Beach Caves, A Trip Up the Coast, Busted at Sea Ranch and Patti Smith at The Fillmore
Nice colors in Oakland
EXPLORING THE HOME TURF For several years I've been planning to hike around the Pt. Reyes Peninsula. The Peninsula is 60-some miles long, with my town of Bolinas at the very southern end (about 12 miles north of San Francisco). The San Andreas earthquake fault runs along the eastern side of the peninsula, so it's like an island. In fact, it's predicted that in half a million years it will break off from the coast and be an island. So I plan to walk around it with backpack, take maybe 5 days, go from my house up the coast, around the peninsula, and back down the Olema Valley. I've been reconnoitering the area and discovered there's a place called Secret Beach, reachable through a narrow "keyhole" in the cliff that you can only get through on a very low tide. I got to the beach at 6 AM one Sunday, walked an hour to get there, and went through the keyhole. The beach is white sand, about 1/4 mile long, and in one place, you can crawl through a 15-foot long tunnel that goes into an 80-foot high circular amphitheater, with a round opening to the sky.
Keyhole at low tide
You crawl through this tunnel to get to circular amphitheater.
SILK WEAVINGS FROM SOUTH EAST ASIA I brought back about 35 silk weavings from my Spring trip to Laos and Cambodia. I'm going to skip the Frankfurt Book Fair for once this October, and go to Laos and VietNam in late November for 3 weeks. This time I'll bring back a bigger selection of silks and see about the reality of setting up an import business. Sell them on the web and at the same time have photos and descriptions of the weavers and the hill tribes of southeast Asia. These are beautiful objects, made by beautiful people. I'm also gathering material for an eventual book on this part of the world. Travels in Southeast Asia in the 21st Century.
CALIFORNIA PRODUCE The organic farms around are in full bloom right now. All the warm-weather fruits are ripe and sweet. There are heirloom tomatoes, sweet cucumbers, peaches from the Valley are ripe. Lots of sweet corn. Plums are dropping. We've had the biggest crop of wild blackberries ever, just fresh for dessert with a little cream and Demerara sugar. My neighbor has a huge crop of apples; today we filled up my wheelbarrow, I'm going to juice them tonight in an apple press.
CHECKIN' OUT THE CHICKS We have a new flock of 24 bantam chickens, which will get culled down to one rooster and a dozen or so hens. They arrived in May as day-old chicks in a ventilated box at the post office (from Murray McMurray hatchery in Iowa). About half of them are Auracanas, which lay green eggs. A funny thing, a male quail discovered the chicks about a month ago and he hangs around all day outside their (caged) yard, or on the telephone wire above, flirting, talking to them. Hey girls, wanna check out the wild world? They're getting bigger and bigger and he just won't give it up.
COFFEE AND MORNING BUNS I am heading up to my friend Louie's place, 3 hours up the coast. First stop is the Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes Station. It's 6:30 AM there are a bunch of dusty pickup trucks and lo and behold a bunch of guys who look like they do real work for a living. I get coffee and a warm morning bun and sit on the bench and watch the street slowly come to life. The bun has cinnamon, and caramelized sugar, and is chewy. It has the fragrance that only comes from freshness. As I'm about to leave, this unique delivery truck pulls up. Check out the sheet metal work.
The day is off to a good start. My mind soars when I hit the road. The stimulation of motion, the changing scenery, is, pardon the expression, mind-expanding.
BUSTED AT SEA RANCH About an hour and a half later I get to Sea Ranch. Sea Ranch is a gated community of half-million dollar houses on a beautiful stretch of the California coast. It's won architectural awards, which has always puzzled me, because the houses (mainly for rich weekenders) are stark and soulless. No overhangs, none of the grace of true Califonia farm buildings (which they were supposedly patterned after). However, the roads are gentle downslopes, with smooth paving and perfect for skateboarding. I pull my truck over and make two downhill runs and am walking back uphill when a security guard comes by in her Cherokee.
Now if she'd just said, "Sir, you're trespassing, you'll have to leave...", fine, I'd have been outta there. But this lady is mean spirited. Why did I think I could trespass, why did I think I was better than everyone else and not have to follow the rules, and etc. "Look," I said, "I'm 69 years old, it's early in the morning, no one's around, what I'm doing isn't hurting anyone, and I'll be gone with no trace in a few minutes...what's the harm?" She gets nastier by the minute.
You from California? I ask. No, from Alaska, and if this had been in Alaska, she'd have thrown my ass in jail by now. Whew, lady! I get my camera out of the truck and take some pictures of her -- she gets both flustered and aggressive. "I'm a journalist, I say, and I document everything I run across." (Which is true.). "Well I'll just take one more run and then I'll leave." I'm needling her. Madame goes ballistic and calls the sheriff, who shows up in less than 5 minutes.
We have a 3-way discussion. It's like I'm in the principal's office again. I'm so sick of officious twits who try to bully you with their authority. Like the humorless cop who gave my friend Jack a $50 ticket for filming skateboarding from the back of a pickup truck (for two blocks) a few weeks ago. Yeah I was in the wrong, but there are degrees of wrongness.
