Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Memes

I don't know if this happens to you around this time of the year, but I have what I call "The Christmas Song Meme Syndrome". It entails waking up to a Christmas song that you perhaps heard at the mall, saw on TV, pondered on an escalator or maybe listened to at your daughter's Christmas recital. There it is, playing over and over in your head as you shave humming merrily along. Then, when you try to shake it by thinking of another tune, it reappears in your head holding you hostage for the rest of the day. You can't get rid of it no matter how hard you try.

ARRRrrrrgh !! Enough is enough. I promise not to post any audio files or midis to distract you, because I feel your pain. Suffice to say that even the mere mention of the name of these particular tunes will begin to burn holes in your brain. It seems that the only way to rid myself of the continuous loops is to pass these bouncy little ditties on to you !

They include Jingle Bells, Here comes Santa Claus, White Christmas, Winter Wonderland, Deck the halls, Grandma got run over by a reindeer, et al.

I'm sorry, I because all I really wanted was to wish you a...


ARRRrrrgh !! (tee hee)

Friday, December 05, 2014

Happy Birthday, Eric !

December was a great time to have a birthday as a kid, because we usually got presents both on our birthday and on Christmas. Next Saturday, I will be turning 64 on 12/13/14 ! My oldest friend Eric is turning 65 just the day after.

One cannot help but think that something very auspicious is going to happen on that day because it is that last numerically sequential date of this century! A lot of people get married on that day, because it makes it very easy to remember your anniversary, and my guess is that it binds a couple for eternity whether they like it or not. Eric lives in Eugene with his lady, Colleen ( They were not married on a numerically sequential day ), But now he is a grandfather, and devotes much time spoiling his grandchild when he is not putting the finishing touches on his new house ( Eric is a very talented builder and craftsman ). Those Oregonians know how to build stuff.

I spoke with my sister in Portland who said that they were enjoying the sunshine, and we have finally experienced more than a week's worth of rain... in such a long, long time. It is my hope that we have a long WET winter here in the Napa Valley. It would please us all to see our reservoirs and rivers fill up to overflowing, just because the summer left the land and trees so parched.

Today I've been preparing for the big Annual Holiday Gift show at the Black Stallion Winery near Soda Canyon on the Silverado Trail. This event is an invitation only event for the Craftspeople, and an open house for anyone who wants to attend. Lots of delicious snacks and finger food will be passed around and I hope to sell a lot of gift rocks for the holidays.

It will please me if Eric reads this blog, because he is generally the only one who checks to see if it has been updated. If you are reading this, beware, as I might mention you in my next blog.Well, I'm happy to have him as my oldest and dearest friend and I wish him the very best birthday this year, and for years to come. Happy Birthday, Eric. YOUR SPIRIT ROCKS !

Friday, November 28, 2014

Another Loss

I met Bob and Lou Crutcher at a CCE event at Roberta Meyer's house back in the early 80's. He had bright red hair and other than that, I thought that we had little else in common. I was wrong. He and I both shared common addictions.He was the owner/director of an iconic recovery center in St. Helena. His wife Lou, who he met at the St. Helena Hospital worked with him there. He was involved in alcoholism recovery here in the Napa Valley and contributed a great deal to many who went through Crutcher's Serenity House ( which has since been closed). He was also a veteran. Bob Crutcher was a class act. I don't know if he ever reconciled his relationship with his son Eddy, who had moved to Hawaii. But he and his sons were very much alike in their charismatic personalities.He drove a Harley and lived an enviable and full life. Later on in his life I had learned of a few setbacks, but he did not drink over these events and died sober. His humor and gentle spirit will be missed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Friends that stay with you

This is a photo of a dear friend of mine that just recently passed. Although I fell out of touch over the years, we still remained strong in a heart-felt way. The woman I am speaking of is the one on the right. Probably the most talented and gifted person I have ever had the pleasure to know.

