Arrival

Late Spring, 1956
USS Bon Homme Richard, CVA-31

Steaming into port after weeks at sea is like re-awakening in a completely new life. And crossing the threshold of a new country is like entering another world.

At 0530 hours the sun was rising out of the placid water behind us, casting a golden sheen on its mirror-like surface. We looked off the bow to the west for our first glimpse of Japan. There was a certain odor in the air which quickened our senses and dispelled the early morning sleepiness. Staring into the distance, our coffee cups perched precariously on the railing, we strained to see the islands and hills our radars had already registered on their pale green faces.

With the lifting of the distant haze, which we had not realized was there before, there appeared some shapes in the water. As we drew closer we saw a fleet of fishing boats—small wooden craft which, though the water was calm, rocked and swayed seemingly to a strange oriental rhythm. Our huge ship steered through the middle of the fleet and as we passed the boats we gazed down at their occupant’s smiling, weather-toughened faces, and they up at our pale below-decks countenances.

Our gaze shifted from the boats and once again toward the west and off the port bow, miles away, the sun’s rays reflected of a huge, white cone-shaped form which seemed to be suspended in the air. It was as though the top of some lunar mountain had been severed and was being slowly lowered onto that spot on earth. The sun rose higher and we could discern the slopes of Mount Fujiyama extending downward from its snow-capped peak into what were now visible as small green hills.

Everything seemed to burst into view at once. All around us now were strangely shaped green hills bordering on a dark green bay through which we were now more slowly forging. Over the 1MC came the bos’n mate’s whistle and call—“Now all hands to quarters for entering port. Flight deck parade.”

As we stood in formation on the flight deck at parade rest, the whole panorama of Tokyo Bay spread out around us. The water was a dark, olive green which we had never seen in other ports. The whole area looked and smelled alive with vegetation. Not an inch of space was there where something did not grow on those dome-shaped, green, terraced hills. On all sides of us were boats, most of them fishing craft of the type we had seen before. Their occupants were busy at work, but not too busy to  give us an occasional friendly wave.

Our anticipation grew as the tiny, powerful tugs pulled along side to guide us toward  the port of Yokosuka. We became surrounded by a close ring of hills and turned sharply into out berth. As the first line went over the side and we were dismissed from quarters, we gazed once again at compelling Fuji, wondering what wonderful new customs were awaiting our experience.

(Age 19).

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The World Changed

I recently read an article by a person whose “world changed” at a young age by the event of “9/11” in New York City. My reading of her well-written memoir initiated a memory search for that moment in my life when the perception of the world may have changed — that is, to have shaken me loose from the unexamined feelings of comfort and safety that childhood, for some, allows.

After pondering, I found that my awakening was gradual, with punctuated moments of fear, despair, horror and, in the case of “9/11,” anger.

I was one month away from becoming age five when the Japanese Air Force bombed Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. I don’t have a memory of the actual day of the invasion. What I have is the memory, subsequently developed, of all the pictures and commentary since that time. It didn’t affect me at age five — this was just the way the world was.

My first memories are of living with my parents and my mother’s family in the top flat of a Victorian house on Arguello Boulevard in San Francisco, around three miles from the Pacific Ocean. None of the men in the house were called to military service, but Dad and Uncle Harry were ‘war workers’ in the shipyards of San Francisco, and in Richmond across the Bay. Grandpa was too old for service.

Uncle Harry was also a block warden for the times when ‘blackouts’ were called by the civil defense organization. He was to assure that we and the neighbors had pulled down their blackout curtains and shades so that no light could be seen by possible invaders from off the coast of San Francisco. These were the times the whole family, seven of us, would gather by candlelight in the living room to listen to news on the radio, or to music on the big Victrola. I imagined Japanese planes and submarines searching, searching, but finding nothing because we were so good at hiding. It wasn’t scary.

Later in my youth, I would play with other kids, boys, in building a small fire and throwing into it stick figures of Japan’s General Tojo, Italy’s Dictator Mussolini, and Germany’s Fuehrer Adolf Hitler. Then the war was over, and I was eight years old.

