Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Catching up on photos

Shot this one blind out front of Yan Flower restaurant-- stretched my arm out and pointed the camera in order to get the background I wanted. Only took two tries, yay!

Messing around inside at the same restaurant, seeing what strange things I can make the camera do. Not much retouching on this one.

Same restaurant as we were leaving, I liked the cig holder and the rocks. Never have been a smoker myself but always liked the idea of breathing smoke and fire.

I never really get tired of mallards on water.

Another scene in my general neighborhood.

Last plum on the tree, in November. This one is about thumb sized.

One of Pipa's strange behaviors is finding odd nooks for herself. She's nervous because she knows we're moving.

Round the corner from us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sights around Santa Cruz we'll miss

Cute little raccoon: I see you!

After dark in mid-November. That girl in the foreground is wearing a bikini. Unbelievable.
She went swimming. If that were me you'd be calling the paramedics for hypothermia. Truth be told though, it really wasn't cold out.

Sheryl is going to say again "it didn't look like that." Well, it kinda did. That's west cliff seen from the wharf at sunset.

Maybe it looked more like this. Hard to say at the moment, how it really looked.
All the photos are clickable for a larger view.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pelican portrait

Relocating, looking for a new home.

Sheryl and I are getting ready to move by December first. We've known for a long time that our current home was temporary, and now it's time to go. Quite oddly, my brother who lives in Yorba Linda California, just had to evacuate his home with his wife and two kids to get out of the path of the Orange County wildfire. I don't even know if they've been able to return home yet, but the fire seems to have bypassed their immediate neighborhood.

Anyway, we ARE leaving and it's not my favorite thing to deal with all my stuff ! Even though over the course of several moves a lot of it has already been pared down.

Unless a better offer appears, we'll be going to Arizona. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. At the moment what I notice is that Sheryl and I have slightly different ideas about what the first step is. She's already started packing and I'm still working on "theory", but my theory is helping us to avoid some of the chaos, we both agree about that.

We do indeed hope for changes beyond relocating. Sheryl and I already put out a vision statement here and also here. But the condensed version is that we're looking to team up for mutual benefit with other like-minded individuals; moving our spiritual practice forward and beyond what it has been, same goes for our art and photography and of course Sheryl's perfume business, Mama Love Products. We're both authors too, but Sheryl has books currently available here and none of my writing is currently for sale anywhere.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Three photos, one walk.

"What's all this about meditation?" The sequel. It's nothing, really it's nothing. But then again, it's everything if you're still enough to see it.

You are my lucky star, my lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky star.

This is the actual, authentic view through rose colored glasses. Featuring an actual rose doing the colouring.

Evening walk to the wharf

Walked out on the pier and got this shot of the lighthouse in the distance after the sun went down. Sheryl made the immediate comment after seeing several shots of mine "It doesn't look like that in reality!" and I instantly answered "reality is for suckers." I keep trying to tell her that.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cartography: some cool maps of election results

A good friend sent me a link to some election results map breakdowns. Some pretty interesting stuff here.
I was surprised to see that the comparison between the electoral college map and the map comparing actual populations are pretty close-- but not exact. Some smaller States get a priority higher than their actual populations. Lots of cool variations on the theme. It's interesting enough just to see the different population densities of this country.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rather proud of my country right now

We're still evolving towards the future.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

"...Obama was the first Democrat to receive more than 50% of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. He is the first senator elected to the White House since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

With most U.S. precincts tallied, the popular vote was 52.3% for Obama and 46.4% for John McCain. In the electoral college, Obama was the projected winner of 349 votes to 147 for Republican McCain with three states -- North Carolina, Georgia and Missouri -- still to be decided.

In his victory, Obama also captured states that are generally Republican such as Indiana and Virginia, which hadn't supported a Democratic candidate in 44 years. Ohio and Florida, key to President Bush's twin victories, also went for Obama, as did Pennsylvania, where McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, spent much of the final days of the campaign..."

Here in Santa Cruz, about 78% voted for Barack Obama. Sheryl and I have made it no secret that we're liberal democrats. But at the same time I think it's very important that we respect each other for our differences as well as our sameness-- and to do not fall prey to judging each other where we might disagree.

Here's a map also from the L.A. times about proposition 8. It should come up as an interactive map showing who voted for what county by county. It's pretty interesting. The story isn't over yet. I don't like to see what I consider to be unconstitutional propositions put up for a vote, and I am a little surprised that it went this way in California, my home state. Gay Marriage is legal in Vancouver, BC. It's legal in Connecticut now. Legal in Massachusetts-- I don't think anybody is being harmed by equal treatment under the law.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A fun portrait session with Dr. Steven Stewart

It was my great pleasure to work with Dr. Steven Stewart, his staff and wonderful volunteers who did some modeling for us. Two out-takes from the shoot are pictured above. Click on them for a larger view.

