Happy New Year

renaissancemanCalifornia is a place where many people ‘take it to the limit…’ as the Eagles song goes.

And the end of the year is a time for reflection, wandering thoughts – so this post is about both.

20 or so years ago, somewhere along the way south of I’m not sure where, along the northern CA coast, I took a turn off into a sizeable rest stop/ parking lot/’viewpoint’… Took in what was a brilliant sunset, even in B&W.

After i pulled in, another vehicle did too, a school bus, but no school kids here, it was converted to be living quarters for the owner(s). It parked so the door was on the far side of me, at the far end of the parking lot. The windows were covered w/ crude shades, I watched as lights went on. Then i saw, underneath the bus, a pair of human legs, and four legs of a dog step out. The dog relieved itself, both got back on the bus. My first experience w/ Nor Cal off the grid, in a manner of speaking. Anyone on that bus got a job? Doubtful.

nc_sunsetcntctI came across these negatives while trying to put together some darkroom montage that takes things in a new direction, using sandwiched negs in the image. 


The chair at the bottom is one neg, the top is a sandwich, dodged out from bottom up, the sunset mentioned above, and a shot of a driftwood sculpture at Patricks Point SP. I will always remember the sunset, and with it the school bus. This chair is a place to sit down, & contemplate… ‘whatever’. 

I wouldn’t want to direct your thoughts, just encourage them.

I will also remember Patricks Pt SP, the wild and crazy things people did with driftwood. Not quite off the grid, but heading that way. It’s a long walk to that beach, and if there is a park ranger at that SP, he/she doesn’t get there very often, anyone there is left to their own devices. Dance naked, howl at the moon, nobody notices or cares.


I took one neg into the darkroom, did some things with it. A steady hand and a sharp exacto blade got into the act too.


Turning this over in my mind, many other thoughts/images bubbled to the surface, the main one, the most tantalizing to think or write about being the whole idea of ‘off the grid’.


This sign is off the grid for sure, somewhere in the Mojave desert, it’s many miles to anywhere, someone started this, and many others added to it, what a great idea.

It wasn’t so long ago that most of America was rural, farms and ranches, there wasn’t much of a grid to speak of, and most weren’t on it. Some survived, some didn’t.



When i took the B&W neg. of the above into the darkroom, the shack became somewhat transparent. No surprise.


Nowadays, we like to think we can be adventurous, walk on the wild side, get away from the daily hum-drum routines of our lives, an idea that can be very entertaining – think ‘burning man’ in the Nevada desert, or this bonfire i attended some years ago on Ocean beach, sponsored by a group of wild and crazy artists i belonged to.


Taking ‘the road not taken’ can also be a death trip, there will always be warnings, even if you don’t see them. 


There is at least one story in the media every year about someone out west who takes the wrong turn, the wrong road, and ends up dead, frozen in snow, or totally dehydrated in the desert.

Here’s a place that’s just one step short of off the grid, Bonk’s Jawbone canyon store, just northeast of Mojave Ca. This was shot in 1996, the place is gone now. Jawbone Canyon got it’s name for being a really rough off-road dirt bike place – as in “it’ll rattle your jawbones”.


So… uh… before you ‘take it to the limit’ … pause for some thought.

“There must be some way outta here said the joker to the thief…”

Bob Dylan song, best recorded by Jimi Hendix. Do a ‘youtube’ search, it’s there, it’s just that pasting the link does wacko things to my blog.

Since the end of the year is always the anniversary of my longest road trip ever, my migration to the west coast, from Arlington Va. to SF, Ca., I will remember a day-long respite in Holbrook AZ, thanks to some hi-desert snowstorm that closed Rt 40, i took in the Petrified Nat’l Forest SP. To a guy who was used to seeing trees standing upright, green and growing, this was a mind-bender.

This long view was awesome, blew my east coast mind.


I’ll be back next year for sure. I still have Gigabytes of images, and many thoughts.

Someone is talking to me…

The world is full of words, babble, and psycho-babble, & images, all on the internet, your iPhone, tablet, TV shows, magazines, whatever it is, blasting you at whatever speed you can afford, or can take in. A cacophony, a never ending stream of who knows what – in many cases it’s BS.

Trump, Kardashians, ISIS, anything middle-eastern, anything remotely apocalyptic – hurricanes, earthquakes…You don’t need me to continue this list. If i could add a BS filter to sort thru this, separate wheat from chaff, would anyone’s mailbox/inbox look like?


There’s a Rolling stones song on ‘Between the Buttons’ – ‘i am waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to come out of somewhere’. I read some good magazines though – Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, the New Yorker. Now there’s somethings to dig your teeth into.