My dad got a job in Manhattan with his cousin, a printer, and found a railroad flat in Brooklyn for us, a few blocks from the docks. Mom, sister Diane, and I followed later to arrive by train on New year’s Day, 1946. I learned to live with fear and uncertainty in this neighborhood, more and more as I grew toward adolescence.

When I got to junior high school, we learned how to act when the sirens went off, signaling a nuclear bomb attack from the Soviet Union. These felt weird, and I always felt that such preparations were useless because everything would be wiped out anyway.

Toward the end of the 1940s, many people from Puerto Rico started arriving in New York’s boroughs, including Brooklyn. One summer day a car full of Puerto Rican immigrants was circling around 48th Street, looking for a destination, the occupants unfamiliar with the neighborhood. They had interrupted the stickball game of the older guys too many times, so they stopped the car, bounced on it, rolled it, and beat up the guys in the car, using pipes and other things as clubs. I ran away to our tenement up the street, feeling as if I had been beaten up.

Not long after this we moved back to San Francisco and, later, to Berkeley. We felt safe again.

Until, ten years later, October, 1962. This is when the world changed for me: the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was living in Berkeley, attending the University. I often awoke, sweating, having dreamed a nuke had exploded over the whole Bay Area.

Then, then in 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and began a horrible period of uncertainty and anger and disbelief in the authorities which the ‘Warren Commission’ could not quite damp down.

The civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, then Senator Robert Kennedy gunned down within months of each other in 1968. I didn’t care that much for the Kennedy brothers or family, but upon “Bobby’s” death I felt America was coming apart.

Then the horrors of the Vietnam War, in which I was too old to directly participate, but I saw and felt the havoc it wrought on the young people and their elders.

I was present, in 1964–1965, at the ‘Free Speech Movement’ on the Berkeley campus, which began as a righteous protest and devolved into a battle between well-organized radicals and the State. It was warfare on campus and, in my mind, began the destruction of universities everywhere in the USA.

Time passes, wounds are layered over while one continues to do what humans tend to do, make families, go to work to support them, try to enjoy life occasionally. The horrors are buried, then… 9/11.

I could not believe, at first, I was not seeing a video-fiction, a story. My guts roiled, at age 64, wanting to go to battle with the hidden perpetrators.

I felt I finally understood the anger of the nation upon the bombing attack on Pearl Harbor.

The general anger and concomitant madness have not dissipated. I cannot now imagine what life will be like for my five children and, especially, my four grandchildren.

In grade school we used to sing “God Bless America.” Is there any singing in grade school these days?

Posted in Artemis (Pagonis) Pavellas, Conrad H. Pavellas, Diane H. Pavellas, Essays, George Pagonis, Harry Pagonis, Memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ancient Family History

I subscribe to a Facebook group named “Haplogroup J2b and Subclades.” It’s for people interested in genetic genealogy, especially for those with the genetic designation ‘Haplogroup J2,’ its ‘subclade ‘J2b,’ and other subdivisions of each. My paternal genetic haplotype is J2b2. (Father’s father’s father, etc, ad infinitum).

One of the members posted an article with maps which took me on a journey, imagining the movements and locations of my paternal ancestors from 9000 tears ago until today. Allow me to take you along with me. (I cropped the original maps to show only areas where haplogroup J2 occurred, historically.)

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 7000BC

Around 9,000 years ago

The Ice Age had ended and European hunter-gatherers had migrated from their warmer refuges to recolonize the continent. Note that the Black Sea did not then connect to the Mediterranean Sea, so there was an unbroken connection between what is now Asia Minor (Anatolia) and Europe. Peoples with Haplogroup J2 occupied, roughly, what is now the Southern Caucasus, Persia (Iran), Turkey, Greece, Crete, Cyprus, and a narrow band of land bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, including what is now the Sinai Peninsula.

J2 Ancient Tribe  (Paternal side) 2000BC

Around 4,000 years ago

In the intervening millennia, agriculture had developed in the Levant and then spread through southern, central and eastern Europe by Neolithic farmers belonging mainly to Y-haplogroups such as J2.  In the Middle East and Anatolia advanced civilizations began to emerge.

