Art History Major

I almost pee-pee’d in my pants when I saw this in person.

College is certainly a faint memory for me at this point in my life. Except for that pesky student loan payment, I’m rarely reminded of the four (let’s be honest, six) years I spent studying for exams, writing papers, and half-assing my way through the curriculum.

Half-assing until, that is, I chose my major.

This one broke my heart.

After years of switching majors and wasting money on classes that didn’t count toward a degree, I made the very impractical decision to major in Art History. My logic went like this:

“I’ve taken two Art History classes. I aced them both. I love having class in a dark room. Fuck it. I’m majoring in Art History.”

At the Phoenix Art Museum, 3rd Floor, the Yayoi Kusama installation…people! You must experience this!!!!

It took another few years to complete the required courses. Shortly after graduation, I joined the work force and was shocked to discover that I could use my education to write art reviews. (And, eventually, I used it to write vulgar top ten lists about famous dicks and T&A throughout Art History.)

“It’s so loose!” I yelled when I entered the gallery at the Prado. Sometimes, I get too excited.

Today, I don’t use my degree for much else than checking the box on my resume.

Which is fine by me.

When I picked the major, I didn’t harbor any fantasies of entering into the contemporary art market. The short-lived amount of time that I spent frequenting the local visual art scene was (and still is) enjoyable. But it didn’t turn out to be my life’s desire.

To this day, this is the only painting that has emotionally moved me to such a degree that my eyes actually welled up with tears. I know, I know…how pedestrian of me!

Still, I’m so glad I studied Art History. It’s like learning regular history, but through a picture book. And all your classes take place in a shadowy classroom with a passionate professor who shows slide after slide of gorgeous imagery. Then you get to hear the juicy stories of personal turmoil, political ideology, passionate love affairs, and any other human experience that caused the inception of such creations.

A dear friend surprised me with an impromptu visit to the LACMA when this was on display. I freaked.

And if you’ve ever traveled with me, I’ll most likely force you to visit the city’s art museum.

Then I’ll bombard you with inaccurate tellings of all the juicy stories I learned in college.

It pains me greatly that I have yet to view a work by Grandma Moses. The pain!

Moms on Facebook

It’s time.

Some people hate Facebook. I think this is a waste of energy. Why bother? Hating Facebook is like hating email.  Facebook is just another part of the social landscape in which we now live.

My mother has a Facebook account, but she never checks it. Not because she hates it. She just doesn’t know how to use it.

This morning, she emailed two links to me.

One linked to the video of the dancing baby twins:


And the other linked to the Lady Godiva Program, for which our friend, Sam, is a semi-finalist.

(Vote for her here! She’s incredible!)

A good 24 hours prior to my mom’s emails, I shared the same two links on my Facebook page.

“I think it’s time you were more active on Facebook.” I just wrote to my mother in an email. “Let’s make sure to have a ‘Facebook lesson’ next time I come over for family dinner. After all, you’re retired now so you don’t have any excuse to NOT be on!”

I’m still waiting for her response.

Things I’ve Learned

Striking Photography by Bo Insogna

I’m scared.

Well, it’s another blog post about hiking.

Here’s a list of just a few things I’ve learned so far, in no particular order.

1. A rattlesnake bite does not equal instant death. I always assumed that if I got bit by a rattler out on the trail, I’d be dead within minutes. Not true. If you get to a hospital within a few hours, you won’t die.

2. I can tell the difference between three types of cholla: teddybear, buckhorn, and jumping. This is probably only exciting to me.

3. Baby Regal Horned Lizards are really cute. Then again, as my friend Lisa has pointed out, baby anything is really cute.

4. Saguaros were a food source for the ancient Hohokam people. I don’t know how it was prepared or any other details. Sorry.

5. You’re supposed to remain in the center of a hiking trail so the path remains as narrow as possible. This way, hikers aren’t constantly causing the trail to widen and, in the process, destroy surrounding plant life.

