Monday, June 28, 2021


 Monday, 6/28/21

Well, here's the progress for this last week. Not much in the way of commentary on anything. Life in this tiny corner of the world has been slow, and uneventful. That is a good thing.  The ship of civilization may well have hit the iceberg, but the water isn't up to my stateroom just yet. So what the hell. May as well keep working.


It's Thursday, already. I've been digging away at the rock, and the days are sliding right out from under me. I'm still excavating the bowl in the upper part of the figure.  I reached the point where the bowl itself is deep enough. Now it's time to work the shaft though the bottom of the bowl. It's tight, niggling work with very little space to get a tool in. 


 Today, or tomorrow I'll get through the bottom of the bowl. Once that through-cut is established things will move quicker. That shaft has to pass through the bowl. The curves, front and back, have to complement one another, and the whole figure in the center has to snake left and right on the way down into the larger bowl at the base of the carving.

 The crystal is wonderfully translucent.  When it catches the sunlight the whole stone glows. But when the bowl is full of light you can't see into it. The camera won't even focus on it:

Everything inside the bowl is just a soft white blur. Even in full daylight I actually have to check the progress with a flashlight to see where I'm going.

(Sunday, 6/27)

Saturday I scratched through the bottom of the bowl, and got started shaping what will be a long teardrop falling through the opening, and into the larger lower bowl. 




Other than digging away at the rock, there has been little going on here at the suburban hermitage. The days are simple, taken up with the stonework, and small chores around the house and yard. 

Saturday I got a note from Troy; there should be big surf at The Wedge, in Newport Beach. So Sunday we got the gang together for a cruise at the beach. The surf turned out to be flat, but the day was hazy, and held the perfect balance between warm and cool. It was good to get out and cruise. The beach was crowded. Scarcely a mask in sight. Thank God.

So here's where the rock stands at the end of June.  With the through-cut established, the work is going to start going much faster. I can finally start shaping in the figure between the bowls. There should be some noticeable changes in the profile by next week.


 Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Longest day of the Year

 So here we are, June 21, the longest day of the longest year since forever. And here I am, in the midst of what is now feeling like the longest project ever. 

But it's not the longest project by a long shot. My other two Blogger efforts, The Lost Canyon Project, and The Lost Era Transcripts take that prize. The Lost Era site is a good candidate for the finest work I've ever done on anything. But at this point, it seems that all of the effort I put out to preserve Pete Hampton's life work was done for nothing. 

 Before the fates pulled me into the world of my departed friend, Pete, I was having some fun revisiting some of the wayward paths of my youth. I was doing a series, "On Getting High." I learned that several of the common columnar cacti grown here in the Southwest, are mescaline bearing. So I bought some cuttings, and read up on the means of preparation.
Three years ago today I made the journey. It was way more fun than I planned on having. 

Story here: 

A Vein of Fire

 Here are the plants, three years later.  

There's not a heck of a lot to report as far as the stone goes.  I'm still digging out the bowl on the upper part of the figure, and shaping in the loop, so that it will drop neatly through an opening in the bottom of the bowl. 


It is slow going, scratching it out with the spoon end of the rifflers. There isn't anywhere up there to really get good leverage on the tool, or get in with a chisel. So it's all dig and scratch. I'm kind of getting impatient with the slow progress, and I've been tempted to break out the flex shaft grinder, or the drill, but every time, a little voice says, "no."

At least I have these, from the Milani Tool Company in Italy: 

Pretty, huh? I bought them just before starting the project. These two diamond rifflers put me out some serious bucks, but they very quickly became two of the most useful tools in the quiver, and not just because they're super hard. Rifflers are tiny rasps; the sharp steel teeth cut in only one direction. The abrasive surface on the diamond tool cuts no matter which way it is pushed or pulled. And the diamonds don't wear out.

But anyway...

It is all so very strange

I've mentioned before, that we don't have television here at the Suburban Hermitage. Neither do we take a newspaper. The only radios are in Mary's car and in my truck. I take my news and information from a carefully selected pool of on-line sources. Mary does the same.  It's enough. More than enough. And most of you who drop by the blog, here, probably swim in the same on-line currents. So, I'm not even going to start in with the particulars of politics, and current events.  Like our dear friend Janet Church used to tell her art students, "See whole picture."

