We’re not superstitious, but 2013 was not a good year for us, being deeply marked by the deaths of both of Steve’s parents. So, 2014 could only be better and in many ways, increasingly mindful of the fragility of life, we played harder than ever. We logged many miles to destinations new and known, shooting many frames along the way, increasingly with new Fuji mirrorless camera systems.
We started the year off right, heading to Sedona for a long weekend. Sunny and warm days, cold nights, perfect winter hiking weather. Our friends Randy and Steph were able to join us at the last minute, flying over in their little Cessna taildragger, Tango, to join us for 2 days. We finally checked out the hike circumnavigating Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. Sedona friends Steve and Wendy joined us for a great French comedy, “What’s in a Name?” (en français, il s’appelle “Le Prenom”) after a mix of pizzas and salads at Pisa Lisa. We had an impromptu Madole home owners gathering, touring Joel and Maria’s seamless addition of a garage and studio for Joel, then hors d’oeurves chez Jill, with Ann Jarmusch joining us for talk of Sedona arts and politics.
We were back home for a work week before heading to Paris for 10 glorious days of walking, museums, bakeries, restaurants and catching up with friends, including Patricia Perry, Milène Guermont, Danièle and Ralph, Jane Groover and her husband Mark, and Margie Rubin.
I had been a little dubious about going to Paris in January, but the use of Cindy and Gerry’s charming Marais apartment (Le Petit Trèsor), otherwise sitting empty, was enticing. Both Margie and Jane, Paris-in-January regulars, were encouraging. We lucked out with mild temperatures, actually pleasant bundled up, with intermittent misty rain, but minimal frankly cold or unpleasant weather. Coupled with Christmas decorations still up, les soldes partout, and fewer tourists to share it with, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. In addition to going to perenniel favorites MEP (David Lynch and Joan Fontcuberta), Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent (Hiroshi Sugimoto “Accelerated Buddha”), Jeu de Paume (Edwin Blumenfeld) and musee de l’Orangerie (Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, L’art en fusion), we explored new destinations, including the Catacombs, Fondation Cartier (America Latina), le Musee de l’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Tapis et Tapisseries d’Artistes), le Palais du Louxor theatre (Philomena), musée Galliera for a standout Alaïa couturier show, the Bibliothèque National (Swedish photographer Anders Petersen), and Mona Bismarck American Center for art and culture (Yousef Karsh portraits). We enjoyed Paris dining from low (L’as de Fallafel) to high (Spring, Verjus, Le Comptoir) to in between (Frenchie Bar à Vin), as well as learned more about French wine at Ô Chateau.
We had a week at home to work and organize our gear for a return trip to Isla Mujeres, this time timed to try to intersect with sailfish rounding up schools of baitfish. Greg had suggested we spend a few days before doing some more cenote diving. We stayed in Playa del Carmen, much closer than coming over from Isla. Although we planned to do a bull shark dive, that wasn’t to be either. An airplane snafu delayed our arrival by a day, but we ended up spending 2 fabulous days cenote diving with Carlos from Eco-Divers, the first at Chac Mool (Kukulcan and Little Brother) and the second at Tajma Ha and Pet Cemetary.
Cool (78 degree), still, calm and incredibly clear fresh water; dark, mysterious and glorious cavernous swim throughs with light rays and stalagtites, the cenotes were an awesome sight and experience, offsetting the disappointment awaiting us in Isla Mujeres. Despite long days spent searching, covering up to 100 miles, sailfish were not to be seen, at least by us. Of our 5 days on the water, one was a blast, thanks to approachable manta and mobula rays, and whale sharks, slurping up slicks of fish eggs, so thick they were actually palpable to us in the water, not to mention omnipresent on our skin and wetsuits after exiting the water at the end of a satisfying day.
While in Mexico, I received an emergency appeal to give Grand Rounds the following week. I put a talk together, Breast Imaging Update: What and When, on the plane home on Monday, polished it with a few additional cases on Tuesday and delivered it on Wednesday!
