It’s a Gas

Gas, Edward Hopper, 1940

The end of the road begins here, disappearing into an already darkened woods. It is not a very promising locale for a gas station. The last car seems to have already passed by long ago. The lone attendant is shutting down his pumps for the night, soon he will turn off the lights, lock up and go home. Like a last outpost, the station sits at the edge of civilization, surrounded by wilderness, at the moment of twilight between day and night. All that is missing is a hand painted warning sign, No Gas – Next 50 Miles. The brand new then Tokheim 39 pumps stand as sentinels, with their illuminated lamps held high, ever watchful for any last minute traveler. They stand silently ready to dispense the magic elixir that will then speed these lonely individuals to their eventual destinations.

I mailed one letter today and tomorrow will mail another. Each one dispensing another car from my fleet. In little over a year, we will have gone from owning four vehicles to soon only one. Dan’s car died in LA. Living now in Brooklyn, he is doing without. With the letter I mailed today, Dave will take ownership of his car in Boston, clearing it from my books. Tomorrow, I’ll mail the title to Anne’s ancient automobile off to NPR and I expect that within a couple of weeks and hopefully, before MSD comes calling, we’ll be a one car family again, with only the Prius owned. It has been a while since we were a one car family, a long while, but think about how much gas we will be saving. Our fleet average will jump to 50 MPG. Jockeying schedules are already stressing this plan though. If it eventually breaks down that will simply present us with a buying opportunity. I would gladly trade a new car for one that is 22-years-old.

I succumbed to reality and broke out warmer wear for bicycling in the park. There is a chill in the air now. Shadows, even at noon are longer, as with each passing day the light turns further away from us. While the crickets still chirp at length, soon only the ants will quietly toil. GoT to admit it, winter is coming. 😉

Trump’s Fake Renoir

Two Sisters (On the Terrace), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1881

Author Tim O’Brien in a recent Vanity Fair article recounted an incident that occurred while he was researching his 2005 book, Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald. O’Brien was riding with Trump on his airplane to LA. He spied the painting “Two Sisters” on the wall and asked the Donald if it was an original. To which Trump affirmed that it was. From Chicago, O’Brien challenged Trump, because the original hangs in the Chicago Art Institute and has since 1933 or thirteen years before Trump was born. On the return flight Trump introduced the painting to O’Brien again, as an original and as if the previous day’s conversation had never occurred. Time passed, Trump was elected president and in his first post-election interview with Sixty Minutes, the fake Renoir can be seen in the background of his Trump Tower apartment. This story is comical, but is also emblematic of Trump’s sad and bizarre essence. The very arbitrator of fake news is the biggest fake of them all. 

Christina’s World

Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948

“Christina’s World” is artist’s Andrew Wyeth most famous painting. It shows a woman looking away from the viewer and looking towards a distant farmhouse, while lying in a tawny grass field. Christina, a real person, was actually crawling through the field, because she could no longer walk, because she suffered from a degenerative nerve disease. She was Wyeth’s long time Maine neighbor and was in her late fifties when she was painted and lived for another twenty years afterwards. Years after her death, upon his death, Wyeth was buried at the foot of the pictured hill, fulfilling his request “to be near Christina.”

It is painted in the style known as magic realism, where everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery. In the painting, Christina appears to be younger than she was. She also appears isolated, where even her home, the distant farmhouse looks far away. Initially, the picture paints a bleak and lonely picture, but learning Christina’s background recasts this artwork into one of human struggle and determination. MoMA has always owned this painting, but chooses to display it in a busy hallway and not a gallery. One’s viewing is distracted, with all of the passing people. Its location does not to the work justice.

Turning from Christina and Wyeth’s world of magical realism to Anne’s real world, finds her ever busy with her third graders. Highlights from this week include a visit by a delegation of Indianapolis teachers and a field trip to Powell and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra played a sports themed concert for the hall full of kids. Highlights included the Blues hockey team’s mascot conducting the symphony in a recital of the Saint Louis Blues March, a reading of Casey at the Bat and the playing of various baseball standards. 

The Starry Night

The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

“The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh has always been one of my favorite paintings. Throughout college my dorm room was adorned with a poster of this art work. It was an unexpected joy to find it on display at MoMA last week. Mounted by itself on a divider wall in the middle of the gallery, it was mobbed. Dozens of people crowded in front of it. Many were taking pictures. A lone security guards stood beside it. Big and burly, his presences generally held the throng at bay. That and the occasional word remonstrated any overeager art patron. As art police gigs go, this one was a tough one to hold. My viewing was hardly the quiet and contemplative experience that one would hope for, but I was able to jostle myself close enough, with camera held high, and get the pic.

“Starry Night” captured the view from Van Gogh’s east facing asylum bedroom window.  This morning, from our own bedroom window, Anne pointed out to me an astronomical conjunction involving Venus and the Moon, all backlit by the first light of the rising sun, our own little starry night. Since my return from New York, I have been rising before dawn with her and giving her a ride to school. The reason for this is that the battery died on her car the night that I returned. She had to walk home that night, like she has been doing ever since. I took MetroLink from the airport and Anne later picked me up in the Prius. Anne’s car is 22 years old, its license is up for renewal soon and it has been under a DNR order for some time now. We jumped her car to just get it home, but it has sat in front of the house ever since and again the battery is dead.

We had planned to become a one vehicle family soon anyway. This unfortunate occurrence simply advances our schedule a couple of months. We’ll jump her car once more and this time drive it a little further and see if it can hold onto a charge this time, but come January it will become an NPR donation. We might later buy a new car, either to supplement of replace the Prius, but for now it looks like our carbon footprint will be shrinking. Anyone want a bike roof rack?

New Colossus

Liberty Enlightening the World

She stands alone, an island, in the harbor. She faces out to sea or as in this photo Red Hook. She stands as a welcoming beacon, holding her torch high for all to see and she stands in stark contrast to the current administration’s immigration policies. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. She was a gift from the people of France. Her pedestal was also crowd-sourced. Emma Lazarus wrote her sonnet, “New Colossus” to help defray its costs. The only inscription that appears upon her is written on the open page of the tome that she holds, JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776). After her death, Lazarus’s poem was immortalized with a plaque affixed to the pedestal that it helped to fund. Her official name is Liberty Enlightening the World. But she has many affectionate nicknames: the Statue of Liberty, Lady Liberty, the Lady in the Harbor, the Mother of Exiles, and yes, some admirers simply call her Torch Girl. Conceived, built and dedicated in the 19th-century, during a period of intense immigration, she welcomed millions of Americans to their new home. I find it interesting that Lazarus, like her biblical namesake has risen to such prominence and enduring relevance. Her words epitomize an ideal, an ideal that has made our country truly great. An ideal that we will not turn our backs on now. Here are her words:

New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
— Emma Lazarus