Saturday, January 13, 2018

2017: A Look Back

In mid-January, I turned 70. We celebrated at Chez Panisse. 

My colleagues made me a mock-Monocle to celebrate. Here I am with Leslie Taylor, who leads the studio for which I was the editorial director for two decades.

 Then we flew off to Maui with our daughter Elizabeth in tow. 

Coming back, I went to George Homsey's book-signing party for his oral history, put together by Helen Degenhardt and Noreen Hughes, edited by Mary Hardy, and designed by Pat Bruning - all friends. Now in his 90s, George lives with his daughter Diana and continues to design. 

In February, I went up to Eugene to see my grandniece Jane Brinkley play Thomasina in Tom Stoppard's wonderful play, Arcadia. (I sent her Stoppards's three-play Coast of Utopia, and am waiting. When I read Arcadia, I immediately thought of Jane.)

My sister Alice took me on a tour of South Willamette Valley vineyards and three museums in Eugene. She's involved with or helped plan a current exhibit at two of them. 

I went to the Frank Stella show at the de Young in San Francisco with my friend and neighbor Peiting Li. While there, we ran into Donlyn Lyndon, an architect of many houses at the Sea Ranch. Unfamiliar with Stella's work, I found the show a revelation.

Henrik Drescher had a show at Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco, where I bought this. I've always loved Henrik's work. His children, too, are amazingly talented.

In May, I went to Europe, stopping first in Dudley to visit our second son, John, and his partner Sally and their young men, Laurents (Loz) and Theo. John, Loz, and I went into London to see an exhibit of paintings by Vanessa Bell at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

I flew on to Bergen to stay with my cousin Turid and spend time with her sons Pål, Henning, and Torstein and their families. The day after I arrived was 17 May, Norwegian national day, which we celebrated locally with Torstein, Ane, and their twins. Turid took me out to meet father's cousin Gunnar, whose namesake grandfather was my grandfather's brother. (I met that gentleman when I was six.) Another cousin, Oystein, and his son Andreas joined us.

While staying in Henning's cabin, which adjoins Turid's house, I began to edit a manuscript by Vasilina Orlova, an anthropologist, poet, and writer based in Austin. We met when she visited San Francisco to give a talk at an anthropology conference. I admire her work, which often crosses boundaries, and found editing a literary work an interesting change.

When I came back from Europe, I found this beautiful cup, a gift from the artist, Wu Wing Yee, the wife of Henrik Drescher.

Our English friends Valerie and Geoff Wigfall visited and we hosted a dinner for some mutual friends, including Claude and Rosemary Stoller, and Tami Ouye, whose son Michael is now again our neighbor. 

Also visiting were Mina Bigdeli and Shelley Hampden-Turner. It being Ramadan, Mina cooked up a Persian feast to mark the end of the daily fast. Shelley was back and forth several times from Cambridge (UK) to sell a house she owned uphill from us.

In the summer, my friend and long-time writing partner Richard Bender and his wife Sue sold their house and moved to St. Paul's, a Victor Gruen-designed apartment block near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Their remodeled apartment combines elements of their house, their apartment in Manhattan, and their beach house in the Hamptons.

My friend Richard Hammond and his family made their way to Berkeley, where we had lunch at the nearby Berkeley Art Museum. They live in a gorgeous house Richard designed at the edge of San José, Costa Rica. After my friend Peiting secured a teaching associate gig with it, I audited a semester-long course on curating at the museum led by Natasha Boas.

Another friend and neighbor, the fine art book printer/publisher (and CODEX impresario) Peter Koch, kindly took me to see a retrospective of his life's work at Stanford's Green Library. Here he is in Montana in 1977, setting up his first press.

Alison Powers and Ross Parman came to Berkeley in late July. We celebrated Alison's birthday at Chez Panisse with Elizabeth and Kathy's sister Laurie. 

A summer highlight was the birthday party our children organized for Kathy's 70th birthday, joined by Kathy's sisters Laurie and Lenore and their husbands Chuck and Michael, my cousin Elizabeth McNear, and many of Kathy's closest friends. Arranged by our son Michael like a tiny Mafia wedding, the whole party sat at tables in our garden.

