Sunday, January 30, 2011

new workspace pictures

So many great improvements to the Merchandising Space at Powell's. I had Stephen take a few pictures with his phone on Saturday. One great idea he had was this corral for foam core signs on the right. (For the signs that have come out of the windows and can be used by merchandisers for projects in their rooms.) It's built so that I can store boxes below. All this stuff used to be stacked or leaned up against walls.

On the left in front of the white board is another new addition. Storage for rolled paper and posters and other long, thin items. Again: in the past? Leaned up against walls. Or stuffed in the corner behind my desk.

Then moving to the left, there's the little nook where my desk sits. That all used to be open. The new shelving unit and the semi-wall of wood create another corral for foam core signs (my stuff, which used to be leaned up against the wall behind my desk chair).

The little picture of the bunny came with the shelving unit. Powell's, on the floor and off, is full of stuff like this, where employees have put their mark on things. I love that, and wonder who put the bunny picture up and where the shelf was, then.

Moving into the little nook where my desk is, you can see (if you look hard hard hard) how I've started putting my own mark on the new area. The picture in the corner of the shelf, there, is Maxx and Zoë.

I love this little work surface built into the wall...

Open it up...

...and work on your panels for window displays.

Here's my nook for signs and other supplies. Including the three sock monkeys made specially for last year's Banned Books display and, on the right below them, the dried-up, petrified apple.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Today, Stephen made my life 15% better.

I'm calculating that by cutting my life into three separate pieces: work, non-work and sleep. So that narrows it down to thirtyish percent. Then I figure I'll say he improved about half the thirtyish percent that stands for work, because, really, how can you do good work in a poorly-designed and cramped workspace? If I said he made my life 33.333333 percent better, that would kind of be saying I've sucked at my job for the last three years, and I'm not about to say that... But wait and see what I'll be able to do now, with room to move and space to store all the stuff that has always gotten heaped and stacked in there.

Although you can't forget that if I'm less stressed at work, I'm bound to be happier in the 33.333333 percent that is my non-work life. Which might make me sleep better. So, I think I'll up it to 18.

I'll pretty much work anywhere. If my environment isn't ideal, I make do. I once stood still in the dark in a magic cabinet for forty minutes because there was no way for me to get "set" in the prop once the audience started arriving.

So, yes, it was Stephen's idea for me to ask about making changes to the workspace. But more than that, he designed the whole thing. We discussed what I wanted, and what might make my work easier, and he came up with all sorts of great ideas, ways to use the same space I already have but more efficiently, and then he drew it all up in a set of pretty intricate plans.

It took a while, but Powells' Physical Plant department fit us into their schedule and built some fixtures and, today, overhauled the entire Merchandising Space.

One excellent idea Stephen had: move one of the room's two openings so that people would cross through one end and not diagonally through the whole room.

Another excellent idea: to build little corrals where I can store the foam-core signs that publishers send for the windows, and the panels I put together for my window displays. Before, they were stacked and leaning against walls.

On my own, I couldn't have looked at that space and figured out how to fit those things in there. Stephen measured tables and desks and had them moved around for better spacing. He had the men in Physical Plant make me a fixture to hold my rolled paper items and a fabulous little flat workspace that folds down from the wall so I can put my large-sized graphics together without sitting on the floor in the middle of everything.

Although today when I was bragging about it, a couple people said they'd miss seeing me sit on the floor with my paper and tape like I was in kindergarten.

Stephen didn't do it all, of course. Liz, my supervisor, weighed in, and Gabe, from Physical Plant, built and hauled and installed. Lovely construction work on the new pieces. Cal, too (who's my right-hand man when it comes to decorating for Christmas) helped on the install. Sometime today, in the middle of all their sawing and drilling and hammering they pulled a work table over and discovered under it, along with lots of dust and bits of paper, an old, dried up apple that had shriveled down into some cross between a ruby and a brain. It hadn't molded at all, just ossified under there for... god knows how long. The thing was as hard as a good piece of papier-mâché. Cal gave it a sniff. Gabe told me, "You can have it for a paperweight."

