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Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste…

As we came into Dublin from the airport with a talkative Irish cab driver, we passed a rather fantastical looking little cathedral, and he said, "They say if you walk around the building backwards 3 times after midnight, the devil will appear."

Unique Gridshell Building in U.K.


The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex (south of London) has a collection of over 40 vernacular English buildings. I shot some photos of the beautiful buildings there in the early '70s that appeared in our book Shelter. The director, architect Richard Harris, recently showed me photos of a unique structure built in 2002 that houses the museum's tools and artifacts. Here are a few quotes about the structure from the Museum's website:
"The Downland Gridshell is one of a very small number of gridshell structures in Britain, and its design and method of construction are unique. A very high degree of carpentry skill went into its fabrication, emulating but not imitating the traditional framed buildings at the Museum.…A gridshell is a structure with the shape and strength of a double-curvature shell, but made of a grid instead of a solid surface.…The gridshell is a lightweight structure made of oak laths and is insulated so that it can be used in comfort year-round.…"

Universe for Rent by Kyoichi Tsuzuki


In my 6 weeks in Europe, I found a bunch of exciting books. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, naturally, but also in book stores, shops, newsstands. These are books that are not (or sparsely) available in the USA. I'll get a list of them together when I have time, but here are a couple that are just unique. They are tiny (4" x 6") 500-page nicely printed books of real life in Tokyo, Kyoto, and other parts of Japan. I am just starting to delve into them, and they're fascinating. Here's what what Andy in Tokyo says about them. Here's a link to Amazon Japan, where each is about $20 + postage. Someone should sell these in the USA; they're refreshingly real. I look at these pictures and realize that all these photos in books and magazines of homes and apartments are bogus. That's not what the real world looks like! This photographer has connected with reality. (Caveat: the lamination of the cover to the spine of these books is coming unglued; I'm going to glue it with binding glue—no prob.)

Elk Calf Having Fun!

You need to have some fun every day. So take a 46-second break to watch this young elk at play:

Wong Fook Hing Book Store

If you can't find the book you are looking for, you are probably shopping at the...

Portrait of a bookstore (Shakespeare and Company) as an old man


As a result of my blog of October 21 on Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Anuj Desai sent me this link to a film about legendary owner George Whitman: http://bit.ly/1vRHau. George is well-known for letting poets and young people in general stay in small rooms above the book store.

Photo of City Lights case in Shakespeare and Company

Car at Mariachi Festival by Bill Steen


http://www.caneloproject.com/

Back to sunny California/Slide Show Oct 29 in Sebastopol at Copperfield Books

We got back late yesterday afternoon, picked up the Mini, and came down the hill just above Stinson Beach as the sun was setting over the ocean. On the way over the mountain we stopped for a minute so I could run in and reconnect with mountain (Mt. Tamalpais) spirit, splashed some Fern Creek water on my face; today I'm going for a short run on the beach and will get into the water to do same with ocean spirit. Boy, I missed you guys! I'm so glad to be home, I'm inspired by the lengthy change of scene and exposure to such different people and culture. Right now it's a blue-sky sunny California day and I'm listening to Parisian street pianist Roland Godard's CD. Best of both worlds

We've had over 6" of rain this year, which is about 6" more than normal, and hoping for a wet winter.

Tomorrow (Thursday, 10/29) at 7 PM I'm doing a slide show of Builders of the Pacific Coast at Copperfield's Books in Sebastopol (138 North Main Street). [Google Map Link]

More to follow when I get my head screwed back on.

This afternoon at Notre Dame

Paris balcony greenery

Nice architecture


So many of the large buildings in large European cities are overdesigned, resulting in complex, yet non-harmonious architecture. This one, somewhere near the Bastille, is boldly simple.

