Rapt attention

Monday, November 30, 2009

Snooks Eaglin

Baby, please. I am heading to the saloon to find comfort in some Bushmills. Used to be a Jamison guy but I must have gone protestant. Tried Powers and Red Breast the other day as well.  Please send Irish Whiskey...

Man of the people

When President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

I was having a conversation with somebody or other the other day about people in history we would have enjoyed meeting. There are so many people that come to mind for me - Einstein, Franklin, Fu Hsi, Philip Dick, Lenny Bruce maybe.  But the most fascinating man, in my humble opinion, in the last millennia or so was Thomas Jefferson. 

I read his autobiography and collected writings a couple of years ago and recommend them to everybody. Though not without flaws, Jefferson was the embodiment of a renaissance man.  I would like to list some of the accomplishments of our third President.  People can not humanly get so much done. But he did!

Jefferson stood a straight six feet tall. He was a student at the College of William and Mary, studying philosophy, math and metaphysics. He spoke english, french, latin, greek and added gaelic later in life. He was the father of modern archaeology. He was an innovator of modern excavation technique. He amused himself by playing violin. He was a member of the mysterious Flat Hat Club. 

A lawyer, architect (who invented the neo-palladian style), birder, farmer and botanist, he was also a first rate inventor, inventing the swivel chair, the rotating bookshelf and the physiognotrance, a mechanical drawing instrument. He also invented an improved plough and a macaroni machine. He was a seed collector and collected scientific instruments. He brought numerous new plants to this country. He had such an extensive book collection that he donated it to Congress in 1815 after theirs was destroyed in the previous year's fire.

He was a magistrate, county lieutenant, member of the Continental Congress and Governor. He served as Secretary of State. Jefferson was also the President of the American Philisophic Society. He pioneered state's rights and was opposed to Hamilton's more monarchical pretenses. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.  The document proclaims that all men are equal in rights, regardless of birth, wealth, or status, and that the government is the servant, not the master, of the people.

He was a stark advocate for the separation of Church and State, writing the Virginia Statutes for Religious Freedom in 1786. It offended many christians in his time.

The Louisiana Purchase was obtained on his watch and the Lewis and Clark Expedition undertaken. As President, he cut military expenditures, slashed the budget and lowered the tax on whiskey. He cut the national debt by a third and sent a naval squadron out to go after Barbary pirates.

He founded the University of Virginia. He was an opponent of primogeniture, the automatic awarding of land to a son in an estate. 

It is said that Jefferson studied 15 hours a day. It is also said that he grew hemp. He envisioned a society of independent gentleman farmers as opposed to Hamilton's idea of mostly businessmen and commerce. Jefferson was called a man of the people and liked to dress down into ordinary clothes to meet his visitors at the White House.

The thing I took away from reading his book and studying him, the thing that floored me was how broad his brain really stretched. He institutionalized and codified a system of weights and measurements for the whole country. That is big. 

He managed to identify and categorize every type of flora and fauna extant in the entire republic during his tenure. It just amazes me that one human being could create and conceive of so much. I can't think of anyone else who ever came close with the exception maybe of Nicolai Tesla.

Jefferson was not without his faults. He advocated a forced removal and extermination of the Native Americans in the eastern woodland.  He was a major chauvinist who hated intellectual women. Adams evidently felt that he was nearly a treasonous francophile, if we are to believe David McCullough's reading of history.

I gloss over many of this great American's accomplishments. There are probably many other things that he achieved that I omit by my ignorance. What an amazing man. It would be hard to call him the greatest president because I think we reserve such terms for those that shepherded us through the times of greatest crisis, like Roosevelt, Lincoln and Washington. Yet you would be hard pressed to find an American who achieved more and was as committed to democracy. He died on the fourth of July, 1826.

"I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson

Some quotes from the man of Monticello -
Every generation needs a new revolution. 
Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it. 
An injured friend is the bitterest of foes. 
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. 
Be polite to all, but intimate with few. 
I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature. 
I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. 
I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. 
In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty. 
Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people. 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Buffalo Springfield

Millard just sent this over. An unusual lineup with Crosby in the mix. He thinks late before CSN. Do you all get tired of all the psychedelia I put up? What kind of music would you all like to hear on the blog? Am I still too bluesy and twangy? Need to get funky again. I sort of dug the gospel stuff.

Nobody Loves Me But My Mother

And she could be jiving too...

A woman scorned...

It is nice to know that for all of Tiger Woods' money, he can still get his sorry ass kicked by his trophy wife. She seemed to have had little trouble shoving that three wood up his butt, even without expensive swing lessons from Butch Harmon.

I am sure that Team Tiger, which has no comment and has made itself unavailable to the local police, is doing some serious huddling and damage control at the moment. Probably scads of lawyers, agents, accountants and marriage counselors scurrying around, trying to shore up the chinks in the teflon armor.

I thought that the super rich got a pass on this sort of thing. I think that I read once that Bill Gates had language written into his marriage contract which gave him the liberty to philander. Discretely, of course. Warren Buffet had an open arrangement with his mistress for decades. It would be great to be a fly on the wall during those prenuptial negotiations. "You want what?" "Oh, it's just boilerplate dear..."

Guess the viking princess had a little old school buttwhippin' on her mind. Interesting how the story changed. You know, from trying to get him out of the car with the golf club to chasing his sorry ass down with the driver. And the cops just couldn't square the lacerations and scratches on Tiger's face with hitting a tree and a fire hydrant.

He may have wanted to check her for the MAOA enzyme, monoamine oxidase A, prior to exchanging vows. This "warrior gene" predicts aggressive behavior after provocation. I wish it had been available before my two marriages, would have saved on scrapes and bandages. Great article by Gautam Nail in this weeks WSJ on the gene and one of its principal researchers.