I will make reference to astonishing artist who lived centuries ago, and did some marvelous work – illustrating passages from the bible concerning the apocalypse, which seems to be a topic of significant interest these days, since many people seem to think we are approaching one.

I loved Albrecht Durer’s woodcuts as soon as i saw them.


I quote from a source i didn’t bookmark or save:

“The third and most famous woodcut from Dürer’s series of illustrations for The Apocalypse, the Four Horsemen presents a dramatically distilled version of the passage from the Book of Revelation (6:1–8): “And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another; and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand; … When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I saw, and behold, a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him; and they were given great power over a fourth of the earth; to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.” Transforming what was a relatively staid and unthreatening image in earlier illustrated Bibles, Dürer injects motion and danger into this climactic moment through his subtle manipulation of the woodcut. The parallel lines across the image establish a basic middle tone against which the artist silhouettes and overlaps the powerful forms of the four horses and riders—from left to right, Death, Famine, War, and Plague (or Pestilence). Their volume and strong diagonal motion enhance the impact of the image, offering an eloquent demonstration of the masterful visual effects Dürer was able to create in this medium.”

To tell ya the truth, i haven’t owned or watched (a) TV in over a decade. The only few American newspapers worth reading are the NYT, the WSJ and maybe the LA Times. If the revolution will be televised? I might miss it. 

I may have touched on this topic before, and I’ve definitely posted some of the images. But i constantly review my images, looking for new possibilities, be they photographic or literary. So here’s some thoughts that struck me, in opposition to all the noise in the world.

Many, many times when i am in some deep desert place, i feel like someone is talking to me. Who ever it was definitely spent some time and effort, chiseling into rock.

Sometimes they were talking to each other, saying ‘the people are here’:



Other times they were talking to someone, anyone, in the future. Maybe they were talking to their gods… who knows.





What they say to me is how much these people thought… about anything, everything. How ingenious they were to suspend themselves high above, on a canyon wall, to do their work. Probably growing crops and hunting game was arduous enough – survival was difficult,  yet they did this work. Now a very few rock climbers can scale amazing heights, no rope, just bare hands, but i doubt someone scaled these faces, held on with but one hand using the other to make the ‘glyph.

Artists these days? I am not sure how many are really trying to communicate as these people were, i think a lot of it is ego, self absorption, business as usual, commerce – you can make money making art? Wow, you are really getting over on the world. Durer was saying something to anyone who could listen about his beliefs, and the Book of Revelation.

These glyphs are constantly under assault, as are the many artifacts found in the four corners/desert area:


One man has chronicled desecration:



Finders Keepers 

A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession

Beyond what most people think about archaeology–with its cleanly numbered dates, and discoveries–lies a vibrant and controversial realm of scientists, thieves, and contested land claims. 




Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Childs (The Animal Dialogues) intermingles personal experiences as a desert ecologist and adventurer with a journalistic look at scientists, collectors, museum officials, and pot hunters to explore what should happen to ancient artifacts. Questioning whether artifacts should be left in place, Childs argues that although surface surveys and electronic imaging permit study of buried objects without digging, that reliance on technology risks the loss of the “physical connection to the memory of ancient people.” Yet he mourns the loss of context that comes from removing, say, the Temple of Dendur from its natural environment. On the other hand, he scrutinizes the “stewardship” of past archeologists who removed sacred objects when “o one thought indigenous cultures would survive to start demanding their things back,” returns now required by U.S. law. Childs is critical of museum facilities inadequate to protect items that archeologists removed from their sites precisely to preserve them from destruction. He is also unhappy with the legal sale of relics to collectors, which he believes led to “more digging and smuggling.” His own “collection” consists of finds he has left in place across the Southwest. But, he says, artifacts that cannot safely be left in place should go to museums. This is an engaging and thought-provoking look at one of the art and artifacts’ world’s most heated debates. 

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Links for the month:

I grew up in Maine, from 5 to 10 YO, the land can be rugged, rolling, and fierce sometimes.

Spring and fall are tolerable, summer and winter, not so much. I am glad this has been established, the northern part of the state is pretty wild and rugged.




What San Francisco Says About America

“San Francisco — AFTER more than 27 years abroad, mostly as a foreign correspondent in Asia covering civil unrest and poverty, I wander the streets of this city, my new home, like an enchanted tourist.

The people who share sidewalks with me must wonder why I sometimes laugh out loud. The advertisements for sustainably grown marijuana on the sides of San Francisco buses. (“That’s cannabis, the California way.”) The comfort dogs on public transport and the woman who brought her dog to the Easter Sunday service.

Blindingly white teeth. The burrito that was so huge it felt as if it would break my wrist. Police officers covered in tattoos.”



The Racetrack: The Sliding Rocks of Death Valley


Last but not least:


I can add a few of my own shots: