duel of the freights

030121 train tracks sm

We get long freight trains rolling through Davis. Those really long ones like you see in movies set in America, that roll across the country, miles long, maybe with a hobo in one of the cars warming his socks on a fire and ripping yarns and tall tales. In fact you might say Davis exists because of the railroad; the Union Pacific railroad build a railway triangle here after getting hold of the land from the farmers Jerome C. and Mary Davis. They are who Davis is named after actually; originally it was ‘Davisville’, but the town’s first postmaster, William Dresbach, decided ‘Davisville’ was too long for the very small envelopes they had back then, and shortened it to ‘Davis’. That was over a hundred years ago; presumably it will be shortened again someday to just ‘Dave’. It’s ironic then that old Billy Dresbach’s house, which is still standing downtown, now has the ridiculously long name of ‘Hunt-Boyer-Dresbach House’, which was ok because they developed the technology to make larger envelopes by then. This particular stretch of railroad is near my house in north Davis, where the big metal rail cars are parked for a while so that graffiti artists can finish what they were doing last time. I sometimes run along this way in the mornings. The trains aren’t always here; I came back a couple of days later to draw another section but it had gone. It’s been a while since I drew the trains, but I was just so into all the colourful graffiti I couldn’t decide which cars to draw, so I did a panorama. Workmen clanged about by a rail car further to my right, welding this and that, while I listened to an Adam Buxton podcast, an interview with Torvill and Dean. If I had interviewed Torvill and dean I would not have been able to stop myself from doing the music, pa-paa-pa-paa-pa-paa-papapa, the one they did for the cinemas. And then there would have been an awkward silence, and Torvill and Dean would have said, um, yeah, this is awkward, um, that wasn’t us. And then I would realize that I was thinking of Pearl and Dean. Which would be embarrassing, but at the same time would make a funny story to tell people later. Especially if it was true. I would have asked Dean if he still heard from Pearl, and for balance I would have asked Torvill if she still saw Keith Harris. Look I was a kid when they were famous, yeah. There were lots of double acts when I was a kid, it was hard to tell them all apart. I was always drawing, I was too busy to lift my head up to actually pay attention to anything, unless it was Tottenham, or Formula 1. Oh how times have changed. But there were a lot of double acts, you had Rod Hull and Emu, you had Rod Jane and Freddy, you had Little and Large, you had Cannon and Ball, you had Hoddle and Waddle, you had Dempsey and Makepeace, basically everyone was a double act. At this point in my pretend interview with Torvill and Dean they are getting ready to walk out, but I convince them to stay, that I would take it seriously. And as soon as they do I’d say, I’m skating on thin ice now eh. I have personally only ice-skated once in my life, when I was 15 years old, in Austria while I was on a school exchange trip. I couldn’t do it. It was cold, I fell over a lot, I had absolutely no idea how people actually moved. People would get on the ice and suddenly off they went. I actually took my skates back and said the batteries need changing. I also had Gluhwein for the first and last time then too, I think it was more glue than wine. 

The graffiti looks good on the side of these trains though, adds a lot of colour and turns them into a moving art gallery. I don’t live so close to the railroads that I hear them at night any more, but when I lived in south Davis I was a little closer to the main line that runs east-west and at 1am when the big long mile-long cargo train would roll through it would make my apartment rumble slightly. Even here though we do feel the vibrations of the earth moving slightly, it’s not earthquakes, it’s those long trains. Or maybe it’s bears or something. I liked drawing this panorama though. Click on the image for a closer view. 

the corner of 3rd and e

3rd and E Davis Feb 2021 sm

Been a little while since I wrote a post, though I have been drawing. It’s March again now, so we’ve come a year since last March. I suppose we always do, except last March hasn’t ended yet. That’s what we all say. So on this one day last month, the day before my birthday, I was downtown with the family getting new football boots for my son, and I decided to stay down there and draw a panorama. This is the corner of 3rd and E Streets, and I stood off to the side out of the way, six feet from any passer-by, and drew as much as I could. I finished it off later. I’m quite pleased with it. Click on it to see it in close-up. I last drew the house on that corner about a decade ago, when I had that show at the Pence. There it is below. It’s one of the cutest houses in downtown Davis. I draw 3rd Street quite a bit. 

nice house on 3rd and E eee

walker hall, nearly there

020321 Walker Hall Graduate Center sm

This is the almost-ready Graduate Center in the almost-refurbished historic Walker Hall, on the UC Davis campus. If you have been reading this site for a while you might have seen this building once or twice; see all the previous posts at petescully.com/tag/walker-hall. Well the little huts where all the construction workers go have been moved away, and so I had a pretty good view from across Hutchison, though the fence is still up. I did this fairly quick panorama while I was on campus earlier this month. Click on the image to see a close-up.  