Detail from statue of Charlemagne in Notre Dame plaza

Sign at Shakespeare and Company bookstore

Medieval gardens


This was on a placard in a garden adjacent to the Musée de Cluny in Paris:
Medicinal simples
The Book of Medicinal Simples, attributed to 12th century physician, Platearius, is one of the main sources of medicinal medicine. Early in the 15th century it was adopted as a codex by the Parisian apothecaries. The expression "medicinal simples" designates "simple" remedies, i.e. those made from a single plant, as opposed to compound drugs.

The Middle Ages made extensive use of plants because of their real or imaginary therapeutic virtues, often linked to their name or shape. Thus, Salvia officinalis, reigned in every pleasure and kitchen garden because of the etymology of its Latin name, which means "the healing plant." The "theory of signatures," according to which nature has revealed a plant's medicinal properties through its form, also explains many uses of samples: pulmonary, or lungwort, owes its name and its use in the treatment of lung diseases to its spotted leaves, which evoked the lung's alveoli. Hyssop is a digestive, antiseptic, and expectorant plant which purified lepers and sinners, whereas rue was thought to repel snakes and evil spirits: medieval medicine did not separate treatment for the body from that for the soul, and plans could have spiritual virtues.

Use and symbolism were often associated in the Middle Ages… in most medieval gardens…vegetables, simples, and flowers grew in the kitchen garden, while simples mingled with flowers in pleasure gardens.

Stone spiral staircase in garden adjacent to the Musée de Cluny in Paris:

View along Seine


This fabric is used as protection for passersby when a large building is under (re) construction and here Paris outdoes LA with immense graphics. That's Notre Dame on the right.

Plywood slide in park

Parisian shops


There are thousands of often-tiny shops of every description. So many of them are a delight.

Roland Godard on an overcast Saturday afternoon

This guy was playing this little rinky-dink piano on wheels, old stuff, Scott Joplin style, 20s tunes, a great version of All of Me, slightly out of tune notes, just perfect on the Deux Ponts Marie. We clicked -- same age and all; a bro. I bought his CD. Roland Godard, Et Son Piano a Tout Faire…I'm listening to it this very moment.

Canterbury Cathedral


Vault along the close (courtyard), adjacent to cathedral, around sunset. The photos ended up in looking like paintings, a photographer's dream.

Bazar d' Le Hotel de Ville


Hold a pen or pencil over the garish "BHV" and see how it defaces this wonderful building. Why doesn't BHV (a department store) go green and get rid of the green? Then the architect could stop turning in his grave.

Alley in York

California to Europe back to California

It's a rainy Saturday morning in Paris, and we're leaving for home on Monday; a fabulous trip, but we're both more than a little homesick for California. I've shot thousands of photos, yet again presenting me the problem of finding context for content. I'm eager to get home and back to work. Each day we wander different Paris neighborhoods. Yesterday I took off on one of my high-speed city walks, went to the Pantheon (just one of Paris' out-of-scale, hard-to-believe buildings), started sensing my way down the most interesting-looking streets, and ended up following L' Estrapade down to a square (actually a circle) where five streets came in at odd angles, and there were people sitting at little sidewalk cafes; bakeries, tiny intriguing shops, very few cars on narrow cobblestone streets, therefore a lovely inner-city peacefulness. Da place felt good!

I'm surprised to find that I'm as overwhelmed by Europe as I was on a 7000 mile Lambretta motorscooter trip at age 22. for one thing, I feel, in varying degrees, like a savage. Many French men are dressed beautifully. I'm wearing cargo pants, running shoes, a lightweight North Face Summit series down jacket, and a homemade Merino wool watch cap. I mean, it's the right outfit for getting around, but it just doesn't have that Parisian zing.

Also eating: people are so deft placing food on the back of a fork held in the left-hand, it astounds me. My methods of getting food-to-mouth are much cruder. And on and on.

I'm also reminded from time to time that the people here in Europe stayed, whereas my ancestors crossed the ocean and headed west. I have a sense of coming back to the homeland(s) in Europe, a feeling of what I think is genetic familiarity; haven't I been here before? Yet I'm so glad to be living where I do, where there's a different kind of freedom (plus I'm homesick for Mount Tamalpais and the Pacific Ocean).

