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Two Days After the Summer Solstice, 2005

Kayaking by Moonlight

I've wanted to do it for years, finally got it together last night. High tide in the Bolinas Lagoon was around midnight, the same time the full moon was high in the sky, so I went to sleep at 9, got up at 1 a.m., and set sail — er, paddle that is — around 1:30 in my Scrambler sit-on-top surf kayak. Wore a shorty wet suit. The lagoon used to be deep, but has filled in over the years so there's a network of channels that vary in depth according to the tides. I dropped the kayak in at the boat dock, jumped aboard and headed for a winding channel that I've paddled through many times during the daylight. It was kind of cold, with a breeze blowing, but the water was glassy. It was beautiful! I paddled silently through the channel, which winds through mud flats with pickleweed just adjacent to a farmer's field. I paddled about as far as I could go, then turned back and on the way back was paddling into silver moonlight reflected on the mirror-like water. The massive northern flank of Mt. Tamalpais is on the east side of the lagoon and it seemed to loom even closer in the moonlight. It was special, being there all alone, in the silence, in the silver…

It's always amazing to me how much wonder and beauty there is in one's own backyard. Just a little effort…

Technology in Search of an Application

Know what I mean? Overuse of Photoshop special effects. Websites with (long-loading) fanciness. Cell phones that play video. Here's the m.o.: Nerd-types fix on some new slick technology and seek ways to utilize same. We're surrounded by dumb uses for slick tech. The other day a guy was showing me how he would download web sites to his cell phone and then when he was waiting for his daughter in his car, he'd read stuff on his cell phone. (In tiny print, and slow, etc.) Is this tech necessary? Hopw about throwing into the mix the phrase "appropriate technology."

Telemann and Canadian Geese

My friend Stuart gave me a bunch of music tapes yesterday, so on the way home in the afternoon, coming around same lagoon, I put on the Suite for Flute and Strings by Telemann. When I came around the corner here was a long line of Canadian Geese, elegant in their black and white and grey coloring, strung out single file paddling through the water. I pulled over and watched them for a while, they were moving in synch with the music. Synchronicity, it just stuns me every so often…

Monday, Monday (so good to me…)

Media-wise I've got a foot in both worlds. I love telling people about what I run across in the world. So much exciting stuff, things that aren't getting covered anywhere. Extraordinary people doing unique things. They just don't happen to fit into a formula suitable for mainstream media. I started "communicating" when I was in high school. Mr. Patterson, Lowell High School's teacher of journalism got me and a bunch of other kids started with getting the 5 w's in the first sentence (or was it the first paragraph?) of every news story. Then 2 years running a newspaper on a U.S. Air Force base in Germany — The Sembach Jet Gazette, can you believe it? — and I was hooked. On the base I started using an Adler portable typewriter to write. When I got back to the US and in the mid-60s started writing stuff for the Whole Earth Catalog and later my own books, I kept using the Adler and scissors and scotch tape.

Did you think that "cut" and "paste" were computer terms? Au contraire, they're literal. I would end up with taped-together chapters up to 10 feet long. Then when that process was complete I'd retype the whole thing. (Each piece invariably got better by me merely typing it fresh. I'd nudge and rearrange and add bits and pieces. And of course we put books together "the old way," pasting text and graphics on "boards," which were then photo-copied by the printers and converted to negatives, which were then used to burn the aluminum plates for the press.

It was tough to make the transition to digital publishing and writing. I'd spent a lot of time learning the old craft of book production and now I had to start all over. Which I did — and the farther along I've gone, the more thrilled I've become with what we can do ourselves. Typesetting with a million fonts, complex photographic processes, research capabilities undreamed of 20 years ago. And on and on.

I know I've written about the same subject earlier, but it's the very process of blogging that's causing me to think these thoughts right now. To wit:

I got up at 6 this morning, went and checked the surf, tide was too low, so came back to the office, vaporized some cannabinoids, brewed some freshly-roasted (see below) Ethiopian coffee beans from Small World Coffee into a frothy cappuccino, put on Dance and Dense Denso by Molotov, hot Mexican rock 'n roller (who socks it to pinche gringos, it's about time!) Opened my email and my friend Eszter, who got me started blogging (with my dragging heels per usual) in the first place, pointing out I hadn't blogged in 10 days. Jeez. Does this mean I have to do it regularly? Do I need yet another ongoing task? Well, now that it's been drawn to my attention this morning, the thing I'm liking about blogs is that I can whip out thoughts without all the write and rewrite agony of preparing text for a book, or even for the web. Hmm … off-the-top writing, I could go for that. Maybe it'll save my wife Lesley from having to listen to my daily reports of everything I run across; last week when I was tirelessly free-associating about the day's events, she said: "Lloyd, don't make me get the duct tape."

