Apex point - © Robert Sommers 2024

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


modern constellations
My wife was at a trade show in Colorado last week so I was left to talk to the dog and the cat about recent changes in my life, including the passing of my mother on Friday.

They were splendid company indeed, if I started repeating myself, as I often do, they just looked at me and pretended not to notice. In any event,  it would be hard to question their sympathy.

We managed to plant the rest of the trees, cycads and succulents, pruned the chamearops humilis which is as tall as my two story house and half as wide, with some serious multitrunk action. Or started to prune it, more accurately.

Neighbors happened to be gone too, I was in a deathly quiet valley, had it all to myself and rarely left the spread unless I had to.

I saw a lot of birds, a beautiful oriole, prettiest of the local songbirds. Watched a tough little mockingbird chase away a hawk. Didn't take a lot of pictures.

Did see this more diminutive hawk on the wire, he is a handsome Cooper's hawk, I think. Don't think he is one of my juveniles.

Took pictures at the Art Center Friday night, the Veterans show, not really anything I am good at but they asked. Some interesting veteran artists including one Mike Evans who I picture here below in front of one his very cool creations.

He and his charming wife were both really good people as were several other people I met that night. Very talented, great work.

Saw this kid Anthony at Hot Summer Nights, the young guitar playing blues pheenom who has been playing around town. This kid strat gunslinger is great and will only get better. Incredible grasp and feel for his age.

If you get a chance, give a listen. Someday you will be able to say you heard him when.

Renée and I went to the 127 west social house for dinner sunday. My third time. Food is just fantastic, mac and cheese and fennel sausage, great pork chop, the accent had a yummy cheese steak. Place is beautiful. Hip. A step up in a very real sense to the modern world for Fallbrook. Not perfect but what is?

Started off with the ahi poke. A little chintzy with the ahi, but maybe it was just so many chips that it looked spare. Quite good but sauce a tiny bit overwhelming. But an 8&1/2 or a 9.

I don't see how mac and cheese can get any better, ultimate heart stopping comfort. I picked the fennel sausage to stick in it but there are a few things to choose and I almost opted for the lamb.

The accent's cheese steak.

Here is my entree, accompanied by polenta sticks that were subtle and wonderful.

Firm, almost well done, I should have expressed my wishes to the server more accurately. But swimming in a truly lovely romesco sauce, a gorgeous and tasty plate to be sure.

When Faro Trupiano told me what he planned to do in Fallbrook I was both skeptical and cynical. Didn't think the demographics would work. It is plainly obvious that I was completely wrong. Place is packed and well supported, he is fulfilling a food niche that was in retrospect a vacuum.

Not to say it is all hunky dory, once again we had to wait for a seeming eternity for water and menus. But once we got their attention the staff was pleasant, great and beyond helpful, even getting us cushions to deal with the rather punitive chairs outside on the patio.

I think Faro has outdone himself and only needs to tighten things up a little bit with the staff, it will take a little time. But the food is there.

Leslie and Karen
Picked Leslie up at the airport last night. She had a long feather earring in her ear that she got at the trade show. I gave her the look. "Do you like it?" "No, I said, "I don't. It reminds of something from Billie Jack." "Well, you don't have to wear it. And for your information, I loved Billie Jack." I decided I better not say anything else. "Just wait,"she tells me, "they are going to be in the new Avatar movie." What the hell do I know anyway?

We had a squall around lunchtime, rain and thunder and the whole bit. All the shop owners went out on the street and yakked through the rain. It was very cool. Wish it had lasted longer.

Somebody wrote a pretty nasty comment, anonymously of course, called me a whore and worse. I meant to publish it, I really did, but I accidentally trashed it. Whoever you are, please send it again and would you mind signing it this time?



Waiting for a miracle

And the Sultan and I were always so close...

Hi. Here's what comes up when I try to open your blog here in Oman.  I'm guessing you'll consider this a badge of honor.