Whole picture ain't lookin' too good. It's depressing, angering, and frightening. The nation, the culture, is unraveling. Hell, handbasket, all that.

And yet.

These have been some of the sweetest days of my life. Maybe the toxic overload of the last year was like the ball of TNT that surrounds the uranium core in an A-bomb. It put pressure enough on my head that it lit the creative burn. Now the burn is driving me. The sense of purpose is real enough that I can take hold of it. This is a good thing.

Mornings roll out in one of two versions, me up first, or Mary up first. Most days it's me.

I'm usually up around four, but before I awaken, the Skinamalink senses that I'm about to stir, so he jumps off the bed, and trots out to the kitchen for his fish. I get back to the den, sit on the futon with that first cup, and before I can fall asleep again, the coffee catches me in freefall. It's a twilit state. All the channels to the subconscious  open.

"Our Father..."

Prayer concludes with meditation, and fades into the first thoughts for the coming day. Skinnies has been asleep on my lap. I didn't even notice.

Flip on the desktop about six AM. Check weather, and the usual bookmarks. Mary fixes breakfast for me. 

I'm unpacking the tools by about eight thirty. I treat it like a job, and work it like I was on day shift. Habit of years, I guess. Put in a couple or three hours,  pause for a break. Re-heat the nasty left over coffee from  earlier, and park it in the gazebo. Buddy the Cat, and The Skinamalink come trotting out to join me. Skinnies takes the seat next to me,  looks up, and mewws  for a pet and a scratch. Budddy hops from the ground to the chair to the tabletop. He circles around the perimeter, and comes up to my elbow.  He speaks out in a decisive sharp little "Murrrowp!"and butts his forehead into my shoulder before curling up on my forearm.  

The morning is cool; the marine layer is evaporating into that hazy blue light. The sky is straight out of one of Pete's paintings, and a lame crow is yakking away on the wire above the orange tree in the yard. 


Maybe hit a wake n' bake.

I'm not kidding, sometimes I wonder how  heaven could be any better than this.

And yet.

I did spend my time on-line.

The crap chowing away at Western Civilization still runs hog-wild. The great Inversion continues apace. The Un-Makers are loose upon the world. We are ruled by insane vermin scum. It doesn't take much before I've seen enough, and just turn the whole mess off. None of this stops because I decline to watch it. Sometimes I think if it wasn't for Van der Leun, I'd just quit the internet altogether. 

And even in the small world of our circle of friends...

Scuba Dave, from our bike club, RatRod Riders Bicycle Club of Southern California is in hospital. All we know is he has cancer, it isn't looking good, and we can't get any information. Mary's friend, Kathy, has ALS. Kathy is the one who, along with her husband Mark, took us to the Sawdust Festival four years back. Now she's paralyzed, and slowly getting worse. Day by day we all of us grow slower. Our time is winding down.

Here in the gazebo, Buddy the Cat snoozes on my forearm. We have as tight a bond between us as ever man and beast have had. I love that silly critter so much it scares me. We're both old. He'll pass me up all too soon, and it'll tear me to pieces to lose him. But we're both of us here now-how many days like this remain?


There is so very much to be grateful for. Right here. Right now. For this one day. In the quiet of this small space, things are well and good. This too, must pass.

Melancholy thoughts for a mid-summer's day.

Anyhow. Here's the stone thus far:

Tune in next week for more exciting stuff.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Seeing some light


 Sunday, 6/13/21



Day after day, working alone, I can go so deep down the rabbit hole of my own thoughts, that solitude starts giving way to solipsism. I forget that there's a world outside my own head. It was good to take a break. Saturday was our bike club's monthly event, The So Cal RatRod Ride. It was good to get out of the yard, and down to the beach. .

I got down to the meet up spot about quarter after eight. I always get there early, and just enjoy sitting alone by the river. Penny (Giving the "V" signs) pulled up not long after. Her health has been shaky, as of late, so it was good to see her. Penny is ninety some pounds of radioactive dynamite. That skinny ol' gal will ride the wheels off guys twenty years younger than she. She brought me a sampler of some of her home grown buds.  Soon enough the rest of the gang, and our guests rolled in.