Her name is Roberta Meyer. I met Roberta early on in my sobriety, and she offered workshops for anyone with a desire to be in Communication. I spell that with a capital "C" because that was her gift. She brought that ability out in people just by her willingness to listen with intention.

She taught us that the degree to which we discount ourselves, is the degree to which we will damage others. In other words, love yourself, and know that you truly make a difference in the lives of the people around you. She authored two books, held many workshops and seminars, was an accomplished ballet dancer and taught dance throughout her life. She began programs that assisted families and youth at risk. She was a powerful speaker and  personality.

It was Roberta who listened when I had lost my mother to cancer. Ironically, she died from the same disease. She heard the language of my heart and I will forever be grateful to her for that. She was beautiful inside and out, and anyone who knew her would say pretty much the same thing.

May her Spirit live in the hearts of the people that knew her, forever.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

This Week So Far...

Monday I had a meltdown, Tuesday the Giants won the World Series. Wednesday I went for a hike around Lake Hennessy with a friend named Jim. Thursday I went to a men's meeting. Friday I prepared Coffee for the morning meeting and went to Thelma's house for Boysenberry Pie and whipped cream which Cathy brought, later i bought some fire cheetos for the trick or treaters who came by my place for Halloween. Saturday was the Farmer's Market where the rain lightened up and I made a modest income. Today is Sunday. A week of ups and downs.

I should mention that I went to see my physician on Thursday and was prescribed a medication. I am willing to give it a go. Doc says three weeks and then to return to his office for an update. It's a mild anti-convulsant called Lamotrigine. It is prescribed for bipolarity.

The doctor assured me that this has been very effective in treating people with mood disorders. I believe now that I fall in to that category. Over the years I have tried a few anti-depressants, believing that I just suffered from what I have learned is agitated depression. These medications have only served to make me feel a bit like a zombie. Emotionally flat. As an artist I was left generally uninspired and unmotivated. I gained weight and noticed that my libido was not was it was before taking these medications. I stopped taking them at different intervals throughout the late 90's and early part on the millennium. I stopped entirely around 2008. I don't like taking things that can be abused. These medications do not fall into that category.

Recovery from alcoholism has taught me to proceed cautiously when it comes to seeking advice and treatment from professionals. I have known my physician for over thirty years. I trust his judgement around his practice. I have been to other so-called professionals and have experienced many adverse results over the years, but have always returned to what has made a positive difference in my life. Good friends and fellowship has never failed me in times of desperation.
I am truly grateful for having been brought up in a loving family, however dysfunctional... we are all miracles. I am also grateful for my sobriety ,and the people that have supported that over the thirty seven years I have been drug and alcohol free. My life has been an incredible adventure and I would not trade my
problems for anyones. I have discovered how my experience can benefit others, but I know only a little. No one likes a know it all who is sometimes right.

Today, It is clear to me that I know very little yet am being directed through the belief in a Power greater than myself . That Power continues to serve me to the degree that I ask to be shown, and am willing to accept the outcome.

I am blessed to be living in a beautiful Valley, and thank God every day for the opportunity to live here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nice Autumn Weather

Friday brought some overcast skies which seem so unusual since they haven't been around in quite awhile. Warm, sunny and blue-sky days have been the ho-hum norm around here. It almost wants to make me snuggle up to a good book in front of a fireplace somewhere ( yea right, you hopeless romantic ). Last night the Giants won the National league pennant which was a good excuse for fans to go bonkers up and down the streets of S.F. ( saw it on the 11pm news ). I even painted a few extra Giants logo rocks to sell at the Market tomorrow.

Okay, so I haven't a license to sell Giants swag... just send me a cease and desist letter and I will stop. I've also painted a number of Mandala rocks and a few Halloween rocks with spooky faces like Frankenstein. This is a good time of year for that sort of stuff. Lately, these blog entries have been rather mundane because I find my sense of excitement has somehow flattened out.

I long to live more spontaneously as I get older. Below are some beautiful Hydrangeas. A lady at the Market let me take a picture of them. Are we all happy now?

