Rapt attention

Friday, January 31, 2020

Ooh La La

Besides that Mrs. Lincoln...

I've mostly been in bed all week with this terrible cold. Today really sucked. I should have stayed in bed. But I had to return the loaner car to the dealer in Temecula. I was a day late. I left about 8:30, after a little puking session and headed down the road.

Hawks were in the new nest but I didn't have time to stop. I got to the mailboxes and that is when the wheels came off the track. After thirty years of grabbing the newspaper from next to my mailbox every day as I turned on to the pavement, I misjudged this morning for some ungodly reason. I guess the loaner handled a bit differently.  Reflexes shot from being sick. The next thing I knew I heard a terrible scraping sound. I didn't? I smashed into the mailbox? Holy shit. Tell me I didn't...

Holy fuck, I didn't even want to know the full extent of what I had stupidly done. I drove to the auto parts store, thinking that maybe I could rub out a portion of my sins but when I got there and really assessed the damage I realized that I was way beyond redemption. I had wasted the drivers side front panel.


And the thing got nailed so hard that the door complained a bit when I tried to open it. I was clearly up shit's creek.

I called the dealer. They were very nice, very understanding, these things happen, but said it would be rather expensive. Leslie sent me a very loving and understanding text as well. Shit happens. I still felt like a total stooge. What an idiot.

I made a claim with my insurer, no the mailbox was not moving and surrendered the rather large deductible to the dealer. They weren't happy at AAA, said to look for a nice premium increase. Joy. Drove back into town, paid a couple huge bills, went outside and threw up again. Decided to cut my losses, drove home, hid under the blankets and hunkered down.

Definitely was not my day. Wake me when it's over.

Weather Report Suite

If it doesn't make any sense, don't worry, you sort of had to be there. So glad that I was.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Metta World Peace on life lessons he learned from Kobe Bryant

That flushing sound...

I've not been on a political high horse of late, purposefully. We know that politicians, of any stripe or ideology, are for the most part loathsome swine. There are few members who act with intellectual integrity. But we have all been inundated with so much impeachment noise, depending of course on which party's media accomplices we listen to, that most of us have long since shut down.

Democrats have been under a strange fantasy that Republicans had a desire to uncover the truth regarding the President's overtures to Ukraine to find dirt on his political opponent. Nothing of course could be further from the truth. Impeachment is a purely political exercise. An acquittal was a fait accompli from the GOP senate from day one. These senators have showed that they cared nothing for the concept of right and wrong or founding principles, this is simply about maintaining power. These past few weeks have just been a big show.

Now it looks like it could end as soon as Friday, without calling additional witnesses, especially John Bolton, the one guy who knows where the bodies are buried. They don't want to know.

What our leaders have been trying to do is to carefully craft a narrative where their own actions in this debacle can pass some ideological sniff test with their constituency and escape censure. It is called cover. Later on they can pretend that none of this occurred or that it was a one off event and they can try to once again assert moral superiority. They can do this three card monte sleight of hand with remarkably straight faces. Just look at Lindsey Graham, a master at the grift.

We often hear the words enlightened self interest and that is what it is about, will this vote cost me my job? It is funny to watch how the story constantly changed on Ukraine from Trump and his minions. It started out as it never happened, then perhaps it happened, than finally morphed to so what if it happened? Why do we allow our leaders to lie to us in this manner and then pretend that it never happened? What is the overriding message from the Senate? When Republicans do it it is okay.

Virtue and integrity is a funny thing, once it is surrendered it is very hard to stuff back in the bottle. Which brings me to the old quote from Canadian magnate Max Aitken, also known as Lord Beaverbrook, often wrongly attributed to George Bernard Shaw.
“They are telling this of Lord Beaverbrook and a visiting Yankee actress. In a game of hypothetical questions, Beaverbrook asked the lady: ‘Would you live with a stranger if he paid you one million pounds?’ She said she would. ‘And if be paid you five pounds?’ The irate lady fumed: ‘Five pounds. What do you think I am?’ Beaverbrook replied: ‘We’ve already established that. Now we are trying to determine the degree.”
This President has lied so many times your head spins. Just the last two weeks, the bombed soldiers in Iraq merely had headaches, while the truth is that fifty of them have now been diagnosed with brain injuries. Coronavirus will be good for the United States, that was this morning. What did Richard Shelby say last week - Hey he's human, he makes mistakes. Yes he does, but you never call him on any of them.