6. I have difficulty staying in a good mood after six miles. Right around mile six, I get angry for a little while. Fortunately, I get over it.

7. When encountering other hikers on a hot day, the right thing to do is to ask if they have enough water. We always try to bring extra just in case.

8. In a lightning storm, try to do as many of the following as possible: get to low ground, find a some bushes or small trees, crouch down in the bushes, stay 40 feet (or more) away from other people in your hiking party, wait it out.

9. Counting the seconds between a lightning flash and its thunder to estimate its proximity is B.S. All you need to know is, if you’re seeing lighting and hearing the thunder, it’s close and you’re in danger.

10. When sweating a lot, it’s just as important to replace your salts as it is to hydrate. Munching a handful of salty pretzels or nuts while on the trail can make a huge difference (hmmm…maybe this has something to do with #6).

A Problem Life

Here’s an essay by my late grandmother. I recently found a stack of her essays, written when she was in her 80′s.


David was my youngest child, my fourth son. By the time I started his Cub Scout den I felt cool, experienced; I’d been through a lot and felt I could pretty well cope with any set of eight-year-old boys. The first meeting disabused me of that idea. Braced for their noisy slam-bang arrival, I was instead alarmed by wild noises in the backyard. Sliding open the dining room door, I found mayhem, a whirling ball of arms and legs. Wading in, I seized a couple of boys at a time, finding at the center a kid who was a stranger to me, beating up on Joey, an inoffensive neighbor. The rest of the den had been trying to separate them.

I didn’t try to sort it out, just ordered them into the house, announced a no-fighting policy and moved on with the organizational meeting. The aggressor, Gary, was the only one not from our neighborhood. I decided not to pursue why he had been assigned to me. He didn’t give me any more trouble that day. Next meeting, same thing: Gary beating up on a different Cub, the rest trying to stop the fight. This happened every week. He didn’t disrupt the meetings, but didn’t participate much either. The other boys pretty well ignored him. He brought out my social-worker side, but I still had all my children t home, each one needing my full attention, and I couldn’t spare any time for him. I decided to follow the medical precept “At least, do no harm.” and didn’t berate him for his conduct.

Eventually, he stopped fighting and became relatively invisible in the hurlyburly of the den meetings. He did emerge when we had our clay animals project. Most of the animals were lumpy body-legs-head affairs, requiring some tact to discover just what animal was intended, but not Gary’s: his was a rolypoly stylized purple creature, with a few telling additions immediately identifying it as a hippopotamus. During the project, he had offered a few good suggestions — the proper way to stand a paint brush, for example — which were well-received by his denmates. His mother, it seems, was an artist. (His father, I had found, was a pediatrician who appeared on TV every noon for a five-minute health program.) After that brief flurry of attention, he reverted to fighting occasionally, but I settled for quick resolutions.

Our big event, topping the year, was the Pinewood Derby. This was a national competition, in which each Cub made his own car and raced it competitively within his den; winners competed with other dens’ winners, and so on, with national Cub Scout Pack finalists competing in Dayton, Ohio. Originally, it had been strictly a boys’ project, but so many boys’ dads did the actual work that it was officially declared a “father-son” pr0ject. I ordered kits for all my cubs and gave them what instruction I could; then it was up to each boy…and the competitive level of his father.

The Cub Pack fathers built a regulation steep wooden track; gravity would propel 2 cars at once down to the finish line and the car with the better time would go on to compete again. On the big night, the boys were excited, noisy, apprehensive, each bragging tot he other on his own car. I lined them up, nothing that Gary had not arrived. I had been interested in meeting his dad, but got caught up in events and forgot him. One den at a time competed; just before our turn came up, Gary sidled in. I greeted him and hustled him into the line. As our boys competed, he kept backing to the end of the line. Finally, Gary and the other boy who was left had to step up to the track.

