Cesar did have a plan for the evening, however. We managed to get John to join us for burritos before he went off to see a movie with other friends (who are evidently more of a dissertation-distraction than we are), and then began roaming the open studios and such of San Francisco's Mission. It seems that the Mission is becoming less and less a working-class Hispanic neighborhood and more and more a place where the barbershops and dry-cleaners of yore are turning into small galleries. One can only have mixed feelings about that, as while small galleries are a fine thing, I'm not sure there needs to be more than one per city block. Once in awhile a person needs a barbership or dry-cleaners too.
But we enjoyed ourselves and saw some pretty good art, listened to some excellent Indian music, and joined the salsa dance party on the Casa Sanchez back patio. We also got to see some dancers on stilts who lit up the performance with fancy torch-handling.
Cesar says this neighborhood-wide arts extravaganza occurs every couple of months or so. He took some pictures, but I don't yet have copies.
On Sunday, my writing group met down in Los Altos, where the weather is warmer. Before I departed, I heard my father remark that if we were lucky, the sun might come out by 4 o'clock (my mother tells me that this did not come to pass). Usually things warm up as soon as I get south of San Francisco, but it was drizzly and cold almost all the way. Even Los Altos was cooler than usual, so my sleeveless dress was a bit unwarranted as I kept my sweatshirt on most of the day.
The company was agreeable, however. Betty put one of her Voyager Tarot cards under each person's lunch plate and, somewhat miraculously, each person managed to sit with a strangely appropriate card. Mine was one called Breakthrough, which Betty said was related to the Chariot in the major arcana. She said this one refers to having the momentum to leap forward and surmount obstacles or reach new understandings. It sounded like a good card to get when a person is finishing up a dissertation and preparing to go on the job market.
While our group is supposed to be a fiction group, we've listened to a good many nonfiction projects over the years. This time everything was nonfiction, as Janet presented a new version of something she's been trying to work out in the gray area between fact and fiction (we argued for her to just go ahead and call it a novel and get rid of references to the "real" story) and I tested out a section of a dissertation chapter. The section in question deals with the Parisian cultural scene of the 1920s, a topic that has been covered in great detail by expatriate American memoirists, biographers, and scholars like Shari Benstock. The Czech experience in Paris, however, is not quite so intensively studied, so without attempting a history of the Czechoslovak expatriate community, I tried to show how Paris was presented in Czech periodicals and correspondence, and how this related to Toyen. Whether there is enough Toyen in the section is hard to say, but my audience seemed enthralled by the quotations about Montmartre and Montparnasse, so I suppose my committee cannot accuse it of being dull.