It’s July now; the second half of the year. I started this on the last day of June, stood downtown under the lunchtime shade of a tree, but finished it off today in July. It’s hot again, and getting hotter, and the world is basically just going to be hot forever now. The Pacific Northwest, that should not be that hot. Davis always gets hot, but this year feels worse. Sometimes though I hate the idea of the heat more; I will choose not to go out because I know it’ll be really hot, when in fact even in the heat it can still be alright in the shade, or with the air in your face as you cycle down a long tree-lined avenue. The over-100 heat, not so much. I don’t know, I’m grateful for air-conditioning. I dread the coming of summertime now, so much. Last year with the wild fires starting so early and raging so badly, the air being so unbreathable for the best part of two months, the fires have been progressively awful each year for about four or five years. So far though, no smoky skies. I dread the summer. “Hope you are enjoying your summer!” people say, in all sincerity. Not really, the anxiety of three digit numbers lining up on my weather app is depressing. Summer is a bummer. I’m coaching soccer again; this evening out in the heat and bright sun I found it difficult to cope, let alone think clearly. The heat affects my brain I think, slows it all down. I do find myself getting dumber in the summer. Remember that terrible heat in Amsterdam in 2019, how it felt like my mind stopped working, when I even forgot my paints when going out sketching? Well no I suppose you wouldn’t remember, that happened to me. But summer does make me dumber. As it cools down I feel like my wits get sharper. But not too cold; I remember in New York in 2016 when it was so cold that even thoughts froze as they moved about your head. Me and my mate walked across Central Park in some hugely sub-zero temperatures, and by the time we reached an Subway station our minds just went completely blank, like we couldn’t quite understand the Subway map. I mean it’s hard to understand anyway but we definitely felt affected by the cold; I made a massive pan of noodles when we got in to warm us up. So the heat makes me dumb, the cold makes me dumb, maybe I am just, look I know what you’re thinking, “maybe you are just thick, Pete”. Yeah maybe. Maybe I always have been, how would I really know? Or maybe there is just an increasingly small window of temperature that I can mentally operate in. Either way, the next few days are scheduled to be 97, 102, 108, 109, 108, 102, 97 in a nice palindromic way, that’s what we want isn’t it, palindromic weather. What goes up, comes down for a couple of days then goes right up again. (By the way San Francisco, which is an hour and a half away, has temperatures of 70, 68, 68, 68, 66, 66, 66 on those same days. That’s right, it will be 42 degrees cooler in San Francisco than in Davis this weekend. Just, seriously. But I’m not going there, because if England win in the Euro 2020 semi-final that takes place in twelve hours from now, I’ll be watching that on my TV in my living room and I won’t care. I always said that if Spurs won the Premier League or Champions League or something, I would put on all my Spurs shirts and run around Davis, singing “Ossie’s Dream” and “Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur”; I own a lot of Spurs shirts, so that would be very hot. If England win it, I promise to run around Davis singing “It’s Coming Home”, “World In Motion”, and I dunno, “Cinnamon Stick”. (It won’t matter that it’s hot because I only own one England shirt.) It’s coming home; I’m staying home with the a/c on.
Day before Independence Day, the Day of England 4-0 vs Ukraine day, I went downtown on a Saturday afternoon to do some drawing and look in a couple of shops. I stopped and drew this building on 4th Street, some Law Offices I think (I need new glasses/eyesight). It was pretty quiet, I wasn’t harassed by any mad people this time (unlike just up the block a couple of months ago), and I wore my 2010 red England shirt, the only England shirt I own. (It’s coming home by the way, I don’t know if you heard, but it totally is). There were leaf blowers behind me blowing the leaves and dust or whatever, but they didn’t last long (maybe the leaves blew back, I had my headphones on). Amazingly I had never drawn this building, to the best of my knowledge. I probably have in the background of another, or maybe I have and forgot. I’ve drawn a lot of Davis drawings and usually remember them all, but I’ve been here a good long while now. Nearly sixteen years, coming up on that. I’ve been drawing it for fifteen of them. One day I’ll do a book of them. I’ll say that again in another fifteen years. I can never seem to get it together to write it, well I suppose a book of drawings doesn’t really need much writing. Be better off without it really (what was that 1 star Amazon review of one of my books that said “by the time he finished what he was saying I had forgotten what he was talking about” or something), the sketches are the words anyway. So, another one of 4th Street, Davis. Happy 4th, America!