Gary had drawn his car out of his pocket; for the first time I saw it and my heart sank. The corners of the block of balsa wood had been crudely hacked, sanded not at all, and painted orange with watercolor paint that had sunk into the wood; the wheel/axle units had been attached to the car with very large staples, which hung the car up so the wheels wouldn’t turn.

The fathers at the track worked with it, doing what they could, but it was hopeless. The car would not run. They had to put both cars on the track and the other one ran to the bottom. Gary’s car didn’t move. The adults were sympathetic, the boys didn’t jeer…their very silence was hard to bear. Gary, expressionless, picked his car off the track and swung about. Silent, motionless, helpless, we all watched as he marched across the gym; at the door, with one stiff motion, he dropped his car int he trash bin and disappeared alone into the night.

That was the end of that year of scouting. I never saw Gary again, but I learned something about his life. My younger daughter acquired a kitten that summer and we took it to the vet for whatever it is that one must do with new pets. As we settled into the waiting room I recognized, from his daily TV show, Gary’s farther, Dr. G, the pediatrician. He had with him two beautiful Irish Setters; another man was asking him about them.

Proud of them, delighted to talk about his cherished dogs, he held forth on his program: it was most important to spend lots of time with them, giving them love and rewards…positive reinforcement was the clue. He went on to say he spends every Saturday morning taking them out to open spaces where they could run and frolic and he could train them with love and attention. The dogs skylarked about him, competing for his attention; he caressed their heads and scratched behind their ears. He was bursting with pride, the picture of a satisfied man. We were called to bring in our kitten; when we came out he and his dogs were gone.

I never saw him again, either. Years passed; I was downtown at Red Cross headquarters to visit my friend Lois, the director. As I waited for her in the main room, I watched some volunteers who chatted while they rolled bandages; I was caught by the sound of a name: “Mrs. G…”. Just then my friend came out of her office. I said casually;

“Isn’t that Mrs. G? Her son Gary was in my cub scout den.”

“Is that right?” said Lois. “Pity about that boy, isn’t it? I hear he’s in County Jail again.”

Lucky Girl

This will be easy!

This weekend, we planned a 6-mile loop around Little Granite Mountain in Prescott, AZ. Due to poor instructions, we back-tracked and had to restart, which added 1/2 mile to our day’s total. No big deal.

As we abandoned the first leg of the trail to hook into the 2nd part of our loop, we discovered that this loop seriously sucked. The trail was overgrown with massive thickets of chest-high thorny bushes. As the branches snagged our clothing and scratched our bare legs, we ran into two women on horseback.

“This trail gets really rough,” said one of the middle-aged horse ladies, “hikers don’t usually come around here.”

So we turned back…adding 1 more wasted mile.

Once we returned to the original trail, we decided to continue to Vista Point, located on top of Granite Mountain.

“The map says it’s 4.1 miles total,” I said. I knew I could handle that.

After the first mile of climbing, however, I turned into a little monster. At this point, I had already hiked 5 miles and we weren’t at the top. Not even close.

I was pissed.

“Okay, you’ve got to start talking about something to keep my  mind off my misery,” I told Lou.

“What do you want to talk about?” Lou innocently asked.

“I don’t KNOW!” I snapped.

The conversation ended. But I kept complaining as I realized that the map indicated one-way mileage, not the trail’s total. With our wasted backtracking and the improvised commitment to complete this Granite Mountain Vista Point trail, I estimated we’d be close to 10 miles by the end of the day.

“GodDAMMIT!” I blurted, out of the blue.

“Just take a minute and look where we are,” Lou said as he gestured toward the incredible scenery before us.



Poor Lou. I repeatedly apologized later, of course.

“I think you handled it really well,” he said. “We just have to accept that, during this process, we’ll each have a moment where we’ve just had it. You pushed through and finished. I’m proud of you.”

This actually happened. Lou is actually this good to me.

I can’t believe my luck.