I've been in California since Xmas Day. I came for the MLA convention in San Francisco, which is the largest collection of humanities professors in the country. Maybe the world. Usually it is very uptight and filled with people scratchy in suits who are nervous about their upcoming job interviews in cramped hotel rooms. Many people hate coming to the MLA. I always like it because it's like being able to sit in on a bunch of different classes. There are tons and tons of panels and though some of them are quite boring and narrow (and you have to be very very careful not to be swayed by the clever titles), some are quite interesting. It was at an MLA years ago I first heard of the writer Dawn Powell, who was coming into a posthumous renaissance.
This year I did a presenation on William De Morgan, who is known today as a wonderful tile artist (see above photos), but was known in the last years of his life as a best-selling author. It was one of the two William Morris panels and I got to hang out with the Morrisians, who are goofy and smart like the kids I hung around with in high school, but more knowledgable. (I thought that college would be full of goofy and smart kids, but I was wrong. It was filled with the pre-professional, but that is another story.)
The best overheard quote from the convention: You see, all postmodern buildings are designed for humiliation.
(The worst thing about the quote is that it seems to be true.)
We are now in Point Reyes Station, in a cabin (not primitive) that L rented on the web. He and R and C are out hiking on the beach. I am inside where I can see Nature through the big windows: a hill and trees and another hill (or mountain) behind that. L picked this place because it is walking distance to Town, and I need a Town when I vacation. There is an espresso place, but it is sort of in an open-air garage, and I can probably sit there for a while if I bundle up. Last night we saw stars stars stars, which makes you sad when you think how they're obscured in the city. I just read The Mistress' Daughter by A.M. Homes, picking it up on a Free shelf outside the Point Reyes library yesterday. Homes talks about her grandmother, who thought the sky was pure black until she was 15 and got glasses. We sat outside for hours last night on the little porch outside our cabin, huddling near the clay stove and watching the fire and talking.
This is a fancy little town, with four kinds of fresh mushrooms at the supermarket, locally grown wool hats for $65, local organic unpasteurized milk (in bottles, cream on top), but also a Saloon where in the afternoon people gathered and talked to one another as a group, making it seem a local hangout. There is yoga at 6 every night behind the largest cute store. L notes that there's a ruggedness to the place, which is true, making it different from Cape Cod or Lake Forest (IL).
Yesterday in Town we saw a hand-written sign about free hair mats. Next to it was a round mat of dark hair hanging on the outside wall. I looked it up on the web last night and saw that a Bay Area woman has been collected hair from salons, sending the hair to Georgia, where it's woven into mats and sent back, and then she's been given them away as motor-oil absorbers. They're also used to clean oil spills. The greatest thing is that they can host mushrooms (donated by my friend B's brother, who is a famous mushroom man) and decompose.
Thus is the new century. In the 1980s we made art from hair, now we are improving the planet with it. There is hope. Si, se puede.