England, Ireland, Germany, France, it's been a blast! (from the past). I love you, and thanks for the memories, and you're still wonderful, but right about now I can hear somebody singing I'm going home home home home back home…

Around Paris

This half timber flying saucer building is in the Parc du Luxembourg. No idea what it is.


Below left: spiffy Beemer scooter

Below: west side of Notre Dame. I like it better from the outside. It's one of those huge cathedrals that is magnificent, but I don't find elegant. It's a marvel of soaring stone, but inside, seems gloomy. The stones that it's built of are large and clunky-looking inside.

Shakespeare and Company


Shakespeare and Company, started in the 20s or 30s was obviously the inspiration for Lawrence Ferlinghetti with his City Lights in San Francisco. A booklovers' bookstore.

Rainy day in Paris


Lord this is such a wonderful city! The beauty of the buildings, the whimsy, the elegance. I'm stunned by Paris. There are so many surprises. The language is soft and flowing; spoken French is poetry, the nuances, the sinuous softness of phrases. Many of the faces on the street are quite beautiful and refined. We're on day 3 of 7 days in Paris, staying in a small hotel next to the Sorbonne, v. near Notre Dame, it's a rainy morning, we're just starting to dial it in (in each big city it takes a while to get your center). After the one bad meal so far of the trip, we've had 2 wonderful dinners at cool little restaurants, with nary the sound of the English language.

I'll be posting some photos in the next few days.

Paris, soil, wind energy, gypsy wagon…

A loft in Paris
We took the high speed train from Frankfurt to Paris yesterday. A bit weird: you see a nice village, and pffft! it's gone, at 100 mph. And so into Paris, where we're now ensconced in what has to be my favorite hotel room of all time, a half-timbered 6th-story, top floor garret in the oldest part of Paris, next to the Sorbonne, walking distance to Notre Dame, the Latin quarter, and all manner of cafes and shops. Right now I'm sitting in a sunny dormer in our attic room, looking out at Paris rooftops, dictating this with a with my Sennheiser ME-3 head microphone.

Soil and non-oil-or-coal-burning power
I've been noticing that soil everywhere in Europe looks rich and fertile. If plowed, it's black; if there are crops, it's a verdant green. Ireland is glittering green. Better soil stewardship than in America. Yesterday at the train station, I met a South African electrical engineer now living in Germany, and working on large-scale windmill generators (blades 150 feet long). He told me that Europe is now laying very large transmission lines for a grid that will tie into wind power and other generators, that they will eventually be sending electricity from solar farms in Africa under the ocean to Europe. Also that China is building a huge transmission system. He told me a bunch of other exciting stuff about wind and solar power generation; I've never heard of any of this via the US media. He said to Google "supergrid," "D. C. light," and "ABB."

Dollar in dumps
Man, is it expensive in Europe! Costs in London and Ireland are shocking. Hotels in Frankfurt (except for mine) are $250+. Upon reflection, it's corporations who pay these one reasonably high rates; the corporate executive ripoff of the economy rolls on.

Tell St. Peter at the golden gate/you just hate to make him wait/but you just gotta have another cigarette*
There seems to be 10 times as much smoking in Europe as in California. It's surprising.

Suits
…never went away like I thought they would. Such an uncomfortable way to dress. Why do companies insist on burdening their employees with coats that are non-functional and ties that restrict the throat?

Germany into France
There's something bittersweet to me about Germany. I like the land, the buildings, and the orderliness (for a while). But after a week, I want less order and more funk, less rigidity and more soul. And so you cross into France. Immediately things look different. There's a softness in the landscape and the buildings. Think of the difference between the two languages. I feel a sense of relief. It makes me cherish the freedom we have in the US, especially in California.

