Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yard Waste and Pecker Wood

Perusing John Wassell's library, I was attracted to Susan Schaller's book by its title: A Man Without Words. It's a true story about a Mayan deaf man who could not communicate. He had no vocabulary, no words. 

Did he have ears that see and eyes that hear?       

My reward for sticking around the house the other day culminated in this pile of yard waste. The dead branch came from our Live Oak tree. Yes, they are messy. The branch fell off the tree months ago, landing on some lower branches. Stuck there in the tree, it was most attractive to woodpeckers. Such a nicely rounded hole ... all the way through the 4 inch branch to the bark on the far side!

That's as nice a hole ala mushroom as I've ever seen. 

This magenta crown was scalped off the top of a Florida Sweet Onion.

Popi is a Bengal and an outdoor-indoor cat. Bengals can't resist playing in water. When she was a kitty she would scamper up a small palm tree and jump into the swimming pool. 

I'm working backward through time and photo numbering now to show you the first light of day in this Florida house: Early morning light by table legs, tile floor and cat toy.

I realize that I bypass countless pictures during the course of a normal habitual day. I'm not concerned with what I may have missed. These pictorial records, like words, merely mark the places where my habits have brought me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Soloist in Sarasota

Let's talk about coincidence. 

1. We put new windows in our house on Friday to help both us and the economy move along. New windows give one a cheerful disposition about the outside world.

2. Saturday evening, Pam, Cheryl, Liz and I went to see the movie The Soloist, a true story about a homeless man, a musical genius, who pushes a shopping cart around and lives on the streets of Los Angeles. 

We stopped for a commemorative snapshot in front of the box office.

Our faces were not quite so smiley as we exited the movie, so we went to Il Panaficio, a local pizza shop, for a light dinner and conversation.  

3. The proprietor of Il Panaficio told me he had lived in Florence for 12 years and the olive and pickle vase (below) was an Italian tradition. The olives were encapsulated and they would never be eaten. My companions ate vegetarian. I had a big slice of pepperoni and jalapeno. Hot!

Before we left our outdoor table, I discovered that the proprietor regularly employed a homeless man to gather and secure the heavy metal chairs in his outdoor dining room. So I know at least one homeless man eats delicious food, thanks to one Sarasotan. 

4. I found Morris Siegel (below) on the streets of West Los Angeles in 1968. Morris told me he picked up street litter around Farmers Market daily because he was so happy to be living in the USA.  Note the political portraits of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Kennedy (not showing, left), on his shopping cart. Morris also fed the local pigeons who knew him so well that they ate seeds out of his mouth.  Morris lived in an abandoned car.

5.  Twenty-one years later, on Christmas eve of 1989, I'm sitting in my in-laws comfortable home in Rochester, NY and I find a newspaper article about Morris. Click to enlarge.

I'm don't think of myself as wealthy, but I live in a wealthy city that has more homeless people than we would care to acknowledge. In 1968 Morris Siegel was an anomaly, a rarity, in West Los Angeles. Meanwhile, a credit line at the end of The Soloist declared that presently there are 90,000 homeless people living on the streets of Los Angeles. 

6. We know that there is a strong correlation between poor mental health and homelessness. Thanks to Steve Lopez (LA Times reporter and author of The Soloist) it is no coincidence that we all have new windows of opportunity to change the future.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dead Rattler in MidPines

The old photo archive choked up another curious picture. This one, taken with a pioneer era 2 mb digital camera, was snapped at my son Chris's place in the foothills of the Sierras, just west of Yosemite National Park.

I was working on a ladder when I heard the Rottweilers, Bo and Jake, barking at my feet. There was a rattling rattle snake heading under the house. At that point I forcefully dropped a brick on the fellow and bifurcated him. Of course, the dogs wanted a lunch of snake meat, but we wisely decided to throw the poisonous head over the cliff so the dogs wouldn't eat it.

Four rattles told us the snake was four years old. Hope he had a good life, but he wasn't a good playmate for our grandson.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Doodle Therapy

Doodle Therapy now rises from the depths of my digital archives. When one begins doodling with nothing on their mind, their pen and ink often times arrive at unexpected destinations. Here are a few more sessions from long ago. 

Easter Sunday
Subconsciously praying for a resurrection, perhaps, my doodling brought these results. Below, I find myself in a suitcase [ready to move?], the sleeping man [me?] lies waiting for the sunrise [Easter, spiritual resurrection?], under the partially folded umbrella [Florida?]. 

See how easy theraputic analysis comes? Who needs a shrink when pen and ink is so easy?
Buddha Saint-Turtleman
During one doodling therapy session a new character emerged from the ink well named Tanda. Tanda was a straight man, a mobile pen-headed fellow, who seemed to occupy ethereal realms. Here Tanda is sleeping. Note his eyes are closed. I'm sure everyone has heard of Buddha Saint-Turtleman. 
Poison Damsel
Tanda was quite adventuresome, showing up in the most exciting places. This particular drawing was colorized and printed onto tee shirts to advertise one of the Open Studio art shows we held at Florida Avenue Studios during the Nineteen Nineties.

Moleman's Map
This may well be the last pen and ink drawing I exhibit in this blog. It was also one of the early doodlings that progressed beyond unrecognizable squiggles. A Prince of a Fellow, Moleman the Familiar lives in the psyches of many men all over this fractured world of ours. This drawing came at the end of a long, long novel writing session in my old basement office.

