Sunday, December 22, 2013

The longest night

I slept pretty good last night.This morning I went outside to a beautiful sunrise and a couple of blue jays foraging for walnuts in my neighbor's back yard. I was munching on some almonds, and held one out in hopes that one of them would be bold enough to come over onto my deck to eat it.No such luck.Blue jays aren't dumb.Besides, I have a huge plastic owl perched on a stick overlooking the whole neighborhood.He doesn't give a hoot.He like the honey badger ( who doesn't give a shit ).

All the birds know that he is there. He never moves. They all move around him. He has been there for ten years, easily. There was a time when I had a bowl of water on the deck and the birds would stop by in summer to get a quick drink and leave a poop. The owl prevents all of that now.

My deck is poop free ever since the owl has taken up residence.The nights are long and noiseless after ten. My neighbors don't make much noise on weeknights after this time. Weekends are a different story.The nights are long this time of the year. No reason to stay up except to watch the meteors from time to time.The birds are quiet until the sun rises.They try to pretend that the owl is not there to hear them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beautiful Fall Days

I have been feeling guilty for not going outside much during the day.The weather has been delightful and I am inside painting rocks... just because.

Perhaps I am isolating, but it has to be said that I do treasure my privacy and have been enjoying this retirement thing immensely.Next month I will head north to Portland to visit my sister, Tara. She has been my mentor since I was first learning how to draw.We are big admirers of each others work. She draws and paints the most beautiful fish, butterflys, dragonflys, cats and florals I have ever seen. I have always said that she can finesse an image so that it jumps right off the page at you. She also has a signature style that is unmistakeable. Currently I am lifting some of her fish motifs to use on my rock paintings (Notice the flowing fish below). I don't think she minds, in fact I think she would be flattered.

The other day I drove to St. Helena on my bike for exercise.It was a long ride for me, but it really felt pretty good. The vines are beginning to turn red and orange after the final bins of grapes have been picked.These days and early Spring are my favorite times of the year.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Extra Extra, Read all about it !

Now that I have your attention, let me think about what I'm going to write.For starters, I am grateful to my friend Eric who reminds me when I've been slacking off and not posting anything new.Perhaps it is because at times,it feels like "Groundhog Day" all over again, but we both know that isn't true.Like Helen Keller once said,"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all." My life has fallen into the latter category,but that is just fine with me.I have developed a great appreciation for mid-afternoon naps and frequent visits to the refrigerator if only to say hello to the Hebrew National all beef Hot Dogs.

Today, I went for a semi-regular hike up to Coyote Peak with my friend,Jim. The State Park is now being bankrolled by the county so we are not affected by the Government shutdown that is currently taking place.Elsewhere (in National Parks for instance)I heard that people can still drive through Yosemite, but are not allowed to camp, hike, eat or use the restrooms. Our government is still collecting taxes however, to pay for the shenanigans that are affecting us all.Not a good scene to be sure.

My rock business is doing fairly well, and I have picked up a few extra venues to sell my rocks as the Summer season ends.The weather remains pleasant here in the Napa Valley as the vines begin to turn red and orange.The Crush is all but over,except for a few late harvest grapes that require a little more "Hang time". Makes them sound like Michael Jordan before dunking a basketball, huh? The Poster below is one of my recent rock assortments.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Something Old, Something New...

It amazes me every time I head into San Francisco after having been away for awhile. This time was no different. My friends Bill and Veda drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and then under the new tunnel spilling out onto the Marina Green. Today, the Kiwis ( New Zealand )beat the U.S. sailing team for a lead the America's cup. Who would have thought that the America's Cup (The longest sporting competition in U.S. History ) would be held in San Francisco Bay? BTW... The U.S. team has a lot of catching up to do at this point.
The City was packed with scads of tourists from everywhere as we travelled to Union Square where we were to stop at the Apple store on Stockton Street.
The Apple Store has been rumored to be moving from it's current location at Stockton and Ellis streets, to The Hyatt Plaza on Union Square.As it turns out, their is a bit of a problem/controversy. Ruth Asawa constructed a beautiful landmark fountain there which Apple wanted removed. Unfortunately, the locals put a stop to those arrogant enough to think that Apple can just come push their way into any location they wish.Nevertheless, we made a purchase there and then moved on to Japan town, where we went shopping at Daiso, a fun," $1.50 for anything in the store" bargain paradise. I purchased some new 2.50 magnifier glasses which are helping me tremendously as I type this blog.
Then the next stop was BEST BUY to get Bill a Coke Zero, dontchaknow. Why Best Buy you ask? Well, because they have them there!Then Veda and I took a stroll to other parts of this Mega-store where we checked out some Macbook Airs, Pros, Minis, etc. etc. It was intriguing until Bill and I got into a debate about external hard drives when the store clerk tried in vain to clarify the situation for our benefit. This was an exercise in futility. We left soon after to take a momentous trip across the new span of the Bay Bridge to Emeryville's IKEA store ( This,like the trip on the new span was a first for me).IKEA is another Mega-store where one can easily get lost.Bill purchased some items and we then went and had dinner at the Pasta Primavera or some such Italian themed Mall Mockup. It was uneventful in my opinion, but Bill, Veda and I ordered our Soups & Salads and eventually headed home.
Nothing enlivens me more than the idea of what ones thinks about when referencing the concept"Home".This concept can always be created anew, while somehow still maintaining a direct pathway to one's heart.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Creativity on the fly