The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in central Anatolia. The group was documented at least as early as the empire of Sargon of Akkad (c. 2300 BC), until it was gradually absorbed c. 2000–1700 BC by the Indo-European Hittites, who became identified with the “land of Hatti”. The oldest name for central Anatolia, “Land of the Hatti”, was found on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets from the period of Sargon the Great of Akkad c. 2350–2150 BC. The Hattians were organised in city-states and small kingdoms or principalities. These cities were well organized and ruled as theocratic principalities. Hattian religion traces back to the Stone Age. It involved worship of the earth, which is personified as a mother goddess; the Hattians honored the mother goddess to ensure their crops and their own well-being. (Source).

Mother Goddess, figurine, ca. 5750 BC; Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

Museum_of_Anatolian_Civilizations_1320259_nevit

Mother Goddess, figurine, ca. 5750 BC; Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara

The Minoan civilization arose on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands and flourished from approximately 3650 to 1400 BCE. It belongs to a period of Greek history preceding both the Mycenaean civilization and Ancient Greece.

The term “Minoan” refers to the mythic King Minos who was associated in Greek myth with the labyrinth and the Minotaur, identified with Knossos, the ancient Cretan capital city. The poet Homer recorded a tradition that Crete once had 90 cities. As traders and artists, the Minoan cultural influence reached far beyond the island of Crete—throughout the Cyclades, to Egypt’s Old Kingdom, to copper-bearing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coasts beyond, and to Anatolia. (Source).

 

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 117AD

Around 2,000 years ago

This represents the Roman Empire as it reached its greatest territorial extent around the Mediterranean Sea, approximately 2000 years ago.  People with Haplogroup J2 populated parts of many Mediterranean lands and into the Middle East beyond Anatolia: Spain, Italy, (what is now) Tunisia, Sicily, Southern France, Greece, Thrace (Bulgaria), Romania, Crete, Cyprus, Assyria (geographically present-day Syria, but a separate ethnic group from Syrians), Persia.

J2 Ancient Tribe (Paternal side) 1227AD

Around 800 years ago

Medieval Europe was dominated by the Holy Roman Empire – a loose union of small kingdoms with Germany at its heart (and an attempt to resurrect the former glory of the Roman Empire in the west) – and the Byzantine Empire, the continuation of the Roman Empire in the east.

By this time people with Haplogroup J2 populated parts of (what are now) Corsica, Albania, Greece, Thrace, Crete, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Anatolia, Georgia—and eastward into the Southern Caucasus and beyond into Asia proper. Genetic studies have further refined the J2 haplogroup into sub-types, including J2b, which is that of my paternal great-grandfather, Konstantin Pavellas. J2b is found in Albania, the Peloponnesus of Greece, Thrace (Bulgaria) and Romania (along the Black Sea coast). There is reason to believe that Konstantin had Greek ancestors who migrated to Romania, adopted the Slavic name ‘Pavel’ and changed it to ‘Pavellas’ after at least one branch of the family returned to Greece, probably in the early 1800s, around the time that the Greeks threw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire.

K Pavellas, Wife, Alex

Konstantinos Pavellas, a Greek Orthodox Priest, Theofonia Pavellas, née Smirtis, Alexander K. Pavellas, my grandfather—taken around 1880

Thanks for accompanying me on this journey.

Ronald Alexander Pavellas, Paternal Haplogroup J2b2.

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Cousin Nestor (A Memoir)

Cousin Nestor told me that you should always be aware of your face, and how it looks to other people.

I was 21, just out of the Navy, and green as a 12-year-old about how to get along in life, especially in nice company. I was comfortable, or at least I knew the territory, of the rough neighborhoods my family had lived in—San Francisco and, especially, Brooklyn.

Nestor was a salesman, and had been since he was a youngster. His dad died when he was eleven, in the middle of the Great Depression, and my dad, his older cousin by ten years, had taken care of him and his dotty mother, Aunt Genevieve, as his only surviving family. Dad’s parents died the same year as Nestor’s father.