I kept it, of course. So, I think that puts me at 19%.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

the harvard psychedelic club

Here's one of my January windows. I found this fascinating. I had no idea that Andrew Weil was connected with these guys. So interesting to see what these four men brought to our culture, and how they were connected (which included being at Harvard at the same time). And to see where they are now (or where they ended up).

Plus I got to put together a take on a psychedelic graphic for the window. Here's the top panel in jpeg form.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

diamonds and orange peels

I've been reading Tinkers in and in front of elevators. It's one of Powells' bestsellers, and it's always on my carts on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays when I start my day shelving books. I spend so much of my free time writing, that I have to find creative ways to read. And since the elevator is so slow in the mornings at Powell's, I stand with my cart and page through Tinkers.

Here, a son watches his father:

Another time, I found him fumbling for an apple in the barrel we kept in the basement. I could just make him out in the gloom. Each time he tried to grab a piece of fruit, it eluded him, or I might say he eluded it, as his grasp was no stronger than a draft of air threading through a crack in a window. He succeeded once, after appearing to concentrate for a moment, in upsetting an apple from its place at the top of the pile, but it merely tumbled down along the backs of other apples and came to rest against the mouth of the barrel. It seemed to me that even if I could pick an apple up with my failing hands, how could I bite it with my dissipating teeth, digest it with my ethereal gut? I realized that this thought was not my own but, rather, my father's, that even his ideas were leaking out of his former self. Hands, teeth, gut, thoughts even, were all simply more or less convenient to human circumstance, and as my father was receding from human circumstance, so, too, were all of these particulars, back to some unknowable froth where they might be reassigned to be stars or belt buckles, lunar dust or railroad spikes. Perhaps they already were all of these things and my father's fading was because he realized this: My goodness, I am made from planets and wood, diamonds and orange peels, now and then, here and there; the iron in my blood was once the blade of a Roman plow; peel back my scalp and you will see my cranium covered in the scrimshaw carved by an ancient sailor who never suspected that he was whittling at my skull - no, my blood is a Roman plow, my bones are being etched by men with names that mean sea wrestler and ocean rider and the pictures they are making are pictures of nothern stars at different seasons, and the man keeping my blood straight as it splits the soil is named Lucian and he will plant wheat, and I cannot concentrate on this apple, this apple, and the only thing common to all of this is that I feel sorrow so deep, it must be love, and they are upset because while they are carving and plowing they are troubled by visions of trying to pick apples from barrels. I looked away and ran back upstairs, skipping the ones that creaked, so that I would not embarrass my father, who had not quite yet turned back from clay into light.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the imaginary invalid

On Friday, Stephen and I went to the opening of The Imaginary Invalid at Portland Center Stage. Molière! Never saw Molière before. [or an adaptation of.] I'd heard somewhere that it's supposed to be promoted as a night of a hundred and one fart jokes, and if you know me, you know I'm squeamish about the things that happen in that corner of the body. I even tailor my curse words to stay away from ones involving that corner of the body. But there's something about combining that kind of humor with a bit of age and a bit of French that... elevates it*. So, I was ready for the fart jokes. In fact, at intermission, I turned to Stephen and said, I want more fart jokes.

Because, really, they're contained in... I don't know, probably just the first twenty minutes or so of the play? OK, no, I really didn't need any more; I was just proud of myself for saying the word out loud. The evening was plenty entertaining without more. Lots of laughs all the way through.

As broad as the humor is, this is the kind of play that relies heavily on its players. I think the stage was set (forgive the theatrical expression but somehow I can't come up with another right now) for the audience to have a good time by the opening sequence of Argan sitting in his chair, looking through his medical bills and lamenting his bad health. Feeling for his pulse and wondering if he's dead. David Margulies' Argan is sweetly naive as well as funny so you fall in love with him. In fact, I think the sequences where Argan worries over and "works" his maladies were some of my favorite parts of the show because they were so charming.