"This website or part thereof is blocked due to its breaching of the decency code of conduct of Sultanate of Oman. It has been found to either be abusive, offensive, obscene, immoral or promoting misleading or fraudulent information or illegal material. If you believe that the website you are trying to access does not contain any such content, please submit the below form: "

.....and a form follows.

Monday, June 29, 2015


When I lost my dad, it shook me to my foundations. It was like losing an unmovable rock.
My mother's passing has been instead a slow wave, it hasn't quite hit my shoreline yet. Sometimes my biggest crashes take a while.

Pale blue eyes

Something for everyone.

Everybody got something at the Supreme Court this week. Democrats have been battling for expanding healthcare and the rights of gay people to marry, Republicans get the dirty air they have been pushing for.

I love it when everybody is happy.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sin City

Just sayin'

"The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature's God on marriage than it can the law of gravity.” Mike Huckabee
Obama has had a hell of a good week. Too bad it took him so long to reach his stride, what has it been, six years? Only thing that could be better is if he opened his eyes and showed a little manhood and told the Iranians to go pound sand.

The Persians are "toughening up"their message about not allowing facility inspection at nuclear and military sites and I fear that Obama will cave now since he obviously has so much political collateral invested in the deal. Pull the plug, Barry. Time's up. These are not the kind of people to put your trust in.

I have to laugh at the Supreme Court dissent and the cries from the right on the gay marriage decision. This is supposedly an affront to religious liberty which as far as I can figure out means that we have a right to discriminate against you but you can't discriminate against us. Your liberty ends at my doorstep pal, not to mention my bedroom, enjoy your insurrection.

And who says that these yahoos are speaking for god, what if my god can kick your god's ass? And you thought the civil war was over? The truth is that with the expansion of LGBT rights, the religiously inclined will be able to go on with life like they always have, they just won't be able to deny housing, goods and services on the basis of one's sexual orientation. That shouldn't be so frightening.
The five Justices who compose today's majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment's ratification and Massachusetts' permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a "fundamental right" overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. . . .Antonin Scalia

57% of all Americans approve of gay marriage, and the numbers are up in the GOP too, so lets give it a rest. Scalia whines that if it was such a good idea why didn't anyone bring it up for the last 135 years? Roberts moaned that gay people were just now in position to win the public relations battle and this would really set them back.
The Court today not only overlooks our country's entire history and tradition but actively repudiates it, preferring to live only in the heady days of the here and now. John Roberts
Bout time someone listened to the here and now John.
 Today's decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage.
The decision will also have other important consequences. It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. Samuel Alito
And your point is, Sam? Isn't the majority opinion on to something here? I won't even start with Clarence Thomas and the dignity babble. Slaves can never lose their dignity, unless of course someone finds a hair in a coke can.

I think Americans don't like the idea of other Americans getting to decide and confer what their rights are on these issues, especially when the former are in the majority. You can wait until the cows come home and the Santorums, Cruz's and Huckabees will never turn around on the gay issue or reproductive rights and I don't think it is really a good idea to wait around for them.

Tradition is one thing but it isn't hard to notice when it is used as a tool to repress certain segments of the population.

Bravo to Kennedy. To follow the dissenters twisted logic, we would still have slavery if enough red stater governments thought it was a good idea and the originalists would brook no law written that wasn't relevant when the constitution was signed in 1787.

One of the plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage cases that went before the Supreme Court, Jim Obergefell, was fighting to have his name listed on the death certificate of his husband, John Arthur, who died in 2013. To fight against these sorts of things, the rights of receivership and the like, is just wrong and well, evil.


I have no sympathy for the Greek Government, who have been pitching the end of austerity measures to the people and a debt reduction deal with its creditors. You spent the money, you pay it back. Simple. Sad but that's the way it works.