Nestor had a pleasant, open face with a nice head of wavy, light-colored hair and a constant smile. He tended to squint a bit behind his glasses, but it gave him the appearance of being sincere which, as a salesman, was essential. He sold apples on San Francisco’s streets, and because he was younger and had learned to be engaging, he was more successful than the older men who were also in financial straits during the Depression.

So, here I was at 21, an ex-third class petty officer, waiting a few months before starting community college, needing to get civilized. Nestor was the man to do it. He had been a men’s wear salesman and knew how to outfit me with a suit and casual clothes. I’d already determined to spend some of my mustering out pay on contact lenses so I would no longer be “four-eyes,” or “goggle-eyes” as I was called, among other names, during my family’s five years in Brooklyn. After I was dressed properly and had my new eyes, Nestor took me to several bars and restaurants to teach me how to be in them.

Nestor Harpending Palladius (1924 - 2008)

Nestor Harpending Palladius (1924 – 2008)

All the while, I watched Nestor’s face, since this was the first piece of advice he gave me. I began to emulate him. While walking alone in City’s streets I would consciously relax my face and allow a slight upward movement in the corners of my mouth. As I did this, I visualized Dad’s face and realized he had the same habit. It must be a family trait, I felt. So I adopted this habit feeling it a good thing in itself.

Over the years, I have realized that some people I pass in the street, or especially the neighborhood, look me in the eye and give me a small but distinct smile. I check my face and realize—I, too, had been smiling.

Thanks cousin Nestor.

A eulogy for Nestor, with photographs, can be viewed here.

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Six Pictures on an Avocado-colored Wall: Their Stories

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The Wall and the Pictures

The color of the walls was chosen and applied by Leo, Eva’s son, when this was his room. I thought it too bold but, by the time he moved away to university, I had grown to like it. In any case, I don’t paint walls unless under duress.

The large and cluttered cork board which filled most of the wall to the right of the Eastern Orthodox icon and the portrait of August Strindberg, is now behind me as I sit at my writing desk. I can now visualize a gallery of impressions and memories these six objects evoke.

[NOTE: Click on any image to see it more fully]

Niccolò Paganini

I was one week short of nine years old when Mom, my younger sister Diane, and I arrived in New York City’s Grand Central Station on New Year’s Day, 1946, after a five-day train trip from San Francisco. We reunited with Dad who had already begun working for his cousin George in Manhattan. He had rented a flat for us on the third, top floor of a tenement near the Brooklyn docks from which he could commute to work by subway.

It was a rough neighborhood and a continuous hell for me, but Diane and I learned to navigate and survive in it. We spent weekends mostly at home, when Dad was off from work. The weekends were when Dad closely monitored my piano practice, and when we all listened to WQXR, the classical music station.

Dad and I played a game, a challenge to identify the composer of a piece playing on the radio. I had a difficult time differentiating among the symphonies of composers from the classical and romantic periods: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Bizet, Dvořák, Saint-Saëns. But I could always identify Paganini. We often heard his violin concertos—numbers one and two were the most often presented. My challenge then was to guess the number.

These times with music and my father were in a universe apart from the dirty and dangerous streets below our flat, but not a heaven. Dad was often mad in those days.

Fifty years later I moved from California to Stockholm, Sweden to live with Eva. She has a framed portrait of Paganini, a sketch drawn with a fine-pointed instrument.

The portrait was a gift from one musician to another, the recipient being Eva’s maternal grandfather, Heinrich Rottman. Heinrich played cello and formed chamber groups as he traveled Europe. He was sometimes a mentor to his fellow musicians.

He met Regina Andersson while performing in Stockholm and decided to stay a while. They married and he eventually became a Swedish citizen which, a few years later, enabled him to avoid being drafted into the German army at the beginning of World War One.

The back of the picture is fully covered by a long document in German script, giving details of the life of Paganini. It has this dedicatory heading by the artist/musician, “G. Sieverding”:

Sieverding to Rottman

The Holy Trinity Icon

Dad’s father, Alexander K. Pavellas, was a major supporter of the Greek Orthodox Church, St. Sophia, in San Francisco. He was godfather to many children, including my mother—but there was no further connection between the two families until Dad and Mom met seventeen years later.