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Stepping back in time

I took a trip to south S.F. with my friends Veda and Bill to visit Daiso; The Japanese "dollar" store in Serramonte. One can spend twenty bucks and walk out with a shopping bag full of items you didn't know you needed. Especially kitchen gadgets like silicone spatulas and hot plate holders. I wanted to get some glow in the dark dots that really glow bright to stick on my Spirit Rocks. They didn't have any this time. I especially wanted to visit my sister's store in the Castro but we were running a little late, and Bill didn't want to deal with the traffic getting in an out of S.F. on a Sunday after a Giants game. The City has just become crazy dense these past few years and it looks like that trend is not going to let up any time soon.It's really a young person's town nowadays. If I was still in my twenties or thirties and upwardly mobile, I would be up for the challenge to try and take it in on again. Not so in my sixties.

It's weird to watch a town grow over the years. Our family arrived in S.F. in the middle of the beatnik era. The Giants had arrived there to play in Seal Stadium only the year before. My dad took me to a game where I got to watch Johnny Antonelli pitch knuckle balls as I was more interested hearing the the beer and hot dog vendors yell out their products as they roamed the stands. It got cold after the fifth inning as the fog rolled in. The ever present summer fog. Coming from Connecticut, I mistook date palm trees for evidence of tropical weather because I recall seeing coconut palms in Florida as a kid, and figured that Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt would be de rigueur as I caught a nasty first summer cold following a"free" concert in Sigmund Stern Grove that July . How quickly one discovers that you are charting new territory when you hear for the very first time that dreadful time-warn "Coldest winter" quote from Mark Twain.

Tourists be forewarned... always bring a jacket.

Monday, September 08, 2014

When I'm Sixty Four...

This year my birthday falls on a Saturday, which will be on (you guessed it...) 12-13-14 ! The last numerically sequential date of the century.Could it be the end of days? Hmmmm... I don't know, but perhaps it is a good day to have a party. It's a weekend and the only thing I will probably be doing is selling rocks at the Farmer's Market. Saturday evening I attend mass, and then attend a meeting in St. Helena which gets out at 8:30PM . Maybe a movie and some popcorn at the Cameo theater. Hey, that sounds like a good time ! So, if you are in the area on December 13th, let's go to a show at the Cameo. This sounds like a plan.

My friend Eric reads this blog, and his birthday is on the fourteenth, and he will be officially a senior citizen that day. I still have a year to go.

So that's a wrap.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Banteron's Muse: Going Tubeless

Banteron's Muse: Going Tubeless: This is annoying, yet undeniably the price we will have to pay to feel politically and environmentally correct nowadays.It's Scott &quot...

Going Tubeless

This is annoying, yet undeniably the price we will have to pay to feel politically and environmentally correct nowadays.It's Scott "Naturals".This huge paper company is now presenting a new tubeless toilet paper roll.You are now able to feel good about taking (and for that matter) giving a shit.Comedians will have a field day with this one.You can hear one saying now,"Yo! when my fingers ain't enough for cleaning the old bung-hole, I can now use the whole roll!"Lookout Scott, it's coming.

Don't these people know that toilet paper tubes are a necessity for many a school art project? When stacked upright, several tubes can support weight thousands of times it's own.It's what this country is built upon!(an endless trash heap, that is...) It will be sad the day when children won't have that pretend telescope to peer through; But will this mean that it will be an eye-blink before Scott pulls the tubes from their paper towels? Ever try to place a new roll on one of those spring-loaded holders?