His office is at 3811 Portola Dr, just past 38th on the way to 41st. Across the street from Big Creek Lumber. Green "Back In Shape Chiropractic" sign out front. Office number is 462-3550
Nice guy, it was fun.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Secrets of Enlightenment With Deepak Chopra"

If you get a chance, catch Deepak Chopra on PBS. He's really on a roll. I don't necessarily agree with him 100% (for example when he seems to refer to the hierarchical ordering of states of consciousness) but I tell you what, it's really good stuff and if you're inclined towards a secular and intellectual approach to spirituality it's well worth a listen and probably a purchase.

Seems to have been produced by public television--have been unable to find the DVD except through public television via a decent sized donation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to Sheryl !

Sheryl is 50 today. Happy happy happy! She posted some birthday videos here. We're going to see Sark tonight at a local bookstore. Not sure what we're doing today.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Great Egret Video

Walked up on a Great Egret in Santa Cruz, California at a local city park. He was feeding in a little trickle of a stream. I tried to hand-hold my little video camera at 34x zoom. Bad idea. I'm nowhere near that steady, and the on camera image stabilization is either primitive or non-existent. Otherwise we love our little Samsung and it was the cheapest bonified camcorder at Circuit City. I shot this at the lowest resolution and then compressed it way more for web use, but you can still generally see the bird. First time I've shot with a camcorder in years, first time editing in about ten years, first time use of iMovie and first take at a voice over, so, it is what it is.

Anyway, despite the shaky cam you get a decent enough look at a great egret and I did a voice-over explaining some of the differences between a Great Egret and the smaller Snowy Egret which looks very similar. Main differences: Great Egret is bigger and taller, has black feet which match his legs. Great Egret has a longer neck with a "hinged" appearance; not quite the smooth s-curve of the Snowy Egret. Snowy Egret has bright yellow feet. That's all I know, I'm no bird expert so take it with a grain of salt.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Good Question

"I was just wondering on how to meditate. I looked it up online but I just wanted to know how you do it. Is meditating just thinking about nothing? I learned at church that excessive worrying is like meditating on the wrong thing and I do that a lot....It would take a lot of will power for me to just not worry at all. "
~Britney Pieta

I actually would say that "thinking about nothing" is the most concise definition there is for meditation. However that is not inclusive of the many dimensions of meditation, especially in a spiritual context. Consider that worrying is giving in to fear, and that fear is the opposite of faith. If you focus on increasing your faith, then will power is not required in order to stop worrying. It's actually a very joyous process to surrender to faith, it's not about will power and it isn't exactly "work" to do so, although focus and determination may be required.

What's brewing? Or, why I only ever finished one philosophy class.

Is the mug half empty or half full? What are your assumptions? It's not about what's in the mug, but the possibilities of the whole picture. So, step one is to invalidate the question and instead determine a better course of inquiry.

We can see that the coffee is still dripping from the Melitta cone into the cup. Therefore we can assume that no matter what the coffee level was when the picture was snapped, it continued to rise higher. We can't see enough of the cone to know how much brewing coffee is left to go. Based on what we can't see, we know that it's possible that there is enough brewing coffee to fill the cup to a reasonable level. Conversely, it is possible that what we view from the bottom of the cone is just about to stop.

For those of us with experience in brewing coffee, we also know that a continuous stream first changes to a series of rapid drips, then the rapid drips slow to more infrequent drips before stopping. Therefore we might assume that the picture above depicts a half-brewed cup which will continue to brew for awhile yet, perhaps not filling the cup, but it's not in the absolute last stages of brewing.

However, the continuous stream could be an illusion if the shutter speed of the camera were slow enough to blur the dip-drip-drip which is nearer to the end of the production cycle. What do we know of the photographer, and is it possible to obtain the EXIF data from the exposure?

But wait, the top of the cone indicates that it has been filled, because the coffee grounds are coating the filter up to the brim. Also, there are clear water droplets on the glass mug, and on the outside of the cone itself, indicating that both have recently been washed. Is this the first cup, or a subsequent cup of coffee?

Before I answer this great mystery, ask yourself if the price of housing could continue to rise indefinitely without a major setback, when the whole real-estate investing industry is based upon this presumed to be perpetual price inflation plus the ability of the average worker to keep up on the mortgage. Then ask yourself how to predict when said prices might bobble back to four or five years earlier in the cycle (or more), because, obviously, wages don't always keep up with inflation.

OK, here's some pertinent information. It was my second cup of coffee. The coffee mug is a huge 20 oz cup, therefore half a cup is still a good sized cup, especially when I add cream. The shutter speed was 1/60th at f 6.3, and from that you'll have to interpret your own conclusions about whether it was really a continuous stream. If you look close, the stream was bending from the vertical and about to go to rapid drips but that doesn't matter because I still had plenty of hot water to pour in, which I did, and then Sheryl asked for the last of the weak coffee to be put in a mug of her own rather than pour it down the drain (she likes it weak ). I couldn't possibly write this blog entry without prodigious amounts of caffeine.