I’m not drawing every game in the Euros or nothing, I just, well I like to draw and write things down. There were some bonkers games in the Round of Sixteen. France went out, half an hour after I had told my son that the game “had ‘Kylian Mbappe misses the decisive penalty’ written all over it”, congratulations Mystic Pete. The Dutch went out, after De Ligt batted the ball away with his big paw, and headline writers and tweeters scrambled to get the best ‘De Ligt based pun, having used every possible ‘Czech’ based pun already. (I wonder if any found a way to shoehorn “Red De Ligt District” in there somewhere? I hope not.) The Czechs had Holeš exposing holes in the Dutch defense (another low-hanging fruit for sub-editors everywhere). I’m not even going there with all the ‘Schick’ ones. And then there was Sweden-Ukraine, where the Swedish player Danielson got a red card, and my own version of the many obvious Karate Kid based jokes was “Danielson whacks on, walks off” which I thought was alright. England-Germany, Harry Kane was apparently not running much, so was being called ‘Walking Kane’ which I thought was quite funny (I still love you Harry). Portugal-Belgium, glad Belgium won that, and when Hazard’s same-height little brother scored I yelled out “That’s what I’m Thorgan about!”, but then immediately thought I should have said “Lukaku’s Thorgan” because it sounds a bit like “Look Who’s Talkin'” but it didn’t really work. This always happens when international football tournaments are on, I have fun with all of the names. In this one I tried to make Star Wars Prequels connections with the players, you had General Grealish, Count Doku, Anakin SKyleWalker, Chancellor Pal-Palhinha, Bale Organa, Darth Mæhle, Jonas Windu, Ethan Amp-idala, and, um, the Marcus side of the Forss (not to mention De Ligt side). Plus many other probably better ones.
It was my first trip down to San Francisco in almost two years, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I didn’t have a plan. Sometimes when I come to the city to sketch I know which general direction I will head in and follow my nose, but on the whole I play it safe. I might have planned this trip a little better, plotted out a route of old favourite spots plus a couple of places I’ve never been, but as it turned out I just decided wandering would be enough. Wandering and sketching, but also just wandering. When I was a teenager I would wander, I would sometimes get on a bus on a Saturday morning from Burnt Oak headed to Harrow or Hendon wherever, find a library or a bookshop to sit in all day reading, or get a travelcard and jump on a tube down into central London, and just explore an area until it got dark, no particular plan, and where I went was where I went, then come home for dinner. I would follow my nose. I wasn’t sketching as much out and about when I was a teenager, just occasionally, but not making it my main reason for going anywhere. These days I don’t get to wander quite as often, so when I do I usually feel like I have to have a collection of sketches by the end of the day to make it worth the effort of all that wandering.