And this is what it looked like back in January 2014! Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, as Bowie would say. If he were still alive. I wish Bowie were still alive.

panoramarathon: walker hall

the answer, my friend…

TLC pano 011921 sm

This as you may know from previous posts is one of the new buildings that have been popping up on campus the past few years that I can’t help but draw as they grow. This is the Teaching and Learning Complex, or TLC, next to the Silo which is away to the left there. Behind that tree. On the day I drew this, the wind was blowing hard, blowing off some of the coverings on the building. It was also the last day of the Trump presidency, speaking of wind blowing hard. I’ve been waiting to use that one, I thought of it when I was drawing. I drew most of this fairly quickly for a panorama, it was the afternoon and I was working on campus, and had to drop something off at the international department, which these days of hardly anyone being on campus means some coordination and passing off of a brown inter-office envelope at an outside location. It makes me feel like a secret agent or something. Anyway I got that out of the way earlier than expected so I had a bit of time before my weekly COVID test, a requirement for those who do come to work on campus (and I come in once or twice a week) (I am bored of working from home and miss the office, which has fewer snack distractions or cats begging me to turn on the taps at the sink). I coloured it in later, the blowing hard wind not really the place for the watercolour set. We have had much harder blowing wind since, there was a big storm that rumbled across northern California last week taking down so many trees here in Davis, it was a scary, noisy night.

Changing the subject completely, a few months ago the legendary presenter of the game-show Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, passed away and his final show was broadcast recently. The show is now continuing with a new host, Ken Jennings, a well-known former Jeopardy champion who for all the will in the world is not a game-show host. I think technically he is a ‘guest host’, but it got me thinking about all the game shows I used to like years ago in Britain, and so my wife and I discussed those game shows we had when we were kids, her ones being over here in the US and mine being very much anything with Bruce Forsyth. There were many that crossed the Atlantic (the most recent one being British game show The Chase which we had seen on previous visits back home, but just started here, also with Ken Jennings and two other Jeopardy champs as the ‘chasers’, including my son’s favourite James Holzhauer). At this point in the story I should start listing all of them, your Price Is Rights, your Generation Games, but I can’t really remember them all (I’d have been useless on the Generation Game), and then this becomes another blog post about ‘member this? ‘Member that? ‘Member when we had TV and everyone watched TV, etc. I’m not sure why I’m bringing it up in fact, and I think this is a topic for a longer post that I already would advise against reading. But game shows do add a lot to the language, in certain catchphrases and sayings that filter in to the common consciousness, a bit like how sporting terms crop up in conversation without you knowing the origins. For example we all say things like “that came out of left field”, which is a baseball term (nothing to do with the musician who did that track with John Lydon in the 90s). Or we will say “they had a good innings” when someone dies, more from cricket than baseball. Or we might say someone is “out for the count” which is from either boxing or vampire slaying, both popular sports you don’t see on regular TV any more (I think vampire slaying is still available on “pray per view” channels). I do often find myself using phrases from old games shows that I realize might not have been as popular over here. For example I was at the supermarket buying fruit, and I says to the fruitmonger, “you don’t get nothing for a pear…” and they didn’t respond “…not in this game!” In meetings at work, if someone says I have made good points, I always respond with “and what do points make? Prizes!” while rubbing my chin, while everyone stares and blinks. I was at the card shop, and I was buying some birthday cards and I said “dollies, do your dealing” and the look I got, well, let’s just say it wasn’t “nice to see you, to see you nice”. Basically growing up my whole vocabulary was shaped by Bruce Forsyth. I want to point out that I never say any of those things in public in America because I’m not insane, but it does remind me that I grew up with tv game show hosts being proper tv game show hosts. So farewell Alex Trebek, I hope that a worthy full-time successor comes along at some point (although not necessarily with lots of outdated eighties-era catchphrases).

