See Me
October 25, 2017

Concept/Study for upcoming painting.

 

see me 30

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Cruise with a View….part one
October 20, 2017

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Although I’d sailed in 1966 on an older ship from Canada to England, I’d never been on a cruise. This ocean cruise was a whole different cup of tea. It was a seven-day cruise leaving from Long Beach, CA with two stops in Mexico: Cabos San Lucas (two days) and a stop in Puerto Vallarta for a day with two sea days back to Long Beach port.

We were lucky to have been asked to join a family of a friend, and together we travelled with a composition of  slightly over two thousand guests and close to nine hundred crew members. All from many walks of life, countries, backgrounds and mind sets. The goal of Carnival Cruise Lines was to arrange and create something from this mix, and forge a unified whole from the hearth using the sun and fun. Our purpose was to enjoy ourselves.

To me, more than the surface aspect of cruising, this trip was a snapshot into humanity as it surrounds us. It became a metaphor for learning and my view of that metaphor.

Upon arriving to embark, I was totally impressed with the boarding agents and their efficiency. Adding to this, was the beauty of the ship, how clean everything was and the friendliness of the crew we encountered.

Our cabin was roomy, (photo of Joe included) with an efficient bathroom, super comfortable beds  and this towel art, which changed daily:

 

Every time there was a new towel art figure in our room, it conjured up childhood memories to me. Remembering the warmth I felt when mom would wrap a towel around me when I got out of the bath. Memories of long gone pets. Memories from when my parents took me to the zoo. Feelings of softness, warmth and love during my up bringing. Such a simple gesture with the power to make me appreciate how fortunate I am.

There was a mailbox outside the cabin door for events and notices, and inside on the wall were cards for room service, non disturbance and our service team for the cabin. About this time, there was an announcement that lunch would be served on the Lido Deck until 3:30pm, so we headed in that direction. Our suitcases and bags would arrive later.

We took the stairs up eight fights so we could see some of the ship. Art pieces hung on each landing and there were art glass pieces encased behind protection in the corners.

When we reached the Lido deck, and the multiple eating areas and restaurants, it seemed we had joined all of the other two thousand guests. We had to wait a bit to get a table before we could look around and choose something to eat. I found out by the end of the cruise, that the first and last eating sessions on a ship are completely full and bring out the best and worst in people. This was my introduction to some of the unpleasant traits of human nature: excess and greed.

We secured a table, and as we waited for the rest of our group to join us, I watched as plates piled high with food passed us. Endless food of all descriptions: pot roast, chicken and fish (fried, roasted or grilled), vegetarian, vegetable and starch selections, fresh fruit, regular and gluten-free breads and meals, deli sandwiches, smoked salmon plates, pizzas, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, roast pork, pastas, multiple ethnic including Chinese food, salad bar selections, dessert plates, beverages and more. Too many to list.

After everyone arrived at our table we took turns getting food so as not to lose the table. As I passed other tables I couldn’t help but notice all of the half eaten food plates left behind, as the same people were digging into another plate piled high. Waiters were busy picking up plates with left-overs, that never seemed to end. And, as soon as the waiters had cleared these, replacement plates were piled up faster than they could pick-up. It was organized insanity.

I didn’t know if the factor that drove this phenomena was (a) it was free, (b) guests felt they paid for the food, therefore everything was game on, (c) guests who might not have had an opportunity in the past to try some of these choices had the opportunity now, and they tried some new things, didn’t like what they tried and left the rest, or (d) didn’t care. Judging by the amount of waste I saw, I grouped it under the former heading of excess and greed. I added waste.

(After having been in the food and hospitality business for over forty-five years, I didn’t have any food on the ship that wasn’t good, great or exceptional, in taste, quality and eye appeal. As a matter of fact it left me feeling spoiled and appreciative).

 

After lunch, we went back to the cabin to see if our luggage had arrived. It hadn’t, so we took time out to explore the ship.

I didn’t take photos of everything that was available to guests on our ship. There was a full gym (I used the stairs instead….which turned out to be not enough exercise for the weight I gained) on two levels with a full spa, steam and sauna. Water slide, exclusive over 21 areas, multiple pools for children and adults with their own food and drink bars, basketball court, ping-pong, miniature golf, whirlpools, private decks, library, art gallery, games room, many cocktail lounges, extra pay dining rooms, the four-story theatre and arts center, 24/7 fresh sushi bar, coffee bars, the comedy club, piano bar, the disco/nightclub, casino and on and on. Along with the numerous function areas, there were daily activities, directed by an excellent cruise director.

