Skip to main content

Fifteen years ago

This is Honduras, not Vermont. Close enough, though.
Fifteen years ago today, I woke up in a hotel room in Boston, quite close to the art museum and Boylston Street. I went to the bus station, dragging a duffle bag on wheels that contained enough clothes to get me through two months in the USA , and a boxed set of my James Joyce Ulysses etchings. I boarded a bus going to Burlington, Vermont, and I settled into my seat with a John le Carré novel to pass the time. I recall how bright the sunlight was, how leafy and beautiful the interior of Massachusetts was, how green and hilly Vermont was.

Fifteen years ago, I arrived in Johnson, Vermont, after being picked up at the bus station in Burlington by someone from the Vermont Studio Center. I think there were three or four other people being picked up at the same time, all heading to the VSC to start retreats ranging from 2 weeks to 2 months. I remember arriving in Johnson and checking into my tiny room in an old 2 storey classic New England house, and meeting Brian from New York, and the weird guy from Kenya who later turned out to be the sort of person who never flushes the toilet.

Fifteen years ago, I finished unpacking and walked along the street to the main residency building, a converted red barn by a stream, where I had been told there would be a get together when all the new arrivals and the current residents could all meet. One of the interns wrote my name on a tag and stuck it onto my shirt. I poured some wine into a plastic glass and looked around. I think that I spoke to a young woman with dark hair, and a writer called Andrew who later became a good friend.
She was wearing a wine colored dress and holding a beer bottle with long fingers that extended well past its curved sides. Her hair was blonde, and she wore some sort of reactalite glasses that were still dark from being outside in the sun. She smiled when I said hello, with the sort of smile that looks like someone turned on a light in an unlit room. She didn't say a lot, and I couldn't tell if she was still being reserved or not. So I made a stupid joke: staring obviously at her name tag while asking "what's your name?", she said "Patty," I said in a heavily patronizing way "OH REALLY?", mugging at the name tag with her name on it. It was fifteen years ago this happened. We talked for a few minutes, I don't remember about what, probably about whether we were writers or artists, where were we from, how long were we going to be in Vermont.

I took in everything about her in a few seconds. We clicked, as they say, but we both clicked with lots of other people during that residency, and there was nothing you could put your finger on and say : Yes, that's the moment, that's the glance, that's the phrase that meant we would find our way to each other in the next few days and weeks, past the other people claiming our attention, both in the US and the UK, across the many parties and bonfires and gatherings by the river in the darkness with the flames in the oil drums, the guitars, the six packs from the local gas station, the singing, the loud laughter in the summer air, the intense conversations while pressing shoulders against one another.  Yet this is the moment, fifteen years ago, at 6 p.m., on August 28 th, 2000, that we return to in our memories, and our private talk, and our public talk when people ask us "How did you meet?" The start, the moment of ignition. Our foundational story.

Fifteen years ago, long enough to get married and build a new life. Short enough that it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Long enough to fall and stay in love. Short enough to say to each other, We just met yesterday, didn't we? And to realize with deep wonder, No, that was fifteen years ago.

Comments

  1. It must be lovely to have a partner who expresses their appreciation of you AND who values that "something special" you share. I hope Patty is good to you too. I guess she must be or you wouldn't be writing this. By the way thats a really heart-warm photo of you (both). Have a lovely weekend Phillip.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Soft Ground Etching with Baldwin Intaglio Ground

This is another post where I talk about my own research into how to obtain the best results from non-toxic etching materials -- specifically, the Baldwin Intaglio Ground. This is a form of etching resist developed by printmaker Andrew Baldwin, from the UK, as a non-toxic alternative to the nasty chemicals contained in traditional hard ground and soft ground resists. It comes in a tube, and when you squeeze some out onto an inking slab it looks like etching ink. You roll it onto the copper plate with a brayer, as if you were inking a relief block, in contrast to the traditional hard grounds, which are either melted onto the plate or poured on as a liquid hard ground. Applying the BIG to make a hard ground is relatively easy. Using it as a soft ground can be quite tricky, and it has taken me many tries and many failures to achieve a satisfactory etch.

The main problem, unfortunately, is the lack of specific instructions in preparing the BIG soft ground. Andrew Baldwin has some excellen…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…