Goose, Lindo Lake © Robert Sommers 2020

Monday, August 10, 2020

Dancing shoes

Thanks to Jennifer Jeffries for sending this one over!

Dead battery

I am suffering from a literary blockage of some kind. I get them from time to time.

Nobody shpiels like I do when it flows but when it's not there, well forget it.

Can't deliver anything with any value or emotional content when I am out of sorts like this. Trying to stick to the superficial.

I had the least amount of views I have received in ten years yesterday, under four hundred. Normally I run one to two thousand.

There could be several reasons for the dearth of views; you feel it when I am not feeling it, number one and I have been a bit raunchy of late, might have turned some people off. I don't know.

Been focusing a lot on San Diego history, might not be your bag. Not that I care, after three million views plus, it's not really a big deal if people are tuning out or in although I would hate to think I was talking to an empty room.

Leslie says the same thing is happening on Facebook right now. People come, people go, was nice while it lasted.

The other thing is that I am so sick of politics right now that the last thing I want to do is to just add to the nasty noise and chatter. So much anger around and you can't make anybody happy without pissing somebody else off.

We are a split country and it is only going to get worse until November and then hopefully we can find a way to bridge our differences, no matter who is running things.

Maybe it is time for me to take another break from writing. I haven't had one since 2014 when I took six months off to recharge the batteries. And my business is very consuming right now and that takes priority. I am going to put some very interesting items from my shop up in the days ahead.

Anyway I hope that ideas will come dancing back off my keyboard very soon, have to wait these things out. How many years did J.D. Salinger take off?


I had heard of ships in bottles but had never been exposed to chairs in bottles until I bought this one from an ace picker the other day.

Not sure of the age but the bottle certainly looks 19th century.

Whole thing is a wonder, down to the cross plugged stopper.

So I started to do a little research and found a whole cottage industry of these charming bottles and chairs, all impossibly constructed inside the bottle itself.

This one is accurate down to its hand caned seat. It is a miniature lodgepole chair, three colored and a little bit Adirondack in origin. Bottle stands 9 & 1/2" tall to the top of the stopper.

An amazing piece of craft work and a real testament to patience.

Some of these old bottles are signed and dated. I have not found any identification in this one.

These bottles are know as puzzle bottles or impossible bottles.

I don't know very much about their history but do know that they go back at least as far as the civil war in this country.

It is said that a dutch ship in a bottle example dates to the beginning of the 19th century. But perhaps they are even older.
Putting items in bottles can be traced by to the mid 18th century. Apart from the letter in a bottle concept, bottles with items inside them from human figures to wooden puzzles have been found. It is thought that the earliest of these examples of the intricately carved ones were made in monasteries by monks who spent tireless hours working on them.
The interior of this bottle shows a little alkaline flecking. Good luck getting that clean, right?

Remembering Martha McCarter

I was saddened to see my friend Martha McCarter's obituary in the paper last night. Martha was an old and dear friend for decades in the antiques business. We shared a fondness for paintings, silver and fine American antiques.

She loaned me work for the 2003 Native Palette show of San Diego artists I co-produced and had a real interest in scholarship at a time, much like today, when it is sadly lacking in my business.

Martha, her late husband Bob and their entire family have been very good to me and I will miss her warm smile and eternally positive attitude. One of the sunniest dispositions you could ever encounter.

She lived a very good and full life and it was an honor to be her friend.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The orange one meets orange sunshine

Trump is now evidently trying to reframe himself as the peace candidate. As in the Sunset Strip, patchouli oil and madras bedspreads variety. This is from Facebook.

The new retro look, complete with hippie balloon, Wes Wilson wannabee lettering (and a modified Cooper font on the second), along with a quasi Peter Max psychedelic background motif.

Graphically appealing in a Josie and the Pussycats kind of way but I personally am not buying it.

Guaranteed bad trip.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Sarah Fulcher

I was listening to the Grateful Dead radio station on Sirius yesterday, specifically a show that Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia performed at the Boarding House on January 23, 1973.  I was enchanted with the female singer, who the heck was it? Muldaur? She dated John Kahn for a while and I saw her perform with the Dead the following year at Santa Barbara. Couldn't have been Donna, this one sang in key and in a higher register. I did some research, it was Sarah Fulcher, a woman I have never heard of before. Unfortunately the parts of that performance I wanted to share, the excellent cuts called System and Honey Child, are not available at this moment on YouTube. The whole performance is evidently on the Garcia Live Series ,Vol 12. Here is a good biography on the singer. Probably the best girl singer to ever play with Jerry Band. John Kahn on bass, Bill Vitt on drums.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Eye catching

Most men I know are into boobs. I'm no different, can't explain it but guys are truly enchanted with what is really standard operating equipment on the distaff side of the equation.

