Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Birding at Randall Davey

Scrub jay
Although I have taken pictures of birds for years, especially raptors, I am the first to admit that I have only the most rudimentary knowledge of bird species and am in no way fit to bear the sobriquet of "birder." Having said that straight off, I also must say that I enjoy learning and hiking and breathing fresh air and chasing the little flying creatures around gives me a chance to do all those things.

Today my friend Steve Saylor and I met at the Randall Davey Audubon Center in order to do a little hiking and birding. Steve and I went to Bosque de Apache last year chasing the elusive wood rail. Steve is a long time birder, originally from Ohio. The Center is in Santa Fe, located at the end of Upper Canyon Rd. It is a beautiful expanse comprising over 135 acres and bordered by thousands of acres of open space.

We started off with a hike up Bear Canyon, pausing to see the warning signs about a mother and cub in the area that could be problematic. We gingerly walked up the trail and I could feel the effects of the elevation on my lungs. The smell of juniper and piƱon added to our pleasure at being in the great outdoors, away from people. Luckily we didn't run into the bears. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning.

We returned to the nature center, once the home of the late Santa Fe artist Randall Davey. They had put out feeders in the beautiful gardens and I went to the van and retrieved my new Induro 314 tripod and Wimberley gimbal head for their near maiden voyage.

We saw all manner of birds and I stayed several hours. My gear worked perfectly. All of these shots were taken with my Nikon D7000 and Sigma 50-500mm lens. Birder friend Beth asked me to try to identify what I saw and I will give it my best shot. You can correct me if I am wrong.

I couldn't snap a few, the unspecified warbler, the stellar jay, kingbird and the towhee among others. Even saw a couple lbb's. I would like to go back if I have time and try again as it is a beautiful place that I am ashamed to say I have never visited before.

We saw several Grosbeaks, one with a broken lower beak. Lovely birds.

Here's a black capped variety.

The downy and hairy woodpecker are very close and not easy to identify, at least for a neophyte like me. I believe that this is a juvenile downy with his red cap just starting to come in.

Lots of lovely hummingbirds, mainly Rufous and Broad tailed.

Here is a picture of a broad tailed female in a tree. Note the spots under the chin.

The little red house finches were quite lovely and playful.

Lesser Goldfinch, male

Pine Siskin

Mountain chickadee

Here are two doves, what I believe are a Mourning and an Inca, which may be a vagrant or may be misidentified.   more birds, a mourning dove and flicker.

I have many more shots but think that I am probably starting to lose you. I need to identify a little yellow finch. If I make it out again I will probably have a whole bunch of new birds to add as well. Hope that you enjoy the pictures.

mystery bird

Monday, August 11, 2014

Doc Pomus - Lonely Avenue


Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds
We haven't spoken in some time. February really. Not sure if I remember how to do this, to speak or write. It was nice to be quiet for a while, to not share. So much outrage out there, as I think I may have explained, I was feeling both reactive and occasionally forced to respond to certain events, of course the propulsion was self induced, nonetheless I got very sick of hearing myself jaw.

I wrote a hell of a lot last year and in the preceding five and I frankly just burned the bulb out. Bored myself. Many of you have mentioned how much you missed my writing and I want to tell you that means a great deal to me and thank you. I love you.

I wrote many of you a letter back then, when I stopped, you may remember I was being courted for a brief spell to host a reality television show. Big Hollywood production company. Ostensibly the idea was to send me around the world and procure and comment on antiques and antiquities. I was flattered by the attention and enraptured with visions of future stardom. Had a video interview and submitted a bunch of writing and video.

I said that I had two conditions, I wanted the show to be one of integrity and didn't want to be connected to anything that wasn't on the up and up. They told me that they loved me, that I would be perfect, then I heard nothing from them ever again. Didn't pan out. I probably failed to titillate some test audience in Cleveland, perhaps it was the double chin. Maybe I wasn't pliable enough?