On this particular Saturday morning, when I was on a solo overnight trip to San Francisco to wander and sketch, I watched the Denmark-Finland game in my hotel room on the 23rd floor, and was pretty shocked by what happened to Christian Eriksen. He has been one of my favourite players for years, all those seasons at Tottenham, so to see him almost die on the field on live TV was very disturbing. His picture is still on my son’s wall, along with others from that great Tottenham team that nearly made it (but not quite). The game was called off before half time (though they restarted later that day), and after a while on the phone to my wife who was watching it too, I went down the end of the hallway and sketched the view across the city to gather my thoughts a bit. There is a lot of detail to cover. I’ve always wanted to just look over the San Francisco cityscape and pick out the puzzle. You really have to observe. Putting one thing slightly out of place or making a building that bit too narrow in relation to the other ones around it can mess everything else up. It’s therapeutic though. I stood and sketched this rather than sat at the desk in my room which would have been comfier, but I did have to check out of the room before I finished so I wanted to give myself more time for the details. I did colour it in later though on the train back. The blank area in the corner, that wasn’t because there was something in the way, I just never got to that part of the city, but I did draw the skyline above it, so it looks like a panhandle. This isn’t “the” Panhandle though, which is up near Haight, this is Nob Hill, as it rises out of Chinatown, which is a pretty big area of the city. That’s where I headed next, after dropping off my card key, I went across to Portsmouth Square Gardens.
I’d never actually walked through Portsmouth Square before, so this fulfilled the ‘something new’ check box. It’s not super exciting, but it was pretty interesting as a place for people from the neighbourhood to hang out on a sunny Saturday lunchtime. I remember one of the Worldwide Sketchcrawls being held here in Portsmouth Square many years ago, but I didn’t go on that one, so I’m not sure why I brought it up, other than it’s always made me wonder about coming sketching here. There were so many interesting people here though that I mostly just did some quick people sketching. It feels like a very long time since I have come to a public place and done quickfire people sketching. Most people were Chinese, of all ages, but mainly older people. Some were sat on benches feeding birds, or talking occasionally to each other, or gathered in groups playing a very involved card game around a bench, there were several such groups. Everyone wore masks, no exceptions. I did too. I drew some of the rooftops above us, and also a statue called the ‘Goddess of Democracy’, a replica of the one from Tiananmen Square in Beijing, placed here in 1989 during the events there that year. I listened to a passing tour guide as I drew, referencing that it’s difficult for people to reference that event online there, that they would use terms like the “35th of May”. I didn’t listen in on much else of the tour, but there were several walking tour groups parading through here. Portsmouth Square is one of the most historic spots in the city, as this was the first public square in the original Mexican settlement of Yerba Buena. The name of the plaza comes from the USS Portsmouth, the ship of Captain Montgomery who took Yerba Buena for the United States and raised the flag here in 1846. The city was renamed San Francisco a year later. A year after that the prospector Sam Brannan held up his nuggets of gold here and told everyone there was a lot of it in the American River, so off they rushed towards Sacramento. After the 1906 Earthquake, Portsmouth Square became a place of refuge for those displaced from their homes. These days it’s sometimes called the “Heart of Chinatown”.
I walked through Chinatown, mostly looking for the perfect spot to draw, where I wasn’t going to be in the way of anyone walking past, not in the sunlight which was pretty strong. It was colourful, and I’d intended on doing a colourful lively sketch, but in the end I stood on the corner of Sacramento and Grant and drew the sketch below, with little bits of colour popping out. Along the street some drummers were playing while some performers did some balancing acts, it looked like they were having a great old time. San Francisco’s Chinatown is generally considered the oldest outside Asia, even the largest. Certainly in the context of California, the most historic. Apparently it is “the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan” with most residents being monolingual speakers of Mandarin or Cantonese. The area dates back to the first Chinese immigrants to the city in 1850. I would love to dive deeper into this area’s history, what little I’ve read about is dripping with story.
I was hungry, but I didn’t stop for Chinese food, because I headed down Grant to that French place, Cafe De La Presse, and at outside there while an voice of unknown location belted out live opera in Italian, echoing across each building. Refreshed from lunch, I made the mistake of going through the Union Square area, rather than somewhere more interesting. I popped into the Nike store and went all the way to the very top floor, to the furthest point at the back where they were hiding the soccer shirts, just to discover that they didn’t have the new Tottenham shirt. Oh they had Chelsea and Liverpool but not Spurs. Right, fine. I went down to Market Street, not entirely sure where I was headed next. I had no intention of drawing Market Street, it’s just not that interesting, and what I like about it I have drawn before. It’s an uncomfortable place at times, Market. This is the problem with wandering though, you sometimes end up somewhere and feel a bit stuck. I thought about getting on a bus to Lower Haight, or a Muni up to the Inner Sunset, but I didn’t have change and couldn’t be bothered figuring out how things are done now. I did have a BART pass though, so I just went down into the subway and jumped on the first train and headed towards the Mission.