just visitin’

B & 5th panorama 011621 sm

I’ve been trying to draw every day in January, and except for one I think I have done. Ok two, including today, unless I get a sketch in before bedtime. However there is currently a huge storm rolling through northern California and I’m sure the power will go down any moment. Lights are flickerin’, rain is pourin’, wind is howlin’. Trees are takin’ a rollickin’. The gusts are so strong, they have blown the ‘g’ away from the end of all these verbs. We’ve not had much weather this winter, such as on this particular Saturday when I drew this, when it was bright, sunny, a typically fresh January afternoon in Davis. I got out of the house, mask on, and cycled down B Street to the corner of 5th, and decided to draw the view across this school parking lot, looking over at Newman Chapel. Click on it to see a bigger view, if you need to.

Saturday afternoons, sometimes I will stick on a movie, preferably something I have seen a lot of times so I can do something else while it’s on, such as build some Lego, get on with some drawing, do the laundry, cycle downtown and sketch a panorama, that sort of thing. Most recently I rewatched one of my favourite films that I’ve not seen in ages, Les Visiteurs. Les Visiteurs was a French film I first watched in about 1993 or 1994, starring Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, utterly silly in a French humour kind of way. It’s about this knight (Godefroy le Hardi) and his vassal (Jacquouille la Fripouille) who get accidentally transported into the present day (that is, 1993; god knows what they’d make of 2021). Despite the silliness, Reno plays it with such a sincere seriousness, and every single other character is well fleshed out in their own way, I just love it. I was learning French at the time and I would watch it all the time, and funniest of all are the terrible subtitles (“toil toil never recoil”). The soundtrack too is epic, as you would expect from the best French flicks, rivalling Jean de Florette (another of my favourites, along with Manon des Sources). I did watch the sequel Les Visiteurs 2: Les Couloirs du Temps, on VHS when I lived in France, without the subtitles and with a different actor playing Dame Frenegonde, and it wasn’t anywhere near as good. I didn’t have high hopes, whenever I asked French friends about it they shrugged indifferently; but the again they tended to do that a lot in France. Also I once went to a nightclub outside Charleroi in Belgium called Les Couloirs du Temps and it wasn’t all that. See, I shrug indifferently too. I never saw the English language remake Just Visiting that came out about 20 years ago, starring the same two main actors, but with Christina Applegate and set in Chicago for some reason. I shrugged highly differently at that, taking it as an abomination unto a classic of French cinema at the time, but Les Visiteurs isn’t exactly Le Chateau de ma Mère or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg or one of those other ones I haven’t actually watched (though I did a course in French cinema at university), and now I think I’d actually like it in a funny retro sort of way. And then there was a more recent one, back in French, following on from Les Couloirs du Temps, called Les Visiteurs: La Révolution, set during revolutionary France (and called ‘Les Visiteurs: Bastille Day’ in English, for some reason). I’ve not seen that one yet. But nothing can take away from the original Les Visiteurs, one of my favourite films of all time. 


fifth street between b and c

 5th st panorama, Davis

This is Fifth Street, between B and C. (Click on the image to see it in more detail, on my Flickr site). That is the Newman Chapel on the left there, with the blue building also bein part of the Newman complex. The last time I drew this building was two years ago, January 2019, shortly after the terrible news of young Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona’s death, shot in cold blood by a man who lived a block away. That was an awful tragedy, and today (January 10) marks two years since it happened. The spot where it happened is now marked with a bench commemorating Officer Corona, which you can make out on the right of the drawing. Still unbelievable, the events of that night. I think that was the first time we had to ‘shelter-in-place’ since coming to Davis (obviously much more familiar with the term now). I always think about it when passing down this stretch of Fifth. I drew most of this at lunchtime when on my way from home to a meeting on campus at the Silo, though I did pop into the football shirt shop (Football and Lifestyle) on the way and pick up the new Spurs 3rd kit, looks great.