So when I got this text message meme the other day I dutifully passed it around to my more lecherous pals.

Who all pretty much had the normal snarky responses you would expect. Ha ha.

Except it shall be noted, for Wilbur, who says he looked at the woman and child on the right first, as did Bradford, who says he was tired. And I still can't read Shearer's reaction, not sure where he falls on this one but he noted the kid wasn't wearing a mask either.

The most interesting response I got was from Ricardo, who has lived in Thailand for a long time and is married to a Thai woman.

Ewww! Holy Y chromosome, Batman! What do you folks think? Is my keen eyed friend Ricardo right on this one? Are these female hands? And I mean biologically female from birth in the historically ascribed sense. No visible adam's apple although they can certainly be shaved... Is she factory or altered, now running in the modified classes? I bet the women know...

Loaded and locked

Snowy egret
You haven't heard much from my normally loquacious self for a couple days.

Just haven't felt like spilling. Shawn and Pat M. both wrote and called and asked if everything is okay?

It is, just busy at work and a little tired.

Tired of politics too. Tired of being triggered and angry. Tired of losing friends from the other side.

I read today that 50% of white males are backing Trump. So that is a whole bunch of people I can alienate if I want to and I think I will save it for another day when I'm just mad as hell and can't take it any more.

Although I am truly amazed at how good my conservative friends are at looking the other way when the President gets all Trumpy and starts lying and playing favorites amongst the states that are friendly to him.

The guy is a clown show and I can't help but wonder what the conservatives would say if a Democrat was pulling this crap?


I've been hemorrhaging money. Had the air conditioner guy over, the system on the roof of the building is about fifty years old, all the numbers are worn off and it has been living on life support for years.

He wants upwards of $6600 to put a new unit up. Ain't going to happen. Called a tech out.

He managed to go up there with scotch tape and bailing wire and we'll try to eke another season out of it.

Refrigerant recharge cost about $600 bucks.

Got a call from a neighbor the other day. Breaking Bad in the Santa Margarita River valley. The sheriff helicopters were up over the river the day before yesterday, telling some miscreant on their megaphones to come out or they were sending the dogs in after him.

Turned out a tweaker had stolen a tractor, carved out an illegal pad on the Gavilan side, moved a trailer in and started cooking meth. Neighbors got wind of his hijinx and complained and he started shooting at them. They called the law and the rest is history. Still flying overhead when I got home. Never did find the guy so we canyon dwellers are on a bit of an alert. Locked and loaded.

As I said, I haven't felt like writing and I haven't particularly wanted to use the camera either.

Focused on other crap, I suppose, not much to say that hasn't already been said.

But I did get a new 2x teleconverter for the 400mm and wanted to give it a test drive so Ken and I drove to Santee Lakes and Lindo Lake yesterday morning to put the newly fine tuned gear through its paces.

Had some Hasselblad equipment I wanted him to inspect for me too.

It was nice out there. Not a lot of different birds present, never saw the reported solitary sandpiper but enjoyed ourselves regardless.

Lots of egrets of all types. Here's a snowy egret on the bank.

And above is a picture of an egret across the lake taken with the nikkor 400mm 2.8 fl. No crop, 400mm focal length, ƒ2.8, 1/800 iso 720. This is the instance where I want to see if the nikkor tc 20e III teleconverter can help me. I have the tc 1.7e II but this is newer technology.

Here is an uncropped shot with the converter. It stops you down to 5.6, I probably should have gone even further to ƒ8 but wasn't thinking. ISO pushes to 1600. The converter is supposed to lessen sharpness by about 25%. These shots are without additional processing. I don't see any degradation like I have with other tele converters so this is a win for me.

Not bad for a subject in shadow. Better to be close but sometimes you aren't.

Just in case I need to get up close and personal.

What else did we see? A lot of ducks.

I saw some pied bill grebes but my shots were so embarrassingly bad I won't post them. A pretty ibis with a lot of color in his or her feathers.

A young baby girl. Her mother and grandparent said it was okay to take a shot.