Just about anyone who has ever been coupled in a monogamous relationship has had an argument with their spouse. I don't really trust people that say that they have never had an argument. We knew one couple that said that, name will not be disclosed, and she turned out to be repressing something really bad that happened in her childhood.  When the cork finally popped, it was really nasty and blew the whole thing up.

I try to limit the arguments with my lovely wife. Our twenty years together has surely taught me that I can't win. We had an interesting go round leaving thanksgiving dinner. Her brother warned me that I would be "dodging shrapnel" as he eloquently put it, on the way home. I had no idea how prescient he really was.  I was a dick and started it with a nasty retort which I apologize for. I will not regale you with a round by round description, blast readers would enjoy it too much, but let us just say that my self bandaging and cauterizing duties are still continuing.  No one represses anything in our household. Dollars to doughnuts, we both have the MAOA gene, and should be getting residuals as poster children.

Lord knows I am no picnic and Leslie has stuck it out twice as long as Diann and here's to keeping it together for ever. ("oh, joy! - Leslie") I know that relationships across this whole great land of ours (not having a ready perception of the global economic scene) have to be suffering since money is so tight for everybody.  If Tiger Woods is getting his ass kicked, men, it could be any of our asses on the line.

So we need to suck it up, tough it out, and for god sakes shut up. Don't tempt the dragon. This thing will blow over and we'll all be back in the clover. Keep on keeping on and don't fight.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Still Learning

Our friends Doug and Retha have made it to La Paz on their boat, Still Learning. I post their last few blog posts with their permission:

From Bahia Santa Maria to Bahia Magdelana was a short run of about 40 nautical miles to our anchorage at Man O War Cove. Water temperature continues to climb and was around 73F and an azure blue. Fishing has been marginal but we did manage to land a nice dorado and had several strikes, but no hookups. We have seen many whales and the occasional school of dolphins. The pacific dolphins like to bow ride, while a smaller, darker species comes to the boat but doesn't bowride. I think they are just looking us over and they like to surf the stern wake. The coastline has a stark beauty with miles of barren beaches and steep rocky coastline.

The small fishing village at Man O War Cove was hit hard by the recent hurricane and every building showed the damage. Many of the villagers are sleeping in makeshift tents and starting the rebuilding process. Lobster season opened for the fisherman on Nov 15 so there was much activity related to setting traps and harvesting their catch. Fresh waster was in scarce supply, so we donated many gallons from our tanks and water maker. We also had brought several boxes of clothing, which we gladly donated to help the villagers recover. In exchange we received many thank yous and several lobsters. It was interesting that the fisherman were also harvesting the larger periwinkles that are relatively common in the inter and subtidal areas. Several fisherman were bent over a large rock on the beach and with a large hammer were breaking the shells and extracting the succulent but chewy snails inside. The children of the village were beautiful with wide smiles and were eager to trade shells they had collected for dollars. Even though the village had been heavily damaged there was an operational internet cafe and several small shops with limited supplies. We picked up some bananas and fresh bread. The small church was missing most of its roof and its heavy wooden doors, which had been blown away, were now back and leaning against the front wall. Both of the church bells had survived the winds.

The run from Man O War Cove at Mag Bay to San Jose del Cabo was about 200 miles. We traveled slowly at about 8 knots fishing along the way. We had several strikes and one dorado and one break off which spooled us. I believe it must have been a large wahoo. Water temperature was in the high 70s and it just keeps getting bluer. We all stand watches, which works out to be three hours on and six hours off. This provides enough time to get some decent sleep. Night cruising is a new experience for us and we rely heavily upon the radar and AIS, a relatively new electronic addition that every large commercial vessel must use. The system provides much detailed information about the vessel, and most importantly, its speed and course.

There was some moon last night and the stars were spectacular This adds to the majesty of night cruising and provides some light to see the other vessels. On the previous night runs it had been totally black and there were some issues related to keeping all white lights off and using just red light for keeping our night vision. We had bought expensive night vision binoculars with IR but they turned out to be useless for seeing anything at night relative to seeing other boats and lobster trap buoys in the water. They will be sent back to the seller.

We planned our cruise to round Land's End at daybreak so as to see Arch Rock. With the rising sun and the golden glow of dawn we saw the cape in all its glory on an azure sea. There were whales spouting all around as the fishing fleet was making its daily exit from Cabo San Lucas. Their boats were filled with gringos hoping to catch the big one!

From Lands End and Arch Rock at Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo is a short run of about 17 miles. We had been lugging the diesels all day and night so it was way past time to wind up the turbochargers and give the engines some exercise. We made the run to the marina at Puerto Los Cabos in about 90 minutes with several stops to watch whales. I believe we saw humpbacks but no positive identification.

The entire coastline along the south cape is completely developed with condos, hotels, resorts, timeshares, and has little remains of the old Mexican villages common only several decades ago. As we approached San Jose del Cabo, the large rock breakwater stands out from the pastel colors of the developments and the tan scars of future construction sites. The marina is still being developed, but it is modern, clean, neat and well designed for boaters and sport fisherman. We were quickly checked in and the the coastal inspectors were efficient and courteous.

It is only a short ride into town. The small town was clean, well built, and the people were friendly. The shops are filled with traditional handicrafts and there are many upscale shops with nicely crafted wares. The town plaza is a jewel of traditional architecture and, of course, the church is the centerpiece in the open square filled with fountains and statues honoring Mexican educators and scientists. We loved this place and had a wonderful lunch and enjoyed the shopping and strolling along the streets. There are many real estate stores, as this area is believed to be a future Monterey of the cape. While development and growth appears inevitable, there has been an attempt to capture the best of the Mexican culture and art while catering to the lifestyles and demands of the monied tourist.

At the party last night we won the award for the boat with the "Best Sense of Humor" mainly because of our boat's name. However, this distinction was also achieved because of the gaiety associated with backing into our slip with a nasty cross wind. Yes, we are truly Still Learning.

Tomorrow we are off to Bahia de los Muertos for one night, then we go to our final destination for this leg..... La Paz.

