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Woo-Woo Doo-Wah-Diddy

I get into NYC yesterday around 3 PM. A drop-dead gorgeous day, temp in the 70s, leafy lacy shadow patterns in the green grass of the park along 5th Ave. My hotel, the Marakech, a Moroccan-themed hotel at Broadway and 103rd turns out to be, shall we say, quirky. Finally I hit the streets, looking for food. I end up by Carnegie Hall and wander over to see who's playing. At this point I'm pretty tired and haven't connected with the city yet. An elegantly dressed Russian lady comes up and asks in a thick accent if I have tickets to sell. It's Anna Netrebco and Dmitry Chvonostovsky, soprano and baritone, she says, sold out. I see that the Emnerson String Quartet is playig the next night. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. Oh boy! The energy of the city kicks in and I'm off. When it's good it's very very good. Who might want to go the next night, I think to myself, well, I know my friend Elise from California is in NYC, maybe I'll contact her. 20 minutes later I run into Elise on a corner on 7th Avenue, I mean, what are the chances of that happening in a city of 8.2 million people? Cosmic stuff. I'm on a roll the rest of the night. I end up having a fabulous meal at Trattoria Dell'Arte on 7th and 56th. When I walk in a little Jewish lady is saying to a friend, "I haven't been heah in yiz." Food, ambiance, decor, and staff are tres cool. As in many NY restaurants, people are tightly packed and there's a lot of back-and-forth discussion. You hear nearby couple's conversations clearly. It's intimate, a feature of eating out in Manhattan. I end up having an great discussion with a TV producer from LA sitting next to me at the bar, a smart and savvy guy, and talking to all the waiters since I'm sitting at the bar where they pick up drinks. It's a warm night and after a magic glass of grappa, I wander the streets, reveling in the city, shooting pix. Kansas this ain't.

Bill Castle, Master Builder

It had been (ulp!) 17 years since I last saw Bill and Barb Castle. I'd met them in Costa Rica in 1990 and then spent several days later that year at their rustic log lodge in the Alleghany hills of southern New York state, photographing Bill's finely-crafted log buildings. He was then one of the three main builkders of our last builders' book, Home Work. Chris McClellan, mutual friend of me and Bill, picked me up at the Buffalo airport and we drove out to "Pollywogg Holler."

Main lodge at Pollywogg Holler


I brought my big Canon camera along almost as an afterthought, but once we got to Bill's I was once again fascinated by his ingenuity and craftsmanship, and I shot a bunch of photos. Bill and Barb and son Mickey run what'snow called an eco-lodge, which consists of a beautiful main lodge, a Norwegian-style log sauna, cabins in the woods and Adirondack open air sleeping shelters situated on two ponds. There's wood-fired pizza and homemade wine and champagne, a small stage for music. No electricity. Silence so loud it's deafening. Birds sing from sunrise to dark, and I mean a LOT of birds. (I come from bird territory.) If you live on the east coast and don't need the $500 a day type of vacation, this is a wonderful getaway and I recommenbd it highly to my kind of people:Pollywogg Holler

Jet Blue to NYC for Book Expo America With Stopoff in the Alleghany Woods

I liked what I had read about Jet Blue, so booked my flight with them. I was heading for the big annual (BEA) book expo convention in NYC, with a 3-day stop-off in the Alleghanies to see my friends Bill and Barb Castle at their eco resort in the woods. The flight, from SFO to JFK to Buffalo, then Buffalo to NYC and back to San Francisco was $450. Well, this airline is great. The seats are leather and there is way more leg room than on any other airliners' economy class. No food served except for snacks, which is fine with me and I brought a chicken sandwich and crackers. A couple of bananas would have been good too. You print out your own boarding pass within 24 hours of the flight, along with your baggage check-in ticket and I was in line for about 3 minutes before I was checked in and my bag on its way. Each seat has its own screen and Direct TV with 36 channels and you can pay an extra $5 for 3 movies. Plenty of water and soft drinks available and they make trash runs every half hour or so and take your newspapers, bottles, etc. Very cool, it's the way airlines should be run.

