Monday, November 28, 2011

The Wall Sitters

Two leggeds, four leggeds and winged beings share the wall at Rio del Mar beach.

Every year there seems to be a new crop of wall sitters down at the beach in Rio del Mar. 
Those people who spend their time just sitting, gazing out at the ocean, chatting with whoever passes by about the weather, politics, and lengthy involved conversations concerning the breeds and personalities of their pets. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Santa Cruz Coffee Houses

Several years ago I was a member of a group of plein air painters. We called ourselves the Alla Prima Donnas and would often meet at coffee houses to decide where to go and paint for the day. Often we would drive out to the countryside or beaches to paint, but sometimes we wouldn't get very far, and would end up just painting the coffee houses themselves. Here are a few paintings from those times...

Pergolisis - Santa Cruz

Lulu Carpenters- Downtown Santa Cruz

Pergolisis - Santa Cruz

Surf City - Aptos

Monday, November 14, 2011



Railroad Tracks, Aptos, CA                                           Photo by Susan Dorf

Sunday in Autumn, and a man and a boy walk along the railroad tracks in Aptos, the man arching forward in a steady rhythmic swinging of arms, measuring his pace with the railroad ties, his feet landing on the spaces between. The boy lurches forward, then skips, then does a series of short quick steps until he is up on the rail, arms outstretched like an airplane, then flapping like an awkward bird, wobbling for a moment before swooping back down onto the tracks. He crosses to the other side where he does a little turn, spinning on his toes and coming up along side his dad, then arching his head back to stare up into the eucalyptus branches and the blue sky beyond, where shifting puffs of cloud dance lazily in a slow waltz, their shadows moving like the ghosts of dark lumbering creatures across the uneven earth. 

The man stops at a bench to sit. A worn wooden plank spanning two rusted metal poles, its surface gouged and wounded, carved with the names of lovers who have long passed on. The boy is still for a fleeting moment while the view from the cliff captures his attention, the greenblue of the ocean spanning out forever, more miles than he can count, towards vast emptiness and other countries with their own little boys and dads, places he may or may not ever travel to. The breeze fumbles with the leaves of the eucalyptus in a spooky rustling sound, and several pelicans soar by in prehistoric elegance.  The cry of a seagull repeats somewhere below where the waves crash and suck at the shore in the sea's eternal quest to swallow the land.

The boy drapes himself over the bench, then lifts his feet and stretches out his arms, stiffening the length of his body into the pose of a human seesaw. He imagines himself teeter tottering there to the amusement of squirrels and birds, and then suddenly he is Superman, flying out over the vast expanse of ocean towards other continents. He is halfway across China when the man heaves himself up from the bench, and the boy spirals forth and together they continue on as the railroad tracks merge together following the straight and true laws of perspective, one tie at a time, each worn tie carrying the memory of the howl and scrape of a thousand trains in the night. 

The boy is in motion, a puppet of a child, skinny legs poking out of baggy shorts planted into enormous sneakers. Blue tee shirt, a mop of dark tangled hair. He hops up on the rail again, manages a few quick steps, then lands in a puff of dust. He pounds his feet into the ground, watching the dust clouds rise about him and settle, rise and settle. His gangly arms follow his body, the fingers twisting and unfolding, fluttering and clenching as if conversing with each other in their own alien language. 

At some point the pair become spots of color in the distance, a large white one growing smaller and smaller towards a known and certain destination, counting the mutes and hours of the finite days. Beside it  small blue shape wiggling and leaping like a thing caught in the current of a wild and unpredictable river, towards a future impossible to imagine.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween at the Goodwill


"Omigod, do these shoes make me look like a slut or what? I love them!" Teenage girls squeal and giggle in the dressing room, and I wonder how many of them are crammed in there together. "Dude!" Shrieks one. "That is so retro!" Then "Oooh, what are you going as, a peacock?"
I am trying to stuff my graying hair into a wild red mop of a wig. 'It would look real good on you', a sweet little old lady had said when I picked it up from a hairy pile of wigs. I can't help but wonder how many cancer patients wore these. But I take it anyway, wedging it under my arm like some alien creature between a pair of boring beige slacks and a t-shirt I have folded over my arm.

There is nothing quite like Halloween at the Goodwill store. Rack after rack of second hand costumes. Zebra stripes and red ruffles, glittery gowns and felt hats, a basket of plastic swords, tiaras and ragged straw hats. Rubber masks still smelling of the stale sweat from last Halloween. Two skinny teenage boys round the corner wearing pimp hats, one purple, one leopard skin. "Dude, says one, you look like a real bad ass!" "Cool!" says the other. "Where are the capes?" Everyone seems to love to mix and match when shopping at the Goodwill. "Look, sweetie," says one woman to her toddler. "Here's a costume that’s a pirate and a skeleton!" A young girl holds up an unremarkable dress. "Look at this!" She says. "I could be a stepford wife!" A small boy of about ten approaches one of the sales clerks. "Excuse me?" he asks. "Do you have any ready made zombie costumes, or do I have to shred my own?"

"Samantha!" A woman is yelling at a young girl standing in the aisle in her underwear, hugging a pink ruffled dress to her bony chest.  "For gods sake Samantha, you can't be a feminine little princess every year!" The girl is fingering the pink fabric longingly as  she is eyes the tiaras. "Look here, Sammy," the mother says, her arms laden with black polyester. "Check out this cool witch costume. Don't you want to be scary on Halloween?" The woman's white belly protrudes from between a pair of baggy sweat pants and a tee shirt, a tattoo of barbed wire wraps around her flabby upper arm. The girl takes a step back from the black cape and pointy hat being held out towards her. "Here, lets see if this fits you," says the mother. She lets the dress fall to the floor in a pink pile and stands there, her face blank and expressionless, until she is draped in the oversized cape and hat. "Alright!" says her mom, "now that's a Halloween costume!"  
I am thinking of the irony of my own childhood, my mother forcing me into the itchy discomfort of frills and ruffles, the misery of dresses and anything feminine and girly. I wanted to be a pirate or goblin or a superhero, never a princess. Do mothers ever get the children they hope for?

An older man is searching through the rack of gowns, one by one, a studious look on his face. He holds pale silky fabric between his fingers, drapes it over his arms. I wonder if he is looking for a costume or if this is a 'thing' he has. Being the open-minded person I am I casually ignore him, until he starts sniffing them. Then I slip away, hiding among the capes and overcoats.

The door of the dressing room bursts open and a pile of girls come giggling and spilling out of it laden with fabric and hats, boots and scarves.  They weave toward the cash register, where the clerk is handing a bag to Samantha’s' mom. I see a black peak sticking out of the top and my heart sinks. Then she hands her another filled with pink frills. It seems they have reached a compromise, perhaps. She takes the girls hand, whose fawn eyes cast down to her shuffling feet, imagining glittery pink ballet shoes.

I am looking at myself in the mirror, my face surrounded by a mess of red curls. The wig does not have the effect I was hoping for, which was to make me look young and sexy. Instead it is rather frightening. Not frightening in a witchy zombie way, but because it brings back memories of when I was a teenager, watching my mother's friends, who when they began to reach middle age began to do all kinds of strange and  desperate things  to their hair in vain attempts to hang on to their fading youth. I pull off the wig and toss it back onto the pile. Boy, that was a scary moment.
Ah well, it is Halloween after all...