Like you, I don't want to think about these things. Waste,when out of sight is out of mind in my book; But Scott has a point, and no doubt has held countless meetings and focus groups to bring this idea forward for the rest of us to ponder.It only goes to prove the time worn Werner Erhard pontification..."Their is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Nor is a crap,when one is ready to deliver one.It's sort of like being stuck in traffic after two espressos and a bran muffin if you get my drift.New mother's will concur on this...Does everyone agree that toilet paper tubes are an environmental disaster? Didn't you get the memo on this?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A little shook up

This morning at 3:30 am I was woken to a rumbling sound and items falling from shelves throughout my apartment. I bolted out of bed and through the front door down the stairs to the driveway yelling, "Earthquake!" Being the first one out, my heart was thumping and after calming myself a bit, i noticed I was still in my underwear. Hmmmm... well they were a plaid pattern and looked somewhat like a pair of swim shorts,so I didn't worry too much about people noticing.

The neighbors began to appear from balconies across the way, and everyone was standing around looking at each other wondering what everyone usually wonders... is that the end of it? Well it is approximately twelve hours later and we've only experienced mild aftershocks here at the North end of the Valley. Napa bore the brunt of the damage from this 6.1 magnitude quake.My sister and nephew called in short order to see if I was alright.No problem here.

My nephew posted pictures of his place in Napa where you can see that many items were tossed about; like ping pong balls in a lottery spinner.Thankfully everyone is still alive and hopefully we will not have another shaker like that for some time to come.Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What is Meditation?

Is it sitting still? Is it letting your thoughts go? Is it focusing? Or, as the Dalai Lama would say, "The best meditation is sleep". I find that it is a variety of practices,postures and positions. None of which will guarantee results because these are the manifestations of that which our mind conjures and that by definition is thinking.Thinking is either constructive or destructive.Meditation is neither.As I write this, I think about the times I've meditated and how it has been practiced (not unlike weight-lifting or even losing weight for that matter). Meditation requires an entry and an exit. Like prayer it requires a conscious attempt to engage. Listening to sounds and sensations as a way of entering into a meditative state, just as breathing slowly and releasing tension helps us to drop down into our experience.

Today I am looking at what meditation is not.Distraction is not meditation.It will misalign us.Distraction has to be allowed though,as it can be incorporated into the body of the meditation. Otherwise, resistance ensues. Resistance will persist to the degree that we resist it.Acceptance is the key,and ultimately the essence of a regulated meditative practice.Acceptance then becomes the first level of our conscious experience.Meditation is all about experiencing our experience.This experience is beyond belief.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Life on the inside

I've been working inside most days these past four years.The day begins with a shower,shave etc...then off to mass.

When returning home, I begin to make breakfast and start my work.Today,I am updating my blog(s).It is late July and the heat is apparent in my small, one-bedroom apartment.It is only 9:30am and the sun is out.If it is a Monday, I like to listen to my Podcasts. This American Life. WTF.Snap Judgement. They are all good.Then I begin painting rocks.

My workday ends around 4:30 ~ 5:00pm.The days go by quickly.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A visit from Tara

My sister Tara arrived from Portland on July fourth around 1PM. She has been staying with me here in Calistoga in my apartment, which becomes very hot when the air conditioner is left off.She has been very gracious by providing groceries and money for gas and utilities, which I did not expect.During the day when I usually will be painting,she will read articles on her IPad, etc. It has been pleasant during these periods.

We also have been on a few "Field trips" around this area.One day we went to collect rocks out at the Pacific Ocean in an area known as Russian Gulch.The next day we went for a little hike up at Bothe State Park where we plan to go swimming/picnic this evening around five.We also took a little trip out to Lake Hennessy where we watched the sunset.All in all, it has been a wonderful time having her stay with me. She will be flying back to Portland this coming Sunday.Below is a picture of her when we went to the Castle of Love.The knocker on the door was enough to make it look like a halo above her head...yea, right !