Caffeine artificially inflates my perceptions, temporarily raises my blood sugar-- and then if I'm not careful, I crash.

If you have done your research, you'll know that I'm highly unlikely to ever brew just half a cup of coffee. If you've done even more research, you'll know that I almost never drink more than 2 cups in a day, which by US standards is what the average male drinks. If you do more research you learn that I sometimes elect to drink tea instead, which has far less caffeine but a lot more theo-bromides and theo-phyline. (So I can't drink it after 4pm either and expect to sleep well). Better yet I could drink juice or milk; even a glass half full might do me more good.

One way or another, I'm not going to die of thirst.

You might be interested in Charlie Rose interviewing Warren Buffet, this year he became the world's richest man.
He had a lot to say about our current economic situation. It's also well worth reading about Warren on Wikipedia, or anywhere else you choose to look for (more?) credible sources. Warren still lives in the house in Nebraska that he bought for $31,000 in the fifties. Despite having more money than anybody else in the world, he lives on a salary of $100,000. He calls the current crash "poetic justice" even though he clearly does care about the state of the US economy. I think he's somebody who sees beyond the cup in front of him, and considers all the factors. He plans to donate about 85% of his general wealth to charity when he goes, and said he's never really had much use for a lot of material things. He's an interesting case. One can learn a lot just by observing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cracking the code of impermanence

Funny thing, after the laptop computer broke, then the fan broke on a particularly hot day, and finally my french press coffee carafe (again) today. Like I wasn't properly getting some message, not taking the hint. Sheryl has a lovely photo of my laptop disassembled all over the table in her blog. It's like doing surgery on your old buddy (again) only this time he doesn't survive.

So the broken laptop got my attention about some things I was ignoring, changes I needed to make, and habits of wasting time that I had gotten into. It broke my routine. It forced changes. Good ones, I think. The fan broke for no particular reason, other than to get my attention. It didn't. So the carafe broke too--- funny; that carafe only breaks when my attention needs getting. I had taken to buying spares but this was the spare, so, oh well.

Sheryl took me to Longs to get a replacement, and we settled on a plastic melitta drip cone that won't break, and a bunch of paper filters. This after a slight argument because she already has a funky old plastic cone. But I liked the technological improvements on the new cone. I mean it's down to this: my thousand dollar espresso machine has been down for the count for months. The french press has followed suit. I want a freakin' new plastic coney thing that sports a window so I can avoid overflowing my coffee cup, and a little splash guard/handle, and nice deep ridges on the sides to prevent the filter from sealing off and getting bogged, and hopefully the right sized little hole in the bottom so it won't brew terribly weak coffee either. She gave the coffee geek a break and we spent five bucks. And it's black so it matches my jacket. Then she reminded me how much I'm like her ex-husband (in a good way).

Do I actually care that much? No. It's just coffee. A hot drink in the morning. I even drink tea sometimes. What's really important? Did I own the espresso machine or did it own me?

I've had some interesting experiences with technology. Often I'm very intuitive about it-- which was handy when I spent 9 years as an Audio Visual Tech. Sometimes I'm way too connected. Like the time when I stopped a clock, my watch, and my friend's watch all at once because I wanted to spend more time with her. It was an accident. Or the time I said outloud to myself "I watch too much TV" and my new TV broke within about 60 seconds. The picture tube fried-- it was fatal. Or the other time when me and a room full of college students were watching TV, and me and another guy said at exactly the same time "Lets change the channel" and the channel changed, twice. Would have been a nice trick if anybody had a remote control, or if that old TV was even capable of using a remote. It wasn't.

Why bring up all this: I guess it's just to say, pay attention to your connection with your own environment. What are you telling it, and what is it telling you back? Are you listening? It's important. We don't live in a vaccuum, we're all connected. We're all plugged in, all wired together.

And I guess, just one last thing--- the big circuit has an infinite power source, and can operate on any and all frequencies, including the frequency we call physical matter. So there's little need to fret when something breaks, goes away, or even dies. It's a picture on a screen. Enjoy it while it's here. Revel in that painful immediacy and recognize the beauty of knowing that it's just ripples on a lake so huge you can't even imagine it's depth or breadth. Those shores stretch to forever, and the bottom is so deep it goes to absolute zero.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My computer broke.

Bummer man. My laptop broke a few days ago. Having to borrow Sheryl's to get anything done online. Makes it unlikely for me to be doing much writing. Will be getting a new one pretty soon; my father agreed to buy me one, which was mighty big of him to do. Thanks, Dad!

Looking forward to a new Macbook or possibly an iMac, and to getting all my software and files transferred over so that I can get back to work. Haven't been shooting many photos lately either either. I had the old laptop apart months back to replace the hard drive. I have to say, these are well built machines, but not a lot of fun to tear into.

I get some pretty interesting scam offers every time I put up gear for sale on Craigslist. But we finally sold one camera to a really nice guy. Two more to sell, unless we decide to keep the S3 for shooting videos.

