This episode: “You”

Event Date: Tuesday, February 21, from 7 to 9 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

This time, you set the agenda. Read on below.

The Story

Let’s make this one about you.

The other night I attended the tenth anniversary celebration of a monthly series of salons put on Anne Focke and Carolyn Law. Each month, the two women invite two guests who in turn are encouraged to talk about whatever is on their mind, to a roomful of people. Then there’s a potluck meal. The venue is sweet; the presentations are often powerful and always edifying.

In part to honor that style—and to a small part because I could not bring together a theme and guests this month—I would like to offer something similar, with a twist. I would like you to come and engage in conversation about whatever is on your mind. What have you been thinking about? It can be anything: painting the great American painting, the latest turn in the political circus, your writer’s block or your big project, a brush with death, tremendous loss, or the delight of unexpected adventure.

To prime the pump, I’ll throw out a few things that have been on my mind lately. Cars and transport have been pretty much at the forefront, since my old Toyota died and I haven’t yet bought a replacement (18 years old; 275,000 miles; I owned the machine for 12 years, and we took a lot of trips). Busing can be a challenge, especially when one lives in Ballard and works in Redmond and functions all over the city. Having to walk a mile or so to catch the bus to work in the morning is a hassle, but I’m enjoying the idea of getting outside first thing, rather than getting into a car. And my reading time if definitely up. Reading has been driving my thinking lately.

I just finished Orhan Pamuk’s “My Name is Red,” an account of Ottoman miniaturists in Istanbul in 1587, amid encroaching European ideas of perspective, individual style, and portraiture. Istanbul is vividly rendered, and the novel is filled with ruminations as to individual style, authenticity, what an artist is. Pamuk weaves into a story of murder and betrayal an account of the history of painting in south Asia, from Herat to Istanbul.

In response to the “Imaginary Cities” conversation, guest Barbara Leucke had lent me Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy;” I also finished that recently. Ehrenreich traces the history of passionate, ecstatic celebration, dancing in the streets. She also explores the countervailing urge to repress such celebration or to co-opt it into political spectacle, and charts what happens—mass depression and neurosis—when we are deprived of a chance for ecstasy, especially communal ecstasy.

Right now I’m reading the 90th anniversary issue of Foreign Affairs. It’s not one of my favorite magazines; it’s very foreign policy establishment. But this issue contains excerpts from a century of writings about world affairs. It is fascinating to look at intellectuals in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and so on, coming to terms with the failure of capitalism and classic liberalism, and the rise of demagogues pulling in herds of the disenfranchised.

And I’m reading C. S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” pieces of Turkish delight in hand.

All of this reminds me a great grad school course where the students were given large amounts of very disparate readings each week, with the assignment to figure out how to synthesize them into an essay at week’s end. Little Lucy and dancing in the streets and miniaturist painting and the rise of fascism. There’s a theme running through there somewhere. But that’s more than enough about me. The focis is you. What’s on your mind? What are you thinking about? I’m guessing that the group at Vermillion will be small, so if you’re in the mood for intimate conversation, do come.

Next Up

In March (Tuesday, March 20), we’ll be back with a topic and guests. The topic is fabric; the power and beauty to be found in cloth. I’m not expecting a reprise of last year’s style conversation, though there may be a bit of that. Instead I want to go directly for fabric and the roles it plays in our lives. Current guests are costume and clothing designer Anna Rose Telcs and fiber artist Cameron Mason. I’m working on getting two more.


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