memor(i)al union

MU panorama Oct 2020 sm

Another panorama, this time in the Moleskine. Click on the image for a closer view. This is the Memorial Union (or “Memor al Union” if the sign is correct) at UC Davis. I don’t know if I ever drew this whole view before. Campus is much quieter than it is supposed to be, although there are still people about. Jeez I miss everyone. I wish everyone were on campus. I come in a couple of times a week, to get things done in the office, and I’ll get a sandwich from the Silo Market, showing my Symptom Survey each time, but it’s just so quiet. We will be almost fully remote in Winter as well, and probably Spring. It’s hard, but I can’t imagine how isolating it must be feeling for students. I wish this pandemic were over, but it’s not. I wish this awful president we’ve had for the past four years would be over too, but we have to wait a bit longer, and boy is that going to be a headache. We do what we can to make things feel better. I like to draw. I can’t get to all the places I want to go to right now but I can imagine, and travel-dream. I spent my youth doing just that, drawing loads and dreaming of all the places I would travel to when I was old enough. Looking out of the window a lot. Also obsessing about Tottenham, and football in general. Reading books about languages. Eating noodles on toast. I guess I’m not that different from when I was 14. Except when I was fourteen I probably wasn’t reminiscing about youth, “ah remember when I was five, oh that was great”. Actually I do remember being five, I remember Spurs winning the FA Cup with Ricky Villa’s goal, but that is about it. That may also have been the year I decided to put Weetabix in my big sister’s school blazer pocket, “in case she got hungry when she was at school”. Not just the Weetabix biscuits but the milk as well. I actually remember doing it, thinking I was being really helpful. Have you ever tried to get dried Weetabix off of a bowl? Imagine trying to get it out of a blazer pocket. I also put knitting needles up her nose when she was asleep too apparently but I don’t remember that. I remember being four and being on a BBC TV show called A Little Silver Trumpet, I thought it was all real. Nursey out of Blackadder played my mum, Patsy Byrne. Most of it was filmed at White City, in the big round BBC Television Centre, but I remember going to film in Brighton. Spending hours getting my hair and face made up in black grease (it was set in olden times and we were a poor and dirty redheaded family in the slums) and the agony of having it all washed out afterwards at home. Memories are a funny thing, you have snippets of this and that, and even more grown up times can be not that much different. I obviously remember a lot about being at university, but then it’s like, do I? There are people who I know I met and spent time with but have absolutely no recollection of now, name or anything. Same with secondary school. The memories are there but are jumbled up, and appear in dreams, that strange dreamspace which looks like my old school (which no longer exists, it was knocked down), where I get lost wandering around like it is a forbidden zone, and people who are probably dead or at least quite old now appear like ghosts. That’s what I don’t like about Facebook I think (well that and all the St George’s flags), the past can sometimes be better left as a hazy memory. This is why I draw stuff. It’s more reliable than writing a diary. I can see into my head and connect with my past self better when I look at a sketchbook, whereas a diary shows me someone I don’t necessarily recognize any more. So here then is the Memor(i)al Union, on theme, at a time which frankly we ain’t gonna forget. 

any way the wind blows

3rd and A 102320 sm

The last page of this sketchbook, the last of the Seawhite of Brighton books I picked up in London last year, so on to a new book. This one was “Sketchbook 37” under the new numbering system I started last year. I need to actually put the numbers on the spines of the books and put them on a shelf sometime (right now I keep them in a box). This view is at the entrance to the UC Davis campus on 3rd Street, along A Street. The large interestingly shaped building is called the Death Star. Actually it isn’t called that officially but everyone calls it that. It’s the Social Sciences and Humanities Building. Imagine if the Galactic Empire called their Death Star something like that. The ‘Planetary Geological Redistribution Department’. On the right you can see a marquee set up, this is actually an outside classroom, set up to deal with the very few in-person classes during the pandemic. There are a few, but most classes are taught remotely. All of ours are, in our department. It was a windy day, we had some very high and dry winds that week, thankfully no fires were sparked in our area this time. I enjoyed drawing this one, I like how it turned out. I’ve drawn so many scenes in Davis but this is a slightly different angle and I like the noticeboard pillar to the left, those were installed when 3rd Street was completely revamped over the last couple of years. This drawing is another gateway, not just the end of a sketchbook, or the entrance to campus. While drawing this I got the phonecall that our house purchase was finally closed, so I started this drawing as a renter and ended it as a homeowner, which feels like a life milestone for me. I like the neighbourhood I live in up in north Davis, and am glad to stay there (plus I hate moving). So a chapter closes, a new chapter begins, and I’ll keep on drawing the same stuff, watching it slowly evolve as the years pass by. It’s important to remember that, on historic days like today, nothing really stays the same. (Actually some things do stay the same, nice sentiment though). For the record, I hope there is a big change today in the government. I’ve spent too long stressing about this election, but I’m not getting my hopes up. This has been a bloody stressful enough year as it is, time to open a new sketchbook. I’ve drawn this town for fifteen years, and I’ll keep on drawing Davis, and all its small changes.