We did it!! Still Learning and her tired but happy crew arrived in La Paz on Thanksgiving afternoon. The seas were rough yesterday (Wednesday), so we set a hook in Bahia de las Muertes last night for a little rest before the last leg of our trip today. We awoke to the roughest seas of our journey, but Still Learning held up well and was so stable that only a few items flew off the counters today.

Tonight we have our farewell party to say adios to many new yachtista friends. We hope to see them on another FUBAR in a couple of years.

We have many beautiful photos, and I will upload them to this website as soon as I have reliable internet service.

Thank you for keeping in touch through our blog.

Retha and Doug
M/V Still Learning

Lefty Frizzell

Skinny Dugan

I got a telegram this morning. Time to pack that leaving trunk. I said I got a telegram this morning. Gonna pack that leaving trunk. I used to dream big, Momma, but now all my dreams are sunk.
Found on a boxcar
Fearless Eye Fleagle
Des Moines 1933

I am a gambler. I have gambled my whole life. I took several significant chances with the greatest possibilities of crashing and burning at a very young and inappropriate age. I made friends with the edge. If it was simple and square I wanted no part of it. Had to have the remote possibility of bloodshed, physical or emotional.

I had a bookie in the seventies. She taught me how to pick horses. Her strategy was to bet large amounts on the show bet.  Also had a lot of action on college basketball, once picking 18 straight games in March Madness.  My brother and I used to come up to the Sahara a lot, first with our dad, who was a mathematician and expert blackjack player. He taught us the game and I am actually pretty good. Not a basic strategy guy, more of an intuitive vibes type player. Will double on all sorts of combinations, almost ace - anything. Will hit the sixes when I have to and take my beating.  The bookie, whose name was Suzie, eventually lost everything she had including her house, when she leaned the wrong way on some action. Couldn't cover.

I only play at  the Venetian, Frankie's section - what can I tell you, it's been lucky for me. They used to comp me but now it's only meals. They want a $400 dollar average bet for four hours and I play 50 - 50 - 50 - 200.  Have what I believe is one of the highest win rates around.  I am smart enough to only go twice a year. When my wife is at her fashion apparel show. If I had to depend on it, who knows? I met blackjack pros up there that cleared about 3g's a day. I think that I could hang with them but guess I would have to do it to really find out.

When I was young I would play all night long. The dealers would freak when they saw me still sitting there at the beginning of the new shift. Saw fortunes rise and fall right in front of me. The enemy is always getting up and saying enough. Losses or wins. My brother and I went one time and were lighting our cigars with benjamins and playing 500 bucks a hand. We found a hotel with a free cab to the airport and split a hotdog with the last two bucks to our name. Laughing like madmen. He says that I stole a newspaper from a sleeping bum but I honestly have no recollection. And catastrophic falls read so much better in the novel of one's life, no?

I had a friend named Tony Chula who managed a spa in Vegas for a couple of years, think it was the Paradise. He told me a story that I will never forget once about a very genteel and polished man who used to come in for a manicure every week in his immaculate suit and french cuffs. When Tony's job was over, he happened to glance over at this very same gentleman, now sitting on a trunk and thumbing a ride out of town.

I rarely go to the indian casinos. We got ourselves a heap of them here in San Diego County. When I do go the strategy is play a couple hands until they buy you a good steak dinner and split. We have a friend named Jean who is the luckiest woman alive in terms of games of chance. Slot Goddess. The machines bow down and spill their guts in her eminent presence. I can't focus properly unless I am in Vegas. Weird.

I hit 5k a couple years ago and the wife came by and I gave her a grand. She demanded all of it and I told her where to get off. And then promptly lost all of it. I got such a ration from her, she demanded I go and get the money back and I won 7k. Fear is such a motivator.

I thought about trying poker but blackjack is really my game. The human element of poker brings in too many variables. When I have a nice table and am sitting in last position and everybody is loose and happy, things just hum along in blackjack. I like to play fast and often play two handed. The money numbers become meaningless. It is all units. You ease into a zen satori like detachment. If you are playing with too small a bet, the wins don't ever seem to add up and make a difference.

Business is also a gamble. You sit back and play the game too tight in my racket, you lose your edge and significance. You are all in all the time. Or you play it safe and slowly bleed to death. An interesting conundrum.  Life can be a gamble as well. I had the audacity to try to live a fairly unconventional life on my own terms from the gitgo.

You get inured to the edge, the danger sort of becomes blase after a while. Probably not a great recipe for a balanced and wholesome family life or marital relationship either, come to think of it.

Got a letter today that the lender wants me to pay the property tax on the building like right now. Thought I had some time to screw around but apparently don't have the luxury. Riding the bow in a confluence of discordant waves in what looks like what might be a perfect storm. Lash me to the mast, I think I see Ithaca. I will spit in the eye of the devil. You are dealing with a professional. Might be time to hit the Venetian...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Bees - Voices Green And Purple

Antique and southwestern art dealers might recognize the pungent guitar of their very own Bob Zinner. This is the hit song of one of the sixties bands he played with, The Bees. He was also in the W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band. One of the treats of going to Santa Fe is listening to Robert Zinner jam with the local blues players every year. Great guy, great guitar player. This has got a bit of a garage flavor for sure but put yourself in McGuinn granny glasses and a Sonny Bono caveman vest and imagine that you are on the swinging Sunset Strip and perhaps you can enter into the spirit of the thing...

On the declining slope

Favorite blog curmudgeon Millard Fillmore had a birthday yesterday. Fillmore, the pride of the San Fernando valley, got very defensive when I asked him just how many trips around the sun he had actually taken?

He says that it is less than 60 and not to use the words silver or senior in his presence. Here's to facing the downhill slide with a little dignity, Millard. Happy Birthday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of the rest of you. Have a great time with whomever and try not to drink and drive. And to all of you native americans out there - aren't you glad the white man showed up?

Bombs away?