This is a cattle egret in breeding plumage. I don't see or shoot them very often.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

George Jones - Choices

A chance encounter

I have known S___ since he was eleven years old. I used to play bluegrass with his dad, a banjo player, Cowboy Jack and the older fellow who played like Merle Travis, what was his name again? Played in one of those fifties western swing bands at Lockheed. Died a couple years ago. Ray?

Anyway S______'s pop would bring him over to my gallery at the age of eleven and the kid would sit down with my Gibson Lucille with the gold knobs and play Hendrix, rip Hendrix, note for note. This is fifteen, sixteen years ago.

He had a few issues and a couple demons that laid him low and I think things got weird between he and his family and he ended up on the street.  I always liked him and always treated him like anybody else but he has obviously been on a long run of hard times.

Used to buy him coffee once in a while. He fancied himself a stand up comedian and he was never real funny but I would sit through his pointless jokes anyway, which probably worked better in his mind at two in the morning when he was wasted. Because that is what friends do.

So I see him in front of the shop yesterday and I noticed that he was getting really dark. Very hot in Fallbrook right now. So I said, " Hey S_____, you are getting really toasted. You better get some sun screen."

And he looked me up and down and said, "You know, you are getting really fat," and walked away.

I had to chuckle. Score one for S____.

We have an older Mexican fellow now active on the benches in town, name of Geronimo (pronounced Her-on-imo.) Big guy with the crutch. He simply appeared on the street one day. I gave him a few bucks about a week ago, he was not very thankful and frankly looked a little nonplussed.

Now when I say hello he gets weird and mostly finds a new bench.

I saw him talking on the phone outside my shop the other day and waited for him to finish. Then I realized that there was no phone.  He was talking to his hand. "Geronimo, who exactly are you talking to?" I asked. He pointed to the eaves of the building. "The cameras. They are all over the place.They're always listening," he said in Spanish. Whoa, we have a whole new situation here.

Happy birthday, Jerry.

Bradford's Sweet Bucking Sauce

I have been bragging for years that my friend Mike Bradford is the best barbecue artist in the land, or neck and neck with a few fellows in Luling, Texas anyway.

Mike owns Bradford's Bar-B-Que Company in Spavinaw, Oklahoma with his son Buck.

It took them a while to get out of the chute because Mike wants to make everything exactly perfect but they are now operating to rave reviews.

They are turning into a special Oklahoma destination, with people driving in from far distances to sample their scrumptious fare.

Check out their Facebook feed, people say they make the best ribs and brisket they ever ate.

I know, Mike has been cooking for the troops at the Western and Indian shows in Santa Fe for many years.

But if you have no immediate plans to go to Spavinaw, which happens to be the birthplace of Mickey Mantle, now there is the next best thing!

You can now buy a bottle of Mike's own Sweet Bucking Sauce for only $6.75, plus shipping and handling.

Buy your bottle today. It's bucking good!

Bradford's Bar-B-Que
105 N. Main St.
Spavinaw, OK 74366


Friday, July 31, 2020

Larry Robinson

Casa de Estudillo

The Casa de Estudillo sits in Old Town San Diego. It was reportedly the finest adobe ever built in either Alta or Baja California. The land was claimed in 1827 by Governor José María de Echeandía and given to Captain José María Estudillo, an Andalusian who died a mere three years later.

Jose Antonio Estudillo
Estudillo was one of the earliest settlers of San Diego. His son José Antonio Estudillo (1803-1852), who was born in Monterey Alta California, came to San Diego around 1820, when his father was Comandante of the Presidio.

The son constructed the U shaped adobe roughly around 1829. The younger Estudillo was the Alcalde of the town, a Spanish synonym for a position like a mayor today and he was also the tax collector and assessor. His land holdings throughout the region were massive and extensive.

Interestingly, Echeandía, as the first native Mexican elected Governor of Alta California, was active in both secularizing the region and liberating the indigenous natives who had been oppressed under Spanish rule.

He issued a "Proclamation of Emancipation" (or "Prevenciónes de Emancipacion") on July 25, 1826. All Indians within the military districts of San Diego Mission, Santa Barbara, and Monterey who were found qualified were freed from missionary rule and made eligible to become Mexican citizens.

earliest known photograph of Old Town, 1858 - Note the raging San Diego River.