We had a fair turnout- about a dozen people came out to ride. Shan from Chopaderos, and Buddy Lee from Sins and Sprockets came down for the cruise. Life is returning to So Cal. Both clubs, Chopaderos, and Sins are planning rides. We're co-hosting a beach party with Pedalwhips from the Inland Empire next month.
The day was perfect early summer clear, temps in the low to mid eighties. We got sunscreened, put away all the extra junk and stuff, got the cars locked up, and saddled up.

 I took a sample of Penny's Blue Dream. Stuff is well-named, and Penny's grow was sweet and good. Troy gave the sign, and we rolled. It was quiet as we  gathered up the pack, and headed down the trail. The tide was high enough that there was water in the riverbed all the way up to the two-mile marker where we start the cruise. A white heron and it's reflection skimmed the mirror glass surface, keeping pace with us as we rolled. Wind hadn't come up yet.  Finally, finally, we're beginning to see, if not the end, at least a huge reduction in the face masking. Like I said, some semblance of life is returning to the Southland. Another California summer. Despite everything, and all, it's another So Cal summer.


Yesterday marked two months since I rolled the rock out of the garage.  We started out here, one hundred fifteen pounds of crystal alabaster:




Subtract eighteen pounds to make a base:


And here's where it stands after sixty  days.



Current Project weight: fifty seven pounds. (and falling)

Last week I was having doubts about where the project was going. I got myself into one of those funks where everything seemed out of joint, nothing was looking right, and the whole effort was feeling futile.

Julie commented that the stone was looking like a Klein Bottle, and I was tying my own head in knots overthinking things. Good observations.

There isn't much to say in the way of the work.  Right now, it's mostly just excavation, and it's slow going. I've thought about bringing out the flex shaft grinder, but I don't like using it. The power tool removes material fast, but it's unforgiving.  Tiny mistakes can have huge consequences. Like anything else, using power tools well takes practice. I don't want to "practice" with the grinder this deep into the project. Besides, I'm used to shaping with hand tools. Scratch by scratch, the bowls gets deeper, the curves get smoother, the walls grow thinner, and begin to hold the light that pours through the translucent stone. The image I held in my mind's eye is taking shape just as I had planned it. The front view is still odd looking, but it will improve dramatically when I get the figure in the middle shaped down.

I learned that my last piece, which is on display over at the Whittier Art Gallery, got demoted from first place to second place. Good thing there are no cliffs or bridges to jump off around here. Just kidding.

Monday, June 7, 2021

A Narrowing Path

  A Narrowing Path


Another week in the dust mine. First off, thanks to Julie, John V, Troy, and the few others who drop by the blog. It's one of the weird things about keeping a web log. On the one hand, everything I do here, I do alone, in the privacy of my home. I'm dumping my thoughts here in the den, in much the same  way I used to do thirty years ago, with a ball point pen and a spiral notebook. Only now the 'pen and notebook' is a machine beyond my comprehension, and it's easy to forget that the thoughts I'm dumping  from the "privacy" of  my den are broadcast (if I am to believe the stats) to every country on the planet.

So I'm always a little startled when  I find out someone actually reads these posts.


(Monday, May 31)

The hard stuff I talked about last week is coming up. The loop at the top of the figure has to pass through the bowl right below it. That's going to mean tunneling through one end of the bowl or the other. But I don't want to drill a gaping hole in the bottom of the bowl, either. That means scratching through, bit by bit. There's a lot of excavation to do, both in the mid-section, and the bottom as well.

But that's for tomorrow. Today is Memorial Day. The work area is cleaned up, and the tools are put away. We're having our friends over for food, drink, and buzz. Parties, here, are a regular thing. I'm kinda' looking forward to it. I've been playing hermit for a while, and it'll be good to socialize. I guess.

 Truth to tell, I'd rather just work. We don't have TV here. I pay no attention to news and current events anymore. I read a lot on line, but it's all religion, and commentary. No one I know does this. If they're on-line at all, it's either yoo-toob, or social media. The result of this is that I find I don't have much to say. Current events just get me pissed. I don't like to talk about myself, and there's only so much I can say about hanging out in the back yard.

(June 1, Tuesday)

And now it's June already. Yesterday went well. But a party is a lot of work, and a huge expenditure of energy. The day after is always slow going, but that's usually tempered with the afterglow you get from having had a good time. But today started out flat, dull, and oddly bleak. 