Alexander was godfather to his wife’s nephew, Nestor Harpending Palladius. Nestor’s father, George Demetrious Papageorge-Palladius, added the “-Palladius” to his own and his son’s name so Nestor could adopt the “Palladius” part for his own. Here is a record of the baptism: 

5eb1d-genevieve26georgedatnestor27sbaptism-1-vert

This picture was one of a few dad left behind. Before his death, which was gradual but certain, he destroyed many books, documents, and pictures. His memories and dreams haunted him throughout his life.

I came across the picture in Stockholm as I began organizing my genealogical documents. I contacted the Greek Church in San Francisco to see if they had an interest in the picture. Jim Lucas, President of the San Francisco Greek Historical Society, was joyful upon seeing the image I had sent by email. The picture was unique in that it included all the priests at the beginning of St. Sophia’s. He invited me to be interviewed as part of their historical research. When I next traveled to California, I gave him the original picture and recounted for the record everything I remembered about Alexander and George who were partners in business and other enterprises.

Angelsatmamre-trinity-rublev-1410A few months later in Stockholm, I received from the Society a reproduction of the 15th century icon of the three angels who appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre. The site of the oak was acquired in 1868 by Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) for the Church of Russia, and the Monastery of the Holy Trinity was founded nearby. The icon has since been known as “The Holy Trinity”.

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Sculptor August Saint-Gaudens in Bed with his Model, Harriette Eugenia Anderson

Another family heirloom I encountered upon moving in with Eva was this etching by the Swedish artist Anders Zorn. It had been a gift, or payment in kind, to her physician father. It was on the wall of her, now our, bedroom, which seem the appropriate place. We did not then know the identities of the subjects in the picture, and I was not yet aware of Zorn.

Later, as I visited museum and galleries in Stockholm, I became aware of what a great artist Zorn was, and how much I like his representations of females. I dubbed him the Swedish Renoir, the latter being a favorite artist when I discovered the impressionist movement in my twenties. I share the appreciation of the feminine which these men have, but they have the artistic gift to go further. I wrote a little story featuring Zorn: “Swedish Affaires”.

One gallery lately advertised a showing of Zorn’s work which I, of course, visited. What I found in addition to more studies of the female in nature and in the bath, were the many portrait-etchings Zorn made of friends and patrons. They reminded me of the one at home and I searched the gallery to see if I could find a print of it. I didn’t.

Back home I told Eva of my experience and she said, yes, it was Zorn’s etching she had. See, there’s the signature. Her father was told it was an original print and therefore valuable, but she recently was learned it was a copy. Years later, upon our moving our bed to another room, the picture moved to the closet.

But then my wall became vacant and she suggested hanging it there. Admiring all of Zorn’s work, I was glad to have it there. It stimulated me to find out more. This is some of what I learned:

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848 – 1907) was an American sculptor who embodied the ideals of the “American Renaissance”. Raised in New York City, he achieved success for his monuments commemorating heroes of the American Civil War. Saint-Gaudens was also interested in numismatics. He designed the $20 “double eagle” gold piece for the US Mint, considered one of the most beautiful American coins ever issued. (Source)

Swedish artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920) etched a portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) and his model while visiting the sculptor’s New York City studio on February 14, 1897. The nude woman positioned behind the sculptor in the print is Harriette Eugenia Anderson, also a model for the Victory of Saint-Gaudens’s Sherman Monument and the twenty-dollar gold coin that he designed for the United States Mint. (Source)

1907-20-Dollar-Ultra-High-Relief-Saint-Gaudens-Double-Eagle-Gold-Coin-horz-vert

Hettie Anderson was born in South Carolina in 1873. She relocated to New York City, where she became an artist’s model, an uncommon employment at that time for a woman of African-American descent. (Source)

I see the small rectangle of paper with the image created by Zorn as now imbued with gravitas. My wall has grown greater.

North America, 1831

October 18 in Sitka, Alaska, is the date and place of the annual “Changing of the Flags”. A Russian flag is lowered and a US flag is raised in re-enactment of the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the USA in 1867. It is a solemn ceremony, with men dressed in authentic Russian and American military clothing, carrying arms of the period. I happened to be there for the ceremony in 1979.