The house was the center of social life in San Diego. There was originally a large cupola built on top for which the family could view the bullfights, fandangos and fiestas in the adjacent plaza or zocalo. The Estudillo home had a large room that served both as a town chapel and primary school.

The Estudillos lived in the home until 1887 at which time they moved to Los Angeles. It was at this point that life following art, the fateful decision was made to link the adobe to a work of fiction written in 1884 by the author Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona.

This book romanticized the native fictional heroine and the house was suddenly marketed as Ramona's Marriage Place to capitalize on the tourist craze and intense national interest in the book.

You can still sometimes find paintings and postcards depicting the lovely poinsettias that grew in the garden.

From wikipedia:
In 1887, a front-page article of the San Diego Union declared the Estudillo home to be "Ramona's Marriage Place", saying, "To sleepy Old Town (the house) is known as the Estudillos, but the outside world knows it as the marriage place of 'Ramona.'" This was despite Jackson never having visited the house, but in the novel, Ramona was married in a "long, low adobe building which had served no mean purpose in the old Presidio days, but was now fallen in decay; and all its rooms, except those occupied by the Father, had been long uninhabited." Despite the novel being a work of fiction, visitors flocked to the building thinking it was the actual location of Ramona's marriage. To be clear, the Union did not simply invent this story; a tourist had already scratched the name "Alessandro" (Ramona's husband in the novel) in one of the walls.The caretaker decided to capitalize on the attendant publicity and began selling off pieces of the house as souvenirs. Naturally, the building's condition began to deteriorate rapidly.
The town cashed in on a good thing, a fact that reportedly bothered the Estudillos, who had by now moved up the coast to the City of Angels. Prominent San Diegan and sugar baron John Spreckels bought the building in 1906 through his agent Nat Titus for $500 and he hired a 43 year old widow named Hazel Waterman to restore the building, which had fallen into intense disrepair through vandalism and neglect, to its original glory. Waterman was the daughter of a former Governor, Robert Waterman, and worked for the great architect Irving Gill.

Waterman did an amazing and historically accurate job in restoring the structure, complete with soaking rawhide strips to secure the vigas or roof timbers. Please read this excellent article on the Estudillo House in the Journal Of San Diego History for much more on the subject.

In 1909 Spreckels hired a theater impresario and onetime minstrel named Tommy Getz to turn up the noise on the Casa's linkage to the Ramona fiction. And that he did, to many people's apparent consternation, including the Estudillo family.

True or not, the Ramona myth was a big hit with the muggles and over 125,000 people visited the adobe during the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition.

I wrote this prelude and hope that it is not too exhaustive, for a reason. I recently obtained a magnificent folio of silver gelatin photographs of the Casa de Estudillo by the early San Diego photographer Harold Taylor (1878-1960.) Taylor was an Englishman who  lived in Coronado and printed this folio at his Three Arrows Studio, which may have been located in the Hotel del Coronado. They are still in the original hand lettered binder. I wonder if any others exist?

I have been told by local historians that they date from around 1910. It is possible that some of these nine photographs are entirely new and fresh to the public domain. Please correct me if I am wrong. One photograph is apparently missing from its tipped in page. They are all pencil signed Harold Taylor, Coronado.

These photographs give us a great view of Waterman's restoration work. It looks to my unlearned eye to be pre Getz's "Disney" version. I have been on a San Diego history bent of late and hope that you find as much beauty in these magnificent reminders of our rich historic past as I do.

The folio is for sale but I would like to keep it intact.  I hope that you enjoy the pictures.

Prokofiev - Violin concerto n°2 - David Oistrakh

Thursday, July 30, 2020

V is for vapid

Dr. Kelly Victory
Our County Supervisor, Jim Desmond, has been on a crusade for months to open up the businesses, health concerns of the general public be damned.

He has a habit of enlisting the most right wing and reactionary medical professionals to make his case for him, people like Dr. Scott Atlas and Dr. Kelly Victory.

Who happen to, more often than not, be wrong about the facts.

They in turn make wild claims that are usually completely contrary to the views of the great majority of the actual experts in the medical profession and that are also sometimes downright misleading, incorrect and dangerous. The San Diego Union does a great job today taking Victory's talking points and shredding them into so many little bits.

It turns out that she is way out of her depth, having no degrees in public health, virology or epidemiology. Leadstories.com did a great job debunking her baloney recently as well. Definitely worth a read.

