Grandview Sunrise © Robert Sommers 2017

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

When judgement's trumpet sounds no one evades its mortal din.

Faces of the west

Before I get into the sordid bits of the shows, which are akin to sausage making and not always the prettiest of pictures I thought I would indulge you with a few portraits of New Mexico.

The actors in this movie have a lot of character and wrinkles and have earned every single one of them.

And all in all, they are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pecos view with mushroom cloud

Sweet Dreams

New Mexico viaje

I am back from the trek to New Mexico and back. It was a really long trip and a very tough trip but I made it. You know my motto - Survival is the new victory. This one took me right to the wall.

Stayed in Flag the first night. Leslie was kind enough to book me a room, not at the usual place. I got out of my car and exchanged suspicious glances with a crew cutted Oklahoman with an NRA cap and a Love it or leave it t-shirt. The room stunk of a serious overuse of household cleanser but it was okay for a night.

I asked the bored man at the front desk if there was a place around that they recommended for food? He said that the diner next door wasn't too bad, McZips. I walked over and overcame an instant flight urge and momentary case of hackles and stupidly asked for a menu.

The waitress said that the breakfast's weren't bad and that no one ever died yet with the chicken fried steak. I looked up and saw the navajo cook give me a somewhat sinister look.

I guess I was destined to be the first fatality. I got a sorry looking hammered corpse of unidentified origin that was encased in a mushy batter and then covered with what appeared to be a generous helping of thirty weight motor oil. Inedible. I took two bites and then quickly pulled the money out of my pocket, settled and literally ran.

When I hit the room, the cleanser smell instantly got the better of me and I just had time to eject the contents of my stomach into the sink and miss the fine looking pine green carpet.

Bad move.

Turned out the sink plunger was broke. As in, no drain. I got the paper cup off the coffee maker and started carefully transferring the puke to the toilet bowl, chicken fried chunk by chunk. I have gotten very sensitive to funky smells in my old age, won't be stopping by McZip's again anytime soon. Felt like I had hit some ceremonial nadir or serious point of negative demarcation in my life. The place they call rock bottom.

Made it to Albuquerque the next day at the usual time, without difficulty. Dropped my stuff off at the show. Checked into the hotel and ran over to Little Anita's for a bite of Mexican food. Literally, a bite was all I could eat, the place now battling McZips for the annual Sommers' Bizzaro Bocuse bottom of the barrel culinary award. Perhaps this trip was destined to be the forced start of a new diet, if not death by food poisoning.

Show sucked for me, and the food got worse. Do yourself a favor, don't try that hip little Columbian restaurant on Silver. Ever.

Dane and I (fellow victim at Colombian dinner) walked around Knob Hill, one evening, than crashed an art opening with some pretty mediocre prints from a woman's trip to Asia that I was utterly charitable and complimentary towards.

My weird luck and karma continued.

That night my toothbrush thigamajig holder decided to launch itself in an unprovoked, thoroughly unpredictable and very incongruous leap into a urine filled toilet. I retrieved it somehow and cleaned it as best as I could but sort of lost the taste for brushing my teeth the rest of the trip. Warmboe took mercy on me and brought me a new toothbrush at the show two days later.

The second night I went to a memorial for John and Jay Evetts at Terry's. Ron Munn got up and told a good story. People were very nice, I was still bruised from my own heartache but it seems to be going around. Couldn't help but notice that we were all getting considerably older and that we had all known each other a very long time. Big old gypsy family, mostly brilliant, eccentric and unemployable. Thank god for traders.

El Dorado Sunset

Show and suffering finally ended and I headed up to Santa Fe to hole up at Steve's hideout at El Dorado. Got lost and ran into this pretty mud puddle and sunset at the end of the road.

Steve used to have a real job but since he retired he lost his structure and sleeps a lot so I have to kick his ass and get him outside. We take a side trip every year between the shows. This time we drove out to Watrous and then up to Mora.

Had never been to Watrous, lovely place, got there by accident. Like driving through time. Beautiful large ranches, undisturbed by the national cacophony.

Lots of birding. Saw a beautiful unidentified hawk, maybe a Swainsons.

Passed a beautiful low crest of rocks, caught a yellow warbler of some kind out of an eye corner. Whole area is so lovely. Would love to go back and do some serious birdwatching some spring.

