California landscape

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jokers are wild


End of the innocence

100% American

This kid was walking in 120˚ weather in Borrego, in front of a rather dilapidated building.

I couldn't help notice the great dual patriotic iconography.

Hooded oriole, Borrego

This hooded oriole didn't seem to mind the intense desert heat in Borrego. We have noticed that orioles gravitate to palms, they use the sisal in nest building. The washingtonia filifera is the only native california palm. Some botanists think that the tall variant is a separate sub species and call it a robusta but I'm not so sure.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Borrego reprise

If you want to tell me that we were certifiably insane for going out to the desert when the temperatures were hovering around 119˚ you certainly won't get any arguments from us. But if you will allow us to explain perhaps it will be more understandable.

It was Stanley and Tracys' 41st anniversary and they were going out to celebrate at Casa Del Zorro in Borrego Springs on our recommendation.

They had made the reservations ages ago and we had done the same, not knowing that we would all be ensnared in a severe heat wave.

And besides, there are ample swimming pools and the air conditioning is quite good, right?

We actually had a great time. We had traveled with the pair before, to Death Valley and knew that they could take the heat. But to be honest, you would have had to dump a truck full of ice in the pool to get a refreshing jolt at these temperatures.

My Leslie can wilt on occasion but she is smart and knows how to pick her spots. We all did just fine. Just don't put your hand on the pool railing at 120˚ or allow your bare feet to touch the pavers and everything will be copacetic. My palm and feet are still a bit cooked but then I have always been a slow study.

We had a nice couple days away and I experienced a touch of kismet. For the second time in a row, I went out to the Tamarisk Grove, in extreme heat and looked for my old friends, the long eared owls. I snuck in to the closed campground and walked every tree but no luck. Two trips around the grove, just to make sure. I was even wearing my lucky owl shirt, the same one I had on when I found the long eared owl but unfortunately no dice.

I did come across an eagle feather. And a minor league epiphany. I had the thought that in photography, art and life, you get what you get. In the words of the bard, Bobby Z, nothing was delivered and maybe Mick had it right too, you get what you need. But wishing and hoping only goes so far. You what you get. And I had struck out.

So I drove back to the hotel, the temperature pinned at about 122˚ and cooled off in the room for a minute. And within a second or two I get a call, the owl was right outside my door on the Washingtonia filifera palm tree. Who knew that they delivered? The owl came to me!

And sure as shit, here was a beautiful owl, staring like a cheshire cat, not 10' above my head. Wow.

As it turns out this is not a long eared owl like I captured last time, it is a great horned owl but like, who cares? It's my novel, it's still beautiful and the cosmic timing was incredible.

Now I want you to know that this was not taken with my fancy new nikkor 400mm 2.8 fl, there was no way I was going to let that extremely expensive piece of machinery melt in the desert. I took it instead with the Sigma 150-600mm C and the Nikon D810. More than adequate for the job. Rarely use the combination, if ever, usually needing the reach of the crop sensor on the D7200 but the resolution and image quality is actually better this way.

Beautiful raptor. Might have had its eyes and talons set on a tasty looking chihuahua by the pool. I guess there are two owls living at the resort and I did a little further research and eventually discovered their specific pad location.

Haven't really had time to go through my shots but I think I will be very pleased. Owl was going through a strange panting ritual at one point ,maybe it was hot too and this allowed it to respirate? Not sure what it was. Lots of nice birds out there, saw a few hooded orioles, possibly an indigo or lazuli bunting.

We had a nice dinner with our friends at Carmelitas, Leslie's chili verde was simply the best I have ever tasted and my mole was its normal superb self.

Ate at Carlees the second night, chicken artichoke pizza. Also quite awesome.

On the way I took this shot of a kid walking in front of a dilapidated building and thought that the patriotic motif was quite synchronous.

The stuff that comes unexpectedly down the pike is unfailingly more interesting than the stuff that you plan for.

Had breakfast at Casa Del Zorro one morning, corn flake encrusted french toast which is pretty crunchy wonderful. Afterwards we checked out all the cool Nixon and Agnew material in the lobby, after all this was a Copley hotel.

I got up at 5:30 this morning and drove with the sunrise in tow over to Palm Canyon.

I hiked part way up the desolate trail hoping my owl fortune would rub off onto bighorn sheep but no luck. You get what you get. Very hot, didn't have adequate water and didn't really feel like dying out in the desert with the keys to my van in my pocket. It would have created a lot of serious problems for Leslie getting home, among other things.