“We cannot kill our way out of this war.We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s a lack of opportunity for jobs.”State Department spokesperson Marie Harf 
We had islamic terror murderers striking simultaneously on three continents the other day, in France, Tunis and Kuwait. Where is Marie Harf and Obama's State Department? Why aren't they offering these poor deluded kids that cut off people's heads jobs? The nuance thing she was talking about... of course it is outlandish to think that terrorists might be theologically or ideologically driven.

Why do Americans look to brain dead hypocritical retards like the Kardashians and Bristol Palin as if they have some moral authority? Palin is now about to have her second child out of wedlock and she had the audacity to be a poster child for the abstinence movement. Got some 'splaining to do...

yee hah
The reactions by the GOP presidential candidates were telling. Jeb Bush was probably the lamest, not sure if there was a racial component in the shooting of nine black people at a church. The perp was just a mixed up kid, obviously a liberal.

News this week that the new census finds that there are for the first time ever, more millennials than boomers in the U.S. of A. It's going to start to go to hell pretty quick, I'm warning you. Social media, tattoos, piercings, vapes and craft beer, what else do they stand for?
Millennials, or those born from 1982 through 2000, now make up more than one quarter of the U.S. population (83.1 million), exceeding the 75.4 million Baby Boomers who were born from 1946 through 1964, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.
They're also more diverse than any generation before them – 44.2% of American Millennials are part of a minority race or ethnic group, according to the estimates.
In fact, the whole U.S. population is more racially and ethnically diverse. A total of 37.9% of Americans identified as minorities in 2014, up from 32.9% in 2004.
Another milestone: In 2014, those younger than 5 years old "became majority-minority for the first time, with 50.2% being part of a minority race or ethnic group," according to the estimates.
I'm not saying they are missing anything but I don't think too many could pass the old acid test.

The jitterbuggers probably detested the fox trotters, Sinatra didn't like the Beatles too much, maybe these kids will show me something but I ain't seen it yet.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mitch Ryder - Soul Kitchen

Adelle Rhoda Roberts Sommers Fisher Manfred Rosenberg

Timing as they say, is everything. If I had knowledge that my late mother would expire a mere two hours after a post that portrayed her in what could be construed in some quarters as in a less than charitable way, I would have certainly put a lid on it.

I am reasonably assured that she didn't read the damn thing but we always did have the strange vibe thing between us. Footnote that, more later. Anyway after six months at if not death's door, the long hallway, how was I to know that this time she wasn't kidding around? Serves me right.

I loved my mother, for all her deficiencies and she loved me in spite of all of mine. None of us are perfect and I'm not just finding that out.  I am processing. Some people hit golf balls, some prop up on barstools, I write. If I have caused some tsuris I apologize.

I went to a funeral today and cried for my late friend Haylee, not yet twenty one years old, with a life ahead of her. I have not as yet cried for my mother, although I shed vast amount of tears when I last saw her and said goodbye to her. Was going to fly out once again this week. Now I can't. The tears are certainly coming.

I was nosing around for pictures of her in my files and pulled a few old ones up that many of my family may not have seen or remembered.

At left is mom in the ubiquitous thirties pony picture.

Everybody got a pony picture way back when and there is even one of me out there somewhere.

I believe this next one is my mother with her Uncle Sam, about 1933.

You will have to take my word for it though, I am now the oldest male in the immediate clan, now having lost my uncle, father not to mention my mother within three months. I guess I have assumed the mantle of keeper of the institutional memory.

I have been the only one with a seeming interest in family history and  genealogy these past decades so probably many of the questions will now fall to me.

I would like to talk about my mother, mostly only the good things, although there are certain parts of her life that will always be sealed behind a door that her children were never able to open. 

How the Moldavian jewish family of a furrier from Yednitz that settled in first Providence and then Los Angeles in the early 1920's could somehow morph into a christian scientist, gypsy family from Whittier is just another example of god's astounding miracles.

Hey, you can pretend you're Catherine of Aragon for all I care and come to think of it, my oldest sister Lisa may have. Or was it Eleanor of Aquitane? Nothing like a good story.

