Monday, November 29, 2021

Into the Season

 Into the Season

Thanksgiving has passed us by. It's Sunday night as I'm sitting here at the desktop. Mary and I just finished four days of eating turkey. The last chapter in the dinner saga is turkey and rice soup. Enough. But the holiday went well. We hosted my brother Don's family, and I did the traditional dinner, right down to doing gravy from scratch. We said grace, and feasted well. Despite this ugly age and time there still  much to be grateful for. 

I made some decent progress on the stone this week,  even though I lost a lot of time getting the house together for Thanksgiving. Drilling was the big project. I had to open up the top of the figure, the head, I guess you could call it. The jig I made for drilling across the base was useless for this task. I used the old Craftsman power drill, and the 3/8" masonry bit to send in two holes, each four inches deep, ninety degrees apart, and at different heights. One hole had to tag the other right at the end point:


 Here's me patting myself on the back. But there is still a lot of excavation that needs done, all of it in close tight spaces, and none of it easy. Sometimes I get frustrated trying to figure out how I'm going to get in to do some of this stuff, and then I remember whose plan I'm following. When you're self-taught, you learn from an instructor who doesn't know what he's doing. You can't complain about the boss being an asshole, and giving you stupid hard projects when you're the boss. So here's the progress as we roll into the Christmas season. 


There's a part of me that wants to do something inspiring, a piece all full of optimistic spirit, reaching for the light, aspiring to  ethereal grace. But the form emerging from the rock is sullen, gnarled, and grotesque. It's the product of a dialogue between creative energy, low spirits, a dark, and angry mind set, and a jagged chunk of jewel-like stone. A beautiful monster, I guess you could say. But it's Monday. The sun is out, and the morning is clear and warm. Got work to do, and that's a blessing.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Deeper into the Fall

  Deeper into the Fall

Art doesn't just happen; you gotta' hire some clown to make it.



We just crossed the middle of November, and we're about a week away  from Thanksgiving. Time doesn't march on, it sprints. Nonetheless, I always end up posting about stuff that happened almost ten days ago. It's Tuesday the 16th as I'm typing out the first thoughts of the week, and I'm reflecting on the events of last Saturday, the 13th. But this won't go on line until next Monday the 22nd. Just trying to keep it as confusing as I can.

But yeah, last Saturday, I missed the So Cal RatRod Ride for (I think) only the second time since I founded the event in 2012. I didn't want to miss the ride, but I have just so much energy for a day, and forty miles of driving, and four hours of bike ride was too much to do before hosting a party. I was kind of apprehensive about the day, but, like I said last week, the family reunion gathering went down as one of the best events we've ever held in the Gazebo. Mary's decision to overhaul the yard led to John Hill and I building the little structure. What we got for our time, cash, and labor is priceless.

What we got. What we have. Where we are. What's to come? It's late in the game for all of us. My brothers? The three of us couldn't be more different if we made an effort. I doubt we'd agree on much of anything regarding politics, religion, or current events. But like Confucius says: You can pick your nose, but you can't pick your family. We were all of us very very glad to be able to get together once more. Controversial stuff never made it to the table. The day was wonderful, but it's doubtful if I'll ever see the whole family together  like this again, and that makes me sad. Ross, and his partner, Pacho are back in New York. Don, his kids,  and ex-wife will be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, but then Don will head back to Thailand. 

Ross has  the trapeze school, the theater, writing, the daily high voltage life in Manhattan. And his partner. Pacho is a great guy. He's a character straight out of a TV sitcom, clicking all the boxes: Bright, funny, charming, personable to a fault, and hugely talented in a zillion different ways.

I understand why  Don, my other brother, is going back to Thailand.  Our California is long gone, paved over, and crowded out. He is living his dream as well, the slow life in a tropical paradise where it's always warm, green, and beautiful. Good surfing nearby, and no crowds ever.

And I am right here at home, living with my beloved wife, Mary. We're in the house that my mother and grandmother bought when my mother divorced my dad in '72. I am within walking distance from where the first house once stood that my family rented when we moved to California, back in December of 1963. I haven't gone far, and I do not regret that.  I am a typical Boomer, I guess,  living out the remnant of a middle-class suburban lifestyle that is rapidly fading off into the past.

I love the simple life I have been gifted. Despite the awfulness of the current day and time, life, for Mary and me, has gone on with little interruption compared to what so  many have suffered.
I am acutely aware of the many blessings we have in our lives, and profoundly grateful for them. Don and Ross are both happy, and I am happy for them. Life has been good to all of us, each to our own way.

Even so.

I wrote last week that this whole episode has left me in a deep melancholy. I feel the years; time and days are old and thin. 



So anyway, here is the progress on the stone for the week. An accurately drilled hole through the base made the excavation easy. I've reached a stage of the artistic 'burn' where all I really want to do is work. 


"Hey, you want to go ride the bike? Want to go out?" 

"No. I Leave me alone. I just want to work." 

It's Sunday night as I sit typing this. After carving all morning I took the bike out for about an hour. Except for a small errand yesterday, this was the first time I've left the grounds in many days.  I gotta' get out more.