And then I thought, hey, she will still be in bed for another hour, I will drive the 28 miles one way out to the Salton Sea and no one will be the wiser (turns out I slammed the door and she had been up since 5:30 too. Sorry.)

I had met an emergency room doctor from Irvine who was taking a mental health break in the desert on his 400cc scooter and he had drove the particular route the day before. It was new to me.

And he was talking and worrying about proper tire pressure in this kind of heat, fearing a blowout from the heat expanding his tires.

And driving out there in nowhere, without much water or even my phone which I had forgotten in the room, you do kind of think about mortality a little bit. I was way out in Ocotillo Wells, how many days would it take for them to find what was left of my rotting carcass? Passed through some serious badlands this morning.

Ran across an interesting monument to the artist John Hilton, who I occasionally handle. Who knew?

I hit the Salton Sea at the Western Shore, half way between Indio and El Centro. Yacht Club Rd.

Another shattered sort of a place, a real lake of a mistake. Quite tragic. Boulevard of broken dreams.
Returned eventually, mostly in one piece.

Had a last dip and came home. Even in this same heat I would do the same thing again in a heartbeat.

The desert is good for you, it gets you in touch with something deep inside. To desert to the desert offers just desserts.

Happy anniversary Trace and Stan. Let's do it again!

Friday, June 23, 2017


I'm reading an interesting book about New York City that I got from the library. It is called Bowery Boys - Adventures in Old New York and is written by Greg Young and Tom Meyers.

I believe that the book started as a podcast and kept rolling and now it is a huge compendium of little known historical facts about the city, pretty much block by block.

I should point out that neither author is a native New Yorker, come to think of it, neither am I, yet I think we have all earned the sobriquet. People constantly ask me if I am a New Yorker, maybe it's the wisecracking jewish thing, I don't know. Even though I was born in San Diego, I answer affirmatively. I spent my formative years there and it's awfully tough to get out of your skin.

Learned a lot reading the book, very comprehensive. I automatically looked for some of the landmarks of my youth and was a bit disappointing to see them missing; nothing on Dave's Luncheonette on Canal, egg creams in the wee hours after hours of smoking nepalese temple balls. Nothing on Tad's Steaks, what were they $4.95? Ditto the late Fulton St. Fish Market where I had many a bowl of sea broth with unlimited oyster crackers for three cents a serving.

If you have an interest in the city, you can get it out of the library it is certainly worth a look.

And it taught me a new word.


If you know it you know it, I confess I did not, even contextually I was way off. If you want to cheat and look it up and play wise, well that is between you and the flying spaghetti monster.

What does it mean? Two things. It is a word for an old fashioned suitcase or chiffonier separated into two equal compartments and also a literary term for a word that is conjoined from two other words. Actually coined by Lewis Carroll who came up with a few portmanteaus of his own, like frumius and mimsy.

Here's Merriam Webster's take on the subject:

Definition of portmanteau
plural portmanteaus or portmanteauxplay \-(ˌ)tōz\
:  a large suitcase
:  a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog)

It is a very good word but a kind of expensive word. Not the kind of thing one throws around in casual daily conversation too easily, a word that can make the user quickly sound like an erudite a-hole. I bet dollars to doughnuts Charles Bukowski never had the word stumble off his sodden tongue.

Now if your parents mortgaged the Connecticut house to send you to Brown or Vassar and you came out of the deal with a degree in literature and zero prospects for anything else, with the exception of that first novel which you never quite finished, the one the literary agent thought was crap and you now find yourself teaching high school somewhere near Dubuque wearing a corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches, commiserating with other poor souls in similar jackets and straits, well you can have at it with the word. You earned it.

But a guy like me, playing around with a word like portmanteau is like playing with fire. Way too heady, the distance between sounding bright and distinguished and sounding like a pompous douchebag far too narrow.

As I get older I crave the simple things in life. Like a perfect egg salad sandwich. Do you know how hard they are to find around these parts? Good egg salad and good chicken salad, not poisoned by foul onionry, are scarce as hen's teeth in Fallbrook. I try to explain to some restaurant owners but they just don't get it; for many of us, any raw onion is too much.

But I am lucky. I know restauranteurs that like and even love me. So I went into Main Street Cafe today and asked Chris, the owner, to make me one. He doesn't cook anymore but he does for me. I love the greek. He has been cooking for me for over thirty years and I occasionally I go off menu.

