Peregrine flight

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Deep Elem Blues

EPA Toxic Release Inventory - TCEQ

If the tragic events in Texas and Louisiana prove nothing else, they will certainly show what a sham the EPA has become in the Trump regime. Grab the popcorn and take your seats, the finger pointing is about to start. This morning I heard a Pruitt spokesman say that the Feds were deferring to Texas regarding planning and response in regards to the Arkema explosion. And don't even mention that climate change stuff.

But if you know anything about Texas, with the West Fertilizer accident fresh in memory, you will know that Texas loves its polluters and is totally incapable of riding herd on them, let alone protecting its citizens. This storm had the misfortune and temerity to strike right up America's chemical poop chute.

If the EPA does not take charge and start acting responsibly, Texas and the rest of the country are in for a heap of trouble. Of course they are in the midst of a major regulatory rollback, so good luck America! With Scott Pruitt in charge, industry is policing itself and writing its own regs and well, lord help us.



And a relatively new Texas law makes it impossible for the public to know exactly what is in those chemical storage facilities. But we do know that a lot of heavy duty chemicals have been leaked, including benzene and toluene. I had benzene related bladder and kidney cancer, it was not fun. Other chemicals known to have been leaked are methyl acetate, polychlorinated biphenyls and methanol. Mix in a couple million gallons of sewage overflows. Stir.


As Chronicle reporters Mark Collette and Matt Dempsey revealed in their 2016 "Chemical Breakdown" series, more than 2,500 facilities throughout the Greater Houston region contain stockpiles of explosive or toxic materials. Federal safety inspections are rare and our state government helps corporations conceal contents. Politicians, industry leaders and their lobbyists have been working for years to keep Texans ignorant about the chemicals and toxins that dot our landscape.
Rich Rowe, Arkema's CEO, is just another example. He refused to make public the plant's chemical inventory or its federally mandated risk management plan, the Chronicle reported.
KEEP TEXANS IGNORANT. Sounds like a great bumper sticker. Not a great time to go for a swim. Of course pollution is not a new thing for Houston, in April a survey ranked it the 12th most polluted city in the country, out of 228. The state of Texas ranks fourth nationally for most toxic contamination.

Texas has over 1300 chemical plants dotting its map, just like Arkema, some containing much more dangerous compounds. Think this will be a one off?




Now word that the superfund sites are flooding. And that over a million pounds of toxic pollutants have been released during recent shutdowns, a critical time for environmental disasters.




I understand that Harvey is going to cause somewhere between 70 and 140 billion dollars worth of damage, the U.S. has 3 billion in the disaster fund, Congress is going to allocate 5.9b but the Trumpsters want to pull a billion out for the border wall. This is some tricky math alright.

Will be interesting to see if Congress requires budget offsets to fund relief for the the flood ravaged states, something that Pence championed as a Senator.

When I heard the news that the peroxide plant was going to explode and that there was nothing anyone could do I got such a helpless feeling. Don't they have redundancies built in for this sort of thing, contingency plans? Guess not. Makes me feel really secure with San Onofre's nuclear waste sitting right there nearby on the coast. What will never and can never happen, does, and unfortunately all too often.


Sherbet sunset, Eldorado

Southern Flood Blues

Cañon Vista

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Talking Santa Margarita Blues

I drove up to Pasadena today to pick up some paintings from John Moran Auction for a friend. It was 114º degrees in Temecula, about seven degrees cooler in Fallbrook.

I was talking to my friend Morty from Phoenix, only 105º there today, told him he was a real pussy. Just hot as hell out there. Sucks the very life right out of you.

But beats the hell out of being flooded out of your home in Houston. As much as I can't stand Texas politicians, I feel terrible for the poor people living there.

It has been a hard re-entry from New Mexico. I can blame the heat, my advancing age or sheer indolence, take your pick, but I am still not unpacked.

One of these days I will get the shop in order, I suppose.

Yesterday was a birding day. Beth, Ken and I decided to drive down to the Tijuana River Estuary on the border. None of us had ever been there before.

Somebody on the Yahoo birding site saw a painted bunting, albeit a palish female, yesterday morning and we thought that we would have ourselves a look.

Left Fallbrook to her beautiful patchwork sky.

Tijuana hillside in the distance
Somehow we got our directions crossed and ended up at the Border Field State Park, which looked pretty much permanently closed and lies within a dirt clod's throw of Mexico.

We walked a couple miles of trail, some of it quite sandy to beach and back.

A nice walk but kind of underwhelming. A few species, no great shakes. This pretty hummingbird, which is nothing to scoff at.