Sheryl and I are invited to interview at a retreat center this week. We've been discussing it a lot. Change is in the air.

Monday, September 8, 2008

God Winks

Waiting for God to wink at me, and let me in on the joke. We're expected to move within about three weeks. This fact doesn't strike me as relevant to our lives or our practice. In fact it doesn't even seem real. And yet there it is. The property owner is moving full steam ahead towards vacating this house. So, yeah, sometimes you have to move away from one thing even when you don't know what the new thing is that you're moving towards. There is spiritual precedence for the "empty handed leap into the void". I've done it before. I can do it again. I'd rather not. We still have time to catch God winking and to hear the punchline of whatever it is that we're currently not laughing at, or with.

I've been thinking about ministry lately, and what my concept of that is. We make no bones that what we do is SPIRITUAL counseling and SPIRITUAL healing. Striving our best to be open and non-dogmatic to every single client who comes our way: it might not be achievable, but it's worth striving towards that ideal. And our ever-present axiom to work towards the highest benefit of all concerned, which for some reason I feel is very achievable.

I think that what (or who ) is in front of me is always the most important thing to deal with right now. We can tend to think of events, or even people as distractions. But they never are. Even if the purpose of a perceived distraction is to focus one deeper into a particular direction, everything in our lives is in fact, relevant to where we are, right now. So we're getting our daily spiritual lessons, whether we see them or not. You've heard the expression "can't see the forest for the trees." I'm trying not to ignore the trees, grass, shrubs, squirrels-- it's all a part of the grand forest.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Selling these digital cameras

Canon S3 IS with 12x image stabilized zoom, also shoots tack-sharp video with amazingly good sound quality. Great camera, barely used it. Uses SD cards

Canon digital rebel model 300d with 6.3 megapixels: did most of my photojournalism work with this. Then I convinced Sheryl she'd like it as a hand me down. She did, she still does. I had to pry it out of her hands to get her to upgrade.

Canon Rebel XTi with a little over 10 megapixels and a slightly different interface, user preset picture styles, etc. Love this camera, but when Sheryl upgraded of course I had to as well. Feels like I just bought it myself, hard to believe we're selling it already.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Flower Galaxy

Slow down, look to your left, bend a little closer and there is a whole galaxy of life right next to you. "Horton hears a who" right? I should read that little book again. Buy from my flower gallery here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Alice Cooper was a popular guy in High School. Alice Cooper the rock star. His real name was Vincent-something. He went on to huge success in the mid 70’s by adopting a woman’s name and garish makeup, singing about teenage angst, dead babies and blowing up the school. He was an honor student; upper middle class son of a baptist minister and everybody knew and liked him. He believed that the name “Alice Cooper” would bring concert goers expecting to see a nice country western girl and he would be the big surprise. That never happened, but in general his formula worked and he made a lot of money. I bought his albums, listened to them over and over until the grooves wore out: “School’s Out Forever,” “I’m eighteen and I don’t know what I want.” At sixteen that all sounded pretty good. At 40 one is expected to have moved beyond, significantly.

By the mid 1980’s a music reviewer summed up Alice as “forgotten but not gone.” Things were starting to look sad, the way that Boy George looks today in short hair and no makeup, singing a duet show-tune with Rosy O’Donnel at three in the afternoon between Barnaby Jones and Mannix.

It’s now two-thousand and four and Alice is still sporting long, lank hair, black mascara, and going out on tour between celebrity golf tournaments. Vincent-something admits that he is fifty six years old and supports George Bush, but he also claims that rock stars are morons and Alice is ageless; therefore he can continue to sing “I’m Eighteen” until the cows come home.

Canadian rock reviewers say his show is “Still really neato.” Roughly translated from Canadian this means “the cows have come home.” I finally believe that Alice Cooper is truly deranged and it isn’t just an act. Stick with illusions long enough. . . they yield something.

Male rock stars in heavy makeup, sometimes in drag, invariably draw a die-hard following of pubescent teenage boys. I was one of them, used to think I should have been a girl. Never made a show of it; no make-up, no dresses, didn’t change my name to mimic a country western star. I think if you’re a teenage boy, you might want to be a girl so you won’t be you some day. Because if you’re not you, then you’re not really there. It’s a normal stage of development, a brief pause between boy and man when we’re looking for some third option, a stopping place with new metaphysical possibilities. But within that pause, it feels infinite, like the end of time itself. For me, the being a girl part wore off eventually, the metaphysical part stuck like a meteor in soft mud.

Marilyn Manson is the modern version of “Uncle Alice.” He’s a clone, right down to the interview persona of a calm, well educated, politically astute young man. Big vocabulary, and he’s implacable in the face of horrified parents and their obscenity lawsuits. He can scream like a banshee onstage, but come across like a college professor in interviews; that’s the formula and it was Alice’s formula too, exactly. All part of the act. Marilyn is a success too, a little Gayer than Alice and a lot taller-- but he claims to have been an outcast in High School, a drama geek I’m guessing, unhappy as those kids at Columbine, not as well armed, but certainly as dedicated. Copycat. He gave me an idea.

