(Clip from Douglas Sirk's All that Heaven Allows posted on youtube by sebaaastian13)
As Hank Williams once said, when the Lord made me, he made a ramblin' man. Here, then, is a little ramble through the last few months.
Dear Patient M and I roamed from coast to coast of the USA (via a brief sojourn in Auckland, New Zealand). We had a wonderful time. We took about 8000 photos.
We depended on the kindness of strangers (the dog walker who gave us a lift to Oak Park, the academics who showed us around SLO, the wise-cracking ex-Mandarin scholar who showed us the way to Marie's Crisis) and friends (Elizabeth and family, Oh Sasquatch - you know who you are)(How we heart Pittsburgh, its surrounds and its kind, funny, generous denizens who fed us, showed us the best of Frank Lloyd Wright and played us bossa nova!).
We were greeted with a hug, kiss and a glass of wine in the elegant streets of Ponsonby, Auckland, by the irrepressible Beth "McK" who seemed to embody everything we liked about New Zealand. We went up a big tower and I got shaky.
In San Francisco, we drank mai tais in the Fairmont's Tiki Lounge and cocktails at Top of the Mark. Then more mai tais in the Fairmont's Tiki Lounge. We were defeated by the Alameda market but were kids in a candy store regardless. We stumbled across Barbary Lane. We sniggered with affection at Coyt Tower and Coyt Liquors. We ate the best sandwich in the world from Molinari. Twice. We walked to Cliff House and the Legion of Honour, where they were exhibiting one of my heroes from adolescence, Max Klinger. We fancied ourselves in Vertigo and Tales of the City. We went across the Bridge twice and almost had our faces blown out of shape. We felt right at home in the grand folly that is the Palace of Fine Arts. We spent a peaceful late afternoon in a field at Yosemite. We bought books by the boxload, tipsy and late at night.
In Portland, we spared a thought for all those poor shanghaied sailors as we toured underground. We went mad for leafy trees. We were agape at the secondhand shops, surrounded by leafy trees. We lost ourselves in Powells Bookstore and bought more books by the boxload, sober, and in broad daylight. We even drank beer.
In Seattle, well, I was cranky. It would be unfair to Seattle to say much more. So we caught a boat with all of the blue rinsed retirees to Victoria, Canada, for the day. The Butschart Gardens was like stepping into one big kodachrome postcard from the 1950s. Which, let us face it, is a less than secret fantasy shared by both Dear Patient M and myself. Of course it is kitsch. But so are we.
Chicago was a veritable festival of art and architecture. The Chicago Art Institute was the best gallery I have visited. And Oak Park was like a free Frank Lloyd Wright theme park.
Pittsburgh was an absolute treat. Elizabeth and family made us feel so welcome. She took us to Fallingwater (the very sight of which moved both Dear Patient M and myself almost to tears) and Kentuck Knob. I finally had the chance to see the lovely and talented Lizzie's amazing go-go dancer prints, inspired by a clip on this very blog.
Brooklyn was brownstone heaven, especially Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. I dream in brownstone. There is another childhood fantasy I can cross off my list. I wanted to draw all those brownstones in minute detail. At Marie's Crisis in the West Village, we sang showtunes with the "freshfaced showkids fresh off the bus from the mid-west with a dream in their heart" as our impromptu guide put it. It left us happy but hoarse as we staggered about at 4am. We met a monsignor and his glamorous Argentinian mistress. We saw South Pacfic at the Lincoln Centre and Kandinsky at the Guggenheim, both of which made us swoon in different ways.
We were rained on in Miami and surrounded by writhing young folk flaunting their wares. We were entranced by the recently preserved Mi-mo strip, not to mention all of that Miami Vice pastel deco.
In Vegas, were went nuts in the artfully arranged Neon Graveyard, tried on glittery robes in the Liberace museum and were disoriented by all the fake bits of Europe that surrounded us at every turn. We found ourselves lured by the siren call and high camp of the all-singing, all dancing Fountains of Bellagio (especially when "they" performed "One" from A Chorus Line).
We lazed by the pool in Palm Springs, surrounded by springing palm trees, gazing up at the mist on the mountains. We felt exhilarated by Big Sur. We felt right at home in the grand folly that is Hearst Castle. Of course it is kitsch. But so are we.
We were mystifyingly upgraded to the Penthouse Suite of the Sunset Tower in LA. We rolled about in plush robes, drinking champagne on the balcony. We shovelled free toiletries into our bags. We felt like a pair of very lucky pretenders. These things do not happen to us. We saw Orlando Bloom. He did not recognise us.
And now we are home. And, after three years of living one street apart, Dear Patient M and I are cohabiting. Everything has been turned on its head in the best possible way. And I feel calm. And rested. And quite a different person to the one I was before I went away.