Anyway what do I know about my mother that I am reasonably assured is the truth. She liked Raggedy Ann and Dick Tracy. She was a mean little scrapper and once pulled a girl's hair out in the second grade.

At some point she was an aspiring starlet I think, a graduate of UCLA's theater arts department. Was absolutely gorgeous, I remember one picture which I haven't seen for years. Don't know why she never pursued it. Met my father at UCLA and thought enough of him to get married and have four kids.

He says things went screwy with her after they moved down to San Diego and she went back to school at San Diego State, started hanging out with a liberal crowd who gave her strange ideas. Not sure what her version is but they split up in any case when I was about four and he got his own apartment near Collier. Liz says that he was unfaithful but I don't see how in the fuck she would know?

Mom got very interested in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, we shall overcome. Embarked on a lifetime of activism for social justice. She was always a great cook, sewed expertly, made her own clothes often. What was it, the McCall's catalogue? Had three different scratch biscuits, could stretch a meal throughout the week and it was always good. Was an early adapt of Adele Davis, Elena's Mexican cookbook (the high style book from the District Federale), Joy of cooking and Beard. Drove a Pontiac Tempest, maybe a 1963.

She had a gourmet's sense of adventure very early on. We were served tripe and brains and liver and other mostly vile fare on occasion. Raised great danes and had a wonderful english sheepdog, Emily.

Mom married Don and the wheels quickly came off, for me anyway for reasons I don't need to get into. Don was an early aircraft and rocket designer and my life took me to a dozen different schools, roaming the country test firing missiles. Don was a very smart guy, in fact they were both geniuses. They weren't necessarily a good match but they did have a great kid, John Matthew.

Mom worked as first a high school french and history teacher and then a guidance counselor. She was going to New Mexico State for her psych credential when they decided to test me and found out that my Stanford Binet quotient was through the roof as was my WAIS was but that I had the hallmarks of a seriously troubled under achiever. I remember being in a hospital setting surrounded by people with white lab coats prodding me with pencils and multiple choice questions. Never did amount to much.

We lived in weird spots, Lancaster, Las Cruces, El Paso. Mom did some great things in the early years for us, mainly assemble a huge library and forbid television. Signed us up with the Blue Dolphin Swim Club, a necessity in El Paso. Encouraged a family of serious readers. Shuttled us through the Unitarian, Presbyterian and Methodist church, invoked the saints at every opportunity.

She got involved in left wing politics in Texas, worked for Gene McCarthy's presidential run. Later took us to the moratorium in Washington, other marches, worked for peace.

Due to a job change, Buzz, Don and I moved to New York in the late sixties and things got real bad, the nadir of my existence in fact. Holed up in a Howard Johnson's for three months with Buzz in Huntington, Long Island. The girls followed about six months later. It was not good.

Alcohol insanity on the part of the adults mixed with what was close to real poverty and the home was beyond toxic. I moved back to California with Buzz, for self preservation. My dad was now living his own life and had two kids and they lived in the lap of luxury. We didn't exactly fit into the new plan and were quickly shipped off.

I moved back to New York after a year at boarding school. My mother was now an Editor in Chief at Pinnacle Books which had their own porn division Bee-Line. Never forget the time Linda Lovelace came over to the house... Although she had a string of shitty boyfriends I loved my time living in Manhattan, the place I started into photography fairly seriously and met some amazing friends. New York schooled me and carved me up and made me the person I am today.

Mom quickly took over the city, reacquainted friends with her best pal for decades, Ida Barker and her two daughters, Lynn and Judy. She knew everybody. She had a seat at Elaine's and the Veau D'or, would wait in the car when her boss at the time D. Zentner would visit the local brothel. Worked for NOW, got involved in women's lib, made great friends in the gay community, like her best friend Terry. Loved Mitzi, she attracted wonderful people like bees to honey.