President Obama continues to disappoint and misses a golden opportunity to show leadership globally. Next week a conference will be held in Cartagena discussing land mines. Only two countries in the western hemisphere, the United States and Cuba, have failed to ratify the treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of land mines. 156 countries have signed the agreement, leaving China, India, Cuba, USA, Iran and Russia as the lone holdouts.

This issue was heavily promoted by the late Princess Diana, who died in 1997. Both Afghanistan and Iraq are signatories, and the US is prohibited from using such munitions in their countries. President Bush refused to sign the treaty and Obama is following suit.

"We made our policy review and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly. This is a curious position for the President and has been heavily criticized in his own party, since the United States stopped production in 1997 and vowed at the time to sign the treaty.

I see no reason for not signing the ban, especially since we are no longer producing them. They are horrible instruments of death and I am sure that we have even nastier ways of dispatching our enemies both hidden away and currently on the drawing boards. I fail to see a moral differentiation between landmines and the IED's that are causing so many deaths and traumatic brain injuries to our own troops in the middle east. We sink to a new level of barbarity with these weapons.

My friend Bigdave called today and asked me if I was aware of the horrible parallels between Obama and LBJ. He thinks that Afghanistan will be the new Gulf of Tonkin. Obama's Vietnam. And the similarities are stark. My response is and was that liberals tend to get institutionalized by the graybeards in the Pentagon when they get in office and seem to always drift to the right. The young leader maybe gets scared out of his wits by somebody at the CIA and freaks out with the enormity of the threats. Stops thinking clearly. Forgets the platform that put him in office. Guess that it is natural. Wants to show a little testosterone to the Dr. Strangelove's back in the war room.

Now the bright side is if this is a sixties flashback, maybe we got a Woodstock moment coming too? Maybe we got smart and won't eat the green acid this go around. John Morris can pull out his old safari jacket one more time.

The conservatives in this country have accused Obama of everything short of raping Dolly Madison. He can't get in any worse with them. How about showing some nad and start thinking about the people who elected you for a change. That whole change thing, remember? Stop equivocating. Piss on the Republicans. You caved on wiretapping and now on land mines. What do you stand for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Cipollina

A monster of the vibrato, John Cipollina was a treat to see live. The sound is awful here but stick with it and you get a taste of the flavor of one of the sixties best acid rock guitarists. It's a shame there's so few good Quicksilver videos.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Neither a borrower nor a lender be;  
For loan oft loses both itself and friend, 
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day, 
thou canst not then be false to any man.  
 Hamlet Act I, Scene III

My wise old father once told me never to lend money or books - you seldom get either back.  I committed a cardinal sin this month. Grumpy brought a rare cd that he had checked out from the library over for me to burn. I frankly forgot about it.  Last week I got one and then another terse emails from monsieur grumpster informing me that the recording was long overdue and that he was in hot water with some very angry librarians. I wrote back and promised him that I would take full responsibility and even write a letter to whom it may concern concerning his generally splendid record in such matters and to his fine character but he said no, just return the disk, and lickety split if possible but I was in San Francisco so I couldn't and besides amnesty day is the last friday of the month and we were approaching nine bucks. Grumps emailed that forget the fine just get the darn thing back because he couldn't check anything else out, probably pretty steamed by this point and maybe getting a scarlet letter and his picture up on the wall as a social miscreant.

I walked into the library this afternoon with my wrists bound together shouting "I am a criminal, arrest me" to the bemused looks of the assorted spectators and librarians. Perhaps it was my dramatic entrance, I don't know, but the matron decided to have mercy on me and waive eight dollars of the fee. They said that they wouldn't even tell him if it would help me play the guilt card.

Grumpy is sort of the Ed McMahon of the blog, that's right Johnnie - he had posting privileges once but he got his hands slapped when he tried an old fashioned palace coup. I love his enthusiasm and smarts but sometimes he can be a bit reactive and I have to limit his comments occasionally.  But I am glad that he cares and has been such a loyal contributor, even if he often rubs Mr. Anonymous the wrong way. Grumpy occasionally works at the episcopal thrift shop and has brought me incredible shirts that he has picked up for a dollar. His grandpa was a very famous california plein air painter in the twenties and Grump has excellent taste in music. Used to be in the comic book world in L.A., if my info is right.  So I want to publicly apologize to my whole cyberfamily for not getting the compact disk back to the library promptly and for sullying Grump's good name.

At the risk of sounding overly self congratulatory, I am amazed by the number of people I meet who are reading the blast. Regular readership around the globe. It makes me feel really good. Interestingly enough, people often tell me they like the more personal stuff (except for New York Stan, who thinks I'm a bit of a drama queen.)  Had dinner with a couple of lady friends after the show that are not only regular readers but have friends in Hawaii that are now tuning in. I feel really good when people tell me that it is the only blog they read or the best thing on the web. Thanks for reading and listening. Of course, some only come for the music, and Dave Gunther told me the other day that the blog was kind of corny.

My friend Brian says that his mother is reading me back in Norfolk and that I should write something about him. Sorry Brian, no go. Do something interesting like rob a bank and I'll give you some ink.

My friend Trace, who I supped with yesterday evening, is doing some amazing genealogical research, swabbing relatives mouths for genetic markers. Charting Y-DNA for males and mitochondrial DNA. Connecting with other folks in cyber groups that share similar genetic indicators. I am eager to get involved in the process. Very cool. Supposedly her husband came from an african jewish subgroup with priestly connections, relatively recently. Fascinating stuff.

I was on the phone for three hours today with the credit card company that processes my shop transactions. There were like 4 to 8 thousand of dollars of transactions that never properly batched and we were trying some forensic pathological tricks to save the transactions. Pain in the ass but Jacoby, the guy on the other end who lived in Cassius Clay's hometown in Kentucky was pretty cool.  Almost managed to make everything right.

Been getting a slough of spam on the comments form of the blog - buy phentermine, the usual garbage. The insidious spam engines are like termites, they get into everything eventually.

