Showing posts from February, 2009


... Late is an odd word. It is almost three in the morning, and I cannot sleep. I am exhausted, it is late -- the middle of the night -- but I can't manage to sleep. Tomorrow will be the memorial service for my father. My late father.


Robb here. Going through Lisa withdrawal. In all the years we've been together (coming up on 19!) we have spent considerable chunks of time apart. Lisa would take a job in another city for several weeks or months, I'd go on tour for weeks or months, Lisa painted for the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown every summer for years... So it seems almost odd how much I miss her right now. I was cheered by an email she sent this morning, though. Here's an excerpt: The flight crew was great -- we asked one of the French flight attendants his opinion on which of the two wines was less awful, and he said that they were both wonderful. "No cork flavor on either of them," thanks to the screw-top. He told us that we weren't permitted to have more than a few of these delicious wines, because the tray tables wouldn't support our weight if we tried to dance on them. Did I mention how much I miss her?

On the ground in France

... My sister, her husband, their daughter and I all flew together to France for my father's memorial service. I can't remember being on a flight with so much turbulence. Although we had plenty of room to lay down, nobody managed to sleep. So, we're all a bit jet-lagged and blinky-eyed. The rest of the family is trickling in. We'll be having dinner together tonight, and then the service will be tomorrow.

Life Cycles

... As a child, I used to keep frogs as pets. We would collect tadpoles, and marvel at their transformation into frogs. (The tails absorb into the frogs' bodies!) I fed my frogs with bugs that I collected in my father's immense woodpiles. And, usually, the frogs would escape and we would end up chasing them around the living room. When I worked at the Glimmerglass Opera in rural upstate New York, my friend Ellen told me about her friend who owned a local plant nursery. He kept track of the seasons, and had a record of the date that the spring peepers started singing every year. I was always in awe of his connection with the beautiful part of the country that he called home. Robb and I moved around so much over the years that we often didn't get to know a place well enough to appreciate the subtleties of the the passing of the seasons. Right now, I'm working in an amazing studio in a truly rough part of West Oakland. Our studio is next to the freight train yards, u

pack up your troubles

... I don't think I've specifically said this, but Robb will not be traveling with me to my father's memorial service. Thanks to that pesky spinal cord injury, he's not able to sit for more than about twenty minutes at a time. So that pretty much rules out flying to France. I will be flying to JFK airport, where I'll meet my sister and her family. We'll all fly to Nice together. This is the same trip Martha and I made when we visited my father earlier this winter. Right now, I'm trying to figure out what to pack. I'm trying to pack as few things as possible, because I suspect there's going to be no room for my stuff in the car. Still, I need to dress warmly. I don't want to burden my stepmother by needing to do laundry while I'm visiting, either. I really truly hate packing. When my parents divorced, they came up with an arrangement that sounded equitable, but was in fact a total nightmare. Every month my sister and I had to pack all

How's Lisa

... I think I'm transitioning from numbness to an overwhelming feeling of sadness. That coupled with the always troubling feeling that we are all ultimately very much alone in this world. In addition to the emotional turmoil, I've spent way too much energy trying to figure out what to wear to my father's memorial service. He always hated how I tended to dress like I was about to head out the door to a funeral, so I'm really conflicted about my clothing choices. If he hated seeing me dressed in black all the time, would he have hated seeing me dressed for a funeral at his own memorial service? What a brain twister. I also have no idea what the social mores for French funerals are. I'm uncomfortably aware of this, having shown up in the completely wrong clothes for European weddings on more than one occasion. Add to that the fact that the stores are in "resort season" and there's not a long sleeve to be found anywhere. Well, that's not entirely

the project starts to come together

... Remember those forty-four doors that we built, textured, and painted? Well, they've been attached to a huge steel armature, and are installed at the theater. They form a massive, imposing wall that looms over the stage. I love how this looks, even though the floor and painted backdrop had not been installed when I took this photograph. I think this is so stinkin' cool!

my stepmother

... Since my father's death, the person I've been thinking most about is my stepmother. I just cannot imagine what she's going through, right now. I sit down to try to express my thoughts, and I keep self-censoring, because everything is too raw and personal. I don't want to burden Anne, by speculating about her feelings. I don't want to invade her privacy, or make her feel any worse than she must already feel.

My Father

... Was a great great guy. He was often described by his friends as "elegant," but he also had a tremendous sense of fun. I find it very hard to sum up his life.

Meanwhile, back at the studio

... We've been in the middle of another gigantic project. This on is being created on a very tight schedule. Pictured above are the designs for the show. The designer sends us draftings, and color renderings, and we figure out how to engineer and build his show. This is a particularly thorough information package, for which I'm really thankful. Did I mention that we're building this show on a very tight schedule? We're on a very tight schedule. The main element of the design is a huge, ominous wall that's made up of dozens of huge old doors that loom over the stage. Of course, you can't reasonably expect to find forty four perfect antique doors at the Antique Door Emporium, so we built them ourselves. But that means that we have to make them look old and worn. In the photo above, the doors are covered with a variety of textures that the scenic artists have applied. We've also manually gouged and bashed up the doors. The texture is multi-colored, so that it

it's a messy business

... I'm still dragging with that miserable cold, and I'm still at work. I'll try to find some energy to share photos of what we've been working on. It's a really enjoyable project. Flinging paint around is especially fun, since our last project was so nerve-wrackingly exacting.