Tiny gypsy wagon
Oh yeah, in the tiny house department: as we pulled out of the urban congestion of Karlsruhe on the train yesterday and got into the countryside, there was a green field with a row of trees, and a pretty little curved-roof gypsy wagon on wheels along the edge of the woods, with smoke coming out the chimney. I don't know if this was a shepherd, or a gypsy, or just some cool dude from Karlsruhe escaping into country tranquility for the weekend.

Possibly short-term thinking
There's a lot of fiberboard used in building in Germany, as in the US. Think of what's going to happen throughout the world if the fiberboard glue fails in 50 years.

*Hank Williams

Frankfurt Book Fair

I've been on the road 4 weeks now. My wife Lesley and I have spent week in London, then a week driving down the southwest coast of Ireland, then to Edinburgh and by car more or less down the east coast of England, which I left last night to come to the Frankfurt International Book Fair. I've posted photos and commentary on my blog, which is http://lloydkahn.com.

I'm getting organized today to begin 4 days of meetings. Our books are suddenly hot overseas. I'm meeting agents, publishers, or distributors from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Vietnam, China, Korea, Australia, South Africa, and Singapore. Stretching is in 23 languages and I'm negotiating contracts for the new significantly-improved 30th anniversary edition in each country. The Koreans have (in the last 5-6 years) published just about every one of our books. Getting Back in Shape is going into Serbian. Stretching will be translated for the first time into Vietnamese. Shelter is in Chinese. I'm pretty excited about the next few days. It's great to connect with different cultures.

Carpenters' Dream
Gemuchtli-up-the-kazoo-chite
Each year when I come to the Book Fair, I stay in a spa town, Bad Homburg, a 20-min. train ride from Frankfurt. I flew from London yesterday afternoon and didn't get to my hotel until about 8:30 PM, got gently scolded by my landlady for being so late, took a shower, then headed out to eat, a cold night. My favorite restaurant, Kartoffulkuche, was closed, and I saw this pub down a dark alley, walked down, pushed open the door, and wham/bam!—I'd walked into a medieval inn, but with 21st century touches.
A half-timbered ceiling, walls of rough plaster painted yellow, lights making a warm glow. Candles here and there. Music in background with a beat. A lot of raucus noise. I sit at the bar in front of some unique wood-structure beer taps and look around. Jesus! On the walls and ceiling are hung or stocked or shelved, old woodworker tools. Like 30 old brace and bit drills, dozens of old wooden block planes, a beautiful collection of carpenters' bow saws; The types of beer are written on 3'-wide black circular saw blades on the wall. The tables are polished old workbenches.
I've spent a lot of time using various tools, and have been around countless builders—all of us interested in tools, and here I've walked into a tool museum that any Eric Sloane fan would love, that would dazzle any carpenter.
I got a foamy dark German beer on tap, and rumpsteak and home-fried potatoes, boy was it good! Followed by 2 more foamy beers. And looked around and around at the tools. The beer, the food, the loud conversations (hearty lads), the warm light, friendly bartenders, thumping music…it felt immensely good.
It was like a hearty welcome back to Deutschland, land of (some of) my ancestors (after 4 weeks in Britain, land of other ancestors).

Back to Biz
Stretching--30th Anniversary Edition and Illustrated Gardners Catalog
We're way behind schedule with both of these books (as usual), but also as usual, it's been worth the delays, because they've both been honed. Update on both books coming in the next month.

Tiny House book

We've been gathering info for a year, and it's my next major project, starting in November. In the somewhat cosmic category, Lesley and I ended up spending two nights in her cousins' 100 sq. ft. beach hut, watching the water and clouds, hearing wind in the eaves, no electricity, no running water. Perfect for starting this new book.

To follow further adventures on this trip, including an upcoming week in Paris, check my blog.

(Posted 2 days later due to wi-fi scarcity here) I have a ton of stuff, will try to catch up next week in Paris.