Show was a washout. Not only  the lowest gross in fifteen years but I managed to break something in someone else's booth that I had to pay for. A porcelain.  So it was basically very expensive advertising.

One of the cool things that happened was that my old teacher G.D. "Doug" Durrant and his charming wife Susan showed up and chatted. Took watercolor classes from him 30 years ago and he was the best teacher I ever had. We talked a lot about food in class. He is an ex Rodeo coach from Sul Ross College in Texas many moons ago and a fine painter. Always nice to see them.

Had a guy walk in who is a client of a good friend and competitor. He looked at my wares and sniffed that none of them was up to the level of his collection. Which is bullshit. I asked him what he thought my stuff was, chopped liver? and he sadly shook his head in the affirmative.  I may not have the greatest paintings in the world but they are pretty darn good. I have learned that you can work in this life with some people and can't work with others, no matter what you show them. So Mr. A, please take the liberty to kiss my tuchas.

I also had a nice dinner at the Fish Market with Marty from Papillon Gallery. I had wahoo and he enjoyed the fresh long lined Alaskan halibut that everyone was raving about. Nice to share a meal with an old hand in the business.

 Did meet some nice folks and took my whipping and beatdown like a man. Late.

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks

Run, Sarah, Run.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day of the Jackal

Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has just publicly lauded countryman Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (better known as Carlos the Jackal) as a revolutionary fighter who has been unjustly imprisoned. He has reportedly been writing letters to the murderous Sanchez in prison.

Carlos was the mastermind of the Munich Olympic murders and has admitted to the 1975 OPEC murders and kidnappings in Vienna. He was also implicated in the 1976 Air France hijacking and a string of other killings and grenade attacks.  Carlos is currently imprisoned in France  for killing two french agents.

Chavez has also publicly supported the late Idi Amin, a man who by conservative estimates killed 300,000 of his own people and also Ahmadinejad of Iran and strongman dictator Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

According to wikipedia, Carlos the Jackal has converted to Islam and has praised the actions of Osama Bin Laden in his writing.

Chavez has also reversed the long standing Venezuelan stance against Columbian rebels to a "neutral" position but is known to have been secretly bankrolling them for years. He has railed against "those who killed christ". I feel for any jewish Venezuelans who have to deal with the consequences of his rhetoric and actions.

I would hope that all decent countries would work to neutralize this populist strongman before he can do any more damage in the hemisphere. Judge him by the company he keeps.

Sun Ra and Moondog

Sunday scramble

I have a bit of a writer's block. One of my lowest production months in the last two years. Literarily speaking. Little fleeting profundities squirm through my clenching grasp and leave me shaking hands with empty space. My last attempt at humor left a family member pretty alienated and me feeling like a jerk.

I spent all of my available cash on a very nice painting someone actually left in a trash can at a storage facility. Now I am  gasping for oxygen once again like a flounder flopping on the sidewalk. I draw some small comfort from the realization that if I was to die right now and leave this mortal coil, I will at least die with the best shit.

I am currently sitting in my little cubicle at the Del Mar Antique Show. Yesterday was a wash out and I am trying not to mentally call it a day today which ain't much better. Met a lot of friendly folks but friendly don't exactly pay the mortgage.

Del Mar is strange. Always one of the best shows for traffic but also a particular strain of east county clientele with the tank tops and the budweiser tattoos. The dentally and mentally challenged. I put a deal together for an alcoholic friend who desperately needed a drink, out of pure Sommers altruism, not pulling a nickel out for the host. But have mostly sat on my hands and fretted. I have had really good shows here in better times and it is good advertising so that the good folks in San Diego remember that I still exist up thar in backwoods Fallbrook.

This is my first time back to the venue in a year. Last November I had the memorable trip to the john at Del Mar with the surprise ending wherein I discover that I am pissing buckets of blood and that Mr. C was back after all of these years. So I have residual heebie jeebies in the joint. I am ensconced at the front of the room which is great for exposure but also has the ghastly smell of fried onions wafting through all weekend.

There are quite a few regular blog readers in the biz and I get approached by a guy who challenges my low down liberal ways. Tells me he was smoking j's with the dead back in the Haight but found the error of his ways somewhere along the line and became a card carrying conservative and is hoping for my eventual redemption. Which is all well and good, I am too. But then he goes on to disparage Hillary and suggest she wear a bag over her head. Do republicans all hate women? The way they go on about Pelosi, Boxer and Clinton, you'd think there were some deep mommy issues. Hillary ain't a bad lookin' dame. Why does any woman except maybe Madame Palin anger their conservative souls so?

I am all for discussing issues and for dissenting points of view but when the antipathy is centered on a person's looks, I get a little cold. Although I must admit I once asked why they printed Barbara Bush's portrait on the dollar bill.

It's a little weird. After all of these years in the biz I can usually tell how I will do at a particular show when I first get out of the car or step into the hall. You can say self fulfilling prophecy but I think it is my razor sharp intuition or alien reptile brain clicking into gear.  More often than not my sixth sense gets borne out.

Anyway, here's hoping that some person of remarkable taste and/or sympathy will walk through and save my ass today.  Have a nice day yerselves.

By the way, fellow Fallbrookians. Jerry Morris, my favorite postman, a guy who has delivered my bills for 17 years, got broadsided by a sheriff's deputy last week, thrown out of his truck onto a fire hydrant and now has a broken pelvis. Jerry is a great guy and here's hoping for a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Extra Protein

This is going to be hard for some to swallow but I am being absolutely truthful. I was at coffee this morning with my morning gang and one of my friends, who happens to be a long time area dentist, told me something that turned my stomach.

The dentist, who I will call "Ron", noticed something curious about his favorite breakfast cereal, Kellogg's Raisin Bran, last week. He thought that he could see some strange black specks in the cereal.

"Ron" took the package back to his office and examined the contents under his microscope and lo and behold, the black specks were worm segments!