We had the pleasure of Steve’s sister Sarah’s company the following week, her spring break off from her job as a nurse for a Lower Manhattan school, the trip a surprise 50th birthday gift from Aaron. Thankfully, we had Monday off (President’s Day), in addition to Sunday, so we could spend some time relaxing with her, including going with her friend Lisa to see Kore-Eda’s new film, “Like Father, Like Son,” with dinner at Solace in North Park afterwards. Sarah and Steve made dinner together another evening while I went to the first session of the year of my book group (Amy Tan’s Valley of Amazement) at Chandra’s.
We said goodbye to Sarah in order to head to Pasadena for an annual CME meeting we like, LARS, a stepping stone on our way to Sedona for the annual film festival. We discovered some good restaurants, new to us. Racíon, a Basque tapas place, was west on Green Street, just down from the Convention Center location of the meeting. Quiet, attractive and delicious (anchovies, crab salad), it was a great place to catch up with Drew, a diving radiologist friend practicing in Orange County. For dinner, we sat at the sushi bar at Sushi Kimagure. We discovered afterwards we could have done an “only sushi” omakase dinner, but we enjoyed our a la carte selections and practicing my tentative Japanese with the waitress and the chef.
After the meeting Sunday, we headed east, overnighting in another longtime favorite, Twenty Nine Palms Inn. We arrived with a little time to dash into the park for a subdued sunset and had a satisfying meal at the Inn, sharing a vegetarian cassoulet and beer braised short ribs and mashed potatoes.
We whiled away some of the 6.5 hour drive listening to Part 1 of Flappers: 6 Women of a Dangerous Generation, the selection for the following month’s book club. It highlights the intersecting lives and connections of 6 interesting female figures of the 20s, including artist Tamara de Lempicka, performer Josephine Baker and Zelda Fitzgerald.
The Sedona film festival was the usual fabulous, but almost too, mash-up of fantastic films, interesting Q & A sessions with rising and established stars, with not enough time to eat but one hot meal a day, and little chance to do much exercise to offset the extended sitting. We did manage 3 films most days, by starting at 3 pm, leaving time for shorter hikes in the morning and lunch, most days at Wildflower Bakery. Wendy and Steve introduced us to a new hike in VOC, Turkey Creek. Mid-week, our friend Ed took me up in his plane for an aerial view of Sedona.
Joe Hlebica came to visit for a few days on our return, and enjoyed “The Who and the What” with me at La Jolla PLayhouse. The rest of March seemed to be one prolonged packing session, preparing for our return to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, our favorite diving destination. This routine was complicated by deciding to incorporate the Portercase into our luggage ensemble, after seeing Greg haul fully half of our luggage by himself catching the ferry over to Isla Mujeres.
Our planned prolonged and leisurely trip to Asia, incorporating overnights in Tokyo and Jakarta, suddenly became much more constricted when our Tokyo bound flight had to turn back after jettisoning our fuel, thanks to malfunctioning landing gear. Our departure was delayed until the following day, forcing us to overnight in LAX (the second international trip in a row with a mechanical problem and a forced overnight), forfeit our hotel stay in Tokyo and travel continuously to make it to Jakarta in time for our domestic Indonesian flights. It was well worth it when we did make it, with incredibly fish-thronged sites, lush technicolor coral reefs in Misool, turtle encounters, a volcano hike and a congenial group with which to share it.
Steve broke a toe in the shower on the Pindito, but it didn’t impede his diving. We laid over in Jakarta 2 days and a night , giving us a chance to explore Jakarta more and then another day in an air conditioned and comfortable boutique hotel to reflect on our underwater experiences, catch up on emails and writing, and do some photo processing. Then, we were off to explore Tokyo, where even a full week was just enough to scratch the multi-dimensional surface. We happened on a matsuri (festival) on the grounds of Senso-ji Temple within a few hours of landing at our ryokan in Asakusa, which got our stay off to a great start.