stop dreaming of the quiet life

A St Panorama Oct2020 sm

This is A Street, which is a street in between the university and the downtown. I needed to draw a panorama, so I drew this over the course of two days. Things are starting to feel autumnal. This should be an interesting week. Interesting as in “may you live in interesting times” interesting. I can’t even think about it. So drawing is the release. They take time, but I really like a two-page panorama. I want to publish a whole book just of Davis panoramas, I think that would be a good read. I mean, you wouldn’t be reading the pictures, just looking at them. By the way, you should be able to see this one in more details by either (a) clicking on it, or (b) moving closer to the screen. If I were to publish a book just of Davis panoramas – and when I say panoramas I just mean two-page landscapes, not the long panoramic sketches – there would be no text to accompany the drawing, which would be a good thing. It wouldn’t be like this blog where the text is there but completely optional and not very enlightening. In fact in my last published book, in which I was extra concise (and took out most of the jokes about fire hydrants), one hard-to-please one-star reviewer on Amazon said that my explanations are “so long-winded that by the time he has finished explaining it, you’ve forgotten what he was talking about.” To which I would reply, (a) so you’ve met me then, and (b) if you think that’s bad you should read my blog posts, but also (c) what was your long-winded review about again, I’ve forgotten. They also said I should have talked about ‘gesture’ when talking about drawing people, to which I would reply I know lots of gestures actually and I’m making them at the screen right now while reading this review. So a book of drawings with no explanation might be right up their alley. Or it might be right in their dustbin, I don’t know. But as you can see, in this socially distant age there are no people in my drawings these days.

If you do want to see more of my panoramas, without accompanying text, there’s a whole album of them on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157647926718773. Or wait for the book, but it’s probably going to be a long wait.

Saturday Afternoon at 3rd & B

B and 3rd panorama Davis Oct2020 sm

This is the corner of 3rd and B in Davis. B goes in one direction, 3rd goes in another. On the corner there on the right is “Pizzas and Pints” and I’ve not eaten a pizza or drunk a pint there. It’s pretty new, and I don’t eat downtown all that much these days obviously. Plus drinking pints of milk and eating pizza? It’s related I think to the place a block down the road, “Burgers and Brew”. Now I like a cup of tea with a burger as much as anyone. Actually I don’t eat burgers, as I don’t eat beef. I eat chicken burgers though, and those new Beyond Burgers are nice as well. More than that though I really love alliteration, which as an Anglo-Saxon poetry non-expert I can appreciate. I did write a little bit about the Alliterative Revival in my Master’s dissertation though. There might be more of these places, like “Fajitas and Flagons” or “Sausages and Sodas” or “Tacos and Teacups”, I don’t know, this is why I’m not a restaurateur. On the other side of the street is the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. The actual Hall of Fame. I wish they would have the names of famous cyclists on stars all around it like Hollywood, it wouldn’t have to take up too much room because you could remove them when they are disgraced. It’s easy to be disgraced these days. I’ve never actually been into the US Bicycling Hall of Fame, except to use the toilet. To think of the famous cyclists who have used those toilets! Wait, I’m not suggesting they did anything other than have a wee or a poo, blimey no. I do ride a bike though, and I recently got it serviced at the Bike Barn, a long overdue tune-up. Wasn’t cheap but they replaced a bunch of parts. I did ask them specifically to fix the kickstand, but for some reason they couldn’t do that so they instead loosened it and made it worse, not it can barely stand up by itself, it’s like me on my stag night. My stag night, that was a long time ago, and some great memories, if only I could remember them myself. I still lived in London then, we went out around Chalk Farm. Those were the days my friend, you never get those back. Now, beyond that building is Central Park, no not that one, this is the one in Davis. It’s significantly smaller with significantly fewer appearances in Law and Order. That’s where we held the tenth anniversary Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl last Saturday. The first one was there in October 2010, ten years later we held another one there and I’ll post the sketches from that soon. Time flies…