See Me
October 25, 2017

Concept/Study for upcoming painting.

 

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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 6, final day
October 6, 2017

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Just north of Barstow on I-15 we pulled off the road to see Calico Ghost Town. It was an old silver mine from the 1800s. There is a few tours you can take that lead you underground (reminds me of Echo Bay Mines at Port Radium, Canada where I worked for five years), and through different mining operations from that time.

From here we headed through the Morongo and Yucca Valleys home. Our total mileage 1554 miles or about 300 miles a  day. We wanted to see as much as we could in the time allotted. Some areas I would definitely return to and spend the whole time in that place. It’s always nice to be home when you get there. Just recognizing another sign of appreciation when you open the door to home.

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 one
September 28, 2017

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As long as I’ve lived here in California, I really haven’t seen too much of its landscape or it’s ‘being’. Last week Eberhard and I took time out ( six days) and travelled around Southern California. Each day began around 6:00am and we travelled or ‘experienced’ until 8 or 9:00pm. Instead of trying to find radio stations to listen to along the way, we took some of our favorite CD’s from the 70’s and 80’s for memory flashbacks. As it happened, Ventura Freeway by the Eagles began to play just as we hit the sign over the freeway. Looks like a trip with synchronicity.

 

Our first stop was Ojai. I’d never been to Ojai and I’d always wanted to go. I heard it was a spiritual center and artist community. It’s a small town nestled in-between  mountains with a Spanish-style arcade and bell tower with a pergola across the street. We walked the downtown area and stopped for a bite to eat. Noticeably there were lots of organic choices from fruits, vegetables and olive oils, all locally supplied. Interesting artwork in the stores and a soft humbleness to the people we encountered. All were very warm, friendly and helpful.

After lunch we travelled out-of-town to an olive oil ranch. Ojai Olive Oil Company is a family owned ( Asquith family ) extra virgin olive oil producer in the east valley of Ojai. They offer tours, sampling and a really informative history of the valley and it’s products. We were greeted quite warmly by Mimi and she spent a few hours enlightening us to the olive trees, olives, growing techniques, right up to the final production of their olive oil. It’s the best I’ve ever tasted, with an extra fine light body, mellowness and smooth silkiness missing in pseudo brands and blends. Their whole story can be read online at http://www.ojaioliveoil.com. Worth the experience and a shopping trip.

From Ojai, we headed back to the freeway and our next stop, Santa Barbara. I had been here three times previously, as had Eberhard, so we mostly wanted to see things we’d missed on our previous trips: The Old Mission Santa Barbara with its history, and a return to the main peer. We were given the background of the Mission and its connections to all of the other Spanish Missions established in California. This one which is in current use by the Franciscan Friars. The video, museum rooms, cemetery and Sacred Garden kept us busy for a few hours.

Solvang was our next stop after Santa Barbara. Another city I had heard so much about and wanted to see. We arrived in the picturesque town and it was like stepping into Scandinavia. All of the buildings were Danish in style with bakeries, restaurants and merchants offering you a taste of Denmark. Replicas from Denmark dotted the city and as we approached our first bakery, we stepped in to have a Danish (of course) and coffee. We only ate two Danish (buy 2 get one free) and the last one we saved for the following morning. We lucked out because they had a farmers market going on while we were there and spent time looking at all the great food and products.

Since it was getting late, we made for the freeway again and to our final destination for the night; San Luis Obispo. We’re staying here for two nights and using it as a base for tomorrow’s excursions. Santa Maria and Pismo Beach were just short stays on our way to San Luis Obispo.

Bringing The Ocean To The Desert
July 13, 2017

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Artwork I just finished.

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 Tribute
May 28, 2017

Wendy

 

Wendy never really understood this world. Somehow it escaped her. She was always trying to accept what she couldn’t decipher.

From her early age on, she was different. It wasn’t just her choice of clothes or her haircut, it was how she expressed what she came into contact with. Probably the one gift she was given to share with the world, she missed out on, but only because she couldn’t understand why it was given to her. It was such a mesmerizing voice when in song.

At the age of six she became very ill one day. During those days, doctors would make house visits. Many unanswered calls and a no-show from the doctor left her with a final scream and then, pale white and limp on the sofa. Mom and us kids carried her unresponsive body to the car and mom drove her to emergency. Many hours later, mom returned, worn out and distraught. Wendy’s appendix had burst and because of complications and blood transfusions, she would be hospital bound for over a month. She was never really the same after that episode. It was surmised much later in her life that one of those transfusions was tainted and gave her an ailment which she fought for the rest of her life.

She did have happy times and relationships and she was loved. These all faded with time and lately, in her last days there seemed to be a hidden message in the letters she sent me and a look that reminded me of when I visit my mother-in-law at the nursing home. The look and feeling  that says “Someone hold me”, “Someone help me”, “Someone love me”.

The circumstances surrounding her death are still under investigation. There is a video tape of her outside her apartment at 11:00pm taking all of her clothes off  and reports of a naked woman running around the complex. Somewhere between then and early morning when a jogger found her body in the nearby stream, no one knows what happened. She had been on new medications and maybe there was an adverse reaction. Yesterday, the coroner and detectives were with my other sister who lives next door to Wendy in the same building. Until the autopsy and toxicology reports are back we won’t know what truly happened. They said this could take up to two weeks. Her apartment has been sealed until they establish the cause of death.

Deep down, I feel this was Wendy’s freedom call. As sad and as hurt as I feel, I am also happy for her freedom from pain.

On the patio this morning as I listened to the birds, all of a sudden there came a complete silence. This moment is for you Wendy. If I never said it enough while you were here, “I love you”.

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.

 

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