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High-Clearance Mercedes Truck

I shot the pic of this tough looking Mercedes truck in Baja California last October. Looks like it could go just about anywhere.

Hopi Cornmeal Ceremony for Newborn

For some reason I just remembered the Hopi corn ceremony for firstborn, where the first thing a newborn baby sees is the rising sun:
"When a child was born his Corn Mother [an ear of perfect corn whose tip ends in four full kernels] was placed beside him, where it was kept for twenty days, and during this period he was kept in darkness; for while his newborn body was of this world, he was still under the protection of his universal parents. If the child was born at night, four lines were painted with cornmeal on each of the four walls and ceiling early next morning. If he was born during the day, the lines were painted the following morning. The lines signified that a spiritual home, as well as a temporal home, had been prepared for him on earth.
[Numerous small rituals were performed until] early in the morning of the twentieth day, [and] while it was still dark, all the aunts of the child arrived at the house, each carrying a Corn Mother... and wishing to be the child's godmother....and each blessed the child and gave it a name from the clan of either the mother or father of the aunt. The yellow light was by then showing in the east. The mother, holding the child in her left arm and the Corn Mother in her right hand, and accompanied by her own mother-- the child's grandmother-- left the house and walked toward the east. Then they stopped, facing east and prayed silently, casting pinches of cornmeal toward the rising sun.
When the sun cleared the horizon the mother stepped forward, held up the child to sun sun and said, "Father Sun, this is your child," [then repeating] this [while] passing the Corn Mother over the child's body as when she had named him.... The grandmother did the same thing when the mother had finished. Then they both marked a cornmeal path toward the sun for this new life."
-From Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters, 1963.

December Elegance in Manhattan/Architectural Excellence in Los Angeles

QUAIL 333 left this as a comment on one of the postings today, but since our "comments" feature is temporarily disabled, I'm posting them here. For lovers of NYC and LA, both fabulous cities.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/12/27/fashion/20091227-street-feature/index.html

http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-besthouse27-pg,0,746372.photogallery

Jumping Off Cliffs and Flying in Wingsuits

Dudes!
They fly at 100 mph, skirting cliffs, until they eventually open their parachutes.
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=1778399 (for larger video)


(From Lew Lewandowski)

The Plichta Tricksters

My two youngest friends, Jonas and Sasha Plichta come to visit every once in a while. They are passionate about the natural world: bones and feathers; butterflies and mushrooms; whatever moves, or dies, or is observable in the natural world. For years I have been picking up what I find in the woods and on the roads, and have quite a collection of skulls and skins and feathers. Mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish. We look through the stuff when they visit. This was on Saturday and Jonas wandered into my office and came back with the skunk skin as a hat and a smirk. (Once before he'd said to me: "I tricked you.") His brother put on my bobcat (roadkill) skin. Later, we went with their parents to the beach, while these two studied the tidepools and found things I'd never have seen. They were like two walking microscopes. Hey Lloyd, look at this tiny eel. Hey Lloyd, look at this (sea urchin). Hey Lloyd….They have a pure wonder of the Natural World.

Cadillac Records: A Movie That Sucks

Let the Mediocre Times Roll
This thing is a real disappointment. I had read Mick la Salle's review in the S.F. Chronicle saying it was pretty good and I obviously have way different musical tastes than Mick. When the opening scenes rolled, with cotton field workers, and then Muddy Waters walking down the train tracks, and the candy-ass, idylilc backgrounds, I went, Uh-oh! Phony. The guy playing Muddy Waters: no way! Muddy was a powerhouse. This guy can't hold a candle, and his voice is weak. The plot is a mess. The guy playing Little Walter was good, and the Howlin' Wolf guy has a brooding presence, but Mos' Def as Chuck Berry and the other musicians, who unfortunately sang in their own voices, don't cut it. The exception is Beyonce as Etta James. her voice and presence, even the body language when she sings her first song, do Etta credit. But other than her, it's too bad to see such great musicians and such powerful music get watered down for the mainstream (I guess) audience. Grrrr! Give me the real thing!