Popular mythology notwithstanding, we saw no trash and an empty, foggy beach. The native scrub was actually very pretty, in an alien tundra sort of way.

Was refreshing to see a stretch of beach on the west coast yet to be overrun and despoiled.

Only people we encountered at all were on horseback. Although I imagine that we were on some covert border patrol video the whole time. Hi Mom!

Amazing how many horses are actually stabled in the Tijuana River Valley. Place was cool. Didn't get any worthwhile shots all day, short of the hummingbird, this was a day Ken shot circles around me. Good thing I'm not competitive.

Saw some shorebirds, the odd gull, phoebes, vireos nothing too memorable.

Think these two birds are willets.

We stuck in our coordinates and found our way to the visitor's center, which was closed.

A ranger was kind enough to give us a map and we took a short hike and snapped a few pictures.

I may need to fine tune my D7200 camera with the Sigma 150-600 C again. Having trouble acquiring focus when capturing birds in flight. Think that I am front focussing again too.

Ken nailed it with the Nikkor 200-500mm and the D500. I think that he is probably a better photographer and that his camera combo is much better suited for bif.

I would love a new camera, the D850 would surely fit the bill but can't even think of buying one in my current state and so soon after my nikkor 400mm 2.8 acquisition.

Will just have to limp along.

Speaking of limping, saw a slightly wounded mourning dove on a post as we left.

Our last stop was the Tijuana River Community Garden, the largest community garden in San Diego County with 138 plots, which doubles as a butterfly and bird sanctuary.

Very cool but no trace of the bunting, even after a call or two.

We made it home. And it got me to thinking. I do a fair amount of traveling through our fair land.

And I never see bird life anywhere like I see in my own front yard, the Santa Margarita River Valley host to many of San Diego County's national leading 500+ species.

Caught this red tailed in the cañon on my way home the other night.

No place like home Auntie Em.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lonestar payback

Texas legislators were not the most charitable of sorts when it came to aid for Hurricane Sandy, to the consternation of their east coast republican brethren. Cornyn, Cruz, Sessions, they all voted no as did 29 of 30 Texas Republicans. Chris Christie and Pete King were not too happy.
"The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites and I said back in 2012 that they'd be proven to be hypocrites. It was just a matter of time. When you're a state that has any kind of coastal exposure like Texas does to the gulf, you're going to wind up having some type of disaster that's going to ... (harm) the people of your state. Then all of a sudden, you're not gonna want a conversation of the philosophical niceties cause people are suffering and dying." Chris Christie
Now the ugly cowboy boot is on the other foot. Here is an article from TPM with some excellent reader comments. Think the good ol' boys were merely playin" screw the yankee?


Watrous Church

Magnum Opus

I admit to a very high degree of bi-coastal musical snobbery. I hated most progressive seventies bands, abhorred Triumph, Journey, Reo, Styx, Foreigner, Rush, Kansas, the rest of the ilk, all the bloated and vacuous big hair stuff.

I was listening to Sirius Radio the other day and caught the tail end of this. Cool, what the hell is it? ELP? Found out it was Kansas. Still like it. Leslie met them in her DJ days, says they were very nice.

Live and learn.

Cloud study


Wall of remembrance, Chimayo

Reading the story about Mabel McCay reminds me of the rich spiritual and curandera traditions of New Mexico, think Anaya's Bless me Ultima or John Nichol's excellent Milagro trilogy. Passed these road markers in Mora.

Although I am not a person of deep faith, I respect and admire the richness of religious cultures and am not above a furtive prayer when things get especially shitty. Any port in a storm, you know.

Equal opportunity.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Weaving the dream

Steve took me to his favorite thrift shop while we were in Santa Fe, the one across from Trader Joe's. Santa Fe is prime fixings for scavengers and always has been, the area being a place of high culture since the days of Mabel Dodge, O Keefe and D.H. Lawrence.

People of vision and taste have always lived there and of course, subsequently also died there. The estate sales are a cut above in terms of quality of treasures and so are the thrift and consignment shops. Steve showed me a $1200 Spratling sterling and copper cuff that he managed to get the week before for fifteen bucks.

Anyway I didn't shop, too tired to do much of anything but I did find a book, Greg Sarris's Mabel McCay: Weaving the dream. Bought it for a dollar and couldn't put it down.

The late Mabel McCay was a Pomo Indian and a maker of exquisite baskets. The Pomo lived in an area of Sonoma and Lake Counties in Northern California, roughly between the Pacific Ocean and Clear Lake.

Mabel McCay was reportedly one of the finest weavers of native american basketry. But she was so much more, a healer and a dreamer.