Only honest diner in town. 

I got it on wheat bread, with the perfect mustard ratio. Egg warm, bread fresh, as I said, a beautiful thing. Lately I have been getting the patty melts, hold the onions and the barbecued chicken salad, hold the barbecue sauce. With ranch dressing it is just an epic hot weather salad. You can get the chicken grilled or fried. Very refreshing.

All the servers at Main St. are sweet. Place is just aces. Not fancy but an honest meal at a place where real Fallbrookians go to eat. Try it for yourself. And throw the cook a few bucks on your way out. Believe me it pays off, you will get more than your money's worth the next time you order a rib eye steak sandwich off menu. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Lemon Pipers - Through With You



Penitent puppets review past lives giddily misspent in wanton perfidy.
I could launch into a spirited soliloquy regarding one outrage or affront after another today.

Quite easily.

But I don't feel like being that guy. You voted for him America, you deserve what you get. Enjoy.

Why get my blood pressure up?

Although the optics of cops dragging disabled people bloody out of the Capital might be a little hard to scrub.

My favorite this week was them letting you know that the health of children will be majorly impacted by the new environmental cuts and delays but don't worry, they won't last forever (the kids or the cuts?)

This may be the most cynical if not the sickest thing I have ever seen from my government.

EPA acknowledges delaying methane rule might make more children sick, but will help industry.
Environmental groups immediately attacked the proposed delay. The Environmental Defense Fund pointed to the fact that the EPA’s announcement acknowledges that the delay may make children sick, “but argues that more illness for only two years is acceptable.”EDF highlighted a section of the agency’s proposed rule that states: “EPA believes that the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children… However, because this action merely proposes to delay the 2016 Rule, this action will not change any impacts of the 2016 Rule after the stay. Any impacts on children’s health caused by the delay in the rule will be limited, because the length of the proposed stay is limited.”
Limited, right. How much exposure is okay, how many sick kids, what if it was your sick kid, Pruitt? Sick people, contemptible swine. I have a problem with people who hurt children, the elderly, those that can not fend for theirselves. So that their cronies can have a big fat payday. In fact I hate such people. Hate.

Got some correspondence to take care of, I have been slacking. A few loose ends.

Jonathan Hill sent this cool video over. The wood swimmer. And a new Chuck Berry record over. Howard Levy.

Hudgins sent this gif over, evolution of the desk.

Missed the indigo bunting down at Famosa Slough a week or so ago. Need to explore Tijuana River and San Diego more.

Shawn sends a theory of the collapse of civilization, back in 1177 b.c. that is.

Kip brings music from Sir Paul.

A spirited defense of progressive rock.

Love the site Atlas Obscura. Found it through a recipe for Professor Robert Baker's famous barbecued chicken actually.

Too stupid to govern? Mike sends over this Trump screed from Foreign Policy. And Adam West was evidently trying to break Wilt's other record.

Ever seem like the President's fawning followers are saluting the infallible and most brilliant god king, like toadies for a North Korean despot? Trump and the new cult of personality.

Moron - Jay Lynch

Two great underground artists died recently, Skip Williamson and Jay Lynch. I met Jay a couple times, don't think I ever met Skip but loved them both.

Kim Deitch

Liz turned me on to the undergrounds at their inception and I amassed quite a collection in my sordid youth. Loved to read about Sammy Smoot and co., Philbert DeSanex, all the rest of the gang.
Here's a link to an interview with one of their peers, a comics great who is still with us, Denis Kitchen. Amazing guy, met him at the early cons, like I did most of these artists.

Denis Kitchen.

And many are now dearly departed, guys I hold in such reverence, like Dave Sheridan. These were fantastic people and artists. Mother's Oats Comix was so damn big. Very psychedelic.

Dizzy Ratstein - Bob Armstrong
Spain, Griff, Kelley, Bode, Irons, Joel Beck, Jaxon, so many greats now departed. S. Clay Wilson in bad shape. Victor and Williams still hanging in.

Time marches forward.

© Robert Sommers 
Glad I was there to witness what I could.

Sheriden and Schrier

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Eva Cassidy - Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

Whale of a time

Had a cool experience today. A friend of Leslie's invited us to participate in a whale watching trip out of Oceanside this afternoon.

Forty five people went out, but not only was it a good time on the water but also a high energy music and meditation session.