Margulies' Argan is someone you want to mother, even if he's infuriating. And because of this, the interaction between Argan and his maid and sometimes-willing confidant Toinette has a sweetness behind the banter. Toinette is played by Sharonlee McLean. Funny and particular as always. I like her in everything I see her in, which is a lot.

[Since I'm posting pictures, look at the costumes. Really neat. Of course, I had an expert in historical fashions with me, and Stephen was impressed. We had a really interesting conversation about the set and costume design, which Stephen said looked to be inspired by the Dutch masters. The set looked like one of those lovely Dutch interiors that have inspired Stephen more recently in his own painting--the lines of the room and the sunlight pouring through the window--and he said the wardrobe went right along with that style. Consistent and well done.]

And Christine Calfas! Another standout. She can't help but fill the stage with her energy and her presence. Her part (Beline) is written to be so one-sided and unsympathetic that, if they put a lesser actress - even a pretty good actress - in that part, it could come off irritating. But Christine Calfas is hilarious and sexy. Her rant toward the end of the performance is so sumptuous, you wish you could take all the hates you're afraid to voice (especially the guilty ones) and have yourself a rant as good as hers.

For the couple of other performances I'd like to make note of, I'm going to let Stephen do the talking [in quotes], since I thought what he said was very apt.

John Wernke's Cleante [flinging his long, blond hair around... in love with his beauty, in love with his theatre, in love with Argan's daughter]: "Sweet knucklehead."

Danny Wolohan's Claude: "A cross between the Chicken Lady and George W. Bush."

There are three tiny moments, three tiny perfect outbursts that each last a second or two. One belongs to Wolohan, one to Wernke, one to Calfas. I won't spoil them by trying to describe them, but I'll just say: these alone are worth the price of a ticket.

*["fàrt" - see? classy!]

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

post-it part two

I'm squeezing in a bit of blogging around some other pressing work - in fact, I'm right in the middle of writing up a review of the production of The Imaginary Invalid, which we saw at Portland Center Stage last Friday.

But because I meant to post this other thing weeks ago... and because my last night was filled with dreams of losing José and finding José and frantically trying to find water for José, wandering around under rickety, wooden structures and through endless underground mazes trying to find a way out so that I could find water for José... here is a picture of the tiny post-it that sits by the place where I do my writing. And which I wrote about in a tiny moment way back before Christmas.

There he is. New tape and all.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


This morning, getting prepared to drive the two newest paintings up to Seattle for the Exquisite Allegory show at Winston-Wächter Fine Art Gallery,

Stephen said, "Did you say goodbye to the paintings in the living room?"

It's a strange day when the paintings leave. First they're in the studio, coming to life, from tiny sketch to drawing to painting-in-progress. Then they're sitting out in the living room, propped up against the couch like guests. Like more than guests since they were born in this place. While they live with me, I'm like the proud step-mother. Or the aunt who doesn't have children of her own but loves them and wants to give them presents and put their hair up in pigtails.

You forget that suddenly they're going to be all grown up and then they're going to be gone.

The show opens next Wednesday, January 12th.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

top hat

I played a game with myself that whatever part we got to in the movie by midnight would be the omen for 2011. We started the evening with Humoresque. Joan Crawford and her desperate passion for music. The second movie was supposed to be Out of the Past, but it was too late to start a film noir masterpiece by then, so we opted for Top Hat. We could have landed on anything. The Piccolino. Or Eric Blore dressed as a priest. Or Edward Everett Horton doing a double-take. There was a lot of opportunity to land on that.

At two minutes to midnight, we stopped the movie and Stephen grabbed his cell phone, and we huddled there in front of the TV looking at the tiny phone clock tick over to 11:59 and then 12:00, for a clink of Veuve Clicquot and a kiss.

I pointed to the background image Stephen has on his cell phone, then pointed at the TV, then pointed to the cell phone, then pointed at the TV.

Stephen and me: cheek to cheek. Astaire and Rogers: cheek to cheek.