Peasant Girl with a Straw Hat

Peasant Girl with a Straw Hat, Camille Pissarro, 1881

Camille Pissarro frequently engaged with Millet-like peasant subjects, as seen in this portrait of a young girl. She calls to mind Millet’s own images of resting shepherdesses. Influenced by Millet, Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas, now a part of the American Virgin Islands. Once grown, he left the island and eventually moved to France. There as an artist, he grew to prominence and became a leader of the Impressionist movement. On St. Thomas, he is still considered an honored native son.

It is a very rainy first day of spring today. No workmen on the street, because of that. The radar map shows a mass of green and yellow Oobleck passing over us, with flood warning boxes following in its wake. A walk in the late afternoon might be possible, but I’m just hoping that the rain lets up enough for me to go out and get the paper, which is probably just soggy pulp by now. We walked yesterday, but it took two attempts. On the first try, we only got a couple blocks, when the rain started again. I had thought that it has finished. Later, we did get our walk in together. There were not that many people out-and-about.

Yesterday, Anne went to gyro, or rather gyro came to us. They’ve closed the studio, but now offer virtual classes via the tele-conferencing app Zoom. I sat out this week’s session, but plan on participating next week, with Anne in our living room. As we adjust to the new normal, adaptation like this is necessary. In this regard, Anne is better situated than I am. She has her many crafts to occupy herself with. One of her yarn stores even offered a virtual knitting circle using Zoom. Currently, she is into quilting and after finishing a baby quilt, has started a new type of quilt. She has ordered most of her supplies for this project online for later delivery, but there were some items that she needed right away. We broke our quarantine and drove to the fabric store, where she was treated to curbside delivery. I brought the hand sanitizer. 

As we all hunker down, quarantining ourselves from one another (I hope), We are always on the lookout for new diversions. A big one will drop tomorrow on Amazon Prime. The movie that Dan worked on, will be available for streaming. Blow the Man Down is set in Maine, where it was filmed two years ago. Here is its trailer and a recent New York Times review. In the trailer, if you look closely there is a brief shot of a plywood lobsterman sign that Dan made. If you watch the movie, be sure to watch the credits too and see Dan’s name written there.

Spanish Flu / Pangolin Revenge

Chinese Headband with Bat Design – Made with Kingfisher Feathers, 19th Century

We walked this afternoon. It was almost fifty and I was surprised at how many people were out walking around too. Kids were out playing together. Dog walkers were everywhere. In our neighborhood, there are sidewalks on both sides and along Wydown, the main drag, there are also additional lanes. When another walker approached, we simply switched sides. Ours and others dancing in the streets was all unspoken, but I think that our actions and that of some of the other pedestrians, were obvious to all. We were able to maintain our safe social distance, but still I was concerned. With warmer weather and nothing else to do people will migrate outside in greater numbers than usual. If the epidemic progresses as it has in Italy, the authorities might even prohibit this modest release from cabin fever.

Cycle Zydeco, our planned April bicycle trip to Louisiana, has announced that it is offering vouchers for next year or refunds. It hasn’t cancelled yet, but… Our 2020 vacation schedule is quickly collapsing.

The outdoor floor show that is the water company’s replacement of the water main continues to amuse. They’ve paved over the portion of the street, where plastic pipe was laid, with concrete. Our street has always had asphalt paving. Maybe the concrete is there to protect the new pipes? What do you say, Jay?

I had a little bird, its name was Enza.
I opened up the window and in flew Enza.
— 1918 children’s rhyme

I made the mistake tonight of watching the episode of the PBS series American Experience on the 1918 flu epidemic, the so-called Spanish flu. It is freely available to watch, just Google it. It was the last year of World War I, when the epidemic began at an army base in Kansas. One day, first one soldier became ill, then soon hundreds of them did and they started dying even soon after. Unlike our current epidemic, where the elderly are the most susceptible, this flu was most deadly to young adults. This was a time, when we didn’t even know there was such a thing as a virus. This show was produced on the centennial of the epidemic, so the few people who were still alive, were only small children back then and only had a child’s memory of the events. The hopelessness that the people felt back then was horrible, but the disease burned its self out after a year or so and was soon forgotten afterwards, until this next time.

The 1918 pandemic was most commonly known as the Spanish flu. Not that this flu originated there, it didn’t, but in 1918 all of the other first world countries were at war and also under strict wartime censorship. Neither side reported their epidemics, leaving only neutral Spain to shoulder the burden and the blame. It is believed that the Corona virus originated in a so-called wet market in the city of Wuhan, China. The virus is thought to have originated with a bat, but in order to facilitate its transmission to humans, an intermediary animal is hypothesized. The most likely candidate for this intermediary is also the most trafficked animal on the planet, the Pangolin.


Cate Blanchett in the Time of Plague

We interrupt this epidemic for an important announcement… Life still goes on. Our little old bunker has a floor show, right out front. The water company is destroying the block in its attempt to try to save it. First off, they dumped a mountain of gravel across the street from our house. This was thankfully after I had made my morning run to the Corona virus and beer store. Through the day, the workers trenched out the far side of the street, totally blocking all of the driveways there and trapping any cars still in them. It is suppose to be a wet week, so their exuberance in tearing up the street may result in a situation that some get to savor for quite a while. When you’re digging a ditch, you’ll never get rich, but the Corona virus and everyone else will pay you no mind, unless you can’t get out of your driveway. Full employment in the trenches.

Dan’s LA gig was postponed as I expected it would be. There is no work in NYC either. He is turning his attention to his Glow-Forge. It has not been as lucrative as his union or Macy’s jobs, but if there are no jobs left, then make art.

