Monday, March 21, 2011


So, yes, we're back in Los Angeles--returning from the cold and soggy Northwest... to an even colder and soggier Southern California. Really. Our Alaska Airlines flight brought us in through driving rain and unstable air from the west, unusually, down over the Pacific into a bumpy landing at LAX. So bumpy that the passengers all applauded when we finally touched down. The trusty Emily was at the airport, thankfully, to meet us, and drove us home through still pouring rain. George seemed happy enough to see us back, but made his reluctance known when I insisted on taking him our into the downpour for his pee walk.

It was a great trip. We loved Portland, despite the inclement weather, and felt warmly welcomed by a good number of Southern California art world exiles, now very much enjoying their lives in a smaller, more intimate city which is bustling with cultural activity of all kinds. It was great, too, to have the opportunity to get together with my publisher, Paul Gerhards at Parami Press, for the first time. Here we are, at the Portland Art museum lecture.

Paul's blog is When This Is, That Is. One surprise was an email from, and a subsequent telephone conversation with another blogger and a Buddha Diaries faithful, Mark, from whom we used to hear pretty regularly in the "Comments" section. His blog, Dancing Through Life, offers too infrequent insights into the life of a young dancer trying to make ends meet. We had a good talk, but did not manage to find the right time for both of us to sit down together.

I made an entry, as I recall, from the train station in Portland, as we were about to leave for Seattle. One thing I omitted, I believe, was mention of our stop at the famous Powell's "City of Books"--which provided me with a good intro to my lecture at the Portland Art Museum that evening. It is, in fact, a city block with nothing but that good old-fashioned printed material bound by sturdy covers, a treasure house of literature and information ranging throughout history and across the globe. For a writer, as I pointed out in my talk, it's also a nightmare: who would be crazy enough to add to this mountainous pile and, if one were in any case so foolish, how could one expect one's tiny needle to be discovered in this haystack? It's what I write about, the difficult relationship between creativity and commerce.

On from Union Station, then. Riding the train proved infinitely more pleasurable than the alternative--another all too familiar nightmare: air travel. The train offers much more leg room, and much better views...

We could have, should have taken more pictures. There was, notably, a great deal of water everywhere--streams and rivers, tarns, ponds and lakes, and finally, the Puget Sound. Very beautiful landscapes everywhere, and often reminiscent of the English countryside. I suppose it must be the rain... We probably did the trip faster, too, by the time we would have had to allow for the trips to and from the airports, the security lines and the wait for boarding, in addition to the actual flight time. It's nice to be leaving from, and arriving in, a city center.

Our Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle was right next to the vast Convention Center, where the National Art Education Association's conference was held--a gathering of some four thousand art teachers from all across the country...

... who see to the creative education of our youngsters from elementary school through 12th grade. You know, the people we have to blame for all our economic problems...! I would have loved to have put a copy of "Persist"...

... into all four thousand hands--well, I guess eight thousand--but had to be content with those with whom I came in contact. One of the major themes of the conference, to judge from the lecture and workshop offerings, was the need of these creative people to stay in touch with their creative selves despite the challenges of enormously demanding jobs and of course, in many cases, families.

Because our time was short and we wanted to see something of Seattle, we attended only a couple of the conference sessions in addition to a quick tour of the exhibition hall. I was impressed, particularly, with the participants' sense of dedication and enthusiasm for their work. Despite what seems to be a popular misimpression in this country, they are rewarded with far too little respect and money for their service. In addressing the needs of the right side of the brain, art teachers make a largely unrecognized contribution to the spirit of innovation and inventiveness that is sorely needed if we are get out of our current national snit and work towards a better future for this ailing planet.

My two speaking venues in Seattle proved as gratifying as the Portland Art Museum, mentioned in an earlier entry. There was some doubt about what kind of audience we could attract at 11AM on a Saturday morning at the Greg Kucera Gallery in the Pioneer Square district. Need not have worried. The gallery had set out just a few chairs to begin with, not knowing what to expect--they had never done this kind of thing before; but more and more people drifted in, and more and more chairs were added, until the gallery space was actually filled. A great crowd, very informed about the art world and very receptive to my ideas; I gave a half-hour's talk and the question and answer period must have lasted for another half hour after that. I really enjoyed the back-and-forth and was gratified, as always, by the comments as I sat, at the end, and signed a good number of books. (I'm happy to report that, of the box of fifty copies Paul gave me to bring up to Seattle, I had not a single one left to lug back to Los Angeles with me!)

The workshop that brought me to the conference was scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 1PM, leaving me little time between the two. It was, in fact, the brain child of Prof. Amanda Allison, who had invited me to speak at Texas Christian University in Forth Worth last year, and who thought we could collaborate on a useful workshop for teachers. She titled it "Get Back... to the Studio," intending it as a rallying cry for teachers who had lost track of that important artist part of their lives and needed to get back in touch. Amanda provided the framework, allowing me a half hour for my own thoughts about what gets in the way of one's creative life, and what is needed to reclaim it. Again, a gratifying response and challenging questions. I am truly grateful to have discovered this new medium with words, which allows me to connect with people in a very special way.

That's the narrative, then. It was, as I say, a very good trip. I woke early Sunday morning at the Sheraton with a head buzzing with ideas about how to bring this all together in a book...

1 comment:

CHI SPHERE said...

Welcome home Peter and Ellie!