At two O’clock in the morning weeknights, on channel fifty-five, the Hallmark Network, they’re showing reruns of a series called “Northern Exposure.” It saw it’s first life in the early nineties. Great show, even in resurrection. The name itself is a double entendre that alludes to opening your mind.

On the rust colored couch, that’s me, with the pale blue-green northern lights of my TV set illuminating my face. It used to be on at one A.M., but somehow “Walker, Texas Ranger” pushed it back further, towards dawn. Just when I thought we were progressing as a nation, big W from Texas shoves his way in, again, a rerun. Sometimes “Northern Exposure” makes me cry. I’m not sure yet whether it’s more pathetic to stay up until three AM, watching and getting all misty, or if taping the episodes that I’ve already seen several times damns my future more ultimately to frozen dinner hell. I somewhat worship the show, with reservations.

My reservations revolve mainly around the characters Joel and O’Connel. Maggie O’Connel, the Alaskan Bush pilot who looks like a model, and Joel Flieschman the New York Jewish doctor introduced to the tiny town of Cicely Alaska in the first episode. He hates it there. He can’t leave. He’s a bit cranky and very full of himself. It’s a long story, but those two are the principal characters, the ones with the ongoing romantic tension. We’re supposed to care if they’ll ever get together and of course they do, and then they don’t and then they do again. Meantime all they do is bitch and argue and misunderstand each other. Ugh.

The first time I stay up to watch it, here comes the commercial and surprise; there’s Janine Turner, the actress who plays O’Connel. She is fifteen years older, wearing about as much makeup as Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, or Ziggy Stardust, (Ziggy played guitar). She’s at every commercial break thereafter, selling a drug called “Restasis” to treat “chronic dry eye”.
At first I feel sad realizing that the poor woman seems not to have worked since the series, that was a long time ago, and now this commercial. Really cheesy commercial too-- “Then my doctor told me about Restasis. . .” the drug company must think it a real boon to have O’Connel hawking their product to those of us who must surely be drying up by now. Sad, until I realize how much better Janine is doing than myself. Broken down acting career beats no career any day.

So I can’t cry for O’Connel on the commercial breaks, but I gather satisfaction in knowing that she can’t cry for me either--not without chemical assistance. Alice Cooper looks like he’s always crying and his mascara is running, like an abused woman. Supposed to be scary. It is.

“Re-stasis” is an odd product name, what does that mean and what does it have to do with tears? I find myself wondering about it through every commercial break. It sounds like eye drops for time travel. So I look it up on the computer which sits right next to the stereo which sits right next to the TV. All that is right next to the bed which is right next to the couch, pretty much my whole universe.

“Stasis; noun, inactivity resulting from a static balance between opposing forces” according to the hyperdictionary. It’s like paralysis but with tension. Then there’s the “re” part. Like re-run, return, resort, back to a time when when two opposing forces annihilated all possibility of movement. The Cold War. A childhood maybe. Dried up tears. But really it’s all about keratoconjunctivitis sicca, treated with regular doses of cyclosporine opthamolic emulsion .05%. I like my definition better. I’ve heard the word “stasis” associated with health but I never understood it.

Ed is much more interesting than the principal characters. He’s the young Native American film maker on the show, half white and orphaned. He has visions of “One Who Waits” a tribal spirit guide who eventually leads him to a reunion with his father. Ed is largely guileless and innocent. He flies in his sleep. He eventually gets called to spiritual service as a Shaman, and isn’t entirely sure what to do about it. He messes up a lot but there is a certain rightness about him nearly all the time. I’m a lot like Ed, well, except I’m not Native American, not an orphan, not guilless nor a filmmaker, hardly ever screw up or make a mistake, but there is a wrongness about me. For Ed, all of life’s secrets are contained within the allegory of film, if you look hard enough. It’s one thing Ed and I have in common.

Shelly is also interesting, she has visions too, and gets afflicted with song when she is pregnant; can’t speak a word but sings constantly. Holling, her husband, has his moments, as does Maurice Minnifield the ex-astronaut. Marilyn, not Marilyn Manson, Marilyn Whirlwind, she is the Zen-like doctor’s assistant who is either incredibly wise or largely blank, but I’m not going to talk about all of them; watch the show. There are usually two or three subplots that are more interesting than the primary action could ever be, just like all the sub-characters, much more interesting than Dr. Fleischman and Maggie O’Connel could ever be. They’re the actors who have hardly worked since the series, they had their day in the sun, they’re me. Weeknights, two a.m. on Hallmark. But you’d better hurry, Walker pushed it back already. The next step is annihilation from the airwaves.