Home-Roasted Coffee

I read an article in the S.F. Chronicle a while ago about roasting coffee beans, that it was simple to do and that once you did it, you'd never do otherwise, AND that you could do it with an old popcorn popper, one of which I found on a shelf, last used 10 yrs. ago. I just fill it with coffee beans and watch the beans until the roast looks right, shaking once in a while to get the chaff off (I do it out in the garden). You need a popper with air blowing in at the bottom so it keeps the beans moving. Man is it good! I now realize what I like about my favorite coffee places is that the beans are freshly roasted. Can also do in frying pan. If you're caffeine aficionado, give it a try. You buy green beans.

Non-Caffeine Boost

Check out http://smart-boost.com for little packets of caffeine and vitamin C you add to juice in say the afternoon if you want the caffeine pickup without all the other heavy-duty constituents of coffee. Their website is presently tedious in that it takes too long to get concrete info due to zippy special effects, but the product sounds great. I just got a box and will report. Each packet contains 99mg caffeine. (Brewed coffee — 8 oz. — contains 65-120 mg.)

The Dipsea

It's America's oldest cross-country race. It was first run in 1905, 7.2 miles of gnarly trails, up 670 steps to start with, then paths and trails and shortcuts across and up and down a flank of Mt. Tamalpais, starting in the small town of Mill Valley and ending up at Stinson Beach and the Pacific Ocean. The second Sunday of every June. It's romantic, exciting, competitive, and tough. The "Invitational" part of the race has 750 runners, and it's an age-handicapped race: the older you are, the more of a head start you get. A 30 year old male runner is "scratch," the last group to start. At the other end of the age scale, a 72 year old runner (male or female) gets a head start of 23 minutes. The allotted handicap minutes have been worked out over decades of race history to presumably even out the field. Each year the first 35 finishers get coveted black shirts, the black belts of the Dipsea. For some reason, the guys I run with on Tuesday nights all trained like fiends this year. I got caught up in the obsession for a black shirt, but 3 months of training after too-little-training didn't do it for me. I was 49th, was mildly disappointed. The race was on a beautiful day and our guys did sensationally well and vibes were so good in the crowd that gathered to picnic and award black shirts afterwards that it motivated me to train for next year more seriously. Running on the mountain has become such a big part of my life I thought I'd throw it in here. Hell, I could be blogging a lot more if I wasn't out running.

Coming down the stile at the end of the race

Are Your Lungs Worth $500?

If you partake of cannabis, people who know recommend the top-of-the-line vaporizer, a finely-machined $500 German product called the Volcano. The brilliance of vaporizing is that you are not pulling smoke from leaves and flowers through your lungs, only the consciousness-enhancing essence of the flower resins. For $50, theres a very good portable unit, the VaporGenie pipe, which is used with a lighter. This all from a friend who has tried out 8-10 different type vaporizers.

Talk About Off-The-Top

I've been having a bit of a problem figuring out what to do after HOME WORK. A book on Southeast Asia? Builders? Baja California? Off-the grid-Houses? Lew, Rick and I were talking about it last week, and Lew said why not do a small book on Baja, and it came to me this morning, a vision of a book about the same height as Lonely Planet books, but wider, like 8 or 9." called Baja Destinations/Destinaciónes en Baja, bilingual. I'd give up my throw-it-all-in-but-kitchen-sink book production style and do a small book with maps of maybe 50 great places to go in Baja. Remote missions, surf spots, the Miraflores Pithaya Festival, the Angel Azul little hotel in 100-year old building in La Paz, the killer skatepark in Pascadero, the hot springs just off the highway south of Ensenada, the 4-5 east-west water-filled canyons of the Sierra de La Laguna where you can hike from the Sea of Cortez through to the Pacific Ocean, the Cabo San Lucas Bikini Contest, The Posadao Señor Mañana 4-coconut hotel, the Magbay Surf camp, remote rock painting and petroglyph sites, the beautiful tropical desert east of San José del Cabo, cool places to stay, cool places to camp, the unique tropical reef at Cabo Pulmo,… hey, I'm liking this better all the time! A book like this could go in with travel books and people could take it along on trips or just read about Baja, of which Erle Stanley Gardner once wrote:

"It is impossible to account for the charm of this country or its fascination, but those that are familiar with the land of Baja California are either afraid of it or they love it, and if they love it they are brought back by an irresistible fascination time and time again."