Here are Kathy, her sisters Laurie and Lenore, and her great friend Sue Tierney, their neighbor on Clay Street in San Francisco's Presidio Heights when they were kids. Sue and Marty Tierney have been our family friends for decades. We went with them and Elizabeth to the Basque country several years ago, and Kathy often goes out to their summer places on the Russian River and in San Anselmo to swim.

Our cousin Laure de la Chapelle and her husband Pierre Clement were in Berkeley to see their daughter Gabrielle, a second-year student at Berkeley. Pierre took over the kitchen, making an apple tart from memory. (He was a chef in his brother's restaurant in France.) He also brought us honey from his numerous beehives in Imperial Beach near San Diego.

Edvard Munch has been in my life since I was 12. My first exposure to him was in Hamburg, which has a collection of his woodblocks. SFMOMA showed a sampling of work from the Munch Museum, closed in preparation for a move to a new location on the Oslo harbor. While some critics dismissed late Munch in favor of his younger self, I found his work of interest throughout. That he freed himself of melancholy shouldn't be held against him, but while it had him in its grip, few have painted anxiety, illness, and death with such power.

In September, our grandson Conor - Bojana and Michael's son - turned 12. They live a few blocks away, so we see him and them often. (Elizabeth lives just down the street.) Conor is into tennis and enjoys middle-school life at Black Pine Circle, where his uncles John and Ross were once students. He's inherited his father's sardonic wit. 

A week after Conor's birthday, his cousin Caroline Elizabeth - our granddaughter - was born to Alison and Ross, who now live in Richmond, Virginia. She is the apple of our eye. Kathy has made two trips to see them. Caroline shares the city with her cousins Aurelia and Eleanor Viola, the daughters of Liz and Charles Opalak.

Our London friend Andrew Rabeneck made his annual fly-fishing visit in October. He came for dinner, joined by Elizabeth. Also visiting from Europe was Julie Bartlett, a friend of long-standing (and Ross's godmother). She and her husband David now have a house in France. Their children are on to careers in London in architecture and banking. 

My cousin Robert Shoemaker made an appearance, too. He lives in Red Hook, NY, not far from Bard College, Elizabeth's alma mater. To his and Laurie's right is my cousin Elizabeth McNear, who visited with her mother, Claire, and now lives in Berkeley and works as a nutritionist with the Athletic Department at Cal. Our cousin Anna Tyrrell, another granddaughter of my mother's sister Sylvia, is living in San Francisco. The two of them had dinner with our Elizabeth and me at Corso, a local favorite, earlier in the year.

My cousin John Chirtea stopped by after touring with his daughter Heather. Several months later, we heard from him that his older daughter Debby, to his left in the photo, died of leukemia way too young. A podiatrist in Virginia Beach, she used her last days to make a pitch for friendlier patient rooms in hospitals - a campaign that survives her. 

In mid-October, I retired from my firm. In early December, soon after this Thanksgiving photo was taken (by Elizabeth), I rejoined it two days a week. After working full time for 40 years, I'm semi-retired, a half-way house while I figure out what's next. As my friend Richard Bender told me, quoting the late Berkeley Chancellor Al Bowker, "It's easier to make the right step than know where you're going." Hopefully, I've made the right step.

"It doesn't get better than this," someone wrote when I posted this photo of Caroline and her mother. My theory is that marriage is a conspiracy between grandparents and their grandchildren. As I get older, family and friends alike become more important. With some of my added time, I'm writing more. I wrote 11 pages of poems in 2017, of which my poetry editor unreservedly liked just one. But two years ago, nothing made her map. Progress!

A last-minute pleasure of 2017 was a visit by my friend Virginia Sertich, her husband John, and their daughter Maggie. Virginia was my colleague for many years. Along with my friends Julie Obiala and Mark Coleman, her working life was "disrupted" in the spring of 2016. Each of them is on to new and promising things. Maggie is my favorite of these outcomes.

Just before Christmas, I bought several new paintings by my friends Leigh Wells and Pat Bruning, who share a studio in West Berkeley. My growing collection, all the work of friends, also includes a new painting by Patricia Sonnino and a collage by Laura Hartman, both from shows they had in San Francisco in the fall.