Marilyn Manson gave me ideas about Chris Stevens. Chris is the morning DJ on K-Bear, the voice of the borough of Arrowhead County, Cicely, Alaska. He’s also an accomplished sculptor, an ordained minister (from an ad in the back of Rolling Stone magazine) former petty thief and master philosopher whose prison self education seems to verge on a Ph.D. He’s lanky, tall and good looking. He somehow manages to afford a Harley Davidson on a rural DJ salary, doesn’t freeze to death riding it in Alaska out to his silver stainless-steel airstream trailer in the woods by a gorgeous lake outside of town. Chris is irresistible to women, but doesn’t seem to care if he has one (which may be a clue to his success, I’m not sure). He talks too much, but then he always has something to say. Frankly, he’s a little pedantic after a while, but the key to the whole thing: he is the only actor who has worked consistently since the series ended. “Sex and the City” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” the guy can’t lose for winning. I like his life, better than Ed’s, Maggie’s or Marilyn’s. I’m going to be Chris Stevens. Copycat; it’s been done before. It worked.

If being Alice Cooper worked for Marilyn Manson then being Chris Stevens should work for me. It’s four in the morning now, time for bed, but first I need an inventory. Item one; I’m not tall and lanky. I used to think of myself as good looking but now. . . now when I catch sight of myself in the big Cafe Mirror I see myself the way that bitchy pierced-nose twenty something lesbian Barista sees me: chubby cheeks, crooked teeth, and wish he’d just order and get out of here. I’m not mentioning the graying hair, that’s deliberate. Let’s just say, “check”.

Ordained minister: check. I didn’t answer an ad in Rolling Stone but may as well have. The Universal Life Church, it’s where I am ordained. The founder of the church carried a dictionary for two years thinking it was a bible. He couldn’t read. Not a joke. He eventually learned to read and founded this church. Kicked the bucket a few years ago but the church carries on. I can marry people. I can ordain other ministers. In addition to being part Pagan, part Wiccan, Buddhist, Taoist; etcetera, having a formal education in Religious Studies makes me one-up on Chris. Figure this makes me a few inches taller and maybe a little lankier too. It’s a points system. My ex-girlfriend is now a minister as well, same church. Lives up North. She’s taller than me, taller than Chris maybe.

Radio DJ: No experience. But it sounds like fun, probably harder than it seems. I can talk a blue streak but can’t pull interesting quotes out of my ass as readily as Chris Stevens. On the radio nobody can see you. Figure this puts my chubby cheeks on a par with Chris’ angular neck. Little known fact: most DJ’s are pretty damn ugly, which explains the attitude, which explains why most DJ’s are being put out of work by increased automation. Pay is lousy even if you get in, and I suspect that nobody gets to speak as freely on the radio as Chris Stevens did on TV, but then his lines were written for him by professional TV writers.

My friend’s dad was a DJ, back when I was in a band that Chris was never in. Come to think of it, dad was a DJ too, briefly, worked his way through college at a country western station where he met my mom. Anyway, my friend’s dad had red eyes and scaly skin, always peeling, and a deep raspy voice with a creepy resonance. He promised to introduce us to his friends in the record business, never did. He may well be dead now. I’m fond of saying that. You can say that about any older person whom you haven’t seen in decades. It’s oddly satisfying. Try it.

I never talked on the radio, but I can repair a lot of the gear that DJ’s use. Technicians, however, are always monosyllabic and cranky, beer belly, never get the girl, like on WKRP in Cincinnati. Been there, done that. I bet you don’t even remember the tech on WKRP, but he had to be there, he was vital, the behind the scenes fixer. You remember Dr. Johnny Fever though, Venus Flytrap, Loni Anderson as Jennifer, Less Nessman and of course, Bailey. I was totally in love with Bailey. Come to think of it, the DJ never really gets the girl either. Rockford always got the girl. Captain Kirk never failed to get the girl. But even Chris, you know, you always had the feeling he had a girlfriend but when did you ever see her? Have to think more about this. No check mark.

Sculptor/Artist. Kinda. I call myself an artist, in a philosophical way; good with a camera but that's more like hunting than art. Think about it: you can accidentally snap a great photo, you can't accidentally paint a masterpiece. Wouldn’t it be great to have a shop with lots of tools again? Welding torch, hammers, grinders, drills. I spend hours in the hardware store, looking, thinking, imagining projects. Eventually I get light headed and need to leave to find a hamburger somewhere before I pass out. It’s dark outside the hardware store, like Cicely, Alaska in winter. I’m carrying a bag with some double-A batteries, box of lightbulbs, a stubby phillips head screwdriver from a bin by the cash register. It has a clear plastic handle with red stripes that says on one side, “Master Mechanic” and “340000 USA 1/4 x 1-1/2” on the other side. I’m getting sleepy. What time is it?

