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Reflections on Green Festival, Harrier at Mono Lake

Green Festival

Lew and I are getting pretty good at setting up our booth. We dodge union help and do it ourselves. We clip three pieces of lath to booth poles with plastic ties and mount our photo blowups (this year from our next book, BUILDERS OF THE PACIFIC COAST). We have a spiffy new 10-foot canvas banner, and the booth looks colorful and inviting.
We hit the ground running with our new book, THE BAREFOOT ARCHITECT: A MANUAL ON GREEN BUILDING. It was a mild sensation (this was obviously the right venue for it), and we sold over 100 copies. I haven't seen a reaction to a book like this in many years. People seem to love it. It's a wonderful book by a wonderful author, and the timing is right. Details at: http://shelterpub.com/_barefoot/BA-book.html

It's great to get discovered by the 20-year olds.

Electric car

Cover of Plenty Magazine

Gimme Feedback

Response at our stand was just phenomenal. We were jammed up with people both days. People came up to thank me for our building books, especially SHELTER. It was an outpouring of — for lack of a better word — love. Maybe 10 different people said, "Thank you for your work over the years," or, "I just want to shake your hand." Overwhelming. I feel like I'm walking the line of self-aggrandizement here, but dammit, the feedback over the past few years has just been extraordinary. One guy picked up SHELTER and said "I learned to read with this book." He said at the age of 5 he fell in love with the book and taught himself to read with it. I've written about this before, but it keeps happening, at an increasing rate.
What a LOT of people are now becoming aware of was part and parcel of the subculture of the '60s-'70s. The hippies were right! Organic farming. Treating the earth with respect. Alternative energy. And on and on. Have I said all this before as well? Well, it's heartening to see it catch on, even if 4 decades later.

Raptor in Flight

My friend Michael Jeneid just stopped by to show me these photos of a Northern Harrier he recently took from a kayak at Mono Lake, California:

Sam Wo — 50 Years of Surly Service

It's a Chinese noodle restaurant on Washington Street in San Francisco. You walk in through the kitchen and go up the stairs to sit in a poorly-lit room that hasn't changed a bit since the '60s. The place is about 10 feet wide and has 3 floors above with tables. Food comes up on a dumbwaiter hand-pulled with a rope. Back then the waiter was Edsel and he was famously rude. When someone new would come in, he'd shout, "No egg foo yung, no sweet and sour..." I just looked it up on the web (http://www.fudcourt.com/samwo.html, and here's an excerpt from a fat guy who went there for the first time: "I had the bad idea of asking for sweet and sour pork and a coke. "You Retarded? No coke!! Tea Only!! No sweet and sour!! You see on menu?!! You get house special chow fun...No fork, chopstick only...What you want, fat man?" answered Edsel..."
Well Edsel died, I heard, and I hadn't been there in decades, but I started going again when I wanted to eat late at night. They stay open until 3:30 AM. Edsel isn't there, but his spirit still is. The waitress doesn't yell at you, but she mutters and manages to impart the feeling you're doing something wrong. Don't ask her any stinking questions. Europeans have found out about the place and I've heard French and other languages being spoken late at night. I wouldn't order any of the typical Chinese food (greasy), but the combination won-ton soup, for five bucks, is superb, delicately flavored, meaty, a meal in itself. I just love the city.

You Can Take the Boy Out of the City . . .

I haven't lived in the (a) city since I was 17. But I guess the roots are still there, as my pulse quickens and brain revs up when I'm out and around in San Francisco (or Manhattan, or Rome, for that matter). I've been in SF for 4 days now, and loving the variety of things to do, places to eat, intensity of contacts. We had a fantastic day yesterday at The Green Festival. Our brand-new book, The Barefoot Architect, is a huge hit. We sold over 50 copies yesterday. People love it. It's got the good vibes of its author, Dutch architect Johan van Lengen, who runs the TIBA school of building in the Brazilian jungle. It sold 200,000 copies in Spanish, is also in Portuguese, and this is the first English edition. It's now a sunny Sunday morning and I've ridden my Micro-Tek 3-wheeled push-scooter about 2 miles over to Ritual Roasters, my utter favorite coffee shop in SF with skillful baristas, great lattes, and fast wi-fi connection, getting my caffeine fix, an almond croissant, and checking the news.
I grew up here and thought the whole world was like San Francisco. Little did I know. There were 26 kids on my block, and we owned the city, traversing it on bikes, rollers skates (with metal wheels), and electric streetcars. In the '40s, the streetcars had cow catchers front and rear. The cow catchers were hinged and let down on the front end of the streetcar, and strapped up on the rear end. Our technique was to crouch down so the conducter wouldn't see us, run up and hop on the rear cowcatcher. We rode all over the city, including through the 2-mile tunnel from West Portal to Castro Street, sparks flying from the rollers on the electric wires overhead. A thrill! I still love San Francisco. No, it ain't what it used to be, but what is? It's no longer a working port (of any significance), it's expensive, the skyline is marred by the jerk-off ugly Transamerica Pyramid building, etc. But it's still got soul, and culture up the kazoo, and retains its spirit of freedom and tolerance.

Live From San Francisco Green Festival

It's a rainy Saturday night, 6:30 PM, and the festival hall is still packed. People started pouring in at 10 this morning. There are times when you can't get through the aisles. It is just amazing, this (relatively) sudden awareness of treating the earth and its atmosphere with respect and intelligence. Our stand has been packed all day. Our brand new book, The Barefoot Architect — A Handbook of Green Building, is a hit. We have sold over 50 copies today. People pick it up and instantly love it. It's got those vibes. We've also sold 30 copies of Home Work today. It's so encouraging to connect like this.