Today I designed a poster that reflects the spirit quality of "Your Spirit Rocks!" When I think about how the rock i used for this project came to be; and how it's appearance is being transformed, it is a pretty amazing journey to be sure. The materials,techniques and process that I am using did not exist twenty years ago. I took a simple sandstone rock found on a northern California beach and brought it home. The term "Home' would be inaccurate however, because the rocks' home is the ocean and my home is in Calistoga where the rock now resides.

So let's say that I brought the rock to my studio where it underwent a makeover.The rock was then painted, decorated with various reflective materials and ultimately scanned and modified on my computer.

Now it is a .jpg image which is being presented to you. This image will be blown up and made into an 18"X24" poster which will be framed.The artistic quality of the rock is something I have no control over.

Is it Art? Is it Spiritual? These are both subjective terms that are still brought into question today.

Now what exactly "Reflects the Spirit quality" of "Your Spirit Rocks" you ask.The answer I have, as unsatisfactory as it is... is I don't know.Perhaps someday I will be able to answer that question, but then the rocks'appearance will have transformed into something else.The only definition of Art which has ever satisfied me is that Art is time-tested, and that beauty, like Art, is in the eye of the beholder.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Peaceful Sunday Morning

I slept in this morning and, and got up to enjoy a warm shower and a hot cup of coffee as I started my day.Listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Riviera Paradise" easing into a serene mood here in Calistoga. Now, Shark Guest's "Sin the Moon is playing... another nice and easy tune to start the day. Today I will be inside painting rocks all day to increase my inventory.

My business has been doing well, and that means that I have to ramp up my production.I intentionally skipped the Glen Ellen Farmer's Market today to accomplish what needs to be done. I refuse to sell products that I would not want to keep myself.The rock below is an example of a good quality mediation rock that I would sell for twenty-five dollars along with a gift bag.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Nice Find !

My friend Veda found this sweet little animation site that was able to produce a short 30 second animation that I  can use to showcase the rocks I paint ( See link below). She is so supportive of my creative pursuits. Being an artist herself, she brings her own sensibility to these types of projects. She is also a videographer, and knows what it takes to create visually appealing  video projects.

Your Spirit Rocks !

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Hot Summer Shenanigans

Hopefully, the title of this blog caught your attention.July has been "hecka-hot" these past couple of weeks.It is nice when the day starts out foggy and cool, but rest assured by 3pm it is back up in the 90's. I have replaced my air conditioner filter and will turn it on occasionally, but mostly I have an electric fan at my back which just ends up circulating hot air.

Today I hiked up to Coyote Peak with a friend, just because I have been so sedentary these past few days. I drive to these markets and sell my painted rocks only to set my display up, and then sit on my ass for four hours. Am i complaining? Hell no. This is the best gig I have had in a long time,even if I haven't been getting much exercise. I still sweat a lot, so that must count for something.

This week I spent some time coming up with a few new ideas after someone suggested that I create an endearing little creature out of one of the rocks I paint. So below is a little lightning bug I will call "Eric", after my friend in Oregon.Eric are you reading this?

Now Eric is painted green and has glow-in-the-dark paint all over his little bug body. The picture you see is what he looks like in the dark. He is about four inches long and has wings made of plastic sheeting and legs made of q-tips painted green. Notice his little toothy smile which seems to say, "Buy me and put me on your nightstand!" (Okay, I made that up). Anyway, I intend to make a few more lightning bugs this summer, so if they turn out as cute as this guy you will see them posted on my other blog...Your Spirit Rocks!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Standing by !