Each area of San Francisco has its historic culture. North Beach is the Italian area, Chinatown is Asian, The Castro is historically associated with the gay community, the Haight is the Hippies; and everywhere is the expensive real estate developers and gentrifiers pricing all these communities out. Historically, the Mission is a mostly Hispanic part of San Francisco, and there are lots of murals celebrating the Latin American community. Since I first came down there the area has been changing, going more upmarket and trendy, but it still has a lot of character. The large Mission Burrito was invented here. I had a massive burrito, about the size of a Greyhound bus, after I was done sketching. I wandered, coming across the colourful Clarion Alley, a narrow street of political murals between Mission and Valencia. I was going to sketch there but it was getting late. Plus, some bits smelled quite strongly of wee. I did sketch on 16th by the Roxie, whose distinctive sign was much harder to see than I remember, due to the growth of the trees around it. I remember years ago photographing this (not having had time to draw it evidently; come back another time I probably told myself)and there being no foliage around it, or very very little, but not now, those trees have grown. Still I stood beneath and got an okay view, and again despite it being quite a colourful scene I only added the red bits. It was busy in the Mission, most of the bars had full-up outside seating/standing areas, it would have been quite a nice afternoon to stand outside with a pint and people watch, but my legs were tired, really tired, and I wanted to get to Mission Dolores Park. In Covid times as in normal times, the park was packed, as you’d expect on a hot Saturday afternoon in June, with most people being young trendy types. Unlike in Chinatown, very few people were masked. Well it’s not required now, but I kept mine on anyway because I sometimes sing to myself when sketching, and I can pretend it was someone else if anyone looks. Not that that would be a problem here, several people had their music on for others to hear. I actually listened to a podcast about the X-Men (not the usual one, but a different one, this one talking in depth about Nightcrawler) and drew the skyline. It was a pretty pleasant way to spend the rest of the day before heading back to Davis. A lot has changed in this skyline since I moved here to California. It was a clear day, no fog at all, and I really enjoyed my little bit of time back in the city. I wish it were a little bit more normal (maybe a bit more space in the street and not so many outside seating huts, making things feel claustrophobic and yet remote; not so easy for a weary wanderer to just pop into a dark cool bar to refresh during a day’s heavy sketching), but the world is evolving, and I’m happy to have finally gone and had a look at some of it.
You might like to see a whole Flickr album of my San Francisco sketches going back to 2006 or 2007, when I first started coming down here to wander about. It’s interesting to see how the city and my style of sketching has changed in all that time. Here it is: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157602126887832.
So, I went down to San Francisco for the first time in nearly two years for an overnighter. It was a beautiful early evening as my Amtrak bus crossed the Bay Bridge; I had come down on the train after work on a Friday and it was still light enough when I got there to get to the hotel, and get out for some sketching before dinner. My hotel was tall – I was on the 23rd floor, so I had an amazing view over the city. I couldn’t resist drawing some of that view from my hotel room window, while I didn’t colour it in or finish all the details it was great to sit at a desk and look over this view, even with my increasingly poor eyesight. Sutro Tower poked out above the fog-free sky, and the evening light was soft. But I wanted to get outside and wander, to see what was different about the city in my two year absence.
First of all, the restaurants and bars all have outdoor seating on specially built wooden platforms that come out into the street. It makes a lot of the areas around North Beach feel quite crowded, and more claustrophobic than before. I was right by Chinatown, and many of the restaurants there had the same thing, and were fairly busy. A few places were closed; the Comstock Saloon (which I drew two years ago, while enjoying a delicious cocktail). still had boards over the windows, with signs dated March 2020 saying they were closing for a bit. With so many other places still operating (such as Mr Bing’s across the street, which was positively bursting with merry drinkers on its wooden platforms) it was a shame to see the Comstock closed. I sketched in the street in Chinatown stood in the gap between two covered outside seating areas, the Great Star Theatre, but didn’t bother adding colour.
Everywhere in North Beach was quite crowded, so I found a less busy restaurant down the quieter end of Columbus, and had some gnocchi. I grabbed a cannoli at Mara’s for dessert, before stopping at Vesuvio’s for an Anchor steam before bed. I sat in the small outdoors platform, with the traffic of Columbus zooming by, and drew the above. There were many people sat at tables in the well-lit Jack Kerouac alley in between City Lights and Vesuvio, you had to be directed to your seat by the Vesuvio door man and service was table-only, but you could go in to sue the toilet. In fact there was limited seating indoors too but very limited, and all taken. As things open up a bit more, things will start getting back to some kind of normal, I am just glad to see that Vesuvio, and my favourite place across he street, Spec’s, is still operating in These Unusual Times. I finished up by beer and my sketch and went to bed; my hotel was only five minutes’ walk away.
So when I woke up in the morning, I popped down to the donut place on the corner of Kearny and Columbus, and did an early sketch of that very scene looking down past Vesuvio, toward the TransAmerica Pyramid. I have of course drawn this view a few times before. It was 8:30am but already warm, for the city. I drew what I could and then headed back to the hotel to watch the Denmark-Finland game, which turned out to be the one in which Christian Eriksen collapsed. I went out after the game was abandoned (temporarily as it turned out) and sketched for the rest of the day. I’ll post those another time. It was good to finally be back in the city, I’ve missed it, but it’s not yet the same. I suppose in this city, it’s never the same.
And so, if you are following Euro 2020 (held in 2021; don’t worry about it), today was the day the Group Stages finished. It was an exciting end; as the last games played out simultaneously to decide the last few spots, teams moving up and down their mini-group with each goal, the phrase “If It Stays Like This” played on repeat. Some very good games, some not quite so good ones, and of the 24 teams that started, 8 are now out. I remember in the last Euros I drew some of the games (see here), so I thought yeah why not, let’s draw some of the games. And write in the commentary as I hear it on the TV. I started with Italy v Switzerland, and drew five more, below. I’m not going to bother talking about the games, but here are the matches I drew. The best was probably Wales beating Turkey, but the Germany v Portugal game was pretty fun as well. England played Scotland, the ‘oldest international game’, and just like that first one in 1872 it ended 0-0. Though in that very first game, England played with seven forwards and Scotland with five, though none were able to score. Apparently the Copa America is going on as well right now, someone asked if I was watching that too. No, no I’m not, I may be historically obsessed with the Euros (see previous post) but after this past season, boy I’m overloaded with football. There needs to be a good break from football after this tournament. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a few days off watching people in coloured shirts kicking a ball around, then this weekend it will start up again with the knockouts. England will play Germany next week in the ‘Southgate 96 Rematch’. I’m going to call it now – I am officially Writing Off Germany. At my Peril. I probably won’t draw that match. Probably…
Despite living here in northern California since my twenties, I had never been to Oakland. Never! Well, I’d been through it on the BART, on the way to San Francisco, but that’s not the same. And we flew out of and back into the airport once. or was it twice? Also, on my very first trip to the US, way back in 2002, my future brother-in-law took me to a baseball game at the Coliseum, where we watched the Oakland A’s play against the Cleveland Indians. That was back when the Indians had their old ‘Chief Wahoo’ logo. It was the first time I had experienced American sport, and it was completely different from going to the football in England. There were families there, they all did this ballpark song after about the seventh innings, you spent most of the time getting food and beer, but they had TVs in the food line and the toilets so you could see what was going on, and then there were the garlic fries, an experience I’ll never forget. So anyway that was my only experience of Oakland, and since living in Davis, I had never actually been to Oakland proper, walked around, sketched. Why not? I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t go down to the Bay Area very often and usually just go to San Francisco, and occasionally Berkeley. Oakland was never talked about as “oh you should go to Oakland, yeah”, more “oh you should not go to Oakland, yeah”, usually making references to the murder rate. So I had just never been. That’s not that unusual really, I wasn’t actively avoiding it, just never got around to it. There are places in London I’ve never been. I’ve never been to the Thamesmead Estate. Bad example, actually, that’s hard to get to from north London and has a bit of a crime-y reputation. (So maybe it’s a good example?) Ok, well I’ve never been to Fulham. I’ve never been to Richmond Park. I’ve never been to Putney, supposed to be nice there, I’ve never bothered going. Further afield, I’ve never been to Wales. I’ve never been to Bournemouth, or the Peak District, or Hadrian’s Wall. So Oakland is just another place that’s just there, it’s not going anywhere, and I’ve just never really gotten around to going to. So a couple of weeks ago I decided fairly spur of the moment to put that right. I got on a train to the Bay Area (see my previous post if you don’t believe me), jumped on the BART at Richmond (and it was a very modern BART, much has changed in two years), and got out at 12th Street Oakland. It was a Sunday lunchtime, and was pretty quiet. You had the usual characters shuffling about that you get in any big city street, no more than Davis really, the fact it was a Sunday meant it felt a little bit empty of usual foot traffic. Not a lot of people come to hang out in downtown Oakland on a Sunday, like many American cities actually. I knew I wanted to go and sketch the tall tower of the Oakland Tribune (‘Tribune Tower’; not really used by the newspaper any more) so I found that, stood by a bus stop and sketched the top of it. I didn’t know what to expect of downtown Oakland, so I thought I could maybe draw this, look around, and if nothing else seems interesting I’d just jump back on the BART to Berkeley, which I at least already know. I ended up staying the rest of the afternoon in Oakland, just exploring a bit, and I’m glad I did because I found a few gems, and a vibe I don’t find in San Francisco, and certainly not Davis.
I wandered about, not exactly sure where to go, having no real orientation for the area. There’s nowhere in downtown Oakland that anyone has ever recommended to me to go and sketch so I was climbing free solo. Ok, I wasn’t climbing free solo, I was walking around a few streets within a block or two of a BART station, I’m hardly doing the Appalachian Trail. I followed my nose though. I drew a fire hydrant (below) because they look a bit different, and you have to capture one wherever you go. Then I found the beautiful Fox Oakland Theatre, with the big Oakland sign, and found a doorway with some shade across the street to draw it in. It opened in 1928, but as the sign says it has been ‘dark’ since 3/13/20, that fateful day when These Unprecedented Times began. I always struggle to capture the grandness of a tall ornate theatre on a small Moleskine page, but it was too sunny to stand beneath it and draw with a sense of perspective so across the street in a shady doorway I hid. The building closed in the mid-sixties and was used only occasionally for a number of years, and in the mid-seventies they nearly tore it down and put up a parking lot. But Oakland knew what they had before it was gone, and so plans to Joni the Mitchell out of that old building were scrapped and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Eventually it was restored and refurbished, and reopened in 2009 as a concert hall. Now of course, still closed during the pandemic… but that’s changing, and on their website it looks like shows have been announced from September, people like Wilco, Judas Priest, and… Madness! Apparently Madness will be playing there next May. Wow! Might have to look into that.
I got hungry. I had passed a sign for “Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken” earlier, and that sounded good. I mean it’s World Famous so it must be good, right? I ain’t joking – best decision ever. I got a three piece meal of white meat chicken, and WOW it was huge, and absolutely delicious. This was no KFC, no late-night London pre-night-bus chicken, this was a lot of tender meat with the most amazing batter, spicy with the hot sauce but with refreshing coleslaw to offset it. I sat inside the restaurant (good choice, this would have been too big to eat out on the street), and the server was really friendly. Made the whole day trip worth it.