We started doing these gatherings last spring in defiance of the lockdowns. Mary and I like to entertain, and we're good at it. We have always hosted the Thanksgiving, and Christmas gatherings for our friends. Our backyard barbecues have been the only social life that most of them have had during the last year. But beginning of summer, and party notwithstanding, Memorial Day isn't exactly a whoop-it-up occasion. And, like I said, hosting a party is a lot of work.

(June 3)

The end of yesterday's session left me unsure, and discontented with where this thing is going. 



The shape is an idea that exists in my head. Getting to that shape is a journey. But just like a any other journey, you can't anticipate everything that comes up between the moment when you leave, and the moment when you arrive. And the view of a thing changes as you get closer as well.  Alternative routes pop up. Maybe the destination itself will change. Every choice made eliminates the possibility of making some other choice.

(Friday, 6/4/21)

I'll take pictures when I get out to the table later on this morning. Once again, yesterday's session ended with me feeling all kinds of discontented about the project. I go back and forth. One minute it looks fine. Coming out great. Just what I was planning. I'll get a ribbon at the county fair for sure! I look again, and it's all gone to hell. The front view is the worst. WTF was I thinking?


But then, no. It's gonna' work. I'm just telling myself scary stories, and believing them. But the doubts are real. The gut drop at the thought of failure is for real, too. I really, really, don't want to screw this up. The project is important.

Why? Because I say so? Do I have a power to determine what is important, and what is trivial? Does the fact that I've invested a lot of hours and effort make the effort and time worthwhile? How is carving this rock any different from piling up dirt in a vacant lot? What changes; what's the difference if this thing comes out great, or comes out ridiculous? 

Do I hope to sell this thing for a bunch of money? no.  

Am I looking forward to putting it on display?

  Once it's done will I want to part with it?     probably not. 

So why do it at all? 

This is one of those rhetorical questions that generates all kinds of glib, and saccharine answers. Can you simultaneously believe that the creative impulse is a blessing from your guardian angels, that you're channeling a little spark of the divine, and then roll your eyes, say, "Oh, please. Leave that horseshit for the wine and cheese ladies, I got stuff to do here."?

I've had this notion that when the extra terrestrial archeologists arrive they'll conclude that the thing that humans valued most was dust. Why else would they create such elaborate items to gather it?


Such were my musings at the beginning of the day. Once I'd had enough coffee to simulate consciousness I got off the futon, and adjusted my brain for the real world. I can dismiss all this stuff. Yeah. The work means something because I decide that it does. End of story.  Otherwise, I'm waiting for permission. And from whom?

(Sunday, 6/6/21)

 Saturday morning, my hands were stiff, my thumb was cracked, and I was altogether unsure of what I was doing or where I was going. If I go back to the 'project-as-trip' analogy, I felt like I was driving in the fog. So I let the tools sit, cleaned all the lines off the rock, sharpened up the pencils, and started sketching again. Draw, re-draw... OK. I haven't ruined this thing...

But there is more to life than stone. The rock will survive. I got my 1961 Schwinn  Mark IV Jaguar out of the garage, and  got 'er all cleaned up for the Cyclone Coaster ride in Long Beach.

This Sunday marks eleven years that I and Mary have been doing this event, but Mary seldom rides anymore. Cyclone Coaster is also where our bike club started. The RatRod Riders are now an old-school part of the monthly antique and classic gathering.

And getting out of the back yard, away from the stone, and into the real world was just what I needed.

So I got to hang out with the gang, and water my roots in the bicycle scene as well. Not to mention getting in a tougher workout than I had planned. I haven't been riding much lately, Long Beach was cold and windy, and that heavy metal cruiser weighs a few pounds.

Sometimes it takes just a very small break to clear out the head and re-align the perspective. I got back from  Long Beach just as Mary was pouring some fresh coffee. I got the bike put up, and nuked up a burrito in the microwave. After eating, I poured a cup. Buddy the Cat, and The Skinamalink  followed me out to the gazebo.

It felt good to have had some exercise. I was back home, off the road, and well-fed. The cats are always good company. The afternoon clear and cool.


 Two bowls of Sour Diesel.

Now let's look at the rock.  Get out the steel wool and sandpaper. Clean up all the sketchy, sloppy, artsy looking lines. Bit by bit it's coming along.