He has acted more like a king than a President and he has been enabled by the gutless members of his party, who care more about their own elections than they do about our constitution. Now of course there are the so-called moderates, people like Collins, Gardner and Murkowski. I am not so sure about the latter in this instance, she may be a lone holdout with Romney but you can be guaranteed that Collins will put up a big charade of impartiality and then vote for the home team. It happens every time. And if Manchin flips, and he probably will, they can proclaim a big bi-partisan acquittal.

This administration has turned our government on its head, far worse than Nixon. They have refused to comply with subpoenas, claimed blanket executive privilege on everything, refused to let any executive branch people testify and then have the audacity to poke the House Managers for not bringing proof. This is the end of our long time system of checks and balances and perhaps signals the end of our democracy itself.

Not that they will necessarily care. Do you think Mitch McConnell cares? It is just about winning for these loathsome and hideous vermin. There will be a very small political cost in our fractured world, if any, where the center is now abandoned and both sides flee to the margins. I hope that we Americans remember our once great country.

For Pat

In the dark

Several of you have called or written inquiring about my health.  I guess with the big send up I should be more responsive.

The minor issue is I have a bad cold and bronchial condition, not coronavirus. Stayed home yesterday, lots of soup and rest.

I'm not going to take antibiotics unless I have to, their returns are marginal at best.

My brain is still in a slight cognitive fog, I perceive myself freespooling irrational garble on occasion upon waking.

Not sure if it is a response to the anesthesia, my childhood fondness for psychedelics or what?

I am also forgetting names. Names I have known forever. I have an amazing memory, or I had, could it be that things are finally starting to slip? Scary. Oh well, what was I saying?

I had to come in today to pay bills but I am going back home as soon as I can.

On the cancer front, I don't know anything and I won't until February 19th when I have my procedure. Big sword hanging over my head, will be one thing or the other, I will let you know, but I am as in the dark as you are as is the hawk on the branch.

Appreciate your concern and best wishes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

True food blues

I pulled into Barry's Phoenix home around five-ish Thursday afternoon. I met his son Matthew, who is a great kid and also my fellow temporary lodger, Voracek, who is a big kid too.

Barry asked me what I wanted to do for dinner? I said I was open. Italian is always good. "How about healthy," he said, rather cautiously? "We have a great place." I grunted an assent with all of the false passion I could muster. My first wife and I were vegetarians for two or three years and my family still laughs themselves into stitches at the tofu faux turkey the ex served them one Thanksgiving. Philistine that I am, it's just not my bag. But I am nothing if not a team player and was clearly outvoted.

Now I have to give you a little background on my dinner mates. Barry and Wendy are in young love and he has lost about sixty lbs. in the last five months. They are living on gossamer wings and fairie dust. They probably never even eat, content to stare into the deep pool of each other eyes and coo.

Voracek eats a pound of raw vegetables for breakfast everyday. I think you get the picture; I was hopelessly outgunned by these fanatical health food maniacs.

We get to the restaurant, which happened to be called True Food Kitchen and a tall lass who looked like she had just got off the latest Dead and Co. tour brought us menus. I took one look at the menu and thought wtf?

"Excuse me miss, can you please explain what this place is all about. I'm afraid I'm a little befuddled here. I really don't know if I should order an appetizer or an enema?"

Hippiechick took it in stride, she explained that they followed Dr. Andrew Weil's anti inflammatory diet and food pyramid. They served a delicious mix of nutrients and healthy flavors, with a dollop of environmental awareness thrown in for seasoning. Chemical and dye free, sustainable, non GMO, organic and biodynamic to boot. High on the antioxidants, low on gluten, perfect for maintaining the 21st century hominid. Guaranteed to fix your wayward rutabaga or your money back.

I gave the menu another gander. It was all just a little too weird. And they say Californians are batshit crazy.

Food was pretty good, cauliflower and brussels sprout appetizers for starters. A bit sterile, lacked a certain passion. Forgive me if I have forgotten my entree, it was forgettable. I apologize for being such a barbarian, some of your bodies are temples of god and purity, mine bleeds reuben sandwich and spicy mustard if poked.

But I was a good sport and shouldered through the culinary trial like a trooper. Just don't make me go back.