I'm posting this from the Alleghanies where I've been for 2 days, photographing Bill's amazing building and welding projects, sleeping in an Adirondack shelter looking out on a frog-filled pond, and swimming in 2 different wonderful ponds. I get into NYC tomorrow and will post some photos. You can check out Pollywogg Holler at: Pollywogg Holler

On the Road: Husky Camper/Housetruck

Saw this a few weeks ago arked in San Francisco; looks like a serious on-road/off-road explorer vehicle:


It's A Sad Day To Be An American

I love this country. I love the land and I love the people. I say this from having been in 45 states, from 6 round-trip cross country coast-to-coast car trips, from hanging out with cowboys in Nevada, surfers in California, publishers in NYC, and farmers in Kansas. I love the canyons of the southwest and the woods of New England and the shores of Cape Cod and the beaches and arroyos of the west coast from Canada to Baja. My mother's family has been here since the 1700s and fought in the American revolution. So I feel I can criticize what my own country has become. A pervasive sickness has crept into America and is manifested in all its ugly and greedy and homicidal horrors by the Bush Administration. My heart is sick with what this corrupt bunch of corporate thugs is doing in the name of America, and it's become so serious and pervasive that I feel compelled to mention this bummer aspect of today's reality. The American flag, as it's being flown by individuals these days, represents support for the destruction of Iraq. This administration should be brought before the international war crimes tribunal, especially Rumsfeld and Cheney, the Himmler and Goering of the 21st century. God, how can we get rid of these criminals and shift this country's perspective and behavior? Before they invade Iran.

Hold the Chicken Salad/Stinking Badges/Little Richard Getting Hysterical

I heard the great Jack Nicholson scene in Five Easy Pieces on the radio the other day and found it on YouTube:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=6wtfNE4z6a8
Then I looked up the "stinking badges" scene from Treasure of Sierra Madre: http://youtube.com/watch?v=HaxURLFn6jU
Then I went looking for the scene in Down and Out in Beverly Hills where Richard Dreyfuss and Nick Nolte discover their common love for baseball over a late night sandwich, a beautifully acted scene. It wasn't there but there was this very funny bit of hysterical acting by Little Richard: http://youtube.com/watch?v=D3tApItjnKI

Vagabonding/Summer of Love/Natural Building Materials/ Green Building Materials

Vagabonding — Slow Travel


The other day on the radio, Rick Steves interviewed a guy named Rolf Potts, who's written a book about slow travel, called Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel. The concept is to stay around long enough — wherever you travel — to tune into the people and the land. One great thing Rolf said was that when you end up in a town and have no fixed idea about what to do: "Walk until your day gets interesting." Also: "Time is your most valuable asset…"

Summer of Love Horseshit


It was over by the "Summer of Love." Anyone who was actually in the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood in say 1963-66 knows that the SOL wasn't the death knell…the unique love and energy was already long gone (departed, not dead). The San Francisco Chronicle just did an article on the 40th anniversary and they trotted out the usual '60s experts. Wavy Gravy, Peter Berg, Peter Coyote (can you imagine someone naming himself after a sacred animal?) I always thought the Diggers sucked, with their hipper-than-thou concepts. They brought hard East Village NYC vibes to gentle California. Their "everything is free" hype drew losers to San Francisco.

Canine-powered Skateboarding


The other day I saw a guy on a skateboard in San Francisco being pulled along at a pretty good clip by 3 dogs on leashes. He looked pretty happy.

Natural Building Materials, Green Building Materials


The difference between "natural building materials" and "green building materials" is, I believe, that natural means that it is used as it comes from the earth. Wood, adobe, straw, bamboo. Green materials include "natural materials," but can also include processed materials, such as roof shakes made from recycled plastic bottles and wood fiber. Green in the sense of minimum impact on the earth and its systems…

Builders of the Pacific Coast/Book Expo America


I've done rough layouts of 160 or so pages, maybe 2/3 of the book. It's starting to assume its own form. I saved meisterbuilder Lloyd House for last, because I have such a mountain of material on his work. The day I started was sunny and no one was in the office and I alternated between the computer (printing out pix for layout), the layout table, and playing my fiddle and then the jug, along with '30s Texas swing music by Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies. Fun! The book is looking good, but it's taking me a lot longer than I anticipated — (what else is new?). We are in the midst of preparing about 14 mock-up pages for me to take to Book Expo America in New York in early June.