Chinese New Year Parade Originally uploaded by someotherbob If it seems that the blog has been a bit sporadic lately, it is because there have been a number of things going on that I'm not sure how to talk about. Almost every one of my immediate co-workers has been dealing with some huge hospital-related event. My married co-workers' twins were born very prematurely, and have been in the intensive care unit for a month and a half. Another co-worker's wife broke her collar-bone and needed surgery. My intern had to have surgery, and my assistant's father was admitted to the hospital. These are not my distant colleagues. This is the team of people with whom I work every single day. Of course, this did not happen at a slow time. Oh no. We've been swamped with work, and are trying desperately to balance the huge workload with the Serious Life Stuff that we're in the midst of. Each of these challenges puts more pressure on the team. We just keep "pushing

All Kidding Aside

... The scan I had last week confirms that I did not have a stroke, and that I do not have brain cancer. I met with a neurologist, and we looked over the images from the scan. I, apparently, have a pocket of spinal fluid in my temporal lobe. The doctor asked me a lot of questions (particularly about my history of migraines), and did a battery of in-office tests (most of which I had seen Robb do -- touch your nose with your eyes closed, that sort of thing). The doctor was interested, but not freaked out. More tests are forthcoming. I'm choosing not to expend any excess emotional energy on worrying. It accomplishes nothing, and just stresses me out. I'm taking a positive outlook about the whole thing.

"Brai-ai-ai-ai-ains...." (the zombie mantra)

... Here's a little multiple choice test. Complete the following phrase: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Lisa has re-read the Jane Austen novels more times than she's comfortable admitting. a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. the work of Jane Austen could be improved by the addition of zombies. as usual, I have no idea what Lisa is talking about. I'll give you a hint . Please post your answers in the " comments " section.

All Aboard!

... Back when Robb and I lived in Baltimore, I used to work both as a theatrical scene painter, and also a decorative painter. A lot of my work was in Washington DC, and I was always thrilled to have a job near a Metro station, so I could take the train to work and avoid the misery of driving on the Washington Beltway in rush hour. (Did you know that putting on your turn signal is a sign of weakness when you are on the Beltway, and any driver who sees you do this will speed up in order to fill the gap between cars that you are attempting to merge into? Did you know that it is not uncommon to see people filling out crossword puzzles whilst driving at highway speeds?) Robb and I lived within walking distance of the MARC Camden Yards station, which ran a commuter train right into Union Station in DC. I loved that commute. The regulars knew each other. There was a train newsletter. The conductors were awesome. I loved seeing the jockeys exercising the horses when we went past the La

Another Opening, Another Show...

... I haven't "cleaned up" this photo yet. Still, it gives you an idea of what we've been working on all this time. We created every surface you see. The parquet flooring was made by us, we created the stain colors, and stained it all by hand. We created all the wallpaper from scratch. Everything you see on stage was made by someone in one of our shops. And now, we're moving on to another show. A much less tedious show, thankfully. This one is lovely, but it was so, so, so fussy.

"I had a brain scan today."

... "I wonder if they'll find anything at all." How about this elegant object, by Neil Fraser ? It uses images from an MRI scan of his own brain to create a lovely wooden puzzle. Nice.

Lady, you should get your head examined!

... Kaiju 34 Originally uploaded by modern_fred Robb has been teasing me that I've been jealous of all the attention he gets, and that I want to have conversations where I talk about "my neurologist." I dunno about that. Tomorrow, I'm going to get my head examined to see if anyone can figure out what triggered last Friday's weird-oh episode. I'm going in for a computed tomography (or ct) scan. "Tomography" is a pretty cool word, derived from the Greek word tomos, meaning "slice" and graphein, meaning "to write." If you've seen one of these scans, they are three dimensional images of the body, assembled one layer (or slice) at a time. I could do without the dose of radiation, but I'm sort of excited to see inside my own noggin. This picture doesn't have much to to with anything, except that I found it while looking for historical images of the anatomy of the head. Right after I graduated from college, my mother d

What is Family?

... I just finished reading Barack Obama's 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father . The book is a bit of a sprawling mess, pretty unfocused and without a clear thesis. In some ways, it is two books uncertainly jammed together -- a book about growing up bi-racial in Hawaii, and a book about one man's introduction to his Kenyan heritage. The book could have benefited from some brutal editing in terms of content and direction. Nevertheless, it was an interesting glimpse into one man's search for identity. I decided to look into Obama's family tree because I was fascinated by its variety. Kenyan father, WASP mother, Indonesian stepfather, and so so many half/step siblings. Reading Obama's memoir, I was interested to learn about his father's multiple wives and the fluidity of their relationships. Was Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. a bigamist? Maybe. It's hard to say, because cultural definitions of marriage and divorce differ between the United States and Kenya.