A Salty Dog Along the Pacific Coast/Mom Almost 102

On Christmas day I went to see my mom in the retirement home. There are two routes "over the hill" from our coastal town: over the mountain (Mt. Tamalpais), or along the ocean. It was a rainy/cloudy day. so I went along the coast. I played Procul Harum's rock opeera A Salty Dog, pretending I was at sea.

We sailed for parts unknown to man, where ships come home to die,
No lofty peak, nor fortress bold, could match our captain's eye.
Upon the seventh seasick day we made our port of call,
A sand so white, and sea so blue, no mortal place at all


My mom will be 102 in February. She is a Christian Scientist and has never had a doctor. She is the only lady in the home who is not on meds. Her muscles have failed her so she's in a wheelchair, but she's eternally optimistic. I have never heard her complain, or say she's depressed. Sometimes she says to me, "Lloyd, I've never felt better in my life." I was the first born, and the most trouble. From what I hear, she had her hands full. Mischief, and my life-defiance of authority. Now that it's all in the past, we have a wonderful relationship. I tell her all about what I'm doing, and she's amused. She often talks about stunts I pulled. I played the ukulele for her and sang: Over the Rainbow, Ja-da, Five Foot Two, Ain't She Sweet, Darktown Strutters' Ball.

Old Guys Sk8boarding


A few days ago, Lew shot some pix of me skateboarding. It's for a book by Jack Smith called Lives on Board - Memories of Skateboarding's Generations. Jack, among other things, runs the online Skateboarders' Journal. I wrote an article for the book about skating down a road on nearby Mt. Tamalpais at sunrise, and here's a paragraph:
"I think it would be good in your book (and everywhere, for that matter), to encourage old guys to skate, especially if they skated as kids. The new boards, trucks, and wheels are magnitudes ahead of what was available 10, even 5 years ago. I started at age 65. I wish I'd started as a kid, but this was no reason not to start late in life. I think it's good in many ways for an old guy to learn a new physical skill. Good for the brain. I think there's a huge group of guys in 50s-60s with skating skills from younger years who don't know about the new equipment, and could jump right in with a new longboard and start cruisin."

Hank Williams Sings the Blues

I'll go without listening to Hank Williams for a year or more, and then I'll hear a song on the radio and get out the Hank records. Lord I love to hear her when she calls me sweet da-a-a-a-a-dy. What an incredible guy. A great collection, for people who love both the blues and Hank: Hank Wiilliams: Low Down Blues. Some are simple acoustic songs, just Hank and his guitar, pure blues. Others are honky-tonkin blues with his crack band. I listened to this album last night as I drove along the coast to meet my Tuesday night running mates. Listening to his simple yodeling on Long Gone Lonesome Blues (about as perfect as a song can be) suddenly flashed me on a pair of coyotes I heard singing one night. I had sneaked up pretty close to them and they were singing to another coyote who was across the valley. Beautiful.

Photos in Mexico by Bill Steen


Taqueria in Madera, Chihuahua. Note the set-up: hot-dog-cooking trailer at right, donut stand on left, taco stand inside. Everyone sits at tables inside, which is under a simple roof.

Bill Steen is not only the author (along with his wife Athena and David Bainbridge) of the by-now classic The Straw Bale House, but is also an excellent photographer. There was recently an exhibit of his photos from Mexico at the Mexican Heritage Center in San Jose, CA. It was called Borderlands of the Sky Islands, opened during the San Jose Mariachi Festival, and was curated by Linda Ronstadt. Most of the photos are from the Sky Islands region of the border (with Arizona) and also from The Canelo Project, 20 years of construction work the Steens have been doing in Obregon, Sonora, Mexico.

Click here for the gallery of Bill's photos.