Flying Skateboard Crash

Last Thursday I was skateboarding on the Presidio (Army base) in San Francisco, and inadvertently got into a faster-than-is-safe-for-me situation. Accelerating, gaining speed, not able to carve back and forth enough to slow down. When it gets past the point when I can no longer bail and stay on my feet, I'm in trouble. In my mind for months has been Cliff Coleman's mantra regarding a skateboard crash:
Just remember 4 words:
Get
On
Your
Hands,

which assumes you are wearing gloves with hard-disc palm pads, and that once you're sliding on pavement, get on your belly (or knees) and let the pads take the friction.
As I got down to the end of the blocked-off block, with a lot of cars to pile into, going maybe 25mph, I headed for a grass bank, jumped off my board just before it hit the curb, and did a skimming front-first dive onto the grass. Just lay there taking stock of body parts. Pain in right shoulder, but not bad. I just lay there in the sun, glad to be alive and unbroken. No one had seen me.

Something I learned from competitive diving in high school: go right back and do the dive again if you blow it, especially there's pain involved. So I took my board back up and started from a more reasonable spot, and had a nice multi-turning in-control downhill run.

It was a great day. On the way home I went for a run on the mountain, and went down a canyon to a creek where there are pools with waterfalls, ducked into one, revitalized by the spirit of Mount Tamalpais.

Old Filipino Fishing Lures

My father bought these Filipino fishing lures in the '30s or so. They're made out of bones and scrap metal and sinew and are beautiful. I just got them out of an old storage box and mounted them — they're stunning (and sharp!). This is a kind of funky 2-shot collage.)

Note wooden goggle frames

Lesley's California Coastal Poppies in May


The Golden Gate Bridge/Honky Tonk Piano/LSD in the '60s/Wooden Boat Building Classes/Big Sur Homestead

One of my rituals is to get up before dawn once a week or so, and drive into San Francisco. I go south along the coast and then across the Golden Gate Bridge to the city where I was born. This morning, the rising sun's rays and wind and mist painted the orange bridge over blue waters in sharp surreal light. It's about an hour drive, one cd's worth. This morning I listened to Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, "Western Swing Chronicles Vol. I." A pretty much unknown and incredibly swinging band from the early '30s, with a 20 year old self-taught fiddler named Cliff Bruner, playing blues, country, blue grass, Texas swing. The Brownies recorded this music before Bob Wills started cutting records. Great vocal harmonies. Honky tonk piano. You can see the progression from these guys to Elvis. If you like old time music, take a listen to some of the tracks online.

Come here and tell me baby
Whose muddy shoes are these…


LSD in the '60s


I was talking to a friend the other night. He told me he'd taken LSD back then, and it hadn't been good. "What were the circumstances," I asked. It turned out he'd done it with a bunch of other people, they'd sat around in a room… Well, duh! In the '60s me + friends approached LSD with great care. The idea was to — ulp — increase consciousness. Yep. My first trip was with (pure) Sandoz acid liquid and I got up before dawn and went up in the hills to watch the sun rise. The first thing my enhanced awareness picked up on was the noise of the highway, audible from our house, but never as noticeably horrible as this. Later that day I saw flowers breathing. It wasn't a hallucination. Flowers do breathe, we just don't see it in our rushing around doing-this-doing-that minds. LSD ended up with a bad rep, it's powerful stuff and lends itself to messing up people's minds, but in looking back, the idea of expanding consciousness was (is) noble. More aware, more sensitive, more tuned into planetary forces and life in its many forms. OK?

Three-Dot Jots


I heard a guy talking on public radio in April, saying that by 2015 in Germany there will be more workers in the solar industry than the auto industry . . .The North House Folk School is wonderful institution in Minnesota with a huge variety of classes and seminars on crafts, building, music, doing stuff for oneself. Wooden boat building, making a kayak paddle, knitting, brewing, making a birch box and on and on. Wonderful for kids during summer months. North House Folk website . . . Huge billboard on 2nd or 3rd Street in SF with just these words: "Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?" . . . Memory is the 2nd thing to go. I can't remember the first . . . It's taking me a long time to get running again; a year off took its toll. I'm back to about a "C" level, I'm still slow up hills, but back with the A team on downhills . . . I'm going to NYC for the Book Expo in early June . . . Am giving a talk to the Big Sur Historical Society mid-June on the building of my house down there (Burns Creek, 2 miles north of Esalen) in the '60s. Jeez I've become historical. The house was framed with used timbers, roofed and floored with local Monterey Pine, and covered with hand-split shakes. Gravity-fed water from a spring, owner-built septic tank, big garden . . .

Stretching At Your Computer (Dept. of Shameless Commerce)


StretchWare: Eleven years ago we developed software that reminds you to stretch at your computer. Every couple of hours, or certain number of keystrokes, a Tibetan bell sounds and a window pops up saying "Do you have time to stretch?" If you click "no," the program goes away. If you click "yes," the stretches appear on screen. Take a 5 minute stretching break.

