© Robert Sommers 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

Loving you was easier


I got spanked a little bit yesterday, physically, financially and maybe my ego got beat up too for good measure.

The damage was largely self inflicted.

I started the day with a bunch of projects to do around the house, initially fixing busted irrigation main lines.

Unfortunately a line snapped during my initial repair, and I found another another one popped out of position by a wayward tree root. I had to shutdown the system for the day and let things dry out completely before I could turn anything back on. Lot of pressure in the valley and you don't get a good glue joint, things blow.

Some plumbers can glue pipe without getting stuff all over their hands, I've never been one of them. Got a little bit messy. Primer purple. This particular project only took one trip to the irrigation supply, a personal record.

While I was in San Francisco, we apparently had someone cut through the ranch in the middle of the night and crush an inch and a half line. Probably an illegal journeying north. Tom P. was nice enough to fix the pipe while I was gone, a lifesaver. Saved my ass countless times.

I tried to hire a bracero to help me cover up the trench ditches and work around the place yesterday but none were to be found at the iglesia so I had to do it myself.

My palms have the large beards now popular with terrorists and certain young hipsters, which I personally find rather beastly but who gives a shit?  I started trimming them in the morning. First the Washingtonia, thing grows like a weed. Then the big Canary Island palm which I got as a slender baby that now towers and sports a gigantic girth. Then the Jelly Palm and the Chamerops and finally the Mexican Blue. That was the one that bit me. Just took my eye off it for a second.

Deadwooding the tall Brahea Armata's thick and deceased fronds, now very hard and surly, was quite difficult. I actually sprained my left hand fighting with the dull loppers. Must get the chain saw serviced, yesterday was all manual work.

Somehow in the struggle, the pissy but gorgeous palm inserted an inch long thorn in my scalp, hence the photo at left prior to Leslie's triage. Arms were a bit punctured too, looked like Chuck Wepner after Cassius Clay was done with him. The pretty ones always get you.

Still have the rest of the mediterranean fan, the blues and the Canariensis/Reclinata mutant hybrid from Rancho Soledad that never should have been borne. Bigger than my house, a monster.

Reminds me of the time I was cutting yucca on Dad's ranch as a kid and he told me to be careful with the chain saw. I'm about 13 and got a nasty spanish dagger bite across the leg from the vicious plant.

Straight across the leg, a sheet of blood. Gimping back to the house with chain saw in hand and a bloody leg, he almost fainted, sure I had cut my leg with the saw. Scared him to death.

The $1205.50 sandwich

Needing a shower and hungry for something to eat, I convinced Leslie to drive with me to the casino for a Vietnamese Banh Minh sandwich. Bad move.

Pechanga has a little stand in the food court where they serve the popular asian fare, traditional, chicken and barbecued pork, I went traditional this time. Cost $5.50 plus a lemonade. Simply delicious, just a matter of time before Banh Minh is as popular as Big Mac in this country.

Saw a wheel of fortune machine and plunked down a hundred and within a matter of minutes I had won another $250.00. Hot damn! Kid can't miss.

I decided to play in the High Roller section last night, being a self professed Black Jack god I couldn't lose, right? Started off well, up about a grand when disaster struck. Ran into a string after string of dealer blackjacks, dealer's that found every conceivable methods of hitting twenty one, some probably not even conceived until last night. Players started moving away from my presence like I had leprosy.

If you are going to gamble and enjoy it and I do, you know you are going to have nights like I had, down about $1200.00 when I finally cried uncle. You feel ugly and ashamed, stupid for giving up the gelt. But if you accept the wins, you have to accept the fact that their are going to be those nights as well. Goshdarnit. Wish I was a better loser.

Tail firmly ensconced between my legs, I whimpered home, nursing all of my aches and pains. Les hiked back to the fence and turned the main back on in the dark and everything thankfully held. No more gambling for me for a while, nose to the grindstone to make some more dough and make up for my pitiful, sorry ass play last night. What's indian for asskick?

It has been fun watching these two hawk babies grow. This mother leaves them alone in the nest a lot, maybe more than prior years.

Stays just out of reach, getting a little space after a long roost.

I have spent a lot of time watching the hawk behavior. Of course if I had the Sigma 150-600mm for the nikon mount, I could get 17% closer. But it won't be out in this country for another month or so and I'm not sure if I can afford it. Crowd source, anyone?

I checked out the old and perennial Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds and a good raptor book from the library and have learned a lot more about their specific behavior of late.

Went back to the other nest to rescue the bird on the ground and take it to Skyhunters for rehab and release and the bird was gone, hopefully transported to a safer spot by mother. Eagles can raise their birds on the ground, I would think hawks are equally resourceful.


Bradford sent me some pretty pics from Spavinaw, Oklahoma. Morels and a full moon at the lake.