 

For the guests, this vessel seemed on the outside, to be a self-contained floating city of fun and excitement. An escape from reality that could possibly solve some of their problems in life, even be it for a week. I found the Carnival crew went out of their way to try to fulfil the needs of every guest and make them feel like each and everyone of them was the most important person on earth. That in itself was an insurmountable task. People end up bringing their individual worlds with them. Worlds of inner pain that keep surfacing outwardly through action, deed or expression of self. Overhearing conversations as we participated in activities on board made this apparent. I’ve always felt, that inner pain, is just a lack of love on some level. This vessel and it’s amenities were the temporary compensation being used to fill this ache that never seems to disappear.

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Our first stop was Cabos San Lucas. Carnival brought in ‘tenders’ to take us to shore. We didn’t sign up for the excursions that were available on board. We wanted to take our chances on shore to see what we could experience.

We were surrounded with options when we reached the shore for scuba diving, glass bottom boats, deep-sea fishing and private boat tours to El Arco and End Rock. The on board Carnival tour was $35/person, but we ended up accepting a private tour for $11/person.

 

There is a photo here of ‘Last Rock’ with a sea-lion perched on top of the rock. At first we thought it was a statue, but as we got closer and we circled the area, the sea lion would change its pose. We were all laughing because the sea loin did it for all the boats that approached.. Major ham and great entertainment. He should be paid for all the photos that were taken of him.

Afterwards we walked the main boardwalk and stopped in at a couple of places, one being Senor Frogs. Lot’s of fun and the hot chips and salsa made the beers go down easier.

We had to be back on the ship by 4:00pm because it would cruise the coast during the night and come back in the morning for the second day where we’d have from 7:00am till 3:00pm on shore again if we wanted. We went back to the ship, got cleaned up and waited in a lounge for everyone to arrive before we went into the dining room for our dinner.

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I found the dinner meals exceptional. As Trump would say, ‘tremendous’ selection, and it was different every night. Always six or seven appetizers to choose from, a ‘unique item’ like veal tongue, or frog legs or rabbit, etc., plus a selection from the grill with assorted sauces, or two vegetarian meals and a selection of six or seven desserts. Hence, the added pounds when I stepped on the scales at home.

Concept / Study……. for my next painting
October 6, 2017

Propensity To Please 10 Aspect Corrected

Concept / Study for my next painting: “Propensity to Please”, Oil on canvas 16″ x 20″ Surreal. Here man is emerging from the ocean of life. There is a black arrow for direction, our inside ‘knowing’. Behind him etched into the crashing wave is the face of God, his divine connection. Always there, but not always recognized. Surrounding him is turmoil and black holes (eyes) representing choices and paths that are available if we look. Overhead is desire and temptation, always with the possibility of being swept up into the unknown. Hidden in the shadows are helping hands and guardians. His blindfold is marked with the symbols of truth and friends.

Road Trip……..day five
October 6, 2017

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After the continental breakfast included by the hotel, and frost on the car windows, we were on the road by 7:00am. Even though it was only 42 degrees when we left Mammoth, we wore shorts and a T-shirt because we knew the day would be much warmer in the valley below. Overall  the day temperature was a comfortable mid nineties. We passed Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine and entered Death Valley. Most of the roads we’ve travelled on this trip were either in great shape or newly paved this year. I really enjoyed the topography, ups and downs, ascending and descending from all the different elevations. Our first stop was Father Crowley Point. The view from here was vast and endless with an empty simplicity. Most noticeably, there was an incredible quiet.

Next stop was Stovepipe Wells Village, where we stopped for lunch. Two bread sandwiches (oh, forgot there was a paper-thin slice of meat in it), and a coke came to $18.00. Sitting on the rocking chairs on the porch, outside the general store and eating the sandwiches though, made the experience……actually fun.

After lunch, we headed for Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes (reminded me of the sand dunes on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands where we’d go and slide down on the dunes on our backs or stomach….I was 17, and much younger then) and the Harmony Borax Works.

After this, we headed for Furnace Creek Visitor Center, but being a Sunday it was closed. Next destination the Devil’s Golf Course. The landscape looks like a golfer had left thousands of divots strewn over a few thousand acres. These divots are mostly composed of salt deposits. I took a close-up photo of one below.

Badwater Basin was next on our list.

