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A Ripple in the Cosmic Sea

Here’s my latest painting, Vlad and Monika. This was technically difficult for me—trying to make those circles look like translucent colored bubbles. This is meant to be a kind of spacy and intimidating alien world, a part of my novel in progress Million Mile Road Trip.

“Vlad and Monika” oil on canvas, Oct, 2015, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

At first I was going to call the painting “Bubbleman,” and have the viewer imagine that the two eyes belonged to a single alien creature, but then I decided there were in fact two of them. But “Bubblepeople” didn’t seem interesting as a title, so I decided these characters speak in Polish accents, and their names are Vlad (short for Wladimir) and Monika. I usually give my alien characters oddball accents so that, in reading the novel, it’s easy to tell them apart.

Technically speaking, this was one of the more difficult paintings I’ve done. It was hard to give the bubbles the effect of being colored, translucent spheres—and I’m still not sure I got it entirely right. But I’ve done about eight layers on the painting now and I’m going to stop. Those volcano-like mountains took me about five or ten minutes each, by the way, as did the cliff, the sky, the patches of grass, and the two eyes. It was just the bubbles that were hard. More info on my work on my paintings page.

So what else is new? My son Rudy and his wife and kids were down here over Labor Day weekend. One of the girls took my photo with my good camera. Note how my expression is much kinder than usual.

This is a heavy-duty valve on a water pipe that runs from a hidden reservoir in the Santa Cruz mountains to Los Gatos. Freshly painted. Love the colors. The pipe runs along the public, and nearly dry, Lexington Reservoir next to Route 17. I like to go out walking or biking around Lex Reservoir,

I’ve been writing really a lot, like maybe a thousand words a day, pushing forward on Million Mile Road Trip, getting into that bloodlust frenzy that you get when you can sense that the end is in fact attainable. I mean, it’ll still take me till early next summer, but by now I’ve got a lot of the plot wrinkles worked out, and the characters’ personalities have settled down, and, on a good day, I can just sit there “dreaming while I’m awake” and write down the scenes I’m seeing, and transcribe the funny things that my characters say.

But I get worn out, and I get the need to escape the house and the coffee shop, so now and then I make an expedition into the Great Outdoors. The most interesting thing I’ve done lately was to go up near the west end of Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos, like I was just talking about. I clambered down a slope to an exposed stream that runs through the somewhat green upper end of the reservoir, and hike up along the stream in my Keene’s shoes. And here’s a shot of some standing-wave type ripples where the stream goes under a log.

Patterns like this entrance me. To my way of thinking , that’s what my physical body is. That is, I am a moving, persistent pattern in the bustling cloud of matter in this world. Surfing Schrödinger’s wave equation, you might say—only I’m not on a surfboard, I’m a bump in the wave. Or, from a spacetime viewpoint, a macrame pattern in the weave.

I do like the image a feather floating on life’s stream. But, again, I don’t really see it that way. I’m a ripple, a part of the whole.

I saw a nice cattail. I’ve always thought cattails look like hot dogs on sticks, right? That you’d roast over a fire. The first time I saw a cattail was at a cookout on a family friend’s farm in Kentucky, we just drove out there across the pasture. And we had a fire, and we roasted things, like hot dogs and biscuit dough wrapped on a stick and of course marshmallows. I was five. I was sure that if I could manage to yank a cattail out of the pond, it would roast up just as good as a hot dog. I mention this in my recent, curiously neglected, novel The Big Aha.

Last week we went up to the Union Square area of San Francisco. Amazing how many stores have come and gone over the thirty years we’ve been living here. Saw a couple of guys tap dancing.

We hiked up the hill to the Grace cathedral. Saw a nice painting of Mary Magdalene. I like how she’s pointing at that egg. It gave me an idea for my novel: put a magic egg inside each of the big flying saucer, and if you kill a saucer and you can get hold of that egg—which is really a ball of smeel—well, then you’ve got something very valuable.

There’s a fountain in a tiny park in front of Grace cathedral. Got a kind of obvious shot here of the fountain, an sprite’s hand, and the Flag. Sort of a Robert Frank shot.

Here’s another standard kind of shot—the world-holding convex mirror by a parking lot entrance. I liked fitting in the dwindling grid perspective as well. And I think it’s good that I don’t show in the mirror. I’m the invisible man. A ripple in the cosmic sea.

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