Sally Go Round The Roses

Rest in peace, Wes Wilson

Wes was the first of the big five. He arguably started the psychedelic poster genre with his January, 1966 Trips Festival handbill although Ferguson's Seed Charlatans poster from June of 1965 came first.

It was frankly not very psychedelic and I think can be kindly described as an amateur effort. Wilson also designed the original Family Dog logo for Chet Helms.

He was a wonderful artist and talent. The brilliant Viennese secessionist graphic artist Alfred Roller (1864-1935) was a major influence on his style and lettering.

He pioneered the practice of placing discordant and jarring colors next to each other on the poster in a novel and incongruent way, somewhat similar to the approach of Josef Albers and I think he clearly influenced fellow artist Victor Moscoso in this regard.

Wes was the only one of the leading Fillmore artists I never personally met. He left a beautiful body of work, I guess that is the best thing you can say about any artist.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


Bob Shane

One of the things that bothers me about our hominid culture is how fast things get dispatched and put in the dustbin of history. They get relegated when past their supposed cultural due date. Hip is so transitory... I guess it has to be or we all would still be humming along to the songs of Stephen Foster. By the way, he wrote this one in 1860.

Grant me a second. Take folk music. Bands like the Kingston Trio, Chad Mitchell Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary were extremely talented, with superb harmonies and beautiful playing. Enormously popular. Yet I have heard (and argued) with musicologists who consider them "ersatz folk" because they did not have the supposed verite and authenticity of the black performers of the day, people like Odetta and Josh White.

I suppose that there is some reverse racism and classicism involved, how can white, middle class kids interpret the music of Leadbelly and Woody in an authentic way? I guess it is an early case of cultural appropriation. How dare they!

But they did interpret the music and they did it in a gorgeous and respectful way. I wonder why the white Weavers were largely spared the critical lash, perhaps it was their ideological bent, which was pretty ultra left wing.

In any case, the music from this period was wonderful but play it today at your peril. Try it, stick a Kingston Trio album on at a party and you will be quickly dismissed and figured as an out of touch "square."

Of course what happened to the music of this period also happened to countless movements beforehand, Glenn Miller comes to mind. The Dorsey, Shaw, Miller big band sound was monstrously large during World War II but somehow fell right off the table. Like Dixieland, Shag, Barber shop and countless other musical styles.

I am a specialist in lost cultural causes and trends and try to listen to them with an unvarnished ear. I know that there is a huge amount of material still waiting to be unwrapped and discovered. It just requires a little bit of detachment.

I wonder why the Beatles and Stones were not dismissed in the same way for interpreting black music, Pat Boone certainly was, mostly justifiably. But hell, maybe I need to listen to him and suspend the filter, maybe there is something there I will dig too?

For an example, listen to the original rendition of Anna that Arthur Alexander put out in 1962.

The Beatles version was great too but not in any way a slavish imitation. Not conspicuous. They seemed to have been spared the rod as did the Stones riffs on Chuck Berry, Muddy and Lightning Hopkins.

The Kingston Trio and PPM were not so fortunate. Shame really. Have to listen to the stuff in the car when no one else is listening. They could play their asses off. If a whole bunch of people are listening to something, there is a good chance it is pretty good.

Bob Shane, a founding member of the Kingston Trio has passed. I salute him and his music. Bob was actually a sometime Blast reader. Do you remember a few years ago when I posted pictures of my Handel marijuana shade? Bob had one too and wrote me a letter. Or maybe he called me.

A relative wanted it and he wanted to know what it was worth? Not that he ever wanted to sell it. We corresponded a bit. My shade broke but I found a new one. He left a great legacy, I hope that folks will give it another listen with open ears one day. Thank you, Bob.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Bubble Magic

Old West weekend

I have just returned from the Old West Show in Mesa, AZ. This is my second year participating in the show and I did things a little differently this time.

Took my car instead of a van, rented an eight foot table in the hallway instead of a twenty foot booth in the main room and split said table with Tony Zimmerman.

The idea was to have a presence instead of a major investment, think it cost me about $185 plus gas instead of a number north of twenty five hundred. Lean and mean. Slept at Barry's house. No charge.

Incredibly, I had a great show, bought and sold well and came home with a lesser percentage of what I brought than I think I have ever done in the past. Definitely a major return on my outlay.