Yaqui tire repair shop in Cocorit, Sonora

Building Your Own House in 2009/Here's to Ken Kern

Can you? It's a question I get asked once in a while. In 1960 it was simple,. You could draw up your own plans. You could use recycled wood and single pane windows and french doors. Very few people built with recycled wood, so it was cheap. Building inspectors held you to decent safety and health standards, but were reasonable. You could build a gravity-flow septic system (mine was about $3000 in 1971, and has worked flawlessly for 37 years). Even in 1973, when I built this place:
• The building permit was $200, water meter $250.
• I built as I could afford it, never borrowed from a bank. No interest payments — that saves over 50% of total cost.
• I saved a ton by doing most of the carpentry and wiring, half of the plumbing.
There are drawbacks. Cooking and living in unfinished rooms. Sawdust on the floors each night. Wiring not yet hooked up. Moreover, building a house is a BIG project (I figure it takes an owner-builder a year to do it all). It also isn't like doing a painting or sculpture, where you can toss out an unsatisfactory result.
Could you do it today? Unless you have a chunk of cash, you won't be able to do it within an hour of a cool city. You'll have to be farther out, farther from draconian bureaucracy and overblown regulations. But with the state of the economy now (and in the future), doing it yourself is still a viable option for creating a home. The principles are still the same. You can do it.
A final note: these days, keeping it small makes infinite sense.
Addendum: Here's to the memory of Ken Kern, author of The Owner-Built Home (1961), my bible and inspiration in the mid-60s.

Trip to Sonoma Valley


Yesterday I went to visit my brother at his farm in the Sonoma Valley. Here;s a shot from my little Canon PowerShot G10 camera. (This is a great 15 meg compact camera, I just pointed it at the road. Below are a couple of old buildings in Sonoma's town square:

Shell House in Japanese Woods/by Artechnic


Nice job of sculptural design and construction. Usually flowing shapes don't work out. (I really dislike that little sculptural wooden temple by Sea Ranch; there's just something wrong there, in spite of the craftsmanship.) This is a nice job with concrete and wood and still a bit of Japanese tradition.
http://freshome.com/2008/12/09/shell-house-in-the-japanese-forsts/
http://www.artechnic.jp/

Sisiutl — Godfrey Stephens' Sea Serpent Bench


This is such a powerful work of art. I posted a detail of it a few weeks ago, but here is the entire bench. It is presently at the Duck Creek Gallery on Salt Spring Island, BC. The eyebrows, eyes and palms are stippled copper. It just took my breath away. A few nights ago, it kept running through my mind and it was hard to sleep.
Godfrey writes that his long-time friend, Chief Tony Hunt (Kwagiulth, Fort Rupert), who helped Godfrey with some of the design, says that the central face is a "False Face," that is, it "…doesn't exist, and when the double headed serpent, who is 'Fear Itself' comes together like two outstretched arms facing you , it becomes one head and the False Face dissappears ."

Stunned & Amazed/Jack's Paean to Women


Street Trumpeter (c) Jack Fulton, 2008

My good friend Jack Fulton and I have taken many car trips to the California Sierra mountains and to Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Jack is a real photographer and we both love driving down new roads, scanning the landscape for photo-worthy scenes. We're fascinated by the world out there, and we stop and shoot continually. When we were doing this in the '60s and '70s, Jack was always saying he was "... stunned and amazed," and that phrase has stuck with me. It describes much of what I find on my travels. I'm stunned and amazed by buildings, people, beaches, mountains, landscapes, I bring this up if you're a reader of this blog because I find myself writing the word "amazing" a lot and I may sound a bit pollyannish or like the boy crying wolf, but goldarnit, I am just knocked out by what I run across.

***
In 1972, Jack and I were on a 2-week trip shooting photos for the book Shelter, and we ended up on a dirt road in Navajo territory in Arizona. We stopped at a trading post that had a traditional hogan next to it. A few minutes before, a striking young Indian guy had ridden past us on a paint horse, a bandana on his head and his shiny black hair in a long braid — powerful image. It was cold and windy and as we were shooting pix of the hogan, a big pickup truck pulled up, and a woman jumped out. She looked like a cross between an Indian princess and Tina Turner. An aura of vitality and beauty. Wow! She went into the store, and Jack looked at me and said,
"Don't you just love 'em?"

http://jackfulton.net/

Robin Williams on Sarah Palin

"And where, where, did they get Sarah Palin, Where did they find her. Wow! Did Ronald Reagan have a kid with Posh Spice, I don't know..."