This book takes us through her life's journey in a tale that will remind some of the work of Carlos Casteneda in its recounting of experiences bordering on magic. Sadly, Mabel may be the last of her kind.

If you can pick it up, definitely give it a read. After finishing it, I encountered two people who actually met and knew her. A thin book that will have a much greater effect on your perception of the breadth and possibility of the human experience.

I sold these two beautiful antique pomos on my trip and picked up yet another, a very special one. Just ask and I will give you a look.

© A.T. Willett 2017

Mea Culpa

video by bruce conner.

Not for astronauts

We had a lovely dinner with friends on the coast last night. Ricardo and his wife Plaa were in from Thailand, having just complete a whirlwind tour of the Northwest and Big Sky country.

Ricardo, like our hosts, is a guy I go back forty years with, an expat long ensconced in Thailand with a challenging and considerable intellect.

He had been to Pike St. in Seattle the other day and had sent down a sumptuous repast of smoked salmon and scallops. He also brought some very special pumpernickel bread back from Montana.

Leslie made a simple but elegant porcini risotto like only she can. She is unfortunately in the awful cluster headache season so we did all we could to help her out by stirring and me trying to stay out of her way.

Lena grilled shrimp and put out quite the board of appetizers. Topped it all off with delicious gelato and berries.

Awesome meal. Just wish my wife felt better. Thanks to everybody.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Been all around this world.


So I have like a million pictures from my recent trip to the southwest.

But I have to put an end to them, at least for a while.

Or we will all burn out and I will get no work done.

Thanks for being along for the ride.

Antelope Overlook
Pecos lightning strike #5

aquatint sunrise

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Lightning strike #3 - Pecos


Leslie's birthday yesterday. After a small gathering at her store we decided to drive to San Diego and try to score Bryan Ferry tickets at Humphrey's. Bingo, no problem. Roxy Music is to this day the greatest show Leslie and I ever saw together. By mutual reckoning.

Band was tight as ever last night. Don't know if I have ever seen a tighter band, who rarely if ever play over each other and always give the music room to breathe, while staying sonically dense and interesting. Spedding was his normal brilliant self last night but they all were. Unbelievable. If you can catch the tour, do so.

All good things must come to an end.

I better get on with it and finish up blogging about the trip. Put it to bed. Long trip, too much to share and poignant moments already slipping into memory's wastebasket.

I thought about driving back to Flag from Chinle but was tired and decided to stick around instead. Got a room at the Holiday Inn which is actually very nice.

Drove over to Denny's and had a club sandwich, not having eaten all day. Lots of navajo kids running around, all the locals very nice and friendly.

The first time I was in town, well over thirty years ago, there was only a Kentucky Fried Chicken, now long gone. I remember they were out of chicken, potatoes and biscuits the night I was there. Was I interested in a piece of corn?

I got up at dawn and drove to Antelope again for some sunrise shots that really didn't take. Then back to Spider Rock to see how it looked with the sun to the east.

Looked pretty good. One of the things I like the best about the Cañon is that unlike Chaco, it isn't a dead place, it is a vibrant and living place, long inhabited but in no way despoiled. I once took a horse twenty two miles into Cañon de Muerto. Wild horses, farms, all sorts of signs of life in balance. Looked in a way like a thirties regionalist painting.

I bought a lot of little tidbits from the local vendors. I had just made a bunch of money selling Indian stuff in the big city and felt it was time for a little karmic payback. Least I could do.

This chap sold me a lovely painting on a rock for five dollars. But it was what else he said that got me thinking. After a brief description of the iconography, he said that it was for people that required healing and to put it in a place where they could feel its power and effects.

And I thought, hey I could use a little healing. Never know in what form the sage will come, pays to keep an open mind about such things.

And since I am on the subject about loss, I was greatly touched talking to Jay in Santa Fe, who lost his beautiful wife last December. Jay's grief is barely under the surface. Mel lost his wife ten days ago. Many people are feeling sorrow from a loss or certainly will if they live long enough.

I was personally touched by the words of all the promotors and their staffs concerning the loss of my brother, Terry, Marcia and John. John mentioned his name in the brochure and I teared up looking at it.

I took my leave from the Canyon, thoroughly enjoying my solitude and experience there. I headed down the road and decided to find the 264 and see what happened from there.

I drove through the hopi res, past Keems Canyon but didn't tarry in the mesas. Drove past Moenkopi, the western most Hopi outpost and towards Tuba City.

Love the colors of the reservation desert. Loved a month with no news and little politics, no computer, no chatter. Love seeing how people who possess so little and endure so much, live with such grace and manage to walk in beauty.