In the words of Sally Field, they love me, they really love me.

Arizona is of course, Arizona. Two of my painting buyers wore Trump hats and one of them wanted to talk to me about Mary Joe Kopechne and Ted Kennedy. I bit my lip and wrote invoices.

Tony is a pro and he knew the half of the people that I didn't know so the booth was a good mix. He sold bits, spurs and riatas, I did my thing. Heard a lot of good stories from the public.

Like this fellow, who talked to me about attending Woodstock while at sub school back in 1969.

Met a rough hewn ninety year old who spent his life playing poker with the likes of Amarillo Slim and Stu Unger, he still had a mighty grip and a neat way of slinging words together. Wish I had grabbed a picture when I had the chance.

Tony is pretty much all business and I think my casual, chatty approach had him questioning my sanity but he eventually saw that it was working and we developed a pretty good flow.

I didn't take a lot of shots but I should have because the people were certainly memorable, both kinds, country and western.

I have always eaten real well in Phoenix and this trip was no different. The Stoops and Calvins got us in to a tough table at Pizza Bianco, referred to by many as the best pizza in America.

Not sure if I will go that far but it was mighty fine.

Had a healthy dinner with Barry and Wendy that we will dissect at a different time as it was beyond bizarre.

You think Californians are weird? Get ready.

Also had a wonderful Korean dinner at Hodori in Tempe. I did not go hungry this trip.

This show lets early buyers in for a hefty fee while you are unpacking so it was basically a nonstop three days for us.

I enjoyed myself but then again I mostly enjoy people on at least some level, just not all the time.

A couple showed up that I didn't quite remember but after introductions I did, long time blog readers who were very happy to see me in the flesh. Has been forever.

I have to tell you that that makes me feel really good and I appreciate all of your support and readership, even those of you I have never met or rarely see.

Thank you!

I thought I would get a jump on the day and drove to Blythe last night. Had something a little strange occur with the car and I am going to take it in tomorrow and have it checked.

I ate breakfast at Elmers it Palm Springs and decided to visit my sanctuary on the way home, the San Jacinto Wildlife Area.

Why not? I worked hard and I deserve a little down time.

It was a good day, made do with the equipment I had in the car. Spent an hour or two meandering. More people around than I am used to but it is a free country and there are a lot of birds there for the winter and enough space for all of us.

Like this peregrine falcon.

This couple was riding around on horseback. Nice way to spend a Monday.

I saw two eagles but they were over behind the fences at the Ramona Duck Club and a little too far away to properly capture.

Lots of hawks, kestrels, red tailed, harriers, even a Swainson's.

I watched a very patient blue heron latch on to a grasshopper.

The ibis are still there in great numbers, they like to hang out with the coots, don't ask me why?

I took a nice long hike, looking for the vermilion flycatcher, which I did not see. But I did see a few warblers and phoebes, a Bewicks wren and a lovely Nuttal's woodpecker.

It was by any measurement a lovely day and a fitting ending to what was in actuality, a pretty wonderful weekend.

A lot of my friends are talking about retirement these days but honestly, I would miss doing shows if I wasn't doing them.

I enjoy the camaraderie with the colorful people in my world, some of whom I have known for over forty years.

Like the line in the Grateful Dead song, the landscape would be empty, if you were gone...

It is hard to shoot tree swallows, they are really darn fast. Need to bring the good lens up there and soon!

I have absolutely no egrets...

Have to thank everybody, Barry, Tony, Dain, Sue, Steve, Sue, all my pals. Let's do it again.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Holly Near - It Could Have Been Me

Man at swap meet, Long Beach

Bonzo Dog Band

Have to tip the cap to Neil Innes, who passed in late December due to a heart attack. Innes, a musician, writer and actor, was an alumni of the Bonzo Dog Band, Monty Python, Rutles and the Idiot Bastard band. Leslie and I have been fans of the dog band for a long while, first experienced while once hunting tigers out in India.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Stepping out

Leslie was coming in on a late flight from Dallas last night and I was hungry and had time to kill while I was awaiting her arrival. I headed towards Convoy to find some nice asian food. We have a fairly tight group of go to restaurants we enjoy like Spicy City, Jasmine and Dumpling Inn. I wanted something different tonight.