Which is okay because I don't think that I could live under the television microscope and my native misanthropy has also been in reality steadily increasing. Not sure if I am quite ready for primetime. A lot of what passes for reality these days honestly turns me off anyway. But maybe I am a little bummed that I was jilted. Woman said she would be back to me within a week...

I had a brief and heavy affair with Facebook, something that I broke off about 10 days ago. A little too seductive and time consuming. I reconnected with some old chums, a couple old girl friends. Had some great facebook pals, Jeff in Omaha the funniest. Unfortunately like usual, I over shared and finally had to pull the plug on myself. The open microphone to the world caused a little too much mental chatter.

We are quickly headed to or have already arrived at an always on world, in a state of perpetual outrage of one sort or another. But the Facebook medium doesn't lend itself to deep intellectual discourse, more of a scattergun affair and I never felt like I could adequately scratch my literary itch with the damn thing. Plus there's always a few friends of friends that turn out to be rabidly rightwing, left wing, antisemitic or dumb and you are forced to get into some really stupid discussions to defend your take on things.

You do find out things you didn't know about your friends on Facebook and I probably accidentally opened up some areas of my life to the world that were better off not revisited or shared. I think that the whole concept of all of a sudden reconnecting to the kid that sat next to you in the fourth grade is a little bit weird.

The sum total of your life compresses and suddenly you remember that there is a reason that you moved on and away from some folks. I had a boarding school roommate connect with me and I realized that he was more patronizing than ever and that I never needed to communicate with him again. I suppose we could write letters if we really need to.

And then there are those people that can fart or talk about the runny eggs they had for breakfast and get three hundred likes. An artist friend of some celebrity calls the social media sycophants "nutlickers". Facebook and social media is creating all sorts of new tactical social problems. Saw somebody apologize for blocking somebody out the other day, always a delicate matter. Should probably have its own verb soon.

I think I would rather blog. Not as often as I used to but when the passion hits me. Nice to talk to you again.

I AM IN SANTA FE, HOLED (whoops, caps) up in a long term hotel. Had a show in Albuquerque that didn't go real well, didn't make expenses last week. Hard Rain as Dylan might say. Been battling a little depression. Business has been steady but I'm not getting ahead, slowly sliding and the specter of the precipice looms, even if self constructed. I have had the gallery for 17 years now, a really long time. I get singles and doubles throughout the year but have depended on three or four home runs each year to keep me in the chips. Haven't had one for a long while.

Threw the i ching the other day, stagnation changing to oppression or something like that, the second and third lines changing - lousy time approaches, the time of the good man wanes, go hide, don't allow yourself to be honored with revenue - well fine but tell me, just how do I pay the mortgage?

Had dinner with BigDave and four twenty somethings a few months back, they all had sold their individual software companies for over 20 million. Not one of them had a painting in their house, they confessed to favoring performance and more electronic art, definitely not 2d or sculpture. No affinity for anything pre 1970 I would guess. Does not portend well for those of us rooted in the classical and I think that I will probably go down with that ship, not seeing any other vessels that I can really believe in at present. Hard to sell that which does not appeal to you. On a related note, kids are really liking this clubby, thumpy bass music right now, some days the new gym is murder.

Doing fairly well physically, asthma problem ever-present, over weight. My room has a kitchen and I am going to try to do more cooking this trip. I am going birding at the Audubon park with my friend Steve in the morning. Weather is beautiful and New Mexico is inordinately green this summer.

I have a long essay percolating, will hope to get into it soon. Best,


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Orchid Bar, Grand Tradition

Leslie and I were graciously invited to attend one of the soft opening nights at the new Orchid Bar at Fallbrook's Grand Tradition. I believe that the new restaurant/bar is set to officially open this week.

I am happy to report that as critical a curmudgeon as I am known to be, both the food and libations at the Orchid Bar were wonderful during our visits.

The Grand Tradition, which is known far and wide as a superlative wedding venue and for its wonderful gardens, has been serving lunch in its dining room for some time, by reservation only. I must confess that I have never gone there for lunch but I have eaten some special event wine pairing dinners there that were fun.