It seems that my Apple Airport Extreme is no longer interested in facilitating my wireless connection to the Internet. Either Comcast does not want to deal with Apple wireless routers like Airport Extreme/Express, or Apple has planned for these products to become obsolete.Either way, I have done this clown dance at the wireless rodeo too many times.I got the Airport Express to extend my network from my bedroom to my living room, and to be able to play ITunes on my JVC stereo.Now, you are probably asking… well how the heck is he even posting this blog if he has no access to the Internet?

Well Sparky, I do have access through Xfinity’s open network. I just selected it through my list of available WIFI hotspots in the neighborhood. If Comcast has a problem with this, then they can come and knock on my door and TELL ME w.t.f. is wrong with my network connection. Until then, I remain faithfully and wirelessly yours.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Trusting the Process

I think I may have written about this before, but I am having a little Deja Vu moment.I spoke with Joe,my over-the-backfence neighbor last night, for about an hour. He sends me email about all things that concern him politically.Somehow (thankfully), the conversation shifted to discussing things that matter to us Spiritually. He has some pretty astute ideas about the Higher Power and mentioned that he would like to have me paint a rock with the slogan,"Trust the Process" written on it for his sister Angela. I said that I would do it and bring it by when it is completed

This idea of "Trusting the Process" or simply trusting God rings true as every day seems more tenuous and fragile for most everyone on the planet.It is so important to acknowledge and praise the God of our understanding every day.My own sister used to have a phrase that was used by the members of her church.It was, "All praise be to God to whom all praise is due". This has been a reminder for me to acknowledge the gifts of The Holy Spirit which are available to us all.When I am acknowledged or thanked for something I did, I try to remember to "Trust the Process" and continue to give praise to the Creator, because left to my own devices I would have nothing.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Go Giants!

Well, you win some, you lose some.(I wonder what Buster Posey was doing sitting there in the stands!? ) The Giants lost this one to the Colorado Rockies 5 to zip. The team looked to be in great shape and their were some excellent defensive plays,Including a very sweet double play in the later innings. Their is speculation that Tim Lincecum the pitcher was not as effective without his long hair. I think some were calling it the "Sansome" effect.He has been a pitching phenom in the past, but lately he has been having some difficulty finding his groove.

Perhaps he is a bit like Barry Zito. A pitcher who we hope will age well as the season progresses. Anyway, my friend Dave and I got to S.F. just in time for the first inning and we stayed until the bitter end. Their was a beautiful full moon above the Park and an excellent fireworks display at the end of the game, sponsored by Round Table Pizza. I should get a commission for mentioning them.

Well, wouldn't you know.The minute I finish writing this blog, I view this great video online showing the ending of Saturday's game.Angel Pagan wallops one into right field, rounds the bases,and slides into home for the winning run.What can be said? Those Rockies are tough, but those Giants have spunk when they pull a rabbit out of the hat like that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Poetry Night (...or who flung dung?)

This group was formed last month on the third Tuesday. It was a good turnout for the initial meeting (around 15 poets,as I recall).Tonight,as I sauntered in around 7:45PM. I was relieved to see only six people around a square table,including myself.

It was free form as people took turns reading,being respectful of each other while giving time at the end of each recitation for a period of reflection or laughter.

A friend,Shelly had organized this event and it now has evolved to become an open participation gathering for anyone wishing to express themselves.The group is simply called, "Words".

I like it already.

The following is the POEM I read on this pleasant Spring evening of May 21st, 2013 at the Echo Gallery in downtown Calistoga where the old Silverado Pharmacy used to be.

A Seniors Lament

Silly Me, I thought I was different. Silly Me,how could I be wrong? Writing songs that leave all the words out, like a date that was late for the prom.

What difference does what I say make? Hollering from hell I was flung,Your words roll off on a silver plate, Mine plop to the ground like dung.

Don't care for the aged, the nurse exclaimed,No problem pushing others aside.Take what is yours and leave no trace,of what others may try to revive.

Stone figures stare down long hallways of fading echoes,When all the empty suitcases wait on turnstiles.Slim hopes of lifting vitality, were left when the last bus went by.

How sorrowful, how sad these cheerleading hags have lent to our yearning years.A connection devoid of worry, and safe from scrupulous fear.

Let me die! the skeleton pleaded.Don't expect any blood from a stone."So what" I raided your freezer,and made off with your cellular phone.

I laughed when you sought change for a penny, How clever, as you sit in the rear.But when you get tired of listening, don't yell,"Hey Van,Go cut off your ear!"

So keep for yourself whatever you steal, and that which never be shown, to those who live in glass houses, and crazies who like to throw stones.