I believe that the ringleader was a friend of Leslie's named Tania, who does periodic tibetan bowl grooves at the Hilltop Center.

Vern and Renée accompanied us.

Everybody there seemed very warm and conscious.

The music was powerful, the giant gongs and drums announcing our approach to the cetaceans and ocean dwellers like a cacophonous Roman Galleon.

The whale watching tour company was Oceanside Adventures. Very nice and professional crew.

We ran into a lot of dolphins but unfortunately no whales today. Didn't affect my happiness in the least.

A couple people who work on the dock said that military maneuvers were scaring the whales away.

It was pretty socked in and overcast. Nice to be out on the water but not ideal for photography.

I really didn't have it today and didn't care, frankly. Fumbling around and nothing really presented.

Brought the nikkor 70-200mm 2.8 vr with a teleconverter but it was either too close or too far and I never did dial it all in.

I feel bad that I don't use that lens enough. It was expensive and is great, particularly for portraits. But it is big and solid and metal and bulky and not really comfortable on your body the way the 24 -70mm is. Still, good to get it out once in a while.

Pissed that I missed the Luiseño Powwow this year. It was a perfect lens for that. Last week, never got the word.

Not having much luck with photography, I played a few tibetan and crystal bowls and had myself a good time. Might even get my old tibetan bowls out of the cupboard and play one of these days. Would like to go back out on the boat too. He said they had a special $29.00 sunset cruise sometime during the week. Like to rent the whole boat for my sixtieth birthday, with a bunch of pals. Grey whales might be happening in early November, who knows?

It seems very quintessentially California, a nice om session for the whales, humans and dolphins.

Told Vern I really couldn't see it happening back in Tuscaloosa or somewhere like that. You know, the people that think that we Californians are so weird.

The dorje bell and bowl group thing was just really nice. Drummer was amazing and powerful. The sound was clean and illuminating.

Someone had a dij. We did a lot of this sort of thing in the seventies and eighties. New thing for the boat company and I think that they liked it.

My idea would be to put a speaker underwater and see how the ocean animals dig the frequency we were producing.

I hope that Tania does this again. I will let you know. This one filled up fast.

I am a quite cynical man and I found it fun and refreshing.Very far out.

Afterwards we had a very nice meal at a new place for me, 608. I look forward to writing about it soon. Highly recommended.

Al Green - What am I gonna do with myself?

Young egret, Lindo Lake

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Zephyr - I'm not Surprised

Mushroom - You're Only Pretty As You Feel


Leslie and I did the swap meet in Long Beach this weekend. First time selling outside in about 17 years. Cut our teeth out there.

It felt good to be out on the pavement, unleash my inner New York barker. I almost forgot about him. We made money, on cheap stuff, let it go. Got swarmed.

Hot as hell out there, didn't have time to catch a breath or walk around much. Bought a new popup tent, sure is easier than putting pipes together like in the old days. Guess if things ever get really bad, I can head back to the asphalt, where our business was born.

I decided that I owed myself a day yesterday with the new lens, which I am still learning to use. Very few people are instant successes at everything or even anything and only fools think they can instantly master new technology. It takes me a while but I am finally getting it.

This lens is spooky sharp. I can now do things I could never do before. I am about to hit you with a bunch of pictures. Please click on one to see all of them full size.

I drove down to Santee in the afternoon. Cool spots down there for birdwatching. First Lindo Lake. Some whacked out looking motorhomers were feeding black crowned night herons, albeit against the rules. Little jewel of a lake for birds.

Most of these shots were taken from ƒ2.8 to F3.2. Incredible low light lens on my great low light camera, the Nikon D7200, which has now been fine tuned. Made quite a difference.

I saw egrets up in the eucalyptus trees, like last time I was there but this time I could capture them perfectly with the fast new nikkor 400mm ƒ2.8 fl telephoto. Just marvelous, I would say. Can't wait for my next outing. Can't wait for Yellowstone later this summer. This lens is everything I ever hoped for and I can even hand hold it for a few minutes before I collapse.

I finished up at Lindo and decided to drive over to Santee Lakes. Only cost three dollars and I still had a few hours. Took about a thousand shots. Could bore you to tears with bird shots.

In the far distance I saw an osprey flying around carrying a huge bass. Sadly he didn't fly close enough for me to get a great capture. But you certainly get the idea.

Big ass fish. Got home in the twilight, tired and famished but saw a hummer in the tree. One last picture!