Artist’s Drive is a one-way road through the mountains that looks like it has been painted with hues of red, green, blue, rust and purples. There are steep dips and turns on the road and Disneyland modelled their car ride in California Adventure after this Drive. This Artist’s Drive is much longer and four times the fun. The scenery of the mountains and colors are outstanding and even breath-taking at some points. Our photos don’t do it justice. A real must do if you get out this way.

Just after this drive we headed back to the main road. Shortly after the junction on the main road, there is the historic Oasis Hotel. It is undergoing a major renovation at this time. It is in the middle of no-where and looks like a mirage oasis brought down from heaven. Exotic palms and trees were being planted around the site and it’s a stark contrast to the landscape. It is going to be the place to stay when it is finished. The photo below is the way it looked before the renovation.

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Moving on, our next destination was Zabriskie Point.

After this we were going to go to 20 Mule Team Canyon, but the road in was long and not in good shape (very rough gravel). Not worth the damage it might do to the car. So, we headed to our last Death Valley site; Dante’s View. It’s a long way to the top with hair-pin curves and a steep incline. When you get to the top, all you can smell is the burnt rubber and hot oil from vehicles engines.

This ended our stay in Death Valley. We were heading east now to Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House. It has a long history and I’ve borrowed the link from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amargosa_Opera_House_and_Hotel

Our final destination for the trip is Pahrump, Arizona. We headed east and arrived around 5:00pm. We figured we’d stay at one of the casino hotels, have a good meal and head back to Palm Springs tomorrow. Below is a chuck wagon outside our room in the courtyard and a photo of inside the casino.

 

 

 

 

 

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Road Trip…….day four
October 4, 2017

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We left Denny’s in Merced at 7:00am. Our first stop was Mariposa an old mining town from the gold rush era. It’s present claim to fame is its musical festivals usually held in June of each year on their fairgrounds. We would have stayed here instead of Merced, but we wouldn’t have arrived until much later and the motel prices were substantially higher. Overall, I guess it wouldn’t have mattered on the time basis as we were up most of the night anyways. Something we look back on and just laugh. The town is wonderfully charming with its hanging flower baskets and you should check out the original courthouse.

 

After Mariposa, we entered Yosemite National Park. We decided to head for the furthest point in the park…Glacier Point. It is a long drive with incredible scenery on either side of the road and well worth the trip just for the view. We were lucky, as all the signs in the park said all roads were open, even though they had recent snow and a forest fire. Areas we passed were still smoldering and there was some smoke and haze lingering, but over all the views were perfect. When we came down the mountain, the rangers were already directing traffic away from Glacier Point, as it was at capacity. It was exceptionally busy even though this was off-season. We were glad we went here first and early.

 

You can really see a major portion of the park from this vantage point. Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Half Dome included. It gives you great perspective and makes you feel small and insignificant when you take in its vastness. Our next stop would be Tunnel View with a few stops for photos in the snow. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia was closed for restoration. There is numerous hiking trails, cliff climbing, soaring and trail riding available. Even free shuttles around the Valley. We were here on a day trip so we limited our hiking to about two hours for the area around Mirror Lake.

 

The roads in the park were quite busy with lots of traffic. At some of the sight-seeing spots, we had to drive through the parking lot three or four times to get ‘lucky’, just to get a parking space. The longest wait we had been at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel where it took us an hour to park. After Tunnel View we headed for Bridalveil Fall.

Bridalveil Fall

 

After waiting an hour to park at the Yosemite Hotel, we hiked to Mirror Lake, which happened to have a very low water level. The walk was great and invigorating, and again with endless beauty. We passed a lot of bike riders on the walk and some campers and serious hikers. The creek that flows from Mirror Lake had enormous rocks in it. It makes you wonder how and when they got there. Some were the size of a small house.

 

Back in the car, we drove to Yosemite Village and the Visitor Center. We picked-up a lot of information on the park at the Center and took time to talk to a few Rangers. From this point on we would head out of the park. Next stop, Tioga Road and closer views of Tenaya Lake.

 

The scenery was beginning to change as were the mountains. The passes through the mountains led us up sometimes and down other times. We passed Lee Vining and came to Mono Lake. Mono lake had receded quite a bit also. It was down 40 feet from its original height.

