08 August 2014

Sketch Club Strikes Again!

Today, I finally decided to target the Sketch Club members themselves. If you use your imagination, you might just recognize Naveen Selvanathan, Kylie Pilger, Aurora Jimenez, and our ringleader, 
the inimitable Marcelo Vignali.

Below, I grabbed a few more drawings from the past to share. 


11 May 2014

Celebrating Linda at Penelope's

On the day before Mother's Day, I wanted to celebrate someone who was very much a mother to me, Linda Waldheim, mother to Shelly Waldheim, my best friend in high school. I wish that we had a specific word in the English language for the women who truly mother us. Words cannot express how grateful I am that Linda was such a quiet force in my life. I'll add the tribute to Linda below that I wrote for Shelly's amazing, beautiful Caring Bridge site that she and her brother, Chris, created for her. 

When Shelly asked her what she most wanted to eat, Linda replied, "Chicken soup from Penelope's in La Cañada." Even though we had gone to high school in La Cañada, Shelly had never heard of the cafe. She went to pick up the soup and mentioned to the woman behind the counter that it was her mother's favorite and that she was battling cancer. "Is she a regular?" When Shelly showed her the photo of her mom on her phone, Penelope literally broke down in tears. When I heard that story, I knew I had to go.

I especially love the name which calls to mind Penelope, Odysseus' wife who sat spinning, waiting, fending off suitors, while he was making his way home. Sitting on Foothill Boulevard, it looks like any other storefront. As you make your way inside, you see there's a sunny garden inside just inviting you to spend some time. 

I ordered the soup, of course, and Matthew's Italian Chopped Salad, which made me laugh because that was the name of my boyfriend in high school. I asked the guy who brought my lunch, "Who's Matthew?" 
"He's the guy behind the counter." 
"Is he the chef?" 
"Well, we're both chefs. My second name is Matthew. First one is Ian." 
"Well, that makes it more Scottish." 
And, of course, the salad was superb. 

Then it was time to sketch...

Penelope's Garden

Here's the tribute that I wrote for Linda:

¡Ay que Linda!

When we were in high school, Shelly was taking Spanish and I took French. My grandparents were driving us somewhere near the Rose Bowl on Linda Vista Avenue. Shelly pointed to one of the signs and said, “That’s my Mom’s name ‘Linda’. It’s means ‘beautiful’ in Spanish” - one of the first words I learned in that language. I thought of that today as I do every time I drove down Linda Vista, and always will.

What happened last Friday does not surprise me. I’d fallen out of touch with Shelly yet again. We’re good friends but we both live life to the fullest, so there are gaps. Regardless, we just pick up exactly where we left off when we meet the next time. I emailed her out of the blue saying I’d love to see you/your beautiful family. “Any fun events coming up?” I was running errands and decided to go to Eagle Rock on whim. I was sitting eating tofu tacos staring out at the sun setting on Colorado Boulevard when the response arrived. OH MY GOD, the devastating news of her mother’s passing and the memorial was the very next morning. I realized I was sitting just blocks away from Shelly’s old house in Eagle Rock. I had just that morning said to myself that in so many ways Shelly and her Mom saved my life, helped shape the person that I am, saying to myself “I need to get in touch with her.” Too late to say goodbye, still I could be there for Shelly.     

I don’t think I ever actually called her Linda. She was always “Shelly’s Mom,” twinkle in her eye, a perpetual, loving smile. At Flintridge Prep, Shelly and I were best friends. We were matched up as lab partners in Vince Williams’ Chemistry class in ninth grade. I had been transplanted to the area during my parents’ difficult divorce (in the words of Woody Allen: “They did everything but exchange gunfire”). Now living with my father and grandparents, I was under tremendous pressure to achieve academically in a distortedly competitive environment (one of our classmates, never pleased with an A, would badger the teachers so he got all A-pluses) and was bent under watchful eyes making sure I was a “good girl”. It’s a wonder I could breathe at home. I would love to go over to Shelly’s house and play with her massive, loving dogs and watch MTV in the kitchen. How cool was it that they had MTV – and in the kitchen!!!

With Shelly, I got to explore all the things that my family misunderstood: Astrology, Palmistry, Handwriting Analysis. A lot of Shelly’s sentences would start with “My Mom has this cool book about…” And off we’d go exploring a new world.

A related memory: Prep contracted an outside company to teach us driver’s ed on Saturdays and after school. The teacher they sent us was a short, rough-hewn man in his 50’s with a raspy voice. After every session he would sign off a voucher for us to log our time and we would keep a copy. Linda took one look at his signature and told us he had a “felon’s claw” on the tail of his “y”. We never rode alone with him in the car ever again.

Linda was so far ahead of her time. She practiced yoga. She made health food that actually tasted good. She was studying to be a family therapist (Thank God! I hope she was practicing on me). I don’t remember her joking with me as much. Very perceptive on her part because, I’m sad to admit, I wouldn’t have gotten the humor. I was so caught up in being who I had to be. She would listen and she would love. That’s exactly what I needed. To me her home was an oasis of calm and acceptance. And now I strive to create that for everyone in my life.

My favorite memory of her was standing in the kitchen watching an arts program on cable – as I mentioned, truly exotic to me at the time. A man and a woman were dancing a balletic duet. Intimate, perfect, we were all three (Shelly, her Mom, me) silently spellbound. When the dance ended, I Iooked over at Linda. She was in tears. I didn’t understand. What happened? Was she okay? She sighed, "It's just so beautiful." That was the moment I recognized the power of art. 

29 March 2014

Cherry Blossom Time at Descanso Gardens with Cynthia

Early last year, I just felt the need to get lost in the trees somewhere beautiful. Descanso Gardens was the first place to spring to mind (google it and you'll see. Actually, NO, just get your body there). I thought it might be fun to take my "Little Sister" Cynthia along with me to see how she would react. I knew I was onto something when she took her first tentative steps "off the path" and exclaimed, "I feel like Catniss!" 

So today, we explored as far as we could up into the hills, until the dwindling trails stopped us. 

Then we came back down under the canopy back into the gardens to find the blazing white cherry trees we remembered from last year. 

Finding just the right spot, Cynthia nestled herself onto a stone plith bench and proceeded to take a nap. And there was a long quiet. When it was time, she popped up and proclaimed, "I'm ready to paint." So I opened up the art pack and we were off. These are all her snaps.

Cynthia's work in progress

And mine

Cynthia's Cherry Blossom Garden

 My Cherry Tree