Thanks to Paul Wingate

Tiny House Philosophy

Small farm building often have perfect proportions for a tiny house. This one is on an old dairy farm near Pt. Arena, Calif. Note the concrete lower half of the walls, it was probably a milking room or milk storage room.

Peter King from Johnson, Vermont, on tiny houses (his is 100 sq. ft.):
•"Tiny houses are for people who can entertain themselves..."
•"Tiny house people are generally a different breed; they're not from the "stuff" nation..."
•"The tiny house forces you to get rid of your junk..."
•"I'd rather be very poor and have lots of free time in a beautiful place, than have all kinds of money and no free time..."

Viva La Toyota!

I'm on my 3rd Toyota Tacoma 4x4 truck. It's got 80,000 miles on it, has never failed to start (well, with depleted batteries, twice), has carried me across creeks, up gullies, along sandy beaches, up impossibly steep hills. 4 cylinders, 5 speed, stick shift. Anyway, this is for all you Toyota drivers out there:

Skateboard Ballet

Just ran across this amazing video of a skater on a Loaded longboard. He seems to float.

View From Elevator 30 Stories High in Vancouver


Elevator to the "Top of Vancouver" revolving restaurant. I wasn't prepared for the scenic ride; the elevator has glass doors and is on the outside of the building. Ulp!

Modified Quonset Barn in British Columbia


This looks like the builder took a large quonset hut (with curved corrugated steel) and used it to make this nice little barn.

Trailer With Outdoor Deck


Nice setup, canoe and all. The idea of having a trailer be your station central — kitchen, (maybe bathroom), sleeping on rainy nights — while you spend a lot of time outdoors. You could have a barbecue on the deck, table for eating, bed so you could see stars at night.

Grizzly Bears


This photo of these magnificent animals was on the wall at Stewart Mineral Springs.

Stewart Mineral Springs


I was pretty exhausted driving home from Canada on Hwy. 5, had slept 4 hours in my truck, and crossed from Oregon into California, and pretty soon saw the magnificence of Mt. Shasta looming in the background. Somewhere near the town of Weed (heh-heh), I saw a sign saying "Stewarts Springs Road," and dimly remembered a resort by that name. I used my GPS to get the phone number (it was under "lodgings"), called, yes they had hot mineral baths, so I detoured out into the countryside. Turns out that they are not hot springs coming out of the ground, but rather heavily-mineralized waters from a spring that are heated and channeled into bathtubs in private rooms.

They make your skin tingle and you alternate between the waters, sauna (a wonderful large sauna room heated by a glowing iron wood stove (burning oak), and cooling off. Well, for cooling off, there was a green pool in a flowing stream that had ice on the edges, and, thinking of hardy Finns jumping in the snow, I dove in. And got out pretty darn fast. Man, this was a level of cold as of yet unexperienced! But circulation gets to work immediately and the effect is stimulating and wonderful. I recommend this place if you're ever heading south from Oregon on HWY 5. $25 for the routine. They also have food and lodging
http://www.stewartmineralsprings.com

Tiny Home/The Iron Skillet in Sedro Wooley



Idea for a tiny home (by side of road near Sedro Woolley Washington). The addition on the side could be a bathroom By the way, probably the best roadside breakfast I've ever had was at the Iron Skillet in Sedro Wooley yesterday.

I caught about 4 hours comfortable sleep in the back of my truck last night and am writing this from the Stage Door Cafe in Mt. Shasta City, Calif. (Driving south on Hwy 5, Mt. Shasta suddenly looms in the distance, a powerful presence, a definitely magic mountain). Apparently storms are about to hit the coast, from BC down to the SF Bay Area. We need the rain.

SunRay Kelley's Latest Structure


SunRay is one of the 3 major builders in Builders of the Pacific Coast.. I stopped off at his homestead in N/W Washington yesterday on my way home. He has replaced the white tarp roof that covered his shop with this new log structure. All the poles are from his land, as is the cedar panelling (which is shiplapped — and laid up in the same order in which it came off the tree).