Continued up to Peñasco, took pictures of old churches, then down to Chimayo. I said a prayer to the resident deity at the church, which is rumored to be a place of miraculous healing. The old priest I met on my last visit has passed away, after a half century there. Little guy. Very nice man.

We left the famous weaving village after a good lunch that we happily shared with the bees at Rancho De Chimayo. I had trout. I was starting to overdose on green chile. It is monsoon season and was beginning to rain.

The next morning I met a friend of Steve Maras named David Halpern at the Counter Culture. David is a noted and celebrated photographer, he is the current artist at residence at Bandolier and has held a similar position at numerous other National Parks. An affable southerner from Nashville, he currently has a two year exhibition up at the Gilcrease Museum - The Essence of Place, Celebrating the Photography of David Halpern, Gilcrease Museum (Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art), Tulsa, Oklahoma, November 22, 2016 through December 31, 2017.

It was a joy to run into David and swap stories, techniques and philosophy with him. I hope to shoot with him one day in the future.

Later that day Steve and I drove back out to Pecos Pueblo, one of my favorite structures to photograph on this earth. The atmosphere at Pecos never lets me down and this day was no exception.

I love New Mexico, the farther away from town the better. Have been making the migration for over twenty years and discover something new every time.

We finished this day at Monastery Lake and topped it off with a trip to the dairy queen.

The next day I set up the show at Whitehawk and had an opening in the evening. Took pictures of clients and old friends, like this lovely lady I shot last year.

I swear she knew I was coming...

Billy Schenck


I will post more show pics later probably. Went out one night with John Morris, Myra Nakashima and John Yarnell of furniture fame and had a great meal at Santa Cafe. Namedropper.

Got home late that night to see a raging lightning storm over the Pecos. Snapped shots for an hour.

Tomorrow is the birthday of the two most important people in my life, my wife Leslie and my late mother Adelle. I need to acknowledge them both. My mother, while eccentric at times, was a brilliant writer and editor who had a curriculum vitae and life experience that was unparalleled.

She taught me so much and instilled a love for so many things, and a reverence for the written word. She loved my writing, photography and my painting (an output that I unfortunately can no longer share with you) and was a great supporter of my creativity from my infancy. Gave us the freedom to be very different. Had her peccadillos but loved her kids.

My mother saved my life on at least two occasions. I have still never really dealt with her passing in an emotional way and one day I know that the roof will simply cave in. She was so extraordinary, her gravity shifted every person and planet that was lucky enough to wander into her orbit. An absolute genius.

Thank you mother.

Leslie, I can't thank you enough for hitching your life to my sometimes creaky wagon. Twenty seven years and counting, with your unwavering love and devotion, there is no obstacle that we can not surmount. Once again, thank you for hanging in through thick and thin. You have been the greatest partner a man could ask for and do more than your fair share in keeping our life together.

You are such a unique combination of love, beauty and wisdom. The best partner in the world. Awesome person. Total package. Wishing you a great birthday and a wonderful year. Thank you honey. I love you.

(to be continued...)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Regroup and move on.

I'll be out of commission, on the road for a while. Yearly trek and all that. Good time to take a break I guess. Maybe the red rocks and pinyon will clear my head? Been sick since I got back from Canada, not to mention heartsick.

I guess I miss my brother's voice more than anything. Tough knowing that I will never hear it again. I was always there for him and he was always there for me and that's it. The rest of life's trip will be post Buzz.

I am amazed by the number of good people and friends that tell me that they wish that they could understand how I feel but that their relationship with their siblings was only so-so. I feel for those people, I really do. Guess I was lucky. Or maybe my close relationship with Buzz was unnatural, we just went through too much heavy stuff together.

My mother, for all that I bag on her, taught us early that people were more important than things and we all got that. Important to love your brothers and sisters, stick by them until the end. I have been so blessed, with family and friends. Thank you, one and all. Not ever having had kids, I guess my friends became even more important to me.

I made up with a sister while up in Canada, best thing that happened to me. So glad that is over. Forgive and apologize while you have the chance. You will feel better.

The normal thing, almost three weeks out, is to forget about a tragic loss and move on. I wish I could. But things are getting better. Haven't cried for a few days. Thanks to those of you who have been there for me. For the few that were derelict, can't handle that sort of thing, well I will remember that too.