I believe that they decided to create the Orchid Bar area in order to create some business for some of the first of the week "off nights." At least initially it is my understanding that they will only be open on wednesday evenings. Lunch is still served in the regular dining room every day, by reservation only.The nice young voice on the phone said no reservations for the Orchid Bar, walk-ins invited 5 to 9 p.m..

This is going to be a very nice and pleasant place to hang out and have a drink and a casual nosh with your friends.

We were originally invited to visit last wednesday but I thought that I had other commitments so we went earlier, on the beautiful people, perfect body, very short skirt night the week before. I think that they were trying out test demographics and I was first slotted as old and fat. Cool. I can hang with that. Cultured, round and silver tipped, lets call it.

I don't have a menu in front of me so this is from memory, off the cuff, but we started our evening with duck quesadillas with a really delightful smoky sauce.

Longtime readers know that I am a freak for duck and these were very delicious.

Leslie ordered a ginger beer based spirit called coyote on the rocks and I tried a De Luz area cabernet which was surprisingly delicious. De Santi or something like that. Would order it again in a heartbeat.

Temecula area reds have long been sniffed at by the cognoscenti, the nose of the appellation often being typified as tasting like "dirt." Or mineral, what ever? De Luz reds, perhaps because of the cool mountain downdrafts, seem to have escaped the nasty effects of the inland empire terroir.

We followed the duck with a first class charcuterie plate - sun dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, delightful cheeses, including both blue and goat, prosciutto and salamis. I can't see how they can put this tray out for the price frankly. It was filling and fantastic.

Leslie opted for an Avo Maria, a signature beverage that features Fallbrook's first fruit, the avocado, along with tequila, cointreau and lime. She was crazy about it.

It was your basic, perfect summer night and we saw a whole bunch of friends. Dave and Robin were sitting next to us and I hope that one day I can hear them play music there. Faro Trupiano showed up and seemed to have a great time chilling and working the room.

By the way, the music is one thing that will be slightly problematic dialing in, with the wide demographic range of the clientele. We were treated to some thumping disco/club base notes and I think you have to be of a certain age of which I am definitely not to appreciate it.

Did I mention that the food and drinks were all gratis for us test subjects? They were and it was very kind of our hosts. I was starting to feel a little guilty the first night, didn't want to be a glutton but Leslie said, "Hey, they need to know," while ordering one of the best shrimp cocktails I have ever sampled. What a trooper she is!

The shrimp was gigantic and fresh and the remoulade/cocktail type sauce was perfect. Accompanied by a nice little corn mango chutney number.

The owner's son Mark was apparently the brains and vision of the Orchid Bar and he and his beautiful wife engaged in some rigorous hard time at trendy Las Vegas clubs and eateries distilling his own conception. Now that is a job I want!  But he has truly done a great job here. First class.

I sat with the McDougals and talked about some of my observations and offered to come back another night and take some pictures of the food. I sense that they figured out what I was up to but were gracious enough to accept my offer anyway and even invited Leslie to accompany me once again.

I knew everybody that second night, one of four test sittings that they held. Most of us had our AARP cards this night.

People bopped around, all seemingly and literally old friends and we had a marvelous evening.  I know what you are thinking, Robert hasn't written in months and now he is waxing prosaically about an appetizer tray. Can he really be bought for the price of a free shrimp cocktail? The answer of course, is yes, absolutely he can.

Beef sliders

Mahi mahi tacos

When pigs fly, I give you "hog wings…"


The place really feels tropical. We had the same great table with a waterfall behind us both nights, my wife's favorite spot.

I met the long time flower vendors for the Grand Tradition. Apparently they are one of only five officially designated Preferred Gardens in the whole United States. When you visit you will see why.

I believe that the McDougals have secured two first class chefs for this undertaking and it shows. I look forward to seeing you there when it opens. Thank you Don and Alyson for the kind invitation. I am really very impressed. I think that the Orchid bar is going to become a great habit for many of us Fallbrookians. Great food, drinks, beautiful atmosphere at very reasonable prices.

Some people take forever to decide.