 

On the road again to our final destination for the day….Mammoth Lakes. We arrived at 6:00pm and checked into our hotel. We asked for a good place to eat at the desk and the manager recommended a restaurant a few doors down from our hotel, or we could take the bus, or walk downtown (20 minutes) and go to the Village. He also mentioned that Oktoberfest was on and it was quite the happening. We lucked out again with our timing. We went to our room, settled in, cleaned up and decided we’d take the brisk, chilly walk to the Village and Oktoberfest. When we arrived there was a few large tents with traditional German music and full menus of Oktoberfest food (Yummmmmmm!) and a lot of people dressed in German garb. Beer in authentic steins, schnapps and German wines were available with the food.

 

We filled up on food and walked around the village. By the time we’d done this we were starting to feel the cold and I convinced Eberhard to go to one of the restaurants inside and have a final glass of wine at the bar, so we could warm up before the trek back to the hotel. Enough said. Tomorrow….Death Valley.

Road Trip…….day three
October 3, 2017

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Coffee was all we needed on our third day start. We left the hotel and hopped on the 101 North. We wanted to make it to the Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel. From there we’d head east to Merced and stay the night there, so we’d be able to have an early start to Yosemite on the following morning.

 

 

The Central Valley is just amazing. Our route took us through Atascadero, Paso Robles, King City, Greenfield and to Salinas. There were endless fields of every vegetable, nut-tree, fruit tree and vineyard. Just knowing that it supplies over half of all the nuts, vegetables and fruits for the United States is reason enough to be in awe. And we just take it for granted. It gave me great respect and appreciation for such a fragile commodity, just driving through this area. The fields and orchards are an endless sea of beauty. And although, there are plenty of opportunities to take in wine tastings at the many numerous vineyards, we’re saving that for another trip when that will be the main focus.

At Salinas, we headed west towards the ocean. By passing Carmel and Monterey for now, until we returned. We headed to our furthest North destination, the Bixby Creek bridge and Big Sur. Big Sur is as far as we could go on the coastal road because of the landside that removed the road further up, earlier this year.

 

With a short stop in Big Sur we headed back to Carmel, the Seventeen Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest.

 

Pebble Beach and its famous homes and golf courses are everything you can imagine wealth can bring. Partial views of private mansions hugging the ocean, equestrians on horseback, golfers on the pristine links and beautiful hotels and people make this area all that is written about it real, but distant, at the same time. Got money? We stopped at the Point Pinos Lighthouse for thirty minutes, and listened to volunteers tell us its very interesting history and current use.

 

Ending up close to Monterey, we travelled into the beach area for a bite to eat. We found Lalla Grill, a contemporary waterfront restaurant in Cannery Row. There were breathtaking views of the ocean and surroundings, including a cruise ship moored just off the coast, from the front windows where we were seated.  We treated ourselves to lobster and shrimp rolls. Sounds better than it tasted. The Mornay sauce on the seafood masked the delicate taste and overpowered the lobster and shrimp. A simple lemon butter sauce would have been better. But it was a much-needed break from the long drive so far. By 3:30pm, we were on our way west towards Merced.

Not very good photos, but wanted to remember the unbelievable prices of fruits and vegetables from stands along the roads. We saw large Haas avocados, 6/$1.00, a whole flat of giant strawberries for $10.00 , corn, 6/$1.00, and on and on.

With traffic and only a two lane highway, we ended up at our destination of Merced, four hours later at 7:45pm. This began our one night stay at the Motel (6) From Hell.

Bordered by a one way street in front (next to the freeway) and the loading docks of Costco in the rear of the building, we finally found the entrance to the motel, hidden behind a Carl’s Jr. parking lot. Not yet dismayed, we checked in and asked for a room as far away from the freeway as possible. The manager accommodated us by putting us in the inner courtyard, next to the pool. We weren’t hungry so we settled in and watched a little local TV before bedding down.

It wasn’t long before we were woken by the sounds of someone in the room above us making loud sex, accompanied by the freeway traffic noise. This went on for a while, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, until there was a sudden stop in the noise. And then, a huge THUD on the ceiling above us. One or both had fallen out of bed. It was a Friday night and people have to have fun. Things seemed to quiet down upstairs after this and we heard them discussing getting some ice.  Their door opened and closed loudly, and one person left to get ice.

Now there was a new noise….a train going 90 miles an hour with its whistle blowing. Who knew there were train tracks next to the freeway. It sounded like it was coming right through our room. The trains continued into the night about one every half hour, mixed with the arrival of eighteen wheelers at the loading dock of Costco. Every hour there were the soft sounds of the beep, beep, beep, beep as they backed their trucks into position.