General props and Chris’ character-details, synopsis: The Harley, Silver Airstream trailer in the woods by beautiful mountain lake, impervious to cold, irresistible to women but doesn’t seem to care much (i.e. seldom seen with a woman, almost never appears to be either heartbroken nor courting anyone). Slow down boy, slow down. The Harley I can do without; never really wanted one of those. Broke my knee on a motorcycle once, probably around the time that Chris was in prison. I was eighteen, and school was out for the summer. Afterwards I was in constant pain for more than a year and a half, could hardly sleep. Physical therapy twice a week which consisted of this huge ape-like guy wrenching on my knee. He said my moans sounded like his girlfriend. He seemed to like his job.

How come Chris was never raped in prison? Pretty boy like that--had to have been somebody’s bitch. I’m definitely skipping that part. Some character details don’t fit the mold. I’ve always been fond of Airstream trailers though, and high mountain lakes. Check.

I hear Washington is nice, Northern Exposure was filmed there: Cicely, Alaska is actually Roslyn, Washington where the series was filmed. That’s the beautiful lake, that’s the quaint little town with a population of about 800. So small it isn’t even on the map. I feel drawn, drawn North, but not to Rosyln exactly. Somehow I got it into my head that Seattle is the place to be; they have a good Grad school there. And everybody I talk to has good things to say about Seattle, except we’re in California where it doesn’t rain much and it’s pretty warm and sunny and all, so why leave that?

But it’s like buying an old Datsun pickup truck, like the first car I owned, the one I rolled over, driving too fast. I never noticed Datsun pickup trucks until I was driving one, then they were everywhere. And it was a great vehicle until I was upside down in it. I reached up and turned off the radio, lying on the partially caved-in roof, asked my passenger if she was all right. Then we crawled out the broken windows. We didn’t date after that. I now see Washington everywhere. I don’t trust it.

Chris Stevens has a half brother who is half black. I have a half brother who isn’t. Check. And a full brother, I have one of those. He’s full of good advice, but he doesn’t know about Northern Exposure, so he’s a little off sometimes. I’m serious, even the theme song makes me happy. Chris was raised in a dysfunctional family, so was I. But that doesn’t mean anything these days, everybody says that, or they used to. It’s probably out of style to say that now.

If I go to Cicely, Alaska, my crushed Datsun, my catapulted motorcycle that broke my knee, my short hair that used to be long, all my ghosts, my reruns, go with me. I don’t know where to put them. They will surely end up somewhere. I’m hoping for an artful blast-pattern of fallout that will lead to several seasons of intriguing and fun plot lines. Good drama is about tears which actually fall, not about infected ducts that have forgotten how to function, leaving eyes unblinking and fixed on a motionless blue glowing horizon. This is the way it is in Cicely: everything always moving, no stasis. It’s time for bed, really it is.

Chris has a catapult. A really big one, two stories tall; called a trebuchet, a medieval siege weapon. It became a semi regular character in the series. He was going to fling a cow, until he discovered that it had already been done (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). A cruel thing to do, to terrify a helpless animal like that, in real life it would land horribly. Joel tried to talk him out of it. Chris countered that it was, “To create a pure moment.” For who, the cow? Bullshit of course, or cow-shit in this case, but that’s Chris’ stock and trade after all, words. In the end he flung Maggie’s fire damaged piano instead.

You see, when Maggie’s mother came to visit she burned down Maggie’s house, all her belongings and everything that was important to her. She said she was sorry, you know. So did my mom, just the other day, for my whole childhood, which is going a bit far. That was a good episode. And one other time I remember; Chris flung the dead body of his best friend, Tooly, from prison, into that ice cold, pristine mountain lake, casket and all, because he couldn’t think what else to do with him. I didn’t like that episode.

A little over year ago I flung myself forward, North, bounced a few times and landed back where I started in California. The girlfriend stayed up North, I left her there. She’s the one who is a minister, tall and lanky, but not an artist or DJ, no Harley, no Airstream trailer. The whole episode gets me thinking, at my age, older than Marilyn but younger than Alice, about getting anything right at all. I wonder about being spectacularly disconnected from the earth like radio waves through space. Then I see myself waking up on a smoke-blackened piano, gripping it tightly while the keys are flying off and we tumble through the air: on a brief ride with a fatal landing, creating a pure moment. But that is another place and time, a different trajectory, and a different projectile. When I become Chris, Cicely will be my home. I will not be cold. And I will live forever young in syndication. Goodnight.

Chapter Two: Six months later.
Alice doesn’t live here anymore. We’re so sorry, uncle Alice. I have catapulted my way North, again. I know I will fall back downward, back to California, I just don’t know when. This time I raised the elevation and overshot Oregon by 500 miles. I’m giddy up here, dizzy near the Canadian border. Bellingham residents call themselves “hamsters” and they say this is the “city of subdued excitement” but I don’t know what that means. Hamsters get pretty excited, they breed like rabbits. So much so that you could say rabbits breed like hamsters.

Breeding is not my concern. I’m a 41 year old college intern. I don’t expect women to like me, though some seem to. It's my wrongness, coupled with my honesty, and possibly my slightly musky smell. I should probably look into that.