I suspect this is the end, but I can't make any promises.
There is an off-chance more doodles will appear here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Neil's Bottle

I met a young man the other day who reminded me of my pen and ink work. Neil's Bottle is one of the outcomes of a doodling obsession I adopted years ago as a means of finding some kind of balance in my life.

The idea behind the doodles was simple: put a pen to paper and don't think about it. After much doodling without thinking, patterns began to emerge. Patterns and pictures that gave me clues as to the health of my own mind. Revelations from black ink, one might say.
Anyway, it seems that the doodle wisdom caught me at a time when I needed to reappraise my marital relationship. Neil's Bottle came from my subconscious mind to tell me I was not doing things right. Yup, I am Neil and you might be Neil, too.

I am most happy to say that attitudes have changed and my mate is flourishing today with enthusiasm and creativity. 


Monday, April 20, 2009

No Name Nude

I'm not a member of the f64 club. I don't believe that all photographs must exhibit that Ansel Adams resolution any more than I believe all of life should have sharp edges and miracle lighting. Life is not that definite to me.

I am enchanted by what can be seen with Soft Eyes. The abstract nude photo collage below is one of those demanding pictures that defy easy recognition. It must be viewed for awhile before appreciation sets in, if it does.

I'm wondering how much of this aesthetic derives from my involvement in the culture of the radio generation. Radio shows like The Lone Ranger, First Nighter, and the [crs] Playhouse demanded that we use our imagination to picture what was going on. So, I do not feel needy about immediate recognition.


My viewing pleasure comes from yielding to the mood of color and form. It does not need to be defined; it does not need to be named.

Under the Knife

I am infatuated with my little Kodak digital camera. It is so small and so accessible during any moment of the day or night. It enables me to take something away from an encounter - even encounters like this when others are taking pieces of me away, even if they are cancerous. 

This picture, out of four submitted to an unbiased jury of family and friends, won the award for most interesting portrait.

Making self portraits during surgeries amuses Dr. Bedi. And I believe it is wise to amuse anyone who wields a scalpel near my face.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Digital Voyeurism

This view from our corner table at Gecko's reminds me of the movie Rear Window for the voyeurism involved. I cannot begin to imagine the great quantity of such images borne by the digital camera revolution. 

Of course there are potential concerns about privacy in the face of ubiquitous cameras, but I really enjoy the potential of such views for story telling. What story would you tell with the limited visual information presented below?

Who are these people and what could they be saying to each other? Will they part company? Where will they go after this moment?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Neighborhood Trees

Yesterday brought the threat of  tornadoes (none appeared), much needed rain, and the deflowering of our neighborhood trees. Below is Marilyn's Gold Tree.

Tim's Jacaranda tree spills its flower petals all over the street at this time of year. 
Click on the pic.

But the most important tree in the neighborhood is the live oak tree that stands in our front yard. It is adorned with a Hurricane Hex Sign painted by neighbor Bob Collins. The hexy palm frond has saved our bacon during the past three years; no hurricanes here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gone to Hippie Heaven

Our good friend, John Wassell, passed away at 1:05PM on Good Friday. 

The timing, as always, was unexpected. His generous heart just stopped beating. He left Cheryl, the love of his life, two dogs, two cats, siblings, in-laws, friends and neighbors. 

John was proud of his American Indian heritage and I thought of John as the last living hippie in Florida. He was a bearded luddite, shunned TV and computers for the most part, read books like crazy, built a wooden cottage amidst the towering oaks, and planted gardens that featured small altars of his found art. 

We valued many of the same kinds of things in this world. Odd things, small things maybe, like the patina on an oxidized tea pot, a model of a Indian Motorcycle, or a wooden sword.  These tokens seem to be waiting for their placement in his towering hippie forest. 

May we rest in peace without him.

Luke suspects his master will not be returning home.

What do dogs know?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sermons in Stone

During the 1980s and '90s I fashioned an indulgent self-promotion campaign for my photography business that I called "Sermons in Stone".  

I maintained an old fashioned, wet dark room at the time and insisted on using it as much as possible. So, I gathered pertinent poetry, printed my message on black and white photo paper, and coupled it with a color print affixed to the black and white. I mailed hundreds of these prints around the country.

The photographic theme that, in my mind, brought unity to the whole project was based on my photo collection of "Walls". Here is one such print to click on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

These Hands

How did we earn these wrinkles so quickly?

These knuckles are sagging like nylons
on the knees of tired old ladies,

These nails are scored like the faces
of soldiers back from the war,

These fingers have grown thin and scarred
by attempts to grasp meanings,

These hands are thoughtful now,
more delicate, more frail,

These hands, now folded and calm,
 dream of resurrection.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bougainvilla bloom

Yesterday we received some long needed rain. Today the bougainvilla in the corner of our yard is soaking up the sunshine. Click to enlarge.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sweet Red Pepper & Florida Onion

Two of the reasons we hustle downtown to Sarasota's farmers' market every Saturday morning.

I roast red and orange peppers and sweet Florida onions with garlic and shallot in lots of olive oil until the onion has carmalized. Then use the veggies to sweeten and spice our daily dinners.

Lucky Cracker Ger!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Cracker Portrait

Today is just another one of those long Florida days. 
Sun is up, warm breezes blowing off the Gulf of Mexico, the promise of moisture in the air. 
Gotta get to the market for vegetables and seeds. 

Nice to see you here.

Cracker Ger