My mother was a brilliant editor, I often proofed galleys for her. She turned a 15 title company into a 65 title company in her first year, delivering forgettable pulp fare like The Destroyer by Murphy and Sapir, Pendleton's Executioner, The Edge, stuff that sold. She largely picked the authors and work and I remember reading and rejecting hundreds of manuscripts with her.

Mom loved the color coral, once caught the largest sailfish off of Acapulco, had a encyclopedic knowledge of the Civil War. Wrote the first african american curriculum in the state of New York. Later in life she even sold antiques.

She had the little problem and we moved back to California, Ventura County. Got involved with Don sort of and back in the Unitarian Church. Forgot what she was doing but she did save my life for the first and second time, hit a couple years in a row with chronic active hepatitis. I hated life there. I had a big fat and long New York ponytail and looked very strange, before it was fashionable and my little brother was too embarrassed to walk with me.

Mom took me to my first concert, the 13th Floor Elevators at Hemisfair 68 in San Antonio. She loved the Doors, later fell in love with Willie and country music. She took me and three friends to my first California Grateful Dead show in San Francisco. She was a nudist and liked to hang out at Summerland.

She went back east, I stayed out west and got my own place. Mom hooked up with ICM and became a huge success, the rock band Kiss's first agent and she also represented a string of newscasters including Roger Mudd (they loathed each other.)

She eventually became a major player working at the Conference of American Presidents, a jewish lobbying group which was a crack up with her own particular issues about a certain tribe. She knew Israel's Netanyahu, was very close to Bennie Navon, became a major player internationally.

After a short string of failed relationships and a marriage or three she met the love of her life, Murray, the sweetest guy you would ever want to meet. A reformed gambler, Murray loved my mom and never said a word about the crap she would and could dole out. Loved her to death. What a prince.

I'm probably forgetting a lot, distilling a lot, the wood schooner adventure with Lostritto, who dumped her and took off with the boat to the Bahamas. Walter the loan shark. Sal. Manfred. Too much to process.

Mom had a surrogate pair of twin daughters that she doted on Jessica and Susann, Lynn's kids. Jessica has been our salvation these last few years, the way she looked after the mother she loved more than her own. I'm glad somebody was there to deliver that which I could not.

It was hard for me to relate to my mom after things went to hell in Oxnard. We were more like soldiers who shared a foxhole together than mother and son. On many levels we were closer than close. I once had a dream where I woke up crying and she called me from two hundred miles away at five in the morning to ask me what was wrong. Things like that happened at least several times. She squared it up when I got booted from the Unitarian church for turning some of the older parishioners on to pot brownies I had made. I'm sorry, they looked like they were having a great time.

Mom loved my writing, loved reading the blog, always heaped large praise on me, thought I was brilliant on the keyboard. That meant a lot to me. I can't play piano but would pretend I could and play for her when I was a kid when she was half in the bag. I will never forget her telling me how much she enjoyed my playing when I couldn't play at all! Get drunk enough anything sounds good.

She loved my wife Leslie, loved to worry about me if given a chance. When I first got cancer she went and did the "black mass druid latin mourning" thing in my hospital room and I had to throw her out for sucking up all the oxygen. You couldn't tell her anything because she liked to overreact.

She had a string of dogs, from bloodhounds to hairy little things whose asses couldn't be easily distinguished from their faces. Loved her dogs tremendously, the houses always assumed the same stale canine scent which she was seemingly immune to.

Mom lived in the Poconos for years, with Murray, she unfortunately allowed several local miscreants to take advantage of her. Plied a small business in old harley davidson manuals and third tier american art pottery and depression glass. Couldn't believe what I would pay for things. She would hang out occasionally up at Woodstock and Rutland, Vermont too. I really enjoyed seeing her there.

Our house was never spotless but she had this things where she continually insisted that we wash the walls with spic and span on the weekends. Weird.

I owe a lot to my mother. I say in all humility that she carried very smart if not slightly manic depressive genes. You learn to develop a superpower defense system with such people or you get turned into charcoal. Stay quick on your feet.