It works on Mac and Windows and you can try it free for 30 days by going to:StretchWare website

Ukulele Chords Online: "Ain't She Sweet," "Sweet Georgia Brown," ""Your Cheatin' Heart," Etc. +Ukulele Ike

This morning I got an email from Jeff West referring to one of my old blogs on playing the ukulele and asking if I knew where he could get uke chords for "Ain't She Sweet." I looked through my 4 uke song books and not finding it, did a web search AND came up with site that has chords for 239 ukulele songs (free):Doctor Uke's Uke Chords
When I was in high school I got a song book called Ukulele Ike - Collection for the Ukulele #1, and it's still the best book of easy-to-play uke chords I've seen. Some of them are beautiful progressions, like the chords for "Over the Rainbow." There are a lot of great '20s-'30s-'40s era songs, like "Five Foot Two," "Ja-Da," and "When You Wore A Tulip." The chords shown are graphic, that is, they show you the positions of each note on the keyboard, rather than indicating just "C7," "F," or "A7." Three other good uke chord books are: Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Favorites," Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Gems, and Harry Reser's Let's Play the Baritone Uke.
One of the songs I printed out from Dr. Uke was "Fly Me to the Moon." I've always loved the opening lyrics:
Fly me to the moon
And let me play among the stars,
Let me see what Spring is like
on Jupiter and Mars…

They just don't write lyrics like that nowadays…

Builders of the Pacific Coast: Creative Carpentry/Wayne Ngan/Sun Ray Kelley

This is our first major book since HOME WORK and it's taking me longer to put it together than expected. Here are a couple of images from layouts done last week:

Potter Wayne Ngan's hobbit-like playhouse for his kids


Meditation temple in the California hills by Sun Ray Kelley


I'll try to remember to post pictures as I proceed with the layouts.

Mr. Natural/R.Crumb

The other day I did a Google image search for "Mr. Natural" and was vastly amused all over again. Crumb's work from the '60s and '70s still holds up. A lot of it is funnier than ever. He did a lot of panning of hippy dippiness.

(c) R. Crumb 2005



Click here for Mr. Natural images

Older but Wiser

I spotted this greeting card at a friend's house and it sure resonated. When I ride a skateboard I wear helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, and Cliff Coleman-inspired gloves with palm discs.

Older but wiser

Mark Mortford on Hippies/Sambada at Ashkenaz/Diamond Ortiz at 4th Street Tavern

The Hippies Were Right All Along


Mark Morford wrote a brilliant, timely column in the SF Chronicle on May Day, 2007. It was a retrospective look at some of what we were all talking about (and practicing) in the '60s. The world has finally caught up.
"…It was always and forever, about connectedness. It was about how we are all in this together. It was about resisting the status quo and fighting tyrannical/corporate power and it was about opening your consciousness and seeing new possibilities of how we can all live with something resembling actual respect for the planet, for alternative cultures, for each other…"
The Hippies Were Right All Along

Sambada at Ashkenaz


My son Will plays in Sambadá, a Brazilian samba band from Santa Cruz. I took my friend Sherm in his wheelchair to see them play in Berkeley last week at the good-vibes nightclub Ashkenaz. The band was hot. So were the dancers and Sherm spent the whole night watching them.

Sambadá


Diamond Ortiz at the Fourth Street Tavern, San Rafael, Calif.


This is a great little unknown trio playing blues, rock, and funk at what has become my favorite music venue. They have a different band every night, most of them local. The young gunslinger guitar player took it out onto the dance floor:

Guitarist Gabriel of Diamond Ortiz


Running and Skating


I'm back to base-level running for the first time in over a year. I had a thrill of a skateboarding run a few days ago. I took off an a downhill run on the road out to the Pt. Arena lighthouse on my (39") longboard and started accelerating faster than I'd expected. No cars, so that part's OK. But pretty soon I was up to a speed where I wouldn't be able stay on my feet if I bailed, so I made long, slow carves and tried to stay alert. It was controlled out-of-control, and then I came around a corner and the hill flattened out. Whew! A rush.

Louie's Japanese Saw


This was hanging on a post in my friend Louie's shop. Louie, like builder Bruno Atkey, uses this saw exclusively. It seems better in all respects than American saws.

Japanese carpenter's saw