Art in the Clouds

It was a gorgeous day on Sunday, and the Pacific Union College chose this day for their annual Car Show (... and Art Show ) I got there early and began setting up my vendor's booth. A very nice couple from Pope Valley were next to me and he was selling items he carved and fashioned from pieces of wood. He had boxes, crates,small chairs, puzzles and frames that he put together lovingly.His talent was most apparent and we chatted throughout the day.

A few musicians were playing some upbeat tunes on a stage across this large field where all the Classic Cars were displayed. The songs were mostly from the fifties and sixties,which lent itself to the overall ambience of the event. I was a little hungry when I arrived and was told that the vendors get free doughnuts and coffee. Well, that is how the food portion of this story went. The next thing I was to indulge in was a breakfast burrito. About 11am I began smelling fried chicken being cooked across this field of dreams.Naturally, I had to have a few pieces of chicken with some cole slaw. Oh Yum ! it was great.

Business was pretty good and I met a lot of new people from the Angwin area. Most of them are Seventh Day Adventists, but no one seemed like they were going to try to convert me or anything.Things wrapped up around 2pm and It was apparent that many families made this special event one that they enjoy every year. I think that I will return again next year as well.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Glenn Ellen

Glen Ellen is a quaint little town like Calistoga. It was my good fortune to find another Farmer's Market to participate there.I got up early Sunday morning to travel over to the "other" wine country down hwy. 16 to this little town. Passing by the fire station there were several tables set up for what look like a pancake breakfast ( oh yea! )

I found Jack London Village where the farmers market was to be staged, and spoke with a lady there who was loading a pony into a trailer. She informed me that the market was not starting until 10am but that people would begin setting up around 8:30 am. Great, I thought. I can get back to the fire station and have breakfast with all the families and moms on Mother's Day!

Eight bucks was a small price to pay for a breakfast of orange juice, decaf coffee, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, strawberries, melon and all the pancakes you could eat. Such a deal.Being a newcomer, I introduced myself and asked how I could help out.A woman dressed in uniform informed me that "everything was under control". Then I asked if I could use the restroom. This female fire-person looked me over and then directed me to the back. She seemed a little mistrusting, like I may just be a junkie looking for a place to shoot up ( What-ever!!). But I thanked her for her hospitality nonetheless. Overall, these people were very nice, and I even got my picture taken for being the first customer in line.

After breakfast,I went back to the Village and began setting up for what turned out to be a pretty good sales day. The first market of the season is generally kind of slow, but it was enjoyable because one does not feel spent by all the questions and endless product pitching by the end of the day.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

A Day at the Beach

We met at Riley Street for a quick look around for art supplies. We then drove to River Road, and then to the Farmhouse. After a short look around a bungalow, we went to the lobby office and inquired about the restaurant. We both guessed that two people could probably get out of there for just over one hundred and twenty dollars per person, on a price fix menu. Could we leave the car there and perhaps join them for dinner after we returned from the coast? Certainly a reservation would not be imperative, because we did not want to lock ourselves into a specific time slot.

We got to leave the car there, with no committment to return for dinner.Arriving at around three in the afternoon, we walked directly from the coast road into a thick jungle, where we eventually emerged onto the beach.The walk was about a quarter of a mile.

The day was warm, around eighty degrees at the water's edge. Only a few other people were on the beach as we arrived.How glorious to forage around for palm-sized sand-stones to be collected into a canvas bag.We did this for around an hour and then sat on a towel and had Pon dulce and bottled water. We laughed,talked and ate.I drew a picture of her, she painted the horizon and we talked about art. A simple plan for a May day.

Monday, April 29, 2013


I don't know why, but I always picture that campaign poster of Obama when I think of the word "Hope".

Somedays it seems like i am hoping against hope, when what I am experiencing is simply discouragement.Lately, I have worried about making a living.Nine times out of ten, my sense of worry and discouragement passes and my hope gets restored. Thank God.

The problem too, is when my hopes regarding a certain outcome are not met and I set myself up for disappointment.The last time I felt this was when the Forty niners lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the last Super Bowl.I am not still stewing about it though,because (Come on!)it has been almost five months since that occurred.Besides,I was over that one in about five hours.It helped that they played a good game back then.