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Baby Rubi

She was born on father's day to Andres and Dinora Quintero.These fine people now have three beautiful children who are being raised in a loving home three doors away. When I helped Dinora to the door to her apartment I saw that little Rubi was in her baby seat in the back of her daddy's work truck. She looks like her mom and has a full head of dark hair.She is going to be the pride of this family, and is certain to have the dignity and respect of a princess.I am pleased to have the Quinteros as my neighbors and friends.They represent the unity and togetherness any healthy family should come to expect.Now that little Rubi is our newest addition in the hood, everyone will have plenty of opportunity to show joy and attention to this beautiful child.I hope she grows up to be as proud and strong as her two loving parents.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Butterflies are free

Today was pleasant, weather wise. The heat is still present, but it is not as oppressive as it was over the Memorial day holiday.My friend Don and I went for a hike up to Coyote Peak at Bothe State Park this morning. This is one we have done regularly over the past twenty plus years of our friendship. He lives in Oakmont now, and comes over to Calistoga not only because he used to live here, but he also raised his family here. Bothe Park has a special place in his heart.

It usually takes around an hour to hike up to the peak and an hour to hike back down to the car. Good conversations take place as we observe the beauty that surrounds us. Occasionally an animal or unique looking plant will catch our attention and give us something to ponder about.Below is a picture of some butterflies who were resting on the path near Richey Creek on our way back.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sweating it up in May

Global warming is not a joke.It seem like the weather is just becoming more extreme from season to season.Today is May the 12th and already it is 85° degrees and it is almost 9PM. Yikes ! I have a fan, but am reluctant to turn on the air conditioner because it just uses too much juice. If this is going to the sign of things to come, then I am ready to have a towel thrown at me. Preferably a cold wet one. In any event, my Serenity won't be messed with because as they say in Al-Anon, "This too shall pass."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Morning Lament

They say that you have risen,the Son on Easter morn.Some believe that it's a given.Some believe you were never born.

I cringe when I hear your name...A profound, yet predictable cry.Annoying others who take this stand...on rocky ground up high.Unsteady at best,balanced by a cross beam;No dignity to a trick turned real.What pitiful loser so easily dismissed, be won later by appeal? What kind of jew would dare admit,anyone speak for all?Judas betrays,Peter regrets when a cock crows thrice at dawn.

Yet the Son has risen on Easter morn,when life begins at dawn.Sinners are forgiven,to sinners who die to sin.Sons will die to mothers,wishing the world would end.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday

I will do the second reading tonight during the Holy Thursday Service at the church I attend. I know that it will be a short reading, yet I am still a little nervous.It has been said that it is good to be a bit nervous before doing any public speaking.Although my reading is not revealling of anything and I'm not speaking extemporaneously,I still am conscious of being "evaluated".Experiences like this are hard to get over,for better or worse.

The church I attend is a small close knit community and very loving as far as I can tell.It has been that way ever since I first attended Sunday services over twenty years ago. I even got to be president of the Men's club for a year.Their have been seven different priests who have been put in the position of pastor since I first began going there. I think that the rotation of pastorship is supposed to take place every four years, but this I am not certain.No one has be expelled or asked to leave as far as I know, and the current priest is a gentle compassionate religious man from Sri Lanka. He will be the celebrant at tonight's mass.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A New Look

I am exploring new, better or at least different looks in my creative expression these days. I am not even painting rocks today as I usually do. The painting you see below was done on a piece of flexible black shelf cover. I used flourescent paint, oil pastel and color pencils to create this piece. The black material has some "tooth" to it so that the colors adhere quite nicely to the surface. These mandalas have a Mexican feel to them. Perhaps they were influenced by the art and people who live close to me, here in Calistoga. I will probably go back to painting rocks tomorrow.My blog has a new color background too... just to mix it up a bit.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nothing changes, if nothing changes

I genuinely enjoy painting these gift rocks and selling my work at the Farmer's Market.I am certain that people enjoy giving and receiving them in the spirit in which they were made.It is just that I don't know where or how to move forward with them because I am not making enough money selling them one day a week.It is also a lot of damn hard work!