In September, 1979, I changed my job as chief executive of a hospital in Modesto, California to a similar position in Anchorage, Alaska. The Anchorage hospital was a member of the Alaska State Hospital Association which rotated its annual meetings among the Alaska cities where member hospital are located. In 1979, it was Sitka’s turn, so I traveled there to represent my hospital.

I spent several days in the City of Sitka and found “The Observatory: Rare and Common Book, Maps, Prints”. The proprietor was (and still is, except now she’s now located in Juneau) Dee Longenbaugh. I bought a book by Peter Freuchen, “Arctic Adventure”, and a map of North America. Here is its provenance:

Miniature map of North America, Bull, London, March 1st, 1831. Hand-colored Price $36.00. These tiny maps, of much modern charm, were originally sold as salesmen’s samples. This is a particularly fine example. Best seen under magnification. Warranted authentic. October twenty-fifth, 1979. Dee Longenbaugh.

The area of the map image is three inches by five inches. As one’s eyes become older, the fine detail of the map becomes more difficult to discern without the ‘magnification’ Dee Longenbaugh recommends. So, the little map traveled with me, hidden in my files until I unearthed it in Stockholm thirty-five years later.

In 1979 I didn’t have a personal computer, nor a flatbed digital scanner, nor an inkjet printer. Now I do. So I scanned the map at high resolution to create a six megabyte digital file and printed it at four times its original size (to six by ten inches). This is large enough to frame and hang on the wall for appreciation from across the opposite side of an ordinary-size room in a flat. And so it was, just over my right shoulder as I sat at my desk. But now, the blank wall gave me the opportunity to view it more directly.

To appreciate the fine detail of this map, here are two magnified portions:

Old N.A. Map-Alaska area

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Old N.A. Map-SF AreaWhen gazing at the map, as now I often do, I’m reminded of having lived in Alaska for eight winters, and in California for many summers. Perceiving the vast distances between and within these two places reminds me of my extensive travels and the memories they collected. Two of my children were born in Alaska, and now another lives there with his wife. Click here for a record of Eva’s and my visit there in 2010.

Dee Longenbough is still in business. You can connect with her here on Facebook.

An Etching of August Strindberg by Anders Zorn

August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist, and painter. He and Anders Zorn were contemporaries, their lives overlapping for fifty-two of their respective years.

Strindberg was a figurative giant in Sweden, especially in Stockholm after he returned to his home city after many years abroad, mostly in Paris and Denmark. In 2012, on the 100th anniversary of his death, a bust of Strindberg was placed at the foot of the stairs leading to the entrance of the Royal Dramatic Theatre.

2012-04-17 Royal Dramatic Theatre-02

I had been to the Strindberg Museum in Stockholm, a flat that was his last home. He called it the “Blue Tower”.  I wrote about it here: From Orwell to Miller to Strindberg: A Journey Ending with Beethoven on a Wall.

When I visited the museum discussed further above, where I first saw the etchings of Anders Zorn, I admired an etching-portrait of Strindberg. I liked it. Upon returning home I went to the Internet to see if I could find a digital image this portrait. I did, along with what appears to be all of Zorn’s work. I greedily downloaded much of what was there, including the Strindberg, storing it all in my private digital files. Why not print a copy of the Strindberg, I asked myself? So I did, and now it hangs on the wall so I can contemplate the fusion of two great artists.

As I said, August Strindberg was a giant:

2014-07-01 Me n' Strindberg

“Portrait of Marie Jeanette de Lange”, by Jan Toorop

Earlier this year, Eva and I visited Amsterdam as first-time tourists. One of our objectives was the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum which contains more than 2,000 paintings from the “Dutch Golden Age”, roughly spanning the 17th Century, by painters such as Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, and Rembrandt. In addition, there is a rich representation from the “Impressionist” period of the 19th Century. This was the highlight for me:

Between 1860 and 1870 a group of painters in France rebelled against the prevailing academic view of the art of painting. Free from rules and traditions, they wanted to render reality as they observed it on the spot: this entailed working quickly, because the sun could disappear behind the clouds at any moment. These ‘impressionists’ (from the French word impression) strove to depict light convincingly. They captured their impressions using an innovative painting technique with loose, short brushstrokes. Famous Impressionists are Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Camille Pissaro. In the Netherlands, their manner of working influenced the painters of the Hague School and Amsterdam School.

