as we speak. Yes, I’ve been reading Kerouac’s Big Sur to get a jump on the trip. I suppose I should have gotten some Henry Miller at the library, too, but I forgot about it and picked up some William Maxwell instead. In the back of my mind I hope the trip will inspire a new project to make up for the failure of the last one, but then I remember the last novel was conceived on the last trip to Big Sur. I’m over-thinking this. All I should be doing is enjoying M’s company, taking pretty pictures, and enjoying the scenery. Next week will be all about writing the syllabus for the online craft class…
Instead of finishing Kerouac’s Big Sur, I picked up Richard Brautigan’s first published novel, A Confederate General in Big Sur and read the kernel of thousands of student fiction theses. This was on the shelf of the place where we’re staying at in Big Sur, which is mostly stocked with hiking guides, computer programming guides, history books, and trashy mystery novels. Finished it outside of Julia Pfeiffer’s house near McWay Falls while M took pictures with the DSLR. It’s an interesting book, a quick read, although I think the timing of its humor has come and gone, whether that was the 1960s or my early 20s.
Nobody won the Pulitzer this year. The correct choice would have been Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. I remember loving that story when it came out in the Paris Review back in 2003, and I wish I had my copy of it here while I listen to the woods of Big Sur.
“Knife after knife was plunged into the poor author. It was hideous, the utter collapse of his hopes. One after another his protests were beaten down unmercifully, so that he sat silently, scarcely daring to speak. ‘But the things you say are bad spring from faults inherent in my temperament!’ he finally cried desperately. ‘How can I correct them?’ There was a silence that lasted several seconds.”
—From “Flaubert and Madame Bovary,” Francis Steegmuller. This is Flaubert getting raked over the coals for an early draft of “The Temptation of St. Anthony.”
“To ‘become known’ is not my chief concern—that can afford complete satisfaction only to very mediocre vanities. And besides, can celebrity be considered proof positive of the value of one’s work? Even the most widespread fame during one’s lifetime may not suffice to endure afterwards, and seldom can anyone but a fool be sure of posthumous glory. Thus even to one’s self illustriousness is no proof that one has accomplished great things, and obscurity no proof that one has not. I am aiming at something better—to please myself. Success seems to me a result, not an end in itself…When I think that I have gathered the fruit of my efforts I shall not refuse to sell it, and I shall not forbid applause if it is good. If on the other hand when it is gathered no one wants it, that can’t be helped…If a work of art is good, if it is authentic, it will be recognized some time—and if one has to wait for recognition six months of six years until after one’s death, what’s the difference?”
—Gustave Flaubert in a letter to his editor/friend Maxime Du Camp
Left Singapore at 8:10am Saturday and arrived at SFO at 10:45am on Saturday. How can I be so tired if I only traveled two and a half hours?
Back in California, where we drive on the correct side of the road, and where I’m in less danger of looking the wrong way and being struck by a car. It’s nice to be back, even though the workload doesn’t let up for the next few weeks. I’m writing class evaluations for my students, getting to know the next batch of online students, and writing course descriptions for new work. All of a sudden there’s no time to read for myself (although I don’t really get paid to read for myself). I’m also not sure which writing project I should be working on right now, if I were writing.
There’s a ton of Singapore photos that haven’t gone up yet.
bronspix said: love yr blog, the pics & journ entries - what r yr biggest influences: writers, music, poets and art wise? Would have asked on yr blog but it didn’t seem to work. Have a great day:) rgds Bronwyn