The painting part is relaxing and enjoyable enough, but purchasing supplies, creating new designs, setting up and breaking down shows after using the same sales pitch gets really monotonous and boring.The same people come to see me each week and I get restless the night before a market and really tired after.Being your own boss is almost as stress induced as working for someone else.I guess it all evens out really.Today it is raining.It fits my mood perfectly.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Second Wave

Another storm has arrived in time for our Napa Valley Vintner's to breathe a brief sigh of relief.The Farmer's Almanac has predicted rains for March, and they haven't arrived soon enough as far as most people are concerned.Water rationing has begun in areas like Cloverdale and Healdsburg, and Calistoga is right inline.Amazingly, the mustard is in bloom and fields of yellow are sprouting up between the rows of vines.

The little brown Buddha you see below was a gift I gave my sister Tara some years ago. I had forgotten about it until she showed me that she still had it after all these years. The figurine still reminds me not to take myself so seriously. I mean, check out that cute little smile!

Now more about the weather;Although it is nice to have some moisture in the air, it is better for me to stay inside and tend to the rock business.Even when the sun is out, I tend to burn pretty easily and don't like to have my skin wrinkle any more than is necessary for old age. Yikes! did I just say old age? Disregard the rest of this post.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Heart Day !

I've prepared this little video to put a smile on your face for Valentine's Day. I hope you have a sweet one. Enjoy!

Happy Valentines !

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Getting Gratitude

Sometimes it may seem hard to find things to be grateful for during these troubled times.It is important to keep our eyes on the prize, which is where we are all going ( i.e. heaven ).This is what I believe, and I take comfort in this belief. Some may ask how can I believe such a thing when all evidence is to the contrary.I have to answer with a resounding,"I don't know!" but my faith in a higher power is forever.

Today I've been watching a lot of movies online. In the past three days, I've seen "The American Hustler", "The Wolf of Wall Street","August,Osage County" "Her", "All is Lost" and "12 Years as a Slave". The first two I mentioned were intriguing but I have to take issue with the gratutious violence and sex. I didn't find that entertaining. It was at times very painful to watch.The same can be said for the last movie, "12 years a Slave". It was atrocious and painful at every turn. Even if this was an accurate depiction of slavery in the deep south, it was still a movie I would not recommend anyone see.I have seen "Philomena" and "Nebraska" in the theatre and of all of these movies, I would have to say that "Philomena" was my favorite pick for the Oscar.Judy Dench gives a stellar performance.By the way, the picture below was taken last October at Russian Gulch. I left that heart-shaped rock there at the beach.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sailing on the Columbia

My nephew Seamus and his wife Barbara are quite a team when it comes to sailing. We went out on a practically windless day and yet the challenges were still there whether you were tacking or pulling up the fenders when coming into port. We saw a beautiful sunset, lots of jets taking off, and several flocks of Canadian Geese.Portland winters are damp and cold, but I found the drizzle and rain refreshing after the extended drought here in California.I think the best conditions for vineyards are moving north.

My sister Tara and I had a good time learning about the benefits and pitfalls of casting with resin. We tried a few experiments, some successful,some not. We watched "Foyle's War" on her computer,had great food to eat both at home and out at the local restaurants. We went to a place on the first day called, Tara's Thai, which was fantastic.All in all, it was great staying with my extended family and my mentor Tara, who has been an inspiration to my art from day one.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Visiting the Castle

Today is the feast of the Epiphany.This was when the three wise men showed up to bring gifts of gold, frankincense and mir to the baby Jesus. Today is when we usually celebrate "Little Christmas". I received very nice gifts from my sister and my nephew. My brother in law, my sister and my grandniece went to visit the Castillo de Amorosa near where I live in Calistoga.I had been up to the castle, but never inside, nor had I ever had a tour of the castle. The nice thing was that locals get a fifty percent discount at the door. My grandniece Mila had a wonderful time, truly making it a wonderful fantasy environment for a princess. She took every opportunity to have her picture taken, and explore every nook and cranny of this wonderful building/winery. The best picture of course, was the one showing her dining room where all her royal friends would be dining.