Security at the Frankfurt Book Fair is overboard. There are about 18 cop cars (Polizei) parked in one of the parking lots. Cops and security guards everywhere you look, all with guns, clubs, mace, handcuffs. Cops always in pairs, often one has an Uzi-type automatic rifle (with big curved ammo clip) hung diagonally across chest, in position to raise quickly and fire. They watch everyone, all the time. Is this all necessary? Are book lovers really a terrorist target?

The fair is bustling. Mobbed with people.

If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium


I can't recall what town this was since I don't have my map here at the airport. This was on a building housing an arts organization, somewhere north of Canterbury.

Roundabouts, Tiny Beach Hut, and Biz Hums

Canterbury cathedral
We've been on the road 4 weeks now and I'm at the London City Airport waiting for a flight to Frankfurt for the International book fair. I thought I'd be posting more as we travelled, but every time we got to a new place I'd end up spending any spare time shooting photos. Maybe when I'm in Germany I'll have time to describe what we've seen. Meanwhile here are a few 3-dot journalistic bits:

Just finished about 1000 miles driving from Edinburgh down along mostly the east coast to London. Driving on the left side of the road is difficult enough, but the narrowness of the lanes is harrowing (being used to the wide open spaces), and the roundabouts are a nightmare…There are signs, "Guinness is good for you" and I'm with the concept; most nights two pints with dinner…Food has been extraordinary -- everywhere -- we've been able to suss out good restaurants in every village and town…There's big surf in Ireland and surfers all along the coast there and in UK…We spent 2 nights in Lesley's cousin's 10x10' beach hut on the northeast Kent coast this weekend, extraordinary since our next book is on tiny houses, and we loved it…Clouds everywhere, this is an island after all, like a big ship at sea, they're wonderful to watch changing and drifting across the sky…I had an almost otherworldly experience at the Canterbury cathedral early one evening, more on that later…My mom is Welsh (Jones) and Lesley was born in Wembley, so we're on ancestral home turf and sometimes a mental bell rings with what may be genetic ancestral remembrance, I've been here before…Rupert Murdoch has succeeded in turning the Times into a mostly sleaze-ball rag, poor writing, everything right-slanted; the Guardian is the best big London paper…From the eyes of a Western savage, the old world is v. much alive and well in Britain; people are unfailingly polite, conversations are low and muted, there are a lot more coats and ties; California it ain't…It's been a wonderful trip; Randomness has worked for us, we arrive in a town or village with no idea where to stay or eat and bingo, we're in the zone…Overheard in streets of Canterburty, a guy saying to his mate, "Don't you oy me!" Last night a cockney bus driver was saying to a newly-arrived guy from Africa (who couldn't understand),"White and tyke the haitch-2 bus" (Wait and take the H-2 bus)…Phrase in newspaper: "blingtastic." Columnist Jane Wheatley: "Aenas…walked into the city of Carthage and observed that 'opus fecit,'—a phrase our teacher translated for us as "biz hums."

Whip Ma Whop Ma/Tutti Frutti


The shortest street in York (35 meters long) was known as 'Whitnourwhatnourgate' during the sixteenth century but took its present name when it became the location of a pillory and whipping cart where the city's petty criminals were publicly flogged. ("Gate" is the Viking term for "street.")

Shades of Little Richard: Wop-bop-a-loo-mop a wop-bam-boom.

Viking farmstead


Drawing of Viking farm building looks like upturned boat (in a display at the Garden Museum in York. By the way, the Vikings never had horns on their helmets; this was a rumor started during Victorian times to to depict them in the worst light possible.

Evensong by candlelight in York Minster

Last night I was wondering through some of the narrow winding streets of York in a light drizzle. I'd seen a sign in the York Minster (York's huge cathedral), about evensong at 5:15, and since it was about that time, I wandered in and was directed to a section of the church with chairs running down two sides facing a center aisle. There was a magnificent organ, with stalactite-looking pipes ringing the room. A bell rang and about 60 high school students filed in and took their seats behind lighted candles on opposite sides of the aisle, facing each other. "It's a girls choir," the usher whispered to me, high school kids. They sang like angels, with wonderful organ accompaniment. The candles, the music, the sweet voices, it was a moment, in fact about a 10 minute moment. Then the priest walked in, da man, and started reading from the Bible, Lemme outta here! I slipped out the back into a kind of gated-off section, whereupon another priest arrived and graciously opened the door so I could get out into the main cathedral.