Victory is on record calling Covid 19, a disease which has killed over 600,000 people globally, a mild disease. She also says it poses little risk to children. I wrote Desmond a letter about Dr. Victory a few weeks ago but as usual received no response. She sounded fishy. All I could find on her was that she was an anti marijuana crusader who had been arrested for pulling a gun on another woman in Colorado at an Ann Coulter event. She plead no contest. Beautiful. But hey, let's cut her some slack, she was drunk. Funny how many anti pot people are actually lushes.

She was also a big booster of hydroxychloroquine and pumped a lot of her bilge, swill and misinformation around Colorado until the people there evidently got tired of her too.

Dr. Scott Atlas is your typical Hoover Institute contrarian. But he appears to live in a bizarro universe of sorts. You don't eradicate the universe by locking down in Atlasworld, it gets expunged by lots of close communal contact and everybody lives happily ever after. So many reasons to be optimistic, nothing to see here folks. He is also on record as saying Covid 19 poses no risk to children, a baldfaced lie not supported by several recent deaths of kids.

In this link Atlas gets taken down bigly by Tracy Mayne PHD, a former director of HIV epidemiology and surveillance at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who has spent more than 20 years doing epidemiology and health economic research in the health care and pharmaceutical industries. Jeremy Mayer is an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Read about the "Frontline doctors", the out of their depth wackjobs who are carrying water and spreading misinformation for the Trump administration. If I have to make a choice between listening to a retired ophthalmologist or a virologist in regards to the current epidemic I think I will take door number two.

Can't wait for these people to crawl back under their rocks.

Carly Simon

Pear picking time in the Central Valley

Gimme Shelter - New offerings from the Blue Heron Gallery

Volga boatmen

When I read a few minutes ago that Trump had suggested delaying the November election, I immediately thought "Isn't that something that Putin or a Soviet dictator would do?"

Americans of all stripes and ideologies should put a quick kaibosh on the idea or we will be in a world of hurt.

It is easy to see his thought process. Perhaps his chances of getting re-elected will be better in the future? That is all this is about, not any real worry about safe and secure elections.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

More prints

My source for the old printing blocks brought five more woodblocks over the other day. All continuing with the early California theme. These blocks were quite a bit larger than the last batch. They were clearly done by different artists. One has a 1920's union label impressed in the block.

Printmaker Dixon Fish had some time yesterday afternoon and he called me over to the Fallbrook School of the Arts. He mixed up the ink and we printed up the new batch. The man who loaned me these says that he was told that not many of these pre World War II blocks survive, they were repurposed for some reason in the war effort. I do not know but have seen more than a few in my years.

I really like the print on top. I suppose that it could be avocados but I am going with pear picking. I really like the old timey staccato cross hatching at the bottom of the clouds as well as the old style hats. This one would be nice to color.

Here we see the fruit of the missions' labor, with the phoenix canariensis planted clearly in view.

While Serra was supposed to have brought the phoenix dactylifera or date palm, in 1769, that may not be entirely accurate and there is no record of the Canary Island palm arriving until the 19th century.

The first nursery to offer phoenix canariensis for sale in California was the nursery of Miller and Sievers in San Francisco in their 1874 catalogue.

In any case, you most often see the native washingtonia filifera palm illustrated in these sorts of illustrations.

The pineapple I believe is purely artistic license. Next we have two rancho fiesta scenes. The lower one is earlier and bears the union printing cartouche.

For some reason I think that the block above was created by a woman but I could be wrong. Something about the line work.

The bottom fiesta scene is very tight, intricate and pretty well drawn. Can't help but think that the dancer with the sombrero bears a resemblance to Dick Tracy. Very nice print.

 The desert view looks like it might have been created to illustrate different types of desert flora, saguaro, yucca, ocotillo, beavertail and barrel.

I am going to run a limited edition of these prints one of these days, on good hand torn heavy paper. These are test prints and we will try to make them as perfect as possible. They will be signed by the printer. The cost will be fifty dollars per print and a little less for multiples. Let me know if there is any interest in these or the original batch. We can even do them in custom colors, I believe. They will look very pretty framed up.


Senate GOP won’t extend pandemic food stamps but doubles ‘three-martini lunch’ deduction


Our newest medical expert and Trump confidant believes that people are having illicit sex with demons and that other nefarious rascals are actually using space alien's dna in medicine. This person is now advising our President. Perfect. 

Apparently she also thinks that the "evil ones" are working on a vaccine to inoculate people from being religious.