In the interest of science, "Ron" went to Costco and bought two more boxes of Raisin Bran. Both new boxes also contained the worm segments. He made some inquiries and was told that the worms had been killed in the intense frying heat that had initially produced the cereal.

I don't know if any other cereals suffer from this added and unwanted protein source but would advise a little caution before you pour their contents into your cereal bowl in the morning.

Monday, November 16, 2009


The Supreme Court in its munificent wisdom has rejected the call of native americans to outlaw the use of the term Washington "Redskins". The team adopted the moniker in 1933 and the SCOTUS says that the statute of limitations for bringing suit has expired. Read about the ruling here.

I am of two minds on the issue. Native Americans have also objected to the team names Indians, Warriors, Chiefs, Braves, etc. and they don't seem terribly noxious to me. Redskins does seem to cross some sort of line of propriety and good taste. There is a long history of ridiculous anti native sentiment in the country, which after all, we stole fair and square. Abe Lincoln, who was busy emancipating the slaves, had horrible things to say about the"savages". As did Mark Twain.

I know I would personally object to a team calling itself the "Heebs". I could just imagine the Brandeis "Fighting Accountants". There was actually a team called the Yeshiva Gefilte Fish for a while and I think that borders on poor taste as well since I've never been a fan of either. By the way, Stanford voluntarily changed its team name from Indian to Cardinal a few years ago. A singular Indian or lone brave which was sort of hard to understand but what do I know?

At the risk of being politically incorrect, are the native americans being just a tad oversensitive? We never hear a peep from the Greeks about the appropriation of the "Spartans" or "Trojans". The Irish and the leprechauns seem to be cool with the Boston "Celtics" or the "Fighting Irish". Peta hasn't started demonstrating yet over the Georgia Bulldogs or the Detroit Tigers. The brothers are apparently down with the Philadelphia Soul in the Arena Football League. The vegetarians have managed to tolerate the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes. Guess they have a bit thicker skin.

The big chiefs in Washington have issued their decree and I guess the matter is closed. Another arrow in the heart of the original inhabitants whose laundry list of affronts is already legendary. Play Ball.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


There is a great article by Leonard Mlodinow in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about the hokum that is the fine wine business, especially as it relates to judging and criticism. Link to it here.

A retired professor and statistician who also happens to be a small vintner, Robert Hodgson, decided to unmask the dog and pony show that is wine judging in America. It doesn't appear that he has made a lot of friends.

Hodgson would put the same wine in different bottles at the same competition and get wildly different scores from the very same judges and critics. He did some other crafty things as well. The California State Fair Wine Competition judges tried to suppress his findings for years but they were published earlier this year in the January Journal of Wine Economics. 

Turns out that judging wine is about as subjective and accurate as random coin flipping. One snob's hint of currants and pear is apparently another man's asphalt emulsion and turnip salad. Some interesting cover your ass reactions from wine luminaries like Robert Parker. Send this very interesting read to the wine snobs in your life.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Babel Babble

Today I heard a story about an acquaintance who is taking a fall off a pretty impregnable perch. Third such story this month. In a string of similar months. One of the folks is a close friend and a really good person who got out on the ledge and the jury is still out on whether they can put humpty dumpty back together again. Cross collateralized and the wheels are off the coach. One of the other tales is a story of a great empire that is now running on fumes and life support.  Names aren't important. Everybody knows somebody who had a great fall.

These stories unnerve me because I have lived them. My family was in the real estate development business.  My father worked hard his whole life, came to this country an immigrant who didn't speak the language, and ended up living the american dream with a slight pause for service in World War II. He built a very successful business, something that took decades, and a charlatan and a thief stole it all in a second in a deft predacious swoop. Twelve million dollars gone in a puff of smoke.

My dad always said not to do business with someone you couldn't afford to sue but he got weak and forgot his own advice. We won a unanimous jury trial but you can't fight a billionaire. May he rot in hell.  So everything vanished. No one made out but the devil and the lawyers.

I thought I was retired in my late thirties. And guess what, John Lennon was right. About life and making other plans. Larceny, cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, there's no man or woman who can't be reduced to rubble in the blink of an eye. I know. Went through all of it. Penthouse to the outhouse in five seconds. Thank god I found a woman who said she would stick with me if we had to live in a cardboard box on the street.  And has, through all the bullshit. And we clawed our way back, with little outside help and got a second chance. Reborn if you will.

I wonder if there is a lesson in all of this pain Americans and others are experiencing? I know the pain firsthand, having experienced a total financial collapse after my bank, Home Federal, was taken over in the middle of my last construction project. I twisted in the wind and was left for dead. Thank you, Ronald Reagan. That S&L deregulation thing worked brilliantly. What I took from my experience after a painful convalescence, is that it is good to imagine that the wolves are always nipping at your ankles.  I stopped financially exposing myself so much. Never bought the nice car. Or the new house. God, I would kill for a vacation to Kauai right about now but I will probably have to wait a few more years.

When I did fall, I had several people come up and tell me that they couldn't stand me when I was an arrogant high flyer and that financial ruin may have brought out the best in me. Go figure. But you certainly find out who your friends are and the importance of family when the shit hits the fan.

I think I despised the entitled at an early age and then got slightly co-opted and then maybe suspended judgement somewhat. You know, the people who were born on third base and all thought they hit triples. It's all a matter of what is important to you. There is a line in a once popular song that goes "put your gold money where your love is, baby." The people I met in this life who were the most financially successful were certainly not the smartest or even the luckiest. They have always been the most driven. And there is always a trade off.  We have all met the people who stepped on toes and clawed their way to the top and then wondered why no one wanted to play with them because they were such innately soulless pieces of shit. 

So maybe we all learn something as a people during dark economic times, here's hoping that things are truly on the rebound.  That whatever goes up must come down and that things don't ascend forever. And they don't stay bad forever either. Things will get better. That the only things truly important are the health of your loved one's. And that we can do okay when we have to do without.  Except paintings. You need paintings.