Jeff from Alaska bought a vintage Beaver airplane. He sold one and always missed it. He has invited us up and we are thinking of taking him up on it. Kenai, Denali, Seward? Such a big state, not sure how to tackle it. Want to take pictures of wildlife. Want to get back to Yellowstone this year too.

Did some business on the Venice Canal the other day. Great neighborhood, had never visited.

Mike L. was golfing at Shoreline the other day when a couple outraged burrowing owls started griping at him.

Met 94 years young Arfie Burnett at Del Mar. She bought a painting from me. "What's Arfie short for?" I asked. "It's long for Arfie."

Arfie is a Leggo fanatic, has created huge Leggo worlds, some her own, needs to be recognized by Leggo, has to be the world's oldest Leggoer. Sharp as a tack and sweet to boot! Hollywood High grad, class of 38 I think.

Can you believe she has never been to Leggoland? They need to celebrate this woman, send a limousine. Arfiedays.

Vlad says that my shot of the seals up north was hard to decipher. Sorry man.

After 18 years and counting, the gallery finally got a new sign while I was in San Francisco. The old one was faded and cracked. I omitted  the bird this time, went simple and graphic. Looks good.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

St Dominics Preview

Chance to breathe

I haven't written in a while. My mind is actually pretty full. There is a lot I could write right now and a lot that can also be left unsaid. I guess I will have to feel my way through. See what sticks. Thanks to everybody for the wonderful cards and condolences. Thank you Melanie for planting 25 trees in Lake Tahoe in my father's honor.

It has been a whir the last few weeks. Little time to process, I was thrown into two shows, first Del Mar and then up to Hillsborough in San Francisco. Life and the mortgages go on.

Probably a good thing, I reckon, to get on with life and not necessarily dwell, although I suppose that is okay to do too. Not like anybody ever gives you a manual for these sorts of things.

Shows went well, I was very lucky. Bought and sold some very lovely things, pictures of which I think I will post if I get the time.

Shared some nice time with quite a lot of people, lots of old friends. Many of my customers are getting older too, like I am, we are all mostly dealing with the same crap. Shared some lovely meals, wish I felt like going there now and describing them but I don't. A very expensive Indian meal at My Spice that didn't quite work although the company was top shelf.

I had a positively awful stay at a motel that I obtained gratis from Hotels.com, the Stone Villa in San Mateo. Get what you pay for. Filthy "deluxe" breakfast room, replete with sad looking loaves of white kirkland bread strewn about the trash and spilled milk that littered both the counter and floor, a protruding but well hidden platform on a bed that reached out and bit me on the leg, probably leaving a permanent gash.

Switched to the airport Westin. Rest of the trip was hunk dory.

Typically after a show to San Francisco I head out to Clovis to see my father but that is no longer in the cards. My buddy Vlad Smythe and his lovely wife Natasha, the former and I enjoying a forty year friendship, invited me to spend the night with them in Monterey and then the next day Vlad and I ventured down to Big Sur to spend a day relaxing and taking it all in. His suggestion. Off the gerbil wheel for a moment. My buddy took the day off, which I really appreciate.

Vlad and I were born months apart the same year, we have in many ways led a parallel life, definitely had the same influences, watched all the same dumb commercials and television shows, his dad was an ABC muckety muck.

We both loved Fred MacMurray in Follow me boys, Car 54, East Side kids. Both watched Wonderama and Metromedia.

Were at the same baseball game when Willie Mays hit the ball out of the park on his second at bat when he went back to play for the mets at the end of his career. Both played the guitar and loved the beautiful dulcet sounds of one Jerry Garcia.

Vlad is an archivist, creator of one of the most amazing music libraries in our world, he has a very discerning eye and ear.

We rekindled our friendship about 20 years ago and I got to watch their kids grow up, both of whom I love. Love them all, one of the many friendships in my life that have only gotten stronger with time.

Natasha told me that one of her peeves is people that say heighth, she says that there is no such word. Too tired to check, I will believe her. She is a teacher, after all. Beautiful and gracious.

I brought my old camera with me down the coast. Tough to take a bad shot in these parts, almost too easy, like shooting big game at the zoo.

I hate making perfect picture postcards so I flattened a couple of these like the lovely early 20th Century woodcuts that I like to buy and sell. Take flack from the photographers but from where I come from everything is fair game.

I started as a fine art painter, turned graphic artist, one stroke letterer and sign painter. Had to stop when I lost a good portion of my bladder and left kidney and had to take pictures to get my compositional rocks off. But the painter still lurks and is dying to emerge one day, hopefully soon. Health be damned, I need a fucking brush in my hand.

We hiked around Point Lobos, an absolutely perfect day and then headed down to the beach at Pfeiffer, Vlad knowing the exact unmarked road on which to drive down on.

It has been so long since Leslie and I had been up here, forgot how gorgeous it was.