It was always entertaining. You'd walk into a restaurant with her and it was nothing for her to engage everybody in the room. The Roberts side, we all should have been in vaudeville, all good at working the room.

I will miss her, the particular twists and turns and moments in history that could cause life to fashion such a unique person have long vanished. And so there will never be another.

(to be continued)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Buckets of Rain


Remember those good old days when I could write five to seven decent posts in a day, all readable and at least marginally interesting? Neither can I.

I feel like someone has ripped the tongue out of my mouth lately, have lost the compunction to narrate, preach, kibbitz, share, declaim, perorate, soapbox, you can pick your own verb if you wish.

Not feeling it.

My heart is fine, got the doctor's okay this morning. However mother is now spiraling down on morphine, I swear it is finally the final descent, but she has surprised us so many times before. Barbara is there at the hospice, I feel guilty for not being there myself. Maybe days, though I hesitate; I have been wrong so often before. Who spends nine months in hospice? She said she wanted to go but she was too strong, flinty strong, evidently not yet ready to depart.

So much is left unresolved personally, will never be resolved, often we were collateral damage in her wake, her odd choices and occasional utter selfishness balanced by brilliance and genuine love. Her erratic twists and turns helped temper and harden my steel, cured me like a bird left to fend in the nest too early, the choice to either fly or perish. But maybe it made me a little brittle too. Slightly broken, but who isn't?

She first put me out on the street at 14, or tried to anyway, her dutch revolutionary partner at the time said that that was the time a young comrade should fend for himself. I fought with him, naked and protean, dare I say oedipal, breaking various of each other's bones for what seemed like at least an hour. Jack witnessed it, maybe I never could get over the hurt when I plainly saw which side she was really rooting for. Tony left and never came back.

There was a lot of violence directed at me, from several suitors and lovers, extreme violence, no need for a laundry list. When you are a kid and see your jailers behaving in such a depraved, toxic and brutal manner it is possible to start harboring strange feelings about those in authority, developed a lifelong chip on my shoulder, a real mistrust of hominids as well.

You draw a line in the sand and step over it at sometime in your life or you try to anyway. I tried. Forgiving is so much easier than forgetting, I know that.

Mom tried her best, definitely fed me, loved me I suppose, no she did, kept me alive on several occasions. Never relinquished the upper hand, never was honest about her life, always kept the guilt meter pegged, was always manipulating everybody within reach. Certainly wouldn't answer to me or anybody else really. But the most brilliant and accomplished person you could ever meet in whatever field she attempted.

I'm glad she was brilliant and crazy I guess. I could have been normal I suppose. She has great qualities, loved to pick up strays, loved animals too, taught that people were more important than things, never cared about the material too much.

She changed everybody she met, they loved her, just wasn't so easy to be her kid, for me anyway, from the hated middle position. Drug her out of the ocean twice after the phenobarbitol suicide overdoses, she had crossed the whole continent to chase an ex husband who now totally despised her. Trapped in a dark spiraling dance, lucky I was there to pick her up and shelter her. For a year after the total nervous breakdown. Maybe 15, 16 years old.

The woman loved her friends, cats, dogs and kids. Born the same day as Leslie, August twenty third.

Loved her but had a really hard time being within 2000 miles of her.

Love you mom.

Some of you friends are in very exotic places, the San Juan Islands, Colombia, Macchu Pichu. Many of you promised to send pictures. Where are they?

Did get this from Brigitte in Cartagena today.

Spelled my name wrong but you were close, B. I never knew garza was a Spanish word for heron. Thank you.

9:02 p.m. postscript. Just got the phone call from Johnnie, my mother has passed.

Sloppy Drunk

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Next stop, the world!

I continued to find creative ways to waste my time today, we'll call it continuing the healing process in hopes of self justifying. I have been processing some old photos, have never shown this one before, a streetwalker in Madrid who has evidently failed to impress another woman, also coincidentally clad in a feline print.