 The lake rises above the trees:
 Thus the superior man, when he stands alone,
 Is unconcerned,
 And if he has to renounce the world,
 He is undaunted.
I Ching

Mr. James Cotton

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gordian knot

Today turned into one of the most frustrating episodes. I unpacked from my long trip and on the way back from returning the rental van to San Diego, I decided to buy the new Motorola droid phone from Verizon.  All was well and good until the guy realized that it wouldn't accept my email address. No problem, thought I might have a rookie so went to another Verizon store. Same thing. Gmail wouldn't accept my pacbell address which is a yahoo account which is made by att which is in league with apple which is verizon's enemy which wants another hundred dollars so I forwarded from my yahoo page to my droid and now I can't get the mac mail on my desktop so I guess its either or and neither yahoo or google have any real live tech support so I swim in the miasma and the old blackberry suddenly doesn't look so bad after all...I will try again tomorrow. Have completely destroyed my email functionality.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bella Vista

It is only with slight exaggeration that I tell you that I barely survived my week of dipsomaniacal excess in the Bay Area. Every night was a coronary clogging, brain bending episode in bacchanalian revelry.

I tried my best not to succumb but the mean old devil tempted me sorely. And you know the good lord said to resist not evil... 

Saturday night the boys took me to a special place in the hills of Woodside, the Bella Vista, which offered spectacular views of the south bay and some really good food, seemingly out of a distant era.  We drove about a half hour from San Mateo on a twisty mountain road and found the romantic hideaway. Nestled in the tall redwoods on Skyline Drive off of Highway 92, and approached in darkness, we recognized the restaurant by the neon martini glass out front that illuminated the clear night sky. One of the group, Bill Warmboe, was lucky enough to see a rare daytime meteor from the taurid storm earlier in the evening. He thought that the impact was really close bye.  Many other people also saw it and it made the newspaper the next morning.

My first thought on entering the rustic old place was that it was like some backwoods Wisconsin hunting lodge. Knotty pine and a bit kitsch. All it lacked seemingly was a large moose head smoking a cigar. It's the kind of place where the newest staff member has only been employed for a mere quarter century. Nouvelle was definitely not spoken in this culinary brigadoon. Jack Lemmon was one of my favorite actors, and the movie Days of Wine and Roses was filmed not too far away, both geographically, chronologically and thematically.  An old warhorse of a bygone time.  No t-shirts, shorts or cellphones, a little propriety, thank you.

Drank a stiff greyhound while we waited for a table with a remarkable view and then were seated by the tuxedoed and bow tied server who rattled off the specials.  Menu probably hasn't changed since Adlai Stevenson made his own run for the roses. I was told to have the hearts of palm salad, which was admittedly magnificent with its bay shrimp topping.

For my entree I settled on the pricey abalone almondine, which my pals agreed to buy for me for my birthday after I got a load of the price. Pappa told me never to look a gift mollusk in the mouth and I want to be gentle because it was a present and was pretty good but the almondine covered up the natural flavor of the sixty plus dollar dish and it didn't quite match the taste of the abalone of my youth, when it was a hell of a lot cheaper and cooked up with beer at the beach. Those days are unfortunately now long gone.  It was served with a carrot puree and asparagus on the hand painted china. We drank a nice pinot with the meal.  Finished the whole thing off with Godiva and Grand Marnier soufflés which were delightful.

Joints like the Bella Vista or the Iron Gate in nearby Belmont are definitely on the endangered list. My generation doesn't have the class or style to keep too many of them chugging along and they are definitely relics of a different age. Great place to bring a date. Not the kind of food I could eat with regularity but a real treat.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hail Fasciste.

Those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. You've got to change your evil ways. Baby.

Carlos Santayana

I have been ruminating a bit about the conservative gains in the recent elections. The sturm und drang of the tea partiers was in its full glory, even supplanting the republican candidate in New York with it's populist proxy. Who then lost.  Midterm elections are usually trouble for parties in power (especially for timid presidents who can't seize and control their agenda) and the breadth of the popular discontent can't really be quantified at this time.

I have a couple of thoughts to share. Number one, the conservative right are pretty poor sports, petulant babies who talk rebellion when things don't go their way. Liberals gritted our collective teeth throughout the Bush and Reagan terms, but I can't seem to recall anyone talking about watering the ol' liberty tree with the blood of the opposition.

It took a long time, incompetence and a lot of deregulation to put us into the spot we are in but of course it is all the current occupant of the hot seat's fault, Americans having remarkably short memories and dreadful analytic skills.

I was looking back into the history of the last century for a corollary and I can't help but keep thinking about the Spanish Civil War in 1936. I know that I am on close terms with hyperbole and will try to temper my prognostication. The Spanish conflict went down sort of like this. A group of Army generals in Spain called the nationalists, with the support of Germany, Italy and several other fascist enclaves initiated a revolt against the duly elected government of Manuel Azana. The United States was officially neutral, wink, wink. The usurpers were helped by various American corporations like Texaco, General Motors, Firestone and Ford. They eventually succeeded in bringing down the elected government and installed the dictator Franco to his long rule.  The whole conflict makes for very interesting reading, and the actions of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade are very inspiring.

I have real concerns about the partisan divide in this country. With all the fervor about something as seemingly benign as health care, what kind of teeth gnashing is in store around the corner when something really dire raises its head? For even more consequential questions?

We don't like each other, can't talk civilly, our elected officials won't work together, it's just a big mess.  So the tea baggers can marshall their hysteria and try to bring down our side and if they are successful we can foment our own brand of rebellion and then subsequently try to torpedo their fleet.  My optimistic nature wants to believe that cooler centrist heads will prevail and that we will find some tangent center space in which to converse. That moderates on both sides, if any still in fact exist, can temper the radicals on either end of the equation and find a common language.

