My Weekend with Surrealist Painters

I had an odd convergence this weekend. I hadn't planned this, but I read a graphic novel and watched a movie that both dealt with roughly the same time, place and characters. Kiki  De Montparnasse is a fictionalized biographic graphic novel about a famous model and socialite in Paris in the 1920's, who was immortalized by the photographer Man Ray in his photo Le Violon D'Ingres. While Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, portrays a young screenwriter, played by Owen Wilson, who considers his impending marriage and a wishful career as a novelist while on vacation in Paris. In typical Woody Allen style, he gets swept off (in his imagination or not, it doesn't matter) to the Moveable Feast of an idealized1920's Paris.

I felt a little like Owen Wilson's character myself, unprepared, but pleasantly surprised to find myself spending the weekend with golden shadows and line drawings of Ernest Hemingway, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Luis Bunuel, before a backdrop of surrealists, bohemians, all at the epicenter that was Paris of the time.

Now, I've never been to Paris, and I've never been particularly nostalgic about the time, but as a working writer I can't suppress my envy of those who got to experience such a nexus of creative energy. A nexus that treated literature and art as serious concrete things that had the power to shape the world. A nexus that dared itself to challenge convention, brave boundaries, and shatter norms in almost every medium.

Can I do as much in my basement office or in the various coffee shops of Billings, MT? There's only one way to find out. Who's with me?



Relatively Big Deal

This may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but Splash, my recently-turned-twelve-year-old son, has learned how to play pinochle.

I didn't learn to play pinochle until my early twenties when it became clear that the best way to get to know, ingratiate, and interact with my future in-laws was to learn. Pinochle is like a private religion in my wife's family: the stuff of family newsletters, nicknames, and get-together rituals. But to an outsider like me who had only played card games that required no more skill or thought than Spoons or Slapjack, it was completely incomprehensible. If you've never played, here's the Wikipedia article...you'll see what I mean. And forget Hoyle. That guy has no idea what he's talking about. My in-laws play various pinochle variations depending on the number of available players, whims of the most vocal, and need for vengeance off of particular losses. And as if the game wasn't difficult enough, these cultists have made up their own system of coded bidding. But when you're in love, you do things like get baptized into The First Apostolic Church of Double Pinochle Reformed Central Iowa Synod, Montana Covenant. Motto: "Where a marriage is defined as a king and queen of the same suit, and if your spouse is on the other team, all bets are off."

And now, so many years later, just when I feel like I'm beginning to understand the game, I feel a swell of fatherly pride to see him play. And he's good. You better watch out Grandma. In a couple of years, you're going to have some real competition.