The gentleman returned to the room above us (let’s call him Sam) with ice, but the door was locked. He knocked, but there was no answer. He knocked again, and still no answer. Then we heard “Ruth open the door”. Still no answer. Continued knocking with phrases like, “Ruth please open the door”, and “Ruth, open the door”. Then Sam began to bang on the door, “Come on Ruth, open the f**king door”, and shortly afterwards saying, “Ruth, sweetie, please open the door”. “Ruth, don’t be an a**hole”. “Open this f**king door”. Their next door neighbor upstairs, then came out, a lady with the sweetest voice and she tried to get Ruth to open the door. No luck. Then Sam threatens to get the manager to open the door. Still no luck. Along with the above phrases and some worse ones, accompanied with pounding and kicking on the door, an hour and a half passed. Finally, Sam got the manager (3:30am) to open the door and there was no Ruth.

We managed to get a couple hours of sleep. The trains and eighteen wheelers had subsided and the freeway now sounded life a soft muffle. The saving grace? We found a GREAT Denny’s (who knew?) a block away where we had a breakfast special, great service and coffee and was just a block from the freeway entrance to Yosemite.

Oh Lordy, Let There Be No Tapes
June 12, 2017

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I wake up to birds outside screaming because I’m late. Usually I’m outside on the patio by now taking in the morning-glory of life. So I move my unresponsive legs off the bed hoping to find the floor and Eberhard says, “Careful, careful”. I make my way to the bathroom to relieve myself. All goes well except for the thoughts that start running through my head as memories from last night start to float past me. I get to the sink to wash my hands and lo and behold there’s a huge zit on my upper lip between my nose and mouth. What? Who gets this at 68? Last week it was one on my nose. God hates me.

I make coffee (I only have one cup a day, but I love it in the morning) and I make my way out to the patio to take in life for the day. I’m naked. Not a pretty site, but I’m protected (and so is the world) by an 8 foot wall around me. The birds start laughing at me in great furor. I am not my usual self, ready to take a moment to meditate. Instead I have these flashbacks….”oh my God, did I do that?” Jeff (karaoke man) why didn’t you stop me?” And Bobby,  you were suppose to keep me in check….. you even said to others that “I was never the same after my mild stroke.”

The evening was enlightening. We started out by meeting friends and their family relatives visiting from Georgia. It’s our ‘solving the world’s problems’ (Trump, etc.) get together that we have occasionally on a Sunday. Of course we discuss the delicate matters over a few glasses of wine. It was a very interesting perspective, not one we were accustomed to, as we tried to figure out why people are attracted to Trump, and why they can believe his rhetoric. We surmised, part of it was education, another part was environment and what they see around them, but mostly it was what people don’t see as they view their lives from  a finite perspective. In conclusion we decided “not to worry”…..this too will pass.

Dancing in front of the karaoke singers was just part of it. There was the bus ride from our beginning location to the karaoke bar. We got the whole bus to ‘rock’. Everyone got off at our stop and the bus driver was relieved, just hoping for a few more silent moments until his shift finished. Still, I remember Jeff encouraging myself and Bobby to sing. Not a nice picture or sound for that matter. Everyone run……run for your lives.

In conclusion, at some point in time, we all need a little release on whatever level makes us comfortable.  Just look at the TV in this moment. Trump, is surrounded by his cabinet in their absorbent moment of self-aggrandizement.  This is their moment of release.

True or False?

A Thought
June 2, 2017

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You can never change what a person believes. You can only change how they see love.

Aren’t We Just Our Own Worst Enemy?
May 7, 2017

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We have our life. We live it. It’s ours. We claim it and we hold it dear. We think it’s ‘right’ or ‘just’ or ‘believable’, maybe even ‘memorable’. But we hold it hostage to ‘change’.

We hear things, see things, and even know things, but still we hold back from transforming into who we truly are. Why can’t we be like a flower that grows, a bee that makes honey, or a sea that ebbs and flows? Having the ‘knowing’ that lifts us to where we should be.

We live our life in an endless treadmill of mediocrity without purpose while our minds eat us up on all levels.

Our purpose here is to have some form of purpose. If you can’t think of any purpose you were here for, you must choose something that takes your mind away from ‘yourself’.

Don’t make it difficult. It can be as simple as saying “My purpose is to love as much as I can”.

Something this simple will change you and the world.

We are all here to carry out some purpose. Stop thinking about ‘yourself’ and ‘your life’, your problems’, etc… ‘Yourself’ will always be there.

Your ‘love’ is what is truly needed.

 

Beginning of………
February 3, 2017

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