I wandered about some more. There are lots of murals in downtown Oakland, particularly in support of black lives matter, and black rights movements in general. Oakland is a well known African-American community city and many prominent black figures have come from Oakland, such as Ryan Coogler, the director who made Marvel’s Black Panther (the opening scenes of that film are set in Oakland) as well as Fruitvale Station. MC Hammer is from Oakland. Oakland is also the birthplace of Vice President Kamala Harris. I wandered around a few blocks, looking for something to draw. Outside a bar there was an open sir seating area fenced off, with loud music playing. I saw that there was a drag artist singing (actually miming) and dancing along to songs from Madonna and the like, putting in brilliant colourful performances. It looked like there were several performing one after another, not to a big crowd, just a few seated people drinking, but it was pretty magnificent to watch. It’s Pride Month, I think it was related to that. So I listened to the music and drew nearby, this old building on the corner of 15th. Further down the street, I came across a small gallery that was closed, but the name jumped right out at me: “Burnt Oak Gallery“! It was clearly meant to be. I didn’t have a lot of time until my BART back to Richmond (they aren’t too frequent on Sundays), and I got the train back to Davis having finally checked Oakland off my list, and I will be back for more of that fried chicken.
After a very long time, I finally went on a train. On public transportation, first time since the start of the Strange Times. It was a big step. California is Opening Up, I’m all vaccinated, and I needed to get out of Davis for the day. So, I took the train down to Oakland, a city that I’ve never actually been to. Amazing isn’t it, I have lived here for sixteen years and yet never been to Oakland. Well I say I’ve never been, I’ve been through it on the BART many times, and I’ve been to the airport once. On the very first trip I took to the US in 2002 I even went to watch the Oaland A’s. I have never been to Oakland proper though; I will post the sketches another day. For now here is the sketch I did in red pen on the Amtrak train to Richmond (I got the BART after that to Oakland). This was the very last page of the Moleskine sketchbook (Sketchbook #39). I liked it do much that a week later I went back on the train, this time heading for San Francisco, where I spent an overnighter exploring and sketching. Another post for that. I opened a brand new Moleskine sketchbook (Sketchbook #40) and on the first page I drew the purple pen train sketch below. People wore their masks except when drinking or eating; the group in front of me here were all cyclists. The trains are never particularly busy when I get on them so it felt quite normal really, and I was I admit delighted to be on the train again. It’s been two years since I had my last sketching day out in San Francisco, amazingly. Every time I travel I think, I’m not going to draw the train again am I, but then I’m there and I think, yes I am actually. Here’s the album of most of my in-voyage sketches (planes, trains and…other trains): https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157671776646978
This is a building on F Street in downtown Davis. I drew it in May. This was like, a month ago now. It was a hot day, but these days we are in a really bad heatwave – a ‘heat dome’ I heard it called – so May seems like a balmy long-gone era. Who am I kidding, all the days and months roll into one. I have some sketches from Oakland and San Francisco to post, but I’ve not actually done that much Davis sketching lately. Yes it’s too hot, but also I’ve just not been inspired much to draw Davis, it’s so hot and I’m at home anyway. F Street… “F” is for “Father’s Day”, and today is Father’s Day. My dad always said lots of words beginning with “F”, well one “F” word, a lot. Well we Londoners tend to use that word a lot. I used the “F” word quite a lot this morning when we discovered a fairly sizeable black widow making good use of our backyard chair. The hot weather has made them bold. I had to move into executioner mode. I even went and changed costume (from shorts to long sleeve pants) and got the spray and swatter. Well, we can sit safely again on the chair. I know there are more, in Davis there are always more. The heat is on. It’s going to be a long, long summer.
