Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brittle crossroads

Nothing is simplified by knowing where one is, one had argued in the previous posting; and anyone can attest to that, who's ever adopted a favourite place of escape. Using The Connecticut Walk Book, back issues of Architectural Record, and a great deal of time purchased for tuition instead at a law school down the road, a man can immerse himself most gainfully in Litchfield, Connecticut, in pilgrimage to a masterpiece by Marcel Breuer, the second of three houses he designed for the same client.

It isn't necessarily a bad idea, to allow a brittle plan to find a crossroads to break up; and after all it was Philip Johnson who'd said, architecture must be experienced by the muscles of the feet. Litchfield boasts its own ancient school of law, for that matter, a nicely preserved salt box of much touristic use to the community's tax base.

Breuer's house is gorgeous in its austerity of form and warmth of materials, and redeems any quest for clarity in one's abode. A minor fortune might purchase it, but who can know how to acquire its qualities?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

City of coffee

The rock called Telegraph Hill is wreathed at its base by coffee houses, roasting their own every day, for generations. Everyone has a favourite, but coffee infuses the sense of place so profoundly that it literally tastes different, elsewhere. 

One's own flat was the first of those tumbling down the east slope beneath the tower. Being the most westerly promontory in the city, the weather is its most salubrious there, and much of life takes place outdoors. Certainly, everyone who came to visit felt drawn ineluctably there, and there for the most part, we would stay. The quality of that space wrought a consistent shift in borders between indoors and out, and encouraged that shift to feel right. Coffee, for example, was taken on the terrace.

I am aware that this blog seems to some to rely too much on this terrace's permissions. And I think the fault for that lies not in transgressions, but in one's neglect to extend a proper welcome to its shelter, as of a very natural if unfamiliar kind. The quality of mystery is not strained, nothing is simplified by simply knowing where one is. This is a city of coffee, its essence is everywhere. How nice it is to be able to step outside with it, I hope you find, even if it's not your roast. The view is everyone's.

Thomas Tallis, If ye love me
San Francisco Chanticleer
I have had singing, © 1994

Landscape, Laurent, Leica M-6

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The fishmonger exults that his day is done, the runoff from his stall already percolating to ground, reflections in the stucco walls behind him lending luminance to grime and weightlessness to cascades of escape. Only the photographer's infamous indulgence of sepia and multiple lights mediates against empathy for the sight.

Extravagance of sepia emerges as a coincidence of endless urban illumination in a Terestchenko photograph from today, highlights of the cauldron drawing us in rather than repelling, the upward gaze engulfed by narratives particularised by fenestration and commingled in the sky. 

The purity of cream in the calyx of a whisk at ease.

Apartments, Ivan Terestchenko
Whisk, Les contours du silence

Monday, October 18, 2010

"I love Haydn"

All of us have chanced to spend some time with friends in the last few hours or days of their life; and we have seen a tendency to compose one's thoughts upon a select circle of reference points to contemplate. 

One such afternoon, I happened to be visiting with my longtime barber, an extremely young man, in the hospital of his demise. An announcement interrupted us, of the arrival of a trio from the San Francisco Symphony, to play some pieces in a common room for patients. We, who had attended so many of their concerts through the years, felt a very great lightening of our minds with this information, and as the one of us wheeled the other's weightless chair down the corridor to greet them, we were restored most happily to that flux - music - which for years had so buoyed our friendship.

People find their modes of being close, of looking after each other through the mechanism of enthusiasm, first. People who know no words for good-bye, or I love you, find themselves accepting the treasure of such sounds from other instruments. We understand the sound of infinite aspiration.  

As we positioned ourselves by a cafeteria table in the impromptu recital hall, our visitors began to play. He lifted his face to me, blinded now by medicines allowing him to eat. I love Haydn, are the only exact words I can remember his ever saying to me, through years of lavish Thanksgivings and earnest, energetic conversations. Yet, as he supposed I would discover, I had never been so sweetly addressed in my life. If he or I had so much as a head of lettuce as an heir, we would cultivate it with this love, to carry it at least so far as to nourish one other young heart. 

Franz Josef Haydn, Piano Trio  in F
Beaux Arts Trio, Phillips ©