Leaving Vancouver/Cigar Store Whiteman/Spirit Wrestler Gallery

I'm heading south in a few minutes. I stayed about 3 extra days in Vancouver, it's such a wonderful city. Here are a few discoveries:
• Kintaro Ramen. Japanese soup kitchen on the 700 block of Denman. The place was packed. Great soup on a cold day.
• The 1100 block of Davie is full of little restaurants, a lot like the upper West Side in NYC. I had good Vietnamese soup at Pho Central. I was sitting at a table in the window and a guy came in from the street and said, "I saw you on TV Monday..." The Dish is another cool little restaurant. There's a Greek restaurant that had a line out in the street.
• Daryl's Native Arts and Coffee, 945 Davie, has a few really nice First Nations art pieces, good coffee, and the below wooden figure out front with a sign saying "The cigar store Indian 'Elijah' has been replaced by this cigar store white man, General Custer. It's payback time."


Spirit Wrestler Gallery

Above: Raven and whale bentwood box by Douglas Zilkle at http://www.spiritwrestler.com/

I wandered in to this gallery in Gastown on Sunday and was stunned. I was surrounded by objects of great beauty. This gallery carries museum-quality artwork created by (alive) native people, of 3 cultures: the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic and the Maori of Aotearoa (New Zealand). I bought a jade crossover pendant made by a young man (Tamaora Walker) of the Te Arawa tribe (one of seven Maori groups of indigenous peoples), and I think I'll wear it the rest of my life. For me, a place like this, with their focus, is better than museums which tend to overwhelm me.

I had a long conversation with Nigel Reading, one of the owners. When I left, I told him that being around these beautiful objects "...made my heart sing," like, I said, you know,.the '60s song "Wild Thing." He said, "Yeah, wasn't that the Troggs..?"

I've been telling all the Canadians I know to check this gallery out. It's at 47 Water Street in Gastown.

Otis Redding — Try A Little Tenderness

A great live version:

Lloyd House's New Gypsy Wagon


Lloyd House was the numero uno builder in Builders of the Pacific Coast. Fortuitously I ran in to him 5 minutes after I got to Hornby Island. We went over to see the van he's converting into a gypsy wagon and sat around the stove (made out of a propane tank) on this cold morning, catching up with each others' lives. The cover for the circular opening in the stove is a stainless steel saucepan cover, and on the walls around the stove, he's glued stainless steel sheets to plywood.

View From Top of Vancouver


Monday night I went to the Top of the Harbour Centre Tower in downtown Vancouver. It has a revolving restaurant with spectacular views of the city and harbor.

Top of Mountain on Salt Spring Island


Godfrey and I took the ferry out to Salt Spring Island for my slide show there last week (at the Duck Creek Gallery). We had some time to kill, so we used my GPS to track down a guy building a yurt in the woods. On the way there, we got to the this spot looking down on the bay, and the mist blew in and out.

Mural in An Alley in Vancouver

Tile Floor in Old Vancouver Building


Floor in the Umberto Al Porto Italian Restaurant in the Gastown area of Vancouver (where I had a great meal last night). The building, called The Hudson House was built in 1895.
Vancouver, by the way, is a fabulous town. It's practically surrounded by water, there's a range of mountains just to the north. Many of the high-rises are well designed; they seem to sparkle. It's got that San Francisco "I am beautiful" vibe that gladdens the hearts of both natives and visitors. People are great. Being here is a perfect way to end this trip. I did a TV appearance this morning with Fanny Kiefer on her "Studio Four" morning TV show, and that was my last official act on this 3-week tour. Boy am I relieved.