But I also need to drill...

Monday, November 15, 2021

Seeing into the stone

Seeing into the Stone 

At some point in an art project, the artist should have a clear idea of what the finished product should look like. Of course if the artist is doing a likeness of a person for a statue or a portrait, he knows before he sets out. Too, a representational work has a very clear criterion for evaluation: Does the portrayal, at the very least, resemble the subject?

An abstract work is free from the constraint of having to resemble any particular subject matter. An artist can begin such a work without a hundred percent clear idea of how the finished piece will look. Even so, all the rules still apply. Balance, symmetry, grace, proportion, all have to work together, and add up to beauty. The finished work should be pleasing to the eye.

It's Monday night as I'm sitting here typing out these thoughts. I'm pleased with the progress on the stone, but I'm also stalled. Here's where I drag out my over used comment about climbing a rock. Yeah, I'm stuck on a damn ledge, or something. It's the whole ridgeline arcing down the front, and into the bulbous nose end of the piece. This is going to be the most prominent feature on the carving, and I'm going round in circles trying to sort it out. I don't know how many times I've thought, "Yeah, GOT IT!", and then said, "No, not quite."

Well, I got it.

It's Friday night. I've decided how to shape the bulbous piece, the "nose" at the low point of the wedge. I made some good progress excavating the hollows. The point chisels really speed the work along, but I'm still not deft enough to avoid bruising the stone. That's a problem with any alabaster, but especially in translucent material. A sharp blow to the stone will leave a white bruise that can go down a couple of millimeters. The clear stuff on this rock is hard and tough, but it seems to bruise easily. Proceed slowly and with caution. 

I'm just about ready to drill through the base. I set up the jig yesterday, and marked out where the first two holes are going to go. It's going to be an awkward set up, resting the rock on sheets of plywood, and 2x4's to get the drill bit lined up at the correct height. Then I'll have to strap it down on the table with the ratchet, then shoot the  drill, undo it all, and set it up again for the next hole.

But all this is on hold for a day.

My brothers are both coming to So Cal for a visit, one from New York City, and the other from Thailand, where he's been doing the ex-pat thing. My niece and nephew, and their mother, whom I seldom see will be here also.

It's an impromptu family reunion, unscheduled, and un-planned, but holding parties is what Mary and I do. It's sort of our thang, y'know? We got the fixings to do tacos, Mexican style. I do not get all stressed when I'm holding gatherings for our friends, but I'm stressing over this one. Truth to tell, I don't see eye-to-eye with either of my brothers on much of anything relating to religion, politics, and current events. I spend over three hours  every day reading up on the shit. Reading. No videos, no podcasts, no television. I have no patience for "the narrative", and I absolutely will not engage in discussion, or argument. My worldview, and opinions are hard set, and not up for re-consideration. I don't get into arguments either on-line, or in person. Nobody changes anybody's mind on any of this stuff. I purely hate talking about it.

And I'm worried about my cat. Wednesday, Buddy the Cat looked like he was favoring his right foreleg. Today, Friday, he's listless, complaining...

Anyway, I'm calling the vet tomorrow morning first thing. Another item on the agenda.

...and now, Saturday morning. Buddy the Cat seemed a little better this morning when I gave him his fish. We'll see how he's doing when the sun comes up. I'm dreading the day...

Sunday morning. The kitchen is still a mess.  Buddy the cat seems to be doing better. The Skinamalink is bugging me to go outside. I'm on my third cup of coffee. But we had a good day, yesterday. We had an unbelievably good day. Nobody got going on politics, and current events. But somehow, the day left me exhausted, and melancholy. If life was a book, the heavy part would now be in my left hand. Despite the warmth of the day, the gathering had the feeling of a chapter very late in the story. All things must pass, including all of us.

Anyhow, not much work got done on the project this week. Here are the latest pics.



 See the purple marks on the base? I'll be drilling this week. Tune in for the next exciting chapter!

Monday, November 8, 2021



Buddy the Cat



November started off cold, gray, and quiet. It's been a trying, and very expensive week. Last Saturday's party was a lot of work, and it came to a long, slow, very late, and not very pleasant end. I love my weed, but I do not drink. Mary, and the gals love their wine, but whiskey hits a party like a wrecking ball. I saw two fifths vanish within the space of an hour, and the results weren't pretty. I hate to be a blue nose, but I'm seriously considering banning hard liquor from our gatherings. Sunday was a day to straighten up the mess, and then just flop. 

Last Monday started with the tax bill. I'll say this much, and change the topic. I'm about ready for French Revolution II. I'd love to see this "Government" shoved into tumbrils, and dragged whimpering and wailing to a date with Madame Guillotine.

OK, enough anger.