Our son John flew in from England on Christmas Eve and stayed through Orthodox Christmas. Here he is at Elizabeth's on arrival. Earlier that day, I went up to my friend Robert Shepherd's house to bid farewell to Yuki Bowman and her family, Christian and Sora, who are moving to Portland - finally an excuse to visit that city!

John's visit repaid his brother Michael's stay in Dudley during the summer. After Christmas, he and John went out to Inverness in West Marin, a popular family destination. (Elizabeth also likes the West Point Inn on Mount Tamalpais.) Here they are on Tomales Bay.

(My sister said - on 15 January 2018 - that I failed to include any photos of myself. In fact, I appear multiple times, but here's one "solo" from Christmas 2017.)

I'll end with a recent photo of  Caroline confronting winter, but I'd be remiss not to note that 2017 was launched by a New Year's Party hosted by my friends Yosh Asato and David Baker. It opened and closed with New Year's Day fests convened by my neighbor Katherine Rinne. Many others. friends and family both, made 2017 a wonderful year.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in retrospect

With my friend and former colleague Mark Coleman at Agave Uptown in Oakland. (Photo by Rika Putri.)
The year began inauspiciously. April was the nadir. Every ending is a new beginning, they say, and I've watched as those disrupted put their lives back together. One of them gave birth to a lovely little girl toward the end of the year, speaking of the adage above.

At Elsie's funeral in the old Nesodden Church.
In May, the matriarch of my Norwegian family, Elsie Parmann, died at the age of 94. I went to Nesodden, near Oslo, to attend her funeral. I arrived at the beginning of a long holiday, which gave me extra time with my cousins. I stayed with Bente Parmann and her husband Helge Straumsheim, but also saw Margaretha Parmann, then their next-door neighbor; Henriette and Frank Parmann, and their children; and Gunn and Sigurd Parmann. (At Elsie's funeral, I saw Margaretha's children, Espen, Jan-Henrik, Marthe, and Marius, and her grandchildren, and Gunn and Sigurd's Amanda and her daughter,and their sons.) 

Helge and Bente on their terrace on 17 May.
Born in 1921, Elsie was a fixture in my life from early on. I used to stay with her and her husband, my father's cousin Øistein, when I visited. After he died, Elsie and I had a conversation at her dining-room table that helped her decide to change houses with Bente. She and Helge have restored that house beautifully. It's a pleasure to stay in a place that I've known since childhood.
My great-grandfather's summerhouse.

Bente's daughter, Henriette, who lives nearby, built a house on land once owned by my great-grandfather, Georg Parmann I (the namesake of my grandfather and father, II and III). Helge took me on a walk and I saw the summerhouse I first visited when I was two. I remember its kitchen, with its trapdoor to a root cellar. When Helge showed me the allée of linden trees that leads up to the back of the house, various memories fell in place. The allée is hidden from the road, so I was unaware of it. I'd also conflated the real summer house with one that adjoins it on the same property.  So thanks to Helge for this!

With Jøstein Brøbekk at one of the pavilions of the Oslo harbor walk he planned.
On 17 May, Margaretha and Knut-Ole kindly took me into town to see her brother Kjell-Olav Boren and his family. Here I met their daughter Maria and her fiancé Håkon, who visited Kathy, Michael, and Elizabeth in Berkeley while I was still in Norway. At the 17 May party at their house, I also encountered Jøstein Bjørbekk, the Oslo landscape architect and planner, who gave me a second tour of the city's redeveloped eastern waterfront the following Saturday. We also visited the remarkable sculpture park that looks out over it. He planned most of it, including the park and its walkways. (We then memorably raced through town so I could - just barely - catch the ferry and have dinner with Gunn and Sigurd on Nesodden.)

Alison (left) at Glenstone, the Potomac, Maryland, sculpture park.
In June, I went to New York City for an event my firm held there, then took the train down to Washington, DC to meet my son Ross and his wife Alison. We went to another sculpture park and gallery in Potomac, Maryland, marveling at the billowing mansions along the way. 