I keep taking posts I can spare off the blog, I don't want my brother's eulogy to disappear off the bottom. Isn't that silly? It will happen eventually but I'm not ready yet.

I knew a year ago that this was going to be the toughest year of my life, it just played out too quick.

Later. Robert

© Mike Reardon 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Flim Flam Man

The Trump formula is so simple, its brilliant. Pick any department of government and find and appoint the person most antagonistic to its essential function and principles to run it.

Our president seems intent on destroying our country's great legacy and he is being enabled by a party largely and willfully blinded to his monstrosities. Begs the question, is this a government or a mafia family? All the ethical chicanery and shady loans from Russian gangsters leaves me seriously wondering.

He likes to let the lobbyists run the show. Today it is Susan Combs at Interior, a woman who has dedicated her career to destroying the Endangered Species Act.

The other day it was Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist for Murray Energy, picked to be the number two man at the EPA.  Pick number one, Scott Pruitt, has been a waterboy for energy interests since he was first elected Attorney General of Oklahoma. How 'bout them earthquakes, Scott? Really been something since they started fracking.

Trumps pick to run education, Betsy DeVos, is an outspoken opponent of public schools. Our Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is a long time bankruptcy vulture who had to pay the SEC millions of dollars to settle an overcharging suit. A Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who pillaged American homeowners at IndyMac, saddling the FDIC with 13 billion dollars in debt in the process while walking away with a cool 3 billion.

Appoint Kris Kobach and Hans Spakovsky to the Election commission, two total nutjob conspiracy theorists, the former now being twice censured by Federal judges for a demonstrable pattern of lying.

I could go on and on but won't. Watching politics is supposed to be as dirty an exercise as watching sausage being made but after the Health Care debacle I don't think there is a slaughterhouse in America quite this dirty.

Barry Blitt - New Yorker
Don't carve your face on Mt. Rushmore just yet, Donald. Perhaps we will see you in pinstripes yet one day, hopefully breaking up rocks in the yard. Have your fun people, enjoy your time at the trough, red staters. Things have a way of coming around and we won't forget. You have sold your country and your principles out.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Yellow Crane Tower

The yellow crane has long since gone away,
All that here remains is yellow crane tower.
The yellow crane once gone does not return,
White clouds drift slowly for a thousand years.
The river is clear in Hanyang by the trees,
And fragrant grass grows thick on parrot isle.
In this dusk, I don't know where my homeland lies,
The river's mist-covered waters bring me sorrow.

Cui Hao (704-754 a.d.)

Sandy Denny


Mike Reardon invited a few of his photographer buddies up to shoot the Los Angeles Arts District with him yesterday. Thought it would be good for me to get out of town so I came along as did the somewhat angelic Jon Harwood. Our first stop was the McDonalds, only took a second to figure out that we weren't in Fallbrook anymore. Mike got a little accosted near his car.

The Arts District itself seems to be an old industrial center that is in the process of being revitalized. Lots of murals, Urth Cafe, a coffee shop or two but really not a lot of action on an early Sunday morning.

We met the cool young ex rabbi painter Natan Halevy who showed us his large industrial space and his kabbalistically oriented paintings, strolled around the neighborhood, fairly uneventful really until Harwood got into a messy altercation with a nasty piece of citrus.

I took a lot of pictures of varying quality of murals of varying quality but I am sure that they have been pretty well documented already and will spare you.

Did manage to shoot some stuff that caught my eye. Like this shadow parley.

Shadows can be a great source of inspiration, especially when they start acting in a manner independent from the actions of their hosts.

Afterwards we drove up to Disney Hall to shoot Frank Gehry's beautiful brainchild.

Man with hat in front of Disney Hall 

Woman with poodle, Los Angeles

It will be fun to process these shots. Got some stuff I like, I can tell even after a quick look.

I shot everything yesterday with two lenses that don't get enough use in my bag, the Bower 14mm ƒ2.8 and the early ai converted nikkor 55mm ƒ1.2. Wide and fast. Fun.

Afterwards we drove by McArthur Park but didn't stop. Ended up on Wilshire and snapped a couple pics of the venerable Bullocks building, designed by John and Donald Parkinson in 1929.

We cruised Wilshire for a while and somehow ended up at Canters. Funny how that always happens. Corned beef heals all wounds.

Nice day in the big city.