Like I said, first thing in the week was a tax bill, then the insurance bill, then Wednesday was a six-hundred dollar vet bill for the Skinamalink. Thursday morning, as always, I got up in the dark, and Buddy the Cat, and The Most Mysterious Skinamalink were waiting for me in the kitchen. I took the bowl of tuna fish from the refrigerator, spooned out a little for the cats, set the bowl aside, and started making the coffee.  Yes, the cats get their tuna before I get my coffee. Buddy the Cat is as loud as a firetruck, and the meeyowling drowns our even the coffee grinder. But in the time it took me to brew coffee, an ant swarm charged in from behind the switch plate and completely covered the bowl of fish. The whole kitchen counter was alive with the goddamn things. So before I got my coffee, I spent a fun session with a spray bottle of Windex squirting down the ants on the counter . We can add a visit from the exterminators to the financial damage.

Monday it was back to work on the stone. Even here in So Cal, the weather is now cold enough that I don't get to work until late in the morning, so progress is slow. I'm just about to the place where I have to drill in order to take care of all the excavation that needs done. Wednesday, John came over, and helped me  build a jig for my big power drill. I need to be able to shoot a series of long straight holes through  the wide base of the stone. It's easy enough to make the drill go in at exactly the right spot, but it's tricky as hell making it come out exactly at the right spot. Twenty years ago, I seemed to be able to hit the bullseye without any effort, but on my last few attempts, my aim wasn't all that good. I'll find out how well my invention works any day, now.



The carving is shaping up with an inner figure protruding from the hollow of an outer shell. But it's  going to be tough to do the shaping in the confines of the inner space. We shall see what progress this week brings.

But finishing up with the small doings around here, Yesterday, was the first Sunday of the month and that means the Cyclone Coaster antique and classic bike ride. I feel a little guilty, writing about this event without posting pictures. It's been a monthly tradition for over ten years, now, and we tend to take it for granted, and forget to bring cameras. I don't do the phone-cam thing. Sunday was the bi-annual swap meet that has been postponed for the last year because of the virus bullshit. Holy cow, I could easily have trashed my bank account at that event.

But bikes were not the main event for us, Sunday. The event was having our good friend, and club member Dave come out to ride again. Dave's had a brutal battle with cancer. Friends set him up with an electric assist three-wheeler. This was his first ride after a long tough struggle. Having him cruise with us again made the ride feel like a family reunion.

And so, November. It has been a little over six months since I got back to to work. Winter is just about here. Even in  So Cal that means a season of crappy weather, and slow production. Slow progress is still progress. I'll take whatever the day has to offer.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Digging For The Light


 Digging For The Light


Holy cow, it's November already. Eight months have passed since the burn to work re-lit. Four new projects are completed. I'm grinding away on this one, and enjoying doing it. The work is a gift for which I am most grateful. 


 In the last post I was considering some of the challenges that come up in shaping a chunk of stone like this one, and I referred to the work as being a kind of dialog between the ideas in my head, and the reality of the rock on the table in front of me. I mentioned that I had wanted to approach this from a set plan, but this ragged chunk of fossilized lake bed just isn't going to work that way. The stone speaks first, and sets the terms of the discussion. And in this case, the dialog with this wide-assed rock is turning into a date with a gorgeous chick who turns out to be a petulant, whiny bitch. It's too wide here, and too narrow there. Hard here, and soft there. Flat here, curvy, and convoluted there. The backside will not take kindly to being messed with at all, and the single most beautiful, jewel-like feature on the stone is exactly in a place that needs to get dug out, and excavated.. 

Even so, we are working together, staring, then planning, then working, then stopping and staring, planning...  and this whole piece has been sort of evolving. There's a ton of beauty in this chunk of California, and I'm going to bring it to the light. Maybe I can wedge that  metaphor about a "dialog with the stone" into the scene in the corny movie where the homely girl gets a make over, and goes all Cinderella on everyone.

Just havin' a ball, here y'know?

It has been a week of distractions around the suburban hermitage. Wednesday, I popped out the sliding screen doors  from the back, and took them in to get re-screened. And then the Most Mysterious Skinamakink showed up with a badly abscessed wound on his neck. Cat fight. That meant a six hundred dollar visit to the vet, and a few days of pills, and house arrest for the poor cat. And of course it was a hot two days, with no screen doors at the back so the sliding glass doors were shut, and the house got all hot, and the cat was crabby. Somehow, we survived it all. The cat is doing much better.

 Our Halloween gathering Saturday turned kind of sour, also. We're not shy about partying at all, but a couple of guys brought whiskey. Dangerous stuff.  I saw two fifths disappear within the space of an hour, and ended up with some very drunk guests. I love my weed, and I'll occasionally take a ride on the mushroom, but I do not drink, and I don't like being around folks when they're drunk. But everyone made it home OK, and as far as I know, they all escaped well-deserved hangovers.


So here's the progress on the stone this week. I still have a long, long ways to go, but what I'm seeing is making me happy. This form is going to have a lot of open space, and will show some beautiful translucence, and color, but the deep excavation yet to come is going to be a challenge. It's all about working the light. The deeper I dig, the more the light shines in the stone. This thing is going to glow like a lamp. My friend John is coming over Wednesday, and we're going to build a jig to do the long drilling across the wide base of this monster. All kinds of fun!