I’ve had extraordinarily good luck since moving here: the nearly perfect living arrangement, the nearly perfect job. Somehow a Religious Studies degree qualified me to be a newspaper reporter. Hired on Monday, made the front page by Friday. Did it again the next week, and the next, and the next. I earn the grand sum of seven cents per word, which is not enough to live on. Suddenly I am a professional photographer as well, at ten dollars per photo. But there is no stainless steel Airstream trailer by the gorgeous mountain lake, no flat head Harley, no DJ job or sculptors studio, no massive trebuchet by which to fling large objects and thereby give them meaning and momentary truth. And though I live closer to Cicely Alaska than I have ever been in my entire life, Chris Stevens would not approve.

Not a damn thing on TV here. When I got here there were two channels that my rabbit ears could pick up; one Canadian, one semi-Canadian. The Canadian station is gone without a trace. As if the US government has set up a massive jamming transmitter overnight. They may have, because near as I can tell, Canadians are far more intelligent and well educated than we are. This could be considered dangerous. Also Canadians are very polite, and they over-enunciate most of their vowels. It’s an irresistible combination. The Canadian border; so near, and yet so far.

Canadians seem to define themselves by the ways in which they are not like Americans. Americans are rude, crude and violent beasts, although a Canadians would never say as much, too polite to do so. They merely hint at it. Canadians are as into Hockey as Americans are into football. And when their hockey players greedily cancel the season, Canadians go on TV and in the papers and say, calmly, “I am very disappointed.” Canadian women are as excited about American men as Hamsters are about other Hamsters. They want to breed with us like rabbits. The US government doesn’t want to you to know this. The Canadian currency disparity is already bad enough. Sorry.

At seven cents per word I will have to write 642,857 words to pay off my college debts, not counting living expenses. It’s worth it though, because I will probably die long before I pay off my debt to the US government. That will teach them to jam my Canadian TV. Before I die I may want to become a Canadian. That will doubly show them. I haven’t seen Northern Exposure in months. I miss it. Roslyn Washington, is 168 miles south east of here, where they shot my favorite show. I could get there in 2 hours, 47 minutes. But nobody is home. They never were. It’s pointless to go there. I might as well go to Alaska, take all 57 hours and 57 minutes to drive there from Bellingham, and still not find Maggie, Fleischman, Chris, Ed or Maurice. I try not to think about that.

Last week my front page story was about a government meeting to discuss future meetings about eventually doing something to clean up the polluted lake that all 85,000 residents drink out of. The lake has been somewhat polluted since Northern Exposure went off the air. The headline story above my story, was about a building that sprung up encroaching onto public right of way. There was a photograph of the building. Last week there was a photograph of the same building, but from a different angle. My story had a photograph of a lady and her dog by the lake, which is the same photograph we ran a few weeks back. There is no drama here. I have invented my own. I am intensely angry that they won’t give me a raise. I am livid that I have no base weekly pay. I am righteously indignant that they would assign me a story and then not run it, or pay me for it for three weeks. I am nearly out of my mind with rage that they seem to want to short me on what little pay I get, week after week. I am tragically naive about the fact that they only took me on as a writer because I help them proofread on Thursdays, and answer phones on Fridays.

In future episodes I will be excited again; that I broke an important story about government corruption. I will be truly inspired when I interview the person who gives new direction to my life. I will be devastated and not know where to turn when the paper goes bankrupt out of sheer incompetence. I will walk out on a lonely bridge over turbulent water, staring moodily into the depths, and at that moment my cell phone will ring. It will be an editor from the New York Times, on vacation in Bellingham. He is so impressed by my story, “Dairy; A Player in International Politics” that he wants to meet with me. Walking home, I will meet a plucky, spunky blond who will say rude things to me and then, in an unexpected twist, ask me to call her. Season Finale.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Family portrait, unmanned

Sheryl made that quilt. That's me and Sheryl and a member of the extended family, Brigitte. Apparently I am getting a bit fat. I'm probably supposed to give a damn about that. It could happen.

Rainbows are free

The Tiger Lilies are driving me to abstraction

Baby Blue dragonfly, up close and personal.

Not sure if this creature actually qualifies as a dragonfly: the wings fold back parallel to the body, and he's smaller than what I would call a dragonfly. I thought these were called "mayflies' but I didn't see any photos on the web to correspond with this insect. Feel free to clue me in.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Not Human

Again, Sheryl points out to me a pretty interesting scene on the way home. kept playing with the settings until I got the right blend of silhouette and color. Seriously, these guys aren't human. I'm not kidding.

What's up tiger lily?

Trying out a new camera body, so far liking it a whole lot. We got two of them but Sheryl was too busy today to do much testing. Also got a box of journals from the printers today. Sheryl tells me the flowers above are called "tiger lilies" and I don't know that I've ever seen them before. Took a few quick shots on the way to meet friends for dinner.

Marimba Party!

Sheryl plays the marimba.

Beautiful handmade instruments.

Small world isn't it? Don't let it roll off the table.

And the sun eventually went down.