Shit, the idea of confining myself to a a small book is exciting. You may have just witnessed the birth of a book, just about 3 hours ago. It may mean I focus on the ton of material I have from my 12 years of exploring the far reaches of Baja before I shoot more pix in S/E Asia. It also means I can hang some more with one of my bestest friends, Chilón, in Baja. I'm going to try starting on this book and see if it works and if it "resonates" with my publishing friends.

I know lots of people who would love to create their creations and have them fly out into the world and magically generate enough income to keep creating. No so symplístico, José. You've got to market, strategize, and agonize over how to actually sell your fucking product. And since HOME WORK, our most highly-praised book of all time, is selling moderately (15,000 copies in a year), we've been looking for the right form for the abundant content we're sitting on. What will work in today's bookstores?

It's 11 AM, sun is out and I'm gonna go surfing and post this later.

Back from the water. I hit it right for a change. It was windy, but there was a good swell and it was great having it be warm and sunny after getting out — in contrast to the usual freezing routine of going from wet suit back to clothing. Hey (it's not always this way but today) — we're out here having fun, in the warm Califonia sun…


Like a surfer who never goes along any coast without scanning for waves, so every downhill skater (into cruising rather than aerial maneuvers) is constantly scanning streets, highways, country roads, parking lots plus smoothness of pavement when driving. I come down a 4-lane section of Highway 101 that's the right slope and can't help but think, "If I could just have it for 20 minutes with no cars…" You can also call it longboarding, or the practice of "carving," seeking the longest possible downhill ride and carving back and forth like surfers or snowboarders. IT IS FUN! Of course, the more you do it, the more speed you want, and I'm trying to learn to slide, where you come into a turn and need to slow it all down before things get out of control, you crouch down and place a padded glove with a hard disk on it on the ground and force your wheels to go sideways, thus slowing you down. About a month ago I got an hour-long lesson from Cliff Coleman, downhill skating legend and originator of "The Coleman Slide" (see http://www.ncdsa.com/68/Cliff-Coleman-on-Sliding-and-Safety.htm). Cliff is a legend, famous for his downhill speed and for teaching 100s if not 1000s of skaters to slide. He's 50-something-years-old and still skates like a samurai. He actually got me started in sliding, against my self-preservationist instincts and now I've got to practice. I have to get psyched to do it and now that the Dipsea is over I can maybe focus on this for a while.

My new super-turning slalom board created by Eli at the purple Skunk. Very fast and soft wheels

Also see the info-filled Northern California Downhill Skateboarding Association site.
And finally if you live in the S.F. Bay Area, check out The Purple Skunk skate shop, which has in addition to all the usual short boards, a huge collection of longboards (that you can take for a spin) as well as a ton of safety gear as well as sliding gloves. At 5820 Geary Blvd. (at 23rd) in S.F.

An Amazing Book on Leonardo

And finally finally because I need to get back to work: at the Book Expo a few weeks ago I took a close look at a bunch of Taschen books and ended up buying about $300 worth, the most unique of which is Leonardo da Vinci — The Complete Paintings and Drawings — a 12" by 18" 19 lb (huge!) masterpiece of a book on this most remarkable and prolific of artists. Beautifully printed in (of course!) Italy on beautiful heavy paper, it retails at $200. Taschen has a ton of interesting and stunning books.

Over and out for today. Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be…


I'm in full travelling gear (sic) these days and I've learned the value of pockets -- the more the better. I wrote about multi-pocket shirts recently (see latest Gimme Shelter newsletter at www.shelterpub.com). Also invaluable are cargo pants, with their roomy side pockets. The very best ones I've found are army surplus battle fatigues: deepest of side pockets, integrated adjustable waist tighteners, buttons at the fly and not velcro. I'd like to find a pair that are not camo-patterned. I also find it valuable to travel with pen and 3×6" spiral notebook in pocket so I can write stuff down (addresses of places to return to, etc.) on the go, without needing to take off my backpack to get to my normal notebook.