Jeez, it was taking me a long time to get home. This return trip was going to set a new record for me. But what the heck, I was so close, might as well see what was up at the Grand Canyon. Drove a few more hours and stopped at the first overlook to the Little Colorado, always a good stop.

The park itself was a zoo, such a contrast to the relative isolation and intense peace of Cañon de Chelly. It was cloudy and drizzly and I would not be getting any great shots this day. Mostly watched asians taking serious risks with their lives taking selfies from precarious positions on the ledge.

Grand Canyon is a place of wonder but humans really screw it up. I get the same sick feeling sometimes that I get from Niagara Falls. Too many humans. Still... can't protest too damn much. Awesome even on a shitty day.

You know, I don't claim to be some great photographer or artiste, at least publicly anyway. You like my stuff, fine, but a well trained chimp could quickly gain the same proficiency.

In any case, I got a call from a photographer friend a few weeks ago that was a real beauty.

You are almost ready to take good shots, young Quanchin Caine.

Excuse me?

Your shots are almost good.

Well shit, I don't know what to say.

We talked again the other day. "You should have taken the telephone pole out of that. Your sunset is too dark. Too bad you didn't stay and take more angles of that one, I would have (I did).You're never going to be a real photographer until you start selling more work. Why are your daytime shots so dark?"

The point is, everybody can set their own rules for what is aesthetically appropriate. I am comfortable with mine. I rarely take unwanted objects out of shots. Cartier Bresson wouldn't even crop. Telephone poles are an aesthetically distressing fact of modern life. I like things as they are and not overly romanticized. I typically shoot my night and evening shots darker than others do. Why?

Because that is how I like them. You do yours any way you want to. Capiche? I of course, have been known to have an opinion and criticize. Feel free to tell me where to jump too. I am simply never going to take pictures the same way you take them. And I never will. What would be the point?

Photography is simply a means of recording and communicating visual images. I will communicate my way, sometimes knowingly imperfectly and I can live with that.

Saw a bull elk tearing down a tree by the side of the road. He was being mobbed by fools. Much like the french tourists petting the cow elk last time Ken and I were here.

I got my long lens out and kept a safe distance.

I snapped off a bunch of shots, I am sure universally almost good.

I left the canyon a little bit queasy. Pushing the play portion of my return a little too hard, not ready for the sudden rush of humanity. Leslie found me a nice hotel in Williams, an hour away, the Grand Canyon Railroad Lodge. It was pouring rain when I got there. Had their excellent although expensive buffet.

Next morning posed a real problem. I could shag ass home in eight hours or so or I could go up to the canyon and give it one more college try. It was the solar eclipse, first since 1979 and who knew what it would do to the canyon's light and chroma?

In for a dime, in for a dollar. I stayed. Got up at 3:30 a.m.. Williams time is different from reservation time, the dineh stretch into four states and they want life to be uniform for them. I drove in darkness, trying not to hit a deer or elk and arrived at Grandview Point before dawn in a light rain and heavy wind.

Pretty glorious sunrise. Worth the price of admission and the extra two hours in the car.

And the day only got better. Many fewer people this day, no one being stupid. And looked to my left and lo and behold, a double rainbow. I suddenly felt a deep and powerful connection with my late brother, perhaps he was pulling strings for me from the other side?

It was getting pretty wet by this time and even with an umbrella I got some water on my lens glass. Oh well. Still very spectacular.

I headed east, only a couple hours until the totality.

Caught some pics of first light in the canyon.

One of the amusing moments this day was when a guide told an indian woman that the oldest rock in the canyon was six thousand years old, within an arms length of a sign that set the date of the super rock at a 130 million.

I couldn't help it, I snorted and she gave me a death stare.

Later I saw another tour guide from Phoenix say the same basic thing and I got scared.

Checked with Kerry, yes there are creationist tours of the canyon now, free from such pesky trivialities as the fossil record, which everybody knows was faked.

Tried to engage a ranger but he went bible too, giving me a lecture on the length of one of god's days. Guess there are selling creationist material in the gift shops now.

Headed for  the Desert Watchtower, the incredible creation of one of my very favorites, if not my favorite architect, Mary Colter. Note the metal drum hanging from a tree, which a real artist would surely photoshop out of the picture.

The eclipse, at 68% of totality, had a less than major effect, at least from my view.

The interior of the tower is something to behold. It was decorated by the great Hopi artists Fred Kabotie (my favorite) and Fred Greer.

If you haven't done so, do climb the tower. If I ever had in the past, I have forgotten it and it was so lovely.

I left at 10:30, which was the eclipse peak, starting the long ride home. Almost croaked a few times, from sheer exhaustion. Rolled in very late.

Good to be back. Long ass trip.