Incidentally,The pendant below was made for a hopeful fan who wanted something as a testimony to their loyalty.I trust that the Forty Niners "Quest for six" super bowl victories will someday be realized.This brings me to another problem...Over time,when hope turns into expectation.Today, I can expect miracles when I trust my Higher Power and turn everything over to Him.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Original Artwork

Here is the vector art for the fish design that I put on the sidewalk down in Napa. This is a design I did a long time ago and had etched on to a large bottle. I added the cat in the chalk drawing for an extra added attraction. I mean, those fish were having a pretty good time flirting with each other, the least I could do is add an element of drama by making them part of a cat's dream. Anyway, I am working more in Adobe Illustrator lately, because I am growing more fond of drawings that can be resized and look very clean.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Napa's Riverfront Chalk Festival

Last Saturday I started out by going to Orchard Supply to pick up Carpenter's Chalk and some masking tape. Then I drove to the Riverfront area of downtown Napa. I checked in with a woman named Jill who showed me the designated spot where I was to rough out my chalk creation. It was a 4'X 8' space in front of the local Gelato store.

My friend Veda was going to be working on her creation next to me,around ten feet away.I began cautiously as I had only attempted this type of work on this type of surface once before in San Raphael last June ( it was well over 90ยบ).

My neighbor Don Williams ( a flooring carpenter ) lent me his knee pads which proved to be so necessary for this sixty-two year old body of mine.I also had some latex surgical gloves that protected my hands along with gobs of #30 sunscreen which protected me from the harsh rays of the sun.Now I was ready for business.

I measured out a grid and marked off the squares using the carpenter's chalking device ( a first for me )with a very helpful chap named Brad.I began in the upper right corner as I laid down lots of blue aqua chalk smoothing it over with my hands as I went.Two hours went by and I was already spent!

Veda hadn't arrived but I suspected that she was taking her time driving over from Novato. I left my work for the first day and then went over to my nephew Edward's house to celebrate my sister Rita's 70th birthday party (see pic below).I went home that night and hit the sack early,knowing I had lots to accomplish on Sunday.

Getting up at 5:30am is not my usual M.O., but it felt good as I drove back down to Napa on Highway 29 as the sun was just beginning to rise.When I got to my spot, I could see that Veda had begun her own creation, but she still had not arrived. I began drawing and smoothing out chalk as the morning moved on. Jill returned early with muffins, water, Large shading umbrellas and coffee to help start the day. All the chalk supplies we could think of were provided.It was going to be a long day.Eventually, Veda returned later on Sunday, and again I was feeling tired,yet nearly done with my piece.Initially I had agreed to help Veda with hers, but begged off at the last minute.It looked like she and her friend Bill had bailed out after only an hour or two. My nephew and his family arrived around 1pm and helped me with some finishing touches (see Mila and Miko below).I am very grateful for how it turned out, and may even do it again next year.This time I am certain that was better prepared than last time, but still have a lot to learn about this messy medium.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Awaiting the Summer Season

It is nice to receive a tax refund and have enough money to pay the rent, but it looks like I have to step up my game a bit in the upcoming months.I will be selling the Spirit Rocks throughout the summer at the Farmer's Market in Calistoga and at the Chef's Market down in the city of Napa. That should keep me busy for sure. I do not have the time or inclination to spread myself too thin at this point.

I just recently found a retail outlet here in Calistoga to show these gift items. I will be speaking with another vendor who will be looking at showing the rocks at a retail outlet near Yountville as well. Things are looking up! Two things I want to get established eventually... an actual retail web site where anyone will be able to order and purchase a rock online. That is not a slam dunk at this point, due to construction, maintenance and operating expenses.

Anyone can visit the other blog, however. Check out the links to the right and click on the Your Spirit Rocks to see the "Rock of the week" and read about my musings...

oh joy!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Easter Monday

Their was a nice rain over the weekend which brought some much needed water to the area. The air is clear and fresh and so I decided to walk instead of drive my car to church today. I noticed a lot of little garbage pieces on the ground left by what I have to assume are the many teenagers in the neighborhood who think that the ground is their personal garbage can.The town of Calistoga may be funky, but I don't go for funky and filthy.Enough said

The sun is beginning to reappear and I am inside planning my week.I just ordered a Dome ledger for bookkeeping, after my brother sent me a link online. I am going to be a better bookkeeper this year... ( a promise to myself ).My business is going to increase this year so I have to keep better records of all my sales and expenditures. Am I preaching to the choir here?

I went on a nice hike with my friend Don last Friday up on Mt. Baldy in the Sugarloaf region of Sonoma. It was really great being on top of the mountain and looking at a 360 degree view of the whole area.One could see as far south to the towers of the Golden Gate bridge and as far east as Mt. Diablo. You could also see Mt.St. Helena and the whole Napa Valley looking north and east. It wasn't that strenuous a hike until you began to scale Mt. Baldy. That was a bit of a huff.All in all it took around 3.5 hours to do this hike.