We sampled a mix of Japanese cuisines (including haute examples of shabu-shabu at Asakusa Imahan and sushi at Sushi Mizutani), and cultural experiences, from street (Harajuku) to sanctioned (Mingeikan, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography). My not quite 2 years of studying Japanese paid off, although I found myself at that dangerous stage where one can easily ask questions, but not so easily understand the full-speed, think-you-can-speak-Japanese responses.
Although we were away a lot of April, we did return home in time to not miss the bienniel MCASD benefit art auction, the final (and most awesome ever) Art of Elan concert at SDMA and my bookclub, where we discussed the generally much loved Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka, a collective fictional memoir of Japanese immigrants to California in the first half of the 20th century up until the internment in WW II. I also started a Saturday morning Spanish class, a 3 hour class, which amazingly, flew by each session, a real tribute to our professor, Catalina Cahill. Not actively taking French, I endeavored to retain it by reading a bilingual (one paragraph in French, one paragraph in English) version of Alice in Wonderland, stimulated by the fabulous theatre piece I saw in Brooklyn in May. To find the time to finish the next book club selection, In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larsen, I downloaded it to my phone and began running my errands in Steve’s more technologically up-to-date car.
Our May getaway to NYC was shoehorned in between Saturday morning Spanish classes, but even with the time crunch, we fit in many shows (favorites being “Then She Fell” and “Of Mice and Men”) and exhibitions (Ai Wei Wei “According to What?” in Brooklyn). This was our first foray into backing a Broadway show. Sadly, our choice, “Rocky”, although well executed, was an expensive production in the huge Winter Garden theatre. Although audiences seemed to enjoy themselves, the ticket sales required to fill the giant house night after night were lackluster. The finale match, in a boxing ring which projected into the midst of the orchestra, was thrilling, and probably the closest we’ll ever come to seeing a boxing match. The most wonderful and distinguishing feature of this trip was gorgeous spring weather, prompting us to walk even more than usual, and to finally make it over to Roosevelt Island and Louis Kahn’s posthumously realized late work, Four Freedoms Park. With great views of Manhattan and blossoming cherry trees lining the waterfront promenade, it was a wonderful outing, nothing short of spectacular.
Our Sedona getaway in June was a musical interlude shared with musician friends, Kate and Alex. It coincided with the Sedona Photofest and the start of the Bluegrass Festival. May was marked by outbreaks of fire in San Diego, prompting evacuations and driven by hot and dry winds. As soon as the tempests in San Diego were mostly contained, word came from Sedona of fire in Oak Creek Canyon, beginning just north of Slide Creek. Heading to Sedona a few weeks later, we weren’t sure what to expect. Heading up to Garland’s first for yoga and later for dinner, the fire scarring of the towering canyon walls could be clearly seen at the fence line of Garland’s, which itself was unaffected, but SO close. Our usual summer beat-the-heat first choice, West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon, was closed, driving us north to Flagstaff to Sunset Crater National Monument, fueled by a stop at Diablo Burger on the way. The Segner Ranch in Oak Creek Canyon was not affected by the fire, and was an idyllic setting for Darrol Angor and the Furies, who played as the sun slipped below the canyon walls.
We made it back in time for a fabulous Art of Èlan concert at Lux Art Institute down the street, featuring artistic director and former San Diego symphony flutist Demarre McGill with the Myriad trio, rounded out by SD symphony harpist Julie Smith and viola player Che-Ye Chen, playing beautiful classical (Debussey) and contemporary works (David Bruce, Eye of Night, a piece commissioned for the group). That same week was crowded with the annual MOPA acquisitions dinner, always fun “shopping” for new artworks with pooled funds from other donors, and my book group, discussing Erik Larsen’s In the Garden of Beasts. The title refers to the Tiergarten in Berlin, bordered by embassies and the setting for this compelling narrative of Berlin in the critical years of 1933-34, told through the lens of observations of the newly arrived American ambassador Dodd and his family.
Meanwhile, in the car, we listened to The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, which neatly dovetailed In the Garden of Beasts, taking place in the same time frame, the years leading up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Based on the true story of a crew team from the University of Washington and their quest to compete in the Olympics, the book was a compelling Depression era tale.
Meanwhile, we had exchangers from Berlin, two journalists, Andreas (arts and culture) and Lydia (current events) with their adorable 1 year old baby Harry, who stayed in Sedona just after the fire broke out in May, keeping us posted on what was happening. We had a chance to meet and have dinner together in June (featuring that celebrated local specialty, Cardiff “crack”) when they continued their US sabbatical in Southern California. I also enjoyed a summer class at UCSD extension with Babette, combining two loves, namely French and film.
July was momentous is many ways, beginning with July 1, our 25th wedding anniversary! Falling on a Tuesday when we both had to attend a work related meeting in the evening, celebrating was deferred for the following 4 day weekend. Beginning with the 4th of July, we decided to pack a picnic and head to the Birch Aquarium in hopes of finding a good vantage for shooting the fireworks in La Jolla Cove. Armed with lots of new gear to exercise, as well as patio chairs and a cooler packed with a Darshan baguette and salads and cherries from Cardiff Seaside Market, as well as the tripod, we holed up in a corner. Fending off rambunctious children, we managed to not have the tripod knocked over.
July was also notable for the frequent shipments from B & H, as we buffed up our camera bags with gear in preparation for a return to Iceland. I filled my new (and hopefully last!) Gura Gear camera bag with a load of accessories for my new camera system, the Fuji X-T1. We lugged sleeping bags, eye masks and a lot of cold weather clothing as well, for our return to camping, Iceland style. We eased into it, with a week in Reykjavik first, attending a CME course sponsored by the University of Ottawa, again staying in Harpa’s apartment, a mere 15 minute walk from the Grand Hotel venue. We took advantage of the mid-week free Wednesday to return to Hotel Budir on Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Of course, we indulged in some great meals while we could, returning to favorites from our prior trip, namely Astur Indiafjelagid and Dill. Greg joined us in time to kick off our photography trip the second week with a 5 course meal (with wine and even beer) pairings at Dill.
For a week, we lived out of a Land Rover, capably manned by Chris Lund, a private photo guide and our Land Rover captain for the week. Our first destination was the glacier lagoon, Jokarsarlon, a dream destination for photographers. We lucked out with a nice sunset there.
From there we headed back west, and spent 2 days fording streams and rough roads as we explored the interior, one of the most visually varied landscapes I’ve ever seen. We spent our last 2 days back on Snaefellsnes (where we had wished for more time the week before), camping at Arnastapi. Waterfalls, panoramas, craggy lava formations, glaciers, rivers, flowers, rainbows, all the elements of over-the-top landscape photography were there, and Chris ably guided us to the right place at the right time of day.
Along the way, we relaxed in pools, and laughed our heads off watching episodes of “Life’s Too Short.”
Iceland was so absorbing, I didn’t make as much headway as hoped in my bookclub reading, The Man Who Loved Dogs, and I found two Iceland-themed movies to watch on the flight home (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth”). Once back home, we were able to relive our time in Iceland through the film, “Land Ho,” an amusing tour of Iceland through the eyes of a pair of older men, ex-brothers-in-law, adjusting to retirement and senior life as they bicker, sight-see and conquer Iceland in a giant Hummer.
At the end of August, we were back in Sedona. This visit included a presentation at the Sedona Camera Club, The I’s Have It: Indonesia, Isla Mujeres and Iceland. My aunt Lavonne and cousin Laura came to visit during the week. We enjoyed dinner at Garland’s and a wonderful musical movie, “Begin Again.”
I headed back to Phoenix a few days ahead of Steve, in time to pick up my underwater camera and head to H & M landing in San Diego to join one of our friend Martin Graf’s white shark diving expeditions on the Horizon. It had been 11 years since our one diving trip (not in cages) to Guadalupe Island, southwest of Ensenada, Mexico, and Guadalupe had since become world renowned as the place with the clearest water to see and photograph white sharks (from cages). I had been intrigued and this Labor Day trip had an opening during a weekend Steve had to work anyway, so…off I went. While cage diving is confining and sedentary, seeing the sharks eye-to-eye was amazing!
In September, the social events started up after the summer hiatus. For us that meant, the double whammy weekend, the Atheneaum gala Friday night, followed by Monte Carlo “Jet Set” the next (courtesy of our generous friend James Robbins). It was a fun evening, a veritable reunion, with the Poteets, Jill, Ann and David, as well as James’ sister from Dallas and her longtime friend. We had a ringside seat for the Lanvin fashion show.
The following weekend, Steve and I had a few days off in town, not a stay-cation, but a work-cation, as the days immediately preceeded our hosting an event for MOPA, drumming up support for the Minor White sequences show planned for the 2015 Balboa Park Centennial.
Later in September, we saw many friends at the Kate and Alex’s music filled nuptials in San Diego Art Museum.
It was a joyous occasion, beginning with agua fresca and mariachi music on the plaza outside the museum, through to the multiple musical tributes and original pieces composed for the occasion.
The first 2 weeks of October was our long awaited return to Kyoto, and first excursion to Naoshima Island.
This trip’s timing was to coincide with Mama going to Japan, as I wanted to be there again with her and see Mama’s side of the family. My efforts at Japanese paid off, although as Uncle Shigekazu said, I need to continue on.
I finished November’s book club selection, Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, in unusual speed for me (on the plane to Japan), enabling me to read my Japanophile friend Joe’s recommendation of another Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore, before the next session.
November saw us in London and Paris, on the annual MOPA trip. Steve and I went early to enjoy London by ourselves, and had a wonderful time dividing our time between exhibits (notably the overflowing poppies at the Tower of London, and Anselm Keifer at the Royal Academy) and theater, including 2 long-running classics of London theater, Warhorse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. When the MOPA group arrived, we spent our time visiting artists in their studios, including camera obscura portrait artist Richard Learoyd, and camera-less photographic artist Garry Fabian Miller, at his home in Manaton, in Devon in southwest England. The second half of the MOPA trip in Paris coincided with the VIP opening of Paris Photo, to which we were driven by chauffeured BWMs (one of the sponsors). We managed to work in a visit with Susan Derges, a neighbor of Garry Fabian Miller, who works with the interaction of waves and movement of water in another alternative camera-less photographic process. We spent a nice afternoon in the shared studio of Japanese artists Yuki Onodera and Aki Lumi. Flor Garduno was a guest of honor at a multi-course gourmandaise feast at Verjus, and David Meisel joined us for a final wine tasting dinner at Ô Chateau. We met up with our American friend in Paris, Patricia, for a glorious fall day at the newly opened and spectacular Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Bologne by Frank Gehry.
We also saw our Parisian artist friend, Milène Guermont, at the marvelously quirky Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature, really a museum devoted to artwork incorporating animals). Milène had 2 works at the museum, a sound piece and a video piece, part of the ongoing effort by the director to engage contemporary artists in the life of the museum.
Just before Thanksgiving, we worked in a short trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, staying with our friends Randy and Stephanie, who had been installed there nearly 2 months, house sitting for friends of theirs. They were wonderful guides and hosts, and we reveled in the color and textures of this colonial city, with a lattice-work of plazas bedecked with fountains and trees, surrounded by historic buildings.
The second half of Thanksgiving week (which we almost never have off) was spent in Sedona, where we were surprised to find there still was some fall color, with golden glowing cottonwoods around Oak Creek. Steve organized a mini-Madole home tour to enable new Madole homeowners, Megan and Peter, to see how other Madole homeowners (Jill, Dee and Pete, and us) have grappled with restoration issues. We hiked a trail new to us, Chuck Wagon, to an old favorite, Earl’s, with the friend and neighbor, Tom, who introduced us to it.