I have used the time after my father's death in an interesting way. In the immediate aftermath, I called up one or two people that I had hurt in recent years and apologized, including Kerry. I take responsibility for overreacting and being an asshole sometimes and in some cases, had been totally out of line. The intensity of a close relative passing gave me the strength to make amends and try to reset the table personally. But enough heavy shit.

Vlad and I went to Ventana and had lunch. Charcuterie and a nice salmon salad. I think I had a coke. Vlad went to the men's room and I looked at the bar. What the fuck. Ordered a Jameson. Things sort of rolled along from there.

River Inn for bloody marys. Then another place for the same, where we were treated to a large blue whale on her journey north with child in tow.

I was starting to get hammered at this point but in a very nice way. Just a great, magic day with a pal. Wish that I could have shared the experience with my wife. We desperately need a vacation together, deserve one anyway. Need Kauai.

Who doesn't?

We ended up having beers at a locals hang in Monterey, eating sand dabs and calamari and drinking beer. My pal said it was about time I loosened up and took my panties off. Got to get down once in a while. Got home fast the next day, escaped traffic and the radar.

I got to go. A friend says that a hawk nest has collapsed and we may need to try to save the baby. Any volunteers?

Finishing up, drove to Los Angeles yesterday, did all  kinds of business, than back to Carlsbad, not home until ten. I have been and am just killing it and am looking forward to a chance to breathe. Going to do my best to take my time putting my shop back together. Going to chill out.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


I posted this extraordinary story a few years ago but think of it often and thought I should repost.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It's a chick!

Yesterday was for the birds. Quick pack and turnaround, ready to hit the road again. When I left the valley in the morning I noticed that we had a new resident, a baby red tailed hawk.

I left work early and went back to the hawk nest with the long lens, just back from the shop. Still, unfortunately, not long enough.

The mother was gone but I noticed the father hanging around, now missing a feather. A vulture swooped too close to the nest and daddy shooed it off.

I was talking to the neighbors later and Steph asked me if there might not be two, last year we only saw one as well in the beginning. Looking at the photos this morning, she was right. Two maybe three eyass, or hawk babies.

I am glad that there are multiple babies. Always more fun growing up when you have somebody to play with.

I plan on renting a 600mm upon my return and getting better pictures of these little guys this year. I want to try out the Tamron 150-600 and the Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm anyway and this will give me an excuse. Will keep you posted.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ku'u Home O Kahalu'u

Jerry Santos

The Spades

Last Roundup

I am busy, a bit scattered, largely unable to write. I did want to take note of a couple things before they completely fall away from memory.

My favorite moment of the year involved one Dr. Patrick Moore, the gadfly, climate change denier and apologist for Roundup™ who said that the stuff was actually so safe that you could drink it. At which point, the interviewer said, "Well drink it"and the guy stormed off, saying that he wasn't an idiot...

I just read an interview with Roger Ailes that was pretty good. I loathe Fox News but the piece does humanize and flesh him out a bit. I hate Fox News the same way I hate MSNBC. Both news organizations serve a population too ignorant to sort the wheat from the chaff and form their own opinions.

I am so glad that I was brought up in the age of newscasters like Huntley/Brinkley, Cronkite and Sevareid. Journalists that mostly called things right down the middle.

Now we merely pick the news source that most easily reinforces our saintly preconceptions and the other side are of course damnable and evil. The days of the middle of the road tableau, e.g. Newsweek and Time are over, have no place in the brave new world, now supplanted by slanted rags like Townhall and the Daily Kos. I, for one, think it is a shame.

Sort of funny that master tactician and West Point graduate Mike Krzyzewski is challenging Barack Obama's strategy and tactics in dealing with terrorism. Coach K, an Army Captain, said Obama's statement about not putting boots on the ground against ISIS was a bad strategy in a game theory sense.
“I know it’s upsetting to many of you when you hear ‘no boots on the ground.’ It upsets me too, because that’s like saying I’m not going to play two of my best players,” he said in his speech accepting the 2014 George Catlett Marshall Award, AUSA’s highest honor. “Because that’s what you are trained to do. And for decades and decades, the fact that we are a free country and we don’t play home games here is a result of having boots on the ground. That’s the problem.”
After a round of applause, Krzyzewski explained why Obama’s public announcement that he won’t use ground troops against ISIS was just bad coaching – because it allows the other team to stop preparing for it and gives them added confidence.
“It’s about letting your opponent know we are going to use our best players. And whether we use them or not, that’s up to the coach. You never tell your opponent you are not going to use [them], like I’m not going to play Grant Hill, J.J. Redick, -Christian] Laettner,” he said, rattling off the names of some of his biggest stars at Duke.
The former Olympic coach then turned the metaphor to international play, comparing Obama’s words to saying, “‘Hey Spain, I’m not going to start Lebron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] tonight.’ I don’t think you do that. Now how much I play them? Let the guy try to figure out how much I’m going to play them.”
Hard to argue with the coach.