Movements deriving from Impressionism are Neo-Impressionism or Pointillism – in which an image is built up with dots of colour – and the more symbolic and subjective Post-Impressionism, to which Vincent van Gogh is counted. (Source)

I have admired the Pointillism style since I learned of it more than 50 years ago, when I was a student at Berkeley. This was when Patricia and I received a small settlement for an auto accident injury she suffered, enough for the minimum down-payment for a house in North Berkeley, one with an “in-law” apartment which we rented out. With the income from this rental, from our part-time jobs, and my G.I. Bill, we could finally afford to spread out and, coincidentally, have more room to accommodate our pending first child, Andrea, who appeared just as I was taking final exams for my BS in 1963.

Paul Signac-02Despite our modest means, we had to have something beautiful to grace our living room. We chose a print of Paul Signac’s Santa Maria della Salute, 1904, executed in pointillist style. I loved that picture, even yearn for it still. It was lost to me through many moves, divorce, and the usual exigencies of life.

When Eva and I spent several days Paris in 2007, we visited the Père Lachaise Cemetery where many famous people in the arts and letters are buried. I was delighted to find a memorial stone for Paul Signac:

Back to the Rijksmuseum. After touring the museum to our satisfaction, we naturally ended up in the store near the portal to the ordinary world. I didn’t have anything in mind to buy, but my eye was caught by a print of a painting in pointillist style, “Portrait of Marie Jeanette de Lange”, by Jan Toorop. It now is the centerpiece for the hangings on the avocado colored wall. It is beautiful and pleasing in itself, but it also reminds me of my lost Signac.

1963 June-Ron Grad UCB Andrea Born

Ron Pavellas in his BS graduation robes, with newborn daughter Andrea, May 1963.
The print on the wall is of the painting Santa Maria della Salute, 1904, by Paul Signac.
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Sinfonia Concertante

June, 1971

I was as lonesome and low as ever I had been. Here I was in Fresno, of all remote places—remote from the big cities I was used to and the people I knew there. Fresno means “ash” in Spanish, the town being named after the Fresno River that flows from the Sierra Nevada and nourishes the groves of fig trees and other agricultural treasures of the Great Central Valley of California.

My life was in ashes. I lived three Volkswagen Beetle-hours away from my two young children whom I visited every weekend. My marriage had crumbled. I had a job in “Fresno County Mental Health.” My belongings, other than clothes and necessaries, fit into two wooden orange crates—mostly books and records. I had no disposable income after giving most of my paycheck to my soon-to-be former wife.

My father said Beethoven brought him through The Great Depression when he was struggling to hold the family business together after all his senior relatives died, and then jobless and working a government make-work job for a year until the day I was born in January, 1937. We had music in the house, always— not only Dad’s Beethoven and Brahms, but Aunt Angie’s Tchaikovsky and Chopin, Mom’s Bach (Ave Maria), Aunt Bee’s and Uncle Harry’s more eclectic selections, and Grandpa’s popular Greek ballads and dances.

I was the one, much later in life, who “discovered” Mozart. It was Mozart who rescued me.

I don’t know how I came upon his Sinfonia Concertante, but there it was and I played it on my portable turntable and speakers of barely adequate fidelity. It was a warm and clear Sunday morning, the first weekend since I moved to Fresno that I had not visited my two children some 200 miles away.

The first movement began in the major mode quite cheerfully, but not yet extraordinarily, but then … as the introduction concluded with the string section approaching then lingering in the upper registers, out of the sky came a sublime violin voice that soared like a bird down to earth to play for me.

My heavy heart began to stir. I opened the door to my apartment to let in the sun and warm morning air. I eased myself to a sunny spot on the floor, let the music wash over me, and was taken by Mozart to a place where, after daily playing of the piece in all its movements, I recovered my natural optimism and my life began again.

The music eventually attracted a woman a few doors away on the second level overlooking the communal swimming pool, but that’s another story…

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