I did a Yelp search and found that the new hot spot in town is called Shan Xi Magic Kitchen. Hand ripped biang biang noodles, other tempting treats, but a long waiting list.  It was located south of Balboa and I rarely if ever venture that direction. Looked for it but couldn't exactly find it. Oh well. I tried.

I decided to go back to familiar territory and try another place that was new to me, Tastypot. Not to sound like a total noob but I have never had real taiwanese hotpot before and the place has been getting really good reviews. What can I tell you, we live in the sticks...

It is located next to Spicy City and it is tough for my wife to stray from her favorite when it is that close. We almost ate there but she didn't like something about the smell. I did some research and found out that one of their dishes is called stinky tofu and figured that was the reason for her olfactory reluctance. And we wanted to wait for cold weather before hot soup.

Last night was perfect. I didn't have a problem with the smell and it was cold out.

The menu for the national chain lists twelve different soups.

I decided on #2, the lamb hot soup. Filled with napa, vermicelli, lamb, enoki mushrooms, imitation crab, meatball, fishcake, pork blood rice cake, kamaboku, fried tofu skin, clams, sour mustard, brown beech mushroom, tofu and cilantro.

Just to let you know, kamaboko is cured surimi, a pureed whitefish concoction. Napa is a chinese cabbage grown near Beijing.

I ordered my dish without the imitation crab, which both of us eschew. You can order at a requested spice level, I chose medium. There were three condiment jars on the table, a chili oil, a soy product and something else. Different than I am used to, I mixed the three.

My hot pot came boiling to the table. I dug in. They forgot to pull the imitation crab, but no big, it is not off putting.

You eat with a ladle and chopsticks. It was delicious although they are a bit chintzy on the meat. From time to time a server would show up with a tall thermos of soup broth and pour when you felt it was necessary.

Needed a lot of ice cold water to ease the chili oil, which I went slightly overboard on. My tongue was a little numb. Still it was wonderful.

My wife and I have been together for thirty years. When a significant other is away you can try the restaurants that they have no interest in. I am glad I went and look forward to returning, hopefully with her.

I have a crummy cell phone camera so excuse the shots. One day I might get a decent one.

The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the pork blood cake. I left it in the bowl, amongst the clam shells.

I finished my meal and asked the affable waiter how I did?

"Wonderful," he said. "You killed it."

Any locals around who want to give it another go, just call. Would also like to try the beef, the cheesy milk and the szechuan style.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Long Beach Portraits

I got up at two in the morning Sunday night and drove the van up to Long Beach Veterans Stadium to do the swap meet. Gates opened at 5:30 and I used one of Warmboe's regular spaces.

I do the swap meet two or three times a year. Great place to buy, get rid of crap, great cast of characters.

My plan this time was not to even set up for a couple hours. I am in a shopping mode.

Found a nice painting, a pretty 19th century native american beaded purse and some excellent modernist wood carvings.

I also cleared out some stuff I was tired of looking at in the shop, irrespective of what I may have paid for it initially. It was time and nice to see it go.

Business was fairly steady and I got to see a lot of old friends, Leslie and I cutting our baby teeth out on the pavement at places like Long Beach.

It was hot out and I didn't bring the tent, thought I would rough it without my spouse, who is in Dallas and due home tonight. Baked a little in the heat. Serves me right.

I have been taking pictures at Long Beach for pretty much as long as I remember. I left the camera in the bag all morning and finally said screw it, lets take some snapshots. A lot of great visuals got by my lens, uncaptured and I needed to fix that.

Long Beach is one of the best places in the world for people watching. Not a lot of normal joes, if you know what I mean?

More like people who dance to the beat of a different drum, slightly off the 4/4 beat. All day long, an endless parade.

I took a lot of shots and space necessitates that I post them small so I ask you to please click on one and it will allow you to see the whole lot in a large format slideshow if you desire.

I asked everybody if I could take their picture. About 80% of the people said yes. Most people are good about it, comfortable in their own skin.

I call this crowd the modern stone age family. As I said, not a lot of normals. Some, but mostly a bit more on an eccentric orbit. Buyers and sellers.

My friend lena wasn't that thrilled with the pictures I took at her house recently. Said that for a great photographer they were pretty crappy. She is right. I like more candid work, it is easier than always having to make people look good all the time.

I hope that you enjoy the shots!