I’ve had a week off!

I didn’t intend to take the past week off, but I have, and it’s been quite nice. I do try to get in some well-filling every week or so (a Julia Cameron concept: artists need to refill their creative wells when they’re working, otherwise they’ll have nothing to draw from), but it’s hard when I’m in work mode. A week’s vacation like this really forces me to just stay in receptive mode: just taking things in, not analyzing. Quick(ish) summary, and sorry, this is about half artist-y thoughts and half personal memories.

  • Last Friday night we drove the cats to my parents’ house in San Jose, and spent the night there. Early Saturday morning we drove down to LA, where we ate at California Vegan and at a barbeque place in WeHo (yeah, total opposites, right?!), and hung out with Jason and Eurie. We discussed Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake for book club. Atwood is such a brilliant writer — every word counts, and she’s created an incredibly vivid dystopia — that it’s not until later that I realize the book has a very weird premise and that much of it is ambiguous or even, perhaps, pointless… but I still think it’s an amazing book. I may write more on it after I’ve read the sequel. We spent the evening playing Balderdash (I think this particular combination of people is my favorite Balderdash group), and then spent the night at Eurie’s cool apartment in Silverlake. Eurie renovated the place mostly (all?) by herself, and so it really reflects her aesthetic and her interests — not just in the decorations but in the actual fixtures themselves.
  • Sunday morning we went for a walk, and happened upon a craft fair. I am loving craft fairs even more these days; now meeting crafters is networking and not just shopping. 🙂 And of course craft fairs are always wonderful inspiration. I bought a quirky crocheted scarf (I was her first sale, yay!) and a Christmas gift for someone I won’t name. 🙂 I hadn’t intended to purchase any of my gifts this year but this was so perfect, it seemed idiotic to pass it up. We also spent some time at a coffee shop before the fair, and I was reminded how much I miss LA’s writer population. These days, when I go to breakfast/brunch, I am surrounded by people-who-brunch; in LA, even on a weekend, people are writing. I feel that this must be a uniquely LA thing, and I miss it.
  • Sunday was also when I heard the sad news that one of my youngest sister’s tennis friends was killed in a car accident. At first I couldn’t think much on it, as I never met Elena, but as the weekend went on I realized just how much the news upset me. I took notes on my responses for days, until I was finally able to write this entry.
  • We spent Sunday evening in Agoura Hills, at Angela and Alex’s new place. It’s a cozy place and the perfect refuge for two people with long commutes and hectic jobs. We slept on our old sofa bed (man I miss that couch) in front of the fire, and in the morning Angela’s mom (in town for Thanksgiving) made us breakfast and then we checked email on the bed while one of Alex’s cats and their housemate’s Boston terrier curled up at our feet. Together. Peacefully. I felt home-and-hearth-y beyond belief. It was a very good 16 hours or whatever it was we spent there.
  • Monday and Tuesday we spent in Porterville, where Erik’s mom works. I had thought we might see some cool roadside stands or things between Agoura Hills and Porterville, but we didn’t, and by the time we got to her place I was so wiped out from the boring drive that I conked out and didn’t wake up again till she got back from work. We had an uninspired dinner and went to bed soon after, because there was no internet and I was too tired to write or draw, and I forgot I had books in the car. Bah. Next day we found some internet, some decent Thai food, Sequoia National Park, and a couple of roadside stands to boot… but by that time we just wanted to go home. We drove the almost-four hours back to San Jose in the dark after Erik’s mom got off work.
  • Wednesday was a quiet day in San Jose. We got some exercise, ate some healthy food we cooked ourselves, and caught up on emails. Yesterday was all Thanksgiving prep. Today we came back to our own house, and now we’re hosting Erik’s parents for a change.

I say I took a week off, but these days I seem to always be working a little bit even when I’m ostensibly vacationing. Here’s the work stuff I did (or thought):

  1. I had my first international sale, but unfortunately it says on my policies page that I don’t do those, and it would have been complicated to try because the buyer needed the bag by next week. So we agreed to cancel the sale. But this made me realize that I really need to figure out how to do international shipping, and I’ve decided to work on that soon.
  2. I was all set to show old photos and start a big conversation at Thanksgiving, for the family history, but that completely didn’t work out. For one thing, the turkey took longer than usual, so by the time we all finished dinner, everyone was tired and wanted to go home. For another thing, Gong-Gong tires so easily these days that he was ready for bed by the time everyone else started eating… and I’d particularly wanted to hear some of his stories, so that was a real disappointment. It sounds dreadful to say that as he grows more frail, I more urgently want to get his stories, but it goes both ways — from what I hear, he’s just plain bored a lot of the time, and I am hoping that my project might give him more energy and more to think about. So now I am thinking that I ought to jump in and initiate conversations with him outside of these family gatherings, maybe even as early as next week.
  3. I did spend an hour talking family history with the parents this morning. I learned a lot about the family history and about Chinese history in general, and I look forward to transcribing this soon. Good to know: it took us the whole hour to get through 10 photos. I have more than 200 photos scanned and there are even more I haven’t gotten to yet… this project is going to take lots and LOTS of family discussions. And I still have no idea how the book will come together, but I’m sure that will develop in time.
  4. I spent some time with Erik’s dad this evening, looking through a book of Bernard Buffet‘s work. This was unexpected and pleasant. I realize that I love his paintings of buildings — wonderful lines and angles — and I like his interiors and colors too, but I feel that in his paintings as a whole, he limited himself far too narrowly. He did so many paintings of gaunt miserable-looking people, so many still lifes of dead animals… after a while it’s not an interesting statement anymore.
  5. I was thinking about an acquaintance’s aesthetic and I realized that I am very irked by people’s taste when they draw together many beautiful styles and objects out of context. In this case, there’s a lot of lush velvet, a lot of classical Grecian statuary, a lot of dark wood and gilding, and the overall effect is really very rich and elegant, but I kind of can’t stand it. I guess it’s sort of like highly trained Asian musicians who only perform Western classical music in concert venues… I want to shake them and say, “This art has nothing to do with you! It wasn’t made for you and it doesn’t speak to your background, home, or generation! Why do you insist on perpetuating its dominance in your field?” It’s not that I think this music or those objects have no place in these people’s lives, but their obsessive focus on only these things just seems so artificial: an unexamined taste derived from outside influences. But then, I can’t judge; my need to be unique amounts to an equivalent obsession that is probably even more tightly bound with my self-identity than these people’s Eurocentric-traditional aesthetic. (And yes I realize that sentence was painfully hard to read. Sorry. It says what I want it to say, but the former academic in me cringes along with everyone else.)
  6. I did not do morning pages at all in this past week. I am itching to get back to them, and yet I’ve appreciated the breather. My pages were very short in the past month, but it’s clear from this entry that I have much to say.
  7. I began reading the autobiographical comics of a friend-of-a-friend. I expect that as I keep reading, these comics will help shape the way I want to do my own family history.

Really looking forward to getting back into things, come Monday.