Well, it would be something of a self-aggrandizing exaggeration to say that we had a "small turnout" for my talk at the National Steinbeck Center yesterday. Only a handful of people showed, and most of them were friends, or friends of friends. I was perhaps caught between two "g"s--golf and the Grammys. It has been a big weekend, as I understand it, at Pebble Beach. And the Grammys got new and special attention with the death of Whitney Houston. Seeing the small numbers, I abandoned the lecture I had prepared for the occasion and turned the event instead into a small discussion circle. It was a pleasant session, and I probably said everything I would have said in lecture format. At least the experience gives me the opportunity to think things through for the future.
A special pleasure, though, was the evening that followed. It has been many years since we've had the opportunity to spend time with our old friends David Ligare, the painter, and Gary Smith, the ceramic artist, who live at the very top of a high hill with a commanding view of what John Steinbeck called the "pastures of heaven."
(We did not have our own camera with us, but these two images, culled from the Internet, will give some idea of the extraordinary beauty of the countryside around Salinas. Not hard, gazing out at them, to see where David finds inspiration for his spectacularly-painted "postmodern neoclassical" landscapes. You'll need to check his website to see images: scroll down to the landscapes to see what I mean.) He and Gary have lived in their elegant home for many years now, and it's a delight to be in an environment where every object, every picture on the wall is chosen with a refined eye for its simple, eloquent beauty. A fine dinner, great conversation, good friends... what better way to spend an evening? It's an art too easily forgotten in today's rushed world.
It seemed like a long drive back through the dark to our small hotel in Carmel, but we negotiated the unfamiliar territory and arrived safely in time to watch the last hour or so of the Grammys show--and kind of wished we hadn't. I'll be accused, rightly enough, of getting old. The music, I'm afraid, sounded largely like so much noise to me; the songs, the costumes and the choreography unattractively aggressive. It was sad to catch the waning glimpses of Glen Campbell as he heads inexorably into the fog of Alzheimer's. And a bit exhausting, frankly, to watch Paul McCartney's (Sir Paul's!) youthful antics as he revisited old Beatles hits in the evening's final act. Our culture requires such icons to stay young, and I have to say he does an impressive job of it. Hard, though, not to feel a little bit old myself!