Kathy, John, and Sally at Chez Panisse Café.
In July, my son John, his partner Sally Wright, and Sally's boys, Loz and Theo, stayed with us in Berkeley. They live in Dudley, a town not far from Birmingham in the English Midlands. In September, my daughter Elizabeth paid a return visit to Dudley, then took a flax-weaving course in Dartmoor. She and I wove together several years ago - she has a real talent for it.
My friend and colleague Ngoc Ngo with Elizabeth at Calavera in Oakland.

In the summer, Leslie Taylor rejoined my firm to co-lead our studio with Matt Richardson. This ended an interregnum created by the earlier upheaval. Elizabeth and I have been colleagues on the editorial side for several years. This summer and fall, we worked together with Kendra Mayfield and Vernon Mays to put out an unexpected 2017 edition of the firm's flagship Design Forecast. My longtime friend and colleague, John Bricker, who started with the firm in San Francisco but now lives and works in Manhattan, served as creative director for it, thus closing a circle. When I started, we worked together for the first five years, starting the firm's magazine, Dialogue, with the wonderful Helen Dimoff. John worked closely with the designers, led on the print side by Bryan Burkhart (with Rika Putri, Denisa Trenkle, and Yng Yng Marshall). Lainie Ransom herded the cats. (The online side is led by Jonathan Skolnick and managed by Nick Bryan.) The publication isn't out yet, but it's beautiful. I'm lucky to be part of this talented, tri-coastal team

The kitchen, with newly repainted cabinets.
Kathy and our son Michael bought two properties, which Kathy spent the first half of the year renovating. She then worked with Deborah Durant, a jeweler and designer, on our house. Their collaborative efforts were modest but effective. Laure de la Chapelle, the cousin of our brother-in-law, Michael Opalak, also helped.

The two Michaels, Opalak and Parman, in the latter's kitchen.
Michael, his wife Bojana, and their son - our grandson - Conor live a few blocks from us. They very kindly hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, with Alison and Ross joining us at Christmas. We also celebrated a slew of family birthdays at their house in September, attended by the Opalaks - Kathy's sister Lenore and her husband Michael.
The famous Sydney Opera House.

In November, I was invited by the academic impresario Anthony Teo (with an assist from my friend and writing partner Richard Bender) to give a talk at Anthony's Univer-Cities Conference at the University of Newcastle in Australia. I spent nine days "down under," presenting with my friend Emily Marthinsen, the campus architect at UC Berkeley, then headed for Sydney - where I saw Tom Owens, a friend and colleague, the writer and critic Penny Craswell, and the famous Opera House. 

With Rhys and Jana Ryan (and sons) in the Yarra Valley.
And then on to Melbourne, where I spent a gorgeous late-spring day with Jana and Rhys Ryan and their boys in the Yarra Valley. (On the flight from Sydney, I met and had a good conversation with Georgia Innes-Irons, an event planner/manager, who memorably pointed out the window and said, "That's my uncle's quarry," adding, "He has several." That's when I knew i was really in Australia!)

Anne Marie Davies and Ted Hochschwenden in Melbourne's Botanical Garden.
I also met Anne Marie Davies and Ted Hochschwenden, thanks to an introduction from Marjanne Pearson, a friend in Petaluma. This Australian-American couple used to live in San Francisco, and we spent a pleasant morning together in the Botanical Garden. (A collector of Christmas ornaments, Anne Marie kindly gave me one for our tree.)
Wine tasting in the Hunter Valley.
Australia is a kind of parallel universe - nothing beats flying into late spring from late fall in my book. If I win the lottery, I'm definitely commuting. In Newcastle, a port city three hours north of Sydney, we were treated to a wine tour in the Hunter Valley. I learned that any wine from there produced in 2014 is splendid. 

The issue of "The Spectator Australia" that I bought at Melbourne Airport.
I flew to Australia two days after the US presidential election, which sparked a flurry of queries as to whether I was fleeing the country. No, although I was surprised by the election. I have a copy of the Australian edition of The Spectator that looked quite happily at the prospect of a new administration - the hope is a revival of coal exports, it seems. Californians are less sanguine. With 2017 upon us, I guess we'll all see how it goes.