As the market tumbles down and I feel like I’m falling, I keep reaching for the pin on my reserve chute, Social Security. Later this year, both Anne and I will reach “full retirement” from a Social Security standpoint. This was always my failsafe in the event of the inevitable #TrumpApocalypse. Drawing on Social Security now, will lessen the pressure on our savings and give the markets time to recoup their losses. Not a necessity right now, but maybe pretty soon.

The image of Cate Blanchett wearing a bunny suit is from the art installation, Manifesto: Art x Agency that is exhibiting now at the Hirshhorn. This is a video artwork that features Blanchett, in thirteen guises, in thirteen separate films. This work explores how artists use manifestos to engage with the political and social issues of their time and how contemporary practices still employ art as a tool in the making of history.

Powerful Medicine

Lakota Doctor’s Bag, 1890

Love in the time of corona. I’m going to wash those germs right off my hands. I will survive! All possible future blog post titles in these most unusual of times. Now, for the news. Dan texted us that his carpenter/reality TV gig in LA is still a go. They messaged him, asking for his apron size. We both had the same initial response, aprons come in sizes? Who knew? He may have to up his wardrobe game, for this job, but on the other hand, maybe just add a few new accessories. That apron ought to hide a host of sins. Wardrobe! We have an emergency here.

In other news, the Oceana Cruise Line has been sending me catalogs for years now. They are always colorful and glossy, with fantastic, to die for photos. Now literally. They come regularly. At the height of the cruise booking season, I must get a new catalog from them every week. I don’t know how or why I got on their mailing list. I’ve never taken a cruise, I’ve never had much interest in taking one and these days, even the thought of cruising makes me want to run to the sink to wash my hands. This week I received not one, but two Oceana catalogs. The first one featured cruises around Italy and the second one—wait for it—was all about cruises near China. For years, I’ve dismissed these catalogs as simply junk mail, but now I’m afraid that they might be out to get me.

Today is Pi Day, so named in honor of today’s date, 3.14. Anne is celebrating the day by wearing her new Pi t-shirt. It was a Christmas present from her sister Jay. It is mainly green, with many of the infinite digits of the number pi written all over it. It also features the Greek symbol π in white, emblazoned across her chest. Because it is a green t-shirt, it would also be suitable for St. Patrick’s Day.

Unfortunately, both of the Saint Louis St. Patty’s Parades have been cancelled, due to the epidemic. Likewise yesterday, the County forbade all gatherings of over 250 people. This closed the remainder of our theater series. The Earth Day festival was cancelled, except for some sort of virtual incarnation, making it the first carbon neutral Earth Day that we’ve ever experienced here in Saint Louis. It looks like Netflix and chill will be the order of the day, for days to come.

Art in Bloom

Art in Bloom, the Saint Louis Art Museum’s annual celebration of art and flowers is being held this weekend. I went to see the show this morning. The museum offers a special members only time slot, before normal hours and I took advantaged of this opportunity. Still, even though I arrived just after eight, all of the parking lots were full and I had to hike a bit to get to the door. This year there are thirty pairings on display, scattered around the museum and spread across all three of its floors. At each installation there was already gathered a crowd of appreciators of beauty and everyone had a camera. It was hard not to photo-bomb other people’s pictures and to not have mine bombed too. 

The Slammer invites the florists to compete. The Chrysanthemums arrangement took second place. The museums selects the artworks to be paired, which the florist draw for randomly. Horse trading is allowed. The selected artworks cover the gambit of the museum’s collection that is on display. On Friday, some of the florists were on hand to discuss their floral arrangements. I photographed all thirty pairings and chose these representatives, because I liked them the most. They seemed to capture a sense of the artwork the best.

I spoke with a museum representative about the show. This is the museum’s most popular event of the year. Come Saturday, the building will be filled to capacity and the staff will be forced to turn people away due to the fire code. I’m glad that I got to see the show, while it was still relatively uncrowded. I can only imagine how crowded it will be come tomorrow, on the weekend proper.

Set Calls

LA Wall Art

Dan called us with some grand news about his future job prospects. I am of course sworn to secrecy and cannot divulge anything about his set dressing work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There, gone is the Navy and all of its ships, except what might someday appear on the silver screen or much more likely on a TV at home. The place is as much a factory as it ever was, but now its products are the stuff of dreams. It hosts dozens of studios that support even more shows. He told us a story about the mogul who is the place’s landlord. Driving around NYC he saw an interesting building that intrigued him as a future set and he wanted to buy it, only to be told by a production assistant that he already owned the place.

Dan has been making daily early AM set calls, where he has been building this super great [Deleted] and [Censored] set, with all of this interesting [Deleted] themed scenery. Take my word for it, it sounded fantastic. Dan reads this blog and knows me all too well. I think that I have stayed in between the lines here.

He likes the job’s money, but not its early call time. One of the perks of the job is the union contract mandated food spread. Mostly the food has been fabulous, but this week they even ran out of coffee, which could be an occupational hazard when you couple sleep deprivation with the operation of power saws.

Dan’s big news had nothing to do with any of his NYC gigs, but with a new opportunity that he has just landed back in La-La-Land. He will participate in a reality TV series as a supervising carpenter. This show is a furniture design competition, where he will monitor the contestants for safety and assist them when necessary. He might even appear on screen. This six week gig is scheduled to begin at the end of this month. He is looking forward to reconnecting with his LA friends and then maybe even making it north again to Monterey too.