Vancouver at Night

Carved Bench by Godfrey Stephens

Detail of bench by Godfrey Stephens at the Duck Creek gallery on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada. I am not sure of the gallery's website, but if you are interested in Godfrey's prolific work, go to http://www.godfreystephens.com/

Use of the Word "So" in Place of "Extremely"

As I got to northern Washington, approaching the Canadian border, I decided to divest myself of ganja. I stopperd in a cute home-made-looking little espresso stand, ordered a latte and asked the barista girl if she smoked weed. Well, yeah-uh!
" Here's some California Gold, I don't want to take it into Canada" I handed are a baggie with maybe 1/4 oz of organic homegrown and she started jumping up and down. Her eyes were sparkling (and she was cute!). "I'm going to call my friend..." She handed me my latte and said:
"The coffee is so on me!"
Reminds me of the line in the movie American Beauty where Kevin Spacey's wife drives up to the window of the hamburger stand where he's working — in a car with her boyfriend, — and as Kevin's co-worker hands the wife her order, she says, "You are so busted!"
Valley girl poetry.

Tiny House Pre-Fab of Cedar


This was by the side of the road near Newport, Oregon. It's 8 by 12 feet plus 4 feet of deck. Put it on wheels.
Our next book is going to be on tiny houses. Let us know if you have info to share. Don't get involved with banks. Don't pay rent. Do it yourself in a small and resource-conserving way. Email shelter@shelterpub.com

Tseshaht (First Nations) Tribe Riverside Administrative) Building, Port Alberni, BC


I ran across this building as I was just about to cross a river on the road east-to-west across Vancouver Island to the "wild coast." Nicely situated and designed. Hey, there's way too little good architecture these days! It's apparently an "administrative building" for the Tseshaht tribe. First Nations peoples have got their shit a lot more together than their more southern brothers. When you get to Washington there is an Indian casino complex that is well-designed (contrast this with the black vinyl air building casino near Clear Lake, Calif.)

2 AM Still Raining Vancouver Saturday Night

When I got into Vancouver yesterday morning at 7:30, after getting up at 4:30 AM in Robert;s Creek to catch the ferry, I had the biggest day of my trip waiting for me. A TV interview, newspaper interview, meeting a publisher friend, and presentation/signing at the Vancouver Public Library. I was beat. I used my new GPS device (Garmin Nuvi)* to find a hotel and it turned out to be a nice Best Western across the street from Vancouver's legendary blues venue, The Yale Hotel. In fact I ended up with a corner room looking down on the hotel:

This is a great club, the only other town I've been that had places like this was Chicago. No effetes. Real people. The house band, Brickhouse, was playing and it was a dance partay, with red/orange/pink spotlights, a large room, pool tables, an ambience that can't be faked, or acquired, the blues filling the room and dancers' souls.

It was my first totally fun night in 3 weeks.

*I absolutely cannot believe what one of these devices does for you. I can't see how I could have managed this trip, with all its addresses, without it. More later.

End (Well, Practically) of 3-Week Road Trip

Above: view from Tom Chudleigh's quite unbelievable spherical treehouse in the woods, where I spent last Sunday night


***
It's a rainy night in Vancouver, and I'm just about done with 3 weeks on the road promoting my new book, Builders of the Pacific Coast. Mama Mia, has this been a wild ride! 1200+ miles in my 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 truck, 11 slide show/book signings in 11 towns/cities, hanging out with my wonderful Canadian friends once again, getting inspiring feedback on this book and our building books in general, trying to keep my act together singlehandedly, having a two-week long cold, and making some amazingly dumb mistakes along the way (more on that later), but all in all an amazing trip and fitting conclusion to the making of this book, which began over 3 years ago.

Even more than usual, I have a ton of stuff to tell you about. The "I Am A Camera" faculty of my brain continues to generate endless photos and as usual, my encounters with life on the road have been rich in encounters and experiences. Over the next week I'll try to get stuff up on the blog. I'm going to skip being linrear; much more fluid and fun that way.

Below are a few more photos of Tom's sphere, where I had a wonderful night hanging in the trees and the next day dreamily looking out at the misty woods through the circular windows.

Above: the sphere is 10-1/2 feet in diameter and paneled with teak.


Above: Door is curved to the sphere's curve, opens on these arms on the right; the 4-way latch uses bronze castings that Tom made himself



More (and info on renting it for the night) at: http://www.freespiritspheres.com/