But we overlook the fascistic coloration of the god and guns mob at our peril.  If the right keeps feeding this beast, they may find themselves beholden to a monster that eats them alive.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sign of the Horse

Some of you may remember the avopigs food blog I authored a few years ago.  I wrote a food review way back when about my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Oakland, Le Cheval.

I am currently in the Bay Area for an antique show. Last night I spent an hour in traffic driving back to Oakland in order to get my annual Le Cheval fix.  I was joined by master chef Melissa Rossi and boyfriend Gary, cookbook author Denis Kelly and wife Cathie, BigDave and my buddie Ron Levine.

Le Cheval is a truly legendary and fabulous Vietnamese restaurant located in downtown Oakland on 10th and Clay. It used to be cash only but they are now accepting credit cards. Used to reportedly be visited by a lot of athletes and politicians and cops. What you get at Le Cheval is great food, relatively inexpensive, served quickly and piping hot.  Last night we started off with three quail appetizers, in a nice lemon and pepper dipping sauce. We then had a calamari salad that was delicious, the servers brought over rice paper and hot water and we made our own spring rolls with lettuce and mint and mung beans and pork. Melissa ordered a cubed steak dish.  We then had a lemongrass prawn dish.  Enjoyed a couple other great entrees. Usually we have the awesome clay pot chicken, with the scrumptious crusty rice that caramelizes on the side of the pot. Don't know how I forgot it? Finished the night off with a banana flambe.  It was a great night with great friends. Always nice to have uber foodies breaking bread together like Denis and Melissa.  Got semi plastered and the ride home took forever.  Think I was going 45 on the freeway.

Tonight I went out to dinner with my dorm roomate and drinking accomplice Cam who got sort of besotted on tequila at lunch.  I left while he got looped on three or four different bottles of tequila. He made a new friend with the cute bartender who was frankly young enough to be his daughter.

We went to another of my favorite places to eat up here, Creola in San Carlos. Our friend Eddie is the chef and owner of Creola, a cajun creole restaurant that is always top notch. I had the filet mignon with truffle sauce, Cam the pork tenderloin. I started with the shrimp and fennel bisque soup, Cam the Blue Note salad with pear.  Had a really nice New Zealand pinot noir with the meal.  If you are in the South Bay, definitely check out this restaurant.  Been going for years and it's always excellent.

Afterwards we met Bill and Dan at the bar at Max's. I had a shot of tequila to Cam's three or four doubles.

My birthday in a few hours and I am going to eat really good all week. Hope everybody else has a good week as well.


Friday Night: Dave Jacobs took me out for a birthday dinner tonight. We went to a very cool restaurant in San Carlos called Refuge. Refuge is a Charcuterie and Pastrami joint.  Started the meal with a duck breast with a cherry demi glace sauce appetizer. Ordered the garlic fries with a hot chile mayo. Had thickly cut pastrami sandwiches. Superlative pastrami. And duck. The menu looks very promising with fennel salame, Prosciutto, pork rillettes and a variety of other meats, cheeses and pates. Dave had an excellent beer and I had a delicious homemade black cherry soda.  If I lived near bye I would be a regular. Thanks, Dave.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why can't we be friends?

Okay, time to dial it down. Hit the jake break. Lets take a breath and let clearer heads prevail. Just what in the hell have I been doing around here anyway?

I was talking to my friend Jim the pilot this morning at the "club" and he says I might as well get rid of the gallery and rename it the Helter Skelter Cafe for the tenor of the blog lately. Jim, I hate to say it, but you are right.

Jim's a straight shooter and as I look back at my recent production on the blog, my god I have to agree with him. Acid Rock, leftwing politics, a multitude of drug references, lurid sexual hi jinx, colored music, religious intolerance, occultism, conservative bashing, my list of subversion is about a mile long. A regular cyber caligula.

So time to take the blog back to where it all started, a forum where all points of view are welcomed. A big tent where all are family. Hey friend, can I buy you a cup of coffee?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stellar Attributes

Jefferson Airplane - High Flying Bird

Sorry the end is clipped but witness the power of grace.


I take off for the city (that's San Francisco for you nabobs from the prairie) tuesday. Have the Hillsborough Antique Show. The following two weeks will be action packed as well so it will be touch and go on the blog. But like, shit, haven't I given you enough?

I got a serious problem seeing as I lost my new Blackberry phone yesterday. I am phoneless and anyone who is expecting to hear from me needs to know that I don't have your number unless it is committed to memory. Also that I am experiencing sheer terror.  So if you need to get ahold of me, get ahold of Les... Staying at the Westin. Hopefully it will be found or it will get worked out.  If you need me to call, put a comment on the blog.

My new buddies from China/Nigeria haven't written back and it's been almost a day.


Speaking of China, I have a friend with a manufacturing plant there and he tells me my website was blocked when he was there last week. I ripped the regime a few weeks ago but can't believe they would take notice of something as inconsequential as this website. But still I am a proud poppa with the slim  and remote possibility that I may have tweaked somebody's noise out of joint. I have had hits from China today so perhaps it was a temporary thing.

Incredible dinner, Bri and Morg. Thanks!

Sharp eyed blog readers will notice the affinity I have for the thirties and sixties. I think that decades of depression and social unrest are responsible for some of the best artistic movements and programs such as the WPA. Ironically, poverty and chaos sometimes brings out the best in us. Some of the best sixties art has still not been processed. I just got a fantastic collection of lefty posters that may only now find a proper audience. Great cultural artifacts even if the message is a bit utopian for even me.

Joe Lieberman is such a putz. His core constituency in Connecticut can't stand him. He knows that he will never win another election. Seems to me he is just another megalomaniac in the spoiler role. Now he is holding the country hostage to his promise to filibuster the public option, a legislative tool he once promised to abolish! He is doing major damage to an administration that bowed over backwards to be gracious to him after he ass ended them during the last election. He even got to keep his chairmanship. Now he acts like a petulant child. Get lost, Benedict Lieberman.