UD’s friend, the painter Paul Laffoley, has died…

… and the New York Times (again with UD‘s help – she most recently provided the same writer, William Grimes, with information about the Polish painter Wojciech Fangor) has written a good obituary about this odd and complicated man who painted elaborate metaphysical, visionary works.

UD found him too odd for close friendship (her sister-in-law Joanna – who was also consulted by the obit writer – understood Paul with far greater depth and sympathy), but year after year, when they met at Soltan Christmas celebrations, UD would watch Paul with special interest, and with compassion. She was not interested in his impossibly convoluted and at the same time rather shallow and adolescent (he never got over the science fiction of his youth) theories of consciousness and the universe. She was interested in the man himself, his pale face and bald head and strangely serene demeanor out of place in the hectic business of gift opening in front of a fire. He stayed chilly amid that warmth, a wanderer above the mists down from altitude for a day, his pale face and labored breaths (in his later years heart failure made it hard for him to breathe) somehow conveying his inability to adapt to temperate climates.


Or not a wanderer above the mists — a Rocket Man above the mysteries, an icon, for UD, of the terrible human desire to know everything. Aliens, Paul believed, had implanted something in his brain that made him a conduit of cosmic truths, and his artwork was the materialization of those truths. There was no irony that I could see, no humor or teasing evasion or bet hedging here. Either his flatly literal messages from beyond beguiled you with their astonishing plausibility or they made you draw back somewhat from the man and the canvases, unsettled by their Bartleby-like remoteness from the human realm.

The human realm, after all, is where – far from knowing everything – we know shit, and where the vocation of the artist, usually, is to reconcile us to knowing shit by aestheticizing both our cloud of unknowing and the suffering and beauty it generates. For UD, people like Paul represent a refusal of the human condition.

Moody moon, high nests, and a touch of blusher…


… in the sky above UD‘s house
right now. At the end of a rainy day.

Watch La Kid On Stage at the Kennedy Center with her Chorus this Sunday…

… or watch UD in the orchestra section kvelling, or listen to Walt Whitman’s words put to music by Ralph Vaughn WilliamsBehold, the Sea is a very boffo sort of thing — as demonstrated here. Starts with a bang and stays pretty wild from there on in.


La Kid sneaks a blurry shot of
yesterday’s rehearsal in a


cavernous Kennedy Center.

UD’s father.


UD thanks her sister.

La Kid Becomes …


… an EU citizen.

Joanna Soltan, UD’s sister-in-law…


…separates the wheat
from the chaff.

Halloween, Boston, 2015.

Autumn, Peak.


Mid-October, Early Evening, Chez UDs.


Enjoy the pumpkins before the squirrels
eat them and the deer knock them over.

Black Olive Ornamental Peppers…


… photographed this incredibly sunny
and beautiful afternoon during our
walk at Brookside Gardens, in Wheaton,
Maryland. As you know, UD is
growing from seed both Black Olive
and Black Pearl varieties of
ornamental peppers. She discovered
these plants at Brookside.

After infinite agonized waiting…

UD watches her Black Pearl and
Black Olive pepper seeds start to take off.


(The kitchen window’s all messed up because
I compulsively spray the plants.)

I promise the quality of photography
will improve as these plants grow.


Regular readers know that UD is
Morticia in the garden. She’s always looking
for black stuff. And this stuff is black.


I know I’m planting them at
exactly the wrong time – it’ll
be getting cold soon. I’ll
transfer them to containers
and keep them inside (assuming
they continue thriving).

I love the way some of the
shoots come up still holding
aloft their seedpods. Victory.

A Day on the Bay.

UD‘s off to a day boating on the Chesapeake.
She will blog about it.



A walk around Annapolis and
the Naval Academy; a boat
trip around the Bay; lunch
back in Annapolis overlooking
the Bay. Back home now, tired.

“Sunday Comics are a Pit of Despair.”

The man sitting across from me at this long white laptop-use table in the lobby of the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel has just read very carefully through the Sunday comics in USA Today, closed the paper, and announced to me and everyone else (the table is full) what I’ve put in this post’s headline. A pit of despair.

UD is currently having one of those experiences you can easily have if you live in a place like Washington DC. She left her house this Sunday afternoon because Mr UD’s holding a seminar there for a few hours; she went to the place she always goes to, this pleasant hotel with a Starbucks and free internet and comfortable seating.

What she turns out to have walked into is this year’s Small Press Expo, “North America‚Äôs premiere independent cartooning and comic arts festival. SPX brings together more than 4,000 cartoonists and comic arts enthusiasts every fall in Bethesda, Maryland.”

What this means on the ground is lots of people (average age twenty) in black tops and jeans and tattoos and heavy black glasses (it’s got me thinking of Portlandia) walking back and forth in front of me in the lobby. Some of them are sitting with me at this long white laptop table. Their sketchbooks (comic book art boards, I should say) are out and they’re all drawing cartoon panels (“Yeah that’s gonna need a darker line. That’s not gonna read.”) They often consult their smart phones (for image ideas?) and they chat among themselves. The vibe is nerdy, friendly, in-group. They talk about how bad most of the comics out there are.

“The British Dennis the Menace is terrible.”

“It’s disgusting. The kid’s just farting all the time.”

“I hate that kid. He’s the worst.”

“Remember Space Cases?”

“I remember that show.”

“There were only a few seasons.”

“When I was a kid I had a crush on Catalina.”

“I had a crush on the guy with the long hair. What was his name. Rolf.”

They discuss the most disgusting thing they’ve ever eaten.

Winner: Dog treats.

I see a lot of Rug Rats t-shirts, but also NASA and Goth and Anime and Heavy Metal. People have dyed their hair way black.


So I’ll describe a guy who just came by and who is, I now see after spending a couple of hours here, the Ur-Cartooning and Comic Arts guy.

He is 19, 20, years old. Rotund. Pasty. Under his black baseball hat he has dyed his long hair purple and yellow. His backpack is ratty. He lumbers rather than walks, his eyes (behind big black-framed glasses) firmly down, fixed on his electronic devices. He wears jeans and a black t-shirt. He expresses to UD the following thing: I spend most of my time inside watching tv.

Here’s another guy. He wears raggedy bright green resort clothes (his fly is open) and carries a fabric bag that reads Schulz Library, Cartoon Studies.

A very excited much older guy (but dressed like everyone else) shows a friend a new comic book. “I love it – sorta like Dave Cooperish.” He wears a purple TROUBLE TOWN button.

Every single one of the skinny women all in black and all sort of pulled in on themselves who pass in front of me emanates a strong creative genius vibe.

A woman in a long shimmering red skirt wears a black top that on the front says SAME SAME and on the back BUT DIFFERENT. On her head sits a patterned red mob cap that looks homemade.

La Kid…


…turns 25.

UDville on the first perfect day we’ve had in ‘thesda in awhile.

(Forgive the out of focusness.
I’m still learning.)



UD‘s front stoop.


More front stoop.



A typically messy God
knows what container
planting in the foreground;
in the background,
pachysandra, driveway,
lawn, butterfly chairs,
and a family
walking their dog.

Whoa Nellie.

This ain’t no sunflower.


What is it?


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