Manhattan Snippets

Friday night I took the subway out to Hoboken to see Graham Parker. Washington Avenue in Hoboken has a 12-blocks long section of beautiful old fixed-up buildings and shops and restaurants. Graham was good, an old rocker with integrity, backed by the Figgs, a cool band whose members are half his age… There are a bunch of old beatnik cafes in the Bleeker/McDougal area south of Washington Square that have been there forever. Cafe Figaro has turned phony and touristy, Cafe Dante looks OK, but best vibes for my sensibilities is Cafe Reggio, in a unique room looking like it's out of the 1800s, a place for cappuccino and sitting and reading or writing…Billboard showing big SUV splashing up out of a creek, kayak on roof: "The New Nissan Exterra 265 hp!" America fiddles while planet warms…People sitting on wide steps of big midtown post office at midnight, which has carved in stone at its portals: "Neither now nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from their appointed rounds."…Monday, my last day in town, I take my scooter out and cruise uptown. It's hot and humid and I sightsee, then sit a while on a park bench in the shade, then back to hotel and get gypsy cab to JFK. It's been a good trip.

Burgers at Dawn

I stayed up all night on Saturday. After a Publishers Group West party featuring The Blues Explosion, a powerful uncompromising big city band, I walked the streets, then wrote and web-surfed and watched TV at my hotel until about 4:30 when I took a cab to the meat-packing district to Florenz, an all-night eatery. It's a dark neighborhood, with occasional streetlights casting halos of lights in the darkness. Prowling around are transsexual hookers, casting shadows on the streets, looking like a surreal movie, or maybe more like a dramatically-lit stage set. Food at Florenz is good, burgers with fries, omelletes, the place was packed and noisy. It's surprising how many people are up at this hour in NYC. All over the city, here and there, the all-nighters.

More On Gospel Show

After the Book Expo closed, the timing was perfect to get to Madison Square Garden at 4:30. It was actually called the McDonald's Gospel show, sponsored by you-know-who. And yes it was more than a bit weird, this wonderful music sponsored by producers of unhealthy hi-fat shit food served on planet-polluting throw-away dishes. The place was packed and tickets were $50-110. First up were gospel groups, each of whom did about a 3-minute song and then the next one came right on. Pretty snappy. The groups were from Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey, the Bronx, etc. and they ranged from OK to spectacular. Most were great and better. When a soloist would get her gospel chops going, people would stand and cheer. Some of the groups knew they had it, you just looked at them and knew they were hot. There was some electrifying music, some exquisite renderings. There were 3 and 4 part harmonies, the art and craft of vocal harmonies at a high level.

Next were a bunch of dancing groups, doing steps to recorded gospel music. One group of guys aged about 40 down to 5 years old did a martial arts gospel routine that kicked ass. Then 6 kids came up on the stage to do solos. And, weirdness of weirdness, here was the Ronald McDonald clown on stage as well. I don't know if it was more surreal or disgusting. Corporations greasing their way into the arts. Aside from that, the kids were excellent. Gospel singing is in healthy shape, it's being passed along down from elders to the kids in the black community. A pony-tailed 5-year old girl brought the audience to its feet. You couldn't believe a tiny kid could sing and dance like this. A 10 year old boy in a white suit sang in a beautiful unique strong voice. An 11 year old girl (who has just released her first CD) was electrifying, doing vocal gymnastics like adult gospel divas.

Cissy Houston walked out on stage. Probably in her 60s, tall and graceful, wearing a long cream-colored dress. (Whitney Huston's mom.) Backing her was the McDonald's Gospel Band, about 40 singers wearing McDonalds red polo shirts. More weirdness, but they were good! Cissy was fabulous, a great combo. Next out came the Queen, and believe me she still is. I've never seen Aretha in person and didn't know what to expect. Sometimes artists don't maintain quality in later years. Aretha has had her troubles. Not to worry. She came with a razorsharp band from Detroit and about 20 backup singers. She walked out on stage, a full-bodied woman, wearing a flowing white silk dress with a purple choir-type over-garment. Aretha hasn't lost any of her power, oh no. It's like she never left the church. Her voice, the band, the backups, were a smash. As she got more into it, Madison Square Garden got smaller. It was like an intimate club, her voice filling all space.