Patchwork masonry in York


Whimsical masonry, quite different from the typical masonry perfection.

450-year-old half-timber building in York

Last night we had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding in this inn. The room, with its black exposed half-timber framing, had an aura, a feeling of well-being, a mellowness from the life lived within over hundreds of years.

Masonry Detail in York

Brick masonry in York

York is a wonderful old city. I love it here. It's rich in history, and multi-layered. The ever-present tourists are here, but the city shines through. The brick masonry is outstanding.

Tiffany lamp in Harrogate store window last night

Snowboarder builds high-mountain house

Just got this from my son Evan:
"…just checking out my fave snowboarding mag webpage and i came across this guy named Mike Basich, he is a legendary snowboarder. Check out the house he built in the mountains of Donner pass!!!! really amazing!!! all built by hand using local materials and lots of rocks from the land, you'll like the hot tub. http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid27342176001?bctid=42829876001

Famous fish and chips shop in Harrogate last night

Chevrolet Matiz

Our little Chevy rental car is a winner. I wanted the smallest car possible due to the narrow roads (and driving on the left side). This cheap little Chevy Matiz is peppy, maneuverable, and economical. It sells for around £7000.

Lindisfarne Castle and Boat/Shed

Old fishing boats were upended and cut in half (in cross-section), a wall and door built across the cut-off section, then covered with roll roofing. I like the similarity of uplifts far and near in this 3-shot panorama.


***

Squirrel in the belfry

News flash: it's a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting at the window of a small hotel in Harrogate, looking out the window into a pretty little garden, working on my MacBook.. There are black wrought iron fire escape stairs coming down the building into the garden. About a half hour ago a guy came walking up the fire escape to the top level and in a few minutes came down with a Haveahart type animal trap and inside it was scurrying a little squirrel. I started talking to him through the window since I have three of these type traps and use them not infrequently for the various critters that roam our Northern California homestead. I told him about the country song, "Why would anybody eat beef when they can have squirrel?" Being civilized, he was going to take the squirrel and release him out in the countryside. (After which he'll navigate his way through hill and dale right back here.)

Lindisfarne

After two days in Edinburgh, we picked up a rental car and headed for the East Coast of Scotland and England—destination Lindisfarne. Lindesfarne is a tidal island off the north-east coast of England also known as Holy Island, and I wanted to see the upside-down boats used as storage sheds, as well as the Lindisfarne Castle. The village is known not only for the Lindisfarne Gospels, but for being the first site of a Viking raid in England in 793 A.D..

You have to drive across a narrow paved road through tidelands, only during low tide. Many a tourist who has ignored the tides has ended up with a car buried halfway in saltwater, and some have been rescued by helicopters. Lindisfarne is now a village of about 200 people, and we wandered around early in the morning in a light drizzle.

Even with all the tourists and tourist-trappings, there's a magical feel to the place. The castle, long ago abandoned as a strategic military outpost, was purchased in the early 1900s by Sir Edward Hudson, the owner of Country Life magazine. Hudson's buddy, noted Arts and Crafts designer Edwin Lutyens, did the interiors and designed the furniture. It's been lovingly restored, and the rooms feel cozy and quite unlike dank, cold castles. I could curl up for a nap here on a rainy, cold day!

The remains of the priory, much of it in red stone quarried 10 miles away, are magnificent.

To tell you the truth, I'm having a bit of a hard time blogging on this trip, because we're seeing so much, learning so much, and I'm shooting so many blasted pictures (over 1000 so far). I'll keep trying to post, when time allows, not necessarily in chronological order.