I have gotten heavy into putting my pictures on Google+, where they can be enjoyed by people all over the world. Intoxicating, really. I'm blowing up in Saudi Arabia. I belong to a black and white photography group of Italians and they are all really great photographers. I had no idea.

I saw a nifty picture of a fire breather the other day and decided to take a crack  at working on some shots I took a few years ago at Doug's birthday party.

I have a little over 84 thousand pictures in my Lightroom library, and this is after a significant data dump last year.

Today I tried a little trick I thought I knew how to do and appeared to lose all of my shots. Luckily Ken, my hero, was working at the Brandon Gallery next door and managed to save my ass. Again.

I o.d'd (how do you spell it?) on leftover shanghai pork belly last night and woke up throwing up in the middle of the night. Concerned that I may already be out of rhythm. Next stop ablation.

The Blue Heron Gallery has been open in Fallbrook for 18 years. Yesterday I noticed that right next door a new bird has landed, the Lavender Penguin. Welcome, friend.

Not sure if I should be flattered or if it is merely one of life's coincidences, which we all know are god, the universe, the void or the deity of your choice's way of letting us know that he or she has a sense of humor.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Grappelli, Menuhin & Oscar Peterson

Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians


Scrub jay
It has been a long couple days. Post cardio conversion there is no alcohol, coffee or major exertion.

Very hard for me to chill and I definitely miss the coffee. Alcohol I can do without, I have a bunch of holes to dig for new plants when I am able and I can't wait to get on that.

My mailbox is full and will probably stay that way for a while. Can't deal. Sorry.

Haven't been answering too many phone calls, been reading a good book, Remarque's All quiet on the western front, one of the greatest tales about the nasty life of a soldier ever written.

Not sure if I am still in rhythm, will find out on friday.

Heard that my old friend and ethnographic art expert Jim Caswell dropped dead in his shop in Santa Monica last week. Great guy Jim, fair and honest. Nice man. Live it like it's your last day, people, because you never know.

I took a few bird pictures this weekend, nothing too great, honestly been struggling with the settings and iso.

There is a general rule of thumb in photography that the shutter speed should be at least the inverse of the focal length. So if I am using a 500mm lens which is actually about a 650mm on a cropped sensor like the D7200 I need to be shooting at around 1/1000th of a second. In order to get the shutter speed up while shooting aperture priority, you have to boost the iso and high iso equals noise. Lately my pictures have been noisier than I would like.

But as I always say, a lousy shot that says something is better than nothing, or a perfectly focussed shot that says nothing. So I snap away. Hope to keep learning and getting better.

Red shouldered hawk
Caught this red shouldered hawk the other day. Love his steely eyes.

My birder friend Beth did a bird survey with the dean of birding in this area the other day, Ken Weaver.

I saw their cars down at the mailboxes on my way to the hospital.

She sent me the list of their survey, which goes back to Cornell, I think. I think it is okay to post it here.

Here is the list from our river survey yesterday.  We also confirmed breeding for 13 species. Thanks for sharing your birding knowledge and keen eyesight! Ken 

On Sunday, June 21, 2015 12:56 PM, "ebird-checklist@cornell.edu" <ebird-checklist@cornell.edu> wrote:

Santa Margarita River Trail, San Diego, California, US
Jun 19, 2015 6:40 AM - 11:25 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
Comments:    Area covered:  River trail located near intersection of Willow Glen and South Stagecoach roads west along river to Sandia Creek Road.  Additional observers:  Susie Martin, Beth Cobb.48 species