Of course, with all that travel, that meant we had to work most of December. After a rainy start, it proved to be a delightfully warm and sunny month to be home, work on images, muse over the year, catch up on blogposts and delve into the Ottolenghi cookbook sent us by our friend Greg. This was my first full year as a contributor to my Adult Peripheral Brain, also known as The Blog, which has been great fun, a stimulus to related reading once back home, not to mention a resource for us when we return to a destination. No more head-scratching, “What was the name of that restaurant we liked in ______?” Now we have a resource that is a lot easier to search through than a folder with clippings!
All told, 2014 was a great year, filled with wonderful sights and times with friends at home and abroad, a “blur” of great memories. Thanks to all who enriched our lives in 2014!
Favorite movies of 2014:
What’s in a Name? (en français, il s’appelle Le Prenom): great French comedy, family drama, fast and furious dialogue, flying back and forth. I wanted to see it again immediately. One of the funniest films I’ve seen in a while. It brought to mind another favorite, a French film about another dreadful dinner party, the Dining Game.
Philomena: beautifully shot, absorbing drama based on a true story of an Irish mother’s search for her son, 50 years after being forced by baby selling nuns to give him up for adoption. Great film making on every level.
Sunshine on Leith: Surprise airplane find, a British “hidden gem” per British Air. A musical based on music by the Proclaimers of two soldiers putting their lives back together after returning from combat in Afghanistan.
Like Father, Like Sun: Another family drama gem from Japanese director Kore-Eda. Two very different families lives are inextricably altered when they learn their 6 year old sons were swapped at birth. Very sensitive and illuminating treatment of issues of identity and family, nature vs. nurture, what it means to be a parent. A few years before, we loved an Isreali film with a similar theme, L’Autre Fils (The Other Son), with more overtly political overtones, as the swapped sons are 18 year olds, one from a Palestinian family and the other, a Jewish family from Isreal.
In A World: Lake Bell stars in and directs a charming family comedic drama set in the hyper-masculine and competitive world of voice over artists. Bell plays Carol, the daughter of a vocal legend, who is trying to make her way in the field.
Chef: Another fun foodie comedy, with a serious subtext.
Favorites from the Sedona Film Festival:
Le Chef-French foodie comedy at its finest
The Rocket-an Australian film, set in Laos. A boy and his family are dislocated by a giant dam being constructed which will flood their valley, and have to make their way across a country still pocked with armaments of war, to build a new life. He is determined to enter a rocket building contest being staged by a village to end a drought. Very touching, excellent film-making, and a rare look at a culture at a cross-roads between tradition and modernity.
Begin Again: charming film starring Keira Knightley as a singer-songwriter whose chance encounter with a nearing-rock-bottom music producer produces beautiful music.
A Winter’s Tale-The first Shakespeare production by the new artistic director of the Old Globe. The first half had me more engaged than any Shakespeare production I can recall, a tale of tragic destruction of a family by the husband’s unfounded jealousy.
Bethany, by Laura Marks-Also from the Old Globe, produced in the round in the White Theatre, a contemporary clash between 2 victims of economic hard times. Great performances, especially by James Shanklin as a sleazy shyster salesman and seducer.
The Who and the What (La Jolla Playhouse)-a touching and funny Muslim family drama, by Ayad Akhtar. A widowed father and his grown daughters confront expectations at the intersection of tradition and contemporary life.
Then She Fell (Third Rail Projects)-a deconstructed dance/performance version of Alice in Wonderland in Brooklyn, participatory and wonderfully loopy and hallucinatory.
Of Mice and Men (NYC)-a classic that still illuminates, brought to powerful life by James Franco and Chris O’Dowd.
El Henry (La Jolla Playhouse)-a Mad Max-like post-apocalyptic version of Shakespeare’s Henvy IV, set in a future San Diego ruled by rival Chicano gangs after a mass Gringo exodus. A fabulous Without Walls production in an industrial park in the East Village.
The Orphan of Zhao (La Jolla Playhouse)-cross familial tragedy of Shakespearean proportions with Chinese opera and BD Wong, and you have a recipe for absorbing theatre.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (National Theatre, London)-fascinating depiction of an autistic adolescent trying to unravel mysterious events and grappling with family secrets