CHOT AND HIS ABALONE RIG I leave and continue north. I go down to the Pt. Arena cove, and see a guy come in off the beach with an unusual looking boogie board. His name is Chot Wangdee, he's Thai, and has developed a unique rig for abalone diving, way more sophisticated than the inner tube with nets most divers use. He can ride waves with this, has carabiners for attaching his anchor, holding his gear, a float with anchor he releases if he finds an abalone but has to surface before getting it:
MUSIC FROM THE '20S Louie and I meet some of his friends for dinner in town. The next morning we get up early, take a sauna by the river, and jump into the clear green water to cool off. Louie starts making breakfast and I bring my ukulele in. He's never heard me play it. He's scrambling eggs and I start playing and singing My Little Grass Shack, Louie leaves the stove and comes over and starts singing with me. We look at each other. Same era. We know all the same songs. We go on: Five Foot Two, When You Wore A Tulip, Jada, Moonlight Bay and we start hitting harmonies. Louie puts on a jug band CD and pulls out a harmonica and proceeds to play amazingly. Jesus! I've known him for 15 years and had no idea he could play the harmonica. I ask Louie about what sounds like a tuba with the jug band, no he says, it's a jug. All we can find around the house is a quart Chlorox bottle; we wash it out and I am instantly playing bass. Louie plays a mean fucking harp. He gets into it and weaves back and forth, I play the jug (and the spoons). We have breakfast of scrambled eggs, crisp bacon and wheat toast with marmalade sitting out on the sunny deck, listening to music and jumping up to play along. (The CD was The Cannon Jug Stompers, recording made in 1928...jug band blues.)
I've rediscovered long-buried music lately. When I was in high school in the early '50s, we had a quartet with ukulele and gut bucket and we sang songs from the 20s-30s. I loved the Mills Brothers in those days, with their harmonies and amazing vocal trumpets, trombones, and bass. Then the '60s came along with rock and roll, blues, and reggae and this old music got pushed aside. Didn't seem cool. I forgot about it. However, lately I've been running across old guys like me who know all these songs. Peg 'o my heart, I love you... I've been taking the uke over to my Mom's lately. She's 96, and has a hard time getting around, so she sits in her chair and I play and sing the old songs. One day I'm playing Five Foot Two, and she starts singing along, she's rocking back and forth to the music in her chair, and then she says "Wait a minute," and slowly pulls herself up to her feet so she can stand and then she sings along with me, bouncing to the beat. We finish and she goes "Phew, I'm tired," and sits back down.
SARTORIAL PRACTICALITY Up until the last year or so, I wore sport coats and slacks (+ties!) for occasions like Book Expo America or the Frankfurt Book Fair. I've always disliked the suit/sportcoat motif and finally I decided to dress for action, and that with good designs from North Face or Patagonia, I have comfortable and practical clothes that look nice. However I just ran across a great coat at Louie's. It's from Duluth Trading Co, 100% cotton, doesn't need ironing after washing, and has 6 pockets on the inside and 3 on the outside,is comfortable, and could be rolled up in a backpack for Eurotravel. This is my dress coat from now on. $129.99:
EYEGLASSES HOLDER Also from Louie: these gizmos are called "Beetles," and they clip onto your car's sun visor and hold sunglasses or specs, $4.95.
COOL TOOLS Kevin Kelly does 3-4 items like the above two, with "access information," every week: his "Cool Tools" email newsletter. As I've said before, this is the Electronic Whole Earth catalog and I highly recommend it:
WIRELESS WONDERLAND 1. The Wi-Fi connection I have on my 15" Apple G-4 Powerbook is great. Wireless and fast. Sites are multiplying all over the country. I use Mail2Web, a web-based email program to check my email. I usually go into SFO to my favorite North Beach (Italian) cafe, once a week, and get there about 6:30 AM, get a latte and brioche, check the morning's mail, and then read online newspapers and mags. 2. I run with a bunch of friends every Tuesday night at 6. Last week we were standing around in the parking lot and I noticed that Doug had an Ipod playing music over the radio of his Honda Element. The Ipod has a tiny cylindrical attachment, the Itrip, that makes a wireless connection to an unused band on your radio. Doug then took the Ipod about 30' away from his car, and the music kept playing. He then told two of us to tune our car radios to 89.7, and lo and behold, the little device was playing on all 3 car radios. You could have surround sound with about 5 cars.
PATTI SMITH KICKS MAJOR ASS AT FILLMORE Last Thursday night, Patti played at the Fillmore in SFO. I went on a lark -- was in the city that day, saw she was playing. I somehow had never heard her music. A year earlier I'd seen her fans at a book signing in LA, and they looked like cool people + they were smitten.
The Fillmore is a fabulous venue. you can see from anywhere on the floor, there are balconies, sound and lights are top notch. it's been rejuvenated. It's obviously a great place for any artist. The people in the audience looked great -- thoughtful, hip, happy to be there.
It was a stunning concert, a marvelous fusion of poetry and music. She's an artist in her prime, a person "in her skin." She's survived. Lilke Dylan. (Really!!) She was comfortable and informal with the audience and kept up a conversation. She'd listen to anything someone would yell out, and respond. She was political. Get out and vote, let's get those murderers out of there! Every note, every word was powerful. She was loved, and so there was that rare interaction of artist and crowd that is so stunning (and rare). The numbers varied, from spoken poems to killer kick-ass rock & roll. And one of the most important guys in her band wasn't even there that night. At this very moment I'm listening for the first time to her 2004 album Trampin', and is it good! Look at the 28 reviews on Amazon, 25 of them are 5-star.
MESSIN' WITH THE MOTHER TONGUE I love Irish and Jamacian versions of English. Years ago I was hitchhiking in Ireland, and got a ride with a little round, rosy-cheeked bespectacled Catholic priest, who talked non-stop for a half hour. It was a delightful, lyrical transformation of English English. It was music, the language brought to life. And the Jamacians: remember the opening scenes in The Harder They Come (with Jimmy Cliff), there's a bus going along and you hear this language that sounds vaguely familiar, then you see it dubbed on-screen and it's English, all right, but musical, with tweaked words and cool rhythms. There is also potent poetry being spoken in the inner city these days. The Berkely High School Slang Dictionary is a great little stapled-together booklet:
Also, here's a big slang dictionary, with a lot of web lingo:
PARTING SHOT Got any ideas for helping us get the word out on HOME WORK? All input gratefully accepted.