Mallard  1
California Quail  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  7
Red-tailed Hawk  6
Common Ground-Dove  2
Mourning Dove  12
Black-chinned Hummingbird  11    Numbers, if anything, are low for this area.  A key habitat, live oak-sycamore woodland near water is abundant in this area.
Anna's Hummingbird  10
Costa's Hummingbird  1
Acorn Woodpecker  25
Nuttall's Woodpecker  9
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  4
Western Wood-Pewee  6
Pacific-slope Flycatcher  10
Black Phoebe  10
Ash-throated Flycatcher  7
Bell's Vireo (Least)  12
Hutton's Vireo  7
Western Scrub-Jay  7
American Crow  1
Common Raven  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  17
Cliff Swallow  1
Oak Titmouse  8
Bushtit  41
White-breasted Nuthatch  5
House Wren  6
Bewick's Wren  7
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  20    High numbers for this area.
Wrentit  25
California Thrasher  9
Northern Mockingbird  1
Phainopepla  13
Orange-crowned Warbler  8
Common Yellowthroat  33
Yellow Warbler  19
Yellow-breasted Chat  20    This bird's key habitat, willow woodland-willow scrub is abundant along the Santa Margarita River.
Spotted Towhee  32
Rufous-crowned Sparrow  2
California Towhee  16
Song Sparrow  10    Inexplicably low numbers for this usually abundant species.
Black-headed Grosbeak  17
Blue Grosbeak  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  11
Bullock's Oriole  3
House Finch  20
Lesser Goldfinch  50

This is a good list for me to have but I am struck by the birds that they didn't see that I see all the time. Like the hooded oriole I shot on Saturday.

hooded oriole
Or the red winged blackbird that lives in my redwood just a little bit upriver.
red winged blackbird
I am not a birder, I am a photographer that shoots birds, mostly raptors and the long legged kind, herons, egrets. There is a big difference. My friend Beth is a birder, although she claims to be a rank amateur, everything being relative in these matters.

She got thrown from her horse the other day, landed on her feet, but pulled something in her hamstring and is hobbling around, like I am at present. She was stoked to see a blue grosbeak with Ken and also some blue gray gnatcatchers.

I love grosbeaks and jumped at the chance to accompany her on the trail today to try and find the blue one once again. We met at the mailboxes at seven and walked down to the river.

The thing that is amazing about birders and I repeat I am not a birder, is that they have the bird calls and the particular behavior of the birds down so well. We saw all manner of birds today, chats and yellowthroats, phainopeplas and towhees, Beth knew the identity and call for all of them. It is very impressive.

Yellow breasted chat

It is really cool to learn from somebody that knows their stuff. There is no reason I can't learn more about these wonderful creatures that  I have lived next to for so many years. I want to increase my birdwatching acumen.

common yellowthroat

I know that the pictures are not up to my normal standards and I apologize. No excuses. You can use them for identification purposes anyway.

spotted towhee
 We called a few birds in and Beth showed me how they would triangulate our position, how sensitive they were to intruders and competitors. Fascinating. The beavers gnawed down a log last night and blocked the trail. It was hard for Beth to cross with her leg.

Saw a small raptor up high in a dead tree, probably a kestrel.

The other day I encountered a raptor I have never seen before on a wire in my yard. The camera was in the van beneath him so I couldn't get a shot. A large thin, elegant bird, almost looked like a peregrine falcon. Goshawk look.

My movement startled him and underneath him there was a flurry. He had been stalking a bevy of quail and my movements allowed them to scurry off. Wish I knew what it was.

lbb on reed

Anyway we hung out down on the river and did see some grosbeaks but not the blue although I think we did hear them.

black headed grosbeak
The black headed certainly ain't bad.

It is always a pleasure to learn from someone whose knowledge so far exceeds your own. I look forward to my next trip. Thanks so much, Beth!

Although this year's hawk season appears to have finally come to a close, it has been a pretty special year for me in terms of bird photography.

This was a fun year for the offspring, the hawk snake stuff was so fantastic to capture. I love the new camera and most everything has been working smoothly. Nailed some great shots with Ken at Lindo and Santee.

But it will only get better when I get the 150 -600mm lens, which I just have to get. That last bit of reach will make all the difference. Then you will see some stuff.