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.

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