... but beautiful along the shore front nonetheless. Walking past the marina, we headed out along the breakwater, pausing only to watch the harbor patrol bring in a large boat for winching up out of the water...
... for inspection? For repair? We did not hang out for long enough to find out. Out along the breakwater, we admired a lingering egret… and a giant starfish, attached to a rock by the water line… and continued out to the end before turning back to return to the hotel, where we enjoyed a perfectly adequate “complimentary” Continental Breakfast—a cup of coffee, a toasted English muffin, a hard-boiled egg.
By the time we were ready to leave, the rain had started in earnest. Parts of the parking lot outside our room, indeed, were inches deep in water—a condition that existed too, we discovered, on the main streets of Santa Barbara. State Street, in places, was a river rushing down toward the ocean. Our progress was hampered by one of those tiny electric scooters for the handicapped proceeding at a snail's pace in the dead middle of the road--understandably, since the rise at the center made this the shallowest path. We did, though, find a parking place near where Ellie needed to go shopping, and I retreated to a local coffee shop with my notes to prepare for the afternoon's lecture--a preparation somewhat hampered by a very loud-voiced and opinionated neighbor at the next table, hectoring his companion about matters on which he was, according to himself, extremely well-informed.
I was rescued from this dire situation by Ellie in an hour or so. The rain had stopped, and we walked up to the Arts & Letters Cafe, across from the museum, where we had been told we could get a good lunch. Which proved to be the case, after an unpromising start that included the spillage of an entire glass of water by Ellie and a surprisingly long wait, despite the small numbers of lunchers, for attention. I had what was surely among the best hamburgers I have ever eaten. We paused in Arts & Letters gallery, after lunch, to admire the ceramic work of an artist with whose name we were unfamiliar, working much in the tradition of the Natzlers and Beatrice Wood.
From lunch, we emerged into... sunshine! And walked back to the car for the drive back to our hotel, and a brief rest before heading out to the university in god time, we hoped, to see our friend Ann Diener's show at the university's art museum. Parking, however, proved an unexpected challenge, as was the task of finding the location for my lecture and, from there, the way to the museum. We arrived, finally, a little breathless, in time to spend about ten minutes with the curator, who was gracious enough to open the gallery for us in off-hours. Ann's wall drawing is quite spectacular...
... a towering, exuberant display that includes a shower of collage elements along with the line drawing. A complex, restless work that excites the eye (here's a detail):
... and that required a lot more time than we were able to give it.
My talk was scheduled in one of those large university lecture halls with seats arranged, amphitheater-style, in rising tiers--a new circumstance for one used to talking in more intimate circumstances. A generous introduction by an old friend, Colin Gardner, now chair of the host department, a fellow Brit and Cantabrian (as we who graduated from Cambridge University are traditionally called...), and I launched into my musings about the culture in which we artists, writers, and creative people of all kinds find ourselves, and about the power of the mind of help us to persist in the work we're given to do...
Hard to gauge this large audience, and I was distracted by a young Asian man, dead center, who slept peacefully through the entire presentation. But by the end, I was happy to get a good number of questions and comments--a good sign that my audience has been listening and engaged. And the response from those who came up afterwards to buy a book was gratifying.
Later, with evening approaching fast, we headed back into the city to meet up with Colin and his wife, Louise... for wine and dinner at The Wine Cask. A memorable evening of lively talk, including an earful from Colin about the demands of a chairmanship in an educational system gone mad with the explosion of media and information systems--a nightmare I'm happy to have avoided, having withdrawn from academia now nearly twenty-five years ago. I can hardly imagine what it must be like to be available, as an administrator, to students, faculty, and the administration at large via email and cell phone twenty-four hours a day. Let alone to fulfill those other academic requirements, to make a showing in one's own field of interest.