Aretha thankfully wasn't just there to pick up a McDonald's paycheck. She settled in, was gracious, she talked to people, she interacted with the backup ladies, the band, and with a male singer who joined her onstage. She did a lot of songs. She rocked. At one point she said I feel like dancing and shuffle-danced across the stage to the roar of her fans.

I have a hard time sitting for very long, so I walked around in the hall a bit. There were little kids everywhere, 100s of them in the performing gospel groups and many more with their parents. To tell the truth I've always thought that black gospel music was the best thing that ever came out of Christianity -- these guys got it right. This music is full of the joy and wonder and rhythm of the universe.

Three-dot Journalism

As I walked into the Book Expo at Jacob Javits Center here was Ed Rosenthal, Mr. Marijuana, wearing a marijuana-leaf shirt engaged in an animated conversation with Barbara Boxer. Ed had both hands on her arm and was thanking her for her stand on the Iraq war. Boxer looked receptive and amused…a big billboard promoting trans-coast flights (for New Yorkers: "People in LA smile a lot. Don't worry. You can practice on the plane."…more cabbies: Mohammed Rasheed, Mohammed Farajee, Khalid Javed, the latter of whom ran down the cab scene. He works 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He pays $120 a day for the cab, + gas. When he finishes his shift another cabbie takes a 12 hour shift. Each cab, which costs $28,000 new -- mostly Fords now -- put in 85,000 miles a year. He ends up making $60-100 a day. A cab medallion (license) is worth about $380,000 these days…in the rain enterprising Chinese guy pushing around cart on sidewalk selling umbrellas…Sat nite I have lamb chops with two glasses of sparkling apple wine (Eve's Cidery), watching people walking by open windows of restaurant, looking at the street, the buildings, the atmosphere of the neighborhood, NYC is ancient compared to the west coast. It's complex, dense, multi-layered, rich in history and multi-century vibes. When the weather is right and the planets are right, the city is humming…on Sunday after the last day of the book expo I go to Madison Square Garden for a 3-hour gospel show. There are kid and adult gospel choirs, dancers and at the end, Cissy Houston singing with the McDomnald's Gospel Band and as a finale Aretha Franklin with her own group from Detroit, both older women with still-powerful voices. By Aretha's 3rd number, it felt as if this huge hall was a small room, her music filling all the space and pulling everyone there together, Praise the lord.

Doo Wah Ditty

I had a wonderful 5 days in Vermont. What a change from California! I hooked up with some unique architects and builders in the Green Mountains and ended up shooting 350 photos of a great variety of buildings that ranged from traditional 200+-year-old houses and barns to wildly imaginative, artistic and witty structures in the woods and hills. I'm now in NYC (for the Book Expo) and it has cast its usual stimulating spell over me so I'll write about the NYC part before the Vermont part of this 10-day trip.

Got a cab from La Guardia to my hotel in the Soho district. Cabbie's name: Kwaku Kyekyere. It was the most perfect of NYC days. Balmy, a light breeze, shirt-sleeve weather. I brought my fold up K-2 high tech scooter with me and debated on taking it out, decided Hell, yeah, and so set off from Lafayette near Houston up to Washington Square. When the pavement is OK and pedestrians minimal, I can go 3 times faster than walking. It took a while, but I got into it. Before I knew it I was up at Union Square. I cruised, checking shop windows, having fun, rolling down the sidewalks, got back to Washington Square and discovered it's been gentrified. No more crack dealers or piss-smelling men's bathroom from hell, it all looks upscale and clean. But wait, here's a little ragtag group of musicians, wearing dirty tattered clothes with patches and holes playing delightful bluegrass and country music. Big crowd semi-circled around them, lots of dollars in the opened-up violin case on ground. They turned out to be the Dead Man Street Orchestra, 5 people from 18-25 years of age, who'd been touring the country riding the rails. They were about to leave New York and hitchhike to Vermont.

Left park, ran across guy selling signs that said "Mean People Suck." Right on. Hip-hop artist selling self-produced tapes on sidewalk, the day so beautiful everyone feeling good. The tempo of the city, the brilliance of window displays, the uniqueness of the shops, the close proximity to other people in cafes and restaurants all stimulate senses and brain waves.