“Who’s going to win the Euros?” you ask. I don’t care. Despite all of this, despite the elaborate chart I have made, despite my collection of shirts, despite that massive long autobiographical post I made with digital illustrations of players past, despite getting up at 6am to watch Scotland lose to the Czechs, despite all the flag banners I have put up and the paper mosaic flags I have painstakingly made (they go back several tournaments), despite hunting in vain for this year’s Euro 2020 Panini album here in California and then finally just spending money ordering it online just to have it with all the others, despite all of this I don’t actually care who wins the bloody thing. I don’t care who wins the groups, I don’t even really care who wins the games themselves, although obviously I want England to win theirs (yet I will wear the Scotland shirt this Friday when they both play, my son will wear the England shirt), and it would be nice if England actually won the tournament, there’s been too many years of hurt. Perhaps instead of “Jules Rimet still gleaming” someone could sing about the “Henri Delauney”, to the tune of Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely”. But no, I don’t actually care. Several reasons, firstly I am exhausted from football. It’s been a long couple of years. Imagine how the players feel. Secondly, Spurs aren’t in it, so I always feel differently about international football. Thirdly, watching Christian Eriksen nearly die on the pitch live on TV on Saturday morning scared and horrified me a bit. I was actually in a hotel in San Francisco at the time, and just couldn’t believe it. I can’t really comprehend all the feelings I have about that incident, all I can say now is that I am so glad he lived and is, as much as we know, ok. Alive. I was going to draw him in Illustrator tonight but I’m still upset thinking about him on that pitch, surrounded by his team-mates, trying to bring him back. I have a soft spot for Denmark having spent a formative summer there at the end of my teens, but I love Eriksen. He spent a long time at Spurs, he could have left long before but didn’t, when he finally decided he needed a new challenge he went to Italy and won the Serie A title with Inter, and bloody good for him. He was long part of my favourite ever Spurs team (maybe equal to the Ossie/Hoddle/Waddle/Allen etc team) and he’s still on my son’s wall; that Tottenham team forms part of the bond I have with my son, so I have a lot of affection for Eriksen. That’s all I can say on that. It wouldn’t be fair to say it’s made me not care about the Euros, on the contrary it’s probably made me appreciate all the players who take part in it more, they are human beings doing what they love so we can watch them. I think I don’t care who will win because I just want it to be all good and worth it. It doesn’t really matter who wins. Though of course, tell me that when England are in a penalty shootout in the quarter finals and I am in the kitchen eating a packet of Pringles too nervous to watch. As I write all the teams have played once; I drew this during the first match, Italy vs Turkey. You’ll see from the note that we had a plumbing incident, that would be the toilet spewing out sewage, which I was hoping wasn’t a metaphor for international football. However it was a really good start from Italy, and despite my reservations about this multi-country tournament I absolutely love that many teams are playing in front of home crowds. After this bloody year, it feels really fantastic, especially watching Italy in Rome with Andrea Bocelli banging out ‘Nessun Dorma’ (though of course Pavarotti was better; I said to my wife that it was a bit like having Ringo sing ‘Imagine’). The best bit was the little remote control car that drove out onto the field with the match ball on top of it. Star of the show. “Is that a Volkswagen?” someone asked; I said “I think it’s a Nissan Dorma”. Sorry, it’s late and I just needed to get that joke out of the way. Italy looked good, they could be Dark Horses. There are lots of Dark Horses in this tournament aren’t there. Why do we say Dark Horses? I mean, horse racing usually takes place in the daytime and a Dark Horse would be easier to see. Maybe we should say Green Horses, they blend in with the grass. Or Invisible Horses. Anyway it’s been a good tournament so far, some great names, there’s this one guy called Varcheck everyone’s talking about (or it may be his wife, Varcheckova). I know, just getting those ones out of the way. I was pleased to see Sweden have a player called Danielson, it reminded me of the Karate Kid. This will be a long tournament, honestly. I don’t care who wins.