Check out our new canvas banner

Lloyd and Lew from SF. (With able assistance at our booth from Becky Kemery, author of Yurts — Living in the Round)

Green Festival This Weekend in San Francisco

Here's what I wrote just after last year's San Francisco Green Festival: ". . .it was an amazing event. Huge! The hall was packed. This has become a powerful movement. You could hardly walk through the aisles. The vibes were fabulous. The quality of the goods and services on exhibit was striking. All these green concepts that've been floating around for the last 30 years have jelled. Stuff is working. There was hardly any crap, in contrast to typical events. The natural fabrics and clothing were beautiful. Hemp clothing has come a long way from the early crude products. Elegant hemp shirts, all natural fibers, organic everything from coffee to cotton. Solar power, green building materials, socially conscious investing, tons of great food, 100s of exhibitors, the unifying theme being treating the earth with respect and living in harmony with the living planet. Amen!"
I was thrilled last year. Our booth was mobbed. We got discovered by this new and vibrant group. I guess we've been "green" for 30 years: our 1973 book Shelter was in large part about building with natural materials. (It turns out that the 20-30-year-olds of this new green movement have picked up on the concepts of the hippies (for lack of a better word) of the 60s-70s. In retrospect it had a bit of the feeling of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, where 200,000 people showed up out of the blue and discovered they were on the same track.
We'll have a booth again this year and sell our books. It takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 9-11. and is at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 620 7th Street in San Francisco (a great building with a sliding-open skylight). The promo material says: ". . . 150 visionary speakers, 400 green businesses (start your holiday shopping now!), great how-to workshops, organic beer and wine, delicious organic cuisine and diverse live music." Speakers include Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, and Amy Goodman.
For ticket info, click here. If you come, stop by our booth, #459, and check out our brand new book, The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook on Green Building.

Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

For those interested in these subjects, see Kelly Hart's excellent website and blog:

A Paucity of Porcinis, A Dappled Sunlit Pool in The Woods, and The Bushwhacking Techniques of Run-N Ron

These days I'm thriving when I get out in the woods or on the beaches or cliffs or mountain (Mt. Tamalpais). Hunting mushrooms has taken me into areas I'd never have gotten to otherwise, and taught me to look. Running has given me the ability to cover a lot of ground. Last Friday I took off in the late afternoon, headed on a 2-mile run uphill to a mushroom spot of which I am acquainted. After a quarter mile I realized the ground was parched, even after some early rain. It had been a hot October, and there weren't gonna to be any stinkin mushrooms in the dry woods. Water. That's what I wanted. Moisture. So I veered off and headed cross-country toward the biggest canyon in sight. I got to it and as I started up the creek bed, there was more and more water. The sunlight had that deep autumn orange late-afternoon clarity mingled with black shadows. I eventually came to a perfect little pool, with dappled sunlight, that is, shadows made by moving tree leaves on the bank. A small holy place. Whereupon I immersed in the cold water, head under. Try it some time. Get your entire body under cold water, if only for an instant. No, it's not pleasant to contemplate, or even do, but the after-effect is a spectacular surge of circulation and revving up of chi. Trust me. I digress.
I notched up my cross-country running abilities some years ago by hanging out with a runner named Ron Rahmer. Ron's license plate said Run-N Ron. Ron was always looking for obscure trails, breaking new ground, going where few had gone before. He was a mischievous guy. I ran with him a lot for maybe two years, since we were the oldest in our Tuesday night trail running group. A totally different trail every week, never doubling back, always circumnambulating. I learned how to spot sparsely-traveled trails, like maybe a few deer went this way per week. This opened up all kinds of alternative routes in the woods, and I got into the habit of getting off main trails. Ron died at age 67 in 2004. I still think of him every time I get lost in the woods or stuck in the brush, or for that matter, find a subtle trail. Still Run-N with Ron.

The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook on Greeen Building

We have produced less than 30 books in 37 years of publishing. It was never intended to be this way. It just turned out that it took (takes) forever for us to get a book ready for press. Unlike grown-up publishers, who turn over an edited and completed manuscript to a designer, who then designs the pages and prepares the files, we always end up composing, editing, designing, writing, and gathering new graphics while we're in production. The point of this all being that each book takes us a year or two, from start to off-the-press copy. During this time, the book will evolve. The book changes during this process, hopefully evolving for the better.
Well! The Barefoot Architect, in its evolution, came out a stunner.

Hot off the press

Not only in looks, but also in both usefulness and practicality in today's world. We didn't anticipate the timing, but the green movement matured as this book was being produced and it's a perfect intersection. At a glance, the book may appear to be about building a house out of adobe and bamboo or other natural materials. Which it is. But it's also about design, planning, integration with the natural environment, using the wind, sun, and water to ventilate and produce energy, and a host of other subjects for people interested in providing their own shelter, or setting up a small community.
In the '60s, I started remodeling my house, and then adding on to it (with some ambitious first-time architect plans), so I had to learn to build as I went along. In those days I had a bunch of books on carpentry and building, but my favorite was Ken Kern's The Owner-Built Home, which became the underground building bible. Not "architecture," but building, and doing it yourself. Simple pen and ink drawings, easy to follow.
Johan van Lengen's book is for builders today what The Owner-Built Home was for builders of the '60s. 1000 wonderful simple drawings, easy to follow. A different way of looking at shelter. Earth conscious. Local climate. Local materials. Bio-architecture. (And using intuition and the right brain.)
Interestingly, Johan has found a keen interest in his methods recently by people who are bailing out of high-stress jobs and seeking simpler lives, creating "eco-villages."

For a Free Copy of This Book

If you want a review copy of this book (sent to you or someone else), contact Lew at lew@shelterpub.com. Word-of-mouth works on books like this